Archive for the ‘Healthcare Utilization’ Category

Physician Supplemental QRUR: Episode-Specific Patient-Level Data Tells Story of High Utilizers

February 7th, 2017 by Patricia Donovan

QRUR reports provide a mirror into physicians' cost and quality performance under MACRA.

As year one of MACRA unfolds, healthcare providers deterred by security hurdles associated with CMS Enterprise Portal access may want to reconsider. The wealth of aggregate quality and cost performance data available through the portal is well worth the trouble of accessing it, advises William Holding, consultant with PDA, Inc.

Specifically, Quality Resource and Utilization Reports (QRURs) downloadable from the portal are essential tools for physician practices that hope to succeed on MACRA-defined reimbursement paths, Holding said—even practices equipped with robust internal reporting systems.

"This is the same system that accountable care organizations (ACOs) use, and that CMS uses for many other things, so it's a good idea to get past those barriers," he explained during Physician MACRA Preparation: Using QRUR and Other CMS Data to Maximize Your Performance, a February 2017 webinar now available for replay.

Originally designed for CMS's value-based modifier, QRURs are good indicators of future cost performance under MACRA, via either Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS), where most physician practices are expected to fall initially, or Alternate Payment Models (APMs), he said.

After providing an overview of MIPS and APMs, including five essential prerequisites to MACRA preparation, Holding delved into the quality and cost metrics contained in QRURs, from aggregate data in the main report to detailed tables rich with patient-specific information.

The main QRUR report illustrates where a physician practice falls in relation to other practices on the overall composite for cost and quality. The QRUR's Quality portion shows scores for a series of domains, including effective clinical care and patient experience, which offer a great window into how a practice might perform with different selected measures in MIPS.

Next, QRUR cost performance indicates per capita costs for attributed beneficiaries, which will remain a cost measure in MIPS.

Drilling down, Holding characterized seven associated QRUR downloads—including one table on individual eligible professional performance on the 2015 PQRS Measures—as even more useful than the QRURs themselves.

And finally, he termed the downloadable supplemental QRUR "a very powerful tool" that drills down to the beneficiary level, providing a snapshot of some of the highest cost events occurring among a practice's patients.

"For high utilizers, for specific episodes, you can drill right down to the patient to try and understand the story. What's happening to your patient when they're not in your practice, and what can you do about it?" said Holding.

Having presented the available reports, Holding described four key benefits of using QRUR downloads, including as a priority setting tool, and then detailed the myriad of ways QRURs can be analyzed to improve MIPS performance.

However, Holding stressed, even physician practices with the most sophisticated reporting structures will not thrive under MACRA without the right team or culture of provider support in place. He closed his presentation with a formula for determining investment in performance improvement activities and a five-step plan for MACRA preparation.

Listen to an interview with William Holding on the use of QRURs to determine a physician practice's highest value referral pathways.

In Care Coordination of Medically Vulnerable Homeless Patients, Housing is a Form of Healthcare

January 17th, 2017 by Patricia Donovan

Chronic Care Plus recuperative care reduced ER visits by homeless patients by 84 percent, and avoided nearly $3 million in medical costs.

Most patients discharged from the hospital ultimately return to a secure home environment. Not so for homeless or unstably housed patients; disconnected from healthcare and their community, their lack of stable housing compounds their medical difficulties following a hospital stay.

Enter Chronic Care Plus (CCP), a safety net recuperative care program in California whose mission is to bridge this gap between hospital discharge and permanent supportive housing for homeless patients, or "Joes," as Illumination Foundation Founder and CEO Paul Leon characterized his client profile during a recent presentation.

"I'm sure you can identify the 'Joes' in your neighborhood," Leon told participants during Intensive Care Coordination for Healthcare Super Utilizers: Community Collaborations Stabilize Medically Vulnerable Homeless Patients, a December 2016 webinar now available for replay. "They've come into the ER but are never quite connected with either a federally qualified health clinic (FQHC), your own hospital clinic or any available resources in your community."

The CCP program not only provides housing for recently discharged homeless or unstably housed individuals in model or dormitory-like settings but also reconnects them to the healthcare continuum. The program then wraps clients in a plethora of services, including housing placement, financial literacy, job placement, transportation and behavioral health support.

Back in 2008, Leon's organization was one of only about seven in the nation to provide recuperative care (also known as medical respite care). Recuperative care is care to homeless persons recovering from an acute illness or injury, no longer in need of acute care but unable to sustain recovery if living on the street or other unsuitable place, Leon explained. Today there are about 80 such programs in the United States.

Since then, his foundation created standards and best practices, and in 2013 launched CCP—"recuperative care on steroids, with tightly wrapped social services and a longer length of stay," Leon explained.

Originating as an ED diversion pilot aimed at 20 of the highest users of a local hospital ER, CCP has transformed discharge planning for the homeless and has served more than 2,500 patients since its inception.

During the presentation, Leon shared a host of program analytics, including recuperative care criteria client demographics and CCP statistics on medical, behavioral health, housing and other services provided. He also shared CCP's future plans, and some of the program's barriers and challenges, including medical management education and closing gaps in social services.

In terms of program outcomes, CCP has amassed significant savings as it closes gaps in care and reduces healthcare utilization, including 322 fewer ER visits by this population (a 84.3 percent decrease) and $2.8 million in medical cost avoidance at three participating hospitals.

"For Orange County hospitals as a total, we estimate that there was $5.2 million of savings," added John Kim, grants director of the Illumination Foundation. "If we compare the year prior on an annualized cost basis, that comes to over $7 million of savings to Orange County hospitals."

Click here for an interview with Paul Leon on Chronic Care Plus's challenges and lessons learned as it connects its medically vulnerable homeless to social services.

Infographic: The Opioid Burden on Hospitals

January 6th, 2017 by Melanie Matthews

The nation's opioid epidemic resulted in a 64 percent increase in opioid-related hospital stays between 2005 and 2014. However, hospital rates varied widely by state, according to a new infographic by the Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality.

The infographic shows the states with the highest and lowest rates in 2014.

Infographic: The Opioid Burden on Hospitals

Behavioral Health Patient Engagement: Using Motivational Interviewing Techniques and Strategies To Improve OutcomesAs the critical role of an engaged, activated healthcare consumer becomes more apparent in a value-based healthcare system, healthcare organizations are focusing on patient engagement and activation programs.

In a recent industry survey on trends in patient engagement, healthcare organizations reported that behavioral health conditions presented a particular challenge to patient engagement initiatives. However, there is robust evidence that motivational interviewing is a powerful approach for treating substance abuse, anxiety and depression.

Behavioral Health Patient Engagement: Using Motivational Interviewing Techniques and Strategies To Improve Outcomes, a 45-minute webinar now available for replay, Mia Croyle with the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health shares key learnings from patient engagement initiatives targeted at patients with behavioral health conditions.

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Breaking Down UTSACN Advanced Care Coordination: “Data Analyst Is Your Best Friend”

October 6th, 2016 by Patricia Donovan

advanced care coordination

Data is useless unless transformed into actionable information, notes Cathy Bryan, UTSACN director of care coordination.

Although the care coordination director for UT Southwestern's Accountable Care Network (UTSACN) insists there's no secret sauce that ensures ACO success, Cathy O'Brien readily proposes eight ingredients to season care management initiatives.

It's a recipe heavy on data analytics, and one destined to fail unless extracted data is transformed into actionable information, emphasized Ms. Bryan during Advanced Care Coordination: Bridging the Gap Between Appropriate Levels of Care and Care Plan Adherence for ACO Attributed Lives, a September 2016 webinar now available for replay.

For that transformation, the Year Three Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP) ACO relies heavily on its data analyst. "Your analyst is your best friend. You need someone who is skilled and knows how to analyze large, complex data sources like you get with ACO claims data and other sources," Ms. Bryan said.

To better manage its nearly 250,000 ACO-attributed lives (up from 19,000 in 2014), UTSACN leverages data from a number of sources, including paid claims data from CMS and commercial payors; more than 100 disparate electronic medical record (EMR) systems; and ADT feeds. This data mining has helped UTSACN to identify and bridge care and quality gaps, manage transitions in care, and risk-stratify its population for care management, including 'risking risk' patients exhibiting signs of struggle with adherence to care plans.

It's also provided a starker picture of utilization, especially on the home health front. When data indicated UTSACN home health use had risen to levels more than twice the national average, UTSACN's analyst created an internal efficiency index to categorize the more than 1,200 home health agencies in use. The use of this claims-based, risk-adjusted score ultimately pared the home health network to a manageable twenty agencies and saved approximately $6 million in home health utilization costs in the first quarter of 2016 alone.

To engage physicians, UTSACN supported the rollout of this narrow network with a large-scale reeducation effort. Presented with the rationale for this change, providers now better understand Medicare's home health utilization rules and their accountability to the ACO for their share of costs, utilization and outcomes, notes Bryan.

"You’ve got to create buy-in. You don't just take providers a list and say, here's your problem. You've got to take a solution to them."

Another solution designed to support providers is UTSACN's primary-care-centric model, in which care coordination teams are paired geographically with eight to fifteen physician practices. Composed of embedded care coordinators (as well as field staff that do in-home work), the care coordination teams reach out to the practices' patients on their behalf.

"We really see our team as an extension of the primary care practice, and we function as such. As we introduce ourselves to patients, we say we're with the UT Southwestern Accountable Care Network calling on behalf of Dr. Smith, your primary care physician."

As that extension, embedded care coordinators help physician practices to address barriers to patients' medical plans of care, from lack of transportation to medication costs to the presence of falls risks in the home.

Click here to listen to an interview with Ms. Bryan.

Infographic: Complete Care Remotely There

September 30th, 2016 by Melanie Matthews

Despite the growth in the number of hospitalists, demand is outpacing supply, according to a new infographic by Eagle Telemedicine.

The infographic details how telemedicine can help meet the growing demand for hospitalists and be a cost-effective alternative to costly overnight hospitalist staffing models.

Real-time remote management of high-risk populations curbed hospitalizations, hospital readmissions and ER visits for more than 80 percent of respondents and boosted self-management levels for nearly all remotely monitored patients, according to 2014 market data from the Healthcare Intelligence Network (HIN).

Remote Monitoring of High-Risk Patients: Telehealth Protocols for Chronic Care Management profiles a successful eight-year initiative by New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation's (NYCHHC) House Calls Telehealth Program that significantly lowered patients' A1C blood glucose levels.

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Infographic: How State Budget Cuts Are Impacting Mental Healthcare Services

September 28th, 2016 by Melanie Matthews

State mental healthcare budget cuts have caused an increase in emergency room visits for patients seeking mental health treatment with a total of 5.5 million patients seeking care in these facilities each year, according a new infographic by the Cummings Institute.

The $38.5 billion it costs hospitals to take care of these patients could be significantly reduced by integrating mental health professionals within the ER and hospital settings. The infographic looks at the impact of these budget cuts and looks at possible solutions.

Behavioral health conditions affect nearly one of five Americans, leading to healthcare costs of $57 billion a year, on par with cancer, according to a 2009 AHRQ brief. Despite this impact, and the ACA's provision for behavioral healthcare as an essential health benefit, progress toward total integration of behavioral healthcare into the primary care system has been slow.

2015 Healthcare Benchmarks: Integrating Behavioral Health and Primary Care captures healthcare's efforts to achieve healthcare parity and honor the joint principles of the patient-centered medical home, including a whole person orientation and provision of coordinated and/or integrated care.

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UPMC: INTERACT Tools Boost Provider Communication in RAVEN Project to Reduce Long-Term Care Hospitalizations

September 6th, 2016 by Patricia Donovan
UPMC reduces long-term care hospitalizations

Even custodial or housekeeping staff can use the INTERACT Stop and Watch tool to record subtle changes in a patient.

The RAVEN (Initiative to Reduce Avoidable Hospitalizations among Nursing Facility Residents) project by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), aimed at improving quality of care for people residing in long-term care (LTC) facilities by reducing avoidable hospitalizations, is set to enter phase two in October 2016. Here, April Kane, UPMC's RAVEN project co-director, describes a pair of key resources that have enhanced communication between providers, particularly those at the eighteen nursing homes collaborating with UPMC on the RAVEN project.

Currently INTERACT (Interventions to Reduce Acute Care Transfers) is a quality improvement project and has been funded through Medicare. It is designed to improve the early identification, assessment, documentation, and communication about changes in the status of residents in skilled nursing facilities (SNFs). The goal of INTERACT is to improve care and reduce the frequency of potentially avoidable transfers to the acute hospital. These tools are free online.

INTERACT is used in multiple settings, but in our long-term care setting, we've been primarily encouraging the use of two INTERACT tools. There are a wealth of others. First is the Stop and Watch tool. This is a very easy early detection tool that would be used by members of your nursing home staff, such as nurses aides, custodial or housekeeping staff, and other workers who have a lot of one-on-one engagement with residents.

Using this tool, they may notice subtle changes, such as a patient who isn't as well engaged, who has been eating or drinking a little less, or is not as communicative as they had been before. It's a very easy one-page tool. Sometimes it's a card where they can circle if they're seeing something different, for example, "The resident seems a little different," or "They ate less."

The goal would be to take that tool to either the LPN or the RN in charge of the unit they're working on and say, "You know, I was with Mrs. Smith today. This is what I've been seeing that's a little different with her." That nurse should take that tool, validate its usage and then from there, go in and assess the patient.

If appropriate, they should utilize a second INTERACT tool, SBAR (Situation, Background, Assessment, Recommendation), to provide a more thorough assessment of what is going on and determine if this is a true changing condition. The SBAR allows the nurse to provide feedback to physicians in the very structured format physicians are used to reviewing. This allows them to place all the vitals and information in one place.

When they do make that call to the physician, they're well prepared to update them with what is going on with a particular resident. The physician then feels comfortable in deciding whether to provide further treatment on site or if appropriate, to transfer out to the hospital, depending on that resident's need.

Click here for an interview with April Kane on the value of UPMC's onsite enhanced care coordinators in the RAVEN project.

AMITA Health Connected Care Management: Patients Transitioned But Never Really Discharged

August 23rd, 2016 by Patricia Donovan

Connected care includes AMITA Health front line staff, administrators, physicians, hospital executives and community partners.


Does a health system really need four types of care managers?

When AMITA Health set out to craft an ambulatory care coordination team for its highest-risk Medicare beneficiaries, it realized it didn't.

As part of its thirteen-point plan to revamp care management across its continuum, the newly minted Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP) accountable care organization (ACO) reexamined the roles of its navigators, case managers, patient-centered home care managers and ACO care managers, ultimately abandoning its siloed approach in favor of a more human-centric model of care.

"We really needed a better way to care for our patients across the continuum," explained Susan Wickey, vice president, quality and care management at AMITA Health, during Reducing Readmissions and Avoidable Emergency Department Visits Through a Connected Care Management Strategy, an August 2016 webinar now available for replay. "We had to identify and remove those silos, and break down those barriers."

AMITA Health's decision to remake care management was a response to its MSSP program goal of fulfilling the Triple Aim: improving population health and experience of care while fostering appropriate utilization and cost. The initiative in no way devalued care managers' contributions. "Our care coordinators across the continuum serve as our first responders when high risk patients need intervention," said Ms. Wickey.

In the process of improving efficiencies, the nine-hospital system discovered that often, one could be more effective than four.

With help from Phillips Healthcare Consulting Division, AMITA inventoried its care management resources, then created a single centralized care management hub. Communication would occur via a single universal transfer form for each patient, for whom a single care plan would be developed. This power of one echoed throughout the transformation as AMITA restructured processes and programs.

AMITA rolled out the program initially with one unit of patients; today, all nine of AMITA Health's hospitals operate with some component of this enterprise-wide redesign.

"We wanted to be a health system where our patients were transitioned but never really discharged from our healthcare system," explained Ms. Wickey's co-presenter, Dr. Luke Hansen, vice president and chief medical officer, population health for AMITA Health. "We never discharge a patient from our system; rather we transition our patients to the most appropriate setting."

"This collaborative vision of connected care includes all of the front line staff, key administrators, physicians, hospital executives, along with AMITA's community partners," added Ms. Wickey.

In assessing its MSSP experience, Dr. Hansen said access to Medicare claims data enabled AMITA Health to track utilization, a first for the organization. Trends toward lower all-cause readmissions, lower admissions for ambulatory-sensitive conditions and emergency department visits were recorded, he said. And while he can't definitely credit the MSSP for his organization's improved quality scores in recent years, he takes pride in AMITA's achievements of strengthening quality while holding costs relatively stable.

However, improvements have leveled off since 2013, its first MSSP performance year, which frustrates the population health CMO. "As those of you participating in MSSP know, year-over-year improvement is what you need to do to succeed."

"We live that tension between our old models of care delivery, which were very successful for our organization, and new models, which we will have to adopt in a timely way to be successful in the future," concluded Dr. Hansen.

Click here for an audio interview with Dr. Hansen.

Infographic: Connecting the Triple Aim and Supply Chain Management

August 17th, 2016 by Melanie Matthews

Supply chain processes that support caregivers as well as the products that are selected and sourced directly and indirectly impact patient safety and patient satisfaction, according to a new infographic by the Association for Healthcare Resource and Materials Management.

The infographic examines how supply chain management aligns with the Institute of Healthcare Improvement's Triple Aim.

Pursuing the Triple Aim: Seven Innovators Show the Way to Better Care, Better Health, and Lower CostsWritten by the President and CEO of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) and a leading healthcare journalist, this groundbreaking book examines how leading organizations in the United States are pursuing the "Triple Aim": improving the individual experience of care, improving the health of populations, and reducing the per capita cost of care.

Pursuing the Triple Aim: Seven Innovators Show the Way to Better Care, Better Health, and Lower Costs shares compelling stories that are emerging in locations ranging from Pittsburgh to Seattle, from Boston to Oakland, focused on topics including improving quality and lowering costs in primary care; setting challenging goals to control chronic disease with notable outcomes; leveraging employer buying power to improve quality, reduce waste, and drive down cost; paying for care under an innovative contract that compensates for quality rather than quantity; and much more. The authors describe these innovations in detail, and show the way toward a healthcare system for the nation that improves the experience and quality of care while at the same time controlling costs.

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Infographic: 4 Ways Ambulatory Surgery Centers Control Costs

August 15th, 2016 by Melanie Matthews

Ambulatory Surgery Centers (ASCs) are helping to keep healthcare costs down—reducing the cost of outpatient surgery by over $38 billion per year in the United States by providing a lower cost site of care compared to hospital outpatient departments, according to a new infographic by SourceMed.

The infographic looks at the four ways that ASCs reduce costs.

Bundled Payments for Post-Acute Care: Profiting from Alternative Payments and Clinical Redesign A desire to position itself at the forefront of healthcare payment reform and be a catalyst for clinical redesign are two factors driving Brooks Rehabilitation's participation in Model 3 of CMS's Bundled Payments for Care Improvement (BPCI) initiative.

Today, having completed more than 1,000 bundled episodes for total hip replacements, total knee replacements and hip fractures, Brooks has reduced cost by 19 percent per episode, lowered readmissions to about 15 percent across its 60-day time frame, registered a patient satisfaction level of 94 percent and documented significant functional improvement.

Bundled Payments for Post-Acute Care: Profiting from Alternative Payments and Clinical Redesign examines the four domains of success of Brooks' Complete Care program supporting the organization's bundled payment clinical outcomes and financial results.

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