Archive for the ‘Medicare’ Category

Reducing SNF Readmissions: Clinical Targets, Quality Scorecards Elevate Performance

May 23rd, 2017 by Patricia Donovan

reducing SNF readmissions

Michigan's Tri-County Collaborative holds the line on hospital readmissions from 130 participating SNFs.

Three geographically close Michigan health systems shared more than a concern over escalating readmissions from skilled nursing facilities (SNFs).

As Henry Ford Health System (HFHS), the Detroit Medical Center and St. John's Providence Health System ultimately discovered from Michigan Quality Improvement Organization (MPRO) data in 2013, they also shared about 30 percent of their patient population.

This revelation, combined with the pinch of new hospital readmission penalties from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), prompted the three to set aside competition and siloed strategies and forge a coordinated approach to reducing readmissions from SNFs.

Today, the resulting Tri-County SNF Collaborative operates with a set of clinical and quality targets and metrics created in tandem with more than 130 member SNFs. Tri-County's dozen participation requirements for SNFs range from regular reporting through a dedicated SNF portal to achievement of specified performance metrics.

"We developed collaborative relationships," explained Susan Craft, director of care coordination for the family caregiver program in HFHS's Office of Clinical Quality & Safety. "We wanted to have very open, honest conversations to review issues that were identified and find ways to resolve those."

Ms. Craft shared the roots, framework and results of the SNF collaborative, which launched in the first quarter of 2015, during Reducing SNF Readmissions: Quality Reporting Metrics Drive Improvements, a May 2017 webcast now available for replay.

Once admitted to the collaborative, member SNFs must report on 14 metrics in four key areas: acuity, care transitions, quality and readmissions. In return, SNFs receive a 13-point unblinded quarterly scorecard with metrics on readmissions and patient acceptance response times, among many others.

A multidisciplinary team within Tri-County Collaborative reviews all SNF metrics bi-annually to determine each facility's continued participation.

As for the collaborative's impact since its launch, Henry Ford Health System achieved a nearly 20 percent drop in Medicare SNF readmissions as well as a 28 percent reduction in SNF lengths of stay. The initiative also identified opportunities for improvement, resulting in enhanced outpatient scheduling and nurse-to-nurse handoffs and interventions focused on SNF-specific issues like sepsis, Ms. Craft explained.

Despite these advancements, the collaborative still faces the inherent challenges of competition and transparency, as well as SNFs' hesitancy to adopt value-based practices. "Our SNFs are still entirely dependent on fee for service [payment models]," said Craft. "They haven't been impacted by penalties and value-based purchasing, although that is coming for them next year."

Although not yet referring to participating SNFs as "preferred providers," the collaboratives hopes to one day equip patients with complete data pictures to guide them in SNF selection. Also on Tri-County Collaborative's radar are home care agencies, concluded Ms. Craft.

"We know there needs to be a lot of coordination across all post-acute care settings."

Listen to Susan Craft describe how Michigan's SNF Collaborative set aside competition to improve quality and readmission rates.

Infographic: Physician Appointment Wait Times; Medicare and Medicaid Acceptance Rates

May 5th, 2017 by Melanie Matthews

The average wait time for a physician appointment in 15 mid-sized metropolitan areas was nearly 8 days longer than in l5 major metropolitan areas, according to a new infographic by Merritt Hawkins.

The infographic also examined rates of Medicare and Medicaid acceptance by physicians in these markets.

No matter which level of participation physician practices choose for the first Quality Payment Program performance period beginning January 1, 2017, CMS's "Pick Your Pace" announcement means practices should proactively prepare for the impact of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA) on physician quality reporting and reimbursement.

MACRA Physician Quality Reporting: Positioning Your Practice for the MIPS Merit-Based Incentive Payment System delivers a veritable MACRA toolkit for physician practices, with dozens of tips and strategies that lay the groundwork for reimbursement under Medicare's Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS), expected to begin in 2017 and one of two payment paths Medicare will offer to practices.

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Top 2017 Chronic Care Management Modes and 13 More CCM Trends

May 2nd, 2017 by Patricia Donovan

Availability of chronic care management rose 14 percent from 2015 to 2017, according to new metrics from the Healthcare Intelligence Network.

The majority of chronic care management (CCM) outreach is conducted telephonically, say 88 percent of respondents to a 2017 Chronic Care Management survey by the Healthcare Intelligence Network (HIN), followed by face-to-face visits (65 percent) and home visits (44 percent).

This preference for telephonic CCM has remained unchanged since 2015, when HIN first canvassed healthcare executives on chronic care management practices. More than one hundred healthcare companies completed the 2017 CCM survey.

In addition, the April 2017 CCM survey captured a 14 percent increase in chronic care management programs over the two-year-span: from 55 percent in 2015 to 69 percent in 2017. Three-fourths of 2017 responding CCM programs target either Medicare beneficiaries or individuals with chronic comorbid conditions, with management of care transitions the top CCM component for 86 percent of programs.

In terms of reimbursement, payment levels for CCM services remained steady at 35 percent from 2015 to 2017. However, HIN's second comprehensive CCM survey determined that 32 percent of respondents currently bill Medicare using CMS Chronic Care Management codes introduced in 2015.

Forty percent of these Medicare CCM participants believe CMS’s 2017 program changes will reduce administrative burden associated with CCM, the survey documented.

Other metrics from HIN's 2017 CCM survey include the following:

  • A diagnosis of diabetes remains the leading criterion for CCM admission, said 92 percent;
  • Use of healthcare claims as the top tool for identifying or risk-stratifying individuals for CCM continues at 2015’s 70-percent levels;
  • Seventy percent of respondents target individuals with behavioral health diagnoses for CCM interventions;
  • Patient engagement remains the top challenge of chronic care management, with just under one-third of 2017 respondents reporting this obstacle
  • Responsibilities of RN care managers for CCM rose over two years, with 43 percent of 2017 respondents assigning primary CCM responsibility to these professionals (up from 29 percent in 2015); and
  • Two-thirds of respondents observed a drop in hospitalizations that they attribute to chronic care management.

Download an executive summary of 2017 Chronic Care Management survey results.

Infographic: Navigating Risk Adjustment Headwinds

April 28th, 2017 by Melanie Matthews

More than half of respondents (60%) to a recent survey by SCIO Health Analytics indicated that their organizations have hit at least the half way point when it comes to implementing the changes needed to support the Encounter Data Processing System (EDPS)/Risk Adjustment Payment System (RAPS), according to a new infographic by SCIO Health Analytics.

The infographic looks at where organizations are on their path for implementing changes needed to support EDPS/RAPS, the discrepancy between RAPS and EDPS scores and some predictions on the future of the Affordable Care Act.

Healthcare Trends & Forecasts in 2017: Performance Expectations for the Healthcare Industry Not in recent history has the outcome of a U.S. presidential election portended so much for the healthcare industry. Will the Trump administration repeal or replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA)? What will be the fate of MACRA? Will Medicare and Medicaid survive?

These and other uncertainties compound an already daunting landscape that is steering healthcare organizations toward value-based care and alternative payment models and challenging them to up their quality game.

Healthcare Trends & Forecasts in 2017: Performance Expectations for the Healthcare Industry, HIN's 13th annual business forecast, is designed to support healthcare C-suite planning during this historic transition as leaders prepare for both a new year and new presidential leadership.

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Touting ‘Magic’ of Home Visits, Sun Health Dispels 5 Care Transition Management Myths

April 4th, 2017 by Patricia Donovan


With an average of 299 warm, sunny days a year, Phoenix is a mecca for senior transplants. However, as Phoenix-based Sun Health knows well, when an aging population relocates far from their adult children, there's a danger that if some of them experience cognitive decline or other health issues, no one will notice.

That's one reason home visits are the cornerstone of Sun Health's Care Transitions Management program. Visiting recently discharged patients at home not only tracks the individual's progress with the hospitalization-related condition, but also pinpoints any social determinants of health (SDOH) that inhibit optimum health.

"There are a number of social determinants of health that, if not addressed, could adversely impact the medical issue," explains Jennifer Drago, FACHE, executive vice president of population health for the Arizona non-profit organization. Ms. Drago outlined the program during A Leading Care Transitions Model: Addressing Social Health Determinants Through Targeted Home Visits, a March 2017 webinar now available for replay.

Identifying social determinants of health (SDOH) such as medication affordability, transportation, health literacy and social isolation are so important to Sun Health that SDOHs form the critical fifth pillar of its Care Transitions Program. Modeled on the Coleman Care Transitions Intervention®, SDOH identification and support balance Coleman's four pillars of education, medication reconciliation, physician follow-up visits, and personalized plan of care.

The belief that organizations can effectively execute transitions of care programs pre-discharge or by phone only is one of five care transition myths Ms. Drago dispelled during the webinar. "You will have an impact [with phone calls], but it won't be as great as a program incorporating dedicated staff and that home visit. I can't tell you the magic that happens in a home visit."

That "magic" contributed to Sun Health's stellar performance in CMS's recently concluded Community-Based Care Transitions Program demonstration. Sun Health was the national demo's top performer, achieving a 56 percent reduction in Medicare 30-day readmissions—from 17.8 percent to 7.81 percent—as compared to the 14.5 percent readmission rate of other demonstration participants.

Sun Health's multi-stepped intervention begins with a visit to the patient's hospital bedside. "Patients are a captive audience while in the hospital," explained Ms. Drago. That scripted bedside encounter, which boosted patients' receptivity to the program, addresses not only the reason for the hospitalization (hip replacement, for example) but also co-occuring chronic conditions, she continued.

"The thing that will have the greatest chance of going out of whack or out of sync in their recovery period is their chronic disease, because they're probably not eating the same, they're more sedentary, and their medications likely have been disrupted."

Ms. Drago went on to present some of the intervention's tools, including care plans, daily patient check-ins, and the science behind her organization's care transitions scripts.

After sharing six key lessons learned from care transitions management, Ms. Drago noted that while her organization participated as a mission-based endeavor, others could model Sun Health's intervention and benefit from those readmissions savings. She also shared a video on the Sun Health Care Transitions Program:

Listen to an interview with Jennifer Drago on the science behind care transition management.

Healthcare Reacts to AHCA: Providers ‘Cannot Support Legislation As Drafted’

March 13th, 2017 by Patricia Donovan

American Health Care ActLast week's unveiling of G.O.P. legislation designed to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) triggered a flurry of concerns and criticisms from healthcare industry sectors.

The proposed American Health Care Act (AHCA) would eliminate Obamacare's individual mandate and put in place refundable tax credits for individuals to purchase health insurance. It also proposes restructuring Medicaid and defunding Planned Parenthood. However, the bill seeks to maintain protections for individuals with pre-existing conditions and to permit children to remain on their parents' insurance plans until they reach the age of 26.

As of last Friday, the proposed American Health Care Act (AHCA) had cleared two committees in the U.S. House of Representatives; a final House vote on the bill is expected the week of March 20.

In a letter to leaders of the House committees that will mark up the AHCA, the American Medical Association (AMA) rejected the ACA replacement bill. In the letter, AMA CEO and Executive Vice President James L. Madara, MD, stated that his organization "cannot support the AHCA as drafted because of the expected decline in health
insurance coverage and the potential harm it would cause to vulnerable patient populations."

In particular, the AMA, the nation's largest physicians' group representing more than 220,000 doctors, residents, and medical students, objected to the bill's proposed restructuring of Medicaid, claiming it "would limit states’ ability to respond to changes in service demands and threaten coverage for people with low incomes."

The AMA's position was also outlined in a statement issued by Andrew W. Gurman, MD, AMA president.

Meanwhile, the American Hospital Association (AHA), which counts 5,000 hospitals among its members, also opposed the AHCA. In a news release, Rick Pollack, AHA president and CEO, stated that the AHA "cannot support The American Health Care Act in its current form." The AHA stated that it would be difficult to evaluate the bill without coverage estimates by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

Echoing AMA apprehension over proposed Medicaid restructuring, Pollack stated that the AHA feared the bill "will have the effect of making significant reductions in a program that provides services to our most vulnerable populations, and already pays providers significantly less than the cost of providing care."

Although Pollack lauded recent Congessional efforts to address behavioral health issues, including the growing opioid abuse epidemic, he stressed that "significant progress in these areas is directly related to whether individuals have coverage. And, we have already seen clear evidence of how expanded coverage is helping to address these high-priority needs."

Also seeking adequate Medicaid funding in the AHCA was America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), a national association whose 1,300 members provide coverage for healthcare and related services to more than 200 million Americans.

In a letter to two key House committees, AHIP President and CEO Marilyn Tavenner stated that "Medicaid health plans are at the forefront of providing coverage for and access to behavioral health services and treatment for opioid use disorders, and insufficient funding could jeopardize the progress being made on these important public health fronts."

However, AHIP commended the proposed legislation for its "number of positive steps to help stabilize the market and create a bridge to a reformed market during the 2018 and 2019 transition period" and "pledged to work collaboratively to shape the final legislation."

"AHIP members are committed to reducing cost growth by using value-based care arrangements and other innovative programs to address chronic illnesses and better manage the care of the highest-need patients," Tavenner concluded.

In a statement on Friday, Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price, MD, committing his agency to using its regulatory authority to create greater flexibility in the Medicaid program for states, including "a review of existing waiver procedures to provide states the impetus and freedom to innovate and test new ideas to improve access to care and health outcomes."

Infographic: Navigating the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System

February 17th, 2017 by Melanie Matthews

The goal of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' new quality program, the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS), is to streamline quality reporting to CMS and improve care, according to a new infographic by athenaInsight, Inc.

The infographic examines how MIPS will impact an average clinician this year…and in 2019 when the 2017 reporting will impact a clinician's reimbursement rates.

Infographic: EHR + CRM = Superior Patient Engagement

Under CMS's "Pick Your Pace" choices for Year 1 Quality Payment Program participation, physician practices may opt for the minimum activity necessary to avoid a payment penalty in 2019: simply submitting some data in 2017.

However, instead of delaying MACRA participation to the later part of this year, physicians should prepare and better position themselves today for MIPS success by analyzing their existing CMS data on their practices' performance and laying a path toward performance improvement.

Physician MACRA-Readiness: Mining QRUR and Other CMS Data to Maximize MIPS Performance describes the wealth of data analytics available from the CMS Enterprise Portal--Quality Resource Use Reports (QRURs) and other reports providing a window into practice performance under the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS). MIPS is one of two MACRA reimbursement paths and the one where most physician practices are expected to align.

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Providers, Patients Outline Healthcare Priorities to New HHS Secretary

February 16th, 2017 by Patricia Donovan

As HHS secretary Tom Price begins his tenure, the ACA and physician reimbursement are on constituents' minds.

As HHS secretary Tom Price begins his tenure, the ACA and physician reimbursement are on constituents' minds.

As Rep. Tom Price settles into his new role as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), organizations representing physician practices, nurses, patient groups and actuaries are making their healthcare priorities known to the newly confirmed administrator.

Concerns range from the future of the Affordable Care Act, which President Trump pledged to repeal in a January 2017 executive order, to specifics of new physician reimbursement programs resulting from MACRA (Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015).

In a news release from the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, America's leading nursing organizations called on the Trump administration and Congress to prioritize patient health and the patient-provider relationship in any health reform proposals. Representing over 3.5 million nurses, the organizations affirmed their shared commitment to advancing patient-centered healthcare and healthcare policies that reflect five key areas ranging from ensuring patients access to healthcare with affordable coverage options regardless of preexisting conditions to creating greater efficiency in the Medicare system.

On the patient side, I Am Essential, a coalition of more than 200 patient groups, asked Price to preserve key ObamaCare protections, including one that guarantees coverage for those with pre-existing conditions.

In its letter, the coalition said certain ObamaCare provisions have provided improved access to care to millions living with chronic and serious health conditions.

"While it is not a perfect law," the letter stated, "The ACA has provided health coverage and improved access to care for tens of millions of Americans living with chronic and serious health conditions, many of whom were previously uninsured or underinsured. If they lose access and coverage for even one day, their health and well-being can be immediately jeopardized."

The letter concluded with the following statement: "As you make any changes, we urge you not to go back on the promise of affordable and quality care and treatment for everyone, especially those living with chronic and serious health conditions."

Meanwhile, a letter from the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA), which represents more than 18,000 U.S. healthcare organizations in which 385,000 physicians practice, asked the new administrator to "significantly reduce the regulatory burden on physician practices and improve the quality and efficiency of healthcare delivery in this country."

Focused on the federal payor's new Quality Payment Program resulting from MACRA, the MGMA requested the following from Price, who worked in private practice as an orthopedic surgeon for nearly twenty years prior to launching his political career:

  • A reduction in the cost and reporting burden of the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS);
  • A careful review of the eligible Advanced Alternate Payment Program (APM) risk standard and contend there is significant inherent risk in moving from fee-for-service to risk-bearing arrangements, including substantial investment and operational costs, as well as misaligned financial incentives between the payment systems; and
  • Legislative relief from the Federal Physician Self-Referral Law, which MGMA referred to as "a regulatory monster of mind-numbing complexity."

MGMA represents physician groups of all sizes, types, structures and specialties, and has members in every major healthcare system in the nation.

And finally, the American Academy of Actuaries released three new issue briefs examining a number of key public policy considerations policymakers should weigh when evaluating specific proposals for reforming or replacing the Affordable Care Act.

The three papers, which address high-risk pools, selling health insurance across state lines, and association health plans, are available on the academy's site.

"Differences in a reform's structure can have wide implications for stakeholders and for how it interacts with other reforms that have been or may be adopted," said Academy Senior Health Fellow Cori Uccello. "For example, high-risk pools can be structured in different ways, with different implications for access to coverage, premiums, and government spending. Further, how regulatory authority is defined for both cross-state insurance sales and association health plans affects whether insurers would compete on a level playing field."

AMITA Health Places Patient at Center of Care Management Redesign

February 2nd, 2017 by Patricia Donovan
AMITA Health care management redesign

AMITA Health's care management redesign began in one patient unit on one floor.

In rolling out a new connected care management strategy across its nine-hospital system, AMITA Health aimed to keep its target patient population at the heart of the initiative—unit by unit, floor by floor. Here, Susan Wickey, vice president, quality and care management at AMITA Health, shares one of the guiding principles of the Medicare Shared Savings Program Accountable Care Organization (MSSP ACO).

The key component for us in our redesign was making sure that the patient was at the center of everything we did. With that in mind, we developed structured processes and programs that would span the care continuum while retaining the patient at the center. We wanted to establish relationship-based care with the patient and the primary care physician. We wanted to be able to use available data to help drive our decisions. We wanted to ensure that our patients had regular access to care, and that we leveraged what we currently had in place.

Our congestive heart failure clinic was key in this process. Navigating through the care continuum is not an easy process for many of our patients. We wanted to make sure we could help them through that, and construct some processes for them to be able to navigate. We wanted to make sure we were continuing to build the health literacy of our patients and our families. We wanted to establish interventions for the most vulnerable population of patients. We wanted to make sure we had a dedicated, multidisciplinary team to help us. We had psychiatrists, dieticians, pharmacists, primary care physicians and physician champions along the way to help us.

We began implementation very slowly, starting with a specific cohort of patients on one specific unit. This cohort was small; the number of people touching the cohort at the time was small. As we went along, we were able to define problem areas where we needed to intervene, quickly readjust and then go down the right path.

Slowly, over a period of time, we were able to add additional floors in our acute care hospitals, which then meant adding additional staff. Those additional staff then became the super users who helped us roll out the program on the next floor.

Source: Centralized Care Management to Reduce Readmissions and Avoidable ED Visits in High-Risk Populations

Centralized Care Management to Reduce Readmissions and Avoidable ED Visits in High-Risk Populations

Centralized Care Management to Reduce Readmissions and Avoidable ED Visits in High-Risk Populations describes how the nine-hospital system inventoried, reexamined and revamped its care management resources, ultimately implementing a centralized care management model.

Social Determinants of Health: Does Technology Connect or Isolate?

January 12th, 2017 by Patricia Donovan
social isolation

Only half of Americans with two or more chronic conditions actually go online.

Social determinants are areas of health that involve an individual’s social and environmental condition as well as experiences that directly impact health and health status. Here, Dr. Randall Williams, chief executive officer, Pharos Innovations, examines why, contrary to popular thought, technology advances may actually increase the gap between social connectedness and social isolation for certain populations.

In the age of the Internet, technology itself may become a barrier to being connected with others through social interactions. The Pew Research Center has done some nice work on health and the Internet. It turns out that three quarters of adults in the United States go online. That's probably not all that surprising, but what's more nuanced in this data is that the Internet access of individuals in the United States actually differs, depending on whether or not those individuals suffer from chronic health conditions.

It turns out that of Americans who have two or more chronic conditions, which by the way represents the vast majority of the Medicare population, only half go online. As it turns out, the very same groups that suffer most from social determinants of health, and not just from social isolation, also have the highest rates of chronic disease. And according to this research, they are the ones most likely to NOT have access to the Internet. This is called the Internet Divide.

We might be encouraged by the prevalence and penetration of mobile technologies, and maybe those would be the great bridge over the Internet Divide. Unfortunately, that may not be the case yet. According to this same Pew research, 90 percent of Americans who don't have a chronic condition actually own a cellphone. However, if you do have two or more chronic conditions, that number drops down pretty dramatically to 70 percent. That finding is a bit better than Internet access, but certainly not ubiquitous. If you look at those who have a cellphone, only 23 percent of them actually access text-messaging technologies on their cellphones, and smartphone apps fall well below that.

Source: Social Determinants and Population Health: Redesigning Care Management to Bridge Clinical and Non-Medical Services

social determinants of health

In Social Determinants and Population Health: Redesigning Care Management to Bridge Clinical and Non-Medical Services, care teams will learn that by asking patients the right questions and listening carefully to their responses, they can begin to identify and address social determinants, dramatically impacting patient outcomes as well as their own financial success under value-based care.