Posted by on in NEJM Highlights

Leveraging community services for health In poor individuals, a lot of health issues are intimately connected to their socioeconomic circumstances. However, at the system level, there has been a chronic lack of integration between social and health services. Several efforts have tried to remedy this, notably through integration of the Medicare and Medicaid components for duals in the financial alignment demonstration projects sponsored by CMS. But a there are a lot of social services that are not part of Medicaid; and recognizing the need to ensure awareness, and access, CMS is sponsoring experiments (with control arms) to pay providers… Read More

Posted by on in Providers

Earlier this month, CMS announced the first cohort of Next Generation ACO (“NGACO”) providers (see here our summary of the key changes made in the Next Generation). Below are a few thoughts on who signed up: The Next Generation cohort is diverse The cohort of 21 participants has the flavor of a structured pilot: Heritage mix: 8 are former Pioneer ACOs (with 232K lives attributed in 2014), 8 came out of former MSSP ACOs (217K lives attributed in 2014) and 5 are new to the CMS ACO program but with some experience in commercial ACO arrangements… Read More

Posted by on in Providers

Leif Solberg and team published research last month contrasting how patients value outcomes vs. how physicians think patients value outcomes. The approach was novel: they asked patients! They identified patients with an MRI or CT for abdominal or back pain and asked them (first in an open-ended way to identify 21 outcomes and then more systematically) to rate the importance of outcomes (e.g., find cause of pain, return to normal life functions, avoid surgery, etc.) on a 5 point scale (5=highest). They then asked PCPs to put themselves in the shoes of patients and rate the same outcomes.  The… Read More

Posted by on in NEJM Highlights

A new focus on the diagnostic reliability of clinicians Two perspectives highlighting the recent report from the National Academy of Medicine (formerly IOM) entitled “Improving Diagnosis in Health Care”.  Diagnostic error has long been the invisible side of poor medicine compared to medication errors, or a towel forgotten inside the patient and the like.  But the growth of health IT is both exposing diagnostic error and bearing the seeds of a solution, initially through rule-based automated checks and reminders, but likely eventually through a much more guideline driven practice of medicine with clinical decision support tools.   Reducing Diagnostic Errors… Read More

Posted by on in Consumer Health, Digital Health, Providers

Earlier this month, researchers released a study of patient-initiated emails to providers with Northern California Kaiser Permanente (KPNC) in 2011/12 in the JAMC . The study focused on patients with one or more chronic condition (CDC data indicates this would be about 50% of an average population) but otherwise sought a mix of conditions, benefit designs and demographics among its participants. Respondents were asked about their use of email in the previous 12 months. The study found substantial patient initiation of email contacts: Of the 71% in the sample with regular access to the internet, 79% said they… Read More

Posted by on in Agile Strategy, Consumer Health, Digital Health

Maxwell Health LLC is a rapidly growing company that offers a platform to make it easy and intuitive for employees to manage their employer-sponsored benefits.  It is at the intersection of several major macro trends currently transforming the Healthcare industry: As a marketplace for employee benefits, it is near the center of a shifting US regulatory landscape for individual and small group insurance exchanges As a “Software as a Service” (SaaS) platform it is a poster child for the growing use of clever software to deliver intuitive, efficient and quality healthcare services As a company with the stated mission to… Read More

Posted by on in Network strategy, Payers, Providers

Mercy Health – the largest system in Ohio – has recently formed a Clinically Integrated Network (CIN) with Summa Health called Advanced Health Select. CINs allow separately owned provider systems to jointly contract with payers on a risk basis as well as invest in clinical systems to support consistent practice and joint accountability. The model offers some key advantages of affiliation (joint economics and investment) without the regulatory hurdles, governance challenges and business risks change of control usually entails. Mercy and Summa had two prior business relationships: First, Mercy holds a 30% share of Summa (and… Read More

Posted by on in NEJM Highlights

Systems biology finally gets real: an unexpected use for a diabetes drug Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML) has been the poster child first for a disease with a precise genetic cause (the Philadelphia chromosome), and then for targeted drug design (with imatinib – Gleevec). Unfortunately, few patients achieve a complete response to therapy which means that they have to stay on drug indefinitely. This commentary highlights recent research which shows that pioglitazone (Actos), an approved diabetes drug that activates a specific cellular pathway (STAT5) can synergistically enhance treatment with Gleevec to achieve a potential cure.  While this particular work affects only… Read More

Posted by on in NEJM Highlights

What are annual physicals for? Annual physicals are costly (~$10 billion annually) and have never been shown to improve outcomes, but people value them. In this dichotomy lies a lot of the inner tensions of medical care: between delivery of technical care, and nurturing of human relationships, and those are illuminated by two articles in counterpoint.  In the end though both sides come to a point of view that is not altogether dissimilar – that what is needed is not an annual physical, but some sort of preventive care/health review visit which, instead of being a fishing expedition for problems… Read More

Posted by on in Digital Health, Providers

A few problems Geographic barriers to the entry have long protected providers from best-in-class competition.  Provider consolidation – theoretically a logical response to the current operating environment — reinforces these barriers by locking up referrals and making systems too big / too few to fail.  Instead of pushing providers aggressively on value, payers and regulators may end up nursing underperforming systems (e.g. Highmark’s bail-out of the West Penn Allegheny system) and discouraging disruptive entrants for fear of unintended damage to the stability of the local provider infrastructure.  Even if consolidation is necessary for value-based care, the result looks like a leverage… Read More