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Please see update at end of post. If value-based care broadly delivers on its promise to reduce hospital admissions by providing more timely ambulatory care, a lot of today’s bed capacity will end up redundant and stranded. How can we navigate to a new equilibrium? Recent developments in the New Orleans area (whose population size still has not recovered from Katrina and is potentially therefore a model case of oversupply) may offer some window into future endgames for resolving the supply-demand imbalance. Acquire, unbundle, and selectively shut-down One approach is for an integrated system to acquire ailing assets, keep… Read More

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There have been some blog posts (here and here) about a discussion on payment reform at the Massachusetts Health Data Consortium last week. While I did not attend, the commentary is provocative and I would like to offer a few observations. The discussion included some critical perspectives on the prospects for implementing payment reform and whether its implementation will really bend the trend. My main point in response to the dialog is that payment reform needs to be understood as part of a dynamic trajectory, a multi-stage game. Couple variations on this theme: Getting to critical… Read More

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Summary Geographic barriers to provider competition are a headache for payers By importing capabilities, specialty franchising could help reduce some of the barriers to cross-geography competition It is too early to tell whether the recent Sarasota-Columbia is a good example of what franchising could do given the rapid growth in capacity for high-end cardiology in the area; it may be more about preserving network status and price point But payers should not assume the model will be a disappointing supplement to provider leverage: Instead, consider encouraging providers with differentiated outcomes (resulting in a differentiated cost profile) to explore franchising models… Read More

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A recent article in the NEJM argues that cost savings from quality improvements are illusory because of the lumpy nature of healthcare capacity.  Quality’s impact on utilization is just too small to be captured in a heavily fixed cost environment.  Any reduction in utilization results in a trivial savings of direct costs and, more importantly, unchanged fixed costs simply being reallocated across the smaller volume. Cost reduction in a high overhead environment is indeed difficult (ask any of the big process consulting houses).   It can be done, though it will… Read More

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Part of the theory of ACO value creation is trading off more primary care (resulting in better care coordination, fewer missed time bombs, and use of lower cost care options) against reduced use of specialists, ERs and hospitals (few stays, shorter stays). Early results seem to describe substantial promise (although not for everyone who tries the model). Let’s assume this promise will be realized in broader roll-out for the purposes of this post. One fear that is ACOs will drain volume away from unaffiliated medical specialists and hospitals, leading to a large capacity overhang and sharply weaker economics. Indeed,… Read More

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Summary A new study from Center for Studying Health System Change suggests that new Medicaid eligibles under reform will have trouble getting access because most primary care are not accepting new Medicaid patients. Our view: The study does not take into account the role of focus in Medicaid which makes a big difference: Providers earning more than 25% of revenues from Medicaid are much more willing to take on all or most new patients. In fact, among the providers most likely to care for Medicaid eligibles, the willingness to accept all new patients is not that different… Read More

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Remember the idea that coordination will improve care? Well, if physicians do not get timely reports from other providers, their patients seem to have lower costs!!!  This from a new study out from the Center for Studying Health System Change.  More importantly, this paper throws cold water on the idea that providers generate a lot of unnecessary cost to fill up excess capacity in the delivery system.   As you know, conventional wisdom driven by the Dartmouth Atlas and other studies has it that that care utilization and cost can vary sharply across regions without being tied to better outcomes, e.g. when… Read More