OUR BLOG

Recon takes an analytical look behind select developments in healthcare

A sizeable step forward but miles still to go: CMS’ Next Generation ACO model

CMS has issued a “Request for Applications” describing its Next Generation (NG) ACO. The model makes progress on three issues that have generated plenty of analytical handwringing from MedPAC and the broader ACO community. It also signals a strategy to set ACOs up to compete more directly with Medicare Advantage (MA). (1) Enhancing predictability The Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP) and Pioneer ACO models had different approaches to solving the same business parameters. With NG, CMS has generally picked the ones which enhance simplicity and predictability (see table). For example,

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Biopharma innovation: Will there be sufficient incentives in the future?

Ezekiel Emanuel wrote an op-ed in the New York Times last month, which highlighted the low number of new antibiotics that have been brought to market in the past two decades. Antibiotics are a unique market compared to therapeutics for other diseases. Infectious disease clinicians prefer to use innovative new products as a last line of defense against highly resistant infections, relying on tried-and-true antibiotics as their primary options. Paradoxically, the “reward” for being a highly innovative, effective new antibiotic is to be sparsely used. Emanuel points out this conundrum while

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NEJM Highlights February 2015: the most boring month in my NEJM reading memory

Our selection from a month with relatively few exciting articles – perhaps this long Boston winter has us all down. Precious metals and health plan buying: The implementation of the ACA has placed new decision making on individuals purchasing health insurance on the exchanges. In this report, the authors argue based on experiments that for many individuals, reversing the gold-silver-bronze nomenclature (gold becomes bronze and vice versa) reverses the preference independently of the underlying characteristics of the plans. For the public health advocate this highlights the need for educating shoppers, and

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NEJM Highlights January 2015: Dengue vaccine, Informed consent, Cancer drugs and Tiering for selection

A vaccine for dengue finally nears the market Dengue is a mosquito transmitted viral infection that is often severe and occasionally fatal, and that has been identified as a growing public health threat, largely in the developing world but also with inroads in developed countries with hundreds of millions of cases yearly world-wide. At this time, there is no vaccine or treatment for dengue other than supportive care. In a placebo-controlled study, a dengue vaccine from Sanofi-Pasteur covering all 4 serotypes of dengue was found to be 60% efficacious in preventing

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Cosgrove moves south: competitive implications of the formation of the Midwest Health Collaborative

A few days ago, Cleveland Clinic announced the formation of the Midwest Health Collaborative (“the Collaborative”), a new company jointly managed by six Ohio delivery systems across the state. The company’s goals are to share best practices, collaborate to reduce costs (e.g., procurement synergies) and “explore the business case” for developing a state-wide provider network. Notably, the deal was announced just eighteen months after Cleveland Clinic’s key competitor in Ohio, Mercy Health (formerly Catholic Health Partners), announced its own state-wide alliance, Health Innovations Ohio; this new deal also links three

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Shifting lines in the mobile health competitive battlefield: Aetna makes a strategic retreat while United digs in?

The battle to own healthcare’s consumer relationship is being nowhere fought more intensely than in the mobile arena. Tea leaves suggest that Aetna has pulled back from trying to own this relationship in favor of a more collaborative “ecosystem” strategy, but United appears determined to lead. The thinking is speculative but I let me point out the emerging evidence and offer some guesses on what will come next. Strategy environment for consumer mobile health At the risk of oversimplification, let me offer six hypotheses regarding the strategic context for consumer

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The “weaponization” of ACO narrow networks: Strategic destabilizers which compel their own replication?

In theory, narrow networks built around a single provider or a network of aligned providers (“provider-orchestrated narrow networks” or “ACO networks”) can pose a much higher stakes threat to non-participating providers than ones assembled solely by payers (i.e., where the payer picks who is in based on cost and rates): They are more likely to achieve broad utilization reduction because participating providers can align on principles, build shared capabilities and coordinate management of specific patients consistently. As a result, discounts can play a smaller role in creating a compelling value

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Ochsner and River Parishes: one type of endgame for managing redundant hospital capacity (updated)

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

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Boeing’s model for creating product-based competition among providers

Summary Boeing is creating a benefit design model which sets up providers to compete for their book of lives via provider-branded narrow networks By offering a choice among competing narrow and full network products, the model may make narrow networks more palatable for employees Narrow networks can produce a volume windfall for providers (e.g., share gain, leakage reduction) and profits from better care management and a risk deal  Providers “pay” for the narrow network opportunity by being lower cost (often via incremental discounts) in hopes that these gains outweigh cannibalization

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Apple HealthKit, provider partnerships and walled gardens: three observations

A number of observers have noted that the Apple’s partnership with Epic on HealthKit could reinforce the role of “closed IT system” strategies in general and Epic’s leading position among EMR vendors in particular. Others have noted that prominent PHR failures (Google, Revolution Health) should add some sobriety to the hype around HealthKit. While I don’t disagree with these concerns, I have three other thoughts on the announcement that Apple has built a framework for collecting and presenting health data from a wide variety of consumer devices and apps. Providers

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Can drug companies make drugs, AND money?

In this morning’s New York Times (June 3,2014), Andrew Ross Sorkin asks,“DO drug companies make drugs, OR money”? That’s a fair question in the context of what I’ll call a “fee-for-product” reimbursement regime. Another way to look at this question is, “CAN drug companies make drugs, AND money”? Value has not been an easy sell As the U.S. healthcare services system moves from fee-for-service to a value-based system, the biotech and pharmaceutical (biopharma) industry should have an opportunity to capture more of the value it creates. But with drug costs only ~10%

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Aetna not conceding the private exchange space to the benefits consultants

Summary Aetna is stitching its inventory of ACO deals into a national ACO network and will offer them on its proprietary private exchange (PHIX) Linking ACOs and PHIXs is smart because PHIX’s defined contribution feature creates a strong consumer reward for picking a tighter network product Promising a national network of ACOs is bold: ACO deals depend on willing providers and opportunity in local care patterns; in many geographies, the delivery system isn’t ready or interested. If Aetna can create a national network, it should be attractive to major employers

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Boiling the Ocean…or not

We’ve all heard the term, “Boiling the Ocean” to refer to an approach that is broad and ambitious and generally leads to lots of work and very little insight.  Historians will argue about whether it was Will Rogers or Mark Twain or someone else who first used this phrase but that’s besides the point. As the story goes: In 1914 the Germans were sinking U.S. ships in the North Atlantic. It was a turkey shoot because the Germans had the U-boat and we didn’t. Somebody asked the American folk philosopher

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MA hospital relative prices by payer

Here’s a quick look at relative prices in MA using CHIA data for you to play with. What you could do for instance is select Commercial and Medicare on the left (use CTRL key for multiple selection) and then on the right, check off say only BCBS. That wold show you the difference between TMEs for Medicare and Commercial just for BCBS. Can also filter by hospital system (on the right). Have fun. P.S. You may need to scroll to the right or re-size on your browser (CTRL -) to

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Bring it on: Highmark brings in a long-distance ally to help compete vs. UPMC in cancer care

Summary Allegheny Health Network (AHN), the major delivery system in Pittsburgh owned by Highmark, and Johns Hopkins Medicine have signed a MOU to create an affiliation between Allegheny and the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center.  Over many years, UPMC has established a very large network of cancer care throughout western Pennsylvania; AHN has responded in kind albeit much less broadly. At this point, there is very little independent cancer care left in the region. By partnering with a prominent UPMC competitor in oncology, the deal is likely designed to shore

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Cigna and Samsung: assembling a “global account”-based business model for mobile

Samsung and Cigna have agreed to a multi-year development alliance for health applications for the Samsung smartphone. The partners will initially focus on content (access to the health-related tips and articles Cigna already offers its customer base). Ultimately, the partnership will “connect individuals with caregivers, doctors and hospitals to improve health and wellness globally.” So far, the announcements have been silent on any exclusivity. In our view, the content deal is a sideshow: health and wellness tips are highly commoditized and an insurer an undifferentiated supplier for this content. I

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Staked out territory by Massachusetts hospital systems

In 2011, we would tell our payer clients (tongue firmly ensconced in cheek) that the answer to all questions was “private exchanges.” In 2012, the punchline changed to “narrow networks.” In 2013, what is not a joke is that payers and health systems are really having to grapple with difficult strategic choices on partnerships, affiliations and M&A relating to facilities and medical groups in order to actually deliver on the value promise of narrow networks (higher value care).Two key inputs into these choices are: The geographic catchment area of each

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