OUR BLOG

Recon takes an analytical look behind select developments in healthcare

The many ways in which decreasing volatility in individual health care utilization is valuable

It is a long-standing hypothesis shared by many providers that community-based interventions that improve primary care could lead to overall healthcare savings by preventing (or delaying) the occurrence of medically expensive conditions.  Rigorously proving this has been difficult, and only a few appropriately controlled studies have been published. In a Letter to the Editor of the American Journal of Managed Care[1], my colleague Alex Brown and I commented on an earlier article[2] evaluating the impact of a community health worker (CHW) intervention on healthcare costs. The study showed no significant

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NEJM Highlights for May 2016: Referral for surgery, and a miscellany of interesting biochemistry

Surgical volume and referral for surgery: The impact of surgical volume on outcomes has been well documented, but is it top of mind with physicians referring patients to surgery? Readers of the Journal were polled on a hypothetical scenario whereby a community physician would be referring a patient in need of a major surgical procedure to either a nearby community hospital with a well-respected general surgeon doing approximately 5 of these cases a year versus a tertiary medical center 40 miles away. The great majority of readers chose the option

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The future of cancer care: A bird’s-eye view

The recent World Medical Innovation Forum on Cancer convened by Partners Healthcare in Boston was attended by leaders in oncology from around the world including top: clinicians, bench scientists, policy leaders, and executives from hospitals and life-science companies.  Two plus days of intense discussion and sharing of perspectives ably curated by Partners Innovation head Chris Coburn covered a range of topics from technology developments, to the healthcare system, and the patient/ doctor perspectives. The mind-map below is an attempt to organize the key themes that I heard through the conference and to try to convey why I came away

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When is a patient not a patient? More often than you think

I have been conducting an informal test for the past year and a half.  And while it has not been a full statistically-significant clinical trial with test and control groups, and “double blind” testing methods, the results have been striking… The way this test works is that when I meet someone new or reconnect with someone I have not seen in a long time, I ask them to describe themselves and then listen carefully to the answer.  Some clear patterns emerge: It’s most common for people, and particularly my American

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NEJM Highlights April 2016: Value and values: RBRVS, ACA and readmissions, E-cigs

RBRVS: an acronym we ought to think more about RBRVS stands for the Resource Based Relative Value Scale, and codifies the time and effort involved for a comprehensive set of physician activities on which Medicare payments are based. In this perspective, the authors highlight that most value-based payment (VBP) systems currently under development are essentially built as modifiers on top of the RBRVS. But the RBRVS has two major issues with it: it is “downward sticky” and has not evolved to take into account increased efficiency (e.g. automation), and it

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Ochsner solidifies its position in northern Louisiana (updated)

Please see update at the end of the post. With new two affiliations, Ochsner Health has solidified its clinically integrated network in the most populous parish (East Baton Rouge) and built a beachhead in the one part of the state where it lacked a partner (the northeast). The two new partners are General Health System in Baton Rouge (announced in late March) and Glenwood Regional Medical Center in Monroe (announced in early April). These affiliations have a several implications: Ochsner Health Network is now viably state-wide. Its affiliates are directly

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Biopharma risk-sharing: what needs to happen

A couple of years ago, we addressed the question of whether drug companies could use new business models to capture more of the value they create. At the time, we pointed out that drug makers had struggled to get payers interested in new models, and that any potential solution would need to consider aspects of the drug (as it relates to the overall care paradigm and system), and of the payer. Fast forward to 2016, and there are a number of factors that suggest that now may be the right time for drug makers and payers

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NEJM Highlights March 2016: Getting value for money in healthcare, Zika bad news, linking the microbiome to the metabolic syndrome

Could Uber happen to healthcare? A Perspective article that points out that the success of Uber is rooted in the flaws of an industry where customer convenience and value for money took the backseat to the interest of a set of service providers highly protected by regulation. Sounds familiar?  Obviously, the regulatory moats of healthcare are much wider and deeper, but in a curious mix of warning (watch out!) and encouragement (this will be good for you if you embrace it!) the authors argue that the medical profession should not

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Context is King – When to use an Agile corporate strategy?

“Agile corporate strategy” (as defined in a previous post) is already the established the weapon of choice for small, early-stage innovators trying to re-invent their marketplace, where the product is the company and uncertainty is the hallmark new emerging markets.  Startups like agile strategies – often referred to a “Lean Startup” – because they effectively counter the scale advantage of incumbent competitors without requiring massive initial investment.  But contrary to the conventional wisdom that firms must abandon agility as they get larger and more complex, in the right market context

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Sustainable Agility – Activity Systems for the Agile Competitor

The dirty little secret of the booming agile training and coaching industry is that most Agile implementations ultimately fail, meaning that the companies revert back to their previous working methods.  Even ones that experience dramatic early success and drive their entire industry to implement similar approaches typically lose momentum after several years or with a change in leadership. It is telling that, of the first wave of companies to implement Scrum in the mid 1990’s, not one is still using the framework today.  In light of this, it is tempting

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Enterprise Agility as Corporate Strategy

In a previous post, I explored Maxwell Health as an example of agile product development strategy in healthcare.  For small single-product companies the product strategy is the corporate strategy, but agile principles can yield profound benefits for larger multi-product business units and even entire firms.  This blog focuses on Agile Corporate Strategy, and specifically how a subset of companies in the right strategic context could greatly benefit from institutionalizing agility across the entire enterprise. Agile corporate strategy “Agility” is a term that gets thrown around liberally, often in a very

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Mercy Health exits the insurance business and curtails ambitions for its state-wide provider alliance

Earlier this month, Mercy Health announced deals to dismantle HealthSpan (the former Kaiser business in northeast Ohio acquired in 2013), selling the insurance arm to local powerhouse Med Mutual, dissolving the medical group, and transitioning physicians to various northeast Ohio providers. 2015 was supposed to be a growth year for the business, but membership declined across lines of business, PMPM costs ballooned and Exchange risk adjustment obligations wreaked havoc with the bottom line ( HealthSpan is said to cover 160K lives total, of which half are risk with the legacy

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Rewarding patient loyalty vs. earning patient loyalty

A new article in JAMA recommends that ACOs and health systems develop patient loyalty programs comparable to those offered by coffee shops, hotels and airlines (McMahon et al, “Health System Loyalty Program – An Innovation in Customer Care and Service” JAMA, March 1, 2016) . The value of patient loyalty to the health system is clear: greater share of wallet plus an ability to manage patients’ health in a more integrated way. Integration should be valuable to the patient as well, but – conditioned perhaps by years of being asked

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NEJM Highlights Feb 2016: metrics for all, ROI perversion, less memory loss, the value of a kinder gentler residency

Defining success in health care A perspective advertising yeoman’s work of the International Consortium for Health Outcomes Measurement (ICHOM) which has defined specific metrics for dozens of diseases for which there are no widely accepted standards defined so far. If followed broadly, this will greatly facilitate performance comparisons across systems, improvement of processes of care delivery, and the implementation of value based contracting. Standardizing Patient Outcomes Measurement (free access)   Public health gets no respect A lament on how population health interventions tend to be beholden to positive ROI standards

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Centene bringing a new managed care strategy to The Big House?

Correctional health and correctional pharmacy 2.2M people are incarcerated in local jails and state and federal prisons at any one time in the U.S. for whose healthcare various government agencies are responsible. This aggregate number hides some important segment differentiation (see table). Local jails are housing a little over 700K on any average day but typically for a short period of time (on average a month or less), implying over 11M people flowing through the jail system in any one year (boldly assuming few repeated tours). Less than a month

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The Walgreens-Advocate deal: end of urgent care’s strategic neutrality in Chicago?

This past January, Walgreens assigned operational control of 56 in-store clinics to Advocate Health. The deal signals another intensification of the already fierce hospital competition in Chicago, and may have implications for the future of urgent care broadly. Prisoner’s dilemma Healthcare’s market failures often prevent the timely exit of redundant capacity, so any new care capacity ends up raising – rather than reallocating –fixed costs across a market. Urgent care, which is enjoying widespread and rapid growth, can be an exception: many providers lack the scale and geographic concentration of

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NEJM Highlights January 2016: a medley of social service, OB, data mining, obesity, and ESRD

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

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Observations on NextGen ACO’s first cohort of participants

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

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Outcomes patients want: Could it be that the more common the condition, the worse doctors understand the outcomes patients seek?

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

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