OUR BLOG

Recon takes an analytical look behind select developments in healthcare

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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Marrying into the right family: the bets underlying United’s revenue cycle management joint venture with Dignity Health

Market for outsourced revenue cycle management could be big The revenue cycle management (RCM) vendor industry is about $2.0B for hospitals and $11 billion for physicians today. The market is constrained because most providers do their own RCM. Vendors only have a ~10% penetration among hospitals and a 25% penetration among physicians (implying that the potential combined hospital and physician market is $60-70B). However, RCM as a function is getting more complex and outsourcing could quickly start looking more attractive: Value-based contracting models raising the stakes in documentation, reporting, benchmarking,

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Declining value of the EMR walled garden? An emerging signpost from Cleveland Clinic

Quick follow-up to our post about the Epic-eClinicalWorks deal: Today’s Healthcare Informatics has an interview with Martin Harrison, CIO of Cleveland Clinic, was asked what is the biggest strategic IT challenge right now. His answer? The challenge element is partly being driven by the complexity of the challenges in this value-driven world. So all the care providers belonging to this collaborative probably will not belong to the same organization. So the biggest challenge to my mind right now is the effectiveness of interoperability. We talk about it a lot, but

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Change in tactics or change of heart? Speculations on the eClinicalWorks–Epic interoperability announcement

Epic is famous for its intense focus on interoperability across its own systems coupled with its conservatism regarding interoperability with other EMRs. In 2012, KLAS said Epic has the “deepest data sharing of all the vendors” across its own practice and hospital EMRs (see this example in which Cleveland Clinic and neighboring system MetroHealth — both on Epic — have put interoperability in place). But when it comes to non-Epic systems, customers must work through defined “exits” to the Epic system (“we don’t let anyone write on top of our

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Metrics alone will not unleash the market: Porter and Lee ignore the demand side to the peril of their proposed strategy

Summary Michael Porter and Thomas Lee have articulated a strategy for fixing healthcare focused on restructuring providers and assessing them based on metrics “that matter to patients” The most compelling example they cite of system-wide improvement (vs. anecdote) is the case of IVF where public outcomes reporting demonstrates widespread and consistent performance improvement However, the IVF story has several unique features which make it an exception rather than a model for improving healthcare System improvement cannot be a matter of supply-side restructuring and outcomes metrics: market forces needs to be

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Quiet after the storm: Is there an emerging competitive equilibrium in Ohio?

Summary In August and early September, several Ohio provider systems have picked sides in the competition between Catholic Health Partners and Cleveland Clinic The recently announced Health Innovations Ohio collaboration signals that Catholic Health Partners is playing for the overall Ohio market; however, there is no clear, attractive competitive response for Cleveland Clinic Cleveland Clinic lacks a footprint in populous southern Ohio to match Catholic Health Partners but it is not obvious which systems there would seek an alliance or an acquisition Cleveland Clinic and Community Health Systems joint venture

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Strategic “crowd-out” via narrow networks: an emerging case study in Wisconsin

Last week, I argued that, if payers want to secure competitive advantage from improved provider care, they would need tighter, more exclusive alignments with these providers to “crowd out” the free riders (the “free riders” in this case are the other payers who have members being treated by the same providers and who can therefore share in any improvements). Two deals last week suggest a case study of the concept may be developing in southeastern Wisconsin: On September 9, Anthem announced that it will be teaming up with highly ranked

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ACO proliferation and provider “all-payer” care models inexorably lead to tighter network strategies

A new study in JAMA (by McWilliams et al.) looks at the Medicare expenditures of patients seeing providers enrolled in the BCBS of Massachusetts version of the ACO (Alternative Quality Contract or “AQC”). The AQC model covers only commercial lives and all of the relevant providers had FFS reimbursement from Medicare during the time of the study (several later became ACO Pioneers). The study tests whether providers rewarded to be more efficient for one pool of patients (BCBCMA commercial HMO lives) will take the same approach to care with other

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