Posted 10/10/12 on Medscape Connect’s Care & Cost Blog
When an employer sits down with his health care partners – broker, health plan, physician, hospital, drug and device firm, health IT firm – everyone but him wants health care to cost more, and each is typically in a position to make that happen.
Lynn Jennings, CEO, WeCare TLC
A new class of health care management organization is emerging that thrives by taking advantage of health care’s rampant and institutionalized waste. These firms mine the market dysfunction that has developed over decades, which will almost certainly yield enough fuel to drive a new way to manage care and cost.
The founders of these organizations have deep health care experience, and they understand the mechanisms of excess. More important, the ones I’ve met are mission-driven, with a deep sense of outrage that health care’s exploitation has become so pervasive and overt. So their businesses are purposeful.
Continue reading “A Better Way To Manage Care and Cost”
Published August 1, 2013 in the Self-Insurer
One of health care’s deeper mysteries is why third party administration (TPA) firms remain minor health plan players and, to a large degree, have been all but uncompetitive with the major health plans. Yes, the big plans have paid brokers more handsomely and have offered broader services, simplifying purchasing. But they have also offered mediocre-to-poor products at increasingly exorbitant cost. Why have TPAs as a group not distinguished themselves with better performance?
Most TPAs emerged as employer advocates, promising to protect their clients from the financially conflicted practices embraced by the major plans. But over time, many have become, as the term implies, administrators rather than managers, processing transactions without much focus on changing the ways that care and cost are delivered. Certainly in recent years, the majority have not attacked the egregious excesses that have made American health care so costly. Or to say it more simply, even though it has been in their clients’ interests, most have not done the hard work required to make health care cost less with better health outcomes, and so gain a quality and price advantage over their competitors. After all, there’s a good living to be had just putting together the coverage machinery processing claims.
Continue reading “How TPAs Can Win”
Posted 5/09/13 on Medscape Connect’s Care & Cost Blog
On a recent call with a large manufacturer, my company’s team expected to describe how we develop primary care medical homes that become platforms for managing comprehensive health care clinical and financial risk. But the team on the other end of the phone beat us to it. Their remarks – that health care cost is a multi-headed monster that requires a broad array of simultaneously executed approaches – were a breath of fresh air.
They wanted to avoid approaches that don’t work or are designed to accrue to a vendor’s disproportionate financial advantage, and focus instead on mechanisms that measurably improve health and reduce cost. Their conventional current clinic vendor wasn’t onboard, philosophically or in terms of capabilities, and so wasn’t getting results. They were looking for a replacement vendor that could help them drive more appropriate care, with clear rules for patients and providers.
Continue reading “Using Strong Carrots and Sticks To Drive Health Care That Works”
Posted 2/15/13 on Medscape Connect’s Care & Cost Blog
Health care’s purchasers crave certainty. But complexity – and therefore uncertainty – rules. Assurances are hard to come by.
The most common question asked by prospective clients of my onsite clinic/medical management firm is how much less their employee health benefits will cost if they deploy our services. They often expect that we’ll review their claims history and nail down what their health care will cost once we’re involved. Looking in the rear view mirror can inform the future, but it isn’t foolproof.
The Complexity of Health Care Risk
The challenge here is that so many different mechanisms contribute to the need for care, the ways care is accessed, the ways care is delivered, and the ways it is priced. Even mechanisms that, in isolation, are strong, often are inadequate in the context of larger cost drivers.
Continue reading “A Broader Approach To Managing Health Care Risk”
Posted 7/31/12 on Medscape Connect’s Care and Cost
Several years ago I had dinner with a woman who had served in the late 1990s as the national Chief Medical Officer of a major health plan. At the time, she said, she had developed a strategic initiative that called for abandoning the plan’s utilization review and medical management efforts, which had produced heartburn and a backlash among both physicians and patients. Instead, the idea was to retrospectively analyze utilization to identify unnecessary care.
This was at the height of anti-managed care fervor. A popular movie at the time, As Good As It Gets, cast Helen Hunt as the mother of a sick kid. When someone mentioned an HMO, Ms. Hunt’s character let fly a flurry of expletives. America’s theater audiences exploded in applause.
Continue reading “Why Medical Management Will Re-Emerge”
Posted 4/25/12 on Kent Bottles’ Private Views
iMedicine: The Influence of Social Media on Medicine was the topic of the day-long 27th Annual Physician Student Awareness Day (SPAD) held on April 24, 2012 on the campus of New York Medical College in Valhalla, New York. The entire conference was run by medical students from the Class of 2015.
Karl Adler, MD, CEO, welcomed the 200 attendees by recalling his own medical school education in the 1960s. Dr. Adler relied on textbooks, mimeographed handouts, and lecture notes to master both the art and science of medicine. In his day, students were taught to rely on the history, the physical examination, laboratory tests, radiology studies, and the EKG; his teachers stressed that the history and physical obtained in a face-to-face encounter between the physician and the patient were the keys to successfully caring for the patient.
Continue reading “iMedicine: The Influence of Social Media on Medicine”
Posted 4/04/12 on The Disease Management Care Blog
Every practicing physician using an electronic health record (EHR) has seen them. Past diagnosis zombies that stumble endlessly through every encounter record. “Coronary heart disease” that the patient never really had, “diabetes” that was only one possibility among many and a “fracture” that never appeared on any x-ray.
These undead conditions clutter the technology-enabled health system basically because of two EHR value propositions:
Continue reading “Of Zombies, Emperor’s New Clothes, Documentation Inertia: LIngering Untrue Diagnoses That Persist in the Electronic Health Record”
Posted 2/28/12 on Cracking Health Costs
Doctors often do not seek for themselves treatments they offer patients. This is particularly true for end of life care. I’ve seen examples of that all my career. I’ve also asked doctors about whether or not they personally would seek aggressive of treatment if they had a specific type of cancer. Rarely do they say yes.
The question is, what’s up? The WSJ today has a really good article on this topic. Click here to read it. The following quote probably sums it up: “It’s not something that we like to talk about, but doctors die, too. What’s unusual about them is not how much treatment they get compared with most Americans, but how little. They know exactly what is going to happen, they know the choices, and they generally have access to any sort of medical care that they could want. But they tend to go serenely and gently.”
I’ve made it abundantly clear to my family that when my time comes I want to exit quietly, as painlessly as possible, and with dignity. That makes the best sense to me, and evidently to most doctors too.
The column immediately below is an important discussion by Douglas Elmendorf, the Director of the CBO – actually it was prepared by Lyle Nelson of CBO’s Health and Human Services Division, but it has Mr. Elmendorf’s imprimatur – which recently released an issue brief concluding that major cost control approaches had not produced savings in Medicare. This of course elicited a cascade of pro/con medical management commentary.
Most important is this sentence near the bottom.
Demonstrations aimed at reducing spending and increasing quality of care face significant challenges in overcoming the incentives inherent in Medicare’s fee-for-service payment system, which rewards providers for delivering more care but does not pay them for coordinating with other providers, and the nation’s decentralized health care delivery system, which does not facilitate communication or coordination among providers.
Continue reading “Can Medical Management Succeed Within A Fee-For-Service Environment?”
Posted 1/23/12 on Health Policy and Marketplace Review
I will suggest that most of us believe the way to control health care costs, and at the same time maintain or improve quality, is to both use the managed care tools we have developed over the years, and perhaps more importantly, change the payment incentives so that both cost control and quality are upper most in the minds of providers and payers.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has just released an important review of Medicare’s results in testing those ideas. The news is not good.
From the CBO’s blog post:
In the past two decades, Medicare’s administrators have conducted demonstrations to test two broad approaches to enhancing the quality of health care and improving the efficiency of health care delivery in Medicare’s fee-for-service program. Disease management and care coordination demonstrations have sought to improve the quality of care of beneficiaries with chronic illnesses and those whose health care is expected to be particularly costly. Value-based payment demonstrations have given health care providers financial incentives to improve the quality and efficiency of care rather than payments based strictly on the volume and intensity of services delivered.
In an issue brief released today, CBO reviewed the outcomes of 10 major demonstrations—6 in the first category and 4 in the second—that have been evaluated by independent researchers. CBO finds that most programs tested in those demonstrations have not reduced federal spending on Medicare.
Continue reading “Important Research From Medicare Demonstration Projects: Almost Nothing Works”
Posted 1/18/12 on Common Sense Family Doctor
The urban public hospital where I completed most of my training as a medical student had a single CT scanner. To ensure that this precious resource was put to effective use, any physician ordering a non-emergent CT scan was required to personally present the patient’s case to the on-call Radiology fellow and explain how the result of the scan would potentially change management. Since my attending surgeons were usually too busy to trudge down to the Radiology suite, they deputized their residents to do so, and most of the time my residents passed this thankless task down to the students. Thus, my classmates and I learned early on the difference between appropriate and inappropriate reasons for ordering CT scans.
Continue reading “Curbing Overuse of CT Scans – And Other Interventions”
Posted 11/2/11 on the Disease Management Care Blog
The Disease Management Care Blog remembers when it was first introduced to an electronic health record (EHR). After many days of learning how to document, link, retrieve, order, manage, view, bill, sign-off and close patient encounters, it asked about retrieving summary statistics on its patient population. It wanted to know how many if its patients with high blood pressure were under control and how many of its patients with heart disease had low cholesterol levels. The practice administrator looked at the DMCB like it was crazy.
Continue reading “Finally, a Good EHR Anecdote”
First posted 10/04/11 on The Disease Management Care Blog
“Accountability.” Everyone wants it, right?
While it’s one thing for health care providers to be “accountable” for costs, it’s another for them to actually make money at it. The Disease Management Care Blog is continuously amazed at how many physicians and administrators believe that dollops of “primary care,” “prevention” and “wellness” will empty hospital beds and cause insurance money to appear like the morning dew on a windshield of a physician specialist’s BMW.
Believe that and the DMCB has an ORD-SFO United Airlines upgrade “departure management card” it would like to sell you.
Continue reading “Predictive Modeling: The Second Most Important Ingredient for Provider Accountability”