Tuesday
May102016

Walgreens raising awareness on mental health with online screening tools and telehealth services

By Claire Thayer, May 10, 2016

Walgreens and Mental Health America have forged an ambitious initiative to screen 3 million people for mental issue, by the end of 2017. Walgreens is well positioned to step up to expand mental health services and treatment options and has announced it will offer access to 1,000 therapists and psychiatrists via MDLive’s subsidiary, Breakthrough.

Walgreens new dedicated mental health “answer center” is designed to help connect people to Mental Health American’s Online Screening Program— free, scientifically-based online screenings for a number of conditions including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, PTSD and others.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that getting access to services for treatment of mental health illness continues to be a concern:

  • Approximately 60 percent of adults, and almost 50% of youth ages 8 to 15 with a mental illness received no mental health services in the previous year.
  • African American and Hispanic Americans used mental health services at about one-half the rate of whites in the past year and Asian Americans at about one-third the rate.
  • One-half of all chronic mental illness begins by the age of 14; three-quarters by age 24.
  • Despite effective treatment, there are long delays−sometimes decades−between the first appearance of symptoms and when people get help.

Further reading:

Friday
May062016

Hot Healthcare M&A Market Starting to Cool

By Clive Riddle, May 6, 2016

Irving Levin Associates reports that healthcare merger & acquisition activity, which has been relatively overheated, is starting to cool a little. Lisa E. Phillips, editor of Irving Levin’s Health Care M&A News tells us “the slowdown in deal volume in the first quarter of 2016 might simply be fatigue setting in after a record-setting year in 2015. Also, some buyers are still figuring out where the best opportunities are, as the shift to value-based reimbursements gains momentum.”

Health Care M&A News states that “health care merger and acquisition activity began to slow down in the first quarter of 2016. Compared with the fourth quarter of 2015, deal volume decreased 7%, to 351 transactions. Deal volume was also down 7% compared with the same quarter the year before. Combined spending in the first quarter reached $79.5 billion, an increase of 87% compared with the $42.5 billion spent in the previous quarter.”

Here’s a snapshot the publication provided of the quarter’s activity:

How big was 2015?  Bigger than 2014, which was also a huge year.  Irving Levin’s Lisa Phillips says “health care mergers and acquisitions posted record-breaking totals in 2015. The services side contributed 62% of 2015’s combined total of 1,503 deals, which is even higher than 2014, when services deals accounted for 58% of the deal total.” A separate Irving Levin publication, the Health Care Services Acquisition Report, cites that “deal volume for the health care services sectors rose 22%, to 936 transactions versus 765 in 2014. The dollar value of those deals grew 183%, to $175 billion, compared with $62 billion in 2014. Merger and acquisition activity in the following services sectors—Behavioral Health Care, Hospitals, Laboratories, MRI & Dialysis, Managed Care, Physician Medical Groups, Rehabilitation and Other Services—posted gains over their 2014 totals. The exception was the Home Health & Hospice sector, which declined 33% in year-over-year deal volume.”

In the hospital sector, for 2015, they report that “activity remained strong in 2015, up 3% to 102 transactions, compared with 99 transactions in 2014. An average of 2.6 hospitals were involved in each transaction, compared with an average of 1.8 in 2014 and 3.3 in 2013.” Philips noted that “several deals resulted from the mega-mergers of 2013,” and that “we’re seeing more sales resulting from bankruptcies, especially in states that have not expanded Medicaid coverage.”

Friday
Apr292016

Getting on the Blockchain Bandwagon

By Kim Bellard, April 28, 2016

Face it: health care IT infrastructure is a mess.  After spending tens of billions of dollars to "incent" providers to move to EHRs, they're using them but are not very happy with them. We now have millions of electronic records that are still way too siloed, and all too often incomplete.

Enter blockchain.

To the extent most people think of blockchain at all, it is in relation to one of its most prominent users, Bitcoin.  Bitcoin, which has its passionate advocates and equally passionate skeptics, is not synonymous with blockchain.  Blockchain is the technology that allows Bitcoin to operate, but they are no more one and the same than Salesforce.com and Oracle are.

In layman's terms -- and, trust me, when it comes to this I definitely am a layman -- blockchain is a set of distributed records, or databases, that are shared by multiple parties and which can only be updated by a majority of those parties.  There is no central authority, no central database.  It reminds me of the Internet's distributed networks, which help assure its robustness. 

Equally important, in blockchain once a record is stored (or "transcribed"), it can't be tampered with.  For better or for worse, Bitcoin has demonstrated that blockchain does, in fact, assure anonymity, privacy and security. 

Blockchain is starting to become more visible even outside of Bitcoin.  Businesses are being told they need a "blockchain czar.  Wall Street is starting to embrace it.  Britain looking into using it for manage the distribution of public money
 
Some people think it is the greatest thing since sliced bread -- or, in modern terms, since the Internet.  IBM's Jerry Cuomo says: "Blockchain has the potential to become the technological foundation for all electronic transactions conducted over the Internet."

If they are even remotely right, blockchain is something that we better be paying attention to, and what industry needs its advantages more than health care?

We're already beginning to see blockchain show up more in health care.  For example, Gem just announced Gem Health, As they say: "We need a modern infrastructure that unlocks new channels for services to connect, while balancing the need for strong data privacy and security.  Blockchain technology is that infrastructure."

Philips is onboard, with the Philips Blockchain Lab joining the Gem Health network.

It's not going to be easy.  Health care has had a hard time agreeing to things like ICD-10 or HL7, much less interoperability standards.  In CIO, Peter B. Nichol points out the need for foundational protocols, such as the Linux Foundation's Hyperledger project is working on  If we thought getting providers to use EHRs was hard, picture trying to get the health care industry onto a entirely new technology platform like blockchain. 

True to form, the "HIT standards mandarins" are already showing resistance to blockchain.

However, Mr. Nichol also enumerates a number of companies already jumping on the blockchain bandwagon for healthcare uses, including not just Gem but also TierionFactomHealthNautica, and Guardtime.  It is something that any organization involved in health care can ignore only at their own risk.

Look, I'm no technology seer.  I don't know if blockchain is going to totally revamp how we store and update data, as its proponents claim.  What I do know is that, when it comes to health care, our current approaches are not getting us to the interoperability that we need, or are doing so only at glacial speeds, and that they allow our electronic data to be increasingly vulnerable.   

If not blockchain, what?

This post is an abridged version of the posting in Kim Bellard’s blogsite. Click here to read the full posting

Wednesday
Apr202016

Cyber attacks – a new reality for health care organizations

By Claire Thayer, April 20, 2016

The healthcare industry as a whole is at a critical juncture in its efforts to curb medical identity theft, data breaches and health care fraud. More than any other industry, health care is now leading the way for the highest number of records breached - 84.4 million alone in the first half of 2015. Hospitals, health plans, health systems and provider organizations are all doubling down on efforts to address vulnerabilities related to cyber attacks. And, the sooner the better – as consumers are starting to take notice - about 50% say they wouldn’t hesitate to find another healthcare provider if they were concerned about the security of their medical records.

Cyber threats now have the full attention of the c-suite. A recent HIMSS Cybersecurity Survey finds:

  • 87% of healthcare leaders indicated that information security had become a critical business priority
  • 66% of healthcare organizations experienced a significant security incident
  • 57% of healthcare organizations have allocated a full-time resource to address cybersecurity
  • 81% of respondents believe more innovative and advanced tools are needed to combat security threats

These and issues pertaining to identity management in health care are the focus of a recent MCOL infographoid, co-sponsored by LexisNexis Healthcare, highlighted below:

MCOL’s weekly infoGraphoid is a benefit for MCOL Basic members and released each Wednesday as part of the MCOL Daily Factoid e-newsletter distribution service – find out more here.

Monday
Apr182016

Health Systems Advised to Tread Carefully When Considering Provider-led Health Plans 

By Claire Thayer, April 18, 2016

McKinsey & Co released an in-depth paper that explores both growth and evolution of provider-led health plans and offers key questions health systems should think about when evaluating their current plans or considering offering stepping into to provider-led plan market space. Here are some of the highlights gleaned from this paper.

The authors point out that overall, the growth in enrollment of provider led plans has increased 6% since 2010, growing from 12.4 million in enrollment to 15.3 million in 2014. While during this same time period, growth in the number of provider-led health plans was modest, increasing just 3% from 94 plans in 2010 to 106 in 2014. The enrollment growth was most pronounced in the Medicaid, Medicare Advantage and Individual Markets

The authors point to 4 important questions that are critical for health systems to consider when evaluating provider-led health plan (PLHP) offerings:

  • How can consumerism benefit a PLHP
  • When is growth through a PLHP most likely
  • Is an alternative type of administrative infrastructure possible?
  • What can be gained through granular analytics?

For further reading:

Article Summary: The market evolution of provider-led health plans [McKinsey & Company]

Full Article: The market evolution of provider-led health plans [McKinsey & Company]

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