Patient Reported Outcomes

By Clive Riddle, May 15, 2015

The National Quality Forum defines Patient-Reported Outcomes (PROs) as "any report of the status of a patient's health condition that comes directly from the patient, without interpretation of the patient's response by a clinician or anyone else." They elaborate that “in other words, PRO tools measure what patients are able to do and how they feel by asking questions. These tools enable assessment of patient–reported health status for physical, mental, and social well–being.”

The concept is obviously not new, but has certainly been overlooked at times. In an era with tremendous advances and emphasis in patient engagement, mobile health technologies, patient-centered care, we need to continue to see application of PROs receive the attention they deserve.

Dr. Bruce Feinberg, vice president and chief medical officer of Cardinal Health Specialty Solutions, tells us "As our healthcare system moves toward a value-based care model, the role of the patient is becoming increasingly important. We need to reframe the way we think about care to include not only the cost and clinical effectiveness of the treatment, but also the burden of disease and therapy on the patient's perceived sense of well-being. Patient-reported outcomes (PRO) are key to this equation, particularly for patients being treated for high-cost, complex diseases such as cancer or rheumatoid arthritis (RA)."

Dr. Feinberg’s organization is presenting a series of new clinical studies demonstrating the potential role of PRO research in improving the quality and reduce the costs of treatment provided to patients with complex diseases, at the International Society of Pharmacoeconomic and Outcomes Research (ISPOR) annual meeting.

Here's an overview of some of the key findings they will be presenting:

  • One study used PRO to demonstrate that rheumatologists significantly underestimated the negative impact of RA disease burden and treatment on their patients' sense of well-being. Understanding this disparity in perceptions can help physicians make effective treatment decisions that lessen the burden on patients – and can sometimes also reduce the costs of their care.
  • Another study showed that PRO can be critical to identifying and managing medication access and adherence challenges for high-cost specialty drugs.
  • Of a total of 239 oncology and rheumatology patients who were contacted at the time of their initial prescription to provide patient reported outcomes, 28% were identified as having problems that either restricted access or adherence to the drug.
  • Armed with this information, interventions and support services were provided to address those challenges. With the support of these interventions, a medication possession ration exceeding 95% was achieved – enabling nearly all patients to initiate or continue treatment.
  • A third study  proved the feasibility of collecting PRO at the point of care. In the clinical study involving 3,185 RA patients, PRO data was captured during 90% of physician visits. The participating physicians were then able to utilize the data to inform real-time treatment decisions at the point of care.

Annual Global Oncology Medicine Spending Tops $100 Billion

by Clive Riddle, May 7, 2015 

The IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics has just released a new report:  Developments in Cancer Treatments, Market Dynamics, Patient Access and Value: Global Oncology Trend Report 2015 which tells us “total global spending on oncology medicines – including therapeutic treatments and supportive care – reached the $100 billion threshold in 2014, even as the share of total medicine spending of oncologics increased only modestly.” 

The report found that “growth in global spending on cancer drugs – measured using ex-manufacturer prices and not reflecting off-invoice discounts, rebates or patient access programs – increased at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.5 percent on a constant-dollar basis during the past five years. Oncology spending remains concentrated among the U.S. and five largest European countries, which together account for 66 percent of the total market, while the rising prevalence of cancer and greater patient access to treatments in pharmerging nations continues to grow and now accounts for 13 percent of the market” 

Murray Aitken, IMS Health senior vice president and executive director of the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics tells us“the increased prevalence of most cancers, earlier treatment initiation, new medicines and improved outcomes are all contributing to the greater demand for oncology therapeutics around the world. Innovative therapeutic classes, combination therapies and the use of biomarkers will change the landscape over the next several years, holding out the promise of substantial improvements in survival with lower toxicity for cancer patients.” 

Findings shared in the report include: 

  • Growth in the U.S. has risen more slowly at 5.3 percent CAGR, reaching $42.4 billion in 2014, representing 11.3 percent of total drug spending compared to 10.7 percent in 2010.
  • in the EU5 countries oncology now represents 14.7 percent of total drug spending, up from 13.3 percent in 2010.
  • Targeted therapies now account for nearly 50 percent of total spending and have been growing at 14.6 percent CAGR since 2009.
  • Within the U.S., two-thirds of Americans diagnosed with cancer now live at least five years, compared to just over half in 1990.
  • The availability of new oncology medicines varies widely across the major developed countries, with patients in Japan, Spain and South Korea having access in 2014 to fewer than half of the new cancer drugs launched globally in the prior five years.
  • Average therapy treatment costs per month have increased 39 percent in the U.S. over the past ten years in inflation-adjusted terms. Over the same period, patient response rates have improved by 42 percent and treatment duration has increased 45 percent, reflecting improved survival rates.
  • Within the U.S., patient out-of-pocket costs have risen sharply for intravenous cancer drugs, increasing 71 percent from 2012 to 2013, reflecting changes in plan designs and increased outpatient facility costs. 

An interactive version of the full report is available via iTunes, but requires am iPad for viewing. Pdf versions of exhibits can be downloaded here


Four Factors Fueling Demand for Telehealth

By Claire Thayer, May 7, 2015

Telehealth, as defined by the Health Resources and Services Administration, is the use of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support long-distance clinical health care, patient and professional health-related education, public health and health administration. Technologies include videoconferencing, the internet, store-and-forward imaging, streaming media, and terrestrial and wireless communications. 

MCOL’s infoGraphoid for this week identifies these four factors as the key components fueling the increasing demand for telehealth:

  • Reduce Health Care Costs
  • Improve Access to Care
  • More Productive Workforce
  • Better Patient Experience

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.


What are the implications of the upward spiral occurring in the specialty drug cost trend?

By Clive Riddle, May 1, 2015 

What are the implications of the upward spiral occurring in the specialty drug cost trend?" That was the question asked of experts in the current issue in MCOL’s ThoughtLeaders. A running theme in their responses was that this will further drive the value-based payment movement. Our ThoughtLeader Dr.  Peter Kongstvedt also takes us a “wonk on the wild side: predicting policy implications including more legislation. 

Here’s some excerpts from their responses in ThoughtLeaders: 

Vicky Parikh,  MD, MPH, (Executive Director, Reliance Health and Executive Director, Mid-Atlantic Medical Research Centers) frames the discussion, and points to further cost-sharing as the consequence – “Specialty drugs can cost more than $600 per treatment, $4,000 or more a month and can reach expenditures up to $100,000 a year. By 2020 the overall spending for specialty drugs could potentially reach $400 billion, or 9.1% of national health spending. In 2009, .12 cents out of every dollar spent went to specialty drugs. Now, that amount has risen to .32 cents out of every dollar. But what does the increase of prices for specialty drugs have to do with anything, when most individuals have a health plan that pay for medical expenditures? Employer based health plans could cause employees to see a change of benefits, increasing deductibles and overall shifting of the more expensive bills being passed towards the employee. 

Jeremy Nobel,  MD, MPH, (Northeast Business Group on Health,  Executive Director, NEBGH's Solutions & Innovations Center and Faculty, Center for Primary Care, Harvard Medical School)  sees the trend hastening value-based purchasing – “The upward spiral on Specialty Pharma costs will likely accelerate the pace at which patient-centered care will reshape the healthcare marketplace from ‘volume-based’ to ‘value-based.’ Facilitated by highly personalized care coordination, back-stopped by advanced analytics, and rewarded with a host of outcomes-based payment mechanisms, providers and systems that can adjust to that ‘new normal’ will become dominant players. From a purchaser perspective, the traditional focus on reducing costs of "components of care" and managing unit price through volume discounts for everything from drugs to hospital days, to office visits and diagnostic tests, needs to move rapidly and comprehensively towards a focus on ‘total cost of care’ with a payment model that rewards cost reduction as long as quality benchmarks are maintained. And with the inevitable market entry of new medications like the PCSK9 class of drugs targeting extremely common conditions like hypercholesterolemia, the current Rx cost/value management mechanisms for Specialty Pharma will ‘fall short’ quickly.”  

Cyndy Natyer, President, and Founder/CEO of Center of Health Engagement) also looks to value – “My goal is to shift the conversation to what is the value of the drug, and if it can prevent high cost conditions from becoming higher costs, then a higher priced drug may well be worth the negotiated spend…On the other hand, some of the drugs in the specialty arena are going thru yearly increases of thousands of dollars without new technology or formulations. In this case, the price escalation without better outcomes must be considered when negotiating the price of the drugs. We are even seeing many-hundred-percent increases in some common drugs, not specialty, for common chronic illnesses, again with little or no attribution to new technology in the drugs. In each case, I'd like to think that we will not simply deny a drug to a patient because of the cost, and that we would not waste valuable time demanding that folks fail on the drugs we know will not suit them because they are cheaper.” 

Constance A. Wilkinson (Member of the Firm, Epstein Becker & Green, P.C.) and Alan J. Arville (Member of the Firm, Epstein Becker & Green, P.C.) also go down the value-based path – “Manufacturers (and payors) will continue to pursue a value-based purchasing strategy, such as an outcomes-based approach, to support the value proposition of the drug. Such arrangements build in financial incentives or penalties for manufacturers that are contingent upon negotiated performance standards (typically based on quality or health outcomes). There are particular challenges in implementing this approach for federal health care program beneficiaries due to the potential implications to manufacturer drug price reporting under those programs, and the attendant financial consequences.” 

Peter R. Kongstvedt, MD, FACP (Principal, P.R. Kongstvedt Company, LLC) sees policy implications - “The two most significant long-term implications of rising specialty pharmacy drug costs are to create the pressure for another round of "health reform" and on international trade policy. These are obvious choices, I know, but let's look closer and take a wonk on the wild side ("...and the wonks go doo, da-doo, da-doo, da-doo doodoo, doo, da-doo, da-doo, da-doo doodoo..." *). [* Apologies to the late and sorely missed Lou Reed.] 

Peter explains that “there are really two broad types of specialty pharmacy though: manufactured drugs that are one or perhaps two molecules, regardless of how they are manufactured or delivered; and compounding pharmacy drugs. Compounding accounts for a surprising amount of the specialty pharmacy cost increase, but because it uses drugs manufactured by others, it can be managed with through tough negotiations, the use of a single compounding pharmacy, strict adherence to medical guidelines, preauthorization, a closed formulary, and benefits design. That leaves us with the manufactured molecules that have the long term implications.”

Peter sees the trend accelerating cost-sharing, which in turn will accelerate legislative reform of cost-sharing, and even pricing. “We will bypass all but one of the short term implications related to the existing approaches to managing costs such as preauthorization, drug utilization review, step therapy, formulary control and the like, as well as the counter-measures used by the manufacturers. But one of the most common approaches is increased cost-sharing, and that's the one that could get us to another round of health reform. Increased cost-sharing for specialty pharmacy is not quite the same as upping the PCP office visit copay by $10. It now often includes separate deductibles and coinsurance being applied only to specialty pharmacy coverage, which for a lot of people is both good news and bad news. The good news is that cost-sharing goes away when they hit their annual out-of-pocket maximum, which may occur in the second month of coverage; the bad news is they are slowly going bankrupt because most people don't have $6,600.00 (2015 single) / $13,200.00 (2015 Family) of spare cash every year in their savings or under the couch cushions. This brings us to Health Reform II: The Next Act…..Multiple states are now considering "cap the copay" bills that would require state licensed insurers and HMOs to markedly limit cost-sharing; for example, one Oregon bill under consideration would cap cost-sharing at $100 per month.

Peter warns that “’Cap the copay’ and similar laws are like mowing the lawn to get rid of dandelions - it only appears to solve a problem that is actually growing. Specialty pharmacy costs, and really all healthcare costs related to pricing, in reality grow faster when richer coverage is required. Eventually those very real and ever-rising costs will force us as a society to once again grapple with national health policy about how we finance health care goods and services. Payers were first in the reform barrel. Pricing is likely to be next, though it may be confined to one sector, and specialty pharmacy or drug manufacturers overall seems to have raised its collective hand to be called on next.


Does Patient Satisfaction Matter? 

By Kim Bellard, April 24, 2015 

In a provocative article for The Atlantic, Alexandra Robbins posits that we may have a "problem with satisfied patients."  Ah, only in health care...

Ms. Robbins fears that hospitals may be focusing too much on making patients happier, rather than on making them well.  She cites how hospitals are rushing to provide "extra amenities such as valet parking, live music, custom-order room-service meals, and flat-screen televisions," which may help patients have a better experience but which mean resources not going directly to patient care.

She may have a point.

Ms. Robbins' analysis found that hospitals that do poorly on three or more categories of patient outcome measures actually score above average on patient satisfaction.  In her words: "Many hospitals seem to be highly focused on pixie-dusted sleight of hand because they believe they can trick patients into thinking they got better care."


Ms. Robbins cited a 
2012 study by Fenton, et. alia, that further quantified the patient satisfaction "problem."   According to their research, patients with the highest satisfaction also have higher odds of inpatient admissions, greater prescription drug expenditures, higher overall expenditures, and higher mortality.

Patient satisfaction is clearly in vogue, as evidenced by
CMS unveiling its star ratings on Hospital Compare last week, based on HCAHPS results, and by Medicare's increased focus on value-based payments.  The 2015 HIMSS Leadership Survey found that 87% of respondents listed patient satisfaction as their organization's top priority, higher than even sustaining financial viability (85%).

AHA's official response to the CMS ratings was cautionary: "There's a risk to oversimplifying the complexity of quality care or misinterpreting what is important to a particular patient, especially since patients seek care for many different reasons."

OK, fair what does AHA propose instead?

Another study on patient satisfaction,
by Vanguard Communications, looked at patient reviews of physicians, and also found some unexpected results: "Ironically, the analysis indicates that generally as a doctor’s level of education and training increases, patient satisfaction actually decreases."

I didn't see that one coming.

Vanguard believes that the ratings reflect more about customer service than clinical quality.  Ron Harmon King, Vanguard's CEO, says:  "Does that mean more highly trained specialists deliver poorer customer service? We can’t say with any certainty, although we found a correlation."

The Physicians Foundation 2014 survey found that 42% of respondents did, indeed, list a customer-service related reason for why they were satisfied with their family physician, way ahead of actual treatment related reasons (26%).  

Ms. Robbins is thus not alone in being skeptical about patient satisfaction scores.  She backed up her skepticism with a quote from nurse Amy Bozeman: "The patient is NOT always right. They just don’t have the knowledge and training."  

I hate to break it to either of them, but even with all our health care professionals' knowledge and training, our health system's record on quality is 
pretty dismal.

Look, patient satisfaction is not a perfect measure, nor should it ever be the only measure used, but it has to be an important measure.  I can see patients being initially swayed by amenities or even simple courtesy, neither of which have typically been in abundance in our health system.  But we can't afford to forgo the burgeoning effort to focus on improving patient satisfaction.  At some point we have to trust that patients will see through smiles and nicer waiting rooms, and judge quality based on whether they are actually getting better.

And, in fact,
research from Johns Hopkins suggests that patients may not fall for "pixie dusted sleight-of-hand" tricks after all.  The study concluded that:

"Patients responded positively to pleasing surroundings and comfort, but were able to discriminate their experiences with the hospital environment from those with physicians and nurses...Hospital administrators should not use outdated facilities as an excuse for suboptimal provider satisfaction scores."   

As Abraham Lincoln famously said: "You can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all of the time."

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