Entries in Surveys & Reports (85)

Wednesday
Jun102015

PwC and Milliman Examination of Medical Cost Trends

by Clive Riddle, June 10, 2015

PwC projects a medical cost trend for 2016 of 6.5%, netting down to 4.5% after benefit design changes. Milliman tells us that the 2015 actual trend was 6.3%, up from 5.4% in 2014.

PwC’s Health Research Institute this week released their tenth annual Behind the Numbers report, which includes a “projection for the coming year’s medical cost trend based on analysis of medical costs in the large employer insurance market. In compiling data for 2016, HRI interviewed industry executives, health policy experts and health plan actuaries whose companies cover more than 100 million employer based members.

Milliman released their fifteenth annual Milliman Medical Index report two weeks ago, which is “an actuarial analysis of the projected total cost of healthcare for a hypothetical family of four covered by an employer-sponsored preferred provider organization (PPO) plan. Unlike many other healthcare cost reports, the MMI measures the total cost of healthcare benefits, not just the employer’s share of the costs, and not just premiums. The MMI only includes healthcare costs. It does not include health plan administrative expenses or profit loads.”

With respect to 2015, Milliman found “the cost of healthcare for a typical American family of four covered by an average employer-sponsored preferred provider organization (PPO) plan is $24,671”, up from $23,215 in 2014. The 2015 family costs works out to $2,055 on a monthly basis.

Milliman emphasizes the importance of the role the Rx costs play in the mix. They note “prescription drug costs spiked significantly, growing by 13.6% from 2014 to 2015. Growth over the previous five years averaged 6.8%. The 2015 spike resulted from the introduction of new specialty drugs as well as price increases in both brand and generic name drugs, increases in use of compound medicines, and other causes. Since the MMI’s inception in 2001, prescription drugs have increased by 9.4% on average, exceeding the 7.7% average trend for all other services. Prescription drug costs now comprise 15.9% of total healthcare spending for our family of four, up from 13.2% in 2001.”

Milliman also highlights the role of cost-sharing, citing that the “total employee cost (payroll deductions plus out-of-pocket expenses) increased by approximately 43% from 2010 to 2015, while employer costs increased by 32%. Of the $24,671 in total healthcare costs for this typical family, $10,473 is paid by the family, $6,408 through payroll deductions, and $4,065 in out-of-pocket expenses incurred at point of care.”

PwC also keys on these two issues for 2016 as well, with drugs as an inflator, and cost-sharing as a deflator of the medical trend.  PwC spotlighted two inflators of the 2016 medical trend: (1) New specialty drugs entering the market in 2015 and 2016 will continue to push health spending growth upward; and (2) Major cyber-security breaches are forcing health companies to step up investments to guard personal health data, adding to the overall cost of delivering care.

PwC notes three factors that serve to "deflate" the 2016 medical cost trend: (1) The Affordable Care Act’s looming “Cadillac tax” on high-priced plans which is accelerating cost-shifting from employers to employees to reduce costs; (2) Greater adoption of “virtual care” technology that can be more efficient and convenient than traditional medical care; and (3) New health advisers helping to steer consumers to more efficient healthcare.

PwC also comments on the longer range medical trend perspective, citing four key cost growth factors H observed over the past decade:

  • The healthcare-spending trajectory has leveled off but is not declining;
  • Cost sharing slows consumer use of health services;
  • Curtailing inpatient care lowers costs; and
  • The ACA has had minimal direct effect on employer health costs.
Friday
May292015

Positive Trends in the Land of Retail and Workplace Clinics

By Clive Riddle, May 29, 2015

Last month, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation commissioned Manatt Health to issue an excellent 25 page report:  The Value Proposition of Retail Clinics, in which they remind us that “since first emerging on the health care landscape more than 15 years ago, retail clinics are now a common feature, with 10.5 million visits occurring annually at more than 1,800 retail clinics.

The report emphasizes the potential for current and future collaborations between retail clinic organizations and health care systems, noting “to date, more than 100 partnerships between retail clinics and health systems have been formed, linking care between retail sites and primary care medical homes, expanding after-hours care options and enabling health systems to provide patients with alternatives to emergency departments (EDs). In fact, one study estimated that up to 27 percent of ED visits could be handled appropriately at retail clinics and urgent care centers…”

With respect to the growth and scope of the retail clinic market, just this month CVS  Health’s MinuteClinic announced they  “will open more than 100 new clinics this year and anticipates surpassing 1,500 clinics by 2017,” and they have reached  the cumulative “25 Million Patient Visit Milestone.“

With respect to partnerships during the past month, California Healthline discussed: ”Kaiser-Target Partnership Sign of Times” and CVS Health announced clinical affiliations with Ochsner Health System in Louisiana and the University of Mississippi Medical Center, including their Center for Telehealth.

Meanwhile, on the workplace onsite clinic front, Towers Watson this week released their 2015 Employer-Sponsored Health Care Centers Survey report, which polled  137 U.S. employers in which 105 currently offer employer-sponsored health centers, and 15 are planning to offer by 2018, and represent 4.6 million employees.

Here’s some highlights of Towers Watson’s onsite clinic findings:

  • 38% of large U.S. employers with onsite health facilities plan to add new centers over the next two years,
  • 66% expect to expand or enhance the already broad services they offer by 2018
  • Wellness programs are already available at 86% of the centers
  • Lifestyle coaching to promote and reinforce behavior changes is currently offered at 63% of the centers
  • Half of employer-sponsored health centers now offer some type of pharmacy services, up from 38% in 2012
  • 35% offer telemedicine services, with another 12% planning to in the next two years.
  • 40% have two to five centers
  • 56% have had onsite health centers for over five years
  • 55% are open before 8:00 a.m.; 32% are open after 5:00 p.m., and 16% are open on weekends
  • 64% outsource managing staffing and services at the health centers
  • 23% run the centers themselves
  • 18% use local or regional provider groups or health systems
  • 75% employers with onsite health centers calculate their ROI, up from 47% in 2012

One free resource for those monitoring activities in this sector, the Workplace & Retail Clinic Bulletin, offering free twice monthly e-newsletters.

Friday
May152015

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.
Thursday
May072015

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

Friday
Apr242015

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."

Ouch.

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 enough...so 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