Entries in Trends & Strategies (106)


Nine Healthcare Business Trends for 2019

By Clive Riddle, December 14, 2018 

Here’s nine trends to keep a close watch on as we stand on the precipice of 2019:

1. The Year of SDOH

Health Plans, Health Systems and Public Agencies all will invest more heavily in Social Determinants of Health initiatives for their at risk populations. The number, scope, and resources involved in programs will significantly escalate, using a wide range of approaches. Some will be touted as quite successful, some will be deemed as failures, many will need much more time before conclusions can be drawn.

2. Continued Uptick in Uninsured

The Commonwealth Fund cites “The uninsured rates among lower-income adults rose from 20.9 percent in 2016 to 25.7 percent in March 2018.” The news won’t get better in 2019. The ongoing federal chipping away at the ACA in various forms will continue to yield a rising rate in the uninsured.

3. Much Ado About Prescriptions

PBMs, Specialty Drugs, and Pharmaceutical price hikes have been everyone’s punching bag. And the punching will continue with much noise in 2019. But what further policy changes might one expect out of Washington with the current climate? And just released National Health Expenditure data indicates “per capita prescription drug spending slightly decreased (down 0.3%) for the first time since 2012.” While Rx costs are projected to be troublesome in the coming years, the current stall in costs will likely stall momentum for actual change.

4. Amazon and CVS Will Be Busy Bees

CVS and Aetna are now out of the gate, and have already put forth transformational plans.Amazon isn’t just positioning for the pharmacy arena – they’re into healthcare tech and much more, let alone their venture with their employer driven triumvirate with Berkshire and JP Morgan.

5. Increased Focus on Million Dollar+ Claims

Even though general healthcare costs are increasing in the lower single digits, the real high end is not finding a ceiling. Million-dollar+ medical claims increase 87 percent from 2014-2017. Technological and clinical advances will keep pushing this forward, and an increasing amount of attention will be paid on how to deal with the highest end claims. 

6. EHR: Physician Pushback and Response

A Medical Economics magazine article this month starts off with: “It’s no secret that dissatisfaction with EHR systems has been a major concern for physicians. In fact, several recent surveys report as much as a 25 to 30 percent unhappiness level among doctors and practices.”  The pushback will not subside in 2019, and vendors have a major opportunity to promote how they can make physician’s work lives easier, if they truly can come up with some innovative responses. 

7. Employee Cost Sharing: Large Group and Small Group In Different Directions

The Commonwealth Fund reported this month that “premium and deductible costs amounted to nearly 12 percent of median income in 2017. Added together, the total cost of premiums to workers and potential spending on deductibles for both single and family policies climbed to $7,240 a year in 2017.” While e cost sharing in its many forms just continues to exact a growing burden on employees, large groups are shifting strategies away from increased cost sharing, while the small group market may see no respite in 2019. 

8. Cybersecurity Stakes Rise as Healthcare Data Breaches Continue

Its not very risk to predict high risk of more major healthcare data breaches in 2019. Healthcare cybersecurity investments will continue to grow in 2019.

9. Value Based Healthcare is Everywhere

The challenge in 2019: to find a healthcare organization that doesn’t have the words value-based emblazoned throughout its communications.


Too Much Stupid Stuff

by Kim Bellard, November 16, 2018

Melinda Ashton, M.D., has a great article in NEJMGetting Rid of Stupid Stuff. It describes a program her health system (Hawaii Pacific Health) undertook to do exactly that, with some promising results.

The impetus of their program was to address the issue of burnout, specifically around documentation burdens. Their EHR had been in place for 10 years, and they reasoned that some tasks might no longer be necessary or appropriate. So, starting October 2017, they asked all employees to nominate anything in their EHR that was “poorly designed, unnecessary, or just plain stupid.”

Dr. Ashton and her team reminded employees that: “Stupid is in the eye of the beholder. Everything that we might now call stupid was thought to be a good idea at some point.” Fair enough. They expected nominations to be in three categories:

  • unintended documentation that could easily be eliminated;
  • documentation that was needed but that could be collected more efficiently;
  • documentation that needed better training to accomplish.

They ended up getting nominations in all three categories, and have already implemented a number of changes, as well as eliminating 10 of the most frequent 12 physicians alerts. The program has now been extended beyond just documentation and beyond just the EHR because, as Dr. Ashton writes: “It appears that there is stupid stuff all around us.”

It would be easy but short-sighted to take healthcare’s collective frustration out on EHRs. But let’s not kid ourselves: EHRs are not the stupidest thing we have in healthcare. EHRs may, in fact, be the smartest stupid thing healthcare has done, because at least there are significant upsides to having EHRs, even if we’re not achieving them yet. There are plenty of things we do in healthcare that are just plain stupid.

Admit it: if you work in healthcare, you see stupid stuff every day. Some are things imposed on you from external sources, and some are things required by your own organization. As Dr. Ashton cautioned, some may have been a good idea at some point. Some may never have been a good idea. Some are things that just keep getting done simply because of habit/ tradition/rules. Some are stupid things that someone, somewhere, still thinks is a good idea but, when push comes to shoving patient care, aren’t. They’re still stupid, and should be stopped.

The program at Hawaii Pacific Health as aimed primarily at reducing daily frustrations for its employees, but we need to go much further. These kinds of programs need to attack daily frustrations for all stakeholders, and especially for patients.

If you are a healthcare leader, start a program like this. If you work in a healthcare organization, advocate for one until your leadership puts one in. If you are a patient or family member of one, don’t wait for a formal program from the healthcare organizations you interact with; speak up about the stupid stuff you see and have to deal with, and make sure your thoughts get to those organizations’ leadership.

It’s stupid to accept stupid stuff, especially with something as valuable as our health at stake.

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


Five Questions for Erin Benson and Rich Morino with LexisNexis Health Care: Post-Webinar Interview

Five Questions for Erin Benson and Rich Morino with LexisNexis Health Care: Post-Webinar Interview

Last week, Erin Benson, Director Marketing Planning and Rich Morino, Director, Strategic Solutions, LexisNexis Health Care, participated in a Healthcare Web Summit webinar discussion on opportunities for health plans to leverage social determinants of health data to attain quality goals while managing cost and enhancing member experience.  If you missed this engaging webinar presentation, watch the On-Demand version here. After the webinar, we interviewed Erin and Rich on five key takeaways from the webinar:


1. What are some of the ways that member health is impacted on a daily basis by social, economic and environmental factors?


Erin Benson and Rich Morino: The environment in which a person lives impacts their likelihood to develop health conditions as well as their likelihood to effectively manage those conditions. Care recommendations need to be a good fit for a member’s environment, not just their medical condition. If recommendations won’t work within the person’s physical environment, aren’t affordable or conveniently located, and are provided in a way that is hard for the member to understand, they won’t be effective at improving health. Studies support this fact. For example, 75-90% of primary care visits are the result of stress-related factors (JAOA Evaluating the Impact of Stress on Systemic Disease: The MOST Protocol in Primary Care). Money, work and family responsibilities – all reflective of social determinants of health -- are cited as the top three causes of stress (APA 2015).


2. We've heard reference to aggregating data at the zip code level for use in personalizing care for members. However, this is one of your top five myths about socio determinants of health. Can you tell us more?


Erin Benson and Rich Morino: While aggregate data can be useful in certain capacities, it isn’t recommended as a best practice for personalizing care. Within a single zip code, it is not unusual to see variance in income levels, crime rates and other factors impacting an individual’s neighborhood and built environment, so we recommend looking at an individual’s neighborhood from the perspective of their specific address. Focusing on zip code alone also ignores the influences of education, economic stability and social and community context so we recommend incorporating these other social determinants of health into decision-making in order to view the member holistically and create a more comprehensive plan of care outreach.  


3. Can you briefly explain why previous generations of SDOH have failed to improve health outcomes?


Erin Benson and Rich Morino: There are two primary reasons why previous generations of SDOH have failed to improve health outcomes, data and workflow.   In order to get sufficient value, the data needs to address all 5 categories of SDOH to properly draw useful insights.  The data should also be at the member level, and address who the member’s family and close associations.  Without that information, we cannot tell if someone is socially isolated or living with caregivers, for instance.


The second reason why previous generations of SDOH have failed is how they are deployed in the workflow.  An example would be a plan simply adding them to an existing claims-based model to achieve an increase in lift.  The lift is nice, but no changes in process are filtering down to the Care Management team interacting with the members.   In this scenario, a lot of value was ignored.


A better method would be if the plan also built models identifying members with barriers to improved health outcomes.  If you now apply this to your chronic or at-risk population you can determine not just who is sick and in need of help, but how to most likely achieve success in an intervention program.  Care Managers would immediately know the challenges to success, and what type of intervention program the member should be in enrolled in from the start.


4. One of the SDOH models to uncover health barriers referenced during your webinar was social isolation. Can you provide more context for us here?


Erin Benson and Rich Morino: Studies have shown that social isolation can increase risk of heart disease by 29% and stroke by 32% (New York Times How Social Isolation Is Killing Us). By understanding factors about an individual such as who else is living in the household with them, their predicted marital status, and how close their nearest relatives and associates live to them, healthcare organizations can identify who may be socially isolated. This allows care providers to ask the right questions to determine if that person needs access to social support systems such as support groups or community resources to improve their health outcomes.


5. What are some ways social determinants can help health plans enhance predictions and improve care management?


Erin Benson and Rich Morino: The most common way of utilizing SDOH data so far has been to incorporate it into existing claims-based predictive models to improve predictive accuracy or to use it to create new predictive models. The second use is for care management purposes and this is where social determinants of health can be truly transformational. We recommend as a best practice to use social determinants of health insights to also build models that identify health barriers. The combination of models allows healthcare organizations to better stratify the risk of their members and then better tailor care to their medical and social needs.


No Signatures Required!

No Signatures Required!

By Kim Bellard, April 18, 2018


If you live in the U.S., you've probably had the experience of paying for a meal using a credit card.  The server takes your card, disappears to somewhere in the back, does something with it that you can't see, and returns with your card, along with two paper receipts, one of which you need to sign.

As of last week, the major credit card companies are no longer requiring that signature.  As a Mastercard person told CNET, "It is the right time to eliminate an antiquated practice."  

No kidding.  Healthcare should be eliminating its antiquated practices too.

Ending the requirement was 
announced last year, went away last week, but its actual demise will happen more slowly, as individual merchants can still require it.  Of course, the signature is only part of the antiquated process.  They're probably not looking up your card number on a monthly list of stolen cards any longer, nor using a manual imprinter to charge your card, but both using the physical card and taking it from you are steps that there are 21st century alternatives to. 

Still, I'd be willing to bet that the credit card companies and merchants bring their processes fully into the 21st century before healthcare does.

Let's go through some of these:

·         Healthcare still relies heavily on faxes. Supposedly it is because of security, "HIPAA," etc., but this reliance is a lot like requiring signatures for credit cards. 

·         In an era of ubiquitous smartphones, healthcare is still making heavy use of pagers, especially within hospitals

·         I can use an AMT pretty much anywhere in the world, and can not only access my bank account to obtain balance or transfer funds, but even to get cash on the spot.  In healthcare, I can't even go to a new doctor or healthcare facility without having to start from ground zero in terms of information about me (unless they are part of a health system I've already used).  

·         Patient portals have proliferated, with more options to do tasks online, but how many times do you visit a health care professional without having to fill out or sign yet another form? 

·         We can make online reservations for, say, restaurants, airlines, or hotels.  When it comes to making healthcare appointments, though, we're almost always forced to go through a tedious phone tree and end up negotiating with a human scheduler.   In 2018?

·         Manufacturers have overwhelmingly turned to just-in-time processes.  Meanwhile, in healthcare, an appointment time is usually at best an approximation; we expect to be seen late.  If you are in a facility expecting a test or procedure, it's even worse.  These aren't even 1960's levels of precision.

·         Telemedicine is widely available, but usually it won't be with your doctor and the doctor you end up getting won't have your medical history.  Shouldn't virtual visits usually be the first step?  

·         With healthcare there, no institution has access to even most of our medical history, which remains highly scattered, siloed, and sometimes even still paper-based.  How 1980's!  

·         We continue to urge people to get annual preventive exams, even though the value of them for most adults is highly dubious.  We still make people get unpleasant procedures like digital rectal exams, or tests of questionable value like PSAs or even mammograms.  


In many ways, we do have "space age" healthcare, but that space age is too often more like 1960's NASA than 21st century SpaceX. 


We can do better.  Much of healthcare has one foot firmly planted in the 21st century, and its vision looking forward.  But too much of it still has the other foot dragging in the 20th century. It is past time to not only identify but also to act upon antiquated practices in healthcare.

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


The State of the Uninsured and Health Insurance Coverage

The State of the Uninsured and Health Insurance Coverage

by Clive Riddle, February 23, 2018


The National Center for Health Statistics has just released updated health insurance coverage estimates from selected states using 2017 National Health Interview Survey data.  Here are seven things to know about their findings for the first 9 months of 2017:


1.     28.9 million (9.0%) persons of all ages were uninsured, not significantly different from 2016, but 19.7 million fewer persons than in 2010.

2.     12.7% of adults aged 18–64, were uninsured, 19.5% had public coverage, and 69.3% had private health insurance coverage.

3.     4.4%  of adults aged 18–64 (8.6 million) covered by private health insurance plans obtained their coverage through the federal or state-based exchanges.

4.     Adults aged 25–34 were almost twice as likely as adults aged 45–64 to lack health insurance coverage (17.3% compared with 9.2%)

5.     4.9%  of children aged 0–17 years, were uninsured, 41.9% had public coverage, and 54.6% had private health insurance coverage.

6.     The percentage uninsured decreased significantly for all age groups from 2013 through the first 9 months of 2017, ranging from –6.2 percentage points for ages 45–64 to –10.7 percentage points for ages 18–24.

7.     43.2% of persons under age 65 with private health insurance were enrolled in a high-deductible health plan (HDHP) compared to 39.4% in 2016


However, as a warning sign that 2018 may see slippage in these insurance coverage, the Minnesota Department of Health just issued an ominous press release, indicating that “last year Minnesota saw one of its largest, one-time increases in the rate of people without health insurance since 2001. The uninsured rate rose from 4.3 percent in 2015 to 6.3 percent, leaving approximately 349,000 Minnesotans without coverage.”