Value-based care is widely accepted as key to the health system’s transformation. Changing provider incentives from volume to value and engaging provider organizations in risk-sharing models with payers (including Medicare) are means to that end. But implementation vis a vis value-based models has produced mixed results thus far and current financial pressures facing providers (esp. hospitals) have stymied momentum in pursuit of value in healthcare. Last week, CMS indicated it intends to continue its value-based insurance design (VBID) model which targets insurers, and last month announced continued commitment to its bundled payment and ACO models. But they’re considered ‘works in process’ that, to date, have attracted early adopters with mixed results.
What’s ahead for the value agenda in healthcare? Is it here to stay or will something replace it? How is your organization adapting?
Key takeaways from Discussion:
- ‘Not-for-profit hospitals and health systems are fighting to survive: near-term investments in value-based models are unlikely unless they’re associated with meaningful near-term savings that hospitals and physicians realize. Unlike investor-owned systems and private-equity backed providers, NFP systems face unique regulatory constraints, increasingly limited access to capital hostile treatment in media coverage and heavy-handed treatment by health insurers.’
- ‘Demonstrating value in healthcare remains its most important issue but implementing policies that advance a system-wide definition of value and business models that create a fair return on investment for risk-taking organizations are lacking. The value agenda must be adopted by commercial payers, employers and Medicaid and not limited to/driven by Medicare-alone.’
- ‘The ACO REACH model is promising but hospitals are hesitant to invest in its implementation unless compelled by direct competitive threats and/or market share leakage. It involves a high level of financial risk and relationship stress with physicians if not implemented effectively.’
- ‘Health insurers are advantaged over provider organizations in implementing value-strategies: they have data, control of provider networks and premium dollars.’
- ‘Any and all value models must directly benefit physicians: burnout and frustration are palpable, and concern about income erosion is widespread.’
- ‘Value in healthcare is a long-term aspirational goal: getting there will be tough.’
Hospitals, health systems, medical groups and other traditional providers are limited in their abilities to respond to opportunities in AI and value-based models by near-term operating margin pressures and uncertainty about their finances longer-term. Risk avoidance is reality in most settings, so investments in AI-solutions and value-based models must produce near-term ROI: that’s reality. Outsiders that operate in less-regulated environments with unlimited access to capital are advantaged in accessing and deploying AI and value-based model pursuits. Thus, partnerships with these may be necessary for most traditional providers.
AI is tricky for providers:
Integration of AI capabilities in hospitals and medical practices will produce added regulator and media scrutiny about data security and added concern for operational transparency. It will also prompt added tension in the workforce as new operational protocols are implemented and budgets adapted. And cooperation with EHR platforms—EPIC, Meditech, Cerner et al—will be essential to implementation. But many think that unlikely without ‘forced’ compliance.
Participation in value-based models is a strategic imperative: in the near term, it adds competencies necessary to network design and performance monitoring, care coordination, risk and data management. Longer-term, it enables contracting directly with commercial payers and employers—Medicare alone will not drive the value-imperative in US healthcare successfully. Self-insured employers, private health insurers, and consumers will intensify pressure on providers for appropriate utilization, lower costs, transparent pricing, guaranteed outcome and satisfying user experiences. They’ll force consumerism and value into the system and reward those that respond effectively.
The immediate implications for all traditional provider organizations, especially not-for-profit health systems like the 11 who participated in Chicago last week, are 4:
- Education: Boards, managers and affiliated clinicians need ongoing insight about generative AI and value-based models as they gain traction in the industry.
- Strategy Development: Strategic planning models must assess the impacts of AI and value-based models in future-state scenario plans.
- Capital: Whether through strategic partnerships with solution providers or capital reserves, investing in both of these is necessary in the near-term. A wait-and-see strategy is a recipe for long-term irrelevance.
- Stakeholder Communication: Community leaders, regulators, trading partners, health system employees and media will require better messaging that’s supported by verifiable facts (data). Playing victim is not a sustainable communications strategy.
Generative AI and value-based models are the two most compelling changes in U.S. healthcare’s future. They’re not a matter of IF, but how and how soon.