Managing across conflicting business models

https://us17.campaign-archive.com/?u=526c5e99ee0439b6f83f7c051&id=1f51eaa989

Recall that over the past few weeks, we’ve been sharing our framework for thinking through the path forward for traditional health systems, as they look to drive value for consumers. We began by describing today’s typical health system as “Event Health”, built around a fee-for-service model of delivering discrete, single-serve interactions with patients. We then proposed the concept of “Episode Health”, which would ask the health system to play a coordinating role, curating and managing a range of care interactions to address broader episodic needs. Finally, last week we shared our vision for Member Health, in which the system would re-orient around the goal of building long-term, loyalty-based relationships with consumers, helping them manage health over time. In this broader conception, the health system would “curate” a network of providers of episodes, and events within those episodes, and ensure that the consumer (and their information) moves seamlessly across care interactions.

As we mentioned earlier, most successful health systems will play a combination of these roles at the same time, pursuing strategies that allow them to manage episodes while moving closer to a risk-based model that gives them the ability to create a member value proposition for consumers. As the graphic below illustrates, however, that pluralistic approach will create some important tensions for the health system.

Episode Health is fundamentally a fee-for-service approach—these systems will become specialists in delivering specific episodes (e.g., joint replacement), and will seek to drive increased volume through their model. That may not be an ideal outcome on the Member Health side of the business, however, where more episode volume could mean lower profitability, given the capitation-like incentives of “owning lives”. That’s a tension that faces every health system with its own health plan—even systems that have been pursuing both strategies for years still find it challenging to manage across conflicting incentive models. (Witness Intermountain Healthcare, long a pioneer of the Member Health model, which is in the midst of a structural overhaul to allow it to better manage across the two businesses.)

Recognizing the tensions inherent in shifting away from Event Health toward more comprehensive approaches is critical for organizations looking to make the leap forward. Health systems run the risk of being doomed by their own success if they don’t take steps to realign operating structures, administrative and clinical incentive schemes, and even market-facing branding to navigate the complexity inherent in running parallel business models.

 

11 headwinds facing hospitals and health systems

https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/hospital-management-administration/11-headwinds-facing-hospitals-and-health-systems.html

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It’s not all bleak and this is part of a larger talk on healthcare as a zero sum game. But here are 11 headwinds facing systems.

1. Pharmaceutical costs particularly non-generic.

2. Payers expanding into providers and combining with providers.

3. Payer market share.

4. Health IT and cybersecurity costs.

5. Labor costs and a labor intensive business.

6. High costs of bricks and mortar.

7. Medicare as a larger percentage of health system revenue and Medicare reimbursement softening now and over time as federal deficits rise.

8. Slowing overall healthcare inflation as hospital costs rise.

9. Siphoning off of better paying commercial patients.

10. Siphoning off of profitable ancillaries.

11. Entry of big technology firms into healthcare.

4 hospital business models of the future

https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/hospital-management-administration/pwc-4-hospital-business-models-of-the-future.html?origin=cfoe&utm_source=cfoe

 

For hospitals, the million-dollar question is, “How do we adapt to the changing needs of the healthcare industry and remain fiscally stable?” PwC’s Health Research Institute articulates four potential answers to that question in a report published Oct. 4.

Here are the four business models identified by PwC’s HRI as successful strategies for hospitals over the next decade:

1. The product leader. Under this model, hospitals are focused on delivering top-notch, advanced care. Best-in-class care is the core product. This model will focus on specific healthcare needs, particularly those that may be costly or complex. Whole patient care, low-cost options and a large footprint are not the focus. This model is focused on the product and the brand and will build scale using technology like telehealth. It relies on partnerships with other provider types for referrals and new patients.

2. The experience leader. This model is focused on building the best possible customer experience. It relies on patient retention and loyalty. This is built on offering consistency and convenience. A focus on wellness, patient preferences and cost transparency is key. Offering the lowest cost option isn’t a top priority, so long as consumers understand what goes into the pricing and get what they are looking for.

3. The integrator. This business model focuses on offering the best value option to consumers via scale and scope. This is the largest of the business models and will likely require a multiregional or national presence. The top focus isn’t the brand, however. Instead, it’s about offering low-cost options, which will require working with providers outside of the hospital and aligning economic incentives to keep prices down.

4. The health manager. The last model puts a premium on the health of populations. Its focus is on keeping complex populations out of high-cost settings by addressing social determinants of health. This model requires a broad understanding of populations, a balance of risk and health equity, and partnership with the public sector. It will require hospitals to take on the broadest definition of healthcare to succeed, including mental, social and logistical supports for patients.

Learn more about PwC’s analysis here.

https://www.pwc.com/us/en/health-industries/health-research-institute/provider-systems-future.html

 

 

 

Readers Respond: Trinity Health’s President on Bond Ratings

https://gisthealthcare.com/readers-respond-trinity-healths-president-bond-ratings/

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In last week’s edition of the Weekly Gist, I shared an exchange I’d had with the CFO of one of our clients during a meeting of their health system’s board of directors. The topic was the importance of the system’s AA bond rating to the board, and the impact that maintaining that rating might have on the strategic flexibility of the system. I wrote, “As big strategic decisions loom (shifting the business model, taking on risk, responding to disruptive competitors), it’s worth at least asking whether we’ve passed the time for “keeping dry powder”, and whether systems are being held back by conservative financial management.”

One of the true pleasures of our work at Gist Healthcare is engaging in an ongoing dialogue with our clients, readers, and colleagues across the industry. Shortly after sending out the Weekly Gist last week, we heard from long-time friend Mike Slubowski at Trinity Health. He shared his somewhat different (and much more informed!) view of the importance of bond rating to hospital systems, and was kind enough to engage in a brief Q&A over email to expand on his thoughts. We hope you’ll find his perspective as enlightening as we have.

 

Gist Healthcare: How do you think about financial strength for a health system? What characteristics and metrics are most important?

Mike Slubowski: Financial strength is ultimately measured by strong operating cash flow—is the system generating enough cash to cover expenses including debt service, fund depreciation, and to meet capital spending requirements? Operating margin, days’ cash, and leverage ratios are also important metrics of financial strength. We compare these metrics to published ranges from Rating Agencies on rating categories. Finally, what is the organization’s profitability or loss on Medicare? Is the cost structure of the organization (as measured by cost per adjusted discharge or similar metrics) competitive and attractive to payer and purchasers, or is it a high cost organization that’s been living off high commercial payment rates because of its market relevance? That will come back to bite them at some point in the not-too-distant future.  Finally, financial strength is simply a means to an end. In the case of not-for-profit health systems, our mission is to improve the health of the people and communities we serve. Are we using that financial strength to make a measurable difference for our communities? That question has to always be pondered.

In my opinion a system’s bond rating is very important. Our organization strives to maintain an AA rating

GH: How important is the bond rating, and the broader evaluation of the system’s financial outlook by the banking community?

MS: In my opinion a system’s bond rating is very important. Our organization strives to maintain an AA rating. While it is true that the interest rate spreads between, say, an AA and an A rating are small, the reality is that a positive financial outlook and rating from the rating agencies is a “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval” for a not-for-profit health system. In most instances, acquisitions in not-for-profit healthcare are accomplished by member substitutions, and rather than cash changing hands, the entity being acquired agrees to merge because of future capital investment commitments made by the acquiring entity and their belief that the acquirer will bring economies of scale. They aren’t going to join a system if it has a weak credit rating, because they’d be concerned that the acquiring system wouldn’t be able to fulfill the capital investment commitment.

GH: What are some considerations you’d recommend to health systems thinking about “trading off” a strong bond rating to gain strategic flexibility?

MS: A difficult question, to be sure. First of all, it depends on your starting point. There’s a lot more risk in going from an A- to BBB rating than, say, an AAA rating to an AA rating. Second, it really depends on what strategic opportunities the organization is pursuing—are they opportunities within the wheelhouse of the organization’s leadership competencies? There have been a lot of providers that have ventured into other businesses, such as insurance, long-term care, physician practices and other for-profit ventures, and they have lost a lot of money because they spread themselves too thin and didn’t know how to successfully manage these different businesses. Does the opportunity provide more market relevance? Is the new opportunity accretive? Is there a solid business plan that gives the organization confidence that the new opportunity will be accretive within a defined timeframe? There are a lot of “hockey stick” business plans (i.e., up front losses that predict large profits in later years) that never deliver the desired results. So rating agencies and investors are always wary of these wildly optimistic business plans.

I’m not suggesting that organizations become so conservative that they don’t take risks on strategic opportunities—but it’s important to go into these new ventures with eyes wide open. I think it is important for health care organizations that have been acute-care focused to develop a continuum of services that grow cost-effective home-based services, primary care and other ambulatory services, as well as consumer-focused digital health solutions. They also need to develop clinically-integrated provider networks that are positioned to assume risk for cost and outcomes as payers shift from fee-for-service to value-based payment. Otherwise they will be one-trick-pony dinosaurs while the rest of the world around them is transforming and diversifying.

I’m not suggesting that organizations become so conservative they don’t take risks…but it’s important to go into new ventures with eyes wide open

GH: As health systems take on more risk (strategic, actuarial, operational), how can they best make the case to their financial stakeholders (bondholders, shareholders, public funders) to justify increasing risk?

MS: I think that historical track records are important. Does the organization have an experienced and competent leadership team? Do they recruit leaders with needed skills for new businesses? How has the organization performed with previous new ventures? Have they been able to adjust if things go south? Do their business plans include a sensitivity analysis with upside and downside potential, along with immediate actions they would take if performance does not meet the plan?  Does the opportunity improve market relevance and create a diversified portfolio and/or a continuum of services? At the end of the day, confidence in an organization and its leadership comes from their track record.

 

 

 

Envisioning a range of new roles for the health system

https://gisthealthcare.com/weekly-gist/

 

 

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been sharing our framework for thinking through the path forward for traditional health systems, as they look to drive value for consumers. We began by describing today’s typical health system as Event Health”, built around a fee-for-service model of delivering discrete, single-serve interactions with patients. We then proposed the concept of Episode Health, which would ask the health system to play a coordinating role, curating and managing a range of care interactions to address broader episodic needs. Finally, last week we shared our vision for Member Health, in which the system would re-orient around the goal of building long-term, loyalty-based relationships with consumers, helping them manage health over time. In this broader conception, the health system would curate a network of providers of episodes, and events within those episodes, and ensure that the consumer (and their information) moves seamlessly across a panoply of care interactions over time.

This week we bring those three, distinct visions for the role of the health system together in one framework, shown below. A couple of points are worth mentioning here. To begin, our view is that health systems face a fundamental choice over the near term: either begin to embrace the broader aspiration of evolving toward Episode Health and Member Health or become reconciled to the reality of a future as a subcontractor of events and being part of some other organization’s curated network. There’s nothing wrong with being a subcontractor, as long as your cost and quality positions allow you to win business and thrive. You might be the best acute care hospital choice in the market, or the most efficient surgery provider, or the best diagnostic center. But competition will be intense among those subcontractors and earning the business of those who coordinate episodes and control referrals will be increasingly demanding.

Most health systems have already begun to look beyond Event Health, investing in strategies that allow them to span the full continuum of care. Other systems have pushed even further, into the “risk business”—looking to become Member Health and take on the role of managing a consumer’s care across time. But contrary to common wisdom, this evolution does not require a binary choice. Systems are not moving “from one canoe to the other”; rather, most successful systems will play a combination of all three roles at the same time, in perpetuity. While it’s always worth evaluating whether others might be more efficient providers of some Event Health services (diagnostics, rehab, and so forth), most systems will want to maintain a robust base of providing Event Health, even as they embrace a more comprehensive role.

Finally, there is a space we describe as “Beyond Health”, which comprises all of the additional components of consumer value delivery which may be beyond the ability of most systems to handle on their own. Most notably, these include services that address many of the social determinants of health—housing, nutrition, transportation, and the like. Our recommendation is that health systems look to partner with other organizations at a local and national level to address issues that, however critical, lie beyond their ability to fully solve on their own.

Next week we’ll begin to share some additional implications of our Event-Episode-Member Health framework and discuss the operational challenges that face health systems looking to make this evolution.