The false promise of “no regrets” investments

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At the end of my meeting last week with a health system executive team, the system’s COO asked me a question: “Your concept of Member Health describes exactly how we want to relate to our patients, but we’re not sure about the timing. Could you give us a list of the ‘no regrets’ investments you’d recommend for health systems looking to do this?

We frequently get asked about “no regrets” strategies: decisions or investments that will be accretive in both the current fee-for-service system as well as a future payment and operational model oriented around consumer value. The idea is understandably appealing for systems concerned about changing their delivery model too quickly in advance of payment change. And there is a long list of strategies that would make a system stronger in both fee-for-service and value: cost reduction, value-driven referral management, and online scheduling, just to name a few.

But as I pointed out, the decision to pursue only the no-regrets moves is a clear signal that the organization’s strategy is still tied to the current payment model. If the system is really ready to change, strategy development should start with identifying the most important investments for delivering consumer value.

It’s fine to acknowledge that a health system is not yet ready, but I cautioned the team that they should not rely on the external market to provide signals for when they should make real change. External signals—from payers, competitors, or disruptors—will come too slow, or perhaps never.

At some point, the health system should be prepared to lead innovation, introduce a new model of value to the market and define and promote the incentives to support it. Real change will require disruption of parts of the current business and cannot be accomplished with “no-regrets investments” alone.

 

Getting Distracted by the Politics of Healthcare

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A number of interactions over the past two weeks have convinced me that the political debate over M4A in Congress, amplified by Presidential candidates jockeying for favor with primary voters, is beginning to seriously spook executives across healthcare.

At a health system board meeting in the Southwest last week, a number of physician leaders and board members had questions about the possible timing and dimensions of a shift to “single payer”, clearly convinced that M4A is an inevitability if Democrats take over in 2020. And two separate inbound calls this week, one from the CEO of a regional health system, and the other from a health plan executive, were both sparked by the hearings on M4A in Congress.

Again, the implicit assumption in their questions about timing and impact was the same: M4A, or something like it, is sure to happen if the 2020 elections favors Democrats. My response to all of them: keep an eye on the politics, but don’t get overly distracted. There’s little chance that “single payer” healthcare will come to the US—industry lobbies are simply too powerful to let that happen.

Even if Democrats do win the Senate and the White House in 2020, they’ll have to “govern to the center” to hold onto their majorities, and any major policy shifts will have to be negotiated across the various interests involved. Most likely: measures to strengthen provisions of the ACA, and perhaps a “public option” in the ACA exchanges.

As to Medicare expansion, I believe the most we’d see in a Democratic administration would be a compromise allowing 55- to 65-year-olds to buy into Medicare Advantage plans.

But for now, M4A’s biggest risk to hospitals and doctors is that it becomes a paralyzing distraction, keeping provider organizations from making the strategic and operational changes needed to re-orient care delivery around value.

Regardless of the politics, a focus on delivering value to the consumers of care will prove to be a no-regrets position for providers.

Health Care Valuations: The New, the Old and the Ugly

https://www.wipfli.com/insights/blogs/health-care-perspectives-blog/health-care-valuations-the-new-the-old-and-the-ugly?

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The shift in health care from volume-based, fee-for-service to value-based reimbursement (VBR) continues to push forward. In its wake, unintended consequences and new challenges have emerged — not only in aspects of delivery but also when determining fair market value (FMV) and remaining compliant with the federal Anti-Kickback Statute and the Stark Law. Below we touch on those consequences and how they’ve emerged from both new and old regulations.

The New: MACRA

Now in play, the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA) promises to fundamentally change the way the country evaluates and pays for health care. Its new payment schedules, however, have created ramifications that not only tangle the hospital-physician relationship but also create implications for VBR transactions and valuations.

As part of the transition to value-based medicine, four new MACRA elements in particular represent significant changes:

1. Pay for Performance (P4P) Arrangements: The remuneration system makes part of payment dependent on performance, measured against a defined set of criteria, and creates measurements and performance standards for establishing target criteria.

2. Shared Savings Arrangements: The new approach incentivizes providers to reduce health care spending for a defined patient population by offering a percentage of net savings realized as a result of their efforts.

3. Episodic Payments: An episode payment system offers a single price for all the services needed by a patient for an entire episode of care; for example, all the inpatient and outpatient care needed following a heart attack. The intent is to reduce the incentive to overuse unnecessary services within the episode. It also gives health care providers the flexibility to decide what services should be delivered rather than constraining them by fee codes and amounts.

4. Global Budget: With a fixed prepayment made to a group of providers or to a health care system (as opposed to a health care plan), this arrangement covers most or all of a patient’s care during a specified time period.

Clearly the value equation is shifting. Value is defined no longer solely by how much revenue a physician generates but rather by solving problems for patients and patient experience. Value can also be derived not by revenue per patient, but by how many patient lives a physician directs, and with that comes control over how some payments are allocated for patient related services.

As the value dynamics change, hospitals have sought to establish closer relationships with physicians. Acquisitions of physician practices by hospitals have continued at dramatic rates alongside the move toward direct physician employment and provider service agreements. New players in the market and marketplace forces have also emerged as competition to hospitals. Private equity groups and insurance companies are pursuing the acquisition of physicians and clinics for control of patient lives, and therefore revenue.

While the trend toward hospital-physician alignment is intended to improve health care delivery, it has come under scrutiny for potential fraud and abuse violations due in part to established laws that now appear at odds with the new VBR movement.

The Old: Anti-Kickback Statute and Stark Law

Health care organizations, providers and their counsels are well aware of the laws in place they must abide by, namely the Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS) and the Stark Law, which have been in force for more than three decades.

Such regulatory considerations related to fraud and abuse have long had significant impact on the value attributable to each property interest and on the valuation process itself. There are in fact several distinct meanings of fraud within the context of the health care regulatory framework, and they affect a property’s profitability and sustainability, creating significant risk and uncertainty for business entities.

What constitutes fraud, however, is now under the microscope and creating potential liability under the False Claims Act. The new direction of collaborative relationships on behalf of the patient and patient outcomes can make some arrangements suspect. How do physicians refer patients in the new MACRA environment without it being considered a conflict of interest or fraudulent? How will payments made to physicians not exceed the range of FMV and be deemed commercially reasonable? How can alignment strategies be constructed to provide a full continuum of care under VBR reforms?

While there have been no changes to the longstanding regulations, discord between the old laws and the new VBR direction is necessitating a different approach to compliance. The American Hospital, in a letter to the U.S. Senate Finance Committee in a hearing on the Stark law, said, “As interpreted today, the two ‘hallmarks’ of acceptability under the Stark law — fair market value and commercial reasonableness — are not suited to the collaborative models that reward value and outcomes.”

The Ugly: The Push and Pull of the New and the Old

The friction between the enforcement of fraud and abuse laws by the Department of Justice and the Office of the Inspector General, and the VBR models being implemented by Health and Human Services is warranting a review of MACRA and the threshold and definition of commercial reasonableness. With no one clear definition of commercial reasonableness, its analysis is ripe for distortion.

Many regulators’ arguments are centered around Practice Loss Postulate (PLP) — that the acquisition of a physician practice that then operates at a “book financial loss” is dispositive evidence of the hospital’s payment of consideration based on the volume and/or value of referrals.

The problem? In maintaining the economic delineation between physicians and hospitals, the PLP focuses exclusively on immediate and direct financial (cash) returns on, and returns of, investments by health care organizations related to vertical integration transactions. The PLP ignores other economic benefits associated with vertical integration, such as social benefits, qualitative gains, efficiency gains and avoiding costs.

As a consequence, such a vertical integration move could be viewed by regulators as evidence of legally impermissible referrals under the Stark law. However, it would prevent vertically integrated health systems from withstanding fraud and abuse scrutiny. And it would create barriers to satisfying the threshold of commercial reasonableness.

More “New” Is in the Future Forecast

Active industry input and congressional committee discussion is underway in hopes of generating workable strategies to reduce the law’s burden. And although the actual outcomes are uncertain, changes are clearly ahead.

The noble aim of being a great subcontractor

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Earlier this month I was at a health system board meeting in which we were discussing the transition from volume to value, and the shift to a population health model. One board member had the courage to ask a tough question: “What if we never get there?” Covering just a small slice of a large metropolitan area, this system has consistently ranked third in market share behind two larger competitors—and now they feel they are lagging those systems in moving toward risk. The most recent challenge: a large—and until recently, loyal—independent primary care group had just been acquired by one of their competitors. Yet the system prides itself, justifiably, on delivering low-cost hospital care and outstanding quality.

I raised a heretical notion: suppose the system pursued a strategy focused solely on being the highest-performing inpatient and specialty care provider in the market, and abandoned the goal of bearing population risk? Could the system shift their focus to simply being the best “subcontractor” to other risk-bearing networks in the market?

The ensuing conversation was uncomfortable, to say the least. The notion challenged the system’s assumptions of the role they wanted to play in the market, and whether they could be a leader in population health. I encouraged them to think of being a “subcontractor” to other risk-bearing organizations not as a defeat, but as fulfillment of a vital role—healthcare in their community would be better if more hospital care were delivered at their level of cost and quality.

Our view: for many smaller systems who are driven by a desire to remain independent, becoming a high-performing care subcontractor may be the best path forward, and the most realistic. (It will be interesting to watch the successful investor-owned chains on this front—organizations whose strategic advantage lies in running highly-efficient, low-cost hospitals.) It’s not as sexy as “population health”, but as any builder will tell you, there’s no substitute for a great subcontractor.

The Biggest Growth Opportunities in Healthcare

https://www.managedhealthcareexecutive.com/healthcare-leadership/biggest-growth-opportunities-healthcare?rememberme=1&elq_mid=5658&elq_cid=876742&GUID=A13E56ED-9529-4BD1-98E9-318F5373C18F

Healthcare growth opportunities for 2019 should pivot around the three big themes: digital transformation, value-based care, and patient-centricity, according to a new report.

According to Frost & Sullivan’s report, “Global Healthcare Market Outlook, 2019,” digitization of products, services, and commerce models are democratizing current healthcare systems, manifesting a new era of healthcare consumerism.

“Now the new vision for healthcare is not just about access, quality, and affordability but also about predictive, preventive, and outcomes-based care models promoting social and financial inclusion,” says Kamaljit Behera, transformational health industry analyst at Frost & Sullivan, and author of the report. “This makes digital transformation and realization of long-pending policies reform a key growth priority for healthcare executives and major health systems during 2019 globally.”

According to Behera, increasing pricing pressure and shifting the focus of the healthcare industry from a volume- to value-based care model demands that drug and device manufacturers elevate their business models beyond products to customer-centric intelligent platforms and solutions.

“In 2019, the healthcare market will continue to transit and stick into the value-based model,” Behera says. “More sophisticated outcomes-based models will get deployed in developed markets, and emerging nations will start following the best practices suited to their local needs.”

Despite the promise of digital transformation, the potential promise and actual commercial application still remain the poles apart from some of the most touted technologies like AI and blockchain, according to Behera.

“Current technology is often perceived to increase the barriers between patient and providers,” he says. “In order to bridge these gaps, healthcare executives need to change the debate around digital transformation and start look beyond the mirage of technology novelty and really focus on the outcomes.”

Behera predicts that these five areas will be the biggest areas of growth for healthcare in 2019:

1. Meaningful small data

Healthcare data analytics focus will shift from ‘big data’ to ‘meaningful small data’ by hospital specialty, according to Behera. “Increasing digitization of healthcare workflows is leading us to a data explosion along the care cycle, globally,” he says. “This makes insights generation from existing healthcare data for targeted use cases a relatively low-hanging opportunity relative to other emerging technologies. Additionally, health data being the ‘holy grail,’ the analytics solutions are considered the first foundational step to catalyze complementing technology promises leveraging healthcare data (e.g., artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and blockchain).”

Entailing this, Frost & Sullivan research projects the healthcare analytics market revenue to cross $7.4 billion in the United States by the end of 2020.

 “The key pivotal theme driving this growth opportunity includes population health management, financial performance improvement, and operational automation by patients, payers, physicians, and procedures,” Behera says. “Also, the rise of value-based care and outcomes-based reimbursement programs will continue to boost the demand for specialized analytics solutions.”

In 2019, payers and providers will continue to prioritize and leverage the potential of specialty-specific analytics solutions to investigate drug utilization, treatment variability, clinical trial eligibility, billing discrepancy, and self-care program attribution specific to major chronic conditions, according to Beherea.

2. Digital health coming of age with increased focus on individual care

“During 2019, we project application of digital health will continue to go far beyond the traditional systems and empower individuals to be able to manage their own health,” Behera says.

Favorable reimbursement policies (e.g., toward clinically relevant digital health applications) will expand care delivery models beyond physical medicine to include behavioral health, digital wellness therapies, dentistry, nutrition, and prescription management, according to Behera.

“For example, major insurance bodies are already using digital health services to communicate with patients,” he says. “Traditionally, lack of formal reimbursement processes is actually a deterrent to the uptake of these—wearables, telehealth etc. The next 12 months will see a relaxation of reimbursement rules for digital health solutions.”

The global aging population and an expanding middle class are major contributors to the chronic disease epidemic and surging healthcare costs, Behera says. “This year will be a pivotal year for defining value for healthcare innovation and technology for digital health solutions catering to aged care and chronic conditions management to bending healthcare cost curve,” he says.

“Telemedicine in emerging markets will become more mainstream and will aim to become a managed services provider [rather] than being just a telemedicine platform,” he says. “Telemedicine will move into the public health space as well, with countries like Singapore is testing the platforms in a regulatory sandbox. Finally, as the lines between retail, IT, and healthcare continue to blur, non-traditional players such as Amazon, Apple, Google, Ali Health, Microsoft, and IBM, among others, will continue to make further headway into the individual care space— providing the required impetus to public health systems to ensure accessibility and affordability of care-leveraging, patient-centric digital health tools and solutions.”

Healthcare executives should prioritize their roadmap for growing IoMT and connected health ecosystems (device-, wearables-, and mHealth-generated individual health data) in order to monetize these new sources of innovation and service-oriented future revenue streams, according to Behera. “The future focus should shift from drug and device mind-set to intelligent solutions/services, demonstrating outcomes-based health benefits to individuals and their caregivers,” he says.

3. AI

In next 12 to 18 months, the priority will be to bring AI/cognitive platform technology use cases closer to clinical care to augment the physicians and even patients with actionable decision-making ability, according to Behera. “In next two to three years, AI will become a common theme across all digital initiative and platforms.”

AI-based work flow optimization use cases will represent more than 80% of the workflow market contribution. These include:

  • The elimination of unnecessary procedures and costs
  • In-patient care and hospital management
  • Patient data and risk analytics
  • Claim processing
  • Optimizing the drug discovery process

“For example, Google is already at work to use machine learning for predicting patients’ deaths, and the results boast a flattering figure of 95% accuracy, which is better than hospitals’ in-house warning systems,” says Behera. “AI application across clinical and non-clinical use cases will continue to show hard results and further bolster the growth in the healthcare space in 2019.”

AI-powered IT tools that manage payers’ and providers’ business risks (including clinical, operational, financial, and regulatory) continue to be important for the market, according to Behera. “Across all regions in the world, AI-based cognitive technologies are proving to be the most useful for medical imaging and clinical diagnostics—as a decision-support tool—followed by AI application to derive intelligence on remote patient monitoring data to promote outcomes-based personalized care.”

4. Regenerative medicine

Cell-gene therapy combinations are rapidly gaining momentum, which make use of gene-editing tools and vector delivery systems to devise innovative curative therapies, according to Behera.

“There is also a pipeline of induced pluripotent stem cells (IPSCs), mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), and adipose-derived stem cells (ADSCs) for novel therapeutic treatments for neurological, musculoskeletal, and dermatological conditions, among others,” he says.

These are poised for growth because rising pressures to decrease healthcare cost globally, the emergence of value-based reimbursement models, and healthcare digitization trends are transitioning the treatment model from “one-size-fits-all” to stratified and outcomes-based targeted therapies, according to Behera.

“Many factors determine the rate at which the stem cell therapy market advances,” he says. “It is driven by the success of stem cell treatments in curing life-threatening diseases such as cancer, heart diseases and neuromuscular diseases in the world’s aging populations. Emerging gene-editing techniques such as CRISPR/Cas9 that offer high precision, accessibility, and scalability, compared to other genome editing methods, such as ZFNs and TALENs for cell and gene therapy applications will continue to attract high investment both from venture capital and pharma companies.”

As regenerative medicine is redefining medical technology synergies by combining stem cell technology with tissue engineering, market participants should be investing in innovative models such as risk sharing, in-licensing/out-licensing deals, fast-to-market models, and in-house expansions, according to Behera.

“With cell-therapy manufacturing being time sensitive, biopharma companies should implement IT-based solutions for improved manufacturing capabilities,” he says. “Despite the promises with novel cell and gene therapies such as CRISPR/Cas9, questions around ethical application challenge its future potential. This makes it necessary for the life science research executives to work closely with regulators in developing guidelines and regulations [that will] guide ethical and real-word unmet needs of the healthcare industry.”

5. Digital therapeutics

“Digital therapeutics are about to become a true medical alternative that will utilize communication-based technologies, apps, and software to improve patient outcomes and help to lower the cost of healthcare,” Behera says. “Digital therapeutics offer the benefit to improve patient outcomes and reduce treatment cost by replacing the need for a drug or augmenting a standard of care, but they are not endorsed by a regulatory body, such as the FDA.”

Frost & Sullivan projects that the overall digital therapeutics market is to grow at a CAGR of 30.7% from 2017 to 2023.

“Digital therapeutics will become an exciting healthcare option that adds a curative dimension to technology,” he says. “As care for these chronic diseases expands in scope, prevention and recovery are becoming the new focus areas—apart from diagnosis and treatment. This demands a holistic view of individual health, lifestyle, and environmental data beyond the clinical health records to efficiently stratify at-risk patients for a preventive and targeted treatment paradigm.” 

Defining digital therapeutics appears at first glance to be a simple task, but challenges develop when attempting to define digital therapeutics as a market opportunity, according to Behera.

“Healthcare executives exploring the growth opportunities should prioritize their market positioning, which is often dictated by focused use cases (e.g., condition management vs. behavior management) rather than the technology novelty,” he says. “At present, many companies are either claiming to be or cited in the media as digital therapeutics, but only a small number of early-stage participants are seeking FDA certification based on randomized clinical trials. They make it critical for healthcare executives to keep a close watch on progressing regulatory developments, such as the FDA precertification program.”

 

 

 

Spending money on the social determinants is an investment

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Dr. Claire Pomeroy addresses the social determinants at HIMSS19.

Value-based care demands the switch to wellcare to raise outcomes and decrease costs, Claire Pomeroy says.

Claire Pomeroy, CEO and president of the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation, an expert in infectious diseases and a long-time advocate for patients, drove home the point of the importance of the social determinants of health by relating a story of a young woman who needed asthma medication but was unable to afford it.

She got a prescription for an inhaler she couldn’t afford, Pomeroy told a full room at HIMSS19. She knew the story because she was that woman. She needed a ride, food and money for a few days and had no way to get any of that, let alone buy a drug she couldn’t afford.

The clinicians followed all of the right clinical protocols for her condition. But, she said, “They didn’t have the information they truly needed to make me better.”

What was needed was for her clinicians to pay attention to the social determinants of health, an issue that providers are increasingly realizing need to be addressed if their population of patients is to remain healthy.

Without this attention being paid to housing, food, transportation and other socio-economic needs, costs will never be brought inline, as hospitals see patients returning to be admitted or get care through the emergency room.

“Our cost and our outcomes demand change,” Pomeroy said.

The statistics show the need. Black mothers die at truly unacceptable rates in this country, she said and all blacks in the United States have a life expectancy that is on average, 10 years less than whites.

All people in the United States who have a college degree live longer than those with a high school diploma. Stress on the job plays a part. And the opioid crisis has led to overdose deaths surpassing the odds of dying than from a car accident.

“We must redesign the U.S. healthcare system from one of sick care to wellcare,” Pomeroy said.

Healthcare makes up only 10 percent of what goes into the social determinants of health. The biggest percentage goes to behavioral patterns, genetic predisposition and social circumstances.

“We work all day and are only impacting 10-15 percent of the social determinants of health,” Pomeroy said. “Spending on social determinants make sense. We need to move beyond pilot programs and start scaling some of these things.”

Hospitals that spend money on housing to take care of their homeless population see a a 93 percent reduction in costs. For every $25 increase in delivered meals for older adults, there’s a 1 percent decline in nursing home admissions.

“Addressing the social determinants is an investment,” she said.

The biggest challenge is lack of funds for hospitals struggling to stay in the black, lack of data and siloed proprietary care information.

Information connectivity allowed one health system to learn that 31 percent of the Medicaid moms in its area were not enrolled in WIC, and therefore not getting access to food and supplies for their babies.

Technology is needed, as are more health policies for reimbursement that address risk adjustment. State innovation models help, as does the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services accountable health communities model, a five-year pilot looking at the connection between social assistance, health and costs.

EHRs should include information on housing, food, transportation and other needs. Systems must transform their thinking, create a new strategy, empower multidisciplinary teams, educate health professionals, invest in research and “raise our voices to drive change,” Pomeroy said.

 

 

Top Six Healthcare Executive Challenges in 2019

http://www.managedhealthcareexecutive.com/executive-express/top-six-healthcare-executive-challenges-2019

The pace of change in healthcare is not slowing down; in fact, it is accelerating. Healthcare organizations that are most successful in 2019 will know what challenges and changes are coming down the pipeline, and they will prepare accordingly.

To help ensure you don’t get left behind, we’ve assembled the top six challenges the industry will face in 2019.

1. Shifting the focus from payment reform to delivery reform. For the past few years, C-suite leaders at healthcare organizations have been focused on navigating healthcare payment reform—attempting to preserve, improve, and maintain revenue. Amidst those efforts, delivery reform has sometimes taken a back seat.

That will need to change in 2019. Organizations that are the most successful will focus more on patient care than revenue, and they will see improved outcomes and reduced costs as a result.

Many organizations are already exploring delivery reform with initiatives that focus on:

  • Remote health monitoring and telemedicine;
  • Population health management;
  • Patient engagement;
  • Social determinants of health; and
  • Primary care.

In 2019, however, they will need to bring all of these initiatives together to implement sustainable improvements in how healthcare is delivered.

An added bonus? Organizations that accomplish this will see enhanced revenue streams as value-based reimbursement accelerates.

2. Wrestling with the evolving healthcare consumer. Healthcare consumers are demanding more convenient and more affordable care options. They expect the same level of customer service they receive from other retailers—from cost-estimation tools and online appointment booking to personalized interactions and fast and easy communication options such as text messaging and live chats.

Organizations that don’t deliver on these expectations will have a difficult time retaining patients and attracting new ones.

That’s not the only consumer-related challenge healthcare organizations will face. In 2019, millennials (between the ages of 23 and 38), will make up nearly a quarter of the U.S. population.

This generation doesn’t value physician-patient relationships as highly as previous generations. In fact, nearly half of them  do not have a personal relationship with their physician, according to a 2015 report by Salesforce.

Finding ways to maintain or increase the level of humanity and interaction with millennials will be a key challenge in 2019. Patient navigator solutions and other engagement tools will be critical to an organization’s success.

3. Clinician shortages. Physician and nurse shortages will continue to intensify in 2019, creating significant operational and financial challenges for healthcare organizations.

The most recent numbers from the Association of American Medical Colleges predict a shortage of up to 120,000 physicians by 2030. On the nursing side, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a need for 649,100 replacement nurses by 2024.

The implications of the shortages, combined with the fact that healthcare organizations face a number of new challenges in the coming years, are many. Fewer clinicians can lead to burnout, medical errors, poorer quality, and lower patient satisfaction.

Healthcare organizations that thrive amidst the shortages will find new ways to scale and leverage technology to streamline work flows and improve efficiencies.

4. Living with EHR choices. Despite the hype and hopes surrounding EHRs, many organizations have found that they are failing to deliver on their expectations.

recent Sage Growth Partners survey found that 64 percent of healthcare executives say EHRs have failed to deliver better population health management tools, and a large majority of providers are seeking third-party solutions outside their EHR for value-based care.

The survey of 100 executives also found that less than 25% believe their EHRs can deliver on core KLAS criteria for value.

As we recently told Managed Healthcare Executive, that statistic is striking, considering how important value-based care is and will continue to be to the industry.

Despite the dissatisfaction surrounding EHRs, switching EHRs may be a big mistake for healthcare organizations. A recent Black Book survey found 47% of all health systems who replaced their EHRs are in the red over their replacements. A whopping 95% said they regret the decision to change systems.

Hospitals and physician may not be entirely happy with their EHR choices, but the best course may be to stick with their system. Highly successful hospitals and health systems will find ways to optimize workflow and patient care which may involve additional IT investments and best of breed investment approaches, rather than keeping all of the proverbial eggs in the EHR basket.

5. Dealing with nontraditional entrants and disruptors. In 2018, several new entrants entered and/or broadened their reach into healthcare.

Amazon acquired online pharmacy retailer PillPack, and partnered with JPMorgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway to create a new healthcare partnership for their employees. Early in 2018, Apple announced it was integrating EHRs onto the iPhone and Apple watch, and recently, Google hired Geisinger Health CEO David Feinberg for a newly created role, head of the company’s many healthcare initiatives.

New partnerships have also arisen between traditional healthcare entities that could result in significant healthcare delivery changes. Cigna and Express Scripts received the go-ahead from the DOJ for their merger in September, and CVS and Aetna formally announced the completion of their $70 billion merger November 28.

Read more about the top two ways the CVS-Aetna merger could change healthcare.

All of these new industry disruptors and mergers will impact healthcare organizations, likely creating new competition, disrupting traditional healthcare delivery mechanisms, creating price transparency and pressures, and fostering higher expectations from consumers in 2019. Keeping an eye on these potential disrupters will be important to ensuring sustained success in the long term.

6. Turning innovation into an opportunity. From new diagnostic tests and machines to new devices and drug therapies—the past few years in healthcare have seen exciting and lifesaving developments for many patients. But these new devices and treatment approaches come with a cost.

One of biggest 2018 developments that best exemplifies the challenge between innovation and cost is CAR T-cell therapy. This new cancer treatment is already saving lives, but it racks up to between $373,000 and $475,000 per treatment. When potential side effects and adverse events are accounted for, costs can reach more than $1 million per patient.

Finding the best way to incorporate new treatments like this one, while balancing outcomes, cost, and healthcare consumer demands, will be a top challenge for healthcare organizations in 2019.