We Won’t Get Value-Based Health Care Until We Agree on What “Value” Means

https://hbr.org/2018/02/we-wont-get-value-based-health-care-until-we-agree-on-what-value-means

feb18-27-value-01

Some health care leaders view with trepidation the new, disruptive health care alliance formed by Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and JPMorgan Chase. But I’m excited because disruption is all about delivering a new level of value for consumers. If this trio can disrupt the United States’ health care system into consistently delivering high-value care, we will all owe them our gratitude.

First, their leaders — Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway, and Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase — must think deeply about what “value” actually means for the companies and individuals they will serve and for the people and organizations they will engage to deliver care.

Then they need to consider how they will bridge the divergent interpretations of value. It turns out one reason there’s been such little progress in creating a value-based system is that the stakeholders in the U.S. health care system — patients, providers, hospitals, insurers, employee benefit providers, and policy makers — have no common definition of value and don’t agree on the mix of elements composing it (quality? service? cost? outcomes? access?).

That’s the big takeaway of University of Utah Health’s The State of Value in U.S. Health Care survey. We asked more than 5,000 patients, more than 600 physicians, and more than 500 employers who provide medical benefits across the nation how they think about the quality, service, and cost of health care. We focused on these groups because we feel their voices have not been heard clearly enough in the value discussion. What we discovered is that there are fundamental differences in how they define value in health care and to whom they assign responsibility for achieving it. Value, it seems, has become a buzzword; its meaning is often unclear and shifting, depending on who’s setting the agenda. As a result, health care stakeholders, who for years thought they were driving toward a shared destination, have actually been part of a fragmented rush toward different points of the compass.

But the Utah survey’s findings also suggest a straightforward (though not simple) way to overcome this confusion: stop, listen, and learn. The most effective thing that stakeholders can do to create a high-value health care system is to pause in their independent pursuits of value to describe to each other exactly what it is they seek. Jumpstarting this stakeholder dialogue will require real leadership from executives in business, health care delivery, academic medicine, and patient advocacy groups. They’ll have to muster the courage to say to their constituencies, “The path toward value that we charted may not have been the right one.”

Those dialogues should happen at three levels: nationally, among representatives of stakeholder groups; institutionally, among partners in the care delivery process; and individually — for example, between patients and their physicians, and between employer sponsors of health plans and their employee beneficiaries.

There are several examples of the fundamental value misalignments that could be starting points for these discussions. The first concerns the relative importance of health outcomes. For physicians like me, clinical outcomes are paramount; health improvement and high-quality care are essential components of health care value. And we assume that patients share that perspective. But, it seems, they don’t. When the Utah survey asked patients to identify key characteristics of high-value health care, a plurality (45%) chose “My Out-of-Pocket Costs Are Affordable,” and only 32% chose “My Health Improves.” (In fact, on patients’ list of key value characteristics, “My Health Improves” was slightly below “Staff Are Friendly and Helpful.”) Given the chance to select the five most important value characteristics, 90% of patients chose combinations different from any combination chosen by physicians. In general, cost and service were far more important in determining value for patients than for physicians.

Frankly, I was stunned by the degree of this misalignment between patients and physicians (and, by extension, the care delivery organizations the doctors work for). This disconnect alone could account for a substantial portion of the Sisyphean lack of progress we’ve seen. But there are plenty of others. Notably, the Value survey found a striking lack of consensus on who had responsibility for ensuring that health care embodies the desired high-value characteristics. Moreover, the survey’s respondents generally displayed limited understanding of how the health care system works more than a step or two beyond their direct experience. This led to responses at odds with reality — for example, only 4% of patients and physicians recognize that an employer’s choice of health plan affects out-of-pocket costs.

Both of these kinds of misalignment — regarding the relative importance of outcome, cost, service, and quality, and who is responsible for achieving specific value characteristics — demonstrate the core problem: Stakeholders have not communicated with each other effectively, at the macro and micro levels, on what value means to them. I have two thoughts on how to start the process of getting communications and information flowing.

At the micro level, we should leverage the growing power of physician- and hospital-review systems to gather more (and more-sophisticated) information on what is most valued by individual health care consumers. Our system alone collects more than 3,500 patient comments a week. Now we need to apply our growing computational capacities to deeply mine that data both within and among systems to create an enhanced patient experience that is informed by how they define value. And business leaders should expand their companies’ efforts to track and analyze — and educate their employees about — the multiple dimensions of value in the health benefit plans they offer.

At the macro level — national, regional, and inter-institutional — major organizations should step up to convene initial rounds of stakeholder dialogues. Academic medical centers (AMCs) such as University of Utah Health are well positioned to be conveners. (The Utah Value Forum this month brought together regional stakeholders to address the challenges we all face.) AMCs are also uniquely qualified to undertake rigorous research to better understand the misalignments and misunderstandings found in studies like the Value survey. In fact, more than simply being capable, I think the public service missions of AMCs virtually obligate them to be leaders in this essential effort.

But they are not obligated to lead alone, nor would their solo leadership be compelling enough to bring all stakeholders to the table. We need corporate health benefit plans, for-profit health systems, and insurers — at a minimum — to help lead this effort.

If Messrs. Bezos, Buffett, and Dimon really want to drive major change in the U.S. health care delivery system, they should help convene value-focused dialogues, providing the kind of political and economic cover necessary to bring stakeholder groups into these conversations. And they shouldn’t stop there: They’ll have to remind everyone that these conversations aren’t only about cost containment — that “value” means more than just what we pay. (Or, as Buffett put it in one of his famous chairman’s letters, “Price is what you pay; value is what you get.”)

They should partner with providers, hospitals, and health systems to develop more-effective provider/hospital review systems and other methods of enhancing communication among parties in the care delivery process. They should seed pilot projects aimed at bridging the gaps in patients’, physicians’, and employers’ definitions of value. And being the smart, creative, bold people they are, they should help guide all stakeholders through the difficult compromises necessary to create a collective vision of a high-quality, patient-focused, cost-effective health care system.

That would truly be disruptive.

 

 

Moody’s: Aggressive insurer growth strategies threaten nonprofit hospitals

https://www.healthcaredive.com/news/moodys-aggressive-insurer-growth-strategies-threaten-nonprofit-hospitals/517691/

Dive Brief:

  • Disruptive growth strategies among health insurers threaten the future margins and volumes of nonprofit hospitals, a new Moody’s Investor Services report maintains.
  • Vertical integrations — such as the proposed CVS Health-Aetna merger and UnitedHealth/Optum-DaVita deal — put insurers “in direct competition” with hospitals for outpatient volume and revenue and could allow payers to carve out hospitals or specific services from their contracts, according to the report.
  • Moody’s warns that the embrace of value-based payment models by insurers is also a threat, as it shifts patients from high-cost inpatient care to cheaper outpatient settings.

Dive Insight:

Hospitals are already feeling the squeeze from cuts in Medicare reimbursements, which are driving patients with less serious ailments to urgent care and other outpatient treatment facilities. Depressed patient admissions and payments have providers searching for cost savings. The result has been a near constant stream of divestitures, mergers and layoffs that shows no signs of abating. At the same time, hospitals have been acquiring physician practice and outpatient care sites to diversify their revenue streams as demand shifts.

Those efforts could be undermined as insurers move into the provider space by buying up professional practices, for example.

“As the insurer owns more non-acute healthcare providers — particularly physician groups — it would be better able to carve out hospitals or certain services from its contracts, which would translate into lower volume and revenue for hospitals,” the report said.

Vertically integrated private payers will cut into hospital revenues by offering similar outpatient and post-acute care to members at lower costs than hospitals can afford, Moody’s says. With enough integration, they could siphon more patients and revenue from struggling hospitals.

Optum’s physician acquisitions and similar deals will also cut into hospitals’ referral volumes. “The acquisition of relatively large physician groups is noteworthy because these providers are the key decision makers in determining what type of treatment the patient will receive and where the care is provided,” the report said.

Increasing scale fueled by more Medicare and Medicaid managed care members, coupled with market concentration, will also give insurers the edge in price negotiations, according to the report. Meanwhile, reduced government payments will make hospitals more dependent on private insurance to cover their costs.

“Insurers flexing their negotiating power by offering lower rate increases will likely result in more standoffs and terminations of contracts between insurers and hospitals,” Diana Lee, a vice president at Moody’s, said in the report. “To gain leverage, we expect hospitals to continue M&A and consolidation.”

 

Interpreting National Health Expenditure Projections: Issues And Challenges

https://www.healthaffairs.org/do/10.1377/hblog20180214.597384/full/

Health Affairs today published the projections for health spending over the next decade from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Office of the Actuary. The top line estimate is that health spending will grow at 5.5 percent per year through 2026. This rate is about halfway between the pre-recession rate of 7.3 percent and the exceptionally low rate (3.8 percent) experienced during the recession and immediate aftermath. This projected spending growth is 1 percentage point above expected gross domestic product (GDP) growth, a smaller gap than for almost any 10-year period since 1990. These non-partisan, thorough projections are a valuable benchmark for all stakeholders anticipating the fiscal footprint of the health care system on the economy, but there are several important issues to keep in mind.

Modeling What Spending Would Be Under Current Law, Not What It Will Most Likely Be

First, these projections are predicated on “current law”. The authors are not trying to predict what spending will most likely be. Such a prediction exercise would require assessments of how policy may change. For example, will the low-fee trajectories called for by the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) productivity adjustments be realized? What will be the future of the ACA? The authors here don’t attempt to incorporate the answers to these questions. They assume that the current law will persist. Last week’s budget legislation, which included the repeal of the Medicare Independent Payment Advisory Board and other health care changes, illustrates this point because it came too late to be included in these projections. This highlights how quickly and unpredictably law and policy can change.

An Uncertain Environment

Second, as the authors recognize, there is considerable uncertainty around these projections. During the recession, we experienced a dramatic slowdown in the rate of growth in “use and intensity” of care, a catch-all phrase capturing more physician visits, hospital stays, lab tests, etc. As the ACA was implemented, use and intensity rebounded, capturing both a return to a more common rate of growth and an increase attributable to coverage expansion. (If there is one thing we know well it is that greater coverage generates greater utilization.)

The assumption moving forward is that use and intensity will revert to historical patterns, affected a bit by benefit design changes. The impact of payment reforms, in both the public and private sector, is largely not reflected in these projections. That assumption is certainly reasonable given the modest impact of such changes to date, but payment systems continue to change and their impacts may grow, suggesting that perhaps use and intensity growth will be lower than projected.

Of course, uncertainty is not one sided. Other hypotheses, such as greater introduction of new technologies or weakening commitment to controlling utilization, would yield higher spending projections.

The Policies We Choose Matter

Third, and perhaps most importantly, the actual rate of health spending growth that we experience over the next decade, and beyond, depends on what we do. Health spending is not a natural phenomenon to be predicted like the tides. Our fate is not sealed. Our actions matter. We should not ask whether health spending growth will accelerate (or not). Instead we should ask if we will let it accelerate (or not). This requires complex choices.

It is tempting to read the projections such as those by Gigi Cuckler and her CMS colleagues with alarm. The notion that health care will consume almost 20 percent of the economy in 2026 is legitimately concerning because of the implications for future taxation or borrowing to maintain publicly financed health insurance programs. In fact, Kate Baicker and Jon Skinner predicted back in 2011 that if public health spending growth consistently exceeded national income growth by 1 percentage point and was financed by taxes (increased proportionately on all income groups), the tax rate for the upper income bracket in 2060 would need to rise to 70 percent. This is unlikely to happen, but we must act to make sure it does not.

The Dual Nature Of Health Spending: Consumption And Investment

The challenge, of course, is that health spending, on average, improves health. Therefore, actions to restrain resources devoted to health—including restricting access to health care or health insurance—run the risk of slowing or reversing improvements in health. Moreover, apart from the obvious benefit associated with access to health care services, many people rely on the health care sector for jobs. Heath care is in many ways both a tapeworm on the American economy and a Keynesian stimulus— cutting health spending will have economic consequences. Moreover, while creating jobs is not a justification for waste, lower spending growth can imply lower revenue growth for health care stakeholders, which presents a significant political problem.

These two perspectives are not as hard to balance as one may think. We do not need to cut heath care spending below current levels, just slow the rate of its growth. Moreover, resources not absorbed into the health care sector can be put to valued activities. (If there are not more valued activities for these incremental resources, then more spending on health care is justified).

Beyond How Much We Spend: Does It Bring Value And How Will We Finance It?

Finally, all of this highlights the heterogeneity in value associated with greater health spending. We currently pay higher prices in the United States than in other countries. While health care price inflation slowed between 2014 and 2016, the projections assume that price growth in health care will exceed general inflation. While we cannot conclude that prices in the United States should match those in other countries (there are many differences in our economies), much of the reason for high and growing prices in the United States is a lack of competition associated with consolidation in the health care sector (largely in the commercial sector) and other institutional features. Paying too much for care or other services not only distorts behavior, but also represents a transfer from the broad population to the health care sector. Policy actions to address this issue should be high on the agenda.

Use and intensity also varies in value. While innovation and delivery of appropriate care is the centerpiece of a high-value health care system, our system too often provides care that offers little or no health benefit. Great strides have been made to quantify low value care, through initiatives such as Choosing Wisely, but a lot remains unmeasured. Eliminating such care is hard because the value of care depends on patient traits and delivery system reform requires motivation of influential and invested stakeholders, which does not occur rapidly. Nevertheless, efforts to move in this direction are important.

Ultimately, the question we should ask when we ponder projections of higher health spending is this: Will we get enough value for the added spending? We should also ask how we should finance this spending: Any way we do so—through taxation, higher premiums or cost sharing at the point of service—has dramatic distributional and moral implications.

There are no simple answers to these questions, politically or operationally. One thing is clear: We cannot continue to publicly finance health spending if it grows 1 percentage point faster than GDP. We are not in crisis yet, but at this rate, eventually we will be. Yet, changing health care takes time. Many innovations in both payment and benefit design show promise, but success is uncertain. With luck (or more importantly dedication and hard work) we will be able to spend less than these projections suggest and maintain, or even improve, the care delivered to Americans. Unless we keep trying, however, we will fail.

 

 

Unnecessary Medical Care: More Common Than You Might Imagine

https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2018/02/01/582216198/unnecessary-medical-care-more-common-than-you-might-imagine

An analysis of insurance claims in Washington state found that in a single year more than 600,000 patients underwent testing and treatment they didn't need, at an estimated cost of $282 million.

It’s one of the intractable financial boondoggles of the U.S. health care system: Lots and lots of patients get lots and lots of tests and procedures that they don’t need.

Women still get annual cervical cancer testing even when it’s recommended every three to five years for most women. Healthy patients are subjected to slates of unnecessary lab work before elective procedures. Doctors routinely order annual electrocardiograms and other heart tests for people who don’t need them.

That all adds up to substantial expense that drives up the cost of care for all of us. Just how much, though, is seldom tallied. So, the Washington Health Alliance, a nonprofit dedicated to making care safer and more affordable, decided to find out.

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The group scoured the insurance claims from 1.3 million patients in Washington state who received one of 47 tests or services that medical experts have flagged as overused or unnecessary.

What the group found should cause both doctors, and their patients, to rethink that next referral. In a single year:

  • More than 600,000 patients underwent a treatment they didn’t need, treatments that collectively cost an estimated $282 million.
  • More than a third of the money spent on the 47 tests or services went to unnecessary care.
  • 3 in 4 annual cervical cancer screenings were performed on women who had adequate prior screenings – at a cost of $19 million.
  • About 85 percent of the lab tests to prep healthy patients for low-risk surgery were unnecessary — squandering about $86 million.
  • Needless annual heart tests on low-risk patients consumed $40 million.

Susie Dade, deputy director of the alliance and primary author of the report released Thursday, said almost half the care examined was wasteful. Much of it comprised the sort of low-cost, ubiquitous tests and treatments that don’t garner a second look. But “little things add up,” she said. “It’s easy for a single doctor and patient to say, ‘Why not do this test? What difference does it make?'”

ProPublica has spent the past year examining how the American health care system squanders money, often in ways that are overlooked by providers and patients alike. The waste is widespread – estimated at $765 billion a year by the National Academy of Medicine, about a fourth of all the money spent each year on health care.

The waste contributes to health care costs that have outpaced inflation for decades, making patients and employers desperate for relief. This week Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase rattled the industry by pledging to create their own venture to lower their health care costs.

Wasted spending isn’t hard to find once researchers — and reporters — look for it. An analysis in Virginia identified $586 million in wasted spending in a single year. Minnesota looked at fewer treatments and found about $55 million in unnecessary spending.

Dr. H. Gilbert Welch, a professor at The Dartmouth Institute who writes books about overuse, said the findings come back to “Economics 101.” The medical system is still dominated by a payment system that pays providers for doing tests and procedures. “Incentives matter,” Welch said. “As long as people are paid more to do more they will tend to do too much.”

Dade said the medical community’s pledge to “do no harm” should also cover saddling patients with medical bills they can’t pay. “Doing things that are unnecessary and then sending patients big bills is financial harm,” she said.

Officials from Washington’s hospital and medical associations didn’t quibble with the alliance’s findings, calling them an important step in reducing the money wasted by the medical system. But they said patients bear some responsibility for wasteful treatment. Patients often insist that a medical provider “do something,” like write a prescription or perform a test. That mindset has contributed to problems like the overuse of antibiotics — one of the items examined in the study.

The report may help change assumptions made by providers and patients that lead to unnecessary care, said Jennifer Graves, vice president for patient safety at the Washington State Hospital Association. Often a prescription or technology isn’t going to provide a simple cure, Graves said. “Watching and waiting” might be a better approach, she said.

To identify waste, the alliance study ran commercial insurance claims through a software tool called the Milliman MedInsight Health Waste Calculator. The services were provided during a one-year period starting in mid-2015. The claims were for tests and treatments identified as frequently overused by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and the American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation’s Choosing Wisely campaign. The tool categorized the services one of three ways: necessary, likely wasteful or wasteful.

The report’s “call to action” said overuse must become a focus of “honest discussions” about the value of health care. It also said the system needs to transition from paying for the volume of services to paying for the value of what’s provided.

 

CMS launches voluntary bundled payments model, first since spiking mandatory bundles

http://www.healthcarefinancenews.com/news/cms-launches-voluntary-bundled-payments-model-first-spiking-mandatory-bundles?mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiT1RCaE1tTmtOekZpTldReSIsInQiOiJjMlNuWlpqbDRDblZyMHJ3N3lDRDk3MlFLQWh4dmxUc3hCZjRNVWt3SnhwRUVNQ3pDUURMbUNqcGdHejFhSHU4bjM5M01Fd1VpN3lTT2NLSHpBejQydVYyUlJ0RDRkamNWWCtKLzNMZnJrUms3aSs2bkRTQURZQzRySnByajU3ayJ9

The agency’s Innovation Center said the new Bundled Payments for Care Improvement Advanced model is the first APM that would qualify under MACRA.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation Center has launched a new voluntary bundled payment model called Bundled Payments for Care Improvement Advanced — which CMS Administrator Seema Verma said is the first Advanced APM.

The current Bundled Payments for Care Improvement Initiative, or BPCI, is scheduled to end on Sept. 30. BPCI Advanced starts on Oct. 1 and runs through Dec.  31, 2023.

The BPCI will qualify as an an advanced alternative payment model under the quality payment program for MACRA. With advanced APMs, providers take financial risk, but can also reap an incentive payment reward.

The model gives incentive payments if all expenditures for an episode of care are under a spending target that factors in quality.

“BPCI Advanced builds on the earlier success of bundled payment models and is an important step in the move away from fee-for-service and towards paying for value,” Verma said.

BPCI Advanced participants may receive payment for performance based on 32 different clinical episodes. The clinical episodes in BPCI Advanced add outpatient episodes to the inpatient episodes that were offered in the previous BPCI model, including percutaneous coronary intervention, cardiac defibrillator, and back and neck except spinal fusion.

Last year, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services cancelled or scaled back on mandatory bundled models for joint replacement, hip fractures and cardiac care, but promised to release new voluntary models.

CMS cancelled the episode payment model and the cardiac rehabilitation incentive payment model, which were scheduled to begin on Jan. 1.

The agency also reduced the number of mandatory geographic areas participating in the comprehensive care for joint replacement model, from 67 to 34. Participants in the 33 remaining areas could take part on a voluntary basis.

In BPCI Advanced, participants will be expected to redesign care delivery to keep Medicare expenditures within a defined budget while maintaining or improving performance on specific quality measures. Participant bear financial risk, have payments tied to quality performance, and are required to use certified electronic health record technology.

Like all models tested by CMS, there will be a formal, independent evaluation to assess the quality of care and changes in spending under the model.

Remedy Partners, which works with providers in the current BPCI program, reported in June 2017 that bundles resulted in a $500 million reduction in the cost of unnecessary medical expense over that past year for more than 1,000 providers. In addition, hospital readmissions decreased by 6.1 percent and a patient’s length of stay at a skilled nursing facility decreased by 6.3 percent, Remedy said.

 

12 takeaways from the 2018 JP Morgan Healthcare Conference

https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/hospital-management-administration/12-things-you-need-to-know-from-the-2018-jp-morgan-healthcare-conference-while-the-destination-is-uncertain-the-direction-is-clear.html

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The recent breathtaking flurry of mega-mergers coupled with increasingly challenging market forces and an ever shifting political landscape has cast a cloud of confusion regarding where the U.S. healthcare delivery system is heading.

So, where do you go to find the map?

Every year, the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference provides an incredibly efficient snapshot of the strategies for large healthcare delivery systems, the hub for healthcare in the U.S. Most of these organizations are also the largest employers in their respective states. The conference took place this week in San Francisco with over 20 healthcare systems presenting, including Advocate Health Care, Aurora Health Care, Baylor Scott & White Health, Catholic Health Initiatives, Cleveland Clinic, Geisinger Health System, Hospital for Special Surgery, Intermountain Healthcare, Mercy Health in Ohio, Northwell Health, Northwestern Medicine, Partners HealthCare System, WakeMed Health & Hospitals and many of the other big name brands in the market. Each provided their strategic roadmap in a series of 25-minute presentations from their “C” suite. If you’re looking for the GPS on strategy and a gauge on the health of healthcare, this is it.

How do their strategies differ? What direction are they heading in? There is a great line from Alice in Wonderland that goes, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” You would think that line applies perfectly to the U.S healthcare system, but the good news is it actually doesn’t.

While the exact destination for everyone is TBD, the direction they are heading in is actually pretty clear and consistent. It turns out that they are all using a very similar compass, which is sending them down a similar path.

So, what are the roadside stops health systems consider absolutely necessary to be part of their journey to creating a more viable and sustainable value-based business model?

Based on the travel plans for over 20 of the largest and most prestigious healthcare delivery systems in the country, here’s your GPS and list of 12 things you “must do” on your journey.

1. You Must Scale

Clearly the headline at #JPM18 was the flurry of major announcements regarding major mergers. With that said, two of the mergers were front and center: teams were there to present from Downers Grove, Ill.-based Advocate and Milwaukee-based Aurora, which will be a $10 billion organization with 70,000 employees, as well as San Francisco-based Dignity Health and Englewood, Colo.-based Catholic Health Initiatives, which will be a $28 billion organization with 160,000 employees. The size and scale of these mergers is pretty stunning. While the announcement of these and the other recent mega-mergers has forced many into their board room to determine what the deals mean to them, the consensus at the conference was this: There are a number of different paths forward to achieve scale. Some, like Baylor Scott & White in Texas, have aggressive regional expansion plans. Others are betting on partnerships to provide the same or even more value. Taking a pulse of the room, two things were clear. The first is there is no definition of scale any more in this market. The second is that, despite this flurry of mergers, “getting really big” is not the only destination.

2. You Must Pursue “Smart Growth” and Find New Revenue Streams

Running counter to the merger narrative in the market, Salt Lake City-based Intermountain provided a good overview of the movement to what is called an “asset light” strategy of “smart growth.” This is a radically contrarian approach to the industry norm, which is the capital intensive bricks and mortar playbook of buying and building. As part of their strategy, Intermountain will open a “virtual hospital” delivering provider consultations and remote patient monitoring via telehealth. The system will also launch a number of healthcare companies every year, leveraging their considerable resources in a manner they believe will produce a higher yield. Other health systems outlined a similar stream of initiatives they have in motion to diversify their revenue streams and expand their business model into higher margin, higher growth businesses. One example is Cincinnati-based Mercy Health, which achieved strong growth and leverage via their investment in a revenue cycle management company. Advocate in Illinois formed a partnership with Walgreens. Together, they now operating 56 retail clinics and Advocate has made a significant impact on driving new patients and downstream revenue to their system. The bottom line is all now recognize that they must think and act differently to be able to continue to fund their clinical mission and serve their community.

3. You Must Measure and Manage Cost and Margins

While some are moving aggressively to get scale, everyone is looking to more effectively use the resources they have and get more operating leverage. Margin compression was a consistent theme, with many systems now moving into consistent, stable operating models around managing margins versus launching reactionary initiatives when they find a budget gap. What is emerging is a new discipline and continuous process around managing cost and margins that is starting to look similar to the level of sophistication we have seen in the past for revenue cycle management. To that end, there has been major movement in the market to implement advanced cost accounting systems, often referred to as financial decision support, which provide accurate and actionable information on cost and help organizations understand their true margins as they take on risk-based, capitated contracts. Some during the conference referred to it as the “killer app” for the financial side of driving value. Regardless of what you call it, all are moving aggressively to understand the denominator of their value equation.

4. You Must Become a Brand

Investing in and better leveraging their brand has become a strategic must for health systems. The level of sophistication is growing here as providers shift their mental model to viewing patients as “consumers.” Aurorain Wisconsin cited their dedicated Consumer Insights Group and outlined their “best people, best brand, best value” approach that has been incredibly effective both internally and externally. At the same time, the bigger investments for many health systems relative to brand are more on brand experience than brand image, with a focus on understanding and radically rethinking the consumer experience. As an example, at Danville, Pa.-based Geisinger, close to 50 percent of ambulatory appointments are scheduled and seen on the same day. And every health system is making meaningful investments in their “digital handshake” with consumer, creating and leveraging it via telehealth as well as mobile applications to enhance the customer experience.

5. You Must Operate as a System, Not Just Call Yourself One

One clear theme at #JPM18 is different organizations were at different points along the continuum of truly operating as a system vs. merely sharing a name and a logo. There are a number of reasons for this, but you are increasingly seeing tough decisions actually being made vs. just kicking the can down the road. There has been a great deal of acquisitions over the last few years coupled with a new wave of thinking relative to integration that is more aggressive and more forward-looking. This mental shift is actually a very big deal and perhaps the most important new trend. Many health systems are heavily investing in leadership development deep into their organization to drive changes much faster.

6. You Must Act Small

The word “agile” is quickly becoming part of everyone’s narrative with health systems looking to adopt the principles and processes leveraged in high tech. Chicago-based Northwestern Medicine is an example of an organization that has grown dramatically in the last five years, now approaching $5 billion in revenue. At the same time, they have still found a way to operate small, leveraging daily huddles across the organization to drive their results. The team at Raleigh, N.C.-based WakeMed has achieved a dramatic financial turnaround over the last few years, applying a similar level of rigor yielding major operational improvements in surgical, pharmacy and emergency services that have translated into better bottom line results.

7. You Must Engage Your Physicians

Employee engagement was a major theme in many of the presentations. With the level of change required both now and in the future, a true focus on culture is now clearly top of mind and a strategic must for high-performing health systems. That said, only a handful articulated a focus on monitoring and measuring physician engagement. This appears to be a major miss, given that physicians make roughly 80 percent of the decisions on care that take place and, therefore, control 80 percent of the spend. One data point that stood out was a 117 percent improvement in physician engagement at Northwestern. Major improvements will require clinical leadership and a true partnership with physicians.

8. You Must Leverage Analytics

Many have reached their initial destination of deploying a single clinical record, only to find that their journey isn’t over. While health systems have made major investments big data, machine learning and artificial intelligence, there was a consistent theme regarding the need to bring clinical and financial data together to truly understand value. Part of this path is the consolidation of systems that is now needed on the financial side of the house with a focus on deploying a single platform for financial planning, analytics and performance. The primary focus is to translate analytics not just into insights, but action.

9. You Must Protect Yourself

As organizations move deeper into data, there is increased recognition that cybersecurity is a major risk. Over 40 percent of all data breaches that occur happen in healthcare. During the keynote, JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon shared that his organization will spend $700 million protecting itself and their customers this year. Investments in cybersecurity will continue to ramp up due to both the operational and reputational risk involved. Cybersecurity has become a board room issue and a top-of-mind initiative for executive teams at every health delivery system.

10. You Must Manage Social Determinants of Health in the Communities You Serve

Perhaps the most encouraging theme for healthcare provider organizations was the need to engage the community they serve and focus on social determinants of health. As Intermountain shared: “Zip code is more important than genetic code.” To that end, Geisinger refers to their focus on “ZNA.” They have deployed community health assistants, non-licensed workers who work on social determinants of health and have implemented a “Fresh Food Farmacy,” yielding a 20 percent decrease in hemoglobin A1c levels along with a 78 percent decrease in cost. Organizations like ProMedica Health System in Ohio have seen similar results with their focus on hunger in Toledo. WakeMed has an initiative focused on vulnerable populations in underserved communities that has resulted in a significant decrease in ER visits and admissions and over $6 million in savings.

11. You Must Help Solve the Opioid Epidemic

The opioid issue is one that healthcare professionals take very personally and feel responsible for solving. It came up in virtually in every presentation, and it’s an emotional issue for the leaders of each organization. This is good news, but the better news is that they are taking action. As an example, Geisinger invested in a CleanState Medicaid member pilot that resulted in a 23 percent decrease in ER visits and 35 percent decrease in medical spending, breaking even on their investment in less than 10 months. While many would rightly argue that the economic rationalization isn’t needed for something this important, the fact that it’s there should eliminate any excuse for anyone not taking action.

12. You Must Deliver Value

The Hospital for Special Surgery in New York is the largest orthopedics shop in the U.S. and a great example of how value-based care delivery is taking shape. Perhaps the most revealing stat they shared is that 36 percent of the time, patients receive a non-surgical recommendation when they are referred to one of their providers for a second opinion. This is exactly the type of value-based counseling and decision-making that will help flip the model of healthcare. Some systems are farther along than others. Northwestern currently has 25 percent of its patients in value-based agreements, but other systems have less. As the team from Intermountain re-stated to this audience this year, “You can’t time the market on value, you should always do the right thing, right now.” Well said.

It’s time to get started or get moving even faster.

As the saying goes, “It’s the journey, not the destination.”

Happy trails.

These 6 healthcare leaders say quality improvement is an organizationwide effort and a cultural imperative

https://www.fiercehealthcare.com/healthcare/6-inspiring-quotes-improving-quality-from-6-healthcare-leaders?mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiWVRNeE1HSTFPREkwTmpsbSIsInQiOiJtcHFUTmw4bU5UWE0rbE44Q0ExcUc5cEI5SSt0UVdcL0ZYVDllbUhMN3VNXC9ab2JTTlwvKzVYOXMyTmVmRlwvZjJ2VzNZWmp5Z2VJeERzVytyWUZOdkVyRmdnVWNWSEV6SVhkSWVHSFljSkhRV05rMUt5WFwvemVvM2dsMEpUeW1rYUx2In0%3D&mrkid=959610

Executive looking out window

Despite recent uncertainty about the government’s commitment to value-based care, healthcare organizations remain focused on efforts to improve quality, patient care and employee engagement.

In 2017 the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services cancelled mandatory bundled payment models for hip fractures and cardiac care and also asked providers for feedback on other value-based payment models.

But healthcare organizations seem committed to the initiatives they have already put in place to improve quality. Indeed, last year healthcare leaders shared their successes, challenges and lessons learned as they worked to improve quality and patient outcomes. We’ve rounded up the most memorable quotes from these healthcare thought leaders about quality, the importance of physician engagement and how to achieve a culture of patient safety.

Here are six of our favorite quotes from our interviews and industry news and event coverage over the past 12 months:

1. “We had to challenge our old paradigms. Physicians are instrumental in setting the tone, and unless the physicians believe we’re on the right path we don’t have the kind of alignment that will help us move forward.”

Gary Kaplan, M.D., chairman and CEO of Virginia Mason Health System, explained in a webinar this fall how the Seattle system improved patient safety using a patient-centered approach. Virginia Mason’s safety culture transformation began in 2001, Kaplan said, when system leaders realized that a physician-centered approach alone would not improve patient care.

2. “You need to start with the early adopters. You can’t start with folks who will fight you tooth and nail. You want to start with early successes and then evolve from there.”

Felipe Osorno, an executive administrator at Keck Medicine of the University of Southern California, spoke at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s annual quality forum about strategies to engage physicians in improvement initiatives. The secret was designing a program in which physicians were respected for their competency and skills, their opinions were valued, they had good relationships with their medical colleagues, they had a broader sense of meaning in their work and they had a voice in clinical operations and processes, he said.

3. “We really want to attract folks who believe at their core, not just intellectually but in their heart, that kindness can heal. … If we do it right the first time and we assess candidates based on the fit of the organization, ideally we will have more engaged employees who deliver care in a way that is patient-centered.”

Wanda Cole-Frieman, vice president of talent acquisition at Dignity Health, talked to FierceHealthcare this summer after the California system was named by an online job platform as the best place to interview in 2017. Among its techniques: It assesses candidates’ behavioral competencies for human kindness, compassion and the human experience.

4. “To create a true culture of safety and reliability we need to engage everyone, and it can only be driven when we have strong alignment. Everyone can play a role in safety.”

Gary Yates, M.D., a partner in strategic consulting at Press Ganey, explained in an interview that building and promoting a culture of safety at healthcare organizations is important to retain current staff members, but is also an especially effective recruiting tool for millennials, who will make up half of the workforce by the year 2020.

“People talk, and people ask about the culture inside different organizations,” Yates said. Putting the spotlight on safety and quality could “tip the scales” for young people.

5. “Our focus is safety, to fundamentally be a safe hospital. If we start there or if any hospital starts there, patient experience will take care of itself, quality metrics will take care of itself as will employee morale.”

FierceHealthcare caught up with Nicholas “Nico” R. Tejeda, CEO of The Hospitals of Providence Transmountain Campus in El Paso, Texas, at an American College of Healthcare Executives event. He talked about opening a new teaching hospital and establishing the culture of the organization from the beginning and with every hire.

There are no acceptable levels of errors, he said. And while it may be nearly impossible to achieve zero incidents, he still wants the organization he leads to strive for perfection.

6. “We don’t see quality as just a clinical goal. It’s an enterprisewide priority that encompasses customer service, compliance and wellness.”

A few years ago, Anthem decided to make a “rigorous” effort to boost the quality of its plans. And it’s demonstrating results, Anthem’s then-CEO Joseph Swedish said during the 2017 AHIP Institute & Expo. Now, more than half of the insurer’s Medicare Advantage enrollees reside in 4-star plans, compared to just 22% the year before.