March 11, 2020
Today, as we confront a viral threat that is challenging our health system, its capacity, and how care is financed, it seems appropriate to review some fundamentals. Health care reform has been speeding down a particular track, changing how health care is covered, paid, delivered, and organized. These reforms may seem to be about health care financing, but will make a future difference in health care access and patient outcomes. Medicare is driving the train with its huge budget and rulemaking capabilities. But insurance companies, in lockstep, are rapidly implementing similar changes. Understanding all those changes is no easy task.…Read More
February 27, 2020
ACO Path to Viability: Direct Contracting May Be the Opportunity
What if your best route to viability was the high-risk path you feared the most, because that failure might destroy you? That's the question Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) have been asking this week—whether to participate in Medicare's new Direct Contracting (DC) initiative. With a shift in payments from Fee for Service (paid per-provider service), to Global Capitation (paid per-beneficiary), DC completely changes the incentives for the health care system. Whether Direct Contracting is a boon or a bust to ACOs depends on their ability to control the costs of patient care long-term—and whether they have the leverage to do so.…Read More
February 5, 2020
How AI Can Engage Consumers to Reduce Disease Risk: The Case of Atrial Fibrillation
In our last article, we assessed how AI could be used to achieve clinical success for individual conditions, and to apply the technology to broad cost reduction efforts and population health interventions. But here's the real test: Can we effectively apply AI technology to help patients better engage in lifestyle risk reduction—particularly for specific conditions at higher risk? To examine the feasibility and issues, let’s take a closer look at Atrial Fibrillation (AFib), an increasingly common and expensive condition. In AFib, the upper part of the heart (the atrium) has ineffectual contraction, causing sludging of the blood and lessened cardiac…Read More
January 29, 2020
Can Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Reduce Health Care Costs?
All the experts’ 2020 health care technology predictions have one trend in common—more Artificial Intelligence. AI and its subset Machine Learning are tagged as the winning ticket to advances not only in clinical medicine and research, but also in administration and management. The hype promotes so many potential applications for AI that it begs for an answer to one of its key claims: Can AI reduce health care costs? I'm referring particularly to Artificial Intelligence that is beyond clinical medicine and new medical technology. AI focused on clinical medicine, from genomics to the latest radiology and cardiology diagnostic capabilities, uses…Read More
January 22, 2020
Can Hospitals Still Lead Health Care Under Risk?
As the millennium's third decade begins, Risk has taken hold as THE strategy for tackling health care costs. Virtually overnight (in health care years) the industry has moved—albeit not uniformly—to accept Risk. This transition is already beginning to impact hospitals and hospital-based systems, and raises serious questions about the viability of their role as the primary financial engine bankrolling health care operations, reforms and modernization. Just one year ago, the concept of provider risk in Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) was anathema to most participants. Despite initial misgivings, however, most ACOs remained in the system after CMS pushed forward with its…Read More
January 15, 2020
Can Consumers Be the Answer to Health Care Cost Control?
In the intense ramp-up to accepting Value-Based Health Care payment models that include financial risk, providers have implemented an array of technologies and programs to improve cost performance. They are in a race against time. Capitation is re-emerging as a dominant payment type under Medicare Value-Based Primary Care Models and commercial contracts. Alternative Payment Models demand payback for excess costs. In the crunch, however, the most important health care goal is getting lost: how to reduce long-term costs while improving patient outcomes. The most effective solutions will require more than just technology. They will require provider-consumer partnering, facilitated by consumer-focused…Read More
January 9, 2020
Get the eBook: Turn Health Care Chaos into Value – Give Voice to Providers and Consumers
Are we on a real path to reducing health care costs and improving our citizens' health? Those were stated goals in the early 2000s that developed into what is now called Value-Based Health Care (VBHC). VBHC has come to mean a major reform effort to slow the pace of cost increases through changes in incentives for both providers and health care consumers. So far, however, the gains have fallen short of expectations. VBHC reforms require significant changes in the role of providers and consumers in order to succeed. These role changes are evolving too slowly. Health care costs continue to…Read More
December 18, 2019
Bottom Line: Can Consumers Survive Value-Based Health Care?
As 2019 nears its close, health care has reached a crossroads. Value-Based Health Care was intended to clarify consumer choices and motivate providers to offer high value services that improved outcomes, as well as to improve patient access to those services. But has that goal been realized? Has anything really changed? Or are health care consumers even worse off than before? Since September, we've been evaluating the consumer perspective of Value-Based Health Care, examining whether the movement is helping consumers achieve affordability, better choices, and good quality. We’ve focused on two central questions: Is Value on the right track? Has…Read More
November 13, 2019
How to Manage Your Health Care Costs – Beyond Just Coverage Costs and Gaps
Consumers are rapidly becoming aware that costs for health care coverage extend well beyond premiums, copays, and deductibles—costs such as additional charges for out-of-network physicians and facilities. There is also a growing understanding that different providers charge varying costs for services—and that other hidden variables can increase the final bill for treatment. But consumer health care costs are not only a price issue. The cost of health care is the final sum of many decisions that are—at least partly—controllable by consumers or providers. Unfortunately, most consumers don't know all the factors that make up health care costs, and why those…Read More
November 6, 2019
The Final 2020 Quality Payment Rule: Playing It Safe with MIPS No Longer Works
The common refrain within the 2475-page Medicare Final Rule for the Physician Fee Schedule and Updates for the Quality Payment Program (QPP) is “we are finalizing our policy as proposed.” This Rule follows the formula CMS adopted in its “Pathways to Success” ACO Rule: Propose a shake-up, reply to concerned commenters, and finalize policy without significant changes. CMS’s desire to move providers into Alternate Payment Models (APMs) comes through loud and clear, both in terms of its vision for MIPS 2.0 and in its more stringent scoring policies. As it stands now, MIPS has not evolved into the program CMS envisioned…Read More