INBW36: Will Healthcare Stakeholders Who Don’t Collaborate Wind Up With a Business Problem?
Relentless Health Value™November 24, 202219:0026.08 MB

INBW36: Will Healthcare Stakeholders Who Don’t Collaborate Wind Up With a Business Problem?

We got two new reviews this week on the podcast, which I was thrilled to see. The first was from, it turns out, Dave Chase from Health Rosetta, who wrote that “with so many people in healthcare practicing ‘innovation theater’ and bloviating versus driving real change, it’s a breath of fresh air to listen to Relentless Health Value.” Thank you so much for saying that, Dave. We try really hard to get guests who are actually doing great things such as yourself.

And then there’s another review from mattiw2002, who says, “For anyone trying to stay abreast of developments in the healthcare space, there’s none better than … Relentless Health Value.”

Thank you so much to the two of you who took the time to write a review—could not appreciate it more.

There have been two inbetweenisodes this year (INBW35 and INBW34) where I get deep into the why behind the “why collaborate.” And when I say collaborate, what I mean is anybody in the healthcare industry working together with and for the patients that we’re supposed to be serving here. It’s creating alignment amongst stakeholders around what’s best for the patient.

Here is the nutshell version of the two previous shows. First point: Patients fall into one care gap after another. You hear this from any PCP you talk to who’s working in a care setting when there’s little, if any, collaboration effort on the front end to ensure a non-fragmented patient journey. So then, all these care gaps wind up getting surfaced, which, by the way—let’s not forget this—these care gaps were there all along negatively affecting patient outcomes. It’s just, in the past, we didn’t know about them. But now that we know about them, it becomes the fee-for-service PCPs’ job to mop up all the care gaps while the faucet is still running.

So, that’s the situation analysis, and if we’re going to put an end to this, it means that payers have to align with providers and give enough incentive for those providers to create a non-fragmented patient journey (ie, making sure that the care gaps don’t happen to begin with). This also means providers need to talk amongst themselves and collaborate.

Keep in mind that a multi-morbid Medicare patient sees something like 5 to 13 doctors, on average, depending on what study you look at … 13! If anybody thinks that a patient can see 13 doctors not collaborating with each other and coordinating care and not wind up with some polypharmacy adverse event or materially conflicting advice … I don’t know. Call me. I just do not understand how consistent excellence in patient outcomes or patient care even could be achieved. That whole cliché the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing? That’s a cliché for a reason, and I seriously suspect the entire field of medicine isn’t weirdly excluded from it.

So, first point: Collaboration/alignment is required amongst healthcare stakeholders for patients to get decent outcomes, especially patients with multiple chronic conditions. Payers gotta pay for the right stuff, and providers have to coordinate care. Otherwise, you wind up with all of the care gaps that PCPs currently working in systems with fragmented patient journeys are seeing.

Here’s the second point from earlier episodes: Financial toxicity is clinical toxicity. Patients are forgoing care they need and not taking drugs they need because they cannot afford them. This is not speculation. Trilliant Health just released a report that showed this. Healthcare utilization, if you subtract COVID care and behavioral health, might be permanently down. Other reports speculated that by 2030, a leading cause of death might be nonadherence due to cost concerns. Wayne Jenkins, MD, in episode 358, talks about a whole constellation of negative effects when patients can’t afford care; and yeah … here we are. Patients cannot afford their care. They cannot afford premiums, deductibles, out-of-pockets. These are insured patients a lot of times we’re talking about here. Also, this is not a “Medicaid” problem, as Dan Mendelson put in episode 385.

So, go back and listen to the earlier shows for the who and the what and the why of the above and much more context; but nothing I’ve just said is stuff that I personally would regard as my personal opinion. There is one study after another that bears all this out. There is just one anecdote after another. Fragmented patient care and care that is way more expensive than a patient can afford is going to result in outcomes that are not, let’s just say, super.

Alright, all of this being said, does then aligning payers and providers, and providers collaborating with each other and coordinating care … if these things are done, do patient outcomes improve? Do care gaps reduce? Are patients more satisfied with their care? Said another way, when physician practices get paid to deliver health and not paid for sick care, does patient health actually improve?

Why, yes. Yes, it does. Why do I say this?

First of all, this very much seems to be the conclusion of CMS. Here’s from the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation (CMMI). They released a report updating their strategic vision for implementing value-based care. One of the key new strategies focuses on creating greater care coordination between primary care doctors and specialists.

What might be some of the success stories that precipitated the CMMI focusing their strategy on exactly what I’ve been running around squawking about for one to three years now?

  1. The ChenMed Case Study: ChenMed focuses on the most vulnerable patients and dramatically improves access for those patients, which has led to a 30% to 50% reduction in hospitalizations. They published there’s been a 20% to 30% reduction of stroke. They’ve doubled six-month cancer survival rates and, in some cases, reduced heart failure readmissions by 50%, 70%, up to 90%. They see evidence that they are extending lives five or more years. How? By the providers being aligned with the payers and then also making sure that there is very coordinated care going on there.
  2. Johns Hopkins has a paper in JAMA that concluded that a care coordination model can be associated with improved outcomes, including substantial cost reduction.
  3. I was talking to Larry Bauer from FMEC, the Family Medicine Education Consortium; and he sent me probably a 40-page PDF of really great patient results when care is coordinated and payers are aligned to pay for health. As just one example, Dr. Daniel Hoefer from Sharp HealthCare, they have created what they call their Transitions program. And the idea is by moving aggressive care upstream via community-based palliative medicine, they have proven that the vast majority of people never need to see the inside of a hospital during the last year-ish of their life. The revolving door of hospitalization should be considered an archaic residual of a bygone era, as they put it. Again, this is very well-coordinated care with payer alignment.
  4. Do patients actually want this stuff? Before I get into our evidence here, just let me remind you that Kaiser is a payvider with a narrow network and also that Centivo is an innovative TPA (third-party administrator) pulling together narrow networks. On the podcast the other week, Dan Mendelson (EP385) from Morgan Health said that 40% of new employees are choosing lower-premium plans with either Kaiser or Centivo benefit designs. They are choosing lower-cost plans just as much for the lower premiums as for the care coordination and the “I don’t want anybody between me and my doctor” messages. This is what happens when payers and providers are aligned. Nobody gets in the middle there. Heard a similar story from Nick Stefanizzi (EP383) from Northwell Direct. They’re doing direct contracting with customers like Whole Foods. Everybody I talk to here is surprised how many employees are electing these kinds of plans. So, yeah …
  5. The Nuka System of Care in Alaska (EP312), where I get into this with Doug Eby, MD, MPH, CPE, in great detail. But wow, just wow there. With the Nuka ecosystem, they went from basically a failing mess into the health system that many consider to be the best or one of the best in the country at something like half the price per patient than in mainland US. They have this whole thing where they integrate specialty care into primary care. They have established an agreed-upon referral patterns and also an agreed-upon way to work with specialists that very much involves PCPs talking to specialists so that the whole person, the whole patient can be considered. They structure their whole program around paying for health and getting paid for health. Also, Nuka has a 96% patient satisfaction rate. So again, patients are certainly on board with this.

If I was gonna sum up these five examples, I would certainly say that any physician practices looking to take better care of patients, rediscover clinical excellence and focus … get aligned with payers (CMS or otherwise). That’s step one and certainly easier said than done. After that, work to collaborate with fellow providers. All of these entities that we just talked about who can brag about their patient outcomes and care quality are doing both of the stuff that we just talked about: aligning and collaborating with payers and other providers.

They are also, at the same time, folding three other things into their strategy. And this other stuff is required because you kinda can’t align with payers and you can’t collaborate unless you’re doing these three things at the same time: standardizing best-practice care, getting and using data, and using good technology in conjunction with that data. All of this in the service of this last thing, which is turning transactions into relationships. Human relationships. Relationships with patients. As Rebecca Etz, PhD, and her team at The Larry A. Green Center have shown quite crisply (discussed in episode 295), no relationship with a patient means worse outcomes for patients. End of sentence. But then there’s also having relationships with colleagues and relationships with other docs who have patients in common. It is really tough to coordinate care without relationships, and it’s also not very fulfilling.

Alright, moving on to another question: Are doctors happy in these models where payers are paying for health and where it’s a must-have to coordinate across the continuum of care? Well, I can tell you a couple of things. ChenMed has been named to Newsweek’s “Most Loved Workplaces” list. Nuka System has a 93% employee satisfaction rating. Considering that elsewhere one out of two family practice docs are burned out, this is pretty striking in contrast.

Also, here’s another quote from a physician leader about good accountable care where health is being paid for. He said, “This has changed our physicians’ lives … the idea that we can get paid to actually take care of people. To actually have data to send people to the best for follow-up care, who we know will continue and contribute to the patients’ well-being in the same way. Burnout reduces here because burnout is moral injury in a cheap Halloween costume.”

I’m really sorry I can’t remember who said that because it’s a great quote and so true.

Larry Bauer from FMEC also told me the other day that DPC (Direct Primary Care) conferences have never had a session on burnout. Larry says he tells people if they want to see what 350 happy primary care docs look like, they need to come to a DPC summit. They’re happy as clams. Now, while DPC isn’t the “be entirely responsible for downstream costs” kind of accountable care, what is going on in DPC is, these docs are accountable to their patients and for the care that they are providing.

Here’s another anecdote which I think, in sum, adds up to a “yes” if the question is “Do docs really like this stuff?” I had a long conversation with Scott Conard, MD, the other day about his work with clinics in Queens. What I learned was, these clinics, they used to have waiting rooms overflowing with patients who had been waiting the entire day to be seen and just ... it wasn’t good for anybody. Fast-forward a few years—high-risk patients get seen fast, and there’s time for care coordination. Patients are happy; outcomes are better.

But here is why I inferred that the docs are happy in this model: There was a new office manager. New office manager starts trying to go back to the old way, the “normal” way that practices are run. And it was mutiny on the bounty. No way no how were those docs going back. I took that as a pretty solid testimonial if I ever heard one.

So, I don’t know if anybody has done any sort of global physician satisfaction studies to determine if physicians who are in pay-for-health models where they’re collaborating with one another are happier and less burned out than doctors in the current fee-for-service (FFS) environment. But I can tell you that if somebody did do this, there’s gonna be one really big confounding factor … and this is what it is: There’s a world of difference between a well-functioning accountable care model and a very terrible one.

I have had a series of (as I said earlier) pretty heartbreaking, honestly, conversations with PCPs around the country who think value-based care pretty much sucks. For the big why on this, listen to the show with Dan O’Neill (EP359). But in short, in “not quite there yet” value-based care models, one’s still in the two canoes messy middle (ie, they’ve got one foot in the value-based care world and one foot firmly in the FFS world). Life can get really hard for PCPs especially because they get the worst of both. They get to be care gap cowboys and cowgirls while, at the same time, having to do all of the FFS coding; and they still have seven-minute visits and RVU targets. There’s not really great population health. Nobody’s figured out how to defragment the care journey. And then there’s the whole measurement industrial complex that gets piled on top of their day. I cannot stress this enough.

Alright, so let’s just check off our last big question here for the money motivated. This especially comes up when talking with especially specialists, who are doing very well, thank you very much—financially, I mean—in the current FFS status quo. So, let’s not avoid the elephant in the room.

Is taking on risk, getting paid for value, being accountable to deliver great results, deliver health … is it worth it from a financial standpoint? Alright, let’s take a look at this.

  1. Here’s from show 343 with David Carmouche, MD, when he was at Ochsner. He said, “Anything that we can do to convert the effective reimbursement in the Medicare space to something greater than Medicare fee-for-service rates, we think that this is in our best interest. So, we have gone very heavy into moving as much of our Medicare business into risk as we can. And we will take full capitation under a couple of Medicare advantage contracts.” So, that includes primary care as well as specialist care.
  2. Let’s talk about One Medical for a moment. Five percent of One Medical members account for 51% of the company’s revenue. You know which 5% account for that 51% of revenue? Right, the at-risk ones that are part of the Iora value-based medical group with a capitated model. That is a pretty strong financial endorsement there.
  3. There’s a whole show with Brian Klepper, PhD (EP335), about why private equity is willing to pay $55,000 per patient in a capitated model. So, some actuaries somewhere think this is a very financially sound way to go. I am not sure if I would die on this hill, but I’d also say there’s likely a downside to making zero effort on the accountable care front and banking on FFS being a forever cash cow.

Everything I’ve just said, not a secret. Not at all. You see CMS moving in the “making providers accountable” direction. I already mentioned this and what CMMI is up to. But this is very much an overall strategy. Currently, 44% of traditional Medicare beneficiaries with parts A and B are in a care relationship with some accountability for quality and total cost of care. CMS aims to boost that number to 60% by 2024 and 100% by 2030.

In sum across the industry, it looks like 19.6% of healthcare payments were risk-based in APMs (Alternative Payment Models) that include upside and downside. This is a couple points higher than in 2020, but it’s not like it’s skyrocketing. So, that might be a curb to our enthusiasm.

However, in 2022 here, looking forward to 2023, you know who besides CMS is going heavy on trying to pay for health and not sick care? I have never seen my entire career more CEOs of Fortune 500 companies—CEOs!—who are actively taking a role in their employee health benefits. I think it’s because they can’t afford not to at this point. Again, financial toxicity is very, very real for employed individuals.

Here’s something that Jeff Hogan called out from a McKinsey report: “VBC [value-based care] models that show promise in the employer context include high-performance provider networks with cost- and quality-based metrics, episode-based payments for standardized patient-care journeys … , and risk-based contracts for end-to-end management of high-cost conditions.”

You know what all those things have in common that I just rattled off? Only high-performing docs are in network—and this includes specialists.

I say all this to say, I don’t know, if I were a practitioner of healthcare and I knew that all this data was floating around about my practice patterns and given that doctors that don’t perform well as per that data are being excluded from networks … I don’t know, just given all of the signs that are pointing in a risk-based direction, learning to take on risk just seems like—I was never a Boy Scout, but the whole “Be prepared” seems pretty sound advice right now, especially given how long it takes to get good at this.

 

For more information, go to aventriahealth.com.
To listen to the playlist of the mentioned episodes, click here.

Each week on Relentless Health Value, Stacey uses her voice and thought leadership to provide insights for healthcare industry decision makers trying to do the right thing. Each show features expert guests who break down the twists and tricks in the medical field to help improve outcomes and lower costs across the care continuum. Relentless Health Value is a top 100 podcast on iTunes in the medicine category and reaches tens of thousands of engaged listeners across the healthcare industry.

In addition to hosting Relentless Health Value, Stacey is co-president of QC-Health, a benefit corporation finding cost-effective ways to improve the health of Americans. She is also co-president of Aventria Health Group, a consultancy working with clients who endeavor to form collaborations with payers, providers, Pharma, employer organizations, or patient advocacy groups.

 

05:03 When physician practices get paid to deliver health and not paid for sick care, does patient health actually improve?

05:46 What is the ChenMed Case Study?

06:26 Can a care coordination model be associated with improved outcomes, including substantial cost reduction?

06:38 Are there examples of really great patient results when care is coordinated and payers are aligned to pay for health?

07:29 Do patients actually want this stuff?

07:46 Are employees choosing lower-cost plans just as much for the lower premiums as for the care coordination and the “I don’t want anybody between me and my doctor” messages?

08:29 What is the Nuka System of Care in Alaska?

09:25 “I would certainly say that any physician practices looking to take better care of patients, rediscover clinical excellence and focus … get aligned with payers (CMS or otherwise). That’s step one and certainly easier said than done.”

10:45 Are doctors happy in these models where payers are paying for health and where it’s a must-have to coordinate across the continuum of care?

11:16 “This has changed our physicians’ lives … the idea that we can get paid to actually take care of people. To actually have data to send people to the best for follow-up care, who we know will continue and contribute to the patients’ well-being in the same way. Burnout reduces here because burnout is moral injury in a cheap Halloween costume.” —Physician leader

13:25 “There’s a world of difference between a well-functioning accountable care model and a very terrible one.”

13:59 “Life can get really hard for PCPs especially because they get the worst of both. They get to be care gap cowboys and cowgirls while, at the same time, having to do all of the FFS coding; and they still have seven-minute visits and RVU targets.”

14:43 Is taking on risk worth it from a financial standpoint?

16:05 “There’s likely a downside to making zero effort on the accountable care front and banking on FFS being a forever cash cow.”

17:11 “I have never seen my entire career more CEOs of Fortune 500 companies—CEOs!—who are actively taking a role in their employee health benefits. I think it’s because they can’t afford not to at this point. Again, financial toxicity is very, very real for employed individuals.”

17:54 “Only high-performing docs are in network—and this includes specialists.”

 

For more information, go to aventriahealth.com.
To listen to the playlist of the mentioned episodes, click here.

 

Our host, Stacey, discusses #collaboration on our #healthcarepodcast. #healthcare #podcast

When physician practices get paid to deliver health and not paid for sick care, does patient health actually improve? Our host, Stacey, discusses #collaboration on our #healthcarepodcast. #healthcare #podcast

What is the ChenMed Case Study? Our host, Stacey, discusses #collaboration on our #healthcarepodcast. #healthcare #podcast

Can a care coordination model be associated with improved outcomes, including substantial cost reduction? Our host, Stacey, discusses #collaboration on our #healthcarepodcast. #healthcare #podcast

Are there examples of really great patient results when care is coordinated and payers are aligned to pay for health? Our host, Stacey, discusses #collaboration on our #healthcarepodcast. #healthcare #podcast

Do patients actually want this stuff? Our host, Stacey, discusses #collaboration on our #healthcarepodcast. #healthcare #podcast

Are employees choosing lower-cost plans just as much for the lower premiums as for the care coordination and the “I don’t want anybody between me and my doctor” messages? Our host, Stacey, discusses #collaboration on our #healthcarepodcast. #healthcare #podcast

What is the Nuka System of Care in Alaska? Our host, Stacey, discusses #collaboration on our #healthcarepodcast. #healthcare #podcast

“Are doctors happy in these models where payers are paying for health and where it’s a must-have to coordinate across the continuum of care?” Our host, Stacey, discusses #collaboration on our #healthcarepodcast. #healthcare #podcast

“There’s a world of difference between a well-functioning accountable care model and a very terrible one.” Our host, Stacey, discusses #collaboration on our #healthcarepodcast. #healthcare #podcast

Is taking on risk worth it from a financial standpoint? Our host, Stacey, discusses #collaboration on our #healthcarepodcast. #healthcare #podcast

“There’s likely a downside to making zero effort on the accountable care front and banking on FFS being a forever cash cow.” Our host, Stacey, discusses #collaboration on our #healthcarepodcast. #healthcare #podcast

“Only high-performing docs are in network—and this includes specialists.” Our host, Stacey, discusses #collaboration on our #healthcarepodcast. #healthcare #podcast

 

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Dr Eric Bricker (Encore! EP351), Al Lewis, Dan Mendelson, Wendell PotterBrian Klepper (Encore! EP335)Dr Aaron Mitchell (EP382)Karen RootMark MillerAJ LoiaconoJosh LaRosaStacey Richter (INBW35)Rebecca Etz (Encore! EP295)Olivia Webb (Encore! EP337)Mike BaldzickiLisa BariBetsy Seals (EP375)Dave ChaseCora Opsahl (EP373)Cora Opsahl (EP372)Dr Mark Fendrick (Encore! EP308)Erik Davis and Autumn Yongchu (EP371)Erik Davis and Autumn Yongchu (EP370)Keith HartmanDr Aaron Mitchell (Encore! EP282)Stacey Richter (INBW34)Ashleigh GunterDoug Hetherington

 

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