Drive to ACOs and value-based care may make 2016 The Year of Telehealth (US)

An encouraging prediction? Two Foley & Lardner attorneys with evidently a great interest in healthcare predict that 2016 may very well be The Year of Telehealth. Why? They cite accountable care organizations (ACOs) and the coordinated care at the heart of their model as a protected activity under the Medicare fraud and abuse waivers. “Coordinating care, such as through the use of telehealth, remote patient monitoring, and other enabling technologies”is “an activity reasonably related to the purposes of the Medicare Shared Savings Program and therefore is eligible for protection under one or more of the fraud and abuse waivers”. National Law Review, mHealth News. While from the legal point of view this may be significant, there’s been a concatenation of other factors.

What are the drivers for telemedicine and telehealth in ACOs? In the Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP), which is one model, ACOs must leverage savings, and perhaps the largest is avoiding unnecessary hospitalization costs among ‘high-risk’ patients–those with chronic disease–and usually more than one. They are also over half of high ER/ED utilizers. The Federal agency behind Medicare, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has since 2011 been signing up ACOs in risk and value-based payment models that offer incentives such as shared savings. In 2014, only 28 percent of ACOs in the MSSP program earned shared savings bonuses. (more…)

Dartmouth-Hitchcock withdraws from Pioneer ACO

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center has announced it will withdraw [grow_thumb image=”https://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Dartmouth-Hitchcock-MC.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]from the Pioneer ACO program after losing more that $3M over the past two years.

The Pioneer Accountable Care Organization (ACO) Model was designed by the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) Innovation Center to encourage the development of ACOs which are groups of healthcare organizations and providers (e.g. doctors) that work together to provide care for their patients at a lower cost to Medicare while maintaining (more…)

ONC gets in study game in designing the Consumer Centered Telehealth Experience

ONC (the Office of National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, HHS) in the spring conducted a design session on creating a more consumer-centered telehealth experience, commissioning the engagedIN research firm to help select a panel, run it and produce the study. The white paper focuses on how telehealth can either further fracture or integrate PHR (study pages 7-11), and what’s needed to make telehealth and telemedicine more convenient and effective for consumers. The panel avoided the big telemedicine providers (a bone that Mobihealthnews picks with the study) which typically dominate these panels–to this Editor a positive action–but included other telehealth providers like Qualcomm Life, Care Innovations and Zipnosis, as well as the US’ largest user of telehealth, VA Home Telehealth. Among the key drivers of telehealth are HHS’ and private insurers (UHC) shift to value-based payments; CMS’ target of 50 percent of Medicare value-based care is cited (page 5). There are nine principles at the end (pgs 13-16) to guide the way forward. Designing the Consumer Centered Telehealth and e-Visit Experience (PDF) (Though it is confusing why e-Visit was used rather than ‘virtual visits’ or, in fact, telemedicine.)

6 helpful hints for healthcare startup founders–and funders

Investor Skip Fleshman of Palo Alto (of course)-based Asset Management Ventures has six points of sound advice for founders and developers–and funders of same–who think that their Big Idea(s) are the one thing which will revolutionize healthcare, particularly because of their personal experiences. We’ve observed that successful startups have fitted themselves into the Healthcare Establishment’s game [TTA 19 May], but if an investor is still seeing that attitude, it’s still there. AMV’s track record is there with investments in several healthcare companies, including Proteus Digital Health and HealthTap. Mr Fleshman’s points with this Editor’s comments:

1. Listen to the market–and it’s not direct-to-consumer, despite a cursory reading of Eric Topol. Find where your product or service can reduce or avoid cost, increase engagement and improve quality i.e. patient outcomes (which are all linked, see #4)
2. Hire people who know how to speak the language–experienced healthcare people who can work the system but also get the changes and want to make a difference. And no, they may not look or act like you. They’ll often have gray hair and families. Unless they are independently wealthy, they also expect to be paid decently. Quite a few will be women who don’t act or look like you either, but are invaluable in your organization in multiple ways.
3. Understand how the money flows–and the money is with providers, payers, self-insured employers and (Mr Fleshman doesn’t mention this) government (Medicare, Medicaid, the alphabet soup of HHS, CMS…). The incentives (shared savings) are now to providers to pull cost out of their system but somehow maintain population health quality and outcomes. How to pull this off is where the innovation is needed. Partner wherever you can–and this Editor would add, with other successful early-stage companies as well.
4. Read the Affordable Care Act–with a bottle of painkillers and eyedrops. (more…)

The pileup of Federal ‘titanic serial IT disasters’ (US)

[grow_thumb image=”https://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/keep-calm-and-secure-your-data-4.png” thumb_width=”150″ /]Don’t feel bad, HIT execs–the Feds are even worse. Complementary to our coverage of the increased danger of hacked health IT systems and data breaches (the trail of tears is here and here) is the oddly muted press clamor around the 4 June hacking report of the Federal Office of Personnel Management (OPM). Chinese hackers roamed around two OPM databases–personnel and security clearances–for nearly a year, according to CNN’s Senate briefing coverage. The breach likely exceeded 18 million records, though the real number may never be known. Privacy Rights Clearinghouse summarizes it and provides an interesting link to a timeline by Brian Krebs, whose independent reporting beat is IT security. Megan McArdle, a reformed IT consultant writing for Bloomberg News and independently, points at the Federal lack of urgency around having adequate IT that doesn’t fail. Example–the much chronicled failure around Healthcare.gov and the so-called health exchanges, which appear to be functioning better, but reports say they are nearly porous and hackable as they were in 2013. She notes that it’s all about ‘scorched-earth determination’ and that the direction has to come from the top, meaning the President. And ‘voters have never held Obama responsible for his administration’s appalling IT record’. A thought that should give those in telehealth and telemedicine who are working with CMS value-based program ACOs a great deal of pause. NY Post editorial via Press Reader.

Health Datapalooza 2015: more data, better health

Guest columnist and data analytics whiz Sarianne Gruber (@subtleimpact) sat in on the Health Data Consortium’s 2015 edition of Health Datapalooza last week in Washington, DC. It was all about the data that Medicare has been diligently harvesting. Also see the US-UK connection on obesity.

Health Datapalooza 2015, now in its sixth year, welcomed more than 2,000 innovators, healthcare industry executives, policymakers, venture capitalists, startups, developers, researchers, providers, consumers and patient advocates. Health Datapalooza brings together stakeholders to discuss how best to work the advance health and healthcare,” said Susan Dentzer, senior policy adviser to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and a member of the Health Data Consortium. The Consortium promotes health data best practices and information sharing; and works with businesses, entrepreneurs, and academia to help them understand how to use data to develop new products, services, apps and research insights. This year’s conference was held on May 31 through June 3 in Washington, DC. And how best to celebrate is with the gift of more data!

New Medicare Data Means More Transparency
The Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released its third annual update to the Medicare hospital inpatient and outpatient charge data on June 1, 2013. (more…)

Chronic care management with telehealth (US)

Our readers, especially those in the US engaged with medical practices, might be interested in reading a two-part interview with Editor Donna by occasional TTA contributor Sarianne Gruber. We discuss the new model for Chronic Care Management (CCM) now included in what the Federal Government (CMS-Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services) pays physicians for Medicare patient visits and services. Telehealth, or in CMS terms remote monitoring, can play a vital role in the provision of care coordination, assessment, documentation, patient access and facilitation of self-management as part of the care plan, culminating in better outcomes at lower cost. Published in the new RCM (Revenue Cycle Management) Answers, a spinoff of HITECH Answers. Part 1.  Part 2

Hospitals snooping on your shopping and eating

[grow_thumb image=”https://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Doctor-Big-Brother.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]Another charming use for Big Bad Data. Hospitals are investigating whether available data on patients–prospective and current–on shopping patterns and other purchase behavior such as gym memberships can be used to predict patient risk of disease. Leading the way is Carolinas HealthCare System, which operates the largest group of medical centers in North and South Carolina. With more than 900 care centers including nursing homes, they have 2 million patients to analyze for risk, using data points such as purchases a patient has made using a credit card or store loyalty card, to create predictive models on patient risk and eventually to reach out to patients. Of course this data crunching  has a purpose, and that is to meet quality metrics imposed by HHS and CMS. The goal would be to change the risk curve (more…)

Medicare dis-incentivizes home health care in ACA’s name (US)

When it comes to home health care, the C in CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) should perhaps stand for ‘contradiction’. According to recent reports appearing in the pre-holiday ‘dead zone’ of late last week, CMS has decreed that it must save, as part of a four-year plan under ACA, $58 million (0.3 percent) in fiscal 2015 (starting 1 Oct) from home health agencies which were formerly touted as a great way to save money. To put this in perspective: in 2013, Medicare paid about 12,000 home health agencies $18 billion to provide services to 3.5 million patients. In the US, Medicare has always had more restrictive rules for home and community-based services (HCBS); state-administered (but Federally subsidized) means-tested Medicaid still pays for the vast majority of long-term care (well over 60 percent, according to another Federal agency, Housing and Urban Development [HUD]), which strikes many observers as one pocket to another. So where are the contradictions?

  • Conundrum #1: CMS has emphasized post-discharge, post-acute care as part of reducing acute care costs, exemplified in the penalty for 30-day same-cause readmissions. Nursing home expenditure is at least three times more costly than in-home LTC (a conservative estimate used by HUD).
    • But CMS plans to cut Medicare home health funding in total so fewer people may receive it at all or less of it even if needed. What will be their alternative, and the effect on outcomes? (more…)

Telehealth Soapbox: Medical device tax finally under fire; implications many (US)

[grow_thumb image=”https://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/gizmodo-the-top-10-rube-goldberg-machines-featured-on-film-rube-goldberg.jpg” thumb_width=”180″ /]A key part of the Rube Goldberg (or Heath Robinson)-esque funding of the Accountable Care Act (ACA, a/k/a Obamacare) is a punitive medical device tax of 2.3 percent levied on gross sales (not profits) of hip, knee, cardiac implants, many dental materials, diagnostics such as scanners, radiotherapy machines, catheters and more. Since it went into effect on 1 January, it has raised $1 billion according to the Medical Imaging & Technology Alliance, the Advanced Medical Technology Association and the Medical Device Manufacturers Association in July–for a program that does not start till 2014. According to The Hill, senior Senators Orrin Hatch, Barrasso and Hoeven are pushing for a repeal amendment to be attached to the stopgap spending bill. The reasons why the tax deserves to be tossed out on its ear are: (more…)

Is nothing private in your EHR? Another disturbing trend out of Swampland.

According to a solicitation posted by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS-Ed.) on Sept. 4, the CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) is commissioning the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to study how best to add social and behavioral factors to electronic health record reporting.  Washington Free Beacon

So a non-profit online publication, which one would site on the conservative or libertarian side (part of the Center for American Freedom), breaks a huge story, way ahead of the mainstream media, which has major implications for privacy, data security, public health, how goes your doctor or hospital visit and the level of care you receive. Is this EHR TMI (too much information)? The Federal inclusion is being linked to Stage 3 of the Meaningful Use program and reimbursement under Medicare, Medicaid and the Children’s Hospital Insurance Program (CHIP). The NAS already is working on this with the Institute of Medicine to draft suggestions for collecting this behavioral data and identifying “core social and behavioral domains to be included in all EHRs.”

With linking the data to outside Nosey Parkers agencies such as public health entities, the possibilities for identified data becoming insecure or compromised increase dramatically. Will it be accessed (abused) by other entities involved in ACA such as the IRS, state Medicaid databases and Social Security? How much of this data will accidentially leak out in non-deidentified files? Will breaches of millions of non-encrypted records become the norm? Another important and oft-overlooked factor is the additional workload on already overworked hospital and clinical staff, who presently struggle to get comprehensive vital data correctly into multiple fields and screens on present EHRs–a major pain point among many speakers and participants at this past week’s iHT2 Health IT Summit. Finally, there’s the patient. He or she will be pressed to answer, due to penalties baked into the ARRA/HITECH MU3 incentives, the most personal questions about their life and behavior particularly if the diagnosis is one of what euphemistically was called a ‘social disease’. Having spoken this week to those in public health both at iHT2 and at Health 2.0 NYC, this Editor can see it as a deterrent to getting the care they need–or choosing evasion rather than truth with their doctor because there are no more confidences. Even the California Healthcare Foundation, hardly on the right wing, sounds an alarm in iHealthBeat.