Navigating Healthcare – Patient Safety and Personal Healthcare Management

Healthcare – Its Personal

The Great Healthcare Debate

Healthcare is personal and front and center in our minds not just because we all intersect with it in some way but it employs 1 in 9 people in the United States. With the current state of our media and political system with polarized debates, he said she said talking heads on the media, the echo chamber of social media and the 24/7/365 barrage of news and fake news it can be hard to see a pathway out of the quagmire we find ourselves in. But we all want to see that path. I just don’t believe that people get up in the morning wondering how they can decimate the healthcare services and the lives of their fellow human beings. We don’t get up out of bed every day wondering how best to punish people who may have made bad choices in their lives or who find themselves in unfortunate positions though geography (the zip code effect) or genetics. I know I don’t and I don’t think you do either.

Yet the stream of coverage and what we read, see and hear online and sometimes even in person suggests that this is the case. I can’t answer the reasons why but I’ve read a string of articles and reporting that variably suggests its always been like this to this is the fault – and then insert the name of your favorite whipping horse. Ultimately it does not matter – unless you believe that people wake up with malintent every morning it’s better to start with an understanding of the problem and then thinking about possible solutions and how we can apply them quickly and effectively

So Let’s Start with some of the fundamental problems in our healthcare system – to be clear we are not alone in the world. I have seen and heard from many others in different countries who are all struggling to varying degrees and with different focus and priorities the same issues. If I had to boil it down to one issue I would say

Limited Resources and the Prioritization of the Allocation of those resources

It’s a familiar equation to anyone trying to balance their budget or allocate their time. If you are like me you may find there are just not enough hours in the day for the task list you created in the morning and wishing either to stretch time (time dilation) or perhaps be able to turn time back with the Wizarding world’s  Time Turner. There are two basic options available – reduce the inputs or reduce the outputs. In the vernacular of budgeting – either spend less or make more money. Both may be viable and depend on personal circumstance but undoubtedly there will be easier and harder solutions. Ultimately we all have to make our own personal decisions – so one solution or size does not fit all.

Photo from jenga.com

It would be foolish to suggest that this covers all the complexity of the healthcare system as we all know healthcare is incredibly complex and always reminds me of the game Jenga.

 

This does not cover everything and there are many other elements in play but it is certainly a start and one that individuals and organizations can focus on to start to make incremental improvements.

As one Chinese proverb states:

Every journey starts with a single step

And turning that step into a habit is one of the best ways of setting a path to improvement.

Demand Side of Healthcare

This is the access and use of the system and the burden does not just fall on the individual. But it does start there as it is out personal choices to access and use available services that creates demand. Historically in the United States, the cost and payment of this access have been disassociated from the individual. When you visit the doctor or pharmacy you don’t pay the actual cost of the service – your insurance carrier does. Ultimately we do all pay for this through our insurance premiums and for many the contributions made on our behalf by our employer that is part of the compensation we receive for working for them but at the point of care, we are disconnected from the price and cost of a service.

Patient Accessing Care

To a varying degree individuals have some form of co-pay – a personal cost that is defined by the insurance coverage and is shifting increasingly to the individual under the new insurance plans called High Deductible Health Plans (HDHP). One of the intentions of this policy is to make the individual responsible for this cost in an attempt to influence behavior and decrease unnecessary access. But this comes with the inevitable unintended consequences with cost avoidance strategies by individuals who knowing they will be held responsible for the full cost of a visit, drug or test may elect to decline to have or use the service.

 

I’d count myself in that crowd having been on a HDHP plan for several years. I can point to several decision where I have declined tests, treatment and access to care because of the nature of my personal responsibility – I have an associated health savings account (HSA) which should cover the capped amount of cost for the year. But the crippling nature of potential costs associated with a catastrophic medical problem – a serious accident, cancer, heart attack are all so terrifying that I see the HSA as a buffer against the potential of medical insolvency that might result especially when you consider the impact on a family with one source of income that would be impacted by any medical disability.

 

Insurers Paying for Care

Insurers want to reduce their costs – and even the non-profits have to make money so are focused on the bottom line if they want to continue to serve their customers and population. So they look to find ways to reduce the unnecessary access to care imposing barriers and limits. There was a gate keeper concept that requires a referral letter from a primary care physician before you can access s specialist – that service by the way costing you additional fees to see the primary care provider. There are formulary requirements that exclude certain drugs from coverage and attempts to limit access to specific doctors and networks to strengthen the buying and negotiation power of the payor with the providers in the system.

 

Providers Delivering Care

On the provider side the clinal professionals delivering the care all arrived at this point having selected the expensive assault course of education to train and qualify to be able to deliver care. For doctors, it’s persistence and endurance that win out. The barriers to entry are high and tied to economics. They all have the same desire to help patients – but economics and the burden of the educational system can overwhelm just about anyone and they have bills to pay both for their education but also the infrastructure they must use to be able to both deliver care but also bill and be paid for delivering. They want to reduce their overhead and spend as much of their time and resources on the delivery of care but to survive in the system must allocate significant amounts of money to non-clinal systems and activities. Estimates of these costs suggest that at least 30% of the healthcare costs we as a society pay in the United States are tied to administrative and billing functions. The data’s still lagging but projections for 2016 put the total healthcare bill at $3.207 Trillion (thats $3,207,000,000,000 or more than $10,000 per person in the USA)

Healthcare Administrative Cost: $962 Billion Dollars

$962,100,000,000

 

Reconciling the Differences

Credit Imgur

The difference of opinion often centers on what is unnecessary – in the eyes of the patient they need and want the care they think is appropriate to them. Some of this is fed by a constant stream of information that even for an well informed clinically experienced specialist can be difficult to comprehend and make informed decision. We want wants best for our personal health and the health of our family and loved ones. But sometimes what the patient may think is best may not be – a great example is the steady stream of requests for antibiotics for treatments of minor infections. Not every sore throat or cough demands the use of antibiotics and in fact, in many cases, their use is damaging as we face a future where this line of defense is increasingly being overrun with smartly adaptive bacteria who develop resistance with terrifying speed.

 

Payors Perspectives

The same is true of payor and insurers – they face a rising tide of costs associated with care that is increasingly complicated and expensive and struggle to balance their budget.Faced with one patient who’s costs for treatment might be hundreds of thousands of dollars or more so they limit or decline this in favor of treating multiple other patients where their cost of treatment is thousands of dollars or less? The utopian answer is treat everyone but we they like each of us do not have unlimited budget or resources and have to make hard decisions. And the problem with healthcare fundedfor the population but access individually.

 

Healthcare is funded for the population but access individually

 

Clinicians Perspectives

Clinicians also have a view on what’s appropriate – and the vast majority act with total integrity (I would like to say all of them but sadly there are occasional stories of clinicians and healthcare professionals who game the system – sometimes with simple prescription based fraud or other times over treatment of stenting in cardiac cases). Sadly for a profession that is so dependent on trust the rare cases of fraud and abuse unfairly tar everyone with the same brush. As I said above – I believe everyone gets up in the morning with the best intentions and this is true of the clinal professionals who each and every day battle a system to deliver the care and compassion they set out to deliver when they took the path into healthcare. They want to say no to unnecessary treatment but the personal pressures applied and the underlying compassion and the innate drive that was the foundation of why they entered the profession can influence them to order and prescribe because they are unable to explain the lack of value and offering this option makes their patient happier and comfortable.

So how do we reconcile these differing opinions

 

Economics and Making Choices

Which path is best

There’s a sad fact in the US healthcare system – we do not talk about cost effectiveness. Its not just a taboo subject but also a forbidden topic, As Aaron Carroll (The Incidental Economist) noted in his piece Forbidden Topic in Health Policy Debate: Cost Effectiveness we avoid talking about cost-effectiveness in the United States.

Some think that discussing cost effectiveness puts us on the slippery slope to rationing, or even “death panels.”

As he points out – if there was a pill available that could extend your life by one day but costs a billion dollars, most would accept this as an unacceptable trade off and decline it. But that’ extreme – as you decrease the cost where does that line become blurred?

what’s to stop us from deciding that spending a couple hundred thousand dollars to extend grandma’s life for a year isn’t worth it either?

More troubling is the shackles that have been placed on the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute – who were founded but explicitly prohibited it from funding any cost-effectiveness research at all! How can an outcomes institute assess healthcare if cost effectiveness is not part of the equation?

“We don’t consider cost effectiveness to be an outcome of direct importance to patients.”

In fact, we in the United States are so averse to the idea of cost effectiveness that when the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute, the body specifically set up to do comparative effectiveness research, was founded, the law explicitly prohibited it from funding any cost-effectiveness research at all. As it says on its website,

PCORI was established to fund research that can help patients and those who care for them make better-informed decisions about the healthcare choices they face every day, guided by those who will use that information.

 

Quality-Adjusted Life Years

As he points out there is actually a fairly robust strategy and measure that can offer insights into the value of measuring health outcomes – QALY’s (Quality-Adjusted Life Years) which the National Health Service has been using fro some time in the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) that provides guidance, advice, quality standards and information services for health, public health and social care. Also contains resources to help maximise use of evidence and guidance. There is no doubt they are imperfect but very little in life is perfect and perfection should not be a barrier to progress. The use of this is not a sole determinant – but offers some measure of science and data to making what are incredibly difficult tdecisions

So in the current debate of what health system we need to put in place I would advocate the inclusion of cost effectiveness as one of the factors that must be considered and the QALY and perhaps even the Incremental cost-effectiveness ratio (ICER) as part of this difficult discussion.

I’m all about incremental changes and while including a cost effectiveness as a measure may seem a bigger stretch I feel it is a smaller step in the right direction. Can we achieve this? Is there a better incremental step we can take to resolve the challenges of our healthcare system? Leave your thoughts below.

Healthcare – Its Personal was originally published on Dr Nick – The Incrementalist

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Wise Up to Hidden Healthcare Fees

It’s perverse but the healthcare system in the United States is making you sick. Don’t believe me – then maybe you have a high-end plan with no deductible and full access and no ceiling. But there are not many of those and for the rest of us, I imagine your interaction with the system is as frustrating and stressful as mine – probably on a spectrum depending on your plan (High deductible plan or the more traditional Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) and co-payments.

 

Fee for Service Healthcare

The cynical view might be this is deliberate since our system remains firmly stuck in a fee for service model – healthcare providers are paid to do something…anything. From its original development, this made sense – our capacity to treat conditions was limited and the cost of these treatments in line with our ability to pay for them. But along this journey science and in particular the incredible progress of medical research got involved and we have been on a veritable tear of progress and innovation, or as the Exponential Medicine group would say Exponential progress.

Original from Foundation Teaching Economics

There is a continued push towards a more robust and accountable model – Accountable Care Organizations have been set up and these models of total care and coverage and responsibility tested for effectiveness and economic effect. There is lots of disagreement on the success or failure of ACO’s and it is fair to say that the jury is still out. But intuitively we know that taking care of the complete picture and being responsible for the total care of patients health is better for the patient and for outcomes. I have seen it time and again where individual mandates or focus induce unwanted/unexpected/unintended consequences elsewhere in the whole system.

Discharging Patients Early – Unintended Consequences

Discharging patients from the hospital early typically results in better outcomes. Early programs that incentivized this behavior and rewarded programs that got patients out of the hospital early were deemed successful but failed to take account of the downstream impact of readmissions resulting from too early a discharge and subsequent complications for that patient that could have been avoided.

Fixing a Broken System

The recent book “American Sickness” by Dr Elisabeth Rosenthal “An American Sickness” takes on the existing system and is filled with strategies for patients faced with mounting medical bills, an intractable and aggressive healthcare system that is unflinching in seeking payment and by many estimates the leading cause of personal financial crisis and insolvency. While the figures remain under debate my own personal reality living with a High Deductible Plan that has found me

  • Self-treating Fractures
  • Becoming my own compounding pharmacy and
  • Spending months and many hours fighting multiple bills

 

In the case of one screening procedure, that under the current regulations are fully covered but thanks to either mistaken coding or perhaps even deliberate coding, remains outstanding and in two of the three cases, the billing organizations despite my attempts at regular communications, response and protests were handed over to debt collection agencies.

So I am with Dr. Rosenthal and “breaking down the monolithic business”.

The situation is far worse than we think, and it has become like that much more recently than we realize. Hospitals, which are managed by business executives, behave like predatory lenders, hounding patients and seizing their homes. Research charities are in bed with big pharmaceutical companies, which surreptitiously profit from the donations made by working people. Americans are dying from routine medical conditions when affordable and straightforward solutions exist.

Employer Sponsored Insurance

Central to the challenges is the arcane concept that you access to healthcare and health insurance should be linked to your employment. As one friend of mine commented, “There are some who believe this is a deliberate policy on the part of employers to lock in employees to jobs they may not want but have to take because they need the health insurance and can’t afford the challenge or cost of changing (health insurance”. I don’t quite go down that rabbit hole and think Dan Munro’s explanation in his great book “Casino Healthcare

that detailed the history linked to the war effort and the need to find other incentives after they introduced: “An Act to further the national defense and security by checking speculative and excessive price rises, price dislocations, and inflationary tendencies, and for other purposes.” (EPCA) in 1942 – wages were frozen to stop inflation but as is so often the case left the door open for unintended consequences that found employers looking for ways to compete for a shortage of labor. And as they say what follows is history – Employer Sponsored Insurance (ESI) was born.

History of the NHS

It is interesting to note that the NHS model was also a product of the war that found the wounded servicemen and women in need of healthcare. A need that was serviced by the “Emergency Hospital Service” (aka Emergency Medical Service) that provided a model and experience to the country that became the model for what is now the NHS established in 1946.

But whatever the history, reasons, and background – this remains a millstone around American’s. It can add to job reductions and General Motors have stated that their employee healthcare costs add $1,500 – 2,000 to the price of every car they produce. It makes us less competitive internationally and crippling many with overheads that add to the cost of goods sold. It also puts employers at the table on healthcare decision making for their employers that present potential conflicts of interest given their need to service their share holders and remain profitable.

Finding a pathway to resolving this big intractable healthcare mess is going to take some major re-thinking and compromise on all sides. In the meantime, I suggest focusing on individual incremental approaches locally.

 

Incremental Steps to Coping With Healthcare

The list of 6 Questions to ask your doctor before your appointment and 5 questions to ask before you stay in a hospital are excellent resources from Dr. Elisabeth Rosenthal, that are featured in the book and on the website. So in the spirit of the incremental approach, I offer up two credit card size templates containing the

  • 5 Questions to Ask During Your Hospital Stay
  • 6 Questions to Ask Before Every Doctor’s Appointment

 

Formatted in a handy Avery 5371 White Business Card Template that can be printed – double sided and put in your wallet: Questions When Using Healthcare Avery Template 5371

Do you have any tips or suggestions in dealing with the healthcare system? Disagree with any of this – feel free to leave your comments or reach out.

Wise Up to Hidden Healthcare Fees was originally published on Dr Nick – The Incrementalist

Population Health is a Team Sport

Designing an Effective Population Health Program

Population health is the topic du jour for the health care industry, and I’m glad to see us all focusing on this important issue. But there is a lot of confusion as to what, exactly, constitutes population health. Or more correctly, an effective population health system.

A good population health program consists of four major components:

  1. Identification and stratification of risk within a discrete population
  2. Dissemination of information to physicians, care coordinators or others designated to contact patients and arrange follow up.
  3. Appropriate follow up to further understand the risks for individual patients, identify gaps in care and design a care plan to help the patient improve his/her health status.
  4. Ongoing care individualized to each patient’s need. That might be coaching, medication reminders, telehealth visits, remote monitoring or other strategies customized to each person’s condition and socio-economic environment.

The key to making a population health program effective is ensuring that all four components are in place and working well. If there is a break anywhere in the chain, you lose the opportunity to improve patients’ health. The best analytics in the world are useless if the results do not quickly and easily pass into the hands of the people who can take action. And very good follow up and care planning can be ineffective if the ongoing support is lacking.

Friction

One of the biggest barriers to effective population health improvement is friction in the flow of information between health plans, hospitals/health systems and physicians. This has been a constant source of difficulty for the entire healthcare ecosystem for years, but with the new focus on population health and improving outcomes, it has reached a new level of urgency.

African heart disease is much lower
African heart disease is much lower

In traditional African societies coronary artery disease is virtually nonexistent, but in the migrant population to Western societies the rates are similar to those of the local population indicating that the primary determinants of these diseases are lifestyle and diet and not genetic. These indicators are a key asset in changing our healthcare system and addressing the current 75% of our healthcare spending that is focused on patients with chronic conditions which have their roots in lifestyle choices and behaviors. To address these challenges we need a way to better target our limited healthcare resources more cost effectively for maximum effect and identification and targeting with a robust population health system is no longer a nice to have – it’s a must.

To help patients improve their health, not just react to a situation that has already developed, requires information and insights. But in a survey of primary care physicians by The Commonwealth Fund, only 31% of U.S. physicians said they are notified when a patient is discharged from the hospital or seen in an emergency department. This is important information for primary care physicians, and is not that difficult to fix. All you need is standard protocol in place and a mechanism for notification. It could be a standard action that happens at every discharge. It could even be automated. If the retail industry can automatically send an email to confirm an order, hospitals and health systems should be able to send an automatic email to a physician with discharge information. But hospitals and health system executives haven’t made it a priority, so it doesn’t get fixed.

Get to know your team mates

This is just one example of the inward-looking approach that still permeates much of healthcare. Hospitals, nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities and other care providers pay attention to what happens within their organizations, but they neglect to look beyond. Organizations act as though the care they give is the only care patients receive. They forget that there are a multitude of other professionals who are also responsible for care and need to know what’s going on. We don’t just have data silos in healthcare, we have attitudinal silos that make data transfer and exchange an afterthought at best.

It’s like each care provider is a golfer alone on the course and the patient is the ball. As long as that lone golfer moves the ball forward, it’s all good.

The reality is that healthcare is a team sport, more like football (or soccer as it is called in the US) than golf. If you can’t make an accurate, effective pass to your team mates, you lose the ball.

Population Health a Team Sport
Team Sport

But patients aren’t balls, they’re human beings. When one member of the healthcare team fails to inform the rest of the team, a human being gets lost in the confusion with poor outcomes and frustrated patients.

In population health improvement, you have to play on a team, because it takes a wide variety of skills to make this all happen. And you have to be aware of all the other players on the team. The successful population programs include everyone who is part of the community – not just the healthcare system and resources but all aspects of the community. Dell Medical School held an inaugural event to crowd-source their population health strategy, coming up with areas of focus and metrics for success that included input from a wide range of stake holders. This is the kind of team based approach to population health that will help the whole community win – getting people healthy and staying healthy.

 

It starts with leadership

Most healthcare organizations are at least partly aware of the problem and are making efforts to solve it. But it is a complex problem, involving, as I noted above, attitudes as well as technology. To make data flow freely to those who need it, you have to have effective technology to integrate, manage and analyze the multitude of data streams in healthcare, and you also need leadership who prioritize data sharing over the competitive interests of conflicting health delivery systems. With free flowing information routed to all the interested parties including the oft forgotten but all important patient, in understandable and actionable form that includes the insights and management options we can successfully identify those at risk and develop appropriate interventions. By including the patient and personal care team that typically includes multiple family members we capitalize on underutilized resources that are both essential and highly effective at improving the trajectory for the patient’s outcome.

 

Custom Communication and Targeting

Traditional systems and methods have targeted the existing clinical systems and communications which, while suited to some, fail to adapt to the changing world of technology and the fact that people no longer go online – they live online. This doesn’t just apply to patients and their families; it’s increasingly true for clinicians. It can be as simple as a text based reminder for medication, timed to coincide with the patients personal schedule and preferences or as complex as an automated avatar with augmented intelligence that engages with the patient to assess their status and determine the need for additional intervention or personal follow up by the care team.

 

Each year HealthIT week raises awareness of technology in healthcare, bringing together innovators and key healthcare leaders who are diligently working together to make the best use of information technology to improve the healthcare systems and ultimately our each and everyone’s individual health. This past year we lost one of the titans whose personal journey of uncoordinated care she shared in her attempt to correct the system – Jess Jacobs (#UnicornJess). It might be too late for Jess but let this be the year we move past the individual approach in healthcare driven by underlying economics and focus on the team sport of population health and democratize access to the best possible care and outcomes to the widest swathe of people…worldwide.

 

This post originally appeared here

Population Health is a Team Sport was originally published on DrNic1

Value-based care Making proprietary PACS and basic VNAs extinct

Posted in Health Care Costs, Health Reform, quality, Quality of Care, radiology, Technology by drnic on March 11, 2016

The move toward value-based reimbursement is shaking up traditional healthcare in all kinds of ways, as connectivity and cost-effectiveness become critical attributes in care delivery. Proprietary PACS, used in image acquisition systems, are starting to feel the squeeze from this dual pressure, as vendor-neutral archives take over many of their functions.

ExpectBetter

A recent study by Markets and Markets predicts a PACS-less Radiology world by 2018. Donald Dennison, Society for Imaging Informatics in Medicine (SIIM) Board director-at-large and the chair of the American College of Radiology (ACR) Connect Committee told attendees at the opening session for SIIM 2015, there are three external market forces that are trickling down into the imaging informatics world and leading to the demise of PACS: Money, EMR adoption and consolidation.

While PACS have traditionally been the workhorses of diagnostic imaging, providing workflows, viewing and archiving, their use of proprietary formats severely limited the ability of an organization to freely share images and created unnecessary and expensive complications in managing storage. They are a prime example of the episodic-care model, in which care delivery processes were created without regard to the broader needs of a patient. With the move toward value-based care, this episodic approach is rapidly being replaced by a patient-centric model, and proprietary silos are rapidly and rightly going the way of the dinosaur. In this case, value-based payments are the meteor strike that will so radically change the environment that these beasts are no longer equipped for survival.

Vendor-neutral archives (VNA), which can gather all the images into a standardized, patient-centered storage model, makes image sharing much easier. And VNAs have added on workflow and viewing capabilities that make PACS mostly superfluous. While having a VNA to unify all your diagnostic imaging is a good idea, it also has limitations. A simple VNA is more evolved than a PACS, but without more evolution and growth, it too will be unable to survive in the changed environment created by value-based payments. Fortunately, the VNA model is more adaptable than most PACS and is rapidly evolving to be far more than a DICOM-image repository.

An important part of value-based care is the ability to unify all data associated with a patient and deliver the right parts of that data where and when they are needed. That requires not only DICOM images, but also associated clinical data and documents and non-DICOM documentary images (such photos to document wound care). And all of that data must be integrated with the patient’s electronic health record. Finally, a layer of analytics is needed to ensure that relevant data can be extracted as needed.

Beyond individual patients, we have an opportunity to learn more about the progression of diseases if we can use this unified data in our predictive and population health analytics. In an article in Clinical Innovation+Technology, radiologists Eliot Siegel, MD and Gary Wendt, MD noted that this larger, unified data may soon offer unique value for diagnostic purposes and new clinical insights.

 

The article quotes Dr. Wendt (Dr. Wendt is the vice chair of informatics, professor of radiology, and enterprise director of medical imaging at the University of Wisconsin-Madison) saying

“Today when people are talking about big data and data mining, they are still talking about text. They’re not talking about actually mining content out of images. I think that’s probably the next generation, actually processing image data, not just text data. Ultimately, the clinical impact of such next-generation image archiving would come from the creation of more relevant reports [..based on data mining…]. This would be especially beneficial in oncology, where treatments can be modified based on tumor progression, and comparisons to similar cohorts of patients at an oncologist’s fingertips would be useful,”

As the VNA grows beyond image archiving, maybe a new name will be needed. The pre-release statement for a new IDC report (due out in December 2015) suggests a new description: Application Independent Clinical Archive. But I still like Dell’s name for our version of this archive (I work for Dell): Unified Clinical Archive.

By whatever name you call it, we are moving toward a truly patient-centered archive that will offer far more value than PACS or the simpler versions of VNAs. That’s good for all of us.

This article originally appeared on Autnminnie

 

Value-based care Making proprietary PACS and basic VNAs extinct was originally published on Dr Nick van Terheyden, MD

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Personal Healthcare Management

This piece by Aaron Carroll detailing his personal experiences with the healthcare system for what should be an easy and simple activity represents the frustration and challenges everyone faces on a daily basis including myself

I have the exactly the same challenges with renewal of what is a long standing formulation

I know this is not good for anyone and as pointed out it is not good for personal health – in my case as my wife and family will attest it definitely raises my blood pressure as I spend countless hours on the phone fighting with systems.

Everyone’s story will be different and in my case I don’t love the drug company who have taken long standing medication mixed them in a standard way and patented this to make it extraordinarily expensive for a formulation that contains one over the counter medication (OTC) and one generic prescription medication. And because of the artificial limits placed on supplies (90 days supplies with a maximum 1 year) behavior is modified attempting to reduce unnecessary costs. Ultimately everyone is behaving in the way the system incents.

Imagine that experience in the store – CostCo refusing to allow you to buy your supplies in bulk limiting your purchase to 3 months supply of toilet paper

and having to keep going back to an external party to require approval for purchasing when CostCo offers a special deal to purchase 12 units that might cover you for a year. Costco want you to purchase more and if you have the space and storage and will use it you want to buy in volume because it saves you money and the manufacturer wants purchasing their product. Costco is focused on making the process and cost as efficient as possible.

Before the deluge of complaints that buying drugs is not the same as buying toilet paper – true but take many maintenance drugs with excellent efficacy and safety. Even if it does require regular blood tests forcing the workflow to link the two in an sequence that tortures everyone in the process makes no sense. Engaged patients want an efficient process, will follow sensible and safe treatment guidelines and don’t need to be squeezed into a sequential process that includes steps that are linked for clinical reasons but remain disconnected in real life and difficult and expensive to follow for everyone concerned

As the costs shift to the individual the frustrations rise with the process and the necessary costs and waste – expect a rising voice of complaints and frustrations that might hopefully start to effect change

Personal Healthcare Management was originally published on DrNic1

Connected Health and Accelerating the Adoption of #mHealth

Posted in #hcsm, #mHealth, bigdata, EMR, Health Reform, HealthIT, HITsm, Medical Devices by drnic on November 7, 2014

I attended the Connected Healthcare Conference in San Diego yesterday Accelerate mHealth Adoption: Deliver Results through Data Driven Business Models for End-User Engagement

Never has there been so much to play for in the mobile health landscape, a revolution is just round the corner with key players from the health care and consumer markets coming together to develop the mHealth industry. This Connected Health Summit will create a bridge bringing together hospitals, clinicians, providers, payers, software and hardware innovators, consumer groups and the wireless industry.

You can find the agenda here and the organizers will be publishing the presentations – there were many interesting insights

Andrew Litt, MD (@DrAndyLitt) (Principal at Cornice Health Ventures, LLC) opened the conference with a great overview of the industry and a slew of challenges and opportunities.

He sees our industry in Phase 1 – the Capture and Digitization of records and we have yet to really move and explore Phase 2:

Move and Exchnage Data AND Analyze and Manage Data that is linked to Information Driven decision Making

And Phase 3:

Managing Patient Health

In our need to move from data to analysis and information he cited a statistic from a white paper: Analytics: The Nervous System of IT-Enabled Healthcare that sadly puts 80% of data in the EMR unstructured. This is a fixable problem today with Clinical Language Understandingand we are seeing some results and a change in the industry to stop looking to doctors to be data entry clerks He also cited Hospitals:

Technology offers tremendous scope to not only fix these problems but get ahead of the problem (as is done in other industries like the Airline industry that has rebooked your flights before you even land and miss your connection). As he suggested could we use data to understand who is likely to develop a heart attack in the next 2 hours and try and change this outcome

But integrating mHealth into our workflow requires an mHealth Ecosystem:

mHealth needs an ecosystem that improves workflow and integrates data to reduce clinicians workload. This is why doctors and clinicians are resisting mHealth – they don’t like the change to the workflow that has little if any positive effect (for the doctor – they may have a positive effect for the individuals health) of reducing clinicians workload

Interesting comment on wearables and the perspective of doctors on these devices:

What bothers the doctor – mostly the people who are buying and using wearable fitness/activity trackers are the people that are young healthy fit and want to prove to (themselves/others) that they are young fit and healthy?

His graphic on Security and privacy was on the money:

Essential to balance Privacy of Health with interoperability but trust is the imperative The stats he presented were troubling (at best)

  • 96% – Percentage of all healthcare providers that had at least one data breach in the past two years
  • 18 Million – Number of patients whose protected health information was breached between 2009 and 2011
  • 60% – Proportion of healthcare providers that have had 2 or more breaches in the past 2 years
  • 65% – Proportion of breaches reported involving mobile devices
  • $50 – Black market value of a health record

The healthcare industry is under attack and is the most attacked industry today:

You might find these figures of the value of Healthcare data as it is valued on the black-market

Another interesting data point:

HIMSS records a total of 11,000 Healthcare Technology companies – less than 100 are large size and the balance of 10,900 are small business that are essentially capturing and scattering your data across many systems and data repositories…

Multiple other presentations and panelists that were all insightful. As always Jack Young (@youngjhmb) from Qualcomm Life Venture fund had some great insights – impossible to capture all of them but here are some:

Healthcare is moving out of the hospital into the home for many reasons but cost is a big driver:

and he suggested there was at least $1.5 Trillion in economic value as the industry shifts (shifting vs replacement?)

 
 

Many were surprised by his stat that users check their smart phone at least 150 times per day (just looking around my world this seems low) – in fact a quick check online suggests this is no longer valid and it is probably 221 times per day. Given this device is the one thing we will not leave home without and it now contains a range of sensors including:

  • Accelerometer
  • Gyroscope
  • Magnetometers
  • GPS
  • Cameras
  • Infrared
  • Touchscreen
  • Finger print
  • Force
  • NFC
  • WiFi/Bluetooth/Cellular

We have the potential for more passive compliance with our patients (and as many stated in their presentations likely more accurate as self reported data is notoriously inaccurate) He predicted a a 10x growth in wearables from 2014 – 2018 with 26% of this growth attributable to smart watches (I know hard to believe at this point but I think if you looked back 4 years ago the iPad had nothing like the level of penetration it does today) iPad Growth Rate

I liked his assessment of the werable market place by researching the eBay Discount against the price of the new device:

and even worse for Smart Watches

I also presented “mHealth Reimbursement – Who Will Pay: You can see it here at Slideshare or below:

mHealth Reimbursement : Who Will Pay? from Nick van Terheyden

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What can we learn from Robin Williams in life and in Healthcare

Posted in Depression, Health Reform by drnic on October 23, 2014

Like many people the death of Robin Williams

was sad on so many levels and while my connection with him was limited to the exposure I had through his canvas of work, I like others felt I knew him.

He was not only prolific in his work with a list of films, interviews and shows (and if you have NetFlix – here’s all the movies available there), but could often be found adding color and charisma in the most unusual places – in this story related by Christopher Reeve talkingabout his friendship as they walked past a lobster tank in a restaurant

One evening we went out to a local seafood restaurant, and as we passed by the lobster tank I casually wondered what they were all thinking in there. Whereupon Robin launched into a fifteen-minute routine: one lobster had escaped and was seen on the highway with his claw out holding a sign that said, ‘Maine.’ Another lobster from Brooklyn was saying, ‘C’mon, just take da rubber bands off,’ gearing up for a fight. A gay lobster wanted to redecorate the tank. People at nearby tables soon gave up any pretense of trying not to listen, and I had to massage my cheeks because my face hurt so much from laughing.”

Bet you wish you had been there to listen in!

 

The outpouring of grief, sadness and accolades was no surprise and while he may not be everyone’s favorite actor or character it is hard to imagine people feeling dislike for him.

He was a serious actor who’s work included playing characters with flaws Good Will Hunting

Insomnia

And a personal Favorite (for the teacher we all wanted to have – Captain, My Captain) The Dead Poet’s Society

But is best known for his comedic genius and unstoppable energy that could light up any room or interaction and turn even the most somber of moods into smiles and laughter

And his comedic view of what Lobsters were thinking in a tank as he demonstrated when he visitedhis longtime friend Christopher Reeve and making him smile for the first time after his accident

“As the day of the operation drew closer, it became more and more painful and frightening to contemplate,” wrote Reeve. “In spite of efforts to protect me from the truth, I already knew that I had only a fifty-fifty chance of surviving the surgery. I lay on my back, frozen, unable to avoid thinking the darkest thoughts. Then, at an especially bleak moment, the door flew open and in hurried a squat fellow with a blue scrub hat and a yellow surgical gown and glasses, speaking in a Russian accent. He announced that he was my proctologist, and that he had to examine me immediately. My first reaction was that either I was on way too many drugs or I was in fact brain damaged. But it was Robin Williams. He and his wife, Marsha, had materialized from who knows where. And for the first time since the accident, I laughed. My old friend had helped me know that somehow I was going to be okay.”

The friend we all want to have…?

With that in mind it can be hard to reconcile that character with someone who would take his own life:

  • How is it possible that someone with what appeared to be so much joy and happiness who was surrounded by friends and family find themselves in such a state of despair to take an irreversible path and commit suicide?
  • How is it possible that someone who outwardly seemed to have such a sharp insight into people and laughter who could make us all laugh at the most unlikely of issues or discussions could take his own life?
  • How is it possible that someone with such a storied and successful career could drop into a state of depression with so much to live for and so many people who loved him and end his own life?
  • How is it possible that a smart, intelligent and gifted individual with so many positive aspects to his life could see no alternative to ending his life and commit suicide?
We can be surrounded by people but be all alone

In what seems eerily insightful he talked about this in his “report to Orson” in the show Mork and Mindy in 1981 where Mork meets a famous celebrity (in this case it the famous celebrity is Robin Williams): “Mork Meets Robin Williams”. You can watch part of it here Mork learns about the nature of fame on Earth and the toll it takes on those who get swept up in it, or try this link

There has been some mention of Parkinson’s Disease and this may have had a contributing role. But the underlying challenge was his battle with depression. On many occasions he had shared his struggle with depression and substance abuse and the ongoing challenge he personally faced dealing with his disease.

The word depression is used frequently by people to describe their feelings and emotions but it has a very specific meaning in medicine and is used to describe a mood disorder:

Clinical depression is a mood disorder in which feelings of sadness, loss, anger, or frustration interfere with everyday life for a longer period of time.

Not to be confused with sadness which is a temporary feeling that is normally associated with some negative aspect of our lives or surroundings and passes

Our understanding of depression is still limited – our treatment of this disease is still in its infancy and mostly limited to broad-brush therapies that impact neurotransmitters that are implicated but not exclusively associated with depression. We have (mostly) moved past separating and isolating people from the general population (although some would argue that our prison system is the new version of the sanatorium). But our ability to treat or cure depression remains stubbornly missing.

Our understanding of the brain is limited and despite laudable attempts to jumpstart the process The NIH BRAIN Initiative progress however remains frustratingly slow and leaves our society with a subset of the population suffering from varying degrees of debilitating diseases of our brain including depression, mania and schizophrenia and many others.

So what did Robin Williams teach us in Life

Laughter is the best medicine

It is hard to pick a single moment from his incredible repertoire, so I picked 3: Mrs Doubtfire Explaining Golf  Or this medley tour of cultures and accents all done in less than 2 minutes Laugh and laugh loudly

Being different is not just OK its what makes life worth living

Endless compassion

and the real Patch Adams

What did Robin Williams Teach us in Death

We need empathy, compassion and tolerance in our society Empathy: The Human Connection to Patient Care Social Media can help link people but even with these digital connections humans may still feel disconnected and alone despite outward appearances to the contrary and connecting, engaging and reaching out is even more important today in our “connected” world

Suicide is painful – not only for the unnecessary loss of life but for the trail of despair it leaves behind for all the people wondering what if…. should have…. could have done….

I’ve experienced it with friends and still think about them. In fact I was reminded when I read about two more suicides in New York: Suicides At NYU And New York Presbyterian–2 Physician Interns Jumped To Their Deaths of two promising lives brought to a final and sad end.

Don’t let that be your legacy and reach out to someone today and remind them and yourself why life is great for both of you

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Health Insurance Reform – It’s Not a Bumper to Bumper Warranty

We have some Healthcare reform in the US but we are still challenged with a system that is failing to deliver results. This piece recently: America Ranks No. 1 for Over-Priced, Inefficient Health Care featured the chart from the Commonwealth fund

That ranks the US last in a group of 11 industrialized countries.

As he puts it:

There is one way America is clearly exceptional:  we have a healthcare system that is dramatically more expensive than the rest of the industrialized world, but it doesn’t manage to make us any healthier.While  the Affordable Care Act attempts to address access it does little to address the cost of the system and the inefficiencies. This does not require a reduction in premiums it needs to address the costs built in to the system that we are all paying for in on form or another

Dr Hans Duvefelt wrote this piece on the healthcare blog: A Swedish Country Doctor’s Proposal for Health Insurance Reform that draws on his personal experience in “socialized medicine, student health, cash-only practices and government-sponsored rural health clinic working for an underserved, underinsured rural population.”

His focus is as a primary care physician but most would agree this is one of the most challenging areas for reform with the shortage in clinicians and low reimbursement rates that is driving doctors out and certainly no encouraging our new generating of clinicians to dive into this essential area.

His main proposals center on basic services that are covered by a flat rate for populations

  • Have the insurance company provide a flat rate in the $500/year range to patients’ freely chosen Primary Care Provider, similar to membership fees in Direct Care Medical Practices.
  • Provide a prepaid card for basic healthcare, free from billing expenses and administration.

but importantly changing the responsibility and feedback on the cost from a central purchasing authority (the government for example) to the user themselves.

  • Unused balances can be rolled over to the following years, letting patients “save” money to cover copays for future elective procedures.

And offers a pathway to specialty care with some appropriate oversight and appriroate levels of reimbursement.

  • Keep prior authorizations for big-ticket items, both testing and procedures, if necessary for the health of the system.
  • Keep specialty care fee-for-service.

 These are clever suggestions and would do much to encourage the patient engagement that will be, as Leonard Kish stated

Patient Engagement is the  Blockbuster drug of the century

He rightly points out that the current health “insurance” products are often poorly named – given that insurance that pays and copiers to identify diseases with screening but then stops short of paying to treat conditions and diseases when they are found through that screening. But most of all Insurance should be user driven and priorities and decision left in the hands of the individual and their clinician and not relegated to others who sit in offices emoted from clinical practice and focused on fiscal drivers not on care and quality fo life

Health insurance is not like anything else we call insurance; all other insurance products cover the unexpected and not the expected. Most people never collect on their homeowners’ insurance, and most people never total their car. Health insurance, on the other hand, is expected by many to be like a bumper-to-bumper warranty that insulates us from every misfortune or inconvenience by covering everything from the smallest and most mundane to the most catastrophic or esoteric.

His point about setting of priorities is important – no matter how you cut it there is no unlimited pot of money o resources to treat everything and everybody. These are difficult conversation and ripe for abuse by those with their own agenda’s through fear mongering and use of emotive terms like “Death Panels”.

None of this aspect of reform is simple but it needs to be addressed and included.

The United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) may not be perfect but they have started this process of addressing the challenge of allocating resources in an open manner. They developed the the quality-adjusted life years measurement (QALY) out of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). There has been criticism and push back as there will always be but the concept and methodology use is not limited to the UK. While imperfect as Laozi (c 604 bc – c 531 bc) stated: A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step

There is lots of detail in this piece and I would encourage you to go over and read it

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We Must All be Engaged in the Design, Delivery, and Re-imagination of Healthcare

Previously posted on HITConsultant

On a recent flight, I had my headphones on and the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction”

began to play.

It’s a song I have heard hundreds of times over the years, but I was struck by the difference listening to it with headphones made. With no distractions, I noticed the bass line, in time with the percussion, provides the perfect offset to Mick Jagger’s distinctively strained voice. It was a completely different experience than hearing the track play in the background of a movie or while at a restaurant. Being fully-immersed and listening only to that song allowed me to pick out and appreciate subtle details I had never noticed previously. It’s no surprise that things sound differently when you’re able to concentrate your full attention on what is being said, but as I was sitting there, I became acutely aware of the function headphones serve—they enable the wearer to listen, blocking out distractions.

That is exactly what we are seeking in healthcare and it has proven to be difficult to achieve – in part because of pace, complexity of care, and technology. For centuries, physicians have listened to their patients and relied on their senses— their powers of observation— and matched these insights with clinical experience to heal. Clinicians need to be able to listen and concentrate on what their patient is telling them and noticing those distinctive symptoms he or she may be exhibiting. As Sir William Osler

famously advised:

“Listen to your patient, he is telling you the diagnosis.”

Being able to dedicate your undivided attention to anything these days is a rarity, but in healthcare, it is a crucial but frequently missing element. The last thing you want to feel when you are at your most vulnerable is that your physician is multi-tasking. Patient satisfaction scores will suffer, but more concerning are the clinical risks and missed opportunities of distracted physicians.

Distracted clinicians are the result of what Dr. Steven Stack of the American Medical Association refers to as an “over-designed” health IT system.” In a recent discussion with industry leaders, he explained that we seem to have become victims of our own ambition. We have devised structures that don’t work for everyone and policies that create very real, very expensive consequences for those who don’t abide. And this has left physicians stretched too thin, trying to do more in less time without any direct impact on improving their ability to care for their patients.

So, maybe it’s time we scale back. Dr. John Halamka, CIO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and co-chair of the nation HIT Standards Committee, noted that while we are in this period of transition and growth, we need to focus on parsimony, or determining the smallest number of moving parts that need to be adjusted in order to create seamlessness in HIT. Quite simply put, while the cart has been upset, there is no reason to trample all over the apples.

The MIT Technology Review recently interviewed Sarah Lewis, a doctoral candidate at Yale, about her recent book that explores how different unlikely circumstances or paths, like failure, have often spurred innovation. Citing creative geniuses such as Cezanne and Beethoven to Nobel laureates, she defines failure as the gap between where one is and where one would like to be. Confronting this gap, she asserts, is important because it “lets people go deep with their failure while letting it be an entrepreneurial endeavor if they like, or an innovative discovery.” We, in health IT, are currently at that gap where there is a disparity between where we are and where we would like to be.

The recent ICD-10 delay has provided the perfect opportunity for us to find Halamka’s parsimony, leveraging solutions that work for physicians and creating consistency and impact wherever possible. Like medicine itself, there will be no one perfect solution for every physician or organization, but we need to begin finding things that work – from re-skinning EHRs with easy to use tools like single sign-on or mobility to systems that respond to voice, touch or swipe to improve the experience for clinicians and patients. We need to start thinking of health IT more like headphones, coming in different styles to suit preferences, but providing the same function of reducing distraction and enabling the clinician to focus on the inflections in their patients’ voices, and truly hearing what is being said.

As Mick Jagger poignantly remarked, “The past is a great place and I don’t want to erase it … but I don’t want to be its prisoner, either.” We have accomplished a lot, but it is time to learn from the past and break free from what isn’t working. I think we can get health IT satisfaction (despite what the song says), but to do so we must all be engaged in the design, delivery, and re-imagination of healthcare and its intersection with technology. This truly is the art of medicine and we are all virtuosos contributing to the next masterpiece of healthcare.

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How Americans Die

How Americans Die This is a fantastic visual presentation of data that you can look at in more detail on the Bloomberg Site If the embedded page does not work head over there directly here

The main points highlighted

  • The mortality rate fell by about 17 percent from 1968 through 2010, years for which we have detailed data…Almost all of this improvement can be attributed to improved survival prospects for males
  • The surge in for 25- to 44-year-olds was caused by AIDS, which at its peak, killed more than 40,000 Americans a year (more than 30,000 of whom were 25 to 44 years old)
  • AIDS was the single biggest killer of Americans who should otherwise have been in the prime of their lives (Sobering Statistic)
  • 45- to 54-year-olds are less likely to die from disease, they have become much more likely to commit suicide or die from drugs
  • How does suicide and drugs compare to other violent deaths across the population? Far greater than firearm related deaths, and on the rise. (Suicide and has recently become the number one violent cause of death) – (Sad Statistic)
  • The downside of living longer is that it dramatically increases the odds of getting dementia or Alzheimer’s
  • The rise of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia has had a big impact on health-care costs because these diseases kill their victims slowly. About 40 percent of the total increase in Medicare spending since 2011 can be attributed to greater spending on Alzheimer’s treatment

They do a great job of slicing the data by cohorts of age groups showing how much we have improved mortality and how our 25 and under age group is benefiting from the health improvements with the lower mortality and higher life expectancy than any other cohrot