THCB

THCB

Opening the Care Conversation Through Open Notes

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Susan DentzerIt’s a memory aid.

It’s truth serum.

Using it can transform relationships forever.

These may sound like come-ons for the type of product typically hawked on late-night television.  But in fact, they’re some of the things people are saying about OpenNotes.

OpenNotes isn’t a product, but an idea: That the notes doctors and other clinicians write about visits with patients should be available to the patients themselves. Although federal law  gives patients that right, longstanding medical practice has been to reserve those visit notes for clinicians’ eyes only.

But Tom Delbanco and Jan Walker, a physician and nurse at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, have long seen things differently.

Their personal experiences with patients, and inability to access care records for their own family members, persuaded them that the traditional practice of “closed” visit notes had to change.  So, with primary support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, they launched what has now become a movement.

In 2010, Delbanco, Walker and colleagues led a study in which more than 100 primary care doctors from three health systems began sharing notes online with patients. Patients got secure messages prompting them that the notes were available, and reminders to read notes before their next appointments.

Rate Shock vs. Benefit Shock

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Will we have rate shock?

It looks to me like consumers will have a choice when they get to look at the health plans available on the new “Obamacare” health insurance exchanges––rate shock or benefit shock. While there has been lots of focus on the issue of rate shock, I will suggest that just as big an issue may well be benefit shock—that consumers will look at what they will be getting for their premium payments and that they will be surprised at what their out-of-pocket costs will be and before they get anything.

The chart above was prepared by Covered California, the state-run California exchange. This chart does not include specific California plan premiums. What it does show is the net of subsidy cost a single person would pay at the various income points for the second lowest cost Silver plan, as well as the deductibles and co-pays they can expect to see from the standard Silver plan.

While the benefit plan structures may vary a bit from state to state, this gives us a pretty good idea of what consumers can expect in all of the states (click on chart to enlarge).  A single person making $22,980 per year would face a premium, net of subsidies, of $121 per month. That’s pretty good.

Ridicule Mehmet Oz, Don’t Have Him Fired

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If I could invite four people for dinner, alive or dead, they would be Mark Twain, William Shackleton, Christopher Hitchens and Homer Simpson (Bart’s dad). If Mehmet Oz turned up with a bag of Garcinia Cambogia I would excuse myself.

Few things drive me to the abyss more reliably than the banality of status updates on Facebook and the monotony of health freaks. I would rather face the aftermath of Vindaloo followed by industrial strength Picolax than watch an episode of the Dr. Oz Show.

Did you catch that? Show. Like Dog and Pony show. Punch and Judy show. The Dr. Oz Show is a show. Not to put too fine a point, but physicians asking Columbia University to fire Dr. Oz are giving his show more profundity than it self-evidently deserves.

The obvious retort is that Oz is using his position as faculty of a prestigious university to promote dodgy metaphysical claims. Ah, the narcissism of academics! Priceless! As the saying goes, for everything else there is master card…

SGR Appeal: Fixing the Present, Setting a Foundation for the Future

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Farzad MostashariLast week, I was riveted to the deliberations on the Senate floor, as the fate of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA – so far, more commonly called the “SGR fix”) was decided. One amendment after another failed to pass; the legislation ultimately passed by a vote of 92-8, and was signed into law shortly thereafter.

To date, much of the coverage of MACRA has focused on how it has fixed the “doc pay” problems of the last 18 years – rescuing us from a yearly round of negotiations about how to temporary avoid painful cuts in Medicare’s physician reimbursement rates.

It’s true that MACRA wiped out (and only partially paid for) the accumulated burden of postponed pay cuts. But it also took a huge step in ending the volume-based “fee-for service” payment system that the pay cuts were trying to restrain in the first place. In a volume-based health care world, the only way for the government and other payers to control runaway medical inflation is to make it harder for doctors to get paid (through rejected claims, paperwork, and prior authorizations), and to reduce the price they pay for each office visit, test, or medical procedure. Providers, paid less and less for each visit and service, can try to maintain their income by further increasing volume — seeing more and more patients in less and less time — or routing patients through increasingly questionable services, tests, and procedures. That is the dysfunctional state of US health care today, with patients caught in the middle of the arms race between those who pay the bills, and those who bill them– collateral damage.

HIT: Where We Stand and Where We Go From Here

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Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 7.44.54 AM

This post is adapted from DeSalvo’s talk at the annual meeting of the Health and Information Management Systems Society in Chicago last week.

I am optimistic about the bright future we have to leverage health information technology to enable better health for everyone in this country.

One year ago, we called upon the health IT community to move beyond adoption and focus on interoperability, on unlocking the data, so it can be put to the many important uses demanded by consumers, doctors, hospitals, payers, and others who are part of the learning health system.

ONC spent the year listening to the health IT community to understand the challenges and opportunities and developing strategic roadmaps to guide our way. Our goal was to evolve to be best able to lead where appropriate, and partner wherever possible, as we all shift the national strategic focus towards interoperability. I hope you all have felt that shift.

Reports Suggest Exchange Numbers Are Very Low

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“Well, Facebook Wasn’t Built In a Day.” – Unnamed Exchange Developer.

More than 4.8 million users visited Healthcare.gov for the grand opening of the federal health insurance marketplace on Tuesday, according to officials.

It didn’t go quite as planners had hoped. In fact, if there was an unofficial word of the day, it was glitch.

Many users of Healthcare.gov reported long delays and difficulty accessing the federal insurance marketplace,  experiencing “glitches” ranging from error messages to blank pages.  The problems were repeated at state-run exchanges around the country to varying degree, from California to New York.

Pundits like Wonkblog’s Ezra Klein were quick to point out that the political victory the GOP might have gained from the uncertain start was largely lost in the uproar in Washington over the government shutdown, which dominated news reports.

At least one frustrated user chronicled the experience (see related post ‘Descent into Madness: One Man’s Visit to Healthcare.gov, October 1st ). Others took to Twitter to express their outrage or show off their savage or finely-tuned senses of humor.

Users of the federal exchange reported problems including error messages (see above), funky dropdown menu behavior, page freezes, blips, broken links and long page load times — generally either a sign of high volume or inelegantly designed databases.

HHS officials declined to reveal how many people signed up for new insurance plans overall, leading some theorists to speculate that not very many people were able to make it through the process successfully. In point of fact, there were suspiciously few reports of users successfully completing the registration process at all, probably not a very good sign and possibly an indication of a disaster.

The Anecdote-Innovation Cycle

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flying cadeucii“Drinking single malt has stopped me from developing flu” – Anecdote (& Business Opportunity)

“Everyone should drink single malt based on my experience. It stops flu” – Advice

“You are talking baloney” – Paternalism

“Everyone is entitled to opine what saves them from flu” – Freedom and Choice

“We need science to determine efficacy of single malt “- Elitism

“Burden of proof is on he who asserts the benefit of single malt” – Epistemology

“We need evidence before third parties can pay for single malt” – Value-based healthcare

Accountable Care: Transparency of Fees Is Mandatory

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thcbA personal account of a transaction that went very badly, and rules of Health Reform were not followed.

Accountable Care and associated transparency have not made it to Florida, at least not in this physician’s office.

I made an appt with an ENT (ear nose and throat doctor) for ear wax.  When I get there, I need to fill out 5 papers (EMRanyone??), and I’m told there is a $35.00 copay, which she says I can pay on my way out.

The 5 page HIPAA form says they can share my info with other providers who are trying to collect fees. But you only learn this, among other clauses, if you read the form that is tacked on the wall–it’s not in the form the patient signs.

I asked the receptionist how much the office visit is, and she said, “On your insurance there’s a $35.00 copay.” Yes, but is there an additional fee for removal of ear wax? How much? “We can’t tell you that until after the doctor sees you and marks what is done. And besides, we don’t know if you have satisfied your deductible.”  I tell her I have not, but because I have to guarantee payment if the insurance company denies anything, I’d like an estimate of charges.  She repeats the deductible statement and I say yes, I understand, but that’s a problem, as I haven’t satisfied my deductible so I need to know how much this will be. She tells me she will get the Office Manager (OM).

The Office Mgr (who is disguised in a clinical suit) tells me, “You have to sign this financial form before the doctor sees you because after, you will have received the services so you or the insurance company owe the money.” No problem say I, but I need an estimate, and I can’t sign a financial responsibility form that allows you to bill me if my insurance company doesn’t pay you in 45 days AND that tacks on a 30% interest fee, when I don’t know if I can afford it.

Two visits into the doctor’s lair, she comes out and says, “Dr M is more than willing to provide the services you need but he cannot be interrupted to tell you the costs of the services.” BOOM.

The Kaiser Permanente Model and Health Reform’s Unfinished Business

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Halvorson WEF

For decades, health policymakers considered Kaiser Permanente the lode star of delivery system reform.  Yet by the end of 1999, the nation’s oldest and largest group model HMO had experienced almost three years of significant operating losses, the first in the plan’s history. It was struggling to implement a functional electronic health record, and had a reputation for inconsistent customer service.  But most seriously, it faced deep divisions between management and the leadership of its powerful Permanente Federation, which represents Kaiser’s more than 17,000 physicians, over both strategic direction and operations of the plan.

Against this backdrop, Kaiser surprised the health plan community by announcing in March 2002 the selection of a non-physician, George Halvorson, as its new CEO.  Halvorson had spent most of his career in the Twin Cities, most recently as CEO of HealthPartners, a successful mixed model health plan.  Halvorson’s reputation was as a product innovator; he not only developed a prototype of the consumer-directed health plan in the mid-1990’s, but also population health improvement objectives for its membership, both firsts in the industry.

HIT Newser: Big Win for Epic in San Diego

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 Epic Scores Another Big Win

Scripps Health selects Epic to replace its existing GE Healthcare’s Centricity Enterprise (inpatient) and Allscripts Enterprise (outpatient). The San Diego-based Scripps includes five acute-care campuses, 26 outpatient clinics, and 2,600 affiliated physicians.

No doubt that this is one that Cerner had hoped to win.

Marlin Equity Partners Acquires e-MDs

Marlin Equity Partners acquires ambulatory EMR provider e-MDs. Marlin will merge e-MDs with its existing portfolio company MDeverywhere, a provider of RCM and credentialing services for physicians. e-MD founder