As the fashionistas might say, transparency in health care is having a moment. It made the PricewaterhouseCoopers top 10 list for 2014 industry issues, and there is every reason to expect transparency to be very visible this year and beyond.
Without a doubt, transparency is hot.
Despite this, there is increasing grumbling by observers who say that transparency is complicated and hard to operationalize. We also hear that transparency is “not enough” to constrain costs in our dysfunctional system, especially in the face of provider market power.
The word itself invites skepticism, in that it seems to over-simplify and promise a magical solution, as if daylight will provide health care pricing with a glow of rationality.
As usual, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Transparency can and will provide information about price, quality, and consumer experience that market participants need in order to better understand the health care system and increase its value.
While this information is surely necessary, we have seen many examples of when it is not sufficient. Clearly, transparency is not the only tool that we need.
Here are a few thoughts about transparency issues for 2014.
Transparency tools will hit Main Street.
Increasingly, consumer-facing tools with various kinds information about health care prices are being created, whether it is okcopay or Change Healthcare. These entries join a growing list of transparency tools from carriers or third-party vendors.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Hospital Price Transparency challenge, designed to promote awareness of hospital charge data, had a record number of entrant and the winning submissions are downright inspiring. RWJF also awarded grants for research on the use of price data in health care, including a number of studies of promising transparency tools aimed at consumers and providers.
The field is becoming more crowded, and it is increasingly important to determine the optimal way to reach the consumer with price and quality information.
There will be greater focus on the customer experience.
There is no doubt that the customer experience in health care lags behind the rest of the service sector, and consumers are increasingly demanding responsiveness and convenience in their encounters with the medical profession. The growth of evening and weekend hours, email communications with physicians, and patient portals are all harbingers of a new age where medicine is far more customer friendly.
RWJF’s Open Notes initiative allows patients to share notes with their doctors, while the Foundation’s Flip the Clinic program completely reimagines the doctor patient encounter in the ambulatory care setting.
Continue reading “Transparency a Go Go?”
Filed Under: Uncategorized
Tagged: Chargemaster, Choosing Wisely, consumer driven health, Hospitals, Katherine Hempstead, OpenNotes, RWJF, Transparency, value-based care
Feb 28, 2014
“What does the 21st Century Physician look like?”
Lisa Fields (@PracticalWisdom) cc’ed me on a tweet about this; it’s the featured question at www.tomorrowsdoctor.org, an organization founded by three young professionals who spoke at TEDMED last year.
I’ll admit that the question on the face of it struck me as a bit absurd, especially when juxtaposed with the term “tomorrow’s doctor.”
Tomorrow’s doctor needs to be doing a much better job of dealing with today’s medical challenges, because they will all be still here tomorrow. (Duh!) And the day after tomorrow.
(As for the 21st century in general, given the speed at which things are changing around us, seems hard to predict what we’ll be doing by 2050. I think it’s likely that we’ll still end up needing to take care of elderly people with physical and cognitive limitations but I sincerely hope medication management won’t still be a big problem. That I do expect technology to solve.)
After looking at the related Huffington Post piece, however, I realized that this trio really seems to be thinking about how medical education should be changed and improved. In which case, I kind of think they should change their organization’s name to “Next Decade’s Doctor,” but I can see how that perhaps might not sound catchy enough.
Continue reading “What Will Tomorrow’s Doctor Look Like?”
Filed Under: Physicians, THCB
Tagged: CQI, e-patients, FutureMed, Leslie Kernisan, Medical Education, OpenNotes, PDSA, practice of medicine, Quality, shared decision making, TEDMED
Mar 8, 2013
It is as natural for doctors, hospitals, health plans and others to aggressively affirm their “patient-centeredness” as it is for politicians to loudly proclaim their fealty to the hard-working American middle class. Like the politicians, the health care professionals no doubt believe every word they say.
The most accurate measure of “patient-centered” care, however, lies not in intentions but implementation. Ask one simple question – what effect does this policy have on patients’ ability to control their own lives? – and you start to separate the revolutionary from the repackaged. “A reform is a correction of abuses,” the 19th-century British Parliament member Edward Bulwer-Lytton noted. “A revolution is a transfer of power.”
With that in mind, which purportedly patient-centric policy proposals portend a true power shift, and which are flying a false flag?
Falling Short Of Shifting Power
The two most prominent examples of initiatives whose names suggest power sharing but whose reality is quite different are so-called “consumer-driven health plans” (CDHP) and the “patient-centered medical home” (PCMH). Both may be worthy policies on their merits, but their names are public relations spin designed to put a more attractive public face on “defined contribution health insurance” and “increased primary-care reimbursement.
Continue reading “The Patient-Centered Practice, Revisited”
Filed Under: The Business of Health Care
Tagged: CDHP, Helen Haskell, Hospitals, Hugo Campos, Michael Millenson, OpenNotes, patient engagement, Patient Safety, Patient-Activated Rapid Response Team, patient-centered policy, PCMH, The ACA
Mar 2, 2013
As the instigators of the OpenNotes initiative, we are thrilled that OpenNotes is being adopted by the VA. Prompted by Dr. Kernisan’s thoughtful post , the ensuing lively discussion, and our experiment with 100 primary care physicians and 20,000 of their patients ), we thought it useful to offer some observations drawing both on our experiences as clinicians and on ongoing conversations with clinicians and patients.
First and foremost, we don’t have “answers” for Dr. Kernisan. Our hope is to contribute to new approaches to these sticky questions over time. And, remember that patients’ right to review their records is by no means new. Since 1996, virtually all patients have had the right to access their full medical records. What’s new is that OpenNotes takes down barriers such as filling out forms and charging per page, while actively inviting far more patients to exercise this right in an easier and accessible way.
We think of open visit notes as a new medicine, designed like all therapies to help more than it hurts. But every medicine is inevitably accompanied by relative and absolute contraindications, and it’s useful to remember that it’s up to the medical and patient community to learn to take a medicine wisely as it becomes more widely available. A few specific thoughts:
Dementia and diminished physical capacity:
When a clinician notices symptoms or signs of dementia, chances are the patient and/or family has already been worrying about this for some time. Is it safe for the patient to live alone? What about driving? How and when could things get worse? They may actually be relieved when the doctor brings up these topics and articulates the issues in a note. Moreover, their worst fears may prove unfounded, and reading that in a note can be reassuring. But we need to consider the words we write so we don’t rush to label a condition as “Alzheimer’s.” Being descriptive is often better and more helpful than assigning one word definitions. In itself, OpenNotes reminds the health professional to choose words wisely. That doesn’t have to mean more work, but we believe it can certainly mean better notes that can be more easily understood by the patient. We urge colleagues to stay away from “The patient denies…,” or “refuses,” or “is SOB.”
Abuse or diversion of drugs, possible substance abuse, or unhealthy alcohol use:
These subjects are always tough, and what to write down has been an issue for clinicians long before they worried about open records. Over the course of our experiment in primary care, we have heard stories from patients about changing their attitudes and behavior after reading a note and “seeing in black and white” what their doctors were most worried about. Though substance abuse may seem like a particularly sensitive topic, at least one doctor in our study is convinced that some of his patients in trouble with drugs or medications did better as a result of reading his notes. And while some patients may reject our spoken (or unspoken) thoughts that we document in notes, experience to date makes us believe that more patients will be helped than hurt, and that it is worth the tradeoff.
Continue reading “OpenNotes: Drilling Down to Assure a Healthy Evolution”
Filed Under: THCB
Tagged: Electronic Medical Records, Harvard Medical School, OpenNotes, Privacy, Robert Wood Johnson, Tom Delbanco, Transparency
Jan 27, 2013
I found out this past weekend that the VA will be making clinician progress notes available for patients to view on the MyHealtheVet portal. In other words, the VA is going OpenNotes. (Note: I was a primary care provider in geriatrics clinic at the San Francisco VA from 2006-2010.)
My first reaction was to be impressed by this bold progressive move.
My next reaction was to feel mildly relieved that I’m no longer a PCP there.
Now, it’s not because I’m against transparency in healthcare, or am suspicious of patient engagement, or feel that patients shouldn’t see their health information without the assistance/gatekeeping/interference of a clinician. Far from it.
It’s because in my own VA practice caring for WWII vets, I used to frequently document certain concerns that would’ve been a bit, shall we say, awkward for the patient to see. Reading about these concerns would’ve quite possibly infuriated the patient, or the caregivers, or both.
So whew, I find myself relieved that I don’t have to figure out how to document (or not document?) these concerns.
Instead, I’ll get to see how my friends at the VA handle these issues.
Wondering what they are? Ok, I will tell you but shh … don’t tell my elderly patients that I may be considering these topics as I care for them.
Six awkward concerns in geriatric primary care practice
· Possible dementia. As a geriatrician, I focus on an age group that has a high incidence of dementia. Which means that when someone starts to tell me odd stories (concerns related to poison are a popular theme, as well as reports that someone is stealing things repeatedly), I start wondering about possible dementia. Ditto if he or she starts floundering with the medications, or starts having other difficulties with IADLs.
Why it’s awkward: Patients and families really hate it when I bring up the possibility that there might be dementia. Many find the possibility of a disease such as Alzheimer’s truly terrifying, both because it’s perceived as a terrible disease, and because they worry about having to leave their homes or otherwise losing their independence. Note that if I’m considering the possibility of dementia, I usually let the patient know during the visit.
Continue reading “Six Awkward Concerns in My OpenNotes”
Filed Under: Physicians, THCB
Tagged: Caregiving, Dementia, Leslie Kernisan, MyHealtheVet, OpenNotes, VA
Jan 23, 2013
Being a doctor isn’t a happy profession in 2012: 3 in 5 doctors say that, if they could, they’d retire this year. Over three-fourths of physicians are pessimistic about the future of their profession. 84% of doctors feel that the medical profession is in decline. And, over 1 in 3 doctors would choose a different professional if they had it all to do over again.
The Physicians Foundation, a nonprofit organization that represents the interests of doctors, sent a survey to 630,000 physicians — every physician in the U.S. that’s registered with the AMA’s Physician Master File — in March-June 2012. The Foundation received over 13,000 completed surveys back. Findings from these data are summarized in the Foundations report, A Survey of America’s Physicians, published in September 2012.
Morale among physicians is much lower than it was in 2008, as shown in the first chart. Five years ago, less than 1 in 2 doctors would opt to retire; that’s up by over one-third. What’s driving doctors toward pessimism are the least satisfying aspects of practicing medicine in 2012, including:
Concerns about liability, 40%
The hassle of dealing with Medicare, Medicaid and government regulations, 27%. Over 52% of doctors said they’ve limited access to Medicare patients to their practices, or they’re planning to do so.
Lack of work/life balance, 25%
Uncertainty about health reform, 22%
Paperwork, 18%. The survey found that physicians spend over 22% of their time on non-clinical paperwork, resulting in a huge clinical productivity loss.
EMR implementation as a “least satisfying” aspect of work is quite low on the roster of concerns, with only 9% of doctors noting that as a prime concern in 2012.
As a result of uncertainty due to health reform, regulation and finance/reimbursement, the percent of physicians who remain independent will drop to 33% in 2013, Accenture forecasts, from 57% in 2000, 49% in 2005, and 43% in 2009. Aligning with a health system/hospital gives doctors more economic security and fewer administrative hassles.
Continue reading “3 in 5 Physicians Would Quit Today If They Could”
Filed Under: Physicians
Tagged: AMA, Burnout, EHR, Jane Sarasohn-Kahn, OpenNotes, Physician Morale, Physicians, Survey of America's Physicians, The Physicians Foundation
Oct 8, 2012
“When it comes to health care, information is power.”
This comment from U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has sparked a heated debate among doctors and patient advocates about the merits and drawbacks of giving patients easy access to their lab results, doctors’ notes and other personal medical information. A deliberation in this month’s issue of SGIM Forum, the newsletter of the Society of General Internal Medicine (SGIM), is emblematic of how doctors’ and patients’ views on transparency vary.
Internist Douglas P. Olson, MD says it’s too early to offer patients electronic access to their lab results or medical records and that without systemic changes it could actually undermine the patient-doctor relationship lists among his concerns the potential to confuse or worry patients; a lack of evidence showing the positive effect on healthcare safety and quality; and the increased demands on doctors’ time to respond to patient questions.
These concerns are valid and shared by many other doctors. In a recent survey by OpenNotes―a project supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Pioneer Portfolio that enables doctors to share their visit notes with patients online―doctors were asked about their expectations and attitudes toward sharing electronic medical notes. The survey was conducted before doctors engaged with OpenNotes. Responses revealed doctors were worried about the impact on workflow and weren’t convinced that it would make a difference to patients’ health.
Continue reading “Making Sense of the Debate Over Patient Access to Medical Information”
Filed Under: THCB
Tagged: electronic lab results, OpenNotes, SGIM, The Health Care Group
Feb 14, 2012
It’s a simple idea – show patients the notes that doctors write about them– but it’s also a dangerous idea … in the best sense of the word. It’s dangerous because the very idea forces a conversation and in the course of that conversation, some uncomfortable tensions surface. Jan Walker and Tom Delbanco, co-directors of OpenNotes, a project supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Pioneer Portfolio that enables patients to see their doctors’ notes via secure e-mail after a visit, published a preliminary set of results from their first study. Actually, it’s just a pre-study: they surveyed doctors and patients about their expectations of how the OpenNotes idea would play out. And what they found is fascinating – and uncomfortable.
Doctors and patients are clearly divided about the expected benefits and consequences of the OpenNotes intervention. On a wide range of possible benefits, ranging from a greater sense of control to increased medication adherence, doctors are more skeptical than patients. But what really jumps out are the responses to questions of whether patients would find the notes more confusing than useful, and whether the notes would make them worry more. The gap is dramatic. In each case, most doctors said “yes” while less than one in six patients agreed. Ouch. That’s a big gap and my sense is that we should be talking about what it means. From my perspective, it appears that many doctors are underestimating their patients and that this underestimation could lead to less patient engagement and ultimately poorer care. Call it a hunch.
Continue reading “Mind the Gap”
Filed Under: THCB, The Business of Health Care
Tagged: Data, doctor/ patient relationship, OpenNotes
Dec 23, 2011