In the past 12 months, there has been a raft of multi-billion-dollar mergers in health care. What do these deals tell us about the emerging health care landscape, and what will they mean for patients/consumers and the incumbent actors in the health system?
There have been a few large health system mergers in the past year, notably the $11 billion multi-market combinations of Aurora Health Care and Advocate Health Care Network in Milwaukee and suburban Chicago, as well as the proposed (but not yet consummated) $28 billion merger of Catholic Health Initiatives and Dignity Health. However, the bigger news may be the several mega-mergers that failed to happen, notably Atrium (Carolinas) and UNC Health Care and Providence St. Joseph Health and Ascension. In the latter case, which would have created a $45 billion colossus the size of HCA, both parties (and Ascension publicly) seemed to disavow their intention to grow further in hospital operations. Ascension has been quietly pruning back their operations in markets where their hospital is isolated, or the market is too small. Providence St. Joseph has been gradually working its way back from a $500 million drop in its net operating income from 2015 to 2016.
Another notable instance of caution flags flying was the combination of University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) and PinnacleHealth, in central PA, which was completed in 2017. Moody’s downgraded UPMC’s debt on the grounds of UPMC’s deteriorating core market performance and integration risks with PinnacleHealth. As Moody’s action indicates, investor skepticism about hospital mega-mergers is escalating. Federal regulators remain vigilant about anti-competitive effects, having scotched an earlier Advocate combination with NorthShore University HealthSystem in suburban Chicago. The seemingly inevitable post-Obamacare march to hospital consolidation seems to have slowed markedly.
However, the most noteworthy hospital deal of the last five years was a much smaller one: this spring’s acquisition of $1.7 billion non-profit Mission Health of Asheville, NC, by HCA. This was remarkable in several respects. First, it was the first significant non-profit acquisition by HCA in 15 years (since Kansas City’s Health Midwest in 2003) and HCA’s first holdings in North Carolina. While Mission’s search for partnerships may have been catalyzed by a fear of being isolated in North Carolina by the Atrium/UNC combination, Mission Health certainly controlled its own destiny in its core market, with a 50% share of western North Carolina. Mission was not only well managed, clinically strong and solidly profitable, but its profits rose from 2016 to 2017, both from operations and in total.
Executive Summary of PPR Comments on Information Blocking
Information blocking is a multi-faceted problem that has proved resistant to over a decade of regulatory and market-based intervention. As Dr. Rucker said on June 19, “Health care providers and technology developers may have powerful economic incentives not to share electronic health information and to slow progress towards greater data liquidity.” Because it involves technology standards controlled by industry incumbents, solving this problem cannot be done by regulation alone. It will require the coordinated application of the “power of the purse” held by CMS, VA, and NIH.
PPR believes that the 21st Century Cures Act and HIPAA provide sufficient authority to solve interoperability on a meaningful scale as long as we avoid framing the problem in ways that have already been shown to fail such as “patient matching” and “trust federations”. These wicked problems are an institutional framing of the interoperability issue. The new, patient-centered framing is now being championed by CMS Administrator Verma and ONC Coordinator Rucker is a welcome path forward and a foundation to build upon.
To help understand the detailed comments below, consider the Application Programming Interface (API) policy and technology options according to two dimensions:
API Content and Security
Institution is Accountable
Patient is Accountable
API Security and Privacy
Broad, prior consent
Known to the practice
API Content / Data Model
Designated record set
Bulk (multi-patient) data
Designated record set
Wearables and monitors
This table highlights the features and benefits of interoperability based on institutional or individual accountability. This is not an either-or choice. The main point of our comments is that a patient-centered vision by HHS must put patient accountability on an equal footing with institutional accountability and ensure that Open APIs are accessible to patient-directed interoperability “without special effort” first, even as we continue to struggle with wicked problems of national-scale patient matching and national-scale trust federations.
Here are our detailed comments inline with the CMS questions in bold:Continue reading…
As you may have noticed, we are picking up the focus on new tech companies here on THCB. Much of this is happening as I have a little more time to examine and work with startups as I’m no longer running the Health 2.0 conference day to day. Some of it comes from our new partnership with Jessica DaMassa and her WTF.Health series. But don’t worry, we are continuing to be the place to find great opinion pieces about the health care system as a home (This is an “add” not an “instead”)
Today I have an interview about an interesting new company I’m getting to know called Bluestream Health which is essentially a second generation telehealth video platform. Brian Yarnell is the President and I spoke with him about his company, and what makes their technology different. Brian will be at the ATA conference net week (while I’ll be at Dev4Health!) — Matthew Holt
Get set for a new exciting conference experience coming this spring from Health 2.0 and HIMSS, focused on the collaboration between developers and healthcare providers on building emerging digital health technologies: Dev4Health.
Join hundreds of developers, innovative leaders, designers, chief technology officers, chief innovation officers, start-ups, and health tech enthusiasts for two days of strategic networking, idea generation, and innovative workshops – plus live demos some of the newest health tech start-ups.
Top Reasons to Attend Dev4Health:
Innovation Leaders: Hear cutting edge ideas to infuse your technology strategy with the latest insights and methodologies.
Developers: Benefit from immersive content and hands-on learning by sharing open-source code, applications, interfaces and other resources with like-minded developers.
Health Systems: Discover the latest health tech products to hit the market with live demos by some of the most innovative start-ups in healthcare.
All Attendees: Join in-depth panel sessions focusing on health tech trends, including open tools in the U.S. healthcare server; healthcare focused developer programs; artificial intelligence and machine learning; blockchain; and more!
What are you waiting for? If you’re looking to collaborate with developers on building new applications
or discover new tools to enhance the healthcare experience, then Dev4Health is the place to be this spring.
Dr. Simon Kos had big shoes to fill when he took over the role of Microsoft Chief Medical Officer from Dr. Bill Crounse last year. Dr. Kos said himself that they were some “big scrubs to fill”. However, at the time he had already been with Microsoft for six years and in Health IT for more than a decade before that, so he was no doubt up to the challenge.
As Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Kos is responsible for providing clinical guidance, worldwide thought leadership, vision and strategy for Microsoft technologies and solutions in the healthcare industries. He made the move to Health IT after working a few years as a Medical Officer in Sydney, Australia. It was then that Kos decided to go back to school to study software engineering, and later his MBA. He then worked with InterSystems and Cerner and helped them to implement e-Health initiatives in Australia. In 2010 he joined Microsoft as a Health Industry Manager “with the appreciation that improving health and healthcare was about more than just putting in EMRs.” Even back then Dr. Kos had the vision to know that the future of healthcare would be in the data analytics and the AI applications that Microsoft would eventually release.
In a recent conversation, with the team here at Health 2.0, Dr. Kos talked about Microsoft’s current framework of digital transformation and highlighted their four pillars; Patient Engagement, Clinician Empowerment, Advanced Analytics, and New Models of Care. As a once practicing doc, he knows that technology needs to help not hinder the healthcare workforce and that AI will be able to improve diagnosis speed and accuracy without replacing or interfering with the clinician. He is a fervent believer that it is important to be constantly evaluating the tech models that may not be viable today but will be in the future. He is excited about Microsoft’s work on patient chatbots and VR/Mixed reality physician education platforms and will be demoing that technology on the Health 2.0 Stage on Monday, October 2nd.
The integration of behavioral health into the primary care setting has resulted in a number of benefits. Traditionally, behavioral health and medical health operated separately, but in recent years, the integration of these two systems has improved access to care, ensured continuity of care, reduced stigma associated with seeking care and allowed for earlier detection and treatment of mental health and substance abuse issues. By bringing behavioral health specialists into primary care facilities, healthcare systems have streamlined care and brought down costs, working collaboratively and reducing the number of appointments and hospital visits.
At Carolinas HealthCare System, we use technology to take behavioral health integration one step further. A robust behavioral health integration project was developed through myStrength, using virtual and telehealth technology to ensure that every primary care practice has the capabilities for early detection of mental illness and substance abuse and upstream intervention, easing the connection between behavior health specialists and patients who might otherwise be averse to seeking professional help.
Mental illness touches each of us personally: one in five individuals struggles with mental health issues, yet access to care is one of the biggest issues facing North Carolina residents today.Continue reading…
Value-based healthcare initiatives are great, but on their own won’t be enough to bend the healthcare cost curve.
The focus must move—and move quickly—from treating people who are sick to helping them get and stay healthy. The only way that’s going to happen is by getting patients and populations motivated to do the right things early instead of desperate things late.
The New Consumer World of Tools and Health Models
Health plans, in particular, have shifted responsibility onto consumers.
At this session you’ll also check out a demo from health optimization platform Welltok. Through population health management we are learning more about how to create wellness strategies and to stratify patient populations based on their conditions and adjust for nuances in age, race, diagnostic groups, and the like.
Any backpacker travelling on a shoestring budget in Thailand knows not to blow their entire budget on premium whiskey in a premium hotel on the first night in Bangkok. Rather, you need to skip the occasional meal, stay in a cheap dorm with random strangers, and drink cheap beer on Khao San Road if you wish to see the country and return home without having to wash dishes in a restaurant in Bangkok to repay the loans. Both Democrats and Republicans seem impervious to a simple wisdom that I learnt when backpacking – you save money if you go for cheap stuff. The operative word here is “cheap.”
Both the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) impose cost sharing, such as deductibles. Deductibles lower premiums by cost shifting. Because the sick, for obvious reasons, are more likely to meet their deductibles sooner than the healthy, deductibles shift costs from the healthy to the sick, or are a “tax on the sick.” Deductibles also reduce premiums by reducing the administrative loading of insurance – because insurers have fewer small claims to process, administrative costs reduce.
One of the more interesting companies playing in the analytics space is Ayasdi. We’ve featured them at Health 2.0 a couple of times, but at HIMSS I got a chance to talk a little more in depth with chief medical officer Francis Campion about exactly how they parse apart huge numbers of data points, usually from EMRs, and then operationalize changes for their clients. The end result is more effective care and lower variability across different facilities, for example changing when drugs are delivered before surgery in order to improve outcomes. And increasingly their clients are doing this over multiple clinical pathways. They’re really on the cutting edge of how data will change care delivery (a tenet of our definition of Health 2.0) so watch the interview to hear and see more!