November 16 marks the deadline for states to submit their plans for establishing a health insurance exchange—or HIX—either on their own or with some level of assistance from the federal government. For those states, a majority, according to Kaiser Family Foundation research, have yet to set up a HIX or develop concrete plans to do so. That’s an uncomfortably tight timeline in which to make some tough decisions.
According to the Supreme Court’s June ruling on the Affordable Care Act, states will no longer forfeit federal funding for Medicaid if they choose not to expand their Medicaid programs to all residents with incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty level. Nevertheless, they must ensure coverage for an estimated 16 million currently uninsured people with an income between 100 percent and 400 percent of that poverty level. And by October 2013, each state needs to demonstrate that it has a HIX in place that can provide such cover: A user-friendly, one-stop shop for affordable healthcare, or affirmatively state that it intends to participate in the Federal exchange..
A HIX needs to have sufficient scale to support large and balanced risk pools. But there may not be sufficient numbers of uninsured state residents to make the HIX viable, particularly if a state is small, or has an extensive Medicaid program already in place. How will such states attract and sustain enrollment? How will they attract payers?
Typically, payer organizations collect premiums from employers and individuals, process claims, and engage in a variety of case management/disease management activities to encourage the appropriate use of medical resources. If they collect more premiums than claims paid, their medical loss ratio is less than 100% and they earn a profit.
In a world of accountable care organizations and healthcare reform, new reimbursement methods will include global payments to providers, which implies the risk of loss will shift from the payer to hospitals and clinicians. Payers will no longer need their large claims processing staff, nor create complex actuarial models. They’ll become very different organizations.
My prediction is that payers will become the health information exchange and analytics organizations that help hospitals and clinicians manage risk in a world of capitation.
I’ve said before that ACO=HIE+Analytics.
The payers are already making strategic acquisitions to build these new business models
2011 was a year of change and tumult. For a day by day look at the top stories of 2011, check out this impressive chart from the UK Guardian.
It was a year in which the economy sputtered worldwide, the Arab Spring toppled several regimes, and unprecedented acts of nature (severe weather, earthquakes) caused billions in worldwide damage.
What about the world of healthcare IT?
In 2011, Meaningful Use and Certification accelerated healthcare IT adoption and doubled implementation of EHRs throughout the country. Every aspect of the industry was stressed along the way
Vendors were challenged to add the features necessary for certification resulting in some “haste makes waste” lack of usability and workflow integration. GE admitted its faults and should be congratulated for its honesty, since many other vendors had the same problems but did not communicate them.
IT organizations created productivity miracles to meet meaningful use timeframes with limited staff and limited budgets. Many organizations will apply their meaningful use payments to general operations and not IT department budget increases, so the sacrifice of IT staff may remain unrecognized.
Providers had to radically change workflows to accommodate new business processes, resulting in staff turnover and short term frustration.
Last week was the massive Salesforce.com user conference Dreamforce (massive in that there were more attendees at Dreamforce then this year’s HIMSS!). We’ve been reviewing more than a few articles and writings written by those who attended the event. In the few short years of its existence (~13yrs) Salesforce.com has become one of the leading Customer Relationship Management (CRM) vendors in the market and basically pushed the previous leader Siebel to the brink and into the arms of Oracle. Salesforce is arguably the leader in the Software as a Service (SaaS) market and thus someone to pay close attention to on all things “Cloud Computing.”
So what makes Salesforce.com so compelling and what are some parallels to the healthcare sector?
Similar Market Demographics: From the beginning Salesforce has always been structured as a SaaS and targeted the hard to reach and highly distributed sales forces of companies of all sizes. Actually, they first targeted the small to medium business (SMB) market and once successful there, went after Siebel in big enterprises. In healthcare, the vast majority of care is provided by small, 1-3 physician practices that are highly distributed across the country – perfect target for a hosted SaaS offering.
According to the latest count, there are 255 Health Information Exchange (HIE) organizations across the country, which amounts to an average of 5 in each State. If you are a practicing physician and have an EHR, chances are someone already knocked on your door offering to connect your practice to the local HIE for a small fee. If you don’t have an EHR, you may have had offers to access an HIE web portal, or maybe an HIE supplied EHR Lite, allowing you to at the very least view clinical data from other sources. Perhaps for free. If you are the proud owner of one of the full-featured EHRs, you may wonder what an HIE can do for you that your EHR is not already doing, and whether that service is worth your hard earned money.
In theory, a top-shelf EHR should be able to connect your practice to multiple facilities and allow you to exchange information to the best of all participants’ abilities. Granted most EHRs are still working on some of the connections, particularly to local facilities, but all in all, an EHR should be able to eventually provide for all your connectivity needs as shown in Figure 1. Note that for some types of connections, your EHR vendor can use a clearinghouse or portal approach to simplify and reduce costs of connectivity. For example, you don’t need a separate interface for each pharmacy – you use Surescripts as the clearinghouse and let them worry about it. You also don’t need an individual connection to each patient’s home – you communicate with all of them through one portal. With the exception of Surescripts pharmacy connectivity and a small number of reference labs, each connection, or interface, is costing you a pretty penny, and the more local the connection, the longer it takes to build.
The idea behind a network is that it grows stronger as more participants join it. A basic example is a cell phone provider that allows its members to make free calls to other members – the policy becomes more valuable as more people join the network.
Health Information Exchanges (HIEs) work on the same principle – networks connecting electronic health record (EHR) systems, pharmacies, Medicaid Management Information Systems, etc. The idea is sound, but the information shared is only as valuable as the number of participants and the quality of the data and resources.
Interconnectivity and interaction among providers can potentially do so much to raise the standard of patient care that it’s important we do all we can to facilitate participation in HIEs. With that said, we must recognize that it takes time to build quality and we want to make sure we’re getting it right.Continue reading…
I was recently asked by an Institute of Medicine committee to comment about the impact of healthcare information technologies (HIT) on patient safety and how to maximize the safety of HIT-assisted care.
“HIT-assisted care” means health care and services that incorporate and take advantage of health information technologies and health information exchange for the purpose of improving the processes and outcomes of health care services. HIT-assisted care includes care supported by and involving: EHRs, clinical decision support, computerized provider order entry, health information exchange, patient engagement technologies, and other health information technology used in clinical care.
There are two separate questions:
1. What technologies, properly used, improve safety?
2. Given that automation can introduce new types of errors, what can be done to ensure that HIT itself is safe?
To explore these topics, let’s take a look at Health Information Exchange (HIE). What HIE technologies improve safety and how can we ensure the technologies are safe to use?
How should HISPs be funded and how can we encourage HISP vendors to connect every little guy in the country?
We’ve started to think about this in Massachusetts.
There are numerous vendors promising HISP services – Medicity (Aenta), Axolotl (Ingenix), Surescripts, Verizon, and Covisint.
An HIE needs to include at least one common approach to data transport, a routing directory, and a certificate management process that creates a trust fabric. Existing HISP vendors have heterogeneous approaches to each of these functions. In the future, the Direct Project may provide a single approach, but for now HISP vendors will need to be motivated to adhere to State HIE requirements.
An idea that has been embraced by some State HIEs, such as New Hampshire, is to pay HISP vendors a modest fee (under 100K) to support State requirements. This “connectivity” incentive results in interoperable HISPs, creating a statewide network of networks.
Once a standardized HISP approach is supported by multiple vendors, then individual practices need to be connected. Some practices will be aggregated into hubs by EHR software vendors as has been done in cities such as North Adams (Massachusetts), projects such as the New York City PCIP project, and physicians organizations such as the Beth Israel Deaconess Physicians Organization. However, it’s not likely to be cost effective for a vendor to connect every isolated practice to a HISP for the $50/month the practice is willing to pay.
First it was United Health Group’s (UHG) Ingenix Division’s acquisition of leading HIE vendor (and top competitor to Medicity) Axolotl. Then this morning Aetna counters by acquiring Medicity. In just a few short months these two payers have completely changed the landscape of the HIE market by acquiring the two leading HIE vendors in the market today. Now that both of these vendors are in the hands of payers what are the implications both to the HIE market and more broadly the healthcare sector? Following is our assessment based on our continuing research of the HIE market and a number of interviews today, not only with the Aetna and Medicity, but also several other active participants in the HIE market.
Aetna acquired Medicity for a King’s ransom of $500M, a handsome multiple of Medicity’s 2010 gross revenue. Medicity will operate as a separate entity under the Aetna brand maintaining its current headquarters in Utah. According to Medicity, initial conversations began in late October/early November and quickly accelerated to the deal announced today. Aetna plans to close the deal before the end of year. As part of the deal, the senior management team of Medicity has agreed to stay in place for the next few years.
While some may argue that Aetna was simply looking to counter the move by UHG or Aetna’s new CEO was looking to make a mark, Chilmark sees a more thoughtful and strategic move at play here which in the end may justify the price paid.