By Abhinav Shashank, co-founder and CEO, Innovaccer.
While healthcare leaders uniformly agree that transitioning to value is the way healthcare is going to be in the coming days, it is unclear to most how they can make the transition without negatively impacting their cost outcomes. In an industry which had primarily been fee-for-service based, healthcare organizations are facing immense pressure to innovate and adapt or risk their long-term viability.
In developing strategies to succeed with these trends, many healthcare leaders are realizing that Medicare Advantage (MA) is a key component to their long-term success. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has projected that Medicare Advantage enrollment will reach an “all-time high” in 2019 with 22.6 million Medicare beneficiaries, given the unprecedented growth. And industry analysts like L.E.K. Consulting say that Medicare Advantage enrollment will rise to 38 million, or 50 percent market penetration by the end of 2025.
Going along the same lines of ensuring long-term success and enhanced patient satisfaction, CMS rates Medicare Advantage plans by giving them Star Ratings which help beneficiaries and their family members make informed decisions. As MA Star Ratings become the most visible mark of success, the only trail of thoughts would be: How to improve these Star Ratings?
How do Star Ratings work?
The Medicare Star Ratings are key measures of the quality of care a health plan provides. The health plans are rated on 45 measures categorized under five categories which portray how a health plan takes care of its beneficiaries.
Needless to say, there’s a lot at stake here. The more Stars a health plan has, the more likely they are to attract beneficiaries. But earning top ratings is a difficult task. Payers that wish to reap the benefits of high Star Ratings also need to deliver impeccable care to their members and ensure a satisfactory experience of care.
What holds MA Plans back from achieving better Star Ratings?
A majority of these measures are defined on the basis of specific service received, claims, or clinical information that verifies access and delivery of care. For example, if there is a large number of members that have a chronic disease, plans can pinpoint them and identify the specific care they have received during the year. After that, they can plan targeted interventions to close the gaps and be on the path to deliver positive outcomes.
However, with limited actionable member data available, MA plans just end up focusing on broad, general interventions as compared to undertaking a member-specific, targeted approach. MA plans require timely and detailed information about their members’ health to create interventions that have a lasting impact.
Additionally, it’s important to realize that beneficiaries don’t just have high-quality care, but also have quick access to healthcare service. MA plans need to ensure that the quality of care is always upheld. In most cases, it stems out of efficient collaboration between the clinical staff and healthcare technology.
More importantly, improvements in Star Ratings depend significantly on how engaged a patient is. For example, measures which are related to medication adherence are almost completely hinged on strong patient engagement that makes it easier for patients to get access to their medications and take them on time. In other words, MA Plans need to deploy efforts that are aimed at implementing holistic strategies to address patient needs.
By Abhinav Shashank, president and co-founder, Innovaccer.
What makes anyone identify the best health plan for themselves? In today’s world, having health insurance is very important. You might end up paying significantly more for a doctor’s visit if you don’t have insurance than if you had it. You could rack up paying hundreds of dollars for a major injury or if you go for a costly treatment. And in this flock of health insurances, employer-sponsored health plans make up a significant percentage.
How does employer-sponsored health plans fit into the situation?
Employee health and well-being is not just essential, but also foundational to business success. Only a healthy team could deliver profitable outcomes. For this reason, among the list of many, most of employed Americans have their health insurance covered by their employers.
According to a survey, 92 percent of respondents were confident that their organization will continue to sponsor health care benefits for the next five years.
High-performance Insights- Best Practices in Health Care, 2017 22nd Annual Willis Towers Watson Best Practices in Health Care Employer Services
Is employer-sponsored healthcare on the verge of breaking or is it broken already?
Employer-provided healthcare is underleveraged. Currently, employer-sponsored healthcare is facing a lot of complications, including:
New market entrants add more complexity to employer decisions
As financial responsibility for care shifts to employees, an increase in self-rationing may drive poor outcomes
Pharmacy remains an area of unchecked rising cost, especially with regard to high- cost biogenetic (specialty) drugs, among many
What is haunting the large employers and how is the market ripe for innovation?
“Interestingly, 70 percent of employers believe new market entrants from outside the healthcare industry are needed to disrupt health care in a positive way. These disruptors include innovators from Silicon Valley and elsewhere, and employer coalitions,” said Brian Marcotte, president and CEO, National Group on Health.
Fifty-five percent of employers are concerned about prescription opioid abuse and working with partners to implement safe prescribing patterns and alternative therapies. The innovation we need to resolve this issue starts with data. With the launch of CURES 2.0 database, healthcare in the state of California achieved a milestone in curbing the opioid epidemic.
The role of activated data in enhancing the employer-sponsored health plan is that of an initiator to a revolutionary change in the field. Once the organizations have the right data, they can gain crucial insights into their employees and devise better plans to enhance their health and productivity.
What causes two patients of the same age and with the same disease but from different regions to respond differently to a certain treatment? Even if these two patients appeared similar on paper, their lifestyles are very likely to differ — socioeconomic status, gender, race, ethnicity, family structure and education.
Is SDOH a promise for a better future, or is it just another hype?
Success in the value-based care environment cannot be achieved based solely on clinical insights. According to one study, clinical care accounts for only 20 percent of the health outcomes of patients, while health behaviors, social and economic factors, and physical environment combined add up to in?uence the remaining 80 percent of health outcomes.
Social determinants matter because they can affect the health of the population residing in a particular region for better or for worse. Trying to improve population health armed with only clinical data and not the non-clinical factors, is like investing in a project which cannot generate positive returns.
Although multiple pieces of research demonstrate that social determinants may substantially contribute to a person’s health status and well-being, the major problems are these:
How do we address these complex challenges?
Who is the best-positioned stakeholder to do so in a clinical environment?
What is the right way to address these social determinants?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has defined an algorithm to estimate the Social Vulnerability Index (SVI) for every census-tract in the US. However, this algorithm is based on a simple summation of the percentile ranks for all SDOHs, which results in an over-estimation of social vulnerability in cases of high positive correlation between multiple SDOHs.
Working with SDOH data requires a more drilled-down approach and the use of predictive analytics to accurately measure the at-risk population and to advance preventive care methods in an ecosystem.
The right approach is to start from a state-level analysis and drill down to the zip code-level. The effects of social determinants vary in accordance with a very small region. There is a high possibility that all the zip codes in a county will have different susceptibility to a particular social determinant.
What new ways can a revolutionary approach to SDOH open for healthcare?
Every social determinant affects the region in its own way and corresponding preventive actions need to be taken in order to overcome the adverse health outcomes of the citizens of that region. For instance, community resources and data needs to be integrated into the care coordination processes to make proper interventions. When providers are able to completely understand the effects of non-clinical factors, they can provide much better care to their patients.
The analysis of social determinants can be applied for multiple use cases such as:
Identifying the role of behavioral health, social workers and health coaches
Increasing the efficiency of the care coordination team
Forging better partnerships with community resources and social improvement funding agencies, and many more.
The road ahead
Though providers have recognized that social factors significantly influence their patients’ health, they are often unaware of their patients’ social vulnerabilities and are unable to accept responsibility for managing these issues or providing support to their patients outside of the clinical realm. We are stepping into the age of predicting and preventing diseases instead of curing them. That was the traditional approach. With non-clinical data and resources such as SDOH, we can change the future of US healthcare. All we need is the will to right these wrongs.
By Abhinav Shashank, CEO and co-founder, Innovaccer.
Once while I was scrolling through the news feed on my phone, there was one specific line that really made me wonder: “There’s a 40 percent chance of gusty and blustery winds today.” Statements such as this one strongly influence people’s behavior, as they are based on evidence or data findings from years of surveying, studying, and analyzing past trends and occurrences. However, my question is “Why are we not able to make such claims in healthcare- even today?”
Can we predict the vulnerabilities a patient might face in the future or the current health risks a population segment faces?
Is risk scoring the answer we have been looking for?
Almost all kinds of care organizations have some risk scoring methodology to target care interventions. With quality, costs, and patient experience taking the center stage in healthcare, care organizations need to stratify patients based on their need for immediate intervention.
The need of the hour is to address high-risk issues that impact large groups of patients and ensure that these needs are met in a timely fashion. Often, frequent fliers among high-risk patients come into the emergency department as if it’s their second home.
What if we take the method of risk scoring to a whole new level?
Traditionally, providers and health systems have relied on claims-based risk models, such as CMS-HCC, ACG and DxCG, which were built to forecast the risk of populations/sub-populations but not for individual patients. Hence, these models give an accurate prediction of the average risk of the population but exhibit very poor accuracy if used to predict risk for individual patients.
Although risk scoring has turned out to be a key factor in addressing the needs of the patient population, this method cannot provide all the important insights that are needed to drive necessary interventions. Since healthcare already has the right data from sources such as EHRs, claims, labs, pharmacy, social determinants of health (SDoH) and others, can we predict the future cost of care instead of just stating the risk score of the patient?
The right machine learning-driven approach to predict the future cost of care for patients
It all starts with the right data. The first step is to integrate the data from multiple sources- whether it is clinical or non-clinical data, such as SDoH. The data from these sources can allow us to use the comprehensive patient’s data for multiple predictive models to predict future health cost with greater accuracy.
By Abhinav Shashank, CEO and co-founder, Innovaccer.
Articles on social media channels that carry a sense of apprehension regarding the future of our healthcare system sadden me. However, I learned a long time ago that you never win by arguing with the referee, and that the most logical way to react to apprehensions is to prove them wrong based on concrete evidence.
Building a sustainable model for care delivery is not a tough nut to crack as long as organizations have the right approach. If healthcare leaders can adapt to the constantly changing needs of providers and payers alike, they can steer their organizations towards a better future.
What if we already know all the answers?
Patient outcomes depend on a number of factors. I know cities with poor air quality have a higher percentage of patients with lung-related diseases than the green countryside. Similarly, patients who follow-up with their doctors more often usually take less time to recover from a problem as compared to less engaged patients.
Care management is one area I genuinely believe is an answer to a plethora of problems that surround our healthcare system. However, enabling a culture of managed care is easier said than done. To begin with, it is quintessential to make providers and patients believe in its very significance. This can be achieved by promoting patient engagement, streamlining referrals, increasing annual wellness visits, and regular follow-up meetings, among others.
Creating pathways for automated care management procedures
Baby boomers, millennials, middle-aged people, and kids? everyone has different needs and expectations. However, every patient longs for comfortable, connected, and cost-effective care.
Continuity of care is the key here. Care delivery is an end-to-end process. Care coordination and its various domains? transitional, chronic, and post-acute, among others? holds the potential to improve care and cost outcomes drastically. The more providers know about their patients, the easier it gets to impart care in a much more personalized and evidence-based manner.
Making things easier for patients shouldn’t come at the cost of frustrated providers. Provider and patient satisfaction are, in fact, interdependent. For instance, organizations should ensure that there are little or no skipped appointments and at the same time, calling patients to remind them of their scheduled meetings should be the least of providers’ concerns.
Non-clinical factors can account for up to 80 percent of the health outcomes for patients. Such factors, including socioeconomic conditions, healthy behaviors, and physical environment, may vary drastically for each patient and can significantly impact health outcomes such as poor medication adherence, frequent visits to the ED, and more. Thus, it is essential to consider these factors while creating care plans to ensure that the specific needs of patients are addressed.
Additionally, healthcare’s transition to value-based care is pushing organizations to lead more efficient population health management programs that address every clinical and social need of the population in which they serve. The challenge, however, is that organizations don’t usually have the means to capture the social needs of the patients or address them beyond the four walls of a hospital to ensure that no care gaps remain unplugged.
Innovaccer offers to assist healthcare organizations in a stepwise approach, starting with surveys for patients to complete in order to evaluate their social needs, such as access to food, housing situations, or economic conditions. Additionally, Innovaccer’s solution allows care teams to send as many surveys as needed with multiple language support. Based on the answers received from the survey, the solution helps care teams find suitable community resources to assign to the patient from a pre-built national database.
The solution’s AI-assisted closed-loop referral process to community resources enables care teams to ensure patient-centric care, even after an encounter is over. This closed-loop referral process gives physicians and social workers complete visibility into the social needs of their patients, which allows them to refer their patients to the most relevant community resources. In fact, patients are also kept in the loop in such a way that they can track their referrals, give feedback, and coordinate with their providers at any time, all through a single mobile application.
Innovaccer’s primary aim with this solution is to empower physicians and care teams with visibility into the social needs of their patients, right in the moment of care. The solution also triggers automated and real-time alerts to care teams if a patient’s needs are found to be urgent, such as high social risk or missed follow up. Additionally, the insights from the survey are available to the physicians right at the point of care within their EHR workflows, ensuring that they have a holistic picture of their patients.
“For organizations under value-based contracts, establishing a culture of wellness is a priority to keep their business model financially viable. Social determinants of health are a gamechanger in this regard and organizations who leverage them put themselves in the driver’s seat,” said Abhinav Shashank, CEO at Innovaccer. “We hope that our solution is instrumental to healthcare organizations as they tie their efforts to address social determinants of health and create similar strategies to maximize care and cost outcomes.”
Only recently, Innovaccer also launched its first-ever in-house research authored by Dr. David Nace, CMO at Innovaccer, around the social vulnerabilities of the population across the US. The research paper named “From Myth to Reality- Revolutionizing Healthcare with Augmented Intelligence and Social Determinants of Health” discusses a revolutionary way of leveraging advanced algorithms to determine the social vulnerability of the zip code-level population.
To learn more about Innovaccer’s SDOH Management solution, click here.
By Abhinav Shashank, co-founder and CEO, Innovaccer.
U.S. healthcare is nowhere near what technology made us dream of a decade back. Healthcare technology was meant to act as a means of reducing costs, eliminating burnout, and making care delivery patient-centric. Cut to today, where a broken leg can cost a patient as much as $7,500, seven out of 10 physicians do not recommend their profession to anyone, and we rank poorly among other developed countries in terms of the number of preventable deaths.
Why did technology fail?
While disruptive technology solutions did flood healthcare in the last couple of decades, many of them required physicians to go the extra mile to comprehend those sophisticated systems. Today, physicians are still crunching large data files day in and day out, nurses are doubling up as technical executives, and patients are perplexed by the fact that their providers hardly have time for them.
It’s time for technology to care
If a technology solution is not assisting organizations in improving care quality, reducing costs, and optimizing utilization levels, then its very relevancy is questionable. Healthcare organizations need technologies that can help them actuate their data, realize their strategic goals, and bring patients closer to their providers.
Health IT solutions should make the lives of providers easier. Any health IT solution that puts an additional burden on providers is unjustified and unacceptable. Providers are not data analysts, and expecting them to train tirelessly to understand an IT system and spend a couple of hours each day navigating through complex interfaces can drastically reduce physician-provider time and pave the way for physician burnout.
In with ultimate integration. We need to bring together EHRs, PHMs, payer claims and HIEs and put it all in the palm of the providers’ hands. Whether it’s quality management or data management, it should be simple.
In with relevant insights right at the point of care. Providers are tired of wading through complicated EHRs and excel sheets. What we need now is to seize the nanosecond and realize truly automated care delivery that helps boost the clinical outcomes.
In with 100 percent transparency and bi-directional interoperability. Healthcare providers are often forced to access bits and pieces of electronic healthcare analytics and referrals on disparate applications. Physicians need to capture real-time care gaps, coding opportunities, patient education opportunities, and more; the only problem is that they don’t know how exactly to accomplish this. Providers should be able to capture the gaps in patient care right when they need to and enhance the patient experience of care.
In with true patient-centric care. Healthcare is not just providing episodic care to patients, it is about building relationships with them. In a world where the quality of care directly influences the financial success of an organization, providers should look forward to aligning the needs of their patients to their treatment procedures.
Healthcare of the 2020s needs reliable data activation platforms
“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” — Albert Einstein
Buzzwords like innovation, intelligence, and analytics make sense in today’s time; however, unless the user experience is seamless, the charisma of back-end development does little good for healthcare professionals.
We’re moving into an age of intelligence, and in this age, successful organizations do one thing right- they know the worth of their data. This is the same thing that we need to do in healthcare. Organizations have to switch from a makeshift approach to engage patients and find a concrete strategy that is suited to their advantage, but this needs to be done with the support of data.
By Abhinav Shashank, CEO and co-founder, Innovaccer.
What makes Super Bowls, banking transactions, and online search results altogether more special?
As an ardent supporter, concerned customer, and curious observer, I keep witnessing all three of them in real time. I want the best experience every time that I am the end user, and so does everyone else. In this day and age, it shouldn’t be an unrealistic dream anyway. We should be able to know the score in real time and in the same way, our credit card transactions as and when they happen.
Why doesn’t my healthcare data show the complete picture?
Ironically, for healthcare organizations, real-time updates are not always available while making decisions that can potentially impact patients throughout their lives. Traditionally, many solutions were not even made to optimize the time that providers spend with their patients. Rather, they were only built to ingest data in electronic formats, evaluate macro-level performance trends, and in the best case scenario, provide top stakeholders with financial trends in a concise manner.
Though most organizations today have business intelligence (BI) infrastructures in place, most of the insights generated through them are only good for analyzing things in retrospect and do not really assist providers in the moment of care.
Activated data is the backbone of healthcare technology
It’s one thing to know what is wrong, it is another to have a way of addressing it. For instance, notes from the last appointment with a patient can only provide care teams with half of the story. Unless care providers have a holistic pool of information regarding the patient’s whereabouts, they cannot initiate personalized care plans or impart evidence-based care.
Healthcare leadership should look for activating data from different facilities in their bid to maximize the knowledge base of their providers. Once they have all the data points, they can begin to run customized analytics to support clinical decision-making.
Jane Smith, a 53-year-old diabetic patient, goes to her kitchen to grab a glass of water when she suddenly feels dizzy. She grabs her portable, battery-operated blood glucose monitor to check her blood sugar level and finds it is higher than usual. The HbA1c level from the device is immediately sent to her care team, who are connected with her via a common digital platform.
Her care coordinator calls and advises her to take an insulin shot at the earliest. Within a few minutes, she is visited by a nurse who assists in giving her the insulin received from the pharmacy. Jane is also asked to see her PCP as soon as possible. A week later when she consults her PCP, he is already aware of her medical condition and the medication dosage she received the other day. He looks at her profile on his EHR and marks the care gap that was created as closed.
Now, Jane, her care team, the PCP, the hospital, and the pharmacy can look into her medical records and manage her care with a few clicks on this online platform; and Jane herself has enough clinical insights to make an informed decision about her care.
Does all of this seem like a far-fetched dream?
Healthcare technology has birthed many dreams and turned them into a reality. And yet, it lacks the capability to share clinical data efficiently at the exact moment of care.
What do we want from 100 percent interoperability?
When we talk about technology, the first thing that pops into our heads is Google. It’s an absolute comfort when we get a notification on our calendars that we might be late for an upcoming meeting. This is not rocket science, just two different products interacting on the same layer of a platform to make our lives simpler.
What do the best care teams in healthcare have in common? They don’t just take care of the sick — they help them get better. They engage and empower their patients to play a central role in their care and become healthy. The RWJ Foundation suggests that compared to highly engaged patients, patients without the skills and confidence to manage their own health end up incurring up to a 21 percent higher cost of care. It’s time we brought patients on to the center stage for the healthcare transformation.
While consumer engagement always plays an important role when delivering any kind of service, patient engagement is an important cog in the wheel of value-based healthcare; this much has always been clear. Whether or not we are capable of meeting these needs — or if meeting them is easy — is up for debate.
Patient engagement: The ‘quarterback’ of healthcare’s transition to value
As Dr. Geeta Nayyar, chief healthcare and innovation officer at Femwell Group, expressed in an interview this HIMSS19, “Patient engagement is the quarterback to get us from fee-for-service to fee-for-value,” and one cannot agree more.
Leading health systems recognize that patient engagement is a high priority. At face value, the term may seem pretty straightforward, but there is a lot more nuance to defining a truly engaged patient. It may start with giving them the tools they need to understand what makes them sick, enabling access to a portal where they can look at their information, and motivating them to take care of themselves with help from friends and family.
The well-being of a patient — broadly, the entire population — is an important measure of the quality of care and its effectiveness in a particular network. And that’s what providers need to realize. The healthier and happier their patients are, the better their network would be.