Archive for September, 2012

Mobile Health Will Impact Accountable Care Organizations

Last week, flying into Atlanta Hartsfield Airport, I boarded the plane train and looked around all of the people on the train. Everyone was intently staring at their mobile devices as if our phones controlled everyone’s next step. Reliance upon our mobile telephones and technical devices has become an epidemic. Many of us do not leave the house today without having our phones attached to our side or in our bags. Our mobile devices connect us with work, family and social outlets.

The increased importance of mobile technology on our day-to-day activities also impacts how healthcare is going to be delivered and how providers will ultimately be paid in the future. Specifically, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Healthcare Reform”) created the Shared Savings Program, commonly known as an Accountable Care Organization (“ACO”), which intends to integrate providers to fully engage patients and deliver care through patient centered protocols. In order to …

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Filling in Healthcare’s Money Pit

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution ran a print article earlier this month entitled “Health care called a money pit,” bringing to mind the similarly titled movie of the mid-80s that detailed a couple’s near split over struggles with never-ending home renovations. Tom Hanks and Shelley Long certainly brought levity to the predicament of high-cost, low-quality construction that resulted in extremely unsatisfied customers. It’s no stretch to see parallels to healthcare’s current situation regarding cost, treatment, and patient outcomes and satisfaction.

The AJC story’s statistics regarding the $750 billion a year squandered by today’s health system won’t bring much of a smile to anyone’s face. The Institute of Medicine’s (IOM’s) one-year estimate of healthcare waste is “more than the Pentagon budget and more than enough to care for the uninsured,” and combines:

  • Unnecessary services worth $210 billion
  • Inefficient delivery of care worth $130 billion
  • Excess administrative costs worth …

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Riskier Investment Strategies for Hospitals Could be Slippery Slope

According to a study recently published by the Commonfund Institute, not-for-profit hospitals throughout the United States are turning to riskier investment strategies in alternative assets as a means to make-up for the losses they incur from government reimbursement cuts.  The 2012 Commonfund Benchmarks Study® of Healthcare Organizations evaluated the investments and returns in FY 2011 of approximately 86 not-for-profit healthcare organizations, and compared them to previous benchmarks from the past three years.

The Study concluded that the participating healthcare organizations reported 0% returns on their investments in FY2011.  The Study went on to report that, “The flat returns followed net gains of 10.9% in FY2010 and 18.8% in FY2009 [...] Beyond the flat year-over-year return, the most important shift to emerge from the Study was in asset allocation, where healthcare organizations’ allocation to alternative investment strategies in their investable asset pools grew to …

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Health Insurance Coverage Changes in Georgia

The latest Census data on health insurance coverage released last week contained some interesting insights into the health of Georgia’s health care financing system. The good news is that the number of Georgians without health insurance did not grow between 2010 and 2011. However Georgia still ranks 7th in the nation in the percent of its citizens who are uninsured, and 6th in the number of uninsured.

Fewer Georgians had private health insurance in 2011 than they did in 2010, but the change was not the result of further erosion of employment-based coverage; at least not directly. There were fewer Georgian’s working in 2011 than in 2010, but the percentage of Georgians with employment-based coverage did not change. This implies that the Georgia net job loss were for jobs that did not offer health insurance .

Private coverage fell in large part because those who lost their jobs at the beginning of the recession in 2008 and 2009 lost their COBRA coverage in 2010. The …

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What? I have to wait how many months to see the Doctor?

I called my Primary Care Physician (PCP) this week to make an appointment for a physical before the end of the year. It usually takes about two months to get in, so I thought my timing was perfect. I almost dropped the phone when they told me my doctor was booked until February 2013!!! I have heard about the impending PCP shortage for some time now, but this was the first time it actually affected me. And this is BEFORE, Healthcare Reform takes effect and an estimated additional 30 million people are looking for care.

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, even without the expansion of insurance coverage, the aging baby boomers demand on care will already create a shortage of 100,000 physicians by 2025.

What does this mean for Healthcare Providers? It means that the expansion of insurance coverage will not necessarily translate into an expansion in care. With patients experiencing increasing difficulty finding doctors to see them, they will continue to …

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Patient Information, Patient Trust and the New Generation Hacker

The nightly news presented some startling facts about HIT and patient privacy in prime time. To someone who is an HIT advocate, the news was disheartening. You may have seen the report; “Are your medical records really confidential”. I cringed as I thought about the millions of Americans sitting on their couch thinking about the security of their own personal information. I also thought about the thousands of Americans that are working so hard to educate, train and implement HIT in health care systems across this country.

The report simply stated that medical information is being stolen and sold to the highest bidder on the web. In the past, I always pictured these hackers (like you see in the movies) tapping into the HIE and stealing confidential information. This report did not mention that kind of hacker. They reported that the culprits ( new generation hackers) are within the medical practices; employees (could be employers in some cases) who download the info and sell to …

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Patient Satisfaction + Wait Times: More Important than Anything Else

Any patient can tell that several things can determine whether he or she is happy with a visit to their doctor’s office.  Many factors play a role in patient satisfaction, including the level of care provided by the physician, staff friendliness, facility cleanliness, speediness of answering telephone calls, and wait times.  Wait time (time spent in both the waiting room and exam room before seen by a doctor) in particular is frequently cited as the single most important factor in determining patient satisfaction.  In fact, a national survey found that 40% of the variance in patient satisfaction can be explained by the amount of time a patient waits to see their doctor.

Some have argued and even research has shown that the negative effect of long waiting time “may be so pervasive that good physician care cannot make up for it.”  (Probst 1997).  In other words, a patient could immediately bond with staff, meaningfully connect with their physician in the first minute of a visit, …

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Creating A New Culture of Health

rph counselingRegardless of what has happened in the past or what will happen in the future to the Affordable Care Act, also known as “ObamaCare,” there has been a general recognition that we need to create a new culture of health by and among the American people. From embracing a patient-centered model of care to management of chronic diseases, the health care system is changing to embrace a culture of health at the very center of our health care transformation.

Over the years, the health care system realized that a comprehensive team approach to patient care produced improved patient outcomes. As that integrated team model gained notoriety, a more diverse panel of health care professionals began to interact directly with patients and their caregivers. While physicians have and will continue to be an integral part of the health care team, doctors have been joined by pharmacists, advanced practice nurses, physicians assistants, dentists, optometrists, dieticians and other health care …

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Technology Driving the Industry & Today’s Empowered Consumer

The seventh annual Healthcare IT Week kicks-off next week, September 10-14, and it got me thinking about technology and our healthcare industry. As we know, technology has always been the driving force behind America’s innovative and economic industries. That’s certainly true with healthcare. But like a perfect storm, health care is benefiting from the rise of transformative digital, social and mobile technologies that are creating a new and empowered consumer.

Last summer, the Health & Human Services (HHS) Department held a health IT forum and Secretary Kathleen Sibelius said in her opening statement that the program “demonstrates HHS’s commitment to promoting innovative uses of data to advance health and healthcare in America… helping consumers take control of their own health by putting the right information at their fingertips.”

“Helping consumers take control of their own health…” Secretary Sibelius gets it.

Healthcare is personal. Consumers want to become …

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