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The Health Insurance Demand Problem

Posted on July 11, 2014 I Written By

Kyle is Founder and CEO of Pristine, a company in Austin, TX that develops telehealth communication tools optimized for Google Glass in healthcare environments. Prior to founding Pristine, Kyle spent years developing, selling, and implementing electronic medical records (EMRs) into hospitals. He also writes for EMR and HIPAA, TechZulu, and Svbtle about the intersections of healthcare, technology, and business. All of his writing is reproduced at kylesamani.com

A family friend was recently admitted to the hospital after a traumatic motorcycle accident in Colorado. He’s not in great condition, but he’s hanging in there. In light of having just written this post about the cost of highly acute care, I couldn’t stop pondering about his health insurance.

Health insurance is a bizarre creature. Unlike other forms of insurance, people actually want to consume what they’re insured against, defying the very premise of the insurance model!

Confused? Let’s dive in.

No one wants to consume traditional insurance

People never file claims for traditional forms of insurance unless something bad has happened, like car or home accidents, natural disasters, or death (covered by life insurance). In some of these cases (like minor fender benders), the insured customer often elects not to file a claim in order to avoid a premium increase. When people do file traditional insurance claims, that means something sufficiently bad has happened, and the insurance system kicks in place to recoup the damages.

People do want to consume healthcare insurance

Healthcare insurance is a wildly different animal. Only a small percentage of total hospital admissions are highly acute, catastrophic cases. A large majority of the care delivery system services non-catastrophic cases, from preventive care to counseling, scheduled (and elective) surgeries, and skin rashes, for example. Patients want as much (non-catastrophic) healthcare as reasonably possible, and they want their insurance companies to pay for it.

This is a classic principal-agency problem. The person making financial decisions isn’t bearing the cost of those decisions; in fact, the person making financial decisions is empowered to blindly spend without thinking. To make matters worse, many healthcare providers encourage patients to consume costly diagnostics and procedures with little regard for value, knowing that insurance companies will pick up the tab.

Realigning incentives

As it currently stands, this system breaks most of the basic assumptions of capitalism: the principal-agency problem, pricing information, and ability to compare producers/providers.

Reducing demand and utilization of healthcare resources is impossible. Since patients are currently incentivized to demand unlimited care without caring about cost, supply will always find a way to satisfy demand. So, how can we realign the incentives to fix the system?

The only way to reduce demand is to make patients accountable for their own healthcare expenses. With the insurance customer suddenly conscious of the cost and value of their subacute healthcare consumption, providers will be incentivized to compete and offer lower costs.

Thus, insurance companies should provide patients “catastrophe-only” plans. These plans would fully and generously cover highly acute care needs, like trauma, cancer, or stroke care. However, like a vehicle insurance plan without comprehensive coverage, the cost of treating the medical equivalent of a keyed car (e.g. a purely speculative blood test) would fall to the individual.

As CEO of a company in the healthcare space, it pains me to know that I’m contributing to the healthcare incentive problem by providing employees with a traditional healthcare plan. But until healthcare insurers offer catastrophe-only plans, patients will continue to blindly consume. In fact, even the Affordable Care Act failed in this light; the national and state-based exchanges don’t offer a single catastrophe-only insurance plan. They are all bundled and are ripe for unbundling.

You Better Stay Healthy, or Else…

Posted on June 23, 2014 I Written By

Kyle is Founder and CEO of Pristine, a company in Austin, TX that develops telehealth communication tools optimized for Google Glass in healthcare environments. Prior to founding Pristine, Kyle spent years developing, selling, and implementing electronic medical records (EMRs) into hospitals. He also writes for EMR and HIPAA, TechZulu, and Svbtle about the intersections of healthcare, technology, and business. All of his writing is reproduced at kylesamani.com

As I read Jonathan Bush’s new book, Where Does It Hurt?the most salient problem that Bush discusses is that hospitals can’t effectively measure or attribute their costs. As a result, they can’t make good decisions since they don’t know how to attribute costs and revenues.

Although this has been widely known for sometime, the implications of this are particularly interesting. Since hospitals don’t know how much it costs to actually deliver care (especially multi-faceted, complicated care), their various revenue streams are effectively subsidizing their expenses in an almost random manner. Accounting for costs and attributing revenue is nearly impossible.

Bush notes that more focused care centers – such as standalone labs, imaging centers, and minute clinics – can afford to offer many of the same services as hospitals with equal or greater quality at a lower cost. They can achieve this because they have dramatically less operational overhead than hospitals and have staff performing the same core basic functions repetitively. Indeed, practice makes perfect.

There are hundreds of companies all over the country building healthcare practices based on this very premise: labs, imaging, procedures, home health agencies, ASCs, birthing centers, cath labs, urgent care, retail clinics, and more. Focused-centers are slowly eating away at hospitals by providing better services at lower costs.

Today, hospitals make enormous profits by dramatically marking up routine procedures and services. But that won’t continue forever. As the ACA pushes patients towards high-deductible plans so that patients act more cost consciously, they will seek the more affordable alternatives. Patients will not agree to pay a $300 ER copay and $2000 MRI when the urgent care center down the street offers a $99 copay and $400 MRI. As patients make better decisions, hospitals will lose some of their easiest, most profitable revenues: extremely marked up lab tests, images, procedures, etc.

What will hospitals be left to do when their easiest, most profitable revenue vanishes? They will shift focus to what they do best: performing miracles. Hospitals will compete for high-end services such as-complex surgeries and intensive care. However, because routine services subsidize the hospital’s overhead, they currently offer surgeries and intensive care at a “discount.” When hospitals can no longer subsidize their complex care with routine care, hospitals will raise prices for the highest acuity services that can’t be performed elsewhere. If you thought acute sickcare was unaffordable, think again. The cost of complex care is going to grow dramatically in the coming years.

3 Macro Health Payment Trends to Watch

Posted on June 5, 2014 I Written By

The following is a guest post by Barry Haitoff, CEO of Medical Management Corporation of America.
Barry Haitoff
It’s not a stretch to say that the healthcare payment system has hit some tumultuous waters. Medical billing hasn’t been easy for a long time, but with things like the Affordable Care Act, Value Based Reimbursement, and the shifting world of data driven healthcare there is a lot you need to watch out for when it comes to getting paid. What does seem clear is that medical billing is not going to get any easier.

Let’s take a look at three broad health payment trends worth keeping your eye on:

Increased Patient Pay
One of the major trends in the health insurance industry is the move towards high deductible plans. Some of this change is coming from employers changing their plans and the ACA insurance exchanges are driving this trend as well. I see this shift continuing as healthcare and employers work to make the patient more accountable for their healthcare.

There are two main things you need to do to prepare for these high deductible plans. First, make sure you have a solid method in place to know how much the patient owes before or immediately after the visit. There is no better way to reduce patient collections than to collect the payment while the patient is in the office. Many are ready and willing to pay, but some practices don’t have the systems that allow them to know how much to charge the patient before they leave. Second, look at your processes for collecting patient payments once they’ve left the building. Do you have a good strategy in place to make sure the patient knows how much they owe? Do you have a variety of simple ways for the patient to make the payment? The use of an online payment portal for patients is the most obvious way to make submitting payment to physicians simple for patients. If you solve these two problems you’ll go a long way to improving your patient collections.

Higher deductible plans are here to stay and so an investment in systems that address the patient responsibility portion of the visit are incredibly important.

Data Driven Reimbursement
With the increased adoption of EHR software, you can be sure that insurance plans are going to want more and more data to justify your reimbursement. This is not a new trend for insurance companies. They’ve been requiring more and more documentation to justify payments forever. However, we’re at the point where what they’ll require will be so complex that you better have your documentation ducks in a row.

Certainly this means that if you don’t have an EHR or other technology infrastructure you will likely have issues. This will become particularly poignant as payers start to pay based on population health and value as opposed to the current fee for service model. I literally can’t see how insurance companies could switch to value based payments in a non healthcare IT world. The data in these systems is going to drive future reimbursement.

Newly Insured
Offices around the country are starting to see a set of newly insured patients thanks to the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare if you prefer). Are your office staff prepared for these new patients? While millions of uninsured patients are getting insurance and visiting your clinic, offices are also seeing many of their existing patients switching from a previous insurance to an ACA plan. Does your staff have the time required to update records? Not to mention, are you accounting for the extra time spent doing eligibility checks for these new insurance plans?

A MGMA survey of mostly independent physician practices recently found that 62 percent of practices are struggling to identify patients whose insurance came from the ACA exchange and to verify their eligibility or obtain plan details. Most practices also say that patients who got their insurance via an ACA exchange are more likely to have high deductibles and don’t understand that fact. Half of the practices say they can’t provide services to ACA exchange patients because their practice is out of network.

Can you see the potential problems to your practice? What will this new patient population act like when it comes to paying you for your services? Certainly a shift by existing patients to new high deductible plans will cause issues like increased patient responsibility that we talked about above. However, the newly insured population is being shifted from the ER to your offices. If you consider the history of ER payments by patients, there’s reason to be concerned about how well this new patient population will do at paying their portion of the bill.

Plus, we’ve seen many practices that are finding it really difficult to determine their participation status with the payer. It seems that payers have cherry picked providers for their new narrow exchange networks and haven’t informed providers of whether they’re in or out. Once you finally do determine you par status, be sure your staff can recognize the new insurance cards so they can flag them or potentially turn them away if the provider isn’t par.

These are just a few of the major healthcare payment trends I see happening in the industry. I’d love to hear in the comments what trends you see happening in your offices. What other things should we be aware of in this constantly shifting healthcare payment world?

Medical Management Corporation of America, a leading provider of medical billing services, is a proud sponsor of EMR and HIPAA.

Interview with Barry Haitoff, CEO of Medical Management Corporation of America

Posted on January 20, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 6000 articles with John having written over 3000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 13 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

The following is an interview with Barry Haitoff, CEO of Medical Management Corporation of America.
Barry Haitoff

Tell us about Medical Management Corporation of America (MMCOA).
MMCOA helps physicians and physician groups increase collections, assure compliance, manage overhead and navigate the maze of EMR/EHR, Meaninful Use, PQRS and other Government incentive programs and regulations. With a focus on revenue cycle management, MMCOA helps our clients stay ahead of the curve with things like the transition to ICD-10.

What are the keys to running a good medical billing company?
Like any successful business, I believe the 2 most important assets are people and systems. We hire, retain and cultivate quality individuals and empower them with state of the art systems and technology. We never settle for status quo and continue to look for better ways of doing things. My style of leadership is one of servitude. It is my goal to provide all staff members a great work environment, financial incentives and proper tools to perform their functions.

What’s your take on the economics of outsourcing medical billing? Where’s the ROI for an office that’s considering going with an outside medical billing company like yours?
I tell physicians, “do what you do best and outsource the rest”. Your tax work is handled by a professional accountant, your legal work is handled by a professional attorney, who is handling your billing? Outsourcing your billing can sometimes be more expensive than keeping it in-house, however, the return should far outweigh the added cost.

Most practices do not have adequate resources in their billing department to do the right job. A great deal of money winds up being left on the table. There is a reason that the tallest buildings in most metropolitan cities are owned by insurance companies. A quality billing company will increase your collections at a rate that will far exceed the fee.

In addition, because the typical fee structure is based on a percentage of collections, not only does the billing company have “skin in the game” to do a good job, the billing overhead of the practice is better managed. If one or more physicians are out of the office on vacation resulting in lower charges, that eventually results in lower collections. With billing in-house the practice still pays salaries, benefits, software licenses etc. All the fixed costs remain in place regardless of collections that month. With outsourced billing company, the practice’s cost for billing is directly in proportion to the amount collected that month.

What are some of the biggest changes to medical billing that have happened over the past couple years?
EMR/EHR, PQRS, ePrescribing, HIPAA, Meaningful Use, Accountable Care Organizations, Value/Quality based reimbursement, Bundling, Health Insurance Exchanges, added governmental regulations, OIG compliance and soon…..ICD-10, ICD-10, ICD-10. ICD-10 will prove to be the biggest challenge to date. We’re ready!

How is medical billing going to be impacted by things like ACOs (Accountable Care Organizations) and value based reimbursement?
Someone will still need to make sure that services rendered are reimbursed properly. More challenging, someone will need to distribute funds appropriately to the myriad of providers involved. There will be a greater need for revenue cycle management as payments are bundled.

Is healthcare ready for ICD-10? What are you doing to make sure you’re ready?
Our research to date says no. Providers and staff are not yet trained. Insurance carriers and software vendors have not yet successfully tested.

We have established an ICD-10 committee headed by our Director of Healthcare Informatics. We have begun informing and educating our clients and staff, researching tools, attending training sessions, initiating dialogue with our software vendors and staying up to date.

In what ways has the Accountable Care Act (Obamacare) and the health insurance exchanges impacted your clients?
I’d say that it’s caused a whirlwind of confusion. Providers must take the time to determine which HIX plan networks they’re in, so as not to provide care outside of a contracted relationship with the HIX plans, which predominantly lack out-of-network coverage. We expect our clients to become busier. We expect the additional covered lives to find their way into our clients’ offices. We have helped our clients figure out if they are participants in the Exchanges in their area.

A number of EHR companies have started doing medical billing. How do you differentiate the services you offer versus an EHR vendor?
Most of the EHR vendors that have just started doing medical billing, just started doing medical billing. MMCOA has been in business for 18 years, growing primarily by word of mouth. Some of the EHR vendors are publicly held companies whose most important stake holder is their shareholders. Our most important stakeholder is our clients. We have had clients leave us for those solutions and have since come back. We will continue to provide quality service on a consistent basis and will never sacrifice integrity for growth.

What are the biggest revenue cycle management issues you see in organizations?
Not enough staff. Outdated or inadequate technology. Lack of leadership. Lack of ongoing training. Lack of incentive.

Where do you see revenue cycle management going in the future?
My crystal ball is broken right now. Seriously though, there is a lot of consolidation in our industry and the smaller billing companies will likely go out of business or be acquired. Physicians and physician groups will continue to need assistance with their reimbursements. Unless all healthcare providers wind up employed by an ACO, Hospital System or other Healthcare entity with adequate revenue cycle management expertise, there will be a need for continued navigation of the maze we know as healthcare revenue cycle management.

Medical Management Corporation of America, a leading provider of medical billing services, is a proud sponsor of EMR and HIPAA.

Physician Acquisition: Is It The Right Strategy For Your Health System?

Posted on September 9, 2013 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 6000 articles with John having written over 3000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 13 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Today I was talking with a vendor of EHR conversion services. I’ll be writing a lot more about our conversation soon, but I wasn’t surprised by his comment that mane of the EHR conversions that they’re doing are due to physician practice acquisition. Whether it’s a large hospital system acquiring the practice or a group practice acquiring a practice, there’s often the desire to move that practice to the same EHR platform.

As I thought about the trend of acquired physician practices, I ran across a whitepaper by athenahealth which asked the question: Physician Acquisition: Is It The Right Strategy For Your Health System? The whitepaper highlights how varying interpretations of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), the launch of Accountable Care Organizations (ACO), bundled payment pilots, and the persistent pressure on commercial reimbursement rates makes planning for healthcare leaders a challenging task. However, what does seem clear is that doing the same thing you’ve always done won’t be a viable long term strategy.

All of these pressures are driving the physician acquisition strategy of most organizations. Does anyone see these pressures changing anytime soon? I don’t see any changes in this regard on the horizon.

Despite the widespread physician acquisitions that are happening, there are legal barriers (antitrust) that prevent a clinic from controlling all of healthcare in a community. What does this mean for an organization? How do they integrate with providers that they haven’t acquired? Plus, it’s naive to think that the acquired physicians are going to remain with your organization forever. We have seen the cycle before where acquired doctors leave the mothership and venture out on their own again. Organizations without a strong external strategy are going to be in a difficult position.

The whitepaper does make an interesting case for clinical integration versus full on practice acquisition. This is a great concept that every organization should consider. Can you clinically integrate with an organization that you don’t own? How would that clinical integration work? I think these integrations are still evolving, but the whitepaper had two case studies from organizations that were working on it.

What’s the right strategy for health systems when it comes to physician acquisition?

Keeping the “Health” in “Heathcare”

Posted on December 11, 2012 I Written By

Mandi Bishop is a healthcare IT consultant and a hardcore data geek with a Master's in English and a passion for big data analytics, who fell in love with her PCjr at 9 when she learned to program in BASIC. Individual accountability zealot, patient engagement advocate, innovation lover and ceaseless dreamer. Relentless in pursuit of answers to the question: "How do we GET there from here?" More byte-sized commentary on Twitter: @MandiBPro.

‘Tis the season for family gatherings, holiday parties, and a plethora of professional networking events – all of which give me ample opportunity to perfect my “elevator speech”, introducing my business. It seems like each time I discuss what I do for a living, the question that follows is, “So, how do you feel about Obamacare?”

I understand that the Affordable Care Act, AKA Obamacare, is a significant slice of the polarizing pie our nation is currently attempting to consume and digest. And I appreciate that now, for the first time in my career, more people than not take an interest in what I have to say about being “a healthcare data consultant.” In years past, eyes would glaze over as I explained the enormous potential of predictive analytics in wellness and disease management programs, or the power of unstructured data mining for clinical notes data. Mentioning the health insurance plans I worked with brought inquiries into individual versus group rates, and complaints about the latest round of premium increases. It’s been refreshing to experience keen interest and pointed questions as I talk, rather than have each person gulp the last sip of wine and excuse themselves to run for more as soon as they figured out I have nothing to do with how much out-of-pocket expense they’re incurring after each doctor visit.

But as much as I enjoy the sudden interest in healthcare policy and data management, there isn’t enough wine in the world to make me debate the politics of healthcare reform with my 6’5″ uncles, my friends, or my social media connections. I am not a lawyer or political pundit. I am not qualified to comment on the merits of the ACA legislation. I am not an economist. I am not qualified to comment on the fiscal impact of Obamacare. I am a technologist. I am qualified to comment on the translation of ACA’s many provisions into the infrastructure and applications supporting our healthcare system. I am also a healthcare system consumer. I AM qualified to comment on what I believe this historic legislation means to my health, the health of my family, and the health of future generations.

This is what ACA healthcare reform and its many facets – Health Information Exchange (HIE), Electronic Health Records (EHR), Electronic Medical Records (EMR), Meaningful Use (MU) – mean to me: more, better, faster healthcare data capture and communication between all the stakeholders involved in my health and wellness:

– More health data: Meaningful Use-certified EMR applications require that particular medical service activities and clinical data elements are captured and stored discretely, electronically, and made available for retrieval upon patient demand.

– Better health data: The majority of medical procedures, products, services, events, and outcomes are codified in order to meet regulatory standards. It may take longer for your provider to enter the information about a patient encounter into an EMR system than it did to scribble notes on a chart; however, because those detailed discrete data elements are now tied to compensation and incentives, there is a higher likelihood that more specific details will be captured individually per encounter, generating a more complete picture of a patient’s medical history than a manual review of their paper charts. No handwriting recognition required.

– Faster access to critical health data: With EHR applications and HIEs, providers can instantly access patient medical records from provider/facility sources and multiple insurance carriers. The difference between electronic transmission speeds and manual chart retrieval could be the difference between life and death.

How could a higher volume of increasingly accurate, integrated, and immediately available healthcare data result in adverse health outcomes?

To me, healthcare isn’t about politics. It is health care. It’s about me, caring for my health, and the health of my loved ones. I believe that technological advances can and will empower healthcare stakeholders of all ilks – provider, health insurance plan, pharmaceutical industry, patients – to increase the speed of condition diagnosis and treatment, and to assist in establishing and maintaining healthy habits for improved health over a lifetime.

This season, put the “health” back in “healthcare”.

88 New ACO Organizations – What Does That Mean?

Posted on July 24, 2012 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 6000 articles with John having written over 3000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 13 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

It has been a really interesting couple months for those interested in ACO’s (Accountable Care Organizations) and healthcare. I love how Gregg Masters of ACO Watch called the ACO the “Child of the ACA (Accountable Care Act).” He even declares the SCOTUS supreme court ruling as a big battle won for the ACO. I certainly can’t disagree with him when it comes to the government ACO initiatives. The loss of ACA would definitely hamper much of the government’s work on ACOs. Although, he also acknowledges that ACA is still up in the air pending the Presidential election. ACA is directly in the republican cross hairs.

Politics aside, the ACO program is going forward. CMS recently named 88 new Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) that will take part in the Medicare Shared Saving Program (Originally it was 89 ACOs, but one organization dropped out).

You can see the full list of ACOs on the press release linked above, but I really like this image that The Advisory Board Company put together that shows the location of the various ACOs across the US (click image twice for full size):

I think this represents a pretty good distribution across the country. However, there are a few things that I find a bit disturbing about the organizations participating in the government ACO programs. The first is that many healthcare organizations that you think would be perfect fit for an ACO aren’t participating. Kaiser and IHC come to mind. I’ve heard that both organizations are very interested in ACOs, but not the government ACO programs. I think this is a bad sign for the government sponsored ACO programs.

The second is that only five of the ACOs applied for the version of the Medicare Shared Savings Program where they have a chance to earn a higher share of any savings, but they’ll also be accountable for any losses if the cost o the care increases. You might take a look back at my ACO Risks and Reward post. These five organizations have gone all in with the ACO program. With that said, I wonder why only five of them chose to participate in it? Shouldn’t we want more organizations to have some accountability and responsibility if they don’t improve care and lower costs?

As I have pointed out before, the ACO movement is happening and is not likely to slow down. Even if ACA or other government legislation is repealed, the move to ACOs is going to happen. With that knowledge and some of the comments above, it makes me wonder if the government should be the one funding an ACO initiative. Will their involvement help or hurt the overall ACO movement?

I’ll be interested to see how it goes for these new ACOs. As we’ve seen with EHR and meaningful use, we’ll have to be careful to filter through the messages coming out of CMS about the success or failure of the ACOs. As they progress we’re going to have to reach out to the ACOs and hear the first hand stories. If you’re an organization that’s participating, we’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

SCOTUS Decision and Healthcare IT

Posted on June 28, 2012 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 6000 articles with John having written over 3000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 13 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

For those living in a hole that haven’t read about the SCOTUS supreme court decision that was issued today, here’s a good one paragraph summary of their decision from a post by The Atlantic:

In Plain English: The Affordable Care Act, including its individual mandate that virtually all Americans buy health insurance, is constitutional. There were not five votes to uphold it on the ground that Congress could use its power to regulate commerce between the states to require everyone to buy health insurance. However, five Justices agreed that the penalty that someone must pay if he refuses to buy insurance is a kind of tax that Congress can impose using its taxing power. That is all that matters. Because the mandate survives, the Court did not need to decide what other parts of the statute were constitutional, except for a provision that required states to comply with new eligibility requirements for Medicaid or risk losing their funding. On that question, the Court held that the provision is constitutional as long as states would only lose new funds if they didn’t comply with the new requirements, rather than all of their funding.

There have been a lot of interesting reactions to the SCOTUS decision. Many of them revolve around the politics of the decision. We’ll obviously avoid the political side of the discussion for the most part. I did find HIMSS response to the ACA Supreme Court decision quite interesting. They are mostly grateful that some of the uncertainty is gone so we can move forward in healthcare. Plus, they remind people that health IT has had bipartisan support in Washington despite Obamacare’s obviously partisan issues.

Personally, I think that this decision (regardless of which way it went) will not have a major effect on the healthcare IT and EHR world. Most of the major happenings in healthcare IT and EHR aren’t related to Obamacare. There are a few places that impact it, but most are relatively innocuous.

My biggest concern with the SCOTUS decision is how it will impact healthcare reimbursement in general. Plus, the ACA uncertainty is still there since if the Republicans take control in Washington, then you can be sure that they’re going to repeal ACA as one of the first things they do. This uncertainty could affect the health IT decision making by many institutions.

I’d be interested to hear what other impacts people think the SCOTUS ruling will have on healthcare IT. I do agree with HIMSS that I’m glad we have a decision and can at least move forward with that knowledge.

Accountable Care Organizations and SCOTUS

Posted on June 19, 2012 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 6000 articles with John having written over 3000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 13 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

The Supreme Court ruling on SCOTUS is likely to come sometime this month. There are all sorts of opinions out there about what’s going to happen to the ruling, but a recent tweet caused me to stop and think about the real impact of SCOTUS. The tweet (which sadly I can’t find again) said something about the Supreme Court’s ruling on Obamacare and SCOTUS really doesn’t matter to healthcare since the change in care model has already been started.

I take one slight exception to this comment. I agree that the ACO (Accountable Care Organization) movement and all that it embodies is already upon us and won’t be affected by the Supreme Court’s decision on SCOTUS. However, I think the SCOTUS legal decision does matter and will still have an impact on healthcare. Not to mention the politics related to the decision. Although, I’ll leave both of those topics for a different blog.

I do think it’s worth exploring ACOs and why SCOTUS or NO-SCOTUS, ACOs are here to stay in healthcare.

Dave Chase recently said in a Forbes article that “More than 80% of the newly formed ACOs are driven solely by private sector efforts.

I believe that Dave Chase got these numbers from an ACO Watch article about a Leavitt Partners study on ACO growth and dispersion. It’s a powerful number to consider that despite all the efforts by government to move to accountable care organizations that only 20% of the newly formed ACOs came from the government. What a healthy thing and a great illustration of why SCOTUS won’t impact ACOs in any major way.

Dave Chase in the above linked article adds this additional quote from Philip Betbeze:

As Philip Betbeze stated, “In their day-to-day-lives, it [the SCOTUS decision] largely won’t affect the 180-degree shift they’re making in reimbursement philosophy. For most systems, those changes are taking place largely at the behest of commercial plans and local employers.” The fee-for-value train has left the station. Woe is the health system that hasn’t made aggressive moves to reinvent themselves.

We’re still early in the reimbursement philosophy switch, but the winds of change are upon us. Personally I’m excited to see how health systems reinvent themselves. I think this reinvention will be around these key pillars:

*Communication – ACO’s will drive better communication. This will include patient to doctor, doctor to doctor, and even patient to patient. The beauty is that in an ACO, the goal will be for the patient not to come to the office instead of the de facto, come to the office answer most practices give today.

*Data – Practices better be preparing for the tsunami of healthcare data on the horizon. How an ACO takes that data and uses it to improve patient care is going to be key.

If you look at these pillars of an ACO, are they even possible to deal with without technology?

No EMR Mandate in HITECH or ACA – Meaningful Use Monday

Posted on April 16, 2012 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 6000 articles with John having written over 3000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 13 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I’m going to veer off a little bit from the regular Meaningful Use Monday topics to cover something that I think needs to get more coverage and is related to the EHR incentive money and meaningful use. Let me start by making something extremely clear:

There is NO EMR mandate. There is NO EHR mandate.

For those of you who want a broader post on the subject, you should read my post from a little over a year ago about the 2014 EHR Mandate. The key is that there’s no EHR mandate and no one is going to put an EHR mandate in place. Certainly there are incentives to use EHR and penalties if you don’t use EHR, but that’s not a mandate.

For those that don’t want to click to the full post above, in it I give five other reasons to implement EHR and an explanation of each. These reasons together could feel like a mandate. Here they are:
* Ability to Sale Practice
* Government Mandated Reporting
* Reimbursement Requirements
* Patients
* ROI for Your Practice

I’m sure that people are still confused on this subject. In just the past 7 days, this website has gotten 250+ people searching terms related to EHR mandate. A lot of people are starting to get concerned about what they’re hearing on the street about EHR. Will this fear of an “EHR Mandate” push many into EHR adoption?

HITECH and Obamacare (ACA)
Related to this mandate for EHR, many people are also confused by the EHR incentive money and the supreme court case for Obamacare. Many people confuse Obamacare, otherwise known as ACA, with the HITECH act (which was part of the ARRA legislation).

What you need to know is that when 99% of people talk about EHR incentive money, meaningful use, EHR mandates, EHR penalties, etc, they are talking about ARRA and more specifically the HITECH act. ARRA and the HITECH act aren’t going before the supreme court and so they’re not at risk. ARRA and HITECH could be affected if the republicans win the Presidency, Congress and the House, but most people argue that HITECH is pretty bipartisan. Although, that’s a topic for another post.

ACA is what’s gone before the supreme court and we’re awaiting a ruling. If ACA is declared unconstitutional, then there will be some affect on healthcare IT programs in general but most EMR programs won’t be affected.