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The Future of MACRA – MACRA Monday

Posted on February 27, 2017 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 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.

This post is part of the MACRA Monday series of blog posts where we dive into the details of the MACRA Quality Payment Program.

As mentioned in my previous MACRA Monday post, MACRA was a hot topic at the HIMSS 2017 conference. No doubt it was on pretty much everyone’s minds. A few people I talked to said that there’s an insatiable appetite for MACRA related content and they’re right. It’s amazing how many people still need to learn about MACRA and how many who know the basics still need to get into the nitty gritty. I loved one tweet from the conference that said that the line to the CMS booth was longer than the line for ice cream which is saying something.

Despite all this interest in MACRA, there is a growing rift in how organizations and doctors are approaching MACRA. There seems to be universal hatred of MACRA by doctors. I have yet to find a doctor out there that likes MACRA. The best I’ve found is doctors who don’t like it but don’t have a major issue with it either. If there’s a practicing doctor out there that likes MACRA, I’d love to meet you.

On the other hand, I don’t know a single large organization that is planning to opt out of MACRA. Every organization I’ve talked to is planning to participate in MACRA in some shape or form. They usually argue some mix of the following reasons for their participation:

  • We can’t take the penalties to our reimbursement.
  • The incentives are relatively small, but across 100s of providers that’s a big chunk of change.
  • What happens to our doctors when the MACRA results are put on the physician compare website? We don’t want to take the reputation hit.
  • This is just the start of these programs. If we opt out of them, we’ll just be behind in the future.

These large organizations are going to participate. I just don’t see them with any other options. Plus, if I were being really cynical I would say that a new administrative program from the government is great for administrators’ jobs.

One regular reader of this site, meltoots, makes this passionate plea from the doctor perspective:

You know me John,
CMS is completely unaware of how bad it is out here on the front lines. MACRA is dead. They can try to implement, but it will fail. The front liners that are left have had enough of the fraud of reporting “quality” as a measure of success. Does not work at all. Its a sham. ACOs failing left and right. Does CMS REALLY think that if i report a 100% preop antibiotic rate is quality? We do that 100% already. Do they really think that CPIA is “value” or is it just reporting “value”. Lets get real. All the small practice incentives are going to 11 companies, NOT the actual practices. For “education” and “training” on MACRA. Thanks. Right. There is a HUGE disconnect between CMS/HIT and front line MDs. Again this week 2 more people gave up medicine in our hospital. I’m telling you this is a crisis and cannot be ignored. Its time to unburden MDs from all these distractions, let EHR companies innovate without being shackled to cert requirements. Wash DC cannot solve this. They have set us back 10 years already. Time let go and get out of the way.

The problem is that I think he’s missing the point. CMS does think that MACRA will improve quality. Trying to illustrate that you disagree is likely going to fall on deaf ears.

The comment about MACRA being dead could be taken a lot of different ways. However, I can assure you that it is not dead and not even showing signs of death. Doctors can complain and moan all they want, but if they don’t get their large practice colleagues on board as well, then MACRA will not only survive, it will thrive when it comes to participation numbers.

I personally think that the battle to kill MACRA is a waste of effort since it will likely never happen. Instead, doctors should focus their energy on improving MACRA so that it’s simplified and focused on things that do improve healthcare. Sure, it will never get their 100%, but the all or nothing approach to trying to kill MACRA will likely lead to even worse results (ie. wasted energy and no changes).

What do you think about the future of MACRA? I look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments.

Be sure to check out all of our MACRA Monday blog posts where we dive into the details of the MACRA Quality Payment Program.

A Missing and Ignored Patient Narrative

Posted on February 24, 2017 I Written By

Healthcare as a human right. Physician Suicide Loss Survivor. Janae builds inbound social media sales and marketing plans for healthcare IT companies. twitter: @coherencemed

Sometimes I feel like the discussion of the patient narrative and open notes make me want to scream.  Step away from the new Health trend and back to improving access for every patient. Patient Experience and specifically Patient Narrative has been a theme of the HIMSS healthcare conference this year, from patient data and records to open notes and patient advocates. I have to admit- I love watching what people have done and what companies think of.

It reminds me of my German class on the Literature of the Holocaust. Our professor stood up and introduced the Holocaust as unique because the German Jews could read and write, so they had records. Without records, the voices of countless have been lost. Their voices died with them. Patient Narrative is similar. It’s teaching us so much about better workflow and records and getting better outcomes. Max Stroud gave a great presentation about her sister’s experience with lung cancer and managing patient records. They both admitted that it was difficult for them despite being well educated and knowledgeable about healthcare.

At HIMSS everyone looks at shiny new products with novelty pens and some alternate universe where it makes sense that we all need another plug in to our electronic medical record to really “make a difference” for patient health.

Right before HIMSS some of my late husband’s medical school classmates came to visit me and go to ongoing education in Park City. I asked them what they thought about patient involvement and one of them discussed the reality of emergency room care in impoverished areas.  They discussed losing faith in patients and how to deal with trauma patients. I remember the jokes about drug seekers. I told them about being at dinner in suburban Utah when an acquaintance casually mentioned we should do Molly on our way to yoga. The doctors I told laughed it off and said Molly really wasn’t that serious. Those narratives aren’t on our health records and the healthcare system is hemorrhaging cost with its lack of ability to treat them. Patients in some rural areas have access to care issues that telehealth doesn’t always bridge the gap for.

Is patient narrative just the next buzzword so we can distract ourselves from poverty and violence and human trafficking and corporate identity theft? Are we just talking louder to drown out the patients that healthcare is failing? Not every company or hospital group can afford to go to HIMSS. Participants have relatively good access to care and a lifestyle of relative privilege. Exhibitors are selling something and it certainly isn’t about the unglamorous parts of medicine.  The undocumented patient narrative will never climb the walls of privilege in a system with an entire industry of payor complexity and government regulation.  There were so many companies and even in telemedicine in rural areas and patient narrative presentations I didn’t see the patient stories like the ones I heard from my friends.

We are distracting ourselves from the complete lack of availability of care for economically disadvantaged patients by geeking out over the shiny data with our fellow zealots.  We can learn new things and find interesting new companies and many places are getting better, but we need a new record and involvement from a group that could never come to HIMSS. A narrative for the illiterate, uninformed, impoverished forgotten stories.

 

The Healthcare AI Future, From Google’s DeepMind

Posted on February 22, 2017 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

While much of its promise is still emerging, it’s hard to argue that AI has arrived in the health IT world. As I’ve written in a previous article, AI can already be used to mine EMR data in a sophisticated way, at least if you understand its limitations. It also seems poised to help providers predict the incidence and progress of diseases like congestive heart failure. And of course, there are scores of companies working on other AI-based healthcare projects. It’s all heady stuff.

Given AI’s potential, I was excited – though not surprised – to see that world-spanning Google has a dog in this fight. Google, which acquired British AI firm DeepMind Technologies a few years ago, is working on its own AI-based healthcare solutions. And while there’s no assurance that DeepMind knows things that its competitors don’t, its status as part of the world’s biggest data collector certainly comes with some advantages.

According to the New Scientist, DeepMind has begun working with the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust, which oversees three hospitals. DeepMind has announced a five-year agreement with the trust, in which it will give it access to patient data. The Google-owned tech firm is using that data to develop and roll out its healthcare app, which is called Streams.

Streams is designed to help providers kick out alerts about a patient’s condition to the cellphone used by the doctor or nurse working with them, in the form of a news notification. At the outset, Streams will be used to find patients at risk of kidney problems, but over the term of the five-year agreement, the developers are likely to add other functions to the app, such as patient care coordination and detection of blood poisoning.

Streams will deliver its news to iPhones via push notifications, reminders or alerts. At present, given its focus on acute kidney injury, it will focus on processing information from key metrics like blood tests, patient observations and histories, then shoot a notice about any anomalies it finds to a clinician.

This is all part of an ongoing success story for DeepMind, which made quite a splash in 2016. For example, last year its AlphaGo program actually beat the world champion at Go, a 2,500-year-old strategy game invented in China which is still played today. DeepMind also achieved what it terms “the world’s most life-like speech synthesis” by creating raw waveforms. And that’s just a couple of examples of its prowess.

Oh, and did I mention – in an achievement that puts it in the “super-smart kid you love to hate” category – that DeepMind has seen three papers appear in prestigious journal Nature in less than two years? It’s nothing you wouldn’t expect from the brilliant minds at Google, which can afford the world’s biggest talents. But it’s still a bit intimidating.

In any event, if you haven’t heard of the company yet (and I admit I hadn’t) I’m confident you will soon. While the DeepMind team isn’t the only group of geniuses working on AI in healthcare, it can’t help but benefit immensely from being part of Google, which has not only unimaginable data sources but world-beating computing power at hand. If it can be done, they’re going to do it.

Denmark’s Health System Suffering Familiar EMR Woes

Posted on February 21, 2017 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

If you’re trying to navigate the US healthcare system – or worse, trying to pay for your care — Denmark’s alternative may sound pretty sweet. The Danish health system, which is funded through income taxes, offers free care to all Danish residents and EU citizens, as well as free emergency treatment to visitors from all other countries. And the Danes manage to deliver high-quality healthcare while keeping costs at 10.5% of its GDP (as opposed the US, which spends nearly 18% of the GDP on healthcare).

That being said, when it comes to health IT, Denmark is going through some struggles which should be familiar to us all. Starting in 2014, the Danish government began modernizing its healthcare system, an effort which includes developing both new hospitals and a modern health IT infrastructure. One of the linchpins of its efforts is a focus on directing care to fewer, more specialized hospitals – cutting beds by 20% and hopefully reducing average lengths of hospital stays from five to three days – supported by its HIT expansion.

You probably won’t be surprised to learn, meanwhile, that Epic has inserted itself into this effort, winning a $1B project to put its systems in place across 20 hospitals with 44,000 concurrent users. Unfortunately for the Danes, who are starting with a few hospitals in one of the country’s five regions, the effort has run into some early snags. Apparently, the Epic installs at these initial test hospitals aren’t going according to plan.

According to one publication, initial hospital go-lives in May and June of last year have seen  major problems, including errors that have put patients at risk, as well as creating erroneous test reports, results and prescriptions. The Epic systems were also having trouble communicating with the Danish health card, which stores patient information on a magnetic stripe.

The questionable rollout has since caused some controversy. As of August 2016, the local doctors’ union was demanding that a planned deployment in Copenhagen, at Denmark’s busiest hospital, be put off until authorities had figured out what was going wrong at the other two.

At first, I was surprised to hear about about Denmark’s IT woes, as I’d blithely assumed that a government-run health system would have a “central planning” advantage in EMR implementations. But as it turns out, that’s clearly not the case. It seems some frustrations are universal.

I got some insight into this yesterday, when I took a call from an earnest Danish journalist who was trying to understand what the heck was going on with Epic. “Things are going badly here,” she said. “There are lots of complaints from the first two hospitals. And the systems can’t talk to each other.”

I told her not to be surprised by all of this, given how complex Epic rollouts can be. I also warned that given the high cost of Epic software and support, it would not be astonishing if the project ended up over budget. I then predicted that without pulling Epic-trained (and perhaps Epic certified) experts into the project, things might get worse before they get better. “Just hire a boatload of American Epic consultants and you’ll be fine,” I told her, perhaps a bit insensitively. “Maybe.”

When I said that, she was clearly taken aback. Even from thousands of miles away, I could tell she was unhappy. “I was hoping you had a solution,” she finally said. “I wish,” I replied. And I had to laugh so I wouldn’t cry.

#MACRA at #HIMSS17 – MACRA Monday

Posted on February 20, 2017 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 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.

This post is part of the MACRA Monday series of blog posts where we dive into the details of the MACRA Quality Payment Program.

We’re taking this week kind of off from covering MACRA because we’re at the HIMSS 2017 Annual Conference. However, there’s been a lot of discussion about MACRA at the conference. It’s a hot topic and one of great concern for many organizations that stand to lose millions if they get it wrong. Here are just a few of the high level tweets about MACRA that I found interesting.


This is something we have written about before. Whether you like MACRA or don’t, I can’t imagine it’s going away. I think this is part of a long term change and it’s just the start. Where it will go will depend on a lot of factors. The factor we need most is more doctors to give input. And the input of just get rid of it is likely to fall on deaf ears. So, dive a little deeper and use the data to illustrate why and/or how it can be changed so it is effective.


I’m really happy that CMS added these MACRA APIs. I’m still interested to see how effective they are and how people use them, but I think they could streamline things for a lot of companies. What do you think?


This graphic is confusing to me, but I understood the output was improved patient experience and improved outcomes. Do you think MACRA will improve results? I think that’s a bit of stretch. It may get there eventually. Hopefully that’s the long term process that Andy Slavitt mentioned above.


I think we’re seeing a proliferation of tools. Will it be a whole market of tools for MACRA?


I need to chew on this one a bit more. What do you think?


Not really MACRA, but I know many are wondering about CMMI. I hope he’s right.

Be sure to check out all of our MACRA Monday blog posts where we dive into the details of the MACRA Quality Payment Program.

How Do You Keep Up with All the Health IT Innovation?

Posted on February 17, 2017 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 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.

When I think about doctors, I quickly realize that there’s no easy way for them to keep up with healthcare innovation. I’m a blogger that’s devoted to Healthcare IT and even I can’t keep up with everything that’s happening. I’m always learning about new companies that I’d never heard of before. How can a doctor that’s seeing 10-15 patients a day suppose to keep up?

This really hit home when I saw this graphic shared on Twitter (yes, it’s a bit old, but in this case it’s lucky that Healthcare doesn’t move that fast):

Add this to the fact that there are probably ~1300 vendors exhibiting at the HIMSS Annual Conference next week and it’s no wonders that a lot of doctors just throw up their hands. It’s overwhelming to say the least. Plus, it’s not like there are going to be that many practicing doctors at HIMSS anyway.

How then do doctors keep up with all the innovation that’s happening? Unfortunately, they don’t. Certainly blogs like this one help. Certainly there’s a lot of word of mouth that happens between doctors. However, it’s a challenge without a simple solution. Plus, let’s face the facts. Many aren’t that interested in the next innovation. They’re happy just doing what they’ve been doing for years. That’s what makes doing a tech startup company in healthcare so challenging.

What do you do to keep up with innovation? I’d love to hear in the comments.

Reinventing Claims Management for the Value-Based Era

Posted on February 16, 2017 I Written By

Provider claims management as we once knew it is not enough to thrive in a value-based era. Here’s what you need to know about taking claims management to a higher level.

The following is a guest blog post by Carmen Deguzman Sessoms, FHFMA, AVP of Product Management at RelayAssurance Plus RelayHealth Financial.

Provider claims management as we know it can no longer exist as a silo. With the rapid transformation from fee-for-service to value-based models, denial rates remain high–nearly 1 in 5 claims–despite advances in technology and automation. The complexity of value-based payment models almost guarantees an increase in denials, simply because there’s so much to get wrong.

For provider CFOs and their organizations to be effective–and thrive–in this environment, the touchpoints across the revenue cycle continuum must be re-examined to see if there are opportunities for improvement that have not presented themselves in the fee-for-service era. One such area is claims management, which is ripe to be elevated into an integral part of a denials management strategy.

What are the implications for providers? Well, for perspective, consider the savings realized through electronic claims submission.  CAQH research reveals that submitting a claim manually costs $1.98, compared to just $0.44 per electronic transaction. Likewise, a manual claims status inquiry costs $7.20 versus $0.94 for processing electronically.

This paper outlines the features and benefits of a technology platform that is geared toward elevating traditional claims management into the realm of strategic denial prevention and management, along with some recommended denial management best practices.

From Claim Scrubbing to Strategic Denial Management

Simple claims management as we know it is becoming obsolete. By “simple” we mean a claims process with a basic set of capabilities: creating claims, making limited edits, and ensuring that procedures are medically necessary. Today, a new class of integrated claim and denials management solutions augment this traditional approach to include pre- and post-filing activities that help automate and streamline claim submission, proactively monitor status, and expedite the appeals process for those that are denied.

In its simplest form, denials management can be defined as a process that leads to cleaner submitted claims and fewer denials from payers. But there are a lot of interim steps and variables that lead to “clean” claims, and a growing number of factors that influence denials. With the shift to alternative payment models and increasing consumerism, it’s more important than ever for providers to process claims properly the first time and to keep staff intervention to a minimum.

A big part of denials management is to improve the quality of patient data at registration, the source of many errors that lead to denials. Nonetheless, integrated claim and denial management processes span the entire revenue cycle, and technology brings new opportunities to manage costs and improve efficiencies. For example, having the ability to manage claims within a unified platform that can share and integrate data with the organization’s EHR prevents the need to toggle back and forth between systems to determine the status of a patient encounter.

A comprehensive claims management platform that advances denials management efforts integrates the following capabilities:

  • Eligibility verification prior to claim submission. It sounds pretty basic, but eligibility and registration errors on claims continue to be the top reason for denials. Automating the real-time verification of eligibility data helps identify avoidable denials and alert staff to claims needing attention before submission.
  • Maintenance of and compliance with oftenchanging payer business rules and regulatory requirements, including Medicare and state-specific updates, so that claims go out as cleanly as possible on the front end. With multiple payers and a growing roster of alternative payment models, manual in-house maintenance of edits is becoming an overwhelming task.
  • Digitization of attachments for Medicare pre- and post-payment audits, commercial claims adjudication and integrity audits, and workers compensation billing support. Integrating digital data exchange into the claims management workflow can help providers better control administrative costs, ensure regulatory compliance, and help automate and streamline claims processing and reimbursement.
  • Visibility into claim status lifecycle, with guidance for proactive follow-up. This lets providers only focus on those potential “problem” claims, and address any issues, before they are denied or delayed.
  • Automation of repetitive and labor-intensive tasks such as checking payer portals or placing phone calls to determine the status of pended or denied claims. This helps drastically reduce the amount of staff time spent perusing payer sites, and sitting on the phone on hold when an answer can’t be found.
  • Predictive intelligence to determine timing of payer acknowledgements and requests for additional information, as well as when payment will be provided. Analytics-driven claims management provides insight into how long responses should take, alerting providers when follow-up is required.
  • Management of remittances from all sources. Automated management of transaction formats, adjudication information, remittance translation and posting can help reduce A/R days, boost staff productivity, and accelerate cash flow.
  • Denial management and data analysis to guide corrective action and prevent future denials. Revenue cycle analytics can monitor the number of claims per physician, payer, or facility, enabling the health system to be proactive in interventions.
  • Creation and tracking of appeals for denied claims, including pre-population and assembly of appropriate forms. This not only helps cut down on resource-intensive manual work and paper attachments, but streamlines the appeals process.

Tying these capabilities together within an exception-based workflow helps address the challenge by providing visibility into problem claims. At-a-glance access to claim status helps cut down on the back-and-forth between billing departments and payers, and allows staff to focus only on those claims that require attention.

Pulling it all Together

Once you’ve integrated these capabilities, what are some of the claims management best practices to improve denial management and prevention? Consider the following actions:

  • Embed denial management within the entire workflow–Strong edits lead to clean claims, whether they pertain to Medicare, commercial payers or state-specific regulations. Edits should be constantly refined and seamlessly implemented, and pushed out to providers as often as possible–at minimum on a twice-weekly basis.
  • Adopt analytics-driven claims management–Claims management systems and connectivity channels to payers (i.e. clearinghouse) produce a wealth of operational information, most importantly data evidencing the speed of the payment path and claim status. Analyzed and served up in meaningful formats, this data becomes targeted business intelligence that can help providers better see obstacles and identify the root cause of denials and payment slowdowns.
  • Resolve issues before they result in denials–Providers should know claims location and status at all times. For example, has the claim been released by the EHR system? Has it been received and approved by the payer—or does a problem need to be addressed? Has a problem been rectified? Has the claim been released to a clearinghouse? Historical trends establish guidelines for the timing of events (e.g., whether claim status or payment should have been received from a particular payer by a certain date).
  • Be ready to identify claims denials and submit appeals. Nationwide revenue cycle statistics show that 1 in 5 claims are denied / delayed and can be avoided with the right software and better business processes.  In addition 67% of these denied claims are recoverable Identifying denials and submitting appeals to supply information not included on the initial claim can recoup lost revenue. To help streamline the process, additional claims information, such as medical records or lab results, should be supported by structured electronic attachments rather than faxed paper records or uploaded files to payer portals.

An Ounce of Prevention = Big Returns

Reducing and managing denials will have a significant impact on any healthcare organization’s bottom line. First, it costs $25 to rework a claim, and success rates vary widely. Additionally, when denials must be written off, the drop in patient revenue may total several million dollars for a medium-sized hospital, according to Advisory Board estimates.

The new look and feel of claims management is moving quickly toward analytics-driven, exception-based processing. By implementing and leveraging these capabilities and best practices in a cloud environment, providers can look forward to accelerated cash flow, reduced denials, increased automation with less staff involvement, and lower IT overhead.

About Carmen Sessoms
With over 20 years of progressive strategic leadership and healthcare experience in product management, business development, strategic planning and consulting, Carmen Sessoms has worked with all organizational levels in the ambulatory and acute care markets for patient access and reimbursement.

Prior to joining RelayHealth, Carmen was the regional vice president of operations for an outsourcing firm, where she led the eligibility side of the business and was instrumental in many process improvements that brought efficiencies to the company, its provider customers and their patients. Additionally, she has 10 years’ previous experience with McKesson in Product Management roles in which she directed projects related to the design and development of revenue cycle solutions, including initiatives with internal and external partners.

Carmen is a past president of the Georgia HFMA chapter, a recipient of HFMA’s Medal of Honor, and holds the designations of CHFP (Certified Healthcare Financial Professional) and FHFMA (Fellow in HFMA).

Are the Independent Doctors that Remain the Disruptors, the Tough Ones?

Posted on February 14, 2017 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 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.

We’ve seen a dramatic shift in healthcare over the past 3-5 years. More and more small group and independent practices have been selling to much larger health systems. Plus, we’ve seen a consolidation of health systems as well. The move to larger and larger health organizations has happened and I’ve heard many predict that we’ll never go back.

While I know there are pressures that indicate this might be the case, I also wonder if the independent doctors and small group practices that remain are the real industry disruptors. Are they the tough ones that survived through the challenging healthcare environment?

With this thought in mind, I looked up the definition of “survival of the fittest”:

the continued existence of organisms that are best adapted to their environment, with the extinction of others, as a concept in the Darwinian theory of evolution.

Sounds a bit like the independent practice to me. Those independent practices that still exist have had to adapt to the changing healthcare world. The ones that remain are likely the most “fit”. We’ve also seen a lot of other independent practices go “extinct.”

Does this give us hope? On the one hand, I can see how those independent practices that remain are strong and can adapt well. I hope that they do it so well that they disrupt the whole healthcare system in a good way. I think that the health system is generally better with more independent practices. There are a certain ownership and patient kinship that happens with independent practices that is often missing in larger health systems that treat doctors like machines that need to produce certain numbers. It’s unfortunate for healthcare that this is being lost.

The thing that scares me most about this trend is that most of the independent doctors seem to be older doctors. Most of the younger doctors I know are just fine going to the large health systems. They don’t want to take on the risk of starting their own practice. If the younger generation isn’t willing to fight the independent practice fight, then independent practices will die.

How many doctors at large health systems have created real disruptive innovation? Not very many. That’s a scary thought that should all have us worried about the future of the independent doctor. Once it’s gone. It will be hard to see how it could come back.

If you don’t think this is a big deal. Think back to the last time you called your cable provider. There’s a reason they’re ranked the lowest in customer service. They have very little competition to force their hand. The loss of independent practices will mean very little competition for the big healthcare organizations. That’s a bad thing for all of us.

What do you think about independent practices? Are the ones that remain the strong ones? Will the independent practices survive in healthcare? I look forward to reading your thoughts on social media and in the comments.

MIPS APMs and MACRA Small Practice Support – MACRA Monday

Posted on February 13, 2017 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 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.

This post is part of the MACRA Monday series of blog posts where we dive into the details of the MACRA Quality Payment Program.

As we mentioned previously, there are some benefits to practices that are participating in an APM, but don’t qualify as an advanced APM. These practices can’t participate in the APM program and they need to participate in the MIPS program or they’ll get the 4% penalty for not participating in MIPS. The good news is that there is a benefit to taking part in what is called a MIPS APM (ie. an APM that doesn’t qualify as an advanced APM).

Here’s the list of MIPS benefits for being in a MIPS APM:

MACRA also has a number of opportunities available to small practices. The first example is that many small practices were excluded from participating in MACRA because of their size. Second, the program itself made MACRA easier with Pick Your Pace and they also created more access to advanced APMs. Finally, they created what they call the Transforming Clinical Practice Initiative.

The Transforming Clinical Practice Initiative seems quite similar to the REC program under meaningful use. This program is a network of support for those participating in MACRA and MIPS. You can see a full interactive chart that shows a view of the various support centers around the country for more details on what’s available in your area.

That’s all for this edition of MACRA Monday. Next week we’ll finish off our overview of MACRA Monday and discuss what we think is the right strategy when it comes to MACRA.

Be sure to check out all of our MACRA Monday blog posts where we dive into the details of the MACRA Quality Payment Program.

E-Patient Update: Hey Government, Train Patients Too!

Posted on February 10, 2017 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

Recently I got a most interesting email from the ONC and A-list healthcare educator Columbia University. In the message, it offered me a free online course taught by Columbia’s Department of Biomedical Informatics, apparently paid for by ONC funding. (Unfortunately, they aren’t giving away free toasters to students, or I definitely would have signed up. No wait, I’m sorry, I did register, but I would have done it faster for the toaster.)

The course, which is named Health Informatics For Innovation, Value and Enrichment) or HI-FIVE, is designed to serve just about anyone in healthcare, including administrators, managers, physicians, nurses, social workers an care coordinators. Subjects covered by the course include all of the usual favorites, including healthcare data analytics, population health, care coordination and interoperability, value-based care and patient-centered care.

If I seem somewhat flippant, it’s just because the marketing material seemed a little…uh…breathlessly cheery and cute given the subject. I can certainly see the benefits of offering such a course at no cost, especially for those professionals (such as social workers) unlikely to be offered a broader look at health IT issues.

On the other hand, I’d argue that there’s another group which needs this kind of training more – and that’s consumers like myself. While I might be well-informed on these subjects, due to my geeky HIT obsession, my friends and family aren’t. And while most of the professionals served by the course will get at least some exposure to these topics on the job, my mother, my sister and my best girlfriend have essentially zero chance of finding consumer-friendly information on using health IT.

Go where the need is

As those who follow this column know, I’ve previously argued hard for hospitals and medical groups to offer patients training on health IT basics, particularly on how to take advantage of their portal. But given that my advice seems to be falling on deaf ears – imagine that! – it occurs to me that a government agency like ONC should step in and help. If closing important knowledge gaps is important to our industry, why not this particular gap. Hey, go where the need is greatest.

After all, as I’ve noted time and again, we do want patients to understand consumer health IT and how to reap its benefits, as this may help them improve their health. But if you want engagement, folks, people have to understand what you’re talking about and why it matters. As things stand, my sense is that few people outside the #healthit bubble have the faintest idea of what we’re talking about (and wouldn’t really want to know either).

What would a consumer-oriented ONC course cover? Well, I’m sure the authorities can figure that out, but I’m sure education on portal use, reading medical data, telemedicine, remote monitoring, mobile apps and wearables wouldn’t come amiss. Honestly, it almost doesn’t matter how much the course would cover – the key here would be to get people interested and comfortable.

The biggest problem I can see here is getting consumers to actually show up for these courses, which will probably seem threatening to some. It may not be easy to provoke their interest, particularly if they’re technophobic generally. But there’s plenty of consumer marketing techniques that course creators could use to get the job done, particularly if you’re giving your product away. (If all else fails, the toaster giveaway might work.)

If providers don’t feel equipped to educate patients, I hope that someone does, sometime soon, preferably a neutral body like ONC rather than a self-interested vendor. It’s more than time.