Pursuing Success in a Value-Based World

The Affordable Care Act has fended off multiple legal challenges. CMS has already implemented one mandatory bundled payment initiative and is eyeing more. MACRA looms on the horizon.

It’s an understatement to say the healthcare industry is in a period of dramatic change, and the continuing shift to value-based care will require radical thinking on the part of health system executives. But for those leaders willing to embrace change, the evolving landscape offers tremendous opportunity to remake their organizations and achieve new levels of success.

In this brief video, ECG Principal Jim Lord talks about the transition to value-based care and how forward-thinking health organizations can position themselves to thrive.

In Healthcare, Data Drives Value

Much has been written and discussed about preparing and positioning for value-based care, with efforts under way across the health system to reduce costs, expand access to care, and improve outcomes. However, attempting to meet these demands without the requisite information, analytical competencies, and a clearly defined strategy for doing so will bury an organization. Health systems cannot and should not underestimate how data, and the insight it provides, is vital to an organization’s readiness for value. I recently shared some thoughts on this topic with Alison Lake Benadada of The Washington Post for her article How Data Can Inform Value-Based Healthcare. Continue reading

Oncology Care Model Practices Announced

This post was written by Jessica Turgon, Principal, Matt Sturm, Senior Manager, and Meagan O’Neill, Senior Consultant.

Earlier this week the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced the nearly 200 organizations that have been selected for participation in the Oncology Care Model (OCM), one of the new payment and care delivery initiatives introduced by the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) in 2015. The 5-year pilot is slated to begin July 1, and according to CMS, the number of participants is twice the size as initially anticipated – it will include approximately 3,200 oncologists and provide coverage for 155,000 Medicare beneficiaries. Continue reading

When an EHR Isn’t Enough

The healthcare industry’s transition away from a fee-for-service environment has spawned a litany of new care models. Patient-centered medical homes (PCMHs), accountable care organizations (ACOs), and the like may differ in certain respects, but they all share a common goal – to improve the quality of patient care and reduce costs through better coordination.

Another thing they have in common? They need the right IT system to be effective. Continue reading

A Banner Year for Bundles

An atmosphere of urgency permeated the National Bundled Payment Summit in Washington, D.C., earlier this month. That shouldn’t be surprising, given the number of major announcements in the first half of 2016 related to bundled payments.  Between rolling out two new programs and extending the Bundled Payments for Care Improvement (BPCI) initiative, CMS has signaled its ongoing commitment to bundled payments.

With the unprecedented growth of these initiatives over the past 5 years – including the CMS-mandated Comprehensive Care for Joint Replacement (CJR) program – there are more questions about bundles than answers. But as this year’s Summit demonstrated, that sense of uncertainty is at least matched, if not exceeded, by a growing resolve to thrive under episode-based reimbursement.

Bundles Take Flight

Sponsored in part by ECG Management Consultants, this 3-day event brought together providers, physicians, policymakers, payors, patients, and healthcare executives – a clear sign that the growth of bundles affects a wide range of industry stakeholders.

The Summit’s breadth and diversity of participants also served to underscore a fundamental truth: bundled payments are here to stay, but at the same time, they’re still evolving. No entity or organization has fully mastered this concept, but many are building on their BPCI experience to expand their bundle initiatives. One attendee likened it to “still building an airplane while we’re flying it.”

Remarks like that don’t exactly inspire confidence. But if you are in position of building an airplane while it’s in flight, you’ll want to have the best engineers on board with you. Fortunately, the Summit gathered some of the top leaders and thinkers within bundled payments.

Co-chairing the Summit were Deirdre Baggot, leader of ECG’s Bundled Payments Practice, former Expert Reviewer of the BPCI initiative, and former Lead for the Acute Care Episode (ACE) demonstration; and Erin Smith, Vice President and Executive Director of the Post-Acute Care Center for Research and former Director, Division of Technical Model Support, and Lead, for BPCI.

Baggot and other members of ECG’s Bundled Payments practice led a pre-conference session called “The CJR Playbook: Real-Life Best Practice in Smart Implementation.” It was an interactive session that presented a strategic roadmap for CJR implementation and offered proven best practices and recommendations from successful programs across the country. Baggot emphasized several key themes, most notably the need for bundled payment programs to be scalable and economically feasible.

bundled payment preconference

Deirdre Baggot, right, and ECG’s Bundled Payment practice talk CJR.

And while Baggot and her team brought data and case studies to support the benefits of bundled payment initiatives, they were candid about the challenges. Baggot cited the need for “failure tolerance” and urged attendees to view failure as nothing more than a data point. ECG Senior Manager Kimberly Hartsfield summed up the challenges succinctly: “This is innovation. This work is hard. If it was easy, you wouldn’t be sitting here today.”

Real-Life Experiences

The first full day of the Summit began with a keynote address from Amy Bassano, Deputy Director, Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI). Bassano gave what you might call a “state of bundled payments” address, focusing on the parameters and rationale of the three Medicare Models – BPCI, CJR, the Oncology Care Model (OCM) – while promising that CMS would be testing new models and expanding existing ones.

bundled payment bassano

Amy Bassano of CMMI delivers a morning keynote address.

Attendees seemed to appreciate the opportunity to hear directly from CMMI, but a presentation from Mount Sinai Health Partners’ Lindsay Jubelt, M.D., Medical Director, and Alexis Kowalski, Senior Director, offered an on-the-ground perspective of implementing bundled payment initiatives. At the heart of their presentation was the importance of ensuring that physicians are invested in the bundled payment concept. “If we’re going to transform healthcare, we need physicians to lead it,” Jubelt said. “We need to turn physicians into partners – engage them in the care transformation process.”

The Summit’s focus on Medicare bundles made a presentation by a commercial payor all the more intriguing. Representing Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, Lili Brillstein, Director of Episodes of Care, and Joseph O’Hara, Director of Market Innovation, discussed the challenges of paying for care in New Jersey. Horizon experimented with episode-based care as a means to address costs, and since 2011, they’ve seen improvements in the form of higher quality, lower costs, and greater consumer satisfaction.

CMS was on hand to close out the conference. Patrick Conway, M.D., is Deputy Administrator for Innovation and Quality, Chief Medical Officer, and Director of CMMI, as well as the Director, Office of Clinical Standards and Quality, at CMS. Sharing early results of the shift toward value-based payments, Conway claimed that Medicare spent $473.1 billion less on personal healthcare expenditures between 2009 and 2014 than it would have spent if the 2000–2008 average growth rate had continued through 2014. That amount could grow to $648.6 billion if trends continue through 2015.1

bundled payment conway--edit

Patrick Conway, M.D., of CMS closes out the conference.

Encouraging as those figures may be, the conference ended not on a note of triumph, but on one of determination. A recurring theme among speakers and attendees was that this journey toward value had only just begun, and the road will not be easy.

Still, a sense of optimism prevailed. “Organizations were hopeful that a next-generation BPCI would be introduced by CMS, and leaders were excited for the chance to participate in a bundled program if they weren’t in one yet,” noted ECG Senior Manager Tori Manis, who led several panel discussions.

Looking Ahead

The Summit was also notable for its engagement following presentations and panels, with healthcare executives and CMS representatives willing to respond to tough questions from stakeholders from across the continuum.  Many inquired as to what would be the next area of focus for mandatory bundles; speculation centered on cardiac surgery. Another common question concerned how behavioral health could be integrated in a bundle. Conway himself called behavioral health “a huge opportunity for improvement.”

It wasn’t long ago that a pair of senators in Congress attempted to slow the growth of bundled payments initiatives, and there’s no doubt that change will continue to be gradual. But the overwhelming attitude at the summit was that it’s time to figure this out.

  1. https://aspe.hhs.gov/pdf-report/health-care-spending-growth-and-federal-policy