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Readers Write: Trend Watch: Innovation Forges On in the Provider Sector

March 7, 2016 Readers Write No Comments

Trend Watch: Innovation Forges On in the Provider Sector
By John Kelly

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Provider organizations face tremendous innovation challenges. The success or failure of new systems and technology will depend on their ability to adapt and anticipate the impact of major industry changes. Looking ahead to a successful 2016, hospitals and provider organizations should still expect barriers to using EMR data, should be wary of the hype surrounding cognitive systems, and should prepare for a value-based care partnerships world where providers and payers share information in ways not imaginable until recently.

EMR data will not be fully liberated in 2016

Barriers that exist to move data in and out of EMRs will not abate in 2016, despite pressure. The business model of EMR vendors and real technological barriers will continue to thwart the goals of interoperability sought under the concept of Meaningful Use.

The good news is that providers and payers are establishing pockets of innovation using edge technologies to support better care and risk sharing based upon shared data, and the public outcry over data blocking from EHRs will eventually force vendors to adopt standard APIs. We can expect the personal health data train to gain momentum with hundreds of new market entrants, but not in 2016.

Don’t trust the hype around cognitive systems

Technology-based cognitive systems in healthcare are not in our immediate future. There is lack of clarity around the FTC’s rules regarding software that makes a medical decision — when do they have to be certified as a medical device? Without medical device certification, can the output of cognitive systems be loaded into an EMR? What about malpractice liability?

Analytics vendors and their customers have been tentative in applying the technology to direct patient care, and counter to what other prognosticators believe, this liability and the fear of the unknown will slow down the cognitive market in the US.

ACOs will invest in payer technology

Successful ACOs will require the technology to support all-payer data ingestion. They will need to see the patients as a single population, but within the context of separate payer contracts. These organizations are beginning to invest in the technology that payers have used for years to successfully acquire and integrate claims data with their population health registries.

If providers are to succeed assuming risk, it will be by employing a highly-focused health management approach that addresses the specific risks associated with specific populations of patients. Population and risk analytics infrastructure requires capital investment beyond the reach of many small and mid-size provider organizations. To encourage providers to assume greater risk for performance, payers will offer shared information exchange platforms that augment provider capabilities with analytic services.

Accountable care continues to evolve

Healthcare market transformation will gain momentum in 2016 and provider organizations should also consider the following:

  • Most first-generation ACOs will fail because they don’t know what it means to truly manage risk. They do not have the ability or will to modify how they treat patients. CMS, commercial payers, and the provider community have to figure out how to hold providers harmless on what they can’t control while also rewarding them for doing the things they can do well, then help them bet on their ability to delivery consistently on their promises.
  • 2016 will see an assault on post-acute care providers, who until this point have long been profitable even as many provide little relative value. This will affect nursing homes, outpatient rehabs, and even vendors who sell to post-acute care providers. The release of Medicare data for public research, particularly in the area of Medicare fraud, combined with the high-profile budget line for post-acute care will accelerate the move to overhaul the post-acute care industry.
  • Finally, don’t expect a change in administration to affect CMS innovation. Regardless of the 2016 Presidential election outcome, payment reform will continue, primarily both macro-economic reasons, but importantly as well, the political reality that both parties favor fundamental reform.

John Kelly is principal business advisor at Edifecs of Bellevue, WA.

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