The elements of a perfect storm are massing around the issue of cost equity. Health care providers need to take seriously the public’s perception that the deck is stacked against them and that they are unwitting participants in a national shell game. Three examples illustrate why a groundswell of skepticism may erode support for meaningful health care reform initiatives.
What we found last week, when the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released cost information for the 100 most common diagnoses and procedures in over 3,000 hospitals, is beyond Alice’s imagination. Some of the cost differences for the identical billing diagnoses qualify for “you cannot make this stuff up.”
The appropriate cliché at the appropriate moment can have an impact. For instance, hearing “the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing” in a hospital might be enough to spin you right back out the revolving door. You know the horror stories. Wrong limb amputated. Forgotten utensils cozying up to innards for the long haul. Those are the sensational examples, but care coordination — or lack of it — was and remains a vexing problem.
Many economists wonder if health insurance exchanges will actually perform one of their primary functions when they open in October — increasing the competition among health insurers offering products to millions of new beneficiaries. This according to Stateline, a wire service for the Pew Charitable Trusts (http://tinyurl.com/Pew-exchanges).
We know Watson, the supercomputer, for its vast fund of knowledge and thinking prowess when machine bested man, defeating the all-time Jeopardy champ for games won, Ken Jennings (74), and Brad Rutter, Jeopardy’s highest money winner ($3,470,102), and winning against Jennings in a head-to-head Tournament of Champions. Now, Watson is flexing her considerable problem-solving muscle in medicine, and, more specifically, in clinical decision support.
Sisyphus had to roll that boulder up the hill as punishment for deceit. Telling the truth has its own rewards, thankfully, because sometimes that too can seem a Sisyphean enterprise. Yet another warning that antibiotics are being overprescribed, this time in a letter in the April 11 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine (http://tinyurl.com/antibiotic-prescribing). The authors note that over 50 percent of antibiotics are distributed unnecessarily and find — surprise!
A survey released at HIMSS by the American College of Physicians shows that there is growing serious dissatisfaction by practicing doctors with their EMRs. The type of practice doesn’t matter and neither does the brand of EMR.
It appears as if the doctors surveyed feel that the technology was oversold and does not live up to expectations. The results were compiled over by AmericanEHR Partners, an organization started by ACP and Cientis to help implement EMRs and focus on ways to use them to improve quality of care.
The title is part of a quotation from Henry Chao, a CMS official who is involved with building and launching the health care exchanges. The federal government is running or co-managing 33 exchanges. They are expected to be functional by October 1 to enroll patients for coverage starting on January 1.
Those seeking some clarity regarding the future of health care policy in the UK will be forgiven for being baffled by recent events. First up was an abortive attempt by the government to introduce a requirement for National Health Service commissioners (known as clinical commissioning groups –see my article on “Health Care Reform in England” in the August, 2012 issue of Managed Care to undertake formal market testing of services.
Clinician executives at health insurance plans can stop worrying about whether consumers are savvy enough to navigate the changing landscape of coverage and start worrying about how small businesses will fare under the Affordable Care Act. (Well, keep worrying about both because both will continue to be problems.)
Let’s just look at small businesses for now. Expect a learning curve, to say the least, according to a study by EHealth, the parent company of eHealthInsurance, a private health insurance exchange. (See:"Small Employer Health Insurance Survey" )