Check out a great case study on reducing out of network leakage and improving access to care at a major integrated delivery network. here!
Check out a great case study on reducing out of network leakage and improving access to care at a major integrated delivery network. here!
Here are three tactical ways primary care practices can improve the patient referral processes and see immediate improvements in patient followthrough with referral appointments.
1. Dedicate staff members to actively manage referrals
Designate members of the front desk or administrative team as the practice’s referral coordinators. The referral coordinators orchestrate the referral process and track the progress and outcomes of each patient referral. Referral coordinators should be good communicators who work well with patients and providers, both inside and outside the practice. Referral coordinators should also be highly organized, familiar with the practice’s information systems and time expectations for various referrals, and be willing to take persistent action to facilitate and track referrals.
2. Create scalable, repeatable referral workflows to ensure the referral loop gets closed
To the greatest extent possible, the practice should create standardized referral workflows that are scalable, repeatable, and transparent. Too often, referrals are handled ad hoc by multiple members of the staff, using faxes and phone calls to transit patient information and track referrals. That system is inefficient and opaque—patients are lost and potentially catastrophic outcomes can ensue. Rather, all referrals should be routed through the referral coordinators so that the referrals can be tracked. Ideally, the referral coordinators would utilized an automated, end to end referral management solution like Fibroblast, which guides patient referrals to the most appropriate network provider, ensures the timely two-way flow of information between providers needed to complete the referral process, and tracks referrals in real time. After all, the referral doesn’t actually happen until the patient receives the care or services the patient needs; the referral loop isn’t closed until the referring provider receives information back from the consulting provider about the patient’s care.
3. Engage the patient with referral-related messages
The most important and most overlooked stakeholder in the entire referral process is the patient. The most common reasons why patients do not follow up on referrals for care are confusion by the process and frustration over scheduling an appointment. What is more, recent research indicates that 72% of patients would like to communicate with their medical providers over email and 63% would like to communicate by text message. The practice should adopt an automated patient messaging application, like the one offered by Fibroblast. By sending patients automated, preference-sensitive messages about their referrals, the practice keeps patients informed and engaged, greatly increasing appointment attendance rates and promoting better patient outcomes.
These five Chicago tech companies are shaking up and disturbing the success of some industries.
By Miranda Crowell
If you’re involved in any aspect of a patient referral, patient leakage is a problem which cannot be ignored. Like water dripping from a pipe, patient leakage leads to lost revenue and increased costs. And if money is not enough to perk your ears, patient leakage can also lead to negative clinical outcomes and a poor patient experience.
Patient leakage occurs when a patient’s business leaks out of the system because either (i) the patient failed to make or attend a follow-up/referral visit or (ii) the patient took his or her business to a competitor. While not an exhaustive list, below are four key reasons why patient leakage happens in the first place.
Old Habits Die Hard: Providers and Staff Revert to Past Trends
Like any business, patient referrals can be all about who ya know. When doctors create a relationship and a belief that the other performs satisfactory work, a tendency to refer to that person may form. It can be difficult for new players to enter into this system of trust, even when the new provider is in-network. Without taking advantage of ways to put a medical service in plain sight for other doctors to see, referring doctors and staff may not have knowledge of all the options. Lastly, some staff may have a “We have always done it this way” attitude, but it is this approach that could be costing your business money.
Even if your business has made a strong effort to refer in-network, patient leakage can still occur when the patient subjectively believes that one provider outperforms another. Word of mouth is a powerful tool, so businesses should use this tool to their advantage by capitalizing on in-network referrals when they can and educating patients on the benefits of staying in-network when they cannot. Poor past experiences also motivate a patient to go outside of a network, so businesses should not shy away from the tough conversations.
Sometimes a patient’s lack of follow-up or missed referral has a simple root cause: lack of convenience. A patient may fail to follow-up because (i) the consulting or referred-to doctor took too long to respond to the patient, (ii) the doctor’s office is too far or other access to care issues exist, or (iii) the consulting doctor is not accepting patients (among others). Recently, price has become a part of the convenience discussion. As discussed in a previous blog post, retail healthcare offices are far superior than traditional providers when it comes to price transparency. But even if your office is not ready to post the price for routine services on your website, cost is becoming increasingly important to the consumer. Providing cost transparency for services, such as colonoscopies, mammograms, X-rays, and vaccinations, may poise your business to reduce patient leakage.
A Broken Referral System – Still Largely a Paper-Based System
If the state of the art referral is made on a one-fourth sized sheet of paper or a computer printout, it is no surprise that patient leakage exists. A patient will feel little commitment to follow through with instructions for future action. Conversely, appointments for follow-ups made on-site are an obligation; the appointment is already scheduled into the patient’s life. Moreover, most physicians do not share an IT platform, so there is little way to follow the patient through their course of treatment. This could lead to potential poor outcomes, medical malpractice risks, and poor patient experiences. (You can read more about medical malpractice risks involved in a patient referral here.)
In short, patient leakage is a preventable problem. Unless the rusty pipes are acknowledged, patient leakage could be bleeding your business of downstream revenue. With a few minor changes and some clever tools, such as Fibroblast’s referral platform, the problem of patient leakage can be a problem no more.
Scott Vold went from lawyer to healthcare entrepreneur… and in the process learned a few things every aspiring entrepreneur should know.
By Jeff Haden, Contributing Editor, Inc. @jeff_hayden
Here’s a common tale: a successful financial services litigator who works with large hedge funds, financial institutions, and major commercial concerns one day decides to abandon his thriving career… and start a healthcare business.
Read the rest on Inc.com here.
By Miranda Crowell
In the health tech world, “interoperability” is a fancy word begging for a hashtag and for acceptance within the medical community. With a continuously growing push for the use of electronic health records (EHRs), the issue of interoperability gained the attention of Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and Rep. Diana Degette (D-CO). The 21st Century Cures Act (Cures Act) is sprawling, with topics ranging from drug development to clinical trials. And when it comes to interoperability, the Energy and Commerce Committee hopes that the Cures Act, if passed by Congress, might ease the process of sharing research and clinical data by making systems more interoperable.
But what does interoperability mean and why is it important? Depending on who you ask, interoperability has various definitions. In short, it is the ability for one system to connect with another system. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) defines the term as “the ability of systems to exchange and use electronic health information from other systems without special effort on the part of the user.” The definitional stance taken by ONC and HIMSS, or the Health Information and Management Systems Society, includes various levels of interoperability and stresses the notion that interoperability includes data-sharing between and among various EHR vendors and other health technologies. Moreover, interpretation of data by the receiving system is important, at least to some degree. Consider this banking analogy as an example of an interoperable system: any ATM can facilitate a withdrawal from any bank at any time, and thus, the ATM is interoperable among banking systems.
There is a glaring need for interoperability standards in the healthcare field. For example, a local, independent doctor may have little to no electronic method to share a patient’s health information if that patient visits a hospital. This scenario highlights a common problem where a lack of access to information, or the slow speed of access to information (should such access exist), could lead to a poor patient outcome. To that same point, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) states that a lack of immediate access to relevant health information is the cause for 20% of preventable medical errors. These examples and statistics only scratch the surface on the need for interoperable health systems.
Zoning in on interoperability, the expansive Cures bill directs HHS and ONC to set standards for what makes a particular health technology interoperable. In order to be considered interoperable, the technology in question must (i) allow for the secure transfer of the entirety of the patient’s data, (ii) allow access to the entirety of the patient’s data without special effort, and (iii) not be configured to block information. A more detailed description can be found here at page 236, and the specifics surrounding these standards are forthcoming by HHS and ONC. Earlier drafts to the Cures bill did not include any specific language on the topic of interoperability, but the Energy and Commerce Committee responded to pleas from groups such as Premier Inc, a healthcare improvement alliance group.
As sweeping as the Cures bill may seem, there are some issues when it comes to the interoperability sections of the bill. For example, the College for Healthcare Information Management Executives, a professional organization for senior-level healthcare IT professionals, was displeased when the new version of the bill did not include any language on patient identifiers, stating that a standardized approach for collecting and sharing data can only occur when a patient can be positively identified. Moreover, EHR vendors will not be penalized for a lack of interoperability until January 1, 2018. As Fibroblast CEO Scott Vold voiced, “Washington is moving at a glacial pace to increase interoperability; the two and one-half year gap between the present and the implementation of penalties for EHR vendors is too long because the technology could change and the market could shift.” (You can hear Scott’s thoughts on the Cures bill and other topics on here.) The bill received a unanimous 51-0 committee vote on May of 2015. And as the bill makes it way to Congress, all health-tech parties should keep one eye on Cures and the other on the ever-changing world of healthcare technology.
By Miranda Crowell
After some basic explanation about fee-for-value payment models in The Shift Part 1, followed by a pro/con discussion of fee-for-value payment models in The Shift Part 2, the final piece in this series focuses on various non-provider perspectives surrounding shifting payment models. This post touches upon how insurance companies are embracing The Shift to drive unprecedented change in our healthcare system.
As Optum puts it, the main drivers of market transformation are the need for 1.) consumer-centric healthcare delivery, 2.) value-driven care, and 3.) healthcare infrastructure modernization. Admittedly, a consumer-centric healthcare system could mean shifting the delivery of care from a long-standing employer-epicenter to a more individualistic approach. Additionally, the way that people view healthcare may change over time. Value-based contracting will push physicians to achieve both quality and efficiency targets before sharing in any cost-savings acquired by fee-for-value contracting. As Payal Shah puts it, this new system will result in a better patient experience, lower healthcare costs, and overall higher quality care. With society’s ever-increasing interest in social media, brand perception could play a role in the patient’s decision to chose a particular provider over another. After all, sharing an opinion about a physician is only 140 characters away.
But it isn’t just patients that are going to see changes. From an employer perspective, UnitedHealthcare told employers in 2012 that they “expect the aggregated return-on-investment of our value-based contracting programs to exceed 2:1 in terms of savings vs. incentives paid because only a portion of the savings will be shared with providers.” The concept is that employers will see a hard-working, healthier workforce with a value-based delivery system, thereby incentivizing employers to be open-minded to changes.
Insurance companies have been anticipating the slow switch from service to value-based contracting. As Shah noted, “insurance companies are working in collaboration with health care providers … regarding payment for incentives, and payors are making sure that savings are realized.” UnitedHealthcare Group is on board with value-based contracting and anticipates a 20% increase in value-based payments in 2015, raising payments from UnitedHealthcare to somewhere “north of $43 billion,” according to Forbes. Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS) companies reported a portfolio of 350 locally-developed, value-based programs in July 2014 and have since increased that number to 570 companies by March of 2015. From 2013 to 2014, BCBS had a 9% increase in claims affiliated with value-based programs and reports $71 billion (yes folks, that another “b”) in programs that provide incentives for quality-based care based on a 2014 annual survey.
Lastly, healthcare infrastructure modernization products and services will be a player on the field that should not be ignored. One quick tour around Matter in Chicago, Illinois, will demonstrate that healthcare tech innovation is already influencing healthcare delivery. For example, Fibroblast Inc., a patient referral management platform, recently landed a deal with Presence Health, Illinois’s second largest health system with over 1 million patients.This takes us full circle back to the concept of patient-centered healthcare; with an increased access to choices in providers, patients will inevitably increase use of information such as branding perceptions, word-of-mouth, and social media when choosing a provider similar to choosing a meal via GrubHub. In summary, the effects of market transformation are far-reaching. Needless to say, the next few years should prove to be one wild ride for all involved with the healthcare market.
By Miranda Crowell
In Part 1 of The Shift, we gave our readers an informational crash course on the shift of Medicare payments from fee-for-service to fee-for-value. In Part 2 of The Shift, we hope to provide our readers with arguments for and against this type of payment system, realizing that such a discussion is for information purposes only. This change in the healthcare market is going to happen, but that doesn’t mean that all the kinks are ironed smooth just yet. Nonetheless, the future looks bright (and getting brighter as time passes!)
Now that the hype from the resplendent payment-reform unveiling has died down, it is time to see the plan in action. The working parts of Medicare payment reform look promising, and reform is proving a positive shift for the many players in the healthcare field. For starters, the old-school Sustainable Growth Rate formula of Medicare payments was scrapped in April, and everyone on both sides of the aisle could high-five in agreement that a broken formula was finally given the boot. Furthermore, the ACA gives involved agencies a broad range of authority to promulgate rules to help the whole reform process run smoothly; perhaps some good ole’ fashioned notice-and-comment rulemaking is just the trick for all those worried that certain facets of shifting payments is not broad enough. For example, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation is authorized to work with states to test all-payer payment reforms. Maryland has seen some success in setting payment rates at the same level for both public and private payers and operating in a system constraining both volume and price. Others passionately argue that a combination of patient-care navigators, IT tools, and cultural change have led to success in bundled care. Amedisys, a company out of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, saw a 21% decline in 90-day readmission rates in one of their regions testing bundled payments – an undeniably impressive feat.
The Sort-of Bad and The Kind-of Ugly
Recall that the goals of shifting Medicare payments from fee-for-service to fee-for-value are to rid the healthcare market of payment systems that promote a piecemeal approach to patient care, to improve patient outcomes, and to decrease the costs of healthcare on both a patient and market level. Arguably, Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) may be off to a slow start; but they are steadily gaining steam. As the Center for American Progress reports, ACOs are maturing. Most of the saving incurred by ACOs were seen in the Pioneer Model, or the select few healthcare providers that bought into ACO lifestyle early on. As the Center for American Progress reports, “Of the 23 ACOs that participated in the second year of the Pioneer program, only 11 earned shared savings while 6 [ACOs] generated more than $25 million in gross losses.” Second year savings by ACOs represented only 0.008% of net Medicare spending in 2013. Additionally, a (somewhat limited) report posited that there was little difference in the quality of care received by a bundled payment group compared to a non-bundled payment group. (You can access the report here.) But as good science tells us, a larger sample size and timeline are needed in order to get an accurate account of ACO and bundled payment successes; anything else should be considered merely preliminary.
While not universally felt, some healthcare providers may be displaying appreciation and apprehension at the same time. There is appreciation because the idea of promoting better health outcomes is certainly a charming goal, and the marketing of these promises is pretty impressive. As recently as the end of May, the Million Hearts Cardiovascular Disease Reduction Model was announced to compliment shifting payment models, and generally, people seem on board. It’s hard not to be dazzled by the idea of it all. There may be some apprehension because providers’ goals can be treatment- and answer-driven, while those of administrators may be more numbers- and efficiency-driven. Overall, it is expected that both providers and administrators will be speaking the same language soon enough. And this type of initial hesitation is to be expected where any major system-shocking changes are introduced into the industry – these things just take some time.
So far, the successes and failures of Medicare payment reform show that, like any other large change, market reform takes time. Lessons from succeeding Pioneer Model providers can be shared to similarly situated providers, and some early pilot programs seem promising. Small sample sizes and relatively short time frames make testing the outcomes of payment reform difficult. (You can read more about drawing conclusions of payment reform via Modern Healthcare.) In general, there is hopeful anticipation when it comes to ACOs and the new payment models, and there are tools like Fibroblast to help along the way. In our final piece of this series, you can find out how such shifting Medicare payments will impact parties working with the healthcare market, but not necessarily within it.
Presence Health and Fibroblast Partner to Improve Quality, Control Costs, and Improve Care Coordination for Millions of Illinois Patients
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Chicago, IL. One of the ways leading health systems improve quality, control costs and improve care coordination is by leveraging emerging technology. Presence Health and Fibroblast jointly announce a new partnership for innovative referral management technology that will reduce fragmentation and streamline navigation as patients move between providers and services while receiving medical care. The contract was inked in March 2015.
“Adoption of this technology will be a huge benefit to the patients and enrollees in the Presence Health network, and to physicians as well. Presence is transforming its own infrastructure at startup speed, which is both rare and refreshing to see for a system of this size and complexity,” said Scott Vold, CEO and co-founder of Fibroblast.
The adoption of this new technology aligns with Presence Health’s Vision to lead the transformation of health care. The partnership with Fibroblast is mutually beneficial as it allows Presence to leverage technology in a new way and Fibroblast to catalyze the development of this tool across one of the largest health systems in Illinois.
“Presence Health is committed to giving patients our best by continuously improving how we do things, which in this case, means moving to a physician referral process that is more responsive and able to meet the needs of our physicians and our consumers. After serious study, we believe Fibroblast’s platform of tools addresses what has been lacking in referral management processes across the country, and we’re thrilled to be an early adopter of this exciting technology,” said Amy Dirks Stevens, President, Presence Health Partners, Presence Health’s clinically-integrated accountable care organization.
The secure, HIPAA compliant software is flexible and easy to deploy. Because Fibroblast is web-based, Presence Health’s independent physicians can use the software with their existing internet connections and computer or mobile devices. For Presence Health’s employed physicians, Fibroblast can integrate with the electronic health record and practice management system.
Millions of times each year, patients have medical needs that require expertise from different providers in different places. In order to involve others in diagnosis and treatment of illness, physicians “refer” patients to other physicians or services (from primary care to specialist, from specialist to diagnostic procedure, from emergency room to primary care, to name just a few examples). By definition, the referral process contains a bewildering number of transitions and handoffs.
Despite its complexity, too often the management of referrals still depends on time-consuming and error-prone manual/paper processes. Many office staff use one-way communication tools such as FAX machines to send and receive referrals. Doctors search for each other by phone or pager. Records and notes from the receiver to the sender have to manually route back to the patient’s chart. Tools to comprehensively understand and visualize key clinical data elements in real time are limited. Despite best efforts, administrative inefficiencies remain commonplace, wasting time, complicating the patient’s experience, fragmenting care, increasing medical system costs, and producing limited business intelligence.
Efficient, effective referral management is therefore a key linchpin in improving care and lowering costs as the market platform for health care delivery moves providers from volume to value based reimbursement structures.
Fibroblast automates and improves the physician referral process from beginning to end and everywhere in between, resulting in:
- Increased patient satisfaction, including peace of mind that comes from knowing referrals are made with the patient’s personal insurance and network in mind, preventing financial harm to families that can accompany out-of-network referrals.
- Increased physician and staff satisfaction by mapping referrals in real-time and closing the referral loop.
- Improved patient outcomes through better access to care and care results.
- Concentrated and focused care inside accountable care organizations, and reduced leakage from networks that are financially rewarded or penalized based on patient outcomes (rather than diffusing and fragmenting care by ad hoc referrals outside those accountability safeguards).
- Assurance that referrals flow to high quality, low cost providers.
- Increased drive toward top-line revenues.
Fibroblast is a Chicago-based health technology company on a mission to fix the broken referral process to ensure that no patient falls through a crack in the healthcare system and misses out on potentially lifesaving care. Fibroblast automates the physician referral process and reduces patient leakage from provider networks, increasing revenue and mapping referral patterns in real-time. In the fee-for-service context, Fibroblast closes the referral loop to drive top-line revenues, increase patient satisfaction, and improve patient outcomes through better access to care. In the fee-for-value context, Fibroblast’s automated referral platform reduces risk by driving referrals to the highest quality, lowest cost providers, improving profitability, patient outcomes, and population health. Fibroblast is venture-funded, an alum of Excelerate Labs/TechStars and 1871, and a founding member of Matter, a community of healthcare entrepreneurs and industry leaders working together in a shared space to individually and collectively fuel the future of healthcare innovation.
About Presence Health
Presence Health is the largest Catholic health system based in Illinois, created in November 2011 through the merger of Provena Health and Resurrection Health Care. With more than 150 sites of care, including 12 hospitals, Presence Health has more than 20,000 employees, 4,000 medical professionals and a revenue base of $2.7 billion.