Thursday, March 26, 2015

Health Policy Insights from the Medical Home Summit: Wellness, ACOs

The Opening Ceremony of
The Medical Home Summit
The Population Health Blog is back home after attending the intellectually rewarding Population Health Colloquium and Medical Home Summit.  It was great to reconnect with old colleagues and make new friends.

In no particular order, here are some PHB take-aways:

One representative from household-name health insurer spoke in a lofty plenary session on the merits of keeping patients healthy. While the PHB was inspired by the videos of device-wearing joggers, it all seemed eerily reminiscent of the wacky pharmaceutical company value-propositions from years ago. That's when these companies said that they weren't selling "pills" but "cures."  It remains to be seen if Humana's transition from pooling risk to promoting fitness will lead to a similarly unprofitable ending.

More than one smart policymaker expressed skepticism on-stage about the ability of Accountable Care Organizations to reduce costs or increase quality. Wow. The PHB suspects more ACO shoes are getting ready to drop inside the beltway. If that's correct, it seems the expert-class is not only reducing their exposure to the coming stinkbombs, but is retooling to get in on The Next Big Idea gravy train.

One compelling speaker suggested that truly "patient-centric" primary care medical homes should offer timely access, the ability to talk to the doctor by phone at any time and attentiveness to the social dimensions of their patients' needs while richly rewarding docs to provide high-value care to fewer patients.  When the PHB mused out loud that may be what precisely what Concierge/Direct Primary Care practices are doing, the reaction of the audience prompted momentary concern that it might get lynched. 

The looming repeal of the SGR was mentioned only in passing, suggesting that few believe that this latest legislative fix portends a renewed commitment to health care reform.  As the PHB understands it, the current proposal commits Medicare to a .5% increase in physician fees per year over the next five years. This reminds the PHB of a compromise it made when the Spouse countered that a loaded SUV was a better option than a loaded sedan.  We got the loaded SUV.

And the EHR wasn't mentioned at all, which kept the PHB from offering its novel twist on Ms. Clinton's Emailgate tempest. It's clear that the Secretary reasonably concluded that her State Department's email system was unable to meet her personal workflow electronic communication and documentation needs. Our nation's EHR-using physicians feel her pain and salute her for her approach to finding a workable solution. After the American Medical Association gives her a suitable award, they should ask her if they can expect that same commitment to innovative health information technology solutions when she wins the White House.

Image from Wikipedia

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