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A CJR Primer

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a CJR Bootcamp put on by the Healthcare Education Associates in Miami, Florida. The boot camp setting was intimate, collegial, and well targeted. With the exception of a trio of cardio folks who wanted to get ahead of their bundles, all attendees were directly responsible for implementing bundles at their health systems . The two days were jam-packed with information ranging from understanding the legislation to influencing surgeon behavior to assembling a great team to implement CJR. I recommend that if you’re on the hook for bundles in your organization that you check out this or a similar training yourself.

There is too much to recap in a single blog post, so I’ll share some high-level takeaways:

Bundles Are Complex

Even advanced organizations had gaps in their knowledge and understanding when it comes to the complexity associated with bundles. CMS continues to evolve the requirements and guidelines, causing some implementation approaches to have to rely on predicting what’s going to stick.

For example, the original PRO guidelines were for HOOS and KOOS, which have now been changed to HOOSJR and KOOSJR. If you’re concerned about requirements changing, consider adopting requirements that will benefit you even if they change. Organizations that started tracking HOOS and KOOS have a leg (or knee or hip) up because they have historical outcome data and have hopefully streamlined their processes.

Bundles Require Multi-Disciplinary and Multi-Organizational Teams

Within an organization, you’ll need a multi-disciplinary team that includes clinical, administrative, operational and finance, technology, procurement and so on. You’ll also require an executive sponsor who will make sure senior leadership is aware of and supporting your initiative.

A recommended working group looks like this:

  1. Executive Sponsor(s)
  2. Physician Lead
  3. Project Manager(s)
  4. Care Navigator/Care Coordination Lead
  5. HER/IT Lead
  6. Data Analytics & Quality Leads
  7. Compliance Lead
  8. Legal Lead
  9. Communications Lead
  10. Gainsharing Program Support

You’ll need to be skilled in both project management as well as the ability to influence change. Consider all the stakeholders that need to be influenced – who are the best people to influence them and how?

Think about the rhythm of communication to different stakeholders. Too much and you overwhelm. Too little and people aren’t part of the process.

 Influencing Surgeons

One of the sessions focused on how to change behavior of surgeons. It was presented by Claudette Lajam, M.D. Assistant Professor of Orthopedic Surgery Chief Safety Officer at NYU Langone Orthopedics, who had the task of decreasing costs for implants and improving quality by getting Langone’s to use the right selection criteria. Dr. Lajam studied behavior change theory to implement the change, but it came down to understanding surgeon behavior. She presented them with data, and encouraged competition: each surgeon was able to see in a weekly report where they stood with respect to costs and quality against everyone else in the department.

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In the new model, hospitals are responsible for gain sharing with both upstream and downstream partners where they have less influence and insight. Understanding your top performing orthopedic and skilled nursing partners is key to a successful bundle. In some areas, this risk-and-gain sharing is causing consolidation where orthopedic groups are joining hospitals.

Note that with CJR, different from BPCI, conveners are not allowed. That is, hospitals can only share risk with orthopedic groups and skilled nursing facilities. Organizations that offer to manage your program and share the risk are not allowed to participate in any gain sharing.

Bundles Need Data: But People Don’t Have It

If you need to improve outcomes and lower costs, you need to know where you’re starting from.  To know where you’re starting from, you will need lots of data so that the impact of outliers is harmonized. Not many organizations have this level of detail across their entire pathway, either from organizational challenges or challenges of the system.

Sometimes, this is from a variation of care. For example, one surgeon has most of the complex cases, or another surgeon uses a different combination of implants and auxiliary materials.

Sometimes this is from the challenges of inter-organizational communication. For example, the handoffs between hospital and skilled nursing are notoriously bad – usually with hospitals not knowing where their patients ended up and skilled nursing not knowing why they are there.

Add to this that you can’tthis on top of not being able to find out if a patient is even in the CJR bundle for a period until the CMS data comes back.

So, you’ve got a complex challenge, with large and heterogeneous teams and organizations, and a lack of data. What do you do? Give up? Of course not.

First, attend a boot camp like this one.

Then, treat every patient like they are in a bundle and work on improving outcomes.

Finally, take a look at your position, risk, and low hanging fruit. Even if you only have a few patients in the bundle today, the private payers and self-insured employers are monitoring this closely.

There is Low Hanging Fruit

There are a few areas that have been identified as opportunities to lower costs without impacting quality:

  • Inpatient rehab has been targeted, and often cut. Patients need to get moving soon after surgery, but they may not need as many sessions with a PT directly. We have patients who are following their PT care plan through Wellpepper even in an inpatient setting.
  • Standardization and optimization of implants. Often the implant companies charge separately for each component for the implant and try to upsell on items like screws. Negotiating a standardized bundle can decrease costs here, as can evaluating patients for the best joint for their situation rather than using the surgeon’s favorite. (This was the project undertaken at NYU Langone.)
  • Decreasing the length of inpatient and skilled nursing stay. Equipping patients to be more self-sufficient with joint camps, educational materials, and mobile care plans can enable them to go home faster.

You are Here

Possibly because it’s early days and people are still figuring this out, there isn’t a consistent, phased approach to rolling out the CJR bundle. In fact, you can start anywhere. Or maybe you don’t have to.

First off, make sure you’re in one of the X areas where the bundle is being rolled out. If you are, find out who else is in your region. Your cost accountability is for the average for your region. If there are big spenders in your region, you may already be delivering total joints more effectively than others and may not need to change much besides starting to collect PROs.

Also, take a look at your Medicare population for joint replacement. If it’s low, you may only have a few patients that qualify for the bundle each year – which doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t strive to improve, but it may impact the amount of effort you put in initially.

Figure out where you are today and plan your efforts accordingly. Don’t try to do everything at once and understand that both your process and the information available will continue to improve.

Good luck!

Posted in: Behavior Change, Clinical Research, Healthcare Legislation, Healthcare motivation, Healthcare Research

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Finding Change and Honesty at Mayo Transform Conference 2016

mayo-clinic-logoAlthough the theme of this year’s Mayo Transform conference was “Change,” it might as well have been dubbed “Honesty.”

From keynotes to breakout sessions, there was a raw sense of honesty and acceptance of the fact that change is hard, and we’ve reached a point where the evolution in healthcare doesn’t seem to be happening fast enough.

When you’re as successful as Mayo, it might be easy to brush failure under the rug – which made this session, “We Made This Thing, But It Didn’t Go as Planned. Now What?” unique. Now that some of the initial hype for digital health has died down, we are in a phase of realistic optimism where sharing both wins and misses represents a realistic way forward.

This interactive session in three parts by Steve Ommen, MD, Kelli Walvatne, and Amy Wicks unfolded a bit like a mystery. Questions were posed to the audience at each phase for our input on what might have gone right and wrong. Not surprisingly, the attentive audience proved as capable as the presenters, and some of the most valuable insights came from the audience questions.

The case study in this session was a three-year process to develop a new interface and workflow for the cardiology clinic. Dr. Ommen and the other presenters did not tip their hands to whether the project was successful or not, and we had to tease out the wins and losses that occurred during each phase.

The presenters shared stories, but did not show any artifacts of the process such as flow diagrams, screenshots, or personas. This methodology was effective because, instead of getting bogged down in critique of particular elements, we were able to see the bigger picture of challenges that could apply to any innovation or clinical change.

At the end of the session, the presenters summarized their top takeaways as:

  • Not having enough credibility and evidence

Much of the Transformation team were experts in design, but not necessarily the clinical experience for this service line. There were some misunderstandings between what could work in theory and in practice, although the team did identify areas of workflow improvement that saved time regardless of whether the technology was implemented.

  • Change fatigue (or “Agile shouldn’t be rigid”)

The team tried to use a lean or agile methodology with two-week product sprints: iterating on the design and introducing new features as well as interface changes biweekly. This pace was more than what the clinical users – especially the physicians – could handle, but the design aimed to stay true to the agile process. In this situation, the process was not flexible to the needs of the end users and possibly exacerbated the first point of lack of credibility.

  • Cultural resistance

The team lost champions because of the process. It also seemed like they may have spent too much effort convincing skeptics rather than listening to their champions. One physician in the audience wondered aloud whether the way physicians were included in the process had an outsized impact on the feedback the team received about what was working and wasn’t working. From his own experience, he noticed that a physician’s authority is often a barrier to collaboration and brainstorming.

From audience observations, it seemed like there may have been some other challenges such as:

  • Scope/Success Definition

There wasn’t a clear definition of success for the project. While the problem was identified that the current process was clunky and the technology was not adaptive and usable, not all parties had a clear understanding of what constituted success for the project.

Looking back, Dr. Ommen suggested that rather than trying to build a solution that addressed all co-morbidities, they should have chosen one that worked for the most common or “happy path” scenario. The too-broad scope and lack of alignment on goals made it challenging to conclude success.

  • Getting EPIC’ed

When the project started, the team was largely solving for usability problems created by having two instances of Cerner and one of GE used in the clinical workflow. During the course of this three-year project, Mayo made the decision to ink a deal with Epic, rendering the current problem they were solving for obsolete.

Going for a smaller win early on might have delivered value to end users before this massive shift in the underlying medical records software.

So what happened?

You can probably tell from the recap that the project was shelved. However, the team did have some wins, certainly in their understanding of how to better run a project like this in the future as well as in helping the clinical team optimize their workflow.

What should you take away?

Know your users, iterate, and move quickly to deploy quick wins – but not so quickly as to alienate your stakeholders.

Finally, ask your peers: we’re facing similar problems and can learn together.

Posted in: Clinical Research, Healthcare motivation, Healthcare Research, Healthcare transformation, Outcomes, Research, Uncategorized

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Health Care Innovators’ Uphill Climb

The Healthcare Innovators Collaborative and Cambia Grove have joined forces to present a series of talks on our evolving healthcare challenges.

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This series was run out of University of Washington last year, and this year’s sessions, subtitled “Under the Boughs” are held at Cambia Grove – where a new Sasquatch In Residence (SIR) ensures that the patient voice is present in the conversations.

September’s session took off with Dr. Carlos A. Pellegrini, Chief Medical Officer of UW Medicine, discussing the shift to value-based care. Pellegrini defined UW’s transformation as a process with 6 key goals:

  1.  Standardization

Standardization improves efficiency and is key to reducing cost and improving outcomes. Today, surgeons performing surgery at different hospitals may have varying tasks per hospital. Patients may receive different instructions depending on which physician or department they interact with. As a result, it is difficult to compare outcomes or optimize clinical workflow without a form of standardization.

      2. Population Health Management

Using system data to anticipate patient needs before they become major problems can both improve care and lower costs.

       3. Medical Home 

Implementing the medical home model can allow providers to be more aware of all of their patients and manage them proactively in measurable groups.

       4. Clinical Technology

Better use of clinical technical systems and of technology generally will enable more efficient and proactive patient care.

Dr. Pellegrini suggested they need to identify which patient was calling and suggesting the care they needed. For example “It’s Linda Smith, and she’s due for a mammogram.”

       5. Risk Management

“The Healthy You” – Sending better information to clinicians can help keep patients healthy, such as regarding activity level for obese patients.

        6. Smart Innovation

In contrast to standardization, consider opportunities to   customize experience/treatment for patients to deliver personalized and targeted care.

Understanding and measuring outcomes is also seen as key to approaching this evolution. Still, it was pointed out that providers, payers, and patients all understand a positive outcome differently. For example, for a provider the outcome is usually functional, for a payer or employer the outcome is financial, and for the patient it is often quality of life.

Only when these three outcomes are considered at once can we have true value-based experiences.

While Dr. Pellegrini and interview Lee Huntsman lamented the fact that US healthcare is ten times as expensive as other models, like the UK’s system, at present only 3% of UW Medicine’s revenue comes from value-based models, and it costs them $200M per year to maintain EPIC.

With numbers like this, the shift to value-based care has some big uphill battles. Keep fighting the good fight everyone, we know that the burgeoning health community in Seattle and the Cambia Sasquatch will!

Posted in: Healthcare Research, Healthcare transformation, Meaningful Use, Outcomes, Patient Advocacy, Seattle

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Mayo Transform 2016: Change

There was method to the madness, but the feedback for John Hockenberry, host and moderator of this year’s Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation Transform Conference at the first night reception was that the keynote was a bummer.

And it was. This year’s theme was change, and the keynote highlighted three key areas where we need fast and effective change: climate, diet, and early childhood education.Mayo Transform logo

Will Steger, a lifetime adventure and outdoorsperson and founder of Climate Generation, kicked things off with a dire warning that it was no longer possible to make a living running sled dog tours because the Arctic is melting. This was followed by Karen Watson who talked about the successful DrinkUp campaign to combat the challenge that 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated from consuming sugared beverages instead of water. The campaign was focused on driving people to reach for bottled water instead of soda, and while this seemed counter to the first session on climate change, she cited that 22 million Americans have no access to potable water so bottled water is a good choice for them. Next up George Halvorson from First 5 California and former CEO of Kaiser Permanente talked about programs the state of California and KP have created for early childhood health and education, noting that the years from 0-3 were crucial for childhood development, and that a child of a working mother is read to for 1,500 hours during this period while the child of a typical Medicaid mother (who could be working) is read to for 30 hours during this period. This year 51% of children will be born to Medicaid mothers.

DrinkUpWhile both DrinkUp and First 5 provided solutions to the problems they raised, the overall impact of the keynote was depressing. While the intention was to catalyze people to change the schedule left us had the tools for making change delivered in sessions on days 2 and 3, which left us to drink our sorrows at the opening night reception (and not with bottled water).

Moving into days 2 and 3 of the conference, we did get tools for thinking differently, and the first session on day 2 provided richly in this area with Roger Martin, former dean of the Rotman School making the case for using both scientific method and rhetoric, and in particularly pointing out the short comings of scientific method if you want to innovate, in particular that it only looks at past data and does not imagine a future. Denny Royal of Azul 7 asked us to get out in nature for creativity, inspiration, pattern matching, by using biomimicry to use nature’s solutions for pressing problems, like how Sharklet used the natural antibiotic properties of sharkskin as inspiration to create a substance that naturally repels bacteria, or considering how to create adhesives that work better when wet, like the silk of the Cadis Fly, and could be used internally during surgery instead of our crude methods today like stiches or stapling. Teri Pipe, of ASU led us on a meditative path by asking us to notice what was happening in this moment, and apply these skills to build compassion and reduce stress in delivering care.img_0055

The day 2 keynote provided us with tools for imagining things that don’t exist, have the courage to quiet our own cleverness and learn from nature, and be resilient and empathetic. Given the day 1 keynote, this was just the antidote to embark on the rest of the conference.

Posted in: Healthcare Disruption, Healthcare motivation, Healthcare Research, Healthcare Technology, Healthcare transformation, M-health

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Is Connected Health Entering The Mainstream?

I’m just back from Parks Associates 3rd Annual Connected Health Summit. The summit, which began with a focus on consumer health and devices, is broadening to include the consumer experience in all digital health. Most attendees were from technology, payer, and device industries rather than healthcare organizations, and I was struck that a lot of the discussion of about the data from devices, predictive analytics, and natural language processing was beyond what we’re seeing in implementation in healthcare industries today.

Evolution of Digital Health

Evolution of Digital Health

Possibly because Parks Associates focuses on consumer data, and also that the conference has been consumer-device focused in the past, attendees and presenters included telecommunications companies, and even home security companies. This was my first time at the conference but from the data presented by Parks it seems as though digital health, and consumer focused health has become accepted as inevitable and mainstream. A few examples include ADT, the home security company talking about in-home sensing to enable seniors to stay in their homes longer, and Wal-mart talking about meeting healthcare consumers where they are. All of this is a far cry from traditional healthcare delivery. There was also a belief that digital health and the digital health consumer touches everyone from seniors, to the example that for many homeless people their most prized possession is their mobile phone.

Top takeaways:

  • There is no silver bullet for mobile health, digital health, or sensors.
    • Personalization is going to be key as the drivers for engaging in health are different for each person
  • There is no digital health consumer. Segmentation is very challenging in this market. Parks Associates Research identified 4 consumer groups, and 14 segments within those groups.

Digital Health Segments

  • Technology is currently out-pacing implementation possibly due to a slower transition to value-based care than the speed of consumer technology adoption.
  • People are sometimes consumers and sometimes patients, and this is not mutually exclusive.

From Fee For Service To Value-Based Payments

I had the pleasure of participating on a panel on moving to value-based care with Dr. Alexander Grunsfeld, Chief of Neurology from our customer Sentara Healthcare, and Angie Kalousek  from Blue Cross/Blue Shield of California. Too often value gets lumped into the idea of bundles versus fee for service, instead of considering the triple aim of healthcare and delivering the best patient experience and outcomes cost effectively. Fee for service remains the stumbling block to value-based care and organizations have to straddle two worlds when considering implementing two programs. Those who can effectively cross the chasm from fee-for-service to value-based care will be the ones who succeed in the long run, and especially those who consider options before they are legislated to do so.

Crossing the chasm from fee for service to value-based payments

Crossing the chasm from fee for service to value-based payments

Our headache management project with Sentara started from the need of one neurologist to manage his caseload. He had too many patients and not enough data, and needed a way to identify patients that needed the most help and also to enable patients to self-manage their headaches. Interestingly, though although the problem that he was trying to solve was focused on access, in a fee-for-service world, initial appointments are compensated at a higher rate that follow on appointments, so decreasing the need for follow on appointments could actually increase revenue. In an exact opposite scenario, this project has caught the attention of those in Sentara’s health plan, Optima, and they are looking to use this patient self-management to decrease ER costs by enabling patients to better self-manage.

Audience poll on in-home care

Audience poll on in-home care

Posted in: Adherence, Behavior Change, Healthcare Policy, Healthcare Research, Healthcare Technology, Healthcare transformation, M-health, Managing Chronic Disease, patient engagement

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Patients As Designers Of Their Own Health

Seattle’s grassroots healthcare community continues to gain traction with a new meetup for patient-centered design. Last week’s meeting was generously sponsored by MCG a subsidiary of Hearst Publications who are quite active in the healthcare world with content and education. The panel discussion featured Dana Lewis, a patient-maker who is active in the open source movement for diabetes care and built her own artificial pancreas, Christina Berry-White from the digital health group at Seattle Children’s, and Amy London, Innovation Specialist at Virginia Mason. The group talked about how to effectively get feedback from patients, and how patient hackers like Dana can take poor design into their own hands build tools they need, and ultimately influence large healthcare companies, in this case device manufacturers.

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Dana, Christina, and Amy, photo credit Alina Serebryany

The panel had great advice for understanding and developing products and improving processes for patients, as well as for soliciting feedback from patients. Here are a few of my takeaways.

Tips for developing products and process

  • Understand patient’s goals and desires. Often the goals of the hospital or health system are not the same as the patient’s. After meeting with a group of patient advocates one Virginia Mason surgeon realized that the only outcome that really mattered was whether the patient had a positive experience.
  • Let patients customize their views and experiences. Amy talked about a particular chart where she wanted to see the graph rising to show increasing blood sugar and another user she talked to wanted to see the graph lowering to show insulin lowering and a need for intervention. Amy was confused by this view but created her open source artificial pancreas interface to enables people to choose their own view, and the result was that people who had diabetes looked at it the same way Amy did and parent-caregivers of diabetic children wanted the second view. Which brings us to the next point–
  • Differentiate between users. Patients often have different requirements than their caregivers, whether that’s parents caring for a child or teen, or adult children caring for a parent. As well, the clinical workflow shouldn’t dictate the patient experience.
  • Get feedback early. Amy mentioned meeting with a device manufacturer who showed her an almost ready for release glucometer that was intended to fit in the pocket. She quipped “you obviously didn’t test this with women’s pockets.”

Tips for collecting feedback

  • Build it into the product. Christina from Children’s mentioned that when they switched from reams of paper to an iPad-based tool for patient on-boarding forms the physicians wanted to stop using it because it did not immediately integrate with the EMR. Luckily the tool had a feature to survey users on whether they preferred using it to paper, and the answer from parents was overwhelmingly yes. The digital health team showed these results to the physicians, and the tool stayed in place.
  • Be creative when soliciting feedback. Children’s knew from experience that parents and patients were reluctant to give them negative feedback after a lifesaving experience like an organ transplant, so they used techniques that are often used in brand market research: analogies. For example, they asked teens to describe a digital tool as a car, and found out that their tool was like a pick-up truck to them: useful but utilitarian.
  • Use patients to collect feedback. Patients are also often intimidated to provide direct feedback to healthcare professionals as they see them as authority figures. At Virginia Mason patients who have already had a successful joint replacement visit post-surgical patients to find out how they are doing, and talk about their own experiences. Patients are a lot more candid with each other, and Virginia Mason was able to benefit from understanding the questions they asked the peer ambassadors and incorporate that information into formal programs.
  • Ask the questions at the right time. If you want to understand post-operative experiences ask within a few weeks of the actual experience, not 6 months later.
  • Be aware of selection bias. Patients who volunteer for focus groups are often those who have the time and money to be able to do so. Your feedback may be skewed towards retired patients, and those who are not hourly workers. Consider how you will cast a wide net.

Lots of great advice at this event, much of which we already incorporate into our processes and products at Wellpepper, although I definitely got some new ideas and it’s great to see the community coming together to share best practices. My only disappointment with the event was that with a title of Patients as Designers, I expected to see more patients on the panel. While there was a last minute cancellation of a patient-maker, it would have been amazing to have Children’s and Virginia Mason bring one of their patient-designers to be on the panel. Maybe next time?

Posted in: Healthcare Disruption, Healthcare Research, Healthcare Technology, Healthcare transformation, Lean Healthcare, Research, Seattle

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Wellpepper goes to Vegas for HIMSS16!

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Sunny and 70’s all week,Vegas here we come! We will try to bring some sun back with us.Vegas Weather HIMSS Blog

We will be in booth #5 @ the HX360. Let us know if you’ll be attending HIMSS16 by sending us a tweet @wellpepper.

Contact us, to set up a meeting with Anne Weiler CEO or Robin VP of Business Development 

The annual HIMSS conference is almost here! A few tips.  Wear comfortable shoes and your Fitbit, you will be walking miles. With over 43K in attendance at HIMSS15, the lines for coffee and food were long.  Bring a few snacks and get your morning coffee before you get to the conference!

So many interesting and inspiring education sessions, so little time! Between walking and navigating the crowds, it can take up to 10-15 minutes to get where you are going so take some time to plan out your education sessions. Get to the sessions early if you want a seat, many sessions end up being standing room only. 

Stop by to see Wellpepper CEO Anne Weiler on this panel which is part of the HX360 Innovation Leaders Program

Date: Monday, February 29, 2016: [Time: 2:30 PM – 3:15 PM]

Session Title: Flexible Care to Fit the Second Half of Life: from Independent Aging to Acute & Long Term Care

Session Description:  How can technology support flexible, high quality, cost-efficient care delivery that meets patients’ needs in the second half of life? Where are the most egregious gaps in care for older patients? These are the questions that will be explored by our panel, covering topics ranging from aging independently to rehabilitation, home care support, family caregiving and honoring end-of-life wishes.

Here are some of our  education session picks.

Connected Health

March 1, 2016 — 08:45AM – 09:45AM : Trends & Resources in Connected Health: Harnessing the power of mobile for research 

Clinical and Business Intelligence                                                                

March 1, 2016 — 10:00AM – 11:00AM: Actionable Analytics: From Predictive Modeling to Workflows

March 3, 2016 — 02:30PM – 03:00PM: Getting to Big Data Insights in Healthcare

Consumer and Patient Engagement

March 2, 2016 — 10:00AM – 11:00AM: Patient Engagement – The Next Chapter

March 4, 2016 — 12:00PM – 01:00PM: Patient Engagement Beyond Patient Portal-Strategic Approach

Care Coordination and Population Health

March 1, 2016 — 10:00AM – 11:00AM: Too Many Patient Portals – What Can You Do About It?

March 1, 2016 — 01:00PM – 02:00PM: Coordinated Health: The Experience You Should Expect

March 1, 2016 — 03:15PM – 03:45PM: mHealth solution for remote patient engagement

March 1, 2016 — 04:45PM – 05:15PM: Rethinking patient engagement and provider workflow

Clinical Informatics and Clinician Engagement

March 1, 2016 — 04:00PM – 05:00PM: Enhancing Patient Outcomes with Big Data: Two Case Studies

March 2, 2016 — 10:00AM – 11:00AM: Taking Plans of Care from Clinician to Patient-Centric

March 2, 2016 — 01:00PM – 02:00PM: Seven Essentials in Clinical Information Technology Adoption

 

Posted in: Healthcare Research, Healthcare Technology, Healthcare transformation, M-health, Outcomes, Patient Satisfaction, Uncategorized

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Our Picks for APTA CSM 2016

APTA CSM 2016Wellpepper CTO Mike Van Snellenberg will be at APTA CSM in Anaheim this year, and here are a few of the sessions you might see him at. If you want to be sure to see him, book a meeting.

As usual we’re following sessions about healthcare transformation, patient experience and patient centered care, patient reported outcomes, and interventions that include technology. With the conservative care and physical therapy being an important part of new bundles like CMS’s Comprehensive Care for Total Joint Replacement, these are hot topics as well.

Here are a few session picks from Wellpepper.

Patient-Centered Care

Exercise and Diabetes: Tools for Integrating Patient-Directed Practice

The Customer Experience in Health Care: The Game Changer, Part 1

Words Mean Things: How Language Impacts Clinical Results

Acute Care Productivity Measurement, “What about the Patient?” The Time has Come to Shift to a Value Based Measurement System

Technology

Wearable Technology Meets Physical Therapy

Virtual Reality and Serious Game-Based Rehabilitation for Injured Service Members

Tracking Outcomes

Changing Behavior Through Physical Therapy: Improving Patient Outcomes

Functional Reconciliation: Implementing Outcomes Across the Continuum

Using Outcomes Data to Improve Provider, Patient and Payer Engagement and Demonstrate the Value of Your Services

Healthcare Transformation and New Models of Care

Exceptional Care and Profitability in Light of Health Care Reform for Patients with Chronic Musculoskeletal Pain

The Complicated Hip: A New Debate

Emerging Issues in Medicare and Health Care Reform, Part 2

Bundled Payment Implementation for Primary Total Joint Patients

Managing Patient-Centered Care in a Changing Reimbursement World

Health System PT’s Leading the Transition to Value-Based Health Care

Posted in: Adherence, Health Regulations, Healthcare Disruption, Healthcare motivation, Healthcare Policy, Healthcare Research, Physical Therapy, Prehabilitation, Rehabilitation Business

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Hot topics of 2015 from the Wellpepper Blog: It’s All About Value

As we get ready for big changes in 2016, especially in the world of value-based payments, let’s take a quick look at our most popular blog posts of 2015. Not surprisingly, they are related to changes coming with bundles and value-based payments, and the role of patient-reported outcomes and patient engagement.

In no particular order, here are our most popular blog posts from 2015.

From Wellpepper CTO, Mike Van Snellenberg.

http://wellpepper.wpengine.com/decreasing-the-patient-survey-burden-for-total-joint-pros

From Wellpepper, VP of Business Development, Robin Schroeder-Janonis

http://wellpepper.wpengine.com/does-healthcare-need-a-call-to-minga

And from Wellpepper CEO, Anne Weiler

http://wellpepper.wpengine.com/value-based-bundles-for-total-joint-the-glass-is-more-than-half-full

And from Wellpepper Business Analyst, Liz Zampino

http://wellpepper.wpengine.com/2016-the-year-of-telehealth

 

Posted in: Health Regulations, Healthcare Disruption, Healthcare Policy, Healthcare Research, Healthcare transformation, Outcomes

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Digital Health and the Influence on Healthcare: Wearables, Telehealth, & Treatment

Things are looking up in the world of digital health at least this was the view from “Digital Health and the Influence on Healthcare: Wearables, Telehealth, & Treatment.” The WBBA held their last event of the season with a panel on digital health, hosted by Russell Benaroya, CEO of Everymove, and featuring Dr. John Scott, Director of Telemedicine at UW Medicine, Davide Vigano CEO and co-founder of Sensoria, Mike Blume, independent healthcare consultant, and myself. I’d characterize the overall event as being optimistic and realistic, both from the panel and the attendees.

Digital health event

It was a dark and stormy night

No one said that the road to digital health was easy or fast, but the consensus that things like moving to the cloud, and the acceptance and adoption of patient-driven digital care is reaching a turning point.

Both Sensoria and Wellpepper’s business models are made possible by the cloud. For Sensoria this was the ability to process millions of datapoints coming from their wearable technology. For Wellpepper, this is our ability to rapidly implement solutions working with department heads facing a particular challenge in patient engagement and outcome tracking and improvement. Dr. Scott remarked on the dramatic drop in the cost of telemedicine solutions over the years he’s been an advocate and solutions due to both Moore’s Law and cloud computing over his tenure running telemedicine at UW.

Sensoria's Quantified Socks

Sensoria’s Quantified Socks

As well, although Dr. Scott highlighted how telemedicine was limited by arcane reimbursement models that did not allow for patients to receive telemedicine consults in their homes, he and other panelists discussed that they were not waiting for billing codes to do the right things in using technology to deliver better care. As usual, the Affordable Care Act was seen as a big driver as patient-centered and digital care.

Possibly because there were two ex-Microsoftees on the panel (Davide and me) a cloud-based platform approach was touted as the best way to both collect, analyze, and sort the data that came in directly from patients. In the case of Sensoria and Davide, this was to look for trends and patterns coming from sensor-integrated clothing, and in the case of Wellpepper it was to collect patient outcomes in the context of care and compare these across patients, procedures, and healthcare organizations.

This view led to a discussion about the proliferation of data, and everyone agreed that digital health has the ability to overwhelm health systems with data that they are currently not prepared for. EMRs are not set up to include sensor or patient-reported data, and as Dr. Scott pointed out, physicians are not looking for every data point on a patient, only the anomalies, like glucose out of range.

One audience member asked about whether healthcare organizations had an overall data strategy, and whether digital health data should be collected as part of that. It’s an interesting idea to consider but it seems like it’s still a long way off in healthcare. Does your organization or CIO have an overall data strategy? It seems that quality measures and the need for patient reported outcomes are introducing new requirements for data, but this is at the departmental or initiative level. Grappling with questions like this will be important as connected devices, digital, health, and patient reported outcomes enter the mainstream.

Posted in: Health Regulations, Healthcare Disruption, Healthcare Policy, Healthcare Research, Healthcare Technology, Healthcare transformation, M-health, Outcomes, Telemedicine

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Reverse Innovation: What We Can Learn From Global M-Health

Whenever possible at conferences, I try to attend at least one session that is outside my particular area of focus and expertise. While almost everything at the recent HIMSS M-Health was relevant, global health is a bit outside the target for Wellpepper right now. Attending a few sessions on M-Health got me thinking about similarities between some of these initiatives and the situation at home.

Global M-HealthWhen we started Wellpepper, we got a lot of feedback on our mobile first strategy, not all of it positive. We believe that people have an emotional connection with their mobile devices and that when people’s mobile devices ask them to do something they generally do it which is why we optimize our patient experience for mobile. Concerns were that people of lower socio-economic backgrounds or older people would not be able to use the technology.

We and other startups have found this to be untrue, and given the success of mobile programs in the developing world, it seems that this is a red herring of an argument as m-health initiatives are successful with people with widely varying literacy levels and for whom this is often their only connection with technology. Basically if people with low tech literacy can engage in their health through mobile devices in the developing world, we’re pretty sure everyone can in the US as well. In the developing world, mobile infrastructure has leapt over landline infrastructure. A similar thing has happened for lower income people in the US: they are more likely to only have Internet access through a smart phone than through a computer and home Internet connection.

The session “Innovative Content & Mobile Delivery Tools: Driving Healthcare Utilization & Coordinating Care” covered a number of private and public partnerships to bring culturally relevant and timely information health issues related to childbirth to women, caregivers, and families in Africa. There were a number of similar initiatives involving different players in different countries both not-for-profits and telecommunications companies. Rather than recapping one initiative this post is a survey of some of the learning and best practices from a few different ones.

Most projects were either focused on preventing unwanted pregnancies and also reducing child mortality. Really two sides of the same coin: making sure women and families had the information and resources they needed to care for their children. Information needed to be localized to the needs of the audiences that included mothers, mothers-to-be, midwives, and others caring for pregnant women, and their spouses. Customized content was key, for example, nutrition advice needed to address what was available in each country, and medical advice for the types of caregivers that were in the area, not always licensed medical professionals.

While the projects were shown to work, sustainability was key. There needed to be benefits to the telecommunciations companies that were providing free texting between expectant and new mothers and providers, and access to video content. There are definitely benefits for the telecommunications companies, which included:

  • Customer loyalty. By supporting women and families in this crucial time, the telcos were able to let them know that they would be with them through thick and thin and supporting them in important life events.
  • While the phones were provided for this particular educational program, people started using them for other activities which provided a revenue stream for the telecommunication companies.
  • Lack of churn. Many women were repeat users of the program when they had their second child.

Content for Global M-HealthChallenges of the programs mostly revolved around content. Creating and managing content was a big cost for the non-profits involved. Video content was seen to be best as it didn’t require a high-level of literacy, but keeping content both culturally-relevant and up-to-date was a challenge. As a result, one organization provides a free content library for front-line health workers.

In addition to the similarities of access to information, the content problem is also one we see here. However, the difference is an abundance of content for patient treatment plans. Each organization has their own content and best practices. During the session, I thought that donating care plans and instructions to some of these not-for-profit might be an interesting way to solve this problem, collect more feedback on care plans and accessibility, as well as give back.

Posted in: Healthcare Disruption, Healthcare motivation, Healthcare Research, Healthcare Technology, Healthcare transformation, M-health

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Postcards from HIMSS M-Health 2015

HIMSS M-HealthIt’s been a busy couple of weeks at Wellpepper with both the AAKHS annual conference and HIMSS M-Health Summit at the Gaylord Convention Center in National Harbor where Wellpepper was honored to have won the Venture+ Pitch along with CirrusMD. This was our second year attending the conference and we noticed that the hype for digital health is a bit lower and perhaps that represents market maturity. It could also be that organizations are in the thick of implementation and don’t have the success stories to tell yet. We believe in digital health and are rolling up our sleeves so will take this feeling that we are moving to incremental change as a positive sign.

Venture+: The Market Is Maturing

We participated in the Venture+ Pitch last year as well which was won by fellow our fellow Springboard Alumna Prima-Temp. Prima-Temp was the clear winner last year, already raising their Series B. However, there were a ton of startups with only an idea. This year the criteria was that startups have revenue before applying, and the competition was held in two parts, the first an invitation-only session where 11 startups pitched and panelists talked about the market opportunity in general, and then a final round with 4 excellent startups and really tough questions from the judges. We were a bit earlier on our journey than a couple of the other startups in the final pitch so were honored to be recognized along with CirrusMD.Clinic of the Past and Present

Interestingly the startup area on the tradeshow floor was almost entirely made up of a new class of startups. So, while the market for M-Health may be maturing somewhat, there are still new entrants attracted by the promise of disruption.

Incremental Progress and Show Me The Evidence

I was only able to attend Day 1 Keynotes, and I heard that the Day 2 keynotes were great, especially by Shahram Ebadollahi of IBM Watson Healthcare. On Day 1, with the exception of an excellent presentation from Dr. Wood from Mayo Center for Innovation (disclosure: as part of winning the Mayo ThinkBig challenge we have the opportunity to work with CFI for the next year), most of the presentations were quite low-key. The main problem was the voice of the patient was missing: the focus was on initiatives or technology. I timed it. 1.5 hours into the keynote and we heard the first end-user story, and it wasn’t really a patient, it was a blind runner who used FitBit.

Dr. Wood shook everyone out of complacency and called out for a faster adoption of healthcare innovation, pointing out how basic things like patient treatment rooms have not changed dramatically in the last 50 years. He asked the audience to consider going beyond patient-reported outcomes and consider the outcomes that matter to patients. What would the system look like if we paid for health rather than healthcare, and we paid based on people being able to reach their own self-defined goals? Digital health is an enabler of this new system, but really, it’s about taking a patient or people-centered approach to health and to care.

What Patients WantAgain, maybe it’s a sign of market maturity, but the conference this year seemed more evolutionary rather than revolutionary. Themes from previous years were expanded on. For example, Judy Murphy of IBM talked about how consumer expectations expectations are fueling demand for m-health. People expect the same level of transparent and always available technology to manage their healthcare as they get from any other consumer experience.

HoneyBee and IPSOs announced the launch of the Global M-Health Survey which also pointed to ubiquity and consumer expectations and desire for M-Health. (The final survey results will be available in Q1.)

In a number of sessions Apple Research Kit was heralded as a major breakthrough for clinical trials. While the speed with which Research Kit was able to sign up study participants is certainly turning traditional research recruits on its head, the same limitations are still there: no HIPAA-compliant server infrastructure and selection-bias for those with more expensive devices. Interestingly, one of the greatest benefits for researchers seems to be the standardization of the informed consent process. (Note that Duke University will be open-sourcing the platform infrastructure they built in recognition that not all organizations have the skills and resources to build something like that.)

Interesting, how what was deemed such a major innovation at the time of release (less than a year ago), also seems a bit incremental. Again, we will take the glass-half full approach and say that we are reaching a market maturity where the gains are more incremental, although at next year’s conference we would really like to see more clinically-validated mobile health applications, and also more patient stories, preferably told by the patients themselves.

Posted in: Healthcare Disruption, Healthcare motivation, Healthcare Policy, Healthcare Research, Healthcare Technology, Healthcare transformation, M-health

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Is Seattle Ready For A Seismic Shift In Healthcare?

The plans to open the Cambia Grove, a health care innovation center, were first announced about this same time last year at the 25th Annual Governor’s Life Sciences Summit. Nicole Bell, executive director of Cambia Grove was then quoted saying, “Why couldn’t we be for health care what we are for coffee, aerospace, for online retail and for independent rock-and-roll?”IMG_2081

A year later and timed perfectly to coincide with the 17th Annual National Institutes of Health (NIH)/SBIR/STTR Conference, Cambia Grove announced results from the 9 page “Report on Health Care Innovation in Washington State.” This report effectively established a baseline for the economic impact of health care innovation sub-sector in Seattle. Based on the numbers, it seems as though Seattle is poised to compete with rival health care hubs like Boston and the Bay Area.

IMG_0412Here are a few of the more impressive stats. Pay levels are for this sub-sector of this industry are 8% higher than average with $2B in compensation, not to shabby. Apparently these employees are amazing rock stars with 300% more productivity than an average worker and they create $6.8B in direct output?!?!? With this astounding productivity that 8% doesn’t seem like quite a commensurate salary increase.  While there are 22,500 jobs across the state, it is not surprising that over 80% of them are concentrated in Seattle. After Nicole Bell revealed these report highlights, she commented that it would make sense to create or convert even more jobs in to this thriving job sector. I guess we bike riding, coffee drinking, online shopping, wearing jeans and Tevas to work Seattlites must really be on to something here.

I am absolutely thrilled to have taken a path that is leading me into this new sub-sector of healthcare innovation and start-ups where evidently I’ll be working in the land of serious overachievers. As a RN, I’m no stranger to long hours and hard work. Coming from traditional healthcare institutions where the norms are grueling 12-hour shifts, you literally have to ask someone if you can go pee because you can’t leave your patients unattended and you learn to ingest your lunch in under 5 minutes.

IMG_0413As much as working in traditional healthcare has taught me clinically, I couldn’t imagine moving into a healthcare IT analyst role after completing my Masters degree in Clinical Informatics. I imagine if I stayed, I’d probably end-up stuck in a cube trying to unscramble the EHR mess or analyzing already broken workflows attempting to integrated a new piece of technology that never went through any real usability testing by actual healthcare workers who would be suing it. Having used both Epic and Cerner products, I was like “I told you so!” after reading articles about the recently published JAMA reporting the lack of adherence by EHR vendors to conduct usability testing. I digress. My point is I’m waiting with bated breath for the lagging traditional healthcare industry to get the swift kick it needs by the younger, more ambitious and more productive innovation sub-sector. The report is effectively calling out to health innovators in Seattle that the time for a seismic shift is now…in healthcare, hopefully not literally a seismic shift in Seattle. Either way, Seattle Health Innovators prepare yourselves, let’s get ready to compete with Boston and the Bay Area.

Posted in: Healthcare Disruption, Healthcare Research, Healthcare Technology, Healthcare transformation, Seattle

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Disruptive Innovation to Improve Mental Health Care

Health Innovators Collaborative, University of WA Bioengineering
Dr. Jurgen Unützer, Chair of UW Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

The Health Innovators Collaborative seminar that I attend last week by Dr. Unutzer gave me an emotional whirlwind, which is ironic because the subject was mental health. That afternoon I innocently put my boots on and galloped down to the university in my VW Beetle and waited for the seminar to begin by eating an apple in the front row. I had no idea what was in store for me in the next 60 minutes or so. I would have cowardly slumped down into my chair if this was a talk taking place outside of Washington… because I am so ashamed about how we brush our mental illness folks under the rug. My jaw almost dropped in shock; we are ranked 48 out of 51 to have the correct resources available for our mentally ill with only 20 psychiatrists in Rural Washington. Dr. Unutzer argued that we spend more money on preventing auto accidents and homicide, when the rate of suicide is much higher- there is a suicide every 15 minutes in our country and 2-3 a day in Washington.

IMPACT- Collaborative Care Model

After giving us such somber news he talked at great lengths about ‘working smarter’ in order to close the gap of inadequate mental health professionals. One of the largest treatment trials for depression, Improving Mood–Promoting Access to Collaborative Treatment (IMPACT) was spearheaded by Dr. Unutzer and his colleagues. They designed IMPACT to function in two ways; “The patient’s primary care physician works with a mental health care manager (can be a mental health nurse, social worker etc.) to develop and implement a treatment and the mental health care manager and primary care provider consult with psychiatrist to change treatment plans if patients do not improve.” The IMPACT study was started over 15 years ago when the use of EMRs and video conferencing were just starting to become ‘mainstream’. Therefore in a way this study was the forerunner in utilizing a multi-based ‘high tech’ mental health patient care platform; population registry/database (tracking tool of patients PHI, treatments, etc.) psychiatric consultation (video), treatment protocols and outcome measures (I feel I am writing about Wellpepper!). The video consultation takes place between the patient and a remote psychiatrist typically after treatments protocols are administered in the primary cares office with little or no patient improvement. This is imperative especially in Washington where half of the counties don’t have a single psychiatrist or psychologist.

There is a great JAMA article written on the outcomes of the IMPACT program (I am proud to say I did my homework on the positive slides presented and not the slippery slides) that really nails out the particulars in the normal scientific journal fashion. As always I shot to the bottom of such article for the ‘results and conclusions’ because I knew this one was going to be great, I had a sneak peak last Wednesday. After a year 45% of the 1801 patients studied had a 50% or greater reduction in depressive symptoms from baseline compared with 19% of usual care participants! Furthermore this study reduced healthcare costs; $6.50 saved for every $1 invested, with the most being saved in inpatient medical and pharmacy costs. In conclusion having a system that provides population based care, that is patient centered, has target treatment solutions, and is evidence based leads to more efficient modes of getting a patient in and out the door with positive results.

I exhaled what a clever man you are Dr. Unutzer to present your slides in such an order, from negative/scary to positive/uplifting, it’s almost like you are a psychiatrist and now how the mind works, oh wait you are!! Thank you for a wonderful talk, it was superb and always nice to learn something new!

Next seminar is “Bad Language, Worse Outcomes” with Jeremy Stone, MD MBA on November 3.

Posted in: Healthcare Disruption, Healthcare Research, Healthcare Technology, Healthcare transformation, Interoperability, Outcomes, Seattle, Telemedicine

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You Could Get Well Here: Touring Mayo Clinic

Mayo Clinic Center for InnovationDuring the recent Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation Transform Conference, attendees had the opportunity to take tours of various Mayo facilities.

I was able to tour the Center For Innovation, where we will be working periodically over the next year as part of our prize for winning the Mayo and Avia Think Big Innovation challenge, and the Center for Healthy Living. A third tour, of the new Well Living Lab was sold out before we could get tickets.

Spirituality is part of health at Mayo

Spirituality is part of health at Mayo

The Well Living Lab is a research center where the health impacts of daily living can be tested. For example, researchers expect to study the impacts of air quality or lighting in office buildings on employee health. Tour organizers told me that the paint was still drying on the center as they start the tours so I’m sure we’ll be hearing more about this innovative center in the future.

Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation Tour

The Center For Innovation houses two main areas, one a clinical space where real patients and care teams can test different types of exam room configurations and equipment, and the other more like a typical software or design office. Pictures were limited in this area, so you’ll have to imagine from my descriptions.

All the walls in the clinical space are magnetic, enabling different types of room configurations on the fly. Even the artwork is affixed with magnets, so I suppose it’s possible to also test the effect of different artists as well. When medical teams work out of the CFI space, they are testing not just the patient experience but whether these new configurations make teams more productive or collaborative. The CFI has found a number of improvements to care are possible with better room configuration, and noted that clinics and exam rooms have changed very little since the 1950s.Human Centered Design

A few innovative examples include:

  • A kidney-shaped table encourages more collaboration and communication between doctors and patients
  • Separate consultation and exam rooms offer many benefits in both communication and efficiency. Patients are less stressed, more able to absorb information, and ask questions in a consultation room rather than sitting on a table in an exam room. Two physicians can share one exam room when there are two consultation rooms and therefore they can see more patients in only 1.5 times the space of a normal exam room.
  • An open plan office where all of the care team, nurses, medical assistants, schedulers can work encourages team collaboration and also empathy as each member has much better insight into what the others are doing.
    How Patients Experience Services

    How Patients Experience Services

At the CFI, we learned about projects that have recently been completed (although they were mum on work in progress), like a project to overhaul post-discharge instructions for total joint replacement. This is a hot topic lately as CMS moves to value-based bundles for reimbursing these procedures it’s even more important to manage care outside the clinic, and do to that patients need to understand what they need to do. This is a topic near and dear to our hearts at Wellpepper.

Other projects included exer-gaming for seniors, and Project Mars named as a challenge to completely reimagining the Mayo Clinic experience as though they were building a new Mayo on Mars. This experience spans pre-visit to post visit and includes patient care and the patient’s experience in the physical space.

Mayo Clinic Center for Healthy Living

The Center for Healthy Living is an impressive new facility in the middle of Mayo campus. The Center is focused on proactive and preventative experiences for people who want to take action managing their health.

IMG_2373

Yoga studio with a view

This may include executives who believe health and fitness is a competitive business advantage to people diagnosed as pre-diabetes who are motivated not to become diabetic, to people wanting to regain health and strength after cancer treatment. The Center takes a wholistic approach, and guests (as visitors are called) frequently book a week-long package that includes physical assessment, diet, and stress and spirituality consultations.

The living wall

The living wall

Consultations on diet include cooking classes and nutritional information including how to read labels and understand what’s really in your food.

The Center also houses a spa, which is apparently a best kept secret in Rochester. Throughout the center the design is calming, including floor to ceiling windows and a living wall, and it really feels like a place you can get well.

Clients are sent home with specialized treatment programs and recommendations to support their lifestyle changes permanently. The Center has only been open for a year, and ideally will seen clients coming back year over year for a tune up. It’s definitely a place I’d visit again.

More pictures of the Center for Healthy Living.

IMG_2370

The Nutrition Pantry

Guests learn to prepare healthy meals in this kitchen

Guests learn to prepare healthy meals in this kitchen

Rest with a view

Rest with a view

Posted in: Behavior Change, Healthcare Disruption, Healthcare motivation, Healthcare Research, Healthcare Technology, Healthcare transformation, M-health

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Falls Prevention Awareness Day September 23rd

Last year my 80 year old grandmother fell walking back from my cousins wedding reception, luckily she grabbed onto my sister and broke her fall. Nevertheless as we studied the sidewalk for several minutes only to discover its perfectly flat surface and our tremendous worry… my dear grandmother could think of nothing other than her embarrassment. We later learned from my grandfather that she has fallen several times over the last few months; she shook it off with laughing commentary in the background saying he was exaggerating. Whereas I appreciate her humor, it is no laughing matter. 2.5 million elderly adults are treated in the ER for fall injuries, with one out of five falls result in broken bones. With those statistics I continue to worry about the next time she falls and my sister isn’t there.

Pick up your cars, grandma is coming over!

With that said, today being Falls Prevention Awareness day I cannot help but think of everyone in my life that is prone to falling… which I am sure you are now pondering yourself. So we should all take a minute (or longer depending on how caught up you are on house chores!) and look around our environment for fall hazards and think about prevention. I have a two year old son that contributes a lot to fall hazards with his hotwheels toys strewn all over the house, which makes my house a high risk zone no doubt! I have to ask what’s on my grandmothers floor?! We need to encourage our elderly loved ones to remove fall risk factors in their homes too; broken steps, faulty handrails, uneven pavement, clutter, throw rugs, poor lighting… grandchildren toys! However most of all we need to make sure they are still getting out of the house and do NOT let the fear of falling limit their mobility. Lower mobility is a major fall risk factor due to deteriorating body strength, which in return also influences balance. It is argued strengthening your balance is the single most important factor in avoiding falls. Senior centers across the country teach classes to elderly adults called “Matter of Balance” (I have taught a few in the past!), they are a great way to teach folks about balance strengthening through exercise and awareness of ‘fall-ty’ habits.

Working for Wellpepper and learning more each day about how it is helping patients, I cannot help but think about how mHealth technology could also help with fall prevention. There are several balance strengthening exercises that we do in our ‘Matter of Balance’ classes at the senior center that could be very easily translated onto the mHealth platform. Honestly now that I think about it the whole class could be taught this way, and might even have better results since a lot of elderly adults express interest in the class, but don’t show up because they are too embarrassed about admitting to of fallen, just like my poor grandmother.

Such thoughts of mine have been expressed officially (to say the least!) by Harvard researchers, because today it was announced on Falls Prevention Awareness Day no less, in a press release, that they are utilizing Wellpepper as an patient engagement solution to lower the costs of care and to improve patient mobility skills as well as muscle strength, endurance and power and to decrease the risk for fall-related injuries such as hip fracture. I cannot wait to see how this study plays out, because it could mean a whole world of good for our lovely elderly family members. I cannot help but visualize how cute my grandmother would be practicing her muscle strengthening exercises on an iPad and the great peace of mind my family would have.

Congratulations team Wellpepper for your involvement in making this Falls Prevention Awareness Day a big notch in your ongoing achievement index!

Posted in: Aging, Behavior Change, Healthcare Research, M-health

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Measure What You Manage, With Caveats: Thoughts on Surgeon Ratings

When I worked at Microsoft, we managed by the scorecard. The scorecard was meant to provide key indicators of the business health. If something wasn’t on the scorecard, it didn’t get focus from the worldwide sales and marketing groups, and if a product or initiative didn’t get this focus it would die. The scorecard had tremendous power and was a rallying and focal point for a sometimes unwieldy global organization. So powerful was the scorecard that if any errors were made in how something was tracked, it could drive exactly the wrong behavior.

One year, a metric was introduced to measure sales of a new product, in relation to an existing product. The thought was that the new product was a good “upsell” from the existing product so tracking one in relation to the other was a logical measurement. The intention of the metric was to show the new product growing as it “attached” to the existing product. The metric was calculated as:

Product target calculation

 

The sales teams behaved rationally and stopped selling the existing product, because if they sold the existing product, they had to sell even more of the new product to meet their target since the denominator of the equation kept increasing. They met their targets and got their bonuses, but their behavior was exactly the opposite of what the product teams and the company wanted which was for both businesses to grow or at least for the existing product to stay steady while the new one grew.

Last week, ProPublica caused a flurry by releasing a report of complication data for US surgeons. Using their database you can look up any surgeon and find how their patients fared on average for complications after surgery.

As with any measure, it is fraught with controversy about both the accuracy of the data or whether we are measuring the right things. On the surface complication data seems like it’s a good way to track surgeons, and it is if the complications are caused by surgeon error. The problem is that complications are caused by lots of things including patient behavior (for example not caring for a wound properly or taking too many narcotics and falling down after surgery) or by the patient situation, for example, age or co-morbidities. Looking at complication data alone, as Dr. Jennifer Gunter points out eloquently in her blog post, does not give the whole picture. Dr. Gunter’s mother had two surgeries, one that would be recorded as “no complications” and one full of complications. From the raw data, the first surgery looks like a success with a 7-day hospital stay, and the 2nd a failure with a 90-day hospital stay and many complications. (Note that the 2nd surgery could be counted as a “readmission” which would be counted against the hospital.) Regardless, in this situation data alone does not tell the whole story.

In addition to not telling the whole story, looking at complication data alone can drive the wrong behavior, which is surgeons only taking on the “easy” cases, those who are younger, in perfect health, and have no other diseases, for example diabetes. There are many things that patients can do before surgery to ensure successful outcomes like quitting smoking or losing weight, there are things they can’t do, like get rid of a chronic disease or suddenly shed 10 years. Judging surgeons on only complications can encourage them to “cherry-pick” patients so that they have low complications and high scores. In turn these surgeons will be sought out by the “best” patients, and we could end up with a bifurcated system where the “worst” surgeons (looking only at complications) operate on the hardest cases.

There’s a saying that you can’t manage what you can’t measure. It’s important as well to consider what you are measuring, the behavior that you intend to drive, and the long-term implications of it . Healthcare is making small steps to become more data and outcome-driven and we need to encourage and commend that. At the same time, let’s make sure we are looking at the right metrics.

Posted in: Behavior Change, Healthcare Policy, Healthcare Research, Healthcare transformation, Outcomes

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