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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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Personal or Population Health? Big Data or Small Data?

Seattle Health Innovator's meetupJune’s Seattle Health Innovator’s Meetup topic was on Innovations in Population Health Management. Interestingly much of the discussion from panelists circled back to the individual patient. It seems that much of this was because the great promise of big data analytics in healthcare and automation and economies of scale through electronic medical records have not been realized. The audience consisted of entrepreneurs building solutions in this area, and innovative and entrepreneurial people within health systems.

The event, at the sleek new Cambia Grove healthcare meeting space, was kicked off by Dr. Wellesley Chapman, Medical Director Innovation and Development at Group Health. Dr Chapman set the stage by defining population health in a highly inspirational manner by referring to The Gates Foundation mission that everyone deserves to live a healthy and productive life. Narrowing in a bit more Dr. Chapman talked about the influences of good health on a population. Interestingly, although population health is largely thought of as a health system problem, the formal medical system only has a 20% influence on the health of a population and a person. Socio-economic factors have a much bigger influence, things like building walkable cities that encourage activity and community, access to healthful foods, and education. Unfortunately with healthcare representing 18% of the US GDP, there is a misallocation of funds to the clean up of problems versus infrastructure that will affect the well-being of the whole population. However, even though care delivery is a small part of the overall picture and influencers of health, Dr. Chapman enthusiastically encouraged the audience to do what they could to affect change.

The meet up continued with a panel discussion moderated by former Group Health VP of Marketing and now patient engagement consultant, Randy Wise and featuring:

When considering a population health strategy, key factors the panel felt were important were lead time to implement, expected outcomes, costs to patient and payer, and the overall patient experience. Patients are concerned about the quality of their lives, and this needs to be addressed at the primary care level, however, most health systems do not have a primary care strategy. Primary care is reactive rather than preventative, and reactive care is not usually focused on patient goals. Since the health of a population is so varied, at the primary care level, panelist thought “everything could be considered population health” making it difficult to pinpoint specific solutions for care.

When asked about whether big data was improving population health, panelists were negative to neutral, citing Excel spreadsheets used to review data, and the opportunity to know a lot more about patients. However this again came back to the specific saying that the intervention is all about the relationship between patient and provider and asking whether we are enabling patients to follow through with recommendations. (At Wellpepper, we would say there’s a great opportunity to improve here based on many of the care plans and instructions we’ve seen.)

Seattle Health Innovator's MeetupDr. Levine from Iora talked about his experiences training residents in listening skills and the payoff. Compared to a common approach of telling the patient they have limited time and to focus on the top issue, Dr. Levine advocated listening first, ask the patient to recount all their concerns, make a commitment to truly listen and hold the information the patient provided, and then follow up on the most pressing issues. Although the residents were skeptical, this approach yielded significantly faster follow-up as key information wasn’t being uncovered at a later date.

Events like this provide a great opportunity for those enthusiastic about changing healthcare to exchange ideas, and especially for entrepreneurs to learn practical advice from those in the trenches delivering care and trying new models. The big takeaways are that the promise of big data in healthcare is yet to be realized, and because of that population health tools may not be as effective as they could be. While the focus on patient personalization, customization, and meeting the needs of the individual are key, we need to figure out new ways to scale to solve this great problems in health.

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

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BIG-BIG-BIG. Company, heart and checkbook.

“Delivering Innovation Across the Healthcare Continuum”
Christopher Hall, Ph.D.
Senior Director, Radiology Solutions, Philips Healthcare
March 2, 2015

The last time I was in the Turner Auditorium at UW Health Sciences, I was a Clinical Informatics student learning about telehealth as more or less a theory. That was five years ago, now sitting in the same seat the numbers are flying in with results of how telehealth is saving big bucks for hospitals. For example, according to the presenter Mr. Hall, Banner Health saved 20-40% utilizing more or less the same platform that Wellpepper uses. Sending patients’ home with a tablet and/or connection devices (scales, heart monitors, etc.) and having patient compliance mechanisms in place, i.e. emails, chats between providers and patients. 20-40%, honestly? Wow.

A common thread through his presentation was the importance of streamlining care from the “waiting/hospital room to the living room” and to empower patients through careful, thoughtful and collaborative innovation. To me this is the ultimate goal to accomplish in telehealth, that and the obvious, for patients to get better. Philips currently has 190 million patients with 1 million being monitored in their homes everyday under their charge, this is a large population to be accountable for, so much so next year there will be ‘Philips Lighting’ and ‘Royal Philips’, the latter being in charge of just healthcare.

Telehealth Project from my UW SON Clinical Informatics class. Circa 2011

Telehealth Project from my UW SON Clinical Informatics class. Circa 2011

Philips’ focus now and in the coming years as Royal Philips, is on the Chronic disease patient population, since they make up about 75% of healthcare spending and home health care can help reduce costs without compromising quality. Home healthcare can also prevent readmission to the hospital by 20% and their electronic ICU platform helps significantly with early detection through the ‘over the shoulder care’. Patients are 26% more likely to survive and 15% are discharged faster. Those percentages are not easy to ignore, and the stronghold that telehealth has on a patient’s life, quite literally, and family is remarkable. Ironically I couldn’t help but giggle, during my graduate degree our team designed an ‘electronic ICU’ of sorts as a project, and it was nice to see those numbers while sitting in the same seat. Kudos Philips, who knows maybe someday you will save my life or someone I love.

Please view previous blogs from the Health Innovators Collaborative series.

For more information on these seminars please visit UW Dept. of Bioengineering website.

Posted in: Healthcare Technology, Healthcare transformation, Outcomes, Seattle, Telemedicine

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Looking Outside Healthcare To Teach Physical Therapy Business Practice

Recap from APTA CSM 2015

Speakers:

Beth Davis, PT, DPT, MBA

Zoher Kapasi, PT, PhD, MBA

Physical therapists have many choices on what to do after graduating: research, private practice, join an existing business, hospital in-patient and outpatient, and home care to name a few. Some private practice owners we’ve met are evangelical about getting their peers to think in a more business oriented way, and have even hatched at Twitter hashtag #bizPT to focus on these issues. They would have loved this session from two PT/MBAs from Emory School of Medicine. The session was a brief review of an elite elective course in the physical therapy program at Emory called “Business Management for the Physical Therapist Entrepreneur.” The course teaches a broad understanding of business issues, not the nuts and bolts of running a practice rather skills for problem solving, thinking like an entrepreneur, and applying the same methodology students use for medical cases to solve business cases.

#BizPT Usual Suspects

#BizPT Experts

In the course, students are challenged to solve bigger issues in healthcare like rising costs, poor care coordination, and the increasing demands of an aging population. Instructors asked students to look beyond healthcare to other businesses and apply these solutions to healthcare. To warm up this comparative muscle, presenters shared some famous examples of innovation transfer including:

Students are trained to evaluate three types of business cases in what could be seen as a mini-business school education. They tackle decision cases, problem cases, and evaluation cases. Instructors try to help them translate their medical investigation and decision making skills to these cases, which have direct medical analogies. Students are shown how analysis of both medical and business cases have similar phases of:

  • Examination
  • Evaluation
  • Diagnosis
  • Prognosis
  • Intervention
  • Outcomes

The course also helps students talk with business lingo which can prepare them to work in larger practices and hospitals, as well as provides them with critical thinking and problem solving skills that will help them fully participate in both business and clinical work upon graduation.

Using cases from Harvard Business School, topics cover all facets of business including growth, customer service, human resources, operations management, marketing, and information technology. Presenters provided some strategies for applying these technique in private practice as well using staff training or lunch & learn discussions. For the folks tweeting on the #BizPT hashtag this course is a welcome addition to a physical therapy curriculum and it seems to have benefits far beyond private practice.

Posted in: Healthcare transformation, Lean Healthcare, Physical Therapy, Rehabilitation Business, Seattle

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Healthcare is part of our supply chain: The Boeing Company

The Health Innovator’s Collaborative sponsored by the University of Washington and the WBBA is entering it’s second year and continuing to gain momentum bringing together providers, payers, and health innovators from education, public sector, and industry to discuss hot topics in health. This week marked the second talk in the new season, delivered by Greg Marchand, Director of Benefits and Policy Strategy at The Boeing Company.

BoBoeing is a data-driven company that makes big bets and takes big risks to bring their products to market. This philosophy extends to how they provide employee benefits, and Marchand and team have taken a data-driven approach to healthcare benefits. In the same way that the principles of lean, data-driven decision making, and cost/risk benefit drive decisions across Boeings supply chain, the same rigor has been applied to healthcare benefits. Marchand knows that Boeing’s human resources are a key part of their success and wants to ensure they are working at optimum productivity. The best way to do that is to make sure they are healthy and that they receive the best benefits available. Quality, innovation, advocacy, and service are the influencers of Boeing’s strategy and the differentiators of their benefits.

Boeing made headlines for their “ACO” approach where they contract directly with healthcare providers and negotiate for service and Marchand came to the Health Innovator’s Collaborative to describe how they did it and why this is the model for the future.

Washington Hospitals, Boeing Strike ACO Deal

Boeing Signs Shared Savings Deal With Washington Hospitals

Boeing-Marchand2Marchand kicked off his talk with a personal example of a “defect” in the healthcare system, to his mind a result of healthcare organizations not having a consumer focus. A few years ago, his wife needed to make a doctor’s appointment for their child. She called for an appointment and was told that she could book a time two weeks from that day, which happened to be a Tuesday. Depending on whether you’re going to see a specialist, 2-weeks could be considered an acceptable wait time for an appointment, however, that wasn’t the problem. The problem was that if she wanted to book an appointment for another day, say 2 weeks from Wednesday, she’d have to call back on Wednesday to book it. Marchand asked the audience to try to imagine what might happen to a retailer like Nordstrom if they used this archane booking system for their personal shoppers. The system had a flaw, and it’s this type of flaw that Marchand and team are on a mission to correct.

boeing-marchand4To do so, they have partnered with UWMedicine and Swedish/Providence in Washington State to provide care for Boeing employees. They also rely on Cleveland Clinic as a Center of Excellence for cardiovascular care. While Marchand says that he doesn’t want employees to have to travel for care, he also wants them to have the most effective care, which is what drove the partnership. (You could tell that this statement was specifically aimed at attendees from the event’s host: the subtext being that it was possible for them to win this business for Boeing.) Boeing’s “triple aim” is quality, experience, and cost with the goal of improving the employee experience and passing any savings as a result of the new ACO model onto employees. Their expectation is that healthcare partners have these same goals and the same data-driven approach. The challenge for Marchand is the need to find partners in all states where Boeing has employees. While Boeing has a lot of clout with $2.5B in annual healthcare spend covering 500K employees, they don’t have the same economies of scale in all states based on employee number. (ACOs looking to pilot new ideas and test data-driven approaches should definitely consider reaching out to work with Boeing: they are looking for solutions.)

Finding the Defects

Marchand’s focus is on continually improving defects in the system and that includes the patient/provider relationship: making sure patients do what they are supposed to do. It also includes using the appropriate forms of communication and care for the situation. Here he gave two examples: using a house call service from Seattle-based Carena for non-emergency issues, especially with children, and being able to email or text your doctor with simple questions, like how to deal with side effects from prescribed medication. Both of these examples provided a higher level of service to the end-user and also lower costs to the entire system. A Carena house-call is 1/3 of the cost of an emergency room visit and email and texting is more efficient and less expensive than a phone call and most certainly than an office visit.

Understanding Cost Drivers

From all the data analysis, Boeing understands very well where its largest cost drivers are coming from and ways to improve, and from Marchand’s talk it was clear that they were very much in the driver seat in pushing their healthcare partners to innovate. Areas of focus include improving the usability of patient communication tools, managing population health, providing easily actionable data for the clinical team, and using the most appropriate and cost effective methods for care. Marchand gave the example of how incentives need to be better aligned to spend money on physical therapy rather than back surgery: again a situation where the patient experience is dramatically improved and costs are lowered, however incentives must be aligned because today, hospitals make more money on surgery than preventative care. Boeing and the ACO vision of the future changes that of course.

The Q&A portion of the event was quite lively and extended far beyond the allotted time. One notable question was about why other employers are not taking the same approach as The Boeing Company. Marchand wishes they would but acknowledged it’s a lot of effort and certainly the data-driven approach is in Boeing’s DNA. As well, only the largest companies have the resources for this type of undertaking.

If you’re in Seattle and interested in the massive changes coming in health and looking for a community of like-minded people plus lively debate, then we recommend you check out the series. Talks are the first Tuesday of every month. We’ll see you there!

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

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Improving Healthcare Quality, Costs, and Outcomes in Washington State

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has. Margaret Mead

Naysayers who can’t see how healthcare is going to move from a fee-for-service to an outcome and value-based model should look at the work being done by organizations like the Institute for Healthcare Innovation, the American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation’s Choosing Wisely program, and The Bree Collaborative.

Last week, I attended a meeting of the Dr. Robert Bree Collaborative, an initiative in Washington State spearheaded by Governor Christine Gregoire in 2011 and named in memory of a physician who focused on cutting back use of inappropriate medical imaging in the state. The goal of the collaborative is:

“…to provide a mechanism through which public and private health care stakeholders can work together to improve quality, health outcomes, and cost effectiveness of care in Washington State.”

Dr. Robert Bree CollaborativeMembers represent some of the top healthcare organizations in the state, as well as representatives from government, and payers. All meetings are open to the public, and the public is encouraged to attend and provide comments. (At the meeting I attended, most of the public seemed to be made up of healthcare industry folks like myself, although there was one attendee who spoke both as a physician and as a patient.)

The Collaborative’s mandate is to tackle four topics per year for quality and process improvements with the aim of statewide adoption in healthcare. Previous recommendations have included those for total joint replacement which is a hot topic due to new Medicare fines for readmission and lumbar spinal fusion, another hot topic due to the rising costs of back pain to employers, health systems, and in lost productivity. Recommendations include not just process recommendations and standardized ways to track outcomes, but also how to deliver care in a bundle. Payers like bundles because they provide some predictability to costs. Patients like bundles for the predictability of costs but also what they can expect from their care. Bundles pose the greatest challenge for providers, as often many of the services are provided by different organizations, for example skilled nursing or specialized physical therapy. Often surgeons are not even employed directly by the hospital where the patient undergoes a procedure. In this situation the hospital or healthcare organization needs to play quarterback and make sure the other organizations are staying within cost and quality guidelines. Add into this the fact that outcomes are so dependent on patient behavior and you can see what a tall order the Bree Collaborative, and organizations like it, have taken on.

At last week’s meeting topics included updates from groups focused on End of Life Care, Addiction/Dependence Treatment, as well as, an update from the state of Washington on state-wide measures to track quality and outcomes. New initiatives that were approved for 2015 workgroups included Coronary Artery Disease, Prostate Screening, Opioid Use, and Oncology. If you are a patient, provider, or payer stakeholder with an interest in any of these topics, you may want to subscribe to The Bree Collaborative’s newsletter to stay abreast of the workgroup’s progress and any recommendations.

In Western Washington, a new purchasing coalition made up of employers with less than 5000 people has formed. The Northwest Healthcare Purchaser’s Coalition is hoping to drive better outcomes and lower costs by combining the purchasing power of many smaller employers. In particular this group is working with local payers and providers Western Washington to try to lower the costs of back pain by implementing Bree Collaborative Workgroup recommendations at the community level. This means both clinical adoption within local healthcare organizations but also public education and awareness about recommendations for reducing back pain.

Going back to the quote from Margaret Mead that started this post, there is no doubt that The Bree Collaborative members are thoughtful, committed, and working for change. Possibly the one thing that is missing is more voices from citizens. All meetings are open to the public. If you have personal experience either positive or negative, especially around care, outcomes, and costs for any of the topics that the Bree is tackling, you’d be welcome at the next public forum. See you there?

And if you’re not in Washington State, there are initiatives like this going on across the United States. Not all are as friendly to the general public, but it’s our health and everyone needs to find a way to participate.

Posted in: Health Regulations, Healthcare Disruption, Healthcare transformation, Seattle

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Adopting Technology in Healthcare for the Right Reasons

Regulations, process, and records keeping are all important parts of managing health IT; however, when implemented without a strategy focused on patient and business value, they can create headaches for CIOs, not to mention patients and healthcare providers. This was an emerging theme Institute for Health Technology Transformation Conference held in Seattle at the end of August.

IHT2 Summit in SeattleThe conference featured speakers from across major healthcare organizations. Mayo Clinic CIO Chris Ross gave the final keynote which summarized many themes of the conference and provided direction for the future. He described Mayo’s tradition of using industrial and process engineering to deliver on Mayo’s promise of team-based integrated care. Viewed through this lens, imperatives to integrate EMRs, adopt ICD-10 and attest to Meaningful Use became opportunities that aided the business, and enhanced patient care. However, he was clear that while these projects were necessary, they were not sufficient by themselves to achieve Mayo’s vision. He went on to describe projects underway to optimize the workflow for their clinicians, in one instance reducing the amount of time doctors spent using IT tools from 30 minutes to 5 minutes per patient. He also described the vision of having hundreds-of-millions of lives under Mayo’s care, and the patient-centric model that they were following to achieve this. This included projects like delivering the Mayo app deeply integrated with Apple’s HealthKit technology.

Ross also asked his peers to consider the move to electronic records keeping to be a move to digitizing the healthcare industry to keep pace with the innovation available in other industries instead of a regulatory requirement. He envisions a system where a unified data platform provides digital care and knowledge management and recording keeping is a by-product of that system.

Focusing on the right strategy was also a theme in a talk by Dr. Nick Wolter of the Billings Clinic. Wolter described a 1993 merger with Deaconess that nearly bankrupted the organization. The merger was focused on regulatory and process integration while ignoring the vision for the new organization. In 1997, with financial losses posted, they hired turnaround experts who focused on physician leadership development. By 2005 they had established a vision to be best in the nation for patient safety, quality, and service. In 2010 Billings Clinic added value to their mandate and are looking closely at ACO metrics to make sure they are delivering on these promises.

Throughout the two-day conference, panelists called out EMRs as a significant driver of physician dissatisfaction. While meaningful use requirements have increased the focus on moving to electronic records, in many cases this is apparently happening without a vision that leverages these transformations to improve physician efficacy and patient care, which is unfortunate as these two areas if provided with appropriate electronic tools could see some of the biggest benefits.

Although there is was definitely a dissatisfaction expressed with the current state of health IT, it was promising to see shifts towards tools that are more focused on provider workflow and patient engagement. Even more promising was the general understanding at this conference that digital healthcare can and should be better delivered. At Wellpepper we’re excited to support this shift to a patient- and value-centered system.

Posted in: Health Regulations, Healthcare Disruption, Healthcare Technology, Seattle

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Post or Perish? Disseminating Scientific Research and the Kardashian Index

Publish or perish has long been the mantra of academic research. While this used to be limited to peer-reviewed journals, researchers are increasingly needing to include public outreach through social media to their list of communication vehicles. A recent panel at the International Society for Environmental Epidemiology conference this week in Seattle tackled this problem with some practical advice. With a focus on the environmental factors that can impact public health, the researchers at this conference have a definite need to reach a broad audience base not just to justify their grant money but to positively impact public health and the environment with their findings.

Disseminating air pollution effects on public health

Disseminating air pollution effects on public health

Disseminating scientific research to the general population is not an easy task. Media outlets like easy wins and definitive statements, but research results often need the fine print to be fully understood, and the fine print often contains details like study methodology or influencing factors that either are too complicated for the general public or limit the results of the findings to very specific situations. For example, perhaps a drug proves effective but only in left-handed blind mice that could play the tuba. This might be a big scientific breakthrough pointing towards broader benefits, but it’s not conclusive enough for media that want to say things like “New drug 100% effective” not “Drug thought to be effective in tuba-playing left-handed blind mice.”

One audience member, who worked in communications for a large research organization summed up this problem as ‘if a headline meets my criteria no media outlet would pick it up.’ That is, by the time the headline was completely scientifically unambiguous, like our blind mice example, it didn’t seem like news.

The session featured real world examples and best practices from http://escapeproject.eu/ and from the NIH. The Escape project was a multi-year study to evaluate the effects of air pollution from birth to death across a wide range of respiratory and other illnesses. You can understand why getting this information beyond academic readers to the general public is so important.

Some tips:

  • The communications plan needs to be part of the grant-writing process, and for studies that impact public health, you need to think beyond PubMed to the general press and social media.
  • Know what channels your audience accesses. Are they on Twitter or Facebook or maybe print media?
  • Understand what larger story your research is part of and position it within that context. For example, for Escape, it’s the impact of air pollution on health.
  • Understand the implications of your research for the general public. What action do you want them to take based on your findings?
  • Avoid scientific jargon.
  • Make sure you can distill the main message from the study, and as conclusively as possible within the parameters of your research topic.
  • Leverage partner organizations for their press and communications contacts and to disseminate the message. For example, the Escape project used respiratory related health organizations to help spread the word about their findings.
  • Photos can be a powerful way to get attention and disseminate information. Here Escape found that photos of major cities obliterated by smog were very effective to accompany news articles about their study results.
  • Don’t dismiss the Kardashian Index. Some researchers downplay the value of social media because the most popular scientists on social media are often doing the least amount of research and possibly not the best researchers. However rather than making them shy away from social media as a result, the presenters urged the audience to participate more actively to make sure their voices and research were heard. Popularity and valid information do not need to be mutually exclusive.
Do's and Don'ts for Social Media for Researchers

Do’s and Don’ts for Social Media for Researchers

As active social media participants here at Wellpepper, we have a couple of additional recommendations for researchers:

  • Try not to name your study with an acronym. Studies usually have very long names and then acronyms are coined as a short cut. However, they usually don’t convey the actual meaning of the study. “Escape” is an acronym for European Study for Air Pollution Effects. How about “Smog Europe?” ;). A descriptive name with a subtitle is a lot easy for the general public and news media to grasp.
  • Infographics can be a great way to communicate a lot of data-rich information like this one from the NIH about social media influence within a online medical community. Put your contact and study information on the infographic and make it easy for people to redistribute. (We didn’t include the NIH graphic here because it required emailing them for permission.)

Even within the session attendees that represented researchers from across the globe and in all career stages, there was a great digital divide. One young researcher implored her older colleagues to use Facebook to engage with scientists and potential scientists of her generation. She also mentioned that it was a great place to recruit study subjects. Another researcher from Chile talked about the power of social media for collecting data: getting reports from people on the ground who were facing environmental health challenges. This could have been a topic unto itself, and if more deeply explored might have convinced some of the more curmudgeonly audience members who were concerned about the current proliferation of communications channels, lack of ubiquitous digital access, and a worldwide decline in scientific literacy.

In the age of social media, the idea of publish or perish takes on new relevance and meaning, and hopefully scientists and researchers understand that embracing these new ways to engage directly with the general public will amplify the impact of their work.

Posted in: Behavior Change, Healthcare Social Media, Healthcare transformation, Seattle

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IT Can Make a Big Difference in Healthcare, Why Hasn’t It?

The final in the excellent collaborative healthcare series from the University of Washington and the Washington Biotechnology and Biomedical association did not necessarily end the series on a high note: speaker Peter Neupert presented a view of the near-term realities of healthcare evolution that was sobering for technology vendors. Basically Neupert’s thesis (and investing thesis) is that technology alone cannot have an impact on healthcare process and outcome improvement, and that pure technical solutions are doomed in the current situation where there is a lack of symmetry between the recipient of service and the payer of the service.Determinants of Health

The benefit of technology historically has been to create efficiencies and economies of scale by reducing manual efforts and waste. In the current system, the payers are incented to decrease costs, however, the way many providers are paid (fee for service) result in no incentives for them to reduce cost. Also, we currently have a disjointed system where payers and employers are responsible for the health of people until age 65 and the government is responsible afterwards, which is not conducive to preventative medicine or efforts to help the long-term health of the population.  Changes in healthcare models as part of the Affordable Care Act will drive the need for providers to be concerned about both population and long-term health but right now, we are in transition, which is why Neupert is betting (at least in the mid-term) on services that are delivered with technology rather than technology on its own unlike other industries. Neupert believes the winners will be those who can deliver a healthcare service more efficiently with technology, for example, home care systems that are able to do remote monitoring with telehealth and sensors and find problems before they become major issues.

Another reason Neupert cited as a reason that Health IT has not made the impact it could have is that in the US in particular, 5% of the people represent 50% of the cost. The reasons for poor health in this 5% are heterogeneous, which also makes it hard for a pure technology solution to address and do what technology does best which is scale. Neupert gave the example of an outpatient care company that produced better outcomes by simply making sure that patients had a ride to their follow-up care, a decidedly low-tech solution. As we think about preventative health solutions, it’s not enough to consider the person in treatment, we also have to consider the environment, for example, if you want to change a person’s diet you also have to change the diet of their family. Technology could help here, for example visual food journals have proven to be effective, but step one is often making sure the family has access to fresh food and knows how to prepare it.

Big data is another lauded savior of healthcare. But if data is not used it is not accurate. Again, there needs to be incentive to use it and that will drive data accuracy and results. Neupert gave the example of New York Presbyterian who have over 100 hospital applications and consequently very good data and contrasted that with the statistic that cause of death is cited incorrectly 25% of the time. Applying analytics to that data would be futile as we’d be trying to prevent the wrong cause of death.

Healthcare IT is grappling with problems that other industries faced years ago, for example, moving to the cloud, bring your own devices, or single-sign on. The key is for both healthcare organizations and technology companies not to see IT or the implementation of an EMR as the savior of improved healthcare, but as a tool that can enhance human-based processes. At Wellpepper we know that a key driver of patient adherence to outpatient treatment plans is the connection and relationship patients feel with their healthcare provider and think that technology is a great tool to enhance and extend that relationship.

We’d like to thank the Health Innovator’s Collaborative, the University of Washington, and the WBBA for this series. It provided inspiration, innovation, and an important dose of reality to big thorny problems. We hope to see this continue.

Posted in: Health Regulations, Healthcare Disruption, Healthcare Technology, Healthcare transformation, Seattle

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Good, Fast, and Cheap: Demonstrating Value in Health Innovation

The goal of Triple Aim is to say that, despite what any project manager will tell you, you can have all three.

Good, Fast, Cheap

Source: http://ollmann.cc/

This provocative statement, set the tone for this third installment in Seattle’s  Health Innovator’s Collaborative, a talk called “Demonstrating Value in Health Innovation: Lessons from Comparative Effectiveness Research” by Larry Kessler, Professor and Chair, Department of Health Services, UW School of Public Health and formerly of the FDA, NIH, and NIMH. Dr. Kessler believes that the new accountable care organizations are mandated to deliver on all three and used the example of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement which was founded in 1991 on this principle and brings together leading hospitals, policy people, and researchers who are finding the best ways to deliver triple aim across many specialties.

Changes in how healthcare systems deliver care will drive innovation; however, innovation for its own sake will not win. Innovation must show evidence, cost savings, and revenue drivers. At the same time, it must satisfy a much wider group of stakeholders than previously including patients, physicians and clinicians, payers and providers. Innovative approaches and technology will take the leap past simply showing evidence of clinical outcomes to delivering value. This is a dramatically different approach from how typical NIH or FDA studies are done today. Those studies are done with a small slice of the population that is homogeneous, for example, they only have one issue and no co-morbidities. This type of study may prove outcomes with this particular population, but it doesn’t show cost or revenue based value and is no indicator of how something would work in the population at large, where the sickest patients are usually struggling with more than one issue.

Quality needs to be redefined as the best service AND the best health outcomes AND the best cost outcomes. Dr. Kessler went on to show some clear examples where solutions needed to go to the next level to be adopted and show results.

The first example provided a model that showed over a 5 year period, gastric bypass surgery proved cost effective. However, insurance plans do not include this surgery and require copious paperwork to justify it. This may make sense though, as the determinates of whether surgery is actually cost effective include a number of additional factors like the population and especially whether they will be part of your problem in 5 years. This is where the new accountable care organizations that are charged with population health will have an easier time with the cost benefit analysis as they be responsible for these patients in 5 years.

Another similar example is the new drug Solvaldi for the treatment of Hepititis C. It’s recently been in the news for its staggering price tag: $84,000 for a 12-week course. However, the drug has proved to be extremely effective, and University of Washington health economist Sean Sullivan points out “the drug is far cheaper than the alternative, which is a liver transplant and a lifetime of immunosuppressant drugs.” Again, though, whether this is a bargain or not depends on how long the payer thinks they will be responsible for the patient.

Successful business outcomes based on cost savings were shown in the example of two diagnostic tests for whether breast cancer would reoccur. The FDA-approved test MammaPrint could predict the recurrence of breast cancer. The non-FDA approved test Oncotype DX could predict the recurrence of breast cancer AND whether chemotherapy would work for the patient. This test, while not FDA-approved became far more popular as it showed very clear cost savings and quality of life for patients who did not undertake unnecessary chemotherapy.

Another study, Back Pain Outcomes Using Longitudinal Data-Extension of Research (BOLDER) was able to consider the patient experience as part of treatment. This study looked at 5,239 patients over 65 with new primary care visits for back pain across 3 integrated systems: Kaiser Permanente of Northern California, Henry Ford Health System, Harvard Vanguard/Harvard Pilgrim. The study goal was to determine the impact of early imaging as an intervention. The results are not yet published, but a couple of observations were already apparent. First, patients sent for MRIs, delay getting physical therapy and if the MRI shows they need physical therapy rather than surgery they have delayed their recovery by the time they waited for the MRI. In this case, the intervention of imaging if it was not needed produced less positive results for patients.

This study used the Roland-Morris Disability Questionnaire and it was also noted that many of the standardized testing tools do not account for what the patient actually considers a good outcome, like whether they can sleep soundly or have sex. Again, this shows that studies need to go a step further into the real world application of the patient’s situation.

These examples showed that it’s not enough to show that an intervention or new technology worked in a study, they also need to work in the real world. For payers that means lowering costs, for providers that means lowering costs or generating revenue while improving outcomes, and for patients that means delivering outcomes that are important to them, not just clinically validated.

The final lecture in this series will be June 3rd with Peter Neupert of Health Innovation Partners. See you there!
“IT can make a big difference in health:  Why hasn’t it?”

Health Innovators Collaborative
4:30 PM, W.H. Foege Building, UW Campus
Seminar: Foege Auditorium (S060)
Reception: Foege North 1st Floor Lobby

 

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

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Transforming Healthcare Through IT in Washington State

It seems every week there’s another health IT event in Seattle these days and we’re pretty excited about that. The grassroots efforts to build a health community really seem to be starting to take hold.  This week we had the pleasure of attending and presenting about Wellpepper at a Technology Alliance and WBBA event called “Transforming Healthcare Through IT: Investment Opportunities in an Emerging Sector”  held at K&L Gates beautiful offices. The WBBA officially launched their new Innovative Health initiative at the event: they are adding a third focus area to their current biomedical and biotechnology pillars and taking up the mantle of healthcare IT. Given that the lines are blurring between medical devices and mobile devices and software in particular, and that the WBBA are experts in healthcare regulations, this is a welcome move.

The view from K&L Gates Seattle, copyright K&L Gates

The view from K&L Gates Seattle, it was that beautiful this week. Source: K&L Gates

The event was kicked off by Rob Arnold of VantagePoint Investments, who outlined why health IT is so hot right now with a review of a number of trends including patient-centered care and the new requirements of the Affordable Care Act. However, he pointed out that Seattle really didn’t register as a center of healthcare IT investment. San Francisco, New York, Chicago, and even Atlanta and Nashville were far ahead. And yet, as we’ve heard many times we have some of the best healthcare systems in the country and some of the best software developers in the world. What we don’t have is investment, but this event, by bringing together investors, startups, and providers was aiming to change this.

Next up was a panel focused on the landscape of and future of IT moderated by John Koster, MD and former CEO of Providence Health & Services, with panelists Todd Cozzens from Sequoia Capital, Mark Gargett, VP of Digital Integration, Providence Health & Services, and Ralph Sabin from Fortis Advisors. The current state of health IT is not great: 80% of health records are running on a 45-year old technology called MUMPS (ie Epic), and 65% of providers continue to look for cost savings instead of at the $1T opportunity to fundamentally change how we do healthcare.  The current systems were characterized as a “big calcified hairball.”

EMRs need to transform and unlock the data in them to change this system, to be able to be prescriptive rather than reactive, for example, imagine identifying asthma patients and telling them about environmental changes that might impact their health.

All the panelists agreed that the transformation needs to come from within the healthcare system, and cited Microsoft, Google, and GE’s entrance and exit from personal and electronic health records as examples of why technology alone without a keen understanding of the process and system will not effect change.

On the other hand, there are lots of opportunities to fix small problems, for example, patient workflow or outpatient care. However, these incremental changes are harder to predict: it’s easier to see the large scale changes necessary than to fully understand the steps on the road to get there. This may be why the venture money shies away.

The panel also agreed that healthcare is becoming a retail model with patients as consumers driven by both high-deductibles and also expectations from conveniences in other industries. Providence recognized that consumers are increasingly in control of their health decisions and “want to be delighted.” Todd Cozzens from Sequoia predicted the winners would be those who could deliver on a retail experience, and close to or possibly even in a patient’s home.

Similar to discussion we’ve heard at other conferences about the future of healthcare, there was a belief that the fundamental skillset of individual healthcare providers needed to change: in the past remembering a number of facts and applying them in a particular situation was important. With technological advances like IBM’s Watson, computers can do a much better job of diagnosis and the role of the doctor changes to a social role of translating diagnosis into an effective care plan. Or as we’ve heard it characterized: “putting the care back in caregiving.”

Next up Mary Haggard and Joe Piper from Point B Managing Consultants and Capital, showed their “Health IT Landscape Matrix” which was an attempt to characterize Washington’s health IT companies according to the big buckets of Triple Aim categorized as “Creating Efficiency,” “Unlocking the Data,” and “Improving the Delivery of Care.” At the same time they attempted to categorize by the buyer (consumer, employer, provider, or payer), which wasn’t quite as easy and probably reflects the changing landscape of healthcare. What was amazing about the exercise was to see the diversity and number of players in Washington State. This is a great start to hopefully what will become a definitive reference source for the local industry.

Next up were the startup pitches from Corengi, Owl Outcomes, Health123, MedaNext, Spiral Genetics, 2Morrow, CadenceMD, TransformativeMed, and Wellpepper, which ranged from patient engagement to unlocking data genomics to unlocking data in the EMR (not sure which is harder ;)). We’ve been at events with most of these companies before and it was great to hear how they have gained traction and how their businesses and stories are evolving. As a presenting startup, we were happy to be in such great company both with our fellow audience and with attendees.

Posted in: Health Regulations, Healthcare Disruption, Healthcare Technology, Healthcare transformation, Lean Healthcare, M-health, Seattle

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