Tag: healthcare

For US Healthcare Providers, Hope for Rescue From Shrinking Margins Lies in ‘People, Process, Technology’—But With Bolder and Smarter Partnerships This Time: Everest Group | Press Release

Everest Group offers solutions to help healthcare providers combat margin-crushing regulations, expenses, and risks in turbulent marketplace

A majority of healthcare providers in the United States suffered financial decline in 2017 amid the industry shift toward a value-based care system. Although many healthcare providers espouse a sound and logical strategy that focuses on people, process, and technology, few have been singing that song correctly, according to Everest Group.

In Everest Group’s recently published report, “Healthcare Provider Market: Addressing Issues Beyond Value-Based Care | What Healthcare Providers Need to Do to Address Myriad of Challenges,” the firm presents the challenges faced by healthcare providers in the market today and explains how most healthcare providers’ efforts to overcome those challenges have fallen short.

The key challenges facing healthcare providers include the following:

  • Not only Obama-era regulations, such as MACRA, but also some GOP-proposed / -passed regulations such as Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) are putting pressure on hospital margins. MACRA alone is likely to cause a decline in hospital Medicare reimbursement by at least US$250 billion by 2030.
  • Massive investments into extremely expensive electronic health record (EHR) systems with little or no preparedness and vision have led to poor financial performance.
  • Continuing fraud, lack of education, and the inability of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to address these issues have resulted in doubling of improper payments in the past five years, with improper payments in 2016 reaching approximately US$102 billion.
  • Claims denials totaled more than US$250 billion in 2016, highlighting the significance of payment risk for hospitals.
  • Talent shortages, escalating training costs and a lack of collaboration are also among the key issues affecting health systems’ workforces.

To engineer a turnaround in this bleak trend, U.S. healthcare providers still need to focus their investments on people management, process improvement and technology enhancement—but in smarter ways than ever before, according to Everest Group. In particular, healthcare providers need to be more targeted in their digital transformation investments and bolder in their ecosystem development endeavors, relying heavily on partnerships to effect greater change.

“One very real and pressing concern of many providers is the large investment they have already made in large-scale EHR implementations and the limited resources remaining for new investments,” said Manu Aggarwal, practice director at Everest Group. “To identify the path forward, providers need to outline a targeted set of investments instead of another round of large ones. Specifically, investments in automation and analytics can yield solid, quick wins and pave the way for future engagements without the need for high capital outlay.”

“Another ‘must’ for providers is ushering in a much more collaborative culture,” added Aggarwal. “For example, providers need real-time data sharing with payers in order to provide enhanced patient experience. Providers also need strong partnerships with technology vendors and business process service providers to deliver the modern, technology-driven services that patients demand. And, finally, broader collaboration among the health network is required for improving patient outcomes and maximizing reimbursements.”

Additional examples of the solutions recommended by Everest Group in the report include the following:

  • To address the talent shortage, hospitals should hire visiting physicians and nurses, link incentives with performance, and collaborate with specialists for training purposes to enhance people management.
  • Technology investment is a must; however, hospitals also need to sort out issues regarding technology illiteracy and improper implementation in order to achieve a positive return on investment.
  • Digital transformation does not end with EHR implementation; rather it involves continuous investments in other systems such as revenue cycle management (RCM) as well as tools for analytics and automation. Providers should set their sights on the ultimate objective: interoperable systems with end-to-end patient engagement.
  • The uninsured population is expected to increase with the removal of the Individual Mandate; hence, healthcare providers need to strengthen front-end processes such as eligibility verification and pre-authorization to avoid claims denial at later stages.

 ***Download a complimentary abstract of the report. ***

Urgent Digital Action Items for Healthcare Payers: Systems Integration, Data Standardization & Homogenized Processes—Everest Group | Press Release

ITO and BPO to grow steadily as healthcare payers play catch-up on digital solutions to navigate industry convergence and a shift in focus from B2B to B2C

Healthcare is lagging behind other industries in adopting digital strategies, but radical changes in the marketplace—such as the advent of Walmart and Amazon as players in the space and the disintermediation of Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) like Express Scripts and CVS—are cultivating a fertile field for digital solutions.

Everest Group describes the current healthcare market as a shape-shifting industry, with once disparate players in the market—payers, providers, PBMs and pharmaceutical companies—converging, and the focus of healthcare payers shifting from business-to-business (B2B) to business-to-consumer (B2C). To successfully navigate these industry shifts, healthcare payers must adopt radically different, technology-based approaches to the way they serve members, reimburse providers, operate their internal systems, and adapt to changes in government regulations and programs, according to Everest Group.

“Take the typical healthcare payer’s internal IT systems and processes, as just one example,” said Abhishek Singh, practice director at Everest Group. “They are plagued with disparate information systems, fragmented member information, legacy IT burdens, insufficient transparency in financial records, and inflexible, manual processes. The need of the hour in this regard is systems integration, data standardization and homogenized processes. For this reason, we expect the healthcare payer IT-BPS market to grow 8 percent by 2020.”

In its recently published report, Healthcare Payer Annual Report: Payers Look at Digital to Reinvent in a Turbulent Healthcare Market, Everest Group examines in detail the myriad changes impacting the healthcare and life sciences market and describes specific steps healthcare payers need to take in four key areas to be future ready.

  1. Members: In the past, a “one-size-fits-all” approach sufficed. Those days are over. Payers must now focus on enhancing the customer experience by providing customized and tailored services, offerings and solutions to individuals. Web-based insurance channels, interoperable databases, cloud-based platforms and predictive analytics are digital tools that payers can use to overcome current challenges.
  1. Providers: Transaction- or volume-based payment approaches are being replaced by outcome-based approaches. As an increasing share of payments to providers is linked to value, payers must focus on both business and patient metrics. Access to a large amount of accurate data is a key asset in solving business challenges and mitigating pain points. Payers must focus on integrating systems to ensure seamless data flow, data management and analytics. Of particular importance is implementing a common analytical framework that continuously derives meaningful insights from the shared information.
  1. Internal systems: In general, payers’ internal systems can be described today as disjointed and fragmented. Payers must transition towards internal systems that provide a unified view of members, technology assets and resources. Currently, payers are struggling with the burden of legacy systems, manual processes and system inefficiencies. Payers must focus on data interoperability, process reengineering, change management and platform modernization.
  1. Government: Whereas our healthcare system has focused on volume rather than outcome in the past, going forward the focus will be on outcomes with lower cost. With a focus on cost-reduction initiatives, payers should focus on seamless data flow and system architecture to gain traction.

“We will see payers relying on sourcing partners to address data flow and integration; the adoption of digital levers such as mobility, cloud automation and analytics; and process standardization and reengineering,” said Singh. “These technology and operations mandates will be the key factors that determine whether payers’ are able to successfully transition to a future-ready state.”

***Download a complimentary abstract of “Healthcare Payer Annual Report: Payers Look at Digital to Reinvent in a Turbulent Healthcare Market” here.***

Artificial Intelligence is Democratizing Mental Health | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

If I had a penny for every time Artificial Intelligence was mentioned during the recent NASSCOM India Leadership Forum, I could buy a lot of Bitcoins. Both hype and hope abound around AI and its impact on different industries’ business models.

Let’s take a look at AI the healthcare industry. Adoption is increasing, helping solve a number of problems for patients, doctors, and the industry overall. AI engines are helping doctors identify patterns in patient symptoms with data and analytics, improve diagnoses, pick the right treatments, and monitor care.

For instance, physicians can now plug diagnoses into IBM’s Watson for Oncology and receive treatment suggestions based on historical patient data and information from medical journals. Face2Gene combines facial recognition software with machine learning to identify facial dysmorphic features, helping clinicians diagnose rare genetic diseases.

Mental health treatment: Can AI be the cure?

Using AI to treat mental health issues is particularly fascinating. So far, AI has only been viewed as a means to help healthcare professionals provide better care. But can it eliminate a patient’s need to consult with a doctor altogether for mental health-focused moral counseling and empathetic support?

Consider this: AI engines today have the ability to listen, interpret, learn, plan, and problem solve. Early identification of mental health issues is possible through the analysis of a person’s facial features, writing patterns, tone of voice, word choice, and phrase length.

These are all decisive cues in learning what’s going on in a person’s mind, and can be used to predict or detect and monitor mental conditions such as psychosis, schizophrenia, mania, and depression.

AI as a panacea for mental health

The idea of end-to-end mental health treatment through AI with no human intervention is quite viable, and the prospect becomes even more enticing when you consider how the following factors could drive acceptance among patients:

AI Blog ExhibitThus, it’s not surprising that a few players have already begun to delve into this space. Woebot is a software chatbot that delivers a mood management program based on Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT). AI luminary Andrew Ng is on the company’s board of directors. Randomized controlled trials at Stanford University have shown that Woebot can help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety in two weeks.

AI Blog MobileAnother example is Tess, a psychological AI that communicates via text, administers highly personalized psychotherapy, psycho-education, and delivers on-demand health-related reminders, when and where a mental health professional isn’t available. It can hold conversations with the patient through a variety of existing technology-based communications, including SMS, WhatsApp, and web browsers. More recently, Facebook started using AI to help predict when users may be suicidal.

There are even cases of highly specialized products:

  • An app called Karim counsels Syrian refugee children
  • Emma helps Dutch speakers with mild anxiety
  • MindBloom allows users to support and motivate each other

Are robo-doctors just around the corner?

While the hype crowd might have you believe that your next appointment will be with a droid, several open questions warrant healthy skepticism of mainstream AI adoption in mental healthcare:

  • There are privacy issues, with the possibility of user data being shared with various parties seeking to profit from it
  • Could training AI systems with biased data lead to them make biased decisions?
  • Will users even take advice from software as seriously as they would from a qualified professional?
  • Can the technology successfully cater to a universal population?

The ecosystem is trying to solve for these and other questions. While it might be too early to say that AI-based mental health treatment options can become mainstream currency, they clearly create significant value. As healthcare organizations and patients experiment with these use cases, there’s a sizable opportunity to reimagine the workflow and treatment paradigm.

Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway & JPMorgan Chase, Team Up to Tackle the Messy Business of Healthcare | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

On January 30, 2018, Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and JPMorgan Chase & Co.  announced a partnership to address healthcare for their U.S. employees. The goal is simple – provide their employees and their families with simplified, high-quality, and transparent healthcare at a reasonable cost, through technology solutions. They intend to pursue this opportunity through an independent company that is free from profit-making constraints.

The rationale behind this move

While this might not be the big Amazon-disrupts-healthcare reveal the market had been hoping for, it is still a meaningful move. Employer-sponsored health insurance currently covers around 157 million people in the United States, and people are not satisfied with the present state of affairs:

  • Insurers and employers are shifting the burden of increasing healthcare costs to the employees. Employees are now facing much higher deductibles and insurance contributions.HC PremiumsEmployers are moving towards programs with narrower networks. And if employees choose to visit a doctor outside the network, they have to spend more out of their own pocket.

HC Deductible_1

  • Health insurance premiums are growing faster than employee wages for both private and public workers. On average, premium as a ratio of wages has increased by four percentage points in the last five years.

The new healthcare normal calls for a fresh approach

Amidst rising costs, evolving consumer preferences, changing operating models, and an uncertain regulatory environment, stakeholders in the healthcare ecosystem are trying to create innovative partnerships and business models. For example:

  • CVS is buying Aetna for US$69 billion, creating a mini healthcare ecosystem
  • Anthem broke up with Express Scripts, its long-term pharmacy benefit management (PBM) partner, and is building its own PBM capabilities with some help from CVS
  • Intermountain Healthcare is leading a collaboration with Ascension, SSM Health, and Trinity Health, in consultation with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, to form a new, not-for-profit generic drug company. The goal is to make essential generic medications more available and more affordable, bringing competition to the market for generic drugs
  • At last count in 2017, there were 923 accountable care organizations (ACO) covering approximately 32 million lives.

The Amazon-Berkshire Hathaway-JPMC trio could well lay down a marker on how employers shape and drive their own healthcare mandates. Consider the firms’ complementary skill sets:

  • Amazon has the deep technology expertise and experience-first approach crucial to addressing needs of an evolving workforce and consumer base. And from a data standpoint, AWS has already stated interest in leveraging longitudinal health records for population health and analysis efforts. E.g., it could use expertise in logistics to rethink warehousing and distribution to make drugs more cost efficient.
  • Berkshire Hathaway and JPMC can help improve the financial engineering that underpins the new endeavor, provide scale, and improve collective bargaining power.

 How might the mega-alliance play out?

This alliance can potentially have a huge impact on all the healthcare stakeholders.

HC Impact_1

The road ahead

The mega-healthcare company will currently focus on its combined employee base of approximately 1 million employees – plus their families – in the U.S. If it’s successful, it can take the model to other employer groups to help them address inefficiencies in their current healthcare setup.

However, it’s critical to keep in mind that healthcare differs from other areas disrupted by tech. It is often messy, fragmented, and lacks interoperable/standard data. Strikingly similar initiatives have faced hurdles and shut down (…remember Dossia?) Many initiatives to reimagine healthcare from outside have failed to move the needle meaningfully.

Given the lack of clarity around specifics of this partnership, some amount of skepticism is warranted. But for now, everybody’s looking at what the future holds.

What is your take on this mega-alliance? We would love to hear from you at [email protected] and [email protected]

IT Services Opportunities with the NHS: Patient Care and Advanced Technologies | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

It should come as no surprise that global services activity in the U.K. has dropped significantly in all sectors in the aftermath of the Brexit referendum. Indeed, according to our Transaction Intelligence database of sourcing deals, in the healthcare space, the U.K.’s National Health Service (NHS) awarded 13 outsourcing deals in 2015, 11 in 2016, but only four in the first half of 2017.

However, our research indicates that the policy of patient-centric care introduced by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence in 2012 is likely to drive ample long-term opportunities for innovative IT service providers that offer technology enablers.

EG KTFor example, under the NHS’s RightCare initiative, the NHS may look to accelerate the adoption of value-based care. Funding is focused on allocative value (how well assets are distributed to different areas of healthcare), technical value (how well resources are used to achieve valid outcomes), and personalized value (determined by how well an outcome matches patient expectation). Additionally, with increasing demand for telemedicine, NHS trusts will be on the lookout for providers that develop mobile applications aimed at remote healthcare management to support the growing importance of care at home for chronic conditions.

A robust cybersecurity network is equally imperative in the wake of recent instances of data breaches such as the March 2017 WannaCry attack, in which the medical records of 26 million NHS patients were hacked. Service providers can help the NHS protect its IT infrastructure from malicious cyber attacks by offering threat intelligence solutions, threat detection and mitigation applications, Blockchain-powered Electronic Health Records (EHRs), and persona-based security platforms.

While third-party providers can profit from these long-term opportunities, they need to be cognizant of the changing competitor landscape, particularly from tech start-ups that are testing the waters to realize potential demand in the U.K. healthcare sector. For instance, DeepMind, a London-based artificial intelligence start-up, worked with the NHS in 2016 on technology to improve care coordination.

To take advantage of growing consumerism in the U.K. healthcare space – e.g., e-Referral and e-Consult services – we recommend that IT service providers increase their investments in growing technological areas such as security, mobility, analytics, and IoT. But first and foremost, they must offer services that focus on patient care. Doing so would help the NHS avoid a repeat of its failed National Programme for IT, which was aimed at cost savings and efficiency, but was abandoned after nine years at a cost of £10 billion in 2011.

We will continue to watch this space and actively share our thoughts and perspectives. In the meantime, you can stay up-to-date on our latest insights in the healthcare domain through our dedicated research on the Healthcare & Life Sciences sector.

Obamacare enrollment begins, but no major gain for Wipro, Cognizant | In the News

IT services companies, which were betting on the enrollment for Obamacare to revive faster growth in healthcare services business in the US, may be disappointed as the Trump administration has cut budgets and time for enrollment of the landmark healthcare programme.

Global analysts largely say “nothing much has changed” despite efforts by the current administration to replace the healthcare legislation and this could mean no major change in business for IT services companies, both Indian and global, at least this year.

“…the shorter enrollment period, discontinuing of some subsidies, and reduced funding for advertising also illustrate that the uncertainty is far from over. Consequently, we do not expect the payer segment of the healthcare market to change a great deal with demand for IT services stable but not driving increased growth,” said Peter Bendor-Samuel, chief executive, Everest Group, a global IT research firm.

Read more in Business Standard

What Pain will You Experience if the AHCA Bill Becomes Law? | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

  • Health insurance lost for 24 million U.S. consumers
  • Billions of dollars of care investment marginalized
  • Providers’ margins eroded by payers
  • And a five-year setback to the healthcare system

These are potential side effects if the U.S. House of Representatives- approved American Health Care Act (AHCA) bill becomes a law. Let’s look at the impact the law would have on the key constituencies.

Healthcare providers

With the most needy (the sick and the elderly) portion of the population left uninsured, the healthcare providers will once again be expected to foot a large part of their healthcare bills due to lack of coverage, non-payments, use of ER services, etc.

Healthcare consumers

With premium increases, credits/subsidies being based on age instead of income level, and states’ ability to change or waive pre-existing health condition coverage, a large percentage of older, lower income, and infirmed consumers would likely opt out of having coverage altogether. Young and healthy people would have less incentive to get insurance coverage.

Healthcare payers

The overall theme of the bill would result in a significant decline in volume of work managed by payers. That said, there would be numerous key operational implications for both private and government payers including:

  • Product development: Payers would end up having state specific plans, leading to increased administrative work around plan design and development activities. This would likely have a cascading effect on downstream processes (policy servicing, network and care management, and claims management) which are expected to become more complex and specialized.
  • Claims: Claims volume would likely dwindle, particularly among the old and ill, as a large percentage would have opted out of coverage.
  • Policy servicing: Payers would likely experience a significant uptick in queries from patients and providers, as uncertainty around topics such as eligibility, verification, and premium collection amplifies. However, demand for certain processes, such as HIX support, would likely be sluggish.
  • Care and network management: Care management programs would likely take a backseat, given their significant cost to enrollees and providers. Additionally, companies that had invested heavily in such programs could see decline in their ROI. Lower patient volumes might drive payers to tighten their provider network, leading to less work around network management activities.
  • Government (Medicaid): Reduced federal spend on Medicaid would likely push states towards a modular approach, and maybe even a shift towards a managed care construct.

With a decline in volume of work, it might not be surprising to see some of the larger payers insource certain processes.

The Healthcare IT and BPO service providers

A lesser volume of work across various value-chain segments would translate into lower revenue for third-party vendors. In fact, even though a law hasn’t yet been enacted, the healthcare business in some of the key players, such as Accenture and Cognizant, is already growing at a slower rate than their overall company growth rate. This impact could extend to the overall outsourcing industry. On the other hand, if states decided to exercise the power granted to them differently, service providers could also expect to see increase in the complexity of work around certain functions such as policy servicing and claims management.

Additionally, the ratified law might just be the impetus that mid-to-large buyers without GICs need to opt for bundled IT and BPO deals, which were traditionally a feature of mid-sized buyers.

Of course, the above-mentioned implications are for the bill in its current form. However, moderate Republican senators might well make massive changes to it, especially after the public outrage over certain parts of the bill.

It is going to be tough time of uncertainty for all stakeholders until a law – in whatever shape and form – is passed. In the meantime, payers and healthcare providers need to work closely with their respective service providers to ensure they stay afloat and come out on the right side of fence when the dust settles.
For a detailed analysis comparing the AHCA and ACA, please see our report titled: Acing Uncertainties in the Payer Market: The Trump Cards.

Have a question?

Please let us know how we can help you.

Contact us

Email us

How can we engage?

Please let us know how we can help you on your journey.