Blog Home

Archive for the 'Effectiveness' Category




The Payment Reform Landscape: Accountable Care Organizations


August 5th, 2014

Note: In addition to Suzanne Delbanco, this post is also coauthored by David Lansky.

“The accountable care organization is like a unicorn, a fantastic creature that is vested with mythical powers. But no one has actually seen one,” said former California HealthCare Foundation CEO, Mark Smith, MD, in 2010. Over the last four years, we’ve certainly seen a proliferation of unicorns and we’re now reaching the point where fantasy—at least in a handful of cases—is becoming a reality.

A growing number of large employers are piloting accountable care organizations (ACOs), working through their health plan; in some cases they are doing so directly with provider systems, such as the new Boeing arrangement with Providence Health and Services, Swedish Health Services, and University of Washington Medicine and Intel’s contracting efforts in Albuquerque, New Mexico and Portland, Oregon. The large employers and other health care purchasers with whom we work — eager, if not desperate, for solutions to contain the costs of health care and improve its quality — are watching these first movers carefully to see if ACOs prove to be a viable strategy for improving population health and bending the cost trend.

These leading purchasers intend to set the bar high. They cannot make the investment to pursue these ACO relationships if they are not assured that their populations will see meaningful, measurable gains in their health care and its affordability, as well as their health. That often means contractual commitments to lowering total costs of care and showing improved patient outcomes for targeted populations — like high risk, medically complex patients. Our purchaser colleagues who have been among the early adopters of ACO arrangements have begun to identify the features critical to successful ACOs; these are the elements other purchasers will look for when deciding if it’s worth proceeding.

Read the rest of this entry »

Individual Patient Expanded Access: Developing Principles For A Structural And Regulatory Framework


July 31st, 2014

Editor’s note: In addition to Meaghan George, Sara Bencic and Darshak Sanghavi also coauthored this post. 

Individual patient expanded access, sometimes termed “compassionate use,” refers to situations where access to a drug still in the development process is granted to patients on a case-by-case basis outside of a clinical trial, prior to completion of mandated clinical trials and approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This typically involves filing a single patient or emergency investigational new drug (IND) request with the Food and Drug Administration and voluntary release of the drug by the manufacturer.

Generally, the following criteria must be met: there is reasonable expectation of meaningful benefit despite the absence of definitive clinical trial data, the patient has a serious or life-threatening condition, there are no comparable or satisfactory treatment alternatives, and there are no suitable clinical trials for the drug available to the patient. This form of expanded access, which is the focus of this paper, is different from the situation in which a drug is discharged to a large group of needy patients in the interval between successful phase 3 trials and presumed FDA approval, a strategy often termed a “treatment” IND or protocol, which was initially used in the 1980s for releasing zidovudine to patients with acquired immune deficiency syndrome.

A Call to Action: The Importance of Expanded Access Programs

The Engelberg Center for Health Care Reform at the Brookings Institution recently invited senior leaders from several pharmaceutical companies, two bioethicists, a senior FDA representative, and a patient advocate to share experiences and discuss organizational strategies related to expanded access (see acknowledgements). A driving factor for this meeting was a recent flurry of highly public cases of desperate patients seeking access to experimental drugs, which lead to social media campaigns and media coverage.

Read the rest of this entry »

New Drug And Device Approval: What Is Sufficient Evidence?


July 1st, 2014

Editor’s note: In addition to Jonathan Darrow, this post is also coauthored by Aaron Kesselheim. 

The federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act gives the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to evaluate all prescription drugs and high-risk medical devices before they can be marketed to physicians and patients to ensure that they are safe and effective.

However, there is growing pressure to lessen the traditional standards for defining “safe and effective” for particularly promising therapies and accelerate patient access to these products.

A recent national health policy conference in Washington, D.C., explored the nature of the evidence needed for the regulatory approval of new therapeutics and the implications for patient care. The conference was organized by the Program On Regulation, Therapeutics, And Law (PORTAL) at Brigham and Women’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School, the National Center for Health Research, and the American Academy for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

Read the rest of this entry »

Request For Abstracts: Health Affairs Health Care And Medical Innovation Theme Issue


June 5th, 2014

Health Affairs is planning a theme issue on health care and medical innovation in early-2015. The issue will span the fields of medical technology and also cover public policy and private sector innovations that promote improvements in the delivery of care, lower costs, increase efficiency, etc. We plan to publish 15-20 peer-reviewed articles including research, analyses, and commentaries from leading researchers and scholars, analysts, industry experts, and health and health care stakeholders.

We invite interested authors to submit abstracts for consideration for this issue. To be considered, abstracts must be submitted by June 25, 2014. We regret that we will not be able to consider any abstracts submitted after that date. Editors will review the abstracts and, for those that best fit our vision and goals, invite authors to submit papers for consideration for the issue. Invited papers will be due at the journal by September 2, 2014.

More information on topics and themes for this issue, as well as process guidelines and timetables, is available below and on the Health Affairs website.

Read the rest of this entry »

Measuring Patient Satisfaction: A Bridge Between Patient And Physician Perceptions Of Care


May 9th, 2014

Patient satisfaction is at the core of patient centered medicine. Improved patient satisfaction not only leads to an enhanced patient experience—something every sick or injured patient deserves—it is also associated with improved treatment outcomes. In 2008, researchers demonstrated that improved patient satisfaction was correlated with higher quality hospital care “for all…conditions measured.” More recent work has begun to identify exactly how this correlation works. For example, higher patient satisfaction has been associated with reduced readmission rates. Furthermore, improved patient satisfaction has even been correlated with reduced inpatient mortality, “suggesting that patients are good discriminators of the type of care they receive.”

Despite the correlation between higher patient satisfaction rates and improved outcomes, measurement of patient satisfaction remains controversial among many health care providers. Physicians, in particular, often chafe when organizations, such as The Commonwealth Fund through their site WhyNotTheBest, or the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services though their Physician Compare website, begin to publicly report doctors’ patient satisfaction data. Additionally, employed physicians often fret when patient satisfaction is included in their reimbursement metrics.

Certainly there are instances in which sound medicine may lead to a lower rate of patient satisfaction; infrequently, satisfaction can correlate, not with high quality care, but with the fulfillment of patients’ a priori wishes for their treatment. A good example of this problem is the difficulty in refusing to fill narcotics prescriptions and steering a patient toward alternative pain relief modalities when the physician has good evidence that a patient has a problem with narcotics abuse. While the doctor in this example is practicing good medicine, it is highly unlikely that the patient will leave the office anything other than deeply disappointed.

Despite these relatively rare cases, many studies show a deep chasm between how patients and doctors view medical care, and thus demonstrate the need to measure patient satisfaction rates. Patients and their doctors can view the same episodes of care quite differently so, without patient satisfaction measures, we are left with an incomplete or even misleading picture of patient care.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Payment Reform Landscape: Payment For Non-Visit Functions And The Medical Home


May 6th, 2014

As I’ve been discussing in Health Affairs Blog each month, payment reforms can pose a spectrum of financial risk for providers, with financial upside only — such as pay-for-performance programs — on one end, and downside-only models — such as nonpayment for care that shouldn’t happen — on the other. In March, we examined pay-for-performance, an upside-only model.  This month, we look at another upside-only model, typically used to support care coordination and patient centered medical homes (PCMH). The technical term Catalyst for Payment Reform (CPR) has coined for this payment model is “payment for non-visit” functions.

In its simplest form, this model is a per member per month (PMPM) payment, layered on top of another form of payment like fee-for-service. Providers typically receive this PMPM payment to help them manage their patients’ care and to support their coordination with other providers in the “medical home.” A lot has been written about care coordination and patient-centered medical homes and their ability to improve care outcomes; however, like their pay-for-performance “cousin,” the ability of these models to contain costs remains to be seen.

How common is this payment model?

According to CPR’s 2013 National Scorecard on Payment Reform, based on responses to eValue8, a nationwide survey of commercial health plans, 0.6 percent of commercial insurance payments to doctors and hospitals are payments for non-visit functions, such as care coordination fees for patient-centered medical homes. This percentage represents about 5 percent of all value-oriented payment as measured by CPR. (Approximately 11 percent of all commercial payments are value-oriented—designed to improve quality and reduce waste.)

Read the rest of this entry »

When Less Is More: Issues Of Overuse In Health Care


April 25th, 2014

Editor’s Note: This post is part of an ongoing Health Affairs Blog series on palliative care, health policy, and health reform. The series features essays adapted from and drawing on an upcoming volume, Meeting the Needs of Older Adults with Serious Illness: Challenges and Opportunities in the Age of Health Care Reform, in which clinicians, researchers and policy leaders address 16 key areas where real-world policy options to improve access to quality palliative care could have a substantial role in improving value.

About 18 months ago, Daniel Wolfson, president of the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) Foundation began asking audiences of clinicians if any of them had ever seen a patient subjected to unnecessary medical care. As one of the architects of the Choosing Wisely campaign, an initiative of the ABIM Foundation intended to reduce overuse of medical services, Wolfson had a particular interest in the answer to this question. He was surprised to find that in some of his audiences, a majority of clinicians have personal experience with overuse.

Clinicians’ newfound willingness to concede that overuse is a problem comes as good news for people who have long labored to increase awareness of this aspect of medicine in America, including the authors of this blog and many of the readers of Health Affairs.

Overuse is costly, pervasive, and causes harm to patients, yet it has been remarkably difficult to get the medical profession, health care industry, and general public to take note of it, much less take steps to reduce it. Today, however, there are multiple efforts underway that offer hope for real change, including Choosing Wisely, the growth of palliative care, and the Lown Institute’s Right Care Alliance; but until now, the most difficult step has been the first: for patients, payers, physicians and policymakers to acknowledge the scope of the problem.

Read the rest of this entry »

Clinical Nuance: Benefit Design Meets Behavioral Economics


April 3rd, 2014

On Capitol Hill, there’s a growing chorus of support from both sides of the aisle to move the focus of health care payment incentives from volume to value. Earlier this month, legislators introduced proposals that would have fixed the sustainable growth rate in Medicare, as well as made other changes, including allowing for clinical nuance in Medicare benefit designs. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, too, is embracing this trend, recently asking for partners in a demonstration project to used value-based arrangements in benefit design. These efforts of policymakers and agencies to innovate Medicare’s benefit design are crucial both for the health of seniors and to ensure value in the Medicare program.

The concept of clinical nuance, implemented using value-based insurance design (V-BID), is a key innovation already widely implemented in the private and public payers. It recognizes two important facts about the provision of medical care: 1) medical services differ in the amount of health produced, and 2) the clinical benefit derived from a medical service depends on who is using it, who is delivering the service, and where it is being delivered.

Today’s Medicare beneficiaries face little clinical nuance in their benefit structure. Medicare largely uses a “one-size-fits-all” structure that does not recognize that some treatments, drugs or tests are more important to health than others. Not only does it create inefficiencies in the health system, it can actually harm the health of beneficiaries.

Read the rest of this entry »

Nine Questions About My New Medical Home


March 17th, 2014

Sometime in the past five years — it’s hard for me to say exactly when — I suddenly found myself living in a new home. I must admit I am still a bit disoriented by how this happened. But it did. People keep telling me that everything will be ok but I am not entirely sure.

For example, in my old home we had occasional family meetings; things are different now. We now have weekly (and monthly) meetings. The many new administrators ask us to complete personality surveys. Once we had to figure out what items we should take from a sinking yacht in the South Pacific (hint: the $100 bill will be useful). Another time we had to decide if we were a “Wow” or a “Thinker.” We are asked to figure out how we can do a better job for them. I guess, like all forms of therapy you don’t get better unless you change.

Despite all these meetings there are a series of things I still don’t understand. I am afraid to raise my hand at the meetings and give the impression I’m a bad sport so I have written my questions down. Please, please don’t think I am a Luddite who wants to go back to the old home. In fact, what I dislike most about the new home is precisely the way — even in its differences — it resembles the old home.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Dangers Of Quality Improvement Overload: Insights From The Field


March 7th, 2014

Editor’s note: This post is also co-authored by Ksenia O Gorbenko, Catherine van de Ruit, and Charles Bosk of the University of Pennsylvania.

Quality improvement (QI) and patient safety initiatives are created with the laudable goal of saving lives and reducing “preventable harms” to patients. As the number of QI interventions continues to rise, and as hospitals become increasingly subject to financial pressures and penalties for hospital-acquired conditions (HACs), we believe it is important to consider the impact of the pressure to improve everything at once on hospitals and their staff.

We argue that a strategy that capitalizes on “small wins” is most effective. This approach allows for the creation of steady momentum by first convincing workers they can improve, and then picking some easily obtainable objectives to provide evidence of improvement.

National Quality Improvement Initiatives

Our qualitative team is participating in two large ongoing national quality improvement initiatives, funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). Each initiative targets a single HAC and its reduction in participating hospitals. We have visited hospital sites across six states in order to understand why QI initiatives achieve their goals in some settings but not others. To date, we have conducted over 150 interviews with hospital workers ranging from frontline staff in operating rooms and intensive care units to hospital administrators and executive leadership. In interviews for this ethnographic research, one of our interviewees warned us about unrealistic expectations for change, “you cannot go from imperfect to perfect. It’s a slow process.”

While there is much to learn about how to achieve sustainable QI in the environment of patient care, one thing is certain from the growing wisdom of ethnographic studies of QI: buy-in from frontline providers is essential for creating meaningful change. Front-line providers often bristle at expectations from those they believe have little understanding of the demands of their daily work. Requiring health care providers to improve on all mandated measures at once—in an atmosphere of reduced reimbursements and frequent staff shortages—is a goal that risks burnout, discouragement, and apathy – all signs of initiative fatigue.

Read the rest of this entry »

Financial Orphan Therapies Looking For Adoption


March 6th, 2014

There exist scientifically promising treatments not being tested further because of insufficient financial incentives. Many of these therapies involve off-label uses of drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration that are readily available and often inexpensive. Pharmaceutical companies—largely responsible for clinical drug development—cannot justify investing in such clinical trials because they cannot recoup the costs of these studies.  However, without prospective data demonstrating efficacy, such treatments will never be adopted as standard of care.

In an era of increasing health care costs and the need for effective therapies in many diseases, it is essential that society finds ways to adopt these “financial orphans.” We propose several potential solutions for the non-profit sector, pharmaceutical companies, health insurers, patient driven research and others to accomplish this goal.

Drug Development Today

Under today’s drug development model, the vast majority of clinical trials are sponsored by pharmaceutical companies, and the process is lengthy, expensive, and, some have argued, inefficient. The cost of developing a new FDA approved drug is estimated to exceed $1.2 billion, the average time from lead to market is typically over 10 years, and only 1 in 10 drugs entering a phase I study is finally approved. Thus pharmaceutical companies, seeking to recoup this investment, conduct a return on investment (ROI) calculation with attention to both scientific and financial considerations such as the chances of success and whether the therapy will be sufficiently profitable to justify the high cost of clinical development.

These considerations sometimes lead to inefficient outcomes from society’s perspective in which promising and potentially transformative therapies are not pursued because of improperly designed financial incentives. We call such therapies “financial orphans.”

Read the rest of this entry »

The Payment Reform Landscape: Pay-For-Performance


March 4th, 2014

Editor’s note: This is the second post in a Health Affairs Blog series by Catalyst for Payment Reform Executive Director Suzanne Delbanco. Over the coming months, Delbanco will examine how different methods of payment reform are being employed and how well they’re working. The first post in the series provided an overview of payment reform; this post examines pay-for-performance.

One of our core beliefs at Catalyst for Payment Reform (CPR) is that we need to move away from fee-for-service, toward new models that pay for care based on value, not volume. And while our National Scorecard on Payment Reform shows these new payment models are spreading, we still don’t know if they are really delivering the value we hope for — higher-quality care at more affordable prices. So we decided to make 2014 a year “all about the evidence,” taking an in-depth look at different payment reform models and assessing whether they are proving to enhance value. We’re delighted Health Affairs Blog is our partner in this journey. This month we examine pay-for-performance.

What is pay-for-performance? Is it widespread?

A pay-for-performance (P4P) model provides what are typically financial incentives to providers to improve the quality of the care they deliver and/or reduce costs. In CPR’s terminology, pay-for-performance is an “upside only” method of payment reform. The model gives health care providers the chance for a financial upside – such as a bonus — but no added financial risk, or downside. Our 2013 National Scorecard on Payment Reform demonstrated that almost 11 percent of commercial payments are value-oriented; approximately 1.6 percent of commercial payments are fee-for-service with pay-for-performance.

Despite the small portion of dollars flowing through pay-for-performance programs, we know it is a relatively popular model of payment reform. According to a 2010 report issued by the National Conference on State Legislatures (NCSL), an estimated 85 percent of state Medicaid programs were expected to operate some type of pay-for-performance program by 2011. Provisions in the Affordable Care Act expand the amount of pay-for-performance in Medicare as well.

Read the rest of this entry »

Cesarean Rates: A Global Perspective


February 24th, 2014

As noted in a previous Health Affairs Blog post by Katy Kozhimannil and Ezra Golberstein, there is significant variability in cesarean delivery rates across the United States, but this is also true worldwide. Worldwide cesarean delivery rates have come under scrutiny and criticism since the World Health Organization (WHO) suggested in 1985 that the optimal rate should not exceed 10 to 15 percent.

Although currently there is no expert agreement on a single optimal level, a general consensus has emerged that extremely low rates (less than 5 percent) suggest underuse and higher rates (greater than 10-15 percent) suggest overuse. Globally, the average rate sits slightly above that recommended level at 16 percent. However, the mean value masks the underlying variability that exists across countries and the different issues inherent in the variation. Of countries which report at least some cesarean deliveries, the range of use runs from 1 percent (Niger) to 52 percent (Brazil) of live child births.

Middle and High-Income Countries

Cesarean rates in middle and high-income countries have continued to increase over the last decade (most are significantly over 15 percent). The average rate among the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)-member countries is 26.9 per 100 live births (range: 14.7 to 49.0). Comparatively, the United States has a very high rate of cesarean delivery (31.4 per 100 live births). In Switzerland, for example, cesarean section rates varied in 2010 from less than 20 percent to over 40 percent in a region. Within a region, the rates also varied by hospital. A study in France found more cesarean sections were performed in for-profit hospitals than in public hospitals, which treat more complicated pregnancies, suggesting that financial incentives may also play a role in explaining excess cesarean deliveries.

Read the rest of this entry »

Jeffrey Brenner On GrantWatch: The Future For Population Health


February 21st, 2014

In a recent GrantWatch Blog post, Jeffrey Brenner raises the question, “What if Thomas Edison had to write grant proposals to invent the light bulb?” Brenner is a MacArthur fellow, medical director of the Urban Health Institute, and executive director and founder of the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers.

Brenner uses the Edison analogy to look at current grant funding and population health.

Since 1945 the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a federal government agency that funds medical research, has spent $547 billion dollars to cure disease and push the frontiers of medical knowledge. This spending has been supplemented by funding from private foundations. Sadly, despite all of this spending we have little understanding of how to deliver better care at lower cost to every American. At best, in the field of population health, we have a few light bulbs that stay lit for an hour or two, but we lack even basic knowledge to drive this field forward.

With 85 million baby boomers in the midst of retiring and a health care system that consumes 18 percent of our economy, it is not a small problem. We do not understand the fundamental drivers of health care utilization; the basic rules for designing and implementing effective interventions; the best ways to use data to plan, implement, manage, and evaluate interventions; nor how to train staff to run and lead these interventions. Why the lack of progress?

Read the rest of this entry »

Health Affairs “Community Development And Health” November 2014 Theme Issue: Announcement


February 18th, 2014

Health Affairs plans to publish an issue on the topic of “Community Development and Health” in November 2014. Details on the upcoming issue are available here. The deadline for submissions is June 1, 2014.

Papers will be competitively reviewed by editors, and, for those that are selected for external review, outside experts. We will make publication decisions based on these selection processes.

If you are interested in submitting a paper, please review our submissions procedures and guidelines. Contact senior deputy editor Sarah Dine (sdine@projecthope.org) or executive editor Don Metz (dmetz@projecthope.org) with any questions.

Read the rest of this entry »

If A Drug Is Good Enough For Europeans, It’s Good Enough For Us


February 14th, 2014

Note: This post is coauthored by Paul Howard and Yevgeniy Feyman of the Manhattan Institute.

Meningitis is a terrible disease that can kill its victims in a single day. About 4,100 new cases are diagnosed annually in the U.S., with a mortality rate of more than 10 percent. Even with treatment, survivors are often left with serious side effects that can include brain damage and limb loss.

A recent meningitis outbreak at Princeton University was unique, however, because the vaccines typically required by universities don’t protect against the particular strain (serogroup B or “MenB”) of the outbreak. Luckily, Swiss drug manufacturer Novartis has developed a vaccine — Bexsero — that specifically targets this strain of meningitis; the drug has already been approved for use by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), the European Union’s equivalent of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). And within about nine months the FDA allowed Princeton University to offer the vaccine on campus to its students.

Problem solved, right? Not so fast.

Read the rest of this entry »

Health Affairs Web First: Positive Results For Value-Based Insurance Design Plans


February 12th, 2014

One of the provisions of the Affordable Care Act calls for the creation of guidelines to facilitate the broader use of Value-Based Insurance Design (VBID) plans. Existing VBID plans have been structured in a variety of ways, and these variations could influence their effectiveness. A new study, “Five Features Of Value-Based Insurance Design Plans Were Associated With Higher Rates Of Medication Adherence,” being released today as a Web First by Health Affairs, evaluated seventy-six VBID plans introduced by a large pharmacy benefit manager (CVS Caremark) during 2007-2010.

Authors Niteesh Choudhry, Michael Fisher, Benjamin Smith, Gregory Brill, Charmaine Girdish, Olga Matlin, Troyen Brennan, Jerry Avorn, and William Shrank found that after adjusting for the other features and baseline trends, VBID plans that were more generous, targeted high-risk patients, offered wellness programs, did not offer disease management programs, and made the benefit available only for the medication ordered by mail had a significantly greater impact on adherence than plans without these features.

The study sample consisted of 274,554 patients provided by thirty-three unique plan sponsors. The majority of VBID plans did not have generous benefits, used copay tiers, and had a disease management program for the condition that the plan targeted. The authors noted that the positive association between wellness programs, patient targeting, and mail-order prescriptions was significant, considering that all these interventions are very low cost and easily implemented.

Read the rest of this entry »

Cesarean Rates: Shifting The Focus From Increases To Variability In Use


January 15th, 2014

At 1.3 million procedures each year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists cesarean delivery as the most frequently-performed inpatient surgery in the U.S. Both public and private insurance programs pay more to hospitals for childbirth than for any other condition, and Medicaid programs fund nearly half of all U.S. births.

Cesarean delivery is a potentially life-saving intervention that can hasten delivery in order to avoid adverse outcomes for women or infants, but it carries distinct risks as compared with vaginal delivery, including infant respiratory illness and maternal complications in future pregnancies. Cesarean rates increased dramatically from 20.7 percent in 1996 to an all-time high of 32.9 percent in 2009, but have since remained stable. New data from the CDC indicate a shift in gestational age for cesarean births between 2009 and 2011, with a decrease in births at 38 weeks gestation and an increase in births at 39 weeks, consistent with the increasing policy focus on avoiding non-indicated delivery before 39 weeks gestation. The use of cesareans is changing, and clinicians, policymakers, and researchers should now shift from a sole focus on the “relentless rise” to additionally considering unwarranted variations in cesarean rates.

What We Know

Three notable patterns emerge from the available data on cesarean rates. 1) Cesarean rates are highly variable; 2) changes in cesarean rates are not correlated with changes in infant mortality; and 3) prior research shows that patient and clinical factors do not account for variation in cesarean use.

Read the rest of this entry »

Workplace Wellness Programs: Continuing The Discussion With Ron Goetzel


October 30th, 2013

We imagine that reading a point-by-point reply to Professor Ron Goetzel’s lengthy rebuttal to our previous reply, which responded to a previous lengthy rebuttal by Professor Goetzel to our original article, would try the patience of even the most dedicated readers of Health Affairs. Therefore, beyond reminding readers of the original article’s scope, here we use Professor Goetzel’s last response as a touchstone to summarize our difficulties with the arguments by advocates of workplace wellness programs based on financial incentives. We ask weary readers who do not wish to continue with this exchange, but are interested in workplace wellness, to look at the evidence we provide in our appendices, and make their own judgments.

First, we must remind Professor Goetzel that we wrote our original article to address the assumptions underlying workplace wellness programs based on substantial financial incentives — those encouraged by the Affordable Care Act — and not any of the other types of programs. That article did not comment on the myriad other public health interventions that might take place at the worksite, although some of our arguments could be applied to those programs as well. Unfortunately, many of Professor Goetzel’s comments are directed at claims we never made about those other programs, and we find his continued advocacy for those programs in the guise of a response to our work distracting.

Second, Professor Goetzel’s most recent posting helpfully outlines ACA wellness regulations that were released after we published our article. Like other commentators, he is right to highlight the new, expansive “reasonable alternative standard,” because it may mean that many more employees can access alternatives to the program standards. Once again, however, he is more optimistic than we and other researchers are that such protections will be easily accessed by employees. We are skeptical that it will be nothing more than a simple matter for an employee to exempt themselves from the general program. Among other things, the employee needs to know about the possibility of an alternative and to feel that asking for an alternative will not harm her, and her employer must be willing to comply.

Read the rest of this entry »

Facilitated Quality Competition As A Driver Of Health Care Value


September 30th, 2013

A front-page article in the April 16, 2013 issue of the New York Times announced that “[h]ospitals make money from their own mistakes because insurers pay them for the longer stays and extra care that patients need to treat surgical complications that could have been prevented.” That conclusion came from a study by Sunil Eappen and his co-authors, published in the April 17 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association. Eappen and his colleagues were not alone in reporting this finding. Last year, we along with William Weeks came to the same conclusion. The two studies demonstrate that hospitals that set out to compete by reducing complication rates face a negative financial impact, and thus raise a policy challenge: how to create effective incentives to improve hospital quality.

Well before the two articles appeared, hospitals appeared to act as though they lacked incentives to compete on low complication and mortality rates. Consider the following evidence. (1) Fewer than 10 percent of the nation’s hospitals participate in the American College of Surgeons’ National Surgical Quality Program (NSQIP). Yet, the program allows them to compare their risk-adjusted results to their peers’ and to learn from the best practitioners in the program. (2) Fewer than 45 percent of programs that received three stars – statistically above average in a rating scheme based largely on outcomes – for performing coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) from the Society of Thoracic Surgeons mention the rating on their web sites; even fewer emphasize its significance. (3) Arguably the best known effort to reduce central line associated blood stream infections (CLABSIs) in acute care settings is the development of a standardized protocol for inserting central venous catheters. The protocol, developed and pioneered at Johns Hopkins University in 2001, was subsequently introduced with great success to Michigan statewide at the invitation of its hospitals. Yet, fewer than 5 percent of Michigan hospitals mention their CLABSI rates on their web sites.

Read the rest of this entry »

Click here to email us a new post.




This blog is protected by dr Dave\\\'s Spam Karma 2: 1317071 Spams eaten and counting...