Category Archives: Population Health

What a Trump Presidency Could Mean for Population Health

Post by Neal Singh

Chief Executive Officer, Caradigm

Based on President-elect Trump’s campaign promises, the healthcare industry could experience significant changes. His commitment to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is at the center of the conversation, and raises a number of questions. Can it actually be repealed? What is the impact for value-based programs currently underway such as the Medicare Shared Savings Program, bundled payments and MACRA? What should healthcare providers do now? This post will address these questions and my opinion on what it means for the future of population health.

1) A complete repeal of the ACA faces challenges

President-elect Trump has indicated[1] that he supports some parts of the ACA such as forcing insurers to cover people with pre-existing health conditions and allowing parents to cover children on their plans into their mid-20s, so it is hard to determine this early the full extent of the changes to come. In addition, Republicans support some aspects of value-based innovations. There are about 283 million insured lives in the US[2] including about 20 million covered under Obamacare.[3] Even if the ACA was to be fully repealed, there are nearly three hundred million lives for whom the fundamentals of economics and quality of care necessitate the move towards value based care.

2) Value-based healthcare will continue because it has bi-partisan support

MACRA passed with overwhelming bi-partisan support in both the House of Representatives (392-37) and the Senate (92-8).[4] Bundled payments[5] and ACOs[6] also have bi-partisan support. The reason for this is that both sides of the aisle recognize the clear need for healthcare payment reform. Amongst all the contentious legislative arguments that exist today, there is no debate around the fact that healthcare costs are on an unsustainable growth trajectory. There is consensus that the government has to continue making providers more accountable for reducing costs, improving quality and increasing patient engagement and satisfaction.

3) Expect some changes to the mechanics of value-based programs

While the top-level themes in healthcare payment reform are unchanged, I do think we can expect changes in the mechanics of some value-based programs. Republicans, including President-elect Trump’s nominee to head Health and Human Services, Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga), have expressed concerns about the power and budget controlled by The Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation (CMMI)[7], so CMMI’s role could be impacted. Specific programs like the MSSP ACO program could be structured differently in the future although that would have to take place after current three-year contracts with the government expire. Republicans could push for new Medicare and Medicaid reform, which would impact beneficiaries and could drive more formation of Medicare Advantage plans or lead to Medicaid ACOs. No one today knows exactly how current programs are going to evolve, but the reality is that programs must evolve to address cost and quality concerns.

4) “No regrets” strategies for healthcare

Although healthcare faces uncertainty, there are certain priorities for organizations that will apply. So-called “no regrets” strategies for healthcare include driving more consistent, efficient and coordinated care, integrating IT systems, accurately forecasting patient risk, lowering your cost structure, and building deeper relationships and loyalty with patients. Everyone needs to operationalize these capabilities now so they can manage large scale Medicare and Medicaid populations effectively in the future. These are capabilities that take years to refine, which is why some healthcare organizations view the building of these best practices as market differentiators that will ensure their long-term success against regional competition.

Population health is already making a difference for patients. Our customers are seeing tangible improvements in patient outcomes and cost reduction through lower utilization while developing deeper relationships with their patients. They’re even benefiting financially through the generation of significant shared savings. This is an incredible time of innovation in healthcare that I believe is going to accelerate even more as healthcare organizations build off their early successes and learnings.









Filling The Care Management Tool Box

Post by Vicki Harter, BA, RRT

Vice President, Care Transformation

As I talk to many providers across the country about how to transform to value-based care, the conversation inevitably turns to the need for care coordination and care management. With many Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) initiatives including the recently announced Comprehensive Primary Care Plus program emphasizing the need for better care coordination, many providers have concluded that they need to evolve how they deliver care for high risk or at risk patients. This is both exciting and a little bit scary. The hard part is figuring out the right way to go about it given that there is no single blueprint that works for all providers.

One of the best written articles on care coordination that I’ve seen was this one written by Patti Oliver, RN, BSN and Susan Bacheller, BA.[1] I could not agree more with Oliver and Bacheller when they say there is a growing movement toward greater care coordination, as more health systems realize there are better ways to deliver care:

“From our combined experience, we both know how critically important it is to have good care coordination in any healthcare system or arrangement, including ACOs. Care coordination helps providers to form a complete picture of a patient’s overall heath and it also allows them to be able to better communicate with the patient, their family, and with each other. Care coordination also requires constant prioritization and re-prioritization of patients for effective panel management; it means applying art and science to split attention between patients with immediate needs and those ripe for preventive measures or patients we regard as healthy working adults”

Oliver and Bacheller then explored the essential functionality that care coordination software should deliver naming the following five features:

  1. Care coordination tools should be tailored to your patient population.
  2. Care coordination tools should have a single place the care coordinator can visit to get the full picture at the panel and patient levels.
  3. Care coordination tools must allow for convenient use of clinical pathways and be flexible for the care coordinator.
  4. Care coordination tools need to have strong communication features among providers to facilitate care hand-offs and to involve family/caregivers when appropriate.
  5. Care coordination tools should integrate with other systems—or at least be straightforward about their ability to do so.

These five items are solid foundational features to seek when it comes to care coordination and care management tools. Having worked closely with providers to identify their requirements for success in coordinating care across the continuum, I would also respectfully highlight a few other key areas.

Workflow automation – as most organizations are looking to scale their population health initiatives, one of the biggest challenges is how to manage large populations given constrained resources. One of the key components to look for in software is the ability to automate time-consuming manual workflows so that the care team can work more efficiently and also at top-of-license. Care management software should be able to auto-generate care plans and assign tasks based on patient answers to assessments.

Evidence-based guidelines – While flexible clinical pathways are important, so is the need to ensure consistency of care. This is especially true for more complex, co-morbid patients who often require care from a larger care team. Care management solutions should help reduce variation of care by embedding evidenced-based guidelines directly into care workflows to guide action. Tools should also be able to help identify best practices so that they can be shared throughout the care team.

Support for multiple programs – Care management technology requirements vary by program. For example, in the CMS Chronic Care Management program, providers must be able to track and report on time spent per month on core care management processes. For the Bundled Payments For Care Improvement (BPCI) program, providers need to be able to transition and track patients to post-acute care. Look for flexible care management solutions designed to support multiple programs so that you can maximize your return on investment.

As Oliver and Bacheller noted in their article, many new technology solutions for care managers are starting to appear. It can certainly be confusing given the broad range of features and different classes available (i.e. enterprise to basic). Ultimately, identifying the right solution will depend on your organization’s specific goals and the scope of what you are trying to achieve with population health. I look forward to having more conversations with providers this year about how they want to transform care.



[1] Patti Oliver, RN, BSN; and Susan Bacheller, BA. ACOs: What Every Care Coordinator Needs in Their Tool Box. American Journal of Managed Care. 9.24.15.


Time to Value in Population Health

Post by Vicki Harter, BA, RRT

Vice President, Care Transformation

The stakes are high when it comes to population health as improved patient outcomes and long-term financial success are on the table. By now, most providers recognize the need to evolve. They must participate in new value-based programs, collaborate with other providers, and tailor workflows to support the changes. Implementing these changes is not easy! It takes significant amounts of time and resources from across the organization. When it comes to acquiring health IT tools to support population health, it often takes providers 9-12 months to evaluate the myriad of available solutions. I don’t blame providers for wanting immediate results after spending so much time investigating population health tools.

One of the key reasons why Caradigm formed its Care Transformation Team is to help customers achieve fast time to value following the acquisition of solutions. Our team serves as a sounding board for our customers who are making the shift to value-based care. We find that some organizations have been engaging in population health initiatives for years and are more mature in their processes while others can benefit from additional support. We tailor our approach to each customer’s strategic vision because it’s not one size fits all. The uniqueness of each organization has to be respected as we seek to identify common best practices and turn them into consistent processes.

I believe that all organizations should seek quick wins soon after acquiring population health technology. They are critical to building positive momentum for workflow transformation. The following are a few suggestions to consider when trying to achieve fast time to value in population health.

Plan early to achieve early success – establishing metrics and what quick wins look like prior to technology implementation provides a huge leg up in achieving them. Our team often collaborates with providers before contract signing to help clarify goals and expectations, and then align technology to them.

Define top value propositions – in addition to meeting specific metrics, population health tools can also deliver other types of value to end user clinicians. For example, the reduction of inefficiency or frustrating pain points for clinicians brings tremendous value to organizations and can be realized immediately. It’s important to document what the pain points and value propositions are in order to recognize that value.

Consider starting with care management – care management tools offer one of the quickest paths to value in population health because they can help remove numerous workflow inefficiencies that are impeding providers today. These can be items like having to hunt for data from multiple sources, having to manually generate care plans, or even being unaware when a patient is admitted to the ED. Care management solutions also give providers flexibility in where to start as they can begin by improving how they manage patients in a particular program, by disease category, or by focusing on a particular area of care management such as improving transitions of care.

While the road to population health can be long, organizations can achieve significant victories along the way. In fact, achieving those smaller wins should be celebrated as care transformation takes many small steps in the right direction. If you’d like to discuss how Caradigm can help you achieve quick time to value in population health, then please reach out to us here.

Population Health and “The Wire”

Post by David Lee

Product Marketing Manager, Caradigm

NPR recently published this in-depth article about the challenges of healthcare for Baltimore’s lower income residents. After reading it, it’s hard for me not to think of The Wire, the HBO series that received acclaim for its authentic portrayal of Baltimore’s deep rooted social challenges. I think healthcare is another issue that David Simon, the show’s creator, could have explored as the core premise of the series is the interconnected nature of the city’s struggles – poverty, crime, policing, race relations, politics and the education system. There is a quote from a character on the show that has become emblematic of this theme that also applies to how healthcare has been recently shifting to population health:

“All the pieces matter.” — Detective Lester Freamon to Detective Roland Pryzbylewski, The Wire

Dr. Marcia Cort, chief medical officer of the non-profit Total Health Care, states in the article that “Baltimore City is in a health crisis.” The life expectancy of residents in the impoverished Sandtown neighborhood is 69.7 years old, which is the same as in poverty-stricken North Korea. Also according to the article, “residents of the ZIP code including Sandtown accounted for the city’s second-highest per-capita rate of diabetes-related hospital cases in 2011, the second-highest rate of psychiatric cases, the sixth-highest rate of heart and circulatory cases and the second-highest rate of injury and poisoning cases. Asthma, HIV infection and drug use are common.”[1]

Over the years, some residents have developed a mistrust of healthcare due to challenges in access and because of negative outcomes experienced resulting from a lack of coordinated and preventive care. A Baltimore resident, Robert Peace, described how he developed a recurring bone infection after undergoing a surgical procedure. Likely due to receiving minimal follow-up care, the infection grew worse, became extremely painful and resulted in five additional surgeries being required in 18 months. Today, Robert has permanently impaired mobility.

Dr. Jay Perman, pediatric gastroenterologist and president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore stated in the article that clinicians have to accept responsibility for patients outside the walls of the hospital. “As a profession, as an industry, we have not sufficiently appreciated, let alone done something about, the impact of social determinants. Guys like me and gals like me can easily say, ‘I made the correct diagnosis. I wrote a proper prescription. I’m done.’ What I say to my students is, if you think you’re done — if ‘done’ means the patient is going to get better — you’re fooling yourself.” To the credit of health systems in the area, they acknowledge that there have been shortcomings in how care was delivered and are implementing improvements. These efforts include a new focus on preventing readmissions, new investment in care coordinators, primary care and post-discharge management.

Although the social challenges Baltimore faces have been ingrained for many years, healthcare is the one for which there may be the clearest path to lasting improvement – via population health. Population health as an approach recognizes that health systems must care for patients outside the walls of the hospital using a multi-disciplinary team. An expanded care team can include friends, family members and social organizations (e.g. assistance with transportation, meals, paying for prescriptions, etc.). It can involve multiple health systems collaborating in the care of patients even though the health systems are in reality competitors. It also recognizes the need for innovation in technology such as a longitudinal patient record shared across all providers, analytics, and workflow tools that can help care teams manage a high volume of patients efficiently.

I would theorize that more than any other factor, it was the shortcomings of the fee-for-service model that contributed the most to the poor outcomes experienced by Sandtown residents. Population health offers a real strategy for change. More than cost efficiency, which is often the most commonly mentioned driver of population health, improved outcomes is the most compelling reason for population health. I am hopeful that health systems like those in Baltimore will continue to invest more and scale their population health initiatives with a sense of urgency. If they can successfully transform to become more patient-centric and improve the health of the people they serve, they will be able to rebuild the trust of the community. That accomplishment would be truly worthy of a television series.

[1] Hancock, Jay. In Freddie Gray’s Baltimore, The Best Medical Care Is Nearby But Elusive., 2.15.16. originally published at

HIMSS16 Trends: The Maturation of Population Health

Post by Scott McLeod

Director of Product Marketing, Caradigm

The educational sessions at HIMSS16 serve as a barometer of the progress of population health management as a priority for healthcare organizations.

This year, after three days of attending sessions, I note four key themes—

1) Current economic realities are driving new strategies

The changing market is not just a distant-future consideration. Payment reform from CMS and private payers is already occurring and will accelerate. Local markets—in which healthcare organizations must compete—face shifting roles and demands of employers and consumers. In one local market, a reported 75% of payments are tied to risk contract. Facing the fact that maintaining the status quo is not sustainable in the long term, organizations are setting new strategic directions that balance external forces and internal capabilities to achieve success under commercial and Medicare programs.

2) Collaboration is key

Healthcare organizations must work with others to realize the revenue under value-based reimbursement. This includes building relationships with non-contracted physicians and other (often competing) organizations to form accountable care organizations, clinically integrated networks or performing provider systems to provide the geographic coverage required for an assigned population. In addition, organizations are changing their relationships with employers and payers to seek win-win contractual arrangements that improve the quality of care for patients served and manage the costs for all stakeholders.

For example, Inova Health System and Aetna launched a joint venture to form a new health plan, Innovation Health, working together for improved care, cost and quality. Care coordinators steer members to appropriate programs and provide coaching. High-risk patients are enrolled in care management programs at post-acute facilities, and high-performing skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) are selected for inclusion on the network.

3) Results are starting to show

Population health initiatives seem to be more targeted and organizations are more specific about what they want to measure. The result is that—beyond reports of pilots and early steps—we are beginning to see tangible, positive results from these initiatives. The joint venture cited above has achieved a 17% reduction in the number of unnecessary hospital days after surgery, 15% fewer hospital admissions and 21% fewer hospital readmissions. As another example, Banner Health reported on the successes of its telehealth program: 20% reduction in length of stay, 45% reduction in hospitalizations and a 27% reduction in total cost of care.

4) Health Information Technology (HIT) is necessary for success

As the number of population health initiatives increases, and the number of at-risk lives grows, organizations recognize that HIT solutions are required to achieve the efficiency, effectiveness and scale that the programs demand. Successful organizations employ and rely upon solutions for data aggregation, risk stratification, analytics, interoperability and population health management. Staten Island PPS, for example, reports that each of its 11 DSRIP projects actively underway has unique HIT requirements for success including longitudinal patient records, predictive analytics and utilization management, telehealth and patient registries.

One other theme, that overlays the rest, became apparent during the educational sessions. The journey to population health management will continue, but the routes will change. What works today may or may not work tomorrow as the relationships among the different stakeholders shift.

Caradigm offers population health solutions that offer scalability and adaptability over time. You can have a discussion with a Caradigm representative by leaving a note here.

  1. “Value-Based Models: Two Successful Payer-Provider Approaches.” Clifford T. Fullerton, MD MSc and Mark Stauder. March 1, 2016.
  2. “Volume-based to Value-based Care at a Pioneer ACO.” Julie Reisetter, MS, RN. March 3, 2016.
  3. “Addressing the IT Challenges for a Startup DSRIP Program.” Joseph Conte, PhD(c). March 2, 2016.
  4. “Transformative Payment Models.” Jody White and Brian Sandager. March 1, 2016.

Building a Culture of Physician Engagement in Population Health

Post by Sameer Bade, MD

Vice President of Clinical Solutions, Caradigm

In population health management, the role of physicians has evolved because the care of chronically ill patients requires a coordinated effort between members of a multi-disciplinary team. However, a team approach does not diminish the role of primary care or specialist physicians. Rather, it should engage and support physicians directly to address quality, outcomes and cost. As provider organizations seek to scale their population health and value-based care efforts, effective engagement of primary care and specialty physicians is critical.

Today, physicians are under escalating amounts of clinical, administrative, time, financial, and legal pressure to perform while their businesses are facing decreasing fee-for-service reimbursements. In increasing numbers, physicians are giving up the independence of private/small group practices and seeking employment with larger groups and health systems. This loss of autonomy coupled with administrative and regulatory pressures can lead to a decrease in physician satisfaction. We often speak about patient satisfaction but physician satisfaction is rarely addressed in a systematic fashion. Despite these pressures, most physicians rightfully view themselves as hard working, high-quality individual performers who care about patient outcomes. However, as organizations start to add the numerous requirements of value based care programs onto already over-burdened physicians, is it possible to maintain effective engagement?

Some larger physician groups and health systems are further along in their population health journey. These organizations have established patient-centered medical homes, continue to expand their multi-disciplinary care teams (nurse care managers, pharmacists, social workers, community health workers and non-clinical support staff) and are transitioning from basic registries to more sophisticated population health analytic and workflow tools. These investments have been made to both transform the care delivery process and simultaneously engage and support front line physicians and nurses. However, the majority of physician groups and health systems that I speak with are still fairly early on in their participation in value-based programs (e.g. planning to apply or in program year 1 of a Medicare Shared Savings Accountable Care Organization (ACO), grappling with the looming impact of the now mandatory  Comprehensive Care for Joint Replacement (CCJR) bundles, trying to effectively deal with the Readmissions Reduction program, participating in newly formed commercial ACOs or narrow networks, managing their own employees, etc.). In these early adopter settings, it is challenging to deeply invest in FTE’s, clinical programs, and technology.

Both physician and hospital organizations will also need to address the upcoming requirements of the 2015 Medicare and CHIP Reauthorization Act which will require participation in MIPS (Medicare Incentive Based Payment System) or APM’s (Alternative Payment Models). Not participating or performing poorly across these programs could result in a loss of 9% of reimbursement. The successful implementation of these programs is firmly dependent on the participation and performance of physicians.

In my travels and meetings with physician groups and health systems around the US, several best practices seem to be emerging around physician engagement:

Education: Frequent education on a variety of topics is critical. Physicians understand clinical care. However, concepts such as ‘benchmark’, HCC (Medicare’s Hierarchical Condition Category coding), minimum savings rate, discounting, two-sided risk, attribution, utilization management, multi-disciplinary care teams, etc. were not taught in medical school or residency. A mix of mediums such as conference calls, webinars, town halls and smaller group meetings are being employed. I’ve seen organizations with staff that travel from clinic to clinic on a rotating basis (much like a pharmaceutical rep) to provide 1:1 or small group education. Physicians need to clearly understand regulatory and industry changes, the organization’s shared goals, and the personal and professional impact of these changes.

Tools: It’s important to engage physicians with informatics tools to help them improve their performance on the metrics being measured. There are a variety of supporting capabilities which include easy to access longitudinal patient records, shared care plans, and gaps in care at the point-of-care. Physicians do not have time to log into multiple systems or read multiple reports while providing patient care. Analytics must be actionable at the point-of-care. Increasingly, physicians have an expectation that this enriched patient centric information should be available while seeing a patient or working in a patient chart. In contrast, the supporting care team may also need a population level view to help with pre-visit or day of visit planning and coordination.

Compensation: The satisfaction of being considered an efficient and high quality provider fosters engagement and can create healthy competition. However, compensation can also be a powerful adjunctive motivation. The most forward thinking organizations are not only rewarding primary care physicians and specialists, but also members of the care team when pay for performance or shared savings are achieved. Organizations are also putting a certain percentage of base and or bonus compensation at risk for actively participating and or achieving quality or targets.

Culture: Ultimately, creating the right organizational culture can accelerate achievement of meaningful physician engagement. Integrating physicians into governance is very effective as most of the top performing ACOs are organized by physician groups. Equally important is for organizations to provide the necessary multi-disciplinary team support and informatics investments. Physicians are competitive by nature, and will push each other to perform if provided a meaningful, mutually agreed upon set of goals and measures.

Measurement: In my next blog post, I will explore the importance and challenges of measuring physician performance further. I will also discuss how new analytics tools can help with measurement and support discussions between clinical leadership and individual physicians.

We have moved past the uncertainty of value based care programs initiated as part of the Affordable Care Act, and are entering the next phase of healthcare transformation anchored by the 2015 MACRA. While our transition from fee- for-service to value-based care is going to be challenging, it provides a real opportunity to decelerate the unsustainable growth in healthcare spending while improving patient outcomes. Physicians have a critical role in this transformation.

As I speak with physicians around the US, they share different and insightful perspectives on their participation in population health and value-based programs and the engagement of their colleagues. If you would like to discuss how Caradigm can help you with physician engagement, then please send a note here.


The Paradox of Population Health

Post by Brad Miller

Vice-President of Clinical Solutions, Caradigm

By and large, the healthcare industry talks about Population Health as care across populations of people. While Pop Health has evolved to drive the IHI Triple Aim across those populations, successful Pop Health efforts depend on care given on a patient-by-patient basis. From a clinical care perspective, Pop Health drives care at the Person level – the second “P” in the 3Ps of Pop Health. The paradox in Pop Health lies in that how we deliver care on an individual and personalized basis actually drives population results.

Pop Health is driven on a person-by-person basis. A patient, by definition, is a person receiving care. However, in reality, external and personal factors greatly affect how a person maintains their health and gets their healthcare. This all-encompassing understanding of the person is becoming more important to drive clinical outcomes and Pop Health successes. No longer can providers afford to view people solely as patients – providers who want to drive true global results will have to understand the patient as a person. Ironically, Pop Health has forced us as an industry to get better at data and care on a personal level.

Understanding the Patient as a Person First and foremost, personal factors like financial and family concerns play a large role in how people interact with the healthcare system. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) has increased the number of covered individuals and also has created more narrow networks, high deductibles and increased healthcare utilization. High deductibles mixed with lower incomes could become a barrier to care, particularly if those individual patients need to obtain services and goods outside the clinical setting (think wheelchair ramps, dietary advice, a divorce or family death and how those factors can affect a person’s ability to get proper care). Even a family dog that a person does not want to leave alone at home during a hospitalization can prevent such a person from getting recommended preventive care. I have personally experienced these as barriers for patients, and I continue to hear those stories as I meet providers and systems across the country. All too often as providers, we are guilty of treating patients, when we really need to be treating the person. Until socio-demographic issues are better understood and addressed, they can hamper the benefits that Pop Health can provide.

A Person’s Personal “Big Data” The world of truly personalized medicine will also continue to evolve. On top of sensor data (Fitbits, Apple Watches, Bluetooth Scales, Bluetooth Glucometers), we are also seeing an explosion in genomic and proteomic data. All of this creates a more detailed, intricate and nuanced picture of a person as a patient. Collecting, analyzing and integrating this intelligence into clinical care will be one of the next large challenges healthcare faces. As an industry, healthcare may need to consider this information as a critical part of a person’s foundation that will guide personal care.

High Quality and Value Care at the Personal Level Many providers have contracted via ACNs, ACOs, MSSPs and the like to deliver care for a certain dollar value and to a quality standard. Those quality measures vary from population-by-population and contract-by-contract. Ultimately though, each person receiving care in the health system has a set of quality measures and gaps in care that need to be addressed. Put another way, there is no way for a gap in care to be closed without working at a patient level. This may seem obvious, but all too often providers talk about Pop Health and care metrics and gaps in care at a high level (i.e., how is our quality as a system?) vs. a patient-person level (i.e., how are our patients doing?).

Making it Personal Overall, understanding a person and his or her personal situation is critical to their clinical care and therefore paramount to Pop Health achieving the Triple Aim. The practice of Pop Health has a foundation in technology and data. Traditional systems like EMRs and other hospital-based technologies have not been designed to capture the full picture of a person and oftentimes these systems struggle to create a unified clinical record – a longitudinal patient record (LPR) – for a patient’s clinical information. Health systems, in the future of the risk-based model, will need to not only understand the LPR and the complete socio-demographic situation of a patient in order to drive to the desired results. I will address a vision for that technology in my next post. In the meantime, the paradox of Pop Health – that it truly is all about the individual, the person, remains of utmost importance in the current evolution of Pop Health and healthcare at large.


Go Big or Go Home: The Importance of Scale in Population Health

Post by Scott McLeod

Director of Product Marketing, Caradigm

In a recent article, “Why Dartmouth Ditched the Pioneer ACO Program”, Rene Letourneau for HealthLeaders Media described Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health System’s exit from the Pioneer ACO program. While the article notes Dartmouth’s defection was “unsurprisingly” prompted by financial concerns related to the CMS targets, it also revealed an often-overlooked factor in success or failure of accountable care initiatives—the size of the population served.

Robert A. Greene, MD, executive vice president and chief population health management officer for Dartmouth-Hitchcock, touched on this concern. “We would have to go it alone if we stayed in the program, which means our population would have been smaller, said Greene, “If we stayed in for 2015, we would have expected to owe another $3 million to $4 million.” Estimates place the size of Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s at-risk population at 23,500 lives in 2013.

As healthcare delivery organizations seek sustainability under risk contracts, they should look to the experienced health plans and insurance companies. Health payers range in size from local plans with ten thousand covered lives to national carriers covering millions. Many of those at the lower end of this scale struggle financially, and as a result, also with attaining the clinical outcomes desired for their members.

While smaller size can create a number of challenges, I will call out two—the cost of variability and critical mass for programs.

Utilization and costs of healthcare services vary from year to year. In a larger population, the overall variation is less noticeable because there is typically enough patients with lower utilization to balance those that incur higher costs. In a smaller population, a relatively small set of patients can have a negative impact on the average utilization and per capita spend. This is why insurers are concerned about adverse selection, resulting in a larger-than-desired proportion of higher-risk individuals among its members.

Population health initiatives need a certain number of patients to be sustainable. For example, focusing on preventive care targeted at high-risk diabetics requires a sufficient number of members that qualify and enroll in a program for it to be successful at the population level. Smaller payers often do not have the necessary membership. Adding to this, on the other side of the equation, is the fact that lower revenues makes it difficult to allocate resources for these programs.

In my experience working with payer organizations, the minimum size for long-term sustainability is 80,000 – 100,000 covered lives. It will be some time before a significant portion of ACOs and other at-risk organizations achieve that size. Until then, in addition to some success stories, I expect we will see more developments like those occurring at Dartmouth-Hitchcock.

Technology to Understand the “Pop” in Population Health

Post by Brad Miller

Vice-President of Clinical Solutions, Caradigm

My last post detailed the “Pop” in Population Health. As an industry, we think about patients when we think about the “population” in Pop Health, and indeed patients are at the core of Pop Health. Providers, however, are facing a new set of populations – the collective group of sub-populations they care for. Put another way, the evolution of Pop Health and risk-based care has generated a complex business landscape for healthcare providers. Providers will need to lean increasingly on technology and data to enable the clinical and business cases around healthcare.

Let’s consider an example of a provider managing a group of sub-populations. A provider could be participating in a Clinically Integrated Network (CIN) that runs a Medicare Shared Savings Program  (MSSP) ACO and also has an Medicare Advantage (MA) plan. They could also be participating in two bundled payment programs, have Accountable Care Network (ACN) relationships with three employers, and their state could be remaking their Medicaid program. On top of everything is their traditional Fee-For-Service population. That adds up to at least nine sub-populations amongst the provider’s complete population – that’s their “population of populations.” That group is dynamic and evolving – as needs and times change, so too will these populations and how they are measured and cared for.

Caradigm Technology Driving the Pop Health Revolution

At Caradigm, we live for this type of healthcare complexity. We designed our data foundation, the Caradigm Intelligence Platform (CIP), from the ground up to be both transactional and analytical, which not only allows for powerful analysis, but drives real-time intelligence to applications so that the intelligence mined in the data can be put to use. Most platforms are either one or the other – transactional to power applications (e.g. EMRs are built on transactional databases) or analytical (many “big data” solutions to date are analytical platforms). Each and every piece of relevant data from the provider system – from clinical records, labs to claims can be ingested into CIP. This means all of a provider’s data can be located in one place and can be used together to generate highly functional intelligence for patient care. From baseline risk-adjustment to contracted clinical quality and outcomes, today’s providers and CINs require real-time intelligence to manage such diverse populations.

At a population level, Caradigm looks to the analytical applications in its product suite to drive real insight into a provider’s populations and to manage to contracted quality and financial arrangements. The Caradigm Risk Management application is built upon a partnership with MEDai, a LexisNexus company, to drive industry-leading prospective risk profiles of populations and individual patients. Most risk applications only look retrospectively or only in a clinical vein, however our risk management application distinguishes itself on the broad set of big data available in CIP and the 25 year history MEDai has in predictive analytics. Further, Risk Management looks at six key predictive indexes on a patient-by-patient basis. This means that a provider can not only understand clinical and financial risk on a patient basis, but also the patient’s specific “Motivation” and “Mover” risks. The Motivation Index details a patient’s likeliness to respond to any intervention. The Mover Index corresponds to a patient’s likelihood of becoming more ill during the next 365 days. This means that a provider can more accurately assign care management and follow-up assistance to patients in an efficient manner that up until now could not be provided. Providers would have to use more blunt force and address a population of the top 10% of A1cs or 10% highest cost patients without any insight as to whether the patient would or could respond to any intervention. This leads to much more precise care and financial outlay in a risk-based system. Targeted insight means highly actionable and effective pop health care.

The Caradigm Quality Improvement application, built directly on top of CIP, highlights the current quality measure status for a provider across each population and contract. For example, the QI application tracks ACO33 measures, allowing for the identification of up to date gaps in care on a patient-by-patient basis that via CIP can be surfaced directly at the point-of-care to drive quality improvement in the appropriate setting. Caradigm’s Utilization Management Analytics application takes a look at some of the costliest medications, procedures and providers to help pinpoint areas of high spending.

Together, these applications help our customers manage not only their total population, but their sub-populations as well. Each risk-based contract – whether MSSP, ACN, bundled payment or direct-employer purchasing – brings a population with its own unique clinical and financial risk factors and gaps in care. Caradigm not only drives success in these early days of Pop Health, but because of CIP and the nature of the suite of applications, will enable health systems to rapidly expand their risk-based contracting and arrangements to drive true value-based population health.

Leaning in on Population Health (Part 2): Caradigm Customer Summit 2015

Post by Christine Boyle

Chief Marketing Officer and Senior Vice President, Caradigm

On Day 1 of the Caradigm Customer Summit (CCS), we heard multiple provider organizations talk about how they are leaning in on population health, and are seeking to build the best practices and health IT to successfully scale their programs. On Day 2, we continued to explore the strategies and tools that can help organizations succeed with new value-based reimbursement models. Here are the highlights from another great day of learning at CCS.

Neal Singh Chief Technology Officer, Caradigm and Kendra Lindly VP, Global Product Management, Population Health and Analytics, Caradigm

Neal and Kendra provided insights into the overall vision of Caradigm’s product strategy as well as the collaborative development approach they take with customers. They also highlighted new applications and features that are in the roadmap across Caradigm’s four pillars of integrated solutions (Data Control, Healthcare Analytics, Care Coordination and Management, and Patient Engagement & Wellness).

Nicholas Greif, Project Manager Virtua and Jill Manz, System Integrator Virtua

Nicholas and Jill talked about how Virtua, a leading provider in South Jersey, is using Caradigm’s information security and population health tools to help improve patient care within their VirtuaCare ACO. They explained how over time, Virtua has continued to mature its population health IT infrastructure, and will be delivering actionable predictive analytics such as Sepsis risk scores to clinicians in their native EMR so they can take proactive action.

Federal and State Driven Programs Panel

Vicki Harter, VP of Care Transformation moderated a panel made up of John Supra from Greenville Health System, Scott Anderson from MyCareCoach and Todd Ellis from KPMG. They discussed how to succeed with the variety of Federal and State Funded programs that are available to providers today. The panelists agreed that although providers don’t have to have all the answers right now, they do need to start thinking about who they’re going to align and partner with, and how they’re going to get their hands on the right data and share it.

Michael Robinson SVP, Global Services, Caradigm and Mike Macedo Director, Application Services, Caradigm

The closing presentation was from Michael Robinson and Mike Macedo who talked about how to drive user adoption of new population health technologies. It’s an important consideration for providers when seeking new health IT because acquiring technology is only part of the journey. It takes deep collaboration between a technology partner and a provider to train and engage employees who are learning about new organizational strategies, workflows and IT systems. While it does take much effort to train users and drive adoption, Mike and Mike explained that the payoff is when employees become fully engaged in the process. They talked about the collective excitement that they’ve seen in recent customer deployments that energizes the entire organization. With that level of employee engagement, a provider is well positioned to succeed with their population health initiatives.

Day 2 also included more outstanding peer-to-peer discussion during roundtables on patient engagement, physician engagement and IT security organizational engagement. As mentioned in the Day 1 post, we’ll share best practices from those sessions in a upcoming blog series.

In addition to learning and sharing about population health, CCS is also about having fun and building relationships in the industry. It’s not always sunny in Seattle, but it always seems to be sunny during CCS. Our attendees were treated to a couple of beautiful days of weather on the Seattle waterfront, and were able to relax and get to know each other at evening events.

It was an amazing two days at CCS 2015. Caradigm is extremely proud to be collaborating with so many of the top provider organizations in the country and around the world. We look forward to helping our customers with their key initiatives as they continue to lean in on population health.

Wheel Cropped

The Seattle Great Wheel lit up in Caradigm mulberry.