Health Policy

“Lost to Follow-up:” The Public Health Goals of Accountable Care

“Lost to Follow-up:” The Public Health Goals of Accountable Care
Archives of Internal Medicine, Vol. 172, no. 7, pp. 584-586. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2012.219.

Calman, N.S., D. Hauser, and D. Chokshi
04/09/2012

The Affordable Care Act made admirable strides toward the “triple aim” of reducing health care costs, increasing health care quality, and improving the health of the community at large. A key element of reform is the accountable care organization (ACO), which restructures health care delivery such that networks of providers are held responsible for a group of patients they serve. The recently announced Medicare ACO program lays the foundation for 2 of its 3 major goals by allowing ACOs to share in any cost savings, provided they meet quality criteria. Yet it seems that the public health goals of accountable care—arguably the most important of the 3—have been left behind. To better address public health goals, we propose a novel method for quality reporting within ACOs: introducing an “expanded denominator” that attributes patients to a health system if they have ever been seen within the system. An expanded denominator would ensure that ACOs are held accountable not only for patients already engaged in primary care but also for patients with fragmented care and high-risk community members not receiving adequate care. Ultimately, payment reform in Medicare, and potentially Medicaid, must support this new approach to quality measurement for it to have lasting ramifications.

Appropriate and inappropriate imaging rates for prostate cancer go hand in hand by region, as if set by thermostat

Appropriate and inappropriate imaging rates for prostate cancer go hand in hand by region, as if set by thermostat
Health affairs, vol. 31, no. 4, pp. 730-740. DOI: 10.1377/hlthaff.2011.0336

Makarov, D.V., R. Desai, J.B. Yu, R. Sharma, N. Abraham, P.C. Albertsen, H.M. Krumholz, D.F. Penson, and C.P. Gross
04/01/2012

Policy makers interested in containing health care costs are targeting regional variation in utilization, including the use of advanced imaging. However, bluntly decreasing utilization among the highest-utilization regions may have negative consequences. In a cross-sectional study of prostate cancer patients from 2004 to 2005, we found that regions with lower rates of inappropriate imaging also had lower rates of appropriate imaging. Similarly, regions with higher overall imaging rates tended to have not only higher rates of inappropriate imaging, but also higher rates of appropriate imaging. In fact, men with high-risk prostate cancer were more likely to receive appropriate imaging if they resided in areas with higher rates of inappropriate imaging. This “thermostat model” of regional health care utilization suggests that poorly designed policies aimed at reducing inappropriate imaging could limit access to appropriate imaging for high-risk patients. Health care organizations need clearly defined quality metrics and supportive systems to encourage appropriate treatment for patients and to ensure that cost containment does not occur at the expense of quality.

Medicare’s Flagship Test Of Pay-For-Performance Did Not Spur More Rapid Quality Improvement Among Low-Performing Hospitals

Medicare’s Flagship Test Of Pay-For-Performance Did Not Spur More Rapid Quality Improvement Among Low-Performing Hospitals
Health Affairs; 31(4):797-805.

Ryan, Andrew M., Jan Blustein, Lawrence P. Casalino.
04/01/2012

Medicare’s flagship hospital pay-for-performance program, the Premier Hospital Quality Incentive Demonstration, began in 2003 but changed its incentive design in late 2006. The goals were to encourage greater quality improvement, particularly among lower-performing hospitals. However, we found no evidence that the change achieved these goals. Although the program changes were intended to provide strong incentives for improvement to the lowest-performing hospitals, we found that in practice the new incentive design resulted in the strongest incentives for hospitals that had already achieved quality performance ratings just above the median for the entire group of participating hospitals. Yet during the course of the program, these hospitals improved no more than others. Our findings raise questions about whether pay-for-performance strategies that reward improvement can generate greater improvement among lower performing providers. They also cast some doubt on the extent to which hospitals respond to the specific structure of economic incentives in pay-for-performance programs.

Efficiency Considerations of Donor Fatigue, Universal Access to ARTs and Health Systems

Efficiency Considerations of Donor Fatigue, Universal Access to ARTs and Health Systems
Sex Transm Infect 2012;88:75-78

Grépin, Karen
03/01/2012

Objectives: To investigate trends in official development assistance for health, HIV and non-HIV activities over time and to discuss the efficiency implications of these trends in the context of achieving universal access to treatment and health systems.

Methods: Official development assistance for health, HIV programmes and non-HIV programmes were tracked using data from 2000 to 2009. A review of the literature on efficiency, treatment and health systems was conducted. Findings The rate of growth of donor funding to HIV programmes has slowed in recent years at levels below those required to sustain programmes and to move towards universal access to treatment. These trends are likely due to increased pressure on foreign aid budgets and donor fatigue for HIV programmes.

Conclusions: There is great need to consider how the limited resources available can be used most efficiently to increase the number of lives saved and to ensure that these resources also benefit health systems. Improving efficiency is much more than just improving the productive efficiency and also about ensuring that resources are going to where they will be the most beneficial and making investments that are the most efficient over time. These choices may be essential to achieving the goal of universal access to treatment as well as the sustainability of these programmes. 

Valuing Improvement in Value Based Purchasing

Valuing Improvement in Value Based Purchasing
Circulation:  Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.  5:163-170  

Borden, William and Jan Blustein.
03/01/2012

Background

Medicare will soon implement hospital value-based purchasing (VBP), using a scoring system that rewards both achievement (absolute performance) and improvement (performance increase over time).  However, improvement is defined so as to give less credit to initial low performers than initial high performers.  Since initial low performers are disproportionately hospitals in socioeconomically disadvantaged areas, these institutions stand to lose under Medicare’s VBP proposal. 

 

Methods

We developed an alternative improvement scale, and applied it to hospital performance throughout the US.   Using 2005-2008 Medicare process measures for acute myocardial infarction (AMI) and heart failure (HF), we calculated hospital scores using Medicare’s proposal and our alternative.  Hospital performance scores were compared across 5 locational dimensions of socioeconomic disadvantage: poverty, unemployment, physician shortage, high school and college graduation rates.

 

Results

Medicare’s proposed scoring system yielded higher overall scores for the most locationally advantaged hospitals for 4 out of 5 dimensions in AMI and 2 out of 5 for HF.  Using our alternative, differences in overall scores between hospitals in the most and least advantaged areas were attenuated, with locationally advantaged hospitals having higher overall scores for 3 out of 5 dimensions in AMI and 1 out of 5 dimensions for HF. 

 

Conclusions

Using an alternative VBP formula that reflects the principle of “equal credit for equal improvement,” resulted in a more equitable distribution of overall payment scores, which could allow hospitals in both socioeconomically advantaged and disadvantaged areas to succeed under VBP.

 

 

The Relationship Between Clinical Benefit and Receipt of Curative Therapy for Prostate Cancer

The Relationship Between Clinical Benefit and Receipt of Curative Therapy for Prostate Cancer
Archives of Internal Medicine, Vol. 172, no. 4, pp. 362-363. DOI: 10.1001/archinternmed.2011.1494

Raldow, A.C., C.J. Presley, J.B. Yu, R. Sharma, L.D. Cramer, P.R. Soulos, J.B. Long, D.V. Makarov, and C.P. Gross
02/27/2012

The economic burden placed on healthcare systems by childhood obesity

The economic burden placed on healthcare systems by childhood obesity
Expert Rev Pharmacoecon Outcomes Res. 2012 Feb;12(1):39-45.

Trasande L and Brian Elbel.
02/01/2012

The obesity epidemic has transformed children's healthcare, such that diabetes, hypertension and the metabolic syndrome are phrases more commonly used by child health providers than ever before. This article reviews the economic consequences of this epidemic for healthcare delivery systems, both in the short term when obesity has been associated with increased utilization, and in the long term where increased likelihood of adult obesity and cardiovascular disease is well documented. Large investments through research and prevention are needed and are likely to provide strong returns in cost savings, and would optimally emerge through a cooperative effort between private and government payers alike. 

From Research to Health Policy Impact

From Research to Health Policy Impact
Health Services Research, 2012. Volume 47 / Issue 01 / February 2012, pp 337-343, Published online

Carolyn M. Clancy, Sherry A. Glied and Nicole Lurie
01/12/2012

The opportunities for researchers to improve health and health care by contributing to the formulation and implementation of policy are almost unlimited. Indeed, the availability of these opportunities is a tribute to a generation of health services researchers questioning existing policies or studying essential "Why?" and “What if?” questions using rigorous analysis. Moreover, the steady albeit uneven transition of health care delivery from a paper-based cottage industry toward an enterprise that provides transparent information to clinicians, patients, policy makers and the public, and potentially vast amounts of data to policy researchers, combined with the expectations of an increasingly information-savvy public, have increased the focus on health care quality, access, and costs.

Our health care system, like those in other countries, confronts continued pressures from increasing costs; inconsistent quality; avoidable patient harms; pervasive disparities in health and health care associated with individual characteristics such as race, ethnicity, income, education and geography; and poor population health outcomes. The persistence of many of these challenges reflects, in part, a failure of science alone to improve heath. Strategies to address many of these challenges exist in the laboratory, but the contribution of this science to the health of the public is limited by a research enterprise that values discovery of new knowledge far more than its successful application.

Access to, use of and satisfaction with health services among adults enrolled in Brazil’s Family Health Strategy: evidence from the 2008 National Household Survey

Access to, use of and satisfaction with health services among adults enrolled in Brazil’s Family Health Strategy: evidence from the 2008 National Household Survey
Tropical Medicine & International Health, Vol. 17, no. 1, pp. 36-42. 10.1111/j.1365-3156.2011.02866.x

Macinko, J., and M.F. Lima Costa
01/01/2012

Objective  To assess the effects of participation in Brazil’s primary healthcare programme (the Family Health Strategy or FHS) on access, use and satisfaction with health services among adults.

Methods  Data are from the 2008 National Household Survey (PNAD) on 264 754 adults. This cross-sectional analysis compares FHS enrollees to both non-enrollees and those with private health plans. We calculated predicted probabilities of each outcome stratified by household wealth quintile, rural/urban location and sex using robust Poisson regression. We performed propensity score analysis to assess the differences in access among FHS enrollees and the rest of the population, once relevant socio-demographic characteristics and other determinants of access were balanced.

Results  Compared to families with neither FHS enrolment nor private health plans, adult FHS enrollees were generally more likely to have a usual source of care, to have visited a doctor or dentist in the past 12 months, to have access to needed medications and to be satisfied with the care they received. The FHS effect was largest among urban dwellers and the poorest.

Conclusions  The FHS appears to be associated with enhanced access to and utilization of health services in Brazil. However, it has not yet been able to match levels of access experienced by those with private health plans, perhaps because the population served by the FHS is among the poorest, most rural and least healthy in the country.

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