Revisiting reform: Robbing Peter to pay Paul

Why do you suppose there is so much discussion about revisiting healthcare reform, Reform 2.0?

Is it because Congress failed to acknowledge that ninety-eight percent of healthcare is local; Hyperlocal?  I think the answer is a resounding yes.  What is hyperlocal?  You know the saying, “All politics is local?”  Well, hyperlocal is local on steroids.  It’s moms and dads making choices about who will care for their family.  It’s the doctor down the street, not the doctor chosen by some system.

Individuals see healthcare reform as “What’s in it for them—them is defined as anyone other than me” and “What will it do to me?”  Reform 1.0 isn’t viewed as improving my healthcare, few see it as meCare.  That is why when viewed nationally so many are against the current version of reform.

It’s not that nobody is interested in providing healthcare to those who don’t have it.  What concerns people who do have healthcare is their belief—which may have nothing to do with reality—is that to provide healthcare to those who don’t have it requires that those who have it to give up some of their benefits.  Those with healthcare coverage see reform 1.0 as a zero sum game; for someone to be better off I have to become worse off.

What has people talking about trying to kill the bill is that nobody who currently has healthcare believes they will see any net gain benefit from the bill—they will see a net loss.  If any benefit will accrue to those who presently have healthcare, they certainly can’t articulate the benefit.

To gain support for Reform 2.0, or whatever it comes to be called, reform must incorporate first person interests, not just second or third.  Does that sound selfish?  It may be.  However, they are toying with reforming a fifth of the economy and a service of which eighty percent of the people are generally pleased.  Robbing Peter to pay Paul, and doing so at a cost of a trillion dollars to tens of millions of Peters has not garnered a groundswell of support.  No PR firm has demonstrated that they are clever enough to make this appear to be a good idea.

For reform to pass, Congress must learn to conjugate the care verb: First person—iCare, meCare Second and third person—heCare, sheCare, theyCare, youCare. That about covers all the various forms of caring.

What Congress hasn’t come to grips with is that there is no meCare in heCare, sheCare, or theyCare—hence, people don’t care to support reform.

What do you think?

How healthcare reform could be made to work: Fantasy Healthcare

What if we create  It could work a lot like fantasy football.  Annual registration fees must be paid prior to the fantasy draft, and may be paid at Participants will have to participate in the annual draft from the pool of available doctors and specialists, and will be limited to two specialists per person, five for a family.  The same process will apply for selecting a hospital.  If your choice is no longer available when it’s your turn to draft, you may submit another bid, or offer to trade with another member.  Each trade will cost you one thousand Healthcare Points.  Additional points may be purchased at the Public Option web site, www.we’ .

You may purchase fantasy insurance to protect your fantasy-healthcare investment.  In the event your doctor is sued or retires, you have the right to pick one of the doctors provided they are in the same or lower price category. For those who are concerned about the possibility of disputes, we have created  You and your provider submit your arguments online, and the winner will be notified on-line.  Additionally, we’ve added a new feature this year to help you understand your medical costs and bills,  Join now, or take the chance that there may not be any doctors left within a three-hour drive from your house.  Good luck

Key questions for CEOs and their Boards

Been there, done that, got the T-shirt.  Everybody who thinks they have their arms around EHR and healthcare reform, take one step forward……whoa, where are you going Sparky?

The questions below resulted from a round-table discussion I recently had  with six healthcare executives about EHR and healthcare reform. The topic we discussed was what questions should C-Level executives be prepared to answer and what questions should boards be asking. What do you think? Are their others you’d add?

Are we taking adequate advantage of stimulus funding to improve our readiness?

How is health care reform going to impact our business and when?

Are we doing enough to be ready to succeed in an environment where we get paid for outcomes rather than inputs?

Are we ready to comply with Federal policies for Electronic Health Record reporting and sharing?

Are we achieving our own business improvement standards? Do we have the right standards?

Are we ready to use web 2.0 technologies to improve clinical outcomes for our clients?

saint Paul M. Roemer
Chief Imaginist, Healthcare IT Strategy

1475 Luna Drive, Downingtown, PA 19335
+1 (484) 885-6942

My profiles: LinkedInWordPressTwitterMeetupBlog RSS
Contact me: Google Talk/paulroemer Skype/paulroemer Google Wave/paulroemer

The change keeps changing

Hello to those whom I’ve yet to meet.  This is rather long, so you may wish to grab a sandwich.

I write to share a few thoughts.  I reside in the small place where those who refuse to drink the Kool Aid reside. For those who haven’t been there, it’s where those who place principle over fees dare to tread.

Where to begin? How to build your provider executive team? (Those who wish to throw cabbages should move closer to their laptops so as not to be denied a decent launching point.)

I comment on behalf of those in the majority who have either not started or hopefully have not reached the EHR points of no return—those are points at which you realize that without a major infusion of dollars and additional time your project will not succeed. Those who have completed their implementation, I dare say for many no amount of team building will help. Without being intentionally Clintonian—well, maybe a little—I guess it depends on what your definition of completed is.

If I were staffing a healthcare organization, to be of the most value to the hospital, I’d staff to overcome whatever is lying in wait on the horizon, external influences—the implications of reform and Stages 2 and 3 of Meaningful Use, and a national roll out of EHR with no viable plan to get there.  Staffing only to execute today’s perceived demands will get people shot and will fail to meet the needs of hospital. To succeed we need to exercise an understanding of what is about to happen to healthcare and to build a staff to meet those implications.

Several CEOs have shared that they are at a total loss when it comes to understanding the healthcare implications of reform and IT.  They’ve also indicated—don’t yell at me for this—they don’t think their IT executives understand the business issues surrounding EHR and reform.  I somewhat disagree with that perspective.

Here’s a simplified version of the targets I think most of today’s hospital CIOs are trying to hit.

1. Certification
2. Meaningful use
3. Interoperability—perhaps
4. Budget
5. Timing
6. Vendor management
7. Training
8. User acceptance
9. Change management
10. Work flow improvement
11. Managing upwards

There are plenty of facts that could allow one to conclude that these targets have a Gossamer quality to them.  Here’s what I think. You don’t have to accept this, and you can argue this from a technology viewpoint—and you will win the argument. I recently started to raise the following ideas, and they seem to be finding purchase—I like that word, and since this is my piece, I used it.

Before we go there, may I share my reasoning? From a business perspective, many would say the business of healthcare must move from a 0.2 to a 2.0 business model. (This is not the same as the healthcare business—the clinical side.)  The carrot?  The ARRA incentives—an amount that for many providers will prove to be more of a rounding error than a substantive rebate.

Large healthcare providers are being asked to hit complex, undefined, and moving targets, and they are planning on adapting to reform and reforming their own business model while they implement systems which will change how everyone works.  Hospitals are making eight and nine figure purchase decisions based in part on solving business problems they have not articulated. If success is measured as being on-time, in-budget, and fully functional and accepted, for any project in excess of $10,000,000, the chances of failure are far greater than the chances of success.

Their overriding business driver seems to be that the government told them to do this. Providers are making purchasing decisions without defining their requirements. Some will spend more on an EHR system than they would to build a new hospital wing.  Many don’t know what the EHR should cost, yet they have a budget. Many don’t know if they need a blue one or a green one, if it comes in a box, or if they need to water it.

So, where would I staff to help ensure my success—this is sort of like Dr. Seuss’, “If I ran the Circus”—the one with Sneelock in the old vacant lot.  I’d staff with a heavy emphasis on the following subject matter experts:

• Planning & Innovation
• Flexibility
• Change Management
• PR & Marketing

Contrary to popular belief, not all of these high-level people need to have great understanding of healthcare or IT. You probably already have enough medical and IT expertise to last a lifetime.

Here’s why I think this is important. Here’s what I believe will happen. Three to five years for now the government would like us to believe there will be a network of articulated EHRs with different standards, comprised of hundreds of vendor products, connected to hundred of RHIOs, and mapped to a N-HIN.  Under the proposed model, standardization will not occur if only for the fact that there is no monetary value to those vendors whose standards are not standard.

Interoperability, cost, and the lack of standardization will force a different solution—one which is portable.  I think the solution will have to be something along the lines of a single, national, open, browser-based EHR.  It will be driven by consumers.  Consumers will purchase the next generation of super-smart portable devices that offer a combination of iPad/iPhone functionality.

The Personal Health (PRH) will have evolved to become the EMR.  How is this possible?  What do smart devices do?  They do one thing, billions of times each day, and they do it perfectly—they send and receive ones and zeros.  That is what today’s EMR are—ones and zeroes.  Those next-gen devices will be EMR-capable.  Why?  Because there are more than a hundred million customers who will keep buying these devices.

The so-called N-HIN will be the new Super Internet—not some cobbled together network of RHIOs.

Firms like Apple, Google, and Microsoft will drive this change.  We already buy everything they offer, in fact, we line up at midnight to do so.  By then, those firms will care less about selling the devices than they will about transporting the ones and zeroes that comprise the data.  Their current PHRs are their way of introducing themselves to consumers as players in healthcare.

The point I am trying to drive home is that from being able to adapt to change and reform, lean towards staffing the unknown.  Staff with leaders, innovators, and people who can turn on a dime. Build your organization like turning on a dime is your number one requirement. Don’t waste time and money worrying about Certification or Meaningful Use. If anyone asks you why, you can blame me.

If you want a real reason, I have two. First, they won’t mean a thing five years from now. Second, if I am the person writing an incentive check, I want to know one and only one thing—will your system connect with the other system for which I am also writing a check?  That is the government’s home run.

saint Paul M. Roemer
Chief Imaginist, Healthcare IT Strategy

1475 Luna Drive, Downingtown, PA 19335
+1 (484) 885-6942

My profiles: LinkedInWordPressTwitterMeetupBlog RSS
Contact me: Google Talk/paulroemer Skype/paulroemer Google Wave/paulroemer

When reform collides with EHR…

If I remember my physics correctly, there’s no discernable difference between screaming in a vacuum and not screaming in a vacuum, unless of course someone turns it on while you’re in it, and then by default, you’re screaming. That seemed to make sense to me during my run, but seeing it on the screen isn’t doing much for me. Ever since I tore my Achilles I can’t run as far, and I’ve gained a few pounds. I feel like I’m in my first trimester-running for two of us, sort of a Shamu in Nikes.

Enough about me.  Here’s the deal. There seems to be a slight shifting of the winds in terms of those who now believe reform will work.  The winds are blowing more towards the skeptics.  Who among us can articulate what is included in the reform effort in a single PowerPoint slide?  (Can you picture Ross Perot with his slides and wooden pointer?)  If we can’t explain the reform effort to ourselves, how then can we explain the business problem we’re trying to solve with EHR?  Until you’re comfortable articulating the benefits to your organization—not the ones spelled out on a dot-gov web site, you’re better off holding on to your checkbook.

The current EHR/healthcare reform effort violates Keynes’ third law of shopaholics anonymous–just because something you can’t afford and don’t need goes on sale doesn’t mean you have to buy it. (Unless of course it impresses your friends.)  In addition to the trillion dollar stimulus, maybe the government was awarded discount coupons–20% off on EHR if redeemed before the payors own the providers.

Does reform need to be reformed?

The following is the comment I posted to,

Kent Bottles: Is It Really Impossible to Control the Cost of Health Care in the U.S.?

Kent, your narrative should be mandatory reading for all those in Washington whose vision of reform stands in stark contrast to the piece. Then, before they are allowed to propose or vote on their vision, they should be forced to explain why their vision doesn’t address these issues.

In my non-luminary opinion, here’s where I think the reformists have failed. The notion of spending funds that don’t exist, to fix things that may not be broken, without fixing those that are could only come from Washington.

Permit me to over simplify things to make a point. When I look at healthcare, I see a three legged stool; pharma, the payors, and the providers—the three P’s. Not exactly in a pod, each working to their own benefits and operating under different business models—models which are in conflict. For example, many hospitals operate as not for profits, which conflicts with the for profit sectors.

I believe the present reform effort will increase the conflict. Why? Because the legislation is siloed—it looks a lot like the word ‘soiled’ which might also be part of the problem. The legislation does not seem designed to address healthcare as in integrated industry. The way reform is positioned, each nudge that is put to one leg of the stool will cause a reaction, an unfavorable one, to the other legs. It is a little like doing an experiment, changing multiple variables at once, and hoping for the best.

Two sides of the stool, the payors and pharma, have behemoths running the show. Among the behemoths, the business models in pharma are quite similar and the same holds for the payors.
I think it is important to distinguish between the business of healthcare (the dollars and cents) and the healthcare business (the clinical side). The provider segment is highly fragmented. There is no behemoth provider cartel. The business of healthcare, is the side most in need of reform. Each of the thousands of providers operates under their own business model. None of these businesses was designed to be interoperable—I do not use this term in the same sense being used by the ONC and CMS.

The business of healthcare, with all of its inefficiencies, is designed to operate within its four walls and across a limited geographical radius. The long term goal of healthcare reform, I believe, is to make the provider side appear as one giant services provider. Just because consolidation sort of worked for steel, the airlines, and the automotive industry does not mean it will work for delivering healthcare.

My final comment has to do with the payor side of healthcare, and I’ll start by acknowledging that this one is more than a little provocative, one for which I have not thought through a workable solution—I’ll leave that to those of you who aren’t grasping for metaphorical tomatoes to throw. I could be convinced to skip the rest of my comments if for a moment I thought that the business model of the payors was—let’s cover everyone who needs care for a fair cost. Ignore for the moment that my statement is naive.

We know that on a small scale it is possible for people to self-insure, to meet their needs without having to rely on payors. I’ll frame my final comment with a question—where is the value-add to healthcare from the payors?

Here is my issue with the current model. You want to go to the movie, you hand me ten dollars for an eight dollar ticket, and I pay the movie theater on your behalf and pocket the two dollars. In this instance I am merely the middle man, I manage the transaction. The theater gets no marginal benefit, and you get no marginal benefit.

Not complex enough? Let’s say someday millions of people want to go to the movies and a ticket will cost them eight dollars. Anticipating that, everyone pays me a dollar a day so that when the time comes they can go. On that day, I pay for movie tickets for those who want to go, pocket the difference, and I keep the money for those who don’t go.

In my small mind, that’s how I view the payor leg of the stool. I think the payors relish reform. I think the more they complain about how badly this will hurt them the more they may like it. It reminds me of the Uncle Remus story in which Brer Rabbitt pleading with Brer Bear and Brer Fox not to throw him into the briar patch.

What industry wouldn’t be salivating if they could find an additional thirty or forty million customers overnight? What if you could charge them a monthly fee and make the co-pay so high that you might not have to cover major medical claims? Does this sound absurd or does it sound a little like the mortgage banking industry? Fess for no service. I am not saying that this will happen in every case, but I do not think one can argue that this will never happen.

Circling back to how to reform reform. From my vantage point, the most advantageous reform idea would be to force multiples of payors to compete in every state. Competition could do wonders for cost control.

A final thought. Earlier this year a House committee passed legislation on “can’t fail” businesses. The Financial Services Committee voted on an amendment that would let regulators dismantle a firm, limit mergers and acquisitions, and force an end to activities deemed systemically risky. The financial industry opposed the measure, as part of legislation to overhaul Wall Street rules. This could be another opportunity for the camel—Washington—to get its nose further under the healthcare tent. There is nothing that limits the legislation to financial services. Call me a cock-eyed pessimist, but what is there to prevent Congress from deciding that the payors need to be dismantled, thereby ushering in a federal payor model? That would give them two legs of the stool. What if…?

How difficult are EHR, Reform, & Interoperability

My daughter asked me to kill the bug in her room—Super Dad to the rescue.  That got me wondering.  Do most men think we excel at most things?  As I pondered weak and weary, I started to formulate this list.  I ask the men as they read through the list to score themselves on a ranking of one to five, with five being the highest, how they view their abilities in each area.  Ladies, feel free to play along on behalf of someone you know.

  1. Sunday Sports
  2. Getting a taxi
  3. Navigating
  4. Mowing the lawn
  5. Killing spiders
  6. Drawing a straight line by hand
  7. Multitasking
  8. Parallel parking
  9. Anything to do with fire
  10. Opening jars
  11. Sharpening a pencil with a knife
  12. Tipping
  13. Driving
  14. Cooking on the grill

Maybe this comes from that hunter-gatherer thing.  Total your score silently in your head—you can do this because you also happen to think you excel in math.  My guess is that 98% of us scored somewhere between 56 and 70, the majority leaning towards the higher end of the range.  Granted, these are simply opinions, nothing any of us has to prove.

However, when pushed most of us will back down on one or two things if we had to prove our prowess.  Take juggling for example.  Even an egoist will be reticent to rate himself an excellent juggler.

Here we go.  Why then when we (ladies, this also includes you) are faced with something challenging at work we do our best to convince ourselves and others that the task can be no more difficult than opening a jar, asking directions, or asking for help?  We prefer to fly solo, believing we will somehow figure it out on the way.

I cannot recall the last time I heard someone facing a big ugly IT project state anything like:

  • You’ve got the wrong person
  • I have no idea how to do this
  • There is no way this is going to work

EHR, reform, Meaningful Use, interoperability.  These are big ugly projects.  Some are projects for which only a scarce few have real subject matter expertise—a handful of which truly ‘get it’, and others for which no one is credentialed.  Yet when we hear the proclamations about how standards are coming, how the N-HIN will work, and how reform will impact healthcare over the next five years, they seem to be stated with such assurance so as to infer that these industry-altering programs are no more difficult than parallel parking.

Remember the game Trivial Pursuit?  There was an inverse relationship between how certain I was of an answer and the certainty with which I asserted it.  If I said the answer quickly and with enough confidence I could occasionally convince the other players not to even check the answer on the back of the card.  For example, if the question is “name the bird who lays its eggs in the nest of another bird,’ and you belt out, ‘racket-tailed coquette,’ you just may pull it off.

It’s just an observation on my part, but why is it that when the nice people in charge tell us that they know what they are doing to me it sounds like they are yelling, racket-tailed coquette.’