Monday, September 22, 2014

Bundled payments, update

While I was reading the HA blog I  thought that the word innovation is like a joker, when somebody has a real concern about potential income in the future, any change may harm innovation. The current situation in US of bundled payments is still embryonic and biased towards certain services. Bundled payments need to be holistic, not partial in order to deliver clear results. Otherwise, incentives in non-regulated areas increase. Maybe those that are concerned with innovation will move towards such areas...

Fines, settlements and reputation

Reputation Capital: Building and Maintaining Trust in the 21st Century

In the last decade there has been a proliferation of cases of fraudulent marketing practices and bribery in pharmaceutical industry. In the case of US you may check the details at Propublica. In EU we don't have a similar summary (as far as I know). The latest case in EU involves 6 companies and fines of €427m . In China, the latest case is about $500m fines for bribery. This case was started by an anonymous whistleblower.
While it is no surprise that pharmaceutical industry reputation is weak, corporate social responsibility is still supported by the firms. I can't understand why. In the page 347 of this book you'll find a chapter on this issue: "Is there no prescription? Reputation in the pharmaceutical industry". It says:
If the pharmaceutical industry does not present itself in an active and self-confident way, it cannot expect the situation to improve. For, apart from itself, it has no other advocates

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Behavioral Forensics: Why Good People Do Bad Things

A.B.C.'s of Behavioral Forensics: Applying Psychology to Financial Fraud Prevention and Detection

The fraudsters paradigm explained in one book: the bad Apple (rogue executive), the bad Bushel (groups that collude and behave like gangs), and the bad Crop (representing organization-wide or even societally-sanctioned cultures that are toxic and corrosive). As far as fraud and corruption is a nowadays critical issue, understanding what to do about it, is required.
A remarkable statement from the book:
Being curious is indispensable, and asking the right questions is the only way to get to the bottom of things. Once fraudsters realize that they are not dealing with fools, they are usually smart enough to back off. The potential fraud is then nipped in the bud or successfully foiled. The power of asking the right question increases logarithmically as one moves up the organization; indeed, the most important omission is the unasked question.

 Didier Lourenço at Galeria Barnadas                        

Friday, September 19, 2014

Unwarranted variations, what's next?

Geographic Variations in Health CareWhat Do We Know and What Can Be Done to Improve Health System Performance?

We all know that there are unwarranted variations in health care. Unfortunately we haven't the same analysis about the drivers and its impact on health outcomes for such variations. OECD has just released a report on this topic, and suggests the following:
Eight types of policies might be envisaged:
• Public reporting on geographical variations, in order to raise questions among stakeholders and prompt actions, particularly in “outlier” regions.
• Setting targets at the regional level can support public reporting and help promoting  appropriate use.
• The re-allocation of resources to increase (or reduce) supply of resources (e.g., beds, doctors) in regions with low (or high) utilisation rates.
• Establishment and implementation of clinical guidelines in order to promote greater consistency in clinical practice.
• Provider-level reporting and feedback to improve clinical practice and discourage unnecessary provision of health services.
• Changes in payment systems to promote higher (or lower) use when there is high suspicion of underuse (or overuse).
• The measurement of health outcomes, to promote greater consistency in clinical practice that ensures improved patient outcomes.
• The utilisation of decision aids for patients, to promote more informed decisions about benefits and risks of various interventions, and to better respond to patient preferences.
These proposals fall short in my opinion. After a decade of publishing information on variations, public reporting has not raised deep questions for "stakeholders", at least as far as I know. Incentives have not changed substantially in order to reduce differences in utilization. Current payment systems require a redefinition from scratch in order to take into account such issues. Any citizen should be concerned about the results of the report. Something should be done.

PS. By the way, regarding OECD recommendations, they have not explained clearly what Wennberg suggested: shared decision making

PS. Bad journalism at LV. Why CAC doesn't care about complaints on written press.

Ferrando at Galeria Barnadas

Monday, September 15, 2014

How newcomers become bureaucrats?

Becoming Bureaucrats Socialization at the Front Lines of Government Service

It is quite surprising how public service management usually is considered from a reductionist perspective. Some people think that if we understand the rules and incentives that underlie in public service, then we can understand its performance. The constraints to change the factors that drive performance are well known and it seems that nothing can be done to surpass inertia.
A new book provides fresh air on this issue. It argues that:
Bureacratic behavior follows a logic of appropriateness (LOA). This decision-making theory, developed by James March and Johan Olsen, suggests that organizational behavior is associated with norms that individuals develop about what constitutes appropriate, exemplary behavior
A key message:
The traditional understanding that bureacracies change people may be true but beside the point. More important , in this account, is how bureacracies find people and how people find them.
I still don't understand why most physicians-nurses-... in NHS must be civil servants. I have said that many times and nobody has been able to find an argument. In my opinion this is one of the pieces that reflects an outdated system without the possibility to break its inertia.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Outsourcing boards of directors?


A comment in The Economist suggests a new approach: outsourcing boards of directors. Such a strategy would be justified to solve the current widespread and deep-rooted problems. They provide some examples and we all know some disfunctions. However, such proposal is open to dispute and the conflicts of interest that may arise may not compensate the professional approach of such "firms". On the other hand something should be done and may be this is an interesting approach for publicly owned firms as far as they are not exposed to market competition. Health care could be an example of a sector to experiment and to improve providers' governance.
The original article is in Stanford Law Review.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Is nudging ethical?

The challenges and opportunities of ‘nudging’

A forthcoming Editorial in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health provides some amunition for those interested on nudging.
The answer to the question if nudging is an ethically acceptable way of governing people’s behaviour depends on the ethical principles one adheres to. Our core point is that there is no magic trick, any form of policy intervention will impose a criterion against someone’s will, and democracy requires: (1) transparency from the political system in terms of the values selected in deciding and designing an intervention; (2) and at least an evidence-based justification of choice.
If the preferences of an individual change, then we cannot state that his first choice is better/equal/worse than his second one without introducing a ranking among his preference systems. As a result, value-free interventions cannot be defined.
If no magic bullet is available on the policy side, the same applies to research. In the domain of health, behavioural approaches must cope with the challenge of not neglecting the socioeconomic and contextual determinant of health inequalities
We argue that neglecting socioeconomic variables would be clearly a mistake also in the design of nudge. However, our point is precisely that behavioural science (and nudge as its policy implication) can incorporate an analysis of social and cultural factors, and avoid cognitive universalism.
Easier said than done. For an op-ed, it fits with the audience, for a strict and concrete policy recommendation requires further elaboration. I can't see  a practical and concrete applicable approach nowadays. Let's continue waiting.

PS. Must read, on medical devices in BMJ.A systematic review of new implants in hip and knee replacement

PS. A flawed PNAS article unveiled. Again and again, where is peer-review?

Jordi Pintó at Galeria Banadas

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Retrofuturistic payment systems (2)

Long time ago I alerted about a potential payment system that tried to convince everybody and didn't satisfied its goals for equity and efficiency. I was concerned about reproducing the mistakes of the past and creating flaws for the future. What I said more than two years ago, has been recently confirmed more or less by a recent decree. Its detailed analysis goes beyond any post in a blog. The retro part is related to an administrative discretionary classification of hospitals that was initially defined two decades ago (Decree  June 30th, 1992) and failed afterwards. The future part is related to a dual payment system: population and service based that will be defined according to idiosyncratic situations. Both are the pillars of uncertainty in the model.
Right now the most important task to accomplish will be to think about its next reform.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Recruiting and wage bargaining in health care

Wage-setting in the Hospital Sector
Huge differences in physician wages are well-known even after adjusting for PPP. Regulatory design on how recruiting and remuneration is set differs across countries and within them. Now OECD explains such differences for some of them.
If we all agree that health care management requires some autonomy level, the recruiting function should be delegated to managers. This is what happens in most OECD countries, except in Italy, Ireland, Greece, Spain, (and Israel) p. 19. Right now I remember that these are the same countries that needed some bailout... This is not by's by design...
Somebody should change such status, recruiting and remuneration needs flexibility and adaptation to local conditions.


PS. NYT. For those with melanoma, Will the NHS be able to pay 150,000$ for living one additional year of life with a 69% probability?

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Dynamic risk adjustment in provider's payment

Prevention and Dynamic Risk Adjustment

Adjusting Medicaid Managed Care Payments for Changes in Health Status

"Risk-adjustment methods have an inherent structural flaw that rewards preventable deterioration in enrollee health status and improved coding of disease burden", this is the key statement in Fuller et al. article. The answer they provide is the introduction of an additional payment adjustment according to changes in health status for similar mix of enrollees. The payment adjustment being proposed is based on changes in aggregate relative payment weights for all enrollees avoiding any individual adjustment.
This is a concrete application of the initial dynamic risk adjustment proposal that Eggleston et al. made in 2007. They suggested a two step payment system: a conventional risk adjustment (for variations in population health outside the provider’s control) and an additional one related to prevention efforts.
There is still a lot to learn about it. Let's keep an eye on this crucial topic.

PS. Have a look at Commonwealth Fund anouncement: "Our initiative recognizes that a wide range of factors influence providers’ choices, beyond financial rewards or penalties, including intrinsic motivation and medical professionalism, organizational influences, and policy" (see Box)

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Our health and its determinants (2)

The Relative Contribution of Multiple Determinants to Health Outcomes

There are five major categories of health determinants: genetics, behavior, social circumstances, environmental and physical influences, and medical care. If this is so, do we know the relative importance of each factor?
Last February I posted in this blog a figure by Kindig that explains their contribution. Now a Health Affairs brief summarises different views. Check Exhibit 1, and you'll see there that behaviour represents 35-50% of health status according to different estimates.
The message is clear in our current evironment of mostly non-communicable diseases, we have to find better ways to change behaviour towards healthier people. Decisions and actions, short and long term, risk and responsibility, costs and benefits, trade-offs of every day life.

PS. Must read:  The Ethics of Ebola.
The first three doses of ZMapp were administered to the American medical missionaries Kent Brantly and Nancy Whitebol, who have recovered, and the Spanish priest Miguel Pajares, who has since died. Some offered a practical justification for the widely criticized selection of Brantly and Whitebol: It makes sense to treat health workers first, so that they can continue to help others. But this argument largely fell apart with the selection of the 75-year-old Pajares.
PS.  "Only four companies today make vaccines, compared to 26 companies 50 years ago.". My concerns about a future systemic drug industry are closer than expected (at least in vaccines).

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Patient switching-behaviour

Enquesta de salut de Catalunya 2013

Consumer loyalty is a top goal for any maketeer, and the Nielsen Global Survey of Loyalty Sentiment says that to achieve it, offering the best price is the most persuasive tool to motivate consumers to swap devotion to a brand, service provider or retailer. If you enter into healthcare arena, service prices don't play the same role, mandatory insurance coverage is the standard (in developed countries), and voluntary insurance is the option (prices are relevant in this latter case).
What happens when one fourth of the population (~24%) buys voluntary insurance?. They have two options for healthcare access. The last health survey gives the answer (Table 3. p. 44): 57,9% of members go to private services, 29,5% use public services, 12,4% don't use any service. This is the switching behaviour pattern according to access and perceived quality of services, not price.

PS. I suggest a close look to the survey, many interesting things appear inside. Deeper analysis is needed using microdata.

PS. A former post on a related topic.

Monday, September 1, 2014

The impact of information and communication technologies

The number of primary care visits per capita in 2007 was 7,1, nowadays this figure has dropped to 5,9, a reduction of 17% in six years. That's a lot. In absolute terms you get the astonishing figure of 4,5 million visits less! In 2013 the total number of visits in primary care was 44,7 million.
I have taken 2007 as the year for comparison for one reason: there was no electronic drug prescription. I don't know all the reasons behind such huge decrease, however information technology has helped for sure. Righ now, 92% of all prescriptions are electronic. A wide assessment of such period is needed.
Such figures are only a partial evidence of the transformation through technology in one specific area - drug prescription-, now the next step is to go further in other fields: organization of work and communication between physician and the patient. These areas may take advantage of technology and help to change the "production function". However, somebody should also think about the impact on a redefiniton of professional roles and tasks, an issue that is frequently left for another day.

PS. Unfortunately, this good news you'll not find in any newspaper. Nowadays, most of them are interested only in the dark side.

PS. Don't forget that such a decrease in utilization of services has been achieved without any copayment strategy.