Sunday, March 20, 2016

Fiduciary duty in medicine

Professionalism, Fiduciary Duty, and Health-Related Business Leadership

Professionalism is a key concept to understand the practice of medicine. I have emphasized many times this issue in this blog. Today I would like to take one step further and to define the fiduciary duty of all healthcare professionals, specially those at management positions. In JAMA you'll find an article that elaborates the idea:
Fiduciary duty captures the simple idea of an obligation to act in the best interest of another person or party. The fiduciary is entrusted with the care of another person and must ensure that the person’s interests take precedence over the fiduciary’s own interests. Fiduciary duty is familiar to physicians in their relationship to patients, but in business, executives have a fiduciary duty to “the shareholders and the corporation.” A fiduciary relationship contrasts with a contractual one (in which mutual obligations are largely spelled out), and it imposes more extensive expectations of leaders. Fiduciaries are held to a higher standard precisely because of their power to affect the well-being of others who rely on their judgment and cannot adequately monitor and assess the fiduciary’s actions.
PS. Fiduciary duty concept is better developed under common law rather than civil law. Therefore, we need to rethink its implications.

Toni Catany, Photo-Exhibition in Barcelona

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Rational emotions

Feeling smart

Game theory is a crucial contribution to science. However it is not that easy to get a clear understanding unless experiments that confirm hypothetical outcomes are well described. And experiments are context dependent.
If you want a good overview of the main insights of Game Theory, have a look at this book "Feeling Smart, why our emotions are more rational than you think" by Eyan Winter. It goes beyond game theory, this is the most fortunate part.You don't need maths to understand it. Mostly it is devoted to applications in a useful way, using behavioral and information views .
Let's take a statement on trust:

Trust is an engine of cooperation between individuals. Cooperation, in turn, is an engine of economic growth and social welfare. Trust cannot be sustained in a society without credibility, the behavioral trait that fosters trust. On the other hand, just as trust cannot survive for long without credibility, credibility is eventually destroyed without trust. If trust is virtually nonexistent in a social setting, then there is no point in trying to develop or sustain credibility; in that situation you are better off adopting selfish and unreliable behavior. Societies and nations can be in one of two equilibria: a “good” equilibrium in which individuals trust each other and behave in a reliable and cooperative manner toward others (justifying the trust), or a “bad” equilibrium in which individuals do not trust each other, with that lack of trust becoming self-justifying as people act without any sense of a need to be trustworthy or reliable. It is easy to guess, even without empirical data, which of these equilibria leads to greater economic growth.
If you are interested in trust games, then go to part II, "On trust and generosity", this is what you should read. I highly recommend it, I've enjoyed reading it.

PS. I have a vague feeling these days about what's going on health policy in my country. May be credibility is starting to be undermined? Any health model relies on the credibility and trust of different actors. It is not possible to build a health system without trust among all stakeholders. Instead of creating the conditions for a new health policy based on cooperation, may be the new foundations are departing from conflict?. Is this the way to create a successful health policy?

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The building blocks of healthcare payment systems

The Building Blocks of Successful Payment Reform: Designing Payment Systems that Support Higher–Value Health Care

The implementation of healthcare payment systems is a complex task for any insurer, either public or private. Any option for reform is path-dependant and uncertain. The context and the inertia are the sources of lack of support for a change, unless a larger amount of Money -a big carrot- is put on the table.
A new report highlights the building blocks of a payment system. This is the instruction manual, and it refers to 4 issues:
Building Block 1: Services Covered by a Single Payment
Option 1–A: Adding new service–based fees or increasing existing fees.
Option 1–B: Creating a treatment–based bundled payment for a single provider
Option 1–C: Creating a multi–provider treatment–based bundle.
Option 1–D: Creating a condition–based payment.
Option 1–E: Creating a population–based payment.

Building Block 2: Mechanism for Controlling Utilization and Spending
Option 2–A: Adjustments in payment (pay for performance)based on utilization.
Option 2–B: Adjustments in payment (pay for performance)based on spending or savings.
Option 2–C: Bundled payment.

Building Block 3: Mechanism for Assuring Adequate Quality and Outcomes
Option 3–A: Establishing minimum performance standards.
Option 3–B: Payment adjustments (pay for performance) based on quality.
Option 3–C: Warrantied payment

Building Block 4: Mechanisms for Assuring Adequacy of Payment
Option 4–A: Risk adjustment or risk stratification.
Option 4–B: Outlier payments.
Option 4–C: Risk corridors.
Option 4–D: Volume–based adjustments to payment.
Option 4–E: Setting and periodically updating payment amounts to match costs.
A must read, keep it for your files.


Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Improving physician compensation

A Guide to Physician-Focused Alternative Payment Models

A fixed flat monthly payment to  physicians is a vulgar method to compensate a professional effort. At some initial stages of the career, it may work. As far as experience and knowledge improves results, than some adjustments are needed. In general the publicly funded health system is not able to change the initial stage and remains with more or less the same approach of low-powered incentives. This may work for some individuals, but not for all of them.
Paying on a fee-for service it creates strong incentives to boost volume, and paves the way to overdiagnosis and overtreatment. Privately funded health care is still using mostly this high-powered approach and it is also not able to reform.
Alternative methods of compensating physicians have been described recently in an interesting report. Forget for a while that it is based on the US health system. These are the seven options:

APM #1: Payment for a High-Value Service 
APM #2: Condition-Based Payment for a Physician’s Services
APM #3: Multi-Physician Bundled Payment
APM #4: Physician-Facility Procedure Bundle
APM #5: Warrantied Payment for Physician Services
APM #6: Episode Payment for a Procedure
APM #7: Condition-Based Payment

Food for thought. Something should done to go beyond fee-for service. And do not forget it, changing incentives without any organizational alignment or reform may drive to surprises and poor performance.

PS. Just the opposite to us, NHS expands private care . A controversial trend.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Relative efficacy assesment with mixed treatment comparison

Assessing the relative efficacy of new drugs: an emerging opportunity

"For the majority of new drugs, critical realtive efficacy information is lacking". A strong statement from an article written by EMA officials and a Harvard professor. The article makes two proposals to solve this conundrum:
  • One is observational studies, which are comparatively low cost and reflect routine care, as they often involve retrospectively analysing existing data from patient registries, electronic health records or claims databases. By definition, however, they lack randomization and rely on data that are generated in routine care to assess patients’ health states, and on clinical end points that are prone to misclassification or incompleteness
  • Mixed treatment comparison (MTC) indirectly assess the relative efficacy of two treatments, A and B, by using existing data from two or more RCTs that have compared each of the treatments to a common comparator (for example, one study comparing A versus placebo and another comparing B versus placebo, although there are more-complex MTC designs, including any available head-to-head RCTs). MTCs are fast and inexpensive as they rely on existing RCT data, some of which is produced even before a drug is marketed
A key requirement for successful mixed treatment comparison should be common end point definitions across RCTs. The article explains the promising COMET initiative, and I wonder why this wasn't created before.

 Ce mercredi à Barcelona nous avons eu la chance d'ecouter an incroyable concert par 
Caravan Palace à la salle Barts

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Efficient health systems

The five principles behind the world’s most efficient health systems

I was reading The Guardian this morning and I found this article. Forget for a while if there are five principles or more, its an op-ed. These are the key principles:
  1. Integrated care
  2. Hospitals as Health Systems
  3. Standardise and  simplify
  4. Take social care seriously
  5. Payer power
You may agree or not, but it is worth checking it out.

PS. If you want to know our research contributions on integrated care, I suggest you attend this workshop.