November 10, 2018

Next generation sequencing is knocking at the door (and the door is open)

Genetic testing: Opportunities to unlock value in precision medicine
Next-Generation Sequencing to Diagnose Suspected Genetic Disorders
Documento de consenso sobre la implementación de la secuenciación masiva de nueva generación en el diagnóstico genético de la predisposición hereditaria al cáncer

This week I've been reading three pieces on the same topic. First, a McKinsey insight on genetic testing, second a NEJM basic article that reviews the whole state of the issue, and third a consensus by three societies on how to implement next generation sequencing .
All of them are required reading for anyone interested in the topic. You'll notice that technology is knocking at the door and we do need to understand how to manage it. Otherwise it will enter anyway (without knocking) and then it will be more value extraction (by others) than value creation (for patients).
Unfortunately, what you'll not find in these articles is how to manage the introduction of the technology with organizational patterns, allocation and coordination of tasks and decisions. If you want some clues on this, read my previous post on Geisinger, they are applying what it seems to me the most appropriate perspective.


Sense Sal-Fins que surti el sol

November 9, 2018

The Cost of End-of-Life Care

The Myth Regarding the High Cost of End-of-Life Care
Systematic review of high-cost patients’ characteristics and healthcare utilisation

The size of the healthcare costs at the end of life is properly reflected in this article (forget exaggerations):
We estimated that in 2011, among those with the highest costs, only 11% were in their last year of life, and approximately 13% of the $1.6 trillion spent on personal healthcare costs in the United States was devoted to care of individuals in their last year of life.
Longitudinal analyses of spending show that the population with the highest annual health care costs can be divided into 3 broad illness trajectories:
  • individuals who have high health care costs because it is their last year of life (population at the end of life), 
  • individuals who experience a significant health event during a given year but who return to stable health (population with a discrete high-cost event and,
  • individuals who persistently generate high annual health care costs owing to chronic conditions, functional limitations, or other conditions but who are not in their last year of life and live for several years generating high health care expenses (population with persistent high costs).
Understanding individual costs is a required step for the analysis and improvement of healthcare delivery. Unfortunately it is a marginal practice. For a systematic review, check this article.



‘Windrush: A Celebration’, Barbican,
London, November 17, barbican.org .uk

November 8, 2018

Pharmarketing impact on prescribing behaviour

Influence of pharmaceutical marketing on Medicare prescriptions in the District of Columbia

Gifts from pharmaceutical companies are believed to influence prescribing behavior, but few studies have addressed the association between industry gifts to physicians and drug costs, prescription volume, or preference for generic drugs
Governments in USA and EU have enacted laws for greater transparency of the relationship between pharma firms and physicians. Unfortunately evidence is limited about the concrete impact of gifts on physicians prescribing decisions.
This article sheds light on the issue and its conclusions say:
In 2013, 1,122 (39.1%) of 2,873 Medicare Part D prescribers received gifts from pharmaceutical companies totaling $3.9 million in 2013. Compared to non-gift recipients, gift recipients prescribed 2.3 more claims per patient, prescribed medications costing $50 more per claim, and prescribed 7.8% more branded drugs. In six specialties (General Internal Medicine, Family Medicine, Obstetrics/Gynecology, Urology, Ophthalmology, and Dermatology), gifts were associated with a significantly increased average cost of claims. For Internal Medicine, Family Medicine, and Ophthalmology, gifts were associated with more branded claims. Gift acceptance was associated with increased average cost per claim for PAs and NPs. Gift acceptance was also associated with higher proportion of branded claims for PAs but not NPs. Physicians who received small gifts (less than $500 annually) had more expensive claims ($114 vs. $85) and more branded claims (30.3% vs. 25.7%) than physicians who received no gifts. Those receiving large gifts (greater than $500 annually) had the highest average costs per claim ($189) and branded claims (39.9%) than other groups.
If gifts from pharmaceutical companies are associated with more prescriptions per patient, more costly prescriptions, and a higher proportion of branded prescriptions, then all of us as patients have to be concerned. And my impression is that regulation is not enough. Maybe one day the doors of  physician offices will reflect current pharma payments to the patients. Right now they have to look at the web.
Beyond this, I suggest you check this news and you'll see the current flaws between pharma and research.

Museu Picasso. Barcelona

October 27, 2018

The "secret sauce" of Kaiser Permanente

Financing and Payment Strategies to Support High-Quality
Care for People with Serious Illness: Proceedings of a
Workshop

A recent report by NASEM explains in one paragraph what is the key factor of succesful Kaiser Permanente model:
The “secret sauce” that enables Kaiser Permanente to deliver high quality care, explained Annet Arakelian, executive director of Medicare strategy and care delivery at Kaiser, is the way it has aligned its revenues and expenses. Kaiser’s revenue comes from the Kaiser Foundation health plan that collects premiums from groups, individual members, and some prospective contracts with government payers. Expenses go through a hospital
service agreement with Kaiser Foundation hospitals and a capitated medical service agreement with the Permanente Medical Groups that employ the physicians who work at Kaiser hospitals and clinics. The hospitals and foundation are nonprofit organizations, while the medical groups are for profit agencies with their own board of directors and governance processes. Incentives are aligned across the hospitals, health plan, and medical groups on quality metrics, as well as financial and regulatory initiatives.
Great definition. This is the ingredient for success. And you'll understand why it is so difficult to replicate in a private world with vested interests between different stakeholders: insurers and providers. The nonprofit element of the foundation and hospitals is crucial.

Second statement. Regarding the report on how to pay for serious illness:
Susan Wang, regional lead for shared decision making at the Southern
California Permanente Medical Group, explained that Kaiser’s approach to
comprehensive financing of serious illness care begins with a population
health perspective, which stems from the capitated arrangement that features
a fixed payment per person enrolled in its medical groups. “Because
we are capitated, we are accountable for our entire membership, it behooves
us to touch our patients at every opportunity,” said Wang
Summary: Kaiser has a patient centered strategy. Finance follows the patient not the specific illness. Great. Agree.




October 26, 2018

The media and the Theranos incredible deception

On Theranos failure, highly recommended for journalists.
From CBSNEWS, a basic piece to understand the power of the media in creating and destroying (false) value:

Was the media duped by Elizabeth Holmes?
A conversation with 60 Minutes about media coverage of the rise and fall of Elizabeth Holmes and her hot startup, Theranos

October 20, 2018

The biggest financial heist in history

BILLION DOLLAR WHALE
The Man Who Fooled Wall Street, Hollywood, and the World

In 2009, with the dust yet to settle on the financial crisis, a baby-faced, seemingly mild-mannered Wharton grad began setting in motion a fraud of unprecedented gall and magnitude – one that would come to symbolize the next great threat to the global financial system. His name is Jho Low, a man whose behavior was so preposterous he might seem made up.
An epic true-tale of hubris and greed from two Pulitzer-finalist Wall Street Journal reporters, Billion Dollar Whale reveals how a young social climber pulled off one of the biggest financial heists in history–right under the nose of the global financial industry–exposing the shocking secret nexus of elite wealth, banking, Hollywood, and politics
This book is specially helpful to understand our times. There are value creators and at the same time value extractors. Beyond them there is the greatest fraudster, Jho Low, a guy that stole $3.5 billion from Malaysian sovereign fund 1MDB, and helped former Malaysia president to get $700m.The total amount of the heist could be $6.5 billion, 2.5% of Malaysian GDP. If you want to know the details, just read the book.
It is strongly recommended to understand the corruption of the global financial system and audit firms  (Goldman Sachs, Deloitte et al.). This guy would not have been able to commit any theft without their help.
Once you have started the book it will be difficult to stop. Right now, there are others following Jho Low's path and value extractors are among us. Our institutions are extremely fragile tackling these issues. Just take this week cum/ex fraud:.
The German finance ministry said it was aware of 418 different cases of cum-ex tax fraud with a combined value of €5.7bn, adding that any guess about the total damage caused was “speculation” as the investigations were still ongoing.
An investigation published on Thursday by Correctiv, a German non-profit investigative journalism group, and 19 news organisations, cited leaked spreadsheets that show “an organised theft from the tax coffers of at least ten European states, besides Germany” that it claimed had cost taxpayers about €55.2bn.



October 18, 2018

Forecasting global life expectancy and morbidity

Forecasting life expectancy, years of life lost, and all-cause and cause-specific mortality for 250 causes of death: reference and alternative scenarios for 2016–40 for 195 countries and territories

Key messages from The Lancet article:
Global life expectancy was projected to increase by 4·4 years (95% UI 2·2–6·4) for men and 4·4 years (2·1–6·4) for women by 2040, to 74·3 years (72·1–76·4) and 79·7 years (77·4–81·8), respectively.
Compared with the past, global progress in extending life expectancy was forecasted to be slower from 2016–40. This trend resulted from forecasts of slowed advances on key drivers such as SDI; worsening of several risks, particularly high BMI; and stagnated gains on cardiovascular diseases, which was a major factor in historical improvements in life expectancy.