Monthly Archives: January 2019

How Can Price Transparency Impact The Healthcare Industry?

Patient financial responsibility is the greatest challenge of healthcare industry. For a long time, healthcare experts have argued that price transparency will help patients in making informed healthcare decisions thereby decreasing healthcare costs.

In August 2018, CMS stated in its updates to the Inpatient Prospective Payment System (IPPS) and Long-Term Care Hospital (LTCH PPS) final rules that price transparency will become a nationwide industry standard.

With effect from January 1, 2019, hospitals across the country are responsible for full price transparency. As per the IPPS and LTCH PPS rules, hospitals must list their prices online in a “machine-readable format.”

CMS approach to enforcing price transparency

Previously, hospitals were required to make their prices publicly available, but not necessarily in a digital format. In the new rule, CMS has mandated that these new price transparency resources be in a machine-readable format. CMS analyzed public comments on the most efficient way to achieve this. Finally, CMS called on all hospitals to list their chargemaster prices on a publicly-available Excel spreadsheet. The searchable spreadsheet will make it easier for patients to use.

Hiccups in the existing approach by CMS

Many questions have been raised about this approach.

  • Critics claim that charge master prices are not ideal for patients. Between insurance, subsidies, and other payment design, patients usually pay less than chargemaster price.
  • The feasibility of an Excel spreadsheet having all prices is a big question.
  • As more organizations publish their price transparency lists, more difficulties may come to light.

How can price transparency help patients?

  • Digital price transparency will enable patients to more easily access this information.
  • Price transparency will enable patients to make more informed decisions about care access that minimize their out-of-pocket costs and total expenditures borne by Medicare and Medicaid.
  • Increased price transparency will improve the patient experience of care.
  • Although price transparency itself cannot lower healthcare costs, but it may create market pressure that in turn lowers patient costs.
  • Additionally, price transparency will allow patients to choose the best care option for their needs.

The healthcare industry is still debating about the efficacy of price transparency. Healthcare price transparency tools have already made their mark in the healthcare industry. Do such tools improve patient experiences with healthcare or cut costs? How can organizations reconfigure these tools to increase its effectiveness?

Can price transparency reduce healthcare costs?

According to a 2016 study published in Health Affairs, it was found that price transparency tool actually increased out-of-pocket outpatient spending by about $59 per patient. The researchers suggested that it must must have been due to low patient awareness or perceived need of the tool.

Moreover, cost compare tools did not show many meaningful areas for cost savings.

Other studies have also shown similar results. A 2017 report by the American Journal of Managed Care found that though patients liked the idea of a cost comparison tool, they saw little use of the tool. They either forgot to use the tool before seeking care or did not see any use because they were already beyond their deductible or saw consistent copayments at their doctor’s office.It also touched on the idea of patient loyalty. Although patients could use price transparency tools to find a less expensive care option of equal quality, a sense of loyalty kept them going to their current clinicians.

Payers who offer price transparency tools have also had little luck with the tools. A 2017 report published by Health Affairs found that although scanning a cost compare website could result in 14% cost cuts for imaging services, only 1% of patients actually use the tool, making it of little use.

What do industry professionals say?

Although price transparency tools are not currently impacting the rising healthcare costs, these tools still have the potential to reduce spending and improve patient experience.

If properly utilized, cost compare technology should help patients cut their own healthcare spending because they know the lower-cost providers to visit. Patients with access to a price transparency tool have the opportunity to compare cost and quality and make their preferred treatment selection based on that data. Ideally, this will lead patients to a lower-cost option.

Clinics have little incentive to lower their costs when patients do not know how much they’ll pay before they receive the service. But if all clinics knew patients were visiting a high-quality facility with substantially lower costs, area competitors could be forced to change their prices, as well.

How can organizations make price transparency work?

Making price transparency tools that are attractive and usable for patients will be critical for delivering on the promise of cost compare. Simply offering a price transparency tool will not lower costs. Patients must actually use these systems to select lower-cost care.

As the healthcare industry continues to place more financial burden on patients, it will need to adopt strategies that help patients. High copay and high-deductible health plans have put patients in the role of the healthcare consumer. Price transparency tools are a key retail-style engagement strategy that will help consumers make better decisions about where to access care.

But in order to make those price transparency tools effective, industry leaders must keep the patient at the center of their design. Making a usable cost compare tool that uses simple language and factors in metrics that are important to patients will be integral going forward.


Seven Ways In Which Artificial Intelligence Is Impacting The Healthcare Industry

Artificial Intelligence or AI has accelerated the growth in various industries. The growth has been pretty quick and sometimes, totally unpredictable. So, what is AI?

AI is a combination of various technologies that imitate human intelligence. It is an essential part of the technology industry. The core concepts of AI include programming computers for certain human traits like:

  • Knowledge
  • Reasoning
  • Problem solving
  • Perception
  • Learning
  • Planning
  • Ability to manipulate and move objects

Artificial Intelligence in healthcare

Artificial Intelligence has impacted modern healthcare industry to a great extent. With the application of AI, there has been tremendous changes in the way patients are treated by doctors.

AI can be applied to both ordinate and inordinate data, with techniques including machine learning and natural language processing. Nurses and doctors are adopting technology to

  • Reduce manual work
  • Provide more accurate service
  • Give impact interventions to patients

AI helps reduce the repetitive manual work and human intervention in data analysis. A good example of this is predictive diagnosis through which medical condition possibilities can be diagnosed by monitoring the vital stats and other necessary parameters. This helps providers prepare and provide necessary proactive care as foreseen by AI systems. The predictive possibilities of AI transcends to patient experience as well. Using chatbots and AI for responses to patients reduces the burden on manual intervention for scheduling appointments, responding to common queries on the website/chatbot/sms/apps, analyzing x-ray and basic scans and much more. This can help enhance patient experience with quick response times and avoid unnecessary hospital visits.

Medication management to ensure patients are taking medicine on time and prescribing medicine according to progress is also possible with artificial intelligence and this avoids repetitive human tasks.

The promise of AI in the matters of health, including that of life and death critical issues is highly impressive.

Impacts of Artificial Intelligence in healthcare industry

The following are the top seven impacts in the healthcare industry that are most likely to happen with the advent of artificial intelligence within the next decade.

  • Reducing the burden of EHR usageEHRs are instrumental in the healthcare industry’s journey towards digitization. But the switch brought problems such as cognitive overload, endless documentation, and user burnout. EHR developers are now adopting AI for creating intuitive interfaces and automating some routine processes. Artificial intelligence may also help to process routine requests from the inbox, like medication refills and result notifications. It may also help to prioritize tasks that truly require the clinician’s attention making it easier for users to work through their to-do lists.
  • Operating mind and machine through brain-computer interfaces – AI can create direct interfaces between technology and the human mind without the need for keyboards, mice, and monitors. It is a cutting-edge area of research that has significant applications for some patients. Neurological diseases and nervous system trauma can affect abilities to speak, move, and interact meaningfully with people and their environments.  Brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) backed by AI could restore those fundamental experiences to those who feared them lost forever. Brain-computer interfaces could drastically improve quality of life for patients with ALS, strokes, or locked-in syndrome, as well as the 500,000 people worldwide who experience spinal cord injuries every year.
  • Inventing cutting-edge radiology tools – MRI machines, CT scanners, and x-rays produce radiology images that offer non-invasive visibility into the inner workings of the human body.  But many diagnostic processes still rely on physical tissue samples obtained through biopsies, which carry risks including the potential for infection. AI will enable the next generation of radiology tools that are accurate and detailed enough to replace the need for tissue samples in some cases, experts predict.
  • Improving care accessibility to underserved and developing regions – There is severe shortages of trained healthcare providers like including ultrasound technicians and radiologists. This significantly limits access to life-saving care in developing nations around the world. AI could lessen the impacts of severe deficit of qualified clinical staff by taking over some of the diagnostic duties allocated to humans.
  • Building intelligent medical devices and machines – Smart devices are taking over the consumer environment, ranging from offering real-time video from the inside of a refrigerator to cars that can detect when the driver is distracted. In the medical environment, smart devices are critical for monitoring patients in the ICU and elsewhere.  Using artificial intelligence to enhance the ability to identify deterioration, suggest that sepsis is taking hold, or sense the development of complications can significantly improve outcomes and may reduce costs related to hospital-acquired condition penalties.
  • Monitoring health through wearable and personal devices – Almost all patients now have access to devices with sensors that can collect valuable data about their health.  From smartphones with step trackers to wearable that can track a heartbeat around the clock, a growing proportion of health-related data is generated on the go. Collecting and analyzing such data and supplementing the same with patient-provided information (through apps and other home monitoring devices) can offer a unique perspective into individual and population health. Artificial intelligence will play a significant role in extracting actionable insights from this large trove of data.
  • Robotic assistance – Patients might not be comfortable with robots performing a surgery on them. How about combining the skills of a competent surgeon and the technical brilliance of a robot? That makes for a surgery with impressive levels of precision, steadiness and accuracy. And when we have AI guiding the hand of the surgeon through the help of robots, it opens the doors to extremely high levels of precision, and better patient outcomes. The AI assistant can provide patient’s past and present health details and give suggestions that would help in the diagnosis. Surgical bots use computer vision to perform surgeries after accurately calculating human body measurements. When a surgeon performs a complex surgery, AI can provide real time data that helps in identifying and reducing risk, and improving quality. Highly precise movements are made the robot hands so any tremors in the surgeon’s hands will be neutralized completely, enabling the progress and success of micro surgeries.

Benefits of Incorporating AI in Healthcare

Healthcare is definitely improving through AI. Patients and medical practitioners experience the following benefits,

  • Predictive medical carePredictive healthcare will lead to an evolving treatment model wherein the patient data is reviewed constantly to check for any anomalies, followed by suggestions of medical intervention.
  • Personalized medicationAI makes it possible for patients to have personalized care based on their body constitution and past medical history.
  • Better diagnosisFast research and cross-referencing of data leads to better diagnosis of diseases
  • Advanced treatment plans New treatment methods are generated and introduced, including robotic surgery, cell biology, stem therapy, genomics and proteomics.
  • Lower liability for hospitalContinuous monitoring of patients would ensure timely care and treatment and even reduced hospital stay.
  • Cost savings for patient and medical care provider AI can make healthcare both efficient and affordable as it helps in
    • Guiding treatment choice
    • Making more efficient diagnosis
    • Helping patients make better decisions regarding their health
    • Taking important decisions in drug development.

The healthcare industry is evolving with Artificial Intelligence. It has a great impact on the role of doctors and patients. There are some challenges like managing and integrating large data sets that need addressing, but the benefits outweigh them, and AI is here to grow and expand. AI will change every medical word – in diagnosis, in treatment, in disease detection, in treatment disciplines and more.