Category Archives: e-health

Health Business TV: Obamacare premiums, First Opinion, Healthcare Compass, and more

In the second edition of Health Business TV, I discuss Obamacare exchange premiums for 2015, the First Opinion app for inexpensive doctor/patient texting, the launch of Healthcare Compass for comparing primary care practices, and the results of last weekend’s Massachusetts Democratic party convention.

Please subscribe to the YouTube channel and tell your friends!

By healthcare business consultant David E. Williams of the Health Business Group

Healthcare Compass: Comparing primary care quality in Massachusetts

Massachusetts Health Quality Partners (MHQP) just launched Healthcare Compass, an informative and easy-to-navigate site for patients seeking comparative information on the quality of physician practices in the state. The site presents data on 19 elements of patient experience and clinical quality for adult practices and 14 for pediatric practices.

For example, patient experience includes feedback on how well doctors communicate with their patients and willingness to recommend the provider to family and friends. Clinical quality includes measures such as yearly follow-up to monitor patients on long-term medication and appropriate use of imaging for lower back pain.

I tested the site out and recommend it for those who are seeking a new primary care doctor or who are curious about how their current practice compares with others.

Local practice comparison

Local practice comparison

Here’s what I especially like:

  • The information presented is based on sound methodologies. Sample sizes are significant and where there is insufficient data (pretty rare for the practices I reviewed) no rating is given
  • The ratings are done on a three point scale (full circle, half circle, empty circle) and all three ratings are used, even for some of the top practices
  • It’s possible to compare multiple practices on one page
  • Each rating has a clickable link that provides four tabs: a summary of the measure and how it’s derived, what you can do, what your doctor can do, and helpful resources
  • Every comparison page can be emailed or printed
  • In general, the ratings are consistent with my perception of the strengths and weaknesses of the practices with which I am familiar
  • The organization behind the ratings (MHQP), is an independent, multi-stakeholder collaborative whose goal is to provide useful, unbiased information. You don’t see advertising on this site or some other business model that exploits the consumer

Of course, one website is not going to provide everything one could want. I do have a wish list of things I’d love to see, perhaps in future iterations of the site

  • Information is presented at the practice site level. There is no information on individual physicians. The practice site level does have real advantages: many of the measures are more reflective of the practice than the doctor, it helps with achieving statistical significance, and it keeps physicians from rebelling against the ratings. Still, some measures such as “how well doctors communicate with patients” are doctor specific and in my experience there is real variation within a practice
  • Users can compare specific practices that are close to a specific zip code or address. That’s useful but it prevents patients from generating a ranking of the top practices. I would be willing to travel if practices elsewhere were significantly better than those near my home
  • The measures are all interesting and useful on their own, but there’s no composite measure. The closest is “willingness to recommend,” which incidentally is the only measure expressed on a percentage basis. My practice gets a top rating on tests to monitor kidney disease and a poor rating on yearly follow-up to monitor patients on long-term medication. It’s hard to make a decision on that basis
  • The physician search functionality is somewhat weak. Put in a name like “Smith” and the site will bring up several practices but without revealing which Dr. Smith it is. (Joe Smith? Patti Smith? Smith Wesson?)
  • The information is limited to primary care. I don’t know that MHQP is in a position to do much about that in the near term but I put it out there because it’s important

All in all, Healthcare Compass is a great edition to the resources available to consumers.

—-

By healthcare business consultant David E. Williams of the Health Business Group

First Opinion: Online doctor consults for the masses (podcast interview)

Hey doc, let's chat

Hey doc, let’s chat

The dominant trend in primary care is toward large group practices where more and more patient encounters are with NPs, PAs and other professionals rather than MDs. Co-pays are rising, and so-called patient-centered medical homes are leveraging electronic health records in the pursuit of “population health.”

Against this background, First Opinion, an iOS app, is going more or less in the opposite direction. The company allows users one free text-based consultation a month. Additional consults cost as little as $2, while unlimited sessions are $25 per month (the same as my primary care co-pay). What’s more, once a user is assigned to a physician they stay with that doctor –they don’t get switched every time they connect.

I tested out the service and think it has some potential. It’s a take on the concept of “virtual medical tourism” that I proposed years ago. My physician is in India –technology lets us bridge the long distance.

In this podcast interview, I discuss the company in depth with Dr. Vikram Bakhru, First Opinion’s Chief Operating Officer.

By healthcare business consultant David E. Williams of the Health Business Group

 

Castlight Enterprise Healthcare Summit: Magic and the President

Castlight Health is expanding beyond its origins in cost transparency, today announcing the Castlight Enterprise Cloud, which includes four “solution centers” — that encompass analytics, incentives, and personalization. The company made the announcement in a grand way, with an Enterprise Healthcare Summit featuring President Bill Clinton, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Steve Forbes, Toby Cosgrove (Cleveland Clinic) and Castlight executives Giovanni Colella and Naomi Allen.

I had the opportunity to attend, learn more about the company’s latest, and mix and mingle with a high-powered crowd. Here’s my scrapbook:

Magic Johnson reflected on his basketball and business career, while dropping in a few words about price transparency in healthcare

Magic Johnson reflected on his basketball and business career, while dropping in a few words about price transparency in healthcare

Magic Johnson gave President  Clinton a rousing introduction

Magic Johnson gave President Clinton a rousing introduction

I expected Clinton to give a stump speech, but instead he personalized the speech to focus specifically on price transparency and Castlight's role

I expected Clinton to give a stump speech, but instead he personalized the speech to focus specifically on price transparency and Castlight’s role

CEO Giovanni Colella asked Clinton some follow-up questions, and the prez had plenty to say in reply

CEO Giovanni Colella asked Clinton some follow-up questions, and the prez had plenty to say in reply

Once Giovanni was done with the President he found some time for me

Once Giovanni was done with the President he found some time for me

The Cleveland Clinic's CEO Toby Cosgrove took part in a panel discussion. His fellow panelists were a little surprised when he called for provider monopolies

The Cleveland Clinic’s CEO Toby Cosgrove took part in a panel discussion. His fellow panelists were a little surprised when he called for provider monopolies

Steve Forbes never got to be president but he did get to speak in the same conference as one

Steve Forbes never got to be president but he did get to speak in the same conference as one

Castlight's Naomi Allen laid out the details of the new Castlight offerings

Castlight’s Naomi Allen laid out the details of the new Castlight offerings

American Social Club played some great crowd pleasers

American Social Club played some great crowd pleasers

82 Mercer might never be the same after Castlight's conference wraps

82 Mercer might never be the same after Castlight’s conference wraps

By healthcare business consultant David E. Williams of the Health Business Group

Some docs start to get the hang of online reviews

Doctors Check Online Ratings and Make Some Changes in the Wall Street Journal starts out like many articles on the topic: by giving physicians the opportunity to vent about the evils of online reviews. We hear docs complain that reviews can be unrepresentative, that drug-seeking patients who are denied Vicodin write spiteful things, and that doctors sometimes have to give difficult news that patients don’t like. Oftentimes this feedback from doctors is merely hypothetical and provides evidence that they don’t actually go online and look at the reviews.

But this article is better than many, and it goes on to report that most physicians reviews are actually positive and that the reviews are reasonably well correlated with objective quality measures.

I also sense from this article a turn for the better in the evolution of online reviews and physicians’ reactions to them. One practice monitors the web daily for new reviews, responds to negative ones, and encourages those with issues to contact the office. Another physician looks to the reviews for constructive feedback –for example he is trying to lift his head up from the computer screen and make better eye contact.

Patients are paying attention to more than just the content of individual reviews, and physician practices would be wise to take notice. One 50 year old patient says that he is suspicious of physicians with no online reviews. “If no one is reviewing them… then I don’t feel like they are keeping up with the times, which says something about them,” he told the Journal.

Discerning patients also pay attention to whether and how the practice responds to online reviews. My sense is that patients are willing to give doctors the benefit of the doubt if they acknowledge issues and respond in a courteous manner.

Interestingly, some physician practices seem to be taking a page from the old car dealer playbook, by actively trying to influence the reviews they get. Remember when dealers used to provide a free oil change to patients who brought in their blank customer satisfaction survey? Doctors aren’t going quite that far but they are handpicking satisfied patients and encouraging them to participate.

As online reviews become more common and more important, what’s needed is a trusted third-party to make sure the reviews are representative and insightful. Commercial vendors like Vitals, RatedMDs and Healthgrades do a decent job, but there’s also a role for non-profit initiatives like the DOCTOR Project that apply rigorous approaches to provide the best information possible.

By healthcare business consultant David E. Williams of the Health Business Group

 

HealthCare SocialMedia Review #53

All the news that's fit to link

All the news that’s fit to link

Welcome one and all to the 53rd running of the HealthCare SocialMedia Review #HCSM. Social media in healthcare is going more and more mainstream, so there’s plenty of good new stuff to profile.

Bad hair day? Wax Impressions offers advice on how to handle a social media crisis. Hint: Don’t wait around doing nothing!

Type a doctor’s name into Google and chances are you’ll find dozens of links, many for physician ratings sites. What’s a poor practice to do to exert some influence on the message? Joe Chierotti has some practical ideas.

Twitter’s new profile has implications for marketers, including those in healthcare. Marie Ennis-O’Connor explains what’s new and what one should do.

Doctors’ lounges are pretty empty these days, but cloud-based lounge equivalents show some promise for keeping up with the latest medical knowledge (and gossip, too). Practice Fusion’s blog advises docs to get their own e-librarian, be social, and gamify.  Gamify? I thought that was something you did at the gym.

Whether docs are into it or not the drug pushers are trying gamification with consumers. Zyrtec has a Facebook App that lets allergy sufferers walk a fake dog through a fake park, reports Create Conversation. I wonder if we’ll see any of the generic makers of Zyrtec (cetirizine) put out a cut-rate version of the app, perhaps in black and white.

And finally, MD Connect share five ways docs can used LinkedIn to market their practices. Good stuff.

That’s it for today! Sam Welch at brandgagement is up next!

By healthcare business consultant David E. Williams of the Health Business Group

My #HIMSS14 exhibit hall photo tour

Today was the day to catch up with old colleagues and meet a few new ones on the massive floor of the #HIMSS14 exhibit hall in Orlando. Here are a few highlights —

 

With PatientKeeper CEO Paul Brient

With PatientKeeper CEO Paul Brient

Paul Brient at PatientKeeper is making great traction with CPOE tools for hospitals. See my earlier podcast on their outstanding rating by KLAS.

With GetWellNetwork CEO Michael O'Neil, Jr.

With GetWellNetwork CEO Michael O’Neil, Jr.

I was impressed with Michael’s story of how his own battle with cancer led to the creation of GetWellNetwork, a patient engagement company.

With Atrilogy Chief Castle Officer Cinderella

With Atrilogy Chief Castle Officer Cinderella

Cinderella showed me the “prince pose” at the Atrilogy booth. Can you tell by these photos that I’m more comfortable with the health care exec types?

With Alere Connect CEO Kent Dicks

With Alere Connect CEO Kent Dicks

I first met Kent Dicks when he was running start-up MedApps, which was acquired by Alere and  has now grown into a much broader and grander remote health monitoring offering.

with Noridian Healthcare Chief Medical Officer Sandeep Wadhwa

with Noridian Healthcare Chief Medical Officer Sandeep Wadhwa

Sandeep Wadhwa and I go way back to college days, when he was president of our senior class at Wesleyan. We’re getting ready for our 25th reunion and trying to decide whether it’s better to be bald or grey. Meanwhile, he’s making things happen at Noridian, a leading Medicare administrator.

Health care business consultant David E. Williams, president of Health Business Group at HIMSS 2014 in Orlando with Ken Tarkoff, General Manager of RelayHealth

With RelayHealth General Manager Ken Tarkoff

Ken Tarkoff runs clinical solutions at RelayHealth, a very dynamic division of McKesson.

By health care business consultant David E. Williams, president of the Health Business Group.