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SHSMD17 Opening Keynote, Ceci Connolly, Delivers Refreshing Dose of Perspective

Posted on September 25, 2017 I Written By

Colin Hung is the co-founder of the #hcldr (healthcare leadership) tweetchat one of the most popular and active healthcare social media communities on Twitter. Colin speaks, tweets and blogs regularly about healthcare, technology, marketing and leadership. He is currently an independent marketing consultant working with leading healthIT companies. Colin is a member of #TheWalkingGallery. His Twitter handle is: @Colin_Hung.

On a hot and muggy day in Orlando, Ceci Connolly, President and CEO at the Alliance of Community Health Plans, delivered an opening keynote that felt like a splash of refreshing cool water at the 2017 Society for Healthcare Strategy & Marketing Development Conference (SHSMD17).

It would have been easy for Connolly, a former Washington Post national health correspondent, to focus her keynote on the impact Capitol Hill has had on US Healthcare. Instead, Connolly used her 60 minute talk to provide the SHSMD17 audience with repeated doses of perspective. You could almost hear the gears turning in people’s heads as she dispelled common healthcare misconceptions and reframed daunting challenges.

Connolly started by highlighting the problem of the rising cost of healthcare. In 1960 US healthcare spending as a percentage of US Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was just above 5%. By 2010 it was almost 18%.

According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), national health spending is projected to grow 1.2% FASTER than GDP per year until 2025. This means that by 2025, US healthcare spending as a percentage of GDP would reach a whopping 19.9%.

This in and of itself is not news, but what Connolly did was expertly re-frame these statistics:

The more that healthcare consumes our GDP, we will have less and less money for things like building national infrastructure, fueling economic growth and oh, helping people recover from devastating hurricanes. Those priorities will suffer because healthcare will dominate our GDP spending.

Connolly’s statement was especially poignant given SHSMD President Ruth Portacci’s early comments about the heroic efforts of healthcare workers in Florida, Texas, Louisiana, Puerto Rico and the Caribbean to help those areas recover from devastating hurricanes.

From there Connolly proceeded to cast a new light on the wave of healthcare provider consolidation, payer mega-mergers, patient consumerism, aging populations, millennial expectations and retail health. Particularly noteworthy was Connolly’s take on rising drug prices and high deductible health plans (HDHPs).

According to Connolly, drug prices go up when new drugs are introduced for specific conditions. These new drugs, often with fancy names, are brought to market at prices higher than existing alternatives. The companies that own those existing drugs then raise their prices to match the new entrant and justify the increase with a mountain of evidence that their drug is every bit as good as the new one.

Connolly also took aim at HDHPs. During the industrial boom, US employers offered to pay for employee healthcare as way to entice workers to join their ranks. In short order, employer-sponsored health became the standard. Fast forward to 2017 and employers can’t shed healthcare costs fast enough. Instead of offering more health coverage, employers are offering HDHPs and transferring the burden to employees. According to Connolly the era of employer-sponsored healthcare is ending and that will have enormous consequences for US Healthcare where almost 50% of Americans still receive their health coverage through their employer.

It certainly was not your typical rah-rah opening keynote, but in these challenging times, it was courageous and refreshing to have someone stand up in front of 1,500 healthcare insiders and get us to think differently.

Patients Are Only People in Healthcare System Not Paid to Be There

Posted on August 19, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I was absolutely intrigued by this tweet that was shared at last week’s #HITsm chat.

I’m still chewing on this idea and not sure if this matters and how it matters. I look forward to hearing your thoughts too. Here are a couple things I’m thinking about related to this.

First, the consumerization of healthcare. There really has been a weird dynamic in healthcare where consumers of healthcare (patients) really weren’t the people who were paying for the healthcare. Their employers generally were footing the bill and so patients were mostly interested in their co-payment and not much else since insurance was covering the rest. This has led to some really messed up dynamics when it comes to the cost of healthcare.

One of the trends happening in the industry is the shifting costs from employers to patients. This is largely happening on the backs of high deductible plans. We’re just starting to see the shock that these high deductible plans are having on patients. Once the shock’s been absorbed I think we’ll start seeing a much more proactive patient when it comes to how they choose a doctor and the price they’re willing to pay for medical care.

The second thing that the above tweet brings to mind is the idea of patients not wanting to be in the healthcare system. I’ve written regularly about the need for healthcare to start “Treating Healthy Patients.” That’s a huge shift in mentality from where we are today. Although, I’m hopeful that as ACO’s and value based reimbursement goes into effect, we’ll see a wave of health care that’s focused on outreach to patients who by all accounts are “healthy” or at least feel that way.

What do you think about these two topics? Are there other things we can learn from the perspective provided in the tweet above?

Can Priceline-style tactics transform medical practice?

Posted on July 14, 2010 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Yes, I realize the above is a pretty extravagant headline — the “real” Priceline isn’t involved here — but follow me, and tell me  if you think the question is on point.

Yesterday, I spoke to Alex Fair of FairCareMd.com, a New York-based company which lets patients and doctors directly negotiate a “fair deal” on services between themselves.  Physicians give (presumably big) discounts on services in exchange for getting cash on the barrelhead once the service is delivered.  The site is in beta but still worth a look;  seems the key pieces are in place.

Fair, a former scientist who’s been a serial entrepreneur for many years, once designed software helping doctors successfully beat claims denials, so he definitely knows the territory. And he’s obviously right that if they get cash up right away, doctors can easily beat the “retail” prices they’re sometimes forced to charge to cover health plan collection costs.

Fair’s (reasonable) assumption is that FairCareMD will be a lifesaver for patients with high deductibles or no insurance at all, as well as giving them a way to get procedures the insurance industry won’t cover.  Not only will patients have access to deeply-discounted fees, if the patient can’t find the deal he or she wants, they can push for a better price at a number they can live with. That is indeed along the lines of Priceline.com’s “name your own deal.” (I’m here to tell you that *that* mechanism works very well indeed.)

On the surface, the concept makes sense. And there’s precedent for it.  For example, a thriving market in cash-for-surgical-services, much along these lines, already exists in the bariatric surgery industry, as many health plans refuse to cover such procedures. Ah, the power of capitalism to work around other capitalists!

In his first month since launch Fair reports over 5,000 searches for care on his site, though only about 1 in 200 visitors requested a deal from a provider.  On average these deals have saved 47 percent off “list prices” so far. Fair’s surprised that so few consumers are making requests.  On the other hand, it’s only a few weeks after launch, and other sites have millions of such requests, so he’s in wait and see mode.

My guess is that a) people don’t see the value of shopping for prices just yet — so thoroughly has the health insurance industry hornswoggled them and that b) they’re likely to see more valuable in accessing such services if they pay a subscription fee. Just a human nature thing.

So hey, folks, what do you think? What will it take for consumers to feel comfortable paying doctors directly again?  Fair isn’t the only company banking on this notion  — in fact, there are several, including some with a national presence  — but my instincts suggest they haven’t won consumers over completely yet either.

An even bigger question:  Do you see the broad mass of consumers developing those sorts of relationships with hospitals anytime soon?  Now *that* would be a neat trick.

NOTE:   If you’re in the NYC region, or plan to be next week, you can meet Fair and other local social media/health entrepreneurs  at a Manahattan-based Health 2.0 meetup (details at  http://www.health20nyc.com/calendar/13913750/?eventId=13913750&action=detail#initialized).  Looks like it’s going to be a very nice group. I’ll be moderating a panel, so if you’re there please stop by and say hello!