*This article originally appeared in the Healthcare IT Connect online magazine
Change on the horizon
The current transformation of the healthcare IT industry has been referred by industry experts as “a period of extreme standardization.” The immediate need for adopting electronic health records to make the Meaningful Use benchmark of the US government is being traversed by pharmacies, clinics, medical practitioners, payers, and healthcare providers.
Fortunately for all involved there is one key ally in the field, blazing the trail ahead of the 2014 PPACA deadline. Adobe is pioneering solutions, including LiveCycle Enterprise Suite 3, that are utilized more and more by healthcare professionals to ramp up and leverage staggering amounts of digital data capture.
Adobe’s Aaron Bird recently shared the company’s experience helping healthcare providers prevent fraud, waste, and abuse, using the enterprise-class suite of Adobe products.
As baby boomers in the US reach retirement age and Health Reform extends affordable coverage to many newly insured citizens, healthcare facilities are staying competitive by optimizing workflow efficiencies and hiring the best medical professionals.
This also places significant pressure on healthcare staffing leader CHG Healthcare Services. With a goal of engaging the best-qualified recruits and matching them with corresponding needs, the agency turned to Adobe Digital Marketing Suite to optimize its online presence and convert site traffic into business results.
“Adobe Digital Marketing Suite offered solutions that helped us look closely at our online interactions, create quality experiences, and drive conversion,” says Kyle Power, director of online marketing at CHG.
Yesterday, as the Supreme Court upheld the vast majority of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a couple caveats were highlighted in the court’s ruling. Regarding the mandate, most people understand the law is economically sustainable only if all citizens participate. The court established that the penalty to be paid by those citizens who refuse to acquire health insurance essentially amounts to a “tax.” Therefore, congress was within its constitutional rights to include such a mandate/tax/penalty in the law. Although to some it may seem the Supreme Court’s ruling was based partly on semantics, ACA proponents declare it a victory since everyone was previously burdened with the shared costs of caring for the uninsured by way of increasing hospital charges and insurance premiums.
The court also ruled that expansion of Medicaid to offer more citizens health coverage may proceed, but without the ACA stipulation that US states that don’t comply would be denied matching federal funding for their original Medicaid programs. So states may now choose whether to participate in the federally-funded expansion. Note: the ACA already included a similar provision (Section 1332: Waiver for State Innovation) that allows for states to opt out so long as they offer citizens the same level of quality care at a cost that is equal to lesser than the ACA, but not until 2017.
As focus shifts from the law’s credibility to its timely implementation, Health IT will play a prominent role in the delivery of affordable care to more than 30 million new customers. Many provisions of the ACA rely heavily on IT to raise awareness, determine eligibility, manage payments, improve decision-making, measure quality, and more.
Occasionally, a company may face a disruptive market shift that forces it to adapt in order to remain competitive (think Blockbuster). But seldom does an entire industry experience multiple simultaneous game changers, like those facing the US health insurance market today.
Evolving expectations are dictating that companies in most industries shift resources to account for new “always connected” stakeholders. As digital consumers, we have all grown accustomed to conducting business our way, on our terms. And why should the business of healthcare be any different?
When implemented properly, digital marketing aims to identify personal interests and trends and deliver unique experiences that resonate individually with each customer across multiple channels.
But unlike most other industries, health payers also have a vested interest in education and member outreach (some would argue that it’s actually a responsibility), since the offline lifestyle decisions of their consumers directly impact their bottom line. In a nutshell, acute medical emergencies are much more expensive than regular preventative health maintenance.
Additionally, the Medical Loss Ratio (MLR) provision of the ACA stipulates that insurers shall spend at least 80-85% of their premium income on healthcare claims and quality improvement activities. That leaves 15-20% for administrative expenses, including marketing. In fact, it is estimated that private payers who fail to comply will issue consumer rebates totaling over $1 billion by August. So, now more than ever, it is imperative for payers to internally optimize efficiencies and develop effective marketing strategies that deliver measurable results.
In the long run, these changes are expected to result in affordable care for a healthier population. And as other provisions of the ACA significantly expand the pool of new customers for health insurers, the most successful organizations will be those who effectively navigate the changing landscape to build relationships with their customers, rather than continuing to simply facilitate transactions.
For as long as I can remember, I have been a closet techie-geek. Although I have never camped outside at the neighborhood electronics store to buy some new gadget gizmo (yet), I have always nurtured a keen interest in the ways technology may be leveraged to change behaviors or solve real problems. I may be a little biased, but in my opinion there is no better use of technology than for the modernization of healthcare. And since healthcare has been a hot topic lately, with robust incentives in place to help drive adoption of technology, lots of people are paying attention.
Perhaps that’s why the HIMSS 2011 conference broke all previous attendance records in February when 31,000 attendees from around the world assembled in Orlando to learn about the latest healthcare IT innovations.
In alignment with the theme of this year’s conference “Linking people, potential, and progress,” Adobe satisfied a twofold objective for exhibiting at HIMSS. First, we demonstrated our commitment to an evolving healthcare ecosystem by highlighting Adobe solutions that have impacted major segments, including payers, providers, and government agencies, with powerful digital experiences.
Next, we celebrated our engagement with the extensive network of developers and integrators throughout the Adobe partner community. Our exhibit theater provided a forum for select partners to deliver compelling presentations on relevant topics including:
“Collaborative Healthcare: Improving the Patient Experience and Reducing Cost” by InteSolv
“Tomorrow’s Health Record: Mobile, Intuitive and Secure” by Ensemble
“Medicaid Provider Management & Member Eligibility Solutions” by eServices
Partner engagement, a major contributor to Adobe’s far-reaching success in healthcare, remains in focus as we leave HIMSS and prepare for our Enterprise Partner Community Conference in New Orleans. Emphasizing the power of intuitive and effective Customer Experience Management (CEM) solutions, Adobe strives to bring new meaning to this vibrant city’s alias “Big Easy.”
*** Update; here are the highlights from Adobe’s Enterprise Partner Community Conference in New Orleans…
During our candid discussion, I asked Dr. Levin for his perspectives on the Blue Button initiative and the Developer Challenge, as well as the role of Health Information Technology as it relates to his vision of empowerment for V.A. consumers.
“Why isn’t there a button on your website that I can click to access my personal medical history? A little blue button.”
That simple question was posed to the U.S. Veterans Administration (VA), and proved to be the catalyst for significant improvements in the ways that a veteran can interact with his own health data.
VA developed that Blue Button in collaboration with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), and the Department of Defense, along with the Markle Foundation’s Consumer Engagement Workgroup.
On August 2, 2010 President Obama announced the Blue Button initiative to thousands of applauding veterans, who stood to benefit from the ability to take ownership of their Personal Health Record (PHR), downloaded from the VA website with just a click.
. *Blue Button comments begin at 24:00
That defining moment, however, was not the end of the story. Since each veteran’s comprehensive record was to be downloaded as a plain ASCII text file, the Markle and Robert Wood Johnson Foundations issued the Blue Button Developer Challenge on behalf of the VA. The goal of the challenge was to spur the innovative development of web-based solutions, enabling Blue Button users to meaningfully interact with their health data in an even more useful way. Sharing that common goal, respondents to the challenge were diverse; ranging from start-up IT companies and individual developers to Google and Microsoft.
On October 7, 2010, Adobe was announced the winner of the Blue Button Developer Challenge.
As the team lead, I had the privilege of receiving the award on Adobe’s behalf at the fourth annual Health 2.0 Conference in San Francisco from a distinguished panel featuring Aneesh Chopra, U.S. Chief Technology Officer in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Todd Park, Chief Technology Officer at the Department of Health and Human Services, and Peter Levin,Chief Technology Officer at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Also, I had the opportunity to deliver a presentation, highlighting key features of Blue Button Health Assistant, Adobe’s innovative solution that combines the intuitive real-time interface of Adobe AIR technology with the benefits of the secure, auditable, and ubiquitous PDF format (leveraging PDF-Healthcare Best Practices) regardless of the user’s platform, browser, or device.
Certified PDF screenshot
These benefits resonated well with the discerning team of technology powerhouses who served as judges, including Craigslist Founder Craig Newmark; Assistant Vice President of the Health Group at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Steve Downs; Consumers Union health policy expert Steve Findlay; and personal health records pioneer Dr. James Ralston of Group Health Cooperative. Submissions were evaluated on the following key criteria:
Usefulness to patients in helping them stay healthy or manage their care.
Potential to impact health and well-being by addressing high-priority health goals.
Platform neutral (can be accessed by a consumer with simple web browser).
Usability / ease of use.
As a veteran myself, it was particularly rewarding to be a part of Team Adobe throughout this incredible process. But this story, and others like it, continues on as Adobe identifies and develops more ways to leverage Open Government as more than just a concept, but rather a tool to advance agency missions.