Newtown, CT – December 22, 2011
Consumers understanding that avoidable complications are costly, ever-improving information on the quality and cost of care, and smart apps that help consumers find the care they need – If these are on your Christmas wish list, then Christmas has come early (and you can ask for more routine things that won't have your family shaking their heads). Last week, our friends at the Consumer-Purchaser Disclosure Project held an audio conference during which Shoshanna Sofaer presented some findings on a project that she, and our good friend Judy Hibbard, have been working on relative to consumer attitudes to cost and quality signals. The upshot is that when presented with a breakdown of episode costs that showed how much of a physician's average cost of caring for a chronic condition was spent on avoidable complications, consumers understood that higher cost was not better quality. That's about 180 degrees from the customary perception that higher costs equal better quality. At the same time, the Commonwealth Fund unveiled a revamped WhyNotTheBest.org site, offering an interactive map that helps consumers and communities understand the variations in quality, and how their area compares with others. And late last week, Aetna announced the acquisition of an application developer that takes the mountains of data held by plans and makes it easy to use by consumers trying to find providers that will give them the care they need.
What this means to you – There's no question that the benefit buy-downs and increases in plan member responsibility for health care costs are awakening the single biggest force in market transformation: the Consumer-patient. And in a world of smart phones and tablets with millions of apps that make pretty much everything easy, the healthcare industry will have to respond and shed its byzantine infrastructure to accomodate a more fluid and adaptive market. And for all this to really work well, we also need payment reform. Why? Because when consumers log onto their app to find a team to manage their chronic conditions, or to operate on their knee, they will demand to know the extent of their financial liability up front, not on the back end when all the FFS bills are paid and they've made dozens of co-payments. And they won't want to pay for avoidable complications and other waste. Bundled payments help power these important consumer decisions, in addition to creating clear clinical and financial boundaries for provider teams. Globalization and the informed consumer have revolutionized every other market, and these forces are upon us in healthcare and should lead to the same results: lower costs and higher quality. What a wonderful present for all US families.
Francois de Brantes
Health Care Incentives Improvement Institute, Inc.