Consumers embrace AI in healthcare, a new CMS rule allows payers to better manage their Medicare Advantage members, and more.

1. The top business objective for health IT leaders in 2018 is “measuring improvement in patient care quality,” however, operational efficiencies and aligning reporting priorities with practices are challenges to achieving this goal, according to a recent survey highlighted in Healthcare Informatics. The Health IT Industry Outlook Survey, conducted by Stoltenberg Consulting and distributed during the HIMSS 2018 conference, included insight from more than 300 healthcare professionals representing health systems, hospitals, physician practices and other ambulatory care facilities. Forty percent of respondents were IT professionals and 30 percent were executives or C-suite leaders. With patient care quality improvement leading the top objective for 40 percent of respondents, cost reduction was noted as the second leading objective for 32 percent. In addition, the survey found that “forty percent of survey participants reported feeling underprepared for year 2 of the updated Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) rule, while only 12 percent indicated they are very prepared.” The survey also showed that the healthcare industry is willing to adopt new technologies –  39 percent of participants selected AI as the top health IT topic of 2018, followed by cybersecurity and blockchain. “Inundated with data, healthcare organizations need to look at the full picture of patient care for more proactive decision making and business management. … They need to look for trends to identify areas of workflow improvement and end-user education to streamline coordination across the entire continuum of care,” Joncé Smith, vice president of revenue cycle management at Stoltenberg Consulting, said in a statement.

2. New EHR systems could be implemented in healthcare organizations by 2021, according to a recent Black Book Research report surveying 19,000 EHR users for its six-month client satisfaction poll. About 30 percent of physician practices reported they would like to make this transition in order to address customization issues. Becker’s Hospital Review outlines four insights from the survey, including the fact that 93 percent of physician practices want to replace their current EHR system with “cloud-based mobile solutions for on-demand data with actionable insight into financial performance, compliance tracking and contractual quality goals.”

3. WebMD reports that coffee drinkers don’t need to ditch their favorite caffeinated beverage over recent health concerns that coffee is linked to cancer. Recent headlines have focused on Acrylamide, a chemical that’s produced when coffee beans are roasted. The International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organization, recently said it “probably” cause cancer in humans. Following that news, a judge mandated that Starbucks and other coffee sellers in California must post warnings about possible links between coffee and cancer. What may be confusing, however, is that the Journal of the American Heart Association released a report with evidence that coffee may protect against heart disease only a few days prior to the judge’s order. Other studies have identified health benefits of coffee, including a reduced risk of developing liver, prostate and colon cancers. Another study found that people who drink three cups of coffee a day reduce their risk of Type 2 diabetes by 20 percent to 30 percent. Although coffee consumption raises health issues for some pregnant women, “there’s no indication, from hundreds if not thousands of studies, that there’s an increased risk of cancer from coffee,” says Edward Giovannucci, MD, ScD, a professor of nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “If anything, there seems to be consistent studies showing that there’s very little hint of any adverse effect.” In addition, “coffee contains hundreds of biologically active compounds, some of which have been shown in the lab to have anti-cancer activity,” says Marjorie Lynn McCullough, a registered dietitian and strategic director of nutritional epidemiology at the American Cancer Society. Many experts conclude that people should be mindful of what is added to their coffee — such as cream, sugar and flavored syrups. Although we should not expect doctors to recommend coffee as a key aspect of a healthy diet, there’s no need to stop consuming a moderate amount.

4. Health IT Analytics reports on a SAS survey of 500 participants that found 60 percent of them are comfortable with doctors using artificial intelligence (AI) to improve their healthcare experience. The survey revealed that in comparison to other industries, like banking or retail, use of AI in healthcare garnered the most positive reaction from the public. Sixty-one percent of respondents said they would allow providers to leverage wearable device data to provide suggestions for making healthy lifestyle changes. Results also found support for using AI in the operating room with “more than half of consumers older than 40 … willing to experience AI-assisted surgery, while 40 percent of consumers younger than 40 said the same.” However, data security and the lack of human interaction worry consumers. These concerns typically stem from the public’s lack of understanding AI, says David Tareen, marketing manager of AI at SAS. “Instead of believing that AI will enter the healthcare industry and replace providers completely, consumers should think of AI as a tool that will supplement the work of healthcare professionals. It can help reduce documentation burdens and accelerate precision medicine development, but AI cannot take over for human clinicians yet.” These survey results highlight how consumers are starting to embrace the idea of AI and how it can assist providers in making more informed clinical decisions and better support patient care.

5. New federal regulatory changes addressing chronic disease management and preventive care creates new channels for payers to add more value to Medicare Advantage health plans. According to HealthPayer Intelligence, the new CMS rule will allow payers to offer Medicare Advantage plans more health benefit options, adjust cost-sharing and offer new member engagement opportunities beginning in the 2019 plan year. CMS wants some of these expanded benefits to include “an increased frequency and variation of preventive screenings and exams based on a beneficiary’s health conditions.” Recent statistics on chronic disease prevalence in the Medicare program reveal that 54 percent of beneficiaries experience hypertension, almost 26 percent have diabetes and 30 percent suffer from arthritis. Many Medicare beneficiaries that experience at least one chronic condition are likely to develop others. For example, 35 percent of Medicare beneficiaries with diabetes have five or more chronic diseases. CMS suggests that payers could increase the number of foot or eye exams diabetic members would receive to improve the member experience. In addition, CMS wants social determinants of health addressed by using zip codes to target specific communities linked to certain health outcomes. The new rule enables payers to customize cost-sharing and member deductibles, which can reduce financial burdens placed on members. Payers can also remove meaningful difference requirements, which will allow for new member engagement strategies and more health plan variety for individuals to choose from. The new rule from CMS paves the way for increased technology and digital communication platforms to better reach Medicare beneficiaries.


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