In the Interim: How Data Responsibility, AI Ethics, Legislative Moves, and Tech-Driven Behavioral Health will Shape 2024

“In the Interim” is a snapshot of news that matters to locum tenens physicians. No repeats, less scrolling, more knowledge. Check out the articles we found interesting for December’s roundup.  

1. Joint Commission’s New Voluntary Certification Helps Hospitals Ensure ‘Responsible’ Use of Patient Data 

The Joint Commission is launching a voluntary Responsible Use of Health Data (RUHD) Certification program for hospitals, allowing them to showcase responsible patient health data management. The certification covers areas like de-identification, data controls, and algorithm validation. It addresses industry calls for a gold standard in data handling and provides patients reassurance about the appropriate use of their information. The initiative comes amid growing data transfers and the development of data-driven algorithms. The RUHD Certification is part of broader industry efforts to establish best practices for patient data-driven AI in light of rising concerns about data privacy and cybersecurity in third-party partnerships.

(Fierce Healthcare, Dec. 05, 2023) 

2. Nonprofit Hospitals’ 2024 Outlook Still Deteriorating

Nonprofit hospitals are facing another challenging year in 2024, dealing with staffing shortages and increased inflation, according to a recent report from credit ratings agency Fitch Ratings. 

The sector’s outlook continues to worsen, with downgrades expected to surpass upgrades. The key factor influencing hospital performance is their ability to attract and retain staff in a fiercely competitive environment. Despite expectations for break-even operations in 2023, the rebound was delayed and less robust than anticipated. The report highlights ongoing macroeconomic challenges and predicts a significant hurdle for providers in operating metrics. Success in 2024 will depend on effective talent recruitment, managing labor costs, and addressing continued reliance on contract labor. Fitch suggests a sector outlook revision is unlikely without significant improvements in labor productivity, potentially through technology and artificial intelligence advancements. 

(Healthcare Dive, Dec. 05, 2023)

3. Record Number of Physicians Now Board Certified 

In 2023, a record-breaking 988,737 physicians and medical specialists received certification from the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), marking a 10,000 increase from the previous year. The ABMS awarded 33,600 new specialty certificates across 40 specialties and 16,972 new subspecialty certificates across 89 subspecialties. Notably, Washington, DC, boasts the highest concentration of board-certified clinicians, with 65.63 per 10,000, followed by Massachusetts, Maryland, and Connecticut. States with the fewest board-certified clinicians include Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Idaho.

(Becker’s Hospital Review, Dec. 11, 2023) 

4. Health Insurance Markets Need Competition, Not Consolidation

The American Medical Association (AMA) strongly backs proposed guidelines from the US Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission aimed at curbing consolidation in health insurance markets. The guidelines, with 13 key points, could lead to increased scrutiny and limitations on health insurer mergers to address concerns of high market concentration. 

According to the AMA, a majority of major metro areas are highly concentrated in health insurance markets, negatively impacting patients and physicians. Increased consolidation provides insurers with leverage to lower physician payments, reducing competition and potentially affecting patient care. The AMA advocates for greater competition in health insurance markets through antitrust measures which aim to protect the patient-physician relationship and ensure the delivery of high-quality, affordable healthcare.

(American Medical Association, Dec. 12, 2023) 

5. Survey Reveals a Significant Number of Healthcare Leaders Considering Job Changes, with Many Already Receiving Offers 

HCA Healthcare, based in Nashville, plans to boost its market sA recent survey by staffing firm AMN Healthcare reveals that despite an overall improvement in organizational health, a significant number of healthcare provider leaders are considering job changes. Of the more than 600 executives, directors, and managers polled, 66% expressed intent to seek a new position, with 12% planning an immediate move, 62% within the next year, and 38% within the next three to five years. Nearly four in five respondents reported being approached about a new job opportunity in the past half-month, and 17% pursued the offers. The study indicates high turnover in the healthcare sector, with challenges in finding strong candidates for open leadership positions. Despite the positive outlook, financial pressures and clinician issues are identified as potential challenges in the coming years.

(Fierce Healthcare, Dec. 13, 2023) 

6. Under Amazon, One Medical Builds Out Health System, Employer Partnerships for Primary Care Services 

Amazon’s One Medical has entered a significant partnership with the Health Transformation Alliance (HTA), offering its primary care services to 67 employers and close to 5 million employees, including companies like Coca-Cola, American Express, Marriott, Boeing, and Intel. 

As employers face rising healthcare costs, the collaboration aims to provide high-quality, convenient primary care services to address inefficiencies and costs in the healthcare system. The move is part of Amazon’s broader health strategy, leveraging One Medical’s tech-enabled primary care services and the resources of Amazon Health to enhance consumer service and establish a value-based care and payment model. HTA’s CEO Robert Andrews sees the partnership as setting a precedent for employer-led innovation in healthcare, emphasizing value-based care as the norm. One Medical’s capitated payment model aligns with HTA’s goal of offering employees access to outcome-focused primary care services.

(Fierce Healthcare, Nov. 14, 2023) 

7. White House Receives Pledges from Big Healthcare Players on AI Safety and Ethics 

The White House secured commitments from 28 leading healthcare organizations, including Boston Children’s Hospital, CVS Health, and UC San Diego Health, to enhance transparency, risk management, and responsibility in their AI and machine learning models. These providers and payers pledge to ensure that their AI models lead to “Fair, Appropriate, Valid, Effective, and Safe” healthcare outcomes. The commitments include informing patients when content is substantially AI-generated, adopting a risk management framework for AI-powered apps, and developing approaches that advance health equity, expand access to care, and reduce clinician burnout. The move aligns with the Biden Administration’s executive order on AI, emphasizing safe and trustworthy AI across various sectors, including healthcare.

(Healthcare IT News, Dec. 14, 2023) 

8. CMS Finalizes Updated Fees for No Surprises Act Dispute Resolution 

The Biden administration released amended fees for the independent dispute resolution (IDR) process under the No Surprises Act. Initially, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) faced a legal setback when a Texas judge vacated the initial fees, leading to a pause in IDR. The process aims to resolve disputes over out-of-network charges between payers and providers. The amended final rule sets an administrative fee of $115 for disputes subject to the rule, instead of the initially proposed $350. CMS clarified that it does not plan to adjust fees more than once per calendar year. The agency also outlined ranges for certified IDR entity fees charged by arbiters for determinations, with annual updates permitted.

(Fierce Healthcare, Dec. 18, 2023) 

9. Five Proposed Bills for Physicians to Keep an Eye On 

In the dynamic landscape of healthcare, not only have the past 12 months introduced a surge in mergers, acquisitions, and the integration of AI, but five proposed bills are set to further shape the industry in 2024. 

  1. Officials in multiple states are working to loosen supervision requirements for nurse anesthetists. 
  2. New York Governor Hochul is considering a bill to ban noncompete agreements with a potential compensation cap. 
  3. Senators introduced the Encounter Data Enhancement Act to improve transparency in Medicare Advantage plans. 
  4. Congress is considering legislation to reduce physician burnout and address shortages through payment updates and prior authorization reforms. 
  5. The Conrad State 30 and Physician Access Reauthorization Act aims to ease physician shortages through expanded training options and support. 

(Becker’s Hospital Review, Dec. 19, 2023) 

10. 2024 Outlook: How Tech, Incentives Could Push Measurement-based Care in Behavioral Health 

Measurement-based care (MBC), involving the systematic collection and analysis of symptom ratings in behavioral health, is crucial for improving patient outcomes and strengthening the therapeutic relationship. However, a recent survey found that fewer than 20% of mental health practitioners use MBC, and many still rely on pen and paper for data collection. Limited training and infrastructure, coupled with challenges in adopting electronic health records (EHRs) in mental health, hinder the widespread implementation of MBC. Technology solutions, such as apps and platforms like NeuroFlow and Epic, can facilitate MBC by automating measurements, interpreting results, and tracking patient responses over time. Despite the potential of technology, external incentives like increased reimbursement for clinicians practicing MBC would be necessary to drive broader adoption. The Department of Veterans Affairs serves as a notable example of successful MBC implementation, with 100% of VA facilities participating and over 14.8 million mental health patient-reported outcome measures administered to veterans.

(Fierce Healthcare, Dec. 21, 2023) 

That’s it for this month’s edition of In the Interim! Stay tuned for next month’s roundup of newsworthy articles for locum tenens providers. To stay in the loop on future news, follow us on LinkedIn.