Humana CMO: “As we improve the quality of healthcare, costs decrease”

In a recent phone interview, Humana CMO Dr. Roy Beveridge chatted about value-based care, social determinants of health, 2018 predictions and what the Louisville, Kentucky-based payer has been up to.

Dr. Roy Beveridge has served as CMO of Louisville, Kentucky-based Humana since 2013. Two years into his tenure, he opened the MedCity ENGAGE conference with a discussion calling for the democratization of healthcare.

In a recent phone interview, Beveridge discussed everything from value-based care to social determinants of health.

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This exchange has been lightly edited.

What has been Humana’s biggest accomplishment in 2017?

From a physician and patient standpoint, we’re really moving quickly into value-based arrangements with MACRA and MIPS. There’s been a mind shift around physicians recognizing that in order to accomplish their goals of population health and value-based reimbursement, the whole discussion has changed around the need for analysis of data and a very different type of communication between the payer and the provider. Without that data, they can’t close gaps or improve the quality metrics that are becoming the norm.

A few years ago, I mistakenly thought value-based care was something that was going to be focused on the primary care physician and would not impact the specialist as much. But what you’re seeing is specialists recognize this value-based payment system is something they have to participate in.

From our standpoint, what that has resulted in is this continuous focus around community relationships. If payers like Humana are going to be successful, we need to be engaging our physicians’ patients. Services are needed for patients in the home. That’s the shift we have thought about and been successful at as we continue to recognize that an increasing amount of care will be in the home.

Why is it important to incorporate social determinants of health, and what work is Humana doing in this space?

When I was early in my practice and would see someone with diabetes, I remember having this belief that my role was to recognize what the patient’s diagnosis was and give a prescription for insulin. And then I thought I’d done a good job.

That was the mindset up until recently. Simply giving someone a prescription is the easy part. The more complicated part is explaining what their disease is and helping them take their medicine. We used to think that was a social worker’s problem. But if giving someone a prescription that they can’t fill doesn’t really help them.

As we look into the social determinants of health, transportation is big. Social isolation is a big one, and food insecurity goes hand in hand with diabetes and everything else.

I don’t think five years ago you’d be asking a question about social determinants of health. But at this point, the recognition of social determinant health issues is fundamentally linked to population health.

If you’re looking at a fee-for-service model, writing the prescription is all I need to do. If we shift the model to health outcomes, then you’re aligning everyone’s incentives to make sure people are thinking about these social determinants of health.

The other thing we have learned in the last year or two is that care really is local. We as a society have to recognize that what happens in South Florida is different than what happens in Texas or Minnesota or Massachusetts. There’s not one size that fits everything.

Humana recently released its inaugural value-based care report, which outlines numerous topics, including how Humana Medicare Advantage members affiliated with physicians in value-based models typically have healthier outcomes. Which finding from the report most surprised or shocked you?

I don’t think anything shocked me. There were parts of this that I think a couple years ago would have shocked people.

Five or 10 years ago, I would have said to you that in order to improve quality, you have to make an investment globally and that investment is going to cost the system more.

What’s pretty clear in the report is quality metrics do all the right things, yet at the same time, they lower the global cost of care. I don’t think that’s shocking, but it’s something that’s still hard for people to recognize and internalize. Fundamentally, as we improve the quality of healthcare, costs decrease.

News recently surfaced that Humana will acquire a 40 percent stake in Kindred Healthcare’s home care business for approximately $800 million. What does this mean for Humana?

We’ve only made the proposal. We haven’t gotten government approval for anything.

We’re thinking about, “How can we always get closer to the patient? How do we help improve someone’s health by being where someone is more of the time?” [Patients are] not in the hospital most of the time — they’re at home most of the time. We recognize we need to get closer to where people are if we’re going to help them in their destination of improving health.

What is your number one prediction for healthcare in 2018?

My number one prediction in healthcare is the pace of change within the system is going to continue to be fast.

CMS is pushing — and appropriately so — down a health orientation that moves from fee-for-service to quality-based outcomes.

My prediction for ’18 is that we’re going to hit an inflection point where the light bulb goes off because of the number of patients in the system who have moved from fee-for-service into this health outcomes model. Once it hits a certain amount of engagement within your hospital, then it becomes something everyone is aligned around.

Photo: CherriesJD, Getty Images