Contracting News & Notes

Recent headlines and trends to keep an eye on

GPO News

Intalere signs agreement with BPI Medical, a full-service medical equipment company
Intalere (St. Louis, MO) has announced a new agreement with BPI Medical, a full-service medical equipment company. Through this agreement, Intalere members will receive negotiated pricing on repair services for flexible endoscopes, rigid endoscopes, handheld surgical power equipment, surgical instruments and cameras. BPI Medical also conducts on-site medical equipment inspection, reporting and repairs. Intalere members also have access to BPI Medical’s continuing education courses on these medical devices. The contract is effective through Dec. 31, 2022.

Premier using data, tech capabilities for clinicians to deliver coordinated care
Premier Inc. (Charlotte, NC) is enhancing its solutions to surveil for COVID-19 symptoms and pinpoint hotspots, predict disease progression and surge, determine the supplies necessary to care for the infected population, improve the quality of medical interventions and ultimately prevent the spread of the disease. “COVID-19 has exposed one of healthcare’s fundamental weaknesses: the fragmented and siloed nature of care delivery,” said Leigh Anderson, president of performance services for Premier. “Today, most health systems lack visibility into what’s happening symptomatically in the ambulatory space, before patients arrive in the emergency room with a confirmed COVID-19 case.” Premier is marshaling its data and technology capabilities to provide real-time, integrated solutions that help make it easier for clinicians to deliver informed, coordinated care.

Vizient applauds FDA’s temporary policy enabling hospitals to compound medications
Vizient, Inc. (Irving, TX) applauds the decision by the FDA to allow hospital pharmacies to begin compounding a range of pharmaceuticals used for COVID-19 patients, including many medications necessary for those on ventilators. The medications include forms of fentanyl, midazolam, cistracurium and ketamine that have seen unprecedented levels of demand and declining fill rates as the number of coronavirus patients has increased.

Premier survey: 24% of skilled nursing, assisted living facilities do not have N95 masks on hand
A Premier Inc. (Charlotte, NC) survey of 2,500 skilled nursing and assisted living facilities found that 24% of facilities do not have N95 masks on hand, and the majority of respondents have fewer than two weeks supply of surgical masks, isolation gowns and face shields. Other key products for which they have supply concerns include thermometers, exam gloves, alcohol pads, soap/detergent and hand sanitizer.
“In this next phase of the outbreak, states and healthcare providers are contemplating how they can best provide care for patients who need medical attention but are not critical care status,” said John Sganga, senior vice president of alternate site programs for Premier.

Vizient announces agreement with One Network Enterprises
Vizient, Inc. (Irving, TX) has announced an agreement with One Network Enterprises to bring increased resiliency, transparency and collaboration to the healthcare supply chain. It will facilitate the rapid development of a two-sided marketplace that adds visibility and improves collaboration between healthcare organizations and suppliers around the forecast, inventory availability and consumption of goods. It is expected to launch by April 20 at no cost during this crisis to Vizient’s healthcare members, distributors and suppliers.

Intalere selects Consus and Ivalua for source to contract solution
Intalere (St. Louis, MO) has gone live with Ivalua’s source to contract solution through a partnership with Consus, a procurement services provider. Ivalua leads the implementation and transformation effort at Intalere to drive cost savings, transparency and improved efficiencies across containing and category management across the organization. “The flexibility and configurability of the Ivalua platform will enable Intalere to drive significant value for our membership, especially due to the platform’s ability to enable the development and implementation of multi-year category roadmaps,” said Todd Larkin, COO at Intalere. “And our partnership with Consus Global provided us with a faster time to value and overall return on investment.”

Premier on the creation of the dynamic ventilator reserve
Susan DeVore, CEO of Premier, writes “Premier commends the Administration and the hospital community for the creation of the Dynamic Ventilator Reserve. This program will provide life-saving equipment to hot spots that need surge supplies in order to provide appropriate care to COVID-19 patients. These are exactly the types of creative solutions that will enable us to conserve and stretch critical care equipment that can easily dip into shortage when there’s an uptick in cases.”
Hospitals, Health Systems and IDN News

St. Vincent Medical Center purchased for $135 million
Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, the owner of the Los Angeles Times, has purchased St. Vincent Medical Center in Los Angeles from Verity Health (El Segundo, CA) for $135 million. Verity filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2018 and closed St. Vincent Medical Center in January. Under the purchase agreement, Dr. Soon-Shiong will take over the state of California’s lease obligations at St. Vincent. In March, the state used emergency COVID-19 funding to lease St. Vincent. The state reopened the facility, now called the Los Angeles Surge Hospital, through a partnership with Kaiser Permanente and Dignity Health. “Verity is proud of its partnership with the State of California and is confident that Dr. Soon-Shiong and his team will continue to enhance the collaboration with the state and local governments to address COVID-19,” said Rich Adcock, CEO of Verity Health.

‘Greatest challenge’ hospitals have faced in their history, says AHA head
The cost of treating coronavirus patients, combined with the loss of revenue from canceling elective procedures, has left many hospitals in desperate financial straits. “I think it’s fair to say that hospitals are facing perhaps the greatest challenge that they have ever faced in their history,” Rick Pollack, president and CEO of the American Hospital Association (AHA), told NPR. He says some estimates suggest hospitals are losing $50 billion per month.

Allegheny Health Network launches own COVID-19 test kit
Allegheny Health Network (AHN) (Pittsburgh, PA) is making thousands of its own COVID-19 test kits in the face of a national shortage. About 15 AHN employees volunteered to assemble specimen collection kits, for use at AHN hospitals and its drive-up COVID-19 collection sites around Western Pennsylvania. Typically, COVID-19 specimen kits come fully assembled from a vendor. The kits that AHN uses include two biohazard bags, labels, a naso-pharyngeal swab, an instruction sheet and a tube containing viral transport media, so the collected sample can be tested later.

Government and Regulatory News

HHS awards close to $165M to rural hospitals, telehealth centers
HHS, through the Health Resources and Services Administration, is awarding rural hospitals the telehealth resource centers nearly $165 million to combat COVID-19. Funds will go to 1,779 small rural hospitals and 14 HRSA-funded telehealth resource centers. The funds target smaller, rural hospitals and is separate from the CARES Act. Approximately $30 billion in the CARES Act was recently distributed to hospitals nationwide.

CMS releases guidance for health systems restarting elective procedures
CMS has released new guidelines for health systems on when and how to resume elective procedures that have been delayed since the COVID-19 outbreak. “Healthcare officials must ensure they can handle any surges,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma. “They have a plan to conserve supplies and screen healthcare workers for coronavirus.” A facility that decides to reopen procedures should also create areas to reduce the risk and exposure to COVID-19. Any patient coming in for a procedure must also be screened for COVID-19 symptoms.

MedPAC recommends ACO providers focus on COVID-19 rather than shared savings
The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) sent a letter to Seema Verma, MPH, administrator of CMS, recommending ACOs focus on their response to COVID-19 without concern for shared ACO savings or losses. MedPAC stated that attempting to adjust 2020 spending and benchmarks for COVID-19 will be impractical due to the dramatic shifts in care delivery that have occurred in 2020. MedPAC urged CMS not to use data from 2020 when evaluating ACOs. Specifically, MedPAC wants CMS to consider four actions:

  • Do not use 2020 data to determine ACO performance for purposes of computing ACO quality, bonuses, or penalties. Consider extending all current ACO agreement periods by one year. In addition, do not use 2020 data in calculating baseline year spending for future benchmarks.
  • Do not use 2020 claims to assign beneficiaries to ACOs, since the shift to telehealth (possibly with physicians located very far away from beneficiaries) could distort ACO assignment. A determination could be made later about whether to use 2019 and/or 2021 claims to assign beneficiaries to ACOs in 2021.
  • Allow a three-year extension of the NextGen ACO model through 2023. This will allow ACOs that have invested in the model to continue in the ACO program without having to adapt to a new model during this difficult time.
  • Delay the start of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation Direct Contracting model by a minimum of one year to allow providers time to understand the new model (some features of which have not yet been established) prior to making commitments.

Healthcare IT News

Coronavirus outbreak emphasizes importance of secure access to data
The COVID-19 outbreak has emphasized the importance of the data exchange and patient access provisions stipulated in the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT and CMS as providers are preoccupied with battling coronavirus. Seema Verma, CMS Administrator, said that, “now more than ever, patients need secure access to their healthcare data,” as she announced extended compliance timelines for interoperability rules during the pandemic. Consumer-directed exchange, where apps and APIs help patients aggregate data where and when they wish are set to offer new opportunities for population health.

Temporary hospitals rife with cybersecurity vulnerabilities
Ad hoc COVID-19 medical centers have a unique set of vulnerabilities. They are remote. They sit outside of a defense-in-depth architecture. And the very nature of their purpose – care in a time of crisis – means security is a lower priority. These situations give hackers more opportunities to perpetrate attacks and they could infiltrate devices there to steal a patient’s personal health information, causing complications for both the users of these devices and the health providers themselves.

3D printing helps combat medical equipment shortages
GE Healthcare is using 3D printing to make tools that accelerate ventilator production. Jeff Bezos’ space venture Blue Origin is using 3D printers to make plastic components for face shields. Digital manufacturing firm Carbon is using its highly elastic polymer to produce more than 15,000 face shields weekly for healthcare workers. Ford, Boeing, HP, Medtronic and the U.S military are among the manufacturing powers funding, designing and producing protective gear and medical equipment to fill in supply shortages around the world, and 3D printing firms are making a broader call to action possible. Rapid prototyping has been the hallmark of 3D printing’s role in manufacturing the for the 30 years the industry has existed. Universities and 3D printing companies like Stratasys and Carbon are crowdsourcing industrial customers to print as many products as they can. Demand is high as Stratasys says it’s receiving requests for 40,000 face shields per week.