ACOs, Medical Marijuana, and the Prohibition Hangover

Dec 18, 2018 at 09:06 pm by Staff

See what happens when data is captured


ACOs, or Accountable Care Organizations, are a growing influence on current healthcare. Their power over decision making will continue to increase for the goals of streamlining healthcare costs, improving communication between all healthcare settings (Medical practices, hospitals, surgical centers, nursing homes, home health care, outpatient providers, etc.), and improving the quality of healthcare.

If you have been in healthcare long enough, you know the only constant is change. ACOs are just the beginning. Bundled payments for services across multiple providers are here. In 2019, nursing homes will be dealing with outcome-based payments, rather than service-based payments and home health care will be soon to follow.

With all this change in reimbursement, some providers will get left behind. Those who are not willing to change, or do not want to change, will not make it. They will hold on, put their head in the sand, and keep "milking" the current system telling their employees to do "more with less" and expect the same financial returns.

One of these areas of change, which is already happening, is Medical Marijuana (MMJ) in Florida. Unless you have been living under a rock, it's been legal now for almost 3 years. We will surpass over 200,000 active MMJ patients in Florida in early 2019, and that number will continue to increase at 3,000-5,000 patients per week. Now the question, "Why should I care if patients use MMJ? I don't have anything to do with MMJ in my ACO, so it doesn't affect me." Your patients are already using MMJ, they are just not telling you! By capturing the data from these patients, you will begin to see how MMJ is saving your company lots of money indirectly now and will save millions more by using the data to better patient outcomes.

Right now, I know of ZERO healthcare providers in Florida tracking MMJ data. If you want to be ahead of all your competition, start doing the following:

  • Track the data. Start "connecting the dots." All these positive effects will help your patients and your bottom line ONLY if you know what is happening. Why are they using MMJ? Is it providing them with benefits in their health? What other benefits are they finding by using MMJ? Are they less depressed or anxious so they can exercise more? Do they now have the ability to eat better so they can put on weight and decrease potential skin tears and wounds? (which are tremendously expensive to treat). Have they been able to stop taking costly prescription medications and have better outcomes and less side effects? At first your patients may not trust you enough to tell you - the current FL MMJ law does not protect patients from losing their job if they use MMJ. However, over time if you continue to show that your ACO or company is looking to learn how MMJ will help their condition and it will help you provide better care, they will slowly warm up and answer the questions truthfully.

  • Educate your ACO on the findings of your data. Once you start collecting enough data on MMJ, you will begin to extrapolate results. For example, you may find that your patients who are using MMJ for chronic pain are less likely to get addicted to opiates - which means the ACO will have to pay for less drug dependency treatment over time. Or, your patients using MMJ for colitis or IBS don't need expensive prescription meds for their condition anymore, which will save your ACO millions of dollars. Or, your Alzheimer's patients are not getting worse, actually better, and are less likely to fall and break a hip requiring costly surgery, hospital stay, nursing home care, and home health.

In the new age of blockchain, super computing power, and data analytics, a wise man once told me, "Whoever has the data wins." Regardless of your opinion of MMJ, this new legal medicine is a treasure-trove of data that can begin to lower costs, improve outcomes, and put more money in your pocket without having to recommend the medicine.

The "prohibition hangover" is alive and well. The "prohibition hangover" is the inability to come to grips with Medical Marijuana being legal and refusing to learn anything about it. If you have not noticed, our neighbors to the north (Canada), have legalized cannabis across the entire country. Currently, over 27 countries in the world have legalized Medical Marijuana and that list continues to grow every month. Germany has legalized MMJ and it is paid for through the national healthcare system. The use of MMJ in Florida and globally will only increase over time. Savvy healthcare operators will use the data of this new legal medicine to jump ahead of the competition because whoever gets rid of their prohibition hangover last, will lose.

Michael C. Patterson, founder and CEO of U.S. Cannabis Pharmaceutical Research & Development of Melbourne, is a consultant for the development of the medical marijuana industry nationwide and in Florida. He serves as a consultant to Gerson Lehrman Group, New York and helps educate GLG partners on specific investment strategies and public policy regarding Medical Marijuana in the U.S. and Internationally.