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Financial Stress As A Health Risk Factor Impacts More Americans

A family in Orange County, California, paid a brother’s 1982 hospital bill by selling 50 pieces of their newly-deceased mother’s jewelry. “It’s what she wanted,” the surviving son told a reporter from The Orange County Register. The cache of jewelry fetched enough to pay the $10,000 bill. Patients in the U.S. cobble together various strategies to pay for healthcare, as the first chart drawn from a Kaiser Family Foundation report on medical debt attests. As health care consumers, people cut back on household spending like vacations and household goods. Two-thirds of insured patients use up all or most of their savings

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Consumer Healthcare Reviews on Yelp Help

Just as consumers use TripAdvisor, Zagat, OpenTable, and their Facebook pages to review restaurants, hotels, automobiles, and financial services companies, many patients – now health consumers in earnest – have taken to reviewing healthcare services in social networks. Finding reliable, understandable information about healthcare quality and prices is very challenging for most consumers. Are healthcare reviews on social networks statistically valid? An analysis of consumer ratings for New York State hospitals on Yelp, the social network, were positively correlated to objective scores of hospital quality, according to the research published in Yelp for Health: Using the Wisdom of Crowds to

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Telehealth and Virtual Healthcare Are Mainstreaming

As the annual meeting of the American Telemedicine Association convenes this week in Orlando, there’s a lot of telehealth news to curate. The topline of it all: virtual healthcare is mainstreaming, with more providers, payors, and patients aligning in support of virtual health care delivery. Three-quarters of providers have some form of basic telemedicine or telehealth in place. One-third of healthcare providers use some flavor of virtual care technology in their workflow, according to research from KPMG and HIMSS Analytics summarized in the first graphic. KPMG sees virtual care options — remote patient monitoring, enhanced portals, and web interactions for patient-provider

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Health Care Costs Are A Top Worry for Americans Across Political Parties

Health care costs are out-of-reach for more Americans, among both people who have insurance through the workplace or via health insurance exchanges. The first chart illustrates the growing healthcare affordability challenge for American health consumers, discussed in a data note to the Kaiser Family Foundation Health Tracking Poll in March 2017. In 2017, 43% of consumers found it difficult to meet the health care deductible before insurance would kick in 37% of consumers found it difficult to pay for the cost of health insurance each month 31% said it was difficult to pay for copayments for doctor visits and prescription drugs.

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Most Americans Favor Some Flavor Of National Health Care Plan

Most US adults favor some kind of national health care plan, based on an Economist/YouGov poll conducted in April 2017. Six in ten people are for expanding so-called “Medicare for All,” where the health plan that currently serves older Americans would extend to all U.S. health citizens. Six in ten people would also favor a Federally-funded health insurance system that would cover all Americans — that is, universal health care. The table details this poll question by political party identification and family income. At least 3 in 4 Democrats would be more likely to favor either of the two healthcare

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Diet, Surgery and Pharmacy – The Pillars of Healthcare for 500 Years

Healthcare was based on three pillars in 16th century Florence, Italy: diet, surgery, and pharmacy. Five centuries later, not much has changed in Italy or the U.S. But how healthcare gets funded and delivered in the context of these pillars significantly varies between the two countries, and impacts each nation’s health. To put this in context, visiting the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana (the Medici’s Laurentian Library) today in Florence was a trip through medical-surgical history, starting in the second half of the 16th century. The design of this magnificent library’s foyer and reading room was initially conceived by Michelangelo. The reading room

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The Pharmacy as Herbalist – An Italian Prescription

CNN called it, “the ancient perfume store you never heard of,” but the Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella had its literal roots in medicinal herbs. With scents wafting onto a 13th century Florence piazza, the Farmacia now operates as a pharmacy storefront for homeopathic and herbal supplements, along with perfumes and home scents. A visit to the pharmacy today is a journey into medicinal time-travel, back to the year 1221. I spent time in the pharmacy today to learn about the literal roots of the shop in medicinal herbs cultivated in a monastery garden and reformulated by monks into

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Slow Food As Medicine: Eating In Italian

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Valuing Children = Valuing Health: Learning From Florence, Italy

This week I celebrate two spring holy holidays in one city that embraces spirituality, civility, and culture: Florence, Italy. Today, I had the special opportunity to tour Ospedale degli Innocenti: the Hospital of the Innocents. The hospital is now an institute for studying the culture and economics of children, and a museum telling a unique story of Florentine babies born in the early 15th century, spanning our contemporary era. The founding and root history of this beautiful place has lessons to teach us even today. It is key to realize, first, that Florentine humanism exalted the ideal virtues of the

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Health Inequity in the United States – A View From Across the Pond

The statistics on the health of people living in America illustrate a divide between have’s and have-not’s. Average life expectancy is lower in the US compared with other wealthy nations: the wealthiest Americans live 10 to 15 years longer than the poorest, according to a landmark article in JAMA from 2016 studying the relationship between income inequality and mortality. See the first chart: this illustrates that people living in the US whose income reaches the top 95th percentile far outlive folks in the bottom 5th percentile of income. I find myself in London, England, this week, across the Pond (that is,

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Finding Health in Consumer Goods

People want to live healthier lives, and consumer good companies are responding to these demands to keep and gain market share and profit margins. Consumer product firms reformulated over 180,000 consumer products in 2016 for in response to consumers’ health and wellness wishes, based on data collected by Deloitte for The Consumer Goods Forum project (CGF) and published in The CGF Health & Wellness Progress Report. The CGF is an industry network of some 400 consumer goods, retail, and service companies supporting the global adoption of standards and practices. This Report focused on the CGF members’ progress toward health and wellness

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Connecting the Dots Between Population Health and the Local Economy

U.S. counties with better health have better performing economies. There’s a direct link between healthy people and a healthy economy, where healthier regions enjoy lower unemployment and higher incomes, according to the Blue Cross Blue Shield Health Index. When compared to counties with a median BCBS Health Index score, counties within the top 10 percent had: A per capita income that’s $3,700 higher than the median 10-year economic growth that’s 3.5% higher An unemployment rate half a point lower. The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) worked with Moody’s Analytics (part of the Moody’s financial services company) on this second edition of this

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Health Insurance Plans Rank Lowest In Consumer Experience

Consumers love their supermarkets, fast food shops, retailers, delivery services, and banks. These industries rank highest in the 2017 Temkin Experience Ratings, my go-to source for understanding consumer service Nirvana. Health insurance companies and internet service providers (ISPs) are at the bottom of the Temkin Ratings, as shown in the first chart. Note that health plans range from a score approaching 70 to under 50, illustrating the very wide range of consumer experience from okay-to-good, too very poor. The top-ranked health plan was Kaiser Permanente, with a rating of 67%; Health Net was ranked the worst of the health plans

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A New Risk Factor For Mental Health: Climate Change

We make our health across many dimensions: via nutrition, safe physical/built environments, financial wellness, education, and the environment among them. In this last category, the environment, new research finds that climate change has a significant impact on health. The report, Mental Health and Our Changing Climate: Impacts, Implications, and Guidance, was sponsored by the American Psychological Association in conjunction with Climate for Health and ecoAmerica. “Climate change-induced severe weather and other natural disasters have the most immediate effects on mental health in the form of the trauma and shock due to personal injuries, loss of a loved one, damage to

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Pharma Industry Reputation Declines Second Year In A Row

U.S. consumers love technology, retail, and consumer products; automotive company reputations are improving, even with Volkswagen’s emission scandal potentially tarnishing the industry segment. The only corporate sector whose reputation fell in 2016 was the pharmaceutical industry’s, according to the Harris Poll’s 2017 Reputation Quotient report. The line chart illustrates the decline of pharma’s reputation, which puts it on par with its consumer perceptions in 2010 — just before Medicare Part D was legislated and implemented, which improved pharma’s image among American health citizens (especially older patients who tend to be more frequent consumers of prescription drugs). Pharma’s reputation quotient is back

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The Fall of the TrumpCare is Retail Health’s Gain in 2017

The non-vote for and withdrawal of The American Health Care Act on March 24, 2017, was a win for the retail health market, at least in the short-run. Before the vote, there had been some pronouncements that the passage of the AHCA would have been a boon to retail health. Here’s one story stating that, “A boom in medical tourism to Mexico predicted if Obamacare ends.” Another article asserts, “Why the American Health Care Act Works for Retailers,” a public policy statement from the National Retail Federation (NRF). But NRF, please don’t fret. Retail health is consumer-driven and will persist beyond the

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Medical Bill Toxicity: 53% of Americans Say A Big Bill Is As Bad As A Serious Diagnosis

3 in 4 Americans’ health care costs have risen in the past few years. Two-thirds of Americans want to lower their costs, but don’t know how to do that. A survey from Amino released this week, conducted by Ipsos, has found that one in five people could not afford to pay an unexpected medical bill without taking on debt, and another 18% of Americans could only afford up to $100 if presented with an unexpected medical bill. This medical debt side effect more likely impacts women versus men, the less affluent, the unmarried, and those with no college degree. While

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Most Medicare Patients Haven’t Accessed Their EHR Information (Yet)

The HITECH Act, part of the Stimulus Bill (officially, the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, ARRA) invested $35 billion of U.S. taxpayer funds to incentivize health care providers (doctors and hospitals) to acquire and use electronic health record systems (EHRs). Most providers have taken advantage of these financial incentives, so that EHRs are now part of mainstream medical practice and workflow among providers. For patients, and particularly those enrolled in the government programs of Medicare and Medicaid, personal access to their personal data in EHRs has been largely elusive. While nearly 9 in 10 doctors and hospitals have offered these

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States That Expanded Medicaid Improved Healthcare Access & Patient Outcomes

States that expanded Medicaid since the start of the Affordable Care Act made greater health system access improvements than those States that did not expand Medicaid, according to Aiming Higher: Results from the Commonwealth Fund Scorecard on State Health System Performance. There’s good news and bad news in this report: on the upside, nearly all states saw health improvements between 2013 and 2015, and in particular, for treatment quality and patient safety. Patient re-admissions to hospitals also fell in many states. But on the downside, premature deaths increased in nearly two-thirds of states, a reversal in the (improving) national mortality

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Americans Are Not Sold On the American Health Care Act

Most Americans do not believe that TrumpCare, the GOP plan to replace the Affordable Care Act (the ACA, aka  ObamaCare), will make things better for U.S. health citizens when it comes to peoples’ health insurance coverage, the premium costs charged for those health plans, and protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions. The March 2017 Kaiser Family Foundation Health Tracking Poll examined U.S. adults’ initial perceptions of AHCA, the American Health Care Act, which is the GOP’s replacement plan for the ACA. There are deep partisan differences in perceptions about TrumpCare, with more Republicans favorable to the plan — although not

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