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Employers Changing Health Care Delivery – Health Reform At Work

Large employers are taking more control over health care costs and quality by pressuring changes to how care is actually delivered, based on the results from the 2017 Health Plan Design Survey sponsored by the National Business Group on Health (NBGH). Health care cost increases will average 5% in 2017 based on planned design changes, according to the top-line of the study. The major cost drivers, illustrated in the wordle, will be specialty pharmacy (discussed in yesterday’s Health Populi), high cost patient claims, specific conditions (such as musculoskeletal/back pain), medical inflation, and inpatient care. To temper these medical trend increases,

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Workplace Wellness Goes Holistic, Virgin Pulse Finds

“Work is the second most common source of stress, just behind financial worries,” introduces The Business of Healthy Employees report from Virgin Pulse, the company’s 2016 survey of workplace health priorities published this week. Virgin Pulse collaborated with Workforce magazine, polling 908 employers and 1,818 employees about employer-sponsored health care, workers’ health habits, and wellness benefit trends. Workplace wellness programs are becoming more holistic, integrating a traditional physical wellness focus with mental, social, emotional and financial dimensions for 3 in 4 employers. Wearable technology is playing a growing role in the benefit package and companies’ cultures of health, as well

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The State of Health Benefits in 2016: Reallocating the Components

Virtually all employers who offer health coverage to workers extend health benefits to all full-time employees. 94% offer health care coverage to opposite-sex spouses, and 83% to same-sex spouses. One-half off health benefits to both opposite-sex and same-sex domestic partners (unmarried). Dental insurance, prescription drug coverage, vision insurance, mail order prescription programs, and mental health coverage are also offered by a vast majority (85% and over) of employers. Welcome to the detailed profile of workplace benefits for the year, published in 2016 Employee Benefits, Looking Back at 20 Years of Employee Benefits Offerings in the U.S., from the Society for Human

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PwC’s “Behind the Numbers” – Where the Patient Stands

The growth of health care costs in the U.S. is expected to be a relatively moderate 6.5% in 2017, the same percentage increase as between 2015 and 2016, according to Medical Cost Trend: Behind the Numbers 2017, an annual forecast from PwC. As the line chart illustrates, the rate of increase of health care costs has been declining since 2007, when costs were in double-digit growth mode. Since 2014, health care cost growth has hovered around the mid-six percent’s, considered “low growth” in the PwC report. What’s driving overall cost increases is price, not use of services: in fact, health care

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One in Two People Use Wearable Tech in 2016

Nearly 1 in 2 people own at least one wearable device, up from 21% in 2014; one-third of people own more than one such device that tracks some aspect of everyday life, according to PwC’s latest research on the topic, The Wearable Life 2.0 – Connected living in a wearable world, from PwC. Wearable technology in this report is defined as accessories and clothing incorporating computer and advanced electronic technologies, such as fitness trackers, smart glasses (e.g., Google Glass), smartwatches, and smart clothing. Specifically, 45% of people own a fitness band, such as a Fitbit, the most popular device in this

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Withings Inside: Nokia’s Digital Health Vision

The first health news I read this morning in my Google Alerts was a press release explaining that Nokia planned to acquire Withings for EU170 (about $190mm). As an early adopter and devoted user of the Withings Smart Body Analyzer, I took this news quite personally. “What will Nokia be doing with my beloved Withings?” I asked myself via Twitter early this morning. As if on cue, a public relations pro with whom I’ve been collegial for many years contacted me to see if I’d like to talk with the Founder and CEO of Withings, Cédric Hutchings, and Ramzi Haidamus,

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Financial Wellness Declines In US, Even As Economy Improves

American workers are feeling financial stress and uncertainty, struggling with health care costs, and seeking support for managing finances. 75% of employees feel financially insecure, with 60% feeling stressed about their financial situation, according to the 2016 Workplace Benefits Report, based on consumer research conducted by Bank of America Merrill Lynch. The overall feeling of financial wellness fell between 2013 and 2015. 75% of U.S. workers don’t feel secure (34% “not very secure” and 41% “not at all secure”), with the proportion of workers identifying as “not at all secure” growing from 31% to 41%. Financial wellness was defined for this

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The Link Between Eating and Financial Health

People who more consistently track their calories and food intake are more likely to be fiscally fit than people who do not, suggesting a link between healthy eating and financially wellness. I learned this through a survey conducted in February 2016 among 4,118 people using the Lose It! mobile app, which enables people to track their daily nutrition. Some 25 million people have downloaded Lose It! The app is one of the most consistently-used mobile health tools available in app stores. The Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences has explored the financial impact of improved health behaviors, asserting that,

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Behavioral Economics in Motion: UnitedHealthcare and Qualcomm

What do you get when one of the largest health insurance companies supports the development of a medical-grade activity tracker, enables data to flow through a HIPAA-compliant cloud, and nudges consumers to use the app by baking behavioral economics into the program? You get Motion from UnitedHealthcare, working with Qualcomm Life’s 2net cloud platform, a program announced today during the 2016 HIMSS conference. What’s most salient about this announcement in the context of HIMSS — a technology convention — is that these partners recognize the critical reality that for consumers and their healthcare, it’s not about the technology. It’s about

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Health consumers’ cost increases far outpace wage growth

American workers are working to pay for health care costs, having traded off wage increases for health premiums, out-of-pocket costs and growing high deductibles. Welcome to the 2015 Employer Health Benefits survey conducted annually by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) and Health Research & Educational Trust (HRET). Premiums are growing seven times faster than wages.  The report calculates that high-deductibles for health insurance have grown 67% from 2010 to 2015. In the same period, wages grew a paltry 10%, while the Consumer Price Index rose 9%. The first chart illustrates that growing gap between relatively flat wages and spirally health

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Employers pushing consumerism for health benefits in 2016

This is the dawning of the Age of Consumer-Driven Health, the tipping point of which has been passed. The data point for this assertion comes from the National Business Group on Health‘s annual 2016 Large Employers’ Health Plan Design Survey. The tagline, “reducing costs while looking to the future,” suggests some of the underlying tactics employers will use to manage their financial burden of providing health insurance to workers. That burden will continue to shift to employees and their dependents in the form of greater cost-sharing: for premiums, co-pays and co-insurance, and the hallmark of consumer-driven health plans (CDHPs): high(er) deductibles.

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Fitness tech will boost holiday retail sales for consumer electronics

Sales of computers and tablets and LCD TVs won’t be hot on peoples’ holiday shopping lists in 2015. But smartwatches, health and fitness tech, and 4K Ultra HD TVs will be in peoples’ gift wish-lists and under homes’ holiday trees. The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) published its 2015 U.S. Consumer Electronics Sales and Forecasts report, and it shows a shifting retail picture where traditional consumer electronics categories — notably computers and mainstream TVs — are declining in demand. But new-new categories are expected to buoy 2015 retail sales. The new categories of consumer electronics will generate about $10 bn (wholesale

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Sports and the Internet of Things: the Scoop & Score podcast

From elite soccer and football fields to youth athletes in public school gyms, wearable technology has come to sports bringing two big benefits of gathering data at the point of exercise: to gauge performance and coach back to the athlete in real time, and to prevent injury. I discussed the advent of the Internet of Things in sports on the Scoop and Score podcast with Andrew Kahn, sports journalist and writer, and Stephen Kahn, sports enthusiast and business analyst. [In full disclosure these two Kahn’s are also my brilliant nephews.] We recorded the podcast on July 14, 2015, the day

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Employers go beyond physical health in 2015, adding financial and stress management

Workplace well-being programs are going beyond physical wellness, incorporating personal stress management and financial management. Nearly one-half of employers offer these programs in 2015. Another one-third will offer stress management in the next one to three years, and another one-fourth will offer financial management to workers, according to Virgin Pulse’s 2015 survey of workplace health priorities, The Busness of Healthy Employees. The survey was published June 1st 2015, kicking off Employee Wellbeing Month, which uses the Twitter hashtag #EWM15. It takes a village to bolster population health and wellness, so Virgin Pulse is collaborating with several partners in this effort

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Musings with Mary Meeker on the Digital/Health Nexus

People in the U.S. spend over five-and-a-half hours a day with digital media in 2015, with time on mobile devices exceeding use of laptop and desktop computers. The growth of mobile means people are using and seeking more just-in-time services in daily living, and this has big implications for health/care, based on the annual mega-report on Internet Trends from Mary Meeker, KPCB’s internet analyst. “People” in health/care are patients, consumers and caregivers; people in health/care are also health plan administrators, employer benefits managers, doctors, nurses, allied health professionals, financial managers in hospitals, pharmacists, and the entire range of humans who

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Purchase of wearable fitness trackers expected to grow in 2015, but one-half of Americans would “never” buy one

Headphones and smartphones are the top two electronics products U.S. consumers intend to purchase in 2015. But the emerging consumer electronics categories of wearable fitness trackers, smart watches, and smarthome devices (especially “smart” thermostats) are positioned to grow, too, in 2015, according to the 17th Annual CE Ownership and Market Potential Study from the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA). Wearable trackers have an installed base of about 17 million devices in the U.S., with 11% of U.S. households intending to purchase a tracker in 2015 — 6 percentage points up from 2014 (about a 50% increase over 2014). There are about 6 million smart

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Health is where we live, work, and shop…at Walgreens

Alex Gourley, President of The Walgreen Company, addressed the capacity crowd at HIMSS15 in Chicago on 13th April 2015, saying his company’s goal is to “make good health easier.” Remember that HIMSS is the “Health Information and Management Systems Society” — in short, the mammoth health IT conference that this year has attracted over 41,000 health computerfolk from around the world. So what’s a nice pharmacy like you, Walgreens, doing in a Place like McCormick amidst 1,200+ health/tech vendors?  If you believe that health is a product of lifstyle behaviors at least as much as health “care” services (what our

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Humana and Weight Watchers Partner in Weight Loss for Employers

More employers are recognizing the link between workers who may be overweight or obese on one hand, and health care costs, employee engagement and productivity on the other. As a result, some companies are adopting wellness programs that focus on weight loss as part of an overall culture of health at the workplace. Humana and Weight Watchers are the latest example of two health brands coming together to address what is one of the toughest behavior changes known to humans: losing weight. Humana will extend access to Weight Watchers for the health plan’s enrollees in an integrated wellness program. The program

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Employers grow wellness programs, and ramp up support for fitness tech

Offering wellness programs is universal among U.S. employers, who roughly divide in half regarding their rationale for doing so: about one-half offer wellness initiatives to invest in and increase worker health engagement, and one-half to control or reduce health care costs. Two-thirds of companies offering wellness will increase their budgets, according to the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans (IFEBP)  report, Workplace Wellness Trends, 2015 survey results. The IFEBP polled 479 employers in October 2014, covering corporate, public, and multi-employer funds in the U.S. and Canada. The statistics discussed in this post refer solely to U.S. organizations included in the study

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Physicians and mobile health – moving from “mobile” to simply “care”

February may be American Heart Month, African-American History Month, and Marfan Syndrome Awareness Month. But based on the volume of studies and reports published in the past two weeks, ’tis also the season for talking mobile health and doctors. This Health Populi post trend-weaves the findings. The big picture for mobile in health is captured by Citrix in its Mobile Analytics Report, dated February 2015. Everyday people are using mobile in work and daily living, blurring the distinctions between the various hats people wear. These roles, whether business or pleasure or life, happen 24×7, enabling through mobile platforms, Citrix found.

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Whole (Health) Foods – the next retail clinic?

Long an advocate for consumer-directed health in his company, John Mackey, co-CEO and co-Founder of Whole Foods Market, is talking about expanding the food chain’s footprint in retail health. “Americans are sick of being sick,” Mackey is quoted in “Whole Foods, Half Off,” a story published in Bloomberg on January 29, 2015. Mackey talks about being inspired by Harris Rosen, a CEO in Florida, who has developed a workplace clinic for employees’ health care that drives high quality, good outcomes, and lower costs. Mackey imagines how Whole Foods could do the same, beginning in its hometown in Austin, TX. He

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Telehealth is in demand, driven by consumer convenience and cost – American Well speaks

Evidence of the rise of retail health grows, with the data point that on-demand health care is in-demand by 2 in 3 U.S. adults. American Well released the Telehealth Index: 2015 Consumer Survey, revealing an American health public keen on video visits with doctors as a viable alternative to visiting the emergency room. Virtual visits are especially attractive to people who have children living at home. [For context, this survey defines “telehealth” as a remote consultation between doctor and patient]. Convenience drives most peoples’ interest in telehealth: saving time and money, not leaving home if feeling unwell, and “avoiding germs

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People in consumer-directed health plans are — surprise! — getting more consumer-directed

People with more financial skin in the health care game are more likely to act more cost-consciously, according to the latest Employee Benefits Research Institute (EBRI) poll on health engagement, Findings from the 2014 EBRI/Greenwald & Associates Consumer Engagement in Health Care Survey published in December 2014. Health benefit consultants introduced consumer-directed health plans, assuming that health plan members would instantly morph in to health care consumers, seeking out information about health services and self-advocating for right-priced and right-sized health services. However, this wasn’t the case in the early era of CDHPs. Information about the cost and quality of health care services was scant,

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Building the health ecosystem: new bedfellows coming together

2015 is already becoming a year where bedfellows of different stripes are joining together to build a health care ecosystem well beyond hospitals, doctors and health plans. Announcements launched last week at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, and coming out this week at the J.P. Morgan Conference in San Francisco, the first two weeks of 2015 reveal that new entrants and legacy health stakeholders are crossing corporate and cultural chasms to (try and) solve challenges that prevent us from getting to that Holy Grail of The Triple Aim: improving health care outcomes, driving down per capita costs,

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Getting real about consumer demand for wearables: Accenture slows us down

Are you Feelin’ Groovy about wearables? Well slow down, you move too fast… …at least, according to Accenture’s latest survey into consumers’ perspectives on new technologies, published this week in conjunction with the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the largest annual convention in the U.S. featuring technology for people. At #CES2015, we’re seeing a rich trove of blinged-out, multi-sensor, shiny new wearable things at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show. Swarovski crystals are paired with Misfit Wearables, called the Swarovski Shine, shown here as a shiny new thing, indeed. Withings launched its Activite fitness tracking watch in new colors.

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The Internet of Healthy Me – putting digital health in context for #CES2015

Men are from Mars and Women, Venus, when it comes to managing health and using digital tools and apps, based on a poll conducted by A&D Medical, who will be one of several hundred healthcare companies exhibiting at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show this week in Las Vegas. Digital health, connected homes and cars, and the Internet of Things (IoT) will prominently feature at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week. I’ll be attending this mega-conference, meeting up with digital health companies and platform providers that will enable the Internet of Healthy “Me” — consumers’ ability to self-track,

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PwC on wearables – the health opportunity is huge, but who will pay?

“A wearable future is around the corner,” PwC says. So it’s appropriate the consulting firm’s new report is indeed titled The Wearable Future. Wearable technologies — smartwatches, sensor-laden workout gear, activity tracking wristbands, and Google Glass, among them — are more than individual tracking and information devices. They’re part of a larger ecosystem called The Internet of Things (IoT), which is made of lots of stuff, each ‘thing’ incorporating a sensor that measures something. Those measurements can track virtually everything that someone does throughout the day: beyond the obvious steps taken, hours slept, and GPS coordinates, sensors can sense movement

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Health-wear – at Health 2.0, health met fashion, function and care

Wearables met health and medicine at the 8th annual Health 2.0 Conference in Santa Clara, CA, last week. I had the real pleasure of shepherding a wearables panel of five innovators during the conference, in a well-attended session followed by an energetic Q&A. The organizations who demonstrated their tools and brainstormed the wearables market included, in alphabetical order, Atlas Wearables, Heartmath, MySugr, SunSprite and Withings. I hasten to add that among the five presenters, two were women: that 2 in 5 = 40% gender representation is, happily to my way of thinking about women’s roles in health-making, a very good

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Employers engaging in health engagement

Expecting health care cost increases of 5% in 2015, employers in the U.S. will focus on several tactics to control costs: greater offerings of consumer-directed health plans, increasing employee cost-sharing, narrowing provider networks, and serving up wellness and disease management programs. The National Business Group on Health’s Large Employers’ 2015 Health Plan Design Survey finds employers committed to health engagement in 2015 as a key strategy for health benefits. More granularly, addressing weight management, smoking cessation, physical activity, and stress reduction, will be top priorities, shown in the first chart. An underpinning of engagement is health care consumerism — which

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Dialing Dr. Verizon – the telecomms company launches virtual house calls

Expanding its wireless footprint in health care, Verizon, the telecommunications company, announced the start of Verizon Virtual Visits today. The program will be marketed to employers and health plans to enable patients to see doctors at home or when traveling, via Verizon’s wireless network. I spoke with Christine Izui, Verizon’s quality officer, mobile health solution, earlier this week about Virtual Visits. We discussed the market forces that support the growth of telehealth and, in particular, physician visits “anywhere:” There is an under-supply and poor distribution of primary care doctors and certain specialties around the U.S. Employers and health plan sponsors are

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Wearable tech + the workplace: driving employee health

Employer wellness programs are growing in the U.S., bundled with consumer-directed plans and health savings accounts. A wellness company’s work with employee groups is demonstrating that workers who adopt mobile health technologies — especially “wearables” coupled with smartphone apps — helps change behavior and drive health outcomes. Results of one such program are summarized in Wearables at Work, a technical brief from Vitality, a joint venture of Humana and Discovery Ltd., published April 23, 2014. Vitality has been working in workplace wellness since 2005, first using pedometers to track workers’ workouts. In 2008, Vitality adopted the Polar heart rate monitor for

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Zero kilometers and the future of food

I have seen the future of food and it is in Italy at a grocery chain called Conad, which launched a locavore-focused brand called Sapori & Dintorni. Here in Florence, Italy, where I’m spending a week’s holiday with my family, we stay in an apartment in the Oltrarno – just south of the Arno River, up a short hill from the southern tip of the Ponte Vecchio, the old bridge known for its gold and silver jewelry. But the real gem in this neighborhood is that grocery store, whose Sapori & Dintorni label represents food sourced from Italy’s great food

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Why a grocery chain supports health data liquidity

The CEO of a family-owned grocery store chain wrote a letter to New York State lawmakers to support $65 million worth of spending on a computer system for health information in the state. That grocer is Danny Wegman, and that project is the Statewide Health Information Network, aka SHIN-NY. In his letter beginning, “Dear New York Legislator,” Wegman identifies several benefits he expects would flow out of the health IT project: 1. Improve health care for all New Yorkers 2. Lower health care costs, through reducing hospital readmission rates and reducing duplicate testing. 3. Lead to health data “liquidity” (my

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The digital health bubble – is it about to burst? #SXSW

That’s a useful and timely question, given the news that Castlight Health will launch its IPO with valuations north of $1 billion. Yes, “billions,” and according to a  MarketWatch analysis, “it’s a bargain at $1 billion.” So then – do we anticipate a bubble? asked Marc Monseau of the Mint Collective, the convener of our panel who brought together Robert Stern, a successful health-tech entrepreneur whose latest venture, @PointofCare, focuses on patient engagement; Marco Smit of Next Innovation Health Partners (parting from the Health 2.0 Conference family where he led Health 2.0 Advisors for several years); and me. Some key

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Employers spending more on wellness in 2014, with growing focus on food

Employers continue to invest in wellness programs aimed at improving employees’ health. In 2014, 3 in 4 employers plan to offer incentives to employees who participate in health improvement programs compared = and the financial value of these incentives has grown to $500, up from $338 in 2010. In its fifth year, the National Business Group on Health (NBGH)/Fidelity Investments have conducted their benefit consulting survey, culminating in the report, Employer Investments in Improving Employee Health. In the past 5 years, employers have increased their investments in wellness: the chart illustrates the growth of programs addressing physical activity/weight management and health eating,

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Patient engagement and mobile health – design and timing matter

Thinking about personal health information technology – the wearable devices, remote health monitors, digital weight scales, and Bluetooth-enabled medical equipment scaled for the home – there are two glasses. One is half-full and the other, half-empty. The half-full glass is the proliferation of consumer-facing devices like Fitbit, Jawbone and Nike, which comprise the lion’s market share in the health wearables segment; the mass adoption of mobile phones and tablets; consumers’ multi-screen media behavior (as tracked by Nielsen); and consumers’ growing share of medical spending, now about 40% of annual spending (or something north of $8,000 for a family of four

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The new retail health: Bertolini of Aetna connects dots between the economy and health consumers

3 in 4 people in America will buy health care at retail with a subsidy within just a few years, according to Mark Bertolini, CEO of Aetna. Bertolini was the first keynote speaker this week at the 2014 HIMSS conference convened in Orlando. Bertolini’s message was grounded in health economics 101 (about which frequent readers of Health Populi are accustomed to hearing). A healthy community drives a healthy local economy, and healthier people are more economically satisfied, Bertolini explained. The message: health care can move from being a cost driver to being an economic engine. But getting to a healthy

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Watson goes wellness

IBM’s data analytics engine Watson, having cut its teeth on complex health care conditions like cancer, is now entering an even more challenging space: wellness. Why is wellness more challenging? Because understanding a person’s wellness goes beyond mining data from health care claims silos in hospitals, pharmacies, and physicians’ electronic health records. Wellness happens where we live, work, play and pray. Wellness is nurtured through choices made every day at home, in the workplace, and at moments-of-truth in the grocery store and restaurant where slick marketing messages planted in our subconscious compete with our more rational minds that tell us to

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Do People Really Want To Tech Their Health? in Huffington Post

This post appeared in my Huffington Post column on January 16, 2013. In the afterglow of the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), away from the neon lights of Las Vegas, 4D curved TV screens, and uber-hip Google Glass wearers, a big question remains: Do we, the people, really want to tech our way to self-health? The number of digital health companies exhibiting at CES grew by 40 percent, exceeding 300 based on the count of the International Consumer Electronics Association, sponsor of the event. The hockey-stick growth of “wearable technology” seen at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show begs the question: Are there

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Schizo about smoking

There’s truly good news for public health about smoking: January 11th marked the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health. That’s five decades’ worth of progress raising peoples’ awareness about the toxic impact of nicotine and chemicals embodied in cigarettes, and deleterious impacts on health and the economy. As a result, smoking rates have been cut in half since 1964, as the downward-sloping graph illustrates. With that happy news in my subconscious, I took a long walk, tracked by my digital device, through the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas last week, bound for the 2014 Consumer Electronics

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Health Care Everywhere at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show

When the head of the Consumer Electronics Association gives a shout-out to the growth of health products in his annual mega-show, attention must be paid. The #2014CES featured over 300 companies devoted to “digital health” as the CEA defines the term. But if you believe that health is where we live, work, play, and pray, then you can see health is almost everywhere at the CES, from connected home tech and smart refrigerators to autos that sense ‘sick’ air and headphones that amplify phone messages for people with hearing aids, along with pet activity tracking devices like the Petbit. If

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Wear It Well – Fashion Mashes Up With Health At #CES2014

Madame Onassis got nothing on you, Rod Stewart complimented in his hit You Wear It Well in 1972. Now we can all wear it well, based on the fashion-meets-health-mashups at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show. Several events underline this observation at the CES this year: – Fitbit has signed up Tory Burch to put her mark accessorizing the company’s activity trackers – The CSR Bluetooth smart pendant was designed with the chic jeweler Cellini; the device can receive alerts from an iPhone (think: medication adherence, or a message from mom in Florida). This is featured in the first photo. –

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3 Things I Know About Health Care in 2014

We who are charged with forecasting the future of health and health care live in a world of scenario planning, placing bets on certainties (what we know we know), uncertainties (what we know we don’t know), and wild cards — those phenomena that, if they happen in the real world, blow our forecasts to smithereens, forcing a tabula rasa for a new-and-improved forecast. There are many more uncertainties than certainties challenging the tea leaves for the new year, including the changing role of health insurance companies and how they will respond to the Affordable Care Act implementation and changing mandates

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Employers will strongly focus on costs in health benefit plans for 2014; so must consumers

Employers who sponsor health insurance in America are at a fork on a cloudy road: they know that they’re in the midst of changes happening in the U.S. health system. Except for one certainty: that health care costs too much. So employers’ plans for health benefits in 2014 strongly focus on getting a return-on-investment from health spending in an uncertain climate, according to Deloitte’s 2013 Survey of U.S. Employers. Key findings are that: Employers will grow their use of workers’ cost-sharing, continuing to shift more financial responsibility onto employees They will expand other tactics they believe will help address cost

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Color us stressed – how to deal

Coast-to-coast, stress is the modus vivendi for most Americans: 55% of people feel stressed in every day life, according to a study from Televox. A Stressful Nation: Americans Search for a Healthy Balance paints a picture of a nation of physically inactive people working too hard and playing too little. And far more women feel the stress than men do. 64% of people say they’re stressed during a typical workday. 52% of people see stress negatively impacting their lives. And nearly one-half of people believe they could better manage their stress. As a result, physicians say that Americans are experiencing negative

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Mobile health apps – opportunity for patients and doctors to co-create the evidence

There are thousands of downloadable apps that people can use that touch on health. But among the 40,000+ mobile health apps available in iTunes, which most effectively drive health and efficient care? To answer that question, the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics analyzed 43,689 health, fitness and medical apps in the Apple iTunes store as of June 2013. These split into what IMS categorized as 23,682 “genuine” health care apps, and 20,007 falling into miscellaneous categories such as product-specific apps, fashion and beauty, fertility, veterinary, and apps with “gimmicks” (IMS’s word) with no obvious health benefit. Among the 23,682 so-called

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Innovating and thriving in value-based health – collaboration required

In health care, when money is tight, labor inputs like nurses and doctors stretched, and patients wanting to be treated like beloved Amazon consumers, what do you do? Why, innovate and thrive. This audacious Holy Grail was the topic for a panel II moderated today at the Connected Health Symposium, sponsored by Partners Heathcare, the Boston health system that includes Harvard’s hospitals and other blue chip health providers around the region. My panelists were 3 health ecosystem players who were not your typical discussants at this sort of meeting: none wore bow ties, and all were very entrepreneurial: Jeremy Delinsky

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The new era of consumer health risk management: employers “migrate” risk

The current role of health insurance at work is that it’s the “benefits” part of “compensation and benefits.” Soon, benefits will simply be integrated into “compensation and compensation.” That is, employers will be transferring risk to employees for health care. This will translate into growing defined contribution and cost-shifting to employees. Health care sponsorship by employers is changing quite quickly, according to the 2013 Aon Hewitt Health Care Survey published in October 2013. Aon found that companies are shifting to individualized consumer-focused approaches that emphasize wellness and “health ownership” by workers to bolster behavior change and, ultimately, outcomes. The most

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Economics of obesity and heart disease: We, the People, can bend the curves

The “O” word drives health costs in America ever-upward. Without bending the obesity curve downward toward healthy BMIs, America won’t be able to bend that stubborn cost curve, either. The Economic Impacts of Obesity report from Alere Wellbeing accounts for the costs of chronic diseases and how high obesity rates play out in the forms of absenteeism, presenteeism, and direct health care costs to employers, workers and society-at-large. Among the 10 costliest physical health conditions, the top 3 are angina, hypertension and diabetes — all related to obesity and amenable to lifestyle behavior change. The top-line numbers set the context:

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7 Women and 1 Man Talking About Life, Health and Sex – Health 2.0 keeping it real

Women and binge drinking…job and financial stress…sleeplessness…caregiving challenges…sex…these were the topics covered in Health 2.0 Conference’s session aptly called “The Unmentionables.” The panel on October 1, 2013, was a rich, sobering and authentic conversation among 7 women and 1 man who kept it very real on the main stage of this mega-meeting that convenes health technology developers, marketers, health providers, insurers, investors, patient advocates, and public sector representatives (who, sadly, had to depart for Washington, DC, much earlier than intended due to the government shutdown). The Unmentionables is the brainchild of Alexandra Drane and her brilliant team at the Eliza

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The slow economy is driving slower health spending; but what will employers do?

By 2022, $1 in every $5 worth of spending in the U.S. will go to health care in some way, amounting to nearly $15,000 for each and every person in America. From biggest line item on down, health spending will go to payments to: Hospitals, representing about 32% of all spending Physicians and clinical costs, 20% of spending Prescription drugs, 9% of spending Nursing, continuing care, and home health care, together accounting for over 8% of health spending (added together for purposes of this analysis) Among other categories like personal care, durable medical equipment, and the cost of health insurance.

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Defining Mobile Health – the blur between health and health care

Mobilising Healthcare, a new report from Juniper Research, segments the mobile health sector into “healthcare” and “health & fitness” segments. The research summary notes that fitness is a relatively new market compared with health “care,” which has been around for eons. Fitness, the analysts say, “is exempt from government intervention.” Mobile healthcare (“mHealth”) applications explored include SMS health messaging, remote health provision such as cardiac monitoring, electronic health records and personal health records. In mFitness, Juniper looks into mobile tech for athletes and fitness conscious people, and activity tracking including heart function, distance, respiration, and perspiration, among other parameters. mHealth

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HSAs for Dummies: improving health insurance literacy

Most Americans don’t understand what a health savings account (HSA) is – including people who are enrolled in the plans. While health literacy is generally acknowledged to be a public health challenge in America, health insurance literacy is not well recognized. Yet in the emerging consumer-directed health plan era of U.S. health care, peoples’ lack of understanding of health financial accounts will get in the way of people who really need care seeking care at the right time. This leads to greater health spending later when the consumer-patient can develop a health condition that could have been prevented (say, pre-diabetes

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Working for health care in 2013: workers’ health insurance cost burden still grows faster than wages

Insurance premium costs grew 4% for families between 2012 and 2013, with workers now bearing 39% of health premiums in 2013 compared with only 26% ten years ago, in 2003. That’s a 50% increase in health plan premium “burden” for working families, by my calculation. This snapshot of health insurance in 2013 comes to us from the 2013 Employer Health Benefits Survey, provided by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) and the Health Research & Educational Trust (HRET). This research is one of the most important annual reports to hit the health care industry every year, and this year’s analysis provides strategic context

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Cost prevents people from seeking preventive health care

3 in 4 Americans say that out-of-pocket costs are the main reason they decide whether or not to seek preventive care, in A Call for Change: How Adopting a Preventive Lifestyle Can Ensure a Healthy Future for More Americans from TeleVox, the communications company, published in June 2013. TeleVox surveyed over 1,015 U.S. adults 18 and over. That’s the snapshot on seeking care externally: but U.S. health consumers aren’t that self-motivated to undertake preventive self-care separate from the health system, either, based on TeleVox’s finding that 49% of people say they routinely exercise, and 52% say they’ve attempted to improve eating habits.

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Urgent care centers: if we build them, will all patients come?

Urgent care centers are growing across the United States in response to emergency rooms that are standing-room-only for many patients trying to access them. But can urgent care centers play a cost-effective, high quality part in stemming health care costs and inappropriate use of ERs for primary care. That’s a question asked and answered by The Surge in Urgent Care Centers: Emergency Department Alternative or Costly Convenience? from the Center for Studying Health System Change by Tracy Yee  et. al. The Research Brief defines urgent care centers (UCCs) as sites that provide care on a walk-in basis, typically during regular

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What to expect from health care between now and 2018

Employers who provide health insurance are getting much more aggressive in 2013 and beyond in terms of increasing employees’ responsibilities for staying well and taking our meds, shopping for services based on cost and value, and paying doctors based on their success with patients’ health outcomes and quality of care. Furthermore, nearly one-half expect that technologies like telemedicine, mobile health apps, and health kiosks in the back of grocery stores and pharmacies are expected to change the way people regularly receive health care. What’s behind this? Increasing health care costs, to be sure, explains the 18th annual survey from the National

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Money and health, migraines and sleep: how stress directly impacts health and wealth

There’s an issue that doctors and patients don’t discuss that’s among the most important contributors to ill health: it’s money, and it’s something Alexandra Drane calls an “Unmentionable.” Alex, Founder, Chief Visionary, and Board Chair at Eliza Corporation, coined Unmentionables as those aspects of daily living which everyone deals with, but few like to talk about: like sex (whether too much, too little), drugs (abusing), drinking (too much), toileting problems (such as incontinence or pooping problems), sleep trouble, and caring for others (not ourselves so much). These daily life challenges can negatively impact health, with financial stress being one of

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As health cost increases moderate, consumers will pay more: will they seek less expensive care?

While there is big uncertainty about how health reform will roll out in 2014, and who will opt into the new (and improved?) system, health cost growth will slow to 6.5% signalling a trend of moderating medical costs in America. Even though more newly-insured people may seek care in 2014, the costs per “unit” (visit, pill, therapy encounter) should stay fairly level – at some of the lowest levels since the U.S. started to gauge national health spending in 1960. That’s due to “the imperative to do more with less has paved the way for a true transformation of the

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As Account-Based Health Plans Grow, Will Americans Save More in Health Accounts?

The only type of health plan whose membership grew in 2012 was the consumer-directed health plan (CDHP), according to a survey from Mercer, the benefits advisors. Two-thirds of large employers expect to offer CDHPs by 2018, five years from now. 40% of all employers (small and large) anticipate offering a CDHP in five years. The growth in CDHPs going forward will be increasingly motivated by the impending “Cadillac tax” that will be levied on companies that currently offer relatively rich health benefits. Furthermore, Mercer foresees that employers will also expand wellness and health management programs with the goal of reducing health

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The emerging economy for consumer health and wellness

The notion of consumers’ greater skin in the game of U.S. health care — and the underlying theory of rational economic men and women that would drive people to greater self-care — permeated the agenda of the 2nd annual Consumer Health & Wellness Innovation Summit, chaired by Lisa Suennen of Psilos Ventures. Lisa kicked off the meeting providing a wellness market landscape, describing the opportunity that is the ‘real’ consumer-driven health care: people getting and staying well, and increasing participation in self-management of chronic conditions. The U.S. health system is transforming, she explained, with payors beginning to look like computer

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Consumer-directed health isn’t always so healthy

Giving health consumers more skin in the game doesn’t always lead to them making sound health decisions. Over four years in consumer-directed health plans, enrollees used one-quarter fewer visits to doctors every year and filled one fewer prescription drugs. CDHP members also received fewer recommended cancer screenings, and visited the emergency room more often. These rational health consumer theory-busting findings were published in the June 2013 issue of the Health Affairs article, Consumer-Directed Health Plans Reduce The Long-Term Use of Outpatient Physician Visits And Prescription Drugs by Paul Fronstin of the Employee Benefit Research Institute and colleagues from IBM and RxEconomics,

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Wellness at work – Virgin tells it all

Health, happiness and engagement among employees are closely-linked and drive productivity in the workplace. But there’s a gap between the kind of wellness services employers offer workers to bolster health, and the programs that people actually want. The current state of employer wellness programs is described in a survey conducted by Virgin HealthMiles and Workforce, The Business of Healthy Employees: A Survey of Workplace Health Priorities, published in June 2013. There’s a gap between what workers want for wellness and what employers are offering. Most-demanded by workers are health on-site food choices desired by 79% of employees; but, only 33%

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Most employers will provide health insurance benefits in 2014…with more costs for employees

Nearly 100% of employers are likely to continue to provide health insurance benefits to workers in 2014, moving beyond a “wait and see” approach to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). As firms strategize tactics for a post-ACA world, nearly 40% will increase emphasis on high-deductible health plans with a health savings account, 43% will increase participants’ share of premium costs, and 33% will increase in-network deductibles for plan members. Two-thirds of U.S. companies have analyzed the ACA’s cost impact on their businesses but need to know more, according to the 2013 survey from the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans (IFEBP).

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Un-directed Americans in a consumer-directed healthcare world

U.S. employers have been implementing various flavors of consumer-directed health plans for the better part of a decade. But consumers feel neither “directed” nor especially competent in managing their way through these plans. It appears that employers also have their own sort of health plan illiteracy when it comes to understanding health reform — the Affordable Care Act — according to the 2013 Aflac WorkForces Report (AWR) based on a survey of 1,900 benefits managers and over 5,200 U.S. workers conducted in January 2013. While you might know the Aflac Duck, you may not be aware that Aflac is the

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Health cost transparency comes to Cummins Engine

I can think of 3 reasons why workers at Cummins Engine are blessed: They are employed. They receive health insurance from their employer. They are about to be able to access a tool designed to help them become better health care consumers. Cummins, based in Columbus, Indiana (far from Silicon Valley), has 24,000 employees and dependents who will be covered by this plan. The company ranked 186 on the Fortune list and has 46,000 employees worldwide. So the firm’s health spending would be in the range of many millions of dollars. I found the company’s employee health plan HealthSpan offering

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Food = Health for employers, hospitals, health plans and consumers

Food is inextricably bound up with health whether we are well or not. Several key area of the Food=Health ecosystem made the news this week which, together, will impact public and personal health. On the employer health benefits front, more media are covering the story on CVS strongly incentivizing employees to drop body mass index (BMI) through behavioral economics-inspired health plan design of a $50 peer month penalty. Michelin, whose bulky advertising icon Bibendum has more than one “spare tire,” introduced a program to combat health issues, including but not limited to BMI and high blood pressure, according to the

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The value of big data in health care = $450 billion

  Exploiting Big Data in industry is Big News these days, and nowhere is the potential for leveraging the concept greater than in health care. McKinsey & Company estimates that harnessing big data across five dimensions of health care could yield nearly one-half trillion dollars’ worth of value in The ‘big data’ revolution in healthcare. The chart summarizes McKinsey’s calculations on the value of Big Data in health care at its maximum. Before digging into the value potential, just what is Big Data in health care? Statistics and information are generated in the health care system about patients: say, during visits

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The Rationale for CVS “Sticking” (vs. “Carroting”) It To Employees for Wellness

The Boston Herald was one of the first newspapers talking about CVS requiring workers to disclose personal health information…”or pay a $600 a year fine,” as the LA Times succinctly put the situation. The story is that CVS Caremark, the pharmacy and Rx benefits management company, is implementing a health screening program to measure height, weight, body fat, and blood pressure. These metrics are commonly collected in the process known as health risk appraisals (HRAs), which most large employers have begun to implement to help employees prevent the onset of chronic disease (think: “metabolic syndrome,” diabetes combined with overweight, for

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Arianna and Lupe and Deepak and Sanjay – will the cool factor drive mobile health adoption?

Digital health is attracting the likes of Bill Clinton, Lupe Fiasco, Deepak Chopra, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Arianna Huffington, and numerous famous athletes who rep a growing array of activity trackers, wearable sensors, and mobile health apps. Will this diverse cadre of popular celebs drive consumer adoption of mobile health? Can a “cool factor” motivate people to try out mobile health tools that, over time, help people sustain healthy behaviors? Mobile and digital health is a fast-growing, good-news segment in the U.S. macroeconomy. The industry attracted more venture capital in 2012 than other health sectors, based on Rock Health’s analysis of the year-in-review. Digital health

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The Sitting Disease: health is growing at SXSW

If it’s March, it must be time for South by Southwest (SXSW), the annual conference weaving music, film and interactive tracks of speakers and conferees that overcrowds and excites Austin, Texas, with a cool vibe and even cooler ideas. I’ll be participating on Sunday 10 March 2013 at 5 pm on a panel, Sitting Will Kill You: Can Mobile Save Us?, featuring Fran Melmed, developer of the HotSeat app that nudges us to all Get Up Offa Our Things when living our typical sedentary lives; Peter Katzmarzyk, public health researcher who knows all about the relationship between too much sitting

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Bill Clinton’s public health, cost-bending message thrills health IT folks at HIMSS

In 2010, the folks who supported health care reform were massacred by the polls, Bill Clinton told a rapt audience of thousands at HIMSS13 yesterday. In 2012, the folks who were against health care reform were similarly rejected. President Clinton gave the keynote speech at the annual HIMSS conference on March 6, 2013, and by the spillover, standing-room-only crowd in the largest hall at the New Orleans Convention Center, Clinton was a rock star. Proof: with still nearly an hour to go before his 1 pm speech, the auditorium was already full with only a few seats left in the

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Lower calories are good business

The restaurant chain business employs 10% of U.S. workers and accounts for $660 bn worth of the national economy. Where restaurant chains are growing fastest is in serving up lower-calorie meals, and it’s been a boon to the bottom-line. The case for lower calories leading to better business is made in Lower-Calorie Foods: It’s Just Good Business from the Hudson Institute‘s Obesity Solutions Initiative, published February 2013. In the report, researchers analyzed nitty-gritty restaurant chain data on servings and traffic from 2006-2011 to sort out whether sales of so-called lower-calorie menu items in 21 chains led to improved business. The chains

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The flu shot economy

4 in 10 Americans got flu shots in this epidemic season, and most of these didn’t receive their immunization in their doctor’s office. The Flu Vaccination Survey from Ipsos Public Affairs, conducted in January 2013, paints a picture of U.S. health consumers who are project managing their personal approaches to preventing the flu in this historically hard-hitting flu season. The most expressed demand for flu shots has been among people 55 and over, one-half of whom have received vaccinations, with the lowest use been in the 25-35 year age group. Geographically, the most covered health citizens live in New England

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Health reform, costs and the growing role of consumers: PwC’s tea leaves for 2013

PwC has seen the future of health care for the next year, and the crystal ball expects to see the following: Affordable Care Act implementation, with states playing lead roles The role of dual eligibles Employer’s role in health care benefits Consumers’ role in coverage Consumers’ ratings impact on health care Transforming health delivery Population health management Bring your own device Pharma’s changing value proposition The medical device industry & tax impact. In their report, Top health industry issues of 2013: picking up the pace on health reform, PwC summarizes these expectations as a “future [that] includes full implementation of

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Retail and work-site clinics – medical homes for younger adults?

The use of retail and work-site health clinics is up, and their consumers skew young. Overall, 27% of all U.S. adults have stepped into a walk-in clinic in the past two years. But only 15% of people 65 and over have used such a clinic. This begs the question: are retail and on-site clinics at the workplace filling the role of medical homes for younger adult Americans? The Harris Interactive/HealthDay poll published in January 2013 discovered that use of retail clinics grew from 7% in 2008 to 27% in 2012. The largest age cohort using walk-in clinics is people between

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We are all health deputies in the #digitalhealth era: live from the 2013 Consumer Electronic Show

Reed Tuckson of UnitedHealthGroup was the first panelist to speak at the kickoff of the Digital Health Summit, the fastest-growing aspct of the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show (#2013CES). Tuckson implored the spillover audience to all, “self-deputize as national service agents in health,” recognizing that technology developers in the room at this show that’s focused on developers building Shiny New Digital Things have much to bring to health. As Andrew Thompson of Proteus Medical (the “invisible pill” company) said, “we can’t bend the health care cost curve; we have to break it.” This pioneering panel was all about offering new-new technologies

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New Year’s Resolutions for health, and the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show

When it comes to taking on personal responsibility, the #1 New Year’s Resolution is to engage in fitness and exercise, cited by 43% of U.S. adults, followed by healthy eating, noted by 37% of people. Other resolutions involving personal responsibility are Family (26%) Spirituality and faith (22%) Managing personal finances (22%. This survey was undertaken as part of Liberty Mutual’s The Responsibility Project (RP), which is taglined: “Explore what it means to do the right thing.” Launched in 2008, Liberty Mutual’s RP has been diving into the many aspects of daily living for which we, each of us, could take responsibility…including

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Food and health: information is not doing the job as the U.S. continues its obesity march

Notwithstanding the fact that most phones on U.S. streets are “smart” ones, most adults surf the net for health information, and most people try to change a health habit each year, Americans haven’t adopted healthier long-term relationships with food. The International Food Information Council has conducted the Food & Health Survey: Consumer Attitudes Toward Food, Safety, Nutrition & Health poll since 2006, thus enabling us to track peoples’ attitudes and behaviors over the past several years. The latest polling results appear in Is it Time to Rethink Nutrition Communications? A 5-Year Retrospective of Americans’ Attitude toward Food, Nutrition, and Health online in

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Small business says stress is the #1 wellness need for employees

Nearly 50% of business start-ups view health and wellness as crucial to employee recruitment and retention. 31% of start-ups under 10 years of age have adopted wellness programs. Furthermore, 3 in 4 small companies that offer wellness programs say they positively impact the businesses’ bottom-lines. Nonetheless, more than one-half of small business — companies with fewer than 100 employees — say that there isn’t enough information available that focuses squarely on wellness in small business. These findings come from Workplace Wellness Programs in Small Business: Impacting the Bottom Line, a report from the National Small Business Association (NSBA) and Humana, details findings

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Wired health: living by numbers – a review of the event

Wired magazine, longtime evangelist for all-things-tech, has played a growing role in serving up health-tech content over the past several years, especially through the work of Thomas Goetz. This month, Wired featured an informative section on living by numbers — the theme of a new Wired conference held 15-16 October 2012 in New York City. This feels like the week of digital health on the east coast of the U.S.: several major meetings have convened that highlight the role of technology — especially, the Internet, mobile platforms, and Big Data — on health. Among the meetings were the NYeC Digital Health conference, Digital

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U.S. health insurance updates from Kaiser, EBRI and the Census Bureau; uninsurance related to poor health

The average annual premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance in 2012 are double what they were a decade ago in terms of both total premium and worker contribution increases. The picture shows the story, according to the 2012 Employer Health Benefits Survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF). This annual survey polls small, mid-size and large employers to assess their updates for providing health insurance and prescription drug coverage to active and retired employees. The percentage growth of health costs in the past year were a “modest” 4%, according to KFF. Modest is a relative term: this single digit increase is indeed much

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Employers grow onsite health clinics, and employer-sponsored telemedicine will grow

With “Zero” large employers expecting to drop health insurance, as reported in the Washington Post, companies are getting creative and innovative about how to manage workers’ health and wellness, while addressing ever-growing costs. One strategy that’s getting more traction is the re-invention of the onsite health center. Towers Watson‘s 2012 Onsite Health Center survey report, finds that one-half of employers view establishing an onsite health center as a linchpin to enhancing productivity and health in the workplace. Following close behind productivity is the onsite health center’s promise of reducing medical costs, improving access to care, and the traditional reason for providing onsite

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Wellness takes hold among large employers – and more sticks nudge workers toward health

Employee benefits make up one-third of employers’ investments in workers, and companies are looking for positive ROI on that spend. Health benefits are the largest component of that spending, and are a major cost-management focus. In 2012 and beyond, wellness is taking center stage as part of employers’ total benefits strategies. In the 2012 Wellness & Benefits Administration Benchmarking study, a new report from bswift, a benefits administration company, the vast majority of large employers (defined as those with over 500 workers) are sponsoring wellness programs, extending them to dependents as well as active workers. Increasingly, sticks accompany carrots for

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The U.S. health consumer is health-finance illiterate, and resistant to linking wellness to health plan costs

Two in 3 employees (62%) can’t estimate how much their employers spend on health benefits. Of those who could estimate the number (which is, on average, about $12,000 according to the 2012 Milliman Medical Index), most weren’t very confident in their guess. Some 23% calculated the monthly spend by employers was less than $500 a month — less than 50% the actual contribution. Thus, most U.S. health consumers don’t fully value the amount of cash their employers spend on their health care, according to a poll from the National Business Group on Health, Perceptions of Health Benefits in a Recovering

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Employees will bear more health costs to 2017 – certainty in an uncertain future

Amidst uncertainties and wild cards about health care’s future in the U.S., there’s one certainty forecasters and marketers should incorporate into their scenarios: consumers will bear more costs and more responsibility for decision making. The 2012 Deloitte Survey of U.S. Employers finds them, mostly, planning to subsidize health benefits for workers over the next few years, while placing greater financial and clinical burdens on the insured and moving more quickly toward high-deductible health plans and consumer-directed plans. In addition, wellness, prevention and targeted population health programs will be adopted by most employers staying in the health care game, shown in

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Why we now need primary care, everywhere

With the stunning Supreme Court 5-4 majority decision to uphold the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), there’s a Roberts’ Rules of (Health Reform) Order that calls for liberating primary care beyond the doctors’ office. That’s because a strategic underpinning of the ACA is akin to President Herbert Hoover’s proverbial “chicken in every pot:” for President Obama, the pronouncement is something like, “a medical home for every American.” But insurance for all doesn’t equate to access: because 32-some million U.S. health citizens buy into health insurance plans doesn’t guarantee every one of them access to a doctor. There’s a

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58% of Americans self-rationing health care due to cost

Since the advent of the Great Recession of 2008, more Americans have been splitting pills, postponing needed visits to doctors, skipping dental care, and avoiding recommended medical tests due to the cost of those health care services. Call it health care self-rationing: the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) has been tracking this trend for the past several years, and the proportion of American adults rationing health demand is up to 58%. This KFF Health Tracking Poll interviewed 1,218 U.S. adults age 18 and older via landline and cell phone in May 2012. As the chart illustrates, 38% of people are “DIYing” health care

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The Online Couch: how “safe Skyping” is changing the relationship for patients and therapists

Skype and videoconferencing have surpassed the tipping point of consumer adoption. Grandparents Skype with grandchildren living far, far away. Soldiers converse daily with families from Afghanistan and Iraq war theatres. Workers streamline telecommuting by videoconferencing with colleagues in geographically distributed offices. In the era of DIY’ing all aspects of life, more health citizens are taking to DIY’ing health — and, increasingly, looking beyond physical health for convenient access to mental and behavioral health services. The Online Couch: Mental Health Care on the Web is my latest paper for the California HealthCare Foundation. Among a range of emerging tech-enabled mental health

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Health costs will increase in 2013, and employees will bear more: can wellness programs help stem the rise?

Health spending will increase by 7.5% in 2013, with employees’ contributions rising for in-network deductibles, prescription drugs and emergency room visits. 3 in 4 employers, seeking to control rising health expenses, will offer wellness programs, even though a vast majority can’t yet measure an ROI on them. The Health and Well-Being: Touchstone Survey Results from PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC). PwC points out that the 7.5% medical cost increase is historically lower than in recent years, as a result of structural changes in the health care market including: A sluggish economy Growing focus on cost containment Lower utilization of health services by patients Employers’ efforts

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Fruits, financial incentives and remote coaching: evidence for behavior change

Increasing intake of fruits and vegetables, coupled with remote health coaching and financial incentives, together help people adopt and maintain healthy behavior changes. This is the conclusion of a randomized controlled trial using mobile technology, published in the May 28, 2012, issue of Archives of Internal Medicine. Dr. Bonnie Spring of Northwestern University’s Department of Preventive Medicine led the study. The researchers developed the trial, called Make Better Choices, to sort out which behavior changes would enable people to reduce major risk factors for cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes. Four combinations were assessed in the intervention among 204 people: Increasing fruit

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The pharmaceutical landscape for 2012 and beyond: balancing cost with care, and incentives for health behaviors

Transparency, data-based pharmacy decisions, incentivizing patient behavior, and outcomes-based payments will reshape the environment for marketing pharmaceutical drugs in and beyond 2012. Two reports published this week, from Express Scripts–Medco and PwC, explain these forces, which will severely challenge Pharma’s mood of market ennui. Express-Scripts Medco’s report on 9 Leading Trends in Rx Plan Management presents findings from a survey of 318 pharmacy benefit decision makers in public and private sector organizations. About one-half of the respondents represented smaller organizations with fewer than 5,000 employees; about 20% represented jumbo companies with over 25,000 workers. The survey was conducted in the

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Employers who offer more flexibility yield healthier workforces

The most flexible workplaces are good for worker’s health: they yield the most engaged workforces, greater job satisfaction, increased commitment to the firm, better mental health and lower indicators of depression. But not all firms are all that flexible, which is the top line of the Family and Work Institute‘s 2012 National Study of Employers (NSE), funded by The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. What makes this survey different from others polling employers is that the NSE looks at the comprehensive array of total benefits offered to employees and their changing needs in terms of family, finance, and social lives. In the past seven years,

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Wellness Ignited! Edelman panel talks about how to build a health culture in the U.S.

Dr. Andrew Weil, the iconic guru of all-things-health, was joined by a panel of health stakeholders at this morning’s Edelman salon discussing Wellness Ignited – Now and Next. Representatives from the American Heart Association, Columbia University, Walgreens, Google, Harvard Business School, and urban media mavens Quincy Jones III and Shawn Ullman, who lead Feel Rich, a health media organization, were joined by Nancy Turett, Edelman’s Chief Strategist of Health & Society, in the mix. Each participant offered a statement about what they do related to health and wellness, encapsulating a trend identified by Jennifer Pfahler, EVP of Edelman. Trend 1: Integrative

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The life-cycle costs of obesity in health and financial terms: the true math

About 50% of women and men in the U.S. are projected to be obese by 2030. The majority of people in America concur that the nation has an obesity problem. What’s been unknown and underestimated is just how much the epidemic is costing the nation in both health and financial terms. On a life-cycle basis, the cost is much greater than previously estimated. Assessing the Economics of Obesity and Obesity Interventions from the Campaign to End Obesity looks at the evidence on the size of the obesity challenge, spending, and interventions available to combat this public health behemoth. “Obesity is not just

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Public health is valued by Americans, but health citizens balance personal responsibility with a Nanny State

While most Americans largely believe in motorcycle helmet laws, seatbelt-wearing mandates, and regulations to reduce sale in packaged foods, most are also concerned about the nation turning into the United States of Nanny. The Harris Interactive/Health Day poll of March 20, 2012, finds a health citizenry “pro” most public and safety regulations, from banning texting while driving to requiring the HPV vaccination (e.g., Gardasil). Specifically, as the chart shows, – 91% of U.S. adults are for banning texting while driving – 86% are for requiring vaccination of young children against mumps, measles, and other diseases – 86% also like to

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Superconsumers and value mining: health care’s uber-trends driving care, everywhere

There’s a shift in power in health care moving away from providers and suppliers like pharma and medical device companies, toward patients and payers. This is the new health world according to Ernst & Young‘s latest Progressions report called, The third place: health care everywhere. What’s underneath this tectonic shift is the need to bend that stubborn cost curve and address public health outcomes through behavior change. E&Y says look for new entrants, like retailers, IT companies, and telecomms, to be part of the solution beyond traditional health care stakeholders. These participants will be part of both delivery of care

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Employers shopping for value in health – Towers Watson/NBGH 2012 survey results

Employers expect total health costs to reach $11,664 per active employee this year, over $700 more than in 2011. Employees’ share of that will be nearly $3,000, the highest contribution by workers in history. In 2012, workers are contributing 34% more to health costs than they did 5 years ago. The metric is that for every $1,000 employers will spend on health care in 2012, workers will pay $344 for premium and out-of-pocket costs. Still, health care cost increases are expected to level off to about 6% in 2012, that’s still twice as great as general consumer price inflation. with

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Consumers are at the center of the business of health and wellness

The market for health and wellness has traditionally included over-the-counter medicines, gym memberships, and vitamins/minerals/supplements. In 2012, the boundaries of health/wellness are blurring beyond these line items toward preventive medical services and consumer electronics. This morphing market is discussed by Cambridge Consultants in their report on the disruptions driving The Business of Health & Wellness: Engaging consumers and making money. Cambridge correctly introduces this analysis by saying that economics, the growing prevalence of chronic diseases, an aging population, and demand consumers are shaping health/wellness, “recharacterizing” the market as one driven by “life events.” Cambridge sees that health consumers are changing their spending

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Workplace wellness: the cost of unhealthy behaviors in the American workforce is $623 per worker

The health status of the American workforce is declining. Every year, unhealthy behaviors of the U.S. workforce cost employers $623 per employee annually, according to the Thomson Reuters Workforce Wellness Index. People point to smoking, obesity and stress as the 3 most important factors impacting health costs. Thomson Reuters and NPR polled over 3,000 Americans on their health behaviors, utilization and costs of health care, publishing their results in a summary, Paying for Unhealthy Behaviors in October 2011. 4 in 5 overall — and 9 in 10 of those with over $50,000 annual income — believe that people with healthy behaviors should receive a

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