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More Patients Morph Into Financially Burdened Health Consumers

Health care payment responsibility continues to shift from employers to employee-patients, More of those patients are morphing into financially burdened health consumers, according to TransUnion, the credit agency and financial risk information company, in the TransUnion Healthcare Report published in June 2016. Patients saw a 13% increase in their health insurance deductible and out-of-pocket (OOP) maximum costs between 2014 and 2015. At the same time, the average base salary in the U.S. grew 3% in 2015, SHRM estimated. Thus, deductibles and OOP costs grew for consumers more than 4 times faster than the average base salary from 2014 to 2015.  In

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Happy Patients, Healthy Margins – the Hard ROI for Patient-Centered Care

Hospital margins can increase 50% if health providers offer patients a better customer experience, Accenture calculates in the paper, Insight Driven Health – Hospitals see link between patient experience and bottom line. Specifically, hospitals with HCAHPS scores of 9 or 10, the highest recommendations a patient can give in the survey, more likely enjoy higher margins (upwards of 8%). The Hospital Computer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey is administered by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and measures patients’ exeperiences in hospital post-discharge. The correlation, simply put, is “Happy Patients, Healthy Margins,” Accenture coined in

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Tying Health IT to Consumers’ Financial Health and Wellness

As HIMSS 2016, the annual conference of health information technology community, convenes in Vegas, an underlying market driver is fast-reshaping consumers’ needs that go beyond personal health records: that’s personal health-financial information and tools to help people manage their growing burden of healthcare financial management. There’s a financial risk-shift happening in American health care, from payers and health insurance plan sponsors (namely, employers and government agencies) to patients – pushing them further into their role as health care consumers. The burden of health care costs weighs heavier on younger U.S. health citizens, based on a survey from the Xerox Healthcare

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Rural Hospitals in America – Health Disparities, Hospital Disparities

Rural hospitals operating in the U.S. have a higher risk of mortality — closure — than other hospitals in America. The U.S. health care landscape is littered with examples of health disparities among the nation’s health citizens – for example, women’s lower access to heart-health care, Latinos’ higher rates of Type 2 Diabetes, and African-Americans’ greater risks of stroke, many cancers, maternal mortality, and many other causes of mortality and diminished health. A report from iVantage, Rural Relevance – Vulnerability to Value, documents the fiscally challenging environment for rural hospitals in America. There are at least 673 facilities at-risk of closure

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Virtual Visits Would Conserve Primary Care Resources in US Healthcare

By shifting primary care visits by 5 minutes, moving some administrative tasks and self-care duties to patients, the U.S. could conserve billions of dollars which could extend primary care to underserved people and regions, hire more PCPs, and drive quality and patient satisfaction. Accenture’s report, Virtual Health: The Untapped Opportunity to Get the Most out of Healthcare, highlights the $10 bn opportunity which translates into conserving thousands of primary care providers. PCPs are in short supply, so virtual care represents a way to conserve precious primary care resources and re-deploy them to their highest-and-best-use. The analysis looks at three scenarios

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The Tricky Journey From Volume To Value In Health Care – Prelude To Health 2.0

By 2018, 90% of health care delivered to people enrolled in Medicare will be paid-for on the basis of quality, not on the amount of services delivered (that is, volume). But as providers must up their game in that new value-oriented health payment world, they are bound up in work flows and organizational structures built for fee-for-service reimbursement. This changing future is discussed in Healthcare’s alternative payment landscape, PwC’s Healthcare Research Institute report on the volume-to-value shift. PwC notes that health care providers’ ability to adapt to changing payment regimes vary and fall into four categories: traditional, lagging, vanguard and

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Bridging a Commercialization and Design Chasm, StartUp Health Allies With Aurora Health Care

Startup Health, the health/care entrepreneur development company which has helped launch over 100 health/tech companies since “starting up” in 2011, announced a collaboration with Aurora Health Care today. This is one of the first ventures of its kind, linking up health/tech entrepreneurs with a health care provider organization as a living lab, or in the words of Unity Stoakes, Startup Health Co-Founder, a “collaboratory.” I spoke with Unity before the announcement went public, and learned that Startup Health sought a partner with shared values focused on getting innovations into patient care that could transform the healthcare delivery system. “Every single

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Telehealth goes retail

In the past couple of weeks, a grocery store launched a telemedicine pilot, a pharmacy chain expanded telehealth to patients in 25 states, and several new virtual healthcare entrants received $millions in investments. On a parallel track, the AMA postponed dealing with medical ethics issues regarding telemedicine, the Texas Medical Association got stopped in its tracks in a case versus Teladoc, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a final rule for the Medicare Shared Savings Program that falls short of allowing Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) to take full advantage of telehealth services. These events beg the

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Consumers seek retail convenience in healthcare financing and payment

Health care consumers face a fragmented and complicated payment landscape after receiving services from hospitals and doctors, and paying for insurance coverage. People want to “view their bills, make a few clicks, pay…and be done,” according to Jamie Kresberg, product manager at Citi Retail Services, a unit of Citibank. He’s quoted in Money Matters: Billing and payment for a New Health Economy from PwC’s Health Research Institute. The healthcare service segment most consumers are satisfied with when it comes to billing and payment is pharmacies, who score well on convenience, affordability, reliability, and seamless transactions – with only transparency being

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Transparency in health care: not all consumers want to look

Financial wellness is integral to overall health. And the proliferation of high-deductible health plans for people covered by both public insurance exchanges as well as employer-sponsored commercial (private sector) plans, personal financial angst is a growing fact-of-life, -health, and -healthcare. Ask any hospital Chief Financial Officer or physician practice manager, and s/he will tell you that “revenue cycle management” and patient financial medical literacy are top challenges to the business. For pharma and biotech companies launching new-new specialty drugs (read: “high-cost”), communicating the value of those products to users — clinician prescribers and patients — is Job #1 (or #2,

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Specialty pharmaceuticals’ costs in the health economic bulls-eye

This past weekend, 60 Minutes’ Leslie Stahl asked John Castellani, the president of PhRMA, the pharmaceutical industry’s advocacy (lobby) organization, why the cost of Gleevec, from Novartis, dramatically increased over the 13 years it’s been in the market, while other more expensive competitors have been launched in the period. (Here is the FDA’s announcement of the Gleevec approval from 2001). Mr. Castellani said he couldn’t respond to specific drug company’s pricing strategies, but in general, these products are “worth it.” Here is the entire transcript of the 60 Minutes’ piece. Today, Health Affairs, the policy journal, is hosting a discussion

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$1 in $5 will go to health care in 2023 – the new health engagement is health cost engagement

National health spending will comprise 19.3% of U.S. gross domestic product in 2023, nearly $1 in $5 of all American spending. This statistic includes the expenditure categories for health spending as defined by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), Office of the Actuary. The number includes hospital care, personal health care, professional services (physicians and other professionals), home health, long term care, retail sales of prescription drugs and durable medical equipment, and investment in capital equipment, among other line items. The forecast was published in Health Affairs article, National Health Expenditure Projections, 2013-23: Faster Growth Expected With Expanded

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We are all self-insured until we get sick – especially if we are women

During my conversation with a prominent pharma industry analyst yesterday, he observed, “As a consumer, you are self-insured until you get sick.” My brain then flashed back to a graph from the 2013 Employer Health Benefits Survey conducted annually by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF). The chart is shown here. It illustrates the upward line indicating that in 2013, 4 in 5 workers were enrolled in a health plan that included an annual deductible. That’s the “self-insurance” part of the observation my astute conversationalist noted. Simply put, when you are enrolled in a high-deductible health plan, You, The Consumer, are responsible for

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The Season of Healthcare Transparency – Consumer Payments and Tools, Part 4

“The surge in HDHP enrollment is causing patients to become consumers of healthcare,” begins a report documenting the rise of patients making more payments to health providers. Patients’ payments to providers have increased 72% since 2011. And, 78% of providers mail paper statements to patients to collect what they’re owed. “HDHPs” are high-deductible health plans, the growing thing in health insurance for consumers now faced with paying for health care first out-of-pocket before their health plan coverage kicks in. And those health consumers’ expectations for convenience in payment methods is causing dissatisfaction, negatively affecting these individuals and their health providers’

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The Season of Healthcare Transparency – Shopping in a World of High Cost and High Variability – Part 2

Yesterday kicked off this week in Health Populi, focusing on the growing role of transparency in health care in America. Today’s post discusses the results from Change Healthcare’s latest Healthcare Transparency Index report, based on data from the fourth quarter of 2013, published in May 2014. Charges for health services — dental, medical and pharmacy – varied by more than 300% in Q42013 — even within a single health network. Change Healthcare found this, based on their national data on 7 million health-covered lives. The company analyzed over 180 million medical claims. The company built the Healthcare Transparency Index (HCTI)

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The Season of Healthcare Transparency – HFMA’s Price Transparency Manifesto – Part 1

As Big Payors continue to shift more costs onto health consumers in the U.S., the importance of and need for transparency grows. 39% of large employers offered consumer-directed health plans (CDHPs) in 2013, and by 2016, 64% of large employers plan to offer CDHPs.  These plans require members to pay first-dollar, out-of-pocket, to reach the agreed deductible, and at the same time manage a health savings account (HSA). In the past several weeks, many reports have published on the subject and several tools to promote consumer engagement in health finance have made announcements. This week of posts provides an update on

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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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Health costs up, credit down: health consumers face tightening credit markets in the face of rising medical costs

People who received health care in the U.S. between the second quarters of 2012 and 2013 faced 38% higher out-of-pocket costs, growing from $1,862 to $2,568 in just one year. These were payments for common procedures like joint replacements, Caesarean sections, and normal births. At the same time, consumers’ access to revolving credit lines fell by $1,000 over the twelve months. (Credit lines here include bank-issued credit cards, store credit cards, and home equity loans). The TransUnion Healthcare Report from TransUnion, the credit information company, paints a picture of tightening money for all consumers in the face of rising household

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Moneytalk: why doctors and patients should talk about health finances

  Money and health are two things most people don’t like to talk about. But if people and their doctors spoke more about health and finance, outcomes (both fiscal and physical) could improve. In late October 2013, Best Practices for Communicating with Patients on Financial Matters were published by the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA). Michael Leavitt, former head of the Department of Health and Human Services, led the year-long development effort on behalf of HFMA, with input from patient advocates, the American Hospital Association, America’s Health Insurance Plans, the American Academy of Family Physicians and the National Patient Advocate Foundation, along

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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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Whither price transparency in health care? The supply side may be growing faster than consumer demand

Online shopping for health care can drive costs down, according to research conducted by HealthSparq, a company that works with health insurance companies to channel health cost information to plan members (that is, consumers). Healthsparq partnered with one of the company’s health insurance company clients to conduct this study, which demonstrated that, over two years, consumers who used an online treatment cost estimator saved money on care for hernia conditions, digestive conditions, and women’s health issues. It’s early days for health care price transparency in health care, but HealthSparq’s findings demonstrate positive evidence that when consumers are offered a tool

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For Medtech, Design is the New Plastics (advice to The Graduate)

Return on innovation in medical technology is on the decline. Med tech needed a GPS for its role in the health ecosystem, and lost its way as it focused on a few wrong priorities. In a $349 billion market, there has been much to lose…and will be to gain. The new world for medical technology and how the industry can turn around is the subject of P2C’s report, Medtech companies prepare for an innovation makeover, published in October 2013 by the PwC Health Research Institute (HRI). The problem has been an addiction to incremental improvements on existing products: think about the analog in

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Taking vitamins can save money and impact the U.S. economy – and personal health

When certain people use certain dietary supplements, they can  save money, according to a report from the Council for Responsible Nutrition and Frost and Sullivan, the analysts. The report is aptly titled, Smart Prevention – Health Care Cost Savings Resulting from the Targeted Use of Dietary Supplements. Its subtitle emphasizes the role of dietary supplements as a way to “combat unsustainable health care cost growth in the United States.” Specifically, the use of eight supplements in targeted individuals who can most benefit from them can save individuals and health systems billions of dollars. The eight money-saving supplements are: > Omega-3 > B

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Consumers’ out-of-pocket health costs rising faster than wages – and a surprising hit from generic drug prices

U.S. health consumers faced greater out-of-pocket health care costs in 2012, especially for outpatient services (think: doctors’ visits) and generic drugs, as presented in The 2012 Health Care Cost and Utilization Report  from the Health Care Cost Institute (HCCI) published in September 2013. At the same time between 2011 and 2012, wages grew about 3%, remaining fairly flat over the past decade as health care costs continued to grow much faster. HCCI found that per capita (per person) out-of-pocket growth for outpatient visits amounted to an average of $118 between 2011 and 2012. But the biggest share of out-of-pocket costs for

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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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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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Health consumers, meet the medical bank

Health consumers, meet a new player in your health care world: the bank. Financial services companies will play a growing role in U.S. health care as patients morph into health care consumers responsible for making more money-based decisions about their health care. This shift could make paying for health care just like paying other bills in the consumer retail market. And that’s a new role for health providers – doctors and hospitals – to fill. The Impact of Growing Patient Financial Responsibility on Healthcare Providers, prepared for Citi Enterprise Payments by Boundary Information Group, discusses what the impact of consumers’ payments in

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The part-time medical home: retail health clinics

The number of retail health clinics will double between 2012 and 2015, according to a research brief from Accenture, Retail medical clinics: From Foe to Friend? published in June 2013. What are the driving market forces promoting the growth of retail clinics? Accenture points to a few key factors: Hospitals’ need to rationalize use of their emergency departments, which are often over-crowded and incorrectly utilized in cases of less-than-acute care. In addition, hospitals are now financially motivated under the Affordable Care Act (ACA, health reform) to reduce readmissions of patients into beds (particularly Medicare patients with acute myocardial infarction [heart attacks],

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U.S. Health Costs vs. The World: Is It Still The Prices, and Are We Still Stupid?

Comparing health care prices in the U.S. with those in other developed countries is an exercise in sticker shock. The cost of a hospital day in the U.S. was, on average, $4,287 in 2012. It was $853 in France, a nation often lauded for its excellent health system and patient outcomes but with a health system that’s financially strapped. A routine office visit to a doctor cost an average of $95 in the U.S. in 2012. The same visit was priced at $30 in Canada and $30 in France, as well. A hip replacement cost $40,364 on average in the

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The Not-So-Affordable Care Act? Cost-squeezed Americans still confused and need to know more

While health care cost growth has slowed nationally, most Americans feel they’re going up faster than usual. 1 in 3 people believe their own health costs have gone up faster than usual, and 1 in 4 feel they’re going out about “the same amount” as usual. For only one-third, health costs feel like they’re staying even. As the second quarter of 2013 begins and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA, aka “health reform” and “Obamacare”) looms nearer, most Americans still don’t understand how the ACA will impact them. Most Americans (57%) believe the law will create a government-run health plan,

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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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A health economics lesson from Jonathan Bush, at the helm of athenahealth

At HIMSS13 there are the equivalent of rock stars. Some of these are health system CIOs and health IT gurus who are driving significant and positive changes in their organizations, like Blackford Middleton, Keith Boone, Brian Ahier, and John Halamka. Others are C-level execs at health IT companies. In this latter group, many avoid the paparazzi (read: health trade reporters) and stay cocooned behind closed doors in two-story pieces of posh real estate on the exhibition floor. A few walk the floor, shake hands with folks, and take in the vibe of the event. We’ll call them open-source personalities. The

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Digital health investment: greenhousing innovation and the accelerator

Traditional venture capital in health care is so 2010: welcome to The Greenhouse Effect: How Accelerators Are Seeding Digital Health Innovation, explained in a new report from California HealthCare Foundation written by Aaron Apodaca. Aaron clearly explains the growing interest in and influence of health accelerators, which grew out of the first era of the Internet (read: dot-com bust v 1.0) and the founding of the Y Combinator, an internet incubator that made relatively small investments in exchange for equity positions in start-ups. Health accelerators emerged around 2011, first with Rock Health in San Francisco, which was quickly followed by

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Required reading: TIME Magazine’s Bitter Pill Cover Story

Today’s Health Populi is devoted to Steven Brill and his colleagues at TIME magazine whose special report, Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us, is required reading for every health citizen in the United States. Among many lightbulb moments for readers, key findings from the piece are: Local hospitals are beloved charities to people who live in their market – Brill calls these institutions “Non-Profit Profitmakers). They’re the single most politically powerful player in most Congressional districts The poor and less affluent more often pay the high chargemaster (“retail list”) price for health products and services vs. the wealthy

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Butter over guns in the minds of Americans when it comes to deficit cutting

Americans have a clear message for the 113th Congress: I want my MTV, but I want my Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security,   health insurance subsidies, and public schools. These budget-saving priorities are detailed in The Public’s Health Care Agenda for the 113th Congress, conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Harvard School of Public Health, published in January 2013. The poll found that a majority of Americans placed creating health insurance exchanges/marketplaces at top priority, compared with other health priorities at the state level. More people support rather than oppose Medicaid expansion, heavily weighted toward 75%

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Call them hidden, direct or discretionary, health care costs are a growing burden on U.S. consumers

Estimates on health spending in the U.S. are under-valued, according to The hidden costs of U.S. health care: Consumer discretionary health care spending, an analysis by Deloitte’s Center for Health Solutions. Health spending in the U.S. is aggregated in the National Health Expenditure Accounts (NHEA), assembled by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). In 2010, the NHEA calculated that $2.6 trillion were spent on health care based on the categories they “count” for health spending. These line items include: Hospital care Professional services (doctors, ambulatory care, lab services) Dental services Residential

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The state of health informatics: positive ROI, but a shortage of talent and comprehensive data

While most players in health care see potential ROI through investing in health informatics, there’s a supply-side problem in the market in two ways: a labor shortage of health IT talent, and a dearth of clean and comprehensive data needed for specific objectives. Even with sufficient budgets, health care providers, plans, and pharma companies say, these two limiting factors prevent fully realizing the promise of health data. Deloitte and AMIA polled health providers, plans and life science companies on the state of informatics in health care, the results of which are summarized in The 2012 Deloitte-AMIA Health Informatics Industry Maturity Survey.

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A health plan or a car: health insurance for a family of four exceeds $20K in 2012

The saying goes, “you pays your money and you makes your choice.” In 2012, if you have a bolus of $20,700 to spend, you can choose between a health plan for a family of four, or a sedan for the same family. That’s the calculation from the actuaries at Milliman, whose annual Milliman Medical Index is the go-to analysis on health care costs for a family of four covered by a preferred provider organization plan (PPO). While the 6.9% annual average cost increase is lower than the 7.3% in 2011, it is nonetheless, a record $1,335 real dollar increase at

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It’s the prices and the technology, stupid: why U.S. health costs are higher than anywhere in the world

The price of physician services, proliferation of clinical technology and the cost of obesity are the key drivers of higher health spending in the U.S., according to The Commonwealth Fund‘s latest analysis in their Issues of International Health Policy titled, Explaining High Health Care Spending in the United States: An International Comparison of Supply, Utilization, Prices, and Quality, published in May 2012. The U.S. devotes 17.4% of the national economy to health spending, amounting to about $8,000 per person. The UK devotes about 10%, Germany 11.6%, France, 11.8%, Australia 8.7%, and Japan, 8.5%. On the physician pay front, primary care

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More people in American have trouble paying medical bills: prognosis worse before better

1 in 3 U.S. health citizens had some problem paying for medical care in the first half of 2011, according to a survey from the Centers for Disease Control. In 2010, about 1 in 5 people had trouble paying for medical care. 26% of people were paying medical bills over time; 20% of people had problems paying medical bills in the past year; and, 11% had medical bills they were unable to pay at all. Not surprisingly, among people under 65, those who were poor and near-poor were most likely to be in families with medical bill problems. If you were

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The state of health IT in America: thinking about the Bipartisan Policy Center report on health IT

There are few issue areas within the Beltway of Washington, DC, that have enjoyed more support across the political aisle than health care information technology. In 2004, George Bush asserted that every American would/should have an electronic medical record by 2014. Since then, Democrats and Republicans alike have supported the broad concept of wiring the U.S. health information infrastructure. With the injection of ARRA stimulus funds earmarked in the HITECH Act to promote health providers’ adoption of electronic health records, we’re now on the road to Americans getting access to their health information electronically. It won’t be all or even

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From volume to value: how health execs see the future of health care

Transparency and authenticity, constant and clear communication, and a drive toward value underpin the future health system — for those health leaders who can commit to these pillars of transformational change. Leading Through Transformation: Top Healthcare CEOs’ Perspectives on the Future of Healthcare summarizes the interaction among 17 health execs who convened at the second CEO Forum held by Huron Healthcare Group. The report was released in January 2012. Health leaders concur that regardless of the politics of the Affordable Care Act and its prospects for whole or partial survival beyond November 2012, market pressures in the health sector are driving

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We are all health illiterates: navigating the health system in a sea of paper and financial haze

“Older patients, caregivers, and family members face growing challenges in understanding and navigating the nation’s increasingly complex healthcare system,” begins a well-articulated column called Why Consumers Struggle to Understand Health Care, in U.S. News & World Report dated January 27, 2012. Health literacy isn’t just about understanding clinical directions for self-care, such as how to take medications prescribed by a doctor, or how to change a bandage and clean an infected area. Health literacy is also about how to effectively navigate one’s health system. The first graphic is a schematic published in the New Republic in 2009 which illustrates the arcane Trip-Tik

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Get into the sunshine, church is out – the GAO report on health care price transparency

This morning during my still-dark-at-5:15 am walk, my iPod was motivating me to “get up offa that thing,” as James Brown was motivating me to “release the pressure.” Two minutes into the song, he urges, “Get into the sunshine, church is out.” This brought to mind a publication I’ve taken time to review from the General Accounting Office (GAO) report to the U.S. Congress, Health Care Price Transparency – Meaningful Price Information Is Difficult for Consumers to Obtain Prior to Receiving Care, published in September 2011. While employers and health plans want consumers to become more engaged in their health, a key barrier facing

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Physicians won’t be celebrating Independence Day, at least when it comes to their practices

Doctors won’t be celebrating Independence Day on July 4th — at least when it comes to their professional practices. The days of the cottage industry physician are dwindling as more doctors are losing their independence, instead opting for employment. There are several reasons for physicians’ exodus from private practice: these include increasing administrative burdens, economies of scale for adopting information and communications technology, security in uncertain futures around reimbursement, and that all-important work-life balance. Accenture points out these trends in a summary report, Clinical Transformation: Dramatic Changes as Physician Employment Grows.  Accenture sees benefits accruing to health systems acquiring physician

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The average annual health costs for a U.S. family of four approach $20,000, with employees bearing 40%

Health care costs have doubled in less than nine years for the typical American family of four covered by a preferred provider health plan (PPO). In 2011, that health cost is nearly $20,000; in 2002, it was $9,235, as measured by the 2011 Milliman Medical Index (MMI). To put this in context, The 2011 poverty level for a family of 4 in the 48 contiguous U.S. states is $22,350 The car buyer could purchase a Mini-Cooper with $20,000 The investor could invest $20K to yield $265,353 at a 9% return-on-investment. The MMI increased 7.3% between 2010 and 2011, about the same

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Self-service health: consumers want the same kinds of online services available to them in other aspects of their lives

Health consumers are at least as keen to access their medical history online as they are to manage other aspects of their personal lives. Intuit, the people who brought Quicken to the market to help consumers manage their personal financial lives, are keen to do the same for health care. And they’ve got the survey data in The Intuit Health Second Annual Health Care Check Up to make their case for the online personal health information management market. It is no surprise that the survey found that 70% of U.S. adults are concerned (very or somewhat) about managing their health

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Don’t underestimate the costs of adopting health IT

Mature users of electronic health records bear many scars and learnings, having been through the first several rungs of the health information technology (HIT) adoption ladder. A few of these lessons for HIT adoption success… Implementing EMRs is a strategic and not just an IT-department initiative. HIT adoption requires top-down commitment and engagement. It takes longer and costs more than the planners of systems expect. During transition to an EMR, hospitals see an 80% “spike” (increase) in IT operating expenses — directly impacting the hospital’s overall operating budget as much as 200 basis points or more. There is evidence that those spikes

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How to save $40 billion in health care: implement health IT in hospitals

Electronic health records (EHRs) broaden access to patient data and provide the platform for pushing evidence-based decision support to clinicians at the point-of-care. This promotes optimal care for patients, reduces medical errors, optimizes the use of labor, reduces duplication of tests, and by the way, improves patient outcomes. When done in aggregate across all health providers, a team from McKinsey estimates that $40 billion of costs could be saved in the U.S. health system. Reforming hospitals with IT investment in the McKinsey Quarterly talks about the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act’s (ARRA) $20+ billion worth of stimulus funding under the HITECH Act

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Health reform = meaningful use among health executives

Meeting meaningful use for inpatient EHRs is the top priority among the many challenges health executives face when considering how the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) will impact their organizations. Overall, 2 in 3 health execs place MU for inpatient EHRs as the “highest priority;” among health IT executives, the proportion citing this as the highest priority is 84%. The second-most pressing PPACA priority for health executives is preparing for new models of payment, cited by 17% of health execs overall, and 31% of non-IT executives. CSC surveyed health executives in July to gauge their temperatures on several PPACA line-items including

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Hospital marketing and Mad Men: national brands go direct-to-consumer

This week’s issue of Advertising Age magazine dated June 28, 2010, includes cover stories about fast food advertising buoying cable TV revenues, car companies changing ad agencies, the Cannes advertising festival focusing on creativity and ROI, and…hospitals and health reform? Why do hospitals and health reform appear on the cover page of Ad Age? It’s the “new front of medical marketing,” Rich Thomaselli, Ad Age editor, calls it. With upwards of 30 million Americans gaining health insurance coverage under the Patient Protection and Affordability Act (PPACA, or “health reform” broadly writ), hospitals are competing for new business, along with aging baby

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Fiscal unfitness: U.S. hospitals still suffer negative impacts from the recession in 2010

Bad debt and charity care as a proportion of hospitals’ total gross revenue increased for 9 in 10 hospitals in the U.S. according to the American Hospital Association’s press release, Hospitals Continue to Feel Lingering Effects of the Economic Recession. Today’s macroeconomic news that U.S. economic growth slowed in the first quarter of 2010 doesn’t bode well for hospitals or for patients, for whom the so-called “jobless recovery” in the nation creates financial insecurity and, more specifically, health care insecurity. Hospitals’ other negative economic impacts include depressed numbers of elective procedures (suffered by 72% of U.S. hospitals), depressed overall patient volumes

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The decline and fall of American hospital finance

By Jane Sarasohn-Kahn on 27 April 2009 in Health Economics, Hospital finance

Declining admissions, growing bad debt, rising interest expenses, falling reimbursements, illiquid capital markets, layoffs, cutbacks, and crashing credit ratings…these are the co-morbidities of the American hospital-as-patient in the 2009 economy.  The American Hospital Association (AHA) has revisited its landmark survey on the U.S. hospital economy published in November, and today released The Economic Crisis: The Toll on the Patients and Communities Hospitals Serve.  AHA has found that the economy is having devastating consequences on both individual patients and the larger communities that the hospitals serve. 9 in 10 hospitals have made cutbacks to services by cutting staff, administrative expenses, and

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Health Populi’s Tea Leaves for 2008

I “leave” you for the year with some great, good, and less-than-sanguine expectations for health care in 2008. These are views filtered through my lens on the health care world: the new consumer, health information technology, globalization, politics, and health economics.  Health politics shares the stage with Iraq. Health care is second only to Iraq as the issue that Americans most want the 2008 presidential candidates to talk about, according to the latest Kaiser Health Tracking Poll. Several candidates have responded to the public’s interest with significant health care reform proposals. But major health reform – such as universal access

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Hearts and the hospital bill – and the role of health IT

The annual national hospital bill may reach $1 trillion by 2008. This forecast is brought to you in a new report from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). Hospital charges in 2005 totalled $873 billion in 2005, nearly doubling in ten years. The hospital bill was covered primarily by three payor segments: Medicare, which paid nearly one-half of the total hospital bill; private insurance, covering nearly one-third; and Medicaid, at 14% of the total. What are we spending money on in hospitals? Putting aside pregnancy/childbirth and infant care, the top three conditions are heart-related: coronary artery disease ($46

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Hammers, nails and health spending – regional variations in the U.S.

There is more money spent on health care for each citizen of Massachusetts and Pennsylvania than for a citizen in Utah, Arizona or Nevada. In fact, per capita health spending was 59% lower in Utah than Massachusetts in 2004. The latest state-by-state spending variations are highlighted in Health Affairs’ web-exclusive feature. Welcome to the statistical phenomenon in health care known as “regional variation.” The guru-researcher of regional variation is John Wennberg, who has detailed these trends in fhe Dartmouth Atlas.   New regional health spending data were published in Health Affairs, which we health economists and policy wonks eagerly anticipate

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