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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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Most US Doctors Say They Ration Patients’ Healthcare

Rationing has long been seen as a common practice in national, single-payer health systems like the UK’s National Health Service and Canada’s national health insurance program (known as “Medicare”).  However, over half of U.S. physicians say they ration care to patients. In a peer-reviewed column in the Journal of General Internal Medicine published in July 2016, Dr. Robert Sheeler and colleagues at the Mayo Clinic, University of Iowa, and University of Michigan, found that 53% of physicians surveyed personally “refrained” in the past six months from using specific clinical services that would have provided the “best patient care” due to cost.

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Health in America: Improving, But Disparities Need Policy Prescriptions

The bad news: mortality rates haven’t improved much and obesity rates rose in one-third of communities. The good news: public health gains can be made in resource-poor communities with the right health policies, based on research from The Commonwealth Fund, Rising to the Challenge, the Fund’s Scorecard on local health system performance for 2016. The top-line of this benchmark report is that health care in the U.S. has, overall, improved more than it’s declined. Among the big levers driving health care improvement in the past year have been the further expansion of health citizens covered with insurance through the Affordable

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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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Healthcare Consumerism? Not So Fast, Alegeus Finds

Millions of U.S. patients have more financial skin in the American health care game. But are they behaving like the “consumers” they are assumed to be as members in consumer-directed health plans? Not so much, yet, explained John Park, Chief Strategy Officer at Alegeus, during a discussion of his company’s 2016 Healthcare Consumerism Index. This research is based on an online survey of over 1,000 U.S. healthcare consumers in April 2016. Alegeus looks at healthcare consumerism across two main dimensions: healthcare spending and healthcare saving. As the chart summarizes, consumers show greater engagement and focus on buying a TV or car, choosing

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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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Prescriptions for Food: the New Medicine

Hippocrates is often quoted as saying, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” While some researchers argue that Hippocrates knew the difference between ‘real’ medicine and clinical therapy, there’s no doubt he appreciated the social determinant of health and wellness that food was 1,000 years ago and continues to be today. Taking a page, or prescription note, from the good doctor’s Rx pad, food retailers, healthcare providers, local food banks, and State healthcare programs are working the food-as-medicine connection to bolster public health. One approach to food-as-medicine is promoting the purchase of fresh fruits and vegetables — the

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Are We Health Engaged Yet? Frost & Sullivan Responds “Meh”

The top health-related activities among U.S. adults include routinely taking vitamins and supplements, and prescription medicines, according to Frost & Sullivan’s report, Are We Engaged Yet? Their response to the titular question lies in in the subtitle: “US consumers appear confused or ambivalent about what it means to be proactive or engaged in their health.” 1 in 2 U.S. adults says they’re “somewhat engaged” in their healthcare, according to Reenita Das’s write-up on the study in Forbes magazine. She notes that: Consumers with higher incomes have more confidence in their access to health care services and quality of care Budget-constrained consumer

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Healthcare Costs for a Family of Four Will Be $25,826 in 2016

If you had exactly $25,826 in your pocket today, would you rather buy a new Chrysler 200 sedan, send a son or daughter to a year of college at Wake Forest University, or pay for your family’s health care in an employer-sponsored preferred provider organization? Welcome to the annual 2016 Milliman Medical Index (MMI), one of the most important health economic studies I’ve relied on for many years. This year’s underlying question is, “Who cooked up this expensive recipe?” posed in the report’s title. The key statistics in this year’s MMI are that: Healthcare costs for a typical family of four

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Most Americans Favor A Federally-Funded Health System

6 in 10 people in the US would like to replace the Affordable Care Act with a national health insurance program for all Americans, according to a Gallup Poll conducted on the phone in May 2016 among 1,549 U.S. adults. By political party, RE: Launch a Federal/national health insurance plan (“healthcare a la Bernie Sanders”): Among Democrats, 73% favor the Federal/national health insurance plan, and only 22% oppose it; 41% of Republicans favor it and 55% oppose it. RE: Repeal the ACA (“healthcare a la Donald Trump”): Among Democrats, 25% say scrap the ACA, and 80% of Republicans say to do

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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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GoHealthEvents, An Online Source For Consumer Retail Health Opportunities

“Health comes to your local store,” explains the recently-launched portal, GoHealthEvents. This site is a one-stop shop for health consumers who are seeking health screenings and consults in local retail channels like big box stores, club stores, drug stores, and grocery stores. Events covered include cholesterol, diabetes, heart health, nutrition, osteoporosis, senior health, vaccinations and immunizations. By simply submitting a zip code, a health consumer seeking these kinds of services can identify where and when a local retailer will provide it. I searched on my own zip code in suburban Philadelphia, and found the following opportunities taking place in the

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For Healthcare Costs, Geography is Destiny

Where you live in America determines what you might pay for healthcare. In this health economic scenario, as Napoleon is rumored to have said, “geography is destiny.” If you’re searching for low-cost health care, Ohio may just be your state of choice. The map illustrates these health care disparities across the U.S. in 2015, when the price of a single service could vary by more than 200% between one state and another: say, Alaska versus Arizona, or Wisconsin compared to Florida. Even within states, like Ohio, the average price of a pregnancy ultrasound in Cleveland ran nearly three times that received in

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Money, Stress and Health: The American Worker’s Trifecta

Financial stress impacts health, relationships, and work productivity and attendance for employees in the U.S. It’s the American worker’s trifecta, a way of life for a growing proportion of people in the U.S. PwC’s 2016 Employee Financial Wellness Survey for 2016 illustrates the reality of fiscally-challenged working women and men that’s a national epidemic. Some of the signs of the financial un-wellness malaise are that, in 2016: 40% of employees find it difficult to meet their household expenses on time each month 51% of employees consistently carry balances on their credit cards (with a large increase here among Baby Boomers

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Cost Comes Before “My Doctor” In Picking Health Insurance

Consumers are extremely price-sensitive when it comes to shopping for health insurance. The cost of health insurance premiums, deductibles and copays, prescription drug coverage and out-of-pocket expenses rank higher in the minds of health insurance shoppers than the list of doctors and hospitals included in a health plan for health consumers in 2015. The Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) surveyed 1,500 workers in the U.S. ages 21-64 for their views on workers’ satisfaction with health care in America. The results of this study are compiled in EBRI’s March 2016 issue of Notes, Views on Employment-based Health Benefits: Findings from the 2015 Health

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More Hospitals Connecting for Health: The HIMSS 2016 Connected Health Survey

One in 2 hospitals currently use three or more connected health technologies, according to the 2016 HIMSS Connected Health Survey released today at the annual HIMSS conference. The most commonly used connected health applications cited were: Patient portals, among 58% of providers Apps for patient education and engagement 48% Remote health monitoring, 37% Telehealth via fee-for-service, 34% SMS texting, 33% Patient-generated data, 32% Telehealth via concierge, 26%. 47% of health care providers plan to expand use of connected health technologies, especially for telehealth via concierge, patient-generated data, and SMS texting. HIMSS worked with the Personal Connected Health Alliance (PCHA) to

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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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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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The New-New Health Fair – Care Goes Shopping

As consumers’ growing financial skin in the health care game compels them to seek care in lower-cost settings, the pharmacy business recognizes the opportunity to provide healthcare services beyond the core business of filling prescriptions. This month, Drug Store News (DSN) published a special section called Health Event Horizon which profiles several pharmacy companies’ expanding reach into retail health – in particular, re-defining the concept of the “health fair.” A health fair is “an educational and interactive event designed for outreach to provide basic prevention and medical screening to people in the community,” according to the latest Wikipedia definition. But the

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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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Improving the Patient Experience in Legacy Health Systems – My Start-Up Health Interview

The so-called legacy healthcare system are the incumbents in American health care — hospitals, physician practices, pharma, health plans, and other organizations that have long-served and been reimbursed by traditional volume-based payment. Patients, now morphing in to health consumers, look to these stakeholders to provide new levels of service, accessibility, convenience, transparency and value — the likes of which people find in their daily life in other market sectors. Those consumer demands are pressuring the health system as we know it in many new ways, which I discussed with Unity Stoakes, Co-Founder of Startup Health, at the Health 2.0 Conference in

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My Body, My Self – With My Physician, Say Patients

9 in 10 people in the U.S. believe working with their health clinician as a partner will help them better manage their overall health, according to a survey conducted for The Society for Participatory Medicine. Consumers’ majority call-out for shared decision-making with health care professionals also extends to their self-tracking health data — for example, via activity trackers, digital glucometers for blood sugar, technologies for blood pressure, and food logging apps. 84% of people said that sharing their personal self-tracking health data with clinicians between visits would also help people manage health. That clinician’s involvement is very important to health

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Health Consumers Happy With Doctor Visits, But Want More Technology Options

9 in 10 adults in the U.S. have visited a doctor’s office in the past year, and over half of these patients have been very satisfied with the visit; 35% have been “somewhat” satisfied. Being a highly-satisfied patient depends on how old you are: if you’re 70 or older, two-thirds of people are the most satisfied. Millennial or Gen X? Less than half. What underlies patient satisfaction across generations is the fact that younger people tend to compare their health care experience to other retail experiences, like visiting a bank, staying at a hotel, or shopping in a department store.

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Getting Beyond Consumer Self-Rationing in High-Deductible Health Plans

The rising cost of health care for Americans continues to contribute to self-rationing care in the forms of not filling prescriptions, postponing necessary services and tests, and avoiding needed visits to doctors. Furthermore, health care costs are threatening the livelihood of most American families, according to the Pioneer Institute. “What Will U.S. Households Pay for Health Care in the Future?” asks the title of a study by the Institute, noting that health care costs for an American family of average income could increase annually to $13,213 by 2025 — and as high as $18,251. Pioneer calculates that this forecasted spend will

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A Growing Market for DIY Digital Health for Sleep and Pain

Sleeplessness and chronic pain are two epidemics that are mutually-enforcing, as the chart shows. The 2015 Sleep in America Poll found that pain is a key factor in Americans’ “sleep debt:” 21% of people have experienced chronic pain and lose 42 minutes of sleep due to it; 36% have experience acute pain, resulting in 14 minutes of lost sleep each night. People dealing with both conditions project-manage their health in numerous ways, multitasking with over-the-counter meds, prescription drugs (from “lite” to narcotic), meditation, yoga, homeopathic remedies, aural relaxation, Mozart, and more. There are a growing number of digital health tools now

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The 2016 THINK-Health Health/Care Forecast

It’s time to get the tea leaves out and mash up trends in my world of health, health care, technology, policy and people for 2016. We’ll start with the central player: people, consumers, patients, caregivers all. Health consumerism on the rise.  People – call us patients, consumers, caregivers – will take on even more financial and clinical decision making risk in 2016. Growing penetration of high-deductible and consumer-driven health plans will push (not just nudge) people into the role of health care consumers, and the emerging businesses and programs serving the transparency market for price and quality will gain traction

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Prescription Drug Costs Will Be In Health Benefits Bullseye in 2016

Prescription drug costs have become a front-and-center health benefits cost issue for U.S. employers in 2015, and in 2016 the challenge will be directly addressed through more aggressive utilization management (such as step therapy and prior authorization), tools to enable prescription intentions like DUR, and targeting fraud, waste and abuse. Consumers, too, will be more financially responsible for cost-sharing prescription drugs, in terms of deductibles and annual out-of-pocket limits, as described in the PBMI 2015-206 Prescription Drug Benefit Cost and Plan Design Report, sponsored by Takeda. The Pharmacy Benefit Management Institute has published this report for 15 years, which provides neutral, detailed survey

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Walgreens Extends Telehealth On Your Smartphone

In the U.S., if you walk 3 miles in any direction, there’s a 3 in 4 chance you’ll find yourself in front of a Walgreens pharmacy. The company often says that 75% of people in the America live within 3 miles of a Walgreens storefront. What’s a pharmacy storefront anymore? Both Walgreens and CVS are re-defining that with a dizzying pace of new announcements. The latest for Walgreens: people in 25 states will be able to use the Walgreens app on their smartphones to access physicians virtually. Consumers living in Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland,

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Death Rates Rise For Middle-Age White Men: Economics and Mental Health in America

Shocking statistics were published in this week’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showing rising death rates for middle-age men. The major causes: suicide, drug and alcohol poisoning, and liver diseases. The line chart illustrates the death rates per 100,000 population of U.S. whites (“USW”), the top line on the graph, compared with 45-54 year old men in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and Sweden — along with U.S. Hispanic males (“USH”) — for whom death rates have fallen since 1990. The authors note that the increase in midlife mortality is only partly understood. Increased availability of

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Health Care Costs Are #1 Pocketbook Issue, and Drug Prices Top the Line Items

Consumers are most concerned about health care costs among their kitchen table issues, above their ability to afford the utility bill, housing, food, or gas and transportation costs. The October 2015 Kaiser Family Foundation Health Tracking Poll finds 4 in 10 Americans finding it difficult to afford health care, including 16% of people earning $90,000 a year or more. Underneath that worrying healthcare cost umbrella are the price of prescription drugs, which the majority of Democrats, Independents, and Republicans all agree need to be “limited” by government regulation. Ensuring that the public have affordable access to high-cost drugs for chronic conditions

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Growing Signs Of Consumer Health Engagement, Via Deloitte

A growing desire for shared decision making with doctors. Increasing trust and consumption of health care information online, in social media, and report cards. Reliance on technology for monitoring health adn wellness, and medical conditions. Together, these three signals converge, illustrating a growing sense of consumer engagement among U.S. patients, found in the 2015 Deloitte Center for Health Solutions Survey of US Health Care Consumers. In Deloitte’s research summary, the title states that “No ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach” will work, given diversity among American health consumers. The sickest health consumers, Deloitte notes, have higher levels of health engagement and index higher on

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In 2016 Prescription Drugs Will Be The Fastest-Growing Component of Healthcare Costs

In 2016, prescription drug trend will rise over 11%. In contrast, medical trend growth for high-deductible health plans is expected to be 8%, hospital services 8.2%, and physician services 5.5%,   according to the 2016 Segal Health Plan Cost Trend Survey released in September 2015. By definition, “trend” is the forecast of per capita health insurance claims cost increases that incorporate many factors include price inflation, utilization, government-mandated benefits, and new therapies and technologies. Consider the upper right portion of the infographic which illustrates Segal’s data: the 3 “capsule” diagrams show that specialty drug trend is anticipated to be 18.9% in

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Wellness Is In Target’s Bullseye

Health is where we live, work, play, pray, learn, and increasingly, shop. The new Retail Health goes well beyond the pure-play pharmacy. Part of Target’s re-imagined market positioning is in this expanding sweet-spot as healthcare morphs from institutional providers like hospitals and doctors’ offices to the community. Don’t think pharmacy’s not important: it will remain a core business and revenue center in retail health. But that business is fast-changing, as the role of pharmacy benefits management companies change, more (expensive) specialty drug benefits come out of pipeline and into the market, and health insurance continues to shift financial risk to

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From Pedometers to Premiums in Swiss Health Insurance

A Switzerland-based health insurance company is piloting how members’ activity tracking could play a role in setting premiums. The insurer, CSS, is one of the largest health insurance companies in the country and received a “most trusted general health insurance” brand award in 2015 from Reader’s Digest in Switzerland. The company is conducting the pilot, called the MyStep project, with volunteers from the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich and the Unviersity of St. Gallen. According to an article on the program published in the Swiss newspaper The Local, “the pilot aims to discover to what extend insured people are

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The rise and rise of noncommunicable diseases

Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) are the #1 cause of death in the world. NCDs are the yin to the yang of infectious diseases. Mortality from infectious disease has fallen as national economies have developed, while NCDs such as heart disease, respiratory disease, cancer, diabetes, and other NCDs are a growing burden. Health Affairs devotes its September 2015 issue to The Growing Burden of Noncommunicable Diseases, featuring research focusing both on global trends and U.S.-specific challenges. In their look into the relationships between NCDs, unhealthy lifestyles and country wealth, Thomas Bollyky et. al. note that NCDs aren’t only the “diseases of affluence,”

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Medicare Makes the Case for Outcomes, As Increasing Costs Loom

Health costs in America will grow faster (again), and health outcomes have improved in the past decade. This week, two of the most important health journals feature health economics data and analyses that paint the current landscape of the U.S. health care system – the good, the warts, and the potential. Health Affairs provides the big economic story played out by the forecasts of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in National Health Expenditure Projections, 2014-24: Spending Growth Faster Than Recent Trends. The topline of the forecast is that health spending growth in the U.S. will annually average

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What the SCOTUS ACA ruling means for health consumers

Now that the Affordable Care Act is settled, in the eyes of the U.S. Supreme Court, what does the 6-3 ruling mean for health/care consumers living in America? I wrote the response to that question on the site of Intuit’s American Tax & Financial Center here. The top-line is that people living in Michigan, where the Federal government is running the health insurance exchange for Michiganders, and people living in New York, where the state is running the exchange, are considered equal under the ACA’s health insurance premium subsidies: health plan shoppers, whether resident New Yorkers or Michiganders, can qualify for

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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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How digital ‘everything’ and consumer expectations are re-shaping health care

Two forces are converging to shape a new era of “living services,” Accenture posits: the digitization of “everything” and consumers’ “liquid” expectations — which are demands for personalized, engaging and adaptable experiences. Accenture’s report on this phenomenon, The Era of Living Services, spans the broad range of consumers’ daily lives where these services will impact: homes, families, transportation, shopping, leisure time, jobs, finances, education, cities, and above all for Health Populi readers, “our bodies.” Living services are physically close to us, as Accenture sees them, “wrapping themselves around the everyday things we do.” They are digital services that are aware

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Most Americans say drug prices are unreasonable and blame company profits

Three-quarters of U.S. adults say the cost of prescription drugs are unreasonable, and blame high medication prices set by profitable pharmaceutical companies according to the Kaiser Family Foundation Health Tracking Poll for June 2015. Profits made by drug companies are the #1 reason Americans cite among major factors that contribute to the price of prescription drugs (among 77% of people), followed by the cost of medical research (64%), the cost of marketing and advertising (54%), and the cost of lawsuits (49%). Regardless of the cost, 71% of people say that health insurance should “always” pay for high-cost drugs. At the same

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The 3 tectonic forces shaping patients – it’s BIO week

Patients in the U.S. are transforming into health care consumers, and in 2015 there are 3 underlying forces shaping that new consumer. This week kicks off the annual BIO conference in Philadelphia, and today Klick Health, the digital communications firm, convenes a group of thought leaders in healthcare to brainstorm markets, financing, and the state of pharmaceutical and life science innovation. An underlying theme throughout this meet-up is patient’s role in health/care. Patients are people, consumers, caregivers, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, friends, neighbors, community members, taxpayers, all. We’re old, we’re young, we’re mobile and not-so-much, we’re amputees, we’re migraneurs, we’re cancer

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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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Avoiding Wrinkles: A World Without Tobacco

May 31st is World No Tobacco Day, heralded by the World Health Organization, and celebrated by the advocacy group Action on Smoking and Health (with the very appropriate acronym ASH). Smoking is one of the most addictive (anti-)health behaviors around, so persuading people to quit the habit continues to challenge public health advocates. Enter ASH’s engaging campaign called “The Wrinkler,” with the introductory question, “Ever notice how some people who are 25 look 45?” The video continues to explain how we can “expedite the aging process….Ladies, wish you were half your age? Don’t wait for him to look younger; make yourself

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All women are health workers

The spiritual and emotional top the physical in women’s definition of “health,” based on a multi-country survey conducted in Brazil, Germany, Japan, the UK and the U.S. The Power of the Purse, a research project sponsored by the Center for Talent Innovation, underscores women’s primary role as Chief Medical Officers in their families and social networks. The research was sponsored by health industry leaders including Aetna, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Cardinal Health, Eli Lilly and Company, Johnson & Johnson, Merck & Co., Merck KGaA, MetLife, Pfizer, PwC, Strategy&, Teva, and WPP. The study’s summary infographic is titled How the Healthcare Industry Fails

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Health care costs for a family of four in the U.S. reach $24,671 in 2015

The cost of a PPO for a family of four in America hits $24,671 in 2015, growing 6.3% over 2014’s cost. The growth in health care costs will be driven by high specialty prescription drug costs. The 6.3% growth rate in health costs is a stark increase compared with the twelve month April 2014-March 2015 decline in the Consumer Price Index of -0.1%. Welcome to the 2015 Milliman Medical Index, subtitled “Will the typical American family of four be driving a ‘Cadillac plan’ by 2018?” The MMI gauges the average cost of an employer-sponsored preferred provider organization (PPO) health plan and includes all

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Supersize Rx: the impact of specialty drug spending and Hep C in 2014

The number of people in the U.S. spending over $100,000 a year on prescription drugs tripled in 2014, according to Super Spending: U.S. Trends in High-Cost Medication Use, from The Express Scripts Lab. Express Scripts is a pharmacy benefits management company that manages over one billion prescriptions a year. The company analyzed prescription drug claims for 31.5 million health plan members for this study, in commercially insured, Medicare, and Medicaid plans. The big-dollar story in 2014 was Hepatitis C, with a relatively small patient population but a super-sized drug spend as the first chart shows: a very tall blue bar (Rx

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Happy 25 million, MinuteClinic and CVS Health!

Call it a Silver Million Anniversary, if you will: The MinuteClinic just saw its 25 millionth patient. This is a milestone in the evolution and growth of retail health in America, a trend-marker in this growing health industry segment that will become increasingly used by consumers, patients, parents, and caregivers. CVS bought the MinuteClinic in 2006, when the organization treated seven illnesses. Today, MinuteClinic offers 65 services and vaccinations in nearly 1,000 clinics located in 31 states and Washington, DC. In addition, MinuteClinic will grow the number of clinic locations in both existing and new markets. The company will open

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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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The Consumer in the New Health Economy: Out-of-Pocket

The costs of healthcare in the U.S. have trended upward since 2000, with a slowdown in cost growth between 2009 to 2013 due to the impact of the Great Recession. That’s no surprise. What stands out in the new U.S. News & World Report Health Care Index is that people covered by private health insurance through employers are bearing more health care costs while publicly-covered insureds (in Medicare and Medicaid) are not. Blame it on the fast-growth of high-deductible health plans, the Index finds, resulting in what U.S. News coins as a “massive increase in consumer cost.” U.S. News &

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Capital investments in health IT moving healthcare closer to people

In recent weeks, an enormous amount of money has been raised by organizations using information technology to move health/care to people where they live, work, and play… This prompted one questioner at the recent ANIA annual conference to ask me after my keynote speech on the new health economy, “Is the hospital going the way of the dinosaur?” Before we get to the issue of possible extinction of inpatient care, let’s start with the big picture on digital health investment for the first quarter of 2015. Some $429 mm was raised for digital health in the first quarter of 2015,

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Banks — a new entrant in the health/care landscape

TD Bank gifted free Fitbit activity trackers to new customers signing up for savings accounts in the 2015 New Year. John Hancock is discounting life insurance premiums for clients who track steps and take on preventive care strategies. And Banco Sabadell in Spain, along with Westpac in New Zealand and Standard Chartered in the United Kingdom are all piloting wearable technology for consumer financial management. Financial wellness is an integral part of peoples’ overall health, so financial services companies are putting their collective corporate feet into the health/care market. Banks and consumer investment companies are new entrants in health/care as

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Nurses are consumers’ trusted partners-in-health

The two most trusted health professionals in the eyes of U.S. consumers are nurses and pharmacists, and both of these health workers will be key partners for people wanting to engage in health/care. That was my introductory message kicking off the annual conference of ANIA, the American Nursing Informatics Association, in Philadelphia on April 24, 2015. Meeting in the City of Brotherly Love gave ANIA the opportunity to theme the meeting a “Declaration of Nursing Informatics,” carrying that theme through the exhibition hall with a Benjamin Franklin lookalike walking the floor availing himself of attendees’ requests for selfie-taking with the

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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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John Hancock flips the life insurance policy with wellness and data

When you think about life insurance, images of actuaries churning numbers to construct mortality tables may come to mind. Mortality tables show peoples’ life expectancy based on various demographic characteristics. John Hancock is flipping the idea life insurance to shift it a bit in favor of “life” itself. The company is teaming with Vitality, a long-time provider of wellness tools programs, to create insurance products that incorporate discounts for healthy living. The programs also require people to share their data with the companies to quality for the discounts, which the project’s press release says could amount to $25,000 over the

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Consumers trust retailers and techs to manage their health – as much as health provider

40% of U.S. consumers trust Big Retail to manage their health; 39% of U.S. consumers trust healthcare providers to manage their health. What’s wrong with this picture? The first chart shows the neck-and-neck tie in the horse race for consumer trust in personal health management. The Walmart primary care clinic vs. your doctor. The grocery pharmacy vis-a-vis the hospital or chain pharmacy. Costco compared to the chiropractor. Or Apple, Google, Microsoft, Samsung or UnderArmour, because “digitally-enabled companies” are virtually tied with health providers and large retailers as responsible health care managers. Welcome to The Birth of the Healthcare Consumer according

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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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Value is in the eye of the shopper for health insurance

While shopping is a life sport, and even therapeutic for some, there’s one product that’s not universally attracting shoppers: health insurance. McKinsey’s Center for U.S. Health System Reform studied people who were qualified to go health insurance shopping for plans in 2015, covered by the Affordable Care Act. McKinsey’s consumer research identified six segments of health insurance plan shoppers — and non-shoppers — including 4 cohorts of insured and 2 of uninsured people. The insureds include: Newly-insured people, who didn’t enroll in health plans in 2014 but did so in 2015 Renewers, who purchased health insurance in both 2014 and

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Americans are spending $1 in $5 on health care

People in the U.S. are spending over 20.6% of their income on health care, according to data published by the U.S. Department of Commerce on March 2, 2015. This is up from 15% of personal income in 1990. Note the slope of this curve, moving up the X-Y axes from southwest to northwest. Now note the slope of the curves in the second chart, which illustrates consumer spending on other household goods and services: cars, housing, clothing, education, groceries, and eating outside of the home. Spending on these home budget line items remained relatively flat over the 25 year period 1990-2015,

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A health agenda comes to the 2015 Oscars

The 87th annual 2015 Oscars show (#Oscars15) feted more than the movie industry: the event celebrated health in both explicit and subtle ways. Julianne Moore took the golden statuette for Best Actress, playing the title role in Still Alice, the story a woman diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease. In accepting her award, Moore spoke of the need to recognize and “see” people with Alzheimer’s – so many people feel isolated and marginalized, Moore explained. Movies help us feel seen and not alone – and people with Alzheimer’s need to be seen so we can find a cure, she asserted. See Moore’s lovely

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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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Hug your physician – chances are, s/he’s burned out

If you’re meeting with a physician in the next week or two, put on your empathy hat: chances are, they are feeling burned-out. Overall 46% of physicians report they were burned out in 2014, up from just under 40% last year. Medscape’s Physician Lifestyle Report 2015 finds that at least one-half of physicians are burned-out who work in critical care, emergency medicine, family medicine, internal medicine, general surgery, and infectious disease (including HIV). And, at least 37% of physicians are burned-out working in all other specialties, shown in the first chart. Medscape gauges doctors’ self-assessments of burnout with a lens

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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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Health care costs still top financial problems for Americans

“Health care spending grows at lowest-ever rate,” USA Today celebrated in their December 3, 2014 headline. The announcement was drawn from national health spending data gleaned from an annual report from the Centers for Medicare and Medicare Services (CMS), which tallied U.S. health spending at $2.9 trillion. From the bird’s-eye view, slowing healthcare cost growth is indeed good news. But from the point-of-view of consumers’ own pockets, health care costs are rising. And, a survey published today by Gallup points to this reality: that people in American say the most important financial problem they face is healthcare costs, tied for first place

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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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Health and wellness at CES 2015 – trend-weaving the big ideas

Health is where we live, work, play and pray — my and others’ mantra if we want to truly bend (down) the cost curve and improve medical outcomes. If we’re serious about achieving the Triple Aim — improving public health, lowering spending, and enhancing the patient/health consumer experience (which can drive activation and ongoing engagement) — then you see health everywhere at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week. With this post, I’ll share with you the major themes I’m seeing at #CES2015 related to health, wellness, and DIYing medical care at home. The meta: from health care to self-care.

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Trend-weaving the 2015 health care trends

‘Tis the season for annual health trendcasting, which is part of my own business model. Here’s a curated list of some of my favorite trend reports for health care in the new year, with my Hot Points in the conclusion, below, summarizing the most salient trends among them. TechCrunch’s Top 5 Healthcare Predictions for 2015: In this succinct forecast, Walmart grows its presence as a health plan, startups get more pharm-funding, hospitals channel peer-to-peer lending, Latinos emerge as a “most-desired” health care segment, and Amazon disrupts the medical supply chain. Experian 2015 Data Breach Forecast: Healthcare security breaches will be

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Health IT Forecast for 2015 – Consumers Pushing for Healthcare Transformation

Doctors and hospitals live and work in a parallel universe than the consumers, patients and caregivers they serve, a prominent Chief Medical Information Officer told me last week. In one world, clinicians and health care providers continue to implement the electronic health records systems they’ve adopted over the past several years, respond to financial incentives for Meaningful Use, and re-engineering workflows to manage the business of healthcare under constrained reimbursement (read: lower payments from payors). In the other world, illustrated here by the graphic artist Sean Kane for the American Academy of Family Practice, people — patients, healthy consumers, newly insured folks,

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Women-centered design and mobile health: heads-up, 2014 mHealth Summit

This post is written as part of the Disruptive Women on Health’s blog-fest celebrating the 2014 mHealth Summit taking place 7-11 December 2014 in greater Washington, DC. Women and mobile health: let’s unpack the intersection. On the supply side of the equation, Good Housekeeping covered health tracking-meets-fashion bling in the magazine a few weeks ago in article tucked between how to cook healthy Thanksgiving side dishes and tips on getting red wine stains out of tablecloths. This ad appeared in a major sporting goods chain’s 2014 Black Friday pre-print in my city’s newspaper last week. And along with consumer electronics brand faves like

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Health care costs, access and Ebola – what’s on health care consumers’ minds

The top 3 urgent health problems facing the U.S. are closely tied for first place: affordable health care/health costs, access to health care, and the Ebola virus. While the first two issues ranked #1 and #2 one year ago, Ebola didn’t even register on the list of healthcare stresses in November 2013. Gallup polled U.S. adults on the biggest health issues facing Americans in early November 2014, and 1 in 6 people named Ebola as the nation’s top health problem, ahead of obesity, cancer, as well as health costs and insurance coverage. Gallup points out that at the time of

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Rationing health care, driven by high deductibles

Concerns about Death Panels and government restricting health services for people that have been key arguments used against the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) detractors and, even before the advent of the ACA, proposed health reforms under President Clinton. But it’s peoples’ self-rationing in the U.S. health system that’s causing true rationing — driven by high deductible health plans (HDHPs) that are fast-growing in the health insurance market, and by the high cost of specialty drugs and prescriptions. There are plenty of data demonstrating the consumer health rationing trend being collected and reviewed by think tanks like RAND here, and by The

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Health and financial well-being are strongly linked, CIGNA asks and answers

The modern view on wellness is “having it all” in terms of driving physical, emotional, mental and financial health across one’s life, according to CIGNA’s survey report, Health & Financial Well-Being: How Strong Is the Link?  The key elements of whole health, as people define them are: – Absence of sickness, 37% – Feeling of happiness, 32% – Stable mental health, 32% – Management of chronic disease, 15% – Financial health, 14% – Living my dreams, 9%. 1 in 2 people (49%) agree that health and wellness comprise “all of these” elements, listed above. This holistic view of health is

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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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Activity tracking is consumers’ #1 demand for smartwatches

Of all the functions a smartwatch could play, it’s activity tracking that’s top of most consumers’ minds. GfK conducted a survey in August 2014 among 5,000 smartphone-owning consumers in five countries — China, Germany, South Korea, the UK, and the U.S. The market research firm found that 29% of people see “activity tracking” the most important function. Phone calls ranked second with 13% of consumers, telling time 11%, and 10% voted for basic apps and navigation system. 7% of consumers noted the smartwatch would be desirable for basic web search. In this survey, activity tracking included the broad definition covering

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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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Blurred lines: health, pharmacy, food and care

In the past few weeks, several events bolster the reality that health and health care are in Blurred Lines mode. Not Robin Thicke Blurred Lines, mind you, but the Venn Diagram overlapping kind. Walmart launched real primary care clinics in South Carolina and Texas. These will provide services beyond urgent care, charging $4 a visit for company employees and $40 a visit for other people The U.S. Department of Agriculture issued a report promoting “nudges” to grocery shoppers enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Access Program (SNAP) to buy healthy foods Apple is talking with Cleveland Clinic, Johnson Hopkins, and Mount Sinai Medical

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Novel concept: people + health pricing information = market competition

In the post-Recession American economy, people shop for value in all things. And that includes health care services like MRIs — when patients are informed of pricing differences among imaging facilities and given free rein to pick-and-choose among them. In addition to lowering imaging costs in a community, price transparency also generated competition between providers. Health Affairs published this research detailed in Price Transparency for MRIs Increased Use of Less Costly Providers And Triggered Provider Competition in August 2014. An Economics 101 course teaches us that a well-oiled (perfect) market depends on lots of sellers of a product and lots of

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Self-care – the role of OTCs for personal health financial management

Make-over your medicine cabinet. That’s a key headline for International Self-Care Day (ISD) on July 24, 2014, an initiative promoting the opportunity for people to take a greater role in their own health care and wellness. Sponsored by the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA), consumer products companies, health advocacy organizations, and legislators including John Barrow (D-GA), a co-sponsor of H.R. 2835 (aka the Restoring Access to Medications Act), the Day talked about the $102 billion savings opportunity generated through people in the U.S. taking on more self-care through using over-the-counter medicines. After the 2008 Recession hit the U.S. economy, industry analysts

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Homo informaticus – the global digital consumer

Consumers around the world are feeling more knowledgeable, self-confident and realistic, enabled by mobile platforms, the democratic power of social “choruses,” and a more sharing economy featuring collaborative consumption. As peoples’ phones get smarter and smarter, they carry more powerful multichannel information devices in their hands which empower Homo Informaticus – the new global digital consumer, described in EY’s report, How to copilot the multichannel journal. EY polled 29,943 consumers in the Consumers on Board survey living in 34 countries: across the Americas, Asia-Pacific, the Middle East, India and Africa. Homo informaticus is the rational consumer smartly using technology to filter information.

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People want mobile health by phone, and FICO knows it

Most people (54%) want their mobile phones to enable health care interactions, according to Mobile Thought Leadership, a paper from FICO that summarizes data from a survey conducted with health citizens around the world. FICO conducted research among 2,239 adult smartphone users in the UK, Australia, Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Russia, Turkey and the United States. The data discussed here in Health Populi refer to a subset covering just U.S. consumers. Among the one-half of consumers interested in doing more health care interactions via mobile in the future, the most popular options are: receiving reminders of appointments,

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World No Tobacco Day v2014 – let’s raise (more) taxes on tobacco

Tomorrow is World No Tobacco Day. The use of tobacco is one of the most preventable public health issues on the planet. And the global tobacco epidemic contributed to 100 million deaths around the world in the 20th century. 6 million people die every year due to tobacco use — including 600,000 deaths due to exposure to secondhand smoke. About 500 million people living today will be dead from the use of tobacco products if current smoking habits continue, the World Health Organization (WHO) expects. WHO sponsors the World No Tobacco Day every year on May 31. For this year’s

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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 – Will Your Health Plan Be Your Transparency Partner? – Part 3

Three U.S. health plans cover about 100 million people. Today, those three market-dominant health plans — Aetna, Humana and UnitedHealthcare — announced that they will post health care prices on a website in early 2015. Could this be the tipping point for health care transparency so long overdue? These 3 plans are ranked #1, #4 and #5 in terms of market shares in U.S. health insurance. Together, they will share price data with the Health Care Cost Institute (HCCI), a not-for-profit organization dedicated to research on U.S. health spending. An important part of the backstory is that the HCCI was

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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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Consumers’ spending on medicine grows – the retailization of health care

People are spending more out of their own pockets on health care, and particularly for medications. There are two sides to the medicine-spending coin: there’s the low-end which are generic drugs, most of which carry a co-pay of $10 or less. Then there’s the high end of specialty pharmaceuticals, a fast-growing category of very expensive products for which many consumers dearly pay — if and when they choose to take their doctors’ recommendations. In Medicine use and shifting costs of healthcare, IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics reports that while (inexpensive) generic drugs comprise 86% of prescriptions in the U.S., it’s high

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Doctors become health economists

The rising costs of health care in America, and consumers’ growing cost burdens, has many impacts on the U.S. health ecosystem. In particular, patients have been self-rationing due to costs, without necessarily paying attention to quality or medical outcomes. Doctors have begun to pay more attention to costs and their impacts on patients in their practices, addressed in today’s New York Times article, Treatment costs could influence doctors’ advice to patients. Andrew Pollack writes in the Times about the morphing role of doctors, some of whom are taking on the mantle of being a “steward of society,” as characterized by

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Health consumers building up the U.S. economy

U.S. consumer spending on health care is boosting the nation’s economy, based on some new data points. First, health care spending grew at an annual rate of 5.6% at the end of 2013, USA Today reported. This was the fastest-growth seen in ten years, reversing the fall of health spending experienced in the wake of America’s Great Recession of 2008. Furthermore the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) anticipates health spending to grow by 6.1% in 2014 with the influx of newly-insured health plan members. Healthcare was responsible for one-fourth of America’s GDP growth rate of 2.6%, which is

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FICO scores for health – chatting with a #BigData pioneer

I had the pleasure of spending quality time brainstorming with Mikki Nasch, co-founder of AchieveMint, yesterday. Mikki worked on the early days of building the FICO score with Fair Isaac, so has been involved in Big Data well before it became the well-#hashtagged buzzword it is today. In our conversation, we talked about the history of FICO and how it took about a decade for consumers to understand it, accept it, and use it as a tool for bettering their credit ratings. When a FICO score was below an acceptable threshold to a lender – say, for a new car

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People want to DIY with pharma

In our increasingly-DIY society, most consumers expect high levels of access and customer service from the organizations with whom we engage. With more consumers reaching into their pockets to pay for health services and products, the health industry is increasingly a retail-facing environment. So expect quality service levels from their healthcare touch points. The pharmaceutical and prescription drug touch point is not exempt from this expectation, as learned by an Accenture survey analyzed in Great Expectations: Why Pharma Companies Can’t Ignore Patient Services. As the first picture shows, 70% of patients think pharma companies are responsible for bundling information and services

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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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Managing cost and utilization are top goals for specialty pharmacy buyers

While the prescription drug bill makes up about 10% of U.S. national health spending, the fastest-growing component of pharmacy spending is specialty medications. These are categorized as “specialty” drugs because they rarely have generic equivalents, and treat serious or life-threatening diseases (such as cancer, MS, and rheumatoid arthritis). They are also “special” because specialty pharmaceuticals average $3,000 per patient per month and can surpass $100,000 a year for certain products. As a result, the top two goals for managing specialty medications among employers are #1, to reduce inappropriate utilization, and #2, to reduce drug acquisition costs, based on a survey

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U.S. families face medical financial burdens; health care in the SOTU

  A growing proportion of American families are facing money problems related to health care, according to the report, Financial Burden of Medical Care: A Family Perspective, No. 142 in the NCHS Data Brief series from the CDC, published January 2014 and based on 2012 data. 1 in 4 families are dealing with some financial burden due to medical care. “Financial burdens” in health include problems paying medical bills in the past 12 months, shared by 16.5% of families; and medical bills being paid over time, faced by 21.4% of families. 1 in 10 families (9%) have medical bills they are

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Food and money matter for health – more hospital admissions at the end of the month

If your wallets are lighter at the end of the month, you’re likely to have less access to quality food, and more likely to be admitted to the hospital if you have diabetes. The hypothesis that people with low incomes whose household budgets are spent before the end of the month have greater health inequities was tested in the article, Exhaustion of Food Budgets At Month’s End And Hospital Admissions For Hypoglycemia, published in the January 2014 issue of Health Affairs. Researchers from the University of California – San Francisco found that, indeed, the health in households with low-income suffer from

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mHealth will join the health ecosystem – prelude to the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show

The rise of digital health at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show signals the hockey-stick growth of consumer-facing health devices for fitness and, increasingly, more medical applications in the hands of people, patients, and caregivers. This year at #CES2014, while the 40% growth of the CES digital health footprint will get the headlines, the underlying story will go beyond wristbands and step-tracking generating data from an N of 1 to tools that generate data to bolster shared-decision making between people and the health system, and eventually support population health. For example: – Aetna is partnering with J&J to deploy their Care4Today

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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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Data altruism: people more likely to share personal health data for the sake of others and to save money

While about 53% of people globally are willing to share various types of personal data overall, the kind of data willing-to-be-shared varies by type of information — and what country we’re from. When asked how likely they would be to anonymously share information if it could lead to improvements or innovations in that technology, Americans are less likely to be willing to share any type of personal data — except for gender. When it comes to sharing several specific types of health information, fewer Americans are likely to want to share it as Intel found in their survey published in the company’s Healthcare

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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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There’s fear of health care costs in peoples’ retirement visions

While working people in the U.S. are feeling better about the nation’s economy, Americans aren’t putting much money into savings for retirement. The reasons for this are many, but above all is what Mercer calls “the specter of health care costs in retirement” in the Mercer Workplace Survey for 2013. In addition to peoples’ concerns about future health care costs, reasons for not putting money away for the future include flat personal income, slow economic growth and financial literacy challenges around how much 401(k) savings can be tax-deferred. On the slow economic growth perception, Mercer found that, on the upside, people

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When health care costs are a side effect

4 in 5 U.S. patients – 81% of them – want an equal say in health care decisions with their care provider, according to a 2013 Institute of Medicine study. At the same time, patients choose to take “drug holidays,” opting out of taking three or more doses of medicines in a row, or adopt “trail mix” approaches to taking prescriptions, casually and inappropriately mixing Rx drugs. Welcome to your world, pharma industry: where people say they want control, but somehow don’t exercise it in the way you — drug companies — define as “compliance” or “adherence.” Customer experience in

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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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