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Health Care Costs in Retirement Will Run $260K If You’re Retiring This Year

If you’re retiring in 2016, you’ll need $260,000 to cover your health care costs during your retirement years. In 2015, that number was $245,000, so retiree health care costs increased 6% in one year according to Fidelity’s Retirement Health Care Cost Estimator. The 6% annual cost increase is exactly what the National Business Group on Health found in their recently published 2017 Health Plan Design Survey polling large employers covering health care, discussed here in Health Populi. The 6% health care cost increases are driven primary by people using more health services and the higher costs for many medicines — specifically, specialty

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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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The Drug Epidemic-Testing and Data Arm the Battle

More than 40 Americans die every day from prescribed opiate overdoses, Dr. Tom Frieden of the CDC has recognized. The harms of pain-killing drugs have been substantial: Dr. Frieden observed, “the prevalence of opioid dependence may be as high as 26% among patients in primary care receiving opioids for chronic non-cancer-related pain.” There were more deaths due to drug overdoses in 2014 than in any previous year, 61% of which involved opioid pain relieving medications such as oxycodone and hydrocodine, and heroin which has grown in use over the past few years. The CDC has recommended that healthcare providers do

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US Health Care Prices Would Be Sticker-Shocking For Europeans

The average hospital cost per day in the U.S. is $5,220. In Switzerland it’s $4,781, and in Spain that inpatient day looks like a bargain at $424. An MRI in the U.S. runs, on average, $1,119. In the UK, that MRI is $788, and in Australia, $215, illustrated in the first chart. Drug prices are strikingly greater in the U.S. versus other developed nations, as shown in the first chart for Xarelto. If you live in the U.S. and have a television tuned in during the six o’clock news, chances are you’ve seen an ad for this drug featuring Arnold

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U.S. Health Spending Will Comprise 20% of GDP in 2025

Spending on health care in America will comprise $1 in every $5 of gross domestic product in 2025, according to National Health Expenditure Projections, 2015-25: Economy, Prices, And Aging Expected to Shape Spending and Enrollment, featured in the Health Affairs July 2016 issue. Details on national health spending are shown by line item in the table, excerpted from the article. Health spending will grow by 5.8% per year, on average, between 2015 and 2025, based on the calculations by the actuarial team from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), authors of the study. The team noted that the Affordable Care

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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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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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Financial Toxicity: The High Cost of Cancer Drugs in the U.S.

Two news items published in the past week point to the yin/yang of cancer survivorship and the high prices of cancer drugs. The good news: a record number of people in the US are surviving cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. That number is 15.5 million Americans, according to a study in the cancer journal CA. Note the demographics of cancer survivors: One-half are 70 years of age and older 56% were diagnosed in the past ten years, and one-third in the past 5 years Women were more likely to have had breast cancer (3.5 mm), uterine cancer (757,000),

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Costs and Connection At the Core of Consumers’ Health-Value Equations

Cost ranks first among the factors of selecting health insurance for most Americans across the generations. As a result, most consumers are likely to shop around for both health providers and health plans, learned through a 2016 Xerox survey detailed in New Insights on Value-Based Care, Healthcare Attitudes 2016. The younger the consumer, the more important costs are, Xerox’s poll found, shown in the first chart. Thus, “shopping around” is more pronounced among younger health consumers — although a majority people who belong to Boomer and Greatest Generation cohorts do shop around for both health providers and health insurance plans —

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Finding Affordable Care In a Deductible World: The Growing Role of Alternative Therapies

Faced with the increasing financial responsibility for healthcare payments, and a desire to manage pain and disease via “natural” approaches, more U.S. consumers are seeking and paying for non-conventional or naturopathic therapies — complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). Health and Healing in America, The Harris Poll conducted among U.S. adults, learned that two in three Americans see alternative therapies as safe and effective. 1 in 2 people see alternative therapies as reliable. And most people believe that some of these treatments, like chiropractic and massage therapy, should be reimbursed by health insurance companies. Seven in 10 Americans have used alternative

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Big and Bigger Pharma – Politics, Pricing and Patients

Pressures on the pharmaceutical industry are coming from every stakeholder touchpoint, driving companies to merge, set prices high for short-term gains, and (finally) put more resources toward providing patients services. Let’s call out just a few of the events from the past couple of weeks which, together, paint the current rocky landscape for pharma and life science companies: Last week on April 28th, termed “healthcare’s $45 billion day,” three big M&A deals hit the financial markets: Abbott sought to acquire St. Jude Medical (worth $30 bn alone), AbbVie looked to buy Stemcentrx for just under $6 bn, and Sanofi tagged

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Expect Double-Digit Rx Cost Growth to 2020 – Implications for Oncology

In the U.S., spending on prescription medicines reached $425 bn in 2015, a 12% increase over 2014. For context, that Rx spending comprised about 14% of the American healthcare spend (based on roughly $3 trillion reported in the National Health Expenditure Accounts in 2014). We can expect double-digit prescription drug cost growth over the next five years, according to forecasts in Medicines Use and Spending in the U.S. – A Review of 2015 and Outlook to 2020 from IMS Institute of Healthcare Informatics. The biggest cost growth driver is specialty medicines, which accounted for $151 bn of the total Rx spend

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Digitizing Self-Healthcare with Google, Pfizer, Under Armour, Walgreens and WebMD

How can digital technologies enable self-healthcare in novel ways? This was the theme of a meeting sponsored by Pfizer Consumer Healthcare and hosted by Google, with the title, “Advancing Consumer Health through New Technology and Next Generation OTC Healthcare” held on 12th April 2016 at Google offices in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. Pharmaceutical brand drugs switching to over-the-counter packaged goods, the Cellscope Otoscope used by parents checking their young children’s earaches, connected shoes and earbuds for athletic enhancement, and omni-channel retail shopping….these are a few of the signals we see emerging to enable consumers’ to drive healthy behaviors, wellness and self-healthcare. Speakers

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What Retail Financial Services Can Teach Healthcare

“Banks and insurance companies that cannot keep pace will find their customers, busy pursuing flawless service models and smart solutions, have moved on without them and they are stranded on the wrong side of the digital divide — from which there will be no return,” according to a report on The Future of Retail Financial Services from Cognizant, Marketforce, and Pegasystems. You could substitute “healthcare providers” for “banks and insurance companies,” because traditional health industry stakeholders are equally behind the consumer demand for digital convenience. This report has important insights relevant to health providers, health plans and suppliers (especially for

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The Rise and Rise of (Specialty) Prescription Drug Prices

Prices for the most commonly used branded prescription drugs grew from a base index of $100 in 2008 to to $264 in 2015, based on the Express Scripts 2015 Drug Trend Report. This is illustrated by the upwardly-sloping blue line in the chart. In contrast, the market basket of the most commonly used generic drugs fell from the $100 index in 2008 to $29.73, shown by the declining black line in the graph. The $112.05 is calculated from a market basket of commonly purchased household goods which cost $100 in 2008, a relatively flat line which puts the 264% rise in

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Prescription Drugs Will Exceed 17% of US Healthcare Spending in 2016

Spending on prescription drugs in America in 2015 hit nearly one-half trillion dollars, some 16.7% of national health spending. The latest report on Observations on Trends in Prescription Drug Spending was published this week by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE). For over a decade in the U.S., the prescription drug component of national health spending was relatively flat, about 10% of overall health costs. In the past couple of years, the proportion of healthcare costs allocated to Rx medications is fast-increasing, as the line chart shows: while

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Digital Health in the Skies Over Europe

“A full medical team via your mobile,” leads an article on clickdoctors.se, covering a Spanish mHealth start-up. This, in the February 2015 (Febrero 2015) issue of ling, the Vueling airlines magazine. I am flying from Florence, Italy, to London via Vueling airlines, heading from an art-and-Slow Food-filled holiday to a couple days of work in the UK. So imagine my surprise as I head to work on digital health and food projects in London reading this article enroute, in the lovely skies flying above the Alps. The story begins: “In 2050 Spain will be, along with Japan, one of the countries

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Beauty Meets Pharma in Retail Health – At Coin in Florence

All over the world, people define their health and wellness across many dimensions…physical, mental, financial, and appearance. In Florence, Italy, I happened upon a riff on this last component on “look good, feel good” at the Coin Department store located on Via Del Calzaiuoli in central Firenze. Welcome to Coin’s Health&Beauty Store. The two photos tell a story about health, where we live, work, play, and shop, the mantra for public health focused on the social determinants of health beyond healthcare. Here at Coin, adjacent to the holistic brands of Clarins and other luxury labels, is a pharmacy along with

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Health Consumers Grow Clinical and Financial Engagement Chops

About one-half of consumers want to partner with doctors instead of allowing their physicians to make treatment decisions for them, according to a report from the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, Health care consumer engagement: No “one-size-fits-all” approach. 1 in 4 people (25%) want to make treatment decisions themselves. Call that clinical health engagement. But even more people, 6 in 10, want to be financially-health engaged: 58% believe doctors should explain treatment costs before decisions are made, shown in the first chart. Most consumers would be comfortable talking about health care costs with doctors, and believe doctors should provide and explain the

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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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The Magic of Getting Fit Starring Penn Jillette (With Help From Withings)

Health is where we live, work, play, pray and have fun. And if you’re Penn Jillette, the magician who collaborates with Teller, it took more than sleight of hand or a magic trick to lose 100 pounds — one-third of his body weight. He did it, according to this video, with the help of hard work, and using activity tracking tools from Withings. Unlike many people who quantify themselves for wellness and fitness, Penn did so to avoid having a medical procedure (i.e., the implantation of a stomach sleeve for weight loss) and also to reduce the six meds he

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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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U.S. National Health Spending Up Due to More People Covered and Higher Drug Costs

National health spending in American grew by 5.3% in 2014, hitting the $3 trillion mark. This represented an up-tick nearly twice the growth rate of 2.9% in 2013, the slowest rate of growth in 55 years, according to the latest analysis of the U.S. health economy published by Health Affairs. The first chart illustrates the factors that contribute to that 5.3% growth in health spending. The two largest factors were medical prices and so-called “residual use and intensity.” The medical price increase portion was 1.8% in 2014, up from 1.3% in 2013. The use and intensity component was attributable to

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Americans Like Generic Drugs Over Brands

“What’s in a name?” Juliet asked in Shakespeare’s play. For medicines consumers in the U.S., not much. Most Americans prefer generics products, according to The Harris Poll’s survey. 7 in 10 U.S. adults choose generics over brands when given a choice. 3 in 10 people say they would “always” choose generics, whether a prescription drug or an over-the-counter product (store brand, private label). While most people across all age groups would choose generics over brand ames for meds, parents with children in the households would more likely choose a brand  name (36% with vs. 28% without kids). Still, 66% of

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The U.S. Will Cover the Bulk of Medicines Spending in 2020

U.S. spending on medicines will approach $590 billion in 2020, increasing 34% over 2015, IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics projects in its forecast, Global Medicines Use in 2020. Growth in spending will be attributable to innovation (new products), price increases and some patent losses of exclusivity (e.g., branded drugs going generic). The U.S. will cover the bulk of drugs spending in 2020 at 41% of the world medicines market, shown in the first pie in the first chart. U.S. medicines spending dwarfs any other country or region in the world, including China which is expected to account for 11% of

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The Average Price of a New Specialty Drug Exceeds Median U.S. Annual Income; and a Tweet from Pam Anderson

The average price for a specialty drug was $53,384 in 2013; the average household income was $52,250. Thus, even allocating 100% of a family’s annual earnings to pay for a drug wouldn’t stretch far enough to cover it in 2013, nor would it do so today in 2015. This sober health economic artifact comes from the latest Rx Price Watch Report from the AARP, detailing cost trends for prescription drugs across all segments — generics, brands and specialty drugs.  Contrast, as well, the $53K for the average specialty drug with the median 2013 Social Security benefit payout of $15,526 and median Medicare

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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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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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Health consumers’ cost increases far outpace wage growth

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

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U.S. Consumers’ View of Pharma Goes Negative in 2015

Americans’ views of the pharmaceutical industry have fallen in the past year, with negative perceptions outweighing positive ones, shown in the line graph from the Gallup Poll. Pharma’s low-lying reputation among consumers sits among others including the legal field, healthcare, oil and gas, and the Federal government which ranked lowest across all 25 sectors Gallup analyzed. Gallup surveyed 1,011 U.S. adults in in the first week of August 2015 via telephone. Since 2003, Gallup notes, the pharma industry has consistently ranked in the bottom third of industries operating in the U.S. Pharma respect is in the eye of the consumer-beholder

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Wegmans tops pharmacy satisfaction – and it’s not even a pharmacy

Think of the word “pharmacy,” and what names come to your mind? CVS Health, Walgreens, Rite-Aid, perhaps. But it’s Wegmans who’s #1 across all pharmacy brands and types, according to the 2015 J.D. Power Pharmacy Study. The big improvement in pharmacy satisfaction in 2015 has been among supermarket drug stores, up to an index score of 851 (of 1,000), the highest consumer score. The satisfaction score for chain pharmacies increased a small 2 points, whereas satisfaction for two other channels for pharmacies — mass merchandisers and mail order — both fell from 2014. It may come as no surprise to Health

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People Like Physicians, Food and Banks. Pharma? Not much.

Most consumers think favorably when they picture doctors, food manufacturers, banks, and airlines. But the pharma industry continues to be lumped with Big Oil and health insurance in the minds of U.S. consumers, industries for which more than 50% of people in America share unfavorable impressions. The August 2015 Kaiser Family Foundation Health Tracking Poll focuses a lot on the pharmaceutical industry. The link to the poll is here: http://kff.org/health-costs/poll-finding/kaiser-health-tracking-poll-august-2015/ Key findings from the survey tell a story about a health citizenry highly suspicious of pharma: 72% of Americans think that drug costs are unreasonable 74% of people think patients in

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How value will impact the business of pharma

The top 25 life science companies grew a paltry 1% in 2014, and 70% of recent brand launches underperformed analysts’ expectations. The introductory page of a new report from KPMG describes, in a single sentence, the very challenging market environment for bio/life sciences: “The pharmaceutical industry is caught between a blockbuster-driven past and a future comprising precision medicine, curative therapies, and payment for outcomes. The years of consistent double-digit growth and unconstrained pricing power are fading into memory.” The assertively titled, “Change in pharma? Not optional,” offers 10 “integrated imperatives” for the pharma industry to follow to best respond to

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Collaboration in health/care drives value – in & beyond bio/pharma

“Tomorrow [drug makers] may not get paid for the molecule, they may only get paid for the outcome,” expects Brian Niznik of Qualcomm Life. He’s quoted in a report from PwC’s Health Research Institute, 21st Century Pharmaceutical Collaboration: The Value Convergence. What Brian’s comment recognizes is the growing value-based environment for healthcare, which couples purchasers driving down drug costs via discounts and stringent formulary (approved drug list) contracts, and growing patient responsibility for paying for prescription drugs — especially financially costly for specialty drugs that are new-new molecules. But as Brian points out, if the high-cost molecule doesn’t perform as

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Digital health mainstreams at CE Week 2015

Digital health is a fast-growing category of consumer electronics, and many new mobile and wearable health devices were featured at the 2015 CE Week held in New York City. The major themes of the “Fresh Gear” unveiled at the meeting included connected cars, connected home devices, 3-D printing, and a growing array of wristbands, apps, and wearable devices focused on the already-crowded health/wellness segment, and the emerging health/care area. The five I’ll focus on are good examples of digital health tech’s aimed at mainstream consumers shopping at retail at the middle of the market: an area that’s ripe to be served.

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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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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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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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It’s a retail health world: consumers at the helm of health/care

Retail health v1.0 encompassed the pharmacy, then embraced urgent care and retail health clinics co-located in brick-and-mortar pharmacy chain stores. In v2.0, retail health encompasses all health/care, really, because people, patients and consumers are essentially self-insured up to the point when their health plan kicks in some cash. The high-deductible health plan era is ushering in the retail health era, broadly writ. Hospitals & Health Networks magazine (HHN) ran a story titled Think Like a Retailer to Engage Patients, covering founder of WEGO Health Jack Barrette‘s and my panel presentation at the 2015 HIMSS conference in Chicago last week. Writer

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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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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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Building the health ecosystem: new bedfellows coming together

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

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Pharma industry update – drug spending, R&D costs, generics, and Botox

The U.S. leads in pharmaceutical drug spending. Global growth in pharmaceuticals will spike in 2014, according to the IMS Institute on Healthcare Informatics report on global pharma spending. The U.S. spends more per capita (per person) than any nation in the study, at about $1400 US dollars expected in pharmaceutical spending in 2018, owing to fewer patent expiries (the end, for now, of the patent cliff) and rising prices (think: specialty drugs like Sovaldi and oncology drugs). The next-biggest spender on Rx will be Japan, at just over $800 per person in pharmaceutical spending in 2018. The “EU5” (UK, Germany, France, Italy

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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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Health-committed consumers look to food to be healthy, wealthy, and wise

There’s an emerging health-committed consumer, one of over 70% of people who believe they’re less healthy than the generations who came before them. 9 in 10 consumers overall believe that what you eat impacts how you feel. Those who are health-committed spend 70% of their grocery budgets on healthy products, read food labels, spend more and shop more frequently than low health-committed consumers, according to Healthy, Wealthy, & Wise, a survey report from Dunnhumby. The number of health-committed consumers globally grew by 38% since 2009. Most consumers look first to themselves to drive health, then to doctors, and third to food companies

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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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Dr Eric Topol on the digital democratization of health care

Moore’s Law is coming to medicine. And it will look and feel a lot like Uber: with rich technology underpinning,  consumer-service oriented and friendly, and shaking up the professionals at the front line of the business (from taxi drivers to physicians). Eric Topol, physician and editor-in-chief at Medscape, told a standing-room-only audience at the kickoff of the 8th annual Health 2.0 Conference that the democratization of health care is coming based on consumers’ use of eight drivers: sensors, labs, imaging, physical exams, access to medical records, transparency of costs, and digital pills. Dr. Topol referred to the cover ot TIME

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NephCure – a rare disease community that’s patient-powered

The burden of chronic kidney disease (CKD) is growing, with one in 10 U.S. adults having some level of CKD.  End-stage renal disease (ESRD) is the last phase of CKD, when dialysis or an organ transplant are required. Nephrotic syndrome is one of the most common forms of CKD, and focal segmental glomerulosclerosis — FSGS — is the fastest-growing cause of nephrotic syndrome in children, and the second-leading cause of kidney failure in children. I spoke with Gigi Peterkin, a longtime colleague of mine who has helped guide my own digital footprint in health. Gigi is Global Director of Marketing at

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Over-the-counter drugs – an asset in the collaborative, DIY health economy

Nations throughout the world are challenged by the cost of health care: from Brazil to China, India to the Philippines, and especially in the U.S., people are morphing into health care consumers. Three categories of health spending in the bulls-eye of countries’ Departments of Health are prescription drugs, and the costs of care in hospitals and doctors’ offices. In the U.S., one tactic for cost containment in health is “switching” certain prescription drugs to over-the-counter products – those deemed to be efficacious and safe for patients to take without seeking treatment from a doctor. Over-the-counter drugs (OTCs) are available every

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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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Affordable medicine: a preferred future

The price of medicines is a barrier for about one billion people on the planet, for citizens in developing countries as well as middle-class families in the richest country in the world, the United States.  Today is World Health Day, when for 24 hours public health advocates (including me) are calling out key issues preventing people from fully living life. One obstacle for too many people is the cost of drugs and supplies that save lives and help people add life to years. For example, bug bites can be deadly if you’re talking about the 50% of the world’s population

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The New Chief Patient Officer

There’s a new member in the C-suite in health care, and her name is the Chief Patient Officer (CPO). That new role in health-town is filled by Dr. Anne Beal, appointed by Sanofi, the global biopharma company, to fill this new job description. Here she is, shaking hands with Colin Powell in one of the many awards ceremonies where Dr. Beal’s work in public health has been lauded. But what is a CPO? Because it’s a new job, Dr. Beal can create the role, at least within the environment and mission of Sanofi and the larger life sciences world. Some

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The new math for Rx: HSAs up, adherence down

A consumer who is faced with greater financial skin-in-the-healthcare game, cost-sharing, is expected to become a smart shopper for lower-priced health products and services. When it comes to patients given prescriptions for medicines, the theory is that patients will choose less expensive generic drugs over brand names it people think the cheaper meds are good substitutes. This is referred to as the generic-drug dispensing rate (GDR). But the theory doesn’t consistently hold true in real life, a study from the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), Brand-Name and Generic Prescription Drug Use After Adoption of a Full-Replacement, Consumer-Directed Health Plan With a

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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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Pharma warming up to the cloud to drive efficiencies and support analytics

Over the next few years, large global pharma companies will need to wring out an additional $35 billion worth of efficiencies in order to drive profitability. While the industry has most of the patent cliff challenge behind it, companies face price constraints with respect to health reform, static national economies, and access demands. As the pharmaceutical industry enters the value-based health care era, the industry must catch up with other vertical markets in adopting information technology. In particular, pharma has been slower to migrate to the cloud than other businesses, with concerns about security and health care particular needs. Today, the

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Risk-shift: employers continue to push more risk to employees and families for health costs

With health costs increase increasing at 4.4% in 2014, a slightly higher rate of growth than the 4.1% seen in 2013. While this is lower than the double-digit increases U.S. employers faced in 2001-2004, it’s still twice the rate of general consumer price inflation. That’s what the first graph shows, based on the The 19th Annual Towers Watson/National Business Group on Health Employer Survey on Purchasing Value in Health Care.  Employers generally want to continue to provide health insurance…for the time being. 92% of companies expect to make changes in health plan provisions in 2014, with 1 in 2 anticipating “significant

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HIMSS14 Monday Morning Quarterback – The Key Takeaways

Returning to terra firma following last week’s convening of the 2014 annual HIMSS conference…taking some time off for family, a funeral, the Oscars, and dealing with yet another snowstorm…I now take a fresh look back at #HIMSS14 at key messages. In random order, the syntheses are: Healthcare in America has entered an era of doing more, with less...and health information technology is a strategic investment for doing so. The operational beacon going forward is moving toward The Triple Aim: building population health, enhancing the patient’s experience, and lowering costs per patient. The CEO of Aetna, Mark Bertolini, spoke of the

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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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What CVS going tobacco-free means for health and business

Bravo! to CVS/pharmacy who today announced it would pull tobacco products from store shelves by October 2014. “The sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose,” the company’s press release asserts. The move will cost CVS $1.5 billion in revenue annually, as the company seeks to consolidate its position as a health company. CVS/pharmacy is part of CVS Caremark, which includes the retail pharmacy chain (the second-largest in the U.S.), a pharmacy benefit management company (Caremark), and retail health clinics (Minute Clinics). CVS Caremark also participates in a healthy communities program issuing grants for projects that focus on health

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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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Pharma and the health industry: when will they finally meet us Where We Live?

Millions of health citizens, consumers, patients and caregivers flock to Facebook, Twitter and Wikipedia every day the world over to seek health information, advocate for patients’ access to a cancer therapy on a health blog, engage in peer-to-peer health care in a social network, and bolster each others’ management of chronic medical conditions in a chat community. Yet the pharmaceutical and medical device industries rank well behind other industries vis-à-vis the use of social media, asserts Engaging patients through social media, with the punchline question: is healthcare ready for empowered and digitally demanding patients? from the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, published on

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What, We Worry? Thinking About Healthcare (Costs) Is Stressing Us Out

Three-quarters of us are concerned about health care, a fraction fewer than those of us worried about the economy. Underneath stress about healthcare, people are worried about costs and the impact of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Say hello to the Healthcare Worry Scale, developed by Chase Communications, a firm focused on marketing and media, largely in the health industry. Chase found that: – 93% believe that their health care costs will continue to increase – 49% say the ACA’s impact is a “major” worry – 43% say getting a disease, medical condition, or injury that health insurance doesn’t fully

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Supermarkets and hospitals most-trusted industries in the U.S.

  See the yellow highlighted rows? That single yellow bar at the top, that’s hospitals; at the bottom, you’ll see pharma, health insurance, and managed care. Hospitals, trusted; pharma, insurance, managed care? Down south on the trust barometer with oil, tobacco, phone companies and social media. The Harris Poll has gauged U.S. consumers’ views on honesty and trustworthiness across industries for the past ten years. Over those ten years, trust in these industries has eroded, from huge falls-from-grace for banks (a 17 point fall), packaged food (falling 12 points), and computer hardware and software substantially falling, as well. Hospitals are

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A certain forecast: health consumers will be more cost-squeezed in 2014 for Rx and insurance

Gird your wallets, U.S. consumers: watch the dollars flow out-of-pocket for prescription drugs in 2014, as predicted by the 2013-2014 Prescription Drug Benefit Cost and Plan Design Report published by the Pharmacy Benefit Management Institute (PBMI) this week. Constraints covering most plan members are: Step therapy Prior authorization (to get approvals to fill high-cost drugs, notably growth hormones, injectables, controlled substances, Retin-A, and medications for sleep disorders, and Compulsory 90 day refills at retail (90-day dispensing for chronic meds). This Report, sponsored by Takeda, is the gold standard of drug benefit trends, having been published since 1995. Average 30-day copayments

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

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

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Getting to health engagement will require more than a patient portal

Patient and health engagement is the flavor du jour in health circles these days, from the corridors of hospitals to the caffeinated marketing meetings in Big Pharma’s east coast meet-ups. But there’s no standard agreement on what we mean by peoples’ health engagement, whether by patient or well consumer. In Market Insights: The Evolution of Consumer Engagement in Health Care, Porter Research endeavors to deepen our understanding of this important concept. In the introductory section of the paper, “Understanding Engagement,” Porter proffers that industry – providers, payers and employers – consider engagement as “changing consumer behavior through increased participation in consumers’ own health

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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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Consumers trust and welcome health and insurance providers to go DTC with communications

Consumers embrace ongoing dialog with the companies they do business with, Varolii Corporation toplines in a survey report, What Do Customers Want? A Growing Appetite for Customer Communications. Across all vertical industries consumers trust for this dialogue, health care organizations – specifically doctors, pharmacists, and insurance companies – are the most trusted. Examples of “welcome-comms” would be reminders about upcoming appointments or vaccinations (among 69% of people), notices to reorder or pick up a prescription (57%), and messages encouraging scheduling an appointment (39%). In banking, notices about fraudulent activity on one’s account is the most welcomed message beating out appointment

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A new medical side-effect: out-of-pocket health care costs

When we say the phrase “side effects,” what do we think of? The FDA says that “all medicines have benefits and risks. The risks of medicines are the chances that something unwanted or unexpected could happen to you when you use them. Risks could be less serious things, such as an upset stomach, or more serious things, such as liver damage.” There’s a new risk in town in health care, and it’s the equivalent of an upset stomach when it comes to a co-pay for a branded on-formulary drug, or liver damage if it involves a coinsurance percent of “retail”

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

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

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Health care and survey taking at the Big Box Store

Where can you shop the health and beauty aisles, pick up some groceries and a prescription, get a flu vaccine, and weigh in on Obamacare and what digital health tools you like? Why, at one of several thousand retail stores where you can find a SoloHealth kiosk. As of yesterday afternoon, over 32 million encounters were recorded on SoloHealth kiosks, based on an app I saw on the company CEO Bart Foster’s smartphone. Kiosks are locatted around the United States in retailers including Walmart and Sam’s Clubs, along with major grocery chains like Schnuck’s and Publix, and the CVS pharmacy

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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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Consumers don’t get as much satisfaction with high-deductible health plans

Since the advent of the so-called consumer-directed health care era in the mid-2000s, there’s been a love-gap between health plan members of traditional plans, living in Health Plan World 1.0, and people enrolled in newer consumer-driven plans – high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) and consumer-directed health plans (CDHPs). That gap in plan satisfaction continues, according to the Employee Benefits Research Institute (EBRI)’s poll of Americans’ consumer engagement in health care. The survey was conducted with the Commonwealth Fund. As the bar chart illustrates, some 62% of members in traditional plans were satisfied (very or extremely) with their health insurance in 2012.

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People with doctors interested in EMRs, but where’s the easy button?

1 in two people who are insured and have a regular doctor are interested in trying out an electronic medical record. But they need a doctor or nurse to suggest this, and they need it to be easy to use. The EMR Impact survey was conducted by Aeffect and 88 Brand Partners to assess 1,000 U.S. online consumers’ views on electronic medical records (EMRs): specifically, how do insured American adults (age 25 to 55 who have seen their regular physician in the past 3 years) view accessing their personal health information via EMRs? Among this population segment, 1 in 4 people (24%)

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Chief Health Officers, Women, Are In Pain

Women are the Chief Health Officers of their families and in their communities. But stress is on the rise for women. Taking an inventory on several health risks for American women in 2013 paints a picture of pain: of overdosing, caregiver burnout, health disparities, financial stress, and over-drinking. Overdosing on opioids. Opioids are strong drugs prescribed for pain management such as hydrocodone, morphine, and oxycodone. The number of opioid prescriptions grew in the U.S. by over 300% between 1999 and 2010. Deaths from prescription painkiller overdoses among women have increased more than 400% since 1999, compared to 265% among men.

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Eat fruits and vegetables: it’s worth $11 trillion to you and the U.S. economy

More than 127,000 people die every year in America from cardiovascular disease, accruing $17 billion in medical spending. Heart disease is a “costly killer,” according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, who has calculated The $11 trillion reward: how simple dietary changes can save lives and money, and how we get there, published in August 2013. That $11 trillion opportunity is equal to the present value of lives saved. The solution to bolstering heart (and overall health) and saving money (medical spending and personal productivity) is in food. We’re not talking about genetically engineering anything special or out-of-the-ordinary. We are talking

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People are growing their health-consumer muscles in 2013

  Most Americans are concerned about their ability to for medical bills, even when they have health insurance. As a result, most are comfortable asking their doctor about how much their medical treatment will cost. People are becoming savvier health care shoppers largely because they have to: 37% of people in the U.S. have an annual health insurance deductible over $2,000, according to the Spring/Summer 2013 Altarum Institute Survey of Consumer Health Care Opinion, published on 11th July 2013. Many of the media stories coming out of the Altarum survey since its publication have been about people and their trust in

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10 Reasons Why ObamaCare is Good for US

When Secretary Sebelius calls, I listen. It’s a sort of “Help Wanted” ad from the Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius that prompted me to write this post. The Secretary called for female bloggers to talk about the benefits of The Affordable Care Act last week when she spoke in Chicago at the BlogHer conference. Secretary Sebelius’s request was discussed in this story from the Associated Press published July 25, 2013. “I bet you more people could tell you the name of the new prince of England than could tell you that the health market opens October 1st,” the

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In the US health care cost game, doctors have seen the enemy – and it’s not them

When it comes to who’s most responsible for reducing the cost of health care in America, most doctors put the onus on trial lawyers, health insurance companies, pharma and medical device manufacturers, hospitals, and even patients. But physicians themselves ? Not so much responsibility – only 36% of doctors polled said doctors should assume major responsibility in reducing health care costs. And, in particular, most U.S. physicians have no enthusiasm for reducing health care costs by changing payment models, like penalizing providers for hospital re-admissions or paying a group of doctors a fixed, bundled price for managing population health. Limiting

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Cost prevents people from seeking preventive health care

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

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The promise of ObamaCare isn’t comforting Americans worrying about money and health in 2013

In June 2013, even though news about the economy and jobs is more positive and ObamaCare’s promise of health insurance for the uninsured will soon kick in, most Americans are concerned about (1) money and (2) the costs of health care. The Kaiser Health Tracking poll of June 2013 paints an America worried about personal finances and health, and pretty clueless about health reform – in particular, the advent of health insurance exchanges. Among the 25% of people who have seen media coverage about the Affordable Care Act (alternatively referred to broadly as “health reform” or specifically as “ObamaCare”), 3

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

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

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Call it DTH, direct to home: Pfizer is shipping Viagra direct to consume

While the blockbuster erectile dysfunction (ED) drug Viagra has been shipped directly to consumer’s homes for years via pharmacy benefits management companies and specialty pharmacy retailers catering to the ED segment, Pfizer wants in on the transaction and has decided to get into the Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) distribution business for a prescription drug. Call this market development Direct-to-Home, or DTH. This is a kind of sentinel event signaling a pharmaceutical manufacturer cutting out the middle-man (read: retail pharmacy), and in this case getting up-close-and-personal with users of a drug that represents quality of life. Another motivation for Pfizer is trying to

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Dietitians provide a health bridge between food and pharmacy

The registered dietitian is an in-demand labor resource for grocery stores around the U.S. Advertising Age covered the phenomenon of the growing clout of dietitians in food chains (April 14, 2013). Let’s dig further into this phenomenon through the Health Populi lens on healthcareDIY and peoples’ ability to bend their personal health care cost curves. Stores such as Giant Eagle, Hy-Vee, Safeway and Wegmans are morphing into wellness destinations, with pharmacies and natural food aisles taking up valuable square footage to meet consumers’ growing demands for healthy choices. Some stores are formalizing their approach to food = health by formulating a

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Health cost transparency comes to Cummins Engine

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

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FDA goes DTP(atient)

The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) launched its new website for and about patients, the Patient Network, with the tagline, “Bringing your voice to drug and device approval and safety.” With this move, the FDA moves toward social health, someplace where at least one-third of U.S. consumers already opine, shop, share personal info, crowdsource cures, and support each other on all-matters-health-and-illness. The objective of the Patient Network is, “to help FDA help patients have a bigger voice.” Dr. Margaret Hamburg, the Commissioner of the FDA, talks about the concept here. The rationale? “When patients better understand the intricacies of how

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1 in 5 US consumers asks a doctor for a lower-cost Rx

  With U.S. health consumers spending $45 billion out-of-pocket for prescription drugs in 2011, pharmaceutical products are morphing into retail health products. As such, as they do with any other consumer good, consumers can vote with their feet by walking away from a product purchase or making the spend based on the price of the product and its attributes, along with whether there are substitutes available in the marketplace. When it comes to prescription drugs, it’s not as clear-cut, according to the Centers for Disease Control‘s analysis of data from the 2011 National Health Interview Survey titled Strategies Used by

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The need for a Zagat and TripAdvisor in health care

  Patient satisfaction survey scores have begun to directly impact Medicare payment for health providers. Health plan members are morphing into health consumers spending “real money” in high-deductible health plans. Newly-diagnosed patients with chronic conditions look online for information to sort out whether a generic drug is equivalent to a branded Rx that costs five-times the out-of-pocket cost of the cheaper substitute. While health care report cards have been around for many years, consumers’ need to get their arms around relevant and accessible information on quality and value is driving a new market for a Yelp, Travelocity, or Zagat in

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

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

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Walgreens Steps with Balance program rewards both consumers and the store

Consumers who patronize Walgreens can get rewarded for tracking their physical activity   For the Steps with Balance program kickoff, self-tracking consumers can earn 20 points for every mile walked or run and 20 points for tracking weight. Walgreens implemented the Walk with Walgreens program in 2012. The program won an Effie Award for an outstanding marketing program. With the success of Walk with Walgreens, the retail pharmacy company has expanded the program beyond simple steps to include weight tracking and health goals for earning loyalty points. The program enables a few of the most popular self-tracking devices to sync so

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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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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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