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Fighting Cancer with Hormel Vital Cuisine – Food as Medicine Update

Think “Hormel,” and you may have visions of SPAM, Chi-Chi’s salsa, Skippy peanut butter, and Dinty Moore corned beef hash. So what’s Hormel doing in the title of a Health Populi post, anyway, you might ask? Like many food companies, Hormel is broadening its product portfolio expanding with health. The company isn’t just moving to healthy eating for wellness’s sake, but boldly going where most food companies haven’t yet gone: developing products for people battling cancer. Vital Choices, a well-titled line of frozen meals, was developed by Hormel in collaboration with the American Cancer Society, Cancer Nutrition Consortium, the Culinary Institute

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See Me, Feel Me, Touch Me, Heal Me – What The Who’s Tommy Can Teach Healthcare

“See me, feel me, touch me, heal me,” is the lyrical refrain from The Who’s Tommy. These eight words summarize what Deloitte has learned from the firm’s latest look into healthcare consumers, published in the report, Health plans: What matters most to the health care consumer. U.S. consumers’ demands for health care are for: Personalization from doctors, hospitals, and other care providers — the most important priority; Economically rational coverage and care choices; Convenience-drive access and care experience; and, Digitally connected care. Personalization is Job 1: “Consumers want to be heard, understood, and given clear directions through a personalized health care

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Self-Care Is the Best Healthcare Reform

The greater a person’s level of health engagement, the better their health outcome will be. Evidence is growing on the return-on-investment for peoples’ health activation and how healthy they are. That ROI is both in survival (mortality) and quality of life (morbidity), as well as hard-dollar savings — personally bending-the-healthcare-cost-curve. But people are more likely to engage in “health” than “healthcare.” We’d rather ingest food-as-medicine than a prescription drug, use walking in a lovely park for exercise, and laugh while we’re learning about how to manage our health insurance benefits. Thus, Campbell’s Soup Company and Hormel are expanding healthy offerings,

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Consumers Feel More Respect from Personal Care and Grocery Brands Than Pharma or Insurance

People feel like get-no-respect Rodney Dangerfield when they deal with health insurance, government agencies, or pharma companies. Consumers feel much more love from personal care and beauty companies, grocery and fitness, according to a brand equity study by a team from C Space, published in Harvard Businss Review. As consumer-directed health care (high deductibles, first-dollar payments out-of-pocket) continues to grow, bridging consumer trust and values will be a critical factor for building consumer market share in the expanding retail health landscape. Nine of the top 10 companies C Space identified with the greatest “customer quotient” are adjacent in some way to health:

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43% of Americans Worry About How They’ll Pay for Health Care

4 in 10 Americans are worried about how they’ll pay for health care, according to Americans’ Views on Current Trade and Health Policies, a poll conducted jointly between the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Politico. There are no significant party differences between Democrats and Republicans regarding peoples’ worrying about their ability to pay medical costs in the next year. But there are differences in geography, with 53% of people in the South significantly more worried about health care costs compared with other regions of the U.S. Who’s to blame for the high costs of health care that

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Healthcare Stakeholders’ Kumbaya Moment at Walmart’s Retail Health Summit

Walmart is already in the healthcare business, serving 140 million customer visits weekly, millions of whom fill prescriptions at the store pharmacy, seek personal care in the health and beauty aisles, track blood pressure using a Higi health kiosk, and shop for healthier foods in the grocery aisles. The world’s largest company on the Global Fortune 500 list hosted a Retail Health Summit in June, the details of which have been published in a special report by Drug Store News. The Summit, produced by Dan Mack’s Mack Elevation Forum and Drug Store News, convened stakeholders from across the retail health landscape: including

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7 Signs of the Retail Health Revolution

There are many signposts in the marketplace pointing the way toward the new retail health/care for consumers. They include: Food and exercise as the new medicine Loneliness as the new smoking as a health risk Prevention as the new sustainability Home as the new long-term care locus Balancing humanity and technology, the analog and the digital, and Retail as a center of the new healthcare ecosystem. Read more about the 7 Signs of the Retail Health Revolution,  published by Drug Store News. This graphic-rich publication was based on a speech I gave at a recent retail health summit convened with healthcare’s

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Naloxone in Retail Health – Helping The Opioid Epidemic at Pharmacies and Grocery Stores

The ranks of pharmacies making available the overdose reversal medication naloxone without a prescription or seeing a doctor, is fast-growing. These announcements from retail pharmacy chains and grocery stores is a collective retail health-response to the opioid epidemic, a mainstream public health challenge across America. Naloxone is used in the event of an overdose. It can reverse the impacts of opioids, administered by injection or nasal spray. The statistics on opioid overdoses in the U.S. are chilling. Mortality (death rate) from opioid overdose in the U.S. grew 200% since 2000. Deaths have been higher among people between 25 and 44 years of

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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 Future of Retail Health in 2027

As consumers gain more financial skin in the game of paying for health care, we look for more retail-like experiences that reflect the Burger King approach to consuming: having it our way. For health are, that means access, convenience, transparency and fair costs, respect for our time, and a clear value proposition for services rendered. That doesn’t happen so much in the legacy health care system — in hospitals and doctors’ offices. It has already begun to happen in retail health settings and, especially, in the changing nature of pharmacies. Retail Health 2027, a special supplement to Drug Store News

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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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Retail Clinics Continue to Shape Local Healthcare Markets

Retail clinics are a growing source of primary care for more U.S. health consumers, discussed in a review of retail clinics published by Drug Store News in July 2016. There will be more than 2,800 retail clinics by 2018, according to Accenture’s tea leaves. Two key drivers will bolster retail clinics’ relevance and quality in local health delivery systems: Retail clinics’ ability to forge relationships with legacy health care providers (physicians, hospitals); and, Clinics’ adoption and effective use of information technology that enables data sharing (e.g., to the healthcare provider’s electronic health records system) and data liquidity (that is, securely moving

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

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

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Love, Mercy and Virtual Healthcare

Virtual healthcare – call it telemedicine, remote monitoring, or the umbrella term, telehealth – is coming of age. And it’s a form of healthcare that a growing percentage of consumers in the U.S. want. I’m in Branson, Missouri, today, meeting with the State’s Hospital Association to talk about consumers in the growing DIY health/care economy. So “telehealth,” broadly defined, is part of my message. This week Xerox announced its survey results focused on consumers’ interests in telehealth. “Xerox helps healthcare providers serve patients anytime, anywhere,” the press release starts. Convenience, cost-savings, and the ability to consult physicians quickly and get e-refills are

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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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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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Control Drug Costs and Regulate Pharma, Most Older Americans Say

The top reason people in America over 50 don’t fill a prescription is the cost of the drug, according to the AARP 2015 Survey on Prescription Drugs. Eight in 10 people 50+ think the cost of prescription drugs is too high, and 4 in 10 are concerned about their ability to afford their medications. Thus, nearly all people over 50 think it’s important for politicians (especially presidential candidates) to control Rx drug costs. Older consumers are connecting dots between the cost of their medications and direct-to-consumer prescription drug advertising: 88% of the 50+ population who have seen or heard drug

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The Hospital of the Future Won’t Be a Hospital At All

In the future, a hospital won’t be a hospital at all, according to 9 in 10 hospital executives who occupy the c-suite polled in Premier’s Spring 2016 Economic Outlook. Among factors impacting their ability to deliver health care, population health and the ACA were the top concerns among one-half of hospital executives. 1 in 4 hospital CxOs think that staffing shortages have the biggest impact on care delivery, and 13% see emerging tech heavily impacting care delivery. Technology is the top area of capital investment planned over the next 12 months, noted by 84% of hospital execs in the survey.

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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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Consumers’ Growing Use of New Retail Health “Doors”

In the growing era of consumer-driven health, a growing list of options for receiving care are available to consumers. And people are liking new-new sites of care that are more convenient, cheaper, price-transparent, and digitally-enabled. Think of these new-new sites as “new front doors,” according to Oliver Wyman in their report, The New Front Door to Healthcare is Here. The traditional “doors” to primary and urgent care have been the doctor’s office, hospital ambulatory clinics, and the emergency room. Today, the growing locations for retail clinics and urgent care centers are giving consumers more visible and convenient choices for seeking

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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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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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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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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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Retailers will morph into health destinations in 2016

Retailers in the U.S. are morphing into health destinations in 2016. Members of Target’s management team attended the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and shared their perspectives in the company blog. Among the Target teams observations came from the Chief Marketing Officer, Jeff Jones, who observed, “A tidal wave of newness is coming to fitness technology and many companies are on the cusp of changing the game. From nutrition and sleep to how you exercise, it’s all going to be measured, linked and tracked. Wearables are here to stay and getting smarter every year.” The Senior Vice President for Hardlines,

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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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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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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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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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The Fast-Growing Consumer Digital Health Ecosystem – Health 2.0 Day 2

The fastest-growing category of products and services at Health 2.0 is consumer-facing digital health, and a panel of companies demonstrated various flavors of the New Retail Health. One of the most prominent companies featured in Health 2.0’s conferences from the inception has been MyFitnessPal (MFP), a long-time helpful tool I’ve used to manage my own health-life. Under Armour acquired MFP earlier this year, which I covered here in Health Populi. Under Armour’s original mission was to make all athletes better. With the company’s acquisition of MyFitnessPal, Under Armour continued its morphing from a textile and sports gear company to a

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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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What Retail Telemedicine Means For Healthcare Providers

Direct-to-consumer retail health options are fast-growing in the U.S. health ecosystem. CVS Health brought three telemedicine vendors to its pharmacy brick-and-mortar stores. CVS also acquired Target’s pharmacies, expanding its retail health footprint. Rite Aid has added HealthSpot kiosks to its pharmacies, while Walgreens expanded its relationship with MDLive. And, Cox Cable acquired Trapollo to bring remote health monitoring into subscribers’ homes, along with the cable company’s venture with Cleveland Clinic, Vivre Health. Coupled with the growing supply side of telemedicine vendors, the latest National Business Group on Health survey found that most large employers plan to expand the telemedicine services they

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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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Happy 1st Anniversary to CVS Going Tobacco-Free

CVS quit selling cigarettes and tobacco products in 2014, made $139 bn, and saved 65,000 lives. That’s the best kind of retail health there is. It’s been a year since CVS quit selling cigarettes, I’m reminded by a one-page ad in today’s Wall Street Journal on page B5. This is a big investment in an ad for a business strategy that’s had a huge return-on-investment. The ad reads: “One year ago, we took a deep breath and quit selling cigarettes in our pharmacies. Now we’re working to create a tobacco-free world. We just want to help everyone, everywhere, breathe easier,”

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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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Dr. Watson comes to retail health

IBM’s Watson joins CVS Health to bring Big Data to people managing chronic conditions through the retail pharmacy channel. Welcome to the mainstreaming of predictive analytics for health in the community. Or, as PC magazine put it, “CVS, IBM’s Watson Wants to Prevent You From Getting Sick.” The core of the program would, in the words of CVS’s press release, “enable health care practitioners to quickly and easily gain insights from an unprecedented mix of health information sources such as medical health records, pharmacy and medical claims information, environmental factors, and fitness devices to help individuals stay on track with

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It’s My Body And I’ll Test If I Want To

While health consumers in America have more skin in the game in terms of paying more via high-deductible health plans and out-of-pocket costs, they are largely unempowered when it comes to diagnostic testing in labs. Theranos is working to change that and empower consumers to access convenient lab testing and get results quickly and online. Describing the lab-disempowerment story in a Wall Street Journal op-ed dated July 28, Elizabeth Holmes writes about How to Usher In a New Era of Preventive Health Care. Holmes is the founder and CEO of Theranos (named by joining the words “therapy” and “diagnosis”), a health technology company

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Beauty, Health and Power

CVS is expanding the beauty aisles in stores, along with adding fresh and refrigerated foods and healthy snacks to its offerings. This is part of the company’s re-positioning in its post-tobacco mission, having re-branded from CVS/pharmacy to CVS Health last year. (You can read more about this strategic transformation here in Health Populi and here in my Huffington Post column). When CVS made this announcement, a portfolio manager for Gabelli Funds noted that health and beauty products have very high profit margins. These margins will be useful as CVS replaces the tobacco sales lost last year when the company went tobacco-free.

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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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The Affordable Care Act As New-Business Creator

While there’s little evidence that the short-term impact of the Affordable Care Act has limited job growth or driven most employers to drop health insurance plans, the ACA has spawned a “cottage industry” of health companies since 2010, according to PwC. As the ACA turned five years of age, the PwC Health Research Institute led by Ceci Connolly identified at least 90 newcos addressing opportunities inspired by the ACA: Supporting telehealth platforms between patients and providers, such as Vivre Health Educating consumers, such as the transparency provider HealthSparq does Streamlining operations to enhance efficiency, the business of Cureate among others

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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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People don’t know much about patient portals: Xerox’s 5th EHR study

The Field of Dreams works in nostalgic plotlines about baseball, but as I’ve pointed out since the advent of consumer-facing health technologies, there’s no Field of Dreams effect in health care when it comes to consumer health engagement. U.S. health consumers aren’t using the patient portals that health care providers have built as part of their efforts to bolster health engagement via EHRs and health IT, Xerox found in the company’s 5th annual survey on electronic health records. I spoke with Tamara St. Claire to discuss the implications of the consumer poll, which was conducted among 2,017 U.S. adults in

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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-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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Health care as a retail business

The health care industry is undergoing a retail transformation, according to Retail Reigns in Health Care: The rise of consumer power and its organization & workforce implications from Deloitte. Deloitte’s report published in October 2014 focuses on the health insurance business, which is newly-dealing with uninsured people largely unfamiliar with how to evaluate health plan options. This by any definition requires new muscles for both buyers and sellers on a health insurance exchange: new product access + uninformed consumer = retail challenge. Deloitte notes another supply and demand challenge, and that’s with the health insurance company workforce: while 93% of health

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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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Walgreens+WebMD: reinventing retail pharmacy

With the goal of driving a digital health platform for well-informed, effective self-care, the nation’s largest retail pharmacy chain and prominent consumer-facing health information portal are allying to move from serving up pills and information to health “care.” Walgreens and WebMD launched their joint effort on 2nd October 2014, a few weeks after CVS/pharmacy re-branded as CVS Health. Welcome to the reinvention of the retail pharmacy. I spoke for a few minutes with David Schlanger, CEO, WebMD, and Alex Gourlay, President, Customer Experience and Daily Living, Walgreens, the day of the launch, to get early insights into the vision for

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Employers engaging in health engagement

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

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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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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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The retailization of digital health: Consumer Electronics Association mainstreams health

The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) has formed a new Health and Fitness Technology Division, signalling the growing-up and mainstreaming of digital health in everyday life. The CEA represents companies that design, manufacture and market goods for people who pay for stuff that plugs into electric sockets and operate on batteries — like TVs, phones, music playing and listening, kitchen appliances, electronic games, and quite prominent at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show, e-cigarettes (rebranding “safe smoking” as “vaping” technology). In its press release announcing this news, CEA President and CEO Gary Shapiro says, “Technology innovations now offer unprecedented opportunities for consumers to

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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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Health care in a multiscreen world

In 2014, we are digital omnivores. Most people “consume” information and entertainment on more than one screen: 7 hours’ worth over a 5-hour period. You read that right: most people who watch TV, use a laptop or PC, smartphone or tablet are multitasking use of these devices in parallel. And above all, people are using smartphones as their primary screen. The AdReaction: Marketing in a multiscreen world report from Millward Brown paints a picture of global consumers who are cobbling together multiscreen experiences. The smartphone has become the “do it all” device if you don’t carry a laptop or tablet around, especially favored

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Why a grocery chain supports health data liquidity

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

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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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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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Doctor respect, nurse trust – the yin/yang of team-based care

7 in 10 people in the U.S. see a doctor for their health care, and prefer seeing a doctor over a nurse practitioner, based on a poll Ipsos conducted on behalf of the American Academy of Family Physicians. What do people seek in a doctor? Knowledge, state-of-the-art treatments, experience and trustworthiness are the top traits people seek in health providers overall. Ipsos probed further into various traits for clinicians (including doctors, nurses and NPs), asking which of these factors were embodied in the health professional people want to receive care from. The most important attributes for doctors were: Who I want

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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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Nurses are the most-trusted professionals in America

Who do you trust? If you’re a member of the middle of the U.S. normal bell curve, you’re thinking “nurses.” 8 in 10 Americans put nurses at the top of the ethics list, a question that Gallup has frequently surveyed since 1976. Nurses have ranked highest in honesty and ethics in America since Gallup began included the profession in the poll in 1999 (except for 2001, when firefighters were #1 post 9/11). Tied for second place this year are pharmacists and grade school teachers (with 70% of U.S. adults ranking them with high ethical standards), closely followed by doctors and

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

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

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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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A tale of vaccines, public school, and family medical rights

This is a personal post about a very personal idea: medical rights and freedom of choice. When it has to do with your child, especially when she is a minor, then it’s ever-the-more personal. I have permission to use my daughter’s name, Anna, for this post. Anna’s public high school hosted a flu vaccine clinic this week. As I believe and live the mantra that health is where we live, work, play and pray — that health is not locked up isolated in a doctor’s office or hospital bed — I embrace the role that schools can play to bolster

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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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People not up-close-and-personal about personalized medicine…yet

Only 1 in 4 U.S. adults over 30 know what “personalized medicine” (PM) really is, and only 8% of people feel very knowledgeable about the concept based on Consumer Perspectives on Personalized Medicine from GfK, published online in August 2013. GfK surveyed 602 online adults 30 years and over between February and March 2013 drawn from the company’s KnowledgePanel sample of U.S. adults. Only 4% of people who have heard of personalized medicine describe it accurately as “medicine based on genome/genetic make up.” About one-half of people (52%) defined PM as medical care, treatment, or medicine geared toward individual needs. The poll

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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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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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Health and wellness, the economy and the grocery store

Consumers in America are spending more, and especially at the grocery store. Most people say they want to eat healthy — but, although they’re spending more at the food store, one-half of supermarket shoppers say cost is the main obstacle for healthy eating. 2 in 3 U.S. grocery shoppers define health and wellness as being physically fit and active, and over half believe that feeling good about yourself is another facet of health. Not being overweight equals health for about one-half of U.S. shoppers. The Why? Behind the Buy, from Acosta Sales & Marketing, explores buying patterns among U.S. consumers

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What to expect from health care between now and 2018

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

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