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Aging America Is Driving Growth in Federal Healthcare Spending

Federal healthcare program costs are the largest component of mandatory spending in the U.S. budget, according to An Update to the Budget and Economic Outlook: 2016 to 2026 from the U.S. Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Federal spending for healthcare will increase $77 billion in 2016, about 8% over 2015, for a total of $1.1 trillion. The CBO believes that number overstates the growth in Medicare and Medicaid because of a one-time payment shift of $22 bn to Medicare (from 2017 back into 2016); adjusting for this, CBO sees Federal healthcare spending growing 6% (about $55 bn) this year. The driver

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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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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 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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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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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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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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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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Connecting Mental Health Spending to Job Creation in the U.S.

Heart disease and cancer may be the top killers of people who live in the U.S., but the top health spending line item was for mental disorders: $201 billion in 2013. The chart explains a critical aspect of the spending in that top green portion of the bar: the turquoise segment was for spending on “civilian noninstitutionalized” people, and the green was for “institutionalized and active-duty military.” Mental health issues account, by far, for the largest medical spending in a single condition as shown by the top green bar segment in the chart. These insights come from the Commerce Department’s Bureau

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What Health Care Can Learn from the Blood Clot Community

  “Our goal is to create an aware and engaged, irritating set of patients who create a dialogue with health care providers once they’ve had a [blood] clot,” explained Randy Fenninger, CEO of the National Blood Clot Alliance (NBCA). NBCA’s tagline and hashtag is “Stop the Clot.” Welcome to the multi-stakeholder community involved with deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and, clinically speaking, Venous Thromboembolism (VTE). We’re talking blood clots, and the public health burden of this condition is big: it’s a leading cause of death and disability. One in 4 people in the world die of conditions caused by thrombosis. I had

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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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GoHealthEvents, An Online Source For Consumer Retail Health Opportunities

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

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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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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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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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Cost Comes Before “My Doctor” In Picking Health Insurance

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

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

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

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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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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 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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American health citizens hungry for cost controls

Most Americans support price controls on drug and medical device manufacturers, hospitals, and payments to doctors, along with allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices. U.S. health citizens, now consumers, have been experiencing sticker-shock when it comes to prices on medical bills upon hospital discharge, leaving the doctor’s office, filling a prescription at a pharmacy or receiving a specialty drug recommended for a serious medical condition. The HealthDay/Harris Poll of 5 November 2015 quantifies their observation that Americans Want Bold Steps to Keep Health Care Costs in Check. The topline of the Poll shows that: 73 percent support price controls on

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Retail Health Landscape Expanding Through Clinic Growth, Accenture Forecasts

The Old School retail clinic is going beyond checking your child’s ear infection and sore throat, giving immunizations and filling out back-to-school forms just-in-time over LaborDay  weekend. The new-new retail clinic is supporting patients’ chronic disease management, partnering with academic medical centers, and bolstering medication management. Accenture’s bullish forecast is titled “US Retail Health Clinics Expected to Surge by 2017,” making the case that these brick-and-mortar providers are shifting from a relatively limited retail scope to a broader and deeper clinical focus. The so-called surge in the number of retail clinics is projected to be nearly 50% growth between 2014 and 2017,

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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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Growing Signs Of Consumer Health Engagement, Via Deloitte

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

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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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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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Employers pushing consumerism for health benefits in 2016

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

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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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Entresto – model for future Rx?

The FDA approved Novartis’s new heart failure drug Entresto (LCZ696) on July 7, 2015. This product was approved under the FDA fast track program which prioritizes therapies that fill unmet needs for patients with life-threatening conditions. Heart failure affects over 5 million people in the U.S. and is often caused by heart attacks and high blood pressure. So heart failure impacts lots of people and, in aggregate, the CDC says represents about $32 bn of medical spending annually in the U.S. and is a factor in 1 in 9 deaths in America each year. Novartis is looking to price Entresto as much

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

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

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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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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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Digital health love – older people who use tech like health-tech, too

As people take on self-service across all aspects of daily living, self-care in health is growing beyond the use of vitamins/minerals/supplements, over-the-counter meds, and trying out the blood-pressure cuff in the pharmacy waiting for a prescription to be filled. Today, health consumers the world over have begun to engage in self-care using digital technologies. And this isn’t just a phenomenon among people in the Millennial generation. Most seniors who regularly use technology (e.g., using computers and mobile phones) are also active in digitally tracking their weight, for example, learned in a survey by Accenture. Older people who use technology in daily

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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 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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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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Understanding the patient journey – using real-world data

It’s de rigueur for any organization marketing a product or service in health care to be “patient-centered” these days. “Patient engagement” and “health engagement” are phrases found on health conference agendas, whether pitching to attendees in pharma and life sciences, health IT, health insurance, or healthcare (to hospitals and physicians, alike). One paradigm for patient-centricity that’s more mature than most is IMS Health’s Patient Journey construct, which the data-driven company has been talking about since 2012. While the concept focused mainly on pharmaceutical marketing and medication adherence, it’s useful for all industry segments looking to motivate behavior change in health

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

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

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Doctors become health economists

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

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

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

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Health Axioms – inspiring self-care in patients and people

Most people face constraints in following a healthier lifestyle, according to new research from Bain & Company. Stress, time constraints, difficulty changing habits, getting enough sleep, and financial issues all militate against people project managing their health on a daily basis. Enter The Health Axioms, 32 mantras for simplifying healthcare DIY to empower and engage people in self-health. Conceived by health/tech designer Juhan Sonin, who teaches at MIT and is part of the team at Involution Studios, Health Axioms are 32 messages each designed on a 2×3 inch card and packaged as a deck to inspire and support health outside

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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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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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Health Care Everywhere at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show

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

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

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

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3 Things I Know About Health Care in 2014

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

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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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Color us stressed – how to deal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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U.S. Health Citizens Needed a Dummies Guide to the ACA

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed in March 2010; that month, 57% of U.S. adults did something to self-ration health care, such as splitting prescription pills, postponing necessary health care, and putting off recommended medical tests, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) Health Tracking Poll of March 2010. 57% of U.S. adults are still self-rationing health care in September 2013, according to KFF’s latest Health Tracking Poll, completed among 1,503 U.S. adults just two weeks before the launch of the Health Insurance Marketplaces on October 1, 2013. As of September 2013, only 19% of U.S. adults said they had heard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Food and the household health budget: one pocket, shrinking access

Over 1 in 5 people in the U.S. have not had enough money to buy food for themselves or their families in the past year, according to the August 2013 Gallup Healthways Index. This is as many consumers as those who couldn’t afford food during the deepest months of the last recession. Lack of access to food is a challenge for a cadre of Americans who lack access to other basic needs such as shelter and health care. Gallup’s Basic Access Index looks at this market basket, and has found that Americans’ access to basic needs at 81.4 in August

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Health information search online, an hour a week. Time with a doctor? An hour a year.

In game-scoring unit terms, 52 is the number of hours an average American spends seeking health information online each year. The 1 (hour) is roughly equivalent to the approximate total time a patient spends with a physician (an average of 3 visits, with an average time per vision of 20 minutes). Thus, 52:1. This means that the average U.S. health consumer spends much more time DIYing her health using digital information resources than speaking face-to-face with their physician in the doctor’s office. Still, the physician continues to be a go-to source for health information, according to Makovsky, a health communications

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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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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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Losing your eyebrows, finding health and beauty

My friend Rachel leads education at Sephora in the King of Prussia Mall in suburban Philadelphia, PA. I’ve come to consider Rachel as my personal guress on all matters related to skin care. She’s a trusted member of my personal health ecosystem. I met with Rachel last week to consult on what lipsticks contain SPFs that could prevent my lips from burning in the sun for my vacation week on Lakes George and Placid. She informed me that very few cosmetic lip products have sufficient sun protection ingredients to protect my lips-on-the-Lakes. We accomplished our consult for my very small

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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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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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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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The emerging economy for consumer health and wellness

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

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Consumer-directed health isn’t always so healthy

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

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