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Decline in Pharmacy Reputations Related to Prescription Drug Prices, J.D. Power Finds

Cost is the number one driver among consumers declining satisfaction with pharmacies, J.D. Power found in its 2017 U.S. Pharmacy Study. Historically in J.D. Power’s studies into consumer perceptions of pharmacy, the retail segment has performed very well, However, in 2017, peoples’ concerns about drug prices negatively impact their views of the pharmacy — the front-line at the point-of-purchase for prescription drugs. In the past year, dissatisfaction with brick-and-mortar pharmacies related to the cost of drugs and the in-store experience. For mail-order drugs, consumer dissatisfaction was driven by cost and the prescription ordering process. Among all pharmacy channels, supermarket drugstores

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Transparency in Drug Prices, from OTC to Oncology

While on vacation in Bermuda, I found a box of private label ibuprofen for $2.45 for 20 – 200mg tablets, and one for Advil PM for $10.50 for the same number of pills, same strength. I’ve just returned from a lovely week’s holiday. When I travel, whether for work or vacation, it’s always a sort of Busman’s Holiday for me as I love to seek out health destinations wherever I go. So it was natural for me to spot the Dockyard Pharmacy at the port in Hamilton and wander in. I made my way back to the well-stocked pharmacy counter,

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Patients’ Healthcare Payment Problems Are Providers’, Too

Three-quarters of patients’ decisions on whether to seek services from healthcare providers are impacted by high deductible health plans. This impacts the finances of both patients and providers: 56% of patients’ payments to healthcare providers are delayed some of the time, noted in Optimizing Revenue: Solving Healthcare’s Revenue Cycle Challenges Using Technology Enabled Communications, published today by West. Underneath that 56% of patients delaying payments, 12% say they “always delay” payment, and 16% say they “frequently delay” payment. West engaged Kelton Global to survey 1,010 U.S. adults 18 and over along with 236 healthcare providers to gauge their experiences with

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A Couple Retiring Today Will Need $275,000 For Health Care Expenses

A 65-year-old couple in America, retiring in 2017, will need to have saved $275,000 to cover their health and medical costs in retirement. This represents a $15,000 (5.8%) increase from last year’s number of $260,000, according to the annual retirement healthcare cost study from Fidelity Investments. This number does not include long-term care costs — only medical and health care spending. Here’s a link to my take on last year’s Fidelity healthcare retirement cost study: Health Care Costs in Retirement Will Run $260K If You’re Retiring This Year. Note that the 2016 cost was also $15,000 greater than the retirement healthcare costs calculated

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How To Pay For A Serious Medical Illness Tops Americans’ Fiscal Fears

While Americans’ financial worries are softening in 2017, one issue tops the list of fiscal fears: not having enough money to pay the costs involved in a serious illness or accident, Gallup found in a consumer poll fielded in early April 2017. 54% of Americans fear an inability to cover healthcare costs in the event of an accident or serious illness. This percentage was 60% in 2016, and 55% in 2015. This year’s data point ties with Americans financial worry about not having enough money for retirement, but healthcare cost concerns rank higher in terms of being “very worried” versus

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Financial Stress As A Health Risk Factor Impacts More Americans

A family in Orange County, California, paid a brother’s 1982 hospital bill by selling 50 pieces of their newly-deceased mother’s jewelry. “It’s what she wanted,” the surviving son told a reporter from The Orange County Register. The cache of jewelry fetched enough to pay the $10,000 bill. Patients in the U.S. cobble together various strategies to pay for healthcare, as the first chart drawn from a Kaiser Family Foundation report on medical debt attests. As health care consumers, people cut back on household spending like vacations and household goods. Two-thirds of insured patients use up all or most of their savings

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Medical Bill Toxicity: 53% of Americans Say A Big Bill Is As Bad As A Serious Diagnosis

3 in 4 Americans’ health care costs have risen in the past few years. Two-thirds of Americans want to lower their costs, but don’t know how to do that. A survey from Amino released this week, conducted by Ipsos, has found that one in five people could not afford to pay an unexpected medical bill without taking on debt, and another 18% of Americans could only afford up to $100 if presented with an unexpected medical bill. This medical debt side effect more likely impacts women versus men, the less affluent, the unmarried, and those with no college degree. While

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Will Republican Healthcare Policy “Make America Sick Again?” Two New Polls Show Growing Support for ACA

Results of two polls published in the past week, from the Kaiser Family Foundation and Pew Research Center, demonstrate growing support for the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. The Kaiser Health Tracking Poll: Future Directions for the ACA and Medicaid was published 24 February 2017. The first line chart illustrates the results, with the blue line for consumers’ “favorable view” on the ACA crossing several points above the “unfavorable” orange line for the first time since the law was signed in 2010. The margins in February 2017 were 48% favorable, 42% unfavorable. While the majority of Republicans continue to be solidly

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My $100 Flu Shot: How Much Paper Waste Costs U.S. Healthcare

An abbreviated version of this post appeared in the Huffington Post on 9 February 2017. This version includes the Health Populi Hot Points after the original essay, discussing the consumer’s context of retail experience in healthcare and implications for the industry under Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price — a proponent of consumer-directed healthcare and, especially, health savings accounts. We’ll be brainstorming the implications of the 2016 CAQH Index during a Tweetchat on Thursday, February 16, at 2 pm ET, using the hashtag #CAQHchat. America ranks dead-last in healthcare efficiency compared with our peer countries, the Commonwealth Fund

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Medical Debt Is A Risk Factor For Consumers’ Financial Wellness

The top reason US consumers hear from a debt collector is due to medical bills, for 6 in 10 people in Americans contacted regarding a collection. This month, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) published its report on Consumer Experiences with Debt Collection. Medical bill collections are the most common debt for which consumers are contacted by collectors, followed by phone bills, utility bills, and tax bills. The prevalence of past-due medical debt is unique compared with these other types because healthcare cost problems impact consumers at low, middle, and high incomes alike. Specifically: 62% of consumers earning $20,000 to

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Retail Trumps Healthcare in 2017: the Health Populi Forecast for the New Year

Health citizens in America will need to be even more mindful, critical, and engaged healthcare consumers in 2017 based on several factors shaping the market; among these driving forces, the election of Donald Trump for U.S. president, the uncertain future of the Affordable Care Act and health insurance, emerging technologies, and peoples’ growing demand for convenience and self-service in daily life. The patient is increasingly the payor in healthcare. Bearing more first-dollar costs through high-deductible health plans and growing out-of-pocket spending for prescription drugs and other patient-facing goods and services, we’re seeking greater transparency regarding availability, cost and quality 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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Digital Health Update from Silicon Valley Bank

Who better than a financial services institution based in Silicon Valley to assess the state of digital health? Few organizations are better situated, geographically and sector-wise, than SVB Analytics, a division of Silicon Valley Bank based in, yes, Silicon Valley (Santa Clara, to pinpoint). The group’s report, Digital Health: Opportunities for Advancing Healthcare, provides an up-to-date landscape on the convergence of healthcare and technology. SVB Analytics defines digital health as “solutions that use digital technology to improve patients’ health outcomes and/or reduce the cost of healthcare.” The report provides context for the digital health market in terms of health care costs,

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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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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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Sports and the Internet of Things: the Scoop & Score podcast

From elite soccer and football fields to youth athletes in public school gyms, wearable technology has come to sports bringing two big benefits of gathering data at the point of exercise: to gauge performance and coach back to the athlete in real time, and to prevent injury. I discussed the advent of the Internet of Things in sports on the Scoop and Score podcast with Andrew Kahn, sports journalist and writer, and Stephen Kahn, sports enthusiast and business analyst. [In full disclosure these two Kahn’s are also my brilliant nephews.] We recorded the podcast on July 14, 2015, the day

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

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

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Consumers seek retail convenience in healthcare financing and payment

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

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Banks — a new entrant in the health/care landscape

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

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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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Fiscal and physical fitness: TD Bank makes the link

What does a bank have to do with health? Plenty, if you listen to 70% of consumers who say that financial health has a positive impact on physical health. TD Bank released the Fiscal Fitness survey this week, finding that consumers make a direct connection between fiscal and physical fitness. That’s what we here at THINK-Health refer to as financial wellness. TD learned that 80% of consumers made a health resolution in the New Year and 69% of people made a financial resolution 40% of people want to save more and spend less, and 42% want to get healthy and

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Health IT Forecast for 2015 – Consumers Pushing for Healthcare Transformation

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

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

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

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Power to the health care consumer – but how much and when?

Oliver Wyman’s Health & Life Sciences group names its latest treatise on the new-new health care The Patient-to-Consumer Revolution, subtitled: “how high tech, transparent marketplaces, and consumer power are transforming U.S. healthcare.” The report kicks off with the technology supply side of “Health Market 2.0,” noting that “the user experience of health care is falling behind” other industry segments — pointing to Uber for transport, Amazon for shopping, and Open Table for reserving a table. The authors estimate that investments in digital health and healthcare rose “easily ten times faster” than the industry has seen in the past. Companies like

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

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

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

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

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Your health score: on beyond FICO

Over one dozen scores assessing our personal health are being mashed up, many using our digital data exhaust left on conversations scraped from Facebook and Twitter, via our digital tracking devices from Fitbit and Jawbone, retail shopping receipts, geo-location data created by our mobile phones, and publicly available data bases, along with any number of bits and pieces about ‘us’ we (passively) generate going about our days. Welcome to The Scoring of America: How Secret Consumer Scores Threaten Your Privacy and Your Future. Pam Dixon and Robert Gellman wrote this well-documented report, published April 2, 2014 by The World Privacy Forum.

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Health consumers building up the U.S. economy

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

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FICO scores for health – chatting with a #BigData pioneer

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

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Employers will strongly focus on costs in health benefit plans for 2014; so must consumers

Employers who sponsor health insurance in America are at a fork on a cloudy road: they know that they’re in the midst of changes happening in the U.S. health system. Except for one certainty: that health care costs too much. So employers’ plans for health benefits in 2014 strongly focus on getting a return-on-investment from health spending in an uncertain climate, according to Deloitte’s 2013 Survey of U.S. Employers. Key findings are that: Employers will grow their use of workers’ cost-sharing, continuing to shift more financial responsibility onto employees They will expand other tactics they believe will help address cost

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

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

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

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

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Moneytalk: why doctors and patients should talk about health finances

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

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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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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 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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Americans’ health insurance illiteracy epidemic – simpler is better

Consumers misunderstand health insurance, according to new research published in the Journal of Health Economics this week. The study was done by a multidisciplinary, diverse team of researchers led by one of my favorite health economists, George Loewenstein from Carnegie Mellon, complemented by colleagues from Humana, University of Pennsylvania, Stanford, and Yale, among other research institutions. Most people do not understand how traditional health plans work: the kind that have been available on the market for over a decade. See the chart, which summarizes top-line findings: nearly all consumers believe they understand what maximum out-of-pocket costs are, but only one-half do.

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Money and health, migraines and sleep: how stress directly impacts health and wealth

There’s an issue that doctors and patients don’t discuss that’s among the most important contributors to ill health: it’s money, and it’s something Alexandra Drane calls an “Unmentionable.” Alex, Founder, Chief Visionary, and Board Chair at Eliza Corporation, coined Unmentionables as those aspects of daily living which everyone deals with, but few like to talk about: like sex (whether too much, too little), drugs (abusing), drinking (too much), toileting problems (such as incontinence or pooping problems), sleep trouble, and caring for others (not ourselves so much). These daily life challenges can negatively impact health, with financial stress being one of

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

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

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As Account-Based Health Plans Grow, Will Americans Save More in Health Accounts?

The only type of health plan whose membership grew in 2012 was the consumer-directed health plan (CDHP), according to a survey from Mercer, the benefits advisors. Two-thirds of large employers expect to offer CDHPs by 2018, five years from now. 40% of all employers (small and large) anticipate offering a CDHP in five years. The growth in CDHPs going forward will be increasingly motivated by the impending “Cadillac tax” that will be levied on companies that currently offer relatively rich health benefits. Furthermore, Mercer foresees that employers will also expand wellness and health management programs with the goal of reducing health

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The importance of being banked for getting health insurance

While having money in the bank is always a prescription for feeling well, having a bank account is a precursor to getting health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. That fact could prevent millions of people who are eligible for health insurance premium subsidies under health reform from enrolling in a health plan. The issue of banking the un-banked in health is a little talked-about detail that, if overlooked, will scuttle the best-laid plans for health reform. That’s because if people enroll in health insurance, their monthly premiums will need to be debited from a bank account. So, without a

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