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The COVID-19 Era Has Grown Health Consumer Demand for Virtual Care

Over one-half of Americans would likely use virtual care for their healthcare services, and one in four people would actually prefer a virtual relationship with a primary care physician, according to the fifth annual 2020 Consumer Sentiment Survey from UnitedHealthcare. What a difference a pandemic can make in accelerating patients’ adoption of digital health tools. This survey was conducted in mid-September 2020, and so the results demonstrate U.S. health consumers’ growing digital health “muscles” in the form of demand and confidence in using virtual care. One in four people would consider online options as their first-line to evaluating personal health

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Healthcare Costs, Access to Data, and Partnering With Providers: Patients’ Top User Experience Factors

As patients returned to in-person, brick-and-mortar health care settings after the first wave of COVID-19 pandemic, they re-enter the health care system with heightened consumer expectations, according to the Beryl Institute – Ipsos Px Pulse report, Consumer Perspectives on Patient Experience in the U.S. Ipsos conducted the survey research among 1,028 U.S. adults between 23 September and 5 October 2020 — giving consumers many months of living in the context of the coronavirus. This report is a must-read for people involved with patient and consumer health engagement in the U.S. and covers a range of issues. My focus in this

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In the Past Ten Years, Workers’ Health Insurance Premiums Have Grown Much Faster Than Wages

For a worker in the U.S. who benefits from health insurance at the workplace, the annual family premium will average $21,342 this year, according to the 2020 Employer Health Benefits Survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation. The first chart illustrates the growth of the premium shares split by employer and employee contributions. Over ten years, the premium dollars grew from $13,770 in 2010 to $21K in 2020. The worker’s contribution share was 29% in 2010, and 26% in 2020. Single coverage reached $7,470 in 2020 and was $5,049 in 2010. Roughly the same proportion of companies offered health benefits to

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Financial Health Is On Americans’ Minds Just Weeks Before the 2020 Elections

Financial health is part of peoples’ overall health. As Americans approach November 3, 2020, the day of the real-time U.S. Presidential and down-ballot elections, personal home economics are front-of-mind. Twenty-seven days before the 2020 elections, 7 in 10 Americans say their financial health will influence their votes this year, according  to the doxoINSIGHTS survey which shows personal financial health as a key voter consideration in the Presidential election. Doxo, a consumer payments company, conducted a survey among 1,568 U.S. bill-paying households in late September 2020. The study has a 2% margin of error. U.S. voters facing this year’s election are

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Social Determinants of Health Travel in Groups – At the Root Is Household Income

The U.S. health care community is collectively embracing the concept of social determinants of health that have become so obvious in understanding the disparities of health outcomes wrought by the coronavirus pandemic. Research from the Harvard Chan School of Public Health conducted with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and NPR illustrates the fact that people who are at risk for one social determinant of health tend to be challenged by a bucket of them. The survey research reported in The Impact of Coronavirus on Households With Children, published on 30th September, found that 61% of U.S. households with children had

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Only in America: The Loss of Health Insurance as a Toxic Financial Side Effect of the COVID-19 Pandemic

In terms of income, U.S. households entered 2020 in the best financial shape they’d been in years, based on new Census data released earlier this week. However, the U.S. Census Bureau found that the level of health insurance enrollment fell by 1 million people in 2019, with about 30 million Americans not covered by health insurance. In fact, the number of uninsured Americans rose by 2 million people in 2018, and by 1.9 million people in 2017. The coronavirus pandemic has only exacerbated the erosion of the health insured population. What havoc a pandemic can do to minds, bodies, souls, and wallets. By September 2020,

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Americans Worry About Medical Bankruptcy, As Prescription Drug Costs Play Into Voters’ Concerns

One in two people in the U.S. are concerned that a major health event in their family would lead to bankruptcy, up 5 percent points over the past eighteen months. In a poll conducted with West Health, Gallup found that more younger people are concerned about medical debt risks, along with more non-white adults, published in their study report, 50% in U.S. Fear Bankruptcy Due to Major Health Event. The survey was fielded in July 2020 among 1,007 U.S. adults 18 and older. One of the basic questions in studies like these is whether a consumer could cover a $500

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The Burden of Depression in the Pandemic – Greater Among People With Fewer Resources

In the U.S., symptoms of depression were three-times greater in April 2020 in the COVID-19 pandemic than in 2017-2018. And rates for depression were even higher among women versus men, along with people earning lower incomes, losing jobs, and having fewer “social resources” — that is, at greater risk of isolation and loneliness. America’s health system should be prepared to deal with a “probable increase” in mental illness after the pandemic, researchers recommend in Prevalence of Depression Symptoms in US Adults Before and During the COVID-19 Pandemic in JAMA Network Open. A multidisciplinary team knowledgeable in medicine, epidemiology, public health,

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Pharma’s Future Relevance Depends on Empathy, Messaging, Partnering, and Supporting Patients and Providers

COVID-19 is re-shaping all industries, especially health care. And the pharma industry is challenged along with other health care sectors. In fact, the coronavirus crisis impacts on pharma are especially accelerated based on how the pandemic has affected health care providers, as seen through research from Accenture published in Reinventing Relevance: New Models for Pharma Engagement with Healthcare Providers in a COVID-19 World. For the study, Accenture surveyed 720 health care providers in general practice, oncology, immunology, and cardiology working in China, France, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the U.S., in May and June 2020. Top-line, Accenture points to four

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The Median Hospital Charge In the U.S. for COVID-19 Care Ranges From $34-45K

The median charge for hospitalizing a patient with COVID-19 ranged from $34,662 for people 23 to 30, and $45,683 for people between 51 and 60 years of age, according to FAIR Health’s research brief, Key Characteristics of COVID-19 Patients published July 14th, 2020. FAIR Health based these numbers on private insurance claims associated with COVID-19 diagnoses, evaluating patient demographics (age, gender, geography), hospital charges and estimated allowed amounts, and patient comorbidities. They used two ICD-10-CM diagnostic codes for this research: U07.1, 2019-nCoV acute respiratory disease; and, B97.29, other coronavirus as the cause of disease classified elsewhere which was the original code

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A Toxic Side Effect of the Coronavirus: Financial Unwellness

One in two people in the U.S. say their financial health has been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, through job loss, income disruption, or reduced work hours. The 2020 Financial Wellness Census, from Prudential found that one-half of U.S. adults are anxious about their financial future as of May 2020, an increase from 38% in late 2019. Prudential surveyed 3,000 U.S. adults across three generational cohorts: Millennials, Gen X, and Baby Boomers. The economic hit from the pandemic has disproportionately impacted people of color, younger people, women, small business owners, gig workers, and people working in retailer harder than

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Americans Across Political Party Worry About Prescription Drug Prices – Especially to Deal with COVID-19

Nine in ten Americans is concerned about the price of prescription drugs in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, Gallup and West Health found in their survey on the cost of healthcare, published today. A majority of people across political party share this concern: overall, 88% of U.S. adults are concerned about rising drug prices in response to COVID19, split across party ID with: 94% of Democrats, 86% of Independents, and 84% of Republicans. By demographics, more women than men are concerned about rising costs for the three health care spending categories the survey studied: drug prices, insurance premiums, and

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How COVID-19 Is Driving More Deaths of Despair

In the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic, we all feel like we are living in desperate times. If you are a person at-risk of dying a Death of Despair, you’re even more at-risk of doing so in the wake of the Coronavirus in America. Demonstrating this sad fact of U.S. life, the Well Being Trust and Robert Graham Center published Projected Deaths of Despair from COVID-19. The analysis quantifies the impact of isolation and loneliness combined with the dramatic economic downturn and mass unemployment with the worsening of mental illness and income inequity on the epidemic of Deaths of

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Health, Wealth & COVID-19 – My Conversation with Jeanne Pinder & Carium, in Charts

The coronavirus pandemic is dramatically impacting and re-shaping our health and wealth, simultaneously. Today, I’ll be brainstorming this convergence in a “collaborative health conversation” hosted by Carium’s Health IRL series.  Here’s a link to the event. Jeanne founded ClearHealthCosts nearly ten years ago, having worked as a journalist with the New York Times and other media. She began to build a network of other journalists, each a node in a network to crowdsource readers’-patients’ medical bills in local markets. Jeanne started in the NYC metro and expanded, one node at a time and through many sources of funding from not-for-profits/foundations,

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In the US COVID-19 Pandemic, A Tension Between the Fiscal and the Physical

“Act fast and do whatever it takes,” insists the second half of the title of a new eBook with contributions from forty leading economists from around the world. The first half of the title is, Mitigating the COVID Economic Crisis.  The book is discussed in a World Economic Forum essay discussing the economists’ consensus to “act fast.” As the U.S. curve adds new American patients testing positive for the coronavirus, the book and essay illustrate the tension between health consumer versus the health citizen in the U.S.  For clinical context, as I write this post on 24th March 2020, today’s U.S.

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Job #1 for Next President: Reduce Health Care Costs – Commonwealth Fund & NBC News Poll

Four in five U.S. adults say lowering the cost of health care in America should be high priority for the next American president, according to a poll from The Commonwealth Fund and NBC News. Health care costs continue to be a top issue on American voters’ minds in this 2020 Presidential election year, this survey confirms. The first chart illustrates that lowering health care costs is a priority that crosses political parties. This is true for all flavors of health care costs, including health insurance deductibles and premiums, out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs, and the cost of long-term care. While

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Outpatient is the New Inpatient – The Future of Hospitals in America

Outpatient revenue is crossing the curve of inpatient income. This is the new reality for U.S. hospitals and why I’ve titled this post, “outpatient is the new inpatient,” a future paradigm for U.S. hospitals This realization is informed by data in a new report from Deloitte, Where have the many hospital inpatient gone? The line chart illustrates Deloitte’s top and bottom line: “The shift toward outpatient is happening and will likely have a tremendous impact on operations, business models, staffing, and capital. Health systems should prepare for the future today and start thinking not only about how to manage their

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Tools for Paying Medical Bills Don’t Help Health Consumers Manage Their Financial Health

There’s a gap between the supply of digital health tools that hospitals and health systems offer patients, and what patients-as-consumers need for overall health and wellbeing. This chasm is illustrated in The future of the digital patient experience, the latest report from HIMSS and the Center for Connected Medicine (CCM). The big gap in supply to patients vs. demand by health consumers is highlighted by what the arrow in the chart below points to: managing payments and paying bills. Nowhere in the top 10 most commonly provided digital tools is one for price transparency, cost comparing or cost estimating.  In the

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Americans’ Top 2 Priorities for President Trump and Congress Are To Lower Health Care and Rx Costs

Health care pocketbook issues rank first and second place for Americans in these months leading up to the 2020 Presidential election, according to research from POLITICO and the Harvard Chan School of Public Health published on 19th February 2020. This poll underscores that whether Democrat or Republican, these are the top two domestic priorities among Americans above all other issues polled including immigration, trade agreements, infrastructure and regulations. The point that Robert Blendon, Harvard’s long-time health care pollster, notes is that, “Even among Democrats, the top issues…(are) not the big system reform debates…They’re worried about their own lives, their own

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The Federal Reserve Chairman Speaks Out on Health Care Costs: “Spending But Getting Nothing”

On February 12, 2020, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of the U.S. submitted the Semiannual Monetary Policy Report to Congress and testified to the Senate Banking Committee. Chairman Jerome Powell detailed the current state of the economy, discussing the state of the macroeconomy, GDP growth, unemployment, inflation, and projections for 2022 and beyond. The top line data points are shown in the first chart. After his prepared remarks, Chairman Powell responded to questions from members of the Senate Banking Committee. Senator Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) asked him about health care costs’ impact on the national U.S. economy. The Chairman

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The State of the Union for Prescription Drug Prices

Tonight, President Trump will present his fourth annual State of the Union address. This morning we don’t have a transcript of the speech ahead of the event, but one topic remains high on U.S. voters’ priorities, across political party – prescription drug prices. Few issues unite U.S. voters in 2020 quite like supporting Medicare’s ability to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies, shown by the October 2019 Kaiser Family Foundation Health Tracking Poll. Whether Democrat, Independent, or Republican, most people living in America favor government intervention in regulating the cost of medicines in some way. In this poll, the top

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The 2020 Social Determinants of Health: Connectivity, Art, Air and Love

Across the U.S., the health/care ecosystem warmly embraced social determinants of health as a concept in 2019. A few of the mainstreaming-of-SDoH signposts in 2019 were: Cigna studying and focusing in on loneliness as a health and wellness risk factor Humana’s Bold Goal initiative targeting Medicare Advantage enrollees CVS building out an SDOH platform, collaborating with Unite US for the effort UPMC launching a social impact program focusing on SDoH, among other projects investing in social factors that bolster public health. As I pointed out in my 2020 Health Populi trendcast, the private sector is taking on more public health

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In 2020, PwC Expects Consumers to Grow DIY Healthcare Muscles As Medical Prices Increase

The new year will see a “looming tsunami” of high prices in healthcare, regulation trumping health reform, more business deals reshaping the health/care industry landscape, and patients growing do-it-yourself care muscles, according to Top health industry issues of 2020: Will digital start to show an ROI from the PwC Health Research Institute. I’ve looked forward to reviewing this annual report for the past few years, and always learn something new from PwC’s team of researchers who reach out to experts spanning the industry. In this 14th year of the publication, PwC polled executives from payers, providers, and pharma/life science organizations. Internally,

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Hospitals Suffer Decline in Consumer Satisfaction

While customer satisfaction with health insurance plans slightly increased between 2018 and 2019, patient satisfaction with hospitals fell in all three settings where care is delivered — inpatient, outpatient, and the emergency room, according to the 2018-2019 ACSI Finance, Insurance and Health Care Report. ACSI polls about 300,000 U.S. consumers each year to gauge satisfaction with over 400 companies in 46 industries. For historic trends, you can check out my coverage of the 2014 version of this study here in Health Populi. The 2019 ACSI report bundles finance/banks, insurance (property/casualty, life and health) and hospitals together in one document. Health

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A Tale of Two Americas as Told by the 2019 OECD Report on Health

It was the best of times, It was the worst of times, It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, It was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, … starts Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities.  That’s what came to my mind when reading the latest global health report from the OECD, Health at a Glance 2019, which compares the United States to other nations’ health care outcomes, risk factors, access metrics, and spending. Some trends are consistent across the wealthiest countries of the world, many sobering, such as: Life expectancy rates fell in 19 of the

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Great Expectations for Health Care: Patients Look for Consumer Experience and Trust in Salesforce’s Latest Research

On the demand side of U.S. health care economics, patients are now payors as health consumers with more financial skin in paying medical bills. As consumers, people have great expectations from the organizations on the supply side of health care — providers (hospitals and doctors), health insurance plans, pharma and medical device companies. But as payors, health consumers face challenges in getting care, so great expectations are met with frustration and eroding trust with the system, according to the latest Connected Healthcare Consumer report from Salesforce published today as the company announced expansion of their health cloud capabilities. This is

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Will Consumers Cross the Cost-and-Trust Chasm Between Prescription Drugs and Hospitals?

People in the U.S. rank prescription drugs, lab tests, emergency room visits, dental and vision care, preventive services, chronic disease management and mental health care as the “most essential” health care services, according to the 2019 Survey of America’s Patients conducted by The Physicians Foundation. When asked what factors contribute to rising health care costs in America, most consumers cite the cost of prescription drugs. Taken together, these two data points demonstrate the potent political import of prescription drug prices as the U.S. approaches the 2020 Presidential election. The Physicians Foundation surveyed 2,001 U.S. adults between 27 and 75 years

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While Costs Are A Top Concern Among Most U.S. Patients, So Are Challenges of Poverty, Food, and Housing

Rising health care costs continue to concern most Americans, with one in two people believing they’re one sickness away from getting into financial trouble, according to the 2019 Survey of America’s Patients conducted for The Physicians Foundation. In addition to paying for “my” medical bills, most people in the U.S. also say that income inequality and inadequate social services significantly contribute to high medical spending for every health citizen in the nation. The Physicians Foundation conducts this study into Americans’ views on the U.S. health care system every other year. This year’s poll was conducted in September 2019 and included input

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The Hospital CFO in the Anxiety Economy – My Talk at Cerner’s Now/Next Conference

As patients have taken on more financial responsibility for first-dollar costs in high-deductible health plans and medical bills, hospitals and health care providers face growing fiscal pressures for late payments and bad debt. Those financial pressures are on both sides of the health care payment transaction, stressing patients-as-payors and health care financial managers alike. I’m speaking to health industry stakeholders on patients-as-payors at Cerner’s Now/Next conference today about the patient-as-payor, a person primed for engagement. That’s as in “Amazon-Primed,” which patients in their consumer lives now use as their retail experience benchmark. But consumers-as-patients don’t feel like health care today

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How Can Patients Be Health Consumers in an Un-Transparent World?

That question in the title of this post is begged in the annual 2019 consumer survey released this week from UnitedHealthcare (UHC). UHC gauges peoples’ views on health care, insurance, and costs in its yearly research. This year, transparency and health literacy challenges top the findings. When the three in ten folks do shop, four in ten people used the internet or mobile apps to do so — a dramatic increase from 2012. Shopping is most commonly done among Millennials, one-half of whom shop for health care services. Of people who have used digital tools for health care shopping, 8

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Worrying About Paying for Health Care Is the Norm in America

Among stresses facing people at least 50 years of age, health care costs rank top of mind compared with other issues like long-term care, health insurance, Social Security, taxes, and being read to retire. Worries about health care costs are particularly stressful among future retirees, 8 of 10 of whom share this top concern along with 7 in 10 recent retirees and 6 in 10 people retired for at least a decade. Health care stress cuts in two ways: most people are worried about paying for health care, as well as experienced an unanticipated decline in their health, according to

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Worrying About Possible Recession Compels Health Consumers to Seek Less Care

Four in ten U.S. patients said the state of the economy changes how often they seek health care, according to a new study from TransUnion, the credit agency that operates in the health care finance space. Nearly two-thirds of patients said that knowing their out-of-pocket expenses in advance of receiving health care services influenced the likelihood of their seeking care. Given reports from mass media, business press and regional Federal Reserve press releases, the short-to-midterm economic outlook may be softening, which is the signal that TransUnion is receiving in this health consumer poll. The other side of this personal health

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Health Care Bills’ Financial Toxicity – Remembering the Jones’ of Whatcom County, WA

“In an extreme example of angst over expensive medical bills, an elderly Washington couple who lived near the U.S.-Canadian border died in a murder-suicide this week after leaving notes that detailed concerns about paying for medical care,” USA Today reported on August 10, 2019. Five years ago, financial toxicity as a side-effect was noted by two Sloan Kettering Medical Center in a landmark report on 60 Minutes in October 2014. Epidemiologist Peter Bach and oncologist Leonard Saltz told CBS’s Lesley Stahl, “A cancer diagnosis is one of the leading causes of personal bankruptcy…We need to take into account the financial

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