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The Cost of Healthcare Can Drive Medical Rationing and Crowd Out Other Household Spending

One in five people in the U.S. cannot afford to pay for quality health care — an especially acute challenge for Black and Hispanic Americans, according to a West Health-Gallup poll conducted in March 2021, a year into the COVID-19 pandemic. “The cost of healthcare and its potential ramifications continues to serve as a burdensome part of day-to-day life for millions of Americans,” the study summary observed. Furthermore, “These realities can spill over into other health issues, such as delays in diagnoses of new cancer and associated treatments that are due to forgoing needed care,” the researchers expected. The first table

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How Grocery and Retail Companies Are Delivering Health and Healthcare

The Wall Street Journal featured the grocery chain Kroger in an article yesterday titled, COVID-19 Vaccinations, Tests Give Boost to Kroger’s Health Ambitions. “With 2,250 pharmacies and 220 clinics largely in the Midwest and the southern U.S., Kroger is the fourth-largest pharmacy operator by script count,” the Journal noted, adding details about Walmart, CVS Health, and Walgreens all fast-expanding their respective health care footprints. As more consumers view their homes as personal and safe health havens, there is no shortage of suppliers in the food, retail, and mobility sectors working fast to meet that demand for convenient and accessible services.

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Value-Based Health Care Needs All Stakeholders at the Table – Especially the Patient

2021 is the 20th anniversary of the University of Michigan Center for Value-Based Insurance Design (V-BID). On March 10th, V-BID held its annual Summit, celebrating the Center’s 20 years of innovation and scholarship. The Center is led by Dr. Mark Fendrick, and has an active and innovative advisory board. [Note: I may be biased as a University of Michigan graduate of both the School of Public Health and Rackham School of Graduate Studies in Economics].   Some of the most important areas of the Center’s impact include initiatives addressing low-value care, waste in U.S. health care, patient assistance programs, Medicare

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Ten Forces Shaping Health Care in 2021: A View from CVS Health

Expanding omni-channel, data-driven, cost-effective health care in the community, tailoring that care, and attending to mental health paint the picture of health through the lens of CVS Health. The company published the Health Trends Report 2021 today, calling out ten forces shaping health care this year. Those themes are, The Year of the Pharmacist The Next Step Forward in Cardiac Care Cancer Needs a Better Roadmap The EHR Hits Its Stride The Mental Health Shadow of COVID-19 Tailor Care to the Older Patient More Agents that Predict Disease Paying for the New Medical Miracle Virtual Care Goes Mainstream, and Diabetes

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Retail Health Gains Consumer Kudos in the Pandemic

The more health consumers use health and wellness services at retail, the greater their satisfaction and brand-love, according to a new report from J.D. Power. J.D. Power found that peoples’ Net Promoter Scores were higher among those folks who used at least one health and wellness service at a brick-and-mortar pharmacy, shown in the first chart. That NPS-delta was 15 points between consumers who used no services (rating an NPS of 55) versus people using at least 2 services (awarding an NPS score of 70). Consumers using more health and wellness services also spent more money at the drug store, a

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The Remarkable Rise of Pharma’s Reputation in the Pandemic

The reputation of the pharmaceutical industry gained a “whopping” 30 points between January 2020 and February 2021, based on the latest Harris Poll in their research into industries’ reputations. The study was written up by Beth Snyder Bulik in FiercePharma. Beth writes that, “a whopping two-thirds of Americans now offer a thumbs-up on pharma” as the title of her article, calling out the 30-point gain from 32% in January 2020 to 62% in February 2021. Thanks to Rob Jekielek, Managing Director of the Harris Poll, for sharing this graph with me for us to understand the details comparing pharma’s to

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The Social Determinants of Prescription Drugs – A View From CoverMyMeds

The COVID-19 pandemic forced consumers to define what were basic or essential needs to them; for most people, those items have been hygiene products, food, and connectivity to the Internet. There’s another good that’s essential to people who are patients: prescription drugs. A new report from CoverMyMeds details the current state of medication access weaving together key health care industry and consumer data. The reality even before the coronavirus crisis emerged in early 2020 was that U.S. patients were already making painful trade-offs, some of which are illustrated in the first chart from the report. These include self-rationing prescription drug

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Ten In Ten: Manatt’s Healthcare Priorities to 2031

The coronavirus pandemic has exposed major weaknesses in the U.S. health care system, especially laying bare inequities and inertia in American health care, explained in The Progress We Need: Ten Health Care Imperatives for the Decade Ahead from Manatt Health. The report details the ten objectives that are central to Manatt’s health care practice, a sort of team manifesto call-to-action and North Star for the next decade. Their ten must-do’s for bending the cost curve while driving constructive change for a better health care system are to: Ensure access Achieve health equity Stability the safety net and rebuild public health

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Addressing Lives and Livelihoods with a Whole-of-Government Approach – The First Wave of Biden Health Policy

President Biden’s first few days on the job gave us a very clear view on how he sees conquering COVID: through a whole-of-government approach to public policies that bolster directly addressing the virus, along with the many forces shaping how we got here and how to come out of the pandemic era stronger. I cover this first wave of Biden health policy in my latest post for the Medecision Liberation blog titled, “Top Priorities for President Biden: COVID-19, Then Everything Else.” The plotline goes… On the day of inauguration, January 20, 2021, Joseph R. Biden was installed as the 46th

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The 2021 Shkreli Awards: Lown Institute Counts Down the Top 10 Healthcare Industry Abuses in the Coronavirus Pandemic

The first year of the coronavirus pandemic in America was a kind of stress test on the U.S. health care system, revealing weak links and opportunities for bad behavior. “These are not just about individual instances or bad apples,” Dr. Vikas Saini, President of The Lown Institute, explained, referring to them as “cautionary tales” of the current state of U.S. health care. Dr. Saini and his colleague Shannon Brownlee released the annual Lown Institute 2020 Shkreli Awards this week, highlighting their ten most egregious examples of the worst events in U.S. health care that happened in the past year —

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The 2021 Health Populi TrendCast – Health Care, Self-Care, and the Rebirth of Love in Public Health

In numerology, the symbolic meaning behind the number “21” is death and re-birth. In tarot cards, 21 is a promise of fulfillment, triumph, and victory. How apropos that feels right now as we say goodbye and good riddance to 2020 and turn the page for a kinder, gentler, healthier New Year. It would be sinful to enter a New Year as challenging as 2021 promises to be without taking the many lessons of our 2020 pandemic life and pain into account. For health care in America, it is a time to re-build and re-imagine a better, more equitable landscape for

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U.S. Health Consumers’ Growing Financial Pressures, From COVID to Cancer

Before the coronavirus pandemic, patients had been transforming into health care payors, bearing high deductibles, greater out of pocket costs, and financial risk shifting to them for medical spending. In the wake of COVID-19, we see health consumers-as-payors impacted by the pandemic, as well as for existing diagnoses and chronic care management. There is weakening in U.S. consumers’ overall household finances, the latest report from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) asserted (published 25 November 2020). In John Leer’s look into the BEA report in Morning Consult, he wrote, “Decreases in income, the expiration of unemployment benefits and increased

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The Pandemic, Amazon, Pharmacy, and the Digital Transformation of Health Consumers

As the COVID-19 pandemic emerged in the U.S., Americans were already Primed for ecommerce — even in health care. The coronavirus accelerated the digital transformation on people as consumers — and consumers as health consumers. Today, Amazon announced the company’s launch of Amazon Pharmacy. Watch for earth-shaking (negative) impacts on the incumbent pharmacies like CVS, Rite-Aid, Walgreens, as well as discount and ecommerce players such as GoodRx. [Sidebar: as of 10 am this morning, the announcement “sunk” the retail pharmacy stocks, according to TheStreet.com]. Some context: this announcement builds on Amazon’s previous major move into pharmacy with its acquisition of

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Voting for Health in 2020

In the 2018 mid-term elections, U.S. voters were driven to polls with health care on their minds. The key issues for health care voters were costs (for care and prescription drugs) and access (read: protecting pre-existing conditions and expanding Medicaid). Issue #2 for 2018 voters was the economy. In 2020, as voting commences in-person tomorrow on 3rd November, U.S. voters have lives and livelihoods on their minds. It’s the pandemic – our physical lives looming largest in the polls – coupled with our fiscal and financial lives. Health is translating across all definitions for U.S. voters in November 2020: for

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DIY Health Care and Self-Care Accelerating in the Pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has spawned many side-effects re-shaping consumers’ everyday lives. Among them, more time at home, DIY life-flows, and financial well-being are driving growth of self-care health care. An article in the latest Drug Store News talks about consumers growing more health-conscious, adopting natural, homeopathic products. “It’s about more than washing your hands,” David Salazar explains. “Fending off illness has become a state of mind for many consumers throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.” In feeling dis-empowered in the face of the pandemic – with the first shock of the Great Lockdown and stay-at-home mandates – we’ve taken on more do-it-yourself behaviors, from

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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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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 Racial Divide Due to COVID-19 Also Applies to Healthcare and Pharma Costs

Into the sixth month of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S., it’s clear that COVID-19 has wreaked a greater mortality and morbidity impact on people of color than on white adults. A new Gallup-West Health poll found that the coronavirus also concerns more non-white Americans than whites when it comes to the cost of health care and medicines to deal with the effects of COVID-19. Considering the cost of COVID-19 treatment, across all U.S. adults, 40% of people are concerned (extremely/concerned), and 41% are “not at all concerned.” Broken down by race, there is a stark difference in levels of

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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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Americans’ Concerns About the US Healthcare System Loom Larger Than Worries About Their Own Care

The coronavirus pandemic has further opened the kimono of the U.S. healthcare system to Americans: four months into the COVID-19 outbreak, most consumers (62%) of people in the U.S. are more concerned about other people not having access to high quality health care versus themselves. This is a 16 point increase in concern in May 2020 compared with the response to the same question asked in February in a poll conducted by the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research (the AP-NORC Center). The AP-NORC Poll found more of this

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Trust My Doctor and Fear the Office: The Telehealth Opportunity in and Beyond the COVID-19 Pandemic

Doctors maintain their top status as U.S. patients’ most-trusted source of coronavirus information. However, as patients continue to be concerned about exposure to COVID-19, 3 in 5 are concerned about being at-risk to the virus in their doctor’s office, according to research from the Alliance of Community Health Plans (ACHP) and AMCP, the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy. Patients’ concerns of COVID-19 risks have led them to self-ration care in the following ways: 41% have delayed health care services 42% felt uncomfortable going to a hospital for any medical treatment 45% felt uncomfortable using an urgent care or walk-in clinic,

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Health Care In the COVID-19 Era – PwC Finds Self-Rationing of Care and Meds Especially for Chronic Care

Patients in the U.S. are self-rationing care in the era of COVID-19 by cutting spending on health care visits and prescription drugs. The coronavirus pandemic’s impact on health consumers’ spending varies depending on whether the household is generally a healthy family unit, healthy “enthusiasts,” dealing with a simple or more complex chronic conditions, or managing mental health issues. PwC explored how COVID-19 is influencing consumers’ health care behaviors in survey research conducted in early April by the Health Research Institute. The findings were published in a May 2020 report, detailing study findings among 2,533 U.S. adults polled in early April

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What $6,553 Buys You in America: A Luxury Watch, a Year at Valdosta State, or a PPO for One – the 2020 Milliman Medical Index

Imagine this: you find yourself with $6,553 in your pocket and you can pick one of the following: A new 2020 Breitling Navitimer watch; A year’s in-state tuition at Valdosta State University; or, A PPO for an average individual. Welcome to the annual Milliman Medical Index (MMI), which gauges the yearly price of an employer-sponsored preferred-provider organization (PPO) health insurance plan for a hypothetical American family and an N of 1 employee. That is a 4.1% increase from the 2019 estimate, about twice the rate of U.S. gross domestic product growth, Milliman points out in its report.   Milliman bases

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Sex, Drugs, Mental Health and COVID Tests – A DTC Reboot for Health?

This week, Hims & Hers announced they would be a new consumer-facing retail channel for coronavirus testing. You can order the test here for $150 cash out-of-pocket. The packaging states that this is a saliva test, “to detect current presence of COVID-19.” The fine print on the Hims website states: This test has been authorized by the FDA under an Emergency Use Authorization for use by authorized laboratories. This test has not been FDA cleared or approved. This test has been authorized only for the detection of nucleic acid from SARS-CoV-2, not for any other viruses or pathogens. This test

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How COVID-19 Has Re-Shaped Health Care Delivery So Far

COVID-19 is re-shaping health care in America across many dimensions. In Shifts in Healthcare Demand, Delivery and Care During the COVID-19 Era, IQVIA presents a multi-faceted profile of the early impacts of the pandemic on U.S. health care. In the report, published in April 2020, IQVIA mined the company’s many data bases that track real-time data, including medical claims, flu data, sales data, oncology medical and pharmacy claims, formularies, among other sources. Top-line, IQVIA spotted the following key shifts in U.S. health care since the start of the coronavirus pandemic: Patients’ use of health services Impacts on medicine use, influenced

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Wistful Thinking: The National Health Spending Forecast In a Land Without COVID-19

U.S. health care spending will grow to 20% of the national economy by 2028, forecasted in projections pre-published in the April 2020 issue of Health Affairs, National Health Expenditure (NHE) Projections. 2019-28: Expected Rebound in Prices Drives Rising Spending Growth. NHE will grow 5.4% in the decade, the model expects. But…what a difference a pandemic could make on this forecast. This year, NHE will be $3.8 trillion, growing to $6.2 trillion in 2028. Hospital care spending, the largest single component in national health spending, is estimated at $1.3 trillion in 2020. These projections are based on “current law,” the team

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Health Care Costs Concern Americans Approaching Retirement – Especially Women and Sicker People

Even with the prospect of enrolling in Medicare sooner in a year or two or three, Americans approaching retirement are growing concerned about health care costs, according to a study in JAMA Network Open. The paper, Health Insurance Affordability Concerns and health Care Avoidance Among US Adults Approaching Retirement, explored the perspectives of 1,028 US adults between 50 and 64 years of age between November 2018 and March 2019. The patient survey asked one question addressing two aspects of “health care confidence:” “Please rate your confidence with the following:” Being able to afford the cost of your health insurance nad

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Come Together – A Health Policy Prescription from the Bipartisan Policy Center

Among all Americans, the most popular approach for improving the health care in the U.S. isn’t repealing or replacing the Affordable Care Act or moving to a Medicare-for-All government-provided plan. It would be to improve the current health care system, according to the Bipartisan Policy Center’s research reported in a Bipartisan Rx for America’s Health Care. The BPC is a truly bipartisan organization, co-founded by Former Democratic Senate Majority Leaders Tom Daschle and George Mitchell, and Former Republican Senate Majority Leaders Howard Baker and Bob Dole. While this political week in America has revealed deep chasms between the Dems and

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Most Americans Regardless of Income Say It’s Unfair for Wealthier People to Get Better Health Care

In America, earning lower or middle incomes is a risk factor for having trouble accessing health care and/or paying for it. But most Americans, rich or not, believe that it’s unfair for wealthier people to get better health care, according to a January 2020 poll from NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Harvard Chan School of Public Health, Life Experiences and Income Equality in the United States. The survey was conducted in July and August 2019 among 1,885 U.S. adults 18 or older. Throughout the study, note the four annual household income categories gauged in the research: Top 1%

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Despite Greater Digital Health Engagement, Americans Have Worse Health and Financial Outcomes Than Other Nations’ Health Citizens

The idea of health care consumerism isn’t just an American discussion, Deloitte points out in its 2019 global survey of healthcare consumers report, A consumer-centered future of health. The driving forces shaping health and health care around the world are re-shaping health care financing and delivery around the world, and especially considering the growing role of patients in self-care — in terms of financing, clinical decision making and care-flows. With that said, Americans tend to be more healthcare-engaged than peer patients in Australia, Canada, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Singapore, and the United Kingdom, Deloitte’s poll found. Some of the key behaviors

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More Evidence of Self-Rationing as Patients Morph into Healthcare Payors

Several new studies reveal that more patients are feeling and living out their role as health care payors as medical spending vies with other household line items. This role of patient-as-the-payor crosses consumers’ ages and demographics, and is heating up health care as the top political issue for the 2020 elections at both Federal and State levels. In research from HealthPocket, 2 in 5 Americans said they needed to reduce other household expenses to be able to afford their monthly insurance premiums. Four in ten consumers said their monthly health insurance premiums were increasing. One in four people in 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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Americans’ Top Sources of Stress are Money, Money, Money and Family

ABBA sang the song “Money Money Money” back in 1976. The lyrics feel, sadly, spot-on when thinking about health care costs, job-lock and Americans’ home economics in 2019. “Work all night, I work all day, to pay the bills I have to pay Ain’t it sad And still there never seems to be a single penny left for me That’s too bad… Money, money, money must be funny In the rich man’s world.” That year, ’76, wasn’t just the U.S. bicentennial — it was a year when the U.S. allocated 8.6% of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product for health care.

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Wasted: $1 of Every $4 Spent on Health Care In America

A study in JAMA published this week analyzed research reports that have measured waste in the U.S. health care system, calculating that 25% of medical spending in America is wasted. If spending is gauged at $3.8 trillion, waste amounts to nearly $1 trillion. If spending is 18% of the American gross domestic product (GDP), then some 4.5% of the U.S. economy is wasted spending by the health care system and its stakeholders. In “Waste in the US Health Care System,” a team from Humana and the Univrsity of Pittsburgh recalibrated the previous finding of 30% of wasted spending to the 25%,

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Health @ Retail – Prelude to GMDC SelfCare Summit with Updates from Hims & Hers, GoodRx, Sam’s Club and Amazon Care

“We knew millions of people weren’t getting the care they needed — they were either too embarrassed to seek help or felt stuck in a system that was confusing and intimidating. Digital health has the potential to radically change the way people approach their wellness and, since launching in 2017, we’ve outpaced even our own expectations, delivering more than 1 million Hims & Hers products to our customers. In collaboration with highly-qualified doctors and healthcare providers, we’ve built a digital health platform that is changing the way people talk about and receive the care they need.” That’s  a verbatim paragraph

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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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Talking “HealthConsuming” on the MM&M Podcast

Marc Iskowitz, Executive Editor of MM&M, warmly welcomed me to the Haymarket Media soundproof studio in New York City yesterday. We’d been trying to schedule meeting up to do a live podcast since February, and we finally got our mutual acts together on 6th August 2019. Here’s a link to the 30-minute conversation, where Marc combed through the over 500 endnotes from HealthConsuming‘s appendix to explore the patient as the new health care payor, the Amazon prime-ing of people, and prospects for social determinants of health to bolster medicines “beyond the pill.” https://www.pscp.tv/MMMnews/1eaJbvgovBYJX Thanks for listening — and if you

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Marketing Health To Consumers in the Age of Retail Disruption

Today, I am speaking with marketing leaders who are members of CHPA, the Consumer Healthcare Products Association on this very topic. This is CHPA’s 2019 Marketing Conference being held at the lovely historic Hotel du Pont in Wilmington, DE. The gist of my remarks will be to focus on the evolving retail health ecosystem, with my HealthConsuming lens on health/care, everywhere. And timing is everything, because today is International Self-Care Day to promote peoples’ health engagement. The plotline begins with a tale of two companies — CVS/health and Best Buy — discussing these two organizations’ approach to acquiring companies to expand

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Finances Are the Top Cause of Stress, and HSAs Aren’t Helping So Much…Yet

If you heed the mass media headlines and President Trump’s tweets, the U.S. has achieved “the best economy” ever in mid-July 2019. But if you’re working full time in that economy, you tend to feel much less positive about your personal prospects and fiscal fitness. Nearly nine in 10 working Americans believe that medical costs will rise in the next few years as they pondering potential changes to the Affordable Care Act. The bottom line is that one-half of working people are more concerned about how they will save for future health care expenses. That’s the over-arching theme in PwC’s

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On Amazon Prime Day, What Could Health Care Look Like?

Today is July 15, and my email in-box is flooded with all flavors of Amazon Prime’d stories in newsletters and product info from ecommerce sites — even those outside of Amazon from beauty retailers, electronics channels, and grocery stores. So I ask on what will probably be among the top ecommerce revenue generating days of all time: “What could health care look like when Amazon Prime’d?” I ask and answer this in my book, HealthConsuming, as chapter 3. For context, this chapter follows two that explain how patients in the U.S. have been morphing into health consumers based on how health

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The New Drug Companies Aren’t Drug Companies At All

The health/care ecosystem continues to morph as the stakeholder groups themselves are blurring across and outside of their core businesses. Today’s example of this is Clover Health, which launched Clover Therapeutics this week. This research organization will develop medicines targeting older adults — which makes sense because Clover Health’s target consumer market is Medicare Advantage beneficiaries. “Clover Therapeutics was created to address the significant unmet needs in chronic progressive diseases in the Medicare population,” Cheng Zhang, Head of Clover Therapeutics, is quoted in the press release. The company will first collaborate with Genentech (Roche) to research and develop therapies based

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Prescription Drugs Are Becoming A Luxury Good in America – Join the #HCLDR Chat Tonight

“Drugmakers Push Their Prices Higher” is the top story under the Business & Finance banner in today’s Wall Street Journal. That’s in terms of drugs’ list prices, which most patients don’t pay. But drug costs to patients are in the eye of the beholder, who in a high-deductible plan or Medicare Part D donut hole becomes the first-dollar payer. Patients continue to face rising drug costs, pushing them into what I’ve been thinking about as luxury-goods territory. The economic definition of a luxury good is a product for which demand increases more than proportionally as income rises, so that spending

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Health Care and the Democratic Debates – Round 2 – Battle Royale for M4All vs Medicare for All Who Want It – What It Means for Industry

Looking at this photo of the 2020 Democratic Party Presidential candidate debater line-up might give you a déjà vu feeling, a repeat of the night-before debate. But this was Round 2 of the debate, with ten more White House aspirants sharing views — sometimes sparring — on issues of immigration, economic justice, climate change, and once again health care playing a starring role from the start of the two-hour event. The line-up from left to write included: Marianne Williamson. author and spiritual advisor John Hickenlooper, former Governor of Colorado Andrew Yang. tech company executive Pete Buttigieg, Mayor of South Bend,

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IKEA Garners the Top Health & Wellness Award at Cannes Lions 2019 – the Expanding Health/Care Ecosystem

“Health is now everyone’s business,” Shaheed Peera, Executive Creative Director of Publicis LifeBrands, said this week at the 2019 Cannes Lions awards. Shaheed also led the Health & Wellness jury at Cannes Lions 2019, the mission of which is to, in the words of the award’s portal, “celebrate creativity for personal wellbeing.” The Grand Prix Lions award for Health & Wellness went to IKEA for the company’s ThisAbles campaign. ThisAbles is a project pioneered by IKEA’s team in Israel, looking to improve everyday living for people with special needs through  well-designed IKEA products. IKEA collaborated with non-profit organizations to develop

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Prescription Drug Costs In America Through the Patient Lens, via IQVIA, GoodRx and a New $2 Million Therapy

Americans consumed 17.6 prescriptions per person in 2018, two in three of which treated chronic conditions. Welcome to Medicine Use and Spending in the U.S. , the annual review of prescription drug supply, demand and Rx pricing dynamics from the IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science. In a call with analysts this week in which I participated, the Institute’s Executive Director Murray Aitken discussed the report which looks back at 2018 and forward to 2023 with scenarios about what the U.S. prescription drug market might look like five years from now. The report is organized into four sections: medical use

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Health Consumers Are Now Amazon-Primed for Healthcare – HealthConsuming Explains, Part 2

As patients now assume the role of health consumer, they rationally expect retail-level experiences with greater first-dollar payment for health insurance, health care services and medical products like prescription drugs. Consumers know what good retail looks and feels like, and are focusing that experiential lens on health care, Aflac found when their Workforces Survey polled Americans on their desirable health insurance shopping experience. One in two people said it should feel, “like Amazon,” and another 20% of folks said, “like retail.” Chapter 3 of HealthConsuming is titled, “How Amazon Has Primed Health Consumers,” and explains this re-shaping of patient expectations.

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Across All Political Parties, Likely Voters Over 50 Favor Cutting Prescription Drug Prices

People over 50 in the U.S. that are likely to vote in the 2020 Presidential election are keenly interested in lowering the cost of prescription drugs, according to a survey conducted by AARP in February and March 2019. Most people over 50 take prescription drugs daily; one-third take two or three Rx’s regularly, and one in five older people take six or more prescription medicines regularly. Thus, prescription drugs are part of most older Americans’ daily life-flows and household spending considerations. About two-thirds of older people who are likely to vote say that Rx prices are “unreasonable,” including 67% of

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The United States of Diabetes: a $1,240 Tax on Every American

Pharmaceutical company executives are testifying in the U.S. Congress this week on the topic of prescription drug costs. One of those medicines, insulin, cost a patient $5,705 for a year’s supply in 2016, double what it cost in 2012, according to the Health Care Cost Institute. Know that one of these insulin products, Lilly’s Humalog,  came onto the market in 1996. In typical markets, as products mature and get mass adoption, prices fall. Not so insulin, one of the many cost components in caring for diabetes. But then prescription drug pricing doesn’t conform with how typical markets work in theory.

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The Evolution of Self-Care for Consumers – Learning and Sharing at CHPA

Self-care in health goes back thousands of years. Reading from Hippocrates’ Corpus about food and clean air’s role in health sounds contemporary today. And even in our most cynical moments, we can all hearken back to our grandmothers’ kitchen table wisdom for dealing with skin issues, the flu, and broken hearts. The annual conference of the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) convened this week, and I was grateful to attend and speak on the evolving retail health landscape yesterday. Gary Downing, CEO of Clarion Brands and Chairman of the CHPA Board, kicked off the first day with a nostalgic look

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Self-Care Is Healthcare In Consumers’ Hands, Peaking on Google Trends

Today, the number of searches on Google using the phrase “self-care” reached a high, shown in the line graph I created on Google Trends and marked up in red. A Google search overall yielded over 2 billion results. I started this search when the Great Recession began in the U.S. in December 2007, and tracked “self-care” searches to today, 15 March 2019. I ran this little test because I’m speaking on Monday 18 March at the annual meeting of the Consumer Healthcare Products Association. CHPA was founded in 1881 as the “Proprietary Association.” In 1989, over 100 years later, the

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Most Americans Across Party ID Favor U.S. Government Negotiation to Lower Rx Drug Costs

There’s little Americans, by political party, agree upon in 2019. One of the only issues bringing people together in the U.S. is prescription drug prices — that they’re too high, that the Federal government should negotiate to lower costs for Medicare enrollees, and that out-of-pocket costs for drugs should be limited. The Kaiser Family Foundation has been tracking this topic for a few years, and this month, their March 2019 Health Tracking Poll shows vast majorities of Democrats, Independents and Republicans all share these sentiments. It’s not that patients who take prescription drugs don’t appreciate them – most (58%) say medicines

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Consumers’ Trust In Health And Personal Care Stores: The Growing Retail Health Ecosystem

CVS + Aetna have merged to evolve a new business model for health and medical care. Walgreen’s continues to add new services beyond the core pharmacy business, and Walmart is expanding telehealth and healthier food aisles in the grocery. More grocery stores  added dietitians to their operations in 2018, as well. As people take on more self-care for health care, they are looking to access products and services in retail bricks-and-mortar and ecommerce channels in the same places they buy food and other products. ACSI’s latest customer satisfaction benchmark study into retailers provides insights into the trusted channels for retail health

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National Health Spending Will Reach Nearly 20% of U.S. GDP By 2027

National health spending in the U.S. is expected to grow by 5.7% every year from 2020 to 2027, the actuaries at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services forecast in their report, National Health Expenditure Projections, 2018-2927: Economic And Demographic Trends Drive Spending And Enrollment Growth, published yesterday by Health Affairs. For context, note that general price inflation in the U.S. was 1.6% for the 12 months ending January 2019 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This growth rate for health care costs exceeds every period measured since the high of 7.2% recorded in 1990-2007. The bar chart illustrates the

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The Cost of Prescription Drugs, Doctors and Patient Access – A View from HIMSS19

Most patient visits to doctors result in a prescription written for a medicine that people retrieve from a pharmacy, whether retail in the local community or via mail order for a maintenance drug. This one transaction generates a lot of data points, which individually have a lot of importance for the individual patient. Mashed with other patients’, prescription drug utilization data can combine with more data to be used for population health, cost-effectiveness, and other constructive research pursuits. At HIMSS19, there’s an entire day devoted to a Pharma Forum on Tuesday 12 February, focusing on pharma-provider-payor collaborations. Allocating a full

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In U.S. Health Care, It’s Still the Prices, Stupid – But Transparency and Consumer Behavior Aren’t Working As Planned

I’m glad to be getting back to health economic issues after spending the last couple of weeks firmly focused on consumers, digital health technologies and CES 2019. There’s a lot for me to address concerning health care costs based on news and research published over the past couple of weeks. We’ll start with the centerpiece that will provide the overall context for this post: that’s the ongoing research of Gerard Anderson and colleagues under the title, It’s Still The Prices, Stupid: Why The US Spends So Much On Health Care, And A Tribute To Uwe Reinhardt. It is bittersweet to

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The Consumer as Payor – Retail Health at CES 2019

All health/care is retail now in America. I say this as most people in the U.S. who have health insurance must take on a deductible of some amount, which compels that insured individual to spend the first dollar on medical services up until they meet their financial commitment. At that point, health insurance kicks in, and then the insured may have to spend additional funds on co-payments for general medicines and services, and coinsurance for specialty drugs like injectables and high-cost new therapies. The patient is a consumer is a payor, I asserted today during my talk on the expanding

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Heart Health at #CES2019 – Food and Tech as Medicine

Self-care is the new health care as patients, now consumers at greater financial risk for medical spending, are learning. At #CES2019, I’m on the lookout for digital technologies that can help people adopt and sustain healthy behaviors that can help consumers save money on medical care and enhance quality of life-years. This week’s heart-and-food tech announcements at #CES2019 coincide with an FDA recall on a popular drug prescribed to treat hypertension (high blood pressure). Using food and tech as medicine can help people avoid going on medications like statins and others for heart health. An important example of this self-care

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Costs, Consumerism, Cyber and Care, Everywhere – The 2019 Health Populi TrendCast

Today is Boxing Day and St. Stephens Day for people who celebrate Christmas, so I share this post as a holiday gift with well-wishes for you and those you love. The tea leaves have been brewing here at THINK-Health as we prepared our 2019 forecast at the convergence of consumers, health, and technology. Here’s our trend-weaving of 4 C’s for 2019: costs, consumerism, cyber and care, everywhere… Health care costs will continue to be a mainstream pocketbook issue for patients and caregivers, with consequences for payors, suppliers and ultimately, policymakers. Legislators inside the DC Beltway will be challenged by the

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On World Food Day 2018, Imagine A Chef Cooking for Patients

Today, October 16, is World Food Day. At Health Populi and THINK-Health, we celebrate the birthday of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), allied with the United Nations. FAO was founded to address malnutrition and bolster a sustainable, healthy food supply for people. World Food Day 2018 has four objectives: Don’t waste food Produce more food with fewer resources Advocate for #ZeroHunger by 2030, and, Adopt a healthier, more sustainable diet. All four of these pillars play a role in health, but I’ll focus today on the fourth: the role of food as a major social determinant of health. Hunger

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The Importance of Broadband and Net Neutrality for Health, to the Last Person and the Last Mile

California’s Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a net neutrality bill this weekend. Gov. Brown’s proverbial swipe of the pen accomplished two things: he went back to the Obama-era approach to ensure that internet service providers treat all users of the internet equally; and, he prompted the Department of Justice, representing the Trump Administration’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC), to launch a lawsuit. California, home to start-ups, mature tech platform companies (like Apple, Facebook and Google), and countless digital health developers, is in a particularly strategic place to fight the FCC and, now, the Department of Justice. Nearly two dozen other states

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Prescription Drugs: From Costs and Bad Reputation to Civica Rx and Amazon to the Rescue

The prices of medicines prescribed in outpatient settings rose, on average, 10.3% in 2018. Wages increased about 2.6%, and consumer prices, 1.3%, based on the 2019 Segal Health Plan Cost Trend Survey. Segal forecasts that medical cost trends will moderate for 2019, lower than 2018 rates. But to the patient, now feeling like a consumer dealing with high-deductibles and the growing sticker shock of specialty drug prices, a so-called “moderate” trend still feels like a big bite in the household budget. Specifically, specialty drug trend is expected to be 14.3% in 2019, compared with 17.7% in 2018 — still several

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The Health Consumer Seeks Fresh, Free-From and…Turmeric

The impact of health and wellness is on most consumers’ minds, Nielsen’s consumer research has found. Sarah Schmansky, Nielsen’s strategy leader for health, wellness and “fresh,” moderated a panel at the GMDC Health-Beauty-Wellness Conference in Orlando today that brainstormed how consumers are shopping for health. Underneath that “how” is more than the next-best-me-too-product for allergy or acne. It’s about efficacy of the product at the core, but bundled with social responsibility and sustainability, informative packaging, transparency of ingredients, and education that empowers the individual. “Self-care is the driver of growth,” Sarah began the discussion. But these needs under the self-care umbrella

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Consumers Changing the Channel on Where They Shop for Health

Consumers who have long purchased over-the-counter medicines, anti-dandruff shampoo, whitening toothpaste, and cosmetics-with-benefits at food, drug and mass merchant retailers are switching to other places to shop for health, new data from AT Kearney and GMDC have found. The two organizations have collaborated to launch a new  benchmarking study into health-beauty-wellness (HBW) sales, launched this weekend at the GMDC HBW Conference in Orlando. Overall, 2017 to 2018 year-on-year, HBW sales were flat-to-no growth, notwithstanding the consumer and influencer buzz around the categories.       This study uncovered some very important trends underneath the macro numbers that tell a story

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Self-Care is Healthcare for Everyday People

Patients are the new healthcare payors, and as such, taking on the role of health consumers. In fact, health and wellness consumers have existed since a person purchased the first toothpaste, aspirin, heating pad, and moisturizing cream at retail. Or consulted with their neighborhood herbalista, homeopathic practitioner, therapeutic masseuse, or skin aesthetician. Today, the health and wellness consumer can DIY all of these things at home through a huge array of products available in pharmacies, supermarkets, Big Box stores, cosmetic superstores, convenience and dollar stores, and other retail channels – increasingly, online (THINK, of course, of Amazon — more on

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Pharmacies Continue to Earn Consumer-Love

Among industries that consumers frequent, one continues to delight people more than most: pharmacies. J.D. Power’s 2018 ratings on U.S. pharmacies finds that consumers do indeed still love their pharmacies after ten years of rating customer satisfaction with brick-and-mortar and mail order channels. “U.S. consumers love their pharmacies,” J.D. Power asserts in its first study finding. In terms of total points across all pharmacies, Wegmans pharmacy was the overall top-ranked Rx retail channel with a total ranking of 906 out of 1,000 points. J.D. Power evaluated four categories of pharmacy: Brick-and-mortar chain drug stores, ranking Good Neighbor Pharmacy number one.

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Surprise, Surprise: Most Americans Have Faced a “Surprise” Medical Bill

Most Americans have been surprised by a medical bill, a NORC AmeriSpeak survey found. Who’s responsible? Nearly all Americans (86% net responsible) first blame health insurance companies, followed by hospitals (82%). Fewer U.S. patients blamed doctors and pharmacies, although a majority of consumers still put responsibility for surprise healthcare bills on them (71% and 64% net). Most of the surprise bills were for charges associated with a physician’s service or lab test. Most surprise charges were not due to the service being excluded from a health plans provider network. The poll was conducted among 1,002 U.S. adults 18 and over

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Americans Growing Health Consumer Muscles and Knowledge: McKinsey

Most Americans are healthcare cost-conscious, concerned about various kinds of healthcare expenses, data from McKinsey’s research has found presented in Healthcare consumerism 2018: An update on the  journey. McKinsey’s consumer research identified four themes: affordability as a pressing consumer concern; lack of continuity of care for many consumers; growing demand for digital convenience and access; and, greater willingness to partake in health care programs that lower costs, if made available. Personal and household concerns about healthcare costs is top-of-mind for U.S. consumers, as I’ve pointed out in previous studies such as Kaiser Family Foundation’s look at top “pocketbook issues,” here on

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Employers Take on Health Activism, Embracing Behavioral Health, Virtual Care, AI, and Transparency

More U.S. employers are growing activist roles as stakeholders in the healthcare system, according to the 2019 Large Employers Health Care Strategy and Plan Design Survey from the National Business Group on Health (NBGH). Consider the Amazon-Berkshire Hathaway-JPMorgan Chase link up between Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffet, and Jamie Dimon, as the symbol of such employer-health activism. The NBGH report is based on survey results collected from 170 large employers representing 13 million workers and 19 million covered lives (families/dependents). This annual survey is one of the most influential such reports released each year, providing a current snapshot of large employers’ views

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“Lower Prescription Drug Prices” – A Tri-Partisan Call Across America

  There’s growing evidence that a majority of U.S. voters, across the three-party landscape, agree on two healthcare issues this year: coverage of pre-existing conditions, and lowering the consumer-facing costs of prescription drugs. A new poll jointly conducted by Politico and the Harvard Chan School of Public Health bolsters my read on the latter issue – prescription drug pricing, which has become a mass popular culture union. There may be no other issue on voters’ collective minds for the 2018 mid-term election that so unites American voters than the demand for lower-cost medicines. This is directly relates to consumers’ tri-party

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Consumers Consider Cost When They Think About Medical Innovation

While the vast majority of Americans say that science has made life easier for most people, and especially for health care, people are split in questioning the financial cost and value of medical treatments, the Pew Research Center has found. The first chart illustrates the percent of Americans identifying various aspects of medical treatments as “big problems.” If you add in people who see these as “small problems,” 9 in 10 Americans say that all of these line items are “problems.” In the sample, two-thirds of respondents had seen a health care provider for an illness or medical condition in

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Diabetes and Independence Day: An Inflection Point for Rising Blood Sugar

In the USA, July 4th celebrates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on that day in 1776. For people with diabetes, July 4th is also an inflection point when blood glucose spikes and kicks off a rise in blood sugar levels through autumn to New Year’s Eve. The team at Livongo observed this by mining 20 million blood glucose measures among its community of people with diabetes. This research debuted in the inaugural Insights Report, Diabetes Across America: Seasons, Regions & More. I appreciated the opportunity to discuss these findings with Dr. Jennifer Schneider, Chief Medical Officer at Livongo. I

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What the Pew Data on Americans’ Views on Technology Means for Healthcare

Most Americans say that pharmaceutical manufacturers, banks, advertisers, energy firms, and tech companies have too much power and influence in today’s American economy, according to Public Attitudes Toward Technology Companies, a research report from the Pew Research Center. A plurality of Americans says labor unions and farming and agriculture have too little power, along with a majority of people who believe that small business lacks sufficient power in the current U.S. economy. This data point is part of a larger consumer survey on Americans’ attitudes about the growing role of technology in society, particularly with respect to political and social impacts.

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Healthcare Policies We Can Agree On: Pre-Existing Conditions, Drug Prices, and PillPack – the June 2018 KFF Health Tracking Poll

There are countless chasms in the U.S. this moment in social, political, and economic perspectives. but one issue is on the mind of most American voters where there is evidence of some agreements: health care, as evidenced in the June 2018 Health Tracking Poll from Kaiser Family Foundation. Top-line, health care is one of the most important issues that voters want addressed in the 2018 mid-term elections, tied with the economy. Immigration, gun policy, and foreign policy follow. While health care is most important to voters registered as Democrats, Republicans rank it very important. Among various specific health care factors, protecting

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The True Costs of Diabetes Go Well Beyond the Wallet

The daily life of a person managing diabetes feels many costs: at work, on relationships, at play, during sleep, on time, on mental health, and to be sure, on personal finances. The True Cost of Diabetes report from Upwell details the many tolls on the person with diabetes. The first-order impact for a patient engaging in self-care to manage diabetes is time that the many tasks in a day borrow from work, sleep, home-keeping, and relationships. Seventy percent of PwD (people with diabetes) checks blood sugar at least once a day (41% one to two times, 29% three to five

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Consumers Grow to View Food as the Prescription

Taking a page out of Hippocrates, “let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food,” consumers are increasingly shopping for groceries with an appetite for health, found in research published this week by the International Food Information Center cleverly titled, An Appetite for Health. The top line: over two-thirds of older adults are managing more than one chronic condition and looking to nutrition to help manage disease. Most consumers have that “appetite for health” across a wide range of conditions, with two rising to the top as “extremely important:” heart health and brain function. Other top-ranked issues are emotional/mental

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Technology, Aging and Obesity Drive Healthcare Spending, BEA Finds

The U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) released, for the first time, data that quantifies Americans’ spending to treat 261 medical conditions, from “A” diseases like acute myocardial infarction, acute renal failure, ADHD, allergic reactions, anxiety disorders, appendicitis and asthma, to dozens of other conditions from the rest of the alphabet. High Spending Growth Rates For Key Diseases In 2000-14 Were Driven By Technology And Demographic Factors, a June 2018 Health Affairs article, analyzed this data. This granular information comes from the BEA’s satellite account, using data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey which nationally examines expenditures by disease;

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Doing Less Can Be Doing More for Healthcare – the Biggest Takeaway From ASCO 2018

Less can lead to more for so many things: eating smaller portions, lowering sugar consumption, and driving less in favor of walking or cycling come to mind. When it comes to healthcare utilization, doing less can also result in equal or even better outcomes. Groundbreaking research presented at this week’s ASCO meeting found that some women diagnosed with certain forms of cancer do not benefit from undergoing chemotherapy. The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) is one of the largest medical meetings annually, and at this huge meeting these research results for the TAILORx trial were huge news with big

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Personalized Medicine: Consumer Concerns About Coverage, Affordability and Privacy

Two in 3 Americans haven’t heard the phrases “personalized medicine” or “precision medicine.” When the concept of therapies tailored to individual patients is explained, most people like the idea of diagnostic tools that can identify biological markers and marry to personal medical records data to help determine medical treatments that best fit them. This picture of U.S. consumers’ views on personalized medicine comes from a survey conducted for PMC, the Personalized Medicine Coalition, and GenomeWeb, published in May 2018. The poll results are published in Public Perspectives on Personalized Medicine, with the top-line finding that life science industry innovators must

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The US Covered Nearly 50% of Global Oncology Medicine Spending in 2017 – a market update from IQVIA

“We are at a remarkable point of cancer treatment,” noted Murray Aitken, Executive Director, IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science, in a call with media this week. 2017 was a banner year of innovative drug launches in oncology, Aitken coined, with more drugs used more extensively, driving improved patient for people dealing with cancer. This upbeat market description comes out of a report on Global Oncology Trends 2018 from the IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science. The subtitle of the report, “Innovation, Expansion and Disruption,” is appropriately put. The report covers these three themes across four sections: advances in therapies,

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The Gap Between the Trump Administration’s Promise of Reducing Rx Costs for Consumers and What People Really Want

This is what happened to pharma stock prices on Friday after President Trump and Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar outlined their new policies focusing on prescription drug prices. The graph is the Nasdaq U.S. Smart Pharmaceuticals Index (NQSSPH) from May 11, 2018, the date when POTUS and Secretary Azar made their announcement. What this upward driving curve indicates, from the start of stock trading in the morning until the ring of the closing bell, is that the pharma industry players, both manufacturers and PBMs, were quite delighted with what they heard. The blueprint for restructuring the prescription drug industry,

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Americans’ Trust in the Healthcare System Low Compared to Rest-of-World’s Health Citizens

In the U.S., trust in the healthcare industry declined by 9 percentage points in just one year, declining from 62% of people trusting — that’s roughly two-thirds of Americans — down to 53% — closer to one-half of the population. I covered the launch of the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer across all industries here in Health Populi in January 2018, when this year’s annual report was presented at the World Economic Forum in Davos as it is each year. The Edelman team shared this detailed data on the healthcare sector with me this week, for which I am grateful. Check

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Pharma Spending Gone Bipolar: Generics At One End, Specialty Drugs on the Other

While the use of medicines continues to rise in the U.S., spending grew by only 0.6% in 2017 after accounting for discounts and rebates. In retail and mail-order channels, net spending fell by 2.1%. Prescription drug spending on branded products grew nearly $5 billion less than in 2016; generic drug spending fell by $5.5 billion, according to Medicine Use and Spending in the U.S., a report from the IQVIA Institute for Health Data Science. The report reviews medicines spending in 2017 looking forward to 2022. There were over 5.8 billion prescriptions dispensed in 2017, and generic drugs accounted 90% of

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Food as Medicine Update: Danone Goes B-Corp, Once Upon a Farm Garners Garner, and Livongo Buys Retrofit

As the nation battles an obesity epidemic that adds $$ costs to U.S. national health spending, there are many opportunities to address this impactful social determinant of health to reduce health spending per person and to drive public and individual health. In this post, I examine a few very current events in the food-as-medicine marketspace. Big Food as an industry gets a bad rap, as Big Tobacco and Big Oil have had. In the case of Big Food, the public health critique points to processed foods, those of high sugar content (especially when cleverly marketed to children), and sustainability. But

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How Walmart Could Bolster Healthcare in the Community

Walmart has been a health/care destination for many years. The company that defined Big Box stores in their infancy grew in healthcare, health and wellness over the past two decades, pioneering the $4 generic prescription back in 2006. Today, that low-cost generic Rx is ubiquitous in the retail pharmacy. A decade later, can Walmart re-imagine primary care the way the company did low-cost medicines? Walmart is enhancing about 500 of 3500 stores, and health will be part of the interior redecorating. Walmart has had ambitious plans in healthcare since those $4 Rx’s were introduced. Here’s a New York Times article from

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Rx 2018: A New Era of Specialty Drugs, Telehealth, Mobile Apps and Value, IQVIA Reports

In 2018, spending on branded prescription drugs will fall in wealthy countries, while spending on specialty drugs will increase, resulting in flat medicines spending. In the U.S., net spending on medicines will fall in 2018 and remain flat at about $800 per person, according to forecasts in 2018 and Beyond: Outlook and Turning Points, from the IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science. “Concerns about existing medicine costs have captured significant attention,” the introduction warns, setting the stage for slowing growth. Key factors for slow growth include payor concerns about budgets and the consideration of value when deciding on access for new

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Will People Enrolled in Medicaid Want to Be Amazon Prime’d?

Amazon is planning to extend Prime subscriptions to people enrolled in Medicaid for the discount price of $5.99 a month instead of the recent price increase to $12.99/month or $99 a year. The $5.99 a month calculates to a 27% break on the annual Prime membership cost. Medicaid enrollees who want to take advantage of the deal must provide Amazon with a scan or image of the card they use for their benefit (either Medicaid or EBT). These consumers can enroll annually, for a maximum of four years. Here’s what the Seattle Times, Amazon’s hometown newspaper, said about the program.

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How Albertsons Grocery Stores and Rite Aid Can Help Remake Healthcare

Albertsons, the grocery group with popular brands like Acme, Safeway, and Vons, announced a merger with Rite Aid, the retail pharmacy chain. The deal has been discussed as Albertsons’ move to succeed in light of growing competition from Amazon and Whole Foods, the proposed CVS/Aetna merger, and Walgreens’ possible purchase of AmerisourceBergen (finalizing its acquisition of over 1,900 Rite Aid stores). If played out well, the combination could become an important player in the evolving U.S. health/care ecosystem that brings a self-care front-door closer to consumers, patients and caregivers. “The new company is expected to serve more than 40 million

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Heart-Love – Omron’s Holy Grail of Blood Pressure Tracking on the Wrist

It’s February 1st, which marks the first of 28 days of American Heart  Month – a time to get real, embrace, learn about, and engage with heart health. Heart disease kills 610,000 people in the U.S. every year, equal to 1 in 4 deaths in America. It’s the leading cause of death for both men and women in the U.S. Knowing your blood pressure is an important step for managing the risks of heart disease. That hasn’t yet been available to those of us who quantify our steps, weight, sleep, food intake, and other health metrics. In 2017, Hugh Langley

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What Healthcare Can Learn from Volkswagen: A Scenario of a Post-Healthcare World

As I am finalizing my schedule for meet-ups at CES in Las Vegas for early January 2018, I’m thinking about digital devices and wearable tech, connected cars, smart homes, and the Internet of Things through my all-health, all-the-time lens. My friends at TrendWatching write today about the automaker, Volkswagen, which has a division called MOIA started in 2016. VW, like most car manufacturers, is working on strategies to avoid being disrupted and made irrelevant as tectonic forces like autonomous cars and shared rides innovate and re-define the nature of personal transportation. MOIA is a brand and a self-described “social movement.”

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Health Consumers Face the New Year Concerned About Costs, Security and Caring – Health Populi’s 2018 Forecast

As 2018 approaches, consumers will gather healthy New Year’s Resolutions together. Entering the New Year, most Americans are also dealing with concerns about healthcare costs, cybersecurity, and caring – for physical health, mental stress, and the nation. Healthcare costs continue to be top-of-mind for consumer pocketbook issues. Entrenched frugality is the new consumer ethos. While the economy might be statistically improving, American consumers’ haven’t regained confidence. In 2018, frugality will impact how people look at healthcare costs. 88% of US consumers are likely to consider cost when selecting a healthcare provider, a Conduent survey found. Physicians know this: 81% of

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Patients Continue to Grow Healthcare Consumer Muscles, Alegeus’s 2017 Index Finds

Patients’ health consumer muscles continue to get a work out as more people enroll in high-deductible health plans and face sticker shock for health insurance premiums, prescription drug costs, and that thousand-dollar threshold. The 2017 Alegeus Healthcare Consumerism Index finds growth in patients’, now consumers’, interest and competence in becoming disciplined about planning, saving, and spending for healthcare. Overall, the healthcare spending index hit 60.1 in 2017, up from 54.4 in 2016. This is a macro benchmark that represents most consumers exhibiting greater healthcare spending engagement with eyes on cost as well as adopting purchasing behaviors for healthcare. Underneath that

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The Patient as Payor – Consumers and the Government Bear the Largest Share of Healthcare Spending in America

The biggest healthcare spenders in the United States are households and the Federal government, each responsible for paying 28% of the $3.3 trillion spent in 2016. Private business — that is, employers covering healthcare insurance — paid for 20% of healthcare costs in 2016, based on calculations from the CMS Office of the Actuary’s report on 2016 National Health Expenditures. The positive spin on this report is that overall national health spending grew at a slower rate in 2016, at 4.3% after 5.8% growth in 2015. This was due to a decline in the growth rates for the use of

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CVS + Aetna: An Inflection Point for American Healthcare

The nation’s largest retail pharmacy chain signed a deal to combine with one of the top three health insurance companies. The deal is valued at $69 billion. I wrote about this inflection point for U.S. healthcare four weeks ago here in Health Populi. CVS is both the biggest pharmacy and pharmacy benefit manager in the U.S., as the first chart shows. In my previous post, I talked about the value of vertical integration bringing together the building blocks of retail pharmacy and pharmacist care, retail clinics, the PBM (Caremark), along with Aetna’s health plan member base and business. As Amazon and other

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High-Deductibles Do Not Automatically Inspire Healthcare Consumerism

It takes more than enrolling in a high-deductible health plan (HDHP) for someone to immediately morph into an effective health care “consumer.” Research from Dr. Jeffrey Kullgren and his team from the University of Michigan found that enrollees in HDHPs could garner more benefits from these plans were people better informed about how to use them, including how to save for them and spend money once enrolled in them. The team’s research letter was published in JAMA Internal Medicine on 27 November 2017. The discussion details results of a survey conducted among 1,637 people 18 to 64 years of age

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The Internet of Things via Medicines – FDA Approves Digital Pill

Yesterday, the FDA approved a “digital ingestion tracking system,” the first drug in the U.S. that has an ingestible (in other words, safely edible) sensor built into the pill. That sensor tracks that the medication was taken, which helps with adherence, meant to help ensure that patients who are prescribed the medicine do indeed take the regimen as prescribed. Once ingested, the sensor in the pill communicates to a wearable patch on the patient that then communicates information to a mobile health app that tracks the pill-taking via smartphone. Patients can allow their family and clinicians access to that information

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Rx Delivery to the Patient’s Door: Home Is Where the Health/Care Is

Talk about the last mile in healthcare. CVS Pharmacy will deliver prescription drugs to patients’ homes, the company announced this week. “Same-day prescription delivery gives customers the easy option of having the pharmacy they trust deliver right to their front door at no cost,” Helen Foulkes, President of CVS Pharmacy, said in the press release. Rx home delivery may not be “the” last mile to conquer all healthcare access challenges, but it’s nonetheless a signal that healthcare industry suppliers are focusing on helping patients streamline their health-consumer lives. In this case, it’s also CVS morphing towards Amazon’s Prime delivery model. Amazon

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A Health Consumer Perspective on CVS+Aetna

  A response to Amazon’s potential moves in healthcare and pharmacy…strategic positioning for the post-Trump healthcare landscape…vertical integration to better manage healthcare utilization and costs…these, and other rationale have been offered by industry analysts and observers of the discussions between CVS and Aetna, for the former to acquire the latter. “A pharmacy chain buying a health insurance company?” many have asked me over the past few days. These inquiring minds include people who work both inside and outside of health/care. I ask back: in 2017 and in the future, “What is a pharmacy? What is a health plan?” See the

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The Patient Is The Vector: Health 2.0 – Day 2 Learnings

  Question: “What is the opposite of ‘patient-centered care?'” asked a panelist on Day 1 of the 11th Annual Health 2.0 Conference. Answer: “‘Physician-centered care.'” Even physicians today see the merits of patient engagement, as this survey from New England Journal of Medicine found earlier this year. Since the launch of the first Health 2.0 Conference in 2007, the patient has played a growing role in session content and, increasingly, on the big stage and panel breakout sessions. A panel I attended on Day 2 convened five developers of patient engagement platforms and digital tools to help healthcare look and

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2017 Rx Cost Trend Over 5 Times U.S. Inflation, Segal Projects

Driven by price increases, costs for the prescription drug benefit carve-out will increase 11.6% this year, based on Segal Consulting’s survey report, High Rx Cost Trends Projected to Be Lower for 2018, published today. The report is accessible on the Segal Co. website. While the Segal team expects prescription drug (Rx) benefit plan cost trends to be “less severe” in 2018, Rx cost increases is a top priority for many sponsors of health plans as their rate of increase far exceeds those for inpatient hospital claims or physician expense. Drug costs continue to be the fastest-growing line item in health

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