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Employer Health Benefits Stable In the Midst of Uncertain Health Politics

As we look for signs of stability in U.S. health care, there’s one stakeholder that’s holding firm: employers providing healthcare benefits. Two studies out this week demonstrate companies’ commitment to sponsoring health insurance benefits….with continued tweaks to benefit design that nudges workers toward healthier behaviors, lower cost-settings, and greater cost-sharing. As Julie Stone, senior benefits consultant with Willis Towers Watson (WLTW), noted, “The extent of uncertainty in Washington has made people reluctant to make changes to their benefit programs without knowing what’s happening. They’re taking a wait-and-see attitude.” First, the Willis Towers Watson 22nd annual Best Practices in Health Care Employer

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Price-Shopping for Healthcare Still A Heavy Lift for Consumers

Most U.S. consumers support the idea of price-shopping for healthcare, but don’t practice it. While patients “should” shop for health care and perceive differences in costs across providers, few seek information about their personal out-of-pocket costs before getting treatment. Few Americans shop around for health care, even when insured under a high-deductible health plan, conclude Ateev Mehrotra and colleagues in their research paper, Americans Support Price Shopping For Health Care, But Few Actually Seek Out Price Information. The article is published in Health Affairs‘ August 2017 issue. The bar chart shows some of the survey results, with the top-line finding

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Patients Want Doctors To Know How Much Their Drugs Cost

  Patients want their doctors to know what their personal costs for medicines are; 42% of patients also believe their doctor is aware of how much they spend on prescription drugs. However, 61% of these people have not talked with doctors about drug prices. Nor do most doctors have access to this kind of information at the individual patient level. One important tactic to addressing overall healthcare costs, and managing the prescription drug line item in those costs, is discussed in Doctors and Pharmacists: An Underused Resource to Manage Drug Costs for Older Adults, a report on a survey sponsored

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Learning From Adam Niskar – Living Beyond The Wheelchair

After diving into Walnut Lake in suburban Detroit, Adam Niskar sustained a spinal injury that would paralyze much of his body for the rest of his life. The trauma didn’t paralyze his life and living, though. But today, my family will celebrate that life at Adam’s memorial service. Adam was my cousin. He was one of the best-loved people on the planet, and that was part of a therapeutic recipe that sustained him from the traumatic accident in 1999 until Monday, July 31st, 2017, when Adam passed away from complications due to an infection that, this time around, his body

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Health Equity Lessons from July 23, 1967, Detroit

On July 23, 1967, I was a little girl wearing a pretty dress, attending my cousin’s wedding at a swanky hotel in mid-town Detroit. Driving home with my parents and sisters after the wedding, the radio news channel warned us of the blazing fires that were burning in a part of the city not far from where we were on a highway leading out to the suburbs. Fifty years and five days later, I am addressing the subject of health equity at a speech over breakfast at the American Hospital Association 25th Annual Health Leadership Summit today. In my talk,

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Fix the ACA, Most Americans Say

  61% of Americans hold negative views of repealing-and-replacing the Affordable Care Act, according to the July 2017 Health Tracking Poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation. This month’s survey focused on Americans’ views on Republican legislative efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA). As of the writing of this post, the majority of the Senate rejected the full repeal of the ACA, but the situation is very fluid. Note that this poll was conducted by phone between July 5-10, 2017, among 1,183 U.S. adults ages 18 and older. The column chart here illustrates that the proportion of people

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Weaving Accenture’s Five Digital Health Technology Trends for 2017

Technology should serve people, and Accenture has identified five major key trends that, together, could forge a person-centered, -friendly, -empowering healthcare system. This is Accenture’s Digital Health Technology Vision for 2017. “Should” and “could” are the important adverbs here, because if tech doesn’t deliver, driving efficiency and effectiveness, personalizing medical treatments, and inspiring people to become more health literate and health-engaging, then tech is just a Field of Dreams being built and available, with no people taking advantage of the potential benefits. The five new-new tech trends are: AI is the new UI, where healthcare experience is everything Ecosystem power

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Note to Mooch: The ER is Not Universal Health Care

I quote directly from the Twitter feed of Anthony Scaramucci, @scaramucci: “@dhank2525 agree. We already have Univ Health Care, we made decision long ago to treat everyone that enters an emergency room.” Mr. Scaramucci is President Trump’s Communications Chief, replacing Sean Spicer. Mr. Scaramucci is neither veteran journalist nor healthcare policy wonk. He’s a successful businessman, which I respect for his savvy and ability to build a fund, attract investors, and create a media persona which he has telegenically broadcast on CNBC and elsewhere over the past decade. He’s got a engaging public personality, and goes by the moniker, “Mooch.” But

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Pharmacies Morph Into Primary Care Health Destinations

The business and mission of pharmacies are being re-shaped by several major market forces, most impactful being uncertain health reform prospects at the Federal level — especially for Medicaid, which is a major payor for prescription drugs. Medicaid covered 14% of retail prescriptions dispensed in 2016, according to QuintilesIMS; Medicare accounted for 27% of retail prescriptions. “But if affordability, accessibility, quality, innovation, responsiveness and choices are among the standards that will be applied to any future changes, pharmacy has strong legs to stand on,” Steve Anderson, president and CEO of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, said in the PoweRx Top 50

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Strengthening Chronic Care Is Both Personal and Financial for the Patient

  6 in 10 people diagnosed with a chronic condition do not feel they’re doing everything they can to manage their condition. At the same time, 67% of healthcare providers believe patients aren’t certain about their target health metrics. Three-quarters of physicians are only somewhat confident their patients are truly informed about their present state of health. Most people and their doctors are on the same page recognizing that patients lack confidence in managing their condition, but how to remedy this recognized challenge? The survey and report, Strengthening Chronic Care, offers some practical advice. This research was conducted by West

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Patients and “Their” Medical Records: Crossing the Chasm

Most physician practices and hospitals in the U.S. have installed electronic health records (EHRs). But in a classic Field of Dreams scenario, we have made patients’ medical records digital, but people aren’t asking for them or accessing them en masse. “How do we make it easier for patients to request and manage their own data?” asks a report from the Office of the National Coordinator of Health IT (ONC), Improving the Health Records Request Process for Patients – Highlights from User Experience Research. The ONC has been responsible for implementing the HITECH Act’s provisions, ensuring that health care providers have met Meaningful

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Self-Pay Healthcare Up, Hospital Revenues Down

For every 4.2% increase in a hospital’s self-pay patient population, the institution’s revenues would fall by 2.8% in Medicaid expansion states. This is based on the combination of a repeal of the Affordable Care Act and more consumers moving to high-deductible health plans. That sober metric was calculated by Crowe Horwath, published in its benchmarking report published today with a title warning that, Self-Pay Becomes Ground Zero for Hospital Margins. The “ground zero” for the average U.S. hospital is the convergence of a potential repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which could increase the number of uninsured Americans by 22 million

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Is There Political Will for Healthcare Access in the US?

The Netherlands, France and Germany are the best places to be a patient, based on the Global Access to Healthcare Index, developed by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). Throughout the world, nations wrestle with how to provide healthcare to health citizens, in the context of stretched government budgets and demand for innovative and accessible services. The Global Access to Healthcare Index gauges countries’ healthcare systems in light of peoples’ ability to access services, detailed in Global Access to Healthcare: Building Sustainable Health Systems. The United States comes up 10th in line (tied with Spain) in this analysis. Countries that score the

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The Art of Emojis in Constipation-Conversation

“Constipation is hard. Talking about it is even harder,” reads a card I received from the senior director of marketing at Synergy Pharmaceuticals. Emojis-meet-direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical promotion in a new campaign from the drug company, which is embarking on a disease education campaign to bring greater awareness to the condition of chronic idiopathic constipation (CIC). This condition impacts 14% of the global population. The messengers for this effort are a cast of emojis who populate a continuum from constipation-to-diarrhea and every poop step in-between. Meet The Poop Troop: Stressed-Out Stooly Clogged Chris Left-Out Lumpy Plugged-Up Paulie Miss La Poop Mr. Smooth Sausage Sally

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The Pursuit of Health Equity and the State of U.S. Health Care

Between 2014 and 2015, death rates increased for eight of the ten leading causes; only death rates caused by cancer fell, and mortality rates for influenza and pneumonia stayed flat. The first chart paints this sobering portrait of Americans’ health outcomes, presented in the CDC’s data-rich 488-page primer, Health, United States, 2016. Think of this publication as America’s annual report on health. Every year, it is prepared and submitted to the President and Congress by the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. This year’s report was delivered by DHHS Secretary Tom Price to President Trump and the

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Patients Switch Doctors Based on Service, Not Just Care or Costs – Think “Text”

There’s more evidence of shopping behavior among patients: there’s new data showing that patients-as-consumers switch healthcare providers not due to quality of care or costs, but because of lack of service. I discovered one key verb and feature patient-consumers expect from doctors: it’s the ability to text, for appointment reminders, alerts, treatments, and communicating with the practice. SolutionReach, in the business of patient engagement, conducted a survey among 500 consumers asking about primary care providers, communication experience and satisfaction levels. The company presented the research results in a webinar on 29 June 2017. The research was also written up in

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Costs of Healthcare Top Americans’ Financial Concerns: It’s Financial Health Matters Day

Americans are most worried about healthcare costs among all financial concerns; most people in the U.S. also believe the Federal government should ensure that all people have health coverage. Two polls published in the past week point to the fact that most U.S. health citizens are concerned about health care for themselves and their families, driving a growing proportion of people to favor a single-payer health system. The first line chart illustrates a dramatic trajectory up of the number of American identifying healthcare costs as their #1 financial problem, rising from 10% of people in 2013 to 17% in 2017.

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Artificial Intelligence, AI, Is Becoming the New Operating System in Health – Accenture

Artificial Intelligence, AI, can help drive the Triple Aim in healthcare, reducing cost, improving quality, and expanding access, according to Artificial Intelligence: Healthcare’s New Nervous System from Accenture. Acquisitions of AI developers in health will be fast-paced, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 40% – “explosive” in the word of Accenture – moving from $600 mm in 2014 to $6.6 billion in 2021. What these AI startups will do is to enable machines to sense, comprehend, act and learn, Accenture foresees, to augment administrative and clinical tasks which could free up healthcare labor (say, doctors, other clinicians, and accountants)

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Shopping Food for Health: the 2017 U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends

Wellness is at the grocery store, the vast majority of U.S. health citizens say. 8 in 10 U.S. shoppers are concerned about the nutritional content in the food they eat. As grocery shoppers look for more fresh and less processed foods, grocery stores are seen as trusted allies for meeting wellness needs. Grocers are coupling the growth of more healthy packaged foods in the middle of the store with more fresh and prepared food options that consumers see as healthier than restaurant meals, according to U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends 2017 from FMI (the Food Marketing Institute) and Hartman Group. While

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Global Drug Sales Forecasts Fall For Next Five Years

Total prescription drug sales have been trimmed, based on calculations of EvaluatePharma which forecasts a $390 bn drop in revenues between 2017 and 2022. “Political and public scrutiny over pricing of both new and old drugs is not going to go away,” EvaluatePharma called out in its report. The intense scrutiny on pharma industry pricing was fostered by Martin Shkreli in his pricing of Daraprim (taking a $13.50 product raising the price to $750), Harvoni and Sovaldi pricing for Hepatitis C therapies, and last year’s EpiPen pricing uproar. A May 2017 analysis of prescription drug costs by AARP judges that, “Nothing

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