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Health Management Technology News
  May 5, 2014
In this issue:
 

 Health Management Technology’s Resource Guide sign-up

 Healthcare's growing data opportunity

 Obama mocks health care website's flawed launch at correspondents' dinner

 Report: Young adults among health care enrollees

 Healthcare spending surges in first quarter

 Telemedicine policy draws opposition from patient advocates, healthcare providers

 Wearable technology: The coming revolution in healthcare

 The states with the worst healthcare systems


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Healthcare's growing data opportunity

The paradigm shift currently occurring in the healthcare industry is unprecedented. Longstanding fee-for-service care delivery models are rapidly evolving to a value-based system that rewards providers based on outcomes performance and cost-efficient care.

Survival under this new risk-bearing system will require the implementation of effective population health management (PHM) strategies that leverage the rich storehouse of data that exists across healthcare systems. When healthcare organizations can achieve a bird’s eye view of health trends within patient populations and then build quality initiatives around that data, performance metrics begin to fall into place.

Big Data has become an all-too-common buzzword appearing regularly in industry thought leader columns and key note addresses across the healthcare landscape. And while familiar in presentation, the term is indicative of one of the industry’s greatest challenges and opportunities as it relates to PHM.

A 2011 report from McKinsey and Company suggests that the healthcare industry could potentially benefit from Big Data to the tune of $300 billion. Another report points to successful ventures like that of Kaiser Permanente, where an integrated technological infrastructure that leverages population health data has achieved improved cardiovascular disease outcomes and saved an estimated $1 billion.

It makes sense. When population health is managed proactively instead of retroactively, the end result is healthier patients and minimized need for higher cost interventions. The primary roadblock currently is two-fold:

Read the full Thought Leaders feature from HMT here  

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Obama mocks health care website's flawed launch at correspondents' dinner

Little was sacred when President Barack Obama tossed out playful but pointed jokes Saturday night -- not even his own health care plan.

"We rolled out healthcare.gov. That could have gone better," Obama said in remarks at the annual White House Correspondents' Association dinner. "In 2008 my slogan was `Yes we can.' In 2013 my slogan was `Control-alt-delete."'

One the plus side, the president said, "they did turn the launch of healthcare.gov into one of the year's biggest movies." On a screen flashed the poster for "Frozen."

When a video Obama introduced failed to play properly, he asked, "Does anybody know how to fix this?" To laughter, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius stepped up and said: "I got this. I see it all the time." In the wake of the problems with the website, Sebelius has announced she is stepping down.

The annual dinner has become a tradition in the nation's capital, promising a black-tie evening of humor and celebrity gazing. The event once again attracted an array of journalists, government officials, politicians and media personalities as the association raised money for college scholarships. The featured entertainer was comic actor Joel McHale, the star of the NBC series "Community."

In his own stand-up routine, Obama didn't waste any time turning his barbed jokes toward the news media.

"MSNBC is here," he said. "They're a little overwhelmed. They've never seen an audience this big before."

Read the full article from FOX news here  

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Report: Young adults among health care enrollees

About 29 percent of those who successfully enrolled in health care plans through Massachusetts' troubled website were young adults aged 18 to 34, whose premiums are needed to balance the cost of older, sicker enrollees, according to a report released Thursday by the Obama administration.

Just 31,695 Massachusetts residents were able to enroll in new plans that meet the requirements of the federal law due to failures in the state's website — far short of the goal of 250,000, said the report on the first year of the marketplaces created under the president's landmark health care law.

State health officials said despite the troubles they were able to help more than 200,000 additional residents by placing them into a transitional coverage program or moving them into MassHealth through an expansion of Medicaid.

The federal report said without the website obstacles, those enrolled in a qualified health plan through the Massachusetts Health Connector could have topped 300,000.

Independent analysts have said about 40 percent of the enrollees should be young adults. But the administration called the mix sufficient to keep premiums stable.

Nationally, young adults made up about 28 percent of the total 8 million who chose a health plan through the new insurance markets.

Connector officials in Massachusetts said they look forward to having "a new system in place for the next open enrollment period that will make it easier for people to access these benefits."

Read the full article from Boston Herald here  

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Healthcare spending surges in first quarter

Healthcare spending rose at the fastest pace since 1980 in the first quarter as the new health insurance law prompted many more Americans to visit doctors and hospitals.

Analysts say the sharp increase reflects other trends that should continue to drive up both medical spending and costs in 2014 after years of slow growth.

Healthcare expenditures climbed at a 9.9% annual rate last quarter, mostly because of increased spending at hospitals, the Bureau of Economic Analysis said last week. That's the biggest jump since 1980's third quarter, and it followed a 5.6% increase in the fourth quarter.

The higher health outlays made up more than half of last quarter's 3% increase in consumer spending and helped prop up a generally weak economy. The economy grew just 0.1% in the quarter and would have shrunk by about a percentage point if not for the surge in health-related spending.

Most of the increase can be traced to the roughly 8 million Americans who signed up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act mandate since late last year, says George Miller, a fellow at the Altarum Institute's Center for Sustainable Health Spending. Many probably began visiting doctors and hospitals, though it's unclear how many of the 8 million were previously uninsured.

Further increases in health spending are likely in the second quarter, in part because the ACA's sign-up deadline was extended to as late as April 15 for many people, says economist Omair Sharif of the Royal Bank of Scotland. Sharif is concerned that consumer spending could slow this year as the number of new insurance enrollees levels off.

Read the full article from USA Today here  

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Telemedicine policy draws opposition from patient advocates, healthcare providers

New guidelines issued by the Federation of State Medical Boards could have a chilling effect on the growth of telemedicine – especially in rural areas and among low-income patients, say some patient advocates, health care providers and health care companies. But the federation says the updated guidance will safeguard patients’ privacy and ensure high-quality care in the current fast-changing health care delivery environment.

As part of a wide-reaching April 26 policy statement, FSMB changed the definition of telemedicine to care that “typically involves the application of secure videoconferencing… to provide or support healthcare delivery by replicating the interaction of a traditional encounter in person between provider and a patient.” It is not, according to the federation, “an audio-only, telephone conversation, e-mail/instant messaging conversation or fax.”

The statement, which is not a legal document but is intended to help state medical boards’ develop professional policies and standards for their members, triggered a backlash from some stakeholders.

Eight patient advocacy and provider groups wrote FSMB Chairman Donald Polk May 1 asking that the policy be reconsidered. “We believe the policy … did not account for many of the safe, secure ways patients are accessing health care today, including ‘audio-only’ telephone. Our goal is patient access to safe, secure telemedicine and this may be thwarted if the existing policy is allowed to stand,” the groups write.

But Humayun Chudhry, FSMB’s CEO, said the “policy is not designed to limit the use of the telephone.” Instead, it’s designed to ensure that a patient’s care does not proceed “for months or years on end” based entirely on “audio only” conversations, adding neither FSMB or state medical boards have a say in how private insurers or Medicaid reimburse for these consultations.

“The concern is that … patient safety not be forgotten. Just because you’re using [technology] you should not be able to cut corners. It’s a cautionary note for physicians and for patients,” Chaudhry said.

Opponents warn, though, that it could have unintended consequences.

Read the full article from Kaiser Health News here  

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Wearable technology: The coming revolution in healthcare

The year 2014 may well go down as the year of wearable technology. The impact of wearables is already being felt in education, communication, navigating, and entertainment; but perhaps the greatest potential lies in healthcare. Wearable technology has started to revolutionize healthcare by assisting doctors in the operating room and providing real time access to electronic health records.

The full potential of wearable technology in healthcare, though, goes well beyond directly assisting doctors. Patients can now continuously monitor their own health. At the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Sony, LG and Garmin introduced devices that track everything from heart rate and blood pressure to a patient's O2 saturation. By 2018, the overall number of wearable devices shipped to consumers is expected to reach 130 million. With such acceptance on the part of the public, wearables are perhaps the perfect application for healthcare.

To learn more about wearables in healthcare, I spoke with David Peterson, Chief Marketing Officer for Emdeon, a company well-experienced in linking healthcare payers, providers and vendors. David believes that the adoption of wearable healthcare-related devices could indeed be a significant step in patient engagement and improving population health -- two critical success factors driving today's increasingly complex healthcare environment. Specifically, wearable health technology brings three distinctly beneficial trends to the table -- connected information, community, and gamification. By harnessing this trifecta, healthcare leaders have new ways to build engagement and create accurate, far-reaching views of both personal and population health.

Read the full article from Huffington Post here  

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The states with the worst healthcare systems

Minnesota has the nation's best-performing healthcare system, according to a Commonwealth Fund ranking released this week, and Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire are tied for second. Mississippi ranks last, just as it did on the previous ranking in 2009. Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Arkansas round out the bottom of the list.

For the ranking, the Commonwealth Fund relied on 42 different metrics that gauged everything from insurance coverage to avoidable hospital stays to vaccination rates, at the systemic level; and from obesity rates to how many adults have lost six or more teeth, at the individual level.

Read the full article from The Atlantic here  

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