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Health Management Technology News
  April 7, 2014
In this issue:

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Healthcare costs: Low-hanging fruit

Fortis seeks to exit Singapore healthcare business

University of Memphis healthcare program receives national ranking

Hawaii's trailblazing healthcare underscores disparity

Even small medical advances can mean big jumps in bills

Lawmakers seek to draw medical tourists to Florida

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Healthcare costs: Low-hanging fruit

Many proposals for improving cost/effectiveness of U.S. medicine are contending for resources and attention. These proposals span personalized medicine, big-data technology to find patterns and coordinate care, tightly-managed accountable healthcare systems, and marketplace incentives.

Listening to a panel prepare for a conference this week brought that home to me: each panelist has a different view, often based on his/her skills and role in the system. I don’t doubt that each approach holds promise. However, they tend to be complex and sophisticated, and they will need many years to develop. For example, connecting most patient and provider information to the cloud and finding ways to manage and analyze it there, with appropriate privacy and security, is a huge project. If was a moon-shot, this will be colonization of Mars.

A simple and low-tech change to U.S. healthcare holds great promise and offers a fast pay-back. It’s re-investment in primary care coupled with giving primary care providers the right role in the healthcare system and incentives.

The logic is easy to follow. It’s built on three principles:

1. Primary care providers can help people avoid illness and identify problems earlier, particularly if they can truly get to know their patients and build a relationship of trust. All that is required is making the provider accessible, spending more time with the patient, and providing resources to ensure that patients are following through on behaviors, meds, and treatments. Providers will tell you that it is difficult/impossible to build trust, get patients to be honest, and change behavior during a ten-minute visit.

Read the full Forbes article here

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Fortis seeks to exit Singapore healthcare business

Fortis Healthcare Ltd. has put its Singapore assets up for sale as part of a push to focus on its domestic market, people with knowledge of the deal said, in what would be the latest overseas disposal by the Indian-owned hospital firm.

Run by billionaire brothers Malvinder Singh and Shivinder Singh, Fortis expanded in countries from Australia to Vietnam. But in recent years, the company has cut its overseas exposure with sales of hospital stakes in Hong Kong, Australia, and Singapore. It has, in the process, reduced its debt levels. It is now looking to sell its remaining Singapore interests, namely three hospitals—Fortis Surgical Hospital, RadLink-Asia and Singapore Radiopharmaceuticals—which could raise about US$150 million, the people said.

A Fortis spokesman declined to comment, but said the company is focused on its home market. "Our stated position is that we want to focus on India operations, particularly on hospitals and diagnostics."

The Indian company first moved to Singapore in March 2010 when it spent US$685 million to acquire a 25% stake in Parkway Holdings Ltd., a health care operator in the city-state.

But the investment was short-lived. Just four months after they bought the stake, the brothers lost a takeover battle for Parkway to IHH Healthcare Bhd., a hospital operator backed by Malaysian sovereign-wealth fund Khazanah Nasional Bhd.

Read the full article for The Wall Street Journal here

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University of Memphis healthcare program receives national ranking

The University of Memphis’ Master of Health Administration program is ranked 19th in the country, according to Modern Healthcare magazine.

The Modern Healthcare ranking looks at the top business graduate schools for physician executives for the ranking, which is based on the availability of evening or weekend classes, the incorporation of some online study, the availability to complete the degree in two to three years, and part-time and full-time options.

The University of Memphis’ Master of Health Administration program requires a total of 53-credit hours, and offers both on-campus and executive options designed for both recent college graduates and working professionals.

Read the Memphis Business Journal article

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Hawaii's trailblazing healthcare underscores disparity

When the giant kapok and nawa trees that tower over the Queen's Medical Center in downtown Honolulu were planted more than a century ago, Hawaii faced a health crisis.

Many on the islands, including the queen who founded the hospital in 1859, feared that native Hawaiians, devastated by smallpox, measles and other illnesses brought by foreigners, were in danger of dying off completely.

Today, the people who walk under these trees are some of the healthiest in America.

Hawaiians live longer than their counterparts on the mainland. They die less frequently from common diseases, such as breast and colon cancers, even though these cancers occur more often here than in most other states. They also pay less for their care; the state's healthcare costs are among the lowest in the country.

Hawaii's success owes much to the state's trailblazing health system and its long history of near-universal health insurance.

Forty years ago, the state became the first to require employers to provide health benefits, codifying a tradition that grew out of Hawaii's agrarian past, when sugar and pineapple plantations employed doctors to care for their workers.

That system has led to some of the highest rates of coverage and best access to medical care in the country.

"There has always been a mentality here that if you are sick, you go to the doctor. It's just part of the culture," said Myra Williams, 64, who has lived in Hawaii for 35 years and was recently treated successfully for early-stage breast cancer.

Nearly 99% of the patients at the cancer center at Queen's have health coverage, a level unheard of at most urban medical centers on the mainland.

Read the full Los Angeles Times article here

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Even small medical advances can mean big jumps in bills

Catherine Hayley is saving up for an important purchase: an updated version of the tiny digital pump at her waist that delivers lifesaving insulin under her skin.

Such devices, which tailor insulin dosing more precisely to the body’s needs, have transformed the lives of people with Type 1 diabetes like Ms. Hayley. But as diabetics live longer, healthier lives and worries fade about dreaded complications like heart attacks, kidney failure, amputations and blindness, they have been replaced by another preoccupation: soaring treatment costs.

“It looks like a beeper,” said Ms. Hayley, a 36-year-old manager here for an environmental services company, referring to the vintage 2007 pump on the waistband of her jeans. “It’s made of plastic and runs on triple-A batteries, but it’s the most expensive thing I own, aside from my house.”

A new model, along with related treatment supplies, prices out at tens of thousands of dollars for this year and will cost her about $5,000, even with top-notch insurance. “It’s great,” Ms. Hayley said, “but it all adds up.”

Read the full New York Times article here

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Lawmakers seek to draw medical tourists to Florida

Florida lawmakers have a new vision for the tourism industry.

Forget Mickey Mouse and the beaches. Their goal is to make Florida an international destination for people seeking top-notch medical care.

Proposals in the state House and Senate seek to pump $5 million into efforts to promote Florida’s healthcare industry to potential patients worldwide.

That’s welcome news to healthcare providers like Broward Health, a public health system that already sees thousands of so-called medical tourists each year.

“It will only enhance the activities that have already been going on at our hospital, as well as others around the state,” Vice President of Broward Health International Abbe Bendell said.

Also standing to benefit: hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions near hospitals and clinics.

The measure has bipartisan support in the Legislature, and the backing of key leaders such as Senate President Don Gaetz.

But Renee-Marie Stephano, president of the Palm Beach County-based Medical Tourism Association, said it will take more than marketing dollars to make Florida a hotspot for medical tourism.

“Advertising is not enough,” Stephano said. “Some of those funds should be allocated to underlying service development, like helping [healthcare providers] understand the unique needs of international patients.”

Medical tourism isn’t a new concept for the Sunshine State.

“Medical tourism has existed in Florida since Ponce de Leon set out in search of the Fountain of Youth,” said Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, who is sponsoring the bill with Rep. Patrick Rooney, R-West Palm Beach.

But as transportation and communications technology have improved, more people are seeking medical care outside of their immediate communities.

Read the full Miami Herald article here

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