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Health Management Technology News
  August 8, 2014
In this issue:
  President Obama signs veterans' healthcare overhaul bill

  The Kaiser way: Lesson for U.S. healthcare?

  Vermont’s grueling stab at single-payer health

  The emerging revolution in healthcare

  How to make money on our graying population

  4 things to know about the slowdown in
healthcare spending

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President Obama signs veterans' healthcare overhaul bill

Veterans may soon have easier access to government-paid healthcare under a bill President Barack Obama signed into law Thursday, the government's most sweeping response to date to a public uproar over system wide problems that have rocked the Veterans Affairs Department.

With service members, lawmakers and military leaders looking on, Obama put his pen to the bill at Fort Belvoir, an Army base south of Washington, where he held up the legislation as a rare example of Republicans and Democrats working together effectively. Denouncing delays in care for veterans as wrong and outrageous, Obama said the government would keep moving ahead with urgent reforms to ensure veterans have the care they've earned.

"This will not and cannot be the end of our effort," Obama said. "We have to make sure the VA system can keep pace with the new demands."

Read the full article from The Christian Science Monitor here

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The Kaiser way: Lesson for U.S. healthcare?

The Affordable Care Act has been dramatically changing the way hospitals do business, forcing them to rethink which patients they admit and focus on keeping people healthy.

For Kaiser Permanente, however, it's been largely business as usual, says CEO Bernard Tyson, who took the helm a year ago.

Kaiser is a fully integrated hospital-doctor-insurance company, kind of an "accountable care organization" on steroids. ACOs are networks of doctors and hospitals that share financial and medical responsibility for patients' care — exactly what the ACA encourages with Medicare, using bonuses for efficient and effective health care.

So does the ACA mean we're in for the Kaiser-fication of health care — or should be?

Health care economist Paul Ginsburg is skeptical.

As a closed network with a completely integrated insurance company and the medical group, "Kaiser is a very unique system " says Ginsburg. "It's not as if other physicians and the system is going to head Kaiser's way."

But if they did, Ginsburg doesn't think it would be all bad.

Although some doctors and labor groups grumble that Kaiser offers inferior care, "People now talk with great respect about Kaiser in California," where the company is based, says Ginsburg, a professor at the University of Southern California.

Read the full article from USA Today here

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Vermont’s grueling stab at single-payer health

Dr. Marvin Malek has been yearning and advocating for a publicly financed, single-payer health care system for at least two decades. Now, as Vermont stands on the threshold of being the first state to launch such a plan, he’s confessing to trepidation.

“I am pretty damn nervous,” he confided before bounding off for rounds at the Vermont Central Medical Center, still clutching the bicycle helmet he wore on his ride to work. It’s not that Malek has reservations about the desirability of a single-payer system. He and other supporters in Vermont point out that it is already in place in many developed countries that produce better health outcomes at lower cost than the U.S.

It’s that getting there seems so fraught with complexity. “The problem is that the tentacles of our completely dysfunctional U.S. health system reach so deeply into every state,” he said. “How do you disentangle from that abysmal structure to create single-payer?” That explains why Malek and many others here believe the Vermont legislature’s landmark vote in 2011 to move the state to a single-payer system by 2017 was the easy part of the process. Devising how to actually do it, a process the state is enmeshed in now, will be much more grueling.

The outcome couldn’t be more consequential, not only for Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin, who put single-payer health care at the center of his first gubernatorial campaign in 2010, but for many others who have long cherished the idea of universal health care built on the foundation of a single-payer system.

Read the full article from The Fiscal Times here

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The emerging revolution in healthcare

In this paper, Darrell West and Niam Yaraghi argue that there are substantial opportunities to move healthcare into an evidence-based model using health information technology, social collaboration, and advanced data analytics. Yet there remain a number of challenges in order to gain the benefits of the information revolution. West and Yaraghi urge addressing problems in terms of interoperability, privacy, and security to make necessary progress.

Six ideas and policy recommendations for the future of healthcare include:

Utilizing big data tools: These tools are vital for the future development of medicine as they allow databases to be stratified and randomized and speed up the research process.

Increasing interoperability and tracking patients across healthcare systems: Advancing data sharing networks integrates information from different sources and creates a 360 degree outlook on patient conditions.

Improving consumer education: The quality of interface design and user friendliness of medical applications of hand held devices can encourage patients and physicians to increase their level of use.

Read the full article from Brookings Institute here

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How to make money on our graying population

For healthcare, gray is the new black.

The fastest-growing segment of the global population is aged 60 and over, according to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. That slice of humanity is expected to increase by 45% by 2050.

The surge in the older population has contributed to a wave of new product introductions in biotechnology, medical devices and pharmaceuticals, and expansion of healthcare services.

In addition, healthcare is a remarkably durable sector for investors, soldiering on despite periodic market downturns, like the one seen last week when the S&P 500 index had its worst week since 2012.

Overall, there’s a bounty of money being spent on healthcare that’s unlikely to be impacted by other economic trends.

One of the best ways to own the biggest players in the healthcare industry is through the Vanguard Health Care ETF, which holds global giants like Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer and Merck.

Read the full article from Time here

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4 things to know about the slowdown in
healthcare spending

A new study published in Health Affairs has found about 70 percent of the recent decline in healthcare spending growth was due to the economic downturn.

For the study, economists from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., examined private insurance claims data covering 2007 to 2011 from the Health Care Cost Institute.

Here are four things to know about the slowdown in healthcare spending from the study.

1. From 2009 to 2011, healthcare spending growth for the examined population slowed by 2.6 percent from the previous two years.

2. The authors of the study predicted health spending growth would have been 1.8 percent higher if the economy had not weakened in 2008.

Read the full article from Becker’s Hospital Review here

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