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Zeev Neuwirth Reframes Primary Care…Brilliantly

By AL LEWIS

I would urge THCB-ers to read Reframing Healthcare by Dr. Zeev Neuwirth. While much of the territory he covers will be familiar to those of us with an interest in healthcare reform (meaning just about everyone reading this blog), Chapter 5 breaks new ground in the field of primary care.

Primary care is perhaps the sorest spot in healthcare, the sorest of industries. Primary care providers (PCPs) are underpaid, dissatisfied, and in short supply. (The supply issue could be solved in part if employers didn’t pay employees bonuses to get useless annual checkups or fine them if they don’t, of course.) 

They are also expected to stay up to date on a myriad of topics, but lack the time in which to do that and typically don’t get compensated for it. Plus, there are a million other “asks” that have nothing to do with seeing actual patients.

For instance, I’ve gone back and forth three times with my PCP as she tries to get Optum to cover 60 5-milligram zolpidems (Ambien) instead of 30 10-milligram pills. (I already cut the 5 mg. pills in half. Not fair or good medicine to ask patients to try to slice those tiny 10 mg pills into quarters. And not sure why Optum would incentivize patients to take more of this habit-forming medicine instead of less.)

This can’t be fun for her. No wonder PCPs burn out and leave the practice faster than other specialties. What some of my physician colleagues call the “joy of practice” is simply not there.

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Will Amazon Deliver a Single-Payer Health Care System for the U.S.?

By JOE GRACE

Amazon has quietly put together a syndicate including Berkshire Hathaway and JP Morgan to provide better and more affordable health care for their combined 1.2 million workers. 

The joint effort, called Haven, makes sense because many companies of size today are self-insured to provide health care at lower costs. But this is different. Jeff Bezos, Jamie Dimon and Warren Buffett seem to be personally involved in the development of Haven. So, what could they possibility have up their sleeves?

At the same time, many Democrats running for president are promising single payer health care (Medicare For All) as the solution to controlling costs and providing quality health care for everyone. Republicans argue that this is socialism and will result in unacceptable increases in taxes that will ruin our economy.

While politicians debate, Amazon’s real objective may be to create a health care payer to rival all payers with tens of millions of Amazon Prime Members as health plan members.

With Amazon’s buying power, scale and capabilities, the ecommerce giant could create a health payer offering that could render the need for a single payer system moot.

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Health in 2 Point 00 | Episode 88, IPO Mania!

On Episode 88 of Health in 2 Point 00, Jess and I talk about all of the IPOs occurring in health tech today. First up is Livongo, with their IPO valuation set at $2 Billion, they have the highest valuation but I wonder if they will be able to grow at the same rate and expand to other sectors to serve their patient populations. Health Catalyst is up next, with their IPO valuation set at $800 Million, it will be interesting to see if they are going to continue down their enterprise play or switch over to SaaS, and last is Phreesia (that has been around longer than the other two) with its IPO valuation set at $500 Million that acts as a front door to the EMR management system- Matthew Holt

Announcing the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation SDoH & Home and Community Based Care Innovation Challenges Semi-Finalists!

SPONSORED POST

By CATALYST @ HEALTH 2.0

Health disparities domestically and globally can often be attributed to social determinants of health (SDoH). According to Healthy People 2020, SDoH are conditions and resources in the environments in which “people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship, and age that affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks.” Examples of these include: resources to meet daily needs (e.g. access to and quality of housing and food markets), educational opportunities, employment opportunities, and transportation. Despite well-established literature on the importance of SDoH, these factors are often overlooked and excluded in health care frameworks. 

Concurrently, health services provided in traditional settings such as hospitals and clinics can be expensive and inaccessible. There are a large number of communities, from rural areas to major cities, that are in need of high-quality care. Innovative technologies can mitigate these challenges. Home and community-based care models coupled with digital tools provide the opportunity to serve patients where they feel most comfortable in a cost-effective manner. 

In an effort to spur creativity in the SDoH tech environment and improve the landscape of home based care, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Catalyst partnered to launch two Innovation Challenges on Social Determinants of Health and Home and Community Based Care

For the SDoH Challenge, innovators were asked to develop novel digital solutions that can help providers and/or patients connect to health services related to SDoH. Over 110 applications were submitted to the SDoH Challenge. For the Home and Community Based Care Challenge, applicants were asked to create technologies that support the advancement of at-home or community-based health care. Nearly 100 applications for Home and Community Based Care Challenge were received. 

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A Patient in the Lobby Refuses to Leave: Medical Emergency, Unhappy Customer or Active Shooter?

By HANS DUVEFELT, MD

The receptionist interrupted me in the middle of my dictation.

“There’s a woman and her husband at the front desk. She’s already been seen by Dr. Kim for chest pain, but refuses to leave and her husband seems really agitated. They’re demanding to speak with you.”

I didn’t take the time to look up the woman’s chart. This could be a medical emergency, I figured. Something may have developed in just the last few minutes.

I hurried down the hall and unlocked the door to the lobby. I had already noticed the man and the woman standing at the glassed-in reception desk.

“I’m Dr. Duvefelt, can I help you?” I began, one hand on the still partway open door behind me.

The husband did the talking.

“My wife just saw Dr. Kim for chest pain and he thought it was nothing. He didn’t have any of her old records, so how could he know?”

While I quickly considered my response, knowing that Dr. Kim is a very thorough and conscientious physician, the man continued:

“Can we get out of here, and step inside for some privacy?”

My mind raced. This was either a medical emergency or an unhappy customer situation. We had the door locks installed not long ago on the advice of the police and many other sources of guidance for clinics like ours. It was a decision made by our Board of Directors. In this age of school, workplace and church shootings, everyone is preparing for such scenarios. We are always reminded not to bring people inside the “secure” areas of our clinics who don’t have an appointment or a true medical emergency.

I figured I had to find out more about this woman’s chest pain in order to make my decision whether to let her inside again; after all, she had just been evaluated.

“Ma’am, are you having chest pain right now?” I asked.

“A little”, she answered.

“How long have you had it?” I probed.

“A couple of years now.”

“And you just saw Dr. Kim?”

“Yes, and he said my EKG looked okay, but he didn’t bother to ask me about you heart valve operation three years ago in, Boston. He just said ’we’ll get those records’, and he told me I was okay today.”

The husband broke in, “It’s the same everywhere we go, everybody just says it’s not a heart attack, but we need more answers than that. we know what it isn’t, but we need to know what it is!” He added, again, “can’t we go inside for some privacy?”

“Have you been seen elsewhere for the same thing?” I said without answering the request.

“Yes, at the emergency room in Concord, New Hampshire when we lived there…”

“Did Dr. Kim have you sign a records release form so we can get the records from Boston and New Hampshire?” I asked.

“Yes”, the woman answered.

“Then that’s all we can do today,” I said. “I hear you telling me this is an ongoing problem, you’ve already been assessed today and Dr. Kim told you that you’re safe today and we’ve requested your old records. That’s what needs to happen.”

“You mean you’re not going to help us today?”

“You’ve seen Dr.Kim, your records will get here, I don’t know what more we can do for you today.”

“You’ll hear about this”, the husband said as they stormed out. Another man in the lobby introduced himself to them and said “I’ll be your witness.”

I closed the self-locking door and wished I had somehow been more skilled and more diplomatic, and I wished the world wasn’t the way it has become in just a few years, with more concern for bolted doors, gun violence and mass shootings than simple customer relations.

Hans Duvefelt is a Swedish-born rural Family Physician in Maine. This post originally appeared on his blog, A Country Doctor Writes, here.

Announcing the GuideWell Matchmaking Summit

SPONSORED POST

By CATALYST @ HEALTH 2.0

GuideWell Innovation, in collaboration with Catalyst @ Health 2.0, is thrilled to announce the opening of applications for the GuideWell Matchmaking Summit – a new corporate/investor matchmaking event hosted at the GuideWell Innovation Center in Orlando, FL on August 29-30, 2019.

This exciting opportunity connects established healthcare organizations and investors with growing health technology companies. Through professionally curated meetings, the event is designed to encourage synergistic relationships while promoting the testing, commercialization, financing and adoption of innovative digital health tools. Meetings are arranged based on participating organizations’ needs and areas of expertise, allowing for the cultivation of diverse partnership opportunities between digital health innovators, healthcare corporations, and investors that support the growing digital health ecosystem.

The GuideWell Matchmaking Summit is a 2-day event that will be held at the GuideWell Innovation Center in Orlando, FL. The first day of the Summit will be a corporate matchmaking opportunity for invited scale up health technology companies to meet with healthcare organizations that are qualified customer prospects. participants will have a series of meetings that are arranged based on “matched” areas of focus. Innovators will have the opportunity to demo their technology, detail their value proposition, and discuss business avenues with potential partners. Concurrently, healthcare leaders can identify up-and-coming digital health products to utilize at their organizations.

The second day of the Summit will be an investor showcase/matchmaking event for invited health technology scale ups to connect with a national network of venture capitalists. Scale up health technology companies will be competitively selected to attend the Summit based on customer/investor fit with attending corporations and investors.

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Price-Fixing Case Reveals Vulnerability of Generic Drug Policies

By ANDREW MULCAHY

A massive lawsuit filed in May by 44 states accuses 20 major drug makers of colluding for years to inflate prices on more than 100 generic drugs, including those to treat H.I.V., cancer and depression. If true, the alleged behavior is not just a violation of antitrust law, but also a betrayal of the government policies that created and defended the entire generic drug industry. 

Most prescriptions in the U.S. today — 9 in 10 — are filled with generics, which are just as safe and effective as their brand-name equivalent. And yet generics account for only 22 percent of U.S. prescription drug spending. These prices are so low because of competition between makers of different versions of the same generic drug. The more competing generic alternatives, the lower the price, theoretically right down to the marginal cost of manufacturing the pill. 

This success is the result of decades of careful federal and state policymaking, all geared towards introducing competition in prescription drug markets. The entire generic industry has its origins in the Hatch-Waxman Act of 1984. Prior to Hatch-Waxman, a company that wanted to sell a competing version of a drug whose patents had expired had to conduct lengthy and expensive clinical trials to get approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Hatch-Waxman established a quicker, less-expensive path to FDA approval that leans on the scientific research supporting the already approved brand-name drugs.  

Hatch-Waxman also created incentives for generic drug makers to challenge drug patents that prevent competition. Successful challengers win a 180-day period of exclusivity during which their generic is the only one allowed to compete with the brand-name drug. The floodgates open and additional competition pushes prices down further after the 180-day period.  

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Landmark Results Achieved in Aging and Chronic Disease: Danish Group Extends Disease-free Life by 8 Years

By WILLIAM H. BESTERMANN JR., MD

New Scientific Breakthroughs Can Provide a Longer Healthier Life

Twenty-one years of follow-up comparing usual care with a protocol-driven team-based intervention in diabetes proved that healthy life in humans can be prolonged by 8 years. These results were achieved at a lower per patient per year cost. Aging researchers have been confident that we will soon be able to prolong healthy life. This landmark study shows this ambitious goal can be achieved now with lifestyle intervention and a few highly effective proven medications. These medications interfere with the core molecular biology that causes chronic disease and aging. These same medications will likely produce similar results in patients with congestive heart failure, chronic kidney disease, arterial disease, history of heart attack, hypertension, and angina. Simple medical interventions can extend healthy lifespan today.

Better Chronic Disease Management Can Improve Health and Lower Costs

90% of health care costs come from chronic diseases and aging which are both related. The same biochemistry that causes aging causes chronic disease. Eating processed food, gaining weight, smoking cigarettes, and sitting on the couch accelerate aging and chronic condition development. Those activities switch on genes that should be quiet. Eating real food, avoiding cigarettes, activity, lisinopril, losartan, atorvastatin, metformin, (and spironolactone) are now proven to extend healthy life by 8 years in patients who are at high risk of health catastrophes and early death! These medications all cost $4 a month except for atorvastatin which is $9 a month. The benefits continue even when best practice treatment stops probably because these treatments block signaling from dangerous genes that are inappropriately and persistently turned on.

Progress Will Require Extensive Health System Reengineering

Having better health and reducing health care costs can happen today. Surprisingly, the biggest barrier to progress is our current health care system. It is arranged around catastrophes, organ systems, and hospitals. These concepts are 100 years old. Chronic disease begins decades before the catastrophe, and it is related to aging. Age is the greatest risk factor for a heart attack. The same biochemistry that causes accelerated aging also causes heart attack and strokes. It makes little sense to see a cardiologist for a heart attack and a neurologist for a stroke. They are caused by the same molecular biology. The leading health care systems are beginning to recognize that. The interventions that slow aging and chronic diseases development impact every cell in the body. Every young person who is overweight or smokes has activated genes that make accelerated aging and chronic disease more likely. If these genes are switched on prior to having children, that risk is passed on to the next two generations.

Primary care teams organized to address chronic conditions and more rapid aging will provide lifestyle advice and medication that interfere directly with the biology that is causing the problem. The further upstream these individuals are when identified, the easier it is to slow aging and delay chronic disease onset. The path to better health at lower cost lies in the outpatient setting with primary care teams that are well-versed in molecular biology.

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India’s Mob Problem

By SAURABH JHA, MD

Recently, my niece gingerly confided that she was going to study engineering rather than medicine. I was certain she’d become a doctor – so deep was her love for biology and her deference to our family tradition. But she calculated, as would anyone with common sense, that with an engineering degree and an MBA, she’d be working for a multinational company making a comfortable income by twenty-eight. If she stuck with tradition and altruism, as a doctor she’d still be untrained and preparing for examinations at twenty-eight.

Despite the truism in India that doctors are the only professionals never at risk of starving, the rational case for becoming a physician never was strong. Doctors always needed a dose of the irrational, an assumption of integrity and an unbridled goodwill to keep going. Once, doctors commanded both the mystery of science and the magic of metaphysics. As medicine became for-profit, the metaphysics slowly disappeared.

Indians are becoming more prosperous. They’re also less fatalistic and expect less from their gods and more from their doctors. In the beginning they treated their doctors as gods, now they see that doctors have feet of clay, too. Doctors, who once outsourced the limitations of medicine to the will of Gods, summarized by the famous Bollywood line “inko dawa ki nahin dua ki zaroorat hai” (patient needs prayers not drugs), now must internalize medicine’s limitations. And there are many – medicine is still an imperfect science, a stubborn art, often an optimistic breeze fighting forlornly against nature’s implacable gale.

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A National Patient Identifier: Should You Care?

By ADRIAN GROPPER, MD

The rather esoteric issue of a national patient identifier has come to light as a difference between two major heath care bills making their way through the House and the Senate.

The bills are linked to outrage over surprise medical bills but they have major implications over how the underlying health care costs will be controlled through competitive insurance and regulatory price-setting schemes. This Brookings comment to the Senate HELP Committee bill summarizes some of the issues.

Who Cares?

Those in favor of a national patient identifier are mostly hospitals and data brokers, along with their suppliers. More support is discussed here. The opposition is mostly on the basis of privacyand libertarian perspective. A more general opposition discussion of the Senate bill is here.

Although obscure, national patient identifier standards can help clarify the role of government in the debate over how to reduce the unusual health care costs and disparities in the U.S. system. What follows is a brief analysis of the complexities of patient identifiers and their role relative to health records and health policy.

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