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COVID-19 Answers Might Be Just a Click Away

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By DAVID LEVESQUE

As more people die every day from COVID-19 (we were edging towards 20,000 casualties in the U.S. at the time this article was written), the answers to what a cure could look like are waiting to be discovered in EMRs and patients’ homes. We have the technology and business models to turn this data into insights, but we are stalling…  What seems to be the problem?

First this. It’s time to end the illusion that patients do not pay for healthcare. Whether it is out of pocket, paycheck, or taxes, U.S. citizens pay for 100% of the healthcare spend. It is indeed their healthcare. It follows logically from this that patients should be allowed and empowered to lower the cost and increase the quality of the care they receive. Receiving access to their own medical records is one important way to accomplish this.

In 2017, when I asked the World Economic Forum if there is a study on the cost of lack of interoperability in healthcare they said – “That’s a good idea.”

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THCB Gang: Episode 7

Episode 7 of “The THCB Gang” was live-streamed on Thursday, April 30th at 1pm PT- 4pm ET! You can see it below. If you’d rather listen, the “audio only” version is preserved as a weekly podcast available on our iTunes & Spotify channels.

Joining me were regulars futurist Ian Morrison (@seccurve), patient advocate Grace Cordovano (@GraceCordovano), quality expert Michael Millenson (@MLMillenson), with guests Raj Aggarwal (@docaggarwal) head of innovation at Jefferson Health System, and our very own health tech “IT girl” Jessica DaMassa (@jessdamassa) from WTF Health. We had a great conversation about the present and future of care delivery and finance. — Matthew Holt

Health in 2 Point 00, Episode 120 | Particle Health, AliveCor & OMRON, Compass Pathways and Optum

On Episode 120 of Health in 2 Point 00, Jess asks me about health data sharing company Particle Health raising $12 million in an A round, AliveCor and OMRON partnering in a remote monitoring play for combined EKG and blood pressure monitoring, and Compass Pathways scoring $80 million in a B round for psilocybin therapy for treatment-resistant depression. Also, Optum is reportedly acquiring AbleTo for $470 million which provides behavioral telehealth — looks like they’re slowly putting all the pieces together to become a big virtual Kaiser. —Matthew Holt

Occam’s Razor and COVID-19 Hospitalization Rates

By JASON Z. ROSE

It’s amazing that the word “medication” is not mentioned in a recent Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The research states that a staggering 90% of people hospitalized for COVID-19 have underlying conditions, including hypertension, diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular disease, all of which require drug treatments for patients to remain healthy.

Yet nowhere in the report is there mention of how patients can potentially prevent COVID-19 related health decline through better medication use for their underlying disease.  Are the COVID-19 hospitalization rates truly caused by the underlying disease and insufficient use of preventive measures like social distancing? Or are these underlying conditions unmanaged due to medication optimization issues placing these patients at higher risk for hospitalizations? 

Medication optimization is how the healthcare system supports the patient from the initial prescription to follow up and ongoing review. It aims to improve the safety, effectiveness, and affordable use of prescribed drugs.

The invisible threat enabling the spread of COVID-19 that no one seems to be talking about is that barriers to medication use are accelerating infections for these high-risk populations. Buried within the “People Who Need Extra Precautions” section of its website, the CDC states people with high-risk for severe illness from COVID-19 are “people of all ages with underlying medical conditions, particularly if not well controlled”. Clearly, optimizing medications is one of the most important aspects to controlling chronic illness. Optimization supports patients through medication therapy that aims to improve safety, effectiveness, and affordable use of prescribed drugs.

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Lasting Lessons From Health Care’s ‘Money Back Guarantee’ Experiment

Ceci Connolly
Matt DoBias

By CECI CONNOLLY and MATT DOBIAS

When it comes to money back guarantees in health care, it’s often less about the money and more about the guarantee.

That’s the biggest takeaway shared by two organizations—Geisinger Health System and Group Health Cooperative of South Central Wisconsin (GHCSCW)—that separately rolled out closely-watched campaigns to refund patients their out-of-pocket costs for health care experiences that fell short of expectations.

Both programs started as a way to inject a basic level of consumerism into a process long bereft of one. In fact, as consumer frustration over medical costs rise, a money back guarantee has the potential to win back a dissatisfied public.

But like many experiments in health care, the effort produced some unexpected results as well. Instead of a rush on refunds, executives from both systems said their money-back pledge served even better as a continuous-improvement tool, with patients providing almost instantaneous feedback to staff who felt newly empowered to address problems.

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Australia Healthcare Market: Telehealth, Digital Health Expected to Boom Post-Covid19 | WTF Health

By JESSICA DaMASSA, WTF HEALTH

As healthcare systems around the world grapple with the coronavirus, ‘virtual-first healthcare’ is fast becoming the global response of private and public healthcare systems alike. In Australia, the federal government recently committed to investing $500M to built out its country’s ‘virtual-first’ healthcare infrastructure, so we caught up with Louise Schaper, CEO of the Australasian Institute of Digital Health (AIDH), to find out what that means for telehealth, remote monitoring, and digital health companies looking to capitalize on the market opportunity in Australia.

With a population of 25 million people (roughly the number of people in Florida) and a set of newly-minted reimbursement codes that makes telehealth available to all of them via the government-funded public healthcare system, the appetite for investing in new health tech solutions has grown ravenous.

Says Louise, “Anyone who has solutions that are already market-tested and approved, I’d actually expand your networks globally now. There’s not a section of the globe that hasn’t been impacted by [covid19] and we’re all needing to work out how to deliver healthcare differently.”

As in other parts of the world, the government codes reimbursing telehealth and other virtual-first services are temporary (Australia’s are set to expire September 30, 2020), but organizations like the AIDH, the Australian Medical Association, and others are advocating for their permanence and are optimistic.

The prevailing sentiment is that, like in the US, the benefits of virtual care to healthcare consumers and clinicians are going to be difficult for the government to ignore. Add to that the potential of linking virtual care to the Aussie government’s AUD$2 billion dollar build of its MyHealthRecord system — a centralized, cloud-based EMR that holds the healthcare data of 90% of all Australians — and the prospect grows even more appealing.

Join us as we talk through the basics of the Australian healthcare system and get an insider’s look at the demand for digital health, remote monitoring, and telehealth Down Under.

Hiding Our Heads in the Sand

By KIM BELLARD

There are so many stories about the coronavirus pandemic — some inspiring, some tragic, and all-too-many frustrating.  In the world’s supposedly most advanced economy, we’ve struggled to produce enough ventilators, tests, even swabs, for heaven’s sake.  

I can’t stop thinking about infrastructure, especially unemployment systems.

We’d never purposely shut down our economy; no nation had.  Each state is trying to figure out the best course between limiting exposure to COVID-19 and keeping food on people’s tables.  Those workers deemed “essential” still show up for work, others may be able to work from home, but many have suddenly become unemployed.

The U.S. is seeing unemployment levels not seen since the Great Depression, and occuring in a matter of a couple months, not several years.  As of this writing, there are over 22 million unemployed; no one believes that is a complete count (not everyone qualifies for unemployment), and few believe that will be the peak.

Many unemployment systems could not manage the flood of applications.  

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Paul O’Neill, Health Care Hero

By MICHAEL MILLENSON

Paul O’Neill, who died from lung cancer earlier this month at age 84, was one of my personal heroes, but not because of anything he accomplished as Alcoa’s chief executive officer or as Secretary of the Treasury.

O’Neill was my hero because he saved patients’ lives. 

Two decades ago, when few dared speak openly about medical error, this titan of industry put his considerable clout behind a radical idea: not a single patient should be injured or killed by their medical care. And in pursuit of that goal, hospitals had to continually make care measurably safer.

No one of O’Neill’s stature, before or since, has shown anything close to his dogged determination to make this ideal real.

O’Neill first embraced zero harm after Karen Wolk Feinstein, the president of a small, local foundation, had the chutzpah to ask him to serve as co-chairman of a coalition to radically improve Pittsburgh’s health care. He make this commitment even though it was a goal championed by a non-physician book author (me) and by a PhD in labor economics (Feinstein), while being denounced as naively unrealistic by respected local medical leaders.

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Will the Covid-Induced Telemedicine Scramble Change Primary Care Forever?

By HANS DUVEFELT, MD

After my posts on telemedicine were published recently, (this one on Manly Wellness before the pandemic and this one after it erupted, on A Country Doctor Writes, then reblogged on The Health Care BlogKevinMD and many others), I have been asked about my views on telemedicine’s role in the future of primary care.

Things have changed quickly, and a bit chaotically, and there is a lot of experimentation happening right now in practices I work or speak with.

Before thinking about telemedicine in Primary Care, we need to agree on some sort of definition of primary care, because there are so many functions and services we lump together under that term.

Minor Illnesses

Many people think of primary care mostly as treating minor, episodic illnesses like colds, rashes, minor sprains and the like. This is an area that has attracted a lot of interest because it is easy money for the providers, since the visits tend to be quick and straightforward and such televisits are also attractive for the insurance companies if they can keep insured patients out of the emergency room. With the technical limitations of video quality and objective data such as heart rate and rhythm, I think this is an absolute growth area for telemedicine. However, with all the other forms but mostly here, fragmentation of care could become a complicated problem. To put it bluntly, if we still expect a medical professional or a health care organization to keep an eye on reports from various sources, such as hospital specialists, walk-in clinics or independent telemedicine providers, they are going to want to get paid for it.

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Calling Health Tech Companies: GuideWell is Seeking Solutions against COVID-19

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By CATALYST @ HEALTH 2.0

GuideWell has launched the COVID-19 Health Innovation Collaborative to identify and support solutions that can immediately increase the scope and scale of resources aimed at reducing the complex stress factors COVID-19 is bringing to bear on the U.S. health system.

There will be five categories of focus under this collaborative, and proposed solutions must directly address at least one of these categories:

  • Home-based self-testing solutions for the COVID-19 virus
  • Virtual, in-home care solutions for at-risk populations that have limited access to health care services
  • Solutions that reduce risk for health care providers in clinical settings, including approaches for increasing protection of clinical staff
  • Solutions focused on reducing social isolation due to COVID-19 diagnosis or social distancing
  • Solutions for delivering food and urgently needed supplies to at-risk populations and households with COVID-19 exposure or symptoms

The COVID-19 Collaborative’s overarching objective is to source a diverse portfolio of innovative companies that collectively have the potential to respond to the pandemic in the above categories. For each category, a cohort of 3-5 companies will be selected to work together to create a connected, high impact approach to addressing the program category.

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