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Tag: 2014

Ten Health and Wellness Resolutions Not to Make in 2014

We don’t make a lot of New Year’s predictions, but we are happy to make this one: 2014 will be the year the get-well-quick mentality driving corporate and individual health choices implodes…and people start taking genuine steps to be healthy. The way to ensure that 2014 is your year for good health?  Start with a double negative:  (a) wellness industry advice is almost always wrong; and (b) most people don’t keep their New Year’s resolutions. Hence, making the New Year’s resolutions recommended by the wellness industry is not the best way of ensuring your good health in 2014.

For simplicity, we’ll divide this list into individual and corporate wellness industry resolutions, and start with individual ones.

  1. Take more health advice from celebrities. Whether it’s hoping that Kim Kardashian’s personal trainer can help you or pining for Dr. Oz to cure what ails you with green coffee bean extract and raspberry ketones, a good way to put off doing worthwhile things is to do worthless ones.

  2. Start a weight loss program. The medical establishment could not head off the obesity dilemma at the pass, and they have no solution for it now, other than to crow about more drug companies diving into this expanding market. There is zero evidence that weight loss programs can produce sustainable long-term weight loss (and much evidence that they don’t), and we don’t know of a single one shown to improve fitness. That will not, however, prevent weight loss companies from trying to claim their little piece of the wellness landscape because they are losing so many individual customers to free dieting apps, such as LoseIt.com. Improve the quality of your diet first, and weight loss may follow, which is a bonus.

  3. Give yourself a cleanse. America’s obsession with cleanliness is now running smack into the reality of evolution and human physiology.  Surely if bacteria in your colon were bad for you, mankind would have died out eons ago.

  4. Stock up on supplements. The only things better than raspberry ketones and green coffee bean extract: all the other vitamin and mineral supplements on the market that fail to make sick people better or healthy people healthier. Who’s left to try to help, Martians? Never mind that risk is not endlessly reducible and the four most important things you can do for your health don’t come out of a bottle of magic jujubes: exercise, don’t smoke, eat well, and keep as close to a healthy weight as you can.

  5. Remove saturated fat from your diet. Just like in the 1960s, when we all traded in “the high-priced spread” for sticks of partially hydrogenated vegetable oils fit for a king to avoid saturated fat, we may be mis-demonizing this longstanding and naturally occurring component of our diet.   The entire nutrition dialectic in our culture over the past 20 years has focused on a string of individual no-nos: fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and now refined grains and sugars (because we bought the government’s wrong advice to eat low-fat). It’s time to revive the notion of healthy eating patterns, not healthy eating isolates. In fact, here is the world’s simplest diet advice for 2014: eat less junk. That alone would be a landmark nutritional achievement for Americans.

  6. Eat organic and stay away from Starbucks. Within a week of each other, the New York Times published an account of a woman damaging her health eating an obsessively healthy and organic diet, and USA Today wrote of  another who ate exclusively at Starbucks for a year, with no apparent ill effects and no weight gain.

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Twelve Things We’re Pretty Sure We’ll See Happen In Health Care In 2014

While your humble columnist eschewed forecasting for 2013, he  has decided to reverse course and inaugurate the 2014 blogging season with a contrarian duodecimal exercise in futurism. Will this antidecimal augury align with the mysterious cosmic order and governing perfection?  Let the readers be the judge in January 2015……

1. Obamacare will neither succeed or fail.  This hugely complex law will have too many outcomes, statistics and analyses that will be subject to too much spin by both supporters and detractors. Like puppies clamoring for the mother’s attention, the loudest wins, but only in 15 minute media increments.

2. Inflation returns, with a vengeance: While we won’t know it until well into 2015 or 2016, 2014 will be the year that the sleeping giant of healthcare costs awakens. Millions of new insureds in an improving economy will finally get their pent-up pricey preference-sensitive health care needs fulfilled.

3. Duh, it’s the delays stupid: While low income Americans will appreciate having access to subsidized health insurance and Medicaid, the middle class’ unsubsidized sticker shock will threaten the fall 2014 elections. Caught between conflicting advice of insurance actuaries and political hacks, the White House’s regulatory choices will be obvious.

4. Commercial scientific misconduct: Unable to resist the allure of bonus payments (like this) or the branding that is dependent on the public release of quality outcomes, at least one large health entity will be caught committing “reporting fraud.”

5. Snowden blow-backas the promise of big-data grows, fearful health care consumers will be even less inclined toward allowing access to their health information.  Too bad they won’t be given a say.

6. Innovator’s Dilemma for health tech: solutions that are simple, transparent and modular will continue to make ‘from the bottom’ inroads into a tech industry that – like early data storage – is too complex, opaque and entangled.

7. Speaking of health techpatient-monitoring solutions that offer more insight and less data will grab market share.  Instead of a series of blood glucose results dumped into an electronic inbox, think algorithms that suggest insulin dose adjustments.

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Headlines You’ll See in 2014

Affordable Care Act major issue in Campaign 2014; ‘fix and repair’ new focus. ObamaCare will be the defining issue in the coming election cycle, but the political debate will not be Healthcare.gov glitches or enrollment.

Rather, the issue will be sticker shock in insurance premiums and the complaints from doctors and hospitals that they’re being driven out of business. “Repeal and Replace” will not be heard; the new slogan will be ‘fix and repair’ for both friends and foes of the ACA.

Hospitals battle for survival. Faced with negative operating margins, sequester cuts and mounting bad debt, state and local officials and hospital boards will take dramatic steps to insure acute services survive. Some will merge local hospitals to be operated as a public utility.

Some academic medical centers will spin off their research enterprises into commercial ventures with bio-pharma and device partnerships. Some will merge or sell out to larger systems with stronger balance sheets.

And all will reduce operating costs and purge clinical programs no longer affordable. As patient demand and their severity increase, hospitals will operate their inpatient business as a cost center, and their enterprises as regional care management organizations assuming risk for costs, outcomes and safety. But none is delusional: hospitals face a battle for survival.

Physicians go it alone; holy war for future of the profession taking shape. Led by the American Medical Group Association and several specialty societies, large medical groups will join forces to advance a physician-centric platform for health reforms that protect physician-patient relationships, position primary care physicians as gatekeepers, and assume financial and clinical risk in contracts with insurers and employers via fully integrated health plans operated by the group.

Physicians will step up their political activism in 2014, armed with data showing their net incomes have suffered and their clinical autonomy compromised since the onset of health reform. In 2014, they’ll wage unsuccessful battles for replacement of the SGR and liability reform again.

And they’ll dust off advocacy advertising campaigns to drum up resentment of market pressures that threaten to deduce their profession to a guild employed by plans or hospitals. For doctors, 2014 will look like a last stand for the profession.

Occupy Health Care Breaks out; profits with purpose sought. Income inequality in the U.S. will spill over into health care in 2014. The social media fueled visibility of earnings and executive compensation in every sector of health care will spark local political activism.And interest in a single payer system will begin to build heading into the 2016 election cycle.

Just as value will be challenged, so will the morality of the U.S. health system, and a populist campaign to align profit with purpose sought.

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