Tag: The Insider’s Guide To Health Care

Who’d be a pollster, eh

HSC says that the number of Americans going online for healthcare goes way up:

In 2007, 56 percent of American adults—more than 122 million people—sought information about a personal health concern from a source other than their doctor, up from 38 percent, or 72 million people, in 2001, according to a national study released today by the Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC).

Harris Interactive says it’s gone down ;

Ten years ago, in 1998, the Harris Poll began measuring the number of people going online for health care information. At that time we reported that 54 million people had done so at least once. Since then the number of those people, whom we labeled “cyberchondriacs,” have increased almost every year, reaching 110 million in 2002, and 160 million in 2007.

This year, the Harris Poll finds only 150 million who claim to have gone online to obtain health care information. Of course, 150 million is still a huge number and includes 66 percent of all adults and 81 percent of those who are online.

Extra points if you can spot the flaw in my reasoning. (Yes, it’s easy but I’ve been up late watching the Olympics….even though I said I wouldn’t)

Merck’s Marketing for HPV Vaccine Trumps Science

I first wrote about Gardasil on The American Prospect online in the summer of 2006, just weeks before the Merck vaccine designed to protect against cervical cancer went to market.

There, I noted that “the hullabaloo began in June when the FDA approved Gardasil, a vaccine widely described as ‘100 percent effective’ in preventing cervical cancer, a disease that kills some 233,000 women worldwide each year. The drumbeat grew louder last month when a federal panel recommended that all American girls and women ages 11 to 26 should be inoculated. And now there is talk that states may mandate the vaccine for all school-age children.

“But before prescribing for the entire population,” I suggested, “it’s worth asking a few questions: Why does the vaccine cost $360 for a three-shot regimen? How much do we know about the new product? And is this a cost-effective use of health-care dollars?”

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Reports on Gardasil study offer varying interprations

Merck’s HPV vaccine, Gardasil, has received significant press in recent days, following a cost-effectiveness study published in the current issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Depending on where Americans get their news, they received different summaries and interpretations of the study. No wonder consumers are confused. Here are four examples:

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Personal genetic companies back in service

Two direct-to-consumer genetic testing firms, 23andMe and Navigenics gained approvalDna from California regulators this week to continue providing clients access to and interpretations of their personal DNA.

The NY Times reports this morning that, "The licenses, granted to Navigenics and 23andMe, should help defuse a
controversy that began in June when the California Department of Public
Health sent “cease and desist” letters to the two companies and 11
others that offer genetic testing directly to consumers."

The news sparked a heated summer debate over whether consumers should have unbridled access to their DNA or whether a doctor should lead the process.

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Back-to-school specials at the retail clinic

People have begun to ration themselves off of medical visits and prescription drugs, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC).

One in 5 Americans said they reduced visits to the doctor due to the slowing economy. One in 10 have reduced their prescription drug intake.

The NAIC found that 85 percent of Americans have made a change to their health insurance policy.

In related news, Take Care Clinics, part of Walgreens, is offering school and sports physicals for $25 to patients 18 months of age and older. The clinics will also certify that kids’ immunizations are up-to-date. The launch of this targeted service is well-timed for back-to-school physicals when pediatricians’ offices can be very busy in the weeks leading up to school starts. Take Care’s press release has been quick to point out that, "School and sports physicals at a Take Care Clinic do not take the place of a child’s yearly routine health exam and complete developmental assessment." Take Care has about 200 clinics in 14 states.

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Health IT policy: the fur is flying

Some fur is flying in the rarefied world of health IT policy geeks this morning. Health Affairs has three articles. The first from Markle’s Carol Diamond, writing with Here Comes Everybody author and Internet guru Clay Shirky, more or less says that obsessive attention to rigid standards is not helping and actually may be hindering the IT adoption process. And yes, in case you were wondering they do mean CCHIT and ONCHIT’s current policies and agenda which has been going for four years and which they’re accusing of “magical thinking.” Instead, we need new policies which target desired outcomes measured in improved patient care, instead of assuming that creating new technology standards will get us there. And by policies I think they mean money, and its redirection by current payers. After all, if putting in a RHIO costs hospitals operating revenue in reducing admissions and tests, why would they do it?

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Health care in the YouTube era

August 11th was the 2nd anniversary of the epic implosion of George Allen’s presidential campaign, the first defeat at the hands of YouTube. Two recent videos of unattended patients dying in ER waiting rooms leave me wondering whether health care has also entered the YouTube era.

Remember the George Allen fiasco? A 20-year-old Indian-American named S.R. Sidarth, working for Allen’s opponent Jim Webb, was filming an Allen campaign stop in Breaks, Virginia. Twice, Allen pointed to him and called him “Macaca,” a racial slur meaning “monkey.” Once the video hit YouTube, it went completely viral (this clip, one of many, has been viewed 350,000 times) and Allen’s promising political career was toast.

What does this have to do with health care? In the past 18 months, two powerful, highly troubling videos have surfaced of patients being left to die in ER waiting rooms. The first, in May 2007, involved a woman named Edith Rodriguez. Rodriguez began vomiting blood while waiting outside the King-Drew ER, and soon collapsed. Rodriguez’s husband called Los Angeles’s 911 system, but got nowhere. Then someone else in the waiting room called:

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Connecting the dots between gas and health costs

Rite Aid, a top retail pharmacy chain, awarded its first Fill Up & Fuel Up gasoline gift cards this week.

I’ve been writing about gas ‘n health care since the inception of the Health Populi blog; see this inaugural post.Gas

Now comes a pharmacy connecting the dots between consumer spending categories: the interdependency of fuel and prescription drugs.

As the differences between price tiers of prescription drugs have increased over the past ten years, I’ve often asked pharma clients the question: what is the consumer’s marginal value of that $20 (or $30 or $50) co-payment compared to something else on their shopping list — say, a new electric razor for their husband, or that $95 jar of anti-aging skin cream?

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Prescribing a dose of healthy skepticism

Headlines declare wine is good for your health. So is a small bit of dark chocolate. Then, they say it’s not. One day coffee is bad for you and the next it’s good.

We’re bombarded with health messages daily from companies selling things, advocacy groups promoting their agendas and journalists trying to sift through it all.

Who are you to believe? Unless you have a degree in epidemiology, it’s very difficult to discern the valuable information from all the garbage.

In his new book, “The Healthy Skeptic,” journalist Robert Davis gives readers some quick tips to become better consumers of health care information.

“A healthy skeptic carefully and critically evaluates each piece of advice taking into account not only its source but the science behind it,” Davis writes.

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Health spending disconnect

There’s a disconnect between who Americans believe is responsible for their personal health status, and who should pay for health care.

On the first question — personal responsibility for health choices — 82 percent of Americans believe that they alone are responsible for their health.

However, only 44 percent believe that they should bear no responsibility for paying for health care.

The Vitality Group, a subsidiary of Discovery Holdings Ltd., surveyed Americans and found that most people (59%) look to their employer to bear at least some responsibility for health costs. Nearly one in two (46%) see the government as a payer.

Only 56 percent of Americans see themselves as picking up any part of health care costs.

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