Archive for January, 2009

Healthcare Cost Savings

January 30th, 2009 by Melanie Matthews

In this economic downturn, cost savings from DM are paramount. This week’s update compares the popularity of and savings from DM and wellness programs versus CDHPs and features a study which concluded that diabetics are more likely to access education programs that encourage better self-management. Read on to find out why.

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Healthcare reform now (not later) to fix safety net’s gaping holes

January 30th, 2009 by Melanie Matthews

says NY Times Paul Klugman. He offers a compelling argument for healthcare reform now as part of the current economic overhaul, not a secondary priority to be dealt with once the economy is stable. To his comments I add the observation that without healthcare coverage and the access to care it provides, the rising numbers of unemployed will put off essential care until health crises send them to already overloaded ERs. Healthcare expenditures will explode and more frighteningly, ERs will buckle from the increased demand.

Perhaps some action will come from the mounting “populist rage” Klugman describes. And yeah, I’m one of those angry “ordinary citizens” watching bankers get huge bailouts while the rest of us suffer. President Obama should attach conditions to these bailouts — holds on bonuses, raises and any frivolous purchases like office decor and corporate jets — until these businesses can stand on their own again.

Making Your Brand Stand Out in a Changing Healthcare Marketplace

January 28th, 2009 by Melanie Matthews

By the time you read this, I will have returned from a week in Florida, where I took a turn helping my parents recuperate from separate falls. They are on the mend thanks to friends, family and a parade of home healthcare providers. Last Tuesday, in between visits from physical therapists and nurses, we watched the inaugural proceedings. As we listened to President Obama pledge to make healthcare affordable and accessible for all, I realized that many of the problems plaguing healthcare were coming to life right in this sunlit condo. Click here for my impressions on becoming a caregiver overnight.

But even the optimism surrounding Obama’s swearing-in wasn’t enough to jump-start the stock market that day. If your organization hasn’t realized it already, the old rules don’t apply. In this week’s Healthcare Business Weekly Update, Wipfli partner Perry Hanson recommends a survival strategy for healthcare organizations — figure out how to make your brand stand out in a changing healthcare marketplace.

Becoming a Caregiver Overnight

January 26th, 2009 by Melanie Matthews

The chances of both parents becoming housebound at the same time are probably slim, but it happened to our family this month. After separate falls, my parents were each hospitalized briefly, then sent home to recover at their Florida condo. From the Northeast, my five siblings and I organized a round robin of visits to help get them back on their feet.

Here are some random observations on caregiving and the healthcare system from my weeklong visit:

  • Do not wait for your parents to need this type of assistance before assembling a list of their neighbors’ contact information, especially if your parents live far from you. Also, make sure your parents’ neighbors have a way to reach you or a sibling in an emergency.
  • Start today to help them organize medical records into a convenient and preferably electronic format that can be easily shared with providers and other trusted family members. I began gathering their data last week and am evaluating the four PHRs Medicare has tapped for its PHR Choice pilot program for Arizona and Utah beneficiaries — PassportMD,, Healthtrio and Google Health — for my parents.

    This list includes PHRs that are free as well as ones that offer “concierge” services, for an extra fee, with additional features such as adding notes from healthcare providers and other sources of health information. I will share my thoughts on their functionality and ease of use in future postings.

  • The need for medical homes for Medicare beneficiaries has never been greater. Had one provider been managing my father’s care and medications, some drug interaction flags might have been raised that could have averted his fall and the costly care that resulted.
  • As large pharmacy chains replace mom-and-pop drugstores, there are huge opportunities for error and inefficiency. My father spent the better part of two days trying to track down two separate prescriptions that had been faxed to a local store but forwarded to the chain’s central facility for fulfillment, which then had no record of either one. The physician practice had to fax the prescription three times before it could be processed — a huge waste of providers’ time and a drain on my father’s energy during this recuperative period.
  • Bulk prescriptions by mail from a central location may be more cost-effective, but distributors should include specific instructions for pill-splitting when this is necessary. During my stay we had to split a portion of 270 tablets to create the correct twice-a-day doses. I am still going over the math in my head to make sure we did this correctly.
  • Help your parents catalog the medications and herbal supplements they take and discard any expired medication. Ask their primary provider and/or dietician to review the list for possible negative interactions.
  • Have the difficult but necessary conversations about long-term and end-of-life care with your parents and make sure you understand their wishes. Ask them to prepare the necessary legal documents so you can carry out their wishes. The Mayo Clinic has a checklist to help you do this.
  • Conduct a falls assessment to make sure their home and yours are relatively risk-free.
  • Do all of these things in a sensitive way, being careful to respect their methods of doing things, their privacy and their need to remain independent.
  • Heart Attack Management

    January 23rd, 2009 by Melanie Matthews

    Heart disease is the single-leading cause of death among Americans today. This week’s DM Update showcases new heart attack management guidelines from the AAFP as well as a new blood flow measurement tool that could save the healthcare industry money — and lives.

    Healthy Eating Habits

    January 16th, 2009 by Melanie Matthews

    As the second full week of the new year winds down, many people are still trying to hold on to resolutions they’ve made for 2009. A very common resolutions made the world over revolves around eating habits. This week’s Disease Management Update features a new invention that promotes healthy eating habits and shares a study that explores a link between eating healthier and controlling type 2 diabetes.

    Coaching Financially Stressed Clients

    January 16th, 2009 by Melanie Matthews

    Health coaches can help clients make financially sound health decisions. Here’s what we heard during our recent Health and Wellness Coaching 2009 conference.

    Question: Are your health coaches seeing an increase in the level of stress among the patients you serve due to the current economic climate? If so, how is this impacting the coaching relationship? Are you providing any additional training to your health coaches right now to address these concerns among your population served?

    Response: (Roger Reed, chief consumer engagement architect with Gordian Health Solutions) The answer is absolutely. We are talking with people every day that are not filling prescriptions, taking pills every other day, splitting pills, making decisions about whether to purchase gas or fill a prescription, or to continue paying their membership to the Y. So people are making difficult choices today. We are working with our coaches to help them understand some of these things, and help them stress the importance of taking care of their health. I don’t know what all the answers are for these coaches, but they’re definitely aware of it, and we’re hearing about it on the phones every day.

    (Jennifer Hidding, director of interactive health management of consumer solutions at OptumHealth) I think what this is forcing us to evaluate is how do we make health decisions not necessarily so expensive? In the case of prescriptions, you do need to stay on your prescribed dosage, but are there ways of getting a subscription that brings in three months worth of pills so you’re not filling them on a monthly basis where it’s more expensive? We need to be able to provide to cost savings angles wherever we can for our individuals, as well as the reinforcement that a lot of the things in terms of the relationship or the goals that people establish, often are things that can be done through changing your buying habits at the grocery store or getting out to walk. It might not necessarily require a membership at the local health club. Helping individuals realize that managing their health and wellbeing isn’t something that’s that expensive. There are ways
    of doing it without all the glitz and glam that we become used to as a society over the last decade or two. You can still be successful just through some of the basics.

    High Hopes for High-Tech Healthcare

    January 12th, 2009 by Melanie Matthews

    There’s much debate about whether an injection of health IT can heal the healthcare industry. However, few would dispute the nationwide need for broadband Internet access called for by HHS Secretary-designate Tom Daschle during his confirmation hearing last week — especially for providers serving rural populations. And with bad healthcare debt on the rise, strategists suggest that Web access to appointment scheduling, insurance forms and payment data can improve patient collections.

    However, a recent survey by Oneupweb found that 63 percent of America’s top hospitals have little online presence. Oneupweb analyzed the online marketing initiatives of the 19 healthcare organizations recognized by U.S. News & World Report as the Best Hospitals Honor Roll.

    Meanwhile, according to a story in this week’s Healthcare Business Weekly Update, health-monitoring technology helps seniors live at home longer. Also gaining ground on the self-management front are personal health records (PHRs). This week’s featured download, PHRs for Healthcare Consumers, describes how more than 200 health plans, hospitals and health systems, healthcare providers, employers and healthcare IT vendors use PHRs to benefit their populations.

    Addressing ED Overcrowding

    January 9th, 2009 by Melanie Matthews

    According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 45 million Americans are uninsured. As if hospital EDs weren’t overcrowded to begin with, job losses and delays in seeking healthcare are causing an influx of patients to EDs across the nation. This week’s DM Update highlights ED overcrowding, increased wait times and one health system’s response to Massachusetts’ new “no diversion” policy, despite problems with overcrowding.

    How ERs Reduce Overcrowding, Long Waits

    January 5th, 2009 by Melanie Matthews

    The ER report card is in: the American College of Emergency Physicians has given the United States an overall grade of C-, largely due to poor ratings for access to emergency care. Take the survey to tell us how your organization is alleviating ER overcrowding and wait times and receive a free e-summary of the compiled results…as long as we hear from you by January 31.