Archive for February, 2009

Supersizing Stroke Risk

February 26th, 2009 by Melanie Matthews

While stroke is largely a disease suffered by the elderly — for each decade after age 55, the risk of stroke doubles — healthcare professionals cannot discount entirely the possibility of stroke in children and young adults. In this week’s DM Update, one study shows that many young adults suffering stroke are being misdiagnosed in the ER, while another notes a correlation between the occurrence of stroke and the number of fast-food restaurants in a neighborhood.

The Price of Wellness: What Would You Pay for Participation in Health & Wellness?

February 25th, 2009 by Melanie Matthews

So far, 130 healthcare organizations have told us how they’re using incentives (benefit- and cash-based) to enroll and motivate participants in health and wellness programs. Just a few days remain to take the Health & Wellness Incentives Survey and tell us what’s working for your organization and receive an e-summary of the results.

Bill Clinton and the AHA Tackle Childhood Obesity

February 25th, 2009 by Melanie Matthews

For the first time in recent history, children may have shorter lifespans than their parents. The reason: Childhood obesity.

With more than 30 percent of U.S. children overweight or obese, a first-of-its-kind childhood obesity initiative was recently unveiled — a critical step in the nation’s battle against this epidemic. The premise: Participating insurance companies will pay for a minimum of four dietitian and physician visits per year, to give parents and children direction and guidance on eating well and reducing and controlling weight. Companies signed on for the initiative include BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina, BlueCross BlueShield of Massachusetts, Aetna and WellPoint, and companies like PepsiCo are
now offering the benefit to their employees. The American Academy of Pediatrics along with the American Dietetic Association have both signed on to help monitor the program.

This joint effort from the American Heart Association and the William J. Clinton Foundation — known collectively as the Alliance for a Healthier Generation — noted that such an initiative will give children better access to the healthcare they need to fight childhood obesity. The initiative is expected to serve an estimated 1 million children in its first year and over 6 million children in three years.

No Escaping Healthcare Capital Crunch

February 24th, 2009 by Melanie Matthews

Even award-winning organizations can’t escape the capital crunch. For example, Eastern Maine Medical Center, the 2008 HIMSS Davies Organizational Award winner for use of health IT to enhance patient care quality and safety, just announced job eliminations, overtime reductions and construction delays.

It’s the same story on the consumer side: In this week’s Healthcare Business Weekly Update, read how the economy has derailed some Gen-Xers from planning for long-term care needs and is being blamed for a drop in employee engagement rates in 2008. Advice from companies with the highest engagement rates: Demonstrate a strong commitment to employee well-being by helping to maintain the health and vitality of workers.

Incentives for participation in health and wellness programs can be part of that commitment. Take this month’s e-survey on Health & Wellness Incentives Utilization by February 28 to find out how your peers use gift cards, benefit-based incentives, raffles, point systems and more to engage and enroll individuals in health improvement programs. You’ll be e-mailed a summary of survey results once the survey is completed.

Healthcare’s Piece of Stimulus Package: Medicaid, Uninsured, IT and More

February 20th, 2009 by Melanie Matthews

More than $150 billion of the $787 billion economic stimulus package — about 19 percent — will directly or indirectly impact healthcare delivery. The key items are summarized below, taken from an overall package summary created by the New York Times:

At the government site, you can read a full text of the legislation, track the distribution of these funds by federal agencies — even share how the (hoped-for) economic recovery is affecting you.

  • Help states with Medicaid costs: $87.1 billion: Increase the federal government’s contribution for Medicaid costs to help states close their budget gaps. The Senate favored a formula to distribute the money that is more beneficial to less-populous states, whereas the House voted for extra help for those that have experienced large increases in unemployment. The compromise bill splits the difference on formula changes between the House and Senate.
  • Health coverage under Cobra $25.1 billion: Subsidize 65 percent of the cost of premiums for jobless workers to keep group health coverage for nine months. Such workers would otherwise have to pay 102 percent of premiums, including the employer’s share. To be eligible, workers need to have been forced out of their jobs between Sept. 1, 2008, and Dec. 31, 2009. A provision in the House bill would have made Cobra health benefits available to workers on the job for more than 10 years and those over age 55 until they are eligible for Medicare, but it was not included in the final draft.
  • Incentives to Medicaid and Medicare providers to adopt health information technology $17.2 billion
  • Provide additional financing to the National Institutes of Health for research and infrastructure $10 billion Includes $8.5 billion for research grants, in areas such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, heart disease and stem cells, and $1.5 billion to renovate research facilities.
  • Improve Defense Department facilities related to the quality of life $2.3 billion: Construct or repair child development centers, health clinics, barracks and dormitories.
  • Provide additional financing for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology $2.0 billion
  • Finance renovations and technology upgrade at community health centers $2.0 billion
  • Extend Transitional Medical Assistance program: $1.3 billion: Extend the program, set to expire in June, through 2010. The program provides temporary health care coverage to families who have become ineligible for Medicaid because of increased earnings.
  • Prevent cuts to healthcare providers $1 billion: Block Medicare payment cuts to teaching hospitals, hospices and long-term care hospitals. Apply prompt payment requirements to nursing facilities and hospitals participating
  • Make grants to help prevent disease $1 billion: Includes hospital infection prevention programs, immunization programs and preventive health grants
  • Train primary healthcare providers, including doctors and nurses: $500 million Also help pay medical school expenses for students who agree to practice in underserved communities.
  • Extend Qualified Individual Program $550 million: Extends the program to assist low-income individuals with Medicare Part B premiums through 2010. Medicare Part B helps cover medical services like doctors’ services and outpatient care.
  • Chronic Pain Management

    February 20th, 2009 by Melanie Matthews

    Chronic pain is a very taxing condition — both physically and fiscally. On average, chronic pain patients lose 4.6 hours of work per week, costing employers $61.2 billion annually. This week’s Disease Management Update focuses on chronic pain — the number of occurrences, non-traditional treatments, pain level reduction and recommendations for med school curricula when teaching this complex topic.

    New Modes in Medication Adherence, from Musical Pill Caps to Health Coaching

    February 18th, 2009 by Melanie Matthews

    Came across some interesting tactics this week to reduce medication non-compliance, which is the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S. and costs the healthcare industry upwards of $150 billion annually. Scary to think that of 1.8 billion medications prescribed annually, only 50 percent are taken correctly by the patient.

    First, Hummingbird Health Coaching is driving patient medication adherence through behavioral health coaching. Its latest health improvement effort is called Adherence Rx, a program that leverages health coaching with state-of-the-art technology and the latest teachings of behavioral science to “improve patient adherence and impacts patient outcomes, brand loyalty and brand profitability.” Says Hummingbird: “AdherenceRx helps bring cost-effective and improved healthcare to patients by giving them the resources and tools to become successful. One-on-one coaching increases patient understanding of their disease state, medications, and adopting a healthy lifestyle as well as offers ongoing support to ultimately change behavior and drive sustainable results.”

    Next, Vitality GlowCaps, the intelligent pill cap that illuminates and plays a melody at dosage times, announced a partnership with Meridian Health to distribute GlowCaps through the Meridian Home Store and Meridian pharmacies, as well as on its own Web site and via The company says this partnership allows for a greater reach to those battling with medication adherence.

    16 Benefits of Medical Home Assignment

    February 13th, 2009 by Melanie Matthews

    Because the very concept of a medical home revolves around the patient, effective patient assignment into that medical home is crucial. Dr. Anita Murcko and Dr. Charles DeShazer highlighted some benefits of medical home assignment in HIN’s webinar yesterday on patient assignment into the medical home, including:

  • Better care management
  • Better care coordination
  • Better medication management
  • Better quality of care
  • Better adherence to plan
  • Improved physician-patient interaction
  • Improved physician communication
  • Improved knowledge of the patient
  • Improved health promotion support
  • Improved organizational access
  • Reduced service duplication
  • Earlier treatment intervention
  • More personalized prevention
  • Reduced ER use and hospitalizations
  • Prevent illness and death
  • Create a more equitable distribution of health in populations
  • But that’s not all. According to Dr. Murcko, creating, implementing and fostering medical home “best practices” is a leadership opportunity for managed care in public and private sectors.

    And adds Dr. DeShazer, “Appropriate patient assignment is essential to ensure proper credit for reimbursement and performance, but most importantly to establish the relationship contract necessary for achievement of the PCMH principles and the anticipated value.”

    Tobacco Cessation

    February 13th, 2009 by Melanie Matthews

    With the swift motion of a pen, President Obama signed legislation that will cover an additional 4 million children under SCHIP at the expense of cigarette smokers — raising federal tobacco taxes by 61 cents per pack. With intentions of detering current and prospective smokers, the U.S. government is doing their part in the crusade for tobacco cessation and prevention. This week’s installment of the DM Update looks what other organizations are doing in the area of smoking cessation and prevention and provides an industry expert’s comments on the effectiveness of incentives in tobacco cessation.

    What are your organization’s experiences with health and wellness incentives and rewards? Take HIN’s February survey of the month, and let us know!

    Diabetes Links

    February 5th, 2009 by Melanie Matthews

    Recent reports indicate that diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease are linked, as diabetics face an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s. In this week’s Disease Management Update, researchers find a possible new Alzheimer’s application for insulin and discover that diabetics with high glucose levels often experience lower cognitive functioning.