Healthcare Business Week in Review: Patient Surveys Revealing, Integrated Care Certification, Drug Plans Confuse Seniors

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013
This post was written by Cheryl Miller

Completing a quality-of-life questionnaire at a healthcare provider’s office could help patients live longer and better, according to a statement from the American Heart Association (AHA).

Patient surveys can help reveal depression, which can significantly worsen cardiovascular health, but is often underdiagnosed despite being common among cardiovascular (CV) patients, researchers say. Healthcare providers can assess their patients’ CV health by using standardized patient surveys, which focus on a patient’s quality of life. These surveys can directly measure the impact of heart disease on patients, including their symptoms, quality of life, and ability to function physically and mentally. For those patients diagnosed with heart disease, the surveys can directly measure its impact, including their symptoms, quality of life, and ability to function physically and mentally. They can also predict other events, including future cardiac episodes, and should become a part of routine care.

In another example of integrated care, new Behavioral Health Home Certification from the Joint Commission will make many patients’ lives better. Designed as part of a nationwide effort to expand and improve healthcare services, behavioral health homes integrate physical and behavioral healthcare services to provide treatment to address the needs of the whole person. The certification program will provide a framework for this, emphasizing care coordination and quality. Health home providers do not need to provide all the services themselves, but must ensure that the full array of primary and behavioral healthcare services is available and coordinated.

Postponing mammography screenings could help women live longer and better, according to Johns Hopkins researchers.

Data shows that routine screening in women younger than 40 increases rates of cancer detection in young women, but only reduces mortality risk by a very small percentage. Instead, the tests are more likely to result in over-diagnosis and unnecessary treatment, including biopsies, lumpectomies and mastectomies, and weeks of radiation and potentially toxic drugs. And false positives could result in avoidable procedures and psychological trauma.

Despite these findings, and recommendations from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) to postpone mammography screenings until age 50, younger women continue to undergo the routine breast cancer test.

The fact that insurance companies continue to pay for these mammograms for women in their 40s is most likely the reason for the persistently high rate of screening, researchers state.

Examining Medicare prescription plan benefits more closely could help beneficiaries to manage their money and health better, according to a new Walgreens survey.

Prescription drug costs are among the top concerns for more than one-third of Medicare Part D beneficiaries, with one in five admitting they’ve had to delay filling a prescription or skip doses to help manage medication costs.

Survey respondents revealed that only half realized that co-pays for Part D prescriptions can vary by pharmacy; and less than one fourth were aware of whether their plan offered a preferred pharmacy option. Beneficiaries can save hundreds of dollars each year on co-pay costs by using a preferred network, researchers state.

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