Healthcare Business Week in Review: Affordable Care Act, Medical Apps, Cardiac Care Costs

Friday, October 4th, 2013
This post was written by Cheryl Miller

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Technological problems hindered aspects of the October 1st rollout of the new health insurance exchanges — both at the state and federal level. According to New York Times reports, some aspects of the eagerly awaited exchanges in several states, including Oregon, Colorado, District of Columbia and Nevada, may not be fully operational for weeks and even months, with some officials referring to October as a “soft launch” period.

Last week, the Obama administration acknowledged it will not be ready to accept online applications from small businesses when the program officially launches October 1st.

Once fully operable, the exchanges, one-stop online shopping sites for consumers’ health insurance needs, will enable consumers to comparison shop for health benefits much like they do now for airline tickets or hotel rooms, and see if they qualify for tax credits. Plans are categorized according to levels of coverage and co-pays, and no one can be denied coverage because of preexisting conditions. There will be a six-month open enrollment period that runs through March 2014, and coverage should begin as early as January 1st.

Smart phones can now diagnose abnormal heart rhythms, act as ultrasound devices, or function as the “central command” for a glucose meter used by a person with insulin-dependent diabetes. To ensure that patients’ safety isn’t compromised for the sake of technological innovation, the FDA is clamping down on those apps considered dangerous. The agency has cleared about 100 mobile medical applications over the past decade; about 40 of those were cleared in the past two years.

The costs of patient care after heart attacks, continues to climb, according to a new study from the University of Michigan (U-M) Frankel Cardiovascular Center. Despite advancements in cardiac care and increases in less invasive procedures to treat symptoms, including more angioplasty instead of open heart surgery, hospital stays have decreased by just one day. Medicare spending to treat heart attack patients rose by 16.5 percent between 1998 and 2008, with the majority of costs incurred weeks after patients left the hospital.

According to researchers from the NYU School of Medicine, elderly nursing home residents with advanced dementia who were enrolled in a Medicare managed care insurance plan were more likely to have do-not-hospitalize orders and less likely to be hospitalized for acute illness than those residents enrolled in traditional Medicare. The frail elderly received more nursing home-based primary care visits every 90 days, and more nursing home-based nurse practitioner visits in general. The extra individual attention precluded the need for more acute treatment, and resulted in less aggressive, more humane end-of-life care.

And lastly, sophisticated analytics behind today’s health risk assessments or health risk appraisals (HRAs) provide employers, payors and providers an aggregate view of population health and the raw material for the development of prevention and lifestyle change programs. Tell us how your organization uses HRAs to improve population health on our Health Risks Assessments online survey by October 15, 2013 and get a FREE executive summary of the compiled results

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