Healthcare Business Week in Review: Medication Adherence; Population Health Management, Telehealth

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013
This post was written by Cheryl Miller

Medication non-adherence drives the largest avoidable healthcare costs in the United States at an estimated $105 billion a year.

Delaying evidence-based treatments to patients comes in second with a whopping $40 billion price tag.

These are just two of six areas of medication misuse that cost the country more than $200 billion a year, representing 8 percent of the country’s total annual healthcare expenditures, according to a new study released by the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics.

While strides have been made to deflate these costs — an estimated 95 percent of patients now receive lower-cost generic alternatives to branded medications, when available, and medication adherence among large populations of patients with hypertension, hyperlipidemia and diabetes has improved 3 to 4 percent since 2009 — much more needs to be done. Researchers point out significant opportunities to ensure that patients receive the right medicines at the right time, and take them in the right way, in our detailed story.

Incentives might be one way to improve medication adherence, and is one of the four “I’s” that spell success for a population health management program, says Patricia Curran, principal in Buck Consultants’ National Clinical Practice; the ‘I’s’ of information, in its various forms, is a second important element. The population you’re trying to manage needs to know ‘What’s in it for me? What do I have to do?’ she stresses, and need to have the proper information to answer those questions.

Not enough public information exists for patients seeking to compare prices for out-of-pocket healthcare services, according to a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

While the federal government recently released hospitals’ charges for procedures and services, that kind of information doesn’t help consumers trying to compare their healthcare options.

An analysis of 62 publicly available state Web sites that aim to help patients estimate or compare prices for healthcare services found that most sites only reported billed charges, not what patients were actually expected to pay, or focused on reporting prices for in-hospital services that are often used to treat urgent, sometimes life-threatening conditions. Patients with the time to research price and quality of routine, outpatient treatments need more consumer friendly Web sites, similar to one featured in our story.

Here’s some consumer-friendly news: six out of 10 states will offer consumers more options in state-run insurance exchanges.

The number of carriers offering non-group, or individual, insurance plans to consumers this fall in state-run health insurance exchanges will increase substantially, according to an analysis from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), pointing to an increased competition among health plans in the non-group marketplace, researchers say, a market that currently offers limited options and little information to guide consumer choice.

Despite the millions of newly insured Americans expected under the ACA in 2014, healthcare spending is expected to drop to 6.5 percent in 2014, according to PwC’s Health Research Institute.

The slowdown in the healthcare growth rate defies historical post-recession patterns, and signals progress in attempts to bend the cost curve. It also presents financial challenges for the industry as it attempts to adjust to a rapidly changing environment. According to HRI, while structural changes within the industry are helping to contain costs and deliver care more efficiently, consumers who are paying a greater share of the cost are making spending adjustments, including delaying care, using fewer services and choosing less expensive options such as retail clinics, urgent care centers and telehealth services like mobile health devices.

Are you capitalizing on the telehealth movement? More than 10 million Americans directly benefited from a telemedicine service during the past year, likely double the number from just three years ago, according to American Telemedicine Association estimates. Telehealth’s broad reach encompasses telemedicine — the use of telecommunications technology to deliver clinical diagnosis, services and patient consultations — as well as the exploding field of mobile health.

Our third e-survey on Telehealth ends soon; respond by June 30, 2013 and receive a free executive summary of the compiled results. Your responses will be kept strictly confidential.

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