Healthcare Cost, Patients, Social Media and You and I

This post may end up being a hot mess of disparate items never strung together like 10mm Mikimoto pearls. Consider that my black box warning.

Carolyn McClanahan a contributor to Forbes, physician, and financial planner published a column yesterday “The Problem With Patients In Controlling Health Care Costs”. Her column is drawn from a larger article in Health Affairs by Rosanna Sommers, et. al. Focus Groups Highlight That Many Patients Object To Clinicians’ Focusing On Costs. I am going to get Sommers article (it’s behind a damn paywall) and take a long look at that. But for now I want to speak to the larger issue that troubles me and perhaps others regarding what McClanahan presented. There are four primary challenges we face in trying to fix healthcare cost in the US that came out of these focus groups in the Health Affairs article.

They are:

  • Patients only want the best: Patients see the more expensive the treatment the better. And if the patient is not paying for it (i.e. insurance, Medicare, etc.) they want what they want no matter what the cost. I wonder how often the family is driving that message?
  • Reluctance to make trade offs between health and money:  As McClanahan states ‘poor health creates poor finances’. People need to connect their health with their finanical health and plan for that illness or injury which is just down the road. Wellness and prevention is key. But in the focus groups they are not seeing that.
  • Lack of interest in cost others pay: People feel they didn’t cause the crisis in healthcare so it’s not their problem.  These  focus groups just wanted to get what they could since it was costing a large corporation and not them.
  • Noncooperative Behavior: Those in the focus groups felt personal interests won over the good of all. Why should they care if no one else is caring about cost.

These are only focus groups yet their opinions are on the depressing side of reality. I need to buy the article to see the make up of the groups, age, gender, economic status, etc. But even without that data this is troubling on many levels. It speaks to the larger issue, there are a group of people, not a subset, who seemlying ignores or doesn’t care about issues well within their capicity that can drive down the cost curve on healthcare and improve outcomes.

McClanahan presents three solutions that are helping to drive costs down while maintaining and improving outcomes.

  • Palliative Care Movement which I have written quite a bit about here and other places.
  • The Choosing Wisely is a movement and report that is trying to educate physicians and patients about unnecessary tests and treatments. There are 35 speciality societies that have identified many procedures and treatments are not effective. Their hope is to reduce how frequently patients ask for unnecessary care and aid physicians in turning these requests down.
  • The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) this is a program from the United Kingdom which brings cost into coverage decisions showing what the best care for the cost is.

 Okay that is the article. I plan on getting the full article from Health Affairs and do a deep dive. But I am scratching my head. I just looked at “Twitter in Healthcare” from the Institute for Health. 66% of internet users looked for information about a specific disease. WebMD top five conditition are shingles, gallbladder, gout, hemorhiods and lupus. 56% of WebMD users sought information about pain relievers, anti-depressants, HTN medication, and hysterectomy. The percent of total internet users looking for medical information online were 24% drug safety and recalls, 14% memory loss, dementia or Alzheimer’s and 17% for chronic pain.

On one hand we have a group of people who are cost deaf and appear to be selfish. On another hand we have learners activly seeking knowledge about healthcare problems they want to solve. And on our third hand we have a small but highly active group of people seeking to expand and grow social media in healthcare. These groups overlap but I am not sure there is data that tells us what segment of the cost haters are seeking information about shingles and what is their motivation in learning. Do we know what the social media healthcare cognisenti do that is driving cost haters with shingles to use the internet to learn? These are gaps that we have that are impeeding our ability to apply social media tactics to healthcare strategies.

 One final observation to add:

This guy tells me he is all for gay marriage but really just wants to get on @BuzzFeed

The above is from the NYT blog of SCOTUS coverage on the DOMA case. I think this speaks to a larger trend where we (the editorial we) are motivated by our online life to ‘get on Buzz Feed’ or to just do something to advance our ‘brand’. We are abdicating control of knowledge and information to companies who have financial goals and not outcomes and patient care goals. This will only grow as time moves forward. If we are off one degree today, in five years it will be 20 degrees. Are we leveraging social media for self-exposure at the expense of improved patient care? Perhaps all these little pieces are being put into place like mosaics and soon it will be a Gaudi Cathedral. Or is this what one person does here benefits someone over there. A butterfly flaps its wings in China and someone sneezes in Cleveland. My small post becomes an idea for Mayo Clinic. Only time will tell. 

Is Your Wallet Ready for a Scorpion Bite?

I can’t even think of what to say so here is the full text from Healthcare Fees

If you ever get bit by a scorpion, be ready. The cost of treatment at one hospital is going to run you over $80,000. You will receive two doses of Anascorp. Each dose costs over $39,000 dollars. If you have insurance, you will be required to pay about $20,000 of that bill. These costs are for a patient that went to a out-of-network hospital. If you are in-network, the cost can be as low as $7,000 per dose.

Sea Change or Out at Sea With Healthcare in America

This past Saturday marked the third anniversary of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) passage into law. The Yale student newspaper published a short article on that and the expose written for Time magazine on March 4 “Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills are Killing Us”. The author of that 24,105 word article was Steven Brill Yale Law Class of ’72 (you wonder why they are running this article). Readers of this site are familiar with the article and its premise transparency in pricing of hospital bills is nonexistent and needs to be changed.

I posted a link to an article in the LA Times yesterday ‘You Want a Knee Replacement? I’ve got a Deal for You.’ The LA Times article was about ways to find competitive pricing for healthcare procedures. It is a start in trying to get transparency into the system.

Are we beginning to witness a larger more important sea change in healthcare with all the various disparate pieces coming together? When you think about it the genesis was perhaps the ACA or the aging population and the associated spiraling cost. Perhaps it was the economic downturn. Wherever it started today we have changes afoot. People, consumers, patients, and caregivers are learning to and are solving healthcare problems they are having. And with solving their own problems they may just be solving the countries bigger healthcare problems.

My hope is that these beginning small steps are a movement that will take hold. Perhaps we’ll see better patient outcomes and lower costs but I am realist and cynic. Though hospitals are buying physician practices as well as hospitals in hopes of locking in a region to control price and the marketplace the reality is insurance companies are ruling the roost. They are the one distributing the money and controlling prices.

Do you think we are turning a corner or just standing in place? Maybe I am drinking the Pollyanna Kool-Aid. I think there will be more pressure for better changes. I think I see where this may be going but I thought Lotus Notes was cool. 

Credit Cards for Cash Back, Airline Miles, and Now for Sepsis

I don’t know where I stand on this story ‘Five Tips When Comparing Health-Care Credit Cards’ to pay medical bills. My first response is what the hell but people get into severe debt and bankruptcy during an illness. And let’s face it this is America healthcare and debt are like soup and sandwich. And this is Fox News so they are already suspect in my mind. More than likely it’s a placed PR piece from the card company agency. But the issue remains borrowing on a credit card to pay your healthcare bills sounds rough but the option is worse.

I hope is not a trend and if it is who is protecting the consumer? 

You Want a Knee Replacement? I’ve Got a Deal for You.

The Los Angles Times has an interesting article that is showing how we are changing healthcare “New Tools Make it Easier to Find Prices for Medical Procedures

The article links to a number of sites and studies that shows price information for medical procedures. There are links to medical cost estimators as well. Included is one site which has a tool to estimate how much you’ll pay in out of pocket costs.

This is a growing trend and one that is a result of ACA and the changing landscape of healthcare. More patients want to improve their health and mange the cost. It seems as a nation we are moving toward improving care and bending the cost curve. 

I hope this continues because as we all know in economics people will seek out the best value at the best cost.

What Do Physicians Think About ACA and the Future: The Survey Says!

Deloitte recently completed a survey of US Physicians titled “Physician perspectives about healthcare reform and the future of the medical profession” I have linked to the study which is detailed and chock full of information that we can all use. Some of the key findings from the survey are:

  • The performance of the US healthcare system is suboptimal, but the Affordable Care Act (ACE is a good start to addressing issue of access and cost.
  • Satisfaction with the profession is driven by patient relationships
  • Clinical decision-support information technologies that reduce unnecessary services and increase clinical adherence to evidence-based practice are of interest to physicians. 
  • Connectivity with consumers (patients) using online or mobile technologies and personal health records expected to become increasingly important to physicians.

There is much more so please take the time to read this. Below are two charts that speak to a sense that the total number of physician who see the ACA as a good start remains the same with an increase in surgical specialists from 28% in 2011 to 38% in 2012. Non-surgical specialist saw a decrease from 53% ro 47%. Which I would attribute to the fact ACA is looking to do more for the PCP. Those physician who rated ACA as a step in the wrong direction has reduced across the board. 

When asked about types of incentives that might work best with consumers “Coaching (such as personal, online, patient navigators) was in third place behind Financial and Rewards. That speaks to the need to create easy to use practical ways to connect with those patients who want to be involved in their healthcare. Or as I see them adults who want to solve healthcare problems. 

Physicians report the following:

  • 33% of physicians can communicate with patients using email or texts
  • 27% of physicians beleive consumers can be directed to trusted healthcare sites

This study with other data from Pew etc. speaks to the need, the real need to aid physicians in connecting with patients to manage clinical care better and other functions of the patient physician relationship. Over bearing portals and technology that is not driven by ease of use and not based around how adults learn is failing. We need to put the physician at the center of a patients healthcare workflow without physician burden. It is time to build and test new models where the connection is about learning and change. Where the single most trusted knowledge source is our personal physicians not a Website. 

Healthcare Leads the S&P: Where do Patients and HCP Fit In?

The subheads on this article in Business Week scream: profits rebounding, shareholder friendly, insurance plans, state participation, spending cuts, and rising valuation. Hospital stock index rallied 86%. Amgen raised quarterly divident by 31% to 47%. 48 of the 53 stocks in the S&P 500 Health Care Index have risen in 2013.

So healthcare delivers profits, revenue, and leads the S&P 500 you think we can lead the world on delivering high quality affordable care and change where America resides in healthcare among the world’s industrialized nations?

One Hospice Repeated Failures

This is troubling to read since I believe Hospice’s are above the fray. They understand the human condition and needs of people in crisis better. They deliver more than healthcare they deliver care for patients, family, caregivers, each other on all levels not just clinical.  I guess that is separate from knowing how to educate and teach. Here is the full article.

CDPH investigated the 4/26/12 incident regarding the required proper instruction hospice must give to patients and caregivers when administering drugs. The caregiver in this case gave the patient 10 times the prescribed amount of morphine. The report states, “the hospice agency failed to ensure Patient A’s medications were administered in a safe and accurate manner, as prescribed by the physician.”

Caregivers want to do the right thing we need to give them all the tools and abilities we can to aid them. I can not imagine accidently killing my wife while caring for her. 

Caregivers and The Internet: A Force to be Considered has a great summary of a study done by Pew Internet/California Healthcare Foundation Family Caregivers Online last year. 30% of US adults are currently caring for a loved one. That number will increase due to aging population and changes in health insurance coverage. These caregivers seek out healthcare knowledge and information 20% greater than other users (18% vs. 38%). And caregivers know how to network.

Take a look at the e-patient link and the chart on what caregivers looked for online. If you buy the idea that adults will only learn if they are seeking the solutions to problems they have we can easily see what the problems are. But I am not sure we know the quality of the information they are gathering and how they are using it. A study whose time has come? We need to know more about this group and how to meet their knowledge needs. 

Jumping the Shark in Healthcare Web Sites

Talk about jumping on the healthcare bandwagon and the shark.  I present to you healthcare-sites. This is a place to go to have a healthcare website build for you. Oy

Take a look at the Psychiatrist site vs. Vet site. Your state of mental health and the fleas your dog has are indistinguishable. ‘Doctor my fleas are making me crazy’