Each day, the Schwartz MSL Healthcare IT Practice shares news items on topics of interest with our clients. It goes without saying that the big news of the week was the Supreme Court’s decision largely upholding the healthcare law. Here are a few stories about that and other headlines.
Anna Wilde Mathews and others at the Wall Street Journal teamed up to write, “For Health Sector: Forward, March With Court Ruling, Industry Proceeds With Plans for Law's Implementation; One Hitch: Medicaid,” which outlines insights and commentary from insurers, hospitals, drug companies and employers. Michael B. McCallister, chief executive of insurer Humana Inc., summed it up by saying, "We'll just continue to do what we've been doing,"
Dan Bowman of FierceHealth IT reported on the CIO angle of the decision. Stephen Stewart, CIO of Pleasant, Iowa-based Henry County Health Center, said, “Health IT will only become more prominent as a result of this direction….Reform cannot be done without the prerequisite technology. Reform has to happen; it's just a matter of what it looks like. Long term, it bodes well for health IT.’”
Ken Terry wrote a good piece in InformationWeek Healthcare outlining the components that affect health IT. The ACA itself includes numerous components that affect health IT, including: the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' shared-savings program for accountable care organizations, which need advanced IT systems; CMS' bundled payment pilot, which involves hospitals and physicians; a value-based purchasing program for hospitals; quality reporting initiative; the comparative effectiveness research program; state health insurance exchanges; administrative simplification requirements that involve standardization of rules for provider-health plan interactions.
Chris Anderson of Healthcare IT News wrote, “SCOTUS: Individual mandate is a tax, constitutional." “In what was a surprise to many court watchers, the deciding vote to uphold the individual mandate came from Chief Justice John Roberts. In rendering the decision the court did find the individual mandate to be unconstitutional when viewed through the lens of the Interstate Commerce clause, but that finding became moot once five of the jurists concluded that the fine levied against those individuals who refused to comply is a tax.”
In other news…
Physicians at 2,600 hospitals linked in new health care database
“What is being billed as the largest virtual health care community in the world is being launched online. It is expected to be the first of many efforts to put physicians in control of their performance improvement plans and to rely more on data in their day-to-day decision-making. PremierConnect, created by Premier and available June 25, a performance improvement alliance of more than 2,600 hospitals, will give physicians and health care systems easy access to a wide variety of data, including population information and patient-specific data.”
Survey says…Docs adopt and adapt to IT
The second annual National Physicians Survey, conducted by the little blue book and Sharecare, polled 1,190 U.S. practitioners representing more than 75 medical specialties. Results found that two out of three physicians say the integration of electronic medical records (EMRs) is among their practice challenges. Despite that, most doctors (66 percent) acknowledge EMRs will at least improve or have a neutral effect on their future business.
Medical Apps Under FDA Scrutiny
There are 40,000 medical applications available for download on smartphones and tablets, such as those to monitor blood pressure, screen yourself for depression and learn how to eat healthier. And the market is still in its infancy. Yet, the Food and Drug Administration is now trying to temper explosion. Some app developers are bristling at the thought of a rigid regulatory structure, which they fear will stifle innovation in an industry known for rapid growth and flexibility. Alain Labrique, who directs a global project at Johns Hopkins University dedicated to mobile health technology, says that while apps offer an exciting new opportunity in healthcare, "we also want to protect the public and be sure that medical claims are supported by data assessment and some comparison to a gold standard."
Posted by Davida Dinerman on June 30, 2012 at 1:00 PM
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Healthcare reform upheld The Supreme Court preserved the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which was signed by President Obama in March 2010 and heralded as the biggest overhaul of the $2.6 trillion healthcare system in about 50 years. In a 5-4 ruling, the nation's highest court preserved the law's "individual mandate" requiring that most Americans obtain health insurance by 2014 or pay a tax. The court also substantially limited the law’s expansion of Medicaid, ruling that Congress exceeded its constitutional authority by coercing states into participating in the expansion by threatening them with the loss of existing federal payments.
Nora Ephron dies of leukemia Acclaimed novelist, filmmaker and screenwriter Nora Ephron succumbed to acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a rare and complex disease that accounts for only about one percent of cancer deaths in the United States. AML is often preceded by myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), a condition in which stem cells in the bone marrow are unable to produce enough red or white blood cells or platelets or produce blood cells that are too immature to function properly. Ephron was diagnosed with MDS several years ago. The only cure for either condition is a bone-marrow transplant, but many patients are not candidates for transplants for reasons including other health conditions and the difficulty in finding donors. In addition, patients need to be in remission from MDS or AML for transplants to be performed.
FDA approves new obesity drug For the first time in 13 years, the FDA approved a weight loss drug. Belviq was approved as an addition to a low-calorie diet and exercise for use in adults with a BMI above 30 (considered obese) and for adults with a BMI of 27 (considered overweight) or above if they also have at least one weight-related medical condition, such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, or high cholesterol. The drug works by activating a receptor in the brain that helps a person to eat less and still feel full. In clinical studies, about half of obese people who took the drug for a year lost at least 5 percent of their body weight, compared to 20 percent of dieters who took a placebo pill, while about 1 in 5 Belviq users lost 10 percent or more of their body weight, compared to 1 in 14 placebo users.
When you think about the government’s role in healthcare, I bet the FDA, NIH and CDC are top of mind.
It’s time to expand your list.
Within three weeks, the FCC hosted two mHealth events featuring its Chairman:
On May 17, Chairman Genachowski joined GE Healthcare (client), Philips and The George Washington University Hospital to discuss medical body area networks. This technology could monitor patient vital signs via small, wireless sensors worn on the body, and get rid of the wires/cables connecting patients to their hospital bed.
On June 6 at an FCC summit, the Chairman announced more plans to spur mobile health, saying, “…in the coming months, the FCC will act on our proposal to create new experimental licenses for medical and other research.” The summit featured WellDoc (client) and its DiabetesManager, the only mHealth solution cleared by the FDA to provide real time, automated clinical and behavioral patient coaching for adults with type 2 diabetes combined with decision support for the patient’s doctor.
The FCC’s “deep-dive” into health highlights the growing convergence between medical and technology fields. Case in point: three top IT weekly publications – eWeek, Computerworld and Informationweek – have healthcare beat reporters.
The present and future of healthcare involves medical devices delivering drugs, transmitting information wirelessly, combining with advanced imaging, and using ever-more-powerful processing systems to help doctors make sense of all the data. Throw in robotics and powerful smartphones that act like computers, and we are reaching an exciting period of health innovation.
What does this mean for PR professionals? As the medical industry incorporates advances from increasingly diverse fields, companies will interface with more stakeholders - e.g. end-users and/or prospective partners. They need to help each make sense of it all. As a communications field, it is incumbent on us to:
Guide companies through these challenges, helping to tailor messages that resonate with each technology-specific audience
Engage mainstream investors and the general public, so they can understand the benefits of increasingly complex technologies
Help companies work with regulatory bodies as they update their guidance for new medical paradigms
As technologies continue to get more multi-disciplinary, there’s a great PR opportunity to engage a wide array of audiences. We’re excited to keep diving into this work!
As federal incentives continue to drive the electronic storage and exchange of patient health records, more and more providers – from large national health systems to small town solo physician practices – are signing onto health information exchanges (HIEs). While few disagree with the value of health information exchanges to improve the coordination of patient care, a debate rages on about which is more valuable for providers – a public or private HIE.
A recent KLAS Research report showed that healthcare providers are currently split in their choice, with about half selecting private HIEs and the other half still operating public HIEs. However, with $560 million in federal funding for public HIEs coming close to running out, and venture capital funding of the health IT field continuing to grow and create new opportunities for private HIE vendors, this balance seems bound to tip soon.
Even beyond the uncertainties surrounding their future funding, many feel public HIEs haven’t lived up to the promises. Their uncertain future, due to difficulties in achieving compliance between competing organizations and growing concerns over financial instability, were noted by KLAS one year ago, and these concerns continue today. Public HIEs can be cumbersome and some have failed to meet the needs of patients and providers. Government regulations and centralized databases are also creating roadblocks to the anticipated success of the public HIE.
Private HIEs offer a viable approach, allowing providers to successfully meet meaningful use standards and improve care coordination, while maintaining better control of their own data. Private HIEs also typically go live faster than their public counterparts, saving providers valuable time. Contrary to the common misconception that granting providers ownership of their own data rather than centralizing it in a national database will encourage data hoarding, private HIE vendors, like Certify Data Systems, are in fact making it easier to share patient records with providers all across the nation.
Some still have faith in public HIEs’ eventual achievements, claiming that private HIEs require heavier integration and interfacing. While this may have been true in the past, pioneering vendors, backed by the surge in health IT venture capital funding, have developed technologies that make private HIEs easier than ever to integrate and interface.
While a perfect system for an HIE has not yet emerged, innovators in the private sector are coming closer to reaching that point. They are making health records easier to share than ever before, reducing medical errors, facilitating care management and ultimately improving the quality of care.
Each day at Schwartz MSL, the Healthcare IT Practice shares news items on topics of interest to our clients. Following is a glimpse at some of the stories from the past week:
Too many patients, too little time
Kevin B. O'Reilly at American Medical News reported on a survey by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality which found that physicians, nurses and clerical support staffers in medical offices say the frenetic work pace and high patient volume are making it harder to provide quality care. Physician leaders, practicing doctors, and experts on quality improvement and practice management said the survey results illustrate how the pressure to see more patients in less time amid declining physician payment is placing strain on the professionals charged with delivering timely, effective and safe care.
Healthcare has caught the app trend
Doctors, hospitals and consumers are increasingly embracing mobile apps as an effective way to treat certain conditions, according to a recent survey and study of the mobile health market (mHealth) for PwC Global Healthcare by the Economist Intelligence Unit. Donna Fuscaldo of FOX Business wrote that the surge in smartphone use is spilling over into the mobile health market with consumers using apps to maintain their health by using apps to do everything from check their blood pressure, log calorie intake and even monitor sugar levels. Survey respondents ranked more convenient access to their healthcare provider, the reduction of out-of-pocket health-care costs and having greater control over their health as the top three reasons to use mHealth.
Stop the regulation madness to increase productivity
Three Boston-area neurologists, Dr. Allan H. Ropper, Dr. Anthony A. Amato and Dr. Martin A. Samuels, do not believe that meaningful use of EHRs is proven to reduce cost or improve care. They argue that “a surreal series of demands from insurance companies and Medicare for increasing amounts of documentation on every patient has produced large inefficiencies in modern medicine.” They also cite a recent study from NEJM discussing that pay for performance is not working, and conclude that we need to stop the regulation madness.
But people are still seeing the value of the EHR Incentive Program
In an interview with InformationWeek-Healthcare, Farzad Mostashari, National Coordinator of Health IT, attributed the acceleration in the number of providers attesting to Meaningful Use and receiving Medicare payments partly to a change in attitudes: A growing number of eligible clinicians and hospitals, he said, now believe that Meaningful Use is an achievable goal. Through May, more than 110,000 eligible professionals and 2,400 hospitals had received payments totaling $5.7 billion under the electronic health record incentive programs of Medicare and Medicaid. That total exceeds the 100,000 providers HHS earlier predicted would receive payments by the end of this year.
New data standard for health information exchanges
Health information exchanges in nearly 30 states are using the Direct Project's clinical messaging protocol, and about a dozen more health data exchanges are expected to start using the standards this summer, according to a recent post on the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT's "Health IT Buzz" blog. The Direct Project is a streamlined version of the Nationwide Health Information Network, a set of standards, specifications and services that offers a common platform for data exchange between disparate entities.
Too eager for health information exchanges?
“According to a 2011 KLAS report and a more recent Chilmark report, the health information exchange (HIE) market is poised for spectacular growth over the next couple of years.” Most of this growth will be driven more by private HIE efforts (enterprise efforts usually driven by a hospital system and/or physician organization) than by public ones (cross-organization regional or state collaborations usually seeded with government funds), but, regardless of what is driving it, the reality is that HIE is sprouting all around us. However, the studies also pointed out one concern - the propensity to pursue over-architected HIE solutions.”
ACO growth doubles in past year
“Even if the Supreme Court strikes down the healthcare law, two-thirds of providers say accountable care organizations will survive the repeal, according to a survey by business publisher Healthcare Intelligence Network this month. And, like another ACO report last week, the data indicate physicians are taking the helm and leading ACO development.
Jack Osbourne has Multiple Sclerosis Jack Osbourne, former reality star and son of Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne, announced Monday that he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). Osbourne sat down with People Magazine to discuss the diagnosis he received two weeks after welcoming his daughter in April. MS is a disease that affects the central nervous system – the brain and spinal cord – and can cause problems with muscle control and strength, vision, balance, feeling, and thinking. Osbourne reportedly visited a physician after going blind in his right eye. A month since starting treatment he has regained approximately 80 percent of his vision.
Paternity testing in utero According to a recent New England Journal of Medicine study scientists can now determine a baby’s paternity as early as the eighth or ninth week of pregnancy. The new test created by Ravgen requires blood samples from the expectant mother and potential father. The test looks at scant amounts of DNA from the fetus that are present in the mother’s blood to determine paternity. Some studies have shown that a father’s financial and emotion support during pregnancy can lead to healthier babies. The cost of the test ranges from $950 to $1,650.
Bird-Flu has Pandemic Potential A study published in Thursday’s edition of Science found that scientists have induced five genetic changes to the bird flu, making it capable of airborne transmission between mammals. Two of the mutations examined in the study, funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other groups, already exist in nature. Scientists caution that the three remaining mutations could be brought about through natural evolution. While some worried the publication of this data may provide a blueprint for a biological weapon, officials note this research will help them keep better track of those infected with these strands of H5N1.
Today is the final day of AHIP’s Institute 2012 in Salt Lake City. Clients in the Schwartz MSL Healthcare IT practice, as well as journalists, look forward to this show to get the latest industry buzz. This is a time of big change for healthcare, and decisions that will shape the next phase of the industry are looming -- The SCOTUS decision on health care reform. The Presidential election. Compliance deadlines. These are just a few of the factors that are shaping the delivery of care.
Schwartz MSL spoke with a prominent reporter in the healthcare payer market, as well as a client, to get their take on the conference.
Julie Miller, editor-in-chief of Managed Healthcare Executive has attended AHIP’s Institute nearly every year for the past decade. She comments, “Every attendee at AHIP’s Institute has a solid grasp of the unsustainability of our current healthcare system and can offer real-world experience for controlling costs. The most valuable conversations happen in chance meetings and during networking breaks. I especially enjoy running into managed healthcare executives who can give me a heads up on their developing strategies, even before they're ready to officially launch them. I come away with excellent article ideas that I can follow up on throughout the year.”
Loren Finkelstein, director of public relations at The TriZetto Group (booth 732), shared his thoughts about the show. “The pending decision about healthcare reform is keeping us all on the edge of our seats. However, regardless of the results, healthcare organizations will continue to leverage technology to improve administrative efficiency, achieve compliance; and enhance the cost, quality and delivery of care in order to compete to win in an emerging consumer environment."
During scheduled workshops, on the exhibit floor and in impromptu hallway conversations, listen for probing, provocative dialogue about care coordination and patient engagement, greater payer-provider collaboration, and healthcare consumerism. Now more than ever, we see payers and providers rethinking the use of people, processes and technology to create personalized, valuable and actionable consumer experiences.
Eric Grossman, TriZetto’s vice president of enterprise strategy, presented findings of a survey on the value drivers that can help plans create an exceptional experience for consumers. This session also discussed the data-analytics capabilities that healthcare organizations will need to make this happen.
What did you most like about AHIP’s Institute 2012? Sound off in the comment section below or tweet us @SchwartzMSLPRx.
With BIO in full swing and thousands of companies and organizations descending upon Boston for the annual global event for biotechnology, Schwartz MSL was fortunate enough to steal away North Carolina Secretary of Commerce J. Keith Crisco and Doug Drabble, Director of BioNetwork and Life Sciences Initiatives at BioNetwork North Carolina, for a lively and informative thought leadership salon. The topic: North Carolina’s successful training program that engages community colleges as a key workforce development source for the life sciences industries. Students attending the state’s 58 community colleges have access to the state’s BioNetwork which trains students at all levels in life sciences for potential educational and career paths in science, technology, engineering and math-related industries. The seven centers and one 40-foot long mobile educational lab center are staffed with highly skilled industry-trained experts who are constantly developing new workforce training programs that can be delivered anywhere in the state of North Carolina. As a result, students have access to career-focused training programs and high-quality educational opportunities, making it easier for them to find jobs.
Interestingly, often times it’s industry that dictates the training curriculum. For instance, the threat of a flu pandemic and the ability of the Tar Heel State to train students in the field brought Novartis to the state to build a flu vaccine facility. In addition, our client West Pharmaceuticals works with the BioNetwork to secure trained employees.
Many states including the Commonwealth are looking to North Carolina’s community college system as a model for workforce development. It will be interesting to see what happens in Massachusetts, given the plethora of life science companies, and our 15 community colleges. Check here for updates!
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick addresses onlookers at the Massachusetts Pavilion Welcome Program on June 18 during the BIO International Convention in Boston.
BIO’s annual international life sciences convention kicked off in Boston yesterday, and despite the broader economic climate, industry luminaries see reasons for optimism. The event, which is expected to attract more than 15,000 attendees from around the world, will be highlighted by approximately 125 panel discussions featuring hundreds of speakers expounding on various topics covering everything from bridging the gap between science and healthcare to making personalized medicine a reality in the age of biomarkers and companion diagnostics.
This is BIO’s first trip back to Boston since 2007, when Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick first announced the state’s ambitious 10 year, $1 billion life sciences initiative aimed at strengthening the local innovation ecosystem. Although reports have surfaced that the initiative did not spur as much academic activity as originally anticipated, there are many international biotech clusters that view Boston as the model for success.
In fact, One Nucleus, an international life sciences trade association based in the United Kingdom, co-hosted a breakfast panel discussion with Stockholm-Uppsala Life Science, Scandinavia’s leading life sciences cluster (and a Schwartz MSL client). The focus of the panel was on building a better biotechnology cluster and featured speakers from BIOCOM, Edinburgh Bio Quarter, Karolinksa Development and the City of South San Francisco. Some of the key attributes the panelists associated with standout biotech clusters included, a strong research infrastructure backed by leading academic institutions, an expansive entrepreneurial network, an abundance of seed and venture capital, as well as a local government invested in providing the necessary tax benefits and municipal improvements to spawn the next generation of innovative life science companies—all of which Massachusetts boasts. However, the key takeaway from the panel was the resounding need for more international collaboration, and that leading biotechnology clusters must pool resources and communicate openly in order to achieve the common goal of fostering new scientific and medical breakthroughs. BIO is a great venue to begin making those connections.
So, in between all your partnering meetings, breakout sessions and cocktail parties, look for Schwartz MSL on the show floor. We’d love to connect with you as well.
As the country awaits the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), we wonder about and try to predict the consequences. Right now, we have more questions than answers: Will the healthcare industry be relieved of more regulations and paperwork? Will things get easier? More difficult? Stay the same? Who will be impacted and how? Will the ruling result in greater efficiency and coast savings or have consequences that bring to mind Madame de Pompadour’s famous quote, “Après nous, le déluge”?
Some say we’ll hear the rulings as early as this week. Regardless of the ruling, we are seeing great strides in accountable care, medical home, information and insurance exchanges, and other approaches that help healthcare organizations continue to improve in efficiency, costs and affordability, and quality of care delivery. If anything, talk of improving healthcare has created action. Let’s hope the ruling will encourage and drive progress and innovation further.
Marilyn Tavenner, acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), speaking at a June 7 session of the Accountable Care Organization Summit, said she was optimistic that the ruling will support the Affordable Care Act. She has confidence that the Supreme Court will make the right decision.
An article in The Hill titled, “ACOs are here to stay - Whatever the Court decides,” agrees that the future of healthcare is wrapped up in ACOs because an ACO is a sensible, efficient, and patient-centered way to keep people healthy and then care for them during illness.
Dominic Basulto of the Washington Post makes a good point when he says that it’s not just healthcare insurers, hospitals and pharmaceutical companies that could be impacted by a potential change to or a complete strike-down of the law, the Supreme Court ruling will also impact the new generation of tech companies that are fundamentally changing how we think about health care.
In his article “SCOTUS Uncertainty Deters Innovation," Phil Betbeze of HealthLeaders summarizes three possible scenarios: SCENARIO 1: The Court rules the law is constitutional; SCENARIO 2: The Court strikes down the individual mandate, but upholds the rest of the Act. SCENARIO 3: The Court rules the entire law unconstitutional. He also argues that it’s tough to get traction when the fixes never get the chance to be fully implemented because the fight over policy is never really over. In fact, Moody's just released a report (registration required) that no matter what the Court decides, nonprofit hospitals and health systems will be worse off.
Employee Benefit Newsalso weighs in on the topic in its article, “Secret Shoppers,” which points out that should the law and all of its provisions be ruled constitutional, the cost of offering health benefits may prove too much for some employers, allowing employees to seek coverage from state-run insurance exchanges. Unless the court strikes down the law, states have little more than six months to set up an exchange by January 2013. If they fail to do so, the federal government will set one up for them. For large employers who decide they'd rather "pay" the $2,000 per employee penalty than "play," PPACA permits states to extend coverage to larger employers beginning in 2017.
Schwartz MSL will be keeping an eye on industry chatter over the next days and weeks, and posting thoughts on this blog and on Twitter (@SchwartzMSLPRx). In the meantime, feel free to offer your predictions and commentary below.
Each day at Schwartz MSL, the Healthcare IT Practice shares news items on topics of interest to our clients. Following is a glimpse at some of the stories from the past week:
No Time to Wait
Nina Bernstein wrote a piece in the New York Times titled, “Hospitals Aren’t Waiting for Verdict on Healthcare Law.” She reports that administrators are saying that win, lose or draw in court, the policies driving the federal health care law are already embedded in big cuts and new payment formulas that hospitals ignore at their peril. And even if the law is repealed after the next election, the economic pressure to care differently for more people at lower cost is irreversible. Read more about what some hospitals in NYC are doing due to the population of patients they must see.
Electronic Quality Reporting Poses Major Challenges
Ken Terry of iHealthBeat explains that one of the biggest barriers to meeting the Stage 1 meaningful use criteria for government electronic health record incentives has been the collection of data for clinical quality measures. In its comments on the proposed rule for meaningful use Stage 2, the American Hospital Association told CMS that hospitals had encountered "significant difficulty" in using EHRs to do quality reporting in Stage 1. Citing "inaccurate e-specifications" for the electronic measures and "unworkable, but certified, vendor products," AHA asked CMS not to add any additional measures in Stage 2, but to help providers and vendors "get it right" on quality reporting.
Collaboration for Better Care Coordination
According to the 2012 HealthLeaders Media Economics of Better Care Survey, initiating collaborative relationships is the key to improved quality, most healthcare leaders say. Many also agree that major increases in HIT spending are necessary, but others are more cautious about spending for technology improvements. And more than two-thirds see transparency as improving quality of care, while a sizeable minority has reservations about it. At the same time, healthcare leaders are reluctant to engage in shared savings programs as a risk-sharing, cost-reduction tactic: 63% say they have no plans for such programs, which are a foundation of the evolving accountable care organization models.
Doctors and Patients Disagree on the Value of Mobile Health
A recent PwC survey titled “Emerging mHealth: Paths for Growth” found that about half of consumers believe mobile health technology will improve healthcare. But the report also says that, although the public is enthusiastic about mobile health tech, most doctors aren't as enamored with patients' use of it. In a video posted on the PwC website, Christopher Wasden, PwC global healthcare innovation leader, offers his perspective: “With mobile technology, consumers are now empowered with information on price, services, wait times, and quality. ... So they start making decisions like they would in any other marketplace.”
Technology is Healthcare’s Middle Name
The Institute of Medicine recently released a discussion paper in which 11 executive leaders from leading hospital and healthcare systems (Cleveland Clinic, Partners HealthCare, Kaiser Permanente, among others) shared their top 10 strategies for transforming the industry. The use of technology was a common theme on the list.
Board approves Bloomberg’s ban on sodas On Tuesday, members of New York City’s Board of Health approved Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed plan to ban all sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces throughout the city’s restaurants, street carts and stadiums. The board, an 11-member panel appointed by the mayor, has responsibilities that include the control of chronic disease and food service establishments.” A public hearing will be held on the issue on July 24, with a final vote taking place on September 13. The ban could go into effect as early as March 2013. Panel advises postmenopausal women not to take vitamin D, calcium The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) announced this week that that after menopause, women should not take 400 international units (IU) or less of vitamin D and 1,000 milligrams of calcium to prevent bone fractures. There’s not enough evidence to show if larger doses of vitamin D might help the panel said. The evidence is still too limited to make recommendations for higher doses of the supplements. The same is true for cancer prevention. The USPSTF‘s recommendations will be available for public comment on the USPSTF’s website for about a month before they are finalized. ‘Cheech & Chong’s’ Tommy Chong has Prostate Cancer Actor-comedian Tommy Chong, of “Cheech and Chong” fame, said he’s treating his “slow stage-one” prostate cancer with hemp oil. Chong told CNN that he was diagnosed about a month ago, but saw symptoms as early as eight years ago while incarcerated for selling drug paraphernalia. Chong, an advocate for legalizing marijuana, did not reveal if he is receiving other treatments, but “watchful waiting” is a commonly prescribed technique for early-stage prostate cancer.
Americans more stressed than ever. According to a new study from Carnegie Mellon University, people are more stressed today than there was 25 years ago. Researchers surveyed more than 6,300 individuals at intervals between 1983 and 2009. They found stress had increased 24 percent for men and 18 percent for women over the course of the study. The study found that women, less educated people and those with lower incomes experienced the most stress. The study also found that stress diminished with age. The study was published online today in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology.
Traveling just got a little less stressful for those with chronic health ailments. Today’s New York Times article, The App as Health Aide by Julie Weed takes a look at a growing number of mobile health and medical apps available to travelers during any segment of a trip and includes commentary from two of our healthcare clients.
WellDoc’s mobile integrated therapy, DiabetesManager, provides feedback based on information that patients enter such as glucose, medication, food and exercise information, and then advises them on the steps they can take to adhere to their diabetes management treatment plan. Additionally, people traveling with multiple pills in a pill box may find the Epocrates app helpful to identify their medication using a list of questions about the pill’s color, shape and markings. Epocrates may also be used to review potential side effects if prescribed a new medication while traveling.
The article also shares tips about health apps that provide guidance on when to take medication when crossing time zones, communicating health conditions to TSA agents and medical carry-on bags. Earlier this month, we covered the surge in consumer healthcare apps. We really enjoyed Julie’s piece about how these latest apps can help manage health at any place and time – enjoy your summer travel.
In today’s digital world, video has become a powerful way to share and consume information. According to a Forrester report, “Optimizing video content is by far the easiest way to get a first-page organic ranking on Google. Having a video on your homepage can increase your ranking by 50x.”
Perhaps the most powerful use of video in consumer healthcare is the patient testimonial, which allows companies to tell a story that viewers can relate to. As patients and their loved ones become “empowered consumers” and take a more proactive role in managing their health, videos such as these provide valuable information and may help inform treatment decisions.
However, not all patient stories are alike. The most successful ones require thoughtful preparation and planning. Having produced dozens of these types of videos for our clients, we are pleased to offer the following tips for success:
Tell a Good Story It may seem obvious, but if you’re not telling a good story, you may end up with the worst kind of video of all – a boring one. There are many variables to consider - patient age, location, and cost – but they should rank a distant second to a compelling narrative. Rather than ask the patient to look at the camera and simply recite their tale, develop a series of questions that will enable you to map out a story with a clear beginning, middle and most importantly, a happy ending.
Use a Physician Physician commentary is an important element of any patient video. A well-spoken doctor can properly position the impact of a medical condition on a person’s quality-of-life and provide a layman’s explanation of the benefits and side effects of a treatment.
Incorporate Emotion Perhaps the biggest advantage that video has over the printed word is the ability to convey emotion and as storytellers, it is our responsibility to communicate that emotion. While a tearful sound byte may be the first thing that comes to mind, sometimes a hug from a co-worker can be just as powerful. Music can also help set the proper tone for the video.
Keep it Visual The most effective patient videos incorporate a variety of visual elements beyond the sound bite. Relevant b-roll adds context to the sound bite and keeps the viewer engaged. Graphics and animation are also proven assets to create a visually appealing story.
Use the Proper Equipment Today, anyone with a smartphone can record video and upload it to the internet. However, production values still matter. Resist the urge to film on the cheap. Hire an experienced production team or if you do it yourself, use a broadcast quality HD camera on a professional grade tripod. Don’t forget a clip-on and/or overhead microphone to ensure the best audio quality. And make sure to use proper lighting. Additional tricks of the trade: be sure to close the blinds if the patient is sitting near a window and bring a basic makeup kit to avoid undue glare on the patient’s head or face.
Stay On-Label Imagine this scenario: you spent countless hours preparing for and producing a heartwarming patient video. You send the final version to the regulatory department for what should be an easy approval. However, you are horrified to discover that your physician made a claim about your product that is off-label. Even worse, the 17 year old patient who stole the show is one year younger than the indicated age on the labeling. Make sure this never happens to you by discussing all aspects of the video with your legal/regulatory officials prior to filming.
Script Efficiently After filming is completed, it is a virtual certainty that you will have far more content than you will need. Using a transcription service will enable you to select relevant sound bites significantly faster than spending countless hours pouring through footage. Equally important in the scripting process is the identification of the proper visual elements (animation, graphics, b-roll) that can be used in conjunction with each sound bite. Waiting to select the visuals until after the sound bytes are laid out will extend the editing process considerably.
Use an Experienced Editor Much like a top-flight chef can create an exquisite meal with just a handful of simple ingredients, a proficient editor can turn a good video into a powerful, visually stimulating story by adding creative touches that can only be picked up through years of experience. Be sure that your editor uses cutting-edge software programs such as Avid or Final Cut.
Check out the video below, which incorporates many of these helpful hints. The story chronicles Warren, a Long Island prostate cancer patient, as he undergoes 5 days of treatment with the CyberKnife Robotic Radiosurgery System (from client Accuray).
Each day at Schwartz MSL, the Healthcare IT Practice shares news items on topics of interest to our clients. Following is a glimpse at some of the stories from the past week:
Using the Internet for Diagnoses
A survey by Wolters Kluwer concluded that both consumers and healthcare professionals are turning to the Internet for information about diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. The survey also showed a high level of trust among consumers who seek medical information online. You can read more about this in Nicole Lewis’ article in InformationWeek Healthcare.
The Role of the Physician in the Future
The Economist had a big spread last week about “squeezing out the doctor,” which stated that by 2030, 22% of people in the Organization for Economic Cooperation (OECD) club of rich countries will be 65 or older, nearly double the share in 1990. But as chronic disease continues to rise, the demand for health care looks unlikely to be met by doctors in the way the past century’s was. Doctors look set to become much less central to health care—a process which, in some places, has already started.
Keys to Building a Successful ACO
Healthcare Finance News reported that to date, 32 organizations across the country are participating in the Pioneer ACO initiative, hoping to inspire others in their regions to follow suit. As the benefits of adopting this model become clear, more organizations are looking to explore the possibility of becoming an ACO. Michelle McNickle listed seven key elements to building a successful ACO including aligning the payment model with value, and developing the data model, IT infrastructure and tools to support reporting and analytics.
Benefits for Hospitals to Go Green
There are many reasons for a hospital to go green that executives understand well. There are the cost savings, the merits of taking on a social responsibility to foster community engagement and the awards and recognition attendant to taking on environmentally friendly practices. But green initiatives can also support marketing initiatives in three surprising ways.
EHR Incentive Payments Top $5B in Under 1 Year
More than $5 billion has been paid to eligible professionals and hospitals under the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Record incentive payment programs since the Medicare program began in May 2011 and the Medicaid program began in January 2011, according to a CMS report. In April, 86 more hospitals signed up for the Medicare and Medicaid EHR incentive programs, bringing the total number of registered hospitals to 3,569.
Mostashari: HIPAA Rules Out by Summer's End
The final omnibus HIPAA rule governing the privacy, security, breach notification and enforcement rules, and the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act, should be out by the end of summer, says Farzad Mostashari, national coordinator for health information technology. Mostashari also emphasized that awareness of the importance of technical and cultural considerations to assure privacy protections are at the center of everything ONC does.
House votes on medical device bill The House voted on a bill this week, proposed by Minnesota Republican Congressman Erik Paulsen, which would eliminate a 2.3 percent excise tax on medical devices. The tax was included in President Obama’s health-reform legislation and is set to go into effect next year. Device manufacturers are anxious to kill the tax before it is initiated. According to the Associated Press, more than 700 companies and industry associations including AdvaMed and the Medical Device Manufacturers Association, wrote to members of the House encouraging them to kill the tax, noting “If this tax is not repealed, it will continue to force affected companies to consider cutting manufacturing operations, research and development, and employment levels to recoup the lost earnings due to the tax.” Sheryl Crow diagnosed with brain tumor Singer-songwriter Sheryl Crow announced this week that she was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor called meningioma. The breast cancer survivor told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that she went in for an MRI after forgetting song lyrics on stage. She was subsequently diagnosed with a brain tumor. Meningioma is a common type of brain tumor that is usually noncancerous and grows in the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord. Stars such as Elizabeth Taylor and Mary Tyler Moore also suffered from meningiomas. Crow will not be having surgery, but will have periodic scans to monitor the tumor.
CT scans linked to increased cancer in kids According to a study appearing in the June 7 online edition of The Lancet, children who received several CT scans have a slightly higher chance of brain cancer and leukemia later in life. Researchers studied nearly 180,000 patients under age 22 who had a CT scan in British hospitals between 1985 and 2002. Following the patients until 2008, the researchers found 74 of them were diagnosed with leukemia while 135 had brain tumors. The researchers, however, emphasize that these diseases are rare and the risk is still small and probably outweighed by the need to get the CT scan.
Disney goes on a diet: No more junk-food ads The Walt Disney Company announced that all products advertised on its child-focused television channels, radio stations and Web sites must comply with a strict new set of nutritional standards. The initiative was announced Tuesday at a Washington news conference with first lady Michelle Obama. According to the new guidelines, which start in 2015, all food and beverage products that are advertised, promoted or sponsored will have to meet the company's nutrition criteria for limiting calories and reducing saturated fat, sodium and sugar. The campaign was initiated in an effort to combat childhood obesity.
In our always-connected world we have everything at our fingertips, including the tools to make better healthcare decisions. There are countless consumer health apps available to better manage our health.
Nielsen projected that half of the U.S. population would own a smartphone by the end of 2011, and one of the fastest growing age groups for smartphone adoption is 55 to 64 year olds. For developers of health apps, this insight helps guide which apps maybe most embraced. The substantial adoption of smartphone use among the medical community not only led to a burst of medical apps designed for healthcare providers, but it also nurtured the health and wellness apps aimed at empowering patients.
For example, Denver-based iTriage, founded by two emergency medicine physicians, offers consumers an app that helps answer the two most common medical questions: “What could be wrong?” and “Where should I go for treatment?” Having answers available to health questions or concerns at any time is not only convenient, but helps with ownership of our personal healthcare, and also improves healthcare delivery for providers and payers. Last year Healthagen, creator of the iTriage app, was acquired by Aetna. This purchase reveals that the healthcare ecosystem sees the value in mobile health apps to help consumers navigate the intricacies of the healthcare system and even health insurance.
There are more than 13,000 consumer health apps available today and according to a recent Deloitte survey reported by Mobihealthnews, healthcare is one of the most promising new growth channels for mobile apps. This week, our client, iSonea, launched a new smartphone app to better manage asthma. AsthmaSense, available for iPhone, iPad and Google Android, helps asthmatics track symptoms, medications and provides alerts when asthma is poorly managed.
Industry analysts say there’s a mobile opportunity for the world of Pharma too.
Look at an application called Helius from Proteus Biomedical of Redwood City, Calif. which was announced earlier this year and available for consumers to purchase in the U.K. The “smart” pill contains an edible microchip to monitor when medications have been taken, along with a range of additional patient data including sleep patterns and physical activity. Users swallow the tablet when they take their medication. When the tablet hits their stomach and breaks down, it sends a signal to the patch on their skin and alerts the app on their smartphone with the information.
With consumer health apps acting more like medical devices, the FDA is paying close attention. Last year the FDA proposed guidelines to translate medical device regulations into the world of apps, smartphones and tablets. With this increased transparency, the regulatory discussion will continue to be vital this year as more offerings become available. It is anticipated that the FDA will announce the final guidelines or a new draft by year-end. We will continue to monitor the FDA activity and provide commentary on ways the guidelines will shape the market.
Hosted by WBZ-TV News Anchor David Wade, the ceremony provided a snapshot of great work being conducted by industry colleagues. Our work on behalf of our healthcare clients were honored in the following categories:
Gold Bell • Feature or Commentary Placement: Online – Retina Implant AG: “Bringing Bionic Vision into Focus” (For more info on the company, check out this PRWeek case study on how we are building buzz for Retina Implant’s technology in the US).
Silver Bell • Feature or Commentary Placement: Online – Cyberonics: “Celebrate the Extraordinary” Bronze Bell • Bylined Article - Simpler Consulting: “Going Back to Basics: The Little Book of Lean”
• Print Feature or Commentary Placement: Regional/General Interest Publication – Bioness: “Stepping Forward: Denver Newspaper Placement Drives Local & National Attention for Bioness”
Merit Awards • New or Social Media Campaign- GE Healthcare: “Targeted Social Media Campaign Quadruples GE’s Challenge Entries in Three Weeks”
• Print Feature or Commentary Placement: National – Riverain Technologies: “From Iams to Imaging – Bridging the Gap in the C-Suite”
• Products/Services Publicity: Business-to-Business – Kimberly-Clark: “The Dirt on Shop Towels”
Congratulations everyone! We look forward to seeing you next year!
Each day at Schwartz MSL, the Healthcare IT Practice shares news items on topics of interest to our clients. Following is a glimpse at some of the most relevant stories from the past week:
Erin McCann reported in Healthcare IT News about a recent Black Book HIE survey which projects that healthcare IT industry spending will triple by 2014. Despite these projections, the majority of U.S. hospitals (80 percent) and physicians (97 percent) remain disconnected from health information exchange (HIE) technology. The survey’s numbers suggest, however, that the tides are indeed changing. Read more to find out what providers are saying about HIE adoption.
On the other hand…
A survey by PwC's Health Research Institute revealed that healthcare spending is forecasted to grow at a historically low rate of 7.5% in 2013. The report attributes much of the projected slower growth to the tepid economy, the healthcare industry's broad focus on cost containment, higher out-of-pocket costs and lower utilization for healthcare consumers, and efforts by employers to keep their health insurance expenses down.
Farzad Mostashari, MD, the national coordinator for health information technology, is pushing for HIE 'rules of the road.' He says that healthcare providers need health information exchange to be fully automated and easy to do in order to widely promote the sharing of patient data to improve care. Some steps for preparing data for exchange remain largely hand-coded, such as vocabulary mapping, value sets and quality measures, he said. Policies and technical standards that promote automation should increase adoption for HIE and foster trust.
According to Chris Giancola, principal consultant at CSC Global Healthcare Group, “If the current objectives of health information exchange remain intact, healthcare providers across the U.S. will for the first time have a mandate to electronically exchange clinical information with each other. In Stage 1 of meaningful use, the ‘exchange of key clinical information’ was part of the optional menu set of objectives. In Stage 2 - if it remains substantively in its current form - the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) gets serious about health information exchange by making it part of the core (required) set of objectives and more clearly defining its use case.
Bob Spoerl at Becker’s Hospital Review spoke with Pearson Talbert, CEO of Aegis Health Group on the following six tips for hospitals looking to improve population health management: Take a proactive approach and connect with community and leaders; Pinpoint the most prevalent population health issues; Develop a strategy to align with payers that share strategic and clinical goals; Embrace the fact that population health management is a win-win for both hospitals and physicians; Use data analysis and tracking tools to manage population health; Utilize pre-primary care programs to manage population health.
Hard pill to shallow, counterfeit drugs Earlier this week the FDA warned consumers and healthcare professionals about a counterfeit version of Teva’s Adderall, a drug approved to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorders (ADHD) and narcolepsy. The FDA’s announcement says preliminary laboratory tests revealed the counterfeit version of Teva’s Adderall 30 mg tablets contained the wrong active ingredients. Currently on the FDA’s drug shortage list, Adderall is in short supply due to active pharmaceutical ingredient supply issues. The FDA warns consumers should be extra cautious when buying their medicines from online sources.
NYC Super-Sized soda ban? A whole lot of carbonation Mid-week Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a proposed ban that intends to restrict sales of soft drinks to no more than 16 ounces a cup in restaurants, movie theaters, stadiums and arenas. The move to ban super-sized sugared soft drinks is the latest of several anti-obesity and nutrition initiatives undertaken by the administration. It is among strategies to combat what the administration has described as an epidemic of obesity and related illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes. In 2008, the city required restaurant chains to post calorie-counts on menus. According to an article in Bloomberg, the Health Department plans to propose the ban as an amendment to the Health Code at a June 12 meeting of the City’s Board of Health.
Cancer cases to rise says International Agency for Research on Cancer A paper from the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) issued today says the number of people with cancer is set to surge by more than 75 percent across the world by 2030. The study looks at how present and future rates of cancer might vary between richer and poorer countries, as measured by the development rankings defined in the United Nations' Human Development Index (HDI). It noted there will be sharp rises in poor countries as populations adopt unhealthy "Westernized" lifestyles. According to Reuters IARC researchers found how patterns of the most common types of cancer varied according to four levels of human development, and then used these findings to project how the cancer burden is likely to change by 2030. The seven most common types of cancer worldwide are lung cancer, female breast cancer, colorectal cancer, stomach cancer, prostate cancer, liver cancer and cervical cancer.
Ending on a sweet note Little bite of dark chocolate does the heart good says a new Australian study. Eating 3.5 ounces of dark chocolate daily may cut the odds of heart attack and stroke in high-risk people. Researchers used a mathematical model to predict the long-term health effects of daily consumption of dark chocolate among more than 2,000 people who had high blood pressure and metabolic syndrome, a group of conditions that increase a person's risk of heart disease and diabetes. According to HealthDay News dark chocolate is rich in flavonoids, antioxidant substances known to have heart protective effects. The potential benefits of dark chocolate on heart health have only been examined in short-term studies, until this study published online in the BMJ.