Rising insulin costs hinder diabetics from seeking medical care, value-based care reduces medical costs while improving care quality and patient engagement, and more.

1. A new survey, summarized by WebMD,  finds that 45 percent of Americans with diabetes do not seek medical care due to costs. Results also revealed, “more than 4 in 10 diabetics said they had more than $1,000 in out-of-pocket costs in the past year for diabetes complications, and another third spent between $100 to $500.” Diabetics often miss work because of the illness causing indirect costs as well. In addition, the American Diabetes Association claims the cost of diabetes medication insulin has nearly tripled between 2002 and 2013. Due to these rising costs and given that three companies control 99 percent of the market, the American Medical Association is demanding for increased oversight to protect diabetics from this price gouging.

2. Value-based care reduces medical costs by an average of 5.6 percent while improving care quality and patient engagement, according to a national study of 120 payers conducted by ORC International and commissioned by Change Healthcare. This is Change Healthcare’s third study on the topic, building on 2014 and 2016 studies that demonstrated the industry’s transition to value-based care. Insights from the research, summarized in the report titled Finding the Value: The State of Value-Based Care in 2018 and highlighted by HIT Consultant, “will help healthcare stakeholders see how payers are responding to changes and demands in an uncertain market, what reimbursement models and technology are being used, how they are being operationalized and scaled, what’s working, what’s failing, and where payers expect value-based care to be in the future.” Carolyn Wukitch, senior vice president and general manager, Network and Financial Management, Change Healthcare, commented that “payers are finding the positive impact of value-based care as they scale these models—particularly episodes of care—and that’s starting to bend the cost curve in a significant way. However, the demand to innovate at the pace of change is challenging payers.”

3. What once seemed like a futuristic idea may soon become a reality. Health IT Analytics reports that new internal job postings for the healthcare group at Google Brain indicate the company’s interest in developing artificial intelligence (AI) and voice recognition tools to improve clinical documentation and EHR workflows. At the recent HIMSS18 conference, former Alphabet, Inc. Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt asked attendees “to imagine a mic and a speaker in a room with a patient and a clinician…This system listens to the conversation, disambiguates the voices, follows the consultation, and gives suggestions to the clinician in his or her earpiece. It transcribes the situation so everyone has a record of the complete conversation, and then it fills out and navigates the EHR.” Google’s project seems to build on its previous research on the topic and be in tandem with a Stanford University study, which found that devices like Google Home could successfully transcribe patient-provider interactions thus providing clinicians more time with patients and accurate documentation. “Good documentation helps create good clinical care by communicating a doctor’s thinking, their concerns, and their plans to the rest of the team…Unfortunately, physicians routinely spend more time doing documentation than doing what they love most — caring for patients.” ” wrote Katherine Chou, Product Manager and Chung-Cheng Chiu, Software Engineer, Google Brain Team. Amazon looks like it is competing with Google by also exploring innovative healthcare opportunities like chronic disease management with its Alexa device; however, both companies first need to overcome privacy and security issues by making their devices HIPAA compliant. With 83 percent of clinicians viewing burnout as a problem at their organizations, a NEJM Catalyst study found, AI and voice recognition tools like Google Home and Alexa could help improve the clinical documentation process and streamline EHR workflows.

4. If a new CMS rule is passed, hospitals participating in Medicare services may be required to electronically share patient data with other providers if a patient is transferred or discharged, according to Becker’s Hospital Review. By June 26, stakeholders are requested to submit any comments to CMS on the potential new data sharing rule, encouraging opinions on whether the requirement “would reduce information blocking as defined in the 21st Century Cures Act and the barriers providers may face to comply with such a rule.” Former ONC head and current CEO of the ACO consulting firm Aledade Farzad Mostashari, MD, commented that “although a number of hospitals and health systems may not want to share their patient data, it is time the government step in.”

5. Light drinkers, defined as one to five drinks per week, have the lowest combined risk of developing cancer and dying prematurely (and even lower than people who do not drink at all), according to a new study in collaboration with researchers at the U.S. National Cancer Institute. NPR reports that the study, published in the scientific journal PLOS Medicine, tracked the health of 100,000 Americans in their mid-50s to early 70s for about nine years. Results confirm previous evidence that cancer risk rises when more than one drink per day is consumed and found that moderate drinkers in the study had about a 10 percent increased risk of getting cancer. Heavy drinkers are most at risk though. “Men who drank three or more drinks per day were three to four times more likely to develop cancer of the esophagus and liver cancer. Other alcohol-related cancers include colorectal cancer and breast cancer in women.” Susan Gapstur, an epidemiologist with the American Cancer Society, states that “alcohol is estimated to be the third-largest modifiable risk factor for cancer” and “is also estimated to be the third-largest contributor to overall cancer deaths in both men and women.” However, not many Americans realize the link between alcohol consumption and cancer risk. Around seven in 10 adults did not identify drinking alcohol as a risk factor for cancer, an ASCO survey found last year.  Although many people are aware of the risks associated with smoking or obesity, many do not know that about 5 percent of cancers are linked to alcohol. Gapstur adds that many people end up consuming more alcohol than expected due to mixed drinks and high concentrations of alcohol in craft beers. “Current guidelines recommend that women consume no more than one drink per day, and men consume no more than two drinks per day.” More research on this link is needed to help inform the public about the risks of alcohol consumption.

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