CMS encourages providers to address SDOH through data-driven efforts, patients are driving a new, consumer-focused shift in healthcare, and more.

1. Women must move more to battle heart disease

Physical activity is a cost-effective prevention strategy for women with or without heart disease, said Victor Okunrintemi, MD, a former Johns Hopkins Medicine researcher.

A study on more than 18,000 women with heart disease between the ages of 18 to 75 found the following:

  • Women between 40 and 64 were the fastest-growing age group not exercising enough.
  • The percentage of women not meeting the American Heart Association’s (AHA) recommended activity guidelines rose from 58 percent in 2006 to 61percent in 2015. The AHA promotes150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity a week.
  • The average healthcare costs for a woman with heart disease who did not exercise enough rose from $12,700 in 2007 to $14,800 in 2015.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women. It affects over 43 million women. Researchers recommended women speak to their healthcare providers about ways to raise their physical activity, maintain heart health and lower healthcare costs.

2. Virtual Reality Therapy treats patients in pain

Did you know Virtual Reality (VR) Therapy is a thing? It involves completely distracting a patient who suffers from chronic or acute pain with entertaining, relaxing and interactive stimuli. The brain becomes so occupied, it cannot process pain sensations. Healthcare providers have combined VR with physical therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy and hypnosis to treat patients with debilitating chronic pain.

“Using VR as an adjunct, we can teach coping skills, techniques patients can use on their own that will help diminish chronic pain,” said Hunter Hoffman, MD, and VR research director at the University of Washington in Seattle.

3. KHN verifies claim: 1 in 4 Americans with diabetes cannot afford insulin

One in four Americans with diabetes cannot afford insulin, said Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) in a recent CNN town hall. Fact checkers with Kaiser Health News (KHN) looked into the senator’s claim. They determined that based on three datasets, her claim is “mostly true.” Here’s a summary of the three reports:

  • A study of 199 people at the Yale Diabetes Center in New Haven, Conn., found that 51 people or just over 25 percent stopped taking insulin because of the drug’s high cost.
  • The American Diabetes Association surveyed 530 people online whose demographics correlated with people with diabetes. Over 25 percent of respondents suggested the price of insulin affected their purchase or use of the drug.
  • An online survey conducted by T1International, an advocacy group, supported Harris’s claims during early peer review.

4. Consumers expect easy, convenient digital tools in healthcare

Banking and e-commerce continue to make technological strides. Consumers expect healthcare to follow suit. Patients have started pushing for easy and convenient digital services to gain greater access and more control of their health and medical needs.

“There’s no logical explanation as to why this shouldn’t happen,” Charles Alessi, MD, HIMSS’s chief clinical officer, told MobiHealthNews. “There’s every reason why individuals should actually get more control over their health and care.”

“The reality is that health systems aren’t particularly helpful when it comes to giving people permission to get control over their health and care,” Alessi continued, “but of course it will happen, and it has to happen, because consumers are taking control of the process. However, it’s still kicking and screaming at the moment.”

5. CMS to use data to help providers address SDOH

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is using data and evidence-based insights to help healthcare providers address social determinants of health (SDOH). CMS recognizes that food, isolation, education and lack of housing impact an individual’s ability to access care and follow treatment instructions.

“Data collection will help us strengthen our understanding of the relationship between social determinants of health and health care use across diverse populations, allowing us to develop solutions and better connect patients to much needed services,” wrote Cara James, PhD, director of CMS Office of Minority Health, in a recent blog post.


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