Why food insecurity is one of the most challenging social determinants of health, measles cases are on the rise, and more.

1. Measles cases continue to rise

Measles is making a comeback, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). At least 465 cases have been reported in 19 states across the U.S. since January 1, and that number is likely to rise. So far, the CDC said this year “is the second greatest number of cases reported since measles was eliminated in 2000.”

Measles is a highly contagious respiratory illness marked by flat red spots on the skin. It causes cough, fever, runny nose and watery eyes. The illness is highly preventable via the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine. Measles is brought in to the U.S. and spread by unvaccinated individuals who visit other countries where measles is endemic.

2. CMS develops patient safety policies for opioid users

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is concerned about the opioid epidemic and is doing something about it. CMS’s new Medicare Part D patient safety policies include improved pharmacy alerts for beneficiaries filling a new opioid prescription or receiving high doses of prescription pain killers.

“While illicit opioid use is part of the epidemic, prescription opioids provided by physicians can also contribute to the crisis when not used carefully,” said Kimberly Brandt, CMS principal deputy administrator for operations, in a recent blog post.

“As Medicare pays for a significant amount of prescription opioids, we strive to ensure appropriate stewardship of these medications that can provide a medical benefit but also carry a risk for our beneficiaries.”

3. 11.4 million Americans enroll in ACA plans

The number of Americans enrolled in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) health insurance plans remains steady, according to the CMS open enrollment report. About 11.4 million consumers either selected or were automatically enrolled during open enrollment in 2019 versus 11.8 million in 2018. CMS said the small decline was likely due to an increase in the number of employees eligible for health plans at work. Other statistics from the open enrollment report include:

  • 4 million consumers purchased coverage on HealthCare.gov
  • 3 million consumers used state-based exchanges
  • 24 percent were new to the exchanges
  • 26 percent of consumers ages 18 to 34 used HealthCare.gov to purchase plans
  • 61 percent of members chose silver-tier plans

4. Food insecurity affects 40 million Americans

Food insecurity and hunger are two different things, said Doctor Sachin Jain in a Forbes article. Anyone can experience hunger, but only those with limited access to adequate food live with food insecurity. Forty million Americans including 6.5 million children were food insecure in 2017, according to the Department of Agriculture. It’s become one of the nation’s most challenging social determinants of health. Food insecurity worsens chronic diseases such as:

  • Stroke, high blood pressure and coronary heart disease
  • Asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Arthritis
  • Kidney disease

In the article, Jain said, “… food — and more specifically nutrition — is a powerful determinant of health, and that’s why ensuring our patients eat healthfully is the responsibility and obligation of everyone aspiring to deliver high-quality healthcare.”

5. Providers must brace for patient monitoring advances

Patient monitoring technology is evolving at lightning speeds and healthcare providers will need to prepare to manage the developments, as outlined in a Frost & Sullivan study. Advances include:

  • Wearables and biosensors such as continuous glucose monitors and blood pressure monitors
  • Smart prosthetics and smart implants
  • Digital pills and nanorobots that monitor medication adherence
  • Smart fabrics and materials that gauge wound management and cardiac conditions

“In the future, patient monitoring data will be combined with concurrent streams from numerous other sensors, as almost every life function will be monitored and its data captured and stored,” said Sowmya Rajagopalan, global director of Frost & Sullivan’s Advanced Medical Technologies division. “The data explosion can be harnessed and employed through technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, etc., to deliver targeted, outcome-based therapies.”


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