How employers are tackling the high cost of flu, federal works face health struggles amidst government shutdown, and more.

1. Microsoft and Walgreens form healthcare alliance 

Microsoft Corporation and Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. want to make healthcare personal, accessible and affordable. That’s why the two mega companies have joined forces on a seven-year research and development investment. The companies have teamed up to:

  • create healthcare solutions.
  • curb the cost of care.
  • boost health outcomes.
  • partner to provide joint innovation centers in key areas.

Merchandising and selling selected healthcare-related hardware and devices at “digital health corners” in up to 12 Walgreens pilot stores is another goal of this alliance.

“Improving health outcomes while lowering the cost of care is a complex challenge that requires broad collaboration and strong partnership between the healthcare and tech industries,” said Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft, in a statement.

“Together with Walgreens Boots Alliance, we aim to deliver on this promise by putting people at the center of their health and wellness, combining the power of the Azure cloud and AI technology and Microsoft 365 with Walgreens Boots Alliance’s deep expertise and commitment to helping communities around the world lead healthier and happier lives.”

2. Government workers face health struggles

Federal employees cannot afford their medications or treatments, thanks to the government shutdown. While their health benefits continue to be active, lack of paychecks makes it difficult for those employees to afford their medications and other health needs.

“Many agencies do not have the HR employees working that process paperwork for qualifying life events,” said Dania Palanker, an assistant research professor at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, whose husband is a furloughed federal employee.

“This means that employees that are eligible to change their insurance election — because they had a child, got married, or a family member lost coverage — are not able to make the change until the government reopens.”

3. Flu forecasting: predictive analytics beats historical data 

Predictive analytics models forecasted flu trends with more accuracy than historical baseline models, found a University of Massachusetts Amherst research team. The team, the FluSight Network, analyzed 20 predictive models and compared them to historical baseline data from eight flu seasons.

“Across all regions of the United States, over half of the models showed consistently better performance than the historical baseline when forecasting incidence of influenza-like illness one, two and three weeks ahead of available data and when forecasting the timing and magnitude of the seasonal peak,” the researchers said.

4. Value-based hospitals must look beyond EHRs

Hospitals across the country are at a crossroads. Those who participate in value-based care models by investing in health IT solutions are less likely to adopt technologies to improve patient and provider engagement, found a Deloitte survey.

For instance, while 96 percent of U.S. hospitals now use electronic health records (EHRs), value-based care will need integration across platforms beyond EHR, said researchers.

“The evolving market shift from payments based on volume toward payments that emphasize outcomes and risk is one of the largest drivers of technology adoption. Health systems need to derive meaningful information from data to monitor patients and reward providers throughout the care journey,” stated researchers.

5. BioIQ’s white paper delivers flu insights to employers

It’s not too late for employers to manage this year’s flu season. What’s more, it’s not too early to prepare for the next flu season. BioIQ’s in-depth white paper can help.

“Flu Prevention: The Key to Maintaining a Healthy and Productive Workforce” is filled with key insights employers can use to implement flu prevention programs.

“Many believe that flu season ends when winter is over, but it actually extends well into spring and can continue to cause issues for employees and employers,” said Justin Bellante, BioIQ’s CEO. “The bottom line: it’s not too late to get in front of the flu this year and minimize its impact.”

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