Members want health plans to improve their experience with technology, the measles outbreak shows no sign of slowing, and more.

1. Health plan members love their coverage, costs leave room for improvement

More customers said they were satisfied with their coverage and benefits this year than in recent years, according to a J.D. Power consumer survey. While customer satisfaction is on the rise, members also said they were not happy with high co-pay costs for office visits or care coordination.

“Across the board, health plan members are satisfied with the coverage and benefits they have, but once they start looking to their health plans for guidance in areas like navigating issues related to cost or when to use primary care versus urgent care, many plans miss the mark on customer expectations,” said James Beem, J.D. Power’s managing director of Global Healthcare Intelligence.

2. Measles outbreak not letting up

The number of measles cases has risen to 839, according to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of the 23 states that have reported measles cases this year, New York is the most troubling. The state has reported 606 cases of measles in 2019, primarily in New York City and Rockland County.

New York health officials have taken measures to contain the outbreak such as releasing a new awareness campaign and issuing emergency orders subject to fines. Health officials continue to push the MMR vaccine which is 93 percent effective against measles after one dose and 97 percent effective after two doses.

3. Consumers ask insurers for telehealth apps

A study by J.D. Powers showed that health plan members want insurers to improve their healthcare apps. Healthcare consumers want better customer service via technology, lower co-pays for office visits and better coordination of care between providers. They believe integrating telehealth services into their apps could help.

“Health plans are doing a good job managing the operational aspects of their businesses, but they are having a harder time addressing the expectations members have based on their experiences in other industries, where their service needs are more effectively addressed with better technology,” said James Beem, J.D. Power’s managing director of Global Healthcare Intelligence. “Once [members] start looking to their health plans for guidance in areas like navigating issues related to cost or when to use primary care vs. urgent care, many plans miss the mark on customer expectations.”

4. VR boosts memory and mood in dementia patients

Virtual reality (VR) improved memory recall, mood and social interactions in dementia patients, according to a small study out of the University of Kent in the U.K. Eight patients with neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s spent two 15-minute sessions viewing a cathedral, a forest, a sandy beach, a rocky beach or a country setting via a VR headset. Some of the patients recalled memories and shared them with their caregivers, improving their social communication. Others shared how much they enjoyed the VR experience.

5. A registry could stop the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria

What would happen if the names of people who carried antibiotic-resistant bacteria were included in a database? That’s the question a research team set out to answer in a study published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

Scientists used data from Chicago-based healthcare facilities and focused on the bacteria carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE). They then simulated the use of different registry models to identify patients who carried resistant bacteria. Scientists discovered that the number of CRE carriers dropped by 9 percent over three years for facilities that used the database.

“Identifying CRE patients with a registry can save considerable resources and time, especially if known carriers do not need to be re-identified,” said researcher Sarah Bartsch, MPH, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. “Thus, a registry for extensively drug-resistant organisms could be an effective tool in combating the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria between healthcare facilities in a region.”

 

 

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