A shortlist of highlights from the week’s top health IT stories.
1. Walmart promotes better medical imaging for employees
Walmart wants to make sure its employees get a correct imaging diagnosis. That’s why Covera Health, a New York-based health analytics company, developed a list of 800 imaging centers that provide high-quality care for Walmart’s 1.1 million employees and their dependents.
Walmart discovered that about half of its workers who had back surgery in the past few years did not need their operations. The culprit? High error rates on CT (computerized tomography) scans and MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging).
“A quality MRI or CT scan can improve the accuracy of diagnoses early in the care journey, helping create the correct treatment plan with the best opportunity for recovery,” said Lisa Woods, Walmart’s senior director of benefits design. “The goal is to give associates the best chance to get better, and that starts with the right diagnosis.”
2. New study encourages walking meetings
Imagine talking to your boss and colleagues while going for a walk. Sound invigorating? University of Miami researchers thought so. Doctor Alberto Caban-Martinez helped conduct a pilot study about walking meetings. Not only do they provide exercise for people who sit behind a desk all day or say they don’t have time, but they also lower stress and give employees a mental lift.
“One of the things our pilot study showed is that converting some of the time you’re at work into a walking meeting is really beneficial to cardiovascular health and, potentially, even to productivity,” Caban-Martinez said. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention journal Preventing Chronic Disease will publish the study in June.
3. CMS’s new guidelines keep spread pricing in check
Centers for Medicaid and Medicaid Services (CMS) has issued new guidelines to curb the practice of prescription drug spread pricing. The guidelines specifically address the medical loss ratio (MLR) of managed care programs. Price spreading happens when a pharmacy benefits manager (PBM) keeps a cut of a drug’s cost rather than share the savings with the pharmacy.
“Today’s guidance will ensure that health plans monitor spread pricing in Medicaid appropriately,” said Seema Verma, CMS administrator, in a statement. “PBMs cannot use spread pricing to upcharge health plans and increase costs for states — spread pricing must be monitored and accounted for, and not used to inflate profits.”
4. JPMorgan Chase to purchase InstaMed
JPMorgan Chase recently announced plans to buy InstaMed, a nationwide electronic payments platform. JPMorgan Chase executives said that acquiring InstaMed will add to the firm’s suite of health payment services for payers, providers and consumers.
“Healthcare providers have long relied on the billing system vendors to drive payments requirements for payments vendors based on the capabilities of their systems,” said Mike Trilli, research director of insurance for Aite Group, a payments research firm and consultancy. “This approach may have worked for what was once a simple bill payment transaction usually involving cash or checks, but this approach fails to match both the evolution and increased velocity of consumer bill payments.”
5. Comcast to launch health monitoring device
Comcast followers take note — the telecommunications giant is working on an in-home health monitoring device. The device, which will undergo pilot testing later this year, will monitor basic health metrics. For instance, it will gauge how often someone uses the bathroom or how much time an individual spends in bed. It will also be able to make phone calls if it senses someone is experiencing a health emergency.
The company plans to offer the device to at-risk individuals like seniors and people with disabilities. It will also be available to consumers in general, not just Comcast customers.
Comcast joins other technology companies like Apple, Google and Amazon in creating a product to help seniors live at home for longer and age in place.