The Administration’s big talk to reduce drug prices has yet to produce concrete results. A big reason why is the complex nature of drug pricing. The manufacturer’s high list prices may be much higher than the negotiated prices prescription benefits managers pay after rebates and discounts are factored in. In a study over a six-month period this year, prices actually increased at a slower rate than in previous years, but Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said he’s “not counting on the altruism of pharma companies lowering their prices” in the administration's drive to get costs down. (Associated Press)
As Medicare transitions to paying for whole-person health rather than discrete episodes of care, the ability to make patient data more fluid to enhance care coordination becomes critical. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has called for an end to “data blocking” by hospitals and other care providers. This month, CMS released a definition to clarify regulations around the practice. But a handful of startups have already made a business out of translating essential health data into accessible, actionable information, especially for the most complex (and potentially costliest) patients who would benefit most from integrated behavioral, physical and social health service coordination. (Politico)
Palantir Technologies, a data analytics firm, has signed a $7 million contract with the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCAT) (part of the National Institute of Health) for technology that pulls research data from public and private sources into a single interface. The automated process is expected to help researchers analyze and interpret data as part of a collective whole in an effort to advance new insights in precision medicine.(MobiHealthNews)
Medical records should be treated with the same care as financial records because identity thieves may find it easier to access them. Some tips to help prevent medical record identity theft: Always review an explanation of benefits form for errors; request that your social security and driver’s license numbers be purged from your medical records; and periodically review records to ensure they don’t contain errors.(Forbes)
Getting a good night’s sleep has long been a known factor for cardiac health. But new research shows getting to bed at a regular time each night is related to even greater benefits. The study, published in Scientific Reports, found that those with irregular bedtimes had a higher body mass index, higher blood sugar, higher blood pressure and higher A1C scores. They had higher levels of stress and depression, and were more likely to have a heart attack or stroke in the next decade than those who hit the hay at about the same time every night. Although the authors say irregular bedtimes aren’t necessarily a cause of the related issues, there was definitely a correlation between the behavior and worse health outcomes among those in the study. (Medical News Today)
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Cigna may have to rethink the role of its new PBM: Approval for health plan Cigna to purchase pharmacy benefits giant Express Scripts was a win for the insurer last week, but the drug benefits world is changing fast. In this opinion piece, the writer notes that Cigna may have to settle for Express Scripts to serve as a value-focused complementary partner to its health benefits business rather than see it as a big-dollar profit center. (Benefits Pro)
New Florida school law raises mental health privacy flags: A new rule requiring parents to tell school officials whether their children ever received mental health care has Florida parents raising eyebrows and concerns with school officials. Although the practice was enacted as part of a larger school safety bill, parents question whether this information belongs in a student’s school record—where it could remain and be accessed by teachers and office staff, as well as mental health counselors and psychologists. (Kaiser Health News)
A new Apple Watch feature is designed to detect a hard fall and summon help if needed, but there are a few caveats. First, you have to include your age in the watch settings, and that age needs to exceed 65 for the feature to turn on. And the fall needs to be a hard fall to trigger detection. Even then, the watch doesn’t consistently detect the fall. A healthy number of YouTube users posted videos of their own tests of what it takes to cause an alert.(MacRumors)
MarketVoices...quotes worth reading
"I tell him, the ER is a band-aid. It’s not going to solve what you really need."— Kim Lilley a care coordinator at UMass Memorial Health Care, as quoted in a Politico story.