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Care in the Most Appropriate Venue

June 25, 2013
9:59 am

A federal advisory panel is suggesting that payments to hospitals should be reduced in cases in which a patient could receive care less expensively in a physician’s office.   This is like saying the price for oranges should be reduced if you can buy cheaper apples.  It’s comparing two entirely different venues of care and failing to recognize the specific needs of the individual patient.

Two of the leading healthcare administrators in Texas addressed this issue in the Dallas Business Journal.  As Joel Allison, president and CEO of the Baylor Health Care System pointed out, “Depending on the patient’s condition, a hospital – which, by design, has greater capabilities – may be more appropriate than a physician’s office for certain services.”

And as Doug Hawthorne, CEO of Texas Health Resources, noted, there are potentially serious ramifications to any policy that would make further cuts in Medicare payments to hospitals.

He said, “Further cuts only add more pressure on providers to reduce service to a population that needs us more than ever and is growing in numbers every day.”

Both Allison and Hawthorne are members of the Healthcare Leadership Council.

The two healthcare leaders are absolutely correct.  You can’t compare the capabilities of a physician’s office with those of a hospital, particularly when a majority of the Medicare population is dealing with one or more chronic conditions.  And, with chronic illnesses on the rise and the utilization of health services increasing with the aging of the U.S. population, this is hardly the time to rationalize further reductions in resources for American hospitals.

Impressions from Datapalooza

June 07, 2013
1:50 pm

I attend a pretty good number of healthcare and health policy conferences over the course of a year so I can say with confidence that it’s rare to find an event with the crackling energy seen at the fourth annual Health Datapalooza earlier this week.  I was pleased that some of the more vivid and memorable impressions were made by Healthcare Leadership Council member companies, demonstrating new ways in which data-driven innovations can address some of this nation’s most daunting health challenges and enable consumers to take more control over their own healthcare.

•    There was Sanofi’s role in leading the Data Design Diabetes Innovation Challenge, offering a $100,000 prize to the innovator who could develop the best way to use data to improve care and health outcomes for patients with diabetes.  The winners developed a program called Connect and Coach that enables health providers to develop nutritional assistance programs for patients, incorporating an array of features from electronic patient records to letter-writing programs to tools that enable better nutritional decisionmaking when shopping at the supermarket.

•    iTriage, a subsidiary of Aetna, displayed its consumer-friendly mobile application that, among other features, enables smartphone users to look up possible causes and treatments for symptoms they are experiencing, choose healthcare providers and access their own medical records.

•    Surescripts issued a challenge to data innovators to develop programs that will use electronic records of prescriptions to track influenza cases in real time.  This will be invaluable to public health officials trying to track the movement of flu episodes so they can take pre-emptive action.  An interesting facet of this challenge is that Surescripts is calling for entries from women and women-led teams, seeking to encourage more females to enter the healthcare, data and science fields.

•    Healthways took a different approach to health innovation and focused on its book of daily challenges.  Simple daily challenges are an effective way to improve one’s well-being, and Healthways has done an excellent job connecting social media to this day-by-day approach to better wellbeing.

The Datapalooza event is a vibrant reminder of how healthcare is transforming before our eyes.  With the expanded use of social media, smartphones and other tools to disseminate information, innovative uses of data are exponentially increasing the venues in which people can connect to their health providers and take greater responsibility for their own wellness.