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This Week in Health Care Reform - October 16th, 2015

Drug spending continues to outpace growth in every other major health category; a new survey shows increased usage of health IT; and, consumerism in health care expands.


Week in Review

Rx Spending: The escalating prices of the drugs that millions of Americans depend on for their health and well-being continue to send shockwaves across the health care landscape.  And, as new data shows, there’s good cause for alarm.  In their recently released report tracking health care spending, the Altarum Institute found a 5.7 percent increase in overall spending between August 2014 and August 2015.  While spending was up across every major health category, the biggest increase was seen in prescription drug spending, which rose 9.2 percent over that period.  To lend context to the increase, the gross domestic product rose just 3.2 percent during a similar stretch.  Despite only representing the third-largest of the major categories (behind spending on hospitals and on doctors and clinicians), prescription drugs still account for 10 percent of overall health spending.  Given the trajectory of the pricing decisions seen for new (and old) drugs, stakeholders are understandably worried.  And, as new analysis points out how much more we’re paying for drugs in this country as opposed to what patients are paying abroad, experts are starting to wonder if there’s a new way forward here – one that connects a drug’s effectiveness to its cost.  Whether or not it finds traction, though, remains to be seen.  Until then, others have ideas of their own as to what decision-makers in Washington can do to combat high drug prices.

Health IT Consumption:
As technology continues to work its way into and through every aspect of our lives, it stands to reason that how and when and where we interact with our health care would be no different.  A new survey from Deloitte would seem to back up that assumption.  Their analysis found that 22 percent of respondents used technology in the last year to access, store, and transmit health data, up from 13 percent in 2013.  While that uptick could be a result of innovation, increased adoption, the easing of regulatory barriers, or a combination of the three, it’s clear that consumers’ consumption patterns when it comes to their health care needs and expectations are evolving.

Consumer Centricity:
A newly released study shows the glaring price disparity that persists across the health care system, underscoring the need for greater transparency in health care costs.  Performed by Castlight Health, their analysis found widespread gaps for common medical procedures, ranging from an MRI to a simple blood test.  It’s been the belief that technology and data could change the way we approach health care decision-making, ushering in a greater focus on consumer-centricity in the delivery of care.  However, despite technology’s ability to connect patients with the kinds of data they need to make better, more informed decisions when it comes to their health, some argue that the image of the “ideal” health care consumer requires more.

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