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HEALTH ACTION NETWORK - ADVOCATES FOR BETTER HEALTH CARE SOLUTIONS

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This Week in Health Care Reform: May 25th, 2018

The Administration maps out its blueprint to combat rising drug prices, as well as its vision for the consumerization of health care; experts offer up examples of how stakeholders are integrating new technologies into their care delivery models with the end user in mind; and, the health burden of loneliness comes into greater focus.

Week in Review

Rx Price Blueprint: Earlier this month, the Administration released its blueprint aimed at lowering the price of pharmaceutical drugs and reducing out-of-pocket costs for consumers.  In introducing the plan, the President, alongside Health & Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar, identified the key challenges plaguing the prescription drug market, including high list prices, limited negotiating tools, and foreign governments exploiting American pharmaceutical investment and innovation.  To address these issues, the blueprint highlights a handful of key reform goals, such as better negotiation and improved competition, in order to tackle the high cost of drugs.  As experts begin to weigh-in on these proposals, the question of whether or not the plan will make a difference for patients remains in the balance.

Consumerization: Meanwhile, in a separate public appearance, HHS Secretary Azar laid out his vision for the value-based transformation of our health care system – one in which, consumers are put in charge.  In addressing health care industry leaders at the World Health Care Congress, the Secretary mapped out his agency’s top priorities, specifically pointing to the necessity of making our system less costly, more transparent, of higher quality, and better connected, in order to achieve greater consumer centricity.  He went on to elaborate, stating that the health care system he envisions “will pay for health and outcomes rather than sickness.”  In order to achieve that vision, the Secretary provided the broad outline of his four-part strategy, which included: (1) giving consumers greater control over health information; (2) encouraging price transparency; (3) using experimental models in both Medicare and Medicaid to drive value; and, (4) removing government burdens.

Technology Adoption:
Our embrace of digital advancements in the health care space has helped eliminate many problems in the care delivery model, but not without inevitably creating new and unexpected ones.  One of those issues has been the persistent inability to translate patient-oriented solutions into meaningful relevance in the clinical exam room.  However, experts counter that the manner in which we can more fully realize the promise of better health through new technologies has, at its core, the rigorous and indefatigable focus on the needs of the end user, whether that be the patient or the provider.  As it relates to the former, industry examples abound of what can be accomplished when the needs of the patient are kept front-and-center, such as the care delivery model employed by CareMore Health, which focuses on providing care for high-cost, high-need patients in both Medicare and Medicaid.  In seeking to overcome the traditional barrier to care that is access, CareMore partnered with ride-sharing service Lyft to document the transportation challenges often preventing patients from seeking the care they need.  The collaboration led to the development of a centralized dispatch tool that requests rides on behalf of patients before and after appointments, which, in turn, improved patient satisfaction, shortened wait times, and lowered overall health plan transportation costs.  As for providers, CareMore’s approach to health IT implementation allowed for the fluid adoption of a new, secure platform for clinician communication and collaboration.  Again, experts point to the value of having end users, not only identify the challenges to be overcome, but participate in the building of solutions and continued engagement as those solutions are refined.

Loneliness:
A new nationwide survey seeks to shine a spotlight on the issue of loneliness.  The findings indicate just how pervasive and widespread the problem is, with nearly 50 percent of poll respondents reporting that they feel alone or left out.  And, with research establishing that loneliness is akin to a chronic ache and much more than just a fleeting feeling, it’s becoming harder to ignore the impact that this these feelings of isolation are having on people’s daily lives and sense of well-being.  In fact, numerous studies published in recent years have documented the public health effect of loneliness, with one study going so far as to indicate a correlation between social relationships and mortality risk.  (That study suggests that loneliness actually has the same effect on mortality as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.)  What distinguishes this latest survey, though, is the prevalence of feelings of social isolation among young people (ages 18 to 22), who scored higher on the national loneliness scale than senior citizens (72 and older).      

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Spotlight

Health care prices continue to drive much of the conversation surrounding ways to extract greater value from our system.  While those prices have been shown to grow at a faster pace than prices in the general economy, a deeper analysis now illustrates just how significantly health care prices can vary – even at the same hospital.
                                            
                                            

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