Healthcare Spending Growth’s Nearly Double in 2015 Compared to 2014

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Spending on health care for people who have private insurance grew faster last year, a new study finds.

In 2015, according to the Health Care Cost Institute (“HCCI”) report, overall spending for people with private health insurance gained by 4.6%. Main reasons behind that growth were due to higher drug prices and medical services, and the increase of health care enrollments.

In contrast, health-care spending gained by just 2.6% in 2014, and 3% in 2013. In dollar terms, the average spending per capita for private insurer was $5,141 in 2015, and out of pocket spending was $813 on average.

HCCI found that spending on prescription drugs grew faster than other health care services 2015.

Spending on hormones and specialty anti-infective drugs grew 11.4% with an average spending was $649 per capita. Spending on generic drugs increased by just 3.3% in 2015 or $313 per capita.

Cost for visiting ERs rose by 10.5% in 2015 to an average price of $1,863 while the number of ER visits decreased for privately insured patients.

Spend Most But Receive Less: Big Majorities in the U.S. Agree that American Health Care is Wildly Expensive

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How much is good health care worth to you? $10,000 per year? That is how much on average a person spent for health care in 2015. Government Agencies, consumers, companies spent a lot more on health care in 2015. The uninsured rate hit lowest in history which has made demand for more health care services.

Despite the rise on health care spending, Americans have the worst health among 10 wealthy nations.  Date from OECD show that we spent 17.1% of GDP on health care in 2013. That is 50% more than the next-highest spender (France with 11.6% GDP).       There are fewer physicians per person than in most other OECD countries. In 2013, the U.S. had 2.6 practicing physicians per 1,000 people – well below the OECD average 3.2.

Studies found that the U.S. had the lowest life expectancy at birth at 78.8 years in 2013, compared to the OECD median of 81.2 years. Moreover, the rate of infant mortality among OECD countries has a median of 3.5 deaths per 1000 live births, but the U.S. has 6.1 deaths per 1000 live births.

The results of high spending on health care in the U.S. are likely driven by greater uses of medical technology, higher prices rather than use of routine services.

Consequences of high spending on health care have greatly affected the U.S. economy in terms of personal bankruptcy due to incapability of paying health care costs, government budget deficits.

The U.S. spends more on health care than any other country, but what we get falls short in terms of access to care, affordability.

 

Smartphones Will Inevitably Reshape How Healthcare System Works

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Thanks to the popularity of smartphones, with 89% of adults in the U.S. use internet and 72% adults own smartphones[1], smartphones become an important gadget through it doctors and patients could communicate and collaborate. Artificial Intelligence and machine learning are the latest technologies packed in smartphone apps, they help to analyze information and find a diagnosis within seconds.

Smartphones connect patients with doctors without having to leave their homes. Hardware platforms are equipped with more and more sensors that can offer real-time medical conditions. Smartphones can save time by delivering laboratory and blood test results as soon as they are completed. Or for people with chronic health conditions, smartphones can help them connected 24/7 with health care providers.

Smartphones can increase productivity in busy ERs. Physicians use apps to track patients’ vital signs, receive alerts when patients are in distress so doctors can check up on them even before nurses notify them.

Smartphone help patients to become active in their own health.

While smartphones have much potential, there are some setbacks that need to be addressed. Including, disrupted communication, technology failure, confidentiality breach.

[1] http://www.pewglobal.org/2016/02/22/smartphone-ownership-and-internet-usage-continues-to-climb-in-emerging-economies/

Report: Healthcare Field Workers Lack Cybersecurity consciousness

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While it’s known that the healthcare industry is being targeted by hackers, a new report finds that the industry is lacking in basic security awareness among staff with a heightened risk of attacks through social engineering, according to an analysis by SecurityScorecard.

Essentially, healthcare employees are the “low-hanging fruit” for social engineering attacks, the report authors say.

The report findings reveal that healthcare is the 5th highest in ransomware counts among all industries, and more than 77 percent of the entire healthcare industry has been infected with malware since August 2015.

From August 2015 to August 2016, SecurityScorecard analyzed the security ratings of over 700 organizations in the healthcare industry, finding the most prevalent security weaknesses among health treatment centers, insurance providers, manufacturers, and hospitals. Researchers also took a deep dive into the 27 biggest hospitals, measured by number of beds, the 10 largest health insurance providers measured by revenue and looked at common connections between 22 major publicized data breaches and ransomware infections detected in its platform.

Some key findings from the report include:

88 percent of all healthcare manufacturers have had malware infections

96 percent of all ransomware affecting the healthcare industry targeted medical treatment centers

Healthcare ranks 15th out of 18th in social engineering among all industries, suggesting a security awareness problem among personnel and staff

40 percent of breached companies had a C or lower in network security at the time of breach

63 percent of the 27 biggest U.S. hospitals have a C or lower in patching cadence, which measures an organization’s ability to implement security software patches in a timely fashion

More than 50 percent of the healthcare industry has a network security score of a C or lower

Healthcare ranks 9th in overall security rating compared to all other industries

The report authors wrote, “While a hospital’s IT department may be up to date and proficient at security standards such as DNS health and endpoint security, employees such as medical personnel, administrative professionals, among others, within a healthcare organization may not necessarily prioritize information security. The low Social Engineering scores among a multitude of healthcare organizations show that security awareness and employee training are likely not sufficient and this poses a real risk to those organizations. Security is only as strong as the weakest link, and employees are often the lowest-hanging fruit when it comes to phishing, spear phishing, and other social engineering attacks.”

Another risk is the array of devices with wireless capabilities such as Internet of Things (IoT) devices, wireless medical devices and tablets, which have paved the way for medical advances benefiting hospitals and patients. However, their speedy delivery and implementation has resulted in subpar security setups.

“As long as these IoT devices are manufactured with poor security standards, the vulnerability doesn’t only lie within the devices themselves, but they also pose a risk to any hospital, treatment center, or individual using the device. If a connected device is hacked into, the device can be forced to malfunction or it can be used as a pathway to reach an organization’s primary network,” Alex Heid, chief research officer at SecurityScorecard, said in a statement.

The report authors conclude that there are a number of different options a healthcare facility can take when it comes to improving security awareness across the entire organization.

“Organizations can employ security awareness training companies to come in and train staff but it’s important to note that this training needs to take into account HIPAA regulations, ethics standards, and the different departments and positions involved. Training should differ depending on whether a staff member is part of operations, a medical practitioner, a visiting professional, or if they’re interacting with patients and patient’s data,” the report authors stated. Additionally, organizations can also implement ongoing security awareness processes that can continuously provide support for existing and new employees.

“For hospitals and major healthcare treatment centers, the security department should be proactive and make sure that their networks are segmented to account for IoT security and that their connected devices no longer have their default security settings in place. Major insurance companies should be properly assessing their third party security and assessing the security of any potential M&A targets,” the report authors wrote.

Electronic Prescription Market Value Will Reach $900 Million by 2019

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The global e-prescribing market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 23.5 percent from 2013 to 2019, to reach an estimated value of $888 million in 2019.

The new market report, published by Persistence Market Research “Global Market Study on E-Prescribing: North America to Witness Highest Growth by 2019,” noted that the global e-prescribing market was valued at $250 million in 2013. Indeed, the electronic transmission of prescriptions from physician to pharmacists using computer and other mobile devices, such as cell phone and tablets, has continued to increase throughout healthcare.

In some states, there are e-prescribing mandates, as regulators say that it provides for a safer and more convenient way of ensuring that a prescription reaches a pharmacy, thus reducing medical errors in effect. And, according to this report, the e-prescribing market is witnessing a significant growth led by various government programs to implement e-prescribing systems in order to improve the quality of healthcare and reduce medication errors. “E-prescribing systems are used in various applications including preparation of complete medication list, data security checks, complete information of formulary and patient historical data,” the report found.

Additionally, improved healthcare infrastructure has increased the demand for e-prescribing system, according to the report. Moreover, implementation of electronic healthcare records (EHRs) with e-prescribing system holds great potential for the growth of e-prescribing market, the report stated. Nonetheless, the high cost of e-prescribing systems and the lack of patient privacy and security impede growth of the market. Moreover, lack of high-speed broadband facilities and IT professionals in rural areas are also some of the key restraints for the e-prescribing market, according to the report.

While Europe holds the largest share in e-prescribing market, the U.S. was found to be the market’s fastest growing region, globally. Henry Schein, Inc. and Cerner Corporation are the major leading players in the global e-prescribing market, according to the report.

Like Finding Good Restaurants on Yelp, Patients Tend to Use Healthcare Review Sites to Pick Their Doctors

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More than eight in 10 (84 percent) surveyed patients said they consult a reviews website with some frequency to view or post comments and ratings of healthcare staff, according to a new report from Software Advice.

Patients are finding a great deal of value in online reviews of medical practices. “What’s more, this dynamic can make or break a medical practice’s online reputation. It’s not just that so many patients are using reviews—it’s that those reviews are often the first thing patients see,” the report stated.

Results show that online reviews do play a role in patient retention. But it’s clear that most patients are consulting reviews to decide whether they should make a first appointment with a provider. But for providers, the good news here is that they can leverage reviews sites as marketing channels, and use them to grow their patient population, the researchers noted.

Nearly half of respondents (47 percent) said they would consider going to an out-of-network doctor if their reviews were better than those of an in-network doctor. Interestingly, out-of-pocket costs are much more expensive for patients whose physicians aren’t covered by insurance, meaning that a very significant percentage of patients are willing to overlook important factors, such as cost and convenience, in favor of positive online reviews when choosing a new healthcare provider.

Digging deeper into the subject of care quality, the survey also asked respondents what they consider the most important information about delivery of care. The majority (43 percent) choose “accuracy of diagnosis,” followed by “listening skills” at 20 percent and “explanation skills” at 16 percent.

“Our survey shows that medical practices must keep an eye on their existing online reviews. But providers should also be proactive about recruiting more, lest they miss opportunities to attract or retain patients,” the researchers concluded.

Massachusetts Becomes the First State Establishes Digital Healthcare Council

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Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has announced the creation of a Digital Healthcare Council, a public-private partnership that will advise the administration on the future of the state’s digital healthcare industry.

According to a press release from Gov. Baker’s office, the just-formed council will convene leaders across the digital healthcare industry, including technology, healthcare delivery, insurance, medical devices, the life sciences, academia, and government, to advise on ways new digital technologies can improve healthcare in the state, grow jobs, and reduce healthcare costs.

Last week, Gov. Baker convened the first meeting of the Digital Health Council at the Massachusetts General Hospital Museum of Medical History and Innovation. The session focused on strategies and tactics that can help Massachusetts grow innovative digital health technologies. According to officials, “The digital health market spans a number of technologies Massachusetts is an established leader in, including the life sciences, electronic health records (EHRs), consumer wearable devices, care systems, payment management, big data analytics and telemedicine. The digital health market is estimated to grow to $32 billion over the next decade.”

“For Massachusetts to become a national leader in digital health, we need to continue to build on the momentum our Digital Health Initiative has already produced,” Gov. Baker said in a statement. “This council will collaborate to move past barriers in the healthcare industry and solve significant challenges to make advances in patient care, lower health care costs, and address public health crises, like the opioid epidemic.”