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Walgreens and Express Scripts Collaborate To Compete With CVS Caremark

The recent press from Walgreens and Express Scripts is interesting on several fronts:

  1. We worked for years even when I was there to try to figure out a win-win around 90-day with Walgreens.  It wasn’t easy.
  2. Walgreens and Express Scripts have a “colorful” past regarding working together.
  3. This is definitely in the best interest of the patient which we don’t always see everyday in healthcare.
  4. This is a definite recognition of the success of the Maintenance Choice program by CVS Caremark.

Here’s some language from the Walgreens’ press release.

Under the new option, plan sponsors that choose to include Walgreens as part of the Smart90 program for their pharmacy benefit will provide their members who have chronic conditions such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes, the choice to receive 90-day supplies of maintenance medications through home delivery from Express Scripts or directly at a Walgreens retail pharmacy for the same copayment. Pending adoption by benefit plan sponsors, plan members could access Smart90 Walgreens as early as January 2014.

“Working together with Express Scripts, Smart90 Walgreens will offer more pharmacy locations and better member access coverage than any single retail chain 90-day maintenance medication solution in the nation,” said Kermit Crawford, President of Walgreens Pharmacy, Health and Wellness. “Through Smart90 Walgreens, our more than 8,000 Walgreens retail pharmacies will provide plan sponsors with cost savings and will offer their members safe, easy and convenient access to important in-person pharmacist consultations and a wide-range of health and wellness services that can further improve medication adherence and lower overall healthcare costs.”

“Members will be able to continue to receive the safety, convenience, cost savings and care offered from Express Scripts home delivery pharmacies,” said Glen Stettin, M.D., senior vice president of research and new solutions at Express Scripts. “Our data are clear: 90-day prescriptions delivered to a member’s home improve medication adherence and health outcomes, lower the cost of care and add convenience when compared to 30-day prescriptions. Over the past few years, our Smart90 program has driven more 90-day prescriptions for participating clients, and we’re pleased to now offer this additional option.”

Why Use RunKeeper?

I’ve been a longtime user of Garmin for my running.  They provide easy to use GPS watches that provide you with all the details and history you want.  I also now have my FitBit as another tracking device when I run.

So, while several people encouraged me to try RunKeeper, I was hesitant.  How many trackers for the same activity do I need?  But, I started carrying my iPhone for music while I ran so I decided to give it a try.

I like it.

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So, the question is why?

  1. It talks to you.  While looking at my Garmin is pretty easy, the RunKeeper app speaks into my headphones while I’m running to tell me when I’ve completed a half-mile, what my total time is, what my average mile pace is, and what my last split was.  I can certainly calculate all that and see it on my Garmin, but this is very easy.
  2. It gives you reinforcement and now some badges (through Foursquare which I don’t use).  But, I do like the reinforcement – i.e., that was your longest run, that was your fastest run.  Simple but positive.
  3. It has a nice GUI (graphical user interface) or app.  It tracks my data.  It’s easy to read.

images

So, if you’re like I was, I’d recommend trying it.

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Walgreens Clinic Rebranding Is More Than A Name Change

As I talked about in my post about Walgreens and innovation, Walgreens has renamed their TakeCare Clinics to Healthcare Clinics at some locations.  This is more than just a meaningless name change.  This is the beginning of a business model change.  This is the shift from acute care to ongoing chronic disease management.  This is a big move that changes their place in the healthcare value chain.

It’s part of the overall strategy that has pulled them into the ACO space.

It will be interesting to see if CVS Caremark and their MinuteClinics follow them.  CVS Caremark already announced a different strategy in terms of providing advocates.  If I were them, I would jump fully into the remote monitoring / mHealth space and provide chronic disease management from a remote basis.  I think this would be different and innovative.

Walgreens Healthcare Clinics

CarePass, Another Aetna Innovation – What’s Your Healthy?

Have you seen the new “What’s Your Healthy?” campaign?  Here’s a few shots.

BTW – My healthy is keeping up with my kids in sports and moving down a belt notch.

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As many of you know, I consider Walgreens and Aetna to be two of the most innovative healthcare companies today (out of the big, established players).  [And, full disclosure, I own stock in both.]  I’ve talked about Walgreens (see Walgreens post on innovation) several times along with Aetna (see Healthagen post).

That being said, the new campaign along with the press caught my attention.  I was glad that I was able to get some time with Martha Wofford who is the VP and head of CarePass.

“We want to make it easier for everyone to engage in their health and hopefully shift from thinking about health care to taking care of their health,” said Martha L. Wofford, vice president and head of CarePass from Aetna. “CarePass helps consumers connect different pieces of health data to create a fuller, more personalized picture of their health.”

I spent some time talking with Martha and team about their initiative.  Here’s some highlights that stuck out to me.

  • There use of goals was really easy and intuitive.  If you log-in to the CarePass site and get started, you have 3 options or you can create your own (see below).  We spent some time talking about the importance of making these relevant to the individual not focusing on “healthcare goals” like adherence or lowering you blood sugar.  Most of us don’t think that way.  As they described them, they picked “motivation centric goals”.
    Aetna Carepass goals
  • I was also really interested in how they picked which apps to recommend.  There are so many out there, and many of you know that I’ve been fascinated by the concept of curating apps or prescribing apps to people.  They had a nice, simple process:
    • Which apps are most popular?
    • Does the app have “breadth”?  (i.e., national applicability)
    • They also spent more time pre-screening apps which collect PHI to understand them before listing them on the site.
    • They’re using the consumers goals to recommend apps to them.
  • The other big question I had is why do this.  It certain helps build the Aetna brand over time, but there’s not direct path to revenue (that I see).  They described their efforts as “supporting the healthcare journey” through connected data.  Ultimately, it’s about making Aetna a preferred consumer brand which may be very relevant in the individual market and exchange world in the not too distant future.
  • I like the idea of companies being “app agnostic” as I call it.  Walgreens is doing this.  Aetna is doing this.  I plan on doing this in my day job.  This allows the consumer to pick the app that works for them and as long as the data is normalized (or can be normalized) and the app provides some type of open API (application programming interface) it’s much easier to integrate with.
  • We talked a little about what’s next.  Metabolic syndrome is something they brought up.  This is something that Aetna’s been talking about in several forums for a while now.  They launched a new offering earlier this year.  (I still hate the term metabolic syndrome from a consumer perspective, but it seems to be sticking in the healthcare community.)
  • We also talked about new goals to come around smoking cessation, medication, and stress.
  • Another discussion I have with lots of people is how this data gets used.  (see a good article about what’s next for QuantifiedSelf)  I personally really want to see my data pushed to the care management team to monitor and send me information.  (Eat this not that type of suggestions)  Martha talked about how the data belongs to the member and they have to choose to push it to the coach.  She also talked about how they’re integrating with their PHR (Personal Health Record) first and then looking at others.  (see old interview with ActiveHealth)

In summary, CarePass is a nice additional to your #QuantifiedSelf toolkit.  As you can see from the screenshots below, the GUI (graphic user interface) is simple.  It’s well designed.  Integration with your apps is easy.  It provides you with goals and motivation.  They help you navigate the app world.  And, it helps you bring together data from multiple sources.  Once it can pull in all my Rx, medical and lab data along with my HRA data and my device data, it will be really cool!  But, I know that I’m a minority in that effort.  I’m really intrigued by the lifestyle questions they ask and wonder how those will ultimately personalize my experience.

Carepass lifestyle questions Carepass dashboard

So, what apps do they share?  Here’s a screenshot, but you really should log-in and try the site and see the full list.  It’s simple and worth the effort.

Carepass apps

As an added bonus, I’m adding a presentation I gave with Aetna at the Care Continuum Alliance two years ago.  I was searching for my past interviews with Aetna people and found this online so I added it to SlideShare and put it here.

Prescribing An App vs. An Rx – Why Are People Surprised?

A staggering 90 percent of chronic patients in the US would accept a mobile app prescription from their physician, as opposed to only 66 percent willing to accept a prescription of medication, according to a recent survey from health communications firm Digitas Health.  (source)

Is this surprising to anyone?

I don’t think it should be…and here’s why:

  1. In general, most apps don’t cost anything while prescriptions generally do.
  2. I don’t know of any apps with side effects.
  3. It’s unlikely that your app will have a negative interaction with another app (like a drug-drug interaction).  It may give you conflicting information, but that’s about it.
  4. You don’t have to wait to get your app.  You can probably download it while you’re at the physician’s office.  A prescription can take time to get either waiting in line, waiting for it to get filled, or sending it in through the mail.
  5. You don’t have to refill your app.  You may have to update it every once in a while, but it tells you when and all you have to do is press a button.

Of course, most (all) apps won’t have the same likelihood as Rxs in improving your health.  Of course, Rxs only work if people take them…which they don’t.

Still surprised?

Should You Care That Obesity Is Now A Disease?

The AMA has opened an interesting discussion in the past few days with their decision to recognize obesity as a disease.  On the one hand, we all know obesity is a problem that’s impacting our overall health and productivity across the world.  On the flip side, will this actually change anything?

Key discussion points:

  • What is a disease?
  • Is BMI a good metric to use?  If not, what should be used to measure obesity – waist?
  • How do you treat it?

Here’s a few quotes from some articles:

“Right now, physicians will treat high blood pressure, diabetes, give patients medications and say, ‘Oh you also need to lose weight,’” Khaitan told FoxNews.com. “I think (this) gives the physicians a little more credibility in pushing patients to address obesity and become healthier. It’s recognized as a disease…not just something that (because) you have poor lifestyle habits, this is your problem.”  (Fox News)

Obesity is not just a health risk but a disease. Estimates of the genetic contribution to weight gain in susceptible families range from 25—40% with a greater heritability for abdominal fat distribution of 50%1>2.  Obviously there is a major environmental effect but this genetic susceptibility alone removes this condition from a social stigma to the disease category.  (British Medical Bulletin 1997)

“The American Medical Association’s recognition that obesity is a disease carries a lot of clout,” says Samuel Klein, director of the Center for Human Nutrition at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. “The most important aspect of the AMA decision is that the AMA is a respected representative of American medicine. Their opinion can influence policy makers who are in a position to do more to support interventions and research to prevent and treat obesity.”  (USA Today)

Telling all obese people that they have a disease could end up reducing their sense of control over their ability to change their diet and exercise patterns. As experience with addictions has shown, giving people the sense that they suffer from a disease that is out of their control can become self-defeating. So the disease label should be used sparingly: just as not all drinking is alcoholism, not all overeating is pathological. (Time)

Here’s a few facts from the Obesity Action Coalition:

  • In the United States, it is estimated that 93 million Americans are affected by obesity.
  • Individuals affected by obesity are at a higher risk for impaired mobility and experience a negative social stigma commonly associated with obesity.
  • Socioeconomic status plays a significant role in obesity. Low-income minority populations tend to experience obesity at higher rate and are more likely to be overweight.
  • In 2001, the states with the top five percentages for obesity were Mississippi, West Virginia, Michigan, Kentucky and Indiana.
  • Almost 112,000 annual deaths are attributable to obesity.
  • In the United States, 40 percent of adults do not participate in any leisure-time physical activity.

Here’s also a few things you might not realize about obesity from Yale:

  • Finding 1: Obesity can raise some cancer risks
  • Finding 2: Obesity is tied to heart attacks in younger adults
  • Finding 3: Obesity can ruin your day
  • Finding 4: Obesity speeds up girls’ puberty
  • Finding 5: Obesity is a cause of diabetes in kids
  • Finding 6: Obesity in middle age increases risk for dementia

Let me give my hypotheses on why this might matter:

  1. In theory, this is supposed to increase the likelihood that physician’s talk about obesity with their patients.  This would be great, but I think most research shows physician’s aren’t prepared or comfortable with this discussion.  Will the fact that it’s a disease make this easier?  Maybe.
  2. This may be a boon for the obesity Rx market (assuming any of them work and have minimal side effects).  Physician’s may be much more likely to write an Rx for a disease than a lifestyle issue.
  3. This may help get obesity Rxs and bariatric surgery to be covered by health insurance.  The downside of this is that more people may not actually change behavior (diet, exercise, sleep) but instead look for a “quick” fix through drugs and surgery.

In my mind, there is a best case scenario here:

  • Calling it a disease drives awareness among the healthcare community.
  • This increases investment in resources to treat obesity.
  • Treatment is viewed more like mental health to include drugs and behavioral therapy.
  • Physician’s get trained on the disease.
  • Pharma details physicians on the disease and creates CME programs.
  • Patients start to take this more seriously.
  • Plans cover obesity – insurers, employers, CMS.
  • Obesity becomes a broad program including diet, exercise, coaching, Rx, and bariatric surgery following a progressive approach to treatment tied to your starting point.
  • Companies link incentives to managing weight.
  • New metrics are designed that are better than obesity.

Of course, one of the more recent articles which was depressing on this topic was that exercising regularly may not overcome the impact of sitting the rest of the day.  That makes it very hard to increase caloric burn while having a job that requires lots of desk, computer, and meeting time.

Costs Of Obesity In America

The Role Of Healthcare Technology Curator

When I worked as an IT consultant, you had two clear choices – an enterprise system (e.g., SAP) or a best-of-breed (BOB) strategy.  People liked the simplicity of an enterprise system, but you may have sub-optimized reporting or some flexibility in your solution.  On the other hand, the BOB strategy required more maintenance, effort, and coordination to pull it off in a coordinated fashion.

In today’s healthcare world, I look at and meet with a ton of technology companies.  The struggle is how to keep up with all the change in the industry and be nimble enough to engage the new start-up, but flexible enough to evolve with the market without impacting the consumer experience.

Maybe it draws on my training as an architect, but I was describing my technology vision as one of a general contractor.  The buyer (client) wants a BOB solution.  They want everything optimized – data, reporting, workflow, content, mobile, clinical algorithms, etc.  At the same time, they often underestimate what it takes to manage all of these vendors, integrate the data on the backend, and create an integrated consumer experience across multiple vendors and technology platforms.

That’s where I see some real value add as a “technology curator”.  I see one of my roles in helping manage an evolving ecosystem of healthcare companies and working with a flexible technology platform that can quickly plug and play with different solutions.  This also allows me to have pre-built integrations with certain solutions, but I can also offer consumers the ability to choose their device (for example) and with the right API set up just be device agnostic in my solution.

Over time, this offers clients a lot of flexibility.  The get the BOB approach within an enterprise system environment.  They don’t have to keep issuing RFPs and evaluating vendors (since we’re doing that).  They don’t have to stitch together multiple data sets to create the integrated, longitudinal view of the consumer (since we’re doing that).  They don’t have to pretend that they’re offering a cohesive consumer experience (since we’re doing that).  And, most importantly, they are flexible over time to jump from solution to solution within the architecture without disrupting everyone since it’s behind the “presentation layer” that the consumer experiences.

Could Generic Prescriptions Be The Greatest Placebo Ever?

Those of you who know me know that I’ve been a huge advocate for generic prescriptions since the early part of my PBM/pharmacy career in 2001. It wasn’t long ago that I talked about unresponsible reporting when slamming generics and scaring the population. But, we all enjoy a good conspiracy theory which is about the only thing that makes sense reading the new Fortune article – Dirty Medicine – about Ranbaxy. Both articles are written by the same author, but this one scares me a lot more than the other one. This article reads like a fiction book but appears to be true.  It should scare you also and put a spotlight on the FDA.

Here are a few things from the article.

On May 13, Ranbaxy pleaded guilty to seven federal criminal counts of selling adulterated drugs with intent to defraud, failing to report that its drugs didn’t meet specifications, and making intentionally false statements to the government. Ranbaxy agreed to pay $500 million in fines, forfeitures, and penalties — the most ever levied against a generic-drug company.

The company manipulated almost every aspect of its manufacturing process to quickly produce impressive-looking data that would bolster its bottom line. “This was not something that was concealed,” Thakur says. It was “common knowledge among senior managers of the company, heads of research and development, people responsible for formulation to the clinical people.”

It made clear that Ranbaxy had lied to regulators and falsified data in every country examined in the report. “More than 200 products in more than 40 countries” have “elements of data that were fabricated to support business needs,” the PowerPoint reported. “Business needs,” the report showed, was a euphemism for ways in which Ranbaxy could minimize cost, maximize profit, and dupe regulators into approving substandard drugs.

But, we know that generics have worked. People have gotten better so one has to assume this isn’t a massive fraud especially when 50% of generics have traditionally been made by the brand manufacturers themselves who would never risk their companies to do what Ranbaxy did. So, it made me wonder about the Placebo Effect. Did some drugs work simply because of that?  Is there anything else that would make sense for why this wasn’t discovered more quickly?

I’ve talked a lot about the Placebo Effect. There’s now even an app to make you feel better using the Placebo Effect.

I’m shocked that the PBMs, pharmacies, manufacturers, associations, wholesalers, and others aren’t out talking about this.  I would want to let the public know that this isn’t a systemic problem, but is one contained to one instance and that quality will be maintained…but maybe no one cares?

Relocation vs. Travel – Presenteeism and Health Implications

Surprisingly, I’ve been happily living in the St. Louis area for almost 20 years. I moved here after going to the University of Michigan for graduate school at Washington University, and I never thought I’d stay. My girlfriend (now wife) moved a year later, and we’ve loved it ever since. We’ve built two houses, had two kids, and made a lot of friends.

I’ve had chances to move many times to Kansas City, San Francisco, Boston, Columbia (SC), Florida, Minneapolis, New York, New Jersey, and several other cities. All of them I have turned down. So, one of the big questions I get asked now days is why are you moving out of St. Louis since you’ve commuted for so long and “enjoyed” it. That’s a tough one, but as someone who cares about my health, let me position this from a health perspective for all of you.

Ultimately, we’re moving for one reason which is to spend more time with my family. Of those 20 years, I estimate that I’ve spent at least 9 of them where I traveled 50-90% of the business days. You can do the math, but if I assume 15 days per month on the road over 9 years, that’s about 1,620 days that I’ve been gone or 4.4 years. That’s a lot of time to miss with your wife and kids.

But, I also see several health reasons for this:

  • Most people I know (including myself) sleep better at home and have a more regular routine. No early morning flights. No late night flights. No uncomfortable beds. No loud neighbors. No temptation to work until all hours of the night. And, as I’ve talked about many times, lack of sleep is a major contributor to productivity, decision making, and health.
  • You eat better at home and don’t have to eat out every meal which can affect your calorie intake and therefore your weight.
  • Long commutes have both mental and physical health implications (none of them good) as you can see in this article and infographic on LifeHacker along with this other article on ABC.
  • Being at home and spending time with your family can also affect them (as we know health is social). Here’s one example about eating with your kids that I often quote.

Of course, commuting has some productivity gains (if done right) from a work perspective:

  • You can work long days without worrying about other things that you should do when you’re home. (Why do you think consultants are so productive?)
  • You can find some nice quiet time on planes to work. (Although this has gone down over time with more crowded flights, more connecting flights, and smaller seats.)

You have to trade this off with productivity lost on travel days (e.g., I wake up every Monday at 4:30, leave for the airport at 5:30, land in Charlotte at 10:15, and get to my office around 11:30 with best case 90 minutes of work done).

But, moving definitely impacts your presenteeism as I’m learning (at least for a few months). After 20 years in one city, there’s a lot to do to move. You have to find new service providers (doctors, dentists, handyman, vet, hair), new schools, new sports teams, new stores, etc.

But, for those of you that aren’t convinced since you think travel is glamorous, let me share just a few stories with you.

  • On one of my toughest travel days, I had breakfast with a CIO in Boston at 6:30 am; caught a flight to Minneapolis to give a presentation over lunch; then caught a flight to have a dinner meeting in San Francisco. Long day.
  • In some weeks, I used to spend over 20 hours a week in a plane (not including airport time). Talk about sitting disease.
  • Just yesterday, when I tried to squeeze in one last trip before I moved, I got up at 3:30 to catch a 6:00 flight. I flew to Florida took a few calls, had a meeting, and then came back to the airport to catch an 8:oo PM flight home. That flight was delayed until 2:05 AM meaning that if I hadn’t just gone to get a hotel room (without any clothes or toiletries) that I would have gotten home 24 hours after I left the house.

Of course, the frequent flyer miles and hotel points are great. We’ve taken many a trip with it. I’ve given my parents free flights. Heck, we’ve even given our dog walkers free flights.

The key is to evaluate several factors which are what I’ve looked at:

  • Will you be traveling from which ever city you live in? Don’t move your family just to be traveling out of a new city.
  • Do you like the new city and would you consider living there long-term? For example, I know I probably would never like true city living in NY.
  • What is important to your family and is it present in the new city? This is a complicated one to find the right mix of services and education.
  • Can you afford to live in the new location without a major impact on your quality of life (or will your job account for this)?

Anyways, this has been one reason why I haven’t been blogging as much lately. The move is all consuming especially with lots of things going on at work. I have 4 more days in St. Louis before moving so we’re excited and nervous.

Why Do People Think Adherence Is So Easy?

I think we all know that medication adherence is a big deal. The most common number quoted is the $290B waste number from NEHI. There are numerous studies that confirm the value of non-adherence even one that just came out.

The amount of money spent on trying to improve adherence is huge! Pharma has worked on. Retail pharmacies have worked on it. Providers have worked on it. Insurance companies have worked on it. Employers have worked on it… And all of these have happened across the world.

At the same time, you see people get so excited about things don’t make any sense to me.

Let me take an easy example. A few months ago, a company called MediSafe put out a press release around moving medication adherence on statins up to 84.25%. Nothing against the company, but I read the press release and reached out to them to say “this is great, but it’s only 2 months of data…most people drop therapy after the first few months so who care…call me back when you get some good 12 month data.”

But, a lot of people got all excited and there was numerous press about this – see list of articles about them.

Now, tonight, I see another technology getting similar excitement. Fast Company talks about the AdhereTech technology which integrates a cellular phone with a pill bottle. And, it costs $60 a month. In my experience, companies wouldn’t even spend $2 a month to promote adherence so $60 is just impractical. The argument is that this is good for high cost specialty drugs that are oral solids not injectables. But, this isn’t a new idea. Glowcaps already built this model with a very slick interface and workflow.

And, I don’t know about you, but I think this would be obnoxious. And, I love data and am part of the QuantifiedSelf movement. I’m not sure I understand the consumer research here. I would have to believe all of the following to buy into this model.

  • Non-adherence people are primarily not adherent due to no reminders to take their medication on a daily basis.
  • People with chronic conditions that require high cost specialty drugs are going to change behavior because some bottle sends them a text message.
  • Manufacturers or some other healthcare company is willing to pay $60 a month for this service.
  • There won’t be message fatigue after a few months (weeks) of messaging.
  • Pharmacies would be have to be willing to change their workflow to use these bottles.

Yes. Will this work for some people…sure. But, if it helps 10% of people, then my cost is really $600 per success.

Should we be working on better solutions to address adherence…of course.

But, let’s stop trying to figure out some gimmick to fix adherence. Let’s look at root cause.

For example:

  • People don’t know why they’ve been given a medication.
  • People don’t understand their disease.
  • People can’t afford their medication.
  • People don’t know what to expect in terms of side effects.
  • People don’t see value in improving adherence.
  • People don’t know they have to refill their medications.
  • People aren’t health literate.

We have a lot of problems.

Presidential Physical Fitness Award – Reasonable? Role Models?

I must admit that I don’t remember taking the presidential fitness test as a kid. With that being said, I was surprised to learn from my daughter that in her class of club soccer, volleyball, and baseball players she was the only kid to meet the highest level (greater than the 85th percentile across several measures). She made it today by running her mile in 7:37.

So, what does this require? It made me curious. Here’s what you have to do:

benchmarks_presidential_large

Could you do that?  These seem pretty difficult to me.  I could probably do the mile in 6:06, but I doubt I could do 53 pull-ups.  And, I doubt I could sit and reach 7 inches beyond my toes.  (Looking at the 17 year old male standards.)

On the other hand, we certainly need our kids to be more fit.  We have a big childhood obesity issue.

Childhood Obesity

But, it also made me think about Michelle Obama’s efforts in this space.

Lets Move

I think these programs are good starts, but lets not forget that obesity is a social issue and kids learn from those around them.  Let me ask the uncomfortable questions about those who our kids look up to.

  • How many overweight coaches do you know?
  • How about overweight teachers?
  • How about policemen and firefighters?
  • How about clergy?

These are all key role models…not to mention us parents who are often overweight.

I guess my suggestion here to the President would be to think about how to use our massive government payrolls as a foundation for change. Let’s think about the Presidential Fitness Challenge and create a broader wellness solution to change the visual role models for our kids and figure out how to help companies invest in this.

For example, we know that sleeping is correlated to weight and health.  I was talking to my brother-in-law who is a police officer when he told me that they are expected to get 8 hours of sleep a night.  Imagine if companies set this expectation for their employees (sleep impact on work).  

“Sitting Disease” may make a great late night comedy story line, but it’s a reality of our information economy that has to be addressed.

sitting-disease-how-sitting-too-long-can-affect-your-health_5123e1818a55e

How Walgreens Became One Of The More Innovative Healthcare Companies

While we are generally a society focused on innovation from start-ups (and now all the incubators like Rock Health), there are a few big companies that are able to innovate while growing.  That’s not always easy and companies often need some catalyst to make this happen.  Right now, there are four established healthcare companies that I’m watching closely to track their innovation – Kaiser, United/Optum, Aetna, and Walgreens.  (Walgreens has made the Fast Company innovation list 3 of the past 4 years.)

I think Walgreens is really interesting, and they did have a great catalyst to force them to really dig deep to think about how do we survive in a big PBM world.  It seems like the answer has been to become a healthcare company not just a pharmacy (as they say “at the corner of Happy and Healthy”) while simultaneously continuing to grow in the specialty pharmacy and store area.

Let’s look at some of the changes they’ve made over the past 5 years.  Looking back, I would have described them as an organic growth company with a “not-invented-here” attitude.  Now, I think they have leapfrogged the marketplace to become a model for innovation.

  1. They sold their PBM.
  2. They re-designed their stores.
  3. They got the pharmacist out talking to people.
  4. They got more involved with medication therapy management.
  5. They increased their focus on immunizations increasing the pharmacists role.
  6. They formed an innovation team.
  7. They invested heavily in digital and drove out several mobile solutions including innovations like using the QR code and scanning technology to order refills.
  8. They’ve reached out to partner with companies like Johns Hopkins and the Joslin Diabetes Centers.
  9. They increased their focus on publications out of their research group to showcase what they could do.
  10. They started looking at the role the pharmacy could play and the medications played in readmissions.
  11. They partnered with Boots to become a much more global company.
  12. They offered daily testing for key numbers people should know like A1c and blood pressure even at stores without a clinic.
  13. They created an incentive program and opened it up to link to devices like FitBit.
  14. They partnered with The Biggest Loser.
  15. They increased their focus on the employer including getting into the on-site clinic space.
  16. They created 3 Accountable Care Organizations.
  17. They partnered with Novartis to get into the clinical trials space.
  18. They developed APIs to open their system up to developers and other health IT companies.
  19. They formed a big collaboration with AmerisourceBergen which if you read the quote from Greg Wasson isn’t just about supply chain.

    “Today’s announcement marks another step forward in establishing an unprecedented and efficient global pharmacy-led, health and wellbeing network, and achieving our vision of becoming the first choice in health and daily living for everyone in America and beyond,” said Gregory Wasson, President and Chief Executive Officer of Walgreens. “We are excited to be expanding our existing relationship with AmerisourceBergen to a 10-year strategic long-term contract, representing another transformational step in the pharmaceutical supply chain. We believe this relationship will create a wide range of opportunities and innovations in the rapidly changing U.S. and global health care environment that we expect will benefit all of our stakeholders.”

  20. They jumped into the retail clinic space and have continued to grow that footprint physically and around the services they offer with the latest jump being to really address the access issue and help with chronic conditions not just acute problems.

With this service expansion, Take Care Clinics now provide the most comprehensive service offering within the retail clinic industry, and can play an even more valuable role in helping patients get, stay and live well,” said Dr. Jeffrey Kang, senior vice president of health and wellness services and solutions, Walgreens. “Through greater access to services and a broader focus on disease prevention and chronic condition management, our clinics can connect and work with physicians and other providers to better help support the increasing demands on our health care system today.” (from Press Release)

This is something for the whole pharmacy (PBM, pharma, retail, mail, specialty) industry to watch and model as I talked about in my PBMI presentation (which I’m giving again tomorrow in Chicago).  It reminds me of some of the discussions by pharma leaders about the need to go “beyond the pill”.

 

How Aetna’s Pivoting With Healthagen – #whcc13

Do you know the term “pivot“? It’s all the rage now in terms of describing how companies continue to evolve their models with this rapidly changing business environment.

Of course, Aetna is one of the big healthcare players in the US. They’re not going to abandon a model that’s been working for well over 100 years. But, thanks to some great leadership from people like Mark Bertolini, CEO of Aetna, they’ve created a new business unit called Healthagen (building on the company they bought known mostly for iTriage). The screen shot says it all.

I got the privilege to sit down with Dr. Charles Saunders who runs Healthagen at the World Healthcare Congress in DC (#whcc13).

Charles E. Saunders, M.D., is responsible for leading the strategic diversification of Healthagen’s products, services and global opportunities. He focuses on identifying new growth opportunities and developing market strategies that can help Healthagen and Aetna profitably manage quality and cost for its customers.

Prior to joining Healthagen, Dr. Saunders served as executive in residence at Warburg Pincus, one of the world’s largest and oldest private equity firms. He has held a number of other significant leadership positions during his career, including CEO of Broadlane, Inc., President of EDS Healthcare Global Industry Solutions; Chief Medical Officer of Healtheon / WebMD; Principal of A.T. Kearney; and Executive Director of San Francisco General Hospital Managed Care Programs.

Dr. Saunders received a B.S. in biological sciences from the University of Southern California and an M.D. from Johns Hopkins University. He is board certified in Internal Medicine and Emergency Medicine and has served on the faculty of several universities, including the University of California, San Francisco; Vanderbilt University; and University of Colorado.

I also got to hear him speak right before I talked to him. (As a side note, he is a great presenter which is something that I really respect in a world of people who present too many slides, use notes, talk to the screen, and can lose you quickly.)

He hit on several key themes in his presentation that we then discussed further face-to-face:

  1. Social Caregiver Model
  2. Game Theory
  3. Digital / Mobile

One of my first questions was to really understand Healthagen and what it was set up to do. (As you can see from the screen shot below, they’re doing lots of things in this group.)

He boiled it down nicely to three things:

  1. Physician (provider) enablement
  2. Patient engagement
  3. Population Health Management IT

Our next discussion was really around why and how to create and innovate within a large company like Aetna. He reiterated what I believed that Mark Bertolini championed this new vision along with several of the other senior leaders. But, I think the key was that they recognized that issue of trying to do that internally and were willing to form a group to be different. To minimize bureaucracy for this group. And, to leverage their capital and assets to support this group. Not many big companies do this well. My impression is that Aetna is and will continue to be successful here. (Full disclosure – I own a minor number of Aetna shares and have believed this since I bought them about a year ago.)

Of course, in today’s market, there’s an explosion of innovation with questions on the short-term and long-term ROI of many initiatives and start-ups. With that in mind, Dr. Saunders pointed out that they don’t want to own everything. They want to create a plug and play platform of enablement. iTriage is a great example of this where they brought in a mobile technology with 2M downloads in 2011 and now have over 9.5M downloads of the tool (on top of massive increases in functionality and integration). You can download it here – https://itunes.apple.com/app/itriage-health-doctor-symptoms/id304696939?mt=8.

Certainly, one concern others have historically had in this space was how to own solutions and sell them to their peers (competitors). Dr. Saunders talked about their ability to do this with ActiveHealth and a perception that the industry is over that issue as long as Aetna can continue to demonstrate that they are good stewards of the data and are keeping the appropriate firewalls in place.

We wrapped up the conversation talking about the social caregiver and game theory. I think both are important in our mHealth / digital world. With the sandwhich generation, this is increasingly important. That is where Aetna is focusing…enablement of the caregiver for infants and seniors leveraging a social approach. This reminds me of their recent announcement of a pilot with PatientsLikeMe. We also talked about game theory and the role of that in healthcare which is a common theme from my discussion with Keas this morning and a theme from the overall conference.

It should be interesting to watch Dr. Saunders and his team and how Aetna continues to pivot.

#WHCC13 Interview: Content + Community + Competition = Keas

I had the opportunity to sit down this morning with Josh Stevens who is the CEO of Keas.

“Keas is the most engaging wellness program in the workplace. Keas promotes healthy behavior and teamwork with interactive media that delivers relevant, individualized content to hundreds of thousands of employees. Keas has a proven track record of supporting corporate HR in increasing retention, productivity, teamwork, collaboration, and competitiveness. By rewarding people for achieving simple exercise and nutrition goals, employee health is improved and overall healthcare costs are decreased.”

He is a passionate believer in using fun and social to drive change in healthcare with a focus initially on wellness and then moving upstream to other challenges like disease management.

As CEO of Keas, the market leader in corporate wellness, Stevens is responsible for leading the development and market adoption of the company’s breakthrough wellness platform and applications.

Stevens has over 20 years of experience in product, sales, marketing, and is a recognized leader in driving high-value product experiences that deliver customer delight and investor’s valuation growth.

Prior to Keas, Stevens was Vice President of e-commerce at YouSendIt, Senior Vice President of strategy and business development at TicketsNow, and General Manager of e-commerce at AOL. Prior to his GM role at AOL, Stevens held a variety of leadership positions in business development, product marketing, product management, and corporate strategy.

Some of you may have seen Keas over the years. They were founded by Adam Bosworth who was responsible for Google Health at one point. They’ve gone through a few evolutions, but it seems like they’ve hit on a working model leveraging several principles that we discussed:

  1. Being intellectually nimble
  2. Developing holistic and integrated solutions
  3. Using content, community, and competition to drive engagement
  4. Building social networks around health
  5. Integrating into the consumer’s experience to be seamless (e.g., single sign on)
  6. Recognizing that change is dependent upon corporate culture changing also
  7. BYOD (bring your own device) meaning that they can integrate with anyone with an open API
  8. Realizing that while some people (like me) might want to focus on data in a Quantified Self manner, we’re only 15% of the population

While Josh isn’t a healthcare native, that seems like a good thing. I’ve seen a lot of people try to come into healthcare from the outside. Most of them fail because they get overwhelmed by the regulation or frustrated by the challenges or stick too much to what they personally think should work. In the hour we spent together, I didn’t get that sense.

I’m looking forward to learning more about Keas and trying out the tools myself. One of the most fascinating points was that they get people to engage 15 times per month. I told him that that was a ridiculous number in healthcare. We went on to talk about his hiring a team from the gaming industry and that they were used to being tied to repeat visits not simply getting people to download the tool.

IMHO – if you could get 50% of people to engage twice a month with a tool (and sustain that engagement rate), you would be a hero.

As I’ve talked about in my posts about CVS and as I tweeted earlier today from the conference, companies need to engage the worker at the workplace to transform healthcare. Josh gets that key point.

“Today’s employees spend most of their daily lives at work and companies can have a huge impact on improving overall health by creating a culture of wellness at work. That culture starts with Keas’ fun, engaging platform, which helps employees become healthier, more productive and more engaged at work, and in life.” (press release)

Why CVS Caremark Asking For Your Weight Is Good For You

I continue to annoyed by all the fear-mongering in the industry around what CVS Caremark is “doing to their employees”.  What about focusing on how they are helping their employees to get better?  (If interested, you should read some of the information they have on their blog.)

Our “Plan for Health” combines an evolving, best-practice approach to health coverage with preventive care and wellness programs. Our colleagues will be more accountable for taking control of their health and associated costs. The first step is getting to know your numbers by getting a health screening and completing an online wellness review each year. If colleagues complete both by the May 1, 2013 deadline, they will avoid paying an additional $600 for the 2013-2014 plan year. (from the CVS Caremark blog)

I was hopeful to hear someone come out strongly and speak about it yesterday on CBS, but instead the CEO of Mercer just talked about “soft” programs that depend upon consumers being proactive around their health.  I would rather hear about the value of screenings and how it helps employees.  In talking with one friend of mine at a biometrics company, he told me that in one case almost 40% of the people that they identified with diabetes (or pre-diabetes) and hypertension (or pre-hypertension) didn’t know they had the disease (or were at high risk).  That to me is a valuable insight to the individual especially when coupled with a program to help them learn and manage their disease (or risk).

For example, companies for years have been using Health Risk Assessments (HRAs) to try to baseline employee health and use that to accomplish several things:

  1. Help the employee to understand their risks
  2. Identify people who should be in coaching programs to improve their health
  3. Learn about their population and how to improve their health benefits

Use of biometrics is the right evolution from the HRA.  People have tried HRAs for years with some success.  Companies pay as much as $600 for people to take this online survey that has no necessary link to reality.  Most HRAs aren’t linked to lab values.  Most HRAs aren’t linked to claims data.  Most HRAs don’t necessarily trigger enrollment in health programs.  They are supposed to activate the employee to be proactive which doesn’t work for many sick consumers especially those in the “pre-disease” phase.  (Here’s a good study that does show some increased activation.)

As I mentioned the other day, this use of biometrics and link between incentives and participation (and ultimately outcomes) is normal and will ultimately improve the link between the workplace and the employee around health.

Let’s take a broader look at insurance to help set some context:

  • For life insurance, you have to disclose certain data and depending on the policy level you have to do other things like get a physical and have blood work drawn.  That effects your costs and their underwriting.  
  • For car insurance, if you get in accidents, your costs go up.  In some case, you can have a monitoring device put on your car to lower your costs.  (like getting blood work done)
  • For home owners insurance, your costs go up if you live in a flood zone or a earthquake zone.  It also goes up if you have lots of claims.

Whether we want to admit it or not, we do determine a lot of our healthcare costs based on decisions we’ve made or had made for us since we were kids.  Some of these are conscious and some are subconscious.  And, obesity which is a large driver of many of these chronic conditions and has an impact on your likelihood of having cancer.  So, a company asking for your BMI and other data to help understand your risks for healthcare costs (of which they typically pick up 80%) doesn’t seem unusual.

Certainly, some are environmental such as those that live in “food deserts” like Detroit.  In other cases, workplace stress can affect our health.  We’re just starting to get smarter about “sitting disease” and it’s impact on our health.  Or, we may take medications that affect our blood pressure (for example).  It’s certainly important to understand these in context of your lab values and discuss a holistic strategy for improving your health with your physician and any care management resources which are provided to you (nurse, social worker, nutritionist, pharmacist).

This idea of learning more about employees in terms of biometrics, food, sleep, stress, social interaction, and many other data points is going to be more and more of a focus.  Companies want to learn how their employees do things.  They want to understand their health.  They want to improve their health.  They want to invest in their workforce to improve productivity, innovation, and ultimately job satisfaction.

While the glass half-empty people won’t see this and there are some companies that don’t always act this way, I generally believe that companies are trying to act in a way to increase their top line and most intelligent executives understand the correlation between health and wealth and the link between employee satisfaction and growth.

Ultimately, healthcare costs are estimated to put a $240,000 burden on us after we retire (even with Medicare) so if someone wants to help me become healthier and thereby save me money which improves my ability to retire and enjoy life I’m happy for them to do.

How The CVS Program Will Change The Employer – Employee Contract

Have you heard that CVS Caremark is requiring employees to go get biometrics and going to take action on it? OMG!

I’m not sure I understand why people are all upset. Let’s look at the facts:

And, by the way, have we forgotten how much healthcare costs have gone up over time and who pays that bill. It’s either the employer or the government. Both of those things impact our pay as individuals either in terms of lower raises to cover healthcare costs, shifting healthcare costs to us, or taxes. It’s not sustainable so the person who pays the bill has to step in since we’re not. (Which is also why I support the NY ban on soda.)

Now, let’s look at our healthcare system where in the current fee-for-service model, there isn’t an incentive for physicians to address this.

For now, people should be happy. They’re only being required to do the biometrics. The penalty isn’t linked to whether they’re fat or have high blood pressure or smoke or have high cholesterol or have diabetes. A recent study by Towers Watson shows that while 16% of employers do this type of outcome based incentive program today (2013) that this is going to jump to 47% in 2014. So, this will be the norm.

And, guess what…sticks often work better than carrots in some cases.

And, healthcare costs are making us uncompetitive globally as a country.

  • The cost of healthcare is greater than the cost of steel in a car.
  • The cost of healthcare is greater than the cost of coffee in a Starbuck’s cup of coffee.

And, health reform is allowing (even enabling) this to happen. It says that you can treat people differently and create up to a 50% differential in costs associated with their health. (Not a legal definition so read the fine print.)

But, what I think all of us (consumers and employers) will need to realize is that moving to this (which I agree with) will change the employer and employee relationship in several ways.

  1. You can’t put these programs in place without something to help me manage my obesity, cholesterol, and/or other chronic condition. This will drive wellness and disease management programs to be more engaging and successful.
  2. This will put pressure on employers to create a culture of health since we spend so much time at work and work contributes to our health conditions.
    1. Need more time to be active. Less sitting. Treadmill desks. Standing meetings. Nap time. Walking breaks. Use of devices to track steps. Incentives. Gym discounts. Healthy food discounts.
    2. Need less stress.
    3. Need more sleep.
    4. Better food choices at work.
  3. This will drive a lot of the new tools and run counter to some trends about limiting dependent coverage since you can’t address obesity without engaging the entire family and the social network.
  4. This will also create a whole exception process by which people who gain weight due to certain drugs have to be excluded. People who can’t exercise may have to be excluded. People may have to see short-term goals (i.e., dropping BMI from 35 to 32). Physicians will have to be engaged.
  5. Coaching will have to expand to include dieticians, social workers, and others to help people beyond the historical nurse centric coaching model.

If none of this motivates you, then just think about the “gift” we’re giving our kids and maybe that will be a wake-up call why someone has to do something here. (As I shared the other day, I struggle with my weight so don’t think I’m some super skinny, high metabolism person who thinks this is easy.)

Two Surveys On #mHealth #healthapps

The data from these two surveys just passed my desk so I thought I would post them.

Mobile survey
mHealth survey MCOL

Is Healthcare An Investment Or A Cost?

As I’ve been looking at the employer view of healthcare, it strikes me that there are two different fundamental approaches.

  1. Healthcare expenses are a cost.  We want to drive down the costs as much as possible.
  2. Healthcare is an investment in our human capital.  We want to optimize our spend with the best outcomes.

Unfortunately, this likely means that the most vulnerable population is disadvantaged in this model (i.e., the hourly worker who is in a job where they are easily interchanged with another employee).

But, for companies where their biggest asset is their people (e.g., Microsoft), it seems clear that they would want to focus on healthcare as an investment.

This might drive you to make different decisions.

  • What if you looked at your formulary (for medications) based on side effects not necessarily costs?
  • What if you were willing to pay more for drugs with a clear impact on productivity (e.g., no drowsiness)?
  • Would you pay more for facilities that were better able to get people back to work?
  • Would you really push people into high deductible plans when this forces them to spend more time figuring out the system and navigating it?
  • Would you provide them all with devices to help them manage their healthcare?
  • Would you hire health advocates to help them navigate the system?
  • Would you provide them all with second opinions for major diseases (e.g., cancer) at no additional out-of-pocket costs?
  • Would you make sure to implement a telehealth solution so they weren’t away from the office as much?
  • Would you provide them with an onsite gym?
  • Would you provide them with healthy food onsite?

It seems like you would look at these types of decisions differently.  It wouldn’t be about the lowest healthcare premium.  It wouldn’t be about pushing them to a limited network.  It wouldn’t be about limiting their choice.  It wouldn’t be about shifting costs.  It would be about guiding them to make choices that kept them happy, productive, and engaged so that they could do the best work for you.

This would involve addressing stress.  It would involve addressing sleep patterns.  It would involve helping them create a work-life balance.

2013 PBMI Presentation On Pharmacy Need To Shift To Value Focus

Today, I’m giving my presentation at the PBMI conference in Las Vegas.  This year, I choose to focus on the idea of shifting from fee-for-service to value-based contracting.  People talk about this relative to ACOs (Accountable Care Organizations) and PCMHs (Patient Centered Medical Homes) from a provider perspective.  There have been several groups such as the Center For Health Value Innovation and others thinking about this for year, but in general, this is mostly a concept.  That being said, I think it’s time for the industry to grab the bull by the horns and force change.

If the PBM industry doesn’t disintermediate itself (to be extreme) then someone will come in and do it for them but per an older post, this ability to adapt is key for the industry.  While the industry may feel “too big to fail”, I’m not sure I agree.  If you listened the to the Walgreens / Boots investor call last week or saw some of things that captive PBMs and other data companies are trying to do, there are lots of bites at the apple.  That being said, I’m not selling my PBM stocks yet.

So, today I’m giving the attached presentation to facilitate this discussion.  I’ve also pre-scheduled some of my tweets to highlight key points (see summary below).

 

Planned PBMI Tweets

The Prescribing Apps ERA – Will Clinicians Be Ready? #mHealth

Dr. Kraft (@daniel_kraft) recently spoke at FutureMed and talked about the prescribing apps era.  I’ve talked about this concept many times, and I agree that we are rapidly moving in that direction.  And, there’s lots of buzz about whether apps will change behavior and how soon we’ll see “clinical trials” or published data to prove this.

From this site, you can get a recap, but here are the key points that he made:

1) Mobile Phones (quantified self) are becoming constant monitoring devices that create feedback loops which help individuals lead a healthy lifestyle.  Examples include; monitoring glucose levels, blood pressure levels, stress levels, temperature, calories burned, heart rate, arrythmias. Gathering all this information can potentially help the patient make lifestyle changes to avoid a complication, decrease progression of a particular disease, and have quality information regarding his physical emotional state for their physician to tailor his treatment in a more efficient manner.

2) The App prescription ERA:  Just as we prescribe medications prescribing apps to patients will be the future. The reason why this is important is that apps created for particular cases can help the patients understand their disease better and empower them to take better control.

3) Gamification: using games in order to change lifestyle, habits, have been mentioned before. A very interesting concept was that created in the Hope Labs of Stanford. The labs created a game in which children would receive points after there therapeutic regiment, once points were optioned they could shoot and attack the tumor. Helping with the compliance rate of the treatments

4) Lab on a chip and point of care testing

5) Artificial Intelligence like Watson and its application in medicine.

6) Procedure Simulation: Several procedures done by medical professionals follow (not 100%) a see one, do one teach one scenario.  Probably very few people agree with this concept and that is why simulation has great potential. In this case residents, fellows in training can see one, simulate many and then when comfortable do one.

7) Social Networks and Augmented Reality

At the same time, a recent ePocrates study hammered home the point that while this is taking off physicians don’t have a mechanism for which ones to recommend and why.

According to the Epocrates survey, more than 40 percent of physicians are recommending apps to their patients. In terms of the apps being recommended, 72 percent are for patient education, 57 percent are lifestyle change tools, 37 percent are for drug information, 37 percent are for chronic disease management, 24 percent are for medical adherence and 11 percent are to connect the patient to an electronic health record portal.

Physicians also have several different sources for identifying which apps to recommend to their patients. According to the survey, 41 percent get advice from a friend or colleague, while 38 percent use an app store, another 38 percent use an Internet search engine, 23 percent learn of an app from another patient or patients, and 21 percent use the app themselves.

That said, the survey also notes that more than half of the physicians contacted said they don’t know which apps are “good to share.”

As I’ve discussed before, this is somewhat of the Wild West.  Patients are buying and downloading apps based on what they learn about.  They’d love for physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and other trusted sources to help them.  But, those clinicians are often not technology savvy (or at least many of the ones who are actively practicing).  There are exceptions to the norm and those are the ones in the news and speaking at conferences.

IMHO…consumers want to know the following:

  1. Which apps make sense for me based on my condition?
  2. Will that app be relevant as I move from newly diagnosed to maintenance?
  3. Should I pay for an app or stick with the free version?
  4. Is my data secure?
  5. Will this app allow me to share data with my caregiver or case manager?
  6. Will this app have an open API for integration with my other apps or devices?
  7. Is it intuitive to use?
  8. Will this company be around or will I be able to port my data to another app if the company goes away?
  9. Is the information clinically sound?
  10. Is the content consumer friendly?
  11. Is it easy to use?
  12. Is there an escalation path if I need help with clinical information?
  13. Will my employer or health plan pay for it for me?
  14. Is my data secure?

And, employers and payers also have lots of questions (on top of many of the ones above):

  1. Is this tool effective in changing behavior?
  2. Should I promote any apps to my members?
  3. Should I pay for the apps?
  4. How should I integrate them into my care system?
  5. Do my staff need to have them, use them, and be able to discuss them with the patient?  (Do they do that today with their member portal?)

mhealth_infographic_large

The Quest For The Stinkless Workout Shirt

Any workout can lead to a nice sweaty shirt that can stink, but when you’re traveling, that can be a real issue.  You can certainly bring multiple sets of workout clothes on your trip, but that’s not always efficient packing.  So, if you bring one outfit and workout multiple times, it can start to be problematic by the second, third, or fourth run in the same clothes.

Now, to make it even worse, you can travel to different cities where each day you run then pack up the sweaty clothes, lock them in your car all day, jump on a plane, and unroll them 12 hours later.  I’ve wondered for years why someone didn’t develop a bag with some basic chemical in there that you could put your clothes in where it would absorb the sweat and freshen the clothes.

Well…I may have found another answer.  I just bought one of the LuLuLemon Silverescent shirts which they said is anti-stink.  I was skeptical, but I’ve put it to the test.

  • No stink after running in it.
  • No stink after rolling it up (post-workout) and leaving it in a laundry basket for a week.
  • No stink after wearing it several times back-to-back.

PHM Is The New Black Post At CCA Blog With Diabetes Examples

This is a partial copy (teaser) of a guest blog I did on the Care Continuum Alliance blog earlier this week.

**********************

With all the talk about Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) and Patient Centered Medical Homes (PCMHs), the adoption curve for the Care Continuum Alliance (CCA) model for Population Health Management (PHM) should move beyond the innovators in 2013 and begin to “Cross the Chasm.” I believe there are several preconditions that would set the stage for this to occur, for instance:

  1. Technology advances leading to the “Big Data” focus;
  2. The changing paradigm from fee-for-service to outcomes-based care;
  3. The realization of the role of the consumer led by the e-Patient movement, the idea of the Quantified Self, and the focus of large healthcare enterprises on being consumer centric; and
  4. The budget crisis that is driving employers and other payers to embrace PHM, wellness, and other initiatives that impact cost and productivity.

Of course, most companies are still in the infancy of designing systems to address this coordinated care model, which does not view the patient as a claim, but longitudinally aggregates demographical, psychosocial and claims data.  Additionally, training staff using Motivational Interviewing and integrating external staff into the virtual care team in partnership with the provider will continue to evolve as do our care delivery models.

To read more especially the diabetes examples that I shared, please click over to their blog.  Thanks.

 

3500 Calories To Lose A Pound – Myth?

Well, it’s not that straightforward (of course), but 3,500 calories does equal a pound of fat so it’s a good rule of thumb (in my non-clinical opinion).

So, to figure out when this does or doesn’t work, I looked at the this article in the Journal of Obesity which was very difficult to understand, but here’s a discussion on MyFitnessPal that discusses it in something closer to plain language.  You can also see this article in the NY Times about de-bunking this myth.

So, if it’s wrong, why use it as a rule of thumb?  IMHO  I believe it gives you some numbers to track just understand that it’s not a perfect correlation.  But, if you take in less calories than you burn and focus on creating a deficit, then you’ll be doing the right things – being active and watching what you eat.  Of course, you can go work with a Registered Dietician to help you actually understand and refine your plan to address the gap between this assumption and reality.

mythbusters

Guest Post: How Nursing Can Help Reduce Healthcare Costs

Yes, the election has come and gone. No doubt we’re still suffering from the latent effects of election-fatigue, buzzwords still echoing in our heads like bad nightmares; stimulus packages, fiscal cliffs, economic malaise, and the ever-popular budget cuts. But the super-sensitive topic at the crux of our current political polarization is undoubtedly, one of healthcare. It’s hard not to get caught up in all the political hoopla in regards to current policies versus proposed plans and how we seem unable to find that magic bullet to rescue us from this healthcare maelstrom instead of dooming us further into the partisan abyss.

It has been estimated that between 2012-2022, Medicare spending will skyrocket through the current $550 billion to the astronomical tune of $1.064 trillion (that’s trillion with a ‘T’). Medicaid will likely double from $253 billion to $592 billion. Additional costs created by expenditures and subsidies for mandatory healthcare will rise from $25 billion to $181 billion. Where will all this money come from?

To counter rising healthcare costs, the burden will be shouldered by all Americans. But don’t start crying that the sky is falling just yet; there is a remedy that would not only benefit our healthcare needs and reduce costs, but also maintain that all-important mark of quality. How? Let’s take a look at how nursing can be the ultimate solution to remedy our economic woes as well help improve our overall good health.

  • Nurse Practitioner: One of the fastest rising fields of healthcare, Nurse Practitioners (NPs) can receive their training and certification four-five times quicker than a physician. The costs of educating an NP is far less than the cost of putting a medical student through medical school and with quicker training that means seeing more patients earlier and subsequently shorter waiting lines and getting in and out of the doctor’s office and on your way to better health in a much more efficient manner. Nearly 96% of all Nurse Practitioners can write prescriptions and according to healthcare studies, patients ranked them as high as they would their primary doctor.
  • Traveling Nurses: If you can earn your nursing degree, than a host of numerous healthcare opportunities will arise for you. Among them are temporary jobs with flexible schedules, some such assignments include nursing jobs all over our country as well as overseas. Here in the states such a program is called, “Nurse-Family Partnership”. This provides a visiting nurse to make house calls for lower income families that might not have the opportunity otherwise to have high quality healthcare provided for them.
  • Silver Boom: In the next twenty years, the elderly population will not only increase due to aging baby boomers but because of better diagnoses and preventative care, we are ALL living longer and more productive lives. According to the Center for Healthcare Workforce Studies*, by the year 2050 the number of older adults will increase from 12.5% to 20% of the United States population (this is among the population of those 65 years and older).

At the end of the day, healthcare will continue to grow as our population follows along this similar trend. Having nurses filling in those costly gaps will pay off down the road with better care, quicker appointment availability and lower overall costs. And in a climate of ever-changing political landscapes, to have one sector not only reducing costs but composed of those continually seeking higher quality standards would be hard to argue against.

*”The Impact of the Aging Population in the Healthcare Workforce in the United States Summary of Key Findings” – Center for Healthcare Workforce Studies, School of Public Healthy, University at Albany.

Kathryn Norcutt has been an active member of the health care community for over 20 years. During her time as a nurse, she has helped people from all walks of life and ages. Now, Kathryn leads a much less hectic life and devotes most of her free time to writing for RNnetwork, a site specializing in travel nursing jobs.

How Farmers Outmarketed Pharma

When you think of potatoes, where do you want them to come from? Idaho

When you think of citrus, where do you want it to come from? Florida

When you think of US wine, where do you want it to come from? Napa Valley

When you think of generic drugs, where do you want them to come from? [company?, geography?]

This vacuum is a big problem in terms of commoditization. People don’t think of Teva or Ranbaxy or some other generic company. The average consumer probably doesn’t know who they are. And, they’ve competed based on price for years. If I was the CEO of Teva, this would be the number one challenge I would pose to my staff which was how do I get consumers to ask for my generic version of the drug. The next question should be what would we do to justify this?

For the first time, I think that they have a similar problem that brand pharma does which is how to create an offering not just a pill. The quote below from the CEO of Novartis, tees it up well.

“I also started to shift our business away from a transactional model that was focused on physically selling the drugs to delivering an outcome-based approach to add value beyond just the pill. I really believe that in the future, companies like Novartis are going to be paid on patient outcomes as opposed to selling the pill.”

And, I think this reflects what Sanofi has been experimenting with in terms of diabetes for several years. They launched their iBG Star Blood Glucose Meter to get into the meter space. Sanofi also has heavily invested in social media to give them direct engagement and feedback from consumers. Both of these begin to create more consumer branding for them as an entity.

I’ve talked about this several times over the years based on a book that one of the E&Y partners wrote when I was there called BLUR which was about blending products and services to create offerings. I think this notion combined with the lessons learned that commodities like potatoes have gone through in branding their products offer some insights into what pharma has to do to shift their positioning in the value chain. This is part of what I’ll be discussing at the upcoming PBMI conference where this shift to outcomes based contracting and focus for the industry is critical to long-term survival and differentiation.

Guest Post: I’m Ready To Lose Weight!

Guest Blogger Lynn Gieger is a contributor to Everyday Health and its calorie counter and fitness tools.
The signs were all there, but until the doctor commented, “You’re overweight and your weight is negatively impacting your health,” it was no longer easy or healthy to ignore the too-tight belt, too-small jeans, and the steering wheel poking into the stomach.

Now what are you going to do about it?

Ignore the hype of the hundreds of weight loss programs that promise effortless weight loss. If it was that easy, you wouldn’t be in this shape right now, would you?

To truly take charge of your weight and health, start by giving yourself some time to think about why weight loss is important to you. What will be different in your life when you lose weight? Look at the health implications: decreased cholesterol, lower blood pressure, reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, less pressure on your knees and hips. Also think about personal reasons why weight loss is important to you: do you want to get on the floor and play with your grandchildren, go hiking with your kids, dancing with your spouse, or just look smashing? List all of the reasons how losing weight will improve your life to increase your motivation to make changes.

The National Weight Control Registry, established in 1994, tracks over 10,000 people who lost an average of 66 pounds and kept it off for 5.5 years. The NWCR research identifies 3 key steps to lose weight and keep it off:

1. Keep a journal detailing what, when and how much you eat. 78% of the NWCR participants report eating breakfast every day, and the majority decreased both calorie and fat intake to lose unwanted pounds. Use your journal to identify specific places to make changes, such as using lower fat salad dressing, choosing water instead of a high-calorie sweetened beverage, and swapping fruit for chips at snack time. Need help figuring out where to make changes? Find a weight management specialist with the knowledge and skills to streamline your food choices and encourage you to make lasting changes in your eating habits.

2. Keep track of daily exercise. 90% of NWCR participants exercise for an average of one hour each day. Create a habit of daily exercise to burn calories and improve your fitness – plus give you something else to do besides eat. Find a certified fitness expert to get you started or ask at your local gym.

3. Decrease the number of hours of non-work screen time (TV, video games, movies, computer). NWCR recommends less than 10 hours of screen time per week. If Sunday at your house means 6 hours of TV football, change your weekly screen-time habits and guess what – you just found time for exercise!

If you’re stuck and can’t figure out how to get started losing weight, work with a certified wellness coach to help you set realistic goals and hold you accountable.

Avoid a weight loss/gain rollercoaster by clearly identifying why weight loss is important to you and focus on the long-term. It doesn’t matter if it takes you 6 months or 6 years to reach your weight goal: the key is changing your habits so you stay at a healthy weight.

And the next time you see the doctor, think of this comment, “Wow, you’re looking great!”

How To Improve Good Cholesterol (HDL) If Drugs Don’t Work

The Wall Street Journal on 1/8/13 had an article called “New Rules for Boosting Good Cholesterol” which shared the results of a recent study on medications that improve HDL (or Good Cholesterol).

“Not all HDL are created the same” was what Roger Newton, chief science officer of Esperion said.

“If you raise HDL in non-pharmacologic ways, it really does help you” says Steve Kopecky, a Mayo Clinic cardiologist.

The points made in the article can be summarized in the following:

  • Improving good cholesterol is important.
  • People with high HDL face fewer heart attacks (according to the Framingham Risk Score)
  • Multiple trials to improve HDL with drugs have failed
  • People may need to raise good cholesterol by behavior change

This should lead to 3 questions:

  1. What should be my HDL or Good Cholesterol? From the Mayo Clinic on Good Cholesterol:

  1. What can I do to improve my Good Cholesterol without drugs? From the WSJ article:

Activity

HDL Increase

Exercise

4 mg/dL

Drink Alcohol (in Moderation)

2-4 mg/dL

Quit Smoking

5 mg/dL

Lose Weight

1 mg/dL per 3-6 lbs

Eat Fish And Olive Oil

3-5 mg/dL

Avoid Carbohydrates

8 mg/dL

  1. What are my risks and the value of medications? For that, I found two online risk tools.

Here’s a simple one that uses the Farmingham study to estimate your risk of having a heart attack.

Here’s another one from over in Europe that’s focused on the value of statins and hosted by the Cleveland Clinic. It takes more inputs but then gives you several outputs. (A nice algorithm to integrate with something like iBlueButton or your care management system perhaps to warn you of risks without having you input a bunch of data.)

FitBit Review Summary – Device, Apps, And Suggestions

In the spirit of the Quantified Self movement and in order to better understand how mHealth tools like FitBit can drive behavior change, I’ve been using a FitBit One for about 6 weeks now. I’ve posted some notes along the way, but I thought I’d do a wrap up post here. Here’s the old posts.

Those were focused mostly on the device itself. Now I’ve had some time to play with the mobile app. Let me provide some comments there.  And, with the data showing a jump in buyers this year, I expect this will be a hot topic at the Consumer Electronics Show this week.

  • The user interface is simple to use. (see a few screenshots below)

  • I feel like it works in terms of helping me learn about my food habits. (Which I guess shouldn’t be surprising since research shows that having a food diary works and another recent study showed that a tool worked better than a paper diary.) For example, I learned several things:
    1. I drink way too little water.
    2. I eat almost 65% of my calories by the end of lunch.
    3. Some foods that I thought were okay have too many calories.
  • In general, the tracking for my steps makes me motivated to try to walk further on days that I’m not doing good.
  • The ease of use and simple device has helped me change behavior.  For example, when I went to go to dinner tonight, I quickly looked up my total calories and saw that I had 600 calories left.  Here’s what I ate for dinner.  (It works!)

Meal

But, on the flipside, I think there are some simple improvement options:

  1. I eat a fairly similar breakfast everyday which is either cereal with 2% milk and orange juice or chocolate milk (if after a workout). [In case you don’t know, chocolate milk is great for your recovery.] Rather than have to enter each item, FitBit could analyze your behavior and recommend a “breakfast bundle”. (and yes, I know I could create it myself)
  2. Some days, I don’t enter everything I eat. When I get my end of week report, it shows me all the calories burned versus the calories taken in. That shows a huge deficit which isn’t true. I think they should do two things:
    1. Add some type of daily validation when you fall below some typical caloric intake. (Did you enter all your food yesterday, it seemed low?)
    2. Then create some average daily intake to allow you to have a semi-relevant weekly summary.
  3. The same can be true for days that you forget to carry your device or even allowing for notes on days (i.e., was sick in bed). This would provide a more accurate long-term record for analysis.
  4. The food search engine seems to offer some improvement opportunities. For example, one day I ate a Dunkin Donuts donut, but it had most types but not the one I ate. I don’t understand that since there’s only about 15 donuts. But, perhaps it’s a search engine or Natural Language Processing (NLP) issue. (I guess it could be user error, but in this case, I don’t think so.)
  5. Finally, as I think about mHealth in general, I think it would be really important to see how these devices and this data is integrated with a care management system.  I should be able to “opt-in” my case manager to get these reports and/or the data.

The other opportunity that I think exists is better promotion of some things you don’t learn without searching the FitBit site:

  • They’re connected with lots of other apps.  Which ones should I use?  Can’t it see which other ones I have on my phone and point this out?  How would they help me?
  • There’s a premium version with interesting analysis.  Why don’t they push these to me?

I also think that they would want an upsell path as they rollout new things like the new Flex wristband revealed at CES.

And, with the discussions around whether physicians will “prescribe” apps, it’s going to be important for them to be part of these discussions although this survey from Philips showed that patients continue to increasingly rely on these apps and Dr. Google.

Philips_Health_Infographic_12%2012_F3

Finally, before I close, all of this makes me think about an interesting dialogue recently on Twitter about Quantified Self.

Fortune Article Questions Generic Equivalency Of Drugs

A new Fortune article “Are Generics Really the Same as Branded Drugs?” (1/14/13) sets a dangerous tone for something that has become a standard across the pharmaceutical industry.  This is either:

(a) giving consumer credibility to a long-standing rumor with a case study or

(b) a dangerous perspective which will only further activate the conspiracy theory consumers and clinicians.

Let’s start with a few basics from the Generic Pharmaceutical Association:

  • There are over 4B prescriptions filled in the US per year.
  • Of those, over 80% are generic medications.
  • Generic medications saved over $190B last year.

For facts on generics, I would point you to the FDA website.  I posted some of their slides years ago on SlideShare which I put below along with their latest infographic.

The article in Fortune focuses on a case regarding an anti-depressant called Wellbutrin and its generic counterpart.  The article goes on to point out that the active ingredients in the generic (compared to the brand) can vary from 80% to 125%.  (I think a good more detailed explanation of this is available here).

But, the author goes on to point out the risks associated with the fillers (or inactive ingredients) and talks about the issue of NTI (Narrow Therapeutic Index) drugs that no one substitutes for anyways.

One big thing that I was always taught was to understand that the difference in active ingredients between brands and generics was similar to the differences in different lots of the same brand drug.  And, given the fact that traditionally, 50% of generic drugs were made by the brand manufacturers, it would seem difficult to believe that they were simply throwing caution to the wind by producing substandard product.

I would hope that Express Scripts, CVS Caremark, Walgreens, PCMA, and many other groups will come out strongly to address this article. This is the type of article that could be a significant setback to the generic industry which has proven itself under lots of scrutiny over the years to save money and have very few negative impacts with the FDA’s scrutiny.

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