Today's News and Commentary

About health insurance

U.S. health officials unveil experiment to overhaul primary care: CMS announced the outlines of several programs that would augment primary care physicians’ responsibilities for the cost and quality of care. Along with the added responsibility is the potential to gain extra payments (or incur losses). One of these models is meant to replace the Next Generation ACO plans.

Read the article (A number of media outlets carried this story today; I think this version is among the best)
Read the CMS announcement

2019 Annual Report of the Boards of Trustees of the Federal Hospital Insurance [HI] and Federal Supplementary Medical Insurance Trust Funds: This report is the annual assessment of the Medicare program. Lots to digest but the “bottom line” is:
”The estimated depletion date for the HI trust fund is 2026, the same as in last year’s report. As in past years, the Trustees have determined that the fund is not adequately financed over the next 10 years. HI income is projected to be lower than last year’s estimates due to lower payroll taxes and lower income from the taxation of Social Security benefits. HI expenditures are projected to be slightly higher than last year’s estimates because of higher-than-projected 2018 spending and higher projected provider payment updates, factors that are mostly offset by the effect of lower assumed utilization of skilled nursing facility services.

In 2018, HI expenditures exceeded income by $1.6 billion. The Trustees project deficits in all future years until the trust fund becomes depleted in 2026.”

Read the report

About healthcare IT

Assessment of the Data Sharing and Privacy Practices of Smartphone Apps for Depression and Smoking Cessation: While apps can help users with their healthcare problems, they are often not secure and do not reveal how they share information with other entities. “In this cross-sectional study of 36 top-ranked apps for depression and smoking cessation available in public app stores, 29 transmitted data to services provided by Facebook or Google, but only 12 accurately disclosed this in a privacy policy.” Here is an opportunity for government to enact and enforce privacy requirements.

Read the research

How patients can turn their medical data into money: Following on the above research, this article discusses platforms where patients can not only keep ownership of their personal medical data but also monetize it. (For example, see Hugo Health)

Read the article (Financial Times- subscription required)

Speech‐based markers for posttraumatic stress disorder in US veterans: Speech recognition technology has moved way beyond asking for songs or ordering takeout food. Many diagnostic tools are being developed that rely on analysis of voice patterns. This article provides one example.

Read the research

Free App to Help Patients Ask Appropriate Questions: The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) recently launched a free mobile app to help patients better prepare for medical visits.

Read about the app

About the public’s health

IBM Watson Health Names Nation's Top Health Systems: Another list is out, this time from IBM Watson. According to the report, the hospitals provide better care at lower cost than peer organizations.

Read the report

Association Between Receipt of a Medically Tailored Meal Program and Health Care Use: If patients receive any advice about diet, it is usually general and formulaic. This research showed that customized meals can produce better results: “Participation in a medically tailored meals program appears to be associated with fewer hospital and skilled nursing admissions and less overall medical spending.”

Read the research

Humana’s Bold Goal Program: In 2015 Humana launched its Bold Goal program in seven communities. The aim was to reduce “unhealthy days” by addressing social determinants of health. Some initiatives were successful and others were not. It is still an interesting program and worth reading about it.

Read the 2019 report

About pharma

The Changing Landscape of Research and Development: This report from IQVIA, based on 2018 data, has a number of interesting findings. Among them:
—It takes a median of 13.6 years from first patent filing to launch of a successful “new active substance.”
—”The companies bringing these drugs to the market are changing, with the role of emerging biopharma (EBP) companies growing. EBP companies patented almost two-thirds of new drugs launched in 2018 and registered 47% of them, while large pharma companies patented only one-quarter…Emerging biopharma companies now account for over 70% of the total late stage R&D pipeline.”
—Composite success rates for clinical development varied widely by therapeutic class, ranging from 26% for rare diseases to 6% for vaccines.

Read the report