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Genetic Testing Generates Data and Controversy
Pennsylvania-based Geisinger Health System recently opened DNA sequencing to 1,000 patients. Eventually, the company would like to test all 3 million patients for mutations on 77 genes that predict both diseases and medication’s efficiency. Results are sent to the patient’s primary-care physician who briefs them on any dormant or genetic predispositions to disease and reviews steps patients can take to alleviate or prevent the disease’s progression. However, only diseases that are treatable are shared; for instance, those prone to Alzheimer’s disease are not informed of the condition as there is no clinical treatment. Critics claim the testing could lead to overdiagnosis or misinterpreting results of genetic tests.
>>Read More: What if your doctor offered genetic testing as a way to keep you healthy?
Smart Homes a Growing Market
A report from P&S Market Research predicts global revenue for the smart-home healthcare market could exceed $30 billion by 2023. The driving force is an aging elderly population marked by a boom in baby boomers retiring. Consumers’ demand for greater personalization is another motivating factor. The emerging market is subdivided into several categories: fall prevention and detection, safety and security monitoring, health-status monitoring, nutrition and diet monitoring, memory aids, and others. Since the World Health Organization lists falls as the second leading cause of accidental injury for senior citizens, 20–30 percent of which result in moderate to severe injuries, it’s no surprise that fall prevention accounts for the lion’s share of the market at 39 percent.
>>Read More: Smart home healthcare market size forecasted to hit $30 billion by 2023: P&S Market Research
Anthem’s Investment in Palliative Care
Anthem recently announced its plan to acquire Aspire Health, the nation’s largest non-hospice palliative care provider. The deal, which is not expected to be finalized until the third quarter of this year, aims to offer “consumers, customers, and other health plan and provider partners a broader array of programs and services that meet their diverse needs,” said Gail Boudreaux, president and CEO of Anthem. Experts speculate that Anthem’s aim is to reduce costs by reducing hospital visits, while Aspire receives the scalability afforded by a multibillion-dollar company. The deal signifies a greater recognition of palliative and end-of-life care’s multiple benefits, including cost savings and increased patient satisfaction.
>>Read More: Anthem, Inc. to acquire Aspire Health
Best and Worst States for Healthcare
The Commonwealth Fund’s 2018 Scorecard on State Healthy and System Performance recently named Hawaii the top state health system. The comprehensive criteria fell into four categories: access and affordability, prevention and treatment, potentially avoidable hospital use and cost, and healthy lives. Overall, the data suggests more improvement than decline, “a reversal of sorts from the first decade of the century, when stagnating or worsening performance was the norm.” Some key indicators that supported this evaluation included a decline in both the uninsured rate and adult-smoking rate, increased quality of care in nursing homes, and reduced rates of readmission among Medicare beneficiaries. Concerning findings included a lack of treatment for mental health; a rise in premature, preventable death rates; a 50 percent increase in “Deaths of Despair,” which include suicide as well as alcohol- and drug-related deaths; and increasing obesity, particularly in Mississippi and West Virginia, two states that ranked in the Scorecard’s bottom five.
>>Read More: The 5 best (and worst) states for health care, according to the Commonwealth Fund
Savings Via Improved Social Determinants of Health
A recent study published in Population Health Management demonstrated a substantial reduction in spending was associated with hospitals and provider organizations that address factors such as housing, transportation, diet, and financial assistance. Collectively, these areas are deemed “social determinants of health.” While long-known to improve doctor-patient relationships, the study also discovered a 10 percent reduction in costs compared to a control group. The savings were especially pronounced among patients enrolled in Medicare and Medicaid. The study corralled 2,718 patients and offered special access to WellCare’s toll-free Community Assistance Line. Study participants identified a barrier that prevented from attaining care, received a referral to a social-service organization which then followed up at a later date. In related news, WellCare announced plans to purchase Meridian Health Plans for $2.5 billion to become the top Medicaid provider in Illinois and Michigan.
>>Read More: Social determinants shown to reduce healthcare spending
Advances in the Opioid Epidemic
While Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams’ urged physicians to consider community-based, harm-reduction strategies to combat opioid addiction, a recent study suggests an alternative approach. The study on lower back pain indicates patients who consulted a physical therapist as their first point of care were 89 percent less likely to obtain an opioid prescription. Furthermore, they saw substantial savings in advanced imaging services and emergency department visits, though a slightly higher chance of hospitalization. In fact, White River Junction VA Medical Center slashed opioid prescriptions by 42 percent through alternative pain treatments including acupuncture, tai chi, and yoga. This progress arrives in the wake of a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study that suggests opioid-overdose emergency-room visits rose 30 percent between 2016 and 2017.
>>Read More: Reduced healthcare costs, opioid use result from early physical therapy intervention for low back pain