The Rundown | Week of 10.8.2018

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Pollution and Climate Change’s Effects on Mental Health

A study in the journal PNAS found that a 1 degree Celsius increase in average global temperature exacerbates mental illness and difficulties. Researchers used data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which includes self-reported mental health surveys from nearly 2 million Americans and compared this to meteorological data. This comparison was filtered through three lenses: temperatures and precipitation vs. mental health, longer-term warming and mental health reports by city, and reports from those affected by Hurricane Katrina vs. individuals not affected by the hurricane. In all three instances, the proportional relationship between temperature and mental health difficulties was positive. In the second case, a rise of nine degrees Fahrenheit produced “approximately 2 million additional individuals reporting mental health difficulties,” according to the study’s author, Nick Obradovich. A related report form the World Health Organization indicates that noise pollution is one of the “top environmental risks to health.” Researchers found that intrusive levels of noise, which is above 45 decibels (roughly equivalent to bird calls), expose one in five Europeans to an increased risk for not only mental illness, but obesity, heart disease, and hypertension.
>>Read More: As global temperatures rise, so will mental health issues, study says

DOJ Approves CVS-Aetna Merger

After Aetna divested their Medicare Part D prescription drug plans to WellCare Health Plans, the insurer’s merger with CVS Health was approved by the Department of Justice (DOJ). The antitrust provision required Aetna to sell plans covering more than 2.2 million beneficiaries. The DOJ said in a statement that, without the settlement, the merger may “cause anticompetitive effects, including increased prices, inferior customer service, and decreased innovation.” The $69 billion megamerger partners the nation’s largest pharmacy retailer and third-largest insurer to simplify “ the healthcare experience for consumers demanding change.” The court’s conclusion may take place after a 60-day period to review concerns and assess whether the merger “serves the public interest.”
>>Read More: DOJ clears CVS-Aetna union

Remote Patient Monitoring Reduces ED Visits

A report from KLAS Research and the American Telemedicine Association showed that 25 percent of healthcare organizations believe remote patient monitoring (RPM) reduces unnecessary emergency department visits and 38 percent believe the technology leads to fewer inpatient admissions. The technology is one of the fastest growing and highly funded, including $781 million in investments in Q3. The technology is especially useful for chronic conditions such as diabetes and hypertension, though some speculate its effectiveness in mental health and surgical recovery. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have created codes for RPM in its revised 2018 physician fee schedule that reimburses providers for collecting and interpreting RPM data. The study also found that 13 percent of surveyed respondents report RPM improves medication compliance, 13 percent say it improves health, and 17 percent report cost reductions. However, some critics fear that the technology could overstep confidentiality and privacy boundaries; listen to our podcast — “The Murky Ethics of Wearables” on The Break Roomto explore the topic!
>>Read More: Remote patient monitoring cuts hospital admissions, ER visits, report finds

Study: Billing’s Tremendous Role in Patient Satisfaction

A recent consumer study by Connance pinpointed front-office issues like billing and scheduling as the primary pain-points. The predictive analytics firm report surveyed 500 consumers about recent hospital experiences and determined 50 percent of patients regard out-of-pocket costs as a “significant or highly significant” factor in their provider choice. Pre-service engagement, such as appointment reminders, was limited at 35 percent. Stunningly, patients are more likely to believe payers’ estimates for procedures than the health system providing the care. However, one positive metric shows that overall patient satisfaction — as measured by the Net Promoter Score (NPS) — rose from 18.4 percent to 22.6 percent between 2017 and 2018.
>>Read More: New Industry Survey Highlights Transformation Between Providers and Patients During the Financial Experience

Study: Millennials Moving Away from Primary Care

A poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation indicated that 45 percent of millennials (which the study defined as ages 18 to 29) do not have a primary care provider. The report suggested this low percentage is due to this consumer demographic’s preference for “convenience, fast service, connectivity, and price transparency.” The upfront transparency of many telemedicine services and urgent care clinics were regarded as particularly appealing. However, a recent study from JAMA shows that nearly half of patients who visited urgent care clinics for cold symptoms ended up with either “unnecessary or potentially harmful” prescription for antibiotics while only 17 percent of those who consulted doctors received wrongful prescriptions. For tips on attracting and engaging millennial patients, be sure to read our blog post “Understanding Millennials: Two Vital Statistics for PCPs”!
>>Read More: For millennials, a regular visit to the doctor’s office is not a primary concern

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