The Rundown | Week of 2.25.2019

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Healthcare Costs to Grow and Speed Up

Due to aging baby boomers and higher prices, healthcare spending is projected to increase by 5.5 percent annually over 10 years. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Office of the Actuary predicts this increased pace will cause healthcare to occupy a larger share of the gross domestic product (GDP), growing from 17.9 percent in 2017 to 19.4 percent in 2027. Prices will drive approximately half of the growth — echoing an analysis by the Health Care Cost Institute — while higher utilization will account for roughly one-third. “The insured share of the population is expected to remain stable at around 90 percent throughout the period, as net gains in health coverage from all sources are projected to keep pace with population growth,” researchers noted. Economists from CMS acknowledged their measurements may be inaccurate and do not factor in policy changes such as the “Medicare-for-all” touted by some politicians.
>> Read More: National Health Expenditure Projections, 2018–27: Economic And Demographic Trends Drive Spending And Enrollment Growth

Survey: Physician Burnout Down, Depression Up

A survey from the American Medical Association shows physician burnout decreased significantly between 2014 and 2017, though depression increased by 1.9 percent. In 2014, 54 percent of physicians reported burnout, while only 44 percent did so in 2017. However, physicians still experience burnout at a disproportionate rate compared to the national average, which is 28 percent. Researchers noted 2014 was a “particularly challenging time because of consolidation of hospitals and medical groups, a number of new regulatory factors, increasing EHR penetration, and increased administrative burden.” The increased attention paid to addressing burnout may have also contributed to the decline.
>> Read More: Changes in Burnout and Satisfaction With Work-Life Integration in Physicians and the General US Working Population Between 2011 and 2017

Travel and Wait Times Stalled for 11 Years

Time spent traveling to appointments and in waiting rooms has not decreased in 11 years, according to a recent report by Altarum. Less than half of patients’ time was spent consulting with their provider. Researchers found “travel and waiting for care accounted for 19.7 percent of the total time spent” on healthcare-related activities, which include self-care and assisting others. “When quantified by applying an individual’s hourly wage as an approximate measure of the economic cost of time spent, travel and waiting costs averaged $89 billion dollars annually from 2006 [through] 2017,” researchers noted. The lack of improved patient convenience likely accounts for the growing popularity of retail clinics, which roughly doubled during the same time period.
>> Read More: Travel and Wait Times Are Longest for Health Care Services and Result in an Annual Opportunity Cost of $89 Billion

Outdoor Exposure Linked to Mental Health

A study published in PNAS adds to the growing body of research that connects mental health and exposure to nature. Individuals who spent time outside in natural spaces as children had a 55 percent lower risk of developing mental disorders in adulthood. Researchers used satellite imaging, psychiatric data, and registry data for all Danish citizens to identify the association.
Furthermore, the association between mental health and outdoor exposure was proportional; adults who spent more time outside reported better mental health and vice versa. However, “the underlying drivers remain unknown,” even when adjusted for factors such as socioeconomic status and parental mental health.
>> Read More: Residential Green Space in Childhood is Associated with Lower Risk of Psychiatric Disorders from Adolescence into Adulthood

GE to Sell Biopharma Unit

General Electric (GE) will sell its biopharmaceutical business to Danaher for $21.4 billion. The cash transaction is part of GE CEO Larry Culp’s restructuring plan. Shares in GE and Danaher skyrocketed by 14 and 9 percent, respectively, following the deal’s announcement. The acquisition will operate as a standalone business under Danaher’s broader life sciences division. Though the industrial giant was said to have plans to set up GE Healthcare, the sale of the biopharma unit — which sells single-use consumables, software, other instruments for drug manufacturing — nixes the proposed venture.
>> Read More: GE to Sell BioPharma Business to Danaher for $21.4 Billion

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