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2011 Potpourri VI

By February 4, 2011Commentary

The Hay Group released a summary of a survey on health care employee compensation.  For 2011, employees in health care can expect base salary increases of about 2.6%, which is up from 2.3% in 2010 but below the 2.8% expected across all industries in 2011.  About 18% of responding employers in all industries said they are still maintaining a salary freeze but only 4% in health care.  Executive pay may rise a little slower, as boards respond to public concerns.  Physician pay will rise slightly less than the average and nurses’ a little faster.  (Hay Survey)

The Archives of Internal Medicine carried research on communication between referring and referred to physicians, an important subject with all the focus on better coordinated care.  The data was based on a survey of 4700 doctors.  The communication gap appears large.  About 70% of primary care physicians said they always or usually sent the patient’s history and reason for referral to the specialist, but only 35% of specialists said they always or usually got such information.  Around 81% of the specialists said they returned the results of the consult to the primary care doctor, but PCPs said they only received such information 62% of the time.  Obviously a little more work is needed to improve this significant aspect of care.   (Archives Article)

One alternative approach to preauthorization of costly procedures is to have providers use and document the use of clinical decision support systems.  A study in the Journal of the American College of Radiology reports on use of such a system for imaging in a large multispecialty practice.  The software resulted in a significant decline in use of MRI for low back pain and CT scans for sinusitis, both of which are largely viewed as inappropriate testing.  Rates of use for appropriate reasons did not appear to decline significantly.  This research is similar to other studies showing the value of such software.  While the software has a cost, it probably is less than the administrative cost of complying with payer prior authorization requests and the physicians are probably more satisfied.  (CDS Article)

UnitedHealth Group and the National Alliance for Caregiving issued a survey of 1000 family caregivers to ascertain how technology might help them in their roles.  The three that appeared most appealing and useful to the caregivers were personal health record tracking, a caregiving coordination system to link health professionals and the caregivers and a medication support system.  The biggest concern was that technology would be expensive.  Recommendations by health professionals and support with training would encourage faster use.  Most caregivers identified medical websites as the online information source they trust most.  Almost all these caregivers had used the internet to help them and the relative they were caring for.    (UHG Survey)

Health information exchanges are proving to be a lucrative business opportunity for IT vendors, largely due to federal and state grant funding.  Hewlett Packard announced that it had been selected to manage a $30 million contract to set up and operate a Medicaid HIE in Texas.  The exchange will focus on eligibility and benefit verification as well as a provider portal, eprescribing and a recipient portal.  The state is hopeful that the HIE will reduce provider and patient hassles and provide administrative and even medical cost savings.  (HP Release)

The Medical Group Management Association examined what made certain group practices appear to perform better in regard to items like patient satisfaction and financial metrics.  The successful practices used patient satisfaction surveys, tried to benchmark themselves to other practices and educated physicians about behavior that patients did and didn’t like.  More profitable practices spent more on IT, had higher physician productivity and lower operating costs as a percent of revenue.  They also had strong receivables management.  (MGMA Release)

Kalorama issued a report on the point-of-care testing market.  Most diagnostic work historically required a central lab or facility but increasingly manufacturers and providers have wanted to bring not only the collection but also the analysis of results right to the point-of-care.  This market was worth about $13 billion worldwide in 2009 and will grow at least 6% annually through 2014, according to the report.  The company estimates that 27 major vendors had about 94% of this market.  New technologies should drive even greater opportunities for this segment.   (Kalorama Release)

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