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2011 Potpourri XIX

By May 6, 2011Commentary

After much appropriate howling from providers and telemedicine companies, CMS fixed the credentialing process for use of telemedicine services for Medicare beneficiaries.  CMS generally has done a poor job of making it easy to use telemedicine, which research increasingly shows delivers as good a quality, often at a lower price, as on-site services.  The new rule allows the receiving site to rely on credentialing done by the originating site, which seems logical but took a long time for CMS to okay.  As CMS itself put it “Upon reflection, we came to the conclusion that our present requirement is a duplicative and burdensome process…”  Might be able to say that about most government rules.   (HHS Rule)

The Vitality Group released results of a study over five years regarding the ability of its wellness programs to increase engagement and lower hospital costs.  Findings included showing a 23% increase in number of people using the gym at least once a week and six percent lower hospital costs for members who were inactive but become active and 16% lower costs for members who were active throughout the study period.  Two additional gym visits a week reduce the likelihood of a hospital admission by 13%.   (Vitality Release)

The American College of Emergency Physicians released results of a survey of almost 1800 emergency physicians.   Eighty percent said visits are increasing now in their emergency rooms, with over half reporting significant increases, and 90% are expecting more increases next year.  About 97% treat patients every day who were referred by primary care doctors.  Ninety-seven percent also report treating Medicaid patients daily who say they came because they could not find a doctor who would see them.  The Association believes these results indicate that more insurance coverage does not mean automatic access to primary care doctors.  Other interesting results were that 44% said that fear of lawsuits was the biggest barrier to cutting ER costs and 53% said such fears led them to do more testing.   (ACEP Release), a company and website which helps non-professional caregivers issued the results of a survey of such caregivers.  Notable findings include that 86% said caregiving for a relative or friend was impacting their work situation, 25% suffer from depression and to ameliorate the effects 31% rely on religious organizations and 25% on online support groups, 32% spend more than 30 hours a week on caregiving, most have their own significant health issues and 53% have difficulty sleeping due to stress caused in large part by caregiving.  Those caring for Alzheimer’s patients have the highest stress levels.   (Caring Release)

A survey of adult consumers conducted by Kelton Research and Makovsky & Company reveals data about sources of health information.  Sixty-eight percent use online news sites, like WedMD, for health information and 54% use social media-type sites.  WebMD was the single most popular source for health data.  Only 3% use Twitter for health purposes and only 7% use patient community websites.  The federal government is seen as the most trusted source of information and Facebook patient-created sites are the least trusted.  Drug company sites are not frequently visited.   (Makovsky Release)

Finally, regular readers know we like a bit of whimsy.  A study published in the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization suggests that suicide is more likely among residents of geographic areas with higher levels of happiness.  Seems counter-intuitive?  The theory is that is you live among more happy people and are having problems, the contrast is more likely to drive you to kill yourself.  So if you really want to be happy, be sure to live among lots of depressed people, because by comparison you will feel lucky and therefore happy.   (JEBO Article)

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