Midweek update

On the prescription drug front,

  • The Wall Street Journal reports tonight that Walgreen’s CEO is optimistic that his company’s planned merger with Rite Aid will close by the end of July. 
  • The Journal also reports that President Trump’s nominee for Food and Drug Commissioner Scott Gottlieb had a smooth confirmation hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee today. 

He said his first priority will be tackling the opioid epidemic which he said was a serious public health issue on par with infectious diseases like Ebola or Zika. He said solutions will “require dramatic action,” including finding ways to spur development of non-addictive alternative painkillers as well as addiction treatments.

A committee vote on Gottlieb’s nomination is expected after the Easter recess Alexander said.

  • Drug Channels has a report on hospital’s scalping health plans with high pricing on specialty drugs.   
The National Center for Business Journalism writes about five healthcare trends involving the millenial generation.  Here’s number one:

According to a survey conducted by Communispace, only 56 percent of millennials reported that they had visited a primary care physician in the last year, compared to 74 percent of non-millennials. Efficiency and convenience are at the heart of the millennial shopping experience. According to HIT Consultant, millennials are going to retail clinics (34 percent) and acute care clinics (24 percent) to save time. In response, the number of retail and urgent care locations is exploding. According to the Convenient Care Association, the number of retail care clinics has risen by 127 percent since 2010.

Interesting. Good news for telehealth vendors.

Fierce Healthcare informs us that

A new study shows the value of integrating caregivers into the discharge process for elderly patients: far fewer readmissions.
Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh Health Policy Institute found hospitals that involved family members or unpaid caregivers in the discharge planning process had a 25% reduction in risk of elderly patients being readmitted to the hospitals within 90 days and a 24% reduction in risk of being readmitted within 180 days.
The study was published Monday in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. It is the first to quantify the post-discharge impact of caregiver integration into discharge planning on healthcare costs and resource utilization. 

Well duh. The FEHBlog thinks that this advice should be followed for all hospital admissions.

Finally here’s encouraging news from AHRQ:

Prior research has demonstrated that hospital accreditation by The Joint Commission is associated with improved hospital performance on certain quality of care measures. However, it has not been established whether the survey periods themselves are associated with a change in patient outcomes. Researchers analyzed Medicare admissions at 1984 hospitals surveyed by The Joint Commission between 2008 and 2012 from 3 weeks prior to a survey up to 3 weeks afterward. They compared patient outcomes between survey periods and the surrounding weeks. For the primary outcome—30-day mortality—they found that patients admitted to the hospital during survey periods had significantly lower mortality than those admitted during nonsurvey weeks. The authors conclude that heightened vigilance during survey weeks and resultant changes in practice may explain this finding. 

The upshot is plan your hospital admission around your hospital’s Joint Commission accreditation survey. The FEHBlog understands that accrediting bodies generally require advance public notice of accreditation surveys. Perhaps health plan case managers should take this into account. (jk)