Midweek update

Healthcare Informatics reports on Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar’s speech to the World Health Congress. The Secretary is keen on making health care pricing transparent to consumers. Why not require doctors to provide a summary of services and prices similar to the summary of benefits and coverage that the ACA requires health plans to produce, e.g., my practice participates in the following networks, if I perform this type of service out of network it would cost $X.

Azar also referenced issues around pharmaceutical pricing. “We also want to lower the high prices of drugs,” he said. “HHS is working with the president to focus on a number of issues, including high-list prices, seniors in government programs overpaying for drugs, and foreign governments getting a free ride on American innovation. We’re working on this. I can assure you the President wants to go further, much further. Action is desperately needed. I believe we can help lower the cost of medicine while still stimulating innovation. We have to do so going forward.” 

Concluding his speech, Secretary Azar said that the potential for change, and the initiatives he had just referenced, are among the reasons “why I’m so optimistic.” Fundamentally, he said, “The time has simply come for this [transformational change] to happen. The status quo just cannot hold. The way we do business in American healthcare, from insurance, to IT, to drug pricing, to patient billing, has got to change.” He said he believes that “The power of informed individuals will deliver high-quality healthcare. Getting to that system won’t be the most comfortable process for some entrenched players,” he warned, but he said the opportunities are many, and exciting, and he added, “I exhort all of you to engage with us on the initiatives we’ve presented today, because the opportunities are [so great]. Change is necessary, change is coming,” he said, and asked the leaders gathered at the conference to be a part of that change.

Healthcare Dive discusses a wide-ranging PwC report on merger and acquisition activities in healthcare.  In the course of discussing tech company involvement with healthcare, the publication observes based on the PwC report that

More than half of consumers surveyed said they believe technology companies can improve the patient experience, reduce costs, simplify healthcare and increase their access to personal health information. But they also expressed concerns about the quality of products and services offered by tech companies and privacy of their information. For example, 36% said they would not be very comfortable getting diagnostic tests through a tech company and 36% were uncomfortable with the idea of a virtual doctor visit.

Consumers are, however, embracing health retailers like CVS Health, Walgreens Boots Alliance and Walmart. Slightly more than half said they would be very or somewhat likely to get a wound treated or get staples or stitches at a retail clinic, and 61% said they would use an at-home strep test purchased at a retail store. Payers like CVS are banking on these loyal retail customers to drive increased use of basic healthcare services at clinics.

Health IT Security offers a very informative report on HHS Office for Civil Rights advice on development of legally mandated electronic protected health information security risk assessments. Definitely worth a gander.