Midweek update

Fierce Healthcare reports on PriceWaterhouseCooper’s three tier approach to estimating 2021 health care costs. Of course, the variable is impact of the COVID-19 emergency. The Goldilocks increase is estimated at 6%.

Fierce Pharma informs us that Gilead’s as yet unpriced remdesivir treatment for severe COVID-19 has gained stiff competition for a “low-cost [drug called] dexamethasone.”

According to results just published on preprint site medRxiv, dexamethasone treatment led to a 35% reduction in death rate among patients on invasive mechanical ventilation and 20% for those receiving oxygen without invasive ventilation.

Because of that showing, clinical experts told ICER that dexamethasone could soon become the new standard of care throughout the U.S., “and that the relative benefits of remdesivir will now be judged to be most pertinent as an adjunct to dexamethasone treatment,” the organization noted in its new analysis. In the ACTT-1 trial, the death rate for remdesivir among severe patients were reduced to 7.7% from 13% for placebo, a difference that was not statistically significant.

Both drugs remain under study.

Smartbrief offers four innovative approaches for payers in the post hunkering down world. The FEHBlog’s favorites approach is as follows:

Humana Vice President Caraline Coats defined whole person care through the lens her company’s Bold Goal initiative uses: Primary care, social determinants of health, pharmacy, home health and behavioral health. Their work strives to help members in targeted communities enjoy more Healthy Days per month – when they feel physically and mentally well. A lot of their progress comes down to taking the time to ask members the right questions, and then having the ability to act on what is learned.

In an industry built around episodic care, “whole-person care is really different,” Coats said, and it is still being defined. So, her team’s work looks a lot like vetting of clinical interventions: rigorous testing, followed by publication of results so others may learn, too. Among their recent promising experiments is a partnership with Mom’s Meals to meet the needs of certain members with diabetes and a program with Papa (which provides companionship and help with everyday tasks) that measurably brought down loneliness scores among participants.

Meanwhile Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina is offering monetary support to primary care practices in that State. That’s quite a helping hand. Bravo.

On the technology front —

  • Anthem, the large Blue Cross licensee, is now an Alexa skill. Currently

Using the Anthem Skill, you can:

Order your digital member ID card.
Access your health savings account (HSA) or health reimbursement account (HRA) balance.
Check your progress toward meeting your medical plan’s deductible and out-of-pocket maximum.
Schedule a call with someone from our Member Services team.
Refill, renew and check the order status of any home delivery prescription medicines.
Find out how close you are to reaching your dental plan’s deductible and annual maximum.
Use the glossary to learn what a health care term means.

  • STAT News has an interesting article about about how North Dakota is testing a contacts app with COVID-19 patients. The app was developed by a Microsoft engineer for use with North Dakota football games. Unfortunately, however, according to the article:

While apps can’t replace health care workers, they may be used to bolster their efforts — so long as enough people use them. So far, though, that hasn’t gone as planned: Early excitement over cutting-edge technology has given way to a largely lackluster role for contact tracing apps. Many states have opted against adopting the tools as part of their arsenal. And the handful of states that are launching such apps — including North Dakota — haven’t seen them gain much traction.

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