iLoveBenefits: Industry News Blog

Emerging Trends – Applying Technological Know How

IBM leverages cognitive computing tech to detect skin cancers IBM is collaborating with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in automating the detection of skin cancers through the use of cognitive computing technology. “Accurately distinguishing the earliest cancers from concerning benign lesions can be very challenging even for dermatologists, so having the aid of analytics that can recognize medical images and detect small variations over time could vastly improve patient prognoses,” says Dr. Allan Halpern of Memorial Sloan Kettering. Electronics Weekly (U.K.)

Providing a written plan. . . of care

Most cancer patients enter survivorship with little direction from oncologists or primary care providers, according to a national survey.

Two-thirds of 1,130 oncologists said they always or almost always discuss survivorship with patients, but only a third told patients where to seek cancer-related or other care. Fewer than 5% of oncology respondents provided patients with a written plan for survivorship care.

Read more here: Of 1,020 primary care providers surveyed, 12% reported regular discussions about recommendations for survivorship care or provider responsibility, as reported online in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Most who follow me know that I have a vision for how health care will evolve. The next two big things that need to occur are transparency of pricing – what patients are expected to pay for the services they receive – estimates if not actual prices based on the insurance they have and the current terms of that insurance. And not necessarily in this order a plan of care.

Let me explain what is meant by a plan of care. It goes well beyond the story in the Journal of Clincal Oncology. That is just one example.

It is a plan that every person should have. It is the equivalent of a financial plan. It is something that the patient has the key to access, a portal and a document through which to view and understand their medical condition and the actions that they or their caregivers need to take to optimize the outcomes that patient is seeking. It is something that the patient enables others including their providers and caregives to view and to add to with their special knowledge and information. It spans every episode of care. Whether that is a prevention episode, a wellness episode, an acute episode, a chronic episode, even a secondary prevention episode.

It enables hospital discharge instructions to be cleanly handed off to family caregivers, rehabilitation caregivers, other physcians or nurses caring for the patient. It enables the primary care physician to view what all other parts of the health system are contributing to the health of the patient. It provides a means of communicating with the patient while in the office and to be sure that the instructions are clear when they leave the office. It helps turn the office visit into a counselling session rather than simply a visit and script.

It links physician to nurse, pharmacy to physician, hospital to rehab or nursing facility. It helps turn siloed health care services into a system of organized and informed health processes focused on the patient.

Telemedicine returning the investment

Telemedicine programs may improve ICU outcomes
Implementation of ICU telemedicine programs led to a 16% drop in hospital mortality and a 26% decrease in ICU mortality, according to data from 56 ICUs at 32 hospitals, researchers reported in the journal Chest. ICU and overall hospital lengths of stay also were reduced. MedPage Today (free registration) (3/10)

Learning from others – can your health system innovate

“Big companies are really bad at innovation because they’re designed to be bad at innovation.”

“For executives who want to secure growth through innovation, the answer lies in recognizing the limits of their organization and empowering groups to function with very different goals and operational metrics. ”

“For those who would admonish [a company] for their approach to transformational innovation, it might be wise to consider that the company did exactly what it was designed to do: create operational efficiency.”

Read more here:

And so, too, are health systems — to do exactly what they were designed to do… care for more and more sick people without considering cost and up until recently quality and outcome.

So learning from this Harvard Business Review article would mean changing the stated objectives, goals and importantly measures!

There are huge opportunities for quality and efficiency for health care professionals with social media

Healthcare Professional’s Use of Online Social Media for Professional Networking

Social Media Site

% of Healthcare Professionals Using













Source: AMN Healthcare, Inc.

Telemedicine is coming of age

According to a recent survey of 179 intensive care unit nurses in academic hospitals that use telemedicine:

  • 72% thought that telemedicine increases patients’ survival
  • 44% reported regularly incorporating interventions suggested by the telemedicine staff
  • 47% thought that telemedicine prevents medical errors
  • 42% thought that telemedicine improves the satisfaction of patients’ families
  • 79% thought that personally knowing the telemedicine physician was important
  • 61% said they were more likely to contact the telemedicine unit if they knew the physician on call

Source: “Bedside Nurses’ Perceptions of Intensive Care Unit Telemedicine,’ American Journal of Critical Care, abstract only, January 2012,

At home, at work, at play: where PDAs and HIT converge

61% of consumers in U.S. are highly interested in using medical devices to monitor their health

 According to findings from a new survey published by the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, consumers are seeking technology solutions to manage their health:

  • Consumers are highly interested in using medical devices to monitor their condition and send information electronically to their doctor, ranging from a low of 46 percent consumers in Belgium through to a high of 79 percent of consumers in Mexico. (Sixty-one percent of U.S. consumers are interested in doing so.)
  • Over half (52 percent) of U.S. consumers say they would use a smart phone or PDA to monitor their health if they were able to access their medical records and download information about their medical condition.
  • Less than one in five consumers surveyed say they maintain a personal health record (PHR) electronically, with the exception of consumers in China where one in three have such a record.
  • Consumers are concerned that an Internet-based PHR might put privacy and security of personal health or medical information at risk.

Source: Deloitte Center for Health Solutions.  2011 U.S. and Global Survey of Health Care Consumers.

ONC pledges more help during EHR “intense execution” phase

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT pledges even more support for physicians who adopt electronic health records systems in what will be a time of “intense execution,” according to new coordinator Dr. Farzad Mostashari. He said the ONC will put more focus on educating physicians and consumers about health IT but added he expects “truly explosive and disruptive innovations” in health care because of EHRs. Government Health IT online (4/13)

Are We Getting Cost Efficiency From Retail Clinics

Retail Clinics: Average Cost for a Sore Throat Visit: $59

A recent study by RAND researchers examined the characteristics of retail clinics. Using cross-sectional data from industry and foundation sources, the team identified 982 retail clinics operating in the United States (as of August 2008). Analysis of these clinics revealed the following:

  • The majority of retail clinics were located in the South (43%) and Midwest (31%). Nearly half (44%) of all clinics were located in 5 states (Florida, California, Texas, Minnesota, and Illinois).
  • An estimated 35.8% of the U.S. urban population lived within a 10-minute driving distance of a retail clinic.
  • All clinics offered treatment for pharyngitis (sore throat)
  • Nearly all accepted private insurance (97%) and Medicare fee-for-service (93%); 60% accepted some form of Medicaid.
  • For an uninsured patient, the average cost for a sore throat visit was $59.
  • Three organizations: CVS, Walgreens, and Target, operated 73% of the clinics.

Source: RAND Health. Health Care on Aisle 7: The Growing Phenomenon of Retail Clinics, October 27, 2009.


  • Upstate New York insurer will cover telehealth
    BlueCross BlueShield in New York will cover a new telehealth service provided by the American Well Online Care platform that links patients to medical assistance via the telephone or Internet starting soon with western New York. Plans are in the works to expand the service to the northeastern part of the state later in the year, the insurer said. InformationWeek (3/10)
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