Fed’s role in health care contributions growing

Filed under: Health Care |

A federal study shows that the U.S. government will contribute almost 50 percent of the nation’s health-care costs within 10 years, 5 percent more than it is currently supplying, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The government’s expanding role stems from the expansion of Medicare to include prescription drugs, cutbacks in employer-sponsored health coverage and initiatives such as the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, the Journal reported.
This new role has led some insurers, such as Louisville, Ky.-based Humana Inc., to rethink their short-term growth strategies.
They are now focusing on the government end of the market, said the report.
As a result of Humana’s persistent sales effort in Wal-Mart stores across the country, 4.5 million Medicare beneficiaries signed on by the end of 2006, the Journal reported.

Springs company offers new treatment for breast tumors

Penrad Imaging is offering a minimally invasive alternative to surgery for women with fibroadenomas.
The benign breast tumors are the most common tumors, affecting millions of women in their 20s and 30s. The procedure uses cryoblation, or extreme cold, to destroy the tumors without surgery.
The procedure can be performed in a doctor’s office, in about 40 minutes. It involves placing a small probe into the tumor, using an ultrasound for guidance.
Penrad uses the Visica System, the only minimally invasive cryotechnology device approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Electronic records might save money

Health care information technology could reduce spending by as much as 50 percent, but not until a decade after widespread adoption.
Electronic information systems also could help control health care spending, but only if providers give control of information to patients, there is universal public availability of provider performance comparisons and the policy to use electronic records is widespread.
David Brailer, former health IT coordinator at the Department of Health and Human Services, said that one-third of providers will not be able to adopt electronic health records without policy interventions.
“We are now in the period of adoption by the willing — large hospitals or large physician groups — organizations that have been planning this for some time or that have the native capacity to take on such a complicated project,” he said. “But ‘small doctors’ offices, one- or two-person practices, safety-net clinics and rural and underserved areas are not there yet.”
Brailer pointed out that, according to studies of other U.S. industries that have undergone automation, such as manufacturing, retail, food preparation, insurance and financial services, “it takes about a decade after the substantial majority of the players are automated for full benefit to be gleaned.”
Brailer said he expects health care to follow suit. Major productivity gains will not be achieved until all the stakeholders are invested in health care information technology.
“A hospital or physician can’t reap the full benefits of communicating electronically or of passing information back and forth, or of eliminating middle suppliers, until the other has also done so,” he said.

Koehn receives Community Health recognition

A Colorado Springs physician has been honored for his work as a volunteer clinician for Peak Vista Community Health Centers.
Dr. Gerald Koehn received a Community Health Champion award from the Colorado Community Health network last week.
The association recognizes legislators, reporters and volunteer clinicians for their work to improve the health of Coloradoans.
Koehn is a board certified dermatologist who volunteered to accept referrals from Peak Vista Community Health Centers shortly after his arrival in Colorado Springs in 1980. As the patient population grew, Koehn convinced other dermatologists to volunteer as well.

‘Group think’ can lead to fewer solutions

Group meetings can “cloud” thinking and make it harder to come up with alternative solutions to a problem, according to research published in the Journal of Consumer Research.
Scientists exposed participants to one brand of soft drink and asked them to think about alternative brands. The participants thought about “significantly more products” individually than when they were grouped with two others.
Researchers say the problem could extend into corporate boardrooms.
“When a group gets together, they can miss out on good options,” study team member H. Shanker Krishnan told LiveScience magazine. “Whether it’s with family or a group of co-workers, we could very quickly fixate on things and all come up with the same options.”
The researchers speculate that when a group of people receives information, the inclination is to discuss it. The more times one option is said aloud, the harder it is for individuals to recall other options, said Krishnan, associate professor of marketing at Indiana University.
Another contributing factor is variation in learning and memory styles. People store and retrieve information in myriad ways, so in a group situation, the conversation could cause individuals to think about the cues differently than they would if they were alone.
Amy Gillentine covers health care for the Colorado Springs Business Journal.