United Health Group identifies savvy Medicare consumers

Filed under: Health Care |

Three years after Medicare Part D prescription drug programs became part of the Medicare services, beneficiaries are becoming savvier about the program and its benefits.
A survey conducted by United Health Group found that its beneficiaries are better able to choose and use the plan that best fits their needs. More frequent and longer visits to the group’s Web site and increased use of online tools demonstrate that seniors are on a “quest for value,” the survey said.
“People are becoming more sophisticated about purchasing and using Part D plans, with value being driven not only by monthly premiums, but also by the convenience and value of mail order and generic drugs,” said Simon Stevens, chief executive officer of Ovations, the UnitedHealth company that focuses on people 50 and older.
United Health Group is the largest provider of Part D prescription drug plans and the largest provider of Medicare plans overall, serving one in five Medicare beneficiaries.
Among the survey findings were increased visits to the group’s Part D Web site, www.aarpmedicarerx.com. Users visited the site about 2.3 times and spent more than 8.5 minutes on the site during the open enrollment period.
One third of visitors used the formulary finder, which helps determine which of the company’s plans cover their particular prescription drugs.
About 80 percent of visitors used one of the sites evaluation tools, and half used the site to review their claims history or calculate out-of-pocket costs.

Top cardiovascular hospital

Memorial Hospital Central has been named one of the nation’s 100 Top Hospitals for cardiovascular care by Thomson Healthcare.
The annual award is based on hospitals’ performance treating congestive heart failure and heart attacks. This is the fourth time Memorial has received the award.
Among Thomson’s findings for 2007:

  • If all cardiovascular hospitals achieved the same results as the 100 Top Hospitals award winners, more than 7,000 lives would be saved and nearly 750 medical complications would be avoided annually.
  • The award winners reported hospital stays that were 12 percent shorter, on average, than other hospitals.
    The 100 Top Hospitals reported costs that averaged 13 percent — or about $2,000 — lower per case than other hospitals.
  • There was a significant difference in the volume of heart procedures performed by the winning hospitals.
  • The 100 top hospitals performed nearly two-thirds more coronary artery bypass grafts and percutaneous coronary interventions, such as angioplasty.

Thomson Healthcare scored facilities in eight performance areas: risk-adjusted medical mortality, risk-adjusted surgical mortality, risk-adjusted complications, core measures score, percentage of coronary artery bypass graft patients with internal mammary artery use, procedure volume, severity-adjusted average length of stay, and wage- and severity-adjusted average cost.

Honey-based bandage OK’d

Nearly 4,000 years after the Egyptians used it to bind wounds and reduce the risk of infections, U.S. hospitals are turning to nature to combat antibiotic-resistant infections.
Manuka honey is used in Derma Sciences’ Medihoney bandages, which have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Also known as Leptospermum honey, Manuka is made by bees who harvest nectar from manuka bushes in New Zealand and Australia.
The company tested the bandages at vascular centers, acute care hospitals, community hospitals and clinics. The study involved more than 100 patients with chronic leg ulcerations. The study showed that patients treated with the honey bandages had more debridement, faster healing times and lower infection rates.
“What we found particularly exciting about the results was the information about the effectiveness of active Manuka honey on wounds with methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA),” said Edward J. Quilty, president and chief executive officer of Derma Sciences. “Of the 10 wounds that were affected with MRSA, at the start of the study, seven showed no presence of the bacteria after four weeks of treatment.”
Honey has been used for centuries for wound healing and was used fairly regularly until the invention of penicillin. When the issue of antimicrobial resistance started to become significant, the wound-care community began to look at topical antimicrobials as alternatives to manage the problem, Quilty said. The problems have led to the widespread use of silver as a topical antimicrobial, and have renewed interest in honey.
Amy Gillentine covers health care for the Colorado Springs Business Journal.