Friday October 31, 2014

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Consumer-Driven Health News

Facebook Plots First Steps into Healthcare

Facebook is plotting its first steps into the fertile field of healthcare, said three people familiar with the matter. The company is exploring creating online "support communities" that would connect Facebook users suffering from various ailments. A small team is also considering new "preventative care" applications that would help people improve their lifestyles.

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Video Visits with Patients Are Taking Off

It's becoming harder for patients to find a doctor, and harder to get an appointment even if they have one. When patients do get an appointment, spending a couple of hours in transit in rush-hour traffic, and being marooned in the waiting room because the doctor is behind schedule, gets old fast. On top of that, with many employers switching to high-deductible health plans, seeing a doctor has become more expensive than ever. These are among the reasons that virtual visits has reached what many experts maintain is a "tipping point."

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Given Choice, Parents Pick Cheaper Medical Procedure for Children

A recent study in the Annals of Surgery found that parents who were asked to decide which form of surgery their children should undergo and told about the price difference tended to select the cheaper option, regardless of their insurance or economic situation. The study offers a compelling case for price transparency combined with medical consumerism as one strategy that could help reel in the nation’s $2.8 trillion health care bill.

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Wellness Programs Grow in Popularity as More Firms Offer Financial Rewards

Employers are gradually embracing the concept of providing financial rewards to their employees based on specific health outcomes from their participation in workplace wellness programs. Experts say the growing popularity of results-based wellness incentives is being driven by a deeper understanding of the underlying motives that inform employees' health habits and choices, as well as regulatory changes that permit employers to increase the dollar value of rewards and penalties to boost employees' engagement in health management programs.

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New Health Care Tax Looms for Many Employers Who Don't Change Plans

Without design changes to their health care plans, nearly half of large employers could be liable for a federal excise tax created by the health care reform law when it takes effect in 2018, according to a new analysis by Towers Watson & Co. The analysis of health plans offered by employers with at least 5,000 employees projects that 48% of the employers could be hit by the tax in 2018, with 82% affected by 2023.

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