Category: Patients

Amazon Halo or Apple Watch? Why not both?

published date
November 25th, 2020 by

I share my impressions of the Amazon Halo and Apple Watch in the latest edition of the HealthBiz podcast. Usually, I interview a guest but in this episode it’s just me.

I’ve gotten a lot of use out of the Watch over the past couple years and I’m not giving it up any time soon. But the Band adds some useful –and novel— features, making it more of a complement than a substitute. I’m planning to keep wearing both.

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Check out the rough (AI generated) transcript of the episode. Click on a word if you want to start the podcast from a particular spot.

0E1EE795 194B 4DA8 922B 5C3677C39F6E 1 105 c
Watch me!
7C0E76EA ADAD 4CF9 8119 425E0355E1B3 1 105 c
Halo band matches my socks (also from Amazon)
DB8F1DFC 4D94 424D 9319 7906F385DC5F
Halo app home screen
E79F4C81 C2F4 4332 AC20 0ABEB07B3B5E
This is a pointless reminder



 


By healthcare business consultant David E. Williams, president of Health Business Group

How to get Noom for free

published date
March 31st, 2020 by

Noom combines an app with human coaching to help people lose weight and keep it off. The company’s typical user loses 7.5% of body weight over the course of a four month program.  Customers are joining like crazy, and revenue quadrupled last year.

After hearing about Noom on NPR late last year I signed up, paying $44.99 per month. To put it in perspective, that’s almost twice what I pay for my gym. Plus, my health insurer, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts actually reimburses me for three months of gym membership.

And that got me thinking, if Blue Cross pays for me to stay fit at the gym, maybe they would pay for my weight loss program as well. After all, trimmer people cost insurers less money. So I called Blue Cross and they told me they actually do cover weight loss plans, the same way they cover gym memberships.

Once I found out about the benefit, it was incredibly simple to get reimbursed. I typed in some basic information online, uploaded my Noom receipt –and today I received a check for the full amount of my Noom membership. No co-pays, no deductibles, no negotiated discount!

Screenshot 2020 03 30 23.35.25
Online form

It wasn’t easy to find, though, so I’m writing this post to give others a heads up. Here’s where I had to go on the Blue Cross site to find the benefit:

  • Login> My plans> Plan Details> Plan Benefits> Benefit Details> Routine Adult Physical Exams Covered By Your Plan
Screenshot 2020 03 30 23.45.06
Where’s Weight Loss?

Buried at the bottom of a run-on paragraph with no line breaks, I found the following run-on section with weird punctuation and a typo:

Weight Loss Benefit – you and your covered family members can be reimbursed for up to 3 months of participation fees paid to a weight loss program that is hospital-based; or one that is non-hospital-based program focused on eating and physical activity habits, and behavioral/lifestyle counseling with certified health professionals (in-person, by phone, or online). You can request this reimbursement once each calendar year; requests must be submitted by March 31 of the following year.

Bingo! (Although can someone explain why on earth this would be in the physical exams benefit?)

Noom isn’t specifically mentioned, but when I called Blue Cross they assured me the company was on the list. They also told me my call was being recorded in case I was denied and wanted to complain later! That was comforting.

Anyway, the moral of this story is to check with your health plan to see if they’ll pay for Noom. You might be pleasantly surprised. And who couldn’t use a little break during these tough financial times?


Coronavirus and the role of home health care

published date
March 24th, 2020 by

Home health has an important role to play in coronavirus. In the near term, clearing out hospitals to make room for acutely ill coronavirus patients means homecare needs to step up, and it’s important to keep moderately ill patients at home if at all possible. Eventually there will be reliable home testing for coronavirus, but sadly that day has not yet arrived –despite what you may have heard.

In this latest edition of #CareTalk, CareCentrix CEO John Driscoll and I discuss the latest on COVID-19.


By healthcare business consultant David E. Williams, president of Health Business Group.

Life Image CTO Janak Joshi discusses real world evidence (RWE) –podcast

published date
August 12th, 2019 by
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Real world evidence?

Real World Evidence (RWE) is becoming more important in US healthcare, but the fragmented system and lack of interoperability makes it hard to collect and analyze. In this podcast, Life Image CTO Janak Joshi discusses  the state of the field and how it’s evolving.

Overview:

  • (0:12) How would you describe the evolution of medical data?
  • (2:36) Real world evidence and real world data are becoming more prominent in healthcare –and for good reason. What are some of the challenges in assembling RWD and RWE? How can they be overcome?
  • (6:36) Is it really true that unstructured notes are becoming quantifiable and useful?
  • (9:46) There are major efforts by the US government and private sector to improve interoperability and end data blocking. You have groups like CommonWell and Carequality –now working together. What’s the current state of play and how are things changing?
  • (13:56) You talk about data brokers like Datavant and HealthVerity. How much of their success is because the US system is so broken? Do you see them having the same success elsewhere?
  • (17:31) Promoters of AI and Machine Learning –including Life Image—tout the opportunity to revolution healthcare with these new techniques. Is it for real or overhyped? And how does interoperability tie in?
  • (22:20) What are you most excited about over the next few years?

By healthcare business consultant David E. Williams, president of Health Business Group.

Experiencing Patient Experience results from MHQP

published date
January 28th, 2019 by

For the past 14 years, Massachusetts Health Quality Partners (MHQP) has published results of its primary care patient experience survey. The information is useful to the practices themselves as they seek to improve, and to health plans looking to evaluate their networks, improve member service, and pay bonuses to the best practices.

This year MHQP added an analysis of free text feedback to its analysis, to give practices more color on the scores.

The consumer-facing site, Healthcare Compass lets users view ratings for individual practices and compare up to three at a time. Users can click on the individual categories to learn what each one means, what patients can do, what doctors can do, and where to find additional resources. For example, the “what you can do” tab in the communications section includes suggestions to speak up if you want your doctor to make eye contact and to ask the doctor to repeat back what you just said.

I used the site to compare three practices I am familiar with and the results match up well with my perceptions.

Screenshot 2019 01 27 09.48.31
Comparing MD offices
Screenshot 2019 01 27 21.11.20
Click on the Harvey ball to see the underlying data

There is a lot to like about MHQP’s patient experience reporting including:

  • It provides validated information on key elements of practices, for both adult and pediatric
  • The site is easy to navigate. The information is communicated in plain English and with simple, intuitive graphics. For even more detail, you can click on the Harvey balls (I didn’t realize this at first) to get the detail behind the score.
  • Providers have responded to the feedback by improving performance in key areas over the years, including communications and care coordination
  • The bottom line “willingness to recommend” percentage provides a useful benchmark for comparing practices
  • For the first time this year, MHQP issued awards for the highest performing practices for adults and pediatrics and for each domain of care. You have to go to the MHQP site itself to see it, but you can bet the doctors know it’s there!

MHQP has built trust with providers and payers by working collaboratively with them and taking their sensitivities into account when publishing the performance data. Here’s how public reporting of survey results could expand, subject to the consent of providers and payers and additional funding:

  • Provide more prominence to the actual scores for the measures, rather than just a three-level Harvey ball (full, half full, empty) showing relative performance. The current approach obscures the fact that median scores for certain categories are much higher than others. For example, the mean score for pediatric practices on patient-provider communications is 97.3% compared with 50.3% for empowering patient self care. While we’re at it, it might also be nice to see the range of scores. Does everyone cluster around 50% for self care or do some practices get into the 70s or 80s?
  • Provide reporting at the level of the individual MD for measures where that’s relevant, e.g., “how well doctors communicate with their patients” and “how well doctors know their patients,” while keeping practice-level reporting for measures such as, “getting timely appointments, care, and information.” The challenge here is that it would require a much bigger budget to reach the needed sample size
  • Provide a synthesis of the qualitative comments
  • Provide ratings of specialists as well as primary care

The pushback will be that there are valid reasons to present the information as it is and that expanding will be cost prohibitive, but on the other hand it would make this reliable and validated information more likely to be used.

Congratulations to MHQP for its continued success in shining a light on patient experience and making useful information available to all the stakeholders in the Massachusetts healthcare system.


By healthcare business consultant David E. Williams, president of Health Business Group.