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This Week in Managed Care: October 1, 2016


This week, the top stories in managed care included 2 reports on the fight against addiction, researchers have learned more about the effects of healthy living on avoiding cancers, and a study finds fitness trackers do not help people lose more weight.

Hello, I’m Justin Gallagher, associate publisher of The American Journal of Managed Care. Welcome to This Week in Managed Care from the Managed Markets News Network.

Opioid Crisis

The final week of National Recovery Month brought attention to the opioid crisis and efforts to prevent abuse of both prescription drugs and heroin. Two reports this week showed just how complex the fight against addiction is for health plans and for government.

A report in POLITICO found that while prescription drug monitoring programs have increased since 2012, it doesn’t mean opioid use has declined—it may only mean that users have turned to the streets for heroin. While deaths from prescription drugs have dropped somewhat, heroin deaths have soared.

One reason: not everyone trying to beat opioid addiction has access to buprenorphine, according to a report from the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics. Access to this treatment for opioid addiction varies widely in Medicaid, the report found, even though Medicaid clients had easy access to pain medication for years before crackdowns began a few years ago.

Former Congressman Patrick Kennedy, who is now a mental health advocate, told The American Journal of Managed Care: We’re staring a national public health crisis in the face. We have to fundamentally change our approach.”

Preventing Cancer

While the link between quitting smoking and avoiding lung cancer has been well-known for decades, researchers are learning more about the effects of healthy living on avoiding other cancers.

JAMA Oncology recently reported results from a study in which researchers examined data from several well-known studies and looked at the difference rates of cancer incidence and death among men and women who didn’t smoke, drank little or no alcohol, were not significantly overweight, and received recommended amounts of exercise.

While very few men or women in the larger studies met these criteria, those who did reduced their risks of colon, pancreatic, and bladder cancer and significantly reduced their risk of lung cancer. The authors found these results significant, since all these cancers produce few early symptoms.

Fitness Tracker Weight Loss

A separate JAMA study found that fitness trackers may not be the best tool to help people lose weight.

A randomized controlled study of young adults who ranged from slightly overweight to close significantly obese found that those who used the trackers lost less weight than a group who had to check in each day and report their diet and exercise activity.

The good news is that both groups lost some weight. Researchers did not offer reasons for the findings, but some speculate that fitness tracker users cannot always keep up with the goals and get frustrated with the devices. Fitness trackers are big business—they accounted for $1.46 billion in sales in 2015.

Patient ID Errors

Hospital errors that happen because of mistakes in patient identification are more common than you think, according to a study by the ECRI Institute’s Patient Safety Organization.

While 91% of these errors are caught before patients are harmed, those that are missed can cause disastrous outcomes and are largely preventable, according to the study. Examples included failing to revive a patient in cardiac arrest because providers had a different patient’s file that said, "Do not resuscitate."

Technology was a factor in about 15% of the errors, but technology can also offer solutions, such as biometric palm scans to identify patients. Some ideas for eliminating errors are quite low-tech, such as including patient photos in their files, or asking patients their name at each new encounter.

ACO Coalition

Time and room are running out to join our fall meeting of the ACO and Emerging Healthcare Delivery Coalition, which meets October 20th and 21st at the Westin in Philadelphia. If you need to know more about new payment models, MACRA, and how to spot high healthcare utilizers, register now.

For all of us at the Managed Markets News Network, I’m Justin Gallagher. Thanks for joining us.

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