What We're Reading: Telehealth Costs; VA Cancer Lawsuit; and Sugary Beverage Campaign

Telehealth May Expand Access to Care, But Not Lower Spending

A study on the costs and benefits of direct-to-consumer telehealth published in Health Affairs found that it may make care more accessible without actually lowering spending. Just 12% of telehealth visits replaced face-to-face visits, while the other 88% represented new utilization by patients that otherwise would not have accessed care. This increased utilization was linked to higher costs, as net spending on acute respiratory illness increased by $45 per telehealth user annually.

Patient Receives $2.5 Million in Negligence Lawsuit Against VA

Veteran Steven Cooper was awarded $2.5 million after winning a court case against the Veterans Administration (VA), according to the Washington Post. Cooper’s attorneys argued that a nurse practitioner at the Phoenix VA hospital found abnormalities on his prostate but neglected to refer him for further testing, delaying his diagnosis of Stage IV cancer by 11 months. The Phoenix VA medical center faced intense scrutiny in October 2015 when an inspection found that veterans faced unnecessary clinical harm due to a lack of timely care.

Public Health Campaign Encourages Healthier Beverage Choices

An intervention designed to reduce sugary drink consumption in Maryland appears to have changed consumers’ purchasing patterns. The “Howard County Unsweetened” initiative featured advertising on multiple channels encouraging consumers to choose water over soda, sports drinks, and fruit drinks. A study on the campaign, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, found that soda sales decreased by nearly 20% at local supermarkets over the 3-year study period.