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Mike Smith

Mike Smith

Posted: August 12, 2009 02:30 PM

Health Care Debate Sizzles in Summer Recess


The health care reform town hall meetings continue to turn ugly with members of the Obama Administration and long-serving members of Congress taking it on the chin. This week, President Obama took to the hustings and made his own case in Portsmouth, NH. There seems to be confusion about the "why" part of health care debate as in "why now" or "why this is critical to our economy".

As my friend Paul Silverman, who teaches at George Mason University, has stated. "Fixing the system makes sense when you look at today's health care system problems. I find the University of Maine study reviewing OECD and WHO data particularly insightful. there are 42 million uninsured in the U.S.; we spend about $4,178 per capita for health care in the U.S., more than two times the median cost of $1,783 in OECD countries and much more than Switzerland which is next on the list at $2,794; we spend 13.6 percent of our GDP on health care vs. the next highest at 10.6 and 10.4 percent in Germany and Switzerland."

Access to Internet-based health care resources offered by agencies like CDC and NIH, which includes the popular MedLine, is now helping moms searching for detail on swine flu. NIH has one of the most visited government online information sites as measured by comScore. comScore is entering a new federal practice offering healthcare metrics and measurement of the space. It has found many government sites are gaining more traction than private healthcare information sites like WebMD.

Now Americans can leverage the Internet, electronic medical records and telemedicine to support patient care. Now is the time to use technology!

There are also new on-line gaming technologies to improve cognitive abilities and treat PTSD, ADD and other psychological disorders. Silverman talks about innovative Internet-based wellness programs; creative telemedicine applications (see American Telemedicine Association, a former client of ours) enabling seniors to stay at home and avoid nursing home care; 'selective' on-line access to patient medical records (EMR) are some of the accelerating trends reshaping today's health care system. Silverman says "understanding how Internet resources are used today, how Internet-based services impacts cost-performance and how users will use and react to these new capabilities will present challenges but also significant new opportunities. Given the upside here and our urgent need to reshape today's health care system, I am confident these challenges will be met and the Internet will clearly play a key role."

In the United States where only 40 percent of the population is satisfied with our health care system.There are 'hard' statistics such as infant mortality rates where the U.S. ranked 26th among all industrialized countries with 7.2 deaths per 1000 live births. Compare this to Japan, Norway, Finland and Sweden which are all under 4, and the United Kingdom, Canada and Germany at 5.9, 5.2 and 4.9 respectively. We need to do better.

"Nobody knows for sure what healthcare measures will be adopted this year or even next," said Steve Anderson, CEO of the National Association of Chain Drugstores (NACDS), at its annual meeting in Boston this week. "We don't write the legislation. Elected officials make the decision based on our (pharmacy) arguments weighted against others."

NACDS sees pharmacy as the front line of healthcare reform. One of the clients we believe is helping to support compliance and medicine adherence is FLAVORx. This company was statred by a pharmacist and provides medicine flavoring that helps the "medicine go down."

A new product at NACDS called Pill Glide was introduced at the Pharmacy and Technology show. FLAVORx was also recently merged with a company called Fillmaster and now automation permits the pharmacist to flavor meds so kids will take them. This has resulted in some 85% of pediatric compliance with taking prescribed medicine (Dr. Brand, Prednisone Study). Compliance among all patients, according to Pharmacy Times, is only 70% of all patients. We don't take our medicine!

According to a National Community Pharmacists Association study, 24% of patients don't even take the right dosage. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports only 50% of people take medicine as prescribed with non-compliance driving an annual cost of $100 billion in additional health care costs to address the original complaint.

August is usually a Congressional recess period in Washington and nationally is time for vacations and rest or contemplation. As healthcare heats-up, we have advocacy groups like NACDS and NCPA helping educate members. We also have companies such as comScore measuring the debate and how the Internet can help drive patient information. Innovations like those Silverman describes and companies helping patients use their medicine properly like FLAVORx are solutions-focused and not stuck in the mire of partisan rancor.

Paul Silverman, a management consultant with 35-years of experience, is on the board of Global Defense Corp. and started the "Step Up" entrepreneurship program at George Mason in Fairfax, Virginia. He contributed to this story.

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