Saturday, June 28, 2014

Coffee, Improving Workouts & Overall Health

This morning I came across a great article. One that made me think my love, or what some would say addiction, to coffee made it all okay. Through numerous studies, it has been proven that coffee has a plethora of health benefits. This means to all you coffee lovers like me out there, we have been doing it right. Research from International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism found that athletes who take in about 12 ounces of caffeine before their workouts (about one cup) burn 15 percent more calories than those who don’t. In addition, a Japanese study found that drinking a 5-ounce cup helped improve circulation over a 75 minute time period. This means more oxygen to the muscles, which is exactly what we need to have a successful workout! If this isn’t enough to convert you to becoming devote coffee lovers, how about the fact that scientists from the University of Illinois found that two to three cups of coffee consumed around an hour before an intensive 30 minute workout can lead to reduced muscle pain. So basically, it can help you push a little harder during your workouts and result in more muscle strength and endurance. But wait, there is more. A Johns Hopkins University study discovered that caffeine enhances memory up to 24 hours after being consumed. Lastly, by consuming caffeine, it has been revealed that it helps to offset the loss of muscle strength that arises from aging, and increases 66 percent of muscle glycogen four hours after an intense work out. “Glycogen, the form of carbohydrate that gets stockpiled in muscle, serves as a vital energy “piggy bank” during exercise, to power strength moves, and fuel endurance.” Now don’t get carried away here. Overdoing it on the caffeine can be harmful as I talked about in the previous blog. The maximum amount recommended to enhance and improve your workout is about 16 ounces. Overall, coffee can be a great addition to anyone’s day, as long as they are smart and drink responsibly.  It’s not a replacement for the good old H2O, so keep chugging that water and stay hydrated during those workouts.

EVERA. Everyone should feel this good about healthcare.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Are You Really That Tired?

I was never really the type of person who used energy drinks, and after this article, I’m confidant that I made the right decision. To all of you out there that love-consuming these types of drinks such as Monster, Red bull, and Rock Star you may want to cut down, if not completely give it up after this. Recent studies have show that these types of drinks could be more than just downright bad for you. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Dawn Report, the number of energy drink related emergency visits almost doubled between 2007 and 2011. These drinks are marketed in ways that make consumers, especially teenagers believe that they are good for the body, and will help overall performance. The truth is however these drinks are diuretics loaded with caffeine. They cause the body to lose water, and dehydrate you. This is extremely dangerous, and when people consume too many of these drinks, they are subject to potentially fatal affects. I’ll admit, I love caffeine, my morning, afternoon, and after work cup of coffee is naturally engraved into my routine. However, I also know that too much of it can be horrible and leave you feeling sick. This is why it’s important to watch how much you consume. Coffee has a decent amount of caffeine, but the amount in energy drinks it literally not measurable. What I found most surprising, from this article is that canned energy drinks are not required to reveal how much caffeine is actually in the drinks, they are NOT regulated by the FDA, and don’t come with a health warning. This is something that many people don’t take into consideration when they purchase energy drinks. They don’t know how much caffeine they are really consuming, and it is dangerous. From where I stand, exercise and diet is the best and most safe way to safely and effectively gain more energy, focus, and reduce fatigue than energy drinks. But if that doesn’t sound appealing try drinking a nice cup of coffee!

EVERA. Everyone should feel this good about healthcare.

Health VS Sickness

The article below offers three thoughts about how we can alter our healthcare system in America to be a healthcare system aimed at health instead of sickness.  This is idea that has been mentioned before and that I fully support. We need to encourage people to want to stay healthy instead of only worry about it after it’s too late and their medical expenses soar. The three suggestions from the article are as follows. 1) Institute a common language for measuring health. Very similar to the GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) in the business world, this would mean an easy way to compare healthcare companies and return on health investment. In other words, making information more available and understandable for consumers. 2) Create business models that make money on health not sickness. Here in the U.S. the overwhelming majority of health providers are only compensated when treating sicknesses. This model completely destroys any incentives for new and existing companies to advocate for staying/getting healthy. Luckily, as the article states with new technology and a few new businesses beginning to practice this model, this could all change in a few years. A system where providers can make money on health care instead of sick care is after all a bit more ethical. The third, and last suggestions from this article, is to drive care to lower acuity settings. In other words, inform people as early as possible about what health risks they face, and how to control, monitor and, effectively treat them so they can maintain a healthy lifestyle. The most important factor when it comes to a person’s health is their overall lifestyle, from diet to exercise. Getting people to realize this and to take it seriously is one of the biggest and most critical steps in reforming a healthcare system based on health not sickness. In short, with more access to information, introduction of new techniques and business models, and education and awareness, a new system based on health opposed to sickness is not only plausible, but in the near future. 

EVERA. Everyone should feel this good about healthcare.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Could Wearable Technology Benefit Patients, Businesses, and Insurance Companies?

Lately I have been reading a lot of articles about wearable technology. This wearable technology such as, Fitbit or Jawbone Up tracks individuals; breathing, steps, heart rate, and even sense the beginning of stress or chronic illnesses. There has been a lot of talk about this wearable technology making its way into the healthcare market. Think about what this could mean for you.  Already there are some business’s that are offering incentives to employees who’s data after 30 days or so comes back and shows improved health, or to employees who have been at risk for diabetes and high blood pressure but have taken actions to avoid it. These incentives are becoming more and more used throughout the corporate world being called “corporate- wellness programs”. What if your boss could track your health behavior and offered you lower premiums and other perks? Sound good, right? However, being punished for unhealthy behavior comes along with this, and some companies have even explored different retributions for unhealthy behavior.  

       Now lets look at this wearable technology in the healthcare industry. Through these devices, insurers could better determine risk profiles on insured workforces and cap the ever-rising costs. “A large portion of today’s $2.6 trillion health care bill is driven by behavior; in particular, bad-diet decisions that lead to obesity and diabetes.”  If insurers use the data gathered by this technology, they could follow what businesses are beginning to do and offer lower premiums and reduce costs for subscribers who are taking action and/or are watching there health behavior. It’s a win-win. In addition, think about how insurance cost is now. Individual premiums usually increase annually, but what if they changed every 30 days or six months according to the data gathered by your wearable gadget?  This could be a potential downside for some, but in my eyes I see a great way to save money and a very good incentive to keep healthy.  But, with all seemingly good things, there runs a risk. Some say this could lead to a system where only the wealthiest people could afford the better technology could eventually have access to the lowest premiums. For this, I suggest maybe having the insurance companies being the ones who buy the technology and distribute it to their subscribers. They will, after all, want the most accurate data. Furthermore, with cyber security concerns on the rise, there is also a risk that the data while being transmitted to the insurance companies could be hacked and used against the subscribers by other markets. To this I say, everything digital is under risk of hackers, but ultimately it comes down to being aware, cautious, and ready for what may, or may not occur. This idea of wearable technology making it’s way into the healthcare and business world and could be just around the corner and from where we stand, it looks like it will benefit our nation as a whole. It has the potential to help fight bad health behaviors and decrease healthcare costs. What more could we ask for? 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Should Doctor’s Pay be Based on Patient Results?

The idea of paying doctors based on the outcomes of their patients is something I’ve heard mentioned before. My first reaction, when hearing this was “well, maybe it could work”. Now, after truly thinking about it I’m completely against it. It’s similar to how part of teachers pay is based on their students’ performance, and I find this to be unfair as well. There are always a few bad apples in the bunch that just don’t care enough to do well. Why should the teacher be penalized for something they can’t control? The same applies to doctors and patients. The large majority of patients don’t follow their doctors’ advice and directions, and this causes them to end up back in the doctors’ office. Should this be the doctor’s fault? I don’t think so.  There is no way to track patients outcomes based solely on what doctors prescribe or way they treat their patients. There is also no way to know if patients are listening to their doctors’ directions and following them precisely. Even if a patient is abiding by the doctors orders perfectly, there are just other variables such as foods, over the counter medicines, and environmental factors that can have an affect a patient’s outcome.  Furthermore, if we attempted to implement a system based on patients’ outcomes, the cost in creating and maintaining such a database would be enormous. I mean, we are trying to cut the cost of healthcare, not increase it. This money would be better spent elsewhere. Perhaps on new technology that could aide in patient treatments. Either way, taking on a project that has a greater potential to fail than succeed and is not financially friendly is not the best course of action. The best way to go is to trust our doctors, and hope they have our best interest financially and health wise at heart. 

EVERA. Everyone should feel this good about healthcare.


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Why America Can’t Just Take Other Countries Healthcare Systems.

Way to often then not, when you hear people conversing about the United States Healthcare system, there is almost always a comparison to other nations and how their system is better, more efficient, and how we should be more like them.  Statements like these irk me. The reality is, the United States cannot take healthcare systems from other countries and apply it successfully here.  Our nation is just too big, and too complex. In order to solve our Healthcare problems such as high cost, low quality, and overall inefficient system do to administration encumber; we need to look for new ways. Fresh ideas and creative policy’s that work for America, and the American system.

 As mentioned in the article, healthcare systems need to be based off of countries political, cultural, geographic, and economic environments. By using these as foundations we could successfully build a healthcare system that works. In addition, becoming a system based on preventing sicknesses, rather than a system that treats sicknesses, can only be beneficial. By preventing sickness it not only keeps people healthier and out of the doctors office, but it cuts the cost of medical expenses and opens up more time for doctors to see those patients who really need it. But, how do we make this shift? The answer is simple; we need to increase education and decrease the inequality gap that has been increasing throughout the years. In order to find the money to implement this, we need to stop the spending of billions of dollars on health reforms that in the long run offer no real relief, and “focus on cleaning up the clutter, removing administrative barriers, and allowing physicians to do what they were trained to do.” In the end, the only way to really fix Americas healthcare system is not to implement these constant reforms that offer some small period of relief in the beginning and no real change in the end, or to look at other countries and say ‘hey! It’s working for them why can’t it work for us?’ What we need to do is construct a personalized system based on the political, cultural, geographic, and economic systems of America. Only then will our system truly be able to offer high quality care at an affordable rate. 

EVERA. Everyone should feel this good about healthcare.


Saturday, June 14, 2014

Technology Saves you Money and Helps You Lose Weight

In order for a system to work, it needs to regularly maintained and updated.  If the system gets old and outdated everything falls apart while efficiency and quality take a downward spiral.  Now take this concept and think about it in retrospect to our healthcare system. We live in a world that is constantly evolving do to increasing technology and new ideas.  In order to keep moving forward we adapt, we change, we update. Our healthcare system has fallen behind while the consumers (us) have moved forward. We use technology every day whether it be different smartphone applications to help keep our daily lives in order, or help us stay healthy. In fact, the amount of applications used to help consumers track their health status and to help improve it has been increasing in the past few years. So, when I read about the idea of compensating consumers for taking steps to improve their health I admittedly, at first, thought it was a horrible idea. However, after some careful thought and more reading the idea didn’t seem to bad. Now, I’m not encouraging a huge compensation package, but I do agree with Michelle Snyder in the fact that if insurers offered lower premiums or co-pays for patients who took responsibility for their health and steps to improve it, our overall costs of healthcare would decrease. , It’s proven that people work faster, better, and more efficiently is they are receiving some type of reward in return. So why not incentivize healthcare consumers to keep themselves healthy? By doing this we leave room in hospitals and other doctors offices for the patients who need it the most. As well as save us some time and money.  You may be thinking, how are we suppose to know if patients are actually taking steps to improve their health status? The answer lies within technology. Using wearable technology is the way to go when coming up with an answer. It’s affordable, effective, and simple. With preventable conditions like heart disease and type-2 diabetes on the rise, this is an idea we should all be thinking about. The new system is all about consumers and giving them the choice, informing them about policies, etc. but what it fails to do is include the consumer. Information isn’t the main problem when it comes to people staying healthy, it’s convincing patients to be responsible for what they can control, its about giving them more of a reason to take their health into their own hands. In the end, it can benefit not just themselves, but the entire system.

EVERA. Everyone should feel this good about healthcare.


Thursday, June 12, 2014

Data Dump

Knowledge is power and that's exactly what the most recent CMS data dump has given consumers. Until now it has been extremely difficult for patients to do their own research to find specialist to perform a unique surgery. Now they can not only find a list of doctors who have performed the surgery before, but they can see how many they have done, and how much they got paid to do them. This gives customers important knowledge and the ability to make an informed decision about whether or not they are getting ripped off. One of the biggest causes associated with the rise of healthcare costs. It gives the the ability to spot the "wasters" the doctors that use really expensive treatments when others that are equally effective and half the price are overlooked. This new data sheds light on outright fraud within the industry. As if using a more expensive treatment than necessary wasn't wasteful enough there are doctors that bill for products and services that are not either needed nor completed.

So I've stated how the data can be used to stop foul play, here's how it can make work to better our system. We can use it to track trends within the industry and stop major epidemics and pandemics before they occur. See where the money needs to be spent in prevention and awareness. Eventually more data will be released which can be mashed up in order to show similarities, differences, and build a more complete portfolio.

As in any industry data is the future. The more data that is tracked and used to make better decisions about the future the more successful we can be. I foresee more and more data becoming available to patients, doctors, and insurance companies and with that I see serious progress toward a more efficient healthcare industry.

EVERA. Everyone should feel this good about healthcare.


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Do You Get What You Pay For?

“Structuring health plans according to value would give Americans the ability to buy whatever health care technologies they choose.” Here is an idea that I find very interesting and have often wondered why our healthcare system doesn’t do this. The idea of paying only for the healthcare you want. 

One of the main reasons health insurance is so expensive is because insurance plans cover almost every medical technology in the book. This means even the ones that don’t work, or are more expensive than current devices and no more effective. Giving people a choice on what type of plan they want to pay for not only benefits individuals but also our nation's system as a whole. By doing this we save each other from paying for others insurance plans that are more expensive. Bringing competition into the market place and having a variety of different plans cover different medical costs allows for a more affordable and effective healthcare system. Why pay high deductibles or high premiums for medical technologies that we personally don’t need access to? Paying for what we want is much more cost effective. Of course, there is the question of being able to change a plan when we get sick and our current one doesn’t cover our treatment. For this, Professor Russell Korobkin of the U.C.L.A. School of Law put forth the idea of an open period once a year or longer if need be where people would be able to change their plans. In addition to this I think a way to upgrade at a fee during the waiting period would be beneficial to this system.  In the end, the idea of a healthcare system having different plans and the consumer being able to choose those plans is something worth thinking about. Creating competition would inevitably bring costs down and make healthcare more affordable. 

In a sense I think that more self-pay tactics and less insurance is a tremendous cost saving strategy. First, it makes people try to keep themselves healthier if they know it comes out of their pocket when they get sick. Second, Insurance brings way to much of an administrative burden on doctors offices causing doctors to make less and patients to pay more.

EVERA. Everyone should feel this good about healthcare.


Thursday, June 5, 2014

Emergency Room or Urgent Care???

Hospital or Urgent Care? A lot of people do not know how to answer this question and making the wrong decision could effect the outcome of the patient or become very expensive. You may want to pay scripps a visit they will tell you exactly when an injury or ailment needs emergency care and when urgent care will suffice. 

"Between 2011 and 2012, prices for 77 out of the 98 most common ailments for which patients were admitted to the hospital increased. Treatment for a simple case of pneumonia rose by about 25 percent from $39,217 to $49,284. The average hospital charged $38,384 in 2012." With hospitals nation wide increasing the cost for the most common visits, it is with out a doubt the right time for people to think about using urgent and primary care facilities rather than racing to the hospital for common ailments. Doing this will keep the hospitals available for more serious problems and saves a significant amount of money for the patient. Many hospitals are even referring patients with non-serious needs to use urgent and primary care facilities. "In an effort to reduce overall health care costs, hospitals have been encouraged to admit fewer patients with common ailments, in favor of less expensive outpatient care." 

So let's ask ourselves, why this big increase? Well, research has been shown that mergers are part of the problem. For those of you who don’t know, a merger is when two separate businesses come together to for a single one. Ever since the 90’s mergers have been steadily increasing, however after the ACA was introduced, the amount of mergers increased dramatically. Experts in the health care industry say that this law is “transforming the economics of health care and pushing a growing number of hospitals into mergers”. This leads to higher expenses on the hospitals administrative end and in return increased expenses for patients. Another reason for this surge in price could be related to the investment many hospitals are making in information technology. It is unclear at this point if eventually these investment will pay off and in the end lead to lower costs for patients. 

Evera. Everyone should feel this good about healthcare.


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Can We Charge People More For Being Overweight?

Person A: gets 6-8 hours of sleep per night, exercises 3-6 times per week, eats healthy, drinks casually and works hard to make sure that he maintains an overall healthy lifestyle.

Person B: normally gets less than 6 hours of sleep, does not exercise, eats fast food frequently, consumes alcohol on a regular and doesn't put fourth a valiant effort to be healthy.

Person C: has poor genetics and obesity run in his family. He exercises and eats healthy but cannot maintain a healthy weight.

Currently overweight employees can be charged up to 20% more than employees who weigh in at a "healthy wight" under a group company policy. My first take on this was yes they should pay more. People that are overweight have recurring doctor visits to manage diseases associated with being overweight. Over the course of a year complications from obesity and diabetes can really rack up a huge expense. Then I dug a bit deeper so I could make a more informed decision. 

What I found was that charging people more money per pound was unfair and counter productive. If it were as simple as everyone has the same metabolism and the same opportunity to keep themselves at a healthy weight then I would stay with my first thought. However, there are too many variables that cause this method to be unfair. Diets start at a young age and habits can be formed before a person has the ability to make educated decision about their health. Genetics play a huge roll in a persons weight and overall health. If I were born with diabetes and was forced to pay more no matter what I did to remain healthy I would feel as if my rights were violated and they would be.

Then I read about some previous attempts to get employees to drop LB's and how they failed miserably and actually cause some employees to gain more weight. This type of penalty also discriminates against the poor. People who live in less wealthy neighborhoods typically do not have access to healthy high quality foods. Forcing them to buy more inexpensive foods that are in most cases less healthy.

A problem like this has a lot more to it than meets the eye. The focus needs to be directed toward education. Diets should become a large part of the curriculum in pre-school and early education. Starting quality eating habits at a young age and educating students about the repercussions or poor eating and drinking will help make a positive difference in the future.