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Wellness Programs Can Affect Medication Adherence, Recent Study Finds

January 20, 2016
HealthMine Team

A recent study from the Employee Benefit Research Institute focused on the effect of wellness programs on medication adherence among individuals with chronic disease. Specifically, it explored the potential benefit of health risk assessments (HRAs) and biometric screenings on medication adherence for six key chronic conditions.
The study findings indicated that HRAs and biometric screenings positively affected medication adherence for two of the six chronic conditions the study observed: dyslipidemia and depression. The study concludes with the intended outcome of giving plan members access to their health risk and biometric data. “The hope is that information derived from these wellness programs will prompt patients to make meaningful lifestyle changes, use preventive care, and commence and comply with recommended treatment.”
This is a good start, but only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the potential of wellness programs, which should go far beyond HRAs and biometric screenings.
Biometric data can help an individual to understand their health status. But that’s only the first piece of the puzzle. The other pieces include knowing what to do with that information, when to do it, and having the motivation to get it done.

While the narrow focus of the study does not necessarily invalidate its findings, it certainly invites the reader to think more broadly about wellness program offerings. For plan sponsors, it is a reminder that simply providing plan users with their data may not be enough to compel them to act. And for plan members, it is an invitation to look beyond the data and seek motivation to set and achieve wellness goals.
For the full report on the study, click here.
[Photo Credit: frankieleon on Flickr via Creative Commons 2.0]

High Deductible Health Plans Don’t Make Shoppers Savvier

January 20, 2016
HealthMine Team
A recent article in Kaiser Health News challenged the commonly held belief that switching to high deductible health plans (HDHPs) would give consumers more “skin in the game.” In other words, consumers would finally be compelled to compare prices before choosing healthcare services.
High deductible health plans place a greater burden of the cost of care with the plan member. This hypothetically would create an incentive for plan members to search for the most affordable medical service option available.

Data from a research letter published in JAMA Internal Medicine indicated, however, that this was not the case.
“There is a big incentive for consumers in high-deductible health plans to price shop, and they just don’t seem to be doing it,” said Neeraj Sood, one of the authors of the letter and director of research at the Leonard D. Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics at USC. An August 2015 HealthMine survey found that 75% of consumers do not price shop for medical services.
The answer may not be that plan users are lazy, but rather that the information is not readily available. 81% of consumers enrolled in wellness programs say their program does not offer a price comparison tool. More cost information, quality metrics, and other ways to quantify and differentiate between healthcare offerings would be a good first step in enabling people to be “savvier shoppers” when it comes to purchasing medical services.
For the full article in Kaiser Health News, click here.
[Photo Credit: Polycart on Flickr via Creative Commons 2.0]

Smoking In The Workplace Not Nearly Extinguished

January 16, 2016
HealthMine Team
Public perception has largely shifted regarding smoking in the workplace. Whereas it used to be commonplace, 63 percent of consumers think colleagues who smoke tobacco products should pay more for health insurance, according to an April/May 2015 HealthMine survey of 1,950 consumers.
Despite the apparently declining prevalence of smoking in the workplace, when a recent article in Bloomberg asked the question, “Can you really still smoke at work?” the answer, surprisingly, was: yes. In fact, half of the participants in a Society for Human Resource Management study of 376 organizations responded that smoking was permitted in their workplace.
The cost of smoking at work is high. Another study by the British Medical Journal found that smokers cost their employers $5,816 each year in higher health insurance costs, smoke breaks, and a higher rate of absenteeism. On a national level, smoking costs employers more than $300 billion each year.
Then there is the deadly impact of smoking on the workers themselves. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), cigarette smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States causing more deaths each year than HIV, illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, and firearm-related incidents combined.


So there are clearly compelling reasons for employers to encourage their workers to quit. But, employees need more support. Despite the fact that nearly 7 in 10 active smokers reported wanting to quit completely, they often do not have access to programs to support them. Just 37 percent of consumers said that smoking cessation programs are included in their wellness plans, according to the April/May 2015 HealthMine survey.
Even when an employer does offer smoking cessation programs, just 32 percent of wellness program enrollees said their program included incentives to quit smoking. This is despite the fact that only 14 percent of consumers are motivated to complete a smoking cessation program without any incentive.
The takeaways are:
●Smoking kills at an alarming rate.
●Smoking drives up health care costs and drives down productivity.
●Employer sponsored wellness programs that include smoking cessation can make a real impact on this issue and on the lives of their workforce.
●Incentives that encourage participation are essential.
For the full article in Bloomberg, click here.
[Photo Credit: Morgan on Flickr via Creative Commons 2.0]

The Personalized Diet

January 11, 2016
HealthMine Team
The ebb and flow of diet and nutrition advice coming out of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has varied to such extremes that it almost gives one whiplash.
The many revisions of the food pyramid have alternatingly demonized and praised red meat, sugar, carbohydrates, etc. The list goes on and on.
Increasingly, a new narrative has been gaining steam -- not another call for a revised food pyramid, but rather a recommendation to decentralize the discussion. Diet, a recent study from the Weizmann Institute of Science suggests, should be personalized.

“The same dietary advice cannot be good for everyone, because we are all different,” said Eran Elinav, an immunologist at the Institute. In the future, new ways to determine the nutritional needs of an individual may come from genetic makeup, gut bacteria, body type, and chemical exposures.
Institute scientists found significant differences in glucose responses from 800 individuals who were all fed the same foods. The findings challenge the utility of the glycemic index, which determines the effect of certain foods on an individual’s blood glucose or blood sugar, since they indicate that foods with the same score on the glycemic index may affect different people in different ways.
As we all struggle to create balance on our plates, we should remember this: as with all things in health, one size does not fit all.
For the full article, click here.
[Photo Credit: JD Hancock on Flickr via Creative Commons 2.0]

​Top 10 Health Insurance Searches Reveal Healthcare Illiteracy

January 5, 2016
HealthMine Team
Here are the top 10 health insurance search terms from UnitedHealth Group’s terms glossary:
  1. Deductible
  2. Co-insurance, coinsurance
  3. Appeal
  4. Coverage determination
  5. Grievance
  6. HSA, health savings account
  7. Cost sharing
  8. Co-pay, copayment
  9. OOP, out of pocket (as in OOP maximum or OOP limit)
  10. EOB, Explanation of Benefits
Health insurance literacy has been an ongoing issue as consumers become more and more responsible for their healthcare, both in terms of sharing the cost of coverage and in understanding which benefits they want and how to access them.
As we increasingly enter a digital age of healthcare, it is not only challenging to speak health insurance, but also to speak “health data” which is leaving American consumers confused and, even worse, shut out.
According to an October 2015 HealthMine survey of 502 insured U.S. consumers, 53 percent of people say they can’t access all of their health data from a computer. This is despite the fact that 74 percent of consumers say easy electronic access to health data would improve their knowledge of their health and improve communication with their physicians.
HealthMine also found that 38 percent of consumers are confused about what their lifestyle/behavioral health data means, and only 42 percent know what actions they need to take after looking at this data. So, if they can get to their medical record, they will need an interpreter to understand what it means.

This is a problem because 1 in 2 people have a chronic condition--many of whom don’t know it yet--and accessible, clear, meaningful health information could help prevent and uncover it much sooner.
If we can raise the level of healthcare literacy, encompassing both insurer terminology and personal health data, we can be more knowledgeable And with that knowledge comes power: the ability to improve health outcomes.
Click here for the full article in Kaiser Health News.
Click here for the full article in Employee Benefit News.
[Photo Credit: Dennis Brekke on Flickr via Creative Commons 2.0]

You Probably Don't Own Your Health Data

December 31, 2015
HealthMine Team

HealthMine recently surveyed 502 consumers about their health data. Below are some misconceptions and perceptions about health data, and how you can help empower plan members to take control of their health guided by their own data.

Only 41% of people believe they own their health data. They are right; by law, patients only own their medical records in one out of 50 states: New Hampshire. For most, health data is broken into pieces and hidden in different locations. Part may be with their primary care physician (if they have one). Part may be with specialists, part in a hospital or urgent care clinic. And that’s not even considering where prescription records are stored. Or, data from health activity tracking devices, or digital apps. Even when it comes to health information collected on a Fitbit, digital heart-rate monitor or other device or app, 37% of consumers don’t believe they are the owners of their health data.

Health Data is Disconnected

39% of people are unable to access all of their clinical and behavioral health data from a single source. Why is our health data so fragmented? It’s a two way street; 45% of consumers have never tried to share data from their health devices and apps with their doctors. At the end of the day, all of the parts never add up to a whole.

Personal Health Data Doesn’t Always Make Sense

Even when members can get a hold of their health information, it can be confusing. 42-56% of consumers say they “sometimes” understand their clinical health data. 38% are confused about what the data from their digital devices and apps means, and only 42% know what actions they need to take after looking at this data. We collecting terabytes of data that has the potential to illuminate member’s health, yet most consumers are still in the dark.

We need to be empowered with our health data. As a health plan sponsor, you can help your people access, own and understand their health data. Here’s how:

1) Provide digital access to clinical health data anytime, anywhere.

2) Connect behavioral/lifestyle data to an individual’s personal health record, so they can see the big picture in one place.

3) Offer clear analysis of health data so individuals understand what the numbers mean.

4) Provide guidance on what health actions individuals should take and when.

5) Offer motivation—and incentive as necessary—to follow-through. Owning your health data is essential to managing your health and healthcare dollars. At HealthMine, we are building products to help people own their health. Let’s remove the barriers to access, unite the disparate pieces, and empower ourselves.

Wearable Data does not Equal Consumer Wellness

December 21, 2015
HealthMine Team

A November 2015 McKinsey report highlighted the role of big data in medicine, lauding the fact that wearable devices like Fitbits and Jawbones give individuals access to their health data in an unprecedented way. However, while wearables and the big data they gather may have the potential to transform medicine and wellness, we still have a long way to go.

The promise of big data applied to wellness is the ability to build predictive models based on greater volume and continuity of an individual’s health data. Before wearables, the only health data consumers had was that collected in the 10 mins per year they spent in front of their doctor. Year-round information collected by a Fitbit, for example, could provide a more complete picture of a person’s health. Utilized to its full potential, it could enable doctors to “longitudinally monitor” an individual’s state of health—including cardiovascular health, sleeping patterns, fitness levels, and nutrition.

All of the potential gains from wearables in medicine that the article highlights affect the usage of big data in a clinical research or hospital setting. But the fact is, 45% of consumers have never tried to share their self-collected data with all of their providers, according to HealthMine’s research.

So how can this data help individuals the other 8,735 hours each year when they aren’t in the doctor’s office? Is it just data, or does it have meaning to the consumer, impacting the choices they make about their health? This is where the volume of health data being collected is falling short of making real change.

For example, HealthMine’s consumer wellness research revealed that 38% of consumers are confused about what the data collected by their wearable devices means, and only 42% know what actions they need to take after looking at this data. So you have your metabolic heart rate and the number of steps you took today—now what?

A data deluge does not equal wellness. Data must directly inform what one should do with their health — and better health is the real payoff.