Healthscient Interview on the “Medicine on Call” Podcast by Dr. Elaina George

We are excited to share that our founder and CEO, Matt Larsen, had the opportunity to be interviewed on Dr. Elaina George’s popular podcast, Medicine on Call, a weekly talk show that explores health issues and the politics of medicine on Americas Web Radio and Liberty Talk.fm Radio.

During the interview, Matt talks about:
– the free market side of healthcare, and what trends are disrupting the industry
– the story behind Healthscient, and why we are building solutions for a new era of healthcare
– the criticality of both communication and collaboration for high-quality healthcare
– the growth of telemedicine, and why it matters

Listen to the interview here:

https://libertytalk.fm/healthcare-is-broken-yours-does-not-have-to-be/

About Dr. Elaina George

Dr. Elaina George is a Board Certified Otolaryngologist. She graduated from Princeton University with a degree in Biology, received her Master’s degree in Medical Microbiology from Long Island University, and received her medical degree from Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.

People holding puzzle pieces

Unbundle: A Key to Healthcare Decision Making

There are, of course, myriad factors and considerations when pursuing optimized health, achieving better healthcare, and containing healthcare costs. It’s a lot to take in, especially when you try to do it in one, big gulp.

The key is to unbundle.

Set everything else aside, for the moment, and consider three things first. But, consider them one at a time – by themselves – and in a particular order.

1) Be Honest with Yourself & Set Realistic Health Goals

First, be honest with yourself about your current health and set some realistic, achievable health goals. General goals are fine to begin with. Don’t get bogged down with specifics (just yet).

    • How well do you take care of yourself?
    • What chronic conditions are you managing?
    • What’s in your family history that causes you concern?
    • What age-related conditions might creep in?

Then…

    • What do you hope for your health in the future?
    • What do you want to be able to physically do or accomplish?
    • What do you want to feel like?
    • What do you want to look like?
    • What do you NOT want to worry about?

Fix these things in your mind. Write them down. Don’t move to the next thing too quickly.

2) Think Objectively and Define What You Want in a Primary Care Physician

Second – and separately – you are going to need a good primary care physician. We all do. Your health and chronic conditions may necessitate any number of specialists, but concentrate on primary care for the moment. Disregard the things that customarily keep us attached to a particular PCP (“takes” your insurance, has been your doctor for years, is located in convenient proximity to you…etc.) and think objectively.

    • What do you really want in a doctor-patient relationship?
    • What do you need from him?
    • How accessible is your doctor?
    • How long does it take to get an appointment?
    • How much face time do you actually have with your doctor during appointments?
    • Is your doctor proactively engaged in your health and well-being or does she simply medicate you when you’re sick?
    • Does your doctor suggest and encourage natural, holistic approaches to health maintenance? Does she offer nutrition and fitness advice – tailored for you specifically?
    • How about follow-up or ease of communication?
    • Does your doctor really know you or are you primarily a name on a chart? Does that matter to you?
    • What kind of doctor-patient relationship gives you the best chance for optimized health? Do you have that now?

When you have generally defined what you want – and deserve – in a primary care physician, move to number three.

3) Consider the Economics

Third, you have to consider the economics of it all. But, as with numbers one and two, think objectively. Set aside the inclination to make health and healthcare decisions from a place of fear. Oh, the fear is real enough. Most of us are more concerned about not being able to “afford” the healthcare we need than we are of being sick. And for good reason.

But does the way you pay for healthcare right now have to be? Might there be another way that makes more sense for you? Are you carrying too much health insurance? Do you really need the degree of comprehensive coverage you now have? (Remember, health insurance and healthcare are two different things. Healthcare can make and keep you well. Health insurance cannot. Learn more in Step #5 of our eGuide, 5 Steps to Better Healthcare at Lower Cost).

Have you considered some type of health savings account (HSA)? Have you looked into the possibility of paying for most of your healthcare out-of-pocket instead of a sole reliance on health insurance? Is it better for you to pay for insurance only, or to pay a subscription or membership fee to a direct primary care or concierge physician? How about one of the medical cost sharing plans available? Are you sure you are getting your money’s worth right now? Research and understand how the options work.

Now that you have considered and clarified these three things separately – that is, you’ve unbundled them from each other – start to put them back together. How can you best make them piece together to form your desired healthcare universe? Chances are you have some decisions to make. But remember this, you DO have options. You’re not locked into anything, necessarily.

Want to learn more? Read our latest eGuide

For detailed step-by-step encouragement and assistance, read our free eGuide, 5 Steps to Better Healthcare at Lower Cost and visit Healthscient.com for practical tips and important healthcare insights.

Healthscient eGuide, 5 Steps to Better Healthcare at Lower Cost

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A Perspective on Short-Term Health Insurance

Let’s remember: healthcare and health insurance are not the same thing. To be sure, we need both. But, it’s important to keep in mind that both your healthcare and your health insurance should be personalized and tailored to fit your unique needs and objectives. One size does not fit all.

Your healthcare decisions – beginning with choosing the right primary care physician – should be fundamentally driven by your health and health goals. What health providers (including primary care and others) give you the best chance of optimizing your health and well-being?

The same kind of thought process applies when researching, evaluating, and selecting health insurance. How much coverage should you have and what kind of coverage should that be? How can you insure yourself against a medical cost catastrophe without over-insuring or breaking the bank? What kinds of insurance plans and options are accessible to you? Are alternative options – like Medical Cost Sharing plans – a reasonable possibility for you and your family?

You get the drift. One size of health insurance does not fit all.

The U.S.’s recent changes to short-term insurance policy

Many of the millions of us who do not have access to employer-provided health insurance are keenly aware of the Affordable Care Act (ACA/Obamacare) and the exchanges and mandates that go along with it. We are also keenly aware of subsidy restrictions and rising premiums. The term “affordable” simply does not apply for many of us.

The U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and Treasury have recently announced that the rules for short-term health insurance will be expanded, loosened, and adjusted. That’s welcomed news for many. The removal of the individual mandate, which taxes those who did not maintain an ACA type of health plan, may also be good news for many, but not everyone.

Short-term health plans are nothing new. They’ve been around for a while, mainly in the form of indemnity plans. Prior to the ACA, short-term indemnity plans were offered in 3 month, 6 month, and 1 year increments. The ACA capped short-term plans at 3 months and then mandated the purchase of ACA coverage.

That changed earlier this month. The new plans – available as early as October of this year – will allow people who do not have employer-provided insurance to purchase short-term health insurance at prices that may be considerably less than ACA coverage. Considerably less.

Some of the positive highlights of the new health insurance changes:

    There are NO narrow networks, which is typical of indemnity plans. There are no contracts with specific doctors or hospitals, enabling you to seek medical attention wherever you please.

    Premiums are predicted to be much, much lower. This will be particularly beneficial to younger (healthy) consumers, healthy people of any age, healthy people who have been unable to afford insurance in the past, and perhaps people who are between jobs and need a little coverage until their next gig.

    There is NO enrollment period. This is a big change. You may sign up at any time unlike most insurance plans (including those offered by Obamacare) where enrollment periods are strictly regulated.

    Coverage begins almost immediately.

Sounds great, right? It may very well be for some of us. If it works for you, fantastic! Take full advantage! But remember, one size does not fit all.

Health and Human Services (HHS) does not claim that these plans are the same as those offered on the exchange. In fact, James Parker, a senior advisor for health reform at HHS, recently stated on a conference call with reporters, “We make no representation that it’s equal coverage.”

Some things to be aware of from the policy changes include:

    Pre-existing conditions will likely disqualify you. Practically any chronic condition (cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure) will work against you. So will a history of unhealthy habits like smoking and excessive alcohol or drug use.

    The Affordable Care Act mandated that insurance providers cover what the government determined to be essential benefits. That does not apply to these short-term plans. These plans won’t cover things like maternity care, mental health, preventive exams, prescription medications, vaccinations, or tests and screens. Be aware.

    The ACA included regulations to protect consumers. Those consumer protection regulations do not exist in these short-term plans. Rescission – or, retroactively rescinding coverage at the whim and whimsy of the insurance carrier – is an example. Again, beware.

    There are no limits on out-of-pocket costs or lifetime costs.

    While these short-term plans are available to people for up to 3 years, you have to reapply each year. They are not renewable from year to year.

So, generally speaking, it will be the younger, typically-healthier people who will likely benefit most from this new policy. It’s really good news for them – and some others of course – and they will likely abandon the ACA individual marketplaces in droves. While it remains to be seen, this transition may mean that an older, less healthy group will be left behind. That’s bound to have an effect, right?

What should you do next?

Research and evaluate options. Be aware and informed. Make the best possible decisions available and accessible to you. And remember (dare I say it again?), one size does not fit all.


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Wearables Are Revolutionizing Healthcare

A major component of achieving good health that results in lower healthcare costs is prevention.
That’s a no-brainer. Additionally, early detection plays a key role in the prevention of acute health problems and emerging conditions.

The rapidly growing wearables industry is helping make both prevention and early detection more readily attainable than ever before. And as wearables keep getting better, they continue to do what made them great in the first place: encouraging and nudging us to exercise more, sleep better, and eat well.

And all of these great innovations (in wearables) that we’re seeing right now are likely just the beginning.

TechRadar, a self-proclaimed gaggle of geeks who research and report on the latest technology products and trends, describes the inventive wearable industry this way:

“It feels very much like we’re reaching a tipping point: ever-smaller, ever-smarter devices are making the previously impossible possible, enabling us to learn more about our bodies and how to look after them. Plenty of technologies promise to change your life, but wearables genuinely will.”

Just ask Deanna Recktenwald, whose watch warned her that her resting heart rate was surging. Her kidneys were beginning to fail.

Sarah-Jayne McIntosh’s Fitbit warned her of a similar condition, helping her avoid possible cardiac arrest.

New Yorker William Monzidelis was alerted by his Apple Watch to seek medical attention. At the hospital, he learned that that he had suffered an erupted ulcer and received life-saving surgery.

There are scores of stories of doctors being able to better diagnose and determine courses of treatment for patients who present as unable to communicate by digging in to archived health data on the patient’s wearable device.

To put it succinctly, we’ve come a long way from simply counting steps.

L’Oreal, the beauty firm, recently launched a wearable UV sensor to help protect against skin cancer. Their new wearable is tiny, fits on your thumbnail, and tells you when it’s time to get out of the sun.

There are practical uses for wearables too, like Carelink, who creates wearables that can locate and help dementia patients who may be prone to wandering.

In Closing

Here at Healthscient, we agree with TechRadar: the wearables market is poised to revolutionize everything. You can read their full article on wearables here.

If you haven’t already, be sure to sign up for Healthscient email updates. You’ll be the first to receive our free e-Guide titled “5 Steps to Better Health at Lower Cost” and we’ll deliver it to your inbox in the days ahead. For a sneak peek, see this infographic below and our related blog post!.

Upset woman healthcare diagnosis

The Third Leading Cause of Death in the US Will Surprise You

 
It won’t surprise you that heart disease and cancer are the top two leading causes of death in the US.

Number three, though, might shock you.

 
The third leading cause of death in the US is medical error, according to a study conducted by Johns Hopkins patient safety experts (original report released in May of 2016). The study places the number of deaths due to medical error at just over 250,000 per year. Dr. Martin Markary, M.D, M.P.H., led the study. Now, two years later, not much has changed.

According to a February 2018 CNBC article on the Johns Hopkins report:

“Dr. Markary defines a death due to medical error as one that is caused by inadequately skilled staff, error in judgment or care, a system defect or a preventable adverse effect. This includes computer breakdowns, mix-ups with the doses or types of medications administered to patients and surgical complications that go undiagnosed.”

 

Why haven’t we heard more about this?

Essentially, it comes down to how the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) collects and reports cause of death data. There are those (including Dr. Markary) who are urging the CDC to re-evaluate its collection and reporting methodology. But those wheels turn slowly. The CDC is a Federal Agency under the Department of Health and Human Services. So there’s that. But, that’s not the point.
 

What does this mean for you?

It means that you absolutely should be an engaged, informed, and proactive healthcare consumer.

Let’s be clear; no healthcare provider intends to do you harm. No doctor, nurse, technician or system is out to get you. Quite the opposite is true. But mistakes happen. Errors in judgement occur. Systems sometimes fail.

Savvy healthcare consumers – patients – pay attention, assume responsibility, and act on their own behalf. You are your most devoted advocate.
 

So, what should you do?

The short answer is everything you can. But, at the very least, be informed and ask questions.

Understand your prescribed medications. Ask your physician why a medicine is being prescribed. Ask how it will interact with other medicines you are taking (you have to know them or have an accurate record of them, right?). Ask about the risks or downsides. Ask if there is a natural remedy. Make sure your prescribing physician knows about any over the counter medication you are taking.

Fully understand your recommended surgeries, procedures, or treatment plans. Ask your physician why the procedure is necessary. Again, ask about the risks and downsides. What happens if you choose to not have the procedure?

Get a second opinion. When the potential downside of a prescribed medication or the potential downside of a recommended surgery, procedure, or treatment plan feels unsettling to you – get a second opinion. Maybe even a third. As a side note, if your physician attempts to discourage you or balks at the idea of a second opinion – you may need to change doctors.

Access your EHR / EMR via your patient portal (or other means available) and always check for accuracy. Check things as simple as the spelling of your name and your birthdate. Make sure that all lab and test results are reflected in your record. Inaccurate or missing information could be significantly problematic.

Use Google, Yelp, or any other resource at your disposal to research the people and places in your healthcare orbit. Read reviews carefully.

Expand your team. Who do you know – friends, family or otherwise – who can and will help you think things through? The thoughts of objective third parties are often helpful when seeking clarity or determining direction.

More succinctly, as we have been saying all along, develop a consumer mindset and take responsibility for your own healthcare decisions. You’re in charge.

 
Thank you for reading. Be sure to subscribe to our mailing list for more healthcare insights, tips, and news! We’ll keep you informed, but we won’t annoy you.

Who is in charge of your health? A real world example

In our last blog, we outlined 5 critical steps to better healthcare and better health. They are:

  1. Realize that you are in charge of your own health and healthcare decisions.
  2. Know and own your personal health data.
  3. Find a physician that will know you, be accessible to you and will proactively partner with you around your health and health goals.
  4. Embrace monitoring, testing, and improving your biology.
  5. Restructure your health insurance and major medical risk.

The Ted Talk below is a great real-world example of those things playing out. When Eric Dishman was in college, doctors told him he had 2 to 3 years to live. That was nearly 30 years ago. Now, Dishman puts his experience and his expertise as a medical tech specialist together to suggest a bold idea for reinventing health care — by putting the patient at the center of a treatment team.

If you missed our last blog, you may want to read over it before watching this video. Also be reminded that Healthscient is currently working on a step-by-step “How To” guide for navigating these 5 mission critical components of better healthcare and better health.

Subscribe to our mailing list and we will deliver it to your inbox when it’s ready. We promise not to annoy you. We only send email updates every two weeks or so.

Enjoy. Be Inspired.

Medical devices

5 Steps to Better Healthcare at Lower Cost (Infographic)

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In our previous blog, we articulated that the best path forward for healthcare won’t come from Washington, insurance companies, employers, healthcare systems, or even from well-intended physicians. At least, not by themselves. We said that the best path forward – the “fix” – can and must be charted by you, the healthcare consumer. Here are 5 mission-critical steps you can take to start you on a path towards better healthcare and better health.
 

  1. Realize that you are in charge of your own health and healthcare decisions. In other words, think like a consumer. When you shop for a house, a car, a college for your children, a TV, a laptop, a new washer and dryer combo, or even order from a restaurant menu – you flex your consumer muscles. With your goals, research, options, pros and cons and comparisons in mind, YOU decide. Why should it be any different for health and healthcare decisions? It shouldn’t. You do have options including physician partnerships, insurance coverage plans, personalized health goals, preventive strategies, and treatment plans to name a few. Develop a consumer mindset. You’re in charge.
  2.  

  3. Know and own your personal health data. Nobody knows more about you than you. It can, however, be a bit of a challenge to keep all of your health data and health history top of mind all of the time. Total recall is a pipedream for most of us, but that data and that history is important for decision making. (Not to mention the health history and health data of those you love and care for, and for whose health decisions you may be partly responsible.) As a healthcare consumer, you simply must demand that your primary care physician, specialists, and healthcare system give you constant and continuing visibility and access to your healthcare data. After all, you paid for it. You own it.
  4.  

  5. Find a physician that will know you, be accessible to you and will proactively partner with you around your health and health goals. Certainly you want an expert physician who can assist you with any medical issues that may arise. More than that, seek out a physician who will proactively help you avoid medical issues and help you reduce the need for healthcare – whose purpose is to help you stay healthy rather than merely treating and medicating you. Find a physician who will help you coordinate care involving specialists and whose pricing model makes sense for you. Establish a partnership with a physician who will spend time with you and be accessible to you when you need him or her. Your best bet: find a Direct Primary Care or Concierge physician.
  6.  

  7. Embrace monitoring, testing, and improving your health. If you spend even a little time perusing the articles in the Insight Into Healthcare section of Healthscient.com, you will quickly realize that the rapid pace of healthcare technology advancement is empowering healthcare consumers like never before. The healthcare consumer marketplace is filling with ever-evolving and continually improving devices, wearables and sensors. Diagnostic testing is becoming more and more accessible and affordable. Don’t be afraid to leverage these diagnostics for genetics, biochemistry, infectious agents and biomarkers as they become more affordable to you. The old adage still stands: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The way to improve your biology is to know it. Knowledge is power.
  8.  

  9. Restructure your health insurance and major medical risk. Health insurance can feel like a quagmire of complexity. And for good reason. It’s also expensive. Burdensomely expensive. In fact, the rising costs of healthcare (including the often high-deductible health insurance plans) are simply unsustainable. It need not be so. Remember, healthcare and health insurance are not the same thing. By embracing the first four of these 5 mission-critical steps to better healthcare and better health, the need to carry so much health insurance diminishes. Or, at least, the need to access your health insurance plan coverage diminishes. In its simplest terms, better health means fewer doctor visits. Fewer doctor visits (usually) mean lower expenses. (That’s why it is mission critical to find a physician who will proactively partner with you around your health and health goals!) It is entirely possible, depending on your current health and chronic conditions, that all you really need is a hospitalization and catastrophic health insurance plan or a medical cost sharing plan. The point is, treat your health insurance strategy like the healthcare consumer you are.

Healthscient is currently working on a step-by-step “How To” guide for navigating these 5 mission critical components of better healthcare and better health. We’re shooting for having it ready in the next 2-4 weeks. But hey, we’d rather be thorough and helpful than just fast. Subscribe for Healthscient Updates and we will deliver it to your inbox when it’s ready. We promise not to annoy you. We only send email updates every two weeks or so.

Who is Going to Fix Healthcare?

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Who is going to fix healthcare?

It’s an important question because, well, it’s broken. Costs continue to spiral upward. Accessibility is a challenge. Satisfactory coordination of care is elusive. Health outcomes are often less than they could be. Frustration mounts.

So, who is going to fix it?

Not Washington.

To be sure, healthcare is a perpetual hot topic in the various branches of our government and rightly so. Healthcare spending accounts for nearly 18% of GDP and continues to steadily rise. There is no shortage of good ideas in Washington but there are simply too many variables for good sense solutions to take root. More candidly, there are too many ulterior motives in play politically and economically, too many fingers in the pie, too many self-interested players feeding at the trough of healthcare.

Not insurance companies.

Let’s be clear, healthcare and health insurance is not the same thing. In fact, health insurance plans are a significant part of the problem.

Not employers.

Employers are focused on gaining health insurance for their employees at the lowest possible cost that retains employees. Healthcare consumers – you and me – are left completely out of the picture. We don’t have a seat at the negotiating table. The employer is interested in productivity gains through better health and well-being for their employees, but they focus on the hard savings of lower insurance costs.

Not healthcare systems.

While those in the marketplace of delivering healthcare talk a good game and do, indeed, make incremental gains, they aren’t focused on delivering the least expensive, most effective care. They are appropriately focused on treatment, surgery, and the latest services to save peoples’ lives, but they aren’t focused on preventing illness and providing proactive, preventive care. This way of thinking simply does not result in patient-centric or consumer-centric healthcare.

Not even physicians.

Your doctor got in to medicine for a reason; he or she wanted to solve medical problems and had a passion for helping people. This is nearly a universal truth. Your doctor put in the time, did the work, and garnered the expertise to accomplish just that. But then they became ensnared in a system that entraps them. Authorizations, reimbursements, administrative requirements, pressures of running their practices, and the necessity to carry heavy, heavy patient loads just to make the economics work all contribute to less and less time available for medical problem solving. These burdens also prevent physicians from proactively engaging in the health and well-being of their patients. (That’s why physician burnout rates are soaring and why more and more physicians are moving to Concierge or Direct Primary Care practice models.)

So, again, who is going to fix healthcare?

In one word… You.

The most patient-centric, consumer-centric model of healthcare can and must come from you. You do have options. You can take control. You can fix it for you and for those you love. Achieving this model means finding physicians who are willing to partner with you and align around you and your health goals, and developing a financial and insurance strategy that makes sense for you.

In the weeks ahead, we will tell you how to do this. For right now, begin to take control by reading Uncertain Future for Healthcare and Aligning Healthcare for Consumers.

If you want to know when we’ve written something we think will be helpful to you, subscribe here:


We’ll keep you informed, but we won’t annoy you.

Back to the Future – Healthcare Version

As our team discusses how healthcare will look in the future, we spend a lot of time on where goals are best aligned for the benefit of the patient in terms of
a) improving their overall health,
b) gaining access to care, and
c) reducing their overall costs.

Many times, the entities engaged in orchestrating and paying for healthcare – like employers, health plans, and the government – unintentionally create costs and complexities in delivering healthcare. Healthcare providers then focus too much time and money on the demands of health plans and government agencies instead of their patients.

Concierge Medicine and Direct Primary Care with their
a) subscription model of payment,
b) focus on overall health of the patient, and
c) alignment of financial incentives to the health of the patient
are a step in the right direction, even if this step is a step back to the older ways of delivering healthcare which are reminiscent of Marcus Welby, M.D.

We are reaching out to engage the Concierge Medicine community to better understand how to
a) improve patient interactions with their Concierge Physician and their Practice and
b) support clinicians in their support of patient health.
If you are part of the Concierge Medicine community, we would enjoy speaking with you. For more information, please contact us at info@healthscient.com.