Disease Management Update
Volume III, No. 35
December 21, 2006

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Table of Contents

  1. Healthcare Costs Slowed by Consumer-Driven Initiatives and Disease Management
  2. Disease Management Q&A: Educating Small-Group Members
  3. HealthSounds Podcast: Healthcare Toolkits Award 2005
  4. Role of Pharmacists in Diabetes Management
  5. Healthcare Toolkits: Ratcheting Up Awareness, Hammering Home Change


1. Healthcare Costs Slowed by Consumer-Driven Initiatives and Disease Management

Healthcare cost increases are projected to be about 11 percent in the next 12 months, representing the lowest increase in five years, according to Aon Consulting. Consumer-driven health (CDH) cost increases are projected to be lower than traditional health plans.

A survey of more than 90 leading healthcare insurers found that healthcare costs are projected to increase by 11.4 percent for HMOs, 11.2 percent for POS plans and 11.6 percent for PPOs. Meanwhile, CDH plans are estimated to increase by 10.5 percent, a 2.8 percent decrease from one year ago. This is lower than traditional medical plan rates and the lowest increase since 2004 when Aon began tracking CDH trend rates.

"The CDH trend rate decrease has been particularly satisfying," said Bill Sharon, senior vice president with Aon Consulting and director of the study. "After six years of CDH there is now enough credible financial information about these plans to show that they can be an effective approach to controlling healthcare costs."

"Healthcare trend rates continue to move downward due to a number of factors," Sharon said, citing health promotion and chronic condition management programs in addition to higher deductibles, coinsurance and co-pays, as well as insurers aggressively controlling provider price increases.

To learn more about the findings of this study, please visit:
http://www.aon.com/about/news/press_release/pr_00697117_2006_fall_hctrends.jsp

2. Disease Management Q&A: Educating Small-Group Members

Each week, a healthcare professional responds to a reader's query on an industry issue. This week's expert is John Mills, director of product development for HIP Health Plans.

Question: With consumer-driven healthcare moving into the small group market, how do you see overcoming the issues to education that go hand-in-hand with smaller organizations (e.g. time constraints, lack of human resource generalist personnel)?

Response: That's where the health plan really has to step in and provide the necessary education. If they don't offer that up front to a small group, they're going to end up with customer service calls and unhappy members. Unfamiliar with the product and unable to access services, members may take their frustration out on the health plan. In those cases, the health plans have to develop strong education modules and reach out. Sales representatives need to be available, especially with the small groups, to hold their hand for the first few months — go out and meet with them regularly, and stay in contact to deal with issues that arise. This is a challenge with smaller groups that you don't face with larger groups. In those, you can catch the human resources department up to speed and turn the education over to them.

There's more work up front with the consumer-directed plans because you have to get people acclimated. Once you do that, it pays off long-term because people are satisfied and you don't have the customer service issues on the back end.

For more details on employee education, outsourcing toolkit development, utilization trends and reaching the technologically challenged, please visit:
http://store.hin.com/product.asp?itemid=3239

We want to hear from you! Submit your question for Disease Management Q&A to info@hin.com.

3. HealthSounds Podcast: First Annual Healthcare Toolkits Award Winners

A patient navigation kit accented with artwork and writings by breast cancer survivors took top honors in the first annual Healthcare Toolkits contest sponsored by the Healthcare Intelligence Network (HIN). The MyHealth, MyJourney breast cancer post-diagnosis toolkit developed by the Eden Communications Group of Maplewood, N.J., for Pfizer Oncology was awarded first prize among nearly 60 print, Web-based and multimedia healthcare toolkits submitted by health plans, hospitals and employers. In this week's Disease Management podcast, representatives from the highest-placing organizations discuss the development of their winning toolkits.

To listen to this complimentary HIN podcast, please visit:
http://www.hin.com/podcasts/podcast.htm#8

4. Role of Pharmacists in Diabetes Management

Community pharmacists could possibly be playing a more direct role in diabetes management. Discovering whether or not this would be a helpful aid to patients is the focus of a new study at the Wesley Research Institute funded by the MBF Foundation.

The aim of the study is to help people with Type 2 Diabetes gain better control over their blood glucose levels to reduce their need for visits to the doctor or hospital admissions.

Patients will use use hi-tech glucose meters to measure their blood glucose levels at varying times during the day. The meters are attached to their computers, and a special software program is used to chart changes in glucose levels.

Half the study participants will take this information to their pharmacists who can advise on lifestyle changes to help moderate their blood glucose levels and prevent them becoming unwell. The other half will continue to manage their blood glucose levels themselves.

It is hoped that the year-long study to be completed at the end of 2007 will lead to new treatment standards for Type 2 Diabetes where patients and pharmacists work together to manage the disease.

To learn more about this study, please visit:
http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2006-12/ra-plt121306.php

5. Healthcare Toolkits: Ratcheting Up Awareness, Hammering Home Change

Healthcare toolkits come in all shapes and forms — printed brochures, e-newsletters, computer-based training and Internet-based portals — and perform a multitude of functions: informing, assessing, educating, convincing, warning, even comforting a targeted population. Whether the subject at hand is disease management, health plan enrollment, bereavement counseling or patient safety, toolkit creators hope their efforts will elicit a desired behavior change on the part of recipients. A side effect of these new behaviors will be improved health outcomes and reduced healthcare costs. A recent online survey conducted by the Healthcare Intelligence Network (HIN) reveals just how much healthcare organizations are banking on toolkits to disseminate their messages.

To download this complimentary white paper, please visit:
http://www.hin.com/library/registerhtr.html
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