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“The Hot Spotters”: Is Better Care For The Neediest Patients The Answer To Lower Healthcare Costs?

Author-physician Dr. Atul Gawande has done it again with a well-written article in The New Yorker magazine entitled, “The Hot Spotters.” It deals with the fact that 5 percent of people with chronic illness make up over 50 percent of all healthcare costs.

If we can zero in on providing better preventive care for those people, we can finally get our arms around runaway healthcare costs. How great that you don’t even have to have a New Yorker subscription to read it. Here are a few cliff notes until you get to it:

– In Camden, New Jersey, one percent of patients account for one-third of the city’s medical costs. By just focusing attention on the social and medical outpatient needs of those people, they not only got healthier but costs were cut in half.

– Our current system is unable to reign in costs. We need to completely re-design and fund how we do primary care.

– Charging high co-payments to people with health problems just backfires. They avoid preventive care and end up hospitalized with expensive and life-threatening illnesses that are much worse and more costly. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at EverythingHealth*

Leading Healthcare Systems Collaborate On Best Practices For Common Conditions

Six of the nation’s leading healthcare systems will collaborate on outcomes, quality, and costs across eight common conditions or procedures in an effort to share best practices and reduce costs with the entire healthcare system.

Cleveland Clinic, Dartmouth-Hitchcock, Denver Health, Geisinger Health System, Intermountain Healthcare, and Mayo Clinic will to share data among their 10 million patients with The Dartmouth Institute, which will analyze the data and report back to the collaborative and the rest of the country, according to a press release.

The collaborative will focus on eight conditions and treatments for which costs have been increasing rapidly and for which there are wide variations in quality and outcomes across the country. The first three conditions to be studies are knee replacement, diabetes, and heart failure. They will be followed by asthma, weight loss surgery, labor and delivery, spine surgery, and depression.

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

Employee Health: The First “Benefits Package” Blog Carnival

Welcome to The Benefits Package — the very first employee benefits blog carnival. After healthcare reform, employee benefits move to center stage as one of the most important issues facing Americans.

So what are employers, insurers, and the government really doing to rein in healthcare costs, get their employees to live healthier lives, and improve healthcare quality?

The Benefits Package is the first-ever blog carnival dedicated to these issues. With benefits executives starting to make the leap into the blogosphere, The Benefits Package will highlight the best insights and opinions on this important subject. You will discover new blogs, learn new things, and hopefully think about issues a little differently. I’ll host the first couple of Benefits Packages, and then others will take their turn.

Below you’ll find a terrific set of posts by some true thought leaders. If you like what you see, please submit a post of your own next time. Enjoy the first Benefits Package!


At the Health Business Blog, David Williams explains why mini-med plans aren’t as bad as some people would have you believe.

At Hank Stern’s Insure Blog, Mike Feehan explains how the federal government makes private coverage more expensive in a way that makes its own coverage cheaper.

Jen Benz of the Benz Communications Blog explains that companies who fail to put their benefits information online are making a big mistake. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at See First Blog*

Addressing Healthcare Spending: “Cowardice” Or Bravery?

In assessing the “best and worst” of the recommendations from the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility, Washington Post blogger Ezra Klein accuses the Commission of “cowardice” in addressing healthcare spending:

“The plan’s healthcare savings largely consist of hoping the cost controls . . . and various demonstration projects in the new healthcare law work and expanding their power and reach. . . In the event that more savings are needed, they throw out a grab bag of liberal and conservative policies . . . but don’t really put their weight behind any. . .[their] decision to hide from the big questions here is quite disappointing . . . ”

Pretty harsh words, considering that in other respects Klein gives the Commission high marks. But I think there is a lot more to the Commission’s recommendations on healthcare spending than meet’s (Klein’s) eyes, even though I have my own doubts about the advisability and political acceptability of many of them. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The ACP Advocate Blog by Bob Doherty*

Real Reform In Healthcare

“We want our employees to spend their time on real issues,” said Charlie Salter, VP of Benefits at ConAgra. He means it. Charlie and ConAgra have built their healthcare benefits around some simple concepts that are yielding impressive results. How impressive? Close to flat healthcare cost trend since 2007.

Charlie’s work is part of a growing trend among America’s most innovative companies: Designing healthcare benefits in ways that have a real impact on quality and cost. It’s why I [recently] asked Charlie to share the podium with me in Boca Raton. ConAgra is showing it’s possible to control healthcare costs by helping people do the right thing.

The vision behind ConAgra’s programs is simple: Employees have to be responsible for managing their own care. But, says Charlie, this is easy to say, harder to do. “So we do as much as we can to make it as easy for people to do the right thing.” ConAgra gives its employees a significant financial stake in their well-being, through a health plan that has a $1,500 deductible. ConAgra supplements the plan with a health savings account (HSA) that lets workers use pre-tax dollars to pay for the deductible. Like other HSAs, any money the employee doesn’t spend is theirs to keep. It means employees are more engaged in healthcare decisions. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at See First Blog*

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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