The secret to medication adherence might be found in doctors’ notes, if patients are given online access to those notes, says a study in which three health systems offer expanded transparency. Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Massachusetts, Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania, and Harborview Medical Center in Washington offered patients online access to notes taken by their primary care physicians. (The three had three different starting and ending points; the shortest lasted a year and the longest lasted 19 months.)

By law, patients are entitled to such access. In practice, they rarely ask and physicians rarely remind them. That should perhaps change, says “Inviting Patients to Read Their Doctors’ Notes: A Quasi-Experimental Study and Look Ahead,” published in the October 2 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

In the study, patients “received e-mails when a doctor’s note was signed and posted to their portal, but whether to open the note was up to the patient.”

The study included 105 primary care physicians with 13,564 patients. Of 5,391 patients who opened at least one note and completed a post-intervention survey, “77 percent to 87 percent across the three sites reported that open notes helped them feel more in control of their care; 60 percent to 78 percent of those taking medications reported increased medication adherence....”

At the end of the study period, 99 percent of patients wanted access to notes to continue and not one doctor asked that the service be stopped. The study says that “a remarkable number [of patients] reported becoming more likely to take medications as prescribed. In contrast to the fears of many doctors, few patients reported being confused, worried, or offended by what they read.”

Managed Care’s Top Ten Articles of 2016

There’s a lot more going on in health care than mergers (Aetna-Humana, Anthem-Cigna) creating huge players. Hundreds of insurers operate in 50 different states. Self-insured employers, ACA public exchanges, Medicare Advantage, and Medicaid managed care plans crowd an increasingly complex market.

Major health care players are determined to make health information exchanges (HIEs) work. The push toward value-based payment alone almost guarantees that HIEs will be tweaked, poked, prodded, and overhauled until they deliver on their promise. The goal: straight talk from and among tech systems.

They bring a different mindset. They’re willing to work in teams and focus on the sort of evidence-based medicine that can guide health care’s transformation into a system based on value. One question: How well will this new generation of data-driven MDs deal with patients?

The surge of new MS treatments have been for the relapsing-remitting form of the disease. There’s hope for sufferers of a different form of MS. By homing in on CD20-positive B cells, ocrelizumab is able to knock them out and other aberrant B cells circulating in the bloodstream.

A flood of tests have insurers ramping up prior authorization and utilization review. Information overload is a problem. As doctors struggle to keep up, health plans need to get ahead of the development of the technology in order to successfully manage genetic testing appropriately.

Having the data is one thing. Knowing how to use it is another. Applying its computational power to the data, a company called RowdMap puts providers into high-, medium-, and low-value buckets compared with peers in their markets, using specific benchmarks to show why outliers differ from the norm.
Competition among manufacturers, industry consolidation, and capitalization on me-too drugs are cranking up generic and branded drug prices. This increase has compelled PBMs, health plan sponsors, and retail pharmacies to find novel ways to turn a profit, often at the expense of the consumer.
The development of recombinant DNA and other technologies has added a new dimension to care. These medications have revolutionized the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and many of the other 80 or so autoimmune diseases. But they can be budget busters and have a tricky side effect profile.

Shelley Slade
Vogel, Slade & Goldstein

Hub programs have emerged as a profitable new line of business in the sales and distribution side of the pharmaceutical industry that has got more than its fair share of wheeling and dealing. But they spell trouble if they spark collusion, threaten patients, or waste federal dollars.

More companies are self-insuring—and it’s not just large employers that are striking out on their own. The percentage of employers who fully self-insure increased by 44% in 1999 to 63% in 2015. Self-insurance may give employers more control over benefit packages, and stop-loss protects them against uncapped liability.