Archive for the ‘Healthcare Reform’ Category

By Daphne Swancutt

Law gavel 300x199 How the SCOTUS Healthcare Decision May Impact Private InsurersA collective whiplash transcending party lines occurred when the Supreme Court announced its decision upholding all parts of the Affordable Care Act on Thursday.

At the center of that decision was the notorious individual mandate, which had many spitting venom and vitriol for months. That a majority opinion supporting the constitutionality of the individual mandate became the ultimate judicial word was astonishing to most—no matter what side of the aisle you’d planted your allegiance.

We’re not going to talk politics here, though. There are plenty of people who will be stepping in to that morass throughout what promises to be a spirited election cycle.

Let’s talk about private insurers, an industry that—besides the Obama administration—had the most to lose (or gain, depending on how you look at it) from the decision.

Let’s face it: Health plans are not known for warm and fuzzy. As an industry that is highly focused on mitigating cost, this is probably too much to expect. And, yet, they are at a fork in the road. Besides mitigating cost, health insurers have an opportunity to mitigate perception. (more…)

By Jeff Smokler

Affordable Insurance Exchanges Communicating in the Era of Health Insurance ExchangesThe March 12 release of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) final rule on health insurance exchanges made one thing very clear: One size will not fit all.

The experience of a healthcare consumer in Maryland could be very different than one in neighboring Virginia. This makes sense, given the enormous variation in demographics across the nation.

As health insurance plans gear up to fight for their fair share of the millions of new customers expected to purchase coverage on the exchanges, their communications and marketing strategies will have to mirror the flexibility set forth in the HHS rule.

That said, there are a number of things that all health insurance plans need to consider as they formulate their marketing strategies. (more…)

All We Want for 2012

By Daphne Swancutt

20121 300x218 All We Want for 2012  While the beginning of a new year always prompts a watershed of trend lists and stories, we thought we’d take it a step further and combine our trend watch with a wish list for 2012. No question, there are big—even revolutionary—things happening in healthcare. But, trends without the potential for long-term influence are just fads that fade away.

1.  Mobile Health: With the market for mobile health apps projected to quadruple to $400MM by 2016, we anticipate continued growth in the volume of sports, fitness and wellness tools designed for use on smartphones and tablets. And, no doubt we’ll see more key tech players coming up with new applications that offer further integration with social networks and other apps, plus durable yet fashionable products to track activities and behaviors.
Wish List: An iPhone app/wearable device that combines RunKeeper, Gain Fitness, The Eatery and LARK’s sleep tool to manage personal health from one product. We think Fitbit is coming close and anticipate the release of the My Basis watch for a tool that aptly combines almost all of these functions.

2.  Crowdsourced Dieting: With the introduction of experimental dieting apps like The Eatery and Jawbone’s UP interface, we’re beginning to see that calories are taking the back seat to photos and user feedback for diet monitoring. From apps that allow you to rate how you feel following a meal, to those that allow the users’ friends to weigh-in on a meal choice, it seems like crowdsourcing feedback socially on what you eat is more effective than counting digits, unless you keep that chocolate mousse a secret.
Wish List: A Jawbone UP band that still works after two weeks. #FAIL

3.  Regulatory Implications: We’re glad that the FDA finally weighed in with its recent draft guidelines for pharma doing social. Depending on whom you’re talking with, it’s either too little or it’s just what the industry ordered. We’re somewhere in between. But as the industry looks toward social for further engagement, we see it as only good sense that the FDA step in with clearer guidance—faster.
Wish List: We’re listening, FDA! Move!

4.  Glocial Health: Pharma’s going big investing in emerging markets, and there are significant challenges—communication, regulatory, skilled workforce, and more. We see communication with a spectrum of stakeholders as crucial to pharma’s success, including consumers, HCPs, and government representatives. And, we know these emerging markets are using social networks and are highly mobile.
Wish List: A brand looking to tackle international social marketing from one Facebook hub. Share your ideas; we’re listening!

5.  Health Reform: Even though President Obama uttered a mere forty-four words about healthcare in his recent State of the Union address, we see this as a driving discussion among candidates and legislators as we enter election season. Expect that discussion to play out across social networks, and watch how candidates listen and participate in those exchanges.
Wish List: Meaningful social discussion and common-sense legislation to help us, the people and patients.

What are you looking forward to or anticipating in healthcare this year? Share your thoughts below or email us at to share!

By Daphne Swancutt

Updated Harris Interactive Logo 300x153 Healthy Behaviors Not Improving. Who’s Accountable?

A recent poll from IMRE conducted online by Harris Interactive reveals some sobering data. Bottom line: The more things change, the more they stay the same.

At the highest level, the survey shows that two-thirds of adult Americans admit they don’t live a healthy lifestyle all the time. The primary reasons aren’t surprising: Time, money, and that living a healthy lifestyle at all times is just not a priority.

Call them excuses, but it seems that despite a national push for greater attention to getting and staying healthy, increasing healthcare costs, and obesity and chronic disease epidemics that are sucking the life out of us, it’s just not resonating.

So, what can we do about it?

First, consider that this is—or will become—everyone’s problem. Whether you’re an individual, an employer, a school, a government organization or a nonprofit. Everyone needs to buy in to the fact that problems don’t fix themselves, people fix problems. This particular problem needs hoards of attentive and motivated people.

We’ve been in a collective conundrum about all of this for decades. Some argue that making individuals more accountable for healthy behaviors is key. Maybe. But what about the folks living hand-to-mouth, with language barriers, who sacrifice medical care for a trip to the grocery store or their children’s education? All the talk about making health a priority isn’t translating well to these groups, much less the groups living with fewer such challenges.

As a communicator, I am dumbfounded. If starting a national movement focused on motivating healthy behavior is truly a priority, we are failing. So, here’s my prescription:

Government: Get your rear-ends out of process perdition and come up with solutions that inspire, rather than endless tripping over administrative bureaucracy.

Employers: Give your people a break. We’re a national mess of stress, and we know about the outcomes. Stress leads to depression, leads to overeating, leads to lack of motivation, leads to little exercise, leads to diabetes, heart disease, etc.

Schools: Seriously, start talking to students the minute they enter the system about how important it is to be healthy, and everything they can do to make sure that they develop healthy behaviors. Give them the tools to educate their parents, too. Kids can actually do this. It’s like “teach your parents well.”

All others: If you’re not talking the talk, then start. If you’re talking the talk and not walking the walk, you’re part of the problem. Set an example, encourage, show your stuff and put your money (not junk food) where your mouths are.

As health communicators, we need to push harder for a seat at the big table. Then we need to advocate strongly for a more aggressive point of view, total engagement, messages that are delivered repeatedly in language that is understood, and action that truly motivates.

We’re at a crossroads here. Consider taking the road less traveled and bring some people along with you.

iHelp for the Health System

By Kristi Betz

Steve Jobs Healthcare iHelp for the Health System From the plain black turtlenecks he wore, to the products he developed, Steve Jobs was a man of simplicity. His innovations changed the world and redefined the way we think about usability.

Jobs’ futuristic thinking and business philosophy will impact the way we approach business strategies indefinitely, and Apple will be an ongoing benchmark of success for companies and products moving forward.

This got me thinking. Our healthcare system could use a jolt of Steve Jobs. Beyond scrapping it all and starting over, what would Steve Jobs have done, had he applied his forward thinking to our challenged and increasingly complex health system?

Simplify everything.

It’s simple: Jobs would have started by weeding out the noise and creating a system both patients and professionals could understand and easily navigate.

Focus on the end-user’s experience: The patient experience.

By no means is this a new concept. In fact, a 2009 HealthLeaders Patient Experience Leadership Survey found that 33.5 percent of healthcare leaders said the patient experience is their “top priority.” For years, healthcare companies have been investing time and money to enhance and improve “the patient experience,” but the U.S. healthcare system has yet to define what the “patient experience” encompasses. Until that is defined, the end-user’s experience will be anything but seamless.

If Jobs were to define the patient experience, he would create a standard where healthcare professionals spend more time with the patient and less time on administrative work. Like his approach to Apple, healthcare would be less about maximizing profits and more about customer satisfaction. Decisions would be based on the needs of the patient rather than on the needs of the system; and the patient experience would no longer be dependent on whom they see, how long they wait or what type of insurance they have.

Create an integrated system: Can you say iHealthRecords?

By 2014, all health providers will be required to be utilizing EHRs. Sure, this is a step in the right direction, but without the mandate of a universal operating system, care coordination will continue to be a topic of discussion rather than a systematic approach.

Jobs would have demanded an integrated system similar to Apple’s iCloud interface. This set up would encourage simple input making it easy and attractive for healthcare professionals to use. Through an integrated communication structure like iCloud, EHRs could be shared across specialists and hospitals improving care coordination, eliminating duplication of tests and services from provider to provider.

If anywhere the words “think different” need to be applied practically, it would definitely be to our challenged health system. It’s broke; we’ve got to fix it. Why not try an Apple a day?

By Daphne Swancutt

iStock 000010062821Small 300x225 Healthcare Needs Rx for Internal CommunicationsBy most accounts, 2011 will be the start of a watershed in the healthcare industry. From HIT spending, meaningful use and HIPAA 5010 and ICD-10, to ACOs, M&As and the demand by consumers for more sophisticated digital technologies.

Imagine the communication challenges. (more…)

Get Lit, or Else?

By Daphne Swancutt

iStock 000005926987Medium1 300x199 Get Lit, or Else?Two people in the United States just died in the last hour. Seventeen more will die in the next 7 to 8 hours. Over a year, that number will accumulate to about 7,000.

The reason? Medical errors that include misread or otherwise misinterpreted handwritten prescriptions. Believe it. This means that doctors are being sloppy, pharmacies are making mistakes and people are getting dead.

Even more disturbing about this statistic is that 85 percent-plus of pharmacies are equipped to receive electronic prescriptions, yet only one-third of the nation’s prescribers use this system.

It seems appropriate, then, to draw some attention to this stupid and nonsensical tragedy during Health Literacy Month and to ask: What’s the deal? (more…)

The Four P’s of Healthcare

By Daphne Swancutt

iStock 000008667320XSmall1 300x225 The Four Ps of HealthcareCall it a silly, useless curse. I get sucked in to trying to find patterns and connections anywhere I can. Most of them are silly and useless. Occasionally I find ones that actually make some sense, if only to me.

As a healthcare marketer who also geeks out on reform, genetics and the e-patient movement, I can’t help but try to wrap healthcare up into a single cohesive package of connection and meaning. That’s what marketers do.

So, when it comes to that monster and what it all means, where it starts, what’s important and how to condense it to its core—where the patterns and connections are—I see P’s. (more…)

Health Reform Anger Run Amok

By healtheditor

Head in sand 400X268 pix 300x201 Health Reform Anger Run AmokA lot of people are smashing mad and hurling some serious vitriol when it comes to the new health reform law. We have a few questions about that:

  • Do these people know what they’re angry about?
  • Do they really know what’s in the law?
  • Do they really care to know, or are they just ideological lemmings?

Here’s one more: Do any of us trust ourselves to fully comprehend each of those 2,409 pages of baffling, profuse legislation that make Beowulf look like Green Eggs and Ham? We’re pretty sure few politicians would admit the anger of the masses wasn’t based on substance.

Or would they? Could they? (more…)

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