Southland Benefit Solutions, LLC, Announces Formation of a New Company to Focus on Defined Contribution Employee Benefits Training for Agents and Brokers

Southland Benefit Solutions, LLC, (Southland) today announced that it has formed, Health Partners America, LLC, (HPA) a health insurance training and services company that offers its clients long-term solutions in a rapidly changing healthcare benefits environment. Based in Tuscaloosa, with a sales office in Birmingham, AL, HPA will operate as a subsidiary of Southland. Formerly known as Innovative Benefit Consulting, HPA has more than forty years experience in the insurance and financial services industry.

In announcing the addition of HPA to the Southland family of companies, Southland President, James Leitner said that acquiring HPA was part of a strategy to better position Southland to engage in trends currently emerging in the employee benefits industry. He noted that the purchase of HPA and its national distribution channels for delivering training programs and business services to health insurance brokers and agents will better prepare Southland to provide products and services in the evolving healthcare benefits marketplace.

Leitner pointed out that one emerging trend is something called a defined contribution health plan. He said that a defined contribution health plan is an alternative to traditional group health plans and that they are rapidly growing in popularity. Rather than paying a portion, or all of a premium, under a defined contribution health plan, an employer sets aside a fixed dollar amount each month for employees to use to pay for individual health insurance or other medical costs such as doctor visits and prescription drugs. This allows even the smallest of businesses to offer their employees health-related benefits, but it requires that insurance brokers and agents follow defined rules and guidelines to maximize the benefits to the employer and the employees.

“Health Partners America has developed one of the best defined contribution health plan training systems for agents and brokers that we have seen and they are quickly achieving a national reputation for their defined contribution health plan expertise,” said Leitner.

Josh Hilgers, president of HPA said, “The HPA defined contribution health plan training program is designed to give brokers and agents the knowledge and tools they need to help companies of all sizes maximize their health, life and other insurance benefits investment without sacrificing quality.”

About Southland Benefit Solutions:
Southland Benefit Solutions, LLC, (SBS) an employee benefits administrator began offering benefit solutions in 1983. It administers self-insured benefit programs for the Alabama Public Education Employees’ Health Insurance Plan and processes tens of thousands of claims per month with an accuracy rate of better than 99%.

 

Cigna to Acquire HealthSpring

BLOOMFIELD, Conn. & NASHVILLE, Tenn., October 24, 2011 – Cigna Corporation (NYSE: CI) and HealthSpring, Inc. (NYSE:HS) today announced that they have signed a definitive agreement under which Cigna will acquire all the outstanding shares of HealthSpring for $55 per share in cash, a 37% premium over the closing stock price on Friday October 21, 2011, representing a total transaction value of approximately $3.8 billion. HealthSpring’s proven leadership team, headed by its Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Herb Fritch, will lead Cigna’s expansion in our rapidly growing Seniors and Medicare segments. The business combination is expected to be accretive to Cigna earnings per share in the first full year of operations. The agreement has been approved by the boards of directors of both companies and is subject to required regulatory approvals and customary closing conditions. The transaction is expected to close during the first half of 2012 and is not subject to a financing condition.

“HealthSpring is a great fit with Cigna’s growth plans to expand into the Seniors and Medicare segment through a premier business and trusted brand name,” said David M. Cordani, President and Chief Executive Officer. “Our two companies share a common strategic vision and philosophy that we create customer value by partnering with health care professionals, and use information and incentives to deliver high-quality, differentiated programs.”

“We are thrilled to announce this transaction with Cigna,” said Herb Fritch. “Following a review undertaken by our Board of Directors of the company’s strategic options, we concluded that the combination is in the best interests of our shareholders. The combination will also expand our ability to serve our physician partners and customers. Cigna recognizes the value in HealthSpring’s differentiated model of physician engagement, and shares our commitment to providing high quality, cost effective care to the members and communities we serve. We truly look forward to continuing and expanding upon this mission.”

 

WellPoint Earns Industry Recognition for Health Care Consumer Empowerment and Protection

INDIANAPOLIS, Oct. 20, 2011 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ — WellPoint, Inc., (NYSE: WLP) today announced it has been awarded Silver and Honorable Mention honors for Health Care Consumer Empowerment and Protection by URAC, a leading health care accreditation organization. The awards recognize industry achievements in advancing the role of consumers as active participants in their health care through heightened awareness and education.

“URAC’s Best Practices awards program is a unique celebration of innovative health care management programs. These organizations have implemented leading programs that have made a difference in the lives of the consumers they serve with demonstrable results that matter,” said Alan P. Spielman, president and CEO of URAC. “This year’s winners are recognized for their leadership in delivering on the promise of a quality health care system that puts consumers first.”

WellPoint received the Silver Award for the MyHealth Advantage member messaging program and honorable mentions for the Imaging Cost and Quality Program and the Emergency Room Utilization Management Initiative, which are available to members in select health plans.

“Helping people understand that they play a vital role in their health care and providing the resources they need to get quality, affordable care when they need it and in the right setting is our top priority. This recognition underscores our companywide commitment to continuous improvement and highlights our associates’ hard work and ingenuity in developing programs that empower consumers to make better decisions about their health care,” said Sam Nussbaum, M.D., chief medical officer for WellPoint.

The MyHealth Advantage program involves clinical messaging to members and physicians that leads to improved evidence-based compliance, better member health and a potential reduction in avoidable costs. For instance, members taking a prescription medication may receive messages to restart that medication if they are not adhering to the prescribed regimen or to stop taking a medication that is contraindicated. A study on the program demonstrated that messaging both members and physicians about gaps in clinical care significantly improves compliance with medical care guidelines.

The Emergency Room Utilization Management Initiative helps members find information through online search engines, interactive calls and print brochures. This educational information assists members in knowing what conditions may be treated at a retail health clinic or urgent care centers and their out-of-pocket costs associated with each. A pilot study conducted by HealthCore Inc. in Virginia demonstrated a 14 percent decrease in ER visits for those who participated in the program compared with those who did not.

The Imaging Cost and Quality Program uses technology from WellPoint subsidiary American Imaging Management (AIM) to proactively identify members whose health care providers have recommended they receive an imaging service such as an MRI or CT scan. The program calls those members to offer them an opportunity to switch to a high-quality but lower-cost facility, promoting quality care and transparency while enabling them to use their health care dollars more wisely.

Additionally, WellPoint associate, Patricia Moreno, a health promotion consultant working in its state sponsored business division, received a URAC Health Care Stars! award. This individual honor recognizes Moreno’s work in promoting the welfare of health care consumers by helping to improve lives and prevent adverse health outcomes.

Entries were judged by a distinguished 20-member panel of prestigious, independent judges including recognized experts in program evaluation, care coordination, health information technology, employer and purchaser decision making and patient safety. Entries were reviewed and scored by the judges based on objective criteria including whether the program was measurable, if it was reproducible and delivered through a collaborative approach. Honors were awarded in the categories of Consumer Decision-Making and Consumer Health Improvement.

About WellPoint, Inc.

WellPoint works to simplify the connection between Health, Care and Value. We help to improve the health of our members and our communities, and provide greater value to our customers and shareholders. WellPoint is the nation’s largest health benefits company in terms of medical membership, with 34 million members in its affiliated health plans, and a total of more than 69 million individuals served through its subsidiaries.

About URAC

URAC, an independent, nonprofit organization, is well-known as a leader in promoting health care quality through its accreditation, education and measurement programs. URAC offers a wide range of quality benchmarking programs and services that keep pace with the rapid changes in the health care system, and provide a symbol of excellence for organizations to validate their commitment to quality and accountability. Through its broad-based governance structure and an inclusive standards development process, URAC ensures that all stakeholders are represented in establishing meaningful quality measures for the entire health care industry. For more information, visit http://www.urac.org/.

SOURCE: WellPoint, Inc

 

HealthAmerica Opens Health Insurance Kiosks in Malls

HARRISBURG, Pa. & PITTSBURGH–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Got a question about Medicare or individual insurance coverage? Now you can ask a person. Face to face. One-on-one.

“Our new kiosks allow consumers to meet in person, face-to-face with a HealthAmerica representative to discuss their specific coverage needs rather than over the phone or going online”

That’s the premise behind HealthAmerica’s new kiosks that opened in 13 malls last month across Pennsylvania. The kiosks are aimed at consumers who want to understand and evaluate their Medicare and individual health plan options by personally meeting with a health insurance specialist.

“Our new kiosks allow consumers to meet in person, face-to-face with a HealthAmerica representative to discuss their specific coverage needs rather than over the phone or going online,” said Mary Lou Osborne, chief operating officer for HealthAmerica. “By locating in malls, we are placing our individual and Medicare health plan products closer to consumers.”

Osborne said the HealthAmerica insurance kiosks are a response to growing trend of more consumers buying their own insurance and seniors looking for more choices to navigate through their insurance options. “Consumers want to be more informed and better understand all of their health care options,” added Osborne. “Plus, we want to be even more recognized in the marketplace as consumers shift to play a bigger role in choosing their own individual health plan.”

The types of services provided at HealthAmerica kiosks include a benefits check-up, assistance with questions, and information on the local Medicare Advantage plan. The “benefits check-up” is provided in conjunction with the National Council on Aging. Health insurance specialists will review a senior’s benefits to help them find and enroll in all the benefits to which they are entitled including federal, state, local and private programs that help pay for prescription drugs, utility bills, meals, health care and other needs.

About HealthAmerica

With over 36 years of providing health care benefits, HealthAmerica has earned a reputation as one of the most trusted and experienced health insurers in Pennsylvania. The company ranks 14th in the nation for HMO and POS plans by the National Committee for Quality Assurance, and its Medicare plan ranks 28th nationally. It has ranked among the top health plans by NCQA for six consecutive years. HealthAmerica provides a range of traditional and consumer-directed health insurance products, including self-funded, Medicare, Medicaid, indemnity, nongroup, and pharmacy plans. It currently has “Excellent” accreditation by the NCQA for its commercial HMO, POS, and Medicare plans. HealthAmerica’s corporate offices are in Harrisburg, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. For more information, visit HealthAmerica’s website at www.healthamerica.cvty.com.

 

TriZetto Expert: Population Health Management, Informed by Clinical Analytics, Can Bend Cost Trend and Improve Outcomes

DENVER, Oct 13, 2011 (BUSINESS WIRE) — The TriZetto Group noted with interest a Health Affairs article in July reporting that national healthcare spending was expected to increase from 17.6 percent in 2010 to 19.8 percent in 2020, as economic recovery spurs higher utilization and an estimated 30 million additional people receive health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act. It is also expected that this group of consumers will have a higher incidence of chronic disease and untreated conditions. Further, chronic disease rates continue to rise throughout the population, notwithstanding disease and care management programs administered by the healthcare industry.

With the influx of these high-risk participants, healthcare payer organizations are thinking about how they can positively influence the health of the larger population by improving the health of their own membership. Care management can help health plans improve population health and control medical costs, and clinical-analytics capabilities are necessary and core to managing costs in a meaningful way.

“Old” vs “New “

The ‘old’ model of care management — the way it’s traditionally been thought about — is defined by a single patient view. A health plan knows the condition of a member based on claim activity and begins disease or care management activities to mitigate future complications and the possibility of major expenses. While such individual interventions can be effective for both member and payer, they cannot improve the health of members on a larger scale, across one or multiple group cases. Typically, traditional, reactive care-management programs have been ineffective in managing medical costs for lack of early intervention and appropriate, clinical plans for improvement.

What is needed is a new, broader, more anticipatory approach to population health management. Under this approach, healthcare payers would stratify group populations by risk, identify prevalent or high-cost conditions, and approach members for participation in disease-management and care-management programs prior to clinically or financially adverse health events.

Recent advances in technology and modeling have helped vastly improve payers’ capabilities in population health management. New, proven technology — clinical analytics — can give health plans the proactive, stratified views of populations that is requisite for clinically beneficial care management and highly effective new models of care delivery, such as patient-centered medical home (PCMH), accountable care organizations (ACOs), value-based benefits and value-based reimbursement.

Raw Data is no “Field of Dreams”

The challenge has never been about insufficient data. The necessary data, and lots of it, is there. But raw data alone is no ‘Field of Dreams’; meaningful information for impactful population health management does not automatically spring from data. That’s where analytics comes in.

Payers recognize this. A TriZetto research study conducted by Gantry Group in late 2010 shows that within two years every health plan will be investing in and using some form of clinical analytics to inform population health management programs. The number one reason? To reduce incurred medical costs. The second and third reasons, respectively? “To improve clinical and financial outcomes for co-morbid conditions” and “to improve member compliance with evidence-based care protocols.”

Healthcare payers clearly understand business intelligence is the foundation for reversing the trend of medical spend. Having robust analytics capabilities can help health plans:

— Maximize their ability to identify and stratify members for incentives

— Interpret data to derive meaningful information for use in automating decision making for improved administrative efficiency (e.g., automatic enrollment into programmatic interventions)

— Demonstrate and evaluate outcomes through deep, extensive reporting capabilities

There’s the story of Henry Ford’s comment when a finished car rolled off the factory line. Ford said, “There are exactly 4,719 parts in that model.” While most on hand were impressed that the company president had this fact at his fingertips, an engineer nearby remarked, “I can’t think of a more useless piece of information.”

Useful, accurate information — in the right place and at the right time in the healthcare system — is required for effective population health management. The good news is that technology-enabled solutions, informed by meaningful clinical analytics and available today, can meet this requirement for healthcare payer organizations large and small.

A point-of-view paper by Jerry Osband, M.D., vice president of product management for The TriZetto Group, Inc., served as the basis for this issue brief.

About TriZetto

TriZetto provides world-class healthcare IT software and service solutions that drive administrative efficiency, improve the cost and quality of care, and increase payer and provider collaboration and connectivity. TriZetto solutions, many of which are patented or patent-pending, touch half the U.S. insured population and reach more than 21,000 physician practices. TriZetto’s payer offerings include enterprise and component software, application hosting and management, business process outsourcing services and consulting. Provider offerings, delivered through TriZetto’s Gateway EDI wholly owned subsidiary, include tools and services that monitor, catch and fix claims issues before they can impact a practice. TriZetto’s integrated payer-provider platform will enable deployment of promising new models of post-reform healthcare. For information, visit www.trizetto.com .

SOURCE: TriZetto

 

Castlight Health’s Health Care Portal Launched by Esterline Corporation to Complement Innovative Health Benefit Design

SAN FRANCISCO, Oct. 12, 2011 /PRNewswire/ — Castlight Health, developer of a personalized health care shopping portal offering unbiased information about health care cost and quality, announced today that Esterline Corporation, a leading worldwide supplier to the aerospace and defense industries headquartered in the Pacific Northwest, will be providing the Castlight portal to its employees across all 23 of its U.S. locations.

In 2004, Esterline piloted a consumer-directed health plan (CDHP) to incent employees who need medical care to seek lower cost and better value treatment with lower health care costs the goal. By 2007, the majority of employees had transitioned into CDHPs, but they had limited tools to compare price and quality of care. The company is now looking to Castlight Health to arm their employees with the best cost and quality information to help them control out-of-pocket expenses, and to help them make the right health care decisions for themselves, their families, and their company.

“Our consumer-directed health plan, when combined with Castlight’s portal, will further prove that given the right tools, employees will find better health care value, while seeking appropriate quality care,” said Teresa Sebert, Esterline’s Director of Benefits. “In 2010, our average employee spent 26% less on medical costs than they did in 2006 — including premium and provider direct costs, and the company’s expense was controlled to an average of 6% per year which was better than the market average.  We expect to see further increases in savings with the addition and adoption of Castlight.”

Castlight’s portal is highly personalized with an intuitive interface similar to the most popular online comparison shopping tools. This familiarity leads to rapid user adoption, so large employers across the country can quickly empower their employees to make health care decisions that increase their quality of care while decreasing costs.

“What people often don’t realize is that prices for medical services can vary drastically – even for in-network providers in a single region,” commented Dena Bravata, M.D., Chief Medical Officer at Castlight Health. “Therefore, Castlight’s ability to provide a personalized health care shopping portal is paramount, and given that Esterline is a national leader in tackling health care costs, it makes us even more excited to assist their employees in finding quality health care at the right cost.”

About Castlight Health

Castlight Health enables employers, their employees, and health plans to take control of health care costs and improve care. Named #1 on The Wall Street Journal’s list of “The Top 50 Venture-Backed Companies” for 2011 and one of Dow Jones’ 50 Most Investment-Worthy Technology Start-Ups, Castlight Health helps the country’s self-insured employers and health plans empower consumers to shop for health care. Castlight Health is headquartered in San Francisco and backed by prominent investors including Venrock, Oak Investment Partners, Maverick Capital, Morgan Stanley Investment Management, Wellcome Trust, Cleveland Clinic, and U.S. Venture Partners. For more information, please visit http//:www.castlighthealth.com.

 

Kaiser Permanente Leads the Nation in 11 Effectiveness of Care Measures

OAKLAND, Calif. — Kaiser Permanente leads the nation with the most No. 1s receiving top marks in 11 out of 40 effectiveness of care measures among all reporting commercial health plans. These conclusions were based on information in the 2011 National Committee for Quality Assurance’s Quality Compass® data.

Kaiser Permanente received top marks for:

  • Weight assessment for children — body mass index percentile
  • Counseling for nutrition for children
  • Counseling for physical activity for children
  • Chlamydia screening in women (ages 16–20, 21–24 and total)
  • Appropriate testing for children with pharyngitis
  • Appropriate use of medications for people with asthma (ages 12–50, total)
  • Comprehensive diabetes care — LDL control less than 100 mg/dl
  • Comprehensive diabetes care — medical attention for nephropathy
  • Antidepressant medication management (effective acute phase)
  • Antidepressant medication management (effective continuation phase)
  • Annual monitoring for patients on persistent medications — anticonvulsants

“At Kaiser Permanente, our doctors and care teams excel in proactive prevention of illness, early detection of disease, and better treatment of ongoing conditions,” said Amy Compton-Phillips, MD associate executive director, Quality, The Permanente Federation. The data from the Quality Compass demonstrates our commitment to providing high-quality care to our members through evidence-based measures.”

Kaiser Permanente’s nation-leading scores in 11 effectiveness of care measures from NCQA’s Quality Compass® are a result of expert care and medical teams supported by industry-leading technology advances and tools for health promotion, disease prevention, state-of-the-art care delivery and world-class chronic disease management. A key differentiator in performance has also been Kaiser Permanente’s increasing use of health information technology and its integrated electronic health record, Kaiser Permanente HealthConnect®, which is the largest private electronic health record in the world. KP HealthConnect provides members with convenient, 24/7 access to their personal health information and to their care teams, with goals of increasing self-management and improving health outcomes.

“Kaiser Permanente has a long history of providing high-quality care to our members and patients,” said Jed Weissberg, MD, senior vice president, Quality and Care Delivery Excellence, Kaiser Permanente. “Our approach to delivering quality is through our integrated system, which focuses on patient-centered care that meets the needs of each of our members. The data from this year’s Quality Compass supports our great accomplishments in this area, and it provides consumers with the important information they need as they make choices about their health care.”

Kaiser Permanente Leads the Nation in 11 Effectiveness of Care Measures

NCQA is a private, non-profit organization dedicated to improving health care quality. NCQA accredits and certifies a wide range of health care organizations. It also recognizes clinicians and practices in key areas of performance. NCQA is committed to providing health care quality information for consumers, purchasers, health care providers and researchers.

The source for data contained in this publication is Quality Compass® 2011 and is used with the permission of the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA). Quality Compass 2011 includes certain CAHPS data. Any data display, analysis, interpretation, or conclusion based on these data is solely that of the authors, and NCQA specifically disclaims responsibility for any such display, analysis, interpretation, or conclusion. Quality Compass is a registered trademark of NCQA. CAHPS® is a registered trademark of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

 

About Kaiser Permanente
Kaiser Permanente is committed to helping shape the future of health care. We are recognized as one of America’s leading health care providers and not-for-profit health plans. Founded in 1945, our mission is to provide high-quality, affordable health care services and to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve. We currently serve 8.8 million members in nine states and the District of Columbia. Care for members and patients is focused on their total health and guided by their personal physicians, specialists and team of caregivers. Our expert and caring medical teams are empowered and supported by industry-leading technology advances and tools for health promotion, disease prevention, state-of-the art care delivery and world-class chronic disease management. Kaiser Permanente is dedicated to care innovations, clinical research, health education and the support of community health. For more information, go to: www.kp.org/newscenter.

 

HealthAmerica and Preferred Primary Care Physicians Launch Pilot to Deliver Accessible, Patient-centered and Coordinated Primary Care

PITTSBURGH–(BUSINESS WIRE)–HealthAmerica and Preferred Primary Care Physicians (Preferred) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, have launched a new pilot program with the goal of providing more coordinated and patient-centered primary care and improved communications among patients, their physicians and their care team.

“HealthAmerica will play an important role because of the data we track on quality measures, which is critical for coordinating care and reporting on the results. Our data are also key to promoting the practice of evidence-based medicine and using decision-support tools to guide clinical decision making.”

Preferred consists of 32 board-certified physicians and five physician extenders specializing in internal medicine and family practice. Preferred has 14 practice locations in the South Hills and three locations in Uniontown in Fayette County. In addition, Preferred offers state-of-the-art outpatient centers for cardiac testing, sleep disorders, and physical therapy.

This unique pilot program, which was effective September 1, 2011, leverages the advanced medical home model established by the American College of Physicians. The medical home is a team-based model of care led by a personal physician who provides continuous and coordinated care throughout a patient’s lifetime to maximize health outcomes. Care is facilitated by the patient’s personal physician across all elements of the complex health care system, including subspecialty care, hospitals, home health agencies and nursing homes.

“This arrangement is unique in that patients and families will participate in quality improvement activities at the practice level,” said Dr. Robert S. Mirsky, chief medical officer for HealthAmerica. “HealthAmerica will play an important role because of the data we track on quality measures, which is critical for coordinating care and reporting on the results. Our data are also key to promoting the practice of evidence-based medicine and using decision-support tools to guide clinical decision making.”

“Under this pilot program, we will continue to leverage our advanced technologies and care management capabilities to support the goal of optimal patient outcomes. These are driven by a care-planning process and effective communication among HealthAmerica, the patient, the patient’s family and his or her physician,” said Gregory Erhard, executive director for Preferred Primary Care Physicians. “We will place a focus on prevention and seamless, coordinated care. Our electronic health record (EHR) and our robust data mining capabilities will be crucial in supporting optimal patient care, performance measurement, patient education, and communication.”

HealthAmerica members who use participating practices in the program will benefit from the highly coordinated care. Customers benefit from the cost savings generated by improved outcomes and avoiding unnecessary tests and procedures. Provider incentives for achieving quality goals help keep costs down and keep medical care focused on prevention strategies and managing patients with chronic diseases.

About HealthAmerica

With over 36 years of providing health care benefits, HealthAmerica has earned a reputation as one of the most trusted and experienced health insurers in Pennsylvania. The company ranks among the highest rated health plans in the nation for HMO and POS plans by the National Committee for Quality Assurance.* Its Medicare plan, HealthAmerica Advantra, ranks 24 out of 341 Medicare plans evaluated nationwide, ranking second in the state and among the top 25 health plans in the nation.* HealthAmerica provides a range of traditional and consumer-directed health insurance products, including self-funded, Medicare, Medicaid, indemnity, nongroup, and pharmacy plans. It currently has “Excellent” accreditation by the National Committee for Quality Assurance for its commercial HMO, POS, and Medicare plans. HealthAmerica’s corporate offices are in Harrisburg, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. For more information, visit HealthAmerica’s website at www.healthamerica.cvty.com.

*NCQA’s “Health Insurance Plan Rankings 2011-12 – Private; NCQA’s “Health Insurance Plan Rankings 2011-12 – Medicare.

About Preferred Primary Care Physicians

Preferred Primary Care Physicians (Preferred) was founded in 1995 by ten primary care physicians in the South Hills of Pittsburgh. These physicians shared a common commitment to provide the highest quality care to the patients that they served. To that end, the group initiated quality improvement programs, participated in research studies to advance primary care practice, and implemented electronic medical records (EHR) in 2003, well before most other practices. Today, Preferred Primary Care Physicians consists of 32 board-certified physicians specializing in internal medicine and family practice. PPCP has 14 practice locations in the South Hills and three locations in Uniontown in Fayette County. In addition, PPCP offers state-of-the-art outpatient centers for cardiac testing, sleep disorders, and physical therapy. Preferred Healthcare Informatics, LLC, a subsidiary of Preferred Primary Care Physicians delivers EHR and information technology consulting services to physician practices and hospitals, including readiness assessment, implementation, support, content development, and meaningful use achievement.

 

Walgreens Prescription Refill Text Alerts Deliver Important Reminders for Mobile Users, Reply to Reorder

DEERFIELD, Ill., October 06, 2011 – Text messaging has become the most popular form of communication for mobile users in the U.S., and now Walgreens (NYSE: WAG) (NASDAQ: WAG) is helping its pharmacy patients remember and order prescription refills through its newest mobile feature, Refill Reminder Text Alerts. The new service delivers a text message notifying patients when an existing prescription is due for refill, orders can then be completed with a simple “refill” reply.

The service is free to mobile and smartphone users, standard data and messaging rates apply through wireless carriers.

“We’ve driven strong adoption and customer engagement through our mobile applications, and these mobile pharmacy features are also great tools for helping people manage their health,” said Sona Chawla, Walgreens president of e-commerce. “This is another way we’re extending the access to Walgreens pharmacy to patients on the go and helping them stay well.”

Pharmacy patients can sign up for refill reminder text alerts at any Walgreens pharmacy and also online at www.walgreens.com/textalerts.

Walgreens currently has more than 2 million subscribers for its Prescription Ready Text Alerts, which notify customers when a prescription order is ready for pickup.

Mobile Health Care Applications Drive Online Refills, May Help Improve Adherence Rates

The overall cost of poor medication adherence is approximately $290 billion per year to the U.S. health care system.1 In addition, studies show that for every 100 new prescriptions, only 15-20 percent are refilled as prescribed.2

“Medication non-adherence is one of the biggest hurdles in treating illness today, responsible for more than $100 billion each year in avoidable hospitalizations3,” said Cheryl Pegus, Walgreens chief medical officer. “Tools and personalized services that can help patients remain compliant with their prescription regimens can be effective in lowering health care costs and improving patient care.”

Walgreens mobile applications, which recently received Webby Awards in the people’s voice categories of Best Integrated Mobile Experience and Best Shopping from a Mobile Device, now account for more than 25 percent of the company’s online prescription refills.

These applications feature Refill by Scan, which enables mobile users to order refills simply by scanning the barcode on a prescription bottle. They also have a prescription refills tab, where refills can be ordered by entering a prescription number, with in-store pickup available at any Walgreens store.

About Walgreens

Walgreens (www.walgreens.com) is the nation’s largest drugstore chain with fiscal 2011 sales of $72 billion. The company operates 7,760 drugstores in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

1 National Association of Chain Drugstores
2 IMS Health
3 Johns Hopkins University, Partnership for Solutions

 

The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association Unveils Action Plan To Improve Healthcare Quality And Rein In Rising Healthcare Costs

WASHINGTON – The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association (BCBSA)  released a comprehensive, interconnected action plan that fundamentally transforms the healthcare system, moving it away from a fee-for-service model to a patient-centered model.  The action plan, Building Tomorrow’s Healthcare System:  The Pathway to High-Quality, Affordable Care in America, provides specific recommendations to improve healthcare quality and tackle rising costs and is based on the experience of BCBSA’s 39 Plans in all 50 states and federal territories, in every market and every zip code.  An independent economic analysis of the recommendations shows that, if adopted, this action plan will achieve more than $300 billion in federal savings over the next 10 years.

“We believe that the healthcare system needs to fundamentally change so that people get the best, most affordable care possible.  We need to put the patient back in the center of healthcare and this is going to take a significant collaborative effort between both public and private sectors,” said Scott P. Serota, president and CEO of BCBSA.  “It’s time to stop the finger pointing and start working together to make our system the best for patients.  In Building Tomorrow’s Healthcare System, we make specific recommendations for what the government should do and show how Blue companies nationwide have been working with doctors, hospitals, consumers and policymakers to transform the healthcare system.”

The proposal lays out specific, actionable steps the government should take in four key areas:

  1. Reward Safety:  National and local leadership along with new provider incentives are needed to eliminate preventable medical errors, infections and complications that harm hundreds of thousands of people each year and cost billions of dollars.
  2. Do What Works:  The incentives in our system must be changed to advance the best possible care and reward quality outcomes, instead of paying for more services that are ineffective or redundant and add unnecessary costs to the system.
  3. Reinforce Front-Line Care:  A higher value must be placed on primary care and on ensuring there is an adequate workforce of professionals to deliver necessary, timely and coordinated care that results in better outcomes and lower costs.
  4. Inspire Healthy Living:  With 75 percent of today’s healthcare dollar spent on the treatment of chronic illnesses — many of which are preventable — consumers must be empowered and encouraged to make better choices, live healthier lives and better manage their health.

If adopted, the recommendations would save $319 billion over the next decade according to an economic analysis by Ken Thorpe, Ph.D., Robert W. Woodruff Professor and Chair Department of Health Policy & Management Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University.

“The BCBSA proposal reflects a clear understanding of the transformational approach needed to reform our prevention and healthcare delivery system,” said Thorpe.  “Building evidence-based approaches to coordinate care for Medicare and Medicaid patients that will improve the quality and reduce healthcare spending is a discussion we need to have.  Rather than simply shifting federal costs to seniors, the states, or elsewhere, these proposals have the potential to reduce total healthcare spending.”

The proposal contains several examples of Blue Cross and Blue Shield initiatives underway across the country that can work as models for improving care and reducing costs.  One example is the Michigan Health and Hospital Association’s Keystone:  ICU Program, which has dramatically reduced central line-associated bloodstream infection rates and ventilator-assisted pneumonia rates in ICU patients.  More than 70 Michigan hospitals participate in this program and over a six-year period the initiative has saved 1,830 lives, eliminated an estimated 140,700 avoidable hospital days for patients, and saved more than $300 million.

“This action plan recommends changes that will bring about real improvement for our fragmented healthcare system,” said Daniel Loepp, president and CEO, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.  “In Michigan, and in local communities across the country, the Blues are seeing first hand the difference that these types of programs can make for patients.  That is why we’re encouraging the government to work with the private sector to expand on efforts that improve the quality and affordability of care.”

To read Building Tomorrow’s Healthcare System:  The Pathway to High-Quality, Affordable Care in America, please visit www.bcbs.com/pathway.

The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association is a national federation of 39 independent, community-based and locally-operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies that collectively provide healthcare coverage for more than 99 million members – one-in-three Americans.  For more information on the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association and its member companies, please visit www.BCBS.com.