Real World Health Care Blog

Tag Archives: chronic disease

Three Ways You Can Reduce the Impact of Cardiovascular Disease this American Heart Month

Most of the readers of this blog know that cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the number one killer of men and women in this country. According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, CVD is a leading cause of disability, preventing Americans from working and enjoying family activities. Out-of-hospital cardiac arrests cause the deaths of an estimated 250,000 Americans each year. CVD costs the United States over $300 billion each year.

Joel Zive

Joel Zive

There are many small but significant actions we can take. Here is what you can do to make a difference: empower or continue to empower patients to take care of themselves.

1. Address the cost of heart medication

If the cost of your medicine is an issue, talk to your doctor or contact a patient assistance program that may be able to help with prescription co-pays.

2. Encourage healthy behaviors

Want people to eat better? Give them coupons for healthy food. Exercise? Give them coupons for short-term memberships to health clubs.

The stakes are higher in our country’s current health care landscape. With more people on health insurance than ever before, we need to do everything we can to empower people to seek help before an emergency and talk to their doctor about what they can do to take better care of themselves. This will have a direct effect on deaths from heart disease.

3. Ask your employer about Automatic External Defibrillators

There are instances in which individuals are dealt devastating genetic hands of cards. Recently, the Philadelphia Inquirer highlighted the plight of a Philadelphia family that had a genetic link to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle.

For those who do experience heart issues, or even have a major event such as cardiac arrest, Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) devices can significantly increase the likelihood of survival. AEDs have been available for over 20 years, but in recent years, device makers have reduced the size and cost and increased usability of defibrillators, making public access defibrillation viable. “We believe ease of use is one of the most important qualities in an AED because the potential user may not be well-trained in resuscitating a victim of sudden cardiac arrest,” said Bob Peterhans, General Manager for Emergency Care and Resuscitation at Philips Healthcare. “This is consistent with the American Heart Association’s criteria for choosing an AED.”

While risk factors for CVD are often genetic, the majority of CVD is triggered by factors that are controllable: smoking, diet, and exercise. And this is where individual efforts need to be focused.

For more information on preventing CVD, check out the American Heart Association’s guidelines for taking care of your heart, which are broken down by age. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also offer an American Heart Month guide to controlling risk factors for cardiovascular disease. You may also want to check out The Heart Truth, a campaign from the National Institutes of Health to make women more aware of the danger of heart disease.

Read more Real World Health Care heart health-related posts:

Are you taking steps to prevent cardiovascular disease? If you, a family member, or a friend has CVD, what is working for treatment? Share your experiences and insights in the comments section.

Make Life a Little Easier for Sick Children This #GivingTuesday

Cyndi from Midland, TX didn’t know how she was going to pay for the asthma medication her son Ethan desperately needed. Feeling like nothing was going right and not knowing where to turn, she was on the verge of losing hope. Then something dramatic happened that would change everything. Cyndi discovered the HealthWell Foundation:

Cyndi didn't know how she was going to pay for her son Ethan's (right) asthma medication until she found the HealthWell Foundation.

Cyndi didn’t know how she was going to afford asthma medication for her son Ethan (right) until she applied to the HealthWell Foundation for financial assistance.

Our son was born very sick. He spent 5 weeks in the NICU, 2 of which were on a ventilator. When we finally brought him home, we knew I had to stay home with him. If we put him in daycare, we knew he would get sick and that would be hard on his lungs. With me not working, it put a huge cloud over our finances. We quickly found out that his asthma medication was not cheap, even with insurance. I also found out that there isn’t a lot of help for people who have insurance and a decent job. I spent hours and hours on the Internet and the phone trying to find some help. One day I found HealthWell. We applied thinking we would be denied. The day I got the acceptance letter in the mail, I sat on the kitchen floor and cried. I felt a sense of relief. Finally, something was going right. We cannot be more grateful for all the help HealthWell has given us. 

When you give to HealthWell’s Pediatric Assistance Fund for #GivingTuesday, you will make a difference for children who have been diagnosed with a chronic or life-altering condition, just in time for the holidays. Every penny of your donation will help us provide financial assistance to patients so they can afford the rising cost of care:

  • To date, HealthWell has awarded more than 274,000 grants to insured adults and children across all of our funds to help them afford treatments.
  • In just two months, we awarded grants of up to $5,000 to more than 20 families.

No family should ever have to wonder whether they can afford to save their child’s life. By giving to the Pediatric Assistance Fund, you will help us remain a lifeline for families so they can afford life-saving treatment for their sick children.

Your gift will help ensure that families with children who have chronic conditions – including leukemia, cystic fibrosis, or juvenile diabetes – are not forced to choose between paying the bills and affording quality care. Here’s a breakdown of how donations, large and small, will have a tangible impact:

  • $10 covers the cost of diabetes test strips for Michael for one month.
  • $45 supports Yessenia’s pituitary hormone treatment for 1 week.
  • $75 covers Quinnlian’s lesion treatment for immunosuppressive disease for one month.

Start the holidays off right by donating to HealthWell for #GivingTuesday and make life a little easier for more families like Ethan’s. Your gift will make the season brighter for children and families struggling to afford the medications or treatments they need.

Categories: Cost-Savings

Help A Sick Child this Holiday Season

No family should ever have to wonder whether they can afford to save their child’s life, but that very question haunts families all over the country, every day. Through the HealthWell Pediatric Assistance Fund,® however, we are working to change that — because no adult or child should go without health care because they can’t afford it.

In just two months, the HealthWell Foundation awarded  grants of up to $5,000 to more than 20 families. These grants help children like Anna, who was born with a rare disorder affecting the brain known as Sturge-Weber Syndrome. A grant from Pediatric Assistance Fund eased the financial burden that Anna’s family faced after the radical surgery she underwent to help stop her seizures and stroke-like episodes. Now instead of having to choose between paying the bills and affording life-saving treatment, Anna’s family can focus on her recovery and watching her grow up.

Photo (left): Earlier this year, Anna had surgery for a rare brain disorder. Photo (right): Now she is back home, seizure free -- healing and growing.

Photo (left): Earlier this year, Anna had surgery for a rare brain disorder.
Photo (right): Now she is back home, seizure free — healing and growing.

We want to empower even more families just like Anna’s, so they can afford the treatments their children desperately need. That’s why, during this season of giving, we’re urging you to donate to the Pediatric Assistance Fund so we can help the next family, just in time for the holidays. 100 percent of your tax-deductible gift will go directly to patient grants and services to help children start or continue critical medical treatments.

In the following letter, Anna’s mom Mary from Delta, Pennsylvania, shares the challenges of affording care for their little girl and the big difference that HealthWell’s Pediatric Assistance Fund grant made in their lives:

Our daughter, Anna was born with a birthmark on her face and scalp. The doctors suspected there was more to the story. A CT scan of her head confirmed the diagnosis of Sturge-Weber Syndrome, a rare disorder affecting the brain. We spent the next few weeks as new parents trying to understand our beautiful little girl and the rare disease she had. When she was just 3 weeks old, she had her first set of seizures. It was terrifying to see her little body so out of control. She was admitted to the hospital and started on medication. The doctors were able to control the seizures, but never for too long.

Since that first seizure many years ago, we have celebrated many days without seizures and suffered through the days when they eventually returned. We changed medications, avoided activity that might over fatigue her, struggled through specialized diets and prayed for a cure. In January, Anna was scheduled to undergo a radical surgery to remove the diseased half of her brain. We knew this could offer her a future without seizures, but we also knew the incredible cost we faced.

With the help of the HealthWell Foundation, Anna had her surgery. She is back home, seizure free – healing and growing. Our family has been able to focus our attention on Anna’s recovery knowing the financial burden has been reduced.

We are so grateful for the financial support the HealthWell Foundation has offered to us. With their help, we are able to celebrate the wonderful little girl God has blessed us with and we look forward to her bright future.

Give to the Pediatric Assistance Fund today so we can make life a little easier for more families with children facing chronic or life-altering conditions.

Categories: Cost-Savings

Not Your Mother’s Big Pharma

In a September 29 article in Adweek, Joan Voight demonstrates how the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is expected to create new opportunities for pharmaceutical stakeholders to play a more active, personalized role in managing patient care through interactive web-based tools. Three aspects of the ACA will change the way treatment decisions are made and reinvent how patients and Big Pharma interact.

Paul DeMiglio

Paul DeMiglio

Fill the Primary Care Gap
Although providers will be overwhelmed by an expected uptick in newly insured patients, pharmaceutical companies can help reduce the strain while strengthening relationships with consumers in the process. MerckEngage — an online educational and marketing program that has attracted 8.2 million visits since its launch in 2010 — is one example of just how this can play out. Among some of the resources the website gives members access to include:

  • Free personal health tracking
  • Daily planners
  • Food and exercise tips
  • E-mail messages
  • Content updates

Doctors who sign up will receive alerts to track their patients’ activity, and starting this year the program also features mobile versions for patients and providers alike.

Provide Solutions to Adherence Challenges
A key goal of the ACA — to prevent sick patients from developing more serious conditions and needing more care — emphasizes the importance of increasing medication adherence. This need presents a valuable opportunity for pharma to personalize treatment and communicate in ways that resonate effectively with target audiences.

AstraZeneca is collaborating with Exco InTouch to help patients and doctors track and manage chronic conditions through mobile and web-based tools:

“The first app addresses chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Patients enrolled in the program collect, transmit and review their own clinical data, while their doctors use real-time information to personalize each patient’s care, adjust meds and possibly prevent hospitalization. The patients’ identifiable data is only seen by patients themselves and their healthcare providers, says AstraZeneca,” the report notes.

Develop Innovative Bundles
Implementation of ACA will also change the way prescriptions are made, with insurance companies and accountable care organizations (ACOs) choosing what to prescribe instead of individual doctors. This can serve as an opportunity for pharma to build support among ACOs by creating and branding a package of services for patients and providers that spans behavior modification, education, tracking and dispensing of drugs.

Eli Lilly’s online diabetes program that helps patients and families manage the disease, Lilly Diabetes, was critical to paving the way for this marketing approach, according to the article:

“In Lilly’s case the tools include a meal planner, a self-care diary, a carbohydrate tabulator and even an emergency guide in case of hurricanes or earthquakes.”

Now we want to hear from you. Do you agree with the article? What are the long-term implications of pharmaceutical companies having access to more data about consumers in this new era of digital outreach? What might be the potential advantages and disadvantages?

Groundbreaking Report Spotlights Benefits of Going Green for Hospitals

The Healthier Hospitals Initiative (HHI), a program that encourages hospitals to go healthier for patients by going greener, is marking its one-year anniversary by releasing the first-ever report (2012 Milestone Report) that quantifies the success of sustainability initiatives among hospitals in the U.S. and Canada.

HHI is made up of 13 sponsoring health systems and three nonprofit organizations including Health Care Without Harm, The Center for Health Design and Practice Greenhealth. As we reported in June, many hospitals are exploring ways to lower costs through environmentally friendly options and sustainable energy strategies.

Paul DeMiglio

Paul DeMiglio

“The HHI Milestone report shows that hospitals are increasingly embedding sustainability into their core operating system,” said Gary Cohen, President of Health Care Without Harm and Founder of HHI.  “HHI also offers hospitals a powerful way to meet the Triple Aim of improving the patient experience, addressing population health and lower their costs.”

The report demonstrates how the green efforts of 370 hospitals are translating to substantial cost-savings and a reduction in waste. In addition to recycling more than 50 million pounds of materials and saving approximately $32 million from single-use medical device reprocessing, the report also found that participating hospitals are:

  • Preventing 61 million pounds of waste from going to landfills (among 44 member hospitals).
  • Creating more healthful meals for their patients by limiting overall meat intake, decreasing the amount of meat served by 10 percent from 2010-12.
  • Increasing the overall amount of money spent on healthful beverages from 10 percent to 62 percent.
  • One hospital reported purchasing more environmentally friendly cleaning supplies, spending on average more than 37.75 percent of their cleaning supply budgets on green cleaning products.

“At Practice Greenhealth, our strength comes from the collective expertise and knowledge that members bring to the table about what works to make our health care more sustainable,” said Laura Wenger, RN, Executive Director of Practice Greenhealth. “HHI’s 2012 Milestone Report is proof that hospitals of all sizes benefit from this wisdom.”

The Commonwealth Fund 2012 report found that if health care organizations, such as hospitals, adopted sustainable practices, industry savings could add up to an estimated $5.4 billion in 5 years and more than $15 billion over 10 years.  The study also concludes that health systems that embrace green initiatives are examples for the health care system as a whole to follow.

“As part of a preventive approach to controlling chronic disease, increasing numbers of hospitals have committed to minimizing adverse environmental impact of their operations on patients, staff, and the community, serving as role models for the health sector and society at large,” the study authors noted.

Are health systems in your community embracing green initiatives? What do you see as the major barriers to more hospitals going green and what incentives could be created to overcome these challenges?

Categories: Cost-Savings

Targeted Therapies Open Door to Improved Outcomes and Lower Costs to Treat HCV

As we were reminded on World Hepatitis Day, early detection is critical to turning the tide of this “silent epidemic” that impacts millions. However, strategies to end the deadly effects of viral hepatitis don’t stop there. Personalized treatment is another essential tool that fuels better outcomes for patients with hepatitis C (HCV) while saving money in the long term for the health care system too. 

Paul DeMiglio

Paul DeMiglio

The importance of finding effective therapies for HCV is underscored by the reality that the disease often goes undetected, with an estimated 80 percent of Americans with HCV unaware of their status. Many HCV-positive people show mild to no symptoms, making it more likely for the illness to progress and become more expensive to treat as a result. 

Although safe and effective vaccines are available for hepatitis A and B, none exist for HCV. To help answer this need, Abbott created the fully automated RealTime HCV Genotype II Test – the first FDA-approved genotyping test in the United States for HCV patients – to facilitate targeted diagnosis and treatment that boosts desired outcomes.

This treatment-defining genotyping test empowers physicians to better pinpoint specific strains of HCV, determine which treatment option is best for the patient, and make more informed recommendations about when it should be administered. Available to individuals with chronic HCV, the test is not meant to act as a means to screen the blood prior to diagnosis.

So how does finding the right HCV treatment save money?

Targeted therapies like these are important for diseases like HCV because they reduce the “trial and error” of having to use additional treatments when the initial ones don’t work, saving money and time for patients and providers. Early detection, combined with follow-up care, can prevent patients from developing later stages of hepatitis that can mean more serious long-term conditions that are harder and more expensive to treat.

Treating HCV patients with end-stage liver disease, for example, is 2.5 times higher than treating those with early stage liver disease. Advanced HCV can also escalate to chronic hepatitis infection, a side effect of this being cirrhosis (scarring of the liver and poor liver function) and liver cancer. Treatment for these two conditions (which can include a liver transplant) can cost more than $30,000. Liver cancer treatment can be more than $62,000 for the first year, while the first-year cost of a liver transplant can be more than $267,000.

As more and more patients find themselves unable to afford treatments, HCV is becoming an increasingly larger financial burden on the health care system.

The annual costs of treating HCV in the United States could be up to $9 billion, and over the course of a lifetime the collective cost associated with treatments for chronic HCV is estimated to total $360 billion.

“As we see patients with more advanced liver disease, we see significantly more costs to the system,” says Dr. Stuart Gordon, author of the Henry Ford Study. “The key, therefore, is to treat and cure the infection early to prevent the consequences of more advanced disease and the associated economic burden.”  

Targeted therapies show great promise to improve outcomes while saving time and money by linking patients to the specific treatments they need at earlier points of diagnosis. But what can health systems do to make innovations like the HCV Genotype II Test accessible to more patients and increase the cost-savings benefit on a larger scale?

Patient Venture Philanthropies: Catalyzing the Development and Delivery of Therapeutic Breakthroughs

Linda Barlow

Linda Barlow

How are patient-focused organizations making tangible advances in creating life-saving and life-enhancing therapeutic innovations? The experiences of at least two foundations show that collaboration with stakeholders across industries – private, government, academia, insurers and clinicians – is a good place to start.

One example of success is JDRF (formerly the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation), the only global organization with a strategic plan to systematically eradicate the effects of type 1 diabetes (T1D) from people’s lives. As a foundation with cure, treatment and prevention strategies that drive the core of its mission, JDRF funds $530 million in scientific research across 17 countries. JDRF’s highest priority is funding research to deliver a cure for T1D and its complications. It is also committed to:

  • Developing better treatments that will transform the way people of all ages with T1D treat the disease at any stage, in order to help them live healthier lives; and
  • Preventing T1D, to keep future generations from developing the disease.

JDRF focuses its funding on therapies and devices that are truly impactful, either in the sense of bringing something to market more quickly or by reaching the largest possible number of patients.

“The challenge is bigger than we anticipated,” according to Jeffrey Brewer, President & CEO of JDRF. “We remain committed to a cure, but are also focused on helping patients live safely and well until a cure comes, through preventive and treatment strategies and treatments.”

Brewer says that JDRF has started working more with industry, noting that historically, the organization focused on academic-based research.

“Forty years of advances in the academic labs has given us the opportunity to translate developments in the labs to companies that will develop therapies to deliver to people,” he says. “Academic research is a critical early component in the pipeline, but company support is also a critical part of the pipeline. That’s why we incentivize companies to do things they otherwise wouldn’t have done.”

“JDRF is willing to take on more risk at an early stage than pharmaceutical companies,” adds Dr. Richard A. Insel, M.D., Chief Scientific Officer, JDRF. “We also are not driven by profit margins or market size. We act as a sort of virtual pharma or biotech company in the early stages of research, and our industry partners step in to bring therapies and devices to market.”

Brewer explains that once companies are able to successfully commercialize therapies and see a financial return, JDRF is “paid back” by those companies, with funds JDRF drives back into more therapeutic research.

“We also work closely with our industry partners and the government, particularly the National Institutes for Health, to make sure resources are being used most effectively and without duplication of effort,” says Insel. “And we work with regulatory agencies to help them better understand what it is like to live with type 1 diabetes so they can evaluate the risk and benefits of new therapies with an eye toward approving them as quickly as possible.”

The Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation (ADDF) also focuses on prevention, treatment and cure. Using a venture philanthropy model to bridge the worldwide funding gap between basic research and later-stage drug development, ADDF leverages any return on investment to support new research.

The result? ADDF has granted more than $60 million to fund over 400 Alzheimer’s drug discovery programs and clinical trials in academic centers and biotechnology companies in 18 countries.

“Our biomedical venture philanthropy model adapts the operating principles of venture capital investing to the ADDF’s philanthropic mission to advance biomedical research in Alzheimer’s disease. We seek a return on investment for our grants based on the achievement of scientific and/or business milestones. When these milestones are met, funds come back to the Foundation to increase our ability to fund more research,” according to the Foundation.

Source: Parkinsons Action Network

Source: Parkinson’s Action Network

Dr. Insel argues that the participation of patients and families in clinical trials is crucial to translating funding research into impactful therapies.

Do you agree? What other ways can patients living with type 1 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease or other chronic disease act as advocates for themselves and the disease in general? What other patient venture philanthropy models have you seen work?