Intermountain Launches New Kidney Care Center with Telehealth Care

Intermountain Launches New Kidney Care Center with Telehealth Care

– Intermountain Healthcare launches new Kidney Care Center that will provide at-home dialysis with telehealth-enabled video visits to patients.

– Patients will be able to schedule kidney dialysis treatments that fit their schedule.

– The Intermountain Kidney Care Center will also focus on pre-emptive transplants, where patients are matched with living kidney transplant donors prior to end-stage renal failure.

Intermountain
Healthcare
in Salt Lake City announced it is launching a new
patient-centered Kidney Care
Center
that will serve patients wherever they live through telehealth
care
and at-home dialysis. The new kidney care center brings doctors,
nurses, dietitians and together to help kidney patients get the vital care they
need in a convenient and easy manner – even at home.

Impact of Chronic Kidney Disease in America

Chronic kidney disease includes conditions that damage the
kidneys and decrease their ability to keep a person healthy. If kidney disease
gets worse, wastes can build to high levels in the blood and make patients feel
sick. Kidney disease is one of the most impactful chronic conditions, affecting
an estimated 37 million people in the U.S. Dialysis is essentially a filtering
treatment dialysis to keep the body in balance by removing waste, salt and
extra water to prevent them from building up in the body.

The goal of the new kidney care center is to increase access
to treatment, specifically before dialysis is ever needed. The new center has
the capacity to focus on prevention and early detection, even facilitate early
transplant, if necessary — truly “doing the right amount at the right time for
each patient,” Dr. Harrison said.

“People can spend their whole lives — it feels like — in a
dialysis center receiving hemodialysis,” said Intermountain President and CEO
Marc Harrison, MD. “It affects them emotionally, physically, and it affects
their families.”

“Having people in the least restrictive, least expensive and
most holistic environment possible for them to stay as well as they can is most
ideal situation,” he said, adding that the new patient-centered approach “can
drive value over cost over time.”

Increasing Access to Access to Treatment Via Telehealth

Giving kidney dialysis patients access to in-home care will allow them to have treatments that easily accommodate their schedule, and follow-ups can be conducted via telehealth-enabled calls to a caregiver.

“With telehealth, we can provide care to patients in their home or any rural community throughout the Intermountain West. We can review their recent numbers such as blood pressure or blood sugars, make recommendations and adjust prescriptions or care, all without the need for them to travel into the clinic,” said Suji Lee, MD, medical director of the Intermountain Kidney Care Center.

Focus on Pre-Emptive Transplants

In addition, the Intermountain Kidney Care Center will also have a unique focus on pre-emptive transplants, where patients are matched with living kidney transplant donors prior to end-stage renal failure – the point where an individual’s kidneys no longer function sufficiently to maintain proper health. Other parts of the program include genomic testing, identifying and helping patients at risk of kidney disease, and customizing recommendations for treatment.

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Source: Intermountain Launches New Kidney Care Center with Telehealth Care

TrialCard Acquires Digital Medication & Adherence Platform Mango Health

TrialCard Acquires Digital Medication & Adherence Platform Mango Health

– TrialCard acquires digital medication management platform Mango Health to offer a best-in-class engagement and adherence solution to patients.

– The announcement marks the third acquisition for TrialCard in the past year.

– TrialCard Incorporated provides patient affordability, medication access and adherence, and patient support connecting over 30 million patients with nearly $12B in branded drug savings to date.

TrialCard
Incorporated
announced it has entered an agreement to acquire
Mango Health, a San Francisco-based provider
of mobile-based medication management and adherence solutions for the life
sciences sector. Financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

Manage Your Medicine and Create Healthy Habits

Founded in 2011, Mango Health is the leading digital medication management platform. For patients, the platform provides a critical daily support tool to help them manage medications, stay on track, and have fun in the process. For payers, the platform provides a crucial window into patients’ daily lives and a platform for smart interventions. For manufacturers, the platform supports patients at each step of the patient journey: from initial prescription to the first dose to ongoing daily assistance.

The Mango Health app has a 4.5-star user rating and has been featured by Apple, Google, CNN, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Self Magazine, and other leading publications. Mango Health raised a total of $8.3M in funding to date.

Impact of Non-adherence to Medications

Non-adherence to medications is an issue that puts the
long-term health of millions of patients at risk. In addition, it’s a problem
that results in the loss of nearly $300 billion to the healthcare industry in
the United States alone. The Mango Health mobile app allows users to track and
manage the medications they take. Using sophisticated behavioral techniques,
Mango Health encourages patients’ active participation in their healthcare,
helps them remain adherent to medications, and provides information about
potential drug interactions.

“This acquisition will allow us to offer a best-in-class engagement and adherence solution to the patients we support with our affordability solutions,” said TrialCard President and CEO Mark Bouck. “For nearly twenty years, TrialCard has been providing the industry’s premier affordability and access solutions for its pharmaceutical industry clients. By adding Mango Health to our services, we feel like we’re raising the bar on what customers should expect from their provider.”

Third Acquisition for TrialCard

This announcement marks the third acquisition for TrialCard in the past year, following the acquisition of pharmaceutical solutions provider RxSolutions in January 2019 and non-commercial dispensing pharmacy TC Script on October 2018.

TrialCard
offers customized patient access solutions exclusively for the pharmaceutical
industry in support of product marketing, patient assistance programs, and
phase IV clinical trials. TrialCard innovates by focusing on client brands and
analyzing new trends in prescription optimization for both insured, and
uninsured patients.

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Source: TrialCard Acquires Digital Medication & Adherence Platform Mango Health

How hospitals drive up health costs

How hospitals drive up health costs

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

As voters fume about the high cost of health care, politicians have been targeting two well-deserved villains: pharmaceutical companies, whose prices have risen more than inflation, and insurers, who pay their executives millions in salaries while raising premiums and deductibles.

Although the Democratic presidential candidates have devoted copious airtime to debating health care, many of the country’s leading health policy experts have wondered why they have given a total pass to arguably a primary culprit behind runaway medical inflation: America’s hospitals.

Data shows that hospitals are by far the biggest cost in our $3.5 trillion health care system, where spending is growing faster than the gross domestic product, inflation, and wage growth. Spending on hospitals represents 44% of personal expenses for the privately insured, according to the Rand Corp.

A report this year from researchers at Yale and other universities found that hospital prices increased a whopping 42% from 2007 to 2014 for inpatient care and 25% for outpatient care, compared with 18% and 6% for physicians.

So why have politicians on both the left and right let hospitals off scot-free? Because a web of ties binds politicians to the health care system.

Every senator, virtually every congressman and every mayor of every large city has a powerful hospital system in his or her district. And those hospitals are as politically untouchable as soybean growers in Iowa or oil producers in Texas.

As hospitals and hospital systems have consolidated, they have become the biggest employers in numerous cities and states. They have replaced manufacturing as the hometown industry in a number of Rust Belt cities, including Cleveland and Pittsburgh.

Can Kamala Harris ignore the requests of Sutter Health, Kaiser Permanente, UCLA or any of the big health care systems in California? Can Elizabeth Warren ignore the needs of Partners HealthCare, Boston’s behemoth? (Bernie Sanders may be somewhat different on this front because Vermont doesn’t have any nationally ranked hospitals.)

Beyond that, hospitals are often beloved by constituents. It’s easy to get voters riled up about a drugmaker in Silicon Valley or an insurer in Hartford. It’s much riskier to try to direct their venom at the place where their children were born, that employed their parents as nurses, doctors and orderlies, that sponsored local Little League teams, that was associated with their Catholic Church.

And, of course, there’s election money. Hospital trade groups, medical centers and their employees are major political donors, contributing to whichever party holds power — and often to the out-of-power party as well. In 2018, PACs associated with the Greater New York Hospital Association, and individuals linked to it, gave $4.5 million to the Democrats’ Senate Majority PAC and $1 million to their House Majority PAC. Its chief lobbyist personally gave nearly a quarter of a million dollars to dozens of campaigns last year.

Sen. Sanders has called on his competitors for the Democratic nomination to follow his lead and reject contributions from pharma and insurance. Can any candidate do the same for hospitals? The campaign committees of all ten candidates participating in the upcoming Democratic debate have plentiful donations linked to the hospital and health care industry, according to Open Secrets.

But the symbiosis between hospitals and politicians operates most insidiously in the subtle fueling of each other’s interests. Zack Cooper, a health economist at Yale, and his colleagues looked at this life cycle of influence by analyzing how members of Congress voted for a Medicare provision that allowed hospitals to apply to have their government payments increased. Hospitals in districts of members who voted “yea” got more money than hospitals whose representatives voted “nay,” to the collective tune of $100 million. They used that money to hire more staff and increase payroll. They also spent millions lobbying to extend the program.

Members who voted yea, in turn, received a 25% increase in total campaign contributions and a 65% increase in contributions from individuals working in the health care industry in their home states. It was a win-win for both sides.

To defend their high prices, medical centers assert that they couldn’t afford to operate on Medicare payments, which are generally lower than what private insurers pay. But the argument isn’t convincing.

The cost of a hospital stay in the United States averaged $5,220 a day in 2015 — and could be as high as over $17,000, compared with $765 in Australia. In a Rand study published earlier this year, researchers calculated that hospitals treating patients with private health insurance were paid, overall, 2.4 times the Medicare rates in 2017, and nearly three times the rate for outpatient care. If the plans had paid according to Medicare’s formula, their spending would be reduced by over half.

Most economists think hospitals could do just fine with far less than they get today from private insurance.

While on paper many hospitals operate on the thinnest of margins, that is in part a choice, resulting from extravagance.

It would be unseemly for these nonprofit medical centers to make barrels of money. So when their operations generate huge surpluses — as many big medical centers do — they plow the money back into the system. They build another cancer clinic, increase CEO pay, buy the newest scanner (whether it is needed or not) or install spas and Zen gardens.

Some rural hospitals are genuinely struggling. But many American hospitals have been spending capital “like water,” said Kevin Schulman a physician-economist at Stanford. The high cost of hospitals today, he said, is often a function of the cost of new infrastructure or poor management decisions. “Medicare is supposed to pay the cost of an efficient hospital,” he said. “If they’ve made bad decisions, why should we keep paying for that?”

If hospitals were paid less via regulation or genuine competition, they would look different, and they’d make different purchasing decisions about technology. But would that matter to medical results? Compared with their European counterparts, some American hospitals resemble seven-star hotels. And yet, on average, the United States doesn’t have better outcomes than other wealthy nations. By some measures — such as life expectancy and infant mortality — it scores worse than average.

As attorney general in California, Kamala Harris in 2012 initiated an antitrust investigation into hospitals’ high charges. But as a senator and presidential candidate, she has been largely silent on the issue — as have all the other candidates.

As Uwe Reinhardt, the revered Princeton health economist who died in 2017, told me, “If you want to save money, you have to pay less.” That means taking on hospital pricing.

So fine, go after drugmakers and insurers. And, for good measure, attack the device makers who profit from huge markups, and the pharmacy benefit managers — the middlemen who negotiate drug prices down for insurers, then keep the difference for themselves.

But with Congress returning to Washington in the coming days and a new Democratic debate less than two weeks away, our elected officials need to address the elephant in the room and tell us how they plan to rein in hospital excesses.

Elisabeth Rosenthal is editor in chief, Kaiser Health News.

Source: How hospitals drive up health costs

Liquid biopsy developer OncoCell MDx raises $22.2M in Series B round

Liquid biopsy developer OncoCell MDx raises $22.2M in Series B round

An entrant into the liquid biopsy space has closed a venture capital raise of more than $20 million that it will use for its development and commercialization efforts.

Royal Oak, Michigan-based OncoCell MDx said Wednesday it had raised $22.2 million in a Series B round, led by Savitr Capital and with participation from existing investors. To date, the company has raised a total of $30 million. It plans to use the funding from the latest round to support development and commercialization of its test, for use in several cancers as well as other diseases. It also plans to launch its prostate cancer test next year.

In a phone interview, CEO Mark McDonough said that what distinguishes OncoCell’s test from other liquid biopsy tests in development is that it can filter out extrinsic factors like food and beverages and intrinsic factors like age, gender and ethnicity by looking at both lymphocytes and phagocytes. “What we’re doing is interrogating the phagocytic white blood cells and comparing them against lymphocytic white blood cells,” he said.

Chief Medical Officer Kirk Wojno explained in the same phone interview that the company aims to measure disease earlier than other liquid biopsy tests, when the immune system initially reacts to it. “We’re leveraging our own immune system’s ability to notice changes in the body,” he said.

In addition to prostate cancer, OncoCell has run some initial data in cancers of the colon, lung and head and neck, McDonough said. It also has initial data beyond oncology in disease states like rheumatoid arthritis, cardiac disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

Over the next four to six months, the company plans to submit several papers to academic journals, starting with one that it submitted this month. The papers deal with topics like how purified CD2 and CD14 immune cells respond to different disease stimuli, how prostate cancer signatures can be discovered and validated using artificial intelligence and machine learning and so forth. McDonough said the first paper has been submitted to a “high-profile journal,” and the company hopes to hear back within a month.

OncoCell is one of several companies developing liquid biopsy tests. On Tuesday, Baltimore-based Personal Genome Diagnostics announced results of a study showing that its liquid biopsy test for microsatellite instability and high tumor mutational burden could predict patients’ responses to immune checkpoint inhibitor therapy.

Photo: Getty Images

Source: Liquid biopsy developer OncoCell MDx raises $22.2M in Series B round

Bayfront Health to Pay $85K for Possible HIPAA Right of Access Violation

Bayfront Health to Pay $85K for Possible HIPAA Right of Access Violation

– Bayfront Health St. Petersburg has agreed to a corrective action plan and a civil monetary penalty of $85,000 with the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights for a potential violation of the HIPAA right of access provision.

The settlement marks the first enforcement of OCR’s HIPAA Right of Access Initiative announced earlier this year, where officials vowed to strictly enforce the right of patients to receive access to their records in a timely fashion and without being overcharged.

In August, a study from medRxiv showed that more than half of providers fail to comply with the HIPAA provision. Many patients had to make multiple requests to their provider to finally gain access to their information.

For Bayfront Health, a mother made a complaint to OCR after they claimed the Florida provider failed to provide her with timely access to the fetal heart monitor records about her unborn child. The complaint was received on August 14, 2018 and the written access request was first made to Bayfront Health in October 2017.

OCR launched an investigation and Bayfront Health provided the mother with access – nine months after the initial request was made.

Under HIPAA, providers are required to provide patients with their records within 30 days of the request and may only charge patients a reasonable fee. The mandate also applies to parents seeking information about their minor children, “and in this case, a mother who sought prenatal health records about her child.”

“Providing patients with their health information not only lowers costs and leads to better health outcomes, it’s the law,” OCR Director Roger Severino, said in a statement. “We aim to hold the healthcare industry accountable for ignoring peoples’ rights to access their medical records and those of their kids.”

In addition to the monetary penalty, Bayfront Health has also agreed to a corrective action plan, which requires the provider to develop, maintain, and revise, where necessary, its written access policies and procedures to comply with the HIPAA privacy rule.

The new policies must include provisions that ensure comprehensive responses to records’ requests, as well as protocols for training all employees and applicable business associates involved in receiving or fulfilling access requests as necessary and appropriate to ensure compliance.

Appropriate sanctions must be applied to workforce members that fail to comply. Bayfront Health is also required to create a process for reviewing business associate performance around access requests and terminating business associate relationships that don’t comply with the updated policies.

Lastly, Bayfront will need to assign one or more individuals responsible for ensuring business associate agreements involved with access requests are properly executed.

The updated access policies must be provided to HHS within 60 days of the effective date. Bayfront must also distribute the updated rules to its workforce members and relevant business associates within 30 days of HHS’ approval. Any new workforce members will also need to receive the policies within 30 days of beginning their employment.

All workforce members and applicable business associates must sign a written or electronic compliance of the policies. Bayfront is also required to update the policies on a yearly basis.

Source: Bayfront Health to Pay $85K for Possible HIPAA Right of Access Violation