HEALTH

In study, insurer shows cost benefits of smarter health decisions by patients

BY Jim Frederick

BLOOMFIELD, Conn. Americans can lower their total medical costs significantly by taking simple steps to prevent or manage disease and by switching to generic drugs whenever possible, new research from health insurance giant Cigna confirmed.

A new, multiyear study compared the healthcare claims of 897,000 Cigna customers enrolled in consumer-driven health plans, preferred provider organizations and health maintenance organizations. Based on its findings, Cigna asserted that beneficiaries covered by its Cigna Choice Fund CDH plans “improve their costs without compromising care by becoming more engaged in improving their health and by becoming informed healthcare consumers,” according to a company report.

“When Americans engage in health-smart habits, such as participating in health coaching and disease management programs, substituting generic medications for brand-name drugs and avoiding unnecessary trips to the emergency room, their total medical costs went down 15%,” the report noted. That resulted in an average savings of $358 per person in the first year, Cigna noted.

Behind the cost reductions, according to the insurer, were higher-than-industry-average rates of participation by Cigna CDH plan members in health coaching and disease management programs, as well as higher generic drug substitution rates. “Cigna CDH plan participants who also have Cigna Pharmacy Management benefits choose generic equivalent drugs 70% of the time,” the company noted.

Avoiding unnecessary emergency room visits also is key to health cost savings, the report noted. “CDH plan enrollees use the emergency room at a 13% lower rate than individuals who have HMO and PPO plans,” the company asserted. “When Cigna Choice Fund customers visited an urgent care facility, their doctor’s office or convenience clinic instead of the ER, they saved an average of $800.”

 

“The evidence is clear,” the report’s authors asserted. “Given the right incentives, the right health improvement programs, useful cost and quality information, and easy-to-understand correspondence, individuals are making rational, wise and successful healthcare decisions.”

 

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Surveys note disparity among consumers, pharmacists on how to treat common cold

BY Michael Johnsen

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. A new national survey of U.S. adults has found the majority of Americans are misinformed about what causes the common cold, and how and when they should treat it. Nearly three-quarters of consumers (72%) believed there is not much they can do about a cold except mask the symptoms and wait it out. In fact, one-third of cold sufferers admitted they wait until they feel miserable before taking medications that can help.

According to a second survey of U.S. pharmacists, this consumer belief is in direct contrast to what the majority of U.S. pharmacists believed — 93% of pharmacists reported that early treatment of a cold actually can prevent a trip to the doctor’s office, and 84% of pharmacists believed consumers often make poor choices about the best treatments for their colds.

“Consumer misperceptions about how they catch a cold — and how and when they should treat a cold — are the most prevalent barriers to optimal treatment,” stated Fred Eckel, professor of pharmacy practice and experiential education at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill Eshelman School of Pharmacy. “As cold season approaches, it’s important for consumers to understand the benefits of early intervention against a cold, and to focus on effective ways to shorten its duration. The results of this survey mirror what pharmacists see every day: Our patients still believe many of the myths they grew up with, and they need better information on how to treat their colds.”

The surveys, commissioned by Matrixx Initiatives, also found that most consumers harbor myths about what causes a cold and what remedies are effective. While 86% of consumer survey respondents understood that colds are caused by viruses, 65% of consumer survey respondents also incorrectly believed that bacteria can cause a cold, and 53% of consumer survey respondents mistakenly believed a cold can be treated with antibiotics.

The top five myths about colds that pharmacists said are most difficult to debunk are:

  • Antibiotics can kill the germs that cause colds;
  • Changes in the weather can cause colds;
  • Getting wet and chilled can cause colds;
  • Sitting in a draft can cause colds; and
  • Avoiding changes in temperatures will help prevent colds.

“The surveys point to a clear need for pharmacists and doctors to educate consumers on early intervention, and help them identify the best remedies to treat the common cold early and help them get over it faster,” Eckel said.

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CRC risk may be highest among men with Type 2 diabetes, study finds

BY Allison Cerra

NEW YORK There may be a link between Type 2 diabetes and colorectal cancer among men, according to a new study published in Gastroenterology.

In a final study of 73,312 men and 81,663 women — which were participants selected from the prospective study "Cancer Prevention Study II Nutrition Cohort" — 1,567 men (227 with Type 2 diabetes) and 1,242 women (108 with Type 2 diabetes) were diagnosed with colon or rectal cancer by 2007. Among men, Type 2 diabetes was associated with increased risk of incident CRC compared with not having Type 2 diabetes. CRC risk was higher for those participants with Type 2 diabetes regardless of whether or not they used insulin.

 

Among women, Type 2 diabetes and insulin use were not associated with CRC risk, the authors said, which may support recent observations that the association may be more prominent in men than in women, and raise the possibility of a stronger association among individuals with a family history of CRC. The authors speculated that the lack of an association between Type 2 diabetes and CRC risk among women might relate to improved glucose control among women with Type 2 diabetes in recent years.

 

 

"While our study supports an association of Type 2 diabetes with colorectal cancer incidence among men, our results also suggested that insulin use is associated with a slight, but not a substantially increased, risk of colorectal cancer among men with Type 2 diabetes," said Peter Campbell of the American Cancer Society and lead author of this study. "Prevention strategies should emphasize adherence to guidelines intended for the general population, such as smoking cessation, weight management, exercise and regular early detection exams."

 

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