PHARMACY

Watson Health: Transforming care with data, ‘cognitive insights’

BY Jim Frederick

Today’s health system is saddled with stark challenges, including runaway costs, exploding demand for services and huge gaps in the quality of care and in the sharing of patient records, treatment options, health risk factors and other data. Meeting those challenges will require all health and wellness stakeholders — including retailers — to build a data-driven “ecosystem” that engages patients and gives doctors, pharmacists, clinicians and health plan payers the cognitive tools they need to make better decisions, said Kathy McGroddy-Goetz, VP of partnerships and solutions at IBM Watson Health.

(Click here to download the full Retail Health Summit special report.)

This recently launched IBM subsidiary has set an ambitious agenda. “Our vision is to improve and save lives around the world, and reduce the cost of health care through the power of cognitive insights,” McGroddy-Goetz told the panel on retail health and technology. “So we’re working to develop both the technology and business platform to convene a healthcare ecosystem … to transform the industry.”

Watson Health will leverage IBM’s powerful data-gathering and processing capabilities to “bring together individual, clinical, research and social data from a diverse range of health sources, creating a secure cloud-based, data-sharing hub, powered by one of the most advanced cognitive and analytic technologies.”

With the population aging rapidly and millions of boomers thrust into the role of caregiver, the need to advance decision-making and connectivity within this ecosystem is critical, McGroddy-Goetz said. For health retailers, she added, “it’s about … trying to leverage all these different kinds of data and knowledge sources to drive insights” about the needs and behavior of seniors and their caregivers.

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PHARMACY

Leveraging tech to engage consumers

BY Jim Frederick

The mounting costs of health care and the rise of high-deductible health plans are biting deep into Americans’ pocketbooks as payers shift more of the cost burden onto their members. Meanwhile, public and private plan payers are demanding more cost-effective modes of front-line care and shifting the focus to wellness, disease prevention and successful outcomes.

(Click here to download the full Retail Health Summit special report.)

How can pharmacy and health retailers step up with solutions to those challenges? And what role can technology play in the evolution of more accessible, more affordable and more integrated retail-based health care?

In search of answers, Walmart U.S. SVP of business development Jane Ewing joined moderator Chris Dimos and a panel of executives from leading health technology companies — including higi CEO Jeff Bennett, Great-Call CEO David Inns, Honor head of health integration Kelsey Mellard, Startup Health director strategic partnerships Katya Hancock, Life Bio founder and CEO Beth Sanders, 23andMe VP international Jon Ward and IBM Watson Health VP partnerships and solutions Kathy McGroddy Goetz — to explore how retailers can leverage technology to help drive consumer-directed and retail-based health care part of a one-day thought leadership summit co-hosted by Drug Store News in partnership with Mack Elevation Forum, and aimed at activating retail as the center of the healthcare system.

To do so, Ewing and other panelists said retailers must fully connect with their customers as community-based health-and-wellness resources, using technology to enable virtual “communities of care” alongside doctors, hospital care coordinators and other health stakeholders.

“It’s about health, not just getting better,” Ewing said. “How do we help customers to live a healthier life, and how do we make it easier for them? How do we as a retailer pull this together and provide a solution?”

Providing solutions means, in part, using technology to build “a 360-degree view of the patient” through “meaningful data inputs and outputs,” said Dimos, SVP of corporate strategy and business development at McKesson.

“This is a patient journey,” Dimos noted. “We have to look for the unmet needs of the shopper. How do we walk along this journey, and how do we create value?”

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Economist says Americans’ alarm over costs of care driving retail health option

BY Jim Frederick

Pharmacy and food retailers take note: As health-and-wellness consumers, Americans need you now more than ever. That was the message from health economist and futurist Jane Sarasohn-Kahn at a June 15 seminar on retail health care, the aging population and new trends impacting health delivery. The event, held in Bentonville, Ark., and co-hosted by Drug Store News and Mack Elevation Forum, gave retail leaders, health stakeholders and other experts a rare opportunity to explore the major trends driving the retail health movement.

(Click here to download the full Retail Health Summit special report.)

In a keynote address on “The new consumer in the new health economy,” Sarasohn-Kahn laid out the critical economic factors that are driving an urgent search by Americans and their health plan payers for new solutions to the rising costs of care, the rapid aging of the population and the explosion in chronic diseases. All those factors, she said, are propelling the rise of retail pharmacy providers as critical, accessible and cost-effective community health resources.

With out-of-pocket health costs rising to unsustainable levels for many families, the need for new solutions is urgent, said Sarasohn-Kahn, who authors the Health Populi blog. “Americans’ No. 1 pocketbook issue, above paying … rent, utilities and food, is lowering … healthcare costs,” she said, citing a consumer survey from Kaiser Family Foundation. “This is the new healthcare sticker-shock in America. This is that insurer’s explanation of benefits you get even if you [just] have a knee surgery — the thousands of dollars you may face in your high-deductible health plan.”

“It’s confronting all Americans, and it’s really eroding financial wellness and trust in the healthcare system because of lack of transparency,” she said.

It’s also impacting overall health rates in the United States. “About 52% of Americans … do something to self-ration care due to costs,” Sarasohn-Kahn said. Among the ways they choose to ration that care, she said, are actions potentially detrimental to their health, like splitting prescription pills, not filling a prescription altogether, not getting a recommended lab test or failing to see a specialist recommended by their family physician.

“People are delaying care due to cost, which means they’re fiscally responsible maybe in the short run, but [it means] you go later to the doctor or the ER, or you have stage 3 cancer versus the earlier version,” she said. And even “when you’re willing to spend money on health care, you’re now starting to take money out of other parts of the household,” she said. “On the bottom, three-quarters of insured people are delaying vacations and taking away from household spending. That’s a big number.”

‘Tired of how health care is done’
Among the lingering impacts of the Great Recession of 2008 was a profound, national sense of economic disquiet and anxiety, Sarasohn-Kahn said. Accompanying that unease was “eroded trust in institutions,” and a much sharper awareness of the costs of health care and other basic needs. “Since the 2008 recession hit, consumers entered a new frugality,” she said. “Consumers started to feel … their plans eroding, and they started to get more frugal. We never saw Lexus and Mercedes in the Walmart parking lot before 2008.”

Along with that new frugality, she said, was “more awareness on the money spent on health care.” Americans began showing a greater inclination to “patronize organizations that help [them] stay healthy and stay out of the healthcare system.”

Even in high-income brackets, she added, Americans are saying, “to pay for health care, I’m raiding my retirement savings, my kid’s student loans — future money I will need — to pay for current health expenses.”

“This is real to people, this financial unwellness that people feel,” she added. “And that bite is really impacting how people look at health spending.”

This perception of economic unease cuts across party lines, Sarasohn-Kahn said. “Four-in-10 Republicans now want a federally funded healthcare program providing insurance for all Americans. I’ve never seen a number like this on the Republican side. This tells you that many Republicans and Democrats are sick and tired of high deductibles, EOBs that aren’t clear, high costs, lack of service, etc. Americans are really sick and tired of the way health care is done.”

‘A major opportunity for retailers’
Couple those financial pressures with the explosion in mobile devices and instantly accessible information empowering consumers, and you have a convergence of tidal forces driving Americans to seek new, more accessible and more affordable alternatives to health-and-wellness services, Sarasohn-Kahn said. “They’re saying, ‘I want to streamline my life and save money,’” she added. “People want [access to] health everywhere. They want to engage with every industry for health.”

That’s a “major opportunity” for retailers, the economist said. “Consumers expect everyone to engage in health, across the board.” What’s more, she added, retailers have two key advantages in the fractured market for healthcare services: They’re already equipped to offer two critical components lacking in the traditional health marketplace — “transparency of costs” and a “value proposition.”

“You can guarantee an experience and a bundled price,” she told Walmart executives among the audience at the June 15 summit event. “You know how to do that” by offering “value and transparency” for consumers who want to know, ‘What am I going to get for a product or service?’”

But to seal the deal with health consumers as full-fledged community centers for health-and-wellness products and services, Sarasohn-Kahn said retailers must forge stronger links both with their suppliers and with the rest of the fragmented healthcare system.

“Walmart can’t do it alone; P&G can’t do it alone. [The current] healthcare [system] can’t do it hardly at all,” she asserted. It takes “experts collaborating on care — what we call a healthcare community. This is the real holy grail for the shopper.”

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