The Best of HealthIT News: Week of 2/8/16

Population health, Obamacare, and cost containment

Did you have a chance to check out the latest news from the healthIT community? Let us help keep you up to date on the stories you won't want to miss.

Companies Form New Alliance to Target Healthcare Costs

Hoping to hold down the cost of healthcare benefits, 20 large companies—including American Express, Macy’s  and Verizon—have come together to use their collective data and market power. Members of the new alliance will share data about employee healthcare spending and outcomes, possibly using the data to change how they contract for care. "Some members say they could even form a purchasing cooperative to negotiate for lower prices, or try to change their relationships with insurance administrators and drug-benefit managers," Yahoo news reports.

Federal Insurance Marketplace Signs Up Millions of New Obamacare Users

The Obama administration reports that approximately 12.7 million new patients signed up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, or automatically renewed their policies during Obamacare's third annual open enrollment season. Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, told the New York Times that the signups show that “marketplace coverage is a product people want and need.” Most of the plan selections were for people in the 38 states—more than 9.6 million—who used the federal website, HealthCare.gov, the Times reported. The other 3.1 million people were enrolled in states that run their own marketplaces.

Healthcare Economics: Court Allows Some Hospitals to Save Money by Classifying Themselves as Both Rural and Urban

While an earlier Health and Human Services (HHS) rule had barred both urban and rural classifications at once, a new federal appeals court ruling removed the barrier for dual hospital classification. The recent court decision applies only to hospitals within the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, but some hope that—combined with an earlier similar decision in a different circuit—the 2nd Circuit Court's ruling will inspire HHS to change the regulation across the country. "The Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services allows hospitals to classify themselves as rural (which providers typically leverage for discounts on drug purchases) while also classifying themselves as urban, (an important factor to attract qualified clinicians)," according to Reuters. 

Population Health: Hospital-based Wellness Centers Are Changing the Healthcare Model

Wellness centers housed in hospitals are helping communities prioritize preventive care and management of chronic conditions. The centers are part of the population health management model that focuses on preventing illnesses rather than simply treating them when and if they occur. The idea is to get patients to seek treatment before their conditions worsen, thus easing the burden on emergency rooms and acute care centers—and saving money.

Cost Control: Surgical Safety Checklists Can Save Lives and Reduce Hospital Stays

Surgical safety checklists—if implemented correctly—can save time, lives, and money. After the checklists were implemented, one study found, the average length of a hospital stay dropped from 10.4 days to 9.6 days. In addition, the checklists led to a 27 percent drop in the risk of death following surgery. Proper and consistent implementation is critical, however, for the checklists to work.

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