New Studies Lend Further Support for PFCD Initiatives

Recognizing the large savings that can result from even the most seemingly small improvements in health outcomes, we at the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease (PFCD) were encouraged by this week’s news developments that lend support to the kinds of reform we advocate for on a daily basis. Regarding PFCD’s ongoing fight for more robust community-focused programs, strengthened care-coordination and improvements in health IT, below are some news highlights that caught our attention this week.

  • The Institute of Medicine (IOM) issued a report earlier this week on the impact of chronic illnesses in the U.S.  The report, Living Well with Chronic Illness: A Call for Public Health Action, cites the “epidemic of chronic illness – which represents 75 percent of the $2 trillion in annual U.S. health care spending – is steadily moving toward crisis proportions, yet maintaining or enhancing quality of life for individuals living with these illnesses has not been given the attention it deserves.” Modern Healthcare reported that one of the 17 recommendations provided by IMO was to urge the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to “select a variety of illnesses for special consideration using a process that emphasizes chronic illnesses with cross-cutting clinical, functional and social implications that affect individuals with the disease.” IOM’s report also suggested that “evidence-based interventions aimed at preventing chronic disease be studied for effectiveness, that enhanced collaboration among the public health, health care  and community non-health care  sectors is needed and new public policies are needed and should be explored.”
  • Reuters’ coverage of the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) annual budget and economic outlook report cited that “even under its most conservative projections, health care spending would rise by 8 percent a year from 2012 to 2022, mainly as a result of an aging U.S. population and rising treatment costs,” and will continue to be a key driver of the U.S. budget deficit. Moreover, Medicare will account for about half the projected growth, while Medicaid will account for roughly one-third and the remainder will be attributed to new federal subsidies to help lower-income Americans purchase insurance under the Affordable Care Act. The CBO report also found that the “resulting deficits will increase federal debt to unsupportable levels,” and explained that “to prevent that outcome, policymakers will have to substantially restrain the growth of spending for those programs, raise revenues above their historical share of GDP, or pursue some combination of those two approaches."
  • NPR’s Shots blog posted a write-up on the impact of prescription errors on hospitals and the overall treatment of patients. According to a new PLoS Medicine study that tracked medication errors in two Australian hospitals before and after installing electronic prescription systems, 1 in 7 hospitalized patients suffers some form of error in care and nearly a third of those mistakes are related to medication errors, resulting in longer, costlier hospital stays, permanent health damage or death.  The hospitals used in the study saw a 60 percent error reduction after installing electronic prescription systems, yet only 17 percent of U.S. hospitals currently use similar prescription systems.

Ultimately, it’s undeniable that our health care spending aggressively contributes to our growing national deficit crisis. When it comes to fixing our broken health care system, it’s no longer an issue of justifying “why,” but instead, a matter of “when” and “how,” as the need for action is immediate if we wish to keep our nation’s economy afloat.