Health Care Industry Leaders Weigh In on Improving Health and Health Care System

April 23, 2012

Last week, the Wall Street Journal’s “Health Blog” touted a new study from researchers at PFCD partner Healthways showing that a focus on well-being and quality-of-life issues could lead to improved health care outcomes and a reduction in health care costs.  According to the WSJ summary of the study, which is published in the latest issue of Population Health Management, respondents from one health plan with low scores in well-being assessment had 2.7 times the median annual health expenditures than individuals with high well-being. What’s more is that prescription drug costs were three times higher for individuals with low well-being compared with the high-well-being group.

“Health is much broader than just physical health,” Elizabeth Rula, a co-author of the study and researcher at the Center for Health Research at Healthways Inc. tells the “Health Blog.”  “One’s day-to-day experience, their community, their place of employment, and many other factors have the potential to influence the likelihood that a person will end up in the hospital or have high health care costs.” Rula also said that well-being-improvement programs “open up a wide array of opportunities to reduce costs.”

The study was also mentioned as part of a special report on innovations in health care that appeared in Monday’s Wall Street Journal

In other news from the week, The Atlantic’s Annual Health Care Forum, held on Thursday in D.C., brought out industry experts, policymakers, and business leaders to discuss the latest innovations, trends, and concerns in the health care industry.  Included in the discussion were HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and CDC Chief Tomas Frieden – each of whom offered their insights into the current and future state of the health care system in the U.S.

According to Politico, Secretary Sebelius said that even amidst debate around the health care reform, she sees changes that are the “most transforming in decades” when she looks at the overall health care system.  She also acknowledged the skepticism that exists from parts of the medical community on how we can achieve a reduction in costs while improving care but pointed to recent examples of innovation that improve the delivery of care in the health care system.  Examples of success she provided include new statistics showing a drop in health care-related infections and an increase in the number of providers using electronic health records. 

CDC Chief Thomas Frieden focused his remarks at the Forum on how preventive health is the key to boosting the economy.  According to Frieden, the CDC’s efforts to improve the population’s health in the areas of obesity, diabetes and smoking could not only give the economy a much-needed lift but also substantially lower the country’s health care costs. Prevention is “truly a matter of life and death for Americans — and it’s also a matter of economic viability for our country,” Frieden said. He also noted that companies are becoming less and less competitive because of the sickening of the available workforce and suggested that creating healthier employees would result in a reduction in sick days and increased productivity. 

The Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease constantly monitors for news of health care innovations and successful chronic disease prevention and management programs that will create a healthier bottom line for everyone, reduce costs and improve the quality of life.  We’re always excited when we can promote news from one of our PFCD partners, so kudos to Healthways and their coverage last week!