By David Pittman | 12/05/2017 10:00 AM EDT
With help from Darius Tahir (@DariusTahir) and Arthur Allen (@athurallen202)
ADDITIONAL DATA/TELEHEALTH ANGLES TO AETNA-CVS MERGER: The two big companies are touting their clinical care capabilities as a strength of a $69 billion merger. In theory, CVS's nearly 10,000 stores provides customers with a convenient option just about anywhere. But what's more convenient than the doctor or nurse down the street? How about the doctor on your phone. "Are these 10,000 stores an albatross or an access point?" Harvard's Ateev Mehrotra mused.
Combined, the insurer and the retailer would have a massive amount of data. David Anderson, a research associate at Duke (and former insurance company employee), mused in a blog post that the companies would know a lot about its patients -- and he envisioned situations where that may not be in the patient's best interest.
In one example, he speculated that a clever insurer could probably tell whether a customer was planning a pregnancy based on his or her birth control purchases - and then try to induce the customer to switch plans so that some other payer could bear the cost.
"Another wildcard in the deal: online retailing behemoth Amazon's apparent plans to move aggressively into the prescription drug business," Pro's Darius Tahir and Paul Demko report. "The CVS-Aetna deal is widely viewed as a proactive move to prepare for that potentially seismic change to the industry."
More for Pros from Darius and Paul.
HEALTH-RIDE PROVIDER TEAMS WITH LYFT: Circulation, which provides the technology platform to connect patients with non-emergent rides to doctor's appointments, is announcing today it'll partner with Lyft, expanding options for its users. As we wrote earlier this year, HHS has exempted rides to and from the doctor from its anti-kickback statutes, offering tech startups like Lyft and Circulation a broader reach into health care.
Robin Heffernan, Circulation's chief executive and co-founder, told Morning eHealth she expects to announce more partners for more specialized needs in the near future. Sometimes patients, for example those on oxygen or in a wheelchair, need a more than a typical sedan. Sometimes the patient can't just be dropped off curbside, but needs the driver's help to get into the doctor's office front door. Heffernan declined to say how many rides it has given, but says it'll make an announcement about its growth later. Circulation says it works with more than 1,000 health care facilities.
Last week, health insurance giant Cigna announced a deal with Lyft to offer trips to doctor's appointments for patients in seven states and D.C.
eHealth tweet of the day: Sherry Reynolds @Cascadia: There is a third silent "partner" in the #CVSAetna game - Epic (EHR used by 50% of all US doctors) is also EHR used by @CVSHealth. In Oct - Epic / CVS provide real time cost data http://bit.ly/2A2Cgq2
Welcome to Tuesday Morning eHealth where we're looking for a good health care story to report on in Pasadena, Calif., on or around New Year's Day that maybe POLITICO will send me to cover. It has nothing to do with a football game that day, I promise. Send your ideas and other news tips to email@example.com and connect with us on Twitter @David_Pittman, @athurallen202, @DariusTahir, @POLITICOPro, @Morning_eHealth.
DIGITAL HEALTH FOUNDER RUNS FOR CONGRESS: Suneel Gupta, a health tech entrepreneur, is running for Congress as a Democrat in Michigan. If he wins, he might be the first digital health founder elected to Congress. He and his brother started Rise in 2012, which delivers health coaching and diet advice through medical apps.
Michigan's 11th district is held by Dave Trott, a two-term Republican reelected by 13 points last year. Trump carried the district last November. Gupta hadn't reported to the Federal Election Commission raising any money as of Monday. One other Democrat in the field had more than $400,000 in cash on hand. The primary is in August.
NEW SENATE VETERANS BILL INCLUDES TELEMEDICINE: A bill introduced Monday by Republican Sens. John McCain and Jerry Moran to reform the Veterans Administration health system includes a popular telemedicine licensing bill. The McCain-Moran bill would, among other things, allow VA doctors to see patients in any state regardless of where either sit. A standalone bill making the change (H.R. 2123 (115) ) was passed last month by the House.
Key highlights of the bill are here. A detailed section-by-section summary is here. And the full legislative text is here.
WAYS TO ADVANCE DIGITAL HEALTH: Morgan Reed, executive director of ACT | The App Association, in a post on Medium outlines ways to reach the "true potential" of telemedicine and remote patient monitoring.
1) Innovators must work with providers to ensure their tools are accurate and functional.
2) Health insurers must encourage doctors to make the most of modern technology.
3) The FDA and other regulators must create long-term oversight and interoperability standards.
4) Reimburse doctors who use connected health technologies.
Also check out a panel Reed and the Connected Health Initiative organized on recent news that Medicare will start to pay for some remote monitoring next year. Speakers from the American Medical Association, University of Mississippi Medical Center and others (shameless plug, since your Morning eHealth author moderated the panel) spoke about the challenges and opportunities of the technology.
CONFIRMING WHAT WE STRONGLY SUSPECTED:
Finding health prices online is hard: Duke University researchers searched Google and Bing to find the prices of four common procedures in eight cities. Less than 22 percent of the results returned relevant information, according to their work published Monday in JAMA. Most were sites of providers in the city without price or quality information.
Meaningful users did better in MACRA precursor: A Health Affairs study found small physician practices that had met Stage 1 meaningful use performed better on cost and quality scores in Medicare's Value-Based Payment Modifier, the precursor to today's physician payment scheme. "It may be important for Medicare to focus technical assistance efforts and electronic infrastructure support on smaller practices and those without functional EHRs," wrote Karen Joynt, the study's author and physician at the Washington University School of Medicine.
Today's phones OK for doctor's use: Smartphones worked well for dermatology care in children, a study in JAMA Dermatology found. The small study of 40 patients gave parents a smartphone and instructions. The resulting pictures worked well enough for remote diagnosis, the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia researchers found.
MOVEMENT ON BUDGET DEAL: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi will - as of now, at least - sit down Thursday with President Donald Trump and GOP leaders to try to hash out a deal that avoids a government shutdown at week's end. Congress is expected to pass a two-week continuing resolution before Friday, to keep government open while congressional leaders work on a two-year agreement on overall spending levels for defense and non-defense programs before Christmas. Expect this week's CR to be pretty free of any policy riders. More from POLITICO's budget reporters.
TRUMP TO CONGRESS: YOU FIGURE OUT OPIOID FUNDING: Acting HHS Secretary Eric Hargan indicated during a press conference at the CDC on Monday that Trump will let Congress decide whether to appropriate new funding for the opioid crisis. "We're looking forward to hearing from Congress about how they intend to address this," Hargan said.
Trump declared the crisis a public health emergency in October but did not request additional resources, though public health experts say states need billions of new dollars. There's been no indication yet that Congress is preparing a funding package after Trump's emergency declaration.
ON THE MOVE
Mississippi Rep. Gregg Harper, one of the staunch supporters of telemedicine in the House, will take over the Energy and Commerce investigations subcommittee. He replaces Rep. Tim Murphy, who stepped down from Congress after text messages surfaced showing the married anti-abortion lawmaker encouraged his girlfriend to have an abortion.
Grace Stuntz will serve as health policy director for the Senate HELP Committee. Stuntz, who has worked on the committee since 2011, previously worked as deputy health policy director and senior FDA policy adviser for the panel.
FDA OFFERS DIRECTION ON 3D-PRINTED DEVICES: The FDA issued new guidance clarifying what manufacturers should include on applications for medical devices made on 3D printers. Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said the agency has already reviewed more than 100 products made with the technology, including knee replacements, implants for facial reconstruction and a drug used to treat seizures.
WHAT WE'RE CLICKING:
American Hospital Association creates webinar series to help members cope with cybersecurity.
Health information exchanges might help overcome prior authorization checks.
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