News & Trends

Uninformed consumers study from Cigna Healthcare, obesity in America, new JCAHO accreditation plan



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Nine out of 10 Americans say they need to be more informed as health care consumers, but more than half don't know about benefits they already have, according to a new survey commissioned by Cigna HealthCare. Fifty four percent consider health insurance their most important benefits decision, twice the number who give top priority to retirement planning.

Forty-four percent of those surveyed feel they need to be primarily responsible for making most of the decisions affecting their health care and coverage, and 42 percent want to be more engaged with their doctor or health plan on decisions. Only 10 percent would leave most decisions about their health care to their doctor or plan.

While most consumers are clearly aware of rising health care costs, many are in the dark about the full range of resources they're paying for. For instance, 73 percent of those surveyed consider 24-hour phone access to nurses important, but 54 percent aren't aware this resource is generally available. Discounts on health, fitness and wellness services are important to 80 percent, but 64 percent don't know about available discounts. Personalized online health resources are important to 76 percent, but 49 percent are unaware of these available Web services.

Blue Cross of California will rate thousands of physicians and pay bonuses in an incentive program to improve quality of care. Using an Internet-based tool, Blue Cross will also provide these high-scoring physicians with electronic access to the most recent published medical literature and other information resources to support these quality improvement efforts for Blue Cross members.



Almost two-thirds of American adults are either overweight or obese. That's roughly 120 million people with a Body Mass Index (BMI) greater than 25 – and all of them are at an increased risk for diabetes, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and some types of cancer.

The 1999-2000 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey reveals that 31 percent of adults (over age 20) are not just overweight but actually obese. That translates to roughly 59 million adults carrying at least 30 pounds more than they should. Women are somewhat more likely to be obese then men (33 percent compared to 28 percent of men).

Unfortunately, the numbers are getting worse with time. According to the study, 65 percent of the population is considered obese or overweight, compared to 56 percent from the 1988-1994 study. Thirty percent are now obese, compared to 23 percent from the previous study.

Doubling copays from $5 to $10 per prescription cut annual per person spending by 22 percent, according to a new RAND study. The study did not determine whether the decreased spending meant people were avoiding treatment they needed.



The country's biggest hospital accrediting body has put its full weight behind efforts to improve the safety of hospital care. The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations is revamping its entire accreditation process, changing from an assessment every three years to an ongoing scrutiny of performance.

Over the next two years, the JCAHO's new initiative "Shared Visions — New Pathways" will focus on the safety and quality of patient care. The revamped system will include:

  • A required mid-cycle self-assessment in which a health care organization will evaluate its own compliance and develop a plan for any necessary corrections

  • A huge consolidation of standards to reduce paperwork during the survey process

  • On-site evaluation of standards compliance as they relate to the care experience of actual patients

  • Active engagement of physicians throughout the new process

All this "represents the next step in the evolution of accreditation," said JCAHO president Dennis S. O'Leary, MD. "It shifts the focus from survey preparation to focusing on operations and internal systems that directly impact the quality and safety of care."

Forty-nine percent of health care employees have considered leaving their current organization in the last few months. And 35 percent have started thinking about or made plans to leave the health care field all together, according to Aon Consulting's Healthcare@Work report.


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