Friday, February 24, 2017

This Is A Very Useful And Thoughtful Article On Clinical EHR Useability. Worth A Browse.

This appeared last week.

Can EHRs evolve from minimally usable to delightfully indispensable?

Now that all certified EHRs share minimum functionality and can exchange information with each other, the time has come to refocus on improving customer satisfaction.
February 16, 2017 10:41 AM

Electronic health record platforms are among the most complex, interconnected, data-intensive software applications on the planet. Think about the seemingly endless fragments of patient information that an EHR is asked to store and maintain – basic demographics, diagnoses, chart notes, medications, allergies, upcoming appointments, previous surgeries and procedures, historical lab values, imaging studies, standing lab orders, e-prescription transmission transactions, claim submissions, and on and on.
Physicians and their staff also need to be able to review, transmit, reconcile, approve, and synthesize all of that clinical information to help make better, more informed decisions with their patients.
In 2008, fewer than 1 in 10 physicians were using an EHR, and the functionality that existed in those systems then would not qualify as a federally certified EHR product now. Over the last decade, to achieve federal certification, vendors worked at a feverish pace to add hundreds of features and change dozens more in order to achieve parity with the rest of the market. This transition from paper to digital happened so rapidly that usability suffered, innovation lagged, and real customer needs were under-prioritized.
Now that all certified EHRs share minimum functionality and can exchange information with each other, the time has come to refocus this entire industry on improving customer satisfaction.
The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT has attempted to regulate the design of EHRs in a way that has not resulted in broad usability improvements to date. Approaching this immense problem from a more prescriptive regulatory perspective barely scratches the surface of what customers are demanding. While there should be required minimum standards for any software that is utilized by medical professionals to help them manage something as critical as patient health, no regulatory framework for usability will lead to more delightful user experiences for medical professionals or their patients.
What technology is needed in a modern medical practice?
Most complaints from EHR users stem from the feeling that the computer interferes with the ability of physicians to provide great, human-centered care for their patients. Many user interfaces look like they are 10 to 15 years old (because they are) and fail to meet customer expectations for how a modern application should function. Alert fatigue, infrequent software upgrades, and inefficient workflows contribute to this general dissatisfaction. In a recent study, researchers found that physicians spend 3 times the amount of time with computers as they do with their patients during a typical day. It's no wonder that EHR usability is consistently rated poorly across most software vendors.
Physicians and their staffs ultimately need software that supports their practice throughout the entire patient journey. Technology vendors must completely rethink their offerings by applying the essential components of user-centered design that have worked well in other industries.
Implementing an intentional approach to usable software
Usable software applications are intuitive, easy to learn, and memorable. They also must be efficient and prevent errors, all while deeply satisfying their users.
To achieve these six goals in health software, vendors must first gain a deep understanding of how a physician's office works – from the beginning of the day until the lights are turned off. A team of user researchers dedicated to this scientific task, investigating directly in doctors' offices, is crucial.
Tip: Merely dropping in for a few hours of office time is insufficient.  
Shifting to a user-centric approach in EHR design also requires gathering as much information as possible about how technology can assist customers with common tasks and data-intensive decisions.
More tips and other information here:
I thought this was a really interesting article, expressing very clearly what we would all like to see in clinical EHRs. Meeting what is asked for here will be a real challenge for the myHR!
David.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Macro View – Health, Financial And Political News Relevant To E-Health And The Health Sector In General.

February 23  Edition.
It has been a slightly quieter week with a bit less Trumpian drama but ongoing apparent instability in the US is just below the surface. Financial markets seem to be unconcerned but there are some signs this may be changing.
In Australia the biggest issue has been around the National Energy Market, the place of coal and keeping the lights on. Avoiding major climate change seems to have slipped of the agenda – sadly.


Thursday Update - basically it feels like pretty much everything has got worse with Trump going for mass deportation apparently and the energy debate in Australia becoming utterly farcical. It is all pretty sad.
A worrying article this week was this one.

What if the nerds are reading Donald Trump right?

Peter Martin
Published: February 19, 2017 - 12:00AM
The January meeting of the American Economic Association is to economics nerds what Star Wars conventions are to George Lucas fanatics. It's an opportunity for more than 13,000 of them to cram into one hotel to swap ideas, make new friends and catch up on research.
Justin Wolfers prowled the halls. An Australian expatriate who's professor of economics at Michigan University, he told the Australian forecasting conference in Sydney this week: "There are more handsome people blessed with amazing social skills in that one building than you'll ever see anywhere else."
He asked them what was going on.
"Over the course of four days I literally did not meet a single North American economist who thought that anything good for the US was going to come out of the Trump administration," he said. "Not one."
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This is really scary stuff:

Wave of leaks against Donald Trump stirs fears of a US 'deep state'

Amanda Taub and Max Fisher
Published: February 18, 2017 - 3:21AM
Washington: A wave of leaks from government officials has hobbled the Trump administration, leading some to draw comparisons to countries like Egypt, Turkey and Pakistan, where shadowy networks within government bureaucracies, often referred to as "deep states," undermine and coerce elected governments.
So is the United States seeing the rise of its own deep state?
Not quite, experts say, but the echoes are real – and disturbing.
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In Australia the worst news is reviewed here. We have all clearly failed here:

Hard-headed approach is needed to close the gap

  • The Australian
  • 12:00AM February 15, 2017
There can be no more bracing reality, no statistic that conjures more pathos, than the brutal fact that indigenous children are dying before reaching the age of five, sometimes at double and even three times the rate of non-indigenous children in our nation. If anyone feels the need to question the focus or wonder about the imperative of the Closing the Gap initiative, then the cruelty of young lives lost before they have had the chance to blossom provides the bottom-line reference point for a country where equality of opportunity, let alone equality of outcome, simply does not yet exist. Putting aside all the worthy debates about policy, process, discrimination and personal responsibility, it must be out nation’s greatest shame that in life expectancy, health, education and employment, indigenous Australians are left considerably behind their compatriots.
Across the nation the child mortality rate is less than 100 deaths per 100,000 children under five years old. But for indigenous children the rate is almost double that and in the Northern Territory it is three times as high. In cold hard numbers this amounts to as many as 100 extra deaths: 100 or more indigenous children dying each year because of the impact of their family’s disadvantage. Over recent decades there has been improvement, especially by boosting access to care and education for expectant mothers, reducing the numbers of mothers smoking during pregnancy and improving immunisation rates. But there is much further to go in closing the gap; the aim set in this area in 2008 was to halve the difference in mortality rates between indigenous and non-indigenous children by 2018. We are failing that task.
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Here are a few other things I have noticed.
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National Budget Issues.

Reserve Bank chief Dr Philip Lowe gently reproves Turnbull's failings

Ross Gittins
Published: February 12, 2017 - 9:39PM
Reserve Bank governor Dr Philip Lowe's economic policy to-do list for 2017 contains a lot more implied criticism of the Turnbull government's weak performance than it has suited some in the national press to report.
It's true that, in his speech last Thursday, Lowe was clear in his support for a cut in the company tax rate and, by implication, the government's plan to cut the rate from 30 per cent to 25 per cent over 10 years, at a cumulative cost to revenue of $48 billion, and then a continuing net cost of $8 billion a year.
Last among the four items on Lowe's to-do list was "rebuilding our fiscal buffers", by which he meant getting the budget back into surplus.
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The great coal hoax

  • The Australian
  • 6:50AM February 13, 2017

Alan Kohler

In a way, the Coalition’s final transformation into fervently pro-coal evangelists is the predictable destination of the journey they have been on since 2009, when they sacked the then pro-emissions-trading Malcolm Turnbull in favour of the zealot Tony Abbott.
Even so, last week’s performance by the Treasurer of the nation, Scott Morrison, waving a piece of coal around in Parliament and ranting that since coal has been the past source of Australia’s advantage, it must be in future, and anyone who disagreed with that madness was “coalophobic”, was pretty disheartening.
The development presents a difficult but important challenge for Australia’s corporate leaders, but if they respond to it properly, last week’s episode could be a turning point for energy policy.
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Listen to the RBA on tax, Morrison urges crossbench

  • Simon Benson
  • The Australian
  • 12:00AM February 13, 2017
Scott Morrison has seized on the Reserve Bank’s backing of company tax cuts in a letter sent to Senate crossbench members over the weekend, ramping up the pressure to win their support and isolate Labor over its opposition to the bill.
With the Enterprise Tax Plan Bill set to pass the lower house tomorrow, the Treasurer has sought to use an implicit endorsement last week by RBA chief Philip Lowe in the government’s campaign to sway independent Nick Xenophon and his two fellow Senate colleagues, who have said they were “open to talks but yet to be convinced”.
Mr Morrison took the unusual step of emailing all non-Coalition members of parliament a copy of Mr Lowe’s speech, which also referenced the independent central banker’s calls for “fiscal buffers”, which Mr Morrison argued was a compelling case to support the government’s $13.2 billion worth of savings measures still before the parliament. “I urge all members of the parliament, of the House of Representatives and in the Senate, no matter which state you come from or which political party you represent, to carefully consider this contribution by the governor of the Reserve Bank and to support the government’s Enterprise Tax Plan and budget repair legislation ... that are necessary to protect our standard of living,” the letter said.
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Memo Treasurer Scott Morrison: there ain't no NDIS jam jars

Peter Martin
Published: February 13, 2017 - 6:57PM
What's this about a "locked box"? Treasurer Scott Morrison says the savings that'll be made from cutting unemployment and other benefits will be put into the modern-day equivalent of a jam jar - "a locked box for which the Social Services Minister has full visibility and accountability to ensure that the money that will come from making these changes will go to ensure that the National Disability Insurance Scheme continues to be funded".
It came across as a threat: if the Senate didn't support the $3 billion of spending cuts in the clumsily named Omnibus Savings and Child Care Reform Bill, the National Disability Insurance Scheme mightn't be properly funded.
In reality there are no locked boxes. Clause 81 of the Constitution says "all revenues or moneys raised or received by the executive government of the Commonwealth shall form one consolidated revenue fund, to be appropriated for the purposes of the Commonwealth in the manner and subject to the charges and liabilities imposed by this Constitution".
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Analysis doesn't change Labor's tax view

- on February 13, 2017, 3:15 pm
New research showing company tax rate cuts over the past three decades resulted in increased budget revenue hasn't changed Labor opposition to the Turnbull government's 10-year reduction plan.
An analysis by the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry looks at the business tax cuts implemented in 1988 and 1993 under Labor governments and in 2000 and 2001 under the coalition.
In both cases the cuts were followed by a rise in tax revenue.
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Scott Morrison cautious on iron ore budget fix

  • The Australian
  • 12:00AM February 15, 2017

Michael Roddan

Scott Morrison says iron ore ­prices have markedly improved since last year’s budget forecasts, but argues structural improvements will need to be pursued in order to bring the national accounts into shape.
Speaking on Sky News Business’ Ticky program last night, the Treasurer said the government would reassess its forecasts for the price of iron ore if the improved price was sustained and there was a view among Treasury’s economists that it will be sustained.
“With commodity prices back in December (for the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook) we took a fairly modest view about how that was going to play out,” Mr Morrison said.
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Government threatens tax increases if welfare spending cuts are not passed

Fergus Hunter
Published: February 15, 2017 - 10:27AM
The government has raised the prospect of increasing taxes if Labor and the Senate crossbench continue to obstruct its cuts to family tax benefits, paid parental leave and unemployment payments. 
Treasurer Scott Morrison and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann have made the threat as the $4 billion "omnibus" bill, the savings of which they have linked to funding of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, appears to have failed to attract the necessary support in the upper house.
"If you don't [make savings], you've either got to have higher debt, which is a tax on your children, or you have to deal with other revenue measures," Mr Morrison told Sky News on Tuesday night.
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  • Updated Feb 15 2017 at 11:00 PM

Plan to cut capital gains tax discount for property investors, not negative gearing

The Turnbull government is planning a crackdown on capital gains tax concessions for property investors to seize the mantle on housing affordability and provide revenue to help replace soon-to-be dumped budget cuts.
The policy backflip, to be unveiled in the May budget, comes after more than a year of savaging Labor's proposal to halve the capital gains discount as an assault on badly needed investment.
It is understood the policy being worked on within government would be confined to property investment, and not apply to all investments such as shares, as Labor's plan would. Neither would the Coalition policy target negative gearing, as Labor is doing.
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Morrison says May budget could raise taxes to protect AAA, if it must

James Massola
Published: February 16, 2017 - 8:10AM
Treasurer Scott Morrison has linked potential tax rises to protecting Australia's AAA credit rating, while also signalling the government is preparing for the Senate crossbench to water down its $50 billion company tax cut plan.Mr Morrison has indicated that while the government still wants the Senate to pass its proposed 10-year, $50 billion company tax cut in full, it will accept a negotiated outcome with the Senate crossbench.
Labor and the Greens only support tax cuts for companies with a turnover of up to $2 million a year; One Nation backs the cut for companies turning over up to $50 million, while the Nick Xenophon team backs a cut to 27.5 per cent for companies turning over up to $10 million.
The Xenophon option is considered the most likely outcome, though the government is hopeful of securing more.
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PM defiant on capital gains

Andrew Tillett, Canberra
Friday, February 17, 2017 3:25AM
Malcolm Turnbull has ruled out changes to capital gains tax, denying reports the Government had been looking at the option in its desperate hunt for cash for the Budget bottom line.
Government ministers were quick to stamp out suggestions capital gains would be reformed as part of the reboot for the Budget amid signs a hostile Senate would not yield on $13 billion of cuts to welfare, health and education.
Fairfax Media reported the Government was canvassing following Labor’s approach and reducing the 50 per cent discount on capital gains tax, potentially by half, or staggering the discount so that it increased incrementally the longer a property was held.
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Calm down, housing affordability not that bad, says RBA

Peter Martin
Published: February 17, 2017 - 8:20AM
Declining rates of home ownership aren't necessarily a bad thing, according to the Reserve Bank.
Addressing a conference of housing researchers in Melbourne, the Bank's head of economics, Luci Ellis, said participation in the housing market "need not be about owning your own home".
"Many people rent, someone else has to own those dwellings as well," she said. "In Australia, most private rental properties are owned by other households."
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Malcolm Turnbull caves in after flirting with capital gains tax backflip

Mark Kenny
Published: February 16, 2017 - 9:10PM
Close, but no cigar. Unless you're a real estate agent that is. Or a landlord, or a property developer, in which case a whole box of cigars might be in order. Who knows, you might even get away with charging the purchase price against the unit's rental income?
It was nearly different.
In the presumed security of razor gang deliberations, it seems, Malcolm Turnbull and his team went tantalisingly close to alchemising two metals rarely seen in Canberra these days: political courage, and policy heft.
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The national electricity mess is another example of why voters have lost faith in politicians

John Hewson
Published: February 17, 2017 - 12:00AM
The NEM has become the National Electricity Mess, nee Market – more broadly, power mess – a national embarrassment.
The market is clearly failing and its management rules are archaic. Major players are gaming the system, exploiting the consumer by "gouging" excessive prices and profits, while supply is no longer guaranteed. Genuine reform is being undermined by incessant, irresponsible, short-term, partisan politics. It cannot just be patched up. Reform must begin with a blank sheet of paper, preferably with bipartisan support.
It was based on the British system of some 20 years ago, which has since been jettisoned. It didn't contemplate renewables, storage, or disseminated distribution. The current political debate is riddled with opportunistic, often factually incorrect, political comment and point-scoring. Yet, reform is fundamental to our essential "transition" to a low-carbon society.
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It may take a shock to budge Senate

Paul Osborne, AAP Senior Political Writer, Australian Associated Press
February 16, 2017 12:43pm
index&t_product=HeraldSun&td_device=desktopThere's a growing sense within government and its allies in the Senate that it may take a crisis to break the deadlock over getting the federal budget back into the black.
Senate crossbenchers don't doubt Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison's determination to balance the books and shore-up Australia's prized triple-A credit rating.
As a fortnight of parliament wrapped up, Liberal Democrats senator David Leyonhjelm told AAP it isn't that the government lacks direction.
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Senate’s threat to nation’s rating, Turnbull’s stance

  • The Australian
  • 12:00AM February 18, 2017

Paul Kelly

The reality of an untenable fiscal position and parliamentary deadlock is about to break over the Turnbull government. In the process, the crisis of the Australian system — driven by cultural complacency and partisan polarisation — is about to extract its latest price.
Australia is a country brawling its way towards big trouble. Because it is rich and adept at avoiding recession, this will be a long, debilitating and agonising drift. There is some sentiment at large for a new spirit of bipartisan co-operation but politics is locked in a prison of ideological conflict, brazen self-interest and short-term populism.
Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison face the exhaustion of palatable options, trapped between the budget and the parliament. The Treasurer’s frustration was apparent in parliament when he said he could “understand” suspicions that Labor was putting at risk Australia’s AAA credit rating and it would be “a pretty dog act’’ to pursue “their own cynical political objective of trying to force a downgrade of the AAA credit rating”.
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Health Budget Issues.

GP rebate: What I do for the $37.05 that no one wants to pay

Elizabeth Oliver
Published: February 13, 2017 - 12:00AM
The builder chatted while I checked his blood pressure, waist circumference, cholesterol, fasting glucose and urine protein. We discussed bowel and prostate cancer screening in detail and I gave him written information as we were out of time. As I signed his script for blood pressure medication he winked.
"That was easy money for you, wasn't it?" 
$37.05. That is the value the government places on up to 20 minutes of my time. This figure, the amount a practice receives from Medicare for a standard consultation, hasn't changed in four years. Under the rebate freeze, it won't change for another three. But are the pennies well spent? Let's see.
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Health department’s advice to curb foreign doctor influx ignored

  • The Australian
  • 12:00AM February 13, 2017

Sean Parnell

The federal Department of Health had internal support from the employment and industry departments to stop the flow of foreign doctors into Australia but its proposal was watered down.
The Australian revealed last year that the Health Department had sought to remove 41 health roles from the Department of Immigration’s Skilled Occupation List because domestic graduates were struggling to find training places and jobs, but only four roles were cut in the 2016-17 review and eight others, including GPs, were flagged for future removal.
Documents obtained under Freedom of Information laws show an interdepartmental committee was told the review would be subject to a “new whole-of-government approach”, where fewer ministers would be engaged and departments would make submissions privately.
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13 Feb 2017 - 4:10pm

Govt open to reviewing GP freeze: Turnbull

Malcolm Turnbull says the government is in discussions with doctors about how lifting the Medicare rebate freeze can be achieved.
Source:  AAP
13 Feb 2017 - 4:10 PM  UPDATED 29 MINS AGO
Malcolm Turnbull insists the government is open to reviewing the controversial freeze on Medicare rebate for GPs that almost cost the coalition the 2016 election.
The prime minister told parliament on Monday Health Minister Greg Hunt was in discussions with the Australian Medical Association and colleges as to how it could be achieved.
The freeze, which pauses rebates for standard GP visits at $37 until 2020, has angered doctors who warn patients will be forced to pay more to see a doctor as a result.
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Medicare rebate: PM gives strongest indicator yet the doctors' long winter is almost over

Amy Remeikis
Published: February 13, 2017 - 7:42PM
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has given the strongest signal yet the government may move to head off its politically damaging feud with the medical profession by lifting the Medicare freeze.
Speaking in Parliament, Mr Turnbull said the government was "open to reviewing" the indexation clause, which began in 2013 under the Gillard government but was extended to 2020 under the Coalition.
"The Minister for Health is having productive discussions with the AMA and the colleges as to how that can be achieved, but clearly we are managing a very tight budgetary position," he said.
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Nick Xenophon outlines his Medicare levy hike

  • Simon Benson
  • The Australian
  • 11:00AM February 16, 2017
Senate powerbroker Nick ­Xenophon has claimed that his proposal for a hike in the Medicare levy to fund the National Disability Insurance Scheme would hit only middle to high income families to the tune of up to $600 a year.
The South Australian Senator said that while he hadn’t specified at what rate he believed the levy should rise to when proposing the tax increase, he told The Australian this morning that his suggestion was a rise of between 0.25 per cent and 0.5 per cent.
The Australian has modelled a one per cent rise in the Levy. This is what would be required to plug the $7 billion gap in the cost of the NDIS by 2028. At this rate, high income families would pay an extra $2600 a year while average families would pay around $600 extra.
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AMA public hospital report shows 'woeful' and underfunded system

February 17, 2017
An Australian Medical Association report on the nation's public hospitals shows that emergency wait times, surgery wait times and bed capacity cannot keep pace with population growth, as the system goes backwards.
The report shows the performance of the hospitals is virtually stagnant despite an increasing and ageing population and this is keeping facilities in a constant state of emergency.
Bed number ratios have remained static and there has been no improvement in waiting times over the past three years.
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17 Feb 2017 - 4:44pm

Australian hospitals in constant state of emergency, AMA says

The federal government has defended its public health funding following a new report from the AMA claiming hospitals across the country are over-stretched and over-stressed.
By Nina Stevens
17 Feb 2017 - 12:50 PM  UPDATED 13 MINS AGO
The Australian Medical Association said its 2017 report card, released on Friday, painted a bleak picture of public hospitals choking under the weight of demand.
“It paints a picture of a system that is, at best, plateauing and, according to many metrics, going backwards,” AMA President Dr Michael Gannon said.
“What we’re dealing with are doctors, nurses, [and] other health professionals that are being asked to do more with less. They can’t do that, and that’s reflected in this data," he said.
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2:17pm February 18, 2017

More than 140,000 families cut off from childcare payments for not vaccinating their kids

By nine.com.au staff
More than 140,000 families have been cut off from receiving childcare benefits for failing to vaccinate their children.
The first figures from the Federal Government’s “No jab, no pay” policy show parents in Adelaide city and the Gold Coast Hinterland were most likely to not vaccinate their children.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt told TODAY this morning the controversial policy had seen a lift of 200,000 more children being vaccinated.
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Health Insurance Issues.

Premiums should be set freely

  • The Australian
  • 12:00AM February 13, 2017
Less than a month into his new job as Health Minister, Greg Hunt has signed off on a 4.8 per cent average increase in private health insurance premiums for 2017. It should be the first and last time he does so. Ministerial interference in the setting of private health insurance premiums is no more logical than having ministers tamper with private school fees. The federal government provides subsidies to private health insurers in the hope of reducing the strain on the public system, but that doesn’t negate the virtues of competition to reduce costs. The Private Health Ministerial Advisory Committee, a laudable legacy of Mr Hunt’s predecessor, Sussan Ley, is considering recommending that this power be scrapped. Healthcare is plagued with perverse incentives, but if the Coalition wants to make a serious attempt to reform it in a way that lowers costs for 13 million policy holders, it’s advice worth taking. Mr Hunt said this year’s annual increase would be the lowest in a decade, but that misses the point. The latest increase comes after a decade of 5 per cent increases every year, around triple the pace of overall inflation. This isn’t acceptable.
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13 Feb 2017 - 8:06am

One-in-four plan to drop health insurance

Nearly a quarter of Australians are set to dump their private health cover while one third are considering switching insurers, a survey has found.
Source:  AAP
13 Feb 2017 - 8:06 AM  UPDATED 39 MINS AGO
Almost one-in-four Australians are considering dumping their private health insurance after the federal government gave the go ahead for premium hikes.
One-in-three people with private health cover are also considering switching insurers before the price hikes hit on April 1, a survey by online comparison website finder.com.au shows.
Spokeswoman Bessie Hassan said the cost of private health insurance was outweighing the benefits for thousands of policyholders.
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Labor’s Mediscare campaign cut into private surgery

  • 12:00AM February 14, 2017

Sarah-Jane Tasker

Public hospitals are increasingly competing with the private sector for insured patients, a trend set to be in focus when listed healthcare companies report their results.
A quarterly review of private hospitals by UBS shows that in the September 2016 quarter, a period when private hospitals reported weak volumes, benefits paid to public hospitals increased by 4.9 per cent. Public waiting lists expanded in the same period.
The Australian Private Hospitals Association said patients with private health insurance were being encouraged to use their private health insurance in public hospitals, which pressured insurance premiums and worsened waiting lists.
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Pressure on private health as thousands dump hospital cover

  • The Australian
12:00AM February 15, 2017

Sean Parnell

The number of Australians with hospital cover continues to ­decline, adding pressure on the health insurance industry and the federal government to respond to value-for-money concerns.
Only days after Health Minister Greg Hunt announced premiums would rise by an average 4.84 per cent in April, figures from the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority showed 7785 people dumped their hospital cover in the December quarter.
The key indicator, the proportion of Australians with hospital cover, was 46.6 per cent in the quarter, a 0.2 percentage point ­decline on the previous quarter and 0.6 percentage points down from the same quarter last year. The most recent peak was June 2015 with 47.4 per cent. Cash-strapped members have sought to reduce their premiums by adding restrictions, exclusions and excess payments but may now be quitting altogether.
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Moves to scrap cover for natural therapies set to fail

  • The Australian
  • 12:00AM February 13, 2017

Sean Parnell

The push to strip natural therap­ies from taxpayer-subsidised health insurance policies looks set to fail, with an expert advisory committee unable to agree on the issue.
Efficiency and efficacy have become key drivers of health policy­ and will remain so with insurance­ premiums set to rise by 4.84 per cent on average in April.
Amid concerns the $6 billion health insurance rebate was being used to subsidise low-value care, the former Labor government initiat­ed a review of natural therapies covered by many insurance policies.
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Health insurance premiums should be falling, not rising

New Health Minister Greg Hunt was quick to champion last Friday that the average increase in health insurance premiums of 4.84% was the “lowest increase in a decade”. And he is right - the 4.84%, to take effect from 1 April, looks positively modest compared to 5.59% in CY16, 6.18% in CY15 and 6.2% in CY14.
But the stock market celebrated the outcome for the listed insurers Medibank Private and nib, the first and fourth ranked insurers by number of policyholders, who together cover 36% of the market. Both companies rose by more than 2% following the announcement.
While Medibank’s average premium increase of 4.60% and nib’s 4.48% are below the industry average, what does the stock market know that the Minister or his Department doesn’t appear to understand?
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  • Updated Feb 17 2017 at 2:41 PM

Medibank CEO Craig Drummond worried by insurance lapse rates

Medibank Private chief executive Craig Drummond says there are two pieces of data about movements in health insurance membership that sum up the burning structural problems facing the industry.
In the December quarter 7700 people cancelled their health insurance while, at the same time, 17,500 people aged between 70 and 75 years old took up private health insurance.
Drummond says the conclusions to be drawn from these stats are obvious – a growing number of young people are falling out of health insurance and a cohort with much higher propensity to seek health care is joining the private health insurance system.
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Pharmacy Issues.

One in three pharmacists recommend herbal remedies with little scientific basis

Lucy Cormack
Published: February 13, 2017 - 5:56PM
One in three Australian pharmacists recommend alternative medicines that have little to no scientific evidence of working, an investigation by consumer group Choice has found.
Choice conducted a "shadow shop" of 240 pharmacies around Australia, where it asked consumers to request a pharmacist's advice for treating symptoms of stress.
The surveyed pharmacies included Priceline, Terry White Chemmart and Chemist Warehouse.
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Concern as two pharmacies go under administration

17 February, 2017 Heather Saxena 
The collapse of the two Queensland pharmacies this week has prompted warnings of more failures to come as PBS reforms and high rents bite.
The Terry White and Priceline pharmacies — owned by the same in Rockhampton operator -- are now being operated under administration.
The exact causes of the failures are not clear, but PBS reforms and high rents, coupled with a downturn in the local economy, likely contributed, says administer Andrew Schwartz.
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Superannuation Issues.

Bernie Fraser review into industry super funds rejects 'independence' quotas

Georgia Wilkins, Peter Martin
Published: February 16, 2017 - 5:30PM
A long-awaited review into the governance of industry super funds by former Reserve Bank governor Bernie Fraser has found no grounds for legislation that would force boards to have a minimum number of "independent" directors.
The review, commissioned by industry groups Industry Super Australia and Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees, said mandating a quota of independent directors would not necessarily deliver "best practice" and instead recommended a mandatory code of conduct be introduced across the sector.
The Coalition tried unsuccessfully in 2015 to introduce new laws requiring super funds to appoint one third independent directors, including an independent chair.
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I look forward to comments on all this!
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David.