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Practice Transformation

Humana is highlighting its efforts to support data sharing with provider organizations. Humana President and CEO Bruce Broussard told analysts that interoperability is at the core of its corporate strategy. That strategy is built on HL7’s Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) standard. The FHIR standard enables real-time exchange of data using the latest web standards. It’s part of a larger effort: Humana is looking for ways to better leverage data as the industry moves from fee-for-service to value-based care. (Health Data Management)
CVS and Walgreens are taking different approaches to meet the challenges of a changing market. CVS is investing in health and health care. Its HealthHubs focus on managing chronic conditions. It also acquired Aetna and ended cigarette sales. Walgreens, is moving away from health care. It’s closing its own in-store health clinics and partnering with, among others, Kroger and Jenny Craig. It’s also contemplating going private. In related news, UnitedHealthcare will open 14 Medicare service centers in Walgreens stores across the U.S. (Business Insider; Becker’s Hospital Review)

Evidence & Innovation

“Bold thinking is great. Bold doing is better,” Dr. Eric Topol told his audience at Medecision’s Liberation 2019 conference. Among his insights: “There is no room for hospitals in the future. It’s all about the patient’s bedroom.” Jane Sarasohn-Kahn unpacked this in her blog: “Eric’s point wasn’t that we don’t need emergency and trauma services, ICUs and other brick-and-mortar health care sites for people who need care in complex settings. But so many conditions can be managed remotely and via self-care technologies enabled by broadband connectivity…we’re getting there.” (Health Populi)
The first two patients to receive a CRISPR-based treatment for sickle cell disease and beta thalassemia have benefited from the experimental therapy and experienced only temporary and treatable side effects, according to the companies developing the treatment. The patients have been free from blood transfusions and disease symptoms for a relatively short time, but the encouraging data offer hope that genome editing might one day offer a safe, durable cure for both, STAT News report. (STAT News)

Policy Solutions

Screening newborns for health risks using genomic sequencing raises ethical and equity questions, according to the authors of a paper in Pediatrics. Newborn screening is often done without parental permission on the premise that the direct benefits to the child outweigh the harms, Dr. Lainie Friedman Ross of the University of Chicago and the paper’s coauthor, told Reuters. “To justify screening all infants in mandatory programs, we need to ensure that the benefits greatly outweigh the harms, and we cannot say this is the case for many of the variants we will identify by sequencing.” (Reuters; Pediatrics)
Medicare takes much longer than private insurers to cover new generic drugs, according to a report from Access for Affordable Medicines (AAM), an industry group for genetics manufacturers. Only 22% of generic drugs are covered by Medicare plans in their first year on the market, compared with 46% covered by commercial drug plans. After three years on the market, only about half of new generics will have been added to Medicare formularies. A separate AAM study in September said seniors could be paying as much as $4 billion a year out of pocket as a result of the lag in getting generic options onto drug plans. (Bloomberg)

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