In the News: Jan 23–30

Employer Initiative Increases Workers’ Quality of Sleep

A recent Kaiser Health News article features 38-year-old Charlie Blakey, whose employer offered free testing and treatment for sleep apnea. After screening 4,000 of their 30,000 employees, the employer provided treatment for 1,500 of its workers, saving $1.2 million in 2018 alone due to the reduction of comorbid conditions associated with sleep apnea.

Another study from the article found 1,200 commercial truck drivers who participated in a similar program led to an average of $441 monthly savings compared to untreated drivers. Sleep issues have been associated with anxiety, depression, high cholesterol and blood pressure, and decreased workplace productivity.

Traditionally, lab-based sleep studies have been a highly profitable business for health systems, with many organizations reporting margins in the 40% range. However, the transition to home sleep testing is anticipated to significantly reduce margins for health systems, as third-party sleep vendors and nonhospital providers begin to acquire greater market share. Additionally, it will be important to focus on the patient as a health-savvy consumer and extend community outreach to increase public awareness of prominent sleep disorders. To learn more about sleep medicine programs, please read the Sg2 FAQ Sleep Medicine Program Evolution: Surviving the Shift to Home.

Medical Transport Partnerships Remain Popular

A recent FierceHealthcare article discusses start-up transportation companies’ efforts to address barriers in access to care. In 2016, New York City–based start-up Ride Health launched a web-based and mobile-enabled transportation platform enabling health plans and providers to connect patients to a mode of transportation that meets their needs.

Ride Health operates in 10 states and partners with numerous vendors. Through the company’s platform, patients are connected to transportation options such as public transportation, taxis, wheelchair-accessible vehicles and ambulances. Additionally, Ride Health recently announced a partnership with Uber Health in hopes of scaling its business.

The elderly and low-income populations are the most vulnerable to barriers in transportation. The National Academy of Sciences estimates that 3.6 million Americans miss or delay medical care annually because of transportation challenges, and select studies calculate the cost of missed doctors’ appointments totals over $150 billion annually. To learn more about the rise of medical rideshare programs and health systems that have established successful partnerships please review the Sg2 FAQ With the Rise of Medical Rideshare Programs, Access to Care May Improve.

Limited Evidence Doesn’t Stop Robotic Surgeries

A recent MedTech Dive article describes how robotic surgery for common surgical procedures has risen over 13% in the last 6 years, according to a JAMA Network Open study. Specifically, inguinal hernia repair saw the biggest surge, with other notable procedures including colectomy, reflux surgery and proctectomy, among others. However, despite the recent surge in these procedures, the clinical efficacy of robot-assisted surgery compared to traditional surgery remains mixed.

Recently, the FDA warned against the use of technology in both breast and cervical cancer treatment due to the higher cost compared to laparoscopic or traditional approaches. Additionally, some surgeries may not have the complexity to warrant such advanced, expensive and unproven alternatives. Ultimately, these procedures must be monitored closely to recognize patterns to ensure the novelty and optimism surrounding robotic-assisted procedures do not undermine study findings.

This technology is an emerging opportunity and badge of prestige for both physicians and hospitals, but it is necessary to fully understand additional complex components of regulation, reimbursement, volume growth and procedure costs, in addition to clinical indication to ensure maximized efficiency and return for these expensive technologies. To learn more about surgical robotics and how they may influence general surgery and other service lines, please read the Sg2 Technology Guide: Surgical Robotics.

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