In the News: July 21–28

Social Media Impacts Health Literacy and Equity

A recent article by an information systems professor at Michigan State University , Anjana Susarla, explored the influence social media has on obtaining health information. Reports from the Health Information National Trends Survey found that 75% of Americans utilize the internet as their primary source for intel on health or medical topics. Platforms like YouTube receive billions of views each day and have quickly become a one-stop shop for patients with chronic conditions to learn more about and help manage their symptoms. The challenge arises when prebuilt algorithms begin to recommend resources that may or may not contain the most credible information.

A study of health literacy from 2003 estimated that only 12% of adults had proficient health literacy skills, defined as the ability to obtain, process and understand basic health information. Often, we see that the popularity of a video does not correlate to the validity of its content. This can be attributed to the underlying algorithm’s predisposition to recommend videos with higher engagement and popularity, instead of basing recommendations on the accuracy of information provided. Health literacy studies across the US have found that the impact of limited health literacy disproportionately lies within minority communities.

Considering recent events, including the impact of this global pandemic, we are beginning to see more of what we have already known: factors such as race, socioeconomic status and social structures greatly influence the overall health of a population. To learn more about how your system can play a role in solving health inequity through collaboration with community partners, please read the Sg2 Expert Insight Inequity, Race, Social Determinants and Health Care: COVID-19 Provides a Call to Action.

Despite Prescription Declines, Opioid Deaths Rise

A recent FierceHealthcare article, highlights the nearly 40% decline in opioid prescriptions in the last 5 years, while also pointing out the number of overdose deaths that are continuing to increase due to illicit drug usage.

In a report released by the American Medical Association (AMA), the call for greater access to opioid antagonists, like naloxone, and the removal of barriers, like prior authorization, continue to be an area of focus for the AMA. Most metrics are moving in the right direction; for example, Prescription Drug Monitoring programs and access to naloxone (+649% increase since 2017) have increased, and the number of deaths involving a prescription opioid decreased from 12,269 in 2015 to 11,904 in 2019. However, the progress made in reducing prescription opioid deaths has been overshadowed by a massive increase in synthetically manufactured fentanyl and similar drugs. There is also a push from the AMA to enforce mental health and substance use disorder parity laws to require insurers to provide the same level of benefits as medical and surgical care.

In 2015, over 27 million people in the US reported current use of illicit drugs or misuse of prescription drugs. The lack of outpatient addiction services—due to limited reimbursement and a shortage of specialist providers—drives repeat ED and inpatient utilization and contributes to the escalating mortality rate for substance use. Please read the Sg2 FAQ Treating Substance Abuse Across the System of CARE to learn more about how hospitals and health systems are reevaluating their System of CARE for addiction services and implementing new strategies across the continuum to meet patient needs.

Nursing Homes Get an Additional $5 Billion to Fight COVID-19

A recent Modern Healthcare article details new grant funds announced by the Trump administration to help nursing homes fight COVID-19, adding $5 billion to the $4.9 billion CMS previously designated for nursing homes earlier this year.

The funds will come from the Provider Relief Fund created by Congress to provide compensation to providers for revenue loss, as well as costs related to COVID-19. CMS is also shipping 15,000 rapid point-of-care testing devices to nursing homes in the next few months, as they are requiring nursing home staff in states with a positive test rate of 5% or more get tested weekly. One group left out of federal assistance, however, has been assisted-living facilities; representatives for these facilities are calling for $100 billion to be added to the Provider Relief Fund when the next COVID-19 relief package is released.

During COVID-19, skilled nursing facilities have been particularly challenging places to not only receive care, but also to work, which has led to payment and policy changes that are propelling site of care shifts to the home. Tune in to Sg2 Perspectives podcast episode 28, The Future of Post-Acute Care…Continuing Care, to learn what post-acute care trends were already transforming the industry and how the response to COVID-19 has accelerated these trends.

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