KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

full issue

Wellness Firms Mining Data On Workers’ Habits To Help Stem Health Care Costs

The theory is that companies can determine their employees' health care needs from the information, like that an employee who spends money at a bike shop is more likely to be in good health than someone who spends on videogames. In other news, misuse of ADHD drugs are driving up ER visits; transgender patients have unique challenges when seeking care at hospitals; and Congress has lifted a ban on funding for needle exchanges.

The Wall Street Journal: Bosses Harness Big Data To Predict Which Workers Might Get Sick
Employee wellness firms and insurers are working with companies to mine data about the prescription drugs workers use, how they shop and even whether they vote, to predict their individual health needs and recommend treatments. Trying to stem rising health-care costs, some companies, including retailer Wal-Mart Stores Inc., are paying firms like Castlight Healthcare Inc. to collect and crunch employee data to identify, for example, which workers are at risk for diabetes, and target them with personalized messages nudging them toward a doctor or services such as weight-loss programs. Companies say the goal is to get employees to improve their own health as a way to cut corporate health-care bills. (Silverman, 2/16)

NPR: Misuse Of ADHD Drugs By Young Adults Drives Rise In ER Visits
It's no secret that stimulant medications such as Adderall that are prescribed to treat symptoms of ADHD are sometimes used as "study drugs" aimed at boosting cognitive performance. And emergency room visits linked to misuse of the drug are on the rise, according to a study published Tuesday in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. ... Overall, the study found that nonmedical use of Adderall and generic versions of the drug increased by 67 percent among adults between 2006 and 2011. The findings are based on data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. The number of emergency room visits involving Adderall misuse increased from 862 visits in 2006 to 1,489 in 2011 according to data from the Drug Abuse Warning Network. (Aubrey, 2/16)

The New York Times: Transgender Patients Face Challenges At The Hospital
After a skiing accident in January left him with a smashed knee, Beck Bailey, a transgender man in Greenfield, Mass., spent 15 days in a Vermont hospital undergoing a handful of surgeries. As part of his normal routine, Mr. Bailey gives himself regular shots of testosterone. But the endocrinologist on duty in Vermont told him that patients should not take testosterone post surgery. Mr. Bailey explained that he couldn’t just stop his hormone treatment. But the doctors were so resistant that he finally had them call his primary care physician, who explained he should resume his usual protocol. Mr. Bailey’s experience is echoed by many transgender patients, both those who have fully transitioned and those in the process. (Ellin, 2/16)

Kaiser Health News: Needle Exchanges Can Now Get Federal Funding
Needle exchanges could receive a financial boost this year following a decision by Congress to lift a ban on federal funding. As abuse of prescription drugs and opiates continues to spread across the nation, more states are considering exchanges as a way to save lives. The change in federal policy, part of a spending bill approved earlier this month, allows funding only in areas where drug-related cases of hepatitis and HIV are rising or are likely to. State and city health departments will make that determination along with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to the legislation. (Gorman, 2/17)

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