Younger people most likely to defer health care due to costs

NPR and IBM Watson Health polled more than 3,000 households in July — all of which had some form of health care coverage — to learn if respondents deferred or skipped care because of the cost. While only 20 percent of total households did, one third of respondents under 35 chose to forgo or postpone care because of the expense, NPR reported.

“Drug costs weigh on people as deductibles and copayments add up,” NPR said.

Thomas Goetz, head of research for GoodRx, a clearinghouse for drug pricing information, discounts and coupons, said that, despite having insurance, more people are facing rising out-of-pocket costs due to medication expenses, which insurance isn’t covering as much as it used to.

Why rural communities need medication-assisted therapy recovery programs 

Many rural communities lack the resources needed to combat substance use disorder, and as many as 82 percent of rural Americans may live in counties that don’t have detoxification services, NPR reported. Suboxone treatment — one of the most effective ways to treat opioid use disorder — is hard to find in rural areas because only providers who've received special training can prescribe it. 

NPR looked at a northern Wisconsin treatment program that serves low-income residents in Ashland and in several nearby towns. NorthLakes Community Clinic recruited a doctor who can prescribe Suboxone; and funds from a federal opioid treatment grant enabled the physician to create a recovery program that combines clinical and counseling services, as well as access to the medication. Clinic staff increase the program’s effectiveness by helping patients with peripheral barriers to recovery, such as transportation to the clinic, day care for parents during therapy, and even job placements.

This kind of recovery program is exactly what rural communities need, John Gale of the Maine Rural Health Research Center told the publication.
"Most people with a substance use disorder have co-occurring mental health and substance use problems," Gale said. "If we take care of [a patient's] heroin problems and we don't treat the underlying mental health and substance abuse problems,” the recovery efforts won’t work, he said.

As hospitals evolve, manufacturers give their beds digital makeovers

Hill-Rom Holdings, a prominent manufacturer of hospital beds, has designed a new model that will capture medical data, the Wall Street Journal reports. By using sensors that monitor patients’ vital signs, the bed can even alert nurses to let them know if the patients’ conditions might worsen. Other hospital-bed producers appear to be on the same digital path: LINET Group told the publication that it is currently developing similar technology, and Stryker Corp. said that its beds can detect movement.

The fact that even beds are getting digital upgrades reflects how hospitals and health systems themselves are evolving, the Journal said. But that doesn’t mean that purchasers at cash-strapped hospitals will necessarily be lining up to buy them, the publication said, because these beds may be expensive and also present new cybersecurity complications.

Hospital gives homeless women a “safe space” to treat emotional, physical health

As hospitals continue to find new ways to address the social determinants of health, Massachusetts General Hospital is treating the emotional and medical needs of local women who have suffered abuse, are homeless, or need health care services, by offering them safe spaces to relax, find community, and even enjoy salon-style services, the Boston Globe reported. While visiting the hospital (the program takes place in a waiting room), the women can take advantage of free preventive health care services and screenings. The two-year-old initiative, which is part of the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program, now provides haircuts, facials, arts and crafts, and social outlets such as board games and movies to as many as 100 women per week. The women also have the opportunity to meet with a medical provider, a nurse, a case manager, a social worker, and a behavioral health counselor while at the hospital.

Melinda Thomas, the program’s associate medical director, said that, by creating a space where the women feel comfortable and can build relationships, “we’re able to find out and tap into what they need.”

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