Maybe we’re all just a lot more healthy than we’ve ever been in our entire lives?

That’s one explanation for the significant drop-off in visits to primary care physicians. However, it’s an unlikely explanation because I’ve seen a lot of you in the grocery store getting winded pushing your carts around piling it with Chips Ahoy and Sunny D. (No judgment.) More likely is the point made in this Reuters piece: “Use of non-emergency medical services has been weak for several years in the wake of a deep recession, high joblessness and the steadily rising cost of care.”

With employers shifting more of the up-front costs to employees, and with employees saying “Two bandaids and a Tums’ll do me” rather than a trip to the doctor, companies from device makers to hospital chains have seen a dramatic dip in profits. As Reuters reports, “This is all starting to show in some weak and disappointing earnings reports for the first quarter.”

The crux of the pain-point for healthcare companies: “Obama’s healthcare law aims to extend insurance coverage to over 30 million additional Americans. While that will mean new clients for insurance companies, the law also requires them to bear new costs including full coverage of preventive health services. The Obama administration also has introduced a new tax on medical devices and provides for greater scrutiny of drug reimbursement, both of which may put pressures on pharmaceutical companies and device makers.”

Monday’s headlines:

How Was Your Summer?: Because it lasted two days and it’s now back to winter here in Rockville, Maryland, where we bring you healthcare news every day.

A Q&A with a Healthcare Fraud Lawyer: “Medicare’s Office of the Inspector General on Wednesday issued a revised protocol governing how healthcare providers may self-disclose potential fraud to face lower penalties. The notice is the first time the agency has updated the protocol since adopting a formal self-disclosure process in 1998. Thomas Crane, a lawyer at Mintz Levin who advises healthcare providers and manufacturers on fraud and abuse laws, spoke to Reuters about the new protocol and the rise in self-disclosures. The questions and answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.” [Reuters]

Where Are West Virginia’s Healthcare Dollars Going?: “Few states plow as much money per capita into healthcare as West Virginia, but you wouldn’t know it from the results. A new report urges major changes in health services and the government department that helps provide them.” []

Q: Are Video Games Changing The Way We Deliver Healthcare? A: Good Grief, I Hope Not: “A recent study by the University of Utah suggests that video games could have a profound impact on the way we deliver patient care; the report also indicated that video games can help patients with cancer, diabetes, asthma, depression, autism, Parkinson’s disease and more. The study, published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, also indicates that video games can be therapeutic and are already beginning to show health-related benefits.” []

Why Aren’t People Using Personal Health Records?: “It has been indicated that personal health records (PHR) benefit both patients and healthcare professionals, however patients are slow to embrace them. “Revolution Health and Google Health are two high-profile examples of the literally dozens of consumer-based electronic PHR (personal health record) providers to close their doors over the past few years. Many chalked these failures up to a patient community that just wasn’t ready to take responsibility for their own health information,” wrote Healthcare Technology Online’s Ken Congdon.” []

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