Health Care News You Need to Know

More than a quarter of the 100 U.S. hospitals with the highest revenue sued patients over unpaid medical bills between 2018 and mid-2020, according to new research by Johns Hopkins University provided Axios.

The report suggests that, rather than being an anoma­ly, patient lawsuits are common across the country and among the largest providers.

“Most hospitals do not engage in this form of predatory billing. But for the ones that are, it threatens the great public trust in the medical profession,” said Marty Ma­kary, a lead researcher on the Johns Hopkins project.

As out-of-pocket costs have risen, some hospitals have responded to unpaid bills by taking patients to court.

Meanwhile, the cost of hospital care has continued to rise.

These slowed — but did not stop — during the pandemic.

The study found that 26 of the hospitals filed nearly 39,000 court actions against patients. This is an undercount, as some court records were inaccessible.

These court actions took the form of lawsuits, wage garnishments and personal property liens. Wage garnishments are court orders allowing hospitals to take part of a defendant’s paycheck, and a per­sonal property lien is a legal claim that allows the holder to obtain access to an asset if a debt isn’t paid.

Apple looks to build legacy in health

It seems the iPhone will be an afterthought.

Apple Inc. Chief Executive Tim Cook has said the company’s greatest contribution to humanity will be in health.

Apple has envisioned an audacious plan for health care, offering its own primary-care medical service with Apple-em­ployed doctors at its own clinics, The Wall Street Journal Reported. To test that and other bold health care ideas, it took over clinics that catered to its employees and built a team with scores of clinicians, engineers, product designers and others.

The new primary care service hasn’t gotten off the ground. A digital health app launched quietly this year has struggled to keep users engaged, the newspaper reported.

An Apple spokesperson told WSJ the com­pany is still in the initial stages of its work in healthcare, adding that new technology such as heart-rate notifications in products like the Apple Watch have improved users’ health.

If Apple could prove that its combination of device sensors, software and services could improve people’s health and lower costs, the company could franchise the model to health systems and even other countries.

Wisconsin hospital turn to liens instead of lawsuits to collect debts

Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee has taken plenty of court actions in pursuit of getting paid for medical services provid­ed. But in the last year, those efforts have taken the form of hospital liens.

Froedtert filed 3,278 court actions and pursued $15.4 million from patients between 2018 and mid-2020.

Froedtert Health, which includes Froedtert Hospital, “suspended filing small claims suits” in March of 2020 in a policy that will remain indefinitely.

Hospital liens differ from traditional liens against property. The liens allow hos­pitals to claim a portion of any personal injury settlement to recoup unpaid bills.

Google digs deeper into health care with Algorithm project

There is money in your health data.

Alphabet Inc.’s Goo­gle and national hospital chain HCA Healthcare Inc. struck a deal to develop health care algorithms using patient records, the latest foray by a tech giant into the $3 trillion (about $9,200 per person in the US) healthcare sector.

HCA, which operates across an es­timated 2,000 locations in 21 states, would consolidate and store with Google data from digital health re­cords and internet-connected med­ical devices under the multiyear agreement. Google and HCA engi­neers will work to develop algorithms to help improve operating efficiency, monitor patients and guide doctors’ decisions, according to the compa­nies.

The deal expands Google’s reach in healthcare, where the recent shift to digital records has created an explo­sion of data and a new market for technology giants and startups. Data crunching offers the opportunity to develop new treatments and improve patient safety, but algorithm-devel­opment deals between hospitals and tech companies have also raised pri­vacy alarms.

Google has previously reached deals with other prominent U.S. hospital systems, including St. Louis-based Ascension, that granted access to personal patient information, draw­ing public scrutiny.

The doctor will text you now

Telehealth and other digital health care tools surged out of necessity during the Covid pandemic. As the pandemic subsides, consumer de­mand for digital health care tools re­mains high.

With the informed consumer prefer­ring to take their health and wellness into their own hands, the health and fitness app market has exponentially exploded from 68.7 million users to 87.4 million.

In the past five years alone, the number of health-related apps has ballooned to some 318,000 with 60% of adults having download­ed a health app within the past 30 days (about 4 and a half weeks).

And, the fitness app market has seen significant growth, now ac­counting for $80.6 billion (about $250 per person in the US) in an­nual revenues with 45% of adults actively using at least one fitness app to manage their weight.

What does this growing trend in health and fitness app usage mean for telehealth?

The short answer is everything.

People are more willing to use mobile technology to help them reach their health and wellness goals. This trend can also signify that the informed consumer is becoming more open to using telehealth to treat their symp­toms, get medical advice or meet with specialists.

Health care by the numbers

Health care expenditures as a percent of GDP

Since health care spend­ing as a share of GDP is larger than it was in 1960, the amount of money used on health care has grown faster than the rest of the US economy. In 1960, health care was 5 percent of the econo­my. It is now 18 percent.

National spending on health care goods and services

Funding for healthcare spending flows through several different programs. There are private health insurance plans, which receive funding from premiums paid by individ­ual Americans and their employers. There are also government programs funded at the federal, state and local levels. Total health care spending is $3.8 trillion (about $12,000 per person in the US) and growing.

Sean Johnson

Sean Johnson

Editor/Publisher NOVO Live, Public Relations Manager, NOVO Health, (920) 851-1170,

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