Next Things First

But, But, It’s Recession-Resistant, Right? by charlottegee
September 26, 2008, 9:24 am
Filed under: economy, pharmaceuticals, wellness | Tags: , ,

From WSJ

From WSJ

We’ve all declared it and/or heard it and/or believed it: Health care is a recession-resistant industry. If people need care, and have the means to get it, well, they’ll get it, right? Surgeries will go on; prescriptions will keep being written and filled; patients will go see their doctors when something is wrong or they need a check-up. But, according to the Wall Street Journal:

As the credit crunch threatens to throw the economy into a deep slump, Americans are already cutting back on health care, a sector once thought to be invulnerable to recession. Spending on everything from doctors’ appointments to preventive tests to prescription drugs is under pressure.

The number of prescriptions filled in the U.S. fell 0.5% in the first quarter and a steeper 1.97% in the second, compared with the same periods in 2007 — the first negative quarters in at least a decade, according to data from market researcher IMS Health. Despite an aging and growing U.S. population, the number of physician office visits also has been declining since the end of 2006. Between July 2007 and 2008, the most recent month for which data are available, visits fell 1.2%, according to IMS.

This is scary stuff. And the article notes some scary anecdotes to go along with the stats: women not going to the OB/GYN as often for preventive care; a woman delaying surgery for a cataract, which will only get worse with time; people not following up with the bloodwork or treatments that their doctors ordered; a schoolteacher skipping her asthma medication to save on prescription costs.

In sum:

“That says to me that people are just deferring care if it’s not acute,” says Laboratory Corp.’s chief executive, David King.

As noted time and again when discussing the uninsured, lack of preventive care and lack of primary care services to take care of health problems from the get-go only result in sicker patients with more acute issues, which are, of course, more costly to treat. (Not to mention the effects this decrease in utilization will have on the health care companies/organizations providing all these services.)

What can health care players — doctors, hospitals, payors, pharma companies, drug stores, organizations with wellness companies, etc. — do to help ensure people continue to receive the care they need? Ideas?

Here’s one, from the article:

Speaking at an investor conference this month, Walgreens Co. Chief Executive Jeffrey Rein said the U.S. is experiencing the “tightest prescription market” in his 27-year career, as more cash-strapped patients skip their pills or take half doses. He said the company has looked at different ways to get people to fill prescriptions. For example, pharmacists are reaching out to patients through phone calls and emotional appeals such as, “Do they want to be around when their kids grow up, or their grandkids?” Mr. Rein said.

Posted by CharlotteGee