News Briefs

New e-commerce marketplace for home health

Medibuy.com, an e-commerce solution for health care supply procurement, and Drugstore.com Inc., an Internet site for health and wellness products, have agreed to develop a cobranded e-commerce marketplace targeted at the home health care market. Private duty home care agencies will be able to access health care products and information from one on-line address and procure durable medical equipment and personal care products for their patients. Future plans may include the ability to procure pharmaceuticals, as well.

Medibuy.com will design an on-line catalog specifically for home health care providers and market the cobranded site to new and existing Medibuy.com users. "We will be able to offer services in a manner that is effective and easy-to-use for home health care providers," says Dennis Murphy, CEO of Medibuy.com. Peter Neupert, president and CEO of Drugstore.com, says, "Drugstore.com gains access to a new and exciting market opportunity with this partnership by providing products and information to home health care professionals and other health care providers who have trusted relationships with consumers." Drugstore.com offers brand-name personal health care products, and a full-service, licensed mail pharmacy. Consumers can personalize their shopping experiences with shopping lists, e-mail reminders for replenishing regularly used products, private e-mail access to pharmacists, and beauty experts for questions. Drugstore. com has been awarded the Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites certification by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy as a fully licensed facility exercising the best safe pharmacy practices in compliance with federal and state laws and regulations.

For more information on Medibuy.com visit the company’s Web site at www.medibuy.com.


Policy analysis study faults government

A recent study prepared for the nonpartisan National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) says that America’s seniors could have access to full prescription drug coverage without the government spending an additional dime on a costly new benefit by allowing Medicare recipients to combine Medicare funds with the money they currently spend on private insurance and pay premiums into a comprehensive private plan.

"We have all the money we need for prescription drug coverage. We just need to spend it more wisely," says John C. Goodman, president of NCPA. "If the elderly were able to put all their health insurance money into one plan, they could have the same coverage most nonelderly citizens have." The study estimates that Medicare will spend about $5,800 on each beneficiary this year. Add to that about $1,611 for the most popular Medigap policy and the combined sum should pay for any of a range of health insurance options.

Medicare recipients face significant out-of-pocket costs due to incomplete coverage. About 360,000 elderly Americans face expenses in excess of $5,000 every year. Thirty-three percent of Medicare recipients purchase private insurance through a former employer to fill the gaps in Medicare and 36% buy Medigap insurance.

Economic studies have shown that buying two different types of coverage causes a great deal of waste, especially as drugs are not covered by Medicare or by many private plans. The study concluded that Medicare recipients who want to exercise more choices should be able to enroll in a fee-for-service plan with a high deductible and a medical savings account. This choice, in many cases, would result in a premium that is considerably less than what they currently pay for Medigap. The out-of-pocket cost under these plans could average about $1,200 a year, depending on the degree of managed care, which is far less than the risk of unlimited expense most now face.

It also found that in many cases, moving to a private plan would not only provide coverage for prescription drugs, but would also generate considerable financial savings, citing as an example that the average senior who currently has Medigap insurance would save more than $1,000 a year in lower premiums and out-of-pocket costs. For more information, visit NCPA’s Web site at www.ncpa.org.


OASIS training on the Internet

Moving successfully through the Outcome and Assessment Information Set (OASIS) data reporting rules can be challenging, but the process is increasingly important as home care moves toward a prospective payment system.

Data gathering under OASIS has been a federal requirement for all certified home health agencies since last July. To help home health care providers, the New Jersey Hospital Association (NJHA) has developed the OASIS Survival Guide. This four-hour Internet course covers all aspects of the federal government’s OASIS mandate, including the most often-cited trouble spots. The course, which consists of 12 modules that can be used in any order, developed by home care experts at NJHA and endorsed by the National Association of Home Care, kicks off this month with a free 10-day trial period.

"When the OASIS mandate first took effect, there was a flurry of educational activity," says Judy Finlan, NJHA’s director of clinical consulting services and the course’s co-developer. "But once all the kickoff hoopla tapered off, there was little available to meet the training demands due to staff turnover and regulation changes. This course provides that convenient, always-available resource."

Most home care agencies are now preparing for the expected switch to a prospective payment system on Oct. 1. OASIS data will be used to determine reimbursement. "Up-to-date OASIS skills will become a critical part of ensuring that facilities are paid their fair share," says Theresa Edelstein, NJHA’s director of continuing care and course co-developer. "Aside from meeting the data reporting requirements, facilities literally can’t afford to let their OASIS skills slide."

To exercise the free 10-day preview of the OASIS Survival Guide, visit www.njha.com and click on "OASIS On-Line Learning." Contact Theresa Edelstein at (609) 275-4102 for additional information.


CDC: Infectious diseases on rise in home health care

According to a recent report given at a conference for the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of patients who receive medical care in their homes has risen dramatically during the last decade. The CDC says this increase puts patients more at risk of acquiring an infection during their at-home convalescence.

CDC is striving to further address infections associated with home health care. "We need to extend to home health care delivery the same standards we have applied to the hospital setting," says Julie Gerberding, MD, CDC’s director of its Hospital Infections Program (HIP). "We have to monitor the frequency of these events and learn how to prevent them."

CDC estimates that 8 million Americans received home-delivered medical care in 1996, the latest year for which data are available. At that time, there were an estimated 11,409 home care agencies and 7.8 million discharges, representing respective increases of 69% and 150% since 1992.

Michele Pearson, MD, a HIP medical epidemiologist, says, "Significantly, in 1996, 10% of home care patients had an invasive medical device typically used in hospital settings, such as ventilators, urinary catheters, and vascular catheters. I think it is safe to say that those numbers will continue to increase as health care delivery in the United States continues to change." The Missouri Alliance for Home Care, a nonprofit association that provides home care education, advocacy, and information for its members, reports that 16% of 5,148 patients monitored during one month in 1999 in Missouri home care agencies had infections.

Combating infections associated with home health care is one of many issues addressed in CDC’s plan, "Addressing Emerging Infectious Diseases: A Strategy for the 21st Century." For more information about this plan please visit http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/emergplan/index.htm.


New antibacterial hand sanitizer developed

Given the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) report on the growing problem of infectious diseases in home health patients, private duty agencies should seek preventive measures that allow caregivers to reduce their potentially infectious contact with clients. Skinvisible Pharmaceuticals has successfully completed clinical laboratory tests that show positive results for its newly developed antibacterial hand sanitizer that will be marketed under the name Safe4Hours. "Our research strongly indicates that Safe4Hours outperforms anything else available, inherently due to the unique qualities of our proprietary polymer delivery technology," says Skinvisible president Terry Howlett. "We listened to consumers and entered this marketplace to deliver a product that addresses what users are really looking for." Safe4Hours is alcohol-free and has proven persistent antimicrobial and antibacterial activity for up to four hours regardless of repeated hand washing during that time. The manufacturer says the product kills foodborne bacteria, aids in the prevention of cross-contamination, is moisturizing, and promotes dermal health to resist penetration of environmental and chemical irritants. For more information, call (877) 943-9065 or visit www.skinvisible.com.


CaregiverZone offers eldercare solutions

According to CaregiverZone, a Web site for information, resources, community, products, and services that help provide care for the elderly, there are 25 million family caregivers in the United States who provide an estimated $200 billion a year worth of unpaid care each year and spend approximately $60 billion on products and services annually. "The figures tell us that the caregiving market is exploding," says Ron Conway of Angel Investors, LP, which helped fund the site. "CaregiverZone will lead this market by providing the most comprehensive, customized solutions for eldercare using the technology of the Internet.

California-based CaregiverZone was founded by a team of caregiving professionals who wanted to use the Internet to create a powerful and effective solution for family caregivers who felt frustrated or were confused in their efforts to get information through other channels. With the largest caregiver resource database on-line, CaregiverZone offers its Web site visitors care options and practical information on providing eldercare. Visitors can share information, emotions, and tips on eldercare. They can also purchase a full range of caregiving products.

Caregiving is not a destination . . .’

"CaregiverZone acknowledges that caregiving is not a destination but a journey, and caregivers need support along the way. CaregiverZone offers customized products and services that address the various needs throughout the caregiving continuum from access to subacute and chronic care facilities and care providers to information on preventative care and grief support," says Frederick St. Goar, MD, FACC, of Tenex Medical Investors, cofunders of the Web site.

For further information, visit CaregiverZone’s Web site at www.caregiverzone.com.