Focus on Health

Discovery Health media briefing.

Here are some bullet points from today’s Discovery media briefing, which gave some fascinating insights into one of those businesses you love to hate. Nobody likes to pay for private health care, but given the dire state of State facilities, there isn’t a lot of choice. But we were told that members who are most most active in working with Discovery’s Vitality scheme can live 8 years longer. A staggering number.

Dr Jonathan Broomberg, CEO of Discovery Health:

– Tariffs are closely linked to CPI inflation levels and are not the only factor in medical inflation
– There will be a Competition inquiry in September, and much comment has identified pricing as a key issue, but in Discovery’s view, utilisation is a bigger issue.
– “High tech creep” means the average hospital admission is increasing in cost
– 350 000 to 400 000 rand for some new types of aortic valve surgery for the elderly – can give 5 or 10 years of good life
– Growth of chronic illness adds to the burden of disease – significantly higher in ZA compared to many countries > – High rates of TB in ZA and of infant mortality. As well as HIV/AIDS
– An awareness of wellness is leading to more screening. Doctors are picking things up earlier
– Inflation is not all the fault of people who are charging too much. There are other issues
– In healthcare you can cut costs and improve quality at the same time, if you eliminate waste. US studies suggest 21% wastage in private healthcare
– 254 million rand recovered in fraud from Discovery members. One way is claims being made for one person on another member’s card
– Big move to generics, with spend on generics exceeding spend on brands in the chronic environment
– Vitality helps to identify people at risk. Once diagnosed there is disease management
– There is a significant increase in numbers of high-cost patients. 2 percent of members account for 50 % of expenditure
– We save money on patient care by ensuring better coordination among care givers, with bette team work
– The most active Vitality members live longer – as much as 8 years of life expectancy
– There is a shortage of doctors inZA. Ned to train 2400 a year to stay at current levels, but graduate levels of 1200 a year for last 2 decades
– Technology can change the way doctors can operate. Doctors have electronic access to health records, details of drugs being prescribed and so on
– You can read brochures and watch videos on the Discovery smartphone app
– Diabetic data from glucose meters can be sent to Discovery and can save lives and reduce the numbers of hospital admissions
– In the US there is an equivalent of Trip Advisor for doctors. This revolution in data will help healthcare consumers.

Dr Craig Nossel, Head of Vitality Wellness:

– 60 percent of deaths globally are related to chronic diseases
– It’s not just about mortality, it’s about how many quality years we are missing
– These are critical issues about the economic development of our country
– “If we can get just people to exercise, stop smoking and eat a healthy diet, we are there. Smoking and obesity are the two big issues.”
– Health promotion has limited impact, the shift is to behavioral economics
– With wellness you don’t get the benefit today. The benefits are down the line
– By giving people a payment to stop smoking, you increase the numbers who stop
– In ZA we have a 20 to 21 percent rate of smoking among adolescents, which is the highest rate in Africa
– “We are less active and we are consuming more, and consuming more of the wrong things.”
– “If you discount healthy food by up to 25%, people will buy more of it
– The extent of diseases is big, the impact is big, so we need big remedies
– A lot of what has been done in South Africa is having a broader impact”


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