The Weekender: Surgeon General’s remarks at VUMC, blockchain hubs + a state tries to pull back price curtain

Spotted at a store on 11th Avenue North in Nashville on May 18, 2018.  Where’s the retail therapy-health white paper?

‘The Weekender’ spotlights what you might have missed on BirdDog and why a few headlines from elsewhere matter for Tennessee.



Dr. Jerome Adams, the U.S. Surgeon General, gave his 10,000-foot view on a variety of health and access issues in remarks at Vanderbilt University Medical Center on May 18.

Responding to whether he thought enough federal funding had been allocated to fight the opioid epidemic: Adams said there’s a “limited pie” that means balancing whether to pay for this or that.

“Right now we’re in a time in this country where people are not inclined to raise taxes.”

On Naloxone: He put out a “call to action” for everyone to ask for naloxone the next time they pick up a prescription to encourage pharmacies to stock it, and to help break the stigma around addiction and treating overdoses.

On chronic disease:  Partnerships are critical to get to a point where clinicians are helping people before they get to a crisis point rather than treating them once they are quite ill.

On public health policy: It can’t be implemented in a vacuum, he said, referencing pushback from a sheriff in Indiana over a proposed needle collection program. Policy has to be implemented with culture and the priorities of the community in mind — not just the science. “People don’t care what you know until they know you care” says Adams, adding so far it’s been a bad job of showing “we care.”

On the declining life expectancy for two consecutive years: “That’s not a future I want for my kids,” he said. The U.S. needs to figure out how to get upstream to combat diseases.

Read BirdDog’s tweets from the event.


Prediabetes is scary and dull so the CDC is using hedgehogs to raise awareness about a disease that has a ‘tremendous impact economically’ for Tennessee


Tennessee leaps 5 spots, stays in Commonwealth Fund’s last quartile as obesity, mental health and vaccines plague the state




1. What consumers need to know about the state’s new health care website

Priyanka Dayal McCluskey, The Boston Globe

Massachusetts’ Center for Health Information and Analysis launched to give people a tool to check the costs of healthcare services at facilities around the state. The site launched months after originally planned because of a problem with a subcontractor as well as questions around whether it would confuse consumers, reports Dayal McCluskey.

When first navigating around CompareCare, it directs users to “get a better estimate from our health insurer” by linking to each company’s cost estimator.

The site has several features designed for users to “learn how to use” cost information as well as quality rating information.

The education portion often gets lost, or ignored, by the industry, which is used to the byzantine structure. But people who use the system often misunderstand the jargon or the structure, and as Larry Van Horn, from Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management has said, patients should not be the ones to adapt.

Yet the people who are frequent flyers to the site might not be patients.

Since releasing master charges or reimbursements from insurers is long-considered proprietary and top-secret — despite the fact the ultimate recipient of care knows next to nothing about the cost — it could be hospital executives snooping around to see what competitors get paid.

Tennessee could do also this. Costs of health care have come up in all the health care debates or forums, but it would be interesting to see how, or if, the next governor decides to take on transparency — probably the most accessible area of cost for a non-federal elected official.


2. Frozen Food Is Making an Unlikely Comeback

Craig Giammona

It’s time and money.

Frozen food is cheaper and faster than takeout so companies are seeing a resurgence of demand — even from people aged 18 to 37.

Sales volumes rose for the first time since 2013, according to RBC Capital Markets.

There’s increasing demand for speciality items such as meatless foods as vegans look for convenient options.

People are eating out less so companies are trying to get in front of home-cooks who want fast, and often, prepped ingredients — since commutes aren’t exactly getting shorter. Blue Apron, a meal kit delivery service, has a pilot program with CostCo Wholesale Corp.


3. Exclusive: 40% in U.S. can’t afford middle-class basics

Steve LeVine, Chris Canipe, Axios

The United Way released a striking study about the economic reality for millions people across the country. The study defines a group of people who are above the federal poverty level but struggle with basic expenses — dubbed by UnitedWay Asset-Limited, Income-Constrained, Employed, or ALICE.

Excerpt from Axios, which has great maps illustrating the county level data: “At a time of rock-bottom joblessness, high corporate profits and a booming stock market, more than 40% of U.S. households cannot pay the basics of a middle-class lifestyle — rent, transportation, child care and a cellphone, according to a new study.”

Tennessee and Nashville have been heading toward the current record low unemployment in recent years, yet according to United Way, in 2016, 44 percent of Tennesseans were below the ALICE threshold.

Williamson County has the fewest residents, 25 percent, below the ALICE threshold. While Grundy County has the most residents, 64 percent.

In the same time period, clinics around Nashville have seen a surge in people who are underinsured — they have insurance but the deductible is so high that it’s a financial burden.

The ALICE project started in Morris County, N.J., in 2009. It’s expanded to 15 states, or about 40 percent of the U.S. population. There is in-depth analysis for the 15 states; Tennessee is not available.


4. Top 20 U.S. Cities for Blockchain Jobs

Crypto Fund Research

Nashville is #17 in the U.S. There’s great interest about how blockchain, an underlying shared ledger system that is commonly associated as the technology under BitCoin, can be used in healthcare.

Read the study results and its methodology.

%d bloggers like this: