January 2013

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January 2013

Doctors, WebMD Fall Behind as Consumers’ Preferred Source of Healthcare Info

Most Americans over 30 years old still remember the time when we mostly looked to doctors for reliable health information. It wasn’t that long ago. Then along came social media and Facebook, and everything changed. A recent survey from National Research found that a whopping 96% of the nearly 23,000 consumers surveyed now use Facebook to gather information about healthcare (up from 94% in 2011).

This healthcare information paradigm shift is forcing many doctors to rethink their place in the healthcare information hierarchy – and reconsider their attitudes about adding social media programs to their practices. Even the venerable healthcare information leader, WebMD, is being forced to rethink what it wants to be in the next generation of online health information. WebMD has seen a substantial drop in visits and advertising revenues of late. In fact, only hospital websites rated highly among consumers seeking health information. Half of respondents cited hospital websites as the most trusted of all.

Consumers trust friends, and friends are on social networks

Nearly four out of five consumers say they would trust the advice of a friend before they would trust anything else. Most consumers distrust advertising. And most no longer think of their doctors first (or second or third) when they’re looking for healthcare advice or information.

Americans think pretty highly of the usability of social media. When asked about social media’s influence, one in four survey respondents said it was “very likely” or “likely” to impact their future health care decisions. When asked about their level of trust in social media, one in three respondents rated it “very high” or “high.”

Americans using social media for healthcare information tend to be younger and more affluent. They are 41 years old on average. Americans not using social media for healthcare are 48 years old on average. Households earning above $75,000 were more likely to use social media for health care purposes than households earning less.

Diagnose Your Reviews

Another Temporary Patch for Doctors’ Medicare Pay

Federal budget legislation passed last month missed yet another chance to fix doctors’ pay for treating Medicare patients – a problem that has been bugging doctors and patients alike for more than a decade now.

Medical groups had hoped the House and Senate would use the recent “fiscal cliff” legislation as a chance to make the Medicare “doc fix” permanent. Instead, the bill provides a temporary patch as it has done every year since 2003. With this latest patch, Congress averted a drastic cut of 26.5 percent that would have hit physicians who care for Medicare patients on January 1. The latest patch temporarily alleviates the problem.

But Congress has simply delayed a massive and unsustainable cut for one more year. The American Academy of Family Physicians estimates that the average family doctor would have suffered a $27,000 Medicare pay cut without the fix. American Medical Association president Dr. Jeremy Lazarus has said that Congress must act over the next several months to eliminate this problem once and for all. The issue is scaring some doctors away from taking on Medicare patients. And many believe that Congress is making the Medicare program increasingly unreliable for physicians and patients.

One band-aid after another

Instead of fixing the formula once and for all, Congress just applies band-aid solutions. The Congressional Budget Office says it would cost $300 billion over the next 10 years to permanently preserve pay for Medicare doctors.

Congress has never agreed on a good way to find that money. This year’s fix, for example, takes money from hospitals. It cuts Medicare payments to hospitals that care for patients overnight and as inpatients by about $10.5 billion over 10 years. Hospitals are rightfully upset.

Analysts say there is bipartisan support in both houses of Congress for a long-term fix. Both sides have reportedly floated plans during the current budget negotiations, but the impasse on an overall deal has impeded the chances of approval. Physicians groups say they will continue to press Washington for a long-term solution in 2013, despite the dysfunction that has virtually paralyzed Congress from any meaningful change.

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