Science fiction is always a few decades ahead of real life — sometimes more.
A press release just came over the transom that reminds me of something I saw in the nearly-straight-to-video masterpiece Idiocracy.
For people who didn’t get a chance to see the film, it takes place 500 or so years in the future, when the human race has devolved into a race of utter morons: Pro wrestlers serve as president, Gatorade replaces water, etc.
And every human being is tattooed with their own personal bar code, which carries their vital statistics.
This press release from eMed-ID Franchising LLC brought those bar code tattoos to mind today.
eMed-ID, based in St. Petersburg, Fla., bills itself as “The world’s first medical identification franchise:”
“eMed-ID offers immediate access to confidential medical information that helps consumers avoid life-threatening delays in treatment, medical or surgical complications, allergic reactions and medication errors. The portable USB device, utilizing eMed-ID’s proprietary software, comes in a variety of options, including wristband, credit card style and keychain.”
OK, so it’s not a tattoo, but it’s still a little creepy.
To be fair, there is a great need for this kind of information, especially in emergency situations when paramedics and physicians must have information about allergies to antibiotics or medical conditions that could affect treatment.
But I’m not sure I want to carry my entire medical history around on a wrist band, credit card or flash drive. After all, credit card companies can’t seem to keep my Social Security number safe. How will they secure my medical history? And what if I lose the darn thing?
And if you look closely at E-Med ID’s website, you find it’s selling home-based franchises for around $10,000, which makes me even more skeptical, to say the least.
Here are some other med. device-related tidbits, gleaned from the wire over the last few days:
— The FDA warned 14 pharma companies about “misleading” and “misbranded” advertising on search engines, according to Ad Age:
“The letters, which were not warning letters but so-called ‘preemptive untitled letters,’ requested an immediate end to the ads and a written response from the companies by April 9. Some of the changes will include disassociating a branded drug from the condition it seeks to treat in the search ad’s headline, description lines and even URL name.”
I wonder if any medical device makers are touting their wares using search engine ads? If so, can a batch of FDA letters be far behind?
— I saw a piece in the Wall Street Journal (registration required) on the federal government making good on a plan to cut payments for private Medicare plans. I’m not much of an expert on reimbursement and how small changes like this can affect the broader picture, so I sent out an email to Ed Berger of Larchmont Strategy Partners and the vice president of the
Medical Device Development Group, asking if this was something device companies should worry about. What I got back was, as always with Ed, a very thoughtful response:
“No apparent impact on most device companies. Medicare patients may switch from Medicare Advantage plans to traditional Medicare fee-for-service plans on account of increased Advantage Plan co-payments, but the Advantage plans are, by statute, required to provide, at a minimum, all of the benefits of traditional Medicare. Advantage plans do offer some services beyond the statutory Medicare benefits package — eyeglasses, additional screenings, etc. — [so] there may be a very small number of device companies serving that narrow zone that will see reduced demand, but I can’t off the top of my head think of who they might be; I don’t, for example, think many seniors will forego eyeglasses if they need to pay for them.”
Ed went on to give me a little subtext:
“The history is interesting. Medicare private insurer capitation plans started with the idea that “managed care” — coordinated networks — would lead to reduced utilization (more prevention, less acute and emergent treatment) and better outcomes. The original schema provided a per-patient capitated payment equal to 95% of the traditional Medicare per-patient cost — i.e., a cost saving for Medicare was built into the program. And insurers were able, at the 95% payment level, to offer enrollees services, at no out of pocket cost, above and beyond the traditional Medicare package — optical services were the most popular, but also more screenings, etc. Over the years, driven by Republican efforts to increase the private insurer role in Medicare (with the distant dream of getting the whole system privatized), Medicare Advantage payments were increased above the cost of traditional Medicare and became an important profit center for some insurers. In other words, in order to incentevize movement of Medicare toward supposedly more cost-efficient and effective private management, the Republican-driven initiatives made Advantage plans less cost-efficient than the traditional government-administered program.”
Your tax dollars at work.