November 2014 Newsletter

Last year, Consumer Reports launched Health Law Helper, a free, personalized online tool that guided consumers through the
confusion surrounding the new health care law and let them check out their options. More than half a million consumers visited the site, and last week, at the Media Industry News Awards, it was awarded an Honorable Mention for best New Online Tool or App for Publishers.

We learned a lot in the first year, and made several improvements for this year's shorter open-enrollment period. The tool, available once more at healthlawhelper.org, now focuses on consumers' key questions: what to do if you lose insurance, and where to find information about tax credits. It also directs people to in-person assistance and encourages users to send us their stories and unanswered questions.

As before, the tool can easily be embedded on any website, so that a user can click through the flow of the tool without leaving your site. 

We love to get feedback from our partners and friends. So please let us know if you have questions about this service or stories about how you're using it in your own work to help consumers with insurance decisions.

Wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Consumer Reports.

Tara Montgomery
Senior Director, Health Impact

Choosing Wisely takes root in Central Ohio
We're not officially keeping score, but without a doubt one of our busiest partners these days is the Healthcare Collaborative of Greater Columbus, which keeps making new connections between Choosing Wisely and Central Ohio consumers, providers and payors.

So far, four provider organizations, three hospital systems, three health plans, two public retirement systems, one public health department, and one benefits organization are participating. It's all an effort to incorporate Choosing Wisely recommendations into existing initiatives to improve quality of care.

Providers in the region are integrating recommendations into their clinical delivery and displaying the co-branded "5 Questions" poster in their exam rooms to encourage the important conversations necessary to receive the right care, at the right time.

Purchasers, employers, and other healthcare stakeholders are including Choosing Wisely materials in their communications. And nine of the collaborative's partners have raised awareness about the campaign by creating microsites on ConsumerHealthChoices.org.

Difficult choices near the end of life
Serious illness, especially in an older person, demands tough choices from patients, their families and their health-care providers. To help inform those decisions, we recently launched a new in-depth collection of materials on caregiving, medical procedures for older adults, and end-of-life choices.  

Highlights include: a short and emotional documentary and companion article, both called A Beautiful Death, that follow a courageous man through his final weeks of life; a brochure describing palliative care, written in conjunction with the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization; and more than a dozen Choosing Wisely brochures on topics useful to caregivers.

You may find these materials both personally and professionally useful to explore.
Calling attention to hypertension
You often hear from us about conditions that are overdiagnosed and overtreated. However, when it comes to high blood pressure, we have a different story to tell. Our colleagues at Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs have just published a new report about the best drugs to treat high blood pressure, based on an evidence-based review of safety, effectiveness, and cost.  While there are an estimated 80 million Americans with high blood pressure, one in five doesn't even know they have it.  And studies suggest that half of those who are being treated don't have their blood pressure under control.  We encourage your members to read the free report online.

Encouraging medical students to share
In partnership with the New York State Health Foundation, Consumer Reports is planning a medical school outreach project to begin in 2015. The program will invite students to share with the public -- by contributing to Wikipedia -- what they learn in their classes.

Despite concerns about the quality of its information, Wikipedia remains a highly consulted source of health information and is used by all kinds of people. As an encyclopedia that is collaboratively written by volunteers, Wikipedia has always been guided by students who contribute to its articles.

In the Consumer Reports-led program, classrooms in New York and online will receive training and encouragement to contribute consumer health information to Wikipedia articles of their choice. The goals are to help the students learn by teaching and to serve the public with freely available online medical information.

Support our work
Knowing that you're a fan of Consumer Reports Health, we invite you to make a charitable contribution. Your contribution will help us remain a leading voice in championing consumers' access to high-quality health care. We hope you'll find it's a cause worthy of your support.

You can easily donate online or email us at [email protected] if
you have questions.

In the news
Washington Post: Prescription narcotics are potent painkillers, but they can be deadly.

The American College of Emergency Physicians has released its second Choosing Wisely list: Five Things Physicians and Providers Should Question.

Choosing Wisely Canada has expanded its list to include 61 new recommendations and 25 patient brochures.    


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