February 2015 Newsletter

When we began our Health Impact program three years ago, we aimed to build a network of organizations that shared our goal of bringing higher value health care to consumers and that had the power to reach millions of consumers with Consumer Reports' trusted content and messages.
Partnerships with employers were new to us at Consumer Reports, but our experiment is working: We now partner with more than 20 national and regional business coalitions as well as with health care collaboratives that include local employers.
We hope their employees also will benefit from some interesting pilot projects that provide resources such as Hospital Ratings, Choosing Wisely, and Best Buy Drugs. These projects are in partnership with technology platforms like Castlight Health and large employers like IBM.   We plan to leverage the lessons we've learned from some of these implementations and to pass them on to others.  Keep an eye out for the "Making Healthy Choices" employee toolset, which is just one example.  We're also hearing from employee benefits consultants that Consumer Reports information is valuable for employers themselves as well as the employees covered by the plans and programs they provide.
Over the next few weeks, we'll be attending a couple of forums where we hope to meet many of our employer partners and begin conversations with many more. Please look for us at the National Business Group on Health's Business Health Agenda conference in Washington, DC, from March 4 to 6 (Consumer Reports will be on a panel discussing appropriate use). We'll be with the Connecticut Choosing Wisely Collaborative on March 13.  And we're looking forward to returning to the Health & Benefits Leadership Conference in Las Vegas from April 8 to 10.
Let us know if there are other employer events where we can meet you this year!

Tara Montgomery
Senior Director, Health Impact

Tax help for that Affordable Care Act policy
Consumer Reports has updated its free, online Health Law Helper, just in time for tax season. For anyone wondering what to do about the tax credits they received, now that they're filing their tax returns for 2014, this web-based tool has the answers. And it includes advice for people whose initial tax credit was too large, or too small. 

Free safe pregnancy brochures available

With generous support from the National Business Group on Health, we have the opportunity to offer you free printed copies, in bulk, of our well-reviewed What to Reject When You're Expecting  for distribution among your networks. We have large quantities in English and Spanish, and would be happy to ship them directly to you at no cost. To order copies, please contact us . For additional information from Consumer Reports on safe pregnancies, including Choosing Wisely information, please visit our Safe Pregnancy e-Hub.

A new Choosing Wisely partner
The Coalition for Compassionate Care of California promotes high-quality, compassionate care for all who are seriously ill or nearing the end of life. Together with its partners, CCCC is shaping the future of palliative care at the local, state and national level. As the voice of palliative care in California, it continuously incubates and disseminates models and ideas to improve access to quality care for all people. CCCC is a collaboration of thought-leaders in healthcare systems, providers, government agencies and individuals. Through advocacy, education and resource development, it is working to ensure that organizations and communities have the information, knowledge and tools to create the future of palliative care. 

California: How does your doctor compare?
Truly useful ratings of physicians are hard to find. But we're working on it. For the second year in a row, we have given Consumer Reports subscribers in California a special insert on more than 170 physician groups in their state. The Ratings come from data provided by the California Healthcare Performance Information System. Sharing performance data generates conversations among doctors about techniques that lift the quality of care they provide. And making the information available to patients leads to one of the most powerful forces driving improvement -- educated health care consumers.
Respecting patients, reducing errors
In an article exploring the important role of patient "engagement" -- communication with respect and dignity -- Consumer Reports reports a striking link between respectful treatment in the hospital and preventable medical errors such as hospital-acquired infections and drug errors. The article also includes findings from a new, national survey of patients' hospital experiences and a list of the U.S. hospitals that score the highest in both patient respect and safety.

Do you really need a muscle relaxant?
In a new analysis on treating headaches, neck and lower-back pain with muscle relaxants like cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril and generic) or methocarbamol (Robaxin and generic), CR Best Buy Drugs says it can't recommend a "Best Buy" because there are few, good quality studies that show these medications are effective. Instead, the report suggests using other remedies such as heating pads, massage, or yoga. If those don't work, an over-the-counter pain reliever is the next step. Most people can forego the muscle relaxants, and their associated risks, as studies don't suggest they'll be any more effective than other treatments. But if you decide to try a muscle relaxant, the drugs should not be taken for longer than three weeks. Besides sedation, the most common side effects of muscle relaxants include dizziness, dry mouth, fatigue, and weakness. 

Support our work
Knowing that you're a fan of Consumer Reports Health, we'd like to 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 healthimpact@cr.consumer.org if
you have questions.

In the news
JAMA: An American Academy of Nursing leader wonders how best to make Choosing Wisely lead to real change.

New York Times: Despite decades of warnings, doctors still overprescribe addictive hypnotic sedatives to elderly.

Consumer Reports on Health: When your doctor's bedside manner is vital.