Healthcare media highlights - April 2024

Healthcare media highlights - April 2024

The Briefing

1 April 2024
9 minute read
  Key highlights
  • The entire US healthcare industry has been affected by large-scale cyberattacks, prompting government officials to take action. 
  • Healthcare organizations have been plagued by high turnover rates for the last several years. Organizations are finding ways to remedy this problem with varying success rates. 
  • Wearable healthcare technology is an increasingly popular solution for long-term care, but experts are scrutinizing how effective it truly is. 
  • With the steady increase in ADHD diagnoses over the years, researchers are considering the long-term side effects of ADHD drugs. 
  • Walgreens is divesting many of its VillageMD clinics, which helped provide community care.

One month after the Change Healthcare cyberattacks, the industry is still reeling.

On February 21st, healthcare tech company Change Healthcare was targeted by a massive ransomware attack. Change Healthcare is a subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group, and its technology facilitates healthcare payments. After three weeks, Change Healthcare was able to restore its systems on March 15th. During this time, many insurance groups and providers had built up a huge backlog of claims with no way to process them. 

While systems are back online, it will take time for operations to return to normal. Systems are still undergoing extensive testing, and many providers are continuing to use the workarounds they’ve developed until security has been fully verified. Many providers are also concerned about how this outage will affect their finances for the quarter. 

Due to the severity of these attacks, government officials are calling for new legislation to prevent future issues. US Representative Jamie Raskin (D-MD) has written an inquiry to UnitedHealth Group’s CEO focusing on security improvements and financial assistance measures for providers affected. 

Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) has also introduced legislation that would allow the Department of Health and Human Services to provide accelerated payments in the event of a cyberattack. This would help prevent cyberattacks from disrupting cash flow and operations. In order to qualify for these reimbursements, providers would need to meet the DHHS’s minimum cybersecurity standards. Should the bill pass, it would incentivize healthcare organizations to invest in effective cybersecurity strategies. 




Healthcare organizations are exploring different solutions to help with high turnover rates. 

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare providers have been struggling with high turnover rates, particularly among nurses and doctors. Across the industry, these organizations have been digging deep to find solutions and keep their staffing rates more stable. 

Many hospitals have been relying heavily on private equity-backed staffing firms to fill open positions. Most recently, Ascension Health Systems has switched to private equity staffing at 10 of its Chicago-area hospitals. Between 2020 and 2023, private equity staffing firms have been involved in 60% of clinical staffing transactions


Providers have been interested in working with these staffing firms in an effort to drive revenue in a tough economy. These staffing firms have a reputation for pushing doctors to take higher caseloads, which can boost cash flow but increase burnout among physicians. Additionally, many doctors working with these firms worry about decreases in long-term pay. 

Other systems have been using technology to attract and retain workers, rather than outsourcing. For example, Nebraska Medicine has been able to reduce turnover among first-year nurses by 50% by implementing AI solutions. AI helped simplify complex and time-consuming workflows, which made operations more efficient. 

Research has indicated that many healthcare organizations are also increasing their employee perks as an effort to acquire top talent. For example, many healthcare providers are offering substantial signing bonuses, expanded family leave policies, and tuition reimbursement as part of their hiring packages. This comes at a time when other industries are reducing employee benefits.  

The US government is also taking steps to get turnover under control. A bill intended to help healthcare workers manage burnout recently passed out of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. This bill will create grants for healthcare organizations to launch employee mental health programs and support systems. 



Experts are scrutinizing the success rates of wearable tech. 

Several new studies are analyzing the impacts of wearable healthcare technology on patients. Wearable technology is often touted as an effective solution for patient care and monitoring. However, new research indicates that it may not always generate positive patient outcomes. 

In particular, a new study indicates that diabetes management tools don’t result in long-term clinical benefits. Many of these tools are a significant investment for patients, and the study indicates that wearables don’t provide long-term benefits to justify their high price tag. Notably, the study found that those who use wearable diabetes technology experienced only small decreases in their A1C levels compared to those who used other treatments. These reductions were not significant enough to affect long-term health outcomes. However, some experts have stated that the analysis was not comprehensive enough and did not provide a full picture of wearable use for diabetes. 


The New England Journal of Medicine also recently conducted reviews on the efficacy of wearables to treat a variety of conditions, including diabetes, cardiovascular disorders, epilepsy, and depressive disorders. These reviews highlight many of the benefits of wearables, including the ability to monitor a variety of health indicators in real time. They also addressed key concerns with wearable technology, namely patient privacy and agency concerns. Patients will need to develop healthcare data literacy skills, which could result in more agency over their treatments. 


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The rate of ADHD diagnoses has increased — what are the long-term side effects of the stimulants that treat them?

The rates of ADHD diagnoses among both adults and children have generally increased over the past two decades, with some fluctuations. This increase in diagnosis is likely thanks in part to increased awareness and education about this condition, although some researchers worry about potential overdiagnosis

Many ADHD patients rely heavily on stimulant medications like Adderall and Ritalin to manage their symptoms. Because patients often have to take these medications for their entire lifespan, researchers are examining their long-term effects to learn more about patient safety. For example, one study found that patients who took ADHD stimulant medications were 17% more likely to to develop cardiomyopathy after one year and 57% more likely to develop it after eight years. However, the overall risk of cardiomyopathy is still very low. 

Despite these risks, ADHD medications still offer numerous benefits for patients who struggle with ADHD symptoms. One recent study found that some stimulant medications were associated with a decreased risk of hospitalization and suicide for patients. 

Walgreens is closing or selling a large portion of its VillageMD clinics around the country. 

In 2021, Walgreens made a $5.2 billion investment in VillageMD, a national chain of community primary care clinics with locations throughout the United States. Over the past several months, the pharmacy giant has pulled back on this investment, citing significant losses from VillageMD operations. When the investment was initially made, Walgreens had ambitious plans to open VillageMD clinics as part of new Walgreens locations, but this plan has since been stalled. 

Since January 2024, Walgreens has closed or sold VillageMD clinics in Florida, Indiana, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Illinois, and Nevada. However, many patients still rely on these community clinics as part of their healthcare routine. Retail brands like Walgreens, CVS, and Walmart have all invested in care clinics in recent years, but have yet to find lasting success in the current industry landscape. 

What to investigate further

Healthcare consulting comes with a variety of complex challenges. Organizations in this industry need to prioritize patient outcomes while balancing difficult financial and operational challenges. 

Cybersecurity and staffing concerns persist despite extensive efforts to remedy these problems. Healthcare organizations will need to be proactive and anticipate these challenges, rather than reacting to emergencies after they happen. Questions to consider include: 


  • Patient data security: Can new legislation help prevent data breaches in the future? Will healthcare organizations be able to adapt to stricter cybersecurity compliance measures without compromising operations?
  • Staffing: How can hospitals change their staffing strategies to prevent turnover? What will entice doctors and nurses to stay in their current roles?
  • Long-term patient outcomes: Healthcare companies have invested heavily in making care more accessible through new technologies and care structures. How effective are these innovations, and what will it take to get consumers to adopt them? 

Interested in launching a study on these topics? Reach out to Potloc today to jumpstart a market research study for your strategic projects. 

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