To help healthcare marketing and communications professionals remain informed about the latest news affecting our industry, Activate Health’s team is here with another monthly update on the top headlines throughout August.

COVID-19 stories once again dominate health news as new cases related to the Delta variant and among those who are not immunized soar. In a sign of how much virtual care has grown, Ginger and Headspace agree to the first-ever mega digital mental health merger; antitrust disputes are on the rise as both the FTC and consumers are paying close attention when large health systems merge with other large systems. Burnout is resulting in an existential crisis for primary care physicians even as healthcare consumers report that doctors need to be more empathetic to improve the overall patient experience.



Unvaccinated people 29 times more likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19, CDC suggests

Unvaccinated people in LA County were about 29 times more likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19 compared to fully vaccinated residents this spring and summer, according to the CDC. They were also nearly 5 times more likely to contract COVID-19 than vaccinated Californians.

White House, physicians urge employers to impose vaccine mandates following full FDA approval

The President called on U.S. employers to require their workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 during an Aug. 23 news conference held a few hours after the FDA announced it had granted full approval for Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine. The American Medical Association also immediately endorsed vaccine mandates for all employers.

Health workers deployed to Covid hot zones are overwhelmed by deaths among the unvaccinated

STAT’s rare access to a COVID-19 intensive care ward in Baton Rouge highlights the devastation being wrought not only on patients, but also on health workers. “Ninety-nine percent of the patients being admitted are unvaccinated,” said emergency response team nurse Bren Ingle. “They’re sicker when they get here. They require more acute care while they’re here. And unfortunately, many of them are not surviving.”

Pediatric COVID-19 cases up 84%, report finds

About 72,000 children in the U.S. tested positive for COVID-19 in the week ending July 29, up 84 percent from the week prior, according to a report from the American Academy of Pediatrics. The report is based on state-level COVID-19 data collected and shared by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association.

Seven ways this COVID-19 surge is different

Although communities have before experienced growing positivity rates, cases, hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19, the summer 2021 surge involves seven new or evolved factors that are worthy of consideration for leaders to best respond to the needs of their teams, patients and communities.



Ginger to merge with Headspace to create a combined digital mental health company valued at $3B

Teletherapy startup Ginger plans to merge with meditation app Headspace in a deal that will expand their combined reach to 100 million consumers. This mental health megamerger deal will create a combined company called Headspace Health valued at $3 billion.

Verily makes its first major acquisition as it looks to transform clinical trials

Verily, a spin-off of Alphabet, announced plans to acquire SignalPath, a Raleigh-based maker of clinical trials software, for an undisclosed sum. Verily will use the purchase to increase its appeal to research sites and speed its efforts on decentralized studies.

Commure to acquire HCA Healthcare’s Patient Keeper

Commure announced it will acquire HCA Healthcare’s EHR software company PatientKeeper with the goal of building a standardized health data framework. HCA is also investing an undisclosed amount in Commure and partnering with VC backer General Catalyst to identify potential collaborations between HCA and its other companies.

RNA firm GreenLight Biosciences to go public in $1.2 billion deal

GreenLight Biosciences agreed to merge with Environmental Impact Acquisition Corp., a special-purpose acquisition company, to take GreenLight Biosciences public and placing the value of the company at $1.2 billion. The Massachusetts-based synthetic biology company whose research ranges from developing pesticide alternatives for crops to a COVID-19 vaccine candidate says going public will allow it to advance its RNA manufacturing platform.

NJ Hospital Merger Put on Pause After District Court Ruling

The U.S. District Court of New Jersey stayed a proposed merger after the FTC filed complaint about how the merger of New Jersey-based Hackensack Meridian Health and Englewood Health would decrease competition and therefore drive up medical costs.



74% of insurers are worried they won’t meet No Surprises Act requirements

Seventy-four percent of health plans are worried about meeting the No Surprises Act’s Advanced Explanation of Benefits (AEOB) requirements, according to a new survey. Enacted in December 2020, the law is designed to end surprise medical bills for emergency and scheduled care. Most provisions included in the rule as laid out by the Centers for Medicare/Medicaid Services do not take effect until Jan. 1, 2022.

Texas prior authorization law ignites accountability debate

A new Texas law allows that make it easier for physicians to prescribe medicines or treatments that previously required prior authorization from the insurer has caused an outcry among insurance companies. Health insurers claim accountability issues while providers say that the new law is a good first step in reducing unwarranted and time-consuming paperwork.

Former HHS CTO Simcox highlights importance of 21st Century Cures Act

Speaking at HIMSS’ annual conference, former HHS CTO Ed Simcox laid out five reasons for health tech companies to be optimistic, particularly calling out the 21st Century Cures Act as a “game changer,” given its requirements to improve patient health data accessibility.

Congress urged to take steps to lower prescription drug costs

The White House called on U.S. lawmakers to enact legislation aimed at lowering drug prices, including allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices and imposing penalties on pharmaceutical companies that hike prices faster than inflation.

Judge bans Missouri from denying Medicaid expansion enrollment

Missouri cannot deny or restrict those newly eligible for Medicaid benefits, a trial court judge ruled, requiring the state to expand its low-income health care program to include roughly 275,000 additional Missourians.

Patients sue Mission Health, HCA for alleged antitrust practices

Six patients, all with private healthcare insurance, living in western North Carolina filed a lawsuit against HCA Healthcare and Mission Health alleging that anti-competitive business practices are driving up medical prices and negatively impacting the quality of health care offered.



Study finds disconnect between the term value-based care and patients’ interest in it

A new survey of US healthcare consumers found that more than 60% of those surveyed have never heard of value-based care, but 59% would support a system where providers are paid based on care quality.

Two in three healthcare consumers report a bad patient experience

A new study by Accenture Health found that 66% of patients have had one or more bad experiences with either a provider, hospital or pharmacy. Twenty-two percent of respondents said an inefficient visit led to a poor healthcare experience; 19% cited unhelpful medical advice; 17% said a surprise medical bill; and 11% blamed rude staff members. The solution? Fifty-five percent of patients want clinicians who explain medical information clearly, while 52% value providers who understand and meet their emotional needs.

U.S. ranks last in healthcare among 11 wealthiest countries despite spending most

An August 2021 study conducted by the Commonwealth Fund ranked the U.S. last in access to care, administrative efficiency, health equity, and health outcomes despite spending the highest proportion of its gross domestic product on healthcare.

Primary Care Faces Existential Threat Over Healthcare Workforce Woes

Clinician burnout, lay-offs, and other healthcare workforce challenges coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic are creating issues for primary care, according to a new survey by the Larry A. Green Center, Primary Care Collaborative and 3rd Conversation. About 40% of 700+ primary care clinicians recently surveyed worry that primary care won’t exist in five years’ time. Meanwhile, about a fifth say they expect to leave primary care within the next three years.

What employees what from their employer-sponsored health plans

A new study by Marathon Health found that both employees and employers believe health benefits offered need the most improvement among all the benefits workers receive. Employees prioritize preventive care services, mental healthcare, and access to providers.

Internet access limits patient portal use, furthers digital divide

While patient portal use is now up to 55% per a new study, researchers found that those who only have access to the Internet via their smart phones have limited ability to access the patient portal.