June 6, 2017

How Avocado Toast is Affecting your Benefits Spend

Imagine it’s a sunny Saturday morning. You’ve invited a few friends over, and they’re sipping on mimosas on the back patio. The coffee is on, and you’re just putting the finishing touches on an impressive eggs benedict recipe. The last step is to slice avocado for a side of trendy avocado toast.

You’ve cut it in half, and now comes the tricky part - removing the pit. You try to poke it with the tip of your knife, but it slips. The knife passes through the soft green flesh and slices right into the palm of your hand. The cut is deep, and you realize immediately that brunch is cancelled. You need stitches.

You’re now one of millions of victims of what doctors are calling, “Avocado Hand” - injuries sustained while trying to open an avocado. Avocado Hand is on the rise, and according to Simon Eccles of the British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons, there is a noticeable “post-brunch surge.”

Some of these injuries are serious, damaging tendons and interfering with the normal working of the hand. Most are superficial and require stitches, but do no lasting damage. Aside from the lamentable loss of several pieces of avocado toast and a painful end to your brunch party, what does Avocado Hand cost patients and employers?

Artemis found out using real medical claims data from our benefits optimization platform.

The methodology.

  1. First, we used the Explore App to create a Measure, a mathematical or scalar variable. We chose Average by Medical Claim Employer Paid Amount to see how much employers were paying for their population in general.
  2. Next, we wanted to narrow it down to specific types of claims. We searched for “Avocado Hand” ICD 10 codes - given the granularity of these codes, we were surprised to find there were no specific codes (yet) for avocado-related injuries. So instead, we settled on two claims codes:
  3. Laceration without foreign body of hand
  4. Open wound of hand
  5. Finally, we needed to find out how the cost breakdown would be different depending on where you sought care - the ER vs. an urgent care center. To see this information, we added a Breakdown (non-mathematical variable) to sort by Place of Service.

Once all the variables were in place, we created a bar chart visualization:

For the data set we used, if you visited the emergency room with an Avocado Hand injury, your employer will pay $249. If you sought care at an urgent care facility instead, your employer would pay just $60. Any given patient’s out of pocket cost will vary based on the type of plan, but copays are generally much lower at urgent care as well.

This analysis is based on a limited number of claims over a limited period, but it’s fairly consistent with the percentage difference experts find for ER vs. urgent care costs. Debt.org did an extensive analysis of different diagnoses codes and found similar results. ER visits are consistently about 5 times the cost of an urgent care visit.

Employers are taking this valuable intel and helping their members change their behaviors. Through targeted communications, employee education, and benefit plan design, employers are making gains to prevent ER overuse and save wasted dollars. And there are many, many situations where an urgent care center is just as well-equipped to treat patients as an ER: broken bones, strep throat, pink eye, urinary tract infections, superficial wounds, and more.

Employees can help make their health benefits sustainable and affordable by using urgent care centers for injuries and illnesses that aren’t life-threatening.

And now, to the final, burning question we had after doing our Avocado Hand analysis - how DO you safely slice this tricky fruit? The Haas Avocado Board has a great step-by-step instruction sheet with illustrations, plus tips and tricks for choosing a perfectly ripe avocado. The takeaway: don’t hold the avocado in your hand while halving it, and use a spoon to remove the pit.

Don’t do this:

 

Do this:

For more information on how you can gain insights into your health benefits data, request a demo of the Artemis Platform.
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