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Reports: Amazon hopes to deliver packages by drone

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK — From its beginning during the dot-com boom of the 1990s, Amazon hasn’t shied away from trying new things, but its latest initiative goes above and beyond — with an emphasis on "above."

CBS’ "60 Minutes" reported Sunday evening that the online retailer is looking into delivering some products with drones. In a lab at its Seattle headquarters, the company has been testing electrically powered helicopter drones called "octocopters" that would pick up small packages in fulfillment centers, store them in small plastic buckets and deliver them over short distances.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos told CBS’ Charlie Rose that the "PrimeAir" drones are robotic, programmed with the GPS coordinates of a recipient’s address, and have a range of about 10 miles. The idea is to make it possible to have small items delivered within 30 minutes, though Bezos said it would be about four or five years before the service could be launched because the company would first need to come into compliance with Federal Aviation Authority regulations.

A video of the "60 Minutes" segment can be viewed by clicking here.

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Deloitte survey: Employers say outcomes-based medicine is answer to healthcare woes

BY Michael Johnsen

NEW YORK — Deloitte has issued a report showing that employers view the health care system as wasteful and expensive, and that the keys for improving the system are increased transparency around pricing and performance — both tenets of outcomes-based medicine. 

Deloitte’s 2013 Survey of Employers, which polled 500 randomly-selected U.S. employers with 50 or more workers offering health benefits during May and June of 2013, found that only 33% grade the performance of the system as "A" or "B," while 38% rate it a "C" and 29% "D" or "F." Regarding reform, only 22% said the ACA will reduce costs by 2019, while just 19% said it will improve quality of care by that time. About half of respondents said it will widen access to health insurance.

When asked what is likely to improve the system, the leading response was "increased transparency around the prices of specific medical products, services and procedures (52%)" followed by "clear, accessible information about the performance of care provided by doctors (46%)."

Bill Copeland, Deloitte Consulting, and national managing principal of Deloitte’s life sciences and health-care practice, said employers are frustrated over a perceived lack of value given what they pay into the system, and that they don’t believe the ACA is addressing this gap. "Employers feel they lack the data and tools to manage their concerns around cost and quality," he saiud. "I think in the coming year, they will join the front lines of the effort to improve the system by demanding more visibility and by strengthening the use of incentives and penalties to motivate employees toward healthful behaviors."

According to the survey, 80% of employers said their health-care costs have risen over the last three years, estimating 30% growth during that period. They estimatde passing an average of 26% of the cost increase to their workers. In fact, the top strategies used by U.S. companies to manage costs are employee cost-sharing (54%) followed by wellness programs (36%), plan design changes (28%), reducing benefits (20%), managing networks (195), limiting worker hours (18%) and using defined contribution plans (17%).

Other highlights from the 2013 Deloitte Employer Survey included:

  • Employers on average anticipate that their total health costs will be 19% higher in 2014 versus 2013;
  • About half (49%) share cost and quality information with employees regarding health-care providers, common procedures and medications;
  • About one quarter (26%) invest in rewards/penalties, technologies and coaching to motivate employees toward healthful behaviors — 39% of those companies which do so say they measure their return on investment;
  • Employers lack trusted sources to help them make value-based purchasing decisions. Those identified as the most trusted resources include independent consultants (24%), physicians (22%) and health insurance plans and third-party benefits managers (each 21%);
  • As many as 23% analyze their claims data to identify providers that do unnecessary testing or procedures or to see if providers are complying with evidence-based standards. Slightly more than one third use claims data to analyze employee use and costs regarding treatments, medications and other services; andEmployers point to hospital costs (75%), prescription drug costs (67%) and waste and inefficiency in clinical/administrative/billing processes (67%) as the chief drivers of overall health costs. Such factors as insufficient competition in insurance market, insufficient employee awareness and responsibility for costs and new technologies and equipment rated lower.

 

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Consumers shift shopping patterns on Cyber Monday

BY Dan Berthiaume

WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif. – Consumers show unique online shopping patterns on Cyber Monday. According to figures released by integrated online marketing company ValueClick, while most online shopping activity occurs between 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. local time on a typical weekday, the heaviest volume shifts to 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. local time on Cyber Monday, peaking at 8 p.m.

In addition, online transaction volume is 5.5-times higher on Cyber Monday than on a typical weekday, and some retailers generate more than 10% of their fourth quarter revenue on that day. Other Cyber Monday findings include:

  • A small peak in mobile phone transactions occurs at lunchtime.
  • 43% of tablet transactions occur between 6:30 and 10 p.m.
  • Offline sales during Cyber Monday 2012 were 38% higher than the average holiday shopping day.

 

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