What’s New in Health Care Reform: March 28

What's New in Health Care Reform provides an overview of the past week’s news, updates, and commentary in health care reform and utilization management.

Mayo Clinic Uses Analytics to Filter out Meaningless Data for ICU Physicians

Using data analytics layered on top of the electronic health record, Mayo Clinic has turned the firehose of patient data into more of a trickle. The renowned hospital system headquartered in Rochester, Minnesota, has used that approach to filter tens of thousands of data points down to 60 pieces of critical information that are displayed for ICU physicians in a visually appealing format. Using “ambient-intelligence” applications licensed by the health system’s venture capital arm, the approach gives physicians an extra hour each day that can be used for bedside care, three Mayo Clinic physicians wrote in Harvard Business Review. Via FierceHealthcare.

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American Adults Just Keep Getting Fatter

American adults continue to put on the pounds. New data shows that nearly 40% of them were obese in 2015 and 2016, a sharp increase from a decade earlier, federal health officials reported. The prevalence of severe obesity in American adults is also rising, heightening their risks of developing heart disease, diabetes and various cancers. According to the latest data, published in JAMA, 7.7% of American adults were severely obese in the same period. Via NY Times.

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FDA Moves to Limit Ingredients for Bulk Drug Compounding

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration took steps to restrict what pharmaceutical ingredients large compounding pharmacies can use to manufacture drugs in bulk that do not go through the agency’s approval processes. Via Reuters.

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The Big Business of Home Health

The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, an influential body that studies health policy, is once again recommending Congress slash Medicare payments to companies that provide home health services. The bottom line: MedPAC has criticized the home health industry for several years, arguing taxpayers are overpaying while companies are reaping large profits. This may seem like arcane payment policy, but it is growing in importance as more people are treated at home as a way to keep costs in check. Via Axios.

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AIDS Researcher Robert R. Redfield Named to Lead CDC

A leading AIDS researcher and proponent of medication-assisted therapy for addiction was appointed to oversee the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Alex M. Azar, II, Secretary of the Health and Human Services Department, announced that the agency’s new director would be Dr. Robert R. Redfield, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore and co-founder of the Institute for Human Virology. Via NY Times.

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U.S. Regulators Renew Scrutiny of Menthol, Tobacco Flavors

Federal health officials are taking a closer look at flavors in tobacco products that appeal to young people, particularly menthol-flavored cigarettes, which have escaped regulation despite nearly a decade of government scrutiny. The Food and Drug Administration issued a call for more information about flavored cigars and electronic cigarettes, which currently have no flavor restrictions. Extra attention will fall on menthol, the only cigarette flavor permitted by Congress under the 2009 law that brought tobacco under FDA regulation. The FDA’s past efforts to begin regulating the ingredient have been stalled by industry. Via AP.

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NIH Will Examine Ethics of Its Study on Health Effects of Daily Glass of Wine

The director of the National Institutes of Health said that he has assigned a group of advisers to examine whether any improprieties were committed in a recently begun study of the health effects of moderate alcohol use—research that is being funded largely by the liquor industry. The inquiry, announced by NIH Director Francis Collins, responds to a recent New York Times article that said a pair of outside scientists, including one who became the study’s principal investigator, and an NIH official asked liquor companies that stand to benefit from the research to help pay for it. Via Washington Post.

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Researchers Puzzle over Deadly Heart Condition Tied to Blockbuster Cancer Drugs

Clinicians have seen remarkable progress in cancer patients treated with the class of immunotherapy drugs known as checkpoint inhibitors. In a small number of patients, they have also seen a rare but fatal cardiovascular side effect known as myocarditis. Now, with checkpoint inhibitors likely to be approved for a wider array of cancers, researchers are concerned that it’s only a matter of time before more patients develop the same autoimmune response. They still don’t know why. Via STAT.

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Grilling Meat May Raise Risk of High Blood Pressure, Study Finds

Evidence already shows cooking meat at high temperatures can cause potentially cancer-causing chemicals to form. Now, researchers say cooking red and white meat over an open-flame or at high temperatures—including grilling, barbecuing, broiling, and roasting—might modestly increase a person’s risk of developing high blood pressure. The results were presented at an American Heart Association meeting. “Our findings imply that avoiding the use of open-flame and/or high-temperature cooking methods may help reduce hypertension risk among individuals who consume red meat, chicken, or fish regularly,” Gang Liu, the study’s lead author and a research fellow at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, told TODAY. Via Today.

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Worn Like a Helmet, a New Brain Scanner Aims to Make It Easier to Treat Kids with Epilepsy

A brain scanner now used to guide treatment of patients with epilepsy and other neurological disorders is bulky and challenging to use on fidgety young children—but researchers hope it might soon be replaced by a new machine that’s not much bigger than a bike helmet. Scientists at University College London have created a prototype of a lightweight, easier-to-use version of a magnetoencephalography, or MEG, brain scanner. These machines monitor the magnetic field created when neurons communicate with each other, allowing physicians to see how the brain functions from one second to the next. Via STAT.

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Andy Tofilon

Andy Tofilon is a Marketing Segment Manager at Mayo Clinic Laboratories.

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