What’s New in Health Care Reform: July 18

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.

To Improve Treatment, Researchers Want to Hunt for Clues in Medical Records

Relevant information is buried—somewhere—within medical records and billing information. The question is whether it's practical to extract it from these systems, which weren't designed to be used for research. It's an uphill climb. Researchers involved in an experiment to explore medical records to study cancer treatment discovered that these data sources lack some very basic information. Via NPR.

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Amazon Has Global Aspirations for Medical-Supplies Marketplace

Amazon.com Inc. has global aspirations for its medical-supplies marketplace, according to a job listing posted on its website, highlighting the e-commerce giant’s sweeping ambitions to disrupt health care by selling products to hospitals, doctors and dentists and offering prescription drugs. Via Bloomberg.

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Physician Burnout a Key Driver of Medical Errors

There is growing evidence that physician burnout may impact patient safety, the authors add, possibly by contributing to medical errors, which are responsible for up to 200,000 deaths in U.S. hospitals every year, the authors add. To investigate, they surveyed 6,695 U.S. doctors on whether they experienced symptoms of burnout or fatigue or suicidal thoughts and whether they had made any major medical errors in the previous three months. The demographics and specialties of physicians in the survey were similar to what’s seen in the overall U.S. physician population. Via Reuters.

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State Has First Fatality from Rare Disease Spread by Common Tick

A Wisconsin woman has died from a disease rarely seen in Wisconsin and carried by a common pest: the American dog tick, also known as a wood tick. The woman, who was in her late 50s, died last month from Rocky Mountain spotted fever after being bitten while camping, La Crosse County public health nurse Jo Foellmi said. It’s the state’s first-ever death from Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Via WPR.

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Scientists Just Found a Novel, Cheap Way to Use CRISPR Gene Editing to Fight Cancer

CRISPR is by all accounts a fascinating technology. Its headline feature is that it can literally be used to slice, dice, and otherwise manipulate the body’s genetic code—functions that could carry staggering implications for treating everything from inherited disorders to cancer to HIV/AIDS one day. Now, new (though extremely early) research suggests that CRISPR could be used to vastly improve upon a new form of cancer-fighting methods that turn the body’s own immune T cells into specially targeted killers that attack cancerous tissue. Via Fortune.

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A Cure for Aging? Clinical Trials Will Begin in Humans

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic think they have identified a rogue cell, which works like a bacteria in the body, that could cause most age-related illnesses. These cells are called senescent cells, and they build up over time. If someone has too many of them, these cells can refuse to die and go on a destructive rampage within the human body, killing other cells that they come in contact with. Mayo Clinic scientists found that they could destroy senescent cells to stop and even reverse the ill effects of aging in rodents. The findings published on in Nature Medicine showed that the mice lived up to 36 percent longer. “This is exciting research,” said Felipe Sierra, director of the National Institute of Aging’s Division of Aging Biology. “Additional research will be necessary to determine if compounds, like the one used in this study, are safe and effective in clinical trials with people." Via Newsweek.

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Blood Pressure Linked to Lesions, Signs of Alzheimer's in Autopsied Brains

Older people with higher-than-average blood pressure have more markers of brain disease than their average-pressure peers, according to a study published in the journal Neurology. In particular, the researchers saw increased signs of brain infarcts, or areas of dead tissue caused by a block in the blood supply to the brain, when looking at postmortem tissue under a microscope. Autopsied brains also revealed that higher-than-average blood pressure is associated with one marker of Alzheimer's disease. Via CNN.

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Precision Genomics Point the Way to Mutations Associated with Accelerated Aging

Mayo Clinic researchers are using precision genomics to search for undiscovered, inheritable genetic mutations that cause accelerated aging. In a study recently published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, researchers conducted a study assessing 17 patients with short telomere syndromes—rare conditions that result in premature DNA and cellular deterioration. The ability to pinpoint the genetic abnormalities associated with short telomere syndromes is key to finding better ways to screen, diagnose and treat patients. "We're using precision genomics like a heat-seeking missile," says Mrinal Patnaik, M.B.B.S., a Mayo Clinic hematologist and clinical researcher. "Not to destroy, but to zero in on genetic mutations that may be linked with short telomere and other inherited bone marrow failure syndromes, providing unique insights into their disease biology." Via Medical Xpress.

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Low-Dose Aspirin Ineffective in Heavier Patients?

Low-dose aspirin may not be effective in preventing cardiovascular events in people weighing 70 kg (154 pounds) or more, a Lancet study suggests. Researchers analyzed 10 trials that evaluated aspirin versus controls for primary prevention of cardiovascular events in 120,000 people. Daily, low-dose aspirin (75 to 100 mg) was associated with reduced risk for cardiovascular events among those weighing less than 70 kg (odds ratio, 0.77), but there was no significant effect for heavier patients—roughly 80% of men in the study and nearly half of women weighed 70 kg or more. In the heavier group, low-dose aspirin may be even less effective in smokers and in those who take enteric-coated aspirin. Via NEJM.

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Ticks That Carry Lyme Disease Are Spreading Fast

Citizen scientists found ticks capable of transmitting Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses in dozens of places across the United States where the pests had never previously been recorded, a new study reports. All told, disease-carrying ticks were detected in 83 counties where they'd never been found before across 24 states. The numbers reflect a rise in tick populations across the country, said study author Nate Nieto. He's an associate professor with Northern Arizona University's department of biological sciences. "People should be aware of ticks and tick-borne disease, even when they may think there's not a recorded incidence of a tick in a county," Nieto said. "These things, they're not obeying borders. They're going by biology. If they get moved there by a deer or bird or people or pets, they're going to establish themselves and start growing." Via CBS News.

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Andy Tofilon

Andy Tofilon is a Marketing Segment Manager at Mayo Medical Laboratories. He leads strategies for corporate communications, public relations, and new media innovations. Andy has worked at Mayo Clinic since 2003. Outside of work, Andy can be found running, hiking, snapping photos, and most importantly, spending time with his family.