What’s New in Health Care Reform: Aug. 1

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.

How the Medical Community Is Working to Prevent Suicides

Around the United States, suicide rates are on the rise. In Minnesota alone, the rate increased 40.6% between 1999 and 2016, according to the latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So what are medical professionals doing to prevent suicides? MPR News host Cathy Wurzer spoke with J. Michael Bostwick, M.D., to learn more. He's a psychiatrist at the Mayo Clinic who specializes in the study of suicide. Via MPR.

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1,400 Nursing Homes Get Lower Medicare Ratings because of Staffing Concerns

Medicare has lowered its star ratings for staffing levels in 1 in 11 of the nation’s nursing homes—almost 1,400 of them—because they either had inadequate numbers of registered nurses or failed to provide payroll data that proved they had the required nursing coverage, federal records released last week show. Medicare only recently began collecting and publishing payroll data on the staffing of nursing homes as required by the Affordable Care Act of 2010, rather than relying as it had before on the nursing homes’ own unverified reports. Via Kaiser Health News.

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Surgeon General, Hospitals Team up to Combat Opioid Abuse

Saying there is still a lot of "low-hanging fruit," U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams announced that his office will partner with the American Hospital Association to further combat the opioid epidemic. Speaking at the AHA's Leadership Summit in San Diego, Adams was short on details about the collaboration, other than saying that it will launch this fall. There's no formal arrangement in place at this point. AHA officials did not lay out specific actions items either, but suggested that work will could center around education materials and spreading best practices. Via Modern Healthcare.

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A Promising Drug to Slow the Progression of Alzheimer’s Was Just Unveiled

The path to finding a drug that would stop the progression of or reverse the disease has been littered with failures. And that’s largely because of how complicated Alzheimer’s is. “It’s a complex system failure—multiple areas of the brain that depend on each other fail,” said Ronald Petersen, director of the Mayo Clinic Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center. So despite spending billions of dollars on research into a variety of therapeutic approaches, there have been no new drugs in 15 years. And while amyloid buildup is necessary to diagnose the disease, there are many potential contributors to Alzheimer’s—including genetics or a history of head injury or stroke. Via Vox.

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NIH and FDA Leaders Tap Diverse Sources for Big Data Initiatives

The National Institutes of Health and Food and Drug Administration are developing ways to bring data from multiple populations and sources—including electronic health records—into their work to improve care and outcomes. Leaders from both agencies spoke before the House Energy and Finance Committee in a hearing on implementing the 21st Century Cures Act, updating the committee on progress they've made toward improving patient care through data and other requirements of the law. Via Modern Healthcare.

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Alcohol in Breast Milk May Lead to Lower Cognition in Kids, Study Finds

Children's exposure to alcohol through breast milk may cause a comparable drop in their cognitive abilities, according to a study published in the journal Pediatrics. The authors obtained data from a longitudinal study, a continuous study of data over a period of time, of 5,107 Australian infants who were recruited in 2004 and evaluated every two years until age 11. Their mothers were asked about their alcohol consumption from a modified questionnaire used by the World Health Organization. They were also asked about daily cigarette smoking during pregnancy and breastfeeding. The children were quizzed on their vocabulary, nonverbal reasoning and cognitive processes. Via CNN.

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Physicians Aren’t "Burning Out." They’re Suffering from Moral Injury

Physicians on the front lines of health care today are sometimes described as going to battle. It’s an apt metaphor. Physicians, like combat soldiers, often face a profound and unrecognized threat to their well-being: moral injury. Moral injury is frequently mischaracterized. In combat veterans it is diagnosed as post-traumatic stress; among physicians it’s portrayed as burnout. But without understanding the critical difference between burnout and moral injury, the wounds will never heal and physicians and patients alike will continue to suffer the consequences. Burnout is a constellation of symptoms that include exhaustion, cynicism, and decreased productivity. More than half of physicians report at least one of these. But the concept of burnout resonates poorly with physicians: it suggests a failure of resourcefulness and resilience, traits that most physicians have finely honed during decades of intense training and demanding work. Even at the Mayo Clinic, which has been tracking, investigating, and addressing burnout for more than a decade, one-third of physicians report its symptoms. Via STAT.

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Scientists Warn New Ebola Strain Found in West Africa Has Potential to Infect Humans

Just days after the end of an outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo that killed dozens, and two years after a major outbreak in West Africa that left thousands dead, Sierra Leone said it had discovered a new strain of the virus that also has the potential to infect human cells. While the new Bombali Ebola species, named after a northern part of the country, has the ability to infect humans, researchers told Agent France-Presse it’s not yet known whether the new virus can develop into a new Ebola disease. Via Newsweek.

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Suicide Details Reported by the Media May Lead Others to Copy

How the media reports on suicides may impact whether others decide to kill themselves in the days following the original death, a study suggests. An international team of researchers analyzed newspaper reports and suicide patterns over a four-year period to determine if any sort of coverage was moreor lesslikely to spark copycat attempts. “We’re not saying that reporting about suicides is bad or that news organizations shouldn’t report on suicide issues,” said study coauthor Dr. Ayal Schaffer, a professor in the department of psychiatry at the University of Toronto. “But we know that specific aspects of reporting can have a significant effect on suicide contagion. This has been shown across many different groups and many different countries.” Via Reuters.

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Major Medical Errors Associated with High Levels of Physician Burnout, Study Says

Physicians in this country experience extremely high levels of burnout—land that’s contributing to medical errors. That’s the conclusion of a new Mayo Clinic study that found more than half of the physicians nationwide experience burnout, defined as either emotional exhaustion or a feeling of distance from a one’s job and colleagues, said Dr. Christine Sinsky, the vice president of professional satisfaction at the American Medical Association and a researcher on the study. The study, published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, compiled survey results from 6,695 physicians responding to topics including fatigue, burnout, thoughts of suicide and workplace safety. Via Sacremento Bee.

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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.