What’s New in Health Care Reform: Oct. 3

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.

Flu Vaccination Rates for Minnesota Children Drop with Age

Flu vaccination rates for Minnesota children increased slightly in the 2017–18 flu season compared to the previous year, according to data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But Minnesota health officials say too many children still remain unvaccinated and vulnerable to serious illness and even death. Via KMSP.

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Doctors Deliver Blunt Message about Record 80,000 Flu Deaths

Flu killed 80,000 people this past season and put 900,000 into the hospital, making it the worst influenza season in decades, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said. The numbers were shocking. Until now, the CDC has said flu kills anywhere between 12,000 and 56,000 people a year, depending on how bad the flu season is, and that it puts between 250,000 and 700,000 into the hospital with serious illness. The numbers for the 2017–2018 flu season go far beyond that. Via NBC News.

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Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Coffee and Your Health

Caffeine is readily consumed by about 85% of Americans one way or another every single day, according to a study published in Food and Beverage Toxicology. That’s quite a buzz! Coffee—caffeine’s most popular vehicle of delivery—has been closely examined by scientists and researchers for years to determine whether or not it’s healthy. Lately, science is tipping the scales toward healthy—a new study revealed even the heaviest coffee drinkers are less likely to die earlier than people who won’t touch the stuff. Via NBC News.

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The Risk of Alternative Cancer Treatments

A diagnosis of cancer, even an early-stage, highly curable cancer, can prompt some people to feel as if they’ve suddenly lost control of their future and that they must do whatever they can to regain it. Assuming that you will use an alternative method as a complement to, not a substitute for, conventional treatment, the Mayo Clinic suggests 10 options that are safe and “may help you cope with signs and symptoms caused by cancer and cancer treatments such as anxiety, fatigue, nausea and vomiting, pain, difficulty sleeping, and stress.” Via NY Times.

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Medicare Upgrades Its Website ahead of Sign-Up Season

Approaching annual sign-up season, Medicare is modernizing its website to make it more useful for beneficiaries already accustomed to searching online for insurers, hospitals and doctors, officials announced. Via AP.

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Health Officials "Very Worried" as African Swine Fever Spreads in Europe and Asia

Global health officials are preparing for African swine fever, which has been spreading in pigs across borders since 2014, reaching Western Europe last week. Humans are suspected to have caused the recent spread to Belgium, where eight cases were confirmed, as of September 25, according to the World Organisation for Animal Health. The most recent cases, however, were reported September 25 in a Chinese slaughterhouse in Hohhot, the capital of Inner Mongolia, according to the organization. There have been 29 outbreaks in China since the first case was reported August 3. China has culled nearly 40,000 pigs in response, according to the the organization's database. The virus reached China this summer and arrived in Western Europe for the first time in September in a separate simultaneous outbreak, leaving officials worried. As of Friday, Belgium had culled 4,000 domestic pigs from the Étalle region, according to the country's national federation of slaughterhouses, cutting plants and wholesalers for pork. Thirteen countries have banned some sort of pork imports from Belgium: Taiwan, South Korea, Serbia, Singapore, China, Belarus, Australia, Japan, Philippines, Mexico, Uruguay, Malaysia, and India. Via CNN.

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"Yo-Yo" Cardio Readings May Signal Later Health Risks

If your weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, or blood sugar levels fluctuate, you may have a higher risk of heart attack, stroke and premature death than people with more steady readings, new research suggests. According to the study, during nearly six years of follow-up, men and women whose readings changed the most were 127% more likely to die, 43% more likely to have a heart attack, and 41% more likely to have a stroke, compared with those whose readings remained stable. "Variability in metabolic parameters may have a role in predicting mortality and cardiovascular outcomes," said lead study author Dr. Seung-Hwan Lee, a professor of endocrinology at the College of Medicine at Catholic University of Korea in Seoul. Because the study looked at data from the past, however, it can only show an association between variability in these readings and risk. It can't prove that variability is the cause of the heightened risk of heart attack, stroke or death, the study authors cautioned. The researchers also didn't look at the reasons why the metabolic readings might fluctuate over time. Via CBS Health.

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Providers Are Going Digital To Meet Increased Demand

As the U.S. population ages and develops chronic diseases more frequently, provider organizations are turning to digital tools to meet increased demand for healthcare, according to a new report from Ernst & Young. Venture capital money has been pouring into digital health. In 2017, there were 345 digital health investment deals, totaling $5.8 billion—up 30% over 2016, according to venture fund Rock Health. Lower technology costs and more advanced technology fueled that growth, and those changes will lead to a proliferation of health data, EY said. Via Modern Healthcare.

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Patients Give Doctors High Marks For Prescribing Antibiotics For Common Sniffles

When they're sick, it seems Americans know what they want: antibiotics. And if they don't get them, their doctors' reputations may suffer. A study published finds that patients rated themselves happiest with their doctor's visit when they got an antibiotic after seeking care for a respiratory tract infection, such as a common cold, whether they needed it or not. Via NPR.

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Mayo Clinic Leads Among the Biggest Hospital Construction Projects That Kicked Off in September

The past month has been a busy one for construction and facilities upgrades, with no less than nine hospitals or health systems announcing projects that are either planned or already underway. Via Healthcare Finance.

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Andy Tofilon

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

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