What’s New in Health Care Reform: Oct. 31

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.

Facing an Overdose Epidemic, Some ERs Now Offer Addiction Treatment

Instead of providing ­anti-addiction medication, many hospitals give ER patients with drug-related conditions the telephone numbers of local treatment clinics. Despite a drug overdose epidemic that is killing nearly 200 Americans every day and sending thousands more to ERs, the vast majority of the nation’s more than 5,500 hospitals have so far avoided offering any form of addiction medicine to emergency patients. That’s starting to change. Via Washington Post.

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The 100 Cities "Getting Health Care Right," According to Healthgrades

Healthgrades released its National Health Index, which lists the 100 cities in the United States that are "getting health care right." Rochester, Minnesota, took the top spot. For the list, Healthgrades looked at data on 130 metropolitan areas. Healthgrades examined four factors to determine each city's ranking: Access to care—including what percentage of the city's population that has health care coverage, whether cost restricted people from seeing a doctor, and whether people ages 50 to 75 had a colonoscopy in the past 10 years; Population health—including what percentage of the city is in good or better health, what percentage has a "normal" body mass index, and what percentage of the population visited a dentist in the past year; Hospital quality—including the percentage of five-star hospitals across all quality ratings awarded in the market, how many hospitals demonstrated clinical excellence across multiple conditions and procedures, and the average statistical measure of clinical outcomes for hospitals in the market; and Local specialists—including the number of specialists per capita. Via Advisory Board.

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Why Peanut Reactions Have Become "Almost Epidemic"—and What to Do about Food Allergies

Among children, allergies to peanuts and other types of food continues to climb, but experts say there is some progress in controlling or preventing life-threatening reactions. A food allergy, defined as a reaction that occurs when the immune system attacks harmless proteins, is an ailment that drugmakers are working to treat. One method involves treatments that introduce small amounts of peanuts to allergy sufferers, which gradually increases the amount to build tolerance. The exploding segment of the population suffering from certain food ailments is skyrocketing, and experts are stumped on the reasons why. A study from the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute at New York's Mount Sinai hospital found that from 1997 to 2008, peanut allergies tripled from 1-in-250 children to 1-in-70. "It really is almost an epidemic," Dr. Scott Sicherer, the institute's director, told CNBC's "On the Money." "It's impossible to deny an increase, even with anecdotal reports from school nurses," he said, adding that "about two (children) per classroom have food allergies. It's not just our imagination." Via CNBC.

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Advice from Health Care’s Power Users

If the health care system seems confusing to you, you are not alone. In a large recent survey of the most seriously ill people in America, we learned that they, too, find it difficult to navigate. But they have developed a few strategies for getting through. Here are some tips and pitfalls about how to be sick from a group with lived experience. Via NY Times.

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Hundreds Get Rid of Unused or Expired Prescription Drugs

Saturday was National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. In Rochester, Mayo Clinic teamed up with the Olmsted County Sheriff’s Office to teach the public about disposing of medications. "We are not exempt from the opioid epidemic here in Rochester. We know there are issues with opioids, that people are abusing them, selling them, diverting them," said Chair of Mayo Clinic Opioid Stewardship Program Halena Gazelka, M.D. Dr. Gazelka says that the problem can begin with overprescribed medications. Via KAAL.

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AMA Invests $15 Million to Improve Physician Residency Training

The American Medical Association announced it will invest $15 million to support innovations that transform residents' medical education. In a call with reporters, AMA CEO and Executive Vice President Dr. James Madara said the goal of the five-year grant program is identifying effective ways of incorporating relevant workforce skills in graduate medical education programs. That will prepare future physicians for the demands of the current healthcare landscape. Via Modern Healthcare.

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Premature Birth Rates Rise again, But a Few States are Turning Things around

The rate of premature birth across the United States rose for the third year in a row, according to the annual premature birth report card from March of Dimes, a nonprofit organization that works to improve maternal and infant health. This comes after nearly a decade of decline from 2007 to 2015. Via NPR.

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Training the Next Generation of Doctors and Nurses

For decades, medical education has followed a timeworn path—heaps of book learning and lectures, then clinical rotations exposing students to patients. But as technology explodes into patient care (surgeons can preview operations using virtual 3-D images built from a patient’s scans), the gap between medical education and real-world care has “become a chasm,” said Marc Triola, director of N.Y.U. Langone’s Institute for Innovations in Medical Education, created in 2013 to address the issue. Via NY Times.

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Accessing Health Care in Rural America

Life in rural America has its advantages, with some remote communities perched in arguably the most beautiful landscapes in the U.S., from Alaska’s wild fringes and beneath Montana’s big sky to northern Minnesota’s lake country. But, where access to health care can be limited, living in less populous places isn’t for the faint of heart. Doctor shortages—from primary care to obstetrics—hit wide-open places hardest. Less people means less patient demand for a host of medical services, though in some ways there’s more need per individual, as residents in rural communities tend to be older, on average, than those in urban centers. Via U.S. News & World Report.

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Heart Failure Stem Cell Trial to Be Paused after Calls for Retraction

The National Institutes of Health will pause human testing of an experimental stem cell therapy for heart failure while a board charged with overseeing patient safety reviews the taxpayer-funded trial, in light of emerging questions about the scientific foundation for the treatment. Outside physicians and scientists have been publicly calling for the trial to be suspended since news earlier this month that a years-long Harvard investigation uncovered “false and/or fabricated data” in 31 scientific papers from the laboratory of Piero Anversa, a researcher whose blockbuster findings raised hope there were stem cells in the heart that could repair damaged muscle. Anversa is not directly involved in the trial, but the heart stem cells he identified are being injected into the hearts of some of the patients. The decision to temporarily pause the trial came “out of an abundance of caution,” said David Goff, director of the Division of Cardiovascular Sciences at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, who said the trial’s scientific rationale is largely based on animal studies not conducted by Anversa. Via Washington Post.

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Andy Tofilon

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

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