What’s New in Health Care Reform: Nov. 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.

Minnesota Faces Challenge in Halting Deadly Colon Infection's Spread

For years, a bacteria known as Clostridium difficile that can cause intestinal infections, crippling diarrhea, and even death was thought to be a problem confined to hospitals and care facilities. But some evidence suggests that more cases of C. diff, as it's more commonly known, are occurring outside of hospital settings, posing a challenge for health care professionals working to prevent its spread. In Minnesota, it's not a new trend. Via MPR.

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Overshadowed by Opioids, Meth Is Back and Hospitalizations Surge

The number of people hospitalized because of amphetamine use is skyrocketing in the United States, but the resurgence of the drug largely has been overshadowed by the nation’s intense focus on opioids. Amphetamine-related hospitalizations jumped by about 245% from 2008 to 2015, according to a recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. That dwarfs the rise in hospitalizations from other drugs, such as opioids, which were up by about 46%. The most significant increases were in Western states. Via Kaiser Health News.

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FDA Is Revamping Clearance Procedures for Medical Devices

The Food and Drug Administration is significantly revamping the way it clears most medical devices for U.S. marketing, planning to rely far less on comparisons with much older products already on the market. This reliance by the federal agency has been regarded as one of the weaknesses in the way it allows medical devices to be sold in the U.S., leading to problem devices like defective metal hip implants and bloodstream filters that fractured. Instead of insisting on full studies of such products, the FDA has allowed the standard to be “substantial equivalence” to already-cleared ones. Via WSJ.

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Mayo Partnership Aims to Teach Digital Stethoscope to Detect Heart Trouble

Now the Mayo Clinic is teaming up with the California medical device company Eko to conduct a clinical trial to see whether a new kind of digital stethoscope can be used as an early screening tool to detect compromised hearts. Heart failure affects 6.5 million Americans today, and many of them have asymptomatic left-ventricular dysfunction that could potentially be detected with the system. Via Star Tribune.

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FDA to Review Its Human Testing Protocols

The FDA is launching a review of its process to allow drug companies and other research entities to perform clinical testing on humans. Under the investigational new drug, or IND, phase of drug development, researchers obtain permission to start human clinical trials. Once an IND is submitted, the FDA has 30 days to object; otherwise, it automatically becomes effective and clinical trials may begin. Via Modern Healthcare.

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Millions Left behind as Diabetes Drives Surge in Insulin Demand

A global diabetes epidemic is fueling record demand for insulin, but tens of millions will not get the injections they need unless there is a dramatic improvement in access and affordability, a new study concluded. Via Reuters.

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Telemedicine Surging in U.S. but Still Uncommon

Although telemedicine visits have increased sharply in the U.S. in recent years, the vast majority of American adults still receive care from doctors in person rather than via remote technology, a new study suggests. The goal of telemedicine is to help improve access to specialty care, particularly in rural, underserved areas of the country, researchers note in JAMA. As of 2016, 32 states have passed so-called “parity” laws requiring insurance coverage and reimbursement for telemedicine visits. Via Reuters.

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Number of U.S. Kids Who Don't Have Health Insurance Is on the Rise

While not a big jump statistically—the share of uninsured kids rose to 5% in 2017 from 4.7% a year earlier—it is still striking. The uninsured rate typically remains stable or drops during times of economic growth. In September, the U.S. unemployment rate hit its lowest level since 1969. Via NPR.

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Alzheimer's Vaccine Could Cut Dementia in Half, Human Trials May Be Next

An experimental vaccine that could hold off Alzheimer's disease showed promising results in animal testing, according to researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. Testing in mice showed that the vaccine safely prevents the buildup of substances in the brain associated with the fatal disease, the team reported this week in the journal Alzheimer's Research & Therapy. There has been research in monkeys and rabbits as well, and the researchers hope the vaccine will progress to human trials. Via USA Today.

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Big Tech Expands Footprint in Health

Amazon.com Inc. is starting to sell software that mines patient medical records for information doctors and hospitals could use to improve treatment and cut costs. The move is the latest by a big technology company into health care, an industry where it sees opportunities for growth. The market for storing and analyzing health information is worth more than $7 billion a year, according to research firm Grand View Research, a business in which International Business Machines Corp.’s Watson Health and UnitedHealth Group Inc.’s Optum already compete. Via Wall Street Journal.

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Andy Tofilon

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

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