What’s New in Health Care Reform: Dec. 5

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 OKs Medical Marijuana to Treat Alzheimer's

Minnesota Alzheimer's disease patients will be eligible to use medical marijuana in their treatment starting next August. State Health Department officials announced they've added Alzheimer's as qualifying condition to receive medical cannabis. The decision, part of the department's regular process to review requests for treatment, means patients suffering from the crippling neurological disorder can enroll starting in July with their doctor's approval. Via MPR.

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U.S. Life Expectancy Declines again, a Dismal Trend Not Seen Since World War I

Life expectancy in the United States declined again in 2017, the government said in a bleak series of reports that showed a nation still in the grip of escalating drug and suicide crises. The data continued the longest sustained decline in expected life span at birth in a century, an appalling performance not seen in the United States since 1915 through 1918. That four-year period included World War I and a flu pandemic that killed 675,000 people in the United States and perhaps 50 million worldwide. Via Washington Post.

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Polio-Like Disease in U.S. Kids Appears to Have Peaked for 2018, CDC Says

Federal health officials said Monday that cases of the paralyzing, polio-like illness that was spiking in children in the United States this year appears to have peaked. In 2018, 134 cases of acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM, have been confirmed in 33 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Another 165 cases are under investigation. In a statement, the CDC said officials expect the number of cases to decline for the remainder of the year. Most of the latest confirmed cases occurred in September and October. Via Washington Post.

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U.S. Relies Heavily on Foreign-Born Health Care Workers

More than one in four doctors in the United States were born in another country, and a new study suggests many nurses, dentists, pharmacists, and home health aides are also immigrants. Researchers who analyzed U.S. census data on 164,000 health care professionals found that overall, almost 17 percent weren’t born in America and almost five percent were not U.S. citizens. Via Reuters.

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Another Drug Crisis: Methamphetamine Use by Pregnant Women

Kristen Philman, a resident of Littleton, Colorado, is among thousands of women around the United States who used the stimulants methamphetamine or prescription amphetamines during their pregnancy in recent years, researchers say. While the trend has garnered little media attention, physicians in some regions have been struggling to tackle the problem and the impact of the drug on the women and infants. Via NPR.

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Amazon Makes Inroads Selling Medical Supplies to the Sick

Amazon.com is selling medical products to patients based on one of the most private corners of the health system: electronic medical records. A growing number of doctors around the U.S. can direct a patient to Amazon to buy blood-pressure cuffs, slings, and other supplies via an app embedded in the patient’s private medical record. Via Wall Street Journal.

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CVS to Pilot Stores with Additional Floor Space for Health

CVS Health Corp plans to roll out a handful of pilot stores early next year that will devote more floor space to health care services such as nutrition and exercise counseling as well as blood draws, Chief Executive Officer Larry Merlo said. Via Reuters.

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Shingles Vaccine Shortage Continues to Frustrate

A relatively new shingles vaccine that can dramatically reduce the likelihood of developing the painful condition has become so popular that clinics and pharmacies are having trouble keeping it in stock. Shingles is a blistery flare-up of the chicken pox virus, which lingers in nerve tissue after chicken pox goes away. GlaxoSmithKline's new Shingrix is more than 90% effective in heading off shingles in people over 50 with the full complement of two doses within six months of each other.Via MPR.

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What Are the Effects of Vitamin B12 Deficiency?

A deficiency of vitamin B12 can cause neurological and psychiatric problems that “can progress if left untreated, and can lead to irreversible damage,” said Donald Hensrud, M.D., Director of the Mayo Clinic’s Healthy Living Program. Fortunately, it can be reversed fairly easily with vitamin pills or injections. Via NY Times.

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Burnout among Physicians a Pervasive Problem That Can Lead to Major Medical Errors

When Dr. Cori Poffenberger curls up on her couch after a long day at work, there's no relaxing. She is an emergency room physician, and at night, she spends hours filling in patient charts and reviewing test results. Poffenberger's evening electronic record-keeping comes after a full day of seeing patients, teaching medical students, preparing dinner for her family, and putting her children to bed. This after-office-hours work is what doctors call "pajama time," and experts say it is a leading cause of physician burnout. In a 2018 Mayo Clinic survey, more than 10% of the doctors admitted they had committed what they considered to be a "major medical error" in the three months before taking the survey. Via NBC News.

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Andy Tofilon

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