What’s New in Health Care Reform: Dec.12

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 Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, + 7 Other Hospitals Are Fighting Burnout

The health system started holding small-group meetings for physicians to gather in restaurants and coffee shops to discuss concerns and increase job satisfaction. Via Becker's Hospital Review.

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CVS Offers "Guaranteed Net Cost" for Pharmacy Benefit Clients

Pharmacy chain and benefits manager CVS Health Corp said as of January 1 it will offer a new prescription benefit option guaranteeing its health plan clients 100 percent of any rebates, discounts, or other fees paid by drugmakers. Via Reuters.

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Report: U.S. Health Spending Hits $3.5T but Growth Slows

The nation’s health care tab hit $3.5 trillion last year, or $10,739 per person, the government reported. But behind those staggering figures was some fairly good news: The rate of growth slowed for the second year in a row, according to economic experts at the federal Health and Human Services department. Via AP.

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Why States Might Start Taxing Opioids

The next wave of state actions against the opioid crisis may focus on taxing them—depending on the outcome of an industry lawsuit against New York, the first state to try it. Most of the bills that have been proposed would tax opioid painkillers and use the money for addiction treatment and prevention. But the health care industry argues that they're bad policy and, at least in the New York law's case, illegal. Via Axios.

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New Study Shows 1 in 6 U.S. Health Care Workers Are Immigrants

According to a new research letter published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, about one out of six medical professionals are foreign-born. And like Archana Chatterjee, one of three pediatric infectious disease specialists in the state of South Dakota, they often fill health care jobs in rural or underserved communities, places that have a harder time attracting U.S.-born medical school graduates. The authors of the research letter used self-reported data from the Census Bureau’s 2016 American Community Survey for their analysis. From a sample of more than 164,000 health care professionals, 16.6% were not born in the United States, and another 4.6% were not U.S. citizens. In the U.S., an aging population and projected rise in chronic illnesses are expected to strain the health care system in the coming years, without a similar influx of trained workers to fill those jobs. Fueled by these needs, health care industry employment is expected to grow 18%, or by 2.4 million jobs, in the next eight years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Via PBS.

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U of M Building First-in-the-World Cancer Surgical Suite

University of Minnesota Health and Fairview Health Services are building a first-in-the-world surgical suite promising to revolutionize the way brain cancers are treated. It's simply called the T-suite, named for its shape. Each of the four rooms in the suite possess different technologies, all with access to a ceiling-mounted mobile magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine. This means a patient will never have to leave the table for the surgeon to see what’s happening in the brain. “It will be the most advanced surgical suite in the world,” said Dr. Chuck Dietz, Chair of the Department of Radiology at the U of M. Via KARE 11.

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Telemedicine in Reverse: Rural Minnesota Doctors Exporting Their Craft

Telemedicine is growing rapidly in Minnesota, according to a study released last week, with rural patients seeking expertise via videoconferencing from urban specialists. But telemedicine isn’t just a one-way street from the cities to the sticks. Via Star Tribune.

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Apple Now Says Its Smartwatch Tech to Detect Atrial Fibrillation Is Not for Those with Atrial Fibrillation

The fine print on Apple’s latest foray into health care carries a seemingly strange caveat: its new Apple Watch technology to detect atrial fibrillation is not intended for people who have atrial fibrillation. The contradiction sums up the deeper questions raised by the introduction of a mass-market monitoring tool for the heart. Apple’s products are designed to inspire, with clean designs and seamless operation. But health care is messy and unpredictable. The latest gadget worn on the wrist is simply not accurate enough to handle the task of assessing serious medical conditions, according to health officials. It’s mostly a gateway for conversations with your doctor, and Apple’s detailed setup screens for the new watch are loaded with warnings and explanations, including one that informs people with atrial fibrillation that the Apple Watch app is not for them. Via Washington Post.

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Incontinence Drug May Cut Hot Flashes in Breast Cancer Survivors

Hot flashes, a common curse in menopause, can be especially bothersome after breast cancer. But a new study suggests an existing medication may help. The drug is oxybutynin (Ditropan XL), long used to treat urinary incontinence. The study found that women taking the medicine had an average of five fewer hot flashes a week, compared with three fewer among women taking a placebo. Via HealthDay.

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Health Care Providers Are Teaming with Chatbots to Assist Patients

Chatbots are already widely used in other industries—especially retail, where they're hard to avoid in online customer-service interactions, even if the customer doesn't realize what they're chatting with. And chatbots are gaining traction in health care, too, helping connect patients to providers and payers on an efficient, cost-effective medium: mobile devices and computers. Via Modern Healthcare.

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Andy Tofilon

Andy Tofilon

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