What’s New in Health Care Reform: Feb. 20

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.

Two Crises in One: As Drug Use Rises, so Does Syphilis

Public health officials grappling with record-high syphilis rates around the nation have pinpointed what appears to be a major risk factor: drug use. “Two major public health issues are colliding,” said Dr. Sarah Kidd, a medical officer at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and lead author of a new report issued on the link between drugs and syphilis. The report shows a large intersection between drug use and syphilis among women and heterosexual men. In those groups, reported use of methamphetamine, heroin, and other injection drugs more than doubled from 2013 to 2017. Via Kaiser Health News.

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CDC: Flu Shot Kept about 50% from Going to Doctor

This year’s flu shot has prevented about half the people vaccinated from getting sick enough to need to go to the doctor, according to new federal data. Overall, this season’s flu is significantly less harsh than last year’s, largely because of the effectiveness of this year’s vaccine, according to interim estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Via The Hill.

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Racial Disparities in Cancer Incidence and Survival Rates Are Narrowing

For decades, the rate of cancer incidence and deaths from the disease among African-Americans in the United States far outpaced that of whites. But the most recent analysis of national data by the American Cancer Society suggests that "cancer gap" is shrinking: In recent years, death rates from four major cancers have declined more among blacks than among whites. The report was published online in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society. Via NPR.

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To Prevent Pregnancy-Related Depression, At-Risk Women Advised to Get Counseling

Doctors can and should do more to prevent depression among pregnant women and new mothers by referring them to counseling. That's the recommendation of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an influential panel of clinicians and researchers that makes recommendations for patient care. Via NPR.

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'Zombie' Deer Disease: How to Prevent It and Avoid Eating Infected Meat

As more than 20 states report cases of a brain-wasting animal disease informally called "zombie" deer disease, officials worry that humans could be affected. Chronic wasting disease has been found in deer, elk, and/or moose in at least 24 states and two Canadian provinces since the start of the year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. There are no vaccines or treatments available for the disease, which is always fatal. "It is probable that human cases of chronic wasting disease associated with consumption with contaminated meat will be documented in the years ahead," said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. "It’s possible the number of human cases will be substantial and will not be isolated events." No cases of CWD have been reported in humans to date, but research suggests it poses a risk to humans. Via USA Today.

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Having Anesthesia Once as a Baby Does Not Cause Learning Disabilities, New Research Shows

A major international study provides new reassurance around the question of whether young children who have anesthesia are more likely to develop learning disabilities. The issue has troubled pediatric anesthesiologists and parents for well over a decade, after research on animals suggested that there was a connection. “They’re very important studies since most exposures are single brief exposures,” said Dr. Randall Flick, professor of anesthesiology and pediatrics at the Mayo Clinic Children’s Center. The average duration of anesthesia in children is about an hour. The pattern that emerged from early studies, Dr. Flick said, is that “a single exposure prior to age 3 or 4 seemed to have no impact on the frequency of diagnosis of a specific learning disability in children, but once you had two or more anesthetic exposures you saw a near-doubling of the frequency.” Via NY Times.

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Asthma Classes in School May Help Reduce Attacks

School-based programs may also help children feel less stigma about using an inhaler in school, said Dr. Avni Joshi, a pediatric allergy and immunology specialist at Mayo Clinic Children’s Center in Rochester, Minnesota, who wasn’t involved in the study. “Knowledge is power; these school-based programs empower children to detect and direct their own care,” Joshi said by email. “Their comfort with self-help increases and the use of medications is ‘normalized’ for these children, who in other circumstances may feel embarrassed to use them in the school environment.” Via Reuters.

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Personalized Diet Predicts Blood Sugar Spikes Better Than Carb-Counting

A great many variables play into the body’s glycemic, or blood sugar response to different foods—something like 72 factors, including genes, exercise levels, gut bacteria, and age, said Dr. Heidi Nelson, a co-author of the study. “People always think it’s about how much you eat, or calories, or carbohydrates,” Nelson said. “It’s not that simple. How do you explain somebody who eats broccoli and gets a glycemic response, and the same person eats ice cream and gets no glycemic response? That’s what happened with one of my colleagues.” The research, published in JAMA Network Open, showed that individuals had wide-ranging glycemic responses to simple meals. The researchers took it one step further, then, and developed a model for predicting blood sugar responses to foods, based on those 72 factors. Via Post-Bulletin.

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Why Hospitals Are Abandoning Double Patient Rooms

Hospitals nationwide are making efforts to add more private rooms in response to growing patient demand, reports The Boston Globe. Rochester-Minn.-based Mayo Clinic recently completed a $200 billion expansion project to add more private rooms. Now, 91 percent of the hospital's 1,296 beds are in private rooms. "A lot of folks come here expecting we probably have all private rooms," Ken Ackerman, Mayo Clinic's Associate Administrator for Hospital Operation, told The Globe. "It is something that our staff sometimes have to deal with. Patient experience can take a hit when patients have to share a room." Via Becker's Hospital Review.

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Andy Tofilon

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