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NCQA Releases Annual Health Plan Rankings

Fri, 09/19/2014 - 13:03

Kaiser Foundation, Tufts, and Harvard Pilgrim dominate this year's list of the nation?s top health plans according to the National Committee for Quality Assurance.

Categories: Healthcare News

Technology Lights Up Health Innovation Forum

Fri, 09/19/2014 - 06:51

The development and dispersion of cost-effective medical technologies that promise to boost wellness, prevention, and precision care are pivotal to the transformation of healthcare, experts say.

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Few Winners Among MSSP Participants

Fri, 09/19/2014 - 06:42

The top-performing ACO in the Medicare Shared Savings Plan netted CMS $57.83 million in savings thanks to its creativity and clever use of technology. Other organizations had a tougher time paring costs.

Categories: Healthcare News

Obama ratchets up fight against killer bacteria

Fri, 09/19/2014 - 06:25

President Obama moved via executive action Thursday to quell the rise of deadly antibiotic-resistant bacteria blamed for tens of thousands of deaths a year in the United States. Obama signed an order establishing a new interagency task force and directed its members to deliver a plan by Feb. 15 to combat the threat of so-called "super bugs," bacteria that have built up a resistance to antibiotics commonly prescribed to people and animals. Top U.S. health officials called the rise of the bacteria an "urgent health threat" with major implications for economic and national security.

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How much money do we waste on useless healthcare?

Fri, 09/19/2014 - 06:24

Every health economist remembers their first Dartmouth Atlas. Louise Sheiner got hers in 1998, when she worked at the Federal Reserve. She still has that same copy today — even though it was actually the Fed's property, and she left that job earlier this year for a new post at the Brookings Institution. "Nobody has come after me for it, at least not yet," Sheiner says. It's hard to overstate the importance of the Dartmouth Atlas, a research project begun in the mid-1990s by health-care researchers at (unsurprisingly) Dartmouth College. The 18-year study has shown the incredible variation in American health spending. What Medicare spends on a single patient's hospital care ranges from $5,371 in Utah to $8,937 in Maryland.

Categories: Healthcare News

Doctors should reveal biases and pharma ties, says group

Fri, 09/19/2014 - 06:20

Studies have reported that around 94% of doctors have some sort of relationship with pharmaceutical companies. One study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that more than one third of physician respondents received reimbursement from drug companies for costs associated with meetings or continuing education, and over a quarter received payments for enrolling patients in trials, or for consultations and lectures. Patients can already see if their doctor has received compensation from drug companies on ProPublica's database, Dollars for Docs—but one physician wants to take that a step further.

Categories: Healthcare News

Opinion: EHR success—4 change management process tips

Fri, 09/19/2014 - 06:19

"When did the software change?" You've no doubt heard that question once or twice. In healthcare settings, it often comes up when documentation and information on use of electronic health records are not communicated effectively. One reason users pose this question so often is that organizations sometimes overlook the importance of a good change management process as it pertains to EHRs. This, in turn, hinders the success of new EHR configurations. In the context of an EHR build, change management refers to "a project management process wherein changes to the scope of a project are formally introduced and approved," according to John Fillcetti's Project Management Dictionary.

Categories: Healthcare News

How much does that x-ray cost? You can find out in NH

Fri, 09/19/2014 - 06:17

When Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield became embroiled in a contract dispute with Exeter Hospital in N.H. in 2010, its negotiators came to the table armed with a new weapon: public data showing the hospital was one of the most expensive in the state for some services. Local media covering the dispute also spotlighted the hospital's higher costs, using public data from a state website. When the dust settled, the insurer had extracted $10 million in concessions from Exeter. The hospital "had to step back and change their behavior," said health policy researcher Ha Tu, who studied the state's efforts to make health care prices transparent.

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Your surgeon seems qualified, but can he type?

Fri, 09/19/2014 - 06:15

Like many clinics nationwide, my surgery office recently started using electronic medical records. Headaches and glitches abound, but over all, it has been a godsend: no more lost forms, deciphering lousy handwriting or waiting endlessly for someone to "pull the chart" if you want to look up a patient. Everything's in one centralized computer system, accessible anywhere. This brave new world, however, has created a singularly embarrassing moment at the end of all my new patient encounters. After saying hello, performing a history and physical examination, talking over the details of surgery and answering questions, I fire up the computer and start entering orders and preparing an after-visit summary for the patient to take home.

Categories: Healthcare News

When a hospital closes

Fri, 09/19/2014 - 06:14

People in this one-stoplight farming town really want their hospital back. The July 1 closure of Vidant Pungo Hospital, which gained national attention through Mayor Adam O'Neal's 273-mile protest walk to Washington, D.C., is a constant refrain here. People gossip about it over dinner at the Fish Hooks Cafe, or during the Tuesday night bluegrass and gospel music open mic night, held just down the street from the vacant hospital. In a scenario playing out in rural areas across the country, the closing has left local doctors wondering how they will make sure patients get timely care, given the long distances to other hospitals, and residents worrying about what to do in an emergency and where to get lab tests and physical therapy.

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Why I'm becoming a primary care doctor

Fri, 09/19/2014 - 06:12

A few weeks ago, I met up with two of my medical school classmates for a drink. I've known them for the past three years, but I never had a heart-to-heart with them before the other night. But it's the time of year when fourth-year students, like us, have to decide which medical specialty we want to pursue, and our conversations these days are full of gossip about who is choosing what. News travels fast through the medical student grapevine, and we discovered we had something in common. The three of us sought each other out that night because we all want to go into family medicine.

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Data Points to Boom in Private HIX

Thu, 09/18/2014 - 07:00

Many employers are looking at private exchanges not just as a way to just save money in the short-term, but as part of a long-term strategy to lower costs, says a PwC executive.

Categories: Healthcare News

Anthem Blue Cross, 7 CA Health Systems Create New Challenger, Business Model

Thu, 09/18/2014 - 06:54

Cedars-Sinai, MemorialCare Health System, and UCLA Health are among the health systems that have joined with Anthem to form an integrated healthcare network expected to challenge Kaiser Permanente's dominance in Southern California.

Categories: Healthcare News

FTC wary of mergers by hospitals

Thu, 09/18/2014 - 06:33

As hospitals merge and buy up physician practices, creating new behemoths, one federal agency is raising a lonely but powerful voice, suggesting that consumers may be victimized by the trend toward consolidation. Hospitals often say they acquire other hospitals and physician groups so they can coordinate care, in keeping with the goals of the Affordable Care Act. But the agency, the Federal Trade Commission, says that mergers tend to reduce competition, and that doctors and hospitals can usually achieve the benefits of coordinated care without a full merger. The commission is using a 100-year-old law, the Clayton Antitrust Act of 1914, to challenge some of the mergers and acquisitions, and it has had remarkable success in recent cases.

Categories: Healthcare News

End-of-life care needs sweeping overhaul, panel says

Thu, 09/18/2014 - 06:32

The country's system for handling end-of-life care is largely broken and should be overhauled at almost every level, a national panel concluded in a report released on Wednesday. The 21-member nonpartisan committee, appointed by the Institute of Medicine, the independent research arm of the National Academy of Sciences, called for sweeping change. "The bottom line is the health care system is poorly designed to meet the needs of patients near the end of life," said David M. Walker, a Republican and a former United States comptroller general, who was a chairman of the panel. "The current system is geared towards doing more, more, more, and that system by definition is not necessarily consistent with what patients want, and is also more costly."

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Hospitals and doctors fail patients by passing the buck on insurance rules

Thu, 09/18/2014 - 06:27

The moment when orderlies are wheeling you into the emergency room is not when health care providers should expect you to know the ins and outs of insurance networks. Yet that was exactly the reaction from some groups when the Center for Public Policy Priorities dared to point out a bait-and-switch practice going on at 23 major hospitals across Texas. My colleague Brian Rosenthal had a horrifying story Tuesday about how the doctors who treat patients in a hospital's emergency room may not accept the same insurance as the facility. That means if your are conscious enough to ask the ambulance to take you to an in-network hospital, you may still receive astronomical bills from the doctors who work there because they are personally out of your network.

Categories: Healthcare News

Clark Memorial (KY) may merge into Norton system

Thu, 09/18/2014 - 06:24

Negotiations about the possible merger of Clark Memorial Hospital into Norton Healthcare are heating up after nearly two years of closed-door discussions about a formal partnership. A public forum to discuss the future of the county hospital is scheduled for 6 p.m. October 1 in the lower level conference room at what could soon be called Norton Clark Memorial, 1220 Missouri Avenue in Jeffersonville. Martin Padgett, Clark Memorial's chief executive officer, will review what he and other hospital leaders feel are the benefits of joining the Louisville-based Norton system before opening the floor to attendees, who can share their thoughts on the proposal.

Categories: Healthcare News

Hershey Med-PinnacleHealth merger pushes forward

Thu, 09/18/2014 - 06:22

Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center said Wednesday a new organization has been proposed to contain a merged Penn State-Hershey-PinnacleHealth System. The proposed non-profit would contain entities including the medical center, its cancer institute and Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital, along with PinnacleHealth entities including Harrisburg Hospital and its two other hospitals. It could potentially include additional organizations that aren't presently part of Penn State Hershey or PinnacleHealth. It requires approval from Penn State University trustees, who are expected to consider it later this week. The new organization is tentatively called "Penn State Health," but the joined entity might have a different name, Penn State-Hershey officials stressed.

Categories: Healthcare News

Study: Tri-State hospitals struggled during Sandy

Thu, 09/18/2014 - 06:20

When Sandy slammed into the Northeast nearly two years ago, hospitals were dealing with surges in patients, lost power supplies and employees who couldn't get to work — problems that a new federal report finds they were not prepared to handle. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Service's Inspector General Office released a study Wednesday on the emergency preparedness and response during the storm at 172 hospitals in the hardest-hit areas of New York, most of Connecticut and all of New Jersey. The report, based on surveys of the hospitals and in-person visits to 10 of them, finds that 89 percent of them experienced "critical challenges," such as electrical and communication failures or problems getting enough fuel or beds to meet their needs.

Categories: Healthcare News

Pay issues weigh on anesthesiologists

Thu, 09/18/2014 - 06:17

David Rosen is the president of Midwest Anesthesia Partners, a physician group in the Chicago area that has more than 150 anesthesiology nurses and physicians. As is common in the industry these days, MAP formed from smaller physician groups banding together to try to resist being purchased by a large hospital system. Now, Rosen says, the future of health care is so uncertain that many anesthesiologists feel worried about how they'll be paid. Despite the uncertainty, Rosen says new technologies and best practices can make anesthesia better than ever. He spoke to Tennessean reporter Shelley DuBois about how his group will play its part to keep surgeries safe and pain-free.

Categories: Healthcare News