A project of the Galen Institute

Issue: "Medical Innovation"

Will Health Make It More Likely That You'll Get Scammed?

Alison Bruzek
NPR
Tue, 2014-09-30
"You wake up feeling gross – stuffy and full of aches. A quick Google search of your symptoms confirms that yes, you probably have a cold and not the plague. But what if you were directed to a site that had a legitimate sounding name but wasn't really accurate at all? It sounds like a problem from the ancient days of the Internet. Since then people have learned that .gov leads to bona fide government sites, but .com could be anyone selling you anything. How do you feel about .health? A new slew of web domains is coming down the pike, like ".health," ".doctor," and ".clinic." They're not required to have any medical credentials. That's deeply worrying to some public health advocates."

Pharma Pushes CMS for Transparency on Sunshine Database, Again

Ed Silverman
Wall Street Journal
Thu, 2014-09-25
"With just one week left before the launch of the controversial Open Payments database – which will reveal how much money doctors receive from drug and device makers – three of the biggest industry trade groups are complaining they have not had an opportunity to review important background information about relationships with physicians. And the trade groups – the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, BIO and AdvaMed – are reiterating concerns expressed last month that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has still not explained why one-third of the payment information submitted by drug and device makers, as well as group purchasing organizations, was removed from the database."

Medical identity theft: How the health care industry is failing us

Laura Shin
Fortune magazine
Wed, 2014-09-03
"Unlike the financial services industry, health care companies lack measures to adequately prevent identity theft, even as they continue to digitize medical records and other sensitive information. Twelve years ago, when Nikki Burton was 17, she tried to donate blood for the first time. She was denied without explanation. Perplexed, the Portland, Ore. resident called Red Cross headquarters to inquire, only to learn that her Social Security number had been used to receive treatment at a free AIDS clinic in California, rendering her ineligible to donate blood. Years later, she wondered if, when asked whether she had any preexisting conditions, that instance of fraud might show up. So she called the Red Cross again. The organization told her that it no longer asked for Social Security numbers and she could donate blood without it. “I said, that’s fine for you guys to receive the donation, but that doesn’t solve the problem of that information existing in your system,” Burton says.

Reform Update: Facing ACA mandates, insurers diversify into technology

Beth Kutscher
Modern Healthcare
Fri, 2014-08-29
"Health insurance companies, now required to spend the lion's share of premium revenue on patient care, are looking for higher investment returns elsewhere. As a result, they're increasingly putting money into technology ventures where they expect to realize higher returns. The medical-loss ratio standard under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires insurers to spend at least 80% of what they earn from premiums on patient care and related quality improvements. No more than 20% can be used for administrative, marketing and business expenses. The requirement is as high as 85% for large group plans. Tied to that, insurers are trying to maximize their investment returns while also investing in businesses that are exempt from the 80/20 rule. Technology operations check off both those boxes for them. "That's been a catalyst for a substantial amount of investment,” said Joshua Kaye, a Miami-based partner at law firm DLA Piper. “We're really seeing it on a national scale.

More Data to Be Withheld from Database of Physician Payments

Charles Ornstein, Pro Publica
Fri, 2014-08-29
"A new problem has emerged with the federal government's Open Payments system, which is supposed to go live Sept. 30 and disclose payments to physicians by pharmaceutical and medical device companies. A couple weeks ago, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said it would be withholding information on one-third of the payments, citing data inconsistencies in company submissions. Now, a source familiar with the matter tells ProPublica that CMS won't disclose another batch of payments: research grants made by pharmaceutical companies to doctors through intermediaries, such as contract research organizations.

Reform Update: Ascension deals signal new economic reality in healthcare

Melanie Evans
Modern Healthcare
Thu, 2014-08-28
"Ascension Health, one of the nation's largest hospital owners, is expanding rapidly with a string of announced deals that its CEO says will grow its reach beyond hospitals to keep pace with rapid Obamacare-induced changes in the marketplace. But notably, Ascension is not on an acquisition spree. Its latest deals—in Illinois, Michigan, Arizona and Wisconsin—are not outright purchases, but rather agreements with regional rivals and other national players to jointly own, operate or contract for hospitals and insurance companies. The deals pair Ascension with well-established players in each market and allow the system to avoid costly competition or wasteful duplication by capitalizing on partners' resources that Ascension lacks, said Robert Henkel, Ascension Health's chief executive. The strategy also will allow Ascension to jointly develop broader services to care for patients at home, in nursing homes and other locations outside of hospitals.

When Medical Care Is Futile, Other Patients Pay The Hidden Price

Richard Knox
WBUR
Wed, 2014-08-27
"Every day in intensive care units across the country, patients get aggressive, expensive treatment their caregivers know is not going to save their lives or make them better. California researchers now report this so-called “futile” care has a hidden price: It’s crowding out other patients who could otherwise survive, recover and get back to living their lives. Their study, in Critical Care Medicine, shows that patients who could benefit from intensive care in UCLA’s teaching hospital are having to wait hours and even days in the emergency room and in nearby community hospitals because ICU beds are occupied by patients receiving futile care.

Pharma tells the Federal Government: Transparency Works Both Ways

Peter Loftus
Wall Street Journal
Wed, 2014-08-27
"File this under ‘how ironic.’ Drug makers are asking for more transparency from the government agency that is requiring them to be more transparent about how much they pay doctors. The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA, is calling on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to further explain why the agency has removed one-third of the payment information from an online database that is due to be made public by Sept. 30. Earlier this month, CMS said it would withhold about one-third of the payment data from the so-called “Open Payments” system. The agency also said it would return the records to drug makers because they were “intermingled,” including the erroneous linking of payment information for some doctors to still other doctors with similar names.

Verizon supporting telemedicine clinical trials

Mohana Ravindranath
Washington Post
Sat, 2014-08-23
"Verizon is making a bet that telemedicine — a term for virtually administered medical care — could provide a big business opportunity. The company recently announced it was providing private network services to the University of Virginia and Stanford University for a study on a so-called “artificial pancreas” — a series of devices that could monitor glucose levels in Type 1 diabetics and automatically release insulin into the body. For the past few years, Verizon has been supporting universities as they perform clinical trials on telemedicine, providing them with the required network services. Verizon declined to share the financial terms of these agreements, though it said it was providing a private wireless network and data center services, among other services. The artificial pancreas uses a tiny glucose monitor, inserted under the skin, which relays glucose levels to a smartphone.

FDA vs. right to try: Our view

Editorial board
USA Today
Tue, 2014-08-19
"The deadly Ebola outbreak spreading through Africa is so extreme, it is driving health officials to do something that they would instinctively resist in normal circumstances: Subject patients to unproven experimental drugs. The drugs are risky. Some have not even been tested on humans. Even so, a World Health Organization ethics committee just declared such use ethical, and its reasoning is hard to dispute, at least for patients who would otherwise die. Some chance is better than none, even with unknown side effects. Too bad American patients suffering from terminal illnesses have so much trouble getting the same chance. The process for getting experimental drugs is so daunting that fewer than 1,000 people sought and got federal approval to take such drugs last year. Food and Drug Administration rules require patients to clear a series of hurdles. First, they and their doctors must find a company to provide its drug.

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