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Industry News

Big Blue takes deep dive into data analytics

IBM made several announcements Monday that solidify its entry into health care analytics. It has acquired Explorys, whose data is used to identify patterns in diseases, treatments and outcomes, and Phytel, whose software is used to manage patient care and reduce readmission rates. Both will be part of IBM's new Watson Health division, also unveiled Monday. IBM also announced a partnership with Apple, Johnson & Johnson and Medtronic. "The IBM plan, put simply, is that its Watson technology will be a cloud-based service that taps vast stores of health data and delivers tailored insights to hospitals, physicians, insurers, researchers and potentially even individual patients," The New York Times explains. (Modern Healthcare; New York Times)


No more patches: Tuesday night, Senate repeals SGR

Tuesday night, the Senate voted overwhelmingly (92-8) to permanently repeal the Medicare sustainable growth rate (SGR) reimbursement formula. The president is expected to sign the bill. As happened when the House passed the bill, lawmakers congratulated themselves on getting legislation through. "This is has been a long ordeal that a lot of us have worked on for a long time," Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) told The Hill, calling it a "major, major accomplishment." The vote came at the last minute--attempts to schedule a vote had been slowed by amendments from both parties. All six were voted down. The legislation also provides continued support for initiatives such as the Children's Health Insurance Program. (The Hill) 



ED use shifts from injuries to medical conditions

The rate of emergency department visits in California for non-injuries has risen while the rate of visits for injuries has dropped, according to research published in Health Affairs. The study documents the increasing amount of care provided in EDs for complex, chronic conditions. "These findings suggest that human and capital resources may need to shift in ways that more accurately reflect the demands placed on EDs. For example, the large growth in mental health conditions presenting to the ED could require an increased presence of mental health professionals and services in the ED," the researchers conclude. (Health Affairs)



The theory that hospitals compensate for low Medicare and Medicaid payments by increasing prices for private insurers is incorrect, health economist Austin Frakt writes in The New York Times Upshot blog. The cost-shifting theory goes back decades, but economists have long been skeptical, he writes. Recent studies show reductions in Medicare payments were associated with a similar drop in private prices. Although cost-shifting may not occur, hospitals may cost-subsidize, meaning more profitable customers and services enable the provision of less profitable ones; the two concepts are often confused. (The New York Times Upshot Blog) 



Innovation & Transformation

Paper offers lessons from successful multipayer medical home projects

Multipayer medical homes are feasible when handled correctly, according to research published in Health Affairs. Seventeen multipayer medical home initiatives launched between 2008 and 2014; all navigated four critical decision-making points germane to any multipayer payment model: convening stakeholders; establishing provider participation criteria; determining payment; and measuring performance. Heeding these lessons will help inform those leading other multipayer efforts "to better anticipate and navigate known obstacles and improve their chances for successful implementation," according to the researchers--all from the National Academy for State Health Policy. (Health Affairs)


Initiative to empower MAs, shift burden from clinicians

In an effort to respond to the rapidly changing health care system, the Hitachi Foundation has formed the new Care Team Redesign Initiative, which intends to highlight the business case for empowering medical assistants (MAs) to become more active and capable members of health care teams. The initiative is based on 15 case studies of primary care and multispecialty centers that improved operational and/or patient care outcomes by investing in MA training. The initiative will begin with four grantee sites and will be evaluated by the Gerontology Institute at Georgia State University. (Health Affairs)


Consumers & Providers

ONC report finds providers and HIT vendors block data

Some health IT vendors and health care providers are blocking the free flow of data between entities that use different EHRs, according to a report from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT. One vendor example: steep charges for interfaces that allow information exchange among physician practices. Such practices have been documented in the media. Perhaps more surprising is that health care providers have engaged in similar activity. "A common charge is that some hospitals or health systems engage in information blocking to control referrals and enhance their market dominance," according to the report. (Medscape Medical News; ONC report)


Study: Patients lack valuable information regarding their illness

A recent study revealed just over half of breast cancer patients are aware of their cancer's stage and what growth factor it is fed by, and fewer than 20 percent were aware of the grade of their illness. Overall, according to researchers, patients' "knowledge about their own breast cancer was generally poor, particularly for minority women." The study, published in Cancer, was the first of its kind and hopes to shed light on what information is most valuable to patients. The study did not indicate whether the lack of information was due to doctors' not sharing information or patients not listening. (The New York Times; Cancer)
Senators: End-of-life discussions no longer taboo
Bipartisan support is emerging around end-of-life care--it's no longer a "third rail" issue, MedPage Today reports. Despite previously political disagreement around the issue, this month's Institute of Medicine's National Action Conference resulted in recommendations to improve quality and honor the preferences of patients with advanced illness. "Put the word out to your respective members of Congress, that this is not a partisan issue. This is about quality of life," says Sen. Mark Warner. (MedPage Today)


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New & Noted   

CMS cuts MU reporting period: As expected, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has formally proposed shortening the Meaningful Use 2015 reporting period from 12 months to 90 days. In 2016, only first-time participants will be eligible for a 90-day reporting period. (Fierce EMR; proposed rule)



Docs need to consider cost: In a guest column, Dr. Vik Reddy, medical director of quality and clinical integration at Henry Ford Macomb Hospital, discusses why physicians need to be willing to discuss cost of care with patients. "Taking into account what a patient has to pay is putting the patient first. Moreover, the belief that doctors can separate the cost of care from treating their patients is a fallacy." (Detroit Free Press)



Cleveland Clinic changes with the times: The Cleveland Clinic is working to reinvent itself and, as The New York Times puts it, "manage the extraordinary changes now transforming health care." The article describes some of the changes--and what's driving them. (The New York Times)

Freakanomics podcast: Brenner on revolution

A new Freakanomics podcast asks "How Many Doctors Does It Take to Start a Healthcare Revolution?" It interviews one who is doing just that: Dr. Jeffrey Brenner, founder of the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers. (Freakonomics podcast)

MarketVoices...quotes worth reading


"You know, there comes a point in a system in America where it no longer serves any of the purposes that it was originally set up to serve. And America does disrupt things. You know, I don't see a lot of horse and buggy manufacturers. I don't see the steel industry here, right? No one saved Blockbuster. I mean, there will come a point when sooner or later we're going to let this thing go."

--Dr. Jeffrey Brenner, founder of the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers, on the Freakonomics podcast


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Wednesday, April 15, 2015































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