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Industry News

Humana/Aetna's $34.1 billion deal is far from final

After weeks of speculation, the announcement of Humana's proposed sale to Aetna received a cool shareholder reaction. The Wall Street Journal cites several concerns related to the $34.1 billion sale: the prospect of an Anthem/Cigna deal, a weakness in Humana's business and, the biggest of all, antitrust approval. Aetna and Humana are the third- and fourth-biggest U.S. health insurers by revenue, and together would have about a million more Medicare subscribers than their next-closest competitor. (Wall Street Journal)



Medicare may ease observation status policy

Medicare has proposed easing its "observation status" policy. These short hospital stays can result in higher costs for seniors. Medicare policy generally requires a hospitalization to span at least two midnights to qualify as an inpatient case. The proposed change, announced last week, would allow for case-by-case exceptions. Hospital groups and AARP were analyzing the proposal, the Associated Press reports. It's scheduled to take effect in November, following a public comment period. (AP) 
Innovative approaches to comprehensive primary care have emerged around the country, but how do we know what works? Lisa Dulsky Watkins, MD, of the Milbank Memorial Fund-supported Multi-State Collaborative; Lisa Letourneau, MD, of Maine Quality Counts; Jenney Samuelson of the Vermont Blueprint for Health; and Patrick Gordon of Rocky Mountain Health Plans take on this question in a new issue brief. Leadership, engagement and collaboration are all essential to primary care transformation, but so are hard work, hands-on practical assistance, accessing data and, of course, funding. The evidence supports this, including papers in JAMA and JAMA Internal Medicine. (issue brief) 

Innovation & Transformation 

University of Utah tries teaching empathy 

Increased focus on patient-centered care has placed greater emphasis on empathy. Now, the University of Utah is trying to train providers in empathy. For some, giving patients time to explain their concerns is quickly becoming an essential part of medical practice. Others question whether interpersonal skills can be taught--and why busy doctors should prioritize pleasantries, Deseret News reports. But Dr. Danielle Ofri, a physician at Bellevue Hospital and associate professor of medicine at New York University School of Medicine, says it's not just about just boosting patient satisfaction; it adds meaning to a chaotic system. (Deseret News)



To address shortage, start a residency program 

Southwest Florida is facing a primary care doctor shortage, and Lee Memorial Hospital is hosting a residency program to address it. The program is sponsored by Florida State University's College of Medicine. "Our residency program trains young doctors that have just finished medical school to be family physicians, to be primary care doctors," said program director, Dr. Gary Goforth. (NBC-2/ WBBH) 


Consumers & Providers

Trouble arises when doctors share patients but not plans 

Poor communication--between doctors and patients, and between doctors and nurses--has long been addressed as a shortcoming of modern medicine. However, lack of communication between teams of doctors who share patients may now merit recognition. Allison Bond, a resident in internal medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, details some of the issues that could be alleviated by a simple discussion between care teams in a recent New York Times Well blog post. (NY Times Well)



As the NP profession evolves, are they becoming more like physicians? 

A recent discussion published in the Journal for Nurse Practitioners details both sides of the battle as to whether nurse practitioners are becoming more like physicians. M.J. Henderson, MS, RN, GNP-BC, explains that many are identifying more with physicians rather than nursing, given that the NP role overlaps with that of the physician. On the other hand, Susan Apold, PhD, ANP-BC, FAAN, FAANP, says NPs are simply coming into their own, becoming more like themselves, and they will continue to embrace symbols and rituals which speak to the nursing role in health care. (Journal for Nurse Practitioners) 


Fifty-four percent of heart disease deaths among U.S. men and 50 percent among women, ages 45 to 79, in 2010 could have been prevented if various risk factors were completely eliminated, according to research published in Annals of Internal Medicine. High blood pressure and smoking were tied to the highest proportion of preventable deaths. But even if every state brought levels of those risk factors to the levels similar to states with the lowest levels (e.g.,Colorado) less than 10 percent of heart disease deaths would be prevented, the researchers estimated. (Reuters; Annals of Internal Medicine)


Americans want access to their own medical data, but it has been a challenge, The Wall Street Journal reports. "For consumers to start requesting and using their health information will be a game-changer for the health-care system," says Christine Bechtel, a consultant for the National Partnership for Women and Families who spearheads the Get My Health Data campaign. "Once we unlock the data, there's an enormous amount we can do with it. "Roughly 400,000 Americans die annually because of medical errors--80,000 because doctors don't have the information they need." (The Wall Street Journal)


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New & Noted   

Telemedicine in pediatrics: Telemedicine can be an appropriate option in pediatric practices when it's integrated into the patient-centered medical home model, according to a policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics. (MedPage Today)


ACA coverage and diet clinics: Diet clinics are benefiting from the Affordable Care Act but, according to The New York Times, "the prospect of rapid growth in the diet-clinic industry, fed by insurance payments, has exposed deep philosophical differences on the best ways to help patients lose weight." (The New York Times)



HDHPs change patient/clinician relationships: High-deductible health plans are changing the way health systems interact with their patients, from where they get care to how they're presented with their bills, Modern Healthcare reports. They are helping to transform health care into a retail market, especially for services such as imaging and laboratory tests. And more providers are initiating financial conversations before treatment begins. (Modern Healthcare

ZDoggMD (aka Zubin Damania, MD) takes on the ridiculousness of hospital readmissions in this rapper parody. Really. You have to watch it. (You Tube)

MarketVoices...quotes worth reading


"It's pretty fundamental [to the practice of medicine] to care about our patients as people. Otherwise, medicine could be practiced by a computer. You could type in your symptoms and get a prescription. There's a big difference between getting cured and being taken care of."  


-- Dr. Danielle Ofri, a physician at Bellevue Hospital and associate professor of medicine at New York University School of Medicine, quoted in Deseret News 

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Roxanna Guilford-Blake
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Wednesday, July 8, 2015































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