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Industry News
A federal judge on Monday rejected the Texas Medical Board's request to dismiss a lawsuit filed against it by Teladoc over the board's new telemedicine restrictions. This means the case will move forward, and the outcome could have implications for telemedicine across the country, Modern Healthcare reports. Teladoc sued in April over a rule that requires physicians to either meet with patients in person before treating them remotely or treat them face-to-face via technology, while other providers are with them physically, when treating them for the first time. (Modern Healthcare)

Cigna isn't making noises about leaving the federal and state health insurance exchanges, despite losing money. In an interview with Kaiser Health News, CEO David Cordani says the marketplaces are still version 1.0. He'd like to see insurers given more flexibility in designing coverage and a more compressed, focused open enrollment period, but he's taking the long view: "We saw the exchange marketplace as a potentially attractive long-term viable market. [...] We said from day one we didn't expect to make money on it. We didn't make money on it in 2014 and we aren't... in 2015." (Kaiser Health News)

Concerns about the privacy of data being collected on employees through wellness programs abound. Employers may have no desire to access their employees' personal health information, but that doesn't mean employees aren't worried. The growing use of technology to capture and analyze employee health data only exacerbates concerns. A recent TowersWatson survey found 46 percent of employees said they don't want their employers to have access to their personal health information, in part due to privacy concerns. One in three employees said they don't trust their employers to be involved in their health and well-being. (iHealthBeat; Towers Watson survey) 
Innovation & Transformation 
Health care lived in two eras during its modern life, Don Berwick, MD, former head of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and Institute for Healthcare Improvement senior fellow, told attendees at this month's IHI Forum. Science, discovery and a trusted doctor leading the care team helped define the first era. Erosion of trust and the emergence of the consumer-patient have led to the current era of accountability, measurement, control and punishment, he said. He offered nine steps to navigate this new era. Among them: End complex incentives, abandon excessive measurement, embrace transparency, protect civility and reject greed. (Hospitals and Health Networks) 
New York City is planning to allocate $850 million to improve mental health services within the next four years. Part of the sum will be spent on funding ThriveNYC, a mental health initiative that will train 250,000 teachers, law enforcement personnel and clergy to identify signs of mental illnesses and substance abuse, as well as educating providers about drugs that help with opioid dependency. ThriveNYC is organized around six principles, Modern Healthcare reports: Change the culture; act early; close treatment gaps; partner with communities; use data better; and strengthen government's ability to lead. (Modern Healthcare)

The global telemedicine market is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 14.3 percent through 2020, eventually reaching $36.2 billion, as compared to $14.3 billion in 2014, according to Nathaniel M. Lacktman of Foley & Lardner. He identified five trends that will drive telemedicine's continued growth and transformation of care delivery in 2016: expanded reimbursement opportunities; more international agreements; continued momentum at the state level; increasing numbers of retail clinics and employer onsite health centers; and more ACOs using technology to improve care and cut costs. (Foley & Lardner)
Consumers & Providers
EHRs need to be improved, according to research published in JMIR Medical Informatics. "The health care system suffers from both inefficient and ineffective use of data. Data are suboptimally displayed to users, undernetworked, underutilized, and wasted." The lack of available data causes errors, creates inefficiencies and increases costs. "The vast amount of information and clinical choices demands that we provide better supports for making decisions and effectively documenting them," according to researchers. (FierceEMR; study)
There are nearly 15,000 medical scribes in the U.S. That number is expected to jump to 100,000 by 2020. Some physicians are concerned: Scribes aren't licensed and training is generally two weeks or less. The minimum qualification is generally a high school diploma; some pre-med students take the job to gain experience from shadowing doctors. Other concerns: patient discomfort with the scribes and legal limits on what they are allowed to enter. "We're forcing a technology into primetime onto physicians who don't know how to handle it," says Dr. Richard Armstrong, a Michigan physician. (Kaiser Health News)
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New & Noted   
Premium tax on negotiating table: Lawmakers are considering suspending--for a year--a tax on insurance companies: the "premium tax"--as part of a year-end legislative deal. That's in addition to a two-year delay of the "Cadillac tax" on high-cost health insurance and a two-year suspension of the medical device tax. (The Hill)
Is this the end of MU? DirectTrust isn't bullish on Meaningful Use. From a list of 2016 predictions: "Having accomplished the significant goals of greatly expanded EHR adoption and baseline interoperability via Direct, but also having alienated many stakeholders within the health care provider community by expanding its final, Stage 3 version of its regulations, the Meaningful Use programs face a potentially uncertain future in 2016 and 2017." (Direct Trust announcement)

Payers need to adapt to consumers: In a slideshow, Managed Healthcare Executive identifies 10 ways health plans must change to meet consumer demands. Among the items on the list: Offer convenient payment options, offer provider-specific information and use clear messaging. (Managed Healthcare Executive)

Worried about patient privacy: More than two out of three health care organizations aren't completely confident they can share data safely while still protecting patient privacy, according to a survey conducted by Privacy Analytics, a vendor of de-identification technology, and the Electronic Health Information Laboratory. (FierceHealthIT)

Home care partnership: Two major players in home care announced plans to join forces: The Alliance for Home Health Quality and Innovation and the Visiting Nurse Associations of America. "The specific goals of the partnership are really to reduce fragmentation in the industry and strengthen the voice the VNAA and the Alliance have individually," Tracey Moorhead, VNAA's president and CEO, tells Home Health Care News. (Home Health Care News) 
Adams Dudley of the University of California-San Francisco, CMS' Kate Goodrich, Ashish Jha of the Harvard School of Public Health and Lynn Quincy of Consumers Union spoke with iHealthBeat about federal efforts to boost health care quality transparency and provide consumers with reliable quality data on health care providers.(iHealthBeat)
MarketVoices...quotes worth reading
"The right [transparency] rule is really clear to me. Anything we know about our work, anything, anything we know about our work, the people and communities we serve can know too, without delay, without cost or smoke screens. What we know, they know, period."

-- Don Berwick, MD, former head of CMS and Institute for Healthcare Improvement senior fellow, talking about transparency at the IHI Forum earlier this month, quoted in
Hospitals and Health Networks

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Wednesday, December 16, 2015