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Aetna's departure from AHIP last week, coupled with UnitedHealth Group's last year, indicates the large national insurers "are increasingly happy to fight their own battles on Capitol Hill," according to Modern Healthcare. They have enough private lobbying clout; "they think having to deal with the aggravation of association politics just isn't worth it," says health policy consultant Bob Laszewski. Aetna, Anthem, Cigna, Humana and UnitedHealth all spend millions on lobbying each year outside of AHIP. They also have their own government relations offices in Washington. Additionally, some say AHIP head Marilyn Tavenner, former CMS administrator, is too aligned with the Obama administration. (Modern Healthcare)

More research is needed to determine the effectiveness of health information exchange in identifying potential harms and boosting primary care outcomes, according to a new Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality literature review. Although the electronic exchange of information has increased over time--with utilization highest in hospitals (76 percent) and lowest in long-term care settings (less than 1 percent)--electronically exchanged health information remains low overall because of barriers, including lack of participation, inefficient workflows and poorly designed features. Industry responses to the report have been mixed, according to Health Data Management. (Health Data Management; AHRQ report)

Meaningful Use 3, because of the compressed timetable and its intricacy, "will likely accelerate the consolidation of the ambulatory EHR healthcare industry. I doubt that was CMS' intent, but it looks increasingly like a continuing major effect," writes Scott Mace, senior technology editor at HealthLeaders Media. He makes the case that organizations using Epic, Cerner, Allscripts or another "big" EHR technology will be ready to go live with MU3 by the December 2017 deadline. "But if you're running some of the less well-known software out there, it could be a bumpy ride." (HealthLeaders Media)
Innovation & Transformation 
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, in collaboration with the University of Michigan Health System, is placing pharmacists in patient-centered medical homes as part of the Michigan Pharmacists Transforming Care and Quality program. "Pharmacists know drug therapy better than any other practitioner. They have the skill set to really talk about the really important quality measures like medication adherence, drug safety, [and] drug interactions," says Laurie Wesolowicz, director of BCBSM's pharmacy services. A Health2 Resources/Blue Thorn Inc. market scan now in the field invites pharmacists to describe how they deliver medication therapy management and comprehensive medication management. (Drug Topics; survey)
3D printing could dramatically advance personalized medicine, Venture Beat reports. Altering a pill's surface area through the printing of complex shapes could control the strength of a dose and the speed at which it's released. This means one pill could be created to release a cocktail of drugs over defined intervals. In addition, hospitals and pharmacies could manufacture prescriptions on their own premises, eliminating the need to stock vast quantities of generics. They would also be able to produce specialized or uncommon compounds in-house, saving patients a considerable wait, and perhaps saving more lives in time-sensitive critical situations. (Venture Beat)
Patients with higher out-of-pocket costs for medical care are significantly more likely to choose email or other online patient engagement tools versus an in-office visit to contact a provider about health concerns, according to a study published in the American Journal of Managed Care. Specifically, it found 85 percent of patients who had higher cost-sharing for in-person office visits chose email as a first contact method, compared with 63 percent of those who had lower out-of-pocket costs. Researchers emphasize the findings don't imply causality. (Healthcare Informatics; AJMC)
Using a one-page decision-support tool is unlikely to change patients' intentions about whether to undergo low-value screening services, according to research published in JAMA Internal Medicine. The researchers investigated the effectiveness of a patient communication strategy for reducing use of prostate cancer screening in men aged 50-69; osteoporosis screening for low-risk women 50-64; and colorectal screening for men and women 76-85. "Single, brief, written decision support interventions, such as the ones in this study, are unlikely to be sufficient to change intentions for screening. Alternate and additional interventions are needed to reduce overused screening services," they conclude. (Reuters Health via Medscape; JAMA Internal Medicine)
Fifty-three percent of patients can't access their health information online, according to a survey of 502 consumers by HealthMine. In particular, they lack access to their biometric information, their lab records, their insurance information and their prescription histories. Of those surveyed, 74 percent say easy electronic access to health data would improve their knowledge of their health and improve communication with their physicians. EHR Intelligence  reports that other studies support HealthMine's findings: Patients are engaging with their electronic health records at a low rate. (EHR Intelligence; HealthMine announcement)

Despite a federal law requiring them to do so, insurance plans often fail to provide a list of medications covered by their plans. The reason: Certain medications, especially those administered intravenously, are covered under a separate part of an insurance plan which could be challenging to find online. "I haven't been able to find that and I do this for a living," says Katie Verb, associate director of policy and government relations at the Hemophilia Federation of America. (Kaiser Health News)
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New & Noted   
Men getting more colonoscopies under ACA: Men are getting more screening colonoscopies since the Affordable Care Act reduced how much Medicare beneficiaries pay out of pocket for the preventive tests, a recent study found. The change, however, didn't affect women's rates. (Kaiser Health News)

Origins story: In a short piece for MedPage Today, Jay Sanders, MD--often called "The Father of Telemedicine"--shares his memories of the day telemedicine was conceived. (MedPage Today)

Listing HIPAA offenders: ProPublica has created and launched a new database that allows consumers to search for privacy violations by health care providers. (iHealthBeat)

Medscape Editor-in-Chief Eric J. Topol, MD, recently interviewed Zubin Damania, MD, aka ZDoggMD, an internist who uses musical parody to bring attention to the concerns facing practicing clinicians. He is one of the founders of Turntable Health, a direct primary care provider in Las Vegas. (Medscape)
MarketVoices...quotes worth reading
 "We should be long beyond the days where one doctor holds the chart and [consumers] don't get to see it--but we're not. Sitting in the driver's seat of health requires transparency of health data. Consumers must be able to see the road, the potholes, the landmarks. Having access to complete health information is essential to managing health and healthcare dollars--and every consumer should have it." -- HealthMine CEO and President Bryce Williams, in a press release
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Wednesday, January 12, 2016