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Industry News
Patient advocates, politicians, doctors and drug companies have all come out strongly against a proposed five-year pilot to encourage doctors to prescribe less expensive therapies under Medicare Part B. Opponents warn the plan could jeopardize access to important medications, according to The New York Times. Every member of the Senate Finance Committee and more than 300 House members have raised concerns. (The New York Times) 
Medical errors may be the third-leading cause of death, but things actually improved between 2004 and 2014 according to research published in the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's (AHRQ) Chartbook on Patient Safety. Researchers analyzed medical malpractice payment reports and found errors dropped 28 percent between 2004 and 2014. Furthermore, they noted a year-over-year downward trend every year but 2013. Researchers also found care quality in general improved over that period: approximately 60 percent of quality measures, 80 percent of person-centered care measures and 60 percent of measures for effective treatment, patient safety and healthy living. (AHRQ; FierceHealthcare)

Innovation & Transformation  
"Designed to make you happier, healthier, smarter, faster, sexier, creative." Not how you would normally describe a one-stop doctor's office, but that's exactly how Zoom advertises itself. With more than 30 locations in Portland, Seattle and Vancouver, Washington, Zoom is a convenient medical provider and health insurer in a hip, user-friendly environment that also has a "performance studio" offering cooking and fitness classes. Zoom insurance members are eligible, but so are those with other health plans and self-paying patients as well. They do not take Medicare or Medicaid patients. (Kaiser Health News)
Medicare's modern take on the house call, Independence at Home, is saving money. "Done right and paid right, house calls could prove to be a better way of treating very sick, elderly patients while they can still live at home," Kaiser Heath News reports. Housecall Providers of Portland, Oregon, saved Medicare an average of almost $13,600 per patient last year; its share of the savings was $1.2 million. There are now 14 organizations participating. There are drawbacks: Medicare reimbursement doesn't cover travel time or the extra time needed for complex patients. (Kaiser Health News)
Walgreens announced plans to expand mental health services, including access to screenings and behavioral health care via telemedicine. As part of this initiative, Walgreens and the nonprofit Mental Health America launched a collaborative answer center to heighten consumer awareness and reduce stigmas associated with mental health. The platform will connect people to MHA's free Online Screening Program. (HealthLeaders Media

Comprehensive medication management improves outcomes, controls costs and enhances the satisfaction of clinicians and patients. That's one of many findings from a new report from Health2 Resources and Blue Thorn Inc. Get the medications right: a nationwide snapshot of expert practices--Comprehensive medication management in ambulatory/community pharmacy reveals that clinical pharmacists, in a variety of settings, are optimizing medication use and improving the lives of patients. As Dan Rehrauer, PharmD, of HealthPartners says in the report, "This is where we see the future of pharmacy." The report, sponsored by a grant from the Community Pharmacy Foundation and released yesterday, draws on responses from 618 pharmacy programs and in-depth interviews with leaders from practices delivering CMM services. (Report background; report)
Consumers & Providers
It's no secret that collecting data on employees' health--and using that data--brings up a variety of privacy issues. But nevertheless, wearable electronics are being used in the workplace to measure productivity and safety, and allow insurers to track workers' health indicators and habits. The Wall Street Journal asked three experts to weigh in on how companies should handle data collected from wearables--and whether they should be able to require their employees to wear wearables. There was no consensus. (Wall Street Journal
The average U.S. adult reads at an eighth-grade level, but most patient education materials are written at a high school or college level. Health care providers must take four steps to ensure complete understanding, according to the authors of a paper in American Family Physician. Those steps: 1) Provide understandable and accessible information to all patients; 2) prioritize and limit information to three key points; 3) use the teach-back method; and 4) simplify forms and offer assistance completing them. (Fierce Practice Management; American Family Physician)
Health care leaders support the Affordable Care Act and its goal of moving toward value and away from fee-for-service, according to Modern Healthcare's second-quarter CEO Power Panel poll. One reason they say they want to stay the course: They are unimpressed with the alternatives. "I think the Affordable Care Act needs to stay, and we need to keep improving it," says Dr. Gary Kaplan, CEO of the Virginia Mason Health System in Seattle. "I think that we can put together great minds and make some further improvements and hopefully take it out of being a political football." (Modern Healthcare
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New & Noted   
Avoiding care to save money: Four out of five emergency department physicians who responded to an American College of Emergency Physicians survey say they believe privately insured patients skip needed care because of concerns about out-of-pocket costs. (Arizona Republic) 

Lover's spat? According to the Wall Street Journal, Anthem and Cigna are bickering over Anthem's $48 billion proposed acquisition of Cigna. People on both sides say the squabbles could delay or derail antitrust approvals. (Wall Street Journal)

Getting online isn't the problem: Simply providing Internet access isn't enough to connect the poor to online health information, according to research published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association. (FierceHealthIT; JAMIA) 

The demand for home care workers is growing, but the pay remains low. Even higher-paid home health aides--licensed as nurses--make an average of only $11 an hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The radio show Here and Now features an interview with home care worker Jasmine King, who makes $8.31 an hour. (Here and Now)
MarketVoices...quotes worth reading
"Wearables that provide health data about an individual provide deeply personal information. Requiring an employee to wear such a device is an Orwellian overreach and an unjustified invasion of privacy."--John M. Simpson, director of the Privacy Project at the nonprofit advocacy group Consumer Watchdog, in the Wall Street Journal. 
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Editorial Team
Roxanna Guilford-Blake
Sandy Mau




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Wednesday, May 25, 2016