News Blog

Repeal without Replace? Read more at:
Thursday, September 15, 2016

It’s a terrible idea, but some will push for it anyway. It cannot be ruled out entirely that Donald Trump will be elected president on November 8. It is therefore only prudent to begin thinking about what might happen if that actually were to occur. One thing that is fairly certain is that, on November 9, we’d hear loud calls from some quarters for the incoming administration and Congress to move quickly in 2017 on a “clean” repeal of the Affordable Care Act — a.k.a. Obamacare. What people mean by “clean” is that the bill would go as far as possible (within legislative constraints) to repeal the ACA without being encumbered politically by new provisions to replace it.

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Psychiatric Patients Face Longer Waits in ER
Thursday, September 15, 2016

And they're more likely to be transferred without getting treatment, study finds.

TUESDAY, Sept. 13, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Patients seeking help for mental health problems wait hours longer in the emergency department than other patients do, a new study finds.

People with mental health problems are also six times more likely to be transferred to another facility instead of receiving treatment at the hospital, the researchers added.

"Previous research shows that patients in the ER often experience lengthy wait times, but our new study shows that psychiatric patients wait disproportionately longer than other patients -- sometimes for several hours -- only to ultimately be discharged or transferred elsewhere," said study author Dr. Jane Zhu.
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Chronic care management model requires new EHR capabilities
Thursday, September 15, 2016

The chronic care model requires interoperability and collaborative capabilities to coordinate a patient's care, but not all EHR systems include the necessary features.

For many hospitals and medical practices, the advent of accountable care organizations, federally qualified health centers and other collaborative care models is bringing about a strong push for an outcome-based payment model. This signals a necessary adjustment to the way physicians care for their patients. Patients with chronic conditions are now more likely to require far more interactions and different documentation than previously seen. While this may not be new to many, the fact remains that not all EHR vendors are fully prepared to offer the functionality needed to support a chronic care management model.
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Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes)
Thursday, September 15, 2016

When he received the Heinz Award Link to Exit Disclaimer for Public Policy in 2014, Sanjeev Arora, M.D., was recognized for revolutionizing community health care by “demonopolizing” specialized medical knowledge to produce the greatest good, using basic video conferencing technology as a platform for global telementoring and collaborative care.
A liver disease specialist at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center (UNMHSC), Dr. Arora received the award for his AHRQ-funded work to create and expand Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes), which brings evidence-based health care to rural and underserved patients by helping frontline providers acquire new skills and expertise via weekly virtual clinics with specialist mentors. Project ECHO exponentially expands workforce capacity by freely sharing best-practice medical knowledge with primary care providers. In this way, it has become a model for providing health care in remote areas of the United States, as well as overseas.
The ECHO model of telementoring and collaborative practice has expanded treatment to underserved areas and helped countless people who otherwise would have suffered without medical care. And Project ECHO has set an ambitious goal for itself: to touch the lives of one billion people by the year 2025.
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AHRQ Stats: Potentially Avoidable Hospitalization
Wednesday, September 14, 2016

From 2005 to 2013, the rate of potentially avoidable hospitalizations for all conditions, excluding chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, fell about 23 percent. The rate was highest among African Americans and lowest among Asians and Pacific Islanders. (Source: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality,2015 National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Repor
Access to the report:   ...

Texas Health Resources connects with HIE for real-time patient data
Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Texas Health Resources has gone live with a health information exchange connecting the regions of North, South and West Texas, joining 32 other healthcare organizations in the Lone Star State.
The HIE, called HASA (Healthcare Access San Antonio), has more than 2 million patient records and encrypted data on more than 8.5 million patient encounters.
"It’s all about having the right information at the right time to make well-informed clinical decisions for the patient," said Joey Sudomir chief information officer at Texas Health Resources, in a statement. "Focusing on an individual’s health and well-being to deliver quality care is paramount, and through our collaborative effort with HASA, we’ll be able to do that beyond North Texas."
HASA officials are working to build out an advanced public HIE infrastructure, and said linking with THR is a big step in those efforts.

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Ability of patients to access electronic records rises dramatically
Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The number of U.S. hospitals that enable patients to electronically view, download, and transmit their health information grew nearly seven times between 2013 and 2015, according to data gathered by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT.
The results, published in a new ONC data brief, show that last year:

  • 95 percent of the nation’s hospitals provided patients with the ability to view their health information electronically.
  • 87 percent provided individuals with the ability to download their health information.
  • 71 percent offered patients the ability to transmit their health information.
  • 69 percent of hospitals provided individuals with the ability to view, download, and transmit their health information.
According to the agency, providing view, download, and transmit availability is an important means of enabling the right of individuals to get and use their health information under HIPAA. Nonetheless, ONC’s data brief notes that “as of 2015, disparities exist in the adoption of view, download and transmit functionalities between large hospitals and other types of hospitals (e.g., medium, small, and Critical Access Hospitals).”
Almost eight in 10 large hospitals had all three capabilities last year, while just about six in 10 critical access hospitals had view, download and transmit functionalities.

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Patient engagement underlies population health
Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Pop Health Forum, a conference put on by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society ( HIMSS) in Chicago this week, was as much about patient engagement as it was about population health.
This makes sense, because it’s difficult to manage populations without reaching out — engaging — members of those populations.
Jeffrey Springer, a vice president at Princeton, New Jersey-based health IT vendor and consulting firm CitiusTech, said that getting to population health means checking all nine squares on a 3-by-3 matrix. The X axis covers acute, ambulatory and whole-patient care, while the Y axis is about execution on clinical, financial and operational metrics.
Patient engagement falls under all three care rows and at least two of the execution columns. Yes, financial performance has elements of patient engagement.

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Utah program shows promise in improving healthcare quality while trimming costs
Wednesday, September 14, 2016

In the ongoing search for new ways to cut costs while improving healthcare, researchers at the University of Utah Health Care system have developed a program correlated with better patient outcomes in three common procedures that also trimmed costs by up to 11%. They published their findings Tuesday in JAMA.

In the program, a value-driven outcomes tool integrated data on spending and health outcomes for three clinical areas, analyzing the information to determine exactly what elements in a procedure—say, a bandage—cost how much. It also broke down costs and outcomes by physicians, who were given access to this information.

The study measured quality and patient outcomes relative to cost from 2012 to 2016 at University of Utah Health Care in three clinical areas: total joint replacements for hips and knees, hospitalist laboratory utilization and sepsis management. After baselines in outcome measures were established for each of those areas, care processes were redesigned and quality improvement projects launched. Variations in costs and outcomes served as prime opportunities for improvement.

When the researchers re-evaluated those clinical areas, they found direct costs had been reduced and outcomes generally improved. But, the study also warned, “causality cannot be established” because the clinical improvement studies' designs generally lacked concurrent control groups and statistical adjustment for potential confounding factors.
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Uninsured rate drops, but medical expenses still drag millions into poverty
Wednesday, September 14, 2016

New data from the U.S. Census Bureau released Tuesday confirmed that only 9.1% of Americans went without health insurance in 2015, the lowest rate ever recorded and a figure that has been pinned to the Affordable Care Act's coverage expansion.

Uninsured rates went down across nearly all races, age groups and income levels from 2014 to 2015, according to the Census Bureau's 2015 report. Young, working-age adults and Hispanics continue to have the highest uninsured rates. Coverage rates also stayed stable or increased across employer health plans, Medicare and Medicaid.

The uninsured rate in 2014 was 10.4%, a sharp decline from 13.3% in 2013, the year before the ACA's Medicaid expansion and marketplaces went live.
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