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April 7, 2014

‘Hackathons’ Aim to Solve Health Care’s Ills

(The Wall Street Journal) – Hackathons, the high-octane, all-night problem-solving sessions popularized by the software-coding community, are making their way into the more traditional world of health care. At Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a recent event called Hacking Medicine’s Grand Hackfest attracted more than 450 people to work for one weekend on possible solutions to problems involving diabetes, rare diseases, global health and information technology used at hospitals.

Even Small Medical Advances Can Mean Big Jumps in Bills

(New York Times) – Traditionally, insurers lost money by covering people with chronic illnesses, because they often ended up hospitalized with myriad complications as their diseases progressed. Today, the routine care costs of many chronic illnesses eclipse that of acute care because new treatments that keep patients well have become a multibillion-dollar business opportunity for device and drug makers and medical providers.

April 4, 2014

Young, Fabulous and Rich? Most Health Insurers Still Won’t Take You Outside Enrollment Windows

(Associated Press) – Here’s more fallout from the health care law: Until now, customers could walk into an insurance office or go online to buy standard health care coverage any time of year. Not anymore. Many people who didn’t sign up during the government’s open enrollment period that ended Monday will soon find it difficult or impossible to get insured this year, even if they go directly to a private company and money is no object. For some it’s already too late.

April 3, 2014

Medicare to Share Information on Pay for Physicians

(New York Times) – Medicare said on Wednesday that it planned to make available to consumers and others detailed information on what it pays individual physicians as soon as next week, despite the long-term resistance by the American Medical Association and other groups. The information will include data on the $77 billion paid by Medicare in 2012 to more than 880,000 health care professionals for 6,000 types of services and procedures.

April 2, 2014

Dementia Diagnosis Drive Raises Concern

(BBC) – Questions are being raised about the government’s drive to increase dementia diagnosis rates in England. Fewer than half of the estimated 670,000 people with dementia have a formal diagnosis, but ministers want to see this rise to two-thirds by 2015. But a GP writing in the British Medical Journal warned the push could lead to over-diagnosis. Meanwhile, the Alzheimer’s Society said it was being undermined by the lack of support after diagnosis.

Obamacare Health Plans May Prove Costly to Cancer Patients

(Medical Tourism Magazine) – Obamacare may be anything, but affordable to those cancer patients relieved that they can finally get coverage under the new healthcare reform legislature. In fact, doctors, administrators and state insurance regulators fear that rules implemented under the Affordable Care Act may actually cost these Americans access to some of the nation’s best cancer care hospitals.

April 1, 2014

A Growing Number of Primary-Care Doctors Are Burning Out. How Does This Affect Patients?

(Washington Post) – Physician stress has always been a fact of life. But anecdotal reports and studies suggest a significant and rising level of discontent in recent years, especially among primary-care doctors who serve at the front lines of medicine and play a critical role in coordinating patient care.

Official: Obamacare on Track to Meet Original Goal

(CNN) – After a surge of sign-ups on the last day for open enrollment, Obamacare is on track to hit the White House’s original target of 7 million people signing up, a senior administration official said Tuesday. President Barack Obama will address the milestone with a statement from the Rose Garden at 4:15 p.m. ET on Tuesday.

Big Increase in Mothers over 50 Raises Health Fears

(The Telegraph) – The number of women giving birth over the age of fifty has more than doubled in the past five years, with three children being born to a woman in their fifties every week. The huge leap raises health fears as older women are more likely to suffer miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies while their offspring are more susceptible to genetic defects. The NHS is also being put under increased pressure as older mothers and their babies require a higher level of medical care, according to midwives.

Supreme Court Declines to Hear New Contraception Cases

(Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to take up preliminary appeals brought by Roman Catholic groups that want an exemption from part of President Barack Obama’s healthcare law requiring employers to provide insurance that covers contraception. The cases were brought by a series of Roman Catholic-affiliated nonprofit groups based in Washington, D.C., including Catholic University.

March 28, 2014

NIHSeniorHealth.gov Offers Comprehensive Information on End of Life

(NIH.gov) – A new Web resource from the National Institutes of Health is aimed at helping people address a sensitive subject—the end of life. The latest addition to NIHSeniorHealth, the health and wellness website for older adults, the End of Life module provides visitors with information about the most common issues faced by the dying and their caregivers.

March 27, 2014

Behind the Legal Challenge to Obamacare’s Contraception Mandate

(The Guardian) – When the US supreme court hears a challenge to the Affordable Care Act’s contraception requirement on Tuesday, the owners of dozens of for-profit companies will be hoping the justices side with their belief that it infringes on their religious freedom. The highly anticipated hearing concerns cases brought by crafts company Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood, a cabinet-making business. They are two of the 49 for-profit companies to have filed suits challenging the ACA requirement that says preventive health services, and therefore birth control, should be provided without out-of-pocket costs under insurance plans.

March 21, 2014

A New Edition of Journal of the American Medical Association is Available

Journal of the American Medical Association (Volume 311, No. 8, February 26,  2014) is now available online by subscription only.

Articles include:

  • “Innovation, Risk, and Patient Empowerment: The FDA-Mandated Withdrawal of 23andMe’s Personal Genome Service” by Nicholas S. Downing and Joseph S. Ross
  • “Returning Pleiotropic Results From Genetic Testing to Patients and Research Participants” by Jonathan M. Kocarnik and Stephanie M. Fullerton
  • “Finding the Role of Health Care in Population Health” by Emma M. Eggleston and Jonathan A. Finkelstein
  • “A Unified Code of Ethics for Health Professionals:  Insights From an IOM Workshop” by Matthew K. Wynia
  • “The Patient-Centered Medical Home:  One Size Does Not Fit All” by Thomas L. Schwenk
  • “Nonspecific Effects of Vaccines” by David Goldblatt and Elizabeth Miller
  • “Live Vaccine Against Measles, Mumps, and Rubella and the Risk of Hospital Admissions for Nontargeted Infections” by Signe Sørup, et al.

The Diminishing Returns of Modern Medicine

(New York Times) – This should not come as a surprise. The law of diminishing returns applies to every human enterprise, and medicine is no different. In-hospital mortality after an acute heart attack has dropped 10-fold, from 30 percent to 3 percent, since the invention of the modern cardiac care unit in the 1960s. Can shaving a few more minutes off D2B time possibly yield any additional benefit?

Psychiatric Genetics Holds Great Promise

(Psychiatric News) – During the past five years or so, the field of psychiatric genetics has exploded, experts in the field concur. Whereas only a handful of gene variants that contribute to psychiatric illnesses had been identified before 2008, now close to 200 have, Jordan Smoller, M.D., Sc.D., a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and a psychiatric genetics expert, said in an interview. “They range from common variations that affect gene expression to rare variations in genes themselves to copy number variations that result in the deletion or duplication of chunks of DNA.”

March 20, 2014

Progress in Diagnosing Multidrug-Resistant Tuberculosis

(World Health Organization) – Almost half a million people fell ill with multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) in 2012, yet less than one in 4 of these people was diagnosed, mainly due to a lack of access to quality diagnostic services. But with an innovative international project, 27 countries are making promising progress in diagnosing MDR-TB, says WHO in the lead-up to World TB Day, 24 March.

5 Myths about Hospice Care

(Fox News) – My new book, Changing the Way We Die, co-authored by Sheila Himmel, lifts hospice out of the shadows. We explore its compassionate, holistic approach to end-of-life care through the stories of real patients like Rusty Hammer, their families and their doctors. At its best, hospice is more than a way to relieve the suffering of dying — it is a way to live.

IBM’s Watson Attempts to Tackle the Genomics of Brain Cancer

(Forbes) – This morning, IBM and the New York Genome Center announced a partnership to test whether Watson, the computer that won on Jeopardy, can sift through the genomes of cancer patients and help doctors pick drugs. This effort could hold the key to making DNA sequencing for cancer affordable, but there is a vast amount of work to do that will take years at a minimum.

In U.S. Contraception Case, a Question of Corporate Rights

(Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court could dodge the contentious question of whether corporations have religious rights when it weighs objections to an Obamacare requirement that employers provide insurance coverage for contraception. The court, which hears oral argument in two consolidated cases on March 25, could rule that individuals who own closely held companies, rather than the corporations themselves, can argue their religious rights have been violated. Such a ruling would allow the court to avoid criticism that it favors corporate rights too much.

March 19, 2014

Some Top Cancer Centers Have Concerns about Access, Transparency with Health Law Insurance

(Associated Press) – Cancer patients relieved that they can get insurance coverage because of the new health care law may be disappointed to learn that some the nation’s best cancer hospitals are off-limits. An Associated Press survey found examples coast to coast. Seattle Cancer Care Alliance is excluded by five out of eight insurers in Washington state’s insurance exchange. MD Anderson Cancer Center says it’s in less than half of the plans in the Houston area. Memorial Sloan-Kettering is included by two of nine insurers in New York City and has out-of-network agreements with two more.

March 18, 2014

Making Sense of New Studies Questioning Mammograms: Is the Test Worth Having?

(Washington Post) – Women contemplating whether to get a mammogram need to understand two things, says Fran Visco, president of the National Breast Cancer Coalition (and a breast cancer survivor): First, the deadliest cancers may spread before they’re detectable on even the best mammogram; second, some of the cancers that mammograms find will never harm you. Until we can distinguish harmless cancers from deadly ones, we’re compelled to treat all of them. Thus, some women get surgery, chemotherapy and other treatments for cancers that would never have hurt them, Visco says.

 

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