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Updated: 19 hours 25 min ago

Open Payments Site Launches to User Complaints

Wed, 10/01/2014 - 06:56

Data released under the Physician Payments Sunshine Act shows $3.5 billion in drug and medical device company payments of $10 or more to doctors and teaching hospitals in the last five months of 2013.

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Payer Calls for More Primary Care Docs, Team Care

Wed, 10/01/2014 - 06:49

Despite a projected surge in primary care visits as a result of coverage expansion, only one in six recent medical school graduates say they will pursue primary care as their field of residency, survey data from UnitedHealth shows.

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Dallas hospital diagnoses first patient with Ebola

Wed, 10/01/2014 - 06:41

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed on Tuesday the first case of Ebola in a critically ill patient diagnosed in a U.S. hospital. The patient — who has been isolated since his symptoms were recognized — is an unnamed man in intensive care at Texas Health Presbyterian hospital in Dallas. Hospital workers noted his case because of his symptoms and recent travel history. It is not known whether he has infected others, although CDC officials are tracing his contacts. The man left Liberia Sept. 19 and arrived in the USA the next day but had no symptoms when leaving Africa or arriving here, said Thomas Frieden, the CDC director.

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Our first dive into the new open payments system

Wed, 10/01/2014 - 06:40

The federal government unveiled data Tuesday detailing 4.4 million payments made to doctors and teaching hospitals by pharmaceutical and medical device companies. The launch of the so-called Open Payments website, mandated under a provision of the Affordable Care Act, was far from glitch-free: Some users encountered long delays and sometimes error messages trying to access its seven data tables. Also, the site didn't provide consumers with an easy-to-use lookup tool, a single place to search for a doctor's name and see all results across data files. It will take a while to dig deeply into this new trove of data, which covers the period of August to December 2013 and includes general and research payments, as well as payments to companies' physician investors.

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Doctors find barriers to sharing digital medical records

Wed, 10/01/2014 - 06:37

As a practicing ear, nose and throat specialist in Ahoskie, N.C., Dr. Raghuvir B. Gelot says that little has frustrated him more than the digital record system he installed a few years ago. The problem: His system, made by one company, cannot share patient records with the local medical center, which uses a program made by another company. The two companies are quick to deny responsibility, each blaming the other. Regardless of who is at fault, doctors and hospital executives across the country say they are distressed that the expensive electronic health record systems they installed in the hopes of reducing costs and improving the coordination of patient care — a major goal of the Affordable Care Act — simply do not share information with competing systems.

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Mission Health (NC) sheds 130 jobs

Wed, 10/01/2014 - 06:35

Mission Health System has cut 130 jobs but the layoffs come under a reorganization that will ultimately add more workers, CEO Ron Paulus said. The company next year will end up with an increase of 147 jobs to handle growth in outpatient services, he said. "We are reshaping our organization to meet the needs of our community in the future and there will be more caregivers at Mission next year than there are here today," he said. The company will also raise prices for some laboratory services under the plan.

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CT law requires hospitals to tell patients of observation status

Wed, 10/01/2014 - 06:33

Starting Wednesday, a new state law requires Connecticut hospitals to tell all patients when they are being kept in the hospital for observation instead of being admitted -- and to warn them about the financial consequences. Anyone who goes to the hospital can be placed on observation status so doctors can determine what's wrong, and decide whether the patient is sick enough to be admitted or well enough to go home. Observation patients may receive diagnostic tests, medications, some treatment, and other outpatient services. Depending on their insurance, they can be charged a share of the cost.

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25 years of health IT: Highs & lows

Wed, 10/01/2014 - 06:30

When the US government began charting an ambitious course to modernize healthcare and prepare a foundation for the future, it faced its share of detractors and advocates. With the clarity of the passing years, both have been proven right and wrong. Technology experts are driving success and will overcome the challenges, executives agreed. "The industry has rapidly deployed the dramatic changes and innovated as a result of the last several years after the Affordable Care Act," said Ash Shehata, partner in the Global Healthcare Center of Excellence at KPMG. "IT has been at the center of the transformation."

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Opinion: Medical mergers are driving up health costs

Wed, 10/01/2014 - 06:29

Health-care costs are going up, and there's a lot of debate about why. Is it the high cost of drugs or our aging population? Is it Americans' insistence on having the newest, most high-tech care? Each of these may contribute to rising costs. But a close look at the data reveals that one factor is increasing costs in recent years more than anything else: consolidation among hospitals and doctors. Consolidation means many things, from the merger of two hospitals or health systems to an acquisition of a physician group by a hospital. Generally, however, when providers consolidate, private insurers end up paying more for services. [Subscription Required]

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NJ Supreme Court ruling protects confidentiality of hospital's investigation in medical malpractice case

Wed, 10/01/2014 - 06:27

Patients who sue a hospital for medical malpractice are not entitled to records documenting the hospital's internal examination into what went wrong, the state Supreme Court has ruled, upholding a 2004 law intended to encourage medical professionals to learn from and prevent future mistakes. The ruling, released Monday, stems from a medical malpractice lawsuit brought by Esther and Gedalia Applegrad, who alleged their daughter's brain injury and seizure disorder were caused by a series of mistakes made during the baby's delivery and care at Valley Hospital in Ridgewood in May 2007.

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Top Provider Billing Mistakes Are Changing

Tue, 09/30/2014 - 06:57

Rapidly advancing fields such as molecular diagnostics pose some of the newest challenges for providers, who must bill with precision or risk losing reimbursements.

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Hospitals Seeking Physician Alignment

Tue, 09/30/2014 - 06:54

Healthcare leaders face challenges on multiple fronts as they try to redefine physician-hospital alignment for a value-based system that is just taking shape.

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What we've learned from four years of diving into dollars for docs

Tue, 09/30/2014 - 06:44

On Tuesday, the federal government is expected to release details of payments to doctors by every pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturer in the country. The information is being made public under a provision of the 2010 Affordable Care Act. The law mandates disclosure of payments to doctors, dentists, chiropractors, podiatrists and optometrists for things like promotional speaking, consulting, meals, educational items and research. It's not quite clear what the data will show — in part because the first batch will be incomplete, covering spending for only a few months at the end of 2013 — but we at ProPublica have some good guesses. That's because we have been detailing relationships between doctors and the pharmaceutical industry for the past four years as part of our Dollars for Docs project.

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Study: Cancer costs 'skyrocketed' despite drug cuts

Tue, 09/30/2014 - 06:41

The cost of treating cancer has "skyrocketed" despite a 2003 law that sought to control Medicare drug costs, including the cost of chemotherapy, according to a new study. Research published Monday in the Journal of Clinical Oncology found that oncologists did not stop prescribing expensive cancer drugs even after Medicare cut the drugs' reimbursements in 2005. In fact, the aggregate cost of cancer care rose by as much as 60 percent between the passage of the law in 2003 and 2013, the study noted.

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Federal doctor ratings face accuracy, value questions

Tue, 09/30/2014 - 06:39

Consumers searching this fall for the best doctor covered by their new public or private insurance plan won't get very far on a federal database designed to rate physician quality. The Affordable Care Act requires the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to provide physician quality data, but that database offers only the most basic information. It's so limited, health care experts say, as to be useless to many consumers. This comes as people shopping for insurance on the state or federal exchanges will find increasingly narrow networks of doctors and may be forced to find a new one. Many with employer-provided plans will face the same predicament.

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FDA pushes to improve medical device security

Tue, 09/30/2014 - 06:38

When former VP Dick Cheney last year disclosed that doctors had disabled the wireless capabilities in his pacemaker because of hacker concerns, it hammered home the dangers posed by network-connected medical devices. Such concerns have finally prompted the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to convene a collaborative industry-wide effort to bolster medical device cyber security. As a first step, the FDA will host a workshop in Arlington, Va., next month during which it hopes to bring together medical device manufacturers, healthcare providers, biomedical engineers, IT systems administrators, health insurers, and others. The goal of the two-day event is to spur a discussion on the best ways to identify and mitigate cybersecurity vulnerabilities in commonly used medical devices.

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Feds give $14.9 million to MT for healthcare workforce development

Tue, 09/30/2014 - 06:32

Health care education across Montana got a significant boost on Monday with the announcement that 15 colleges will receive a total of nearly $15 million in federal grants to help train students for health care jobs. "Montana's public and tribal two-year colleges are working together to build new pathways, partnerships and curriculum updates to serve our state's health care needs," said Montana Commissioner of Higher Education Clayton Christian. Announced by the U.S. Department of Labor, the Montana Health Creating Access to Rural Education (CARE) grant will be administered by Missoula College at the University of Montana. Funds will go to 15 two-year, community and tribal colleges, which will partner with 39 health care agencies to improve health care training and education.

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Health IT's future: 9 issues to watch

Tue, 09/30/2014 - 06:31

They've forged a strong foundation, but technologists and health professionals have more to do to fulfill the vision of a cost-effective, consumer-oriented, patient-engaged industry. "Future systems will support clinicians and patients as they work together toward wellness," said Joe Frassica, chief medical informatics officer and chief technology officer/vice president for Philips Patient Care and Monitoring Solutions at Philips Healthcare. "These systems will provide increasingly personalized and real-time insights and advice for clinicians and patients and will come to be trusted partners in the care of patients."

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The rise of the MD/MBA degree

Tue, 09/30/2014 - 06:29

For David Gellis, the spark came during a class in college on health policy in America. He had known he wanted to become a doctor, but he was looking for a way to contribute to systemic change in healthcare. His professor at the time was Donald Berwick, who later headed the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services and made a bid this year to be the Democratic candidate for governor of Massachusetts on a platform that includes single payer healthcare. Berwick's class inspired Gellis to think more about the business skills needed in healthcare. Gellis decided he wanted to apply business skills specifically to primary care, and he applied to Harvard Medical School and Harvard Business School simultaneously.

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Driving Down Claims Denials

Mon, 09/29/2014 - 07:25

Provider organizations are finding new ways to protect revenue from aggressive government audits and inefficient internal processes.

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