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Health Management Technology News
  April 21, 2014
In this issue:
 

 Heartbleed causes HealthCare.gov to change users' passwords

 Healthcare costs in U.S. far exceed costs in other countries, report says

 The real healthcare subsidy problem

 Health Management Technology’s Resource Guide sign-up

 Thin film electronics may hold the key to human size health care

 SARS-Like MERS virus spreads among healthcare workers


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Heartbleed causes HealthCare.gov to change users' passwords

A cybersecurity scare is forcing Obamacare enrollees who used the HealthCare.gov site to sign up for an insurance plan to now change their passwords.

The Obama administration says that although there is no immediate threat to users, all enrollees have had their password reset and now must create a new password.

The threat emanates from a recently discovered online security vulnerability known as Heartbleed, which could put people's personal information at risk, from passwords and e-mails to financial information. It has forced most websites to re-evaluate and revamp their security procedures, and many have asked users to change their passwords, as well: from social media sites like Facebook and Instagram to dating site OKCupid and movie-streaming service Netflix.

"There’s no indication that Heartbleed has been used against HealthCare.gov or that any personal information has ever been at risk. However, we’re resetting current passwords out of an abundance of caution, to ensure the protection of your information," says a statement on HealthCare.gov.

The site has already reset users’ accounts. Now, when they sign in, they will be prompted to create a new, unique password. The site includes a step-by-step process on how to do so and provides a hotline for any users who experience difficulty.

Read the full post from CNN here  

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Healthcare costs in U.S. far exceed costs in other countries, report says

An average one-day hospital stay in the United States cost $4,293 last year, six times more than it did in Argentina and nearly 10 times the cost in Spain, an industry group reported last Thursday. Medical procedures, tests, scans and prescription medicine cost far more in the United States than in eight other countries, the International Federation of Health Plans said last Thursday in its annual report.

“The price variations bear no relation to health outcomes; they merely demonstrate the relative ability of providers to profiteer at the expense of patients, and in some cases reflect a damaging degree of market failure,” said Tom Sackville, the group’s chief executive.

The group examined healthcare costs in Argentina, Australia, Canada, England, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, Switzerland and the United States. The data were gathered by a survey of health plans in each country. Costs in the United States were based on prices negotiated between private health plans and healthcare providers.

Here are some of the group’s findings:

Heart bypass surgery cost an average of $75,345 in the United States, compared with $15,742 in the Netherlands and $16,492 in Argentina.

The average cost of an MRI ranged from $138 in Switzerland to $1,145 in the United States.

Knee replacement surgery cost an average of $25,398 in the United States, more than three times as much as the $8,100 cost in Spain.

Read the full article from The Los Angeles Times here  

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The real healthcare subsidy problem

People have criticized The Affordable Care Act for amounting to a large transfer of wealth, from wealthy Americans to those not as well off. But the real transfer of wealth has been from United States to other developed nations, whose healthcare costs we have subsidized for many years by paying so generously for many of our healthcare services. No better example of this comes to mind than the price we pay for pharmaceuticals in the US versus elsewhere. Below is a picture of what we pay  for brand-name drugs here compared to peer nations.

Pharmaceutical products are cheaper abroad in part because companies know they can make money in the US market, and thus are willing to tolerate smaller profit margins in other countries.

In effect, therefore, we are subsidizing the cost of healthcare in those other countries. And not just any old countries. Some of the richest countries in the world – like Switzerland and Germany. If we negotiated pharmaceutical prices more aggressively here in the US, the pharmaceutical industry might be more reluctant to accept lower prices elsewhere. More likely, lower prices in the US would mean lower profits for the industry. This would undoubtedly have an effect on the willingness of pharmaceutical companies to invest in new products. Nothing promotes research spending better than the promise of future profits. It is worries about such research incentives that have caused some people to argue against negotiating lower prices with pharmaceutical companies. To lower profit margins, they contend, would be to slow down medical progress.

But is it the job of the United States to provide profits to the pharmaceutical industry, so they have an incentive to develop new cures? Is it people in United States who should pay for the majority of this research, simply because our friends in Europeare tougher negotiators?

In the United States, we have a health care cost problem. We spend significantly more money on healthcare than our peers. And a big portion of this cost problem is a price problem . Our doctors make more money than similarly trained doctors in Europe. Our hospital executives make more money than their peers in Canada. And we pay more money for prescriptions than we would if we lived elsewhere.

Read the full article from Forbes here  

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Thin film electronics may hold the key to human size health care

Health care’s integration with information technology remains inconsistent as of today. Supercomputers helped fuel the genomics revolution, which was a critical success for the health care space. On the other hand, the transition to electronic medical records has been a promise never fully realized. The rapid adoption of wearables, though, leaves little doubt that electronics is poised to make a large impact on health and medicine.

As Gigaom Research analyst Jody Ranck writes in his forthcoming report on health care and the internet of things, sensors and other electronics will drive tremendous innovation in medical devices, building off the current momentum in fitness and wellness devices. Much of this development is centered on making devices ever smaller, from ingestible sensors in the form of pills to nanowires and lab-on-a-chip technologies.

This focus on miniaturization is no surprise. Silicon electronics has relentlessly followed Moore’s Law for the last 40 years, exponentially decreasing the size of a transistor. But in health care, smaller is not always better. Human beings are large and many things we want to measure, like blood pressure or muscle movement, require larger-scale sensors.

This is where silicon — an element so critical to the development of computing that its name adorns Valleys, Alleys and other centers of IT innovation — starts to falter.

Silicon is plentiful on Earth, but in the purified crystalline form required for semiconductors it is only cheap because many chips can be packed into a single wafer, enabling smaller devices. If larger sensors are carved out of a wafer, the economics aren’t nearly as favorable. Since, as mentioned above, smaller doesn’t necessarily mean better in health care, the key to fully realizing the promise of information technology may be to move electronics beyond silicon.

Read the full article from Gigaom.com here  

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SARS-Like MERS virus spreads among healthcare workers

A sudden uptick in the SARS-like corona virus called MERS-CoV for Middle Eastern Respiratory Coronavirus is partially related to health care workers becoming infected with the disease.

This month the World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed 32 cases of the virus so far, including a cluster of 10 health care workers, all of whom worked with an infected patient who died on April 10. Nearly all the cases were located in the Middle East countries of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Jordan. One case was found in Malaysia.

Of the 32 cases reported this month, 19 were health care workers, according to the WHO.

For the first time, the disease has been found in Asia, after a Malaysian man was found to have contracted it this month. The 54-year-old man was diagnosed with the disease after traveling to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The man traveled for a pilgrimage and during his vacation spent time at a camel farm, where he had camel milk. He died on April 13 and had undisclosed underlying health conditions.

The virus is a respiratory virus in the same family as the deadly SARS virus and common cold. Symptoms can include fever, shortness of breath, pneumonia, diarrhea and in severe cases kidney failure.

Since the virus was first identified in April 2012, the WHO has found a total of 243 confirmed cases of the deadly virus and 93 people have died from it.

Read the full report from ABC News here  

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