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Health Management Technology News
  April 17, 2014
In this issue:

 Americans increasingly prefer Democrats on healthcare: Reuters/Ipsos poll

 Health Management Technology’s Resource Guide sign-up

 Has healthcare embraced a hit-and-run strategy?

 Wolters Kluwer Health: Use ICD-10 delay to refine transition plans, maximize outcomes

 Price transparency stinks in health care. Here’s how the industry wants to change that

 Doctors, medical staff on drugs put patients at risk

 The app will see you now: Better puts healthcare in your pocket

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Americans increasingly prefer Democrats on healthcare: Reuters/Ipsos poll

Americans increasingly think Democrats have a better plan for healthcare than Republicans, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted after the White House announced that more people than expected had signed up for the "Obamacare" health plan.

Nearly one-third of respondents in the online survey released on Tuesday said they prefer Democrats' plan, policy or approach to healthcare, compared to just 18 percent for Republicans. This marks both an uptick in support for Democrats and a slide for Republicans since a similar poll in February.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius stepped down last week after overseeing the law's rollout, including the website's tumultuous first weeks, when many users were unable to access the system to purchase or research their insurance options.

But a surge of late sign-ups for health coverage pushed the number to over 7.1 million people by the end of March, and Sebelius said before resigning that more than 7.5 million were expected to sign up this year.

"In the last couple of weeks, as the exchanges hit their goals, news coverage has been more positive and the support of the Democratic Party on this issue has rebounded," said Ipsos pollster Chris Jackson.

Read the full article from Reuters here  

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Has healthcare embraced a hit-and-run strategy?

Sovaldi is off to the races — the biggest and most successful drug launch, by far, in the history of the industry. This is a truly remarkable achievement, a combination of derring-do and flawless execution that has given millions of patients the hope of a cure, and Gilead’s investors the anticipation of a just reward. That blend of risk-taking and excellence is the hallmark of innovative drug companies, and the rare combination of skills that has given Gilead a $100 billion market cap within a short 27 years of its creation, making it the 8th biggest company in the industry.

So what’s the problem?

On the face of it, Gilead did everything right. Its justification for Sovaldi’s hefty price is rock-solid: $84,000 for a cure is far cheaper than liver transplants that don’t prevent relapses, and much better for patients than debilitating interferon-based therapies. It is also more defensible than equally expensive anti-cancer drugs that only bring short respites with a dubious quality of life.

But perfection can have unintended consequences. One of the things that Gilead may have unwittingly done is demonstrate the long-predicted unsustainability of extreme pharmaceutical prices. Paradoxically, if Sovaldi had been a mediocre drug the whole commotion might never have happened, as many patients would not have bothered. But it is such a breakthrough that they want it. In the U.S., this means potentially 3.2 million persons for a cost of $270 billion, more than the country’s entire annual drug bill. Payers are fighting back, and there is hope that competition may soon soften these numbers. But they are likely to remain big, perhaps too big, even for America.

Read the full article from Forbes here  

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Wolters Kluwer Health: Use ICD-10 delay to refine transition plans, maximize outcomes

Wolters Kluwer Health called upon healthcare organizations to view deferment of the ICD-10 implementation as an opportunity to refine plans to further minimize post-transition impacts and maximize quality and financial outcomes. In particular, the delay provides more time for clients to expand current strategies and further leverage its Health Language and ProVation Medical solutions to build a solid foundation for long-term clinical, financial and operational success under the expansive new code set.

Authorized on April 1 as part of broader Sustainable Growth Rate legislation, the ICD-10 implementation deadline was pushed back to at least October 2015. While the delay was met with relief by organizations that were struggling to comply with multiple concurrent regulatory mandates, even those that were on track to meet the original ICD-10 deadline can leverage the additional time to refine plans to minimize anticipated impacts on productivity and reimbursements to more fully realize cost and quality improvements.

“Due to the time pressures of Meaningful Use attestation and the October 2014 ICD-10 transition date, many payers, providers and vendors were forced to limit their focus to a small number of remediation initiatives, leaving gaps in their efforts. Now, in light of the delay, our clients are asking us to help them rebuild their transition plans to ensure they are comprehensive and address all the issues necessary to deliver long-term success,” said Brian McDonald, Vice President, Health Language, Wolters Kluwer Health, Clinical Solutions. “We urge all healthcare organizations to take advantage of this delay to reassess their preparedness and build an action plan to ensure they are not only prepared but also ready to operate in an ICD-10 world.”

Read the full press release here  

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Price transparency stinks in health care. Here’s how the industry wants to change that

There's been much written in the past year about just how hard it is to get a simple price for a basic health-care procedure. The industry has heard the rumblings, and now it's responding.

About two dozen industry stakeholders, including main lobbying groups for hospitals and health insurers, this morning are issuing new recommendations for how they can provide the cost of health-care services to patients.

The focus on health-care price transparency — discussed in Steven Brill's 26,000-word opus on medical bills for Time last year — has intensified, not surprisingly, as people are picking up more of the tab for their health care. Employers are shifting more costs onto their workers, and many new health plans under Obamacare feature high out-of-pocket costs.

The health care-industry has some serious catching up to do on the transparency front.States have passed their own health price transparency laws, Medicare has started to dump raw data on the cost of services and what doctors get paid, and private firms have developed their own transparency tools.

"We need to own this as an industry. We need to step up," said Joseph Fifer, president and CEO of the Healthcare Financial Management Association, who coordinated the group issuing the report this morning. The stakeholder group includes hospitals, consumer advocates, doctors and health systems.

Their recommendations delineate who in the health-care system should be responsible for providing pricing information and what kind of information to provide depending on a person's insurance status. Just getting the different stakeholders on the same page was difficult enough in the past, said Rich Umbdenstock, president and CEO of the American Hospital Association.

Read the full article from The Washington Post here  

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Doctors, medical staff on drugs put patients at risk

Anita Bertrand doesn't remember much about the first time she stole narcotics she was supposed to administer to surgical patients. She doesn't remember exactly when she installed the intravenous port in her ankle so she could inject the drugs more efficiently. And she doesn't remember how many patients she may have put at risk before getting into treatment.

But she remembers how easy it was to get away with it.

"I was absolutely impaired, using narcotics while working. … And no one ever noticed," says Bertrand, 49, a nurse anesthetist in Houston. "Did I make mistakes? I don't know, and that's the scary part. I'm not aware of any, but I certainly would not say I was immune to that."

America's prescription drug epidemic reaches deep into the medical community. Across the country, more than 100,000 doctors, nurses, technicians and other health professionals struggle with abuse or addiction, mostly involving narcotics such as oxycodone and fentanyl. Their knowledge and access make their problems especially hard to detect. Yet the risks they pose — to the public and to themselves — are enormous.

A single addicted health care worker who resorts to "drug diversion," the official term for stealing drugs, can endanger thousands. Nearly 8,000 people in eight states needed hepatitis tests after David Kwiatkowski, an itinerant hospital technician, was caught injecting himself with patients' pain medicine and refilling the syringes with saline. He infected at least 46, mostly in New Hampshire.

It was the third hepatitis outbreak since 2009 linked to a health care worker using patients' syringes (the others were in Denver and Jacksonville, Fla). And for each of those worst-case scenarios, there are countless more practitioners whose drug-related errors are more isolated — a botched surgery, an incorrect dose of medication, a worrisome vital sign missed.

Much of the damage goes unnoticed or undocumented; oversight mechanisms to detect, report and address drug problems in health care settings are haphazard and limited. Still, a USA TODAY review of state and federal records identified hundreds of cases in recent years in which physicians and other health care practitioners were disciplined or prosecuted for drug diversion or other medical misconduct related to substance abuse.

Read the full USA Today article here  

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The app will see you now: Better puts healthcare in your pocket

The latest take on telemedicine in the age of apps will launch Wednesday morning, as Better premiers in Apple’s App Store.

The Palo Alto, Calif., startup of the same name has partnered with the Mayo Clinic to offer users 24/7 access to a personal health assistant, nurse line, automated symptom checker, personalized health information, electronic medical records and more.

When necessary, consumers can interact with the prestigious nonprofit health practice’s doctors and specialists as well, who can directly prescribe limited types of drugs over the phone. The service will cost $49 a month, though a free version will include everything but the human interactions.

“Health care is good at buildings, but they’re not good at mobile — at extending reach,” said Geoffrey Clapp, the co-founder of Better and a digital health veteran. “We wanted to be the tip of the spear; to answer, how do you take great medical services and extend them through technology to where patients are?”

Better provided its first peek at the service a year ago, at the D: Dive Into Mobile conference. The company raised $5 million from the Social + Capital Partnership and Mayo Clinic. The 20-person company has been conducting a private beta version of the service with around 1,000 people for the last few months.

“We collaborated with and invested in Better to create a powerful way for people to connect with Mayo Clinic in their homes and communities, wherever they are,” said Dr. Paul Limburg, medical director of Mayo Clinic Global Business Solutions, in a statement.

Read the full article from here  

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Industry News
AMA: Physicians generate $1.6 trillion in economic activity, support 10 million jobs
A new report released today by the American Medical Association (AMA) shows that physicians have a huge influence on national and...
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President signs SGR "doc fix" and ICD-10 delay
On Tuesday, April 1, President Barack Obama signed the "Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014," HR 4302, which...
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AMA statement on 17th Sustainable Growth Rate patch
"The American Medical Association is deeply disappointed by the Senate's decision to enact a 17th patch to fix the flawed...
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AHIMA calls for continued advocacy to prevent ICD-10 delay
The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) expressed extreme disappointment at the vote passed by the U.S....
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House passes SGR "doc fix" & ICD-10 delay; Senate to vote Monday
On Thursday, March 27th, the U.S. House of Representatives approved by voice vote HR 4302, a new bill that would create a...
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