Today's News and Commentary

About the public’s health

Comparing Automated Office Blood Pressure Readings With Other Methods of Blood Pressure Measurement for Identifying Patients With Possible Hypertension: Physicians, nurses and their assistants are often hurried while caring for patients in the office setting. One part of the visit that is hurried is taking a blood pressure reading. This study found that automated readings are superior to those professionally obtained and “should replace the recording of blood pressure by nurses and physicians in routine clinical practice.” Caveat: Any reading must be done under the correct circumstances, like patient sitting at rest in a quiet room with arm resting on a level surface slightly bent. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD BLOOD PRESSURE BE OBTAINED OVER CLOTHING!

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About health insurance

Azar calls on hospitals to make list price information more useful: As previously reported, starting January 1 hospitals have been required to post their charges so patients can make informed choices about care. But since what patients will pay differ by insurance, the lists are meaningless. HHS secretary Azar is now calling on hospitals to help the public make more sense of these prices. But hospitals cannot know every patient’s insurance and even if they did, negotiated prices with payers are contractually confidential. Further, such knowledge will not help in cases of emergency.

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Hospital Prices Outgrew Physician Prices by Almost 20%: These findings, from data 2007-2014, were because: “Price growth in hospital-based procedures has been primarily driven by the facility side rather than the physician side.” Authors of the study, published in Health Affairs (Subscription required) suggest that: “Policy makers should consider a range of options to address hospital price growth, including antitrust enforcement, administered pricing, the use of reference pricing, and incentivizing referring physicians to make more cost-efficient referrals.” What is really curious is that they did not mention a currently debated plan for site neutrality in payment, i.e., paying hospital outpatient visits the same as physician office visits.

Read the summary and author interview

About pharma

Blood-Pressure Medicine Will Be First Product for New Generic Drug Venture: Hospital chain and Group Purchasing Organization Premier, Inc. launched a generic division called ProvideGx. This new company’s purpose is to provide scarce pharmaceuticals to its members. The first drug will be intravenous metoprolol, manufactured under contract by Baxter. ProvideGx joins CivicaRx, another generic company owned by hospitals to produce medications in short supply.

Read the article (Wall Street Journal, subscription required)