Today's News and Commentary

About Healthcare IT

9 top Internet of Things trends for 2019: Interesting list from a healthcare IT trade publication. It has some good thoughts about current and future trends in this area. Worth at least a quick read.

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Geisinger program improves internal communication between doctors: This system has an internal communications program called Ask-A-Doc. Primary care physicians can ask specialists questions through this e-channel to get faster answers and avoid unnecessary referrals. According to an internal study of nearly 22,000 physician consultations, “the Ask-A-Doc program significantly reduced turnaround time between primary and specialty doctors to 6.5 hours vs. traditional referrals, which range from weeks to months.” In addition to reducing turnaround time, the program reduced costs 20% in its second month, largely due to lower ER visits and a 74% drop in specialty visits.

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Read more about how the process works

Disconnected: a survey of users and nonusers of telehealth and their use of primary care: This research looked at who is using telehealth services. The conclusion was: “ …users of live video visits were educated, employed, and largely urban based. Compared with nonusers, they were less likely to have a primary care USC [ usual source of care], and many unsuccessfully sought to obtain in-person care.” Having the availability of telehealth is laudable, but not as a substitute for having an ongoing primary care physician relationship.

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Data Note: Public’s Experiences With Electronic Health Records: This research from the Kaiser Family Foundation has a number of interesting findings (you should look at the whole report). One interesting result was that only about 45% of respondents thought EHRs improved the quality of care or physician interaction. Overall, 54% are concerned about unauthorized access, but results vary by age- younger respondents are more trusting.

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About the public’s health

A prospective study of tea drinking temperature and risk of esophageal squamous cell carcinoma: This scientific research was the most cited in the media today. It also has the most immediate practical implication. Bottom line: To avoid increasing your risk of esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (by 90%), make sure your hot drinks are below 60 degrees Celsius (140 degrees Fahrenheit). For comparison, those of you who prepare coffee by French press method know the initial brewing temperature is 200 degrees Fahrenheit.

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In case you cannot access the research read this story

New Zealand to Ban Military-Style Semiautomatic Guns, Jacinda Ardern Says: While not medical, this announcement was really the biggest public health story today and showed tremendous courage and leadership. US implications are, unfortunately, obvious.

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About insurance

Community Factors and Hospital Readmission Rates: Medicare penalizes hospitals with excessive readmission rates. But to be helpful, payments must be based on factors over which hospitals have control. This research quantifies the effect of social determinants on the penalties. Researchers studied cases of heart attack, congestive heart failure and pneumonia. They found that for those conditions alone, adjusting for such factors as  poverty, disability and living in a disadvantaged neighborhood accounted for $35 million in penalties for safety net and affluent hospitals. Overall, “Fifty‐eight percent of national variation in hospital readmission rates was explained by the county in which the hospital was located.”

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If you cannot get access to the research, read this article

The risk of death from this cancer went down in Kentucky after Medicaid expansion: Simple message: Medicaid expansion increased colon cancer screening and decreased mortality. For example: “In Appalachian Kentucky, where cancer rates are the highest in the state, colon cancer screenings went up 43 percent and the risk of death declined by … 27 percent.” Another case to show that insurance coverage matters in quality of care.

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