Today's News and Commentary

About healthcare IT

AI, machine learning algorithms are susceptible to biased data: This article is more of a reminder. Medical research is often gender and race biased because of the composition of the studies’ populations. Therefore, algorithms and artificial intelligence programs based on that data will give biased results.

DoD, VA adopt single healthcare logistics information system: These two military branches announced they will use a single procurement and logistics system. Now if they could only harmonize their EMRs…

Wide Variety of Groups Support Standardizing Addresses in Electronic Health Records: Standardization of data formatting is essential for data mining, interoperability and patient matching. Many items are standardized, like diagnosis and treatment codes. But patient addresses are not entered in a uniform fashion. “For example, one system may use ‘Street’ in addresses, while others abbreviate it as ‘St.’” Major healthcare organizations are now calling for electronic health systems to use US Postal Service address standards.

About healthcare quality and safety

Emergency department monitor alarms rarely change clinical management: An observational study: The headline tells it all…there are so many alarms going off in the ED that staff don’t often pay attention to important signals, particularly because most of these alerts rarely change clinical management. The researchers call for changing alarm parameters and customizing settings.

About health insurance

Trends in Subsidized and Unsubsidized Enrollment: The ACA enrollment trends are tales of two populations:
”During two successive years of declining enrollment from 2016 to 2018, unsubsidized [emphasis added] enrollment declined by 2.5 million people, representing a 40 percent drop nationally. At the state level, the percent change in unsubsidized enrollment over this period ranged from a 0.4 percent drop in Rhode Island to a 91 percent drop in Iowa…

Since 2014, average monthly enrollment in the subsidized [emphasis added] portion of the market has grown substantially larger than in the unsubsidized market. The subsidized portion of the market was 122 percent larger than the unsubsidized portion in 2018, up from 61 percent larger in 2017.”

Healthcare industry groups warn final 'public charge' rule could impact immigrant health, drive up costs: This story was the most widely reported healthcare news today. The Trump administration finalized its “public charge” rule for immigration. Under that rule, “the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) could more easily reject green card or visa applications from people the agency deems likely to use public assistance programs such as Medicaid in the future.” If immigrants are not covered on Medicaid, some healthcare providers, like hospitals, would have to provide free care to them. The providers would, in turn need to charge more for private patients, with the costs being passed to the public in the form of higher insurance costs.

Hospital Price Increases for Inpatient Services Will Cost Consumers and Employers $250 Billion over the Next Decade: According to this UnitedHealthGroup study: “The annual cost of hospital inpatient services for privately insured individuals exceeded $200 billion in 2018 and is projected to exceed $350 billion in 2029…Between 2013 and 2017: Hospital prices for inpatient services increased 19 percent, about 4.5 percent per year; physician prices for inpatient services increased 10 percent, about 2.5 percent per year…”

About the public’s health

U.S. records 10 new cases of measles last week: Just a reminder that the outbreak is not over.

About pharma

FDA shatters generic drug approval record: The FDA has already approved more generics this year than all of last year, with two months to go in the current fiscal year. It is good news, but remember specialty drugs are driving pharmaceutical cost trends, and biosimilars are not being approved at a fast clip.

Humana calls Mallinckrodt's Acthar a 'billion-dollar golden goose' in $700M fraud lawsuit: In addition to existing federal action, Humana is now suing saying it “overpaid for Acthar by $700 million because of Mallinckrodt’s widespread campaign to stifle competition and pay doctors and patients to choose the pricey med…” The medication is a branded version of a long off-patent medication from Questcor, a company Mallinckrodt purchased. That company raised the price 85,000% (sic) from 2001-2017.

DNA Data Shared in Ways Patients May Find Surprising: This article is a great summary of what happens to your genetic data when you give it to your local hospital.