2008-02-25 00:00:00

Physician Practices Face Multiple Demands

In recent weeks a clearer picture has emerged of the challenges facing physician practices — from electronic health records use to medical home adoption to quality data reporting. As physicians attest in two different stories this week, adapting practice work flow to embrace these trends can be daunting. Fortunately, public and private pilot programs do offer willing practices the chance to get their feet wet before participation is mandated. And to echo Dr. Bruce Bagley’s question, if there is an opportunity to increase revenue and improve patient care, why wouldn’t a practice participate?

Click here to read this week’s Healthcare Business Weekly Update in its entirety.

Filed under: — @ 2008-02-25 00:00:00
2008-02-24 00:00:00

HealthRanker social media health site beta launched

Israel Lagares wrote me recently about the beta launch of his new site www.healthranker.com, which is a social media news/voting site dedicated to health and wellness. He said he created it because he got tired of the larger social media sites not giving enough love to the healthcare sector. Good work, Israel — we could use more sites like these.

Filed under: — @ 2008-02-24 00:00:00
2008-02-22 00:00:00

Retail Clinic Voices of Experience Say Members and Patients Vote with Their Feet

Like electronic health records, quality data reporting and emerging primary care models, retail clinics are here to stay. Physician practices, health plans and even hospital emergency departments must decide whether to compete or coexist. This week, Humana and Sutter Health — a payor and provider in the retail clinic space — gave us food for thought, sharing their experiences with reimbursing for and running retail clinics.

Dr. Steven Goldberg, corporate medical director at Humana, which includes MinuteClinic in its provider network, describes the very early feedback his organization has received:

Are retail clinics a good thing? Well, that depends on your vantage point. A couple things: the rate of clinic visits has dramatically increased over the past years. I believe recent published literature shows about 1,000 such clinics now, and hundreds of thousands of visits. In general, the consumer experience has been very good, and that’s a very positive thing. For the narrow scope of services, the experience has overall been consistently reported in sources as very, very positive. As a payor, we really look at this in the context of a range of approaches for these types of problems and settings. How does a retail clinic stack up for issues versus self management, versus urgent care, versus primary care, versus ER care? The public domain literature is very limited. Our findings are early. As far as quality, the general experience for the scope of services is very positive, and people in general seem to be pleased with cost. Frankly, they are walking with their feet and walking more and more every day. As far as continuity, that remains something that we have to follow more.

Offering the provider perspective was Dr. Thomas N. Atkins, medical director of Sutter Express Care, six drugstore-based medical clinics that are part of Sutter Health’s network of hospitals and doctors serving Northern California. There were enormous administrative and regulatory hurdles to overcome in the establishment of the clinics, Dr. Atkins said.

On clinics’ critical success factors:

It’s important if you want to be as successful as you can that you be first to market. I think it’s much more difficult to try and establish these behind another provider that puts these in in a community.

On fears voiced by health plans:

There’s some evidence that in some areas or for some conditions, patients will see someone in these retail clinics and then go see their doctor anyways, and that’s the kind of thing that increases utilization that is disturbing to the health plans. And the one health plan that didn’t contract with us, felt that that was what was going to happen. Now, their patients were really upset because we had that contract last year, we didn’t this year, and these patients have been coming in and being patronizing for us, and they were just, they were really upset about not being able to have this service covered for them. The patients to the clinics are quite loyal.

On why typical hospital marketing does not work for this kind of a project:

The nurse practitioner or the physician assistant is of course the patient care giver, educator, counselor, customer service rep. This piece here is really important. These people need to for the most part be extroverts; we really encourage them to walk around in the aisles and wear their clinic coat to Starbucks when they take a break. They have to take on a marketing role to help sell the clinics to their community. They often will go visit local stores and employers as well. …They are the face of Sutter Express Care.

Filed under: — @ 2008-02-22 00:00:00
2008-02-21 00:00:00

Retention of Local Public Health Workforce Continues to Pose Major Challenge

The local public health workforce in New York State is older than the average age of the U.S. civilian workforce, and nearly one in five public health workers plans to retire within five years, according to a study by the Center for Health Workforce Studies at the University at Albany’s School of Public Health. The survey was conducted in 32 of the 57 county health departments across the state, not including New York City.


  • Not only are large numbers of older employees planning on retiring soon, but 20 percent of public health workers under 35 plan to leave the field within the next five years.
  • The median age of a local public health worker is 49, compared to the median age of a U.S. civilian worker of 40. Sixty-two percent of local public health workers are between ages 45 and 64.

Filed under: — @ 2008-02-21 00:00:00
2008-02-21 00:00:00

Disparities in Healthcare Among Racial and Ethnic Minorities

Disparities — whether they are due to race, income, age or other factors — are a serious problem in healthcare. An average of 84,000 deaths occurred in the United States alone due to healthcare disparities, and studies show that racial and ethnic minorities receive lower-quality healthcare than non-minorities, even when insurance status, income, age and severity of conditions are comparable.

This week’s Disease Management Update features one study about disparities that minority children face, while another study deals with disparities in health coverage and cancer diagnoses.

Filed under: — @ 2008-02-21 00:00:00
2008-02-19 00:00:00

Neat little wallet-sized “Smart PHR” card

The health IT industry has been working on personal health records (PHRs) for a while and I suspect it will take years before they really take off in a big way. PHRs are likely not to become prevalent at least until the ambulatory care market starts to recognize their utility and doctors convince patients to use them.

MiCard Photo

I just ran across this new device: MiCard. MiCARD is the size of a credit card (just a bit thicker) and you load your medical record onto it. Once you’ve got it loaded, the following information is basically carried around in your hip pocket or purse:

* Critical Medical Conditions
* Personal Photo
* Blood Type
* Physician Information
* Medications & Dosages
* Allergies
* Insurance Information
* Eyeglass and Contact Lens Prescription Data
* Immunizations

Seems pretty slick. I’ll check them out in more detail and see how they fare. If anyone knows more about it or has used it, please leave a comment here for others to benefit from as well.

Filed under: — @ 2008-02-19 00:00:00
2008-02-18 00:00:00

Late-Stage Diagnosis More Likely Among Uninsured

Uninsured or Medicaid-insured patients are far more likely to be diagnosed with an advanced stage cancer than those with private insurance, according to a new American Cancer Society study of 3.5 million cancer patients with 12 of the most common cancer types. Previous studies have shown that insurance status is an important factor in ensuring timely diagnosis and care, but they were comprised of smaller patient groups, conducted in specific regions of the country, or looked only at specific cancer types (for example, breast or oropharyngeal cancer). This is the first large-scale national study to definitively link a late-stage cancer diagnosis with insurance status across a broad range of cancer types.


  • Uninsured and Medicaid-insured patients showed a significantly increased risk of having an advanced-stage cancer compared with their privately insured counterparts.
  • Uninsured and Medicaid-insured patients were also more likely to be diagnosed with late-stage breast and colorectal cancer, two cancers that can be detected at an early stage by screening.

Filed under: — @ 2008-02-18 00:00:00
2008-02-14 00:00:00

Americans Split Over Socialized Medicine

During the course of the presidential nomination campaign, some candidates’ healthcare plans have been described as “socialized medicine.” Historically, the phrase socialized medicine has been used to attack health reform proposals in the U.S. However, a new poll by the Harvard Opinion Research Program at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and Harris Interactive finds that Americans are split on whether a socialized medical system would be better or worse than the current system.

Seventy percent of Republicans say that socialized medicine would be worse than our current system. The same percentage of Democrats (70 percent) say that a socialized medical system would be better than our current system. Independents are more evenly split with 43 percent saying socialized medicine would be better and 38 percent worse.

The uninsured do not view socialized medicine as negatively as those who have health insurance. Only 19 percent of the uninsured think that a socialized medicine system would be worse than our current system while 57 percent think it would be better. Those who currently have health insurance are divided on whether socialized medicine would be better (44 percent) or worse (41 percent).

Filed under: — @ 2008-02-14 00:00:00
2008-02-14 00:00:00

Despite New Tumor-Causing Genes, Treatments Have Never Been Better

According to the University of Cinncinnati, nearly 215,000 Americans will be diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2008. In this week’s Disease Management Update, while one study deals with a “Jekyll and Hyde”-type gene that could both fight a tumor or help the tumor advance in brain cancer glioblastoma cases, another study notes that new brain tumor treatments have never been better as the nation???s leading brain tumor centers have never been better.

Filed under: — @ 2008-02-14 00:00:00
2008-02-11 00:00:00

Overweight Children Have Less Elbow Range of Motion

Children who are overweight have less range of motion in their elbows than their normal-weight peers, which could make it tougher for them to exercise in order to lose weight, the findings of a research study suggest. The study correlated the elbow range of motion and body mass indices (BMIs) of 113 healthy children between the ages of 2 and 18. Seventy-two of the participants had weights in the normal range, with BMIs in the 15th to 85th percentile. Fifteen participants were at risk of being overweight, with BMIs from the 85th to 95th percentile, and 20 were overweight, with BMIs at or above the 95th percentile. Six were underweight, with BMIs below the 15th percentile. Researchers measured elbow range of motion using a standard orthopedic instrument called an extendable goniometer.

Overweight children may have difficulty participating in the same athletic endeavors as their normal-weight counterparts due to decreased joint motion. This could make it more difficult to lose weight and might further discourage overweight children from participation in sports.

When BMI is one standard deviation above normal, a child loses approximately two to three degrees of elbow movement. But the elbow of a child who is in the 99th percentile will flex between 12 to 15 degrees less than normal-weight peers. This loss of elbow movement may have significant effects on the overweight child???s ability to participate in athletics.

Filed under: — @ 2008-02-11 00:00:00
« Previous PageNext Page »