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Health care news from around the state and nation


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How Providers Can Make PHRs Relevant
Health Leaders Media

Personal health records have been a forward-thinking idea for some time now, but the rewards and requirements of achieving meaningful use are putting more pressure on providers to adopt a system that allows easy access for the patient but a reliable conduit of information from the health provider. Of the many models available, how does a provider know which way to go?

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House bill to raise Medicare premiums for wealthy
San Francisco Chronicle

House Republicans intend to propose a gradual increase in Medicare premiums for wealthy seniors to help cover the cost of renewing Social Security payroll tax cuts and benefits for the long-term unemployed, officials said Wednesday. The precise details remain to be worked out as the leadership consults with rank-and-file Republicans about the legislation, which has grown significantly in recent days and is expected on the House floor next week.

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How Safety-Net Hospital Closings Affect PCPs
Health Leaders Media

Closing a safety net hospital kicks up a significant ripple effect for primary care physicians and underscores the need to involve those providers in the planning and aftermath of such a disruptive process, a study has found.

The study — Effect of Closure of a Local Safety-Net Hospital on Primary Care Physicians’ Perceptions of Their Role in Patient Care– appears in Annals of Family Medicine. It examines the August 2007 closure of the 450-bed Martin Luther King Hospital in South Los Angeles, and interviews 42 primary care physicians who were affected.

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Emergency response companies merge to boost service
Lodi News-Sentinel

REACH Air Medical Services and Cal-Ore Life Flight, two privately-held companies, announced Monday that they have merged in order to provide a stronger network of service as well as to meet the needs of a growing health care system. The merger, which went into effect on Nov. 30, is geared to help meet the changing needs and demands of health care reform, hospitals, health care organizations and insurance companies that are also looking for ways to streamline operations and expenses both within and outside of the hospital.

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Blue Shield Calif. chief touts transparency, wellness programs
Dot Med News

Wellness plans that encourage workers to live healthier, medical procedure price transparency and value-based models are among the moves that could help control the country’s health care costs, the boss of one of California’s largest insurers said in a talk Tuesday.

Bruce Bodaken, CEO of Blue Shield of California, told attendees at the 8th annual American Health Care Conference in Anaheim, Calif. that the country’s fee-for-service model was a “disaster for American medicine.”

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New Breast Cancer Test May Help Curtail Treatments
New York Times

A new test might allow some women with the earliest phase of breast cancer to forgo the most aggressive treatment, researchers are reporting this week.

The test analyzes gene activity in tissue surgically removed from women with ductal carcinoma in situ to predict how likely it is that cancer will come back. Those with the lowest risk of recurrence might be spared radiation treatment.

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Leapfrog names Children’s Hospital, Kaiser as top hospitals
Los Angeles Business Journal

Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and eight Kaiser Permanente hospitals in Southern California were named among the best hospitals in the nation, according to a survey by the Leapfrog Group. Leapfrog Group, a coalition of public and private purchasers of employee health benefits working to improve health care safety, quality, and affordability, releases its “Top Hospitals” list every year made up of three categories of hospitals: urban, rural and children’s hospitals. A total of 65 Top Hospitals are chosen from a field of nearly 1,200 hospitals across the nation.

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Kaiser San Jose among 2011 Leapfrog honorees
San Jose Business Journal

Ten Kaiser Permanente Northern California hospitals, including the one in San Jose, were named as 2011 Leapfrog Top Hospitals. The honor recognizes medical centers for successes in health care such as using electronic medical records to reduce errors, lowering infection rates, proper staffing, and safety and efficiency measures, according to a prepared statement on Tuesday from Kaiser.

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Local Kaiser hospitals make national Leapfrog list
Sacramento Business Journal

Two Kaiser Permanente hospitals in the Sacramento area have been named 2011 Leapfrog Top Hospitals, an honor that rewards medical centers for high-quality care due to success in preventing medical errors, reducing mortality rates for high-risk procedures and other factors. Kaiser medical centers in Roseville and South Sacramento were among 65 hospitals nationwide to receive “Top Hospital” honors in the voluntary quality program. The UC Davis Medical Center made the list in 2010, but not in 2011, though it earned top ratings in 10 out of the 18 indicators.

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Med Center cafeteria gets top rating for healthy food
Sacramento Bee

Try to find a healthy entree at the state’s children’s hospitals and you might have better luck at the neighborhood drive-thru.

Just 7 percent of entrees sold in hospital cafeterias statewide are classified as “healthy” in a new study by UCLA and the Rand Corp. Researchers said their findings are troubling, given the ongoing epidemic of childhood obesity.

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Study: Mammograms cut risk of breast cancer death by half
USA Today

Women who get routine mammograms can lower their risk of dying from breast cancer by nearly half, a new Dutch study suggests. “Our study adds further to the evidence that mammography screening unambiguously reduces breast cancer mortality,” said Dr. Suzie Otto, a senior researcher in the department of public health at Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. The routine screening also lowered the chances of being diagnosed with an advanced cancer, she said.

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Supreme Court to Hear Personal Medicine Patent Dispute
Insurance Journal

The Supreme Court hears arguments on Wednesday over whether Prometheus Laboratories may patent instructions for observing changes in a patient’s body to set drug dosages in a decision that could affect the future of “personal medicine.”

The case focuses on Nestle SA unit Prometheus’ patents for using synthetic thiopurine compounds to treat gastrointestinal disorders like Crohn’s disease.

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Doctor Q&A site raises $11.5M; now it needs more patients

HealthTap now has $11.5 million to expand its social network of 6,000 physicians who answer patient health questions online–money it’ll use to try to keep those doctors busy.

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Long-term care crisis looms; Californians unprepared for the costs
Plumas County News

If you became disabled or incapacitated tomorrow, how long could you support yourself without any public assistance? A month? A year? What if you live to be 95?

The truth is, 99 percent of us are just one medical emergency — a stroke, an accident — away from needing such help, whether in the form of Social Security disability, Medicare or MediCal.

This is true for people who have worked all their lives and who have medical insurance.

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Tulare County supervisors OK Medical Reserve Corps
Visialia Times-Delta

Recruitment could begin this month for medical professionals and others to become part of a volunteer emergency response team after the Tulare County Board of Supervisors approved the program Tuesday.

Dr. Karen Haught, county health officer, said recruitment will initially focus on doctors and nurses to join the Tulare Medical Reserve Corps.

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Gingrich’s health care consultancy: Is it lobbying?
Southern California Public Radio

In between his speakership and his presidential candidacy, Newt Gingrich built a network of organizations to promote his causes — and himself.

Informally known as Newt Gingrich Inc., those entities have flourished. But questions linger, especially about two of them: the Gingrich Group, a for-profit consulting firm; and a unit of the Gingrich Group called the Center for Health Transformation.

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Supervisors approve trauma center for San Joaquin County
Lodi News-Sentinel

By mid-2013, people with life-threatening injuries may not have to leave San Joaquin County for the rapid care they need. Currently, victims suffering from major injuries are usually airlifted to Kaiser Hospital in South Sacramento, Doctors Hospital in Modesto or Memorial Medical Center in Modesto, CEO David Culberson of San Joaquin General Hospital told the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.

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Pot, narcotics OK to treat pain, UCSF study finds
San Francisco Chronicle

Inhaled marijuana appears to be a safe and effective treatment for chronic pain when used in addition to narcotics like morphine and oxycodone, according to a small UCSF study that is the first to look at the combined effects of the two classes of drugs in humans. The study, published in this month’s edition of Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics, was designed primarily to look at whether taking marijuana with narcotics is safe, and researchers reported that there were no negative side effects from combining the drugs.

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Lawsuit delays hospital start
Tehachapi News

A lawsuit by a group calling itself the Tehachapi Area Critical Landuse Group is expected to delay groundbreaking for the new Tehachapi Hospital and as of Monday afternoon no hearing date has been set on the litigation filed by the group. TACLG filed a petition for a Writ of Mandate with Kern County Superior Court on Nov. 18.


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Our Broken Medical System
San Francisco Chronicle

Dr. Donald Berwick is the guy who ran Medicare and Medicaid for the past 17 months, and he quit last week. In his parting remarks, he said that 20 to 30 percent of health care spending is waste, yielding no benefits to patients and further clogging up a system that is, by its very nature, sluggish and tortuous. He listed five reasons that accounted for the majority of the waste he had seen: 0vertreatment of patients, failure to coordinate care, the administrative complexity of the health care system, burdensome rules and fraud.

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Campaign 2012: Speaking of health insurance, life and death…
Los Angeles Times

Rick Santorum, meet Spike Dolomite Ward, a Los Angeles nonprofit worker who wrote in Tuesday’s Op-Ed page of her fight against third-stage breast cancer as an uninsured patient saved by President Obama’s healthcare reform program. Ward writes of her descent into uninsured status:

With the recession, both of our businesses took a huge hit — my husband’s income was cut in half, and the foundations that had supported my small nonprofit were going through their own tough times.