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Health care news from around the state and nation


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Creating Accountability for Patient Experience
Health Leaders Media

Any story that attempts to discuss ways to improve the patient experience should attempt to define it, because there is ample confusion in healthcare, even among otherwise highly competent leaders, about what patient experience actually is. It isn’t providing excellent quality healthcare—at least not totally. A basic assumption by patients is that when they receive a medical intervention, the actual medical care will be excellent.

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New prison medical facilities unnecessary, analyst says
Los Angeles Times

California should hold off on building new medical facilities for prison inmates, according to report released Thursday by the legislative analyst’s office.

The report contradicts plans by a court-appointed receiver, who has run the prison health system since a federal judge declared it unconstitutionally inadequate, for $2.3 billion in new clinics and upgrades.

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Scalia Courted as Unlikely Obama Ally in Top Court Health Battle
San Francisco Chronicle

The fate of President Barack Obama’s health-care law may hinge on the administration’s ability to enlist an unlikely ally: Justice Antonin Scalia, the pillar of the U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative wing. Scalia, 75, looms as a pivotal vote in the landmark case, the first time the high court has considered a president’s signature legislative victory during his re-election campaign. The court will hear arguments for three days in late March with a decision possible in June — just months before the election.

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Study calls CMS’ CT scan measure inaccurate
Modern Healthcare

A study in the Annals of Emergency Medicine concludes that a new imaging efficiency measure from the CMS known as OP-15 is not accurate in determining which hospitals perform CT scans under appropriate circumstances. The measure uses Medicare billing records to determine whether a CT was clinically appropriate. But when researchers examined patients’ medical records for CT brain scans, they concluded that 65% of the CT scans actually complied with Medicare’s measure, while another 18% of patients had legitimate reasons for the CT scans that were documented on their charts.

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Initiatives Target Some Hospitals, Exempt Others
California Healthline

California’s health care system performs well across many areas, including care management, overall costs and cost trends. Our state’s consistently lower levels of utilization have been a major driver of lower per capita health care costs. For every major measure of hospital utilization, care provided in California’s hospitals ranks among the most efficient in the nation. As a result, California’s average per capita spending is well below the national average, despite a significantly higher cost of doing business in the state.

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South Lake Tahoe to undergo a complete physical
Tahoe Daily Tribune

Barton Health and other community organizations and businesses have joined forces to give South Lake Tahoe and its surrounding areas a complete physical.

“For years, healthcare has been focused on treating individuals. If we are going to create a healthcare system that is right for our area, we need to broaden that focus to the entire community,” said Monica Sciuto, community health needs assessment lead coordinator and director of public relations at Barton Health. “This project will help us accomplish that.”

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Making it easy to comparison shop for prescription drugs
Los Angeles Times

The Internet has already changed how people shop for books, music, cars and a host of other consumer goods. Next up: prescription drugs.

Or so the founders of a Santa Monica start-up called GoodRx are hoping. “There’s no other site like it that we know of,” said Scott Marlette, a former Facebook employee who’s hoping to hit it big again with his new company. “We wanted to create a product where people can find the best pharmacy to go to.”

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State health chief vows changes to Sacramento County dental program
Sacramento Bee

The state’s Medi-Cal chief, under pressure to improve dental care for Sacramento’s poor children, pledged this week to implement changes so kids won’t have to wait months to receive treatment for painful, rotted or broken teeth.

In response to concerns raised by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, Toby Douglas outlined the steps that the state Department of Health Care Services will take to ensure that the more than 110,000 Sacramento County children with Medi-Cal get “high quality and timely” dental care.

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Blue Shield creates plan to save bucks, boost health
San Francisco Business Times

One of the state’s largest health plans and one of Northern California’s largest medical groups have teamed up on a new insurance plan that aims to get enrollees into a healthier groove. Dubbed Blue Groove, the Blue Shield of California plan combines HMO and PPO options to encourage consumers to take a more active approach to staying healthy. It also aims to shave 10 percent off existing premium costs for employers in its first year and better control cost increases going forward.

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Hospital’s latest acquisition
Gridley Herald

Fridays are always a very busy day in the Biggs-Gridley Memorial Hospital surgery suites but by late afternoon last week it was a different type of energy coming from the O.R. staff and surgeons Dr. Tanya Brown and Dr. George Hayes. The new Steris surgery table was delivered and assembled with orientation given to the O.R. Staff and surgeons who were practically giddy with excitement.

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UC Davis Health System helps lead March for Babies
Sacramento Business Journal

Health care leaders at the UC Davis Health System are helping March of Dimes combat premature birth — the No. 1 cause of newborn death — by rallying the community behind March for Babies. Scheduled April 28, the six-mile walk is March of Dimes’ largest fundraiser. It starts and stops on the steps of the state Capitol.

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FDA advisors endorse weight-loss drug Qnexa
Los Angeles Times

A panel of medical experts voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to endorse the controversial weight-loss drug Qnexa, clearing the way for the Food and Drug Administration to approve a new prescription obesity medication for the first time since 1999.

The FDA will issue a final ruling later this year, but the agency typically follows the recommendations of its advisory committees.

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Finding new health care providers will be difficult, crucial task
Capitol Weekly

Within the next two years, if federal healthcare reforms proceed as expected, roughly 30 million of the estimated 50 million uninsured people in the United States — 6.9 million in California — will be trying to find new healthcare providers. It won’t be easy. Primary care providers are already in short supply, both in California and nationwide.

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Health insurance rates go up in California…again
Southern California Public Radio

Health care rates in California may be rising faster than the national average, but based on the latest report card issued by the Office of the Patient Advocate, customers are more satisfied. On average, health care rates in the Golden State have risen 8-to-14 percent, far above the national figure of 3.6 percent.

Providers state that this is not simply due to inflation, but based on their past experience managing invidual claims -– apparently, healthier members have been dropping out of the market, leaving behind a pool of patients with higher costs.

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Obama signs measure averting doc-pay cut
Modern Healthcare

Without fanfare, President Barack Obama signed the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, the bill that includes a provision to prevent a 27.4% cut to Medicare physician payment rates on Feb. 29.

The president signed the bill after Congress last Friday passed the legislation, which will freeze Medicare physician payment rates at their current level until Dec. 31 and also extend certain Medicare programs.

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OC Asian-American Community Prepares for Health Reforms
Voice of OC

A Garden Grove community organization will take part in a statewide effort to educate Asian-Americans on what national health care reform means for them. The Orange County Asian and Pacific Islander Community Alliance will reach out to Orange County’s Asian community at large as well as to small-business owners, many of whom are uninsured, said alliance Executive Director Mary Anne Foo.

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Simple, early blood test tells fetal health, replacing intrusive tests
The Mercury News

Raising the prospect of a world without birth defects, a Stanford-created blood test that can detect Down syndrome and two other major genetic defects very early in a woman’s pregnancy will be available next week. The simple blood test spares women the risk and heartache of later and more invasive tests like amniocentesis. But it has startling social implications — heralding a not-distant future when many fetal traits, from deadly disease to hair color, are known promptly after conception when abortion is safer and simpler.