News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Rising rates of hospice discharge in U.S. raise questions about quality of care
Washington Post

At hundreds of U.S. hospices, more than one in three patients are dropping the service before dying, new research shows, a sign of trouble in an industry supposed to care for patients until death. When that many patients are leaving a hospice alive, experts said, the agencies are likely to be either driving them away with inadequate care or enrolling patients who aren’t really dying in order to pad their profits.

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Interstate Medical Licensure Could Ease Physician Shortages
Health Leaders Media

Physicians seeking to obtain interstate medical licenses and hospitals seeking to alleviate staffing shortages may find their paths eased if a proposal for an interstate licensure compact is approved and adopted.

The proposed Interstate Medical Licensure Compact, crafted by the Federation of State Medical Boards, and released last month would create a commission to oversee interstate medical licenses and function alongside the existing licensing authority of state boards. Humayun Chaudhry, DO, president and CEO of the FSMB, says there is a pressing need for the compact.

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Two deaths from West Nile virus reported in Northern California
Los Angeles Times

Two people have died of West Nile virus in Northern California — the first reported deaths linked to the illness in the state in 2014.

The deaths were reported Wednesday in Sacramento and Shasta counties, which have had multiple cases of West Nile virus this year.

In Sacramento County, a 74-year-old woman, who had been suffering from an underlying chronic disease, was hospitalized and later died.

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Obama to sign veterans’ health care overhaul
San Francisco Chronicle

Veterans are expected to have an easier time getting government-paid health care from local doctors under a bill that President Barack Obama is set to sign into law Thursday.

The $16.3 billion measure also allows the Veterans Affairs Department to hire thousands of doctors, nurses and other health professionals at the VA’s nearly 1,000 hospitals and outpatient clinics nationwide.

Under the new law, employment rules will be revised to make it easier to fire senior VA executives judged to be negligent or performing poorly.

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New California health info exchange faces obstacles
Modern Healthcare

Plunking down $80 million and blending claims data from two giant California Blues health plans in a statewide health information exchange raises hopes that interoperability across the Golden State may finally be at hand. But neither money nor 9 million patient records guarantee success of an HIE in a state so vast and diverse, experts said. “The question is, what will providers think?” said Dr. David Brailer, now CEO of a San Francisco venture capital fund after serving as head of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. “California is a very provider-powerful state.”

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How Much Does an MRI Cost In California: $255? $973.25? $2,925?
The Health Care Blog

Early results from our California crowdsourcing project on MRI prices are in. Payments range from $255 to $2,925.15. MRI pricing is a complete mystery: What should you pay? Can you ask for a discount? We’ve been looking at health-care prices for three years, so if we say it’s a mystery, we can imagine what it looks like to you.

How much should you pay? Well, one person was told the price is $1,850, but if you pay up front, you can save almost $1,300.

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Simple EHR Function May Trigger Audits, Hospitalist Cautions
Health Leaders Media

Clinicians’ use of the “copy and paste” function in electronic health record systems may soon be the subject of indiscriminate Recovery Audit Contractor reviews, a prominent hospitalist warns.

“We’re worried that we’re going to be audited based on good use of copy and paste, and that we’re going to be prohibited from using copy and paste for the things that it really is good for,” says Ann Sheehy, MD, a member of the Society for Hospital Medicine’s Public Policy committee.

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Sacramento County’s West Nile death is the state’s first this year
Sacramento Bee

The state’s first death from West Nile virus in 2014 occurred last month in Sacramento County.

The 74-year-old woman who succumbed to the disease had a chronic underlying illness and had been hospitalized, county health officials said. She died July 26.

Dr. Olivia Kasirye, health officer for Sacramento County, said there are seven additional cases under investigation.

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Despite Regulations, Low-Income Californians With Learning Disabilities Often Fall Through the Crack
HealthyCal.org

Shortly after she began participating in California’s Welfare-to-Work program, Michele Marino began to think she was going crazy.

The single mother had just enrolled in a government cash-assistance program to help support herself and her two young sons, while she searched for a job and took classes at a community college. But daily tasks, school, parenting and the government requirements to stay in the welfare program felt overwhelming.

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Truth In Labeling: Celiac Community Cheers FDA Rule For Gluten Free
National Public Radio

If you spot a food package label that says gluten free, you can now be pretty well assured that the label means what it says.

As of Aug. 5, all food manufacturers must be in compliance with a new labeling standard set by the Food and Drug Administration.

The rule states that foods may be labeled “gluten free” only if there’s less than 20 parts per million of the protein.

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Brief Counseling May Not Help With Most Drug Problems
National Public Radio

Beating a drug habit is usually a long process that includes talk therapy and, sometimes, medicine. Checking into a rehab facility can help many people, too.

But it can be hard to persuade someone to commit to that long-term treatment. So public health officials lately have been cutting to the chase — urging doctors in primary care and in hospital emergency rooms to question all patients regarding drug use, then offer those with a drug problem a 10- or 15-minute counseling session, right then and there.

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Study ties new gene to major breast cancer risk
Sacramento Bee

It’s long been known that faulty BRCA genes greatly raise the risk for breast cancer. Now scientists say a more recently identified, less common gene can do the same.

Mutations in the gene can make breast cancer up to nine times more likely to develop, an international team of researchers reports in this week’s New England Journal of Medicine.

About 5 to 10 percent of breast cancers are thought to be due to bad BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes.

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Researchers say Vitamin D deficiency raises Alzheimer’s risk
Washington Post

People with moderate-to-severe vitamin D deficiencies are significantly more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia than those who have an adequate supply of the vitamin in their body, a new study has found.

Researchers, led by David J. Llewellyn at the University of Exeter Medical School, found that adults who suffered from a moderate deficiency of vitamin D had a 53 percent higher risk of some form of dementia, while the risk increased 125 percent in those with severe deficiencies. People moderately deficient in vitamin D were 69 percent more likely to develop Alzheimer’s-caused dementia, while those severely deficient raised the risk to 122 percent.

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Promising new approach helps curb early schizophrenia in teens, young adults
Washington Post

The first time Jeremy Clark met his 18-year-old client, the teenager was sitting in his vice principal’s office, the drawstrings of his black hoodie pulled tight. Jacob had recently disclosed to his friends on Facebook that he was hearing voices, and their reaction had been less than sympathetic.

So Clark was relieved when a beaming Jacob showed up on time for their next meeting, at a comic book shop.

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Healthcare video chat startup Doctor on Demand nabs $21M
Silicon Valley Business Journal

Doctor on Demand, a health-care service that provides mobile video doctor consultations, has pulled in a $21 million Series A funding round led by Venrock and joined by Virgin Group’s Sir Richard Branson as well as Shasta Ventures. As part of the financing, Venrock Partner Bryan Roberts, who has a record as a health information technology investor, joins the company’s board. Doctor on Demand has raised a total of $24 million since its founding last year from backers including Andreessen Horowitz, Google Ventures and Athena Health CEO Jonathan Bush.

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Practice Fusion nabs Ringadoc, plans move into telemedicine
San Francisco Business Times

Practice Fusion, which started as an electronic medical records company and is branching out in various directions, has acquired tiny start up Ringadoc and now plans to move into telemedicine. No details about the purchase price or Ringadoc’s size were disclosed in the Wednesday announcement, however. Ringadoc, which so far has attracted about $1.9 million in funding, has an online answering service for physicians that lets them access and quickly “triage” and respond to the most important messages, said Practice Fusion CEO Ryan Howard.

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Blue Shield, Anthem Blue Cross to create medical record database
Orange County Register

The medical records of millions of Californians could soon be literally at the fingertips of doctors and hospitals statewide with the advent of a centralized computer database to be funded by two of the state’s largest health insurance companies.

Blue Shield of California and Anthem Blue Cross, ferocious competitors in the state’s health care marketplace, said Tuesday they are joining forces to launch a nonprofit called the California Integrated Data Exchange, or Cal Index.

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California Experiments With Fast-Tracking Medical School
National Public Radio

Some doctors in the state of California will soon be able to practice after three years of medical school instead of the traditional four. The American Medical Association is providing seed money for the effort in the form of a $1 million, five-year grant to the University of California at Davis. Student Ngabo Nzigira is in his sixth week of medical school and he’s already interacting with patients during training with a doctor at Kaiser Permanente in Sacramento.

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The Kaiser Way: Lesson for U.S. health care?
USA Today

The Affordable Care Act has been dramatically changing the way hospitals do business, forcing them to rethink which patients they admit and focus on keeping people healthy.

For Kaiser Permanente, however, it’s been largely business as usual, says CEO Bernard Tyson, who took the helm a year ago.

Kaiser is a fully integrated hospital-doctor-insurance company, kind of an “accountable care organization” on steroids.

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Children’s Hospital helps patients in rural areas through telemedicine
News10.net

Telemedicine is being used to help children in rural areas get the care they need thanks to the UC Davis Children’s Hospital.

The state-of-the-art program is like Skype for doctors. Specialists at the Children’s Hospital talk to, advise and care for patients who are unable to travel to Sacramento. The patients go to their local physician’s office and together, with a Children’s Hospital pediatric special, work to heal the patient.

“So it’s really getting them a service that they would otherwise not have,” Pediatric Critical Care Dr. James Marcin said.

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El Camino Hospital says its Los Gatos hospital will be ’seismically unfit’ by 2030.
The Mercury News

El Camino Hospital Los Gatos apparently has only about 15 years of life left, a hospital official telling the town council Tuesday night that they recently learned the building is not viable past 2030 due to seismic issues.

The news came from Ken King as the council considered a plan to allow KT Homes to build 33 single-family homes on a plot of land at 375 Knowles Drive, west of Capri Drive. The land is an old Santa Clara County courthouse site. KT Homes has agreed to buy 3.34 acres, and El Camino Hospital has 2.1 acres.

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Children’s Hospital in need of pediatric ambulance
News10.net

Sometimes the medical help a child needs is not available at the nearest hospital. That’s when the UC Davis Children’s Hospital steps in to care for and help heal the young patient.

The hospital provides a service that picks up and transfers young patients from locations across the region to its facility in Sacramento. Most of the time, the child is moved by a team in a pediatric ambulance from one hospital to another.

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Cash-strapped Doctors Medical Center stops accepting ambulances
San Francisco Chronicle

Residents of western Contra Costa County needing emergency ambulance rides will have to look farther then Doctors Medical Center, as the cash-strapped San Pablo hospital will no longer be accepting ambulances as of Thursday.

The emergency room will still accept walk-ins, but patients being transported in ambulances will be redirected to Kaiser Permanente’s Richmond campus, Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Berkeley or other area emergency rooms.

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