News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Merck Partners With NewLink To Speed Up Work On Ebola Vaccine
National Public Radio

It’s now Goliath versus Goliath in the quest for an Ebola vaccine.

Until now, the two leading candidates for a vaccine to protect against the Ebola virus were being led by global pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline on the one hand, and a tiny company in Ames, Iowa, that was virtually unknown, on the other.

Today, the David in that scenario, NewLink Genetics, said it has made a deal with drugmaker Merck, to research, develop, manufacture and distribute the experimental Ebola vaccine.

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CMS pushes back Medicare EHR incentive attestation deadline
Modern Healthcare

Hospitals will have an extra month to attest to having met the criteria to receive incentive payments for meaningfully using electronic health records, the CMS said Monday.

The new deadline for eligible hospitals (including critical-access hospitals) is 11:59 p.m. ET Dec. 31, extended from Nov. 30. The payment period for them to have attained the requirements ended Sept. 30.

The CMS similarly extended the deadline for eligible hospitals and critical-access hospitals that are electronically submitting clinical quality measures for the Hospital Inpatient Quality Reporting program and to achieve meaningful use. Hospitals now have until Dec. 31 to submit their the data through the federal Quality Net portal.

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Slideshow: Healthcare Executives Eye Efficiency
HealthLeaders Media

The current financial state of healthcare is forcing leaders to finds ways to cut costs, while maintaining a level of efficiency that will keep their organizations in good standing. Four healthcare leaders discuss some of the most effective cost-reduction efforts their organization has implemented.

Staffing is one way for healthcare leaders to focus on cost. Kris Zimmer, Senior VP of Finance at SSM Health Care, says that technology plays a big part in managing their staffing costs. By utilizing predictive modeling, it is easier to determine the correct amount of staff to match his organization’s fluctuating patient flow.

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Why Are Patients Drawn to Certain Doctors?
Pacific Standard

In a perfect world, it would be easy to flock to the doctors who produce the best health outcomes. There would be no need to theorize about the meaning of medical credentials on ZocDoc profiles. (Is a clinical internship in the former Yugoslavia a good or bad sign?)

In a recent study, Jason Fletcher of the University of Wisconsin attempted to create a value added metric for doctors who handled hospitalizations. He found that having a doctor in the 75th rather than 25th percentile could mean a 10 percent decrease in costs and a five percent reduction in the length of a hospital stay.

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How Obama Immigration Order Might Affect Medi-Cal Enrollment
California Healthline

Families of mixed immigration status with members who are eligible for Medi-Cal now could be more likely to explore coverage possibilities after the executive-action decision last week to allow millions of undocumented immigrants to avoid deportation.

President Obama’s executive order on Thursday allowed five million undocumented immigrants who have lived in the U.S. for at least five years and who have no record of felony offenses or serious misdemeanors to apply for a program to avoid deportation. Advocates last week raised the possibility that some undocumented immigrants might be eligible for Medi-Cal.

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Wall Street chides top California insurers for Obamacare network errors
Los Angeles Times

Two leading health insurers drew new fire from Wall Street for overstating their Obamacare doctor networks and trying to deflect the blame. Last week, California regulators found that Anthem Blue Cross, a unit of publicly traded WellPoint Inc., and nonprofit insurer Blue Shield of California violated state law by giving consumers misleading information about their provider networks. The two companies’ error rates each topped 25%, according to the California Department of Managed Health Care.

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Tougher transparency rules proposed for health exchange plans
Modern Healthcare

Consumer advocates are cheering the Obama administration’s plans to strengthen transparency rules for provider networks and drug formularies so that insurance exchange customers will be able to make informed choices. “There are a lot of good things in here that are increasing transparency and adding to access for people with chronic conditions,” Eric Gascho, assistant vice president of government affairs with the National Health Council, said of the draft regulations issued Friday for enrollment in marketplace plans for 2016 and beyond.

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Got insurance? Covered California comes to Tri-City libraries
Inside Bay Area

Libraries have always been a central place for people to get health information. In that spirit, Alameda County Library will be providing assistance to consumers and small business operators who want information or enrollment help with Covered California before the Feb. 15, 2014 open enrollment deadline. The assistance will be provided by Covered California certified educators and enrollers, and is free and confidential. Our local partners include the Tri-City Health Center and the Tiburcio Vasquez Health Center.

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Congressman applauds regulators for investigating insurance companies
Redwood Times

Rep. Huffman Applauds California Regulators for Investigating Anthem Blue Cross, Blue Shield for Misleading Provider Networks

Congressman Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) applauded the California Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) for finding Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of California in violation of state law for drastically overstating the availability of health providers on their new Affordable Care Act policies.

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Transforming Decision Support and Reporting
HealthLeaders Media

The next generation of decision-support technology leverages natural language processing (NLP)and continues to evolve by scouring unstructured text and presenting evidence-based medicine to providers in new, accessible, and interesting ways.

In two of the latest examples, clinicians themselves contribute via a growing set of predefined queries, as evidenced by Partner HealthCare’s use of QPID, a queriable patient inference dossier technology recently spun out into its own Boston-based company; as well as threaded, Facebook-like conversations behind the firewall, as epitomized by the Mayo Clinic’s recent six-month pilot test of Dabo, a technology developed by a San Francisco–based company in which Mayo has an ongoing investment.

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Vitamin D Tests Aren’t Needed For Everyone, Federal Panel Says
National Public Radio

Should you get a blood test to see if you’re deficient in vitamin D? It sounds like such a good idea, seeing as how most people don’t get enough sunshine to make vitamin D themselves. And the tests are becoming increasingly popular.

But there are problems with making vitamin D tests a standard part of preventive medicine, a federal panel said. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force said Monday there’s not enough evidence of benefits or harms to recommend vitamin D testing for all.

And even though some studies have associated low levels of vitamin D with a long list of ills, including a higher risk of fractures, falls, heart disease, colorectal cancer, diabetes, depression, thinking problems and death, scientists who evaluated studies for the USPSTF say there is no direct evidence that universal screening would reduce those risks.

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For obese people, an increased risk of ‘silent’ heart damage, study says
Washington Post

Researchers from Johns Hopkins have identified a new risk for obese people: silent heart damage. In a study published in the October edition of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology: Heart Failure, the investigators found evidence that obesity is an “independent driver of heart muscle damage.”

Diabetes and high blood pressure are the best-known risk factors for the severely overweight, but in this new federally-funded study, which tracked thousands of middle-age and elderly adults in four states over more than 12 years, researchers discovered obese people who otherwise appear healthy may not be.

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Proposed cancer center in Redlands gets $125K grant for building
Redlands Daily Facts

Redlands Community Hospital Foundation has received a $125,000 grant from Stater Bros. Charities and the Inland Women Fighting Cancer organization to improve the access to care for area cancer patients.

The grant will help support the building of a new dedicated 10,000-square-foot comprehensive outpatient cancer center, which will implement state-of-the-art technology.

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Santa Rosa’s Sutter hospital, affiliates donate $12,500 for food programs
Santa Rosa Press Democrat

Citing the connection between health and access to food, Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital and its affiliated physicians group are donating $12,500 to two local food charities.

Marking the start of the holiday season, the hospital and Sutter Pacific Medical Foundation, which are part of the Sutter Health network, are giving each $6,250 to the Ceres Project and the Redwood Empire Food Bank.

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