News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Flu Report: Providers Prescribing Antivirals at Higher Rate
The Health Care Blog

Earlier this week, we reported on the current rates of influenza-like illness (ILI), based on data from roughly one million patient visits on the athenahealth network. That report showed a steep increase in ILI rates for the week ending Saturday, December 13 (see previous post). It’s not certain that this season will be as severe as that of 2012-2013 (data for pediatrics suggests that is a real possibility); however, providers are testing for flu more consistently than previous years, and prescribing antivirals more often.

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Grading the Federal Health IT Strategic Plan
The Health Care Blog

It is a heart pounding, head spinning, edge of your seat page-turner; the sort of rare saga that takes your breath away as it changes you, forever. It hints at a radically different future, a completely new world a few years away, which will disrupt the lives of every man, woman and child. Available now, from the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), Office of the Secretary, United States Department of Health and Human Services, is finally, without further ado; the Federal Health IT Strategic Plan 2015 – 2020.

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A Family’s Long Search For Fragile X Drug Finds Frustration, Hope
National Public Radio

For a few weeks last year, Michael Tranfaglia and Katie Clapp saw a remarkable change in their son, Andy, who’d been left autistic and intellectually disabled by fragile X syndrome. Andy, who is 25, became more social, more talkative and happier. “He was just doing incredibly well,” his father says.

The improvements came while Andy was taking an experimental drug — a drug made possible by the efforts of his parents. And at the time, it appeared this drug might become the first effective treatment for fragile X, a rare genetic syndrome that affects brain development and can lead to intellectual and social disabilities. The reality would turn out to be more complicated.

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Employer executives want healthcare reform, increased transparency
FierceHealthPayer

Almost 74 percent of senior executives in the country’s largest companies want policies that bring about comprehensive healthcare reform, better quality measurement and increased transparency, according to a new survey from the Pacific Business Group and the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation.

To accomplish those goals, employers support benefit designs such as increased consumer-directed health plans, price transparency tools and wellness programs.

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California health data exchange goes live with SaaS
ZDNET

Blue Shield of California data is live in production at the California Integrated Data Exchange (Cal INDEX) after software provider Orion Health turned the key on the two-year project.

Blue Shield of California is one of two major payer organisations, or health insurers, that underpin Cal INDEX. Orion Health is now working with Anthem Blue Cross to load its historical data into the system.

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Important Disclose Act has a chance in 2015
San Diego Daily Transcript

If there’s one main reason for the distrust many Californians feel for government and elected officials at all levels, it may be the way special interests regularly pour millions of dollars into election campaigns while managing to mask or obscure their identities.

A major example last year was Proposition 45, voted down by a 59-41 percent margin, even though it led by about that same amount in polls taken before the campaign began.

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We Spend More on Health Care Than Other Rich Countries but Have Worse Outcomes?
The Health Care Blog

Here it’s argued that we need to retire the health care fallacy, “We spend more on health care than other rich countries but have worse outcomes.” The fallacy implies U.S. health care is deficient in spite of being costly. Indeed our health care costs too much, but there is little evidence that our care is less effective than care in other countries. On the other hand, there’s plenty of evidence that our social determinants of health are worse.

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FDA approves new Hep C drug combination, price unknown for now
Modern Healthcare

The Food and Drug Administration on Friday approved Viekira Pak, a combination of pills that becomes the fourth treatment the agency has approved to treat hepatitis C. Viekira Pak, produced by North Chicago-based AbbVie, includes ombitasvir, paritaprevir and ritonavir tablets co-packaged with dasabuvir tablets. It will compete with three other hep C drugs: Johnson & Johnson’s Olysio and Gilead Sciences’ Sovaldi and Harvoni.Treatment for HCV, a liver disease that can cause cirrhosis or liver cancer, is extremely expensive.

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Brace yourselves for a nasty flu season in Bay Area
San Francisco Chronicle

Christmas, New Year’s, the last nights of Hanukkah — there’s a lot of cause for celebration over the next week or two. And, sorry to be a downer, that’s a lot of potential exposure to the flu. The good news is there’s still time to get a flu shot before the seasonal peak in the Bay Area. The bad: Experts are predicting a potentially nasty flu season, and the shot may be less effective this year than in the past. “Exactly how much less, well, we won’t really know until after the season and we get the numbers,” said Dr.

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Why Does It Take A Movie Robot To Show What Nurses Really Do?
National Public Radio

I’m a proud nurse from a proud family of nurses, yet I would never claim that a layperson would enjoy watching mainstream medical dramas with us. We end up yelling at the screen: “There is nothing about that sexy get-up that remotely resembles a nursing uniform,” and “Doctors don’t fire nurses, nurse managers fire nurses,” and “No emergency room nurse would ever have to be told by a doctor to start CPR!”

So when the Baymax, the nurse/robot in the hit Disney movie Big Hero Six turned out to be reasonable, competent and not dressed in fishnet stockings, I was thrilled.

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Kaiser has a doc in a box
San Diego Union-Tribune

In an atrium at the county’s operations center in Kearney Mesa sits a blue-and-white pod that looks like some sort of futuristic phone booth. Inside this enclosure are the tools that many predict will change the way health care is delivered.

Called a HealthSpot Station, the chamber houses a medical clinic complete with an array of digital instruments and a two-way video-conferencing system that links patients with Kaiser Permanente doctors working in Carmel Valley. It’s the main site of a national pilot project for the HMO, with experts coming from as far away as Washington, D.C., to study the experiment.

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Fresno Surgical Hospital acquires cutting-edge eye surgical technology
Hanford Sentinel

Fresno Surgical Hospital announced it has acquired the VERION Image Guided System and LenSx Laser surgical technology. The hospital is the only area hospital to offer this ophthalmology surgical equipment.

Both the VERION and the LenSx are used during refractive cataract surgeries. These technologies improve accuracy and reduce the chance of errors, therefore, optimizing surgical outcomes.

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