News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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CMS data reinforces that processes are easier to improve than outcomes
Modern Healthcare

U.S. healthcare facilities are improving more rapidly on process measures than they are on clinical outcome measures, according to a new CMS report. Overall, the nation saw improvement on most of the publicly reported measures evaluated between 2006 and 2013.

The 2015 National Impact Assessment, posted Monday, is a comprehensive evaluation of the effects of hundreds of measures used across a total of 25 CMS quality-reporting programs for hospitals, nursing homes, home health agencies and clinician offices.

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Federal primary-care program for underserved areas is at risk despite successes
Modern Healthcare

A government program that is providing care for some 500,000 patients and has successfully increased the number of primary-care physicians in underserved areas is in danger of folding.

The federal Teaching Health Center program was created with a $230 million appropriation in Section 5508 of the Affordable Care Act and, as of 2014, it was helping to train 550 residents at 60 centers in 27 states and the District of Columbia in underserved rural areas and urban neighborhoods.  The program’s money is running low, but some advocates are hoping that an appropriation could be part of the next legislative “patch” Congress passes to postpone decreases in physician Medicare reimbursement set to go in effect April 1 as part of the sustainable-growth rate pay formula.

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How best to respond to a predicted doctor shortage?
Southern California Public Radio

Another study predicting a future shortage of doctors in the U.S. is adding to the debate about the best way to respond.

While some argue that the answer lies primarily in training more doctors, others say there also needs to be an emphasis on giving other providers – such as nurse practitioners and physician assistants – the freedom to practice primary care on their own.

The Association of American Medical Colleges says the country faces a shortage of 46,000 to 90,000 doctors in the coming years.

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UCSD creates ink sensor for glucose
San Diego Union-Tribune

In a possible advance for diabetics, UC San Diego has created a way to measure glucose with a special ink that’s applied to the skin with an ordinary pen.

The “bio ink” causes a chemical reaction that reveals glucose levels which are then read by a small wearable sensor.

“This is a proof-of-concept step that could make it easier for diabetics to check their glucose,” said Joseph Wang, chair of UC San Diego’s Department of Nanoengineering and leader of the project.

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Justices sharply divided over health care law subsidies
San Francisco Chronicle

The Supreme Court was sharply divided Wednesday in the latest challenge to President Barack Obama’s health overhaul, this time over the tax subsidies that make insurance affordable for millions of Americans.

The justices aggressively questioned lawyers on both sides of what Justice Elena Kagan called “this never-ending saga,” the latest politically charged fight over the Affordable Care Act.

Chief Justice John Roberts said almost nothing in nearly 90 minutes of back-and-forth, and Justice Anthony Kennedy’s questions did not make clear how he will come out. Roberts was the decisive vote to uphold the law in 2012.

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Healthcare law’s defenders and foes rally before high-stakes arguments
Modern Healthcare

On a cold morning that threatened rain, hundreds of concerned citizens, politicians, healthcare providers and activists gathered on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court to voice their hopes for how the justices will vote after hearing arguments in a case that could unravel healthcare reform.

The case, King v. Burwell, centers on whether the language of the Affordable Care Act allows people living in states that use the federal insurance exchange to receive premium subsidies. Millions of people are likely to drop coverage if the subsidies in as many as 37 states are struck down, which would severely disrupt the insurance markets in those states.

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4 Reasons Both Parties Should Be Sweating Bullets Over King V. Burwell
National Public Radio

The Supreme Court will hear arguments on Wednesday in another case that threatens the survival of Obamacare. This one doesn’t challenge the constitutionality of the law itself, it merely challenges the legality of one of the most important parts of the system — subsidies so that everyone can afford health care. If the court strikes down the subsidies for people who live in states that chose not to set up their own exchanges, and who get their health coverage from the federal marketplace — healthcare.gov — it would begin to unravel the entire Obamacare project.

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Physician Shortage Could Hit 90K by 2025
HealthLeaders Media

Under a best case scenario, the nation’s graying and growing population will contend with a shortage of at least 46,000 physicians within 10 years, Association of American Medical Colleges projections show.

That shortfall could hit 90,000 by 2025 if the healthcare sector fails to aggressively embrace and promote the use of non-physician clinicians, and adopt more efficient care and payment models such as patient-centered medical homes and accountable care organizations, AAMC said.

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FDA Mandates Tougher Warnings On Testosterone
National Public Radio

The Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday that it is requiring drugmakers to warn patients that testosterone products may increase the risk for heart attacks and strokes.

Testosterone replacements are approved to treat men with low testosterone related to medical problems, such as genetic deficiencies, chemotherapy or damaged testicles.

But the level of the hormone can fall as men grow older.

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Questions raised about pre-surgery sedative use
Modern Healthcare

Receiving a sedative prior to undergoing surgery in which anesthesia is administered may not benefit a patient but instead could help lengthen recovery times, a new study found. But one leading anesthesiologist already is raising questions about the findings.Researchers in France conducted a randomized trial involving more than 1,000 adults under the age of 70 who underwent surgeries at five teaching hospitals between January 2013 and June 2014.

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Mobile Stroke Units Show Early Promise, But Viability Unclear
HealthLeaders Media

Stroke patients who get clot-busting drugs clearly do better than those who don’t arrive at the hospital quickly enough to qualify for thrombolytic therapy. So, the concept of the mobile stroke unit makes sense: Equip an ambulance with the drugs and a doctor who can order them —or, with an electronic link to a doctor who can order them.

Two US hospitals are testing the approach and presented early findings at the recent International Stroke Conference in Nashville, TN last month. In both cases, the units improved treatment time.

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Sutter HMO expands to Sonoma County
Sacramento Business Journal

Sutter Health has received regulatory approval to market its HMO in Sonoma County. Launched in January 2014, Sutter Health Plus kicked off coverage in eight counties in Sacramento and the San Joaquin Valley region. The health plan has about 12,000 members. Sonoma County is Sutter’s first major expansion. Regulatory approval from the California Department of Managed Health Care was received last week. The move is considered part of Sutter’s march toward the Bay Area and across its entire Northern California network.

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SF General Hospital gets new name with Mark Zuckerberg donation
KTVU.com

A multimillion dollar gift by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is set to transform San Francisco General Hospital in more ways than one.

On behalf of San Francisco General Hospital, the City’s Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted to formally accept a $75 million gift from Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Dr. Priscilla Chan.

It’s believed to be the largest single private gift by individuals to a U.S. public hospital.

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