News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Statins can help and hurt the elderly
San Diego Union-Tribune

UC San Francisco says in a new study that the use of statins could significantly reduce the incidence of heart attacks in older people. But the drugs, which are mainly used to reduce cholesterol levels, also could cause many elderly to experience muscle pain, weakness and possibly a dip in cognitive skills.

The finding was based on a computer simulation that’s meant to broaden science’s weak understanding of how statins affect the elderly. About half of all older people take statins.

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Physician Burnout Heavily Influenced by Leadership Behaviors
HealthLeaders Media

Physician burnout is prevalent throughout the U.S. healthcare system — experienced by nearly half (46%) of physicians, according to data published in JAMA last year. But effective leadership appears to alleviate it, according to new research from Mayo Clinic and published in the April issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

In 2013, nearly 3,000 physicians and scientists across Mayo Clinic’s three campuses in Arizona, Florida, and Minnesota responded to a survey about their well being in the workplace. They were asked not only to rate themselves on burnout and satisfaction, but also to evaluate their immediate supervisors, who were physicians and scientists themselves, in 12 specific dimensions of leadership. 

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This Is What Your Doctor’s Office Will Look Like in Five Years
Healthline

If you want a glimpse of the future of healthcare, just take a walk through downtown Las Vegas a few blocks from its famed strip.

In a nondescript office building on Bridger Avenue, you’ll find the Turntable Health medical clinic.

The facility has been open for a year and a half. It gives customers the option to pay a flat fee of $80 per adult per month to visit as many times as they need.

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The Certainty of Analytics
HealthLeaders Media

Information technology provides healthcare organizations with an essential infrastructure. But from an evolutionary perspective, healthcare IT has its roots in finance and administration, with clinical IT applications developing along a separate path. The shift to delivering value-based care challenges IT in two principal ways.

First, as organizations respond to the industry’s push toward capitated or at-risk payments, decision-makers depend on analysis that is based on both clinical and financial data, so organizations are challenged to integrate data. Second, as early reimbursement penalties morph into broader-based responsibility for health outcomes, and attribution of patients to providers becomes common, the performance of care partners becomes a concern. Both factors push healthcare IT teams to work with broader sets of data to support a new set of decisions in new ways.

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U.S. top court throws out Obamacare contraception ruling
Reuters

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday revived religious objections by Catholic groups in Michigan and Tennessee to the Obamacare requirement for contraception coverage, throwing out a lower court decision favoring President Barack Obama’s administration.

The justices asked the Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider its decision that backed the Obama administration in light of the Supreme Court’s June 2014 ruling that allowed certain privately owned corporations to seek exemptions from the provision.

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Medicaid’s Tension: Getting Corporate Giants To Do Right By The Needy
Kaiser Health News

Lynda Douglas thought she had a deal with Tennessee. She would adopt and love a tiny, unwanted, profoundly disabled girl named Charla. The private insurance companies that run Tennessee’s Medicaid program would cover Charla’s health care.

Douglas doesn’t think the state and its contractors have held up their end. In recent years she says she has fought battle after battle to secure essential care to control Charla’s seizures, protect her from choking and tube-feed and medicate her multiple times a day.

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Feds Say It’s Time To Cut Back On Fluoride In Drinking Water
National Public Radio

Federal health officials Monday changed the recommended amount of fluoride in drinking water for the first time since 1962, cutting by almost half the maximum amount of fluoride that should be added to drinking supplies.

The Department of Health and Human Services recommended 0.7 milligrams of fluoride per liter of water instead of the long-standing range of 0.7 to 1.2 milligrams.

“The change is recommended because now Americans have access to more sources of fluoride, such as toothpaste and mouth rinses, than they did when fluoridation was first introduced in the United States,” Dr. Boris Lushniak, the deputy surgeon general, told reporters during a conference call.

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Maybe You Should Rethink That Daily Aspirin
National Public Radio

We’ve all heard that an aspirin a day can keep heart disease at bay. But lots of Americans seem to be taking it as a preventive measure, when many probably shouldn’t.

In a recent national survey, more than half the adults who were middle age or older reported taking an aspirin regularly to prevent a heart attack or stroke. The Food and Drug Administration only recommends the drug for people who have already experienced such an event or are at extremely high risk.

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As Health Apps Hop On The Apple Watch, Privacy Will Be Key
National Public Radio

One day soon, you may be waiting in line for a coffee, eyeing a pastry, when your smart watch buzzes with a warning.

Flashing on the tiny screen of your Apple Watch is a message from an app called Lark, suggesting that you lay off the carbs for today. Speak into the Apple Watch’s built-in mic about your food, sleep and exercise, and the app will send helpful tips back to you.

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Opening the Care Conversation Through Open Notes
The Health Care Blog

It’s a memory aid. It’s truth serum. Using it can transform relationships forever. These may sound like come-ons for the type of product typically hawked on late-night television. But in fact, they’re some of the things people are saying about OpenNotes. OpenNotes isn’t a product, but an idea: That the notes doctors and other clinicians write about visits with patients should be available to the patients themselves.

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Would Doctors Be Better If They Didn’t Have To Memorize?
National Public Radio

Poor old Dr. Krebs. His painstaking Nobel-winning work on cellular metabolism, called the Krebs cycle, has made him the symbol for what’s ailing medical education.

“Why do I need to know this stuff?” medical students ask me.

“How many times have you used the Krebs Cycle lately?” senior doctors jokingly reminisce.

For decades, first-year medical students have had to cram the details of the Krebs cycle into their heads. Now the biomedical model of educating doctors, based largely on a century-old document called The Flexner Report, is coming under fire.

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Health insurer Aetna’s medical costs are low, boosting profit
Reuters

Aetna Inc (AET.N), the third-largest U.S. health insurer, on Tuesday reported first-quarter profit that beat analyst expectations and said spending on medical claims in the first quarter remained low.

Aetna’s members increased 122,000 from the fourth quarter and said profits rose in its government and commercial business, the latter of which includes employer-based plans and individual healthcare created by the national healthcare reform law.

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Merck tops Street 1Q forecasts
San Francisco Chronicle

Drugmaker Merck & Co.’s first-quarter profit plunged 44 percent, hurt by the sale of its consumer health business, unfavorable currency exchange rates and other factors. The maker of Type 2 diabetes pills Januvia and Janumet still handily beat Wall Street expectations, which have been muted for companies with significant overseas sales. That’s because that the strong dollar reduces the values of products sold in local currencies around the world. Merck also nudged up its profit forecast for the year.

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Consumer group sues Cigna, alleges discrimination
San Francisco Chronicle

A consumer advocacy group has filed a class-action lawsuit against Cigna saying a new policy discriminates against people with HIV and AIDS and violates the federal health law by requiring them to get their medications from its mail-order pharmacy. Consumer Watchdog filed the lawsuit Monday in South Florida federal court. It says sending the drugs through the mail puts privacy at risk because packages could end up at the wrong address or be seen by others.

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Sharp Memorial Hospital Tests New Heart Pump
KPBS

There are few options for the estimated 150,000 Americans with end-stage heart disease. One of them is being tested at San Diego’s Sharp Memorial Hospital.

Sharp is involved in a nationwide clinical trial to evaluate the performance of a left ventricular assist device called the HeartMate 3. It helps the heart pump blood in patients whose hearts are too weak to do it on their own.

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Sharp Memorial 1st on West Coast to Implant New Mechanical Heart Pump
Times of San Diego

Sharp Memorial Hospital has become the first hospital on the West Coast — and only the sixth in the country — to implant an investigational mechanical heart pump as part of a nationwide clinical trial. The trial is designed to evaluate the performance and safety of the device in patients with advanced heart failure.

A specialized medical team led by cardiovascular surgeon Robert Adamson, MD, successfully implanted the HeartMate III™ Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD) into Maria Valadez, 57, of San Diego, April 23.

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Rady Children’s Hospital Begins Search For Birth Defect Genes
KPBS

Rady Children’s Hospital is launching an effort to find out the underlying causes of birth defects like cleft palate and certain heart deformities.

In the next year, they’ll aim to sequence the genomes of about 200 San Diego newborns with birth defects of unknown cause. The goal is to pinpoint the genes or environmental factors driving these abnormalities.

Some of the parents who consent to the sequencing will also have their genomes analyzed to understand how defects might be inherited.

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