News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Brand-Name Medicines Dominate Medicare’s $103 Billion Drug Bill
National Public Radio

Brand-name drugs to treat heartburn, diabetes, depression and other common afflictions of the elderly were among the most expensive drains on the federal government’s Medicare prescription benefit, costing more than $1 billion each in 2013, newly released data show.

The federal government popped the cap off drug spending on Thursday, detailing doctor-by-doctor and drug-by-drug how Medicare and its beneficiaries spent $103 billion on pharmaceuticals in 2013.

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Primary Care Accessible, But Costly for Uninsured Patients
HealthLeaders Media

People with no health insurance have few problems making appointments at primary care physicians’ offices, but they likely will have difficulty paying for it, research shows.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health conducted a telephone survey of 1,613 primary care physicians’ offices in 10 states in late 2012 and early 2013, before Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.

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Why Your Future Vaccination Might Not Be A Shot
National Public Radio

Vaccines don’t always make it into the people who need them the most. Many require a syringe and a needle to enter the bloodstream and create immunity. And that means a doctor or nurse has to do the job.

But with if a vaccine could be delivered by simply applying a patch? That’s Mark Prausnitz’s goal: creating a nickel-sized bandage-like device covered with 100 microscopic needles that would puncture the skin, then dissolve to get the vaccine into the body.

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The Reality of Virtual Care
HealthLeaders Media

Virtual care is not a new idea. Videoconferencing dates back several decades. Remote monitoring in ICUs began more than a decade ago. Telestroke and remote behavioral health programs have been on the radar in many settings for years.

But two major factors have given virtual care a big boost in the past year. Healthcare’s notorious inefficiency is pushing health systems to balance workloads and workflows, erasing distance and time as limiting factors on the provision of care — using virtual care to do much of the balancing. Second, telemonitoring technology is providing improved ease of use and simplicity, while more attractive price points and performance capabilities are driving virtual care innovation into all of healthcare’s costly nooks and crannies.

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Health care: Illegal immigrants would get Medi-Cal under California bill
Contra Costa Times

The backbreaking work in California’s chili pepper fields and cherry orchards wasn’t so noticeable when farmworker Antolin Gonzalez was young. But the 49-year-old south Santa Clara County farmworker now suffers from dizziness, allergies from dust and pesticides, swollen feet and throbbing backaches — even eyesight problems from prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light.

Like many of the state’s 2.5 million illegal immigrants, Gonzalez does not have health insurance because he can’t afford it. If he gets sick, he seeks treatment at a public health clinic. Anything more serious means a trip to the hospital emergency room.

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Sepsis, A Wily Killer, Stymies Doctors’ Efforts To Tame It

If you ran down the list of ailments that most commonly kill Americans, chances are you wouldn’t think to name sepsis. But this condition, sometimes called blood poisoning, is in fact one of the most common causes of death in the hospital, killing more people than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined.

Jennifer Rodgers learned about sepsis the way many people do – through personal experience.

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Free heart screening could save a teen’s life
San Diego Union-Tribune

Kimberly Van Der Vliet’s energetic and athletic daughter Ciara regularly rose before dawn to get ready for school, so it was no surprise to hear the shower running about 4:30 a.m.

But then her brother heard a thud. Van Der Vliet thought her 17-year-old daughter had dropped a shampoo bottle, but when her shower dragged on, she went to check on her. She opened the bathroom door in her El Cajon home and found Ciara collapsed; her lips were blue.

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Who Keeps Track If Your Surgery Goes Well Or Fails?
National Public Radio

In order to improve the quality of health care and reduce its costs, researchers need to know what works and what doesn’t. One powerful way to do that is through a system of “registries,” in which doctors and hospitals compile and share their results. But even in this era of big data, remarkably few medical registries exist.

Dr. Martin Makary is a surgeon at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. He and his colleagues published a study online this week in the Journal for Health Care Quality about the major shortcomings in the way patients are tracked after treatment.

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Med-tech startup, on a roll, lands big national customers
Sacramento Business Journal

Fast-growing startup SureClinical Inc. says it signed up seven new clients for its cloud-based clinical trials application. The Rancho Cordova company sells cloud-based software for managing the information flow in clinical drug trials. Three of the new clients are companies that do clinical trials under contract for drug makers. Four of the companies are drug makers.

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Almost 12 million gained Medicaid coverage under ObamaCare
The Hill

More than 11.7 million more people have health insurance through Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance through ObamaCare, new data show.

The new report from the Obama administration shows that as of the end of February, there were over 11.7 million more people enrolled in the programs compared to the period before October 2013, when ObamaCare’s coverage expansion went into effect.

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Health Insurance Deadline Passes for Most, but There Are Exceptions
New York Times

The last chance to sign up for health insurance this year under the Affordable Care Act passed on Thursday, when an extended deadline for enrollment expired.

While most people will have to wait until the next open enrollment period in the fall, there is an exception for those who have a change in circumstances — like losing your health coverage because of the loss of a job, or getting married or having a baby.

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Pioneers Memorial Hospital and Scripps Announce Affiliation Negotiations
Imperial Valley News

Pioneers Memorial Healthcare District’s (PMHD) Board of Directors on Monday evening unanimously voted to pursue an affiliation arrangement with Scripps Health in San Diego, California. The announcement follows discussions surrounding a Request for Information sent in March of this year to several major acute care providers in San Diego seeking expressions of interest in affiliating with PMHD.

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How to stick to a prescription drug regimen
Los Angeles Times

Americans have a hard time taking their meds.

Prescription drugs get more sophisticated, expensive and even confusing. People commonly forget how many pills to take or don’t understand how to schedule them. Some leave pricey drugs to languish at the pharmacy. And it’s costing the healthcare system billions of dollars.

David Julian takes 26 pills a day, most of which help to manage his epilepsy. Keeping track of them all has become a challenge.

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Proliferation of medical apps creates opportunity, caution
North Bay Business Journal

More patients than ever are communicating with their doctors through computer screens and smartphones, and health-care mobile apps for smartphones and tablets are helping doctors and patients with everything from record-keeping to diagnostics and monitoring. The new technology is also helping health care facilities curb costs and enhance patient access, and allows patients take more control of their own health.

For doctors, apps range from access to databases about drugs and diseases to sophisticated monitors that read a person’s blood pressure, EKG’s, glucose levels or asthma symptoms remotely.

For patients, they can see a doctor or get a prescription without traveling to an office and sitting in a waiting room. Apps can keep track of their medical records, remind them to take their medications on time, record and send vital information to their doctor, and take their child’s temperature.

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Judge Blue Shield of California by its work
Sacramento Bee

“What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.”\

When Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote this, he meant that he judges others by their actions, not their words. It’s good advice and exactly what you should do with not-for-profit Blue Shield of California.

In recent weeks, there has been a lot said about Blue Shield of California and our not-for-profit mission of ensuring all Californians have access to high-quality health care at an affordable price (“Blue Shield should give public its due”; Viewpoints, April 26). The real question is: What have we done?

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Bills to keep emergency room in south O.C. stall
Orange County Register

A movement to keep emergency medical services alive in San Clemente continues, despite postponement last week of state legislation to allow a freestanding emergency room in Orange County’s southernmost city.

State Sen. Patricia Bates and Assemblyman Bill Brough issued a joint statement Thursday, expressing disappointment “that our legislation to preserve access to emergency care services in south Orange County hit a speedbump this week.”

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Surrounding hospitals wonder whether patients will return to King
Los Angeles Times

When the old King/Drew medical center was forced to close in 2007 after a series of treatment lapses, tens of thousands of South Los Angeles patients scrambled to find somewhere else to go.

Many officials predicted that surrounding hospitals, some with already strained emergency rooms, would be flooded.

Indeed, a new Times analysis of state data found that two public and three private hospitals in the area experienced an increase of more than 20% in outpatient ER visits, some well after the troubled King/Drew closed.