News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Federal dollars helped close the digital divide between rural and urban hospitals
Modern Healthcare

The digital divide between small, rural hospitals and larger, urban hospitals is closing. And that success is due, in part, to the federal electronic health-record incentive program. At least 94% of small and rural hospitals, according to the latest CMS data, now has an EHR system, or has contracted to buy one, with top-level functionality such as computerized physician-order entry to complete orders, clinical decision support and interoperability, according to the latest CMS data. That same data show that 4,827 hospitals, or 97% of the 4,993 hospitals eligible to participate in the program created under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, have been paid a share of $18.6 billion in EHR incentive payments.

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FDA warns makers of medical scopes in wake of deadly ‘superbug’ outbreaks
Washington Post

The Food and Drug Administration has sent warning letters to manufacturers of a specialized medical scope that has been associated with outbreaks of a deadly “superbug” virus, saying the companies failed to adequately report problems with the devices and, in some instances, failed to ensure that they could be cleaned properly between uses.

The warnings come after the devices, known as duodenoscopes, have been linked in recent years to outbreaks of tough-to-fight bacterial infections involving carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, or CRE.

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Hospitals, Medical Groups Start To Worry About Skills Of Older Doctors

Every weekday at the crack of dawn and usually on weekends too, Dr. Paul Speckart backs his dark blue 1986 Volvo down his Mission Hills driveway, carefully avoiding the gateposts.

He drives 18 blocks to Scripps Mercy Hospital in Hillcrest to examine his patients treated there, and writes orders for their drugs or tests.

Then he goes to the Bankers Hill practice he shares with his four partners to see an additional 20 or so patients. Then at 6 p.m., he’s back in the Volvo to make hospital rounds again, lucky to make it home by 8:30. On Saturdays he often makes house calls and visits nursing homes.

Speckart turned 75 in late June. It’s an age when many doctors might retire. But after nearly four decades of this routine, the internist and endocrine specialist has no plan to call it quits.

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Doctors reveal the worst behavior in the operating room
San Francisco Chronicle

After a Virginia man accidentally recorded his doctor mocking him while he was undergoing a colonoscopy, many patients wondered if the same thing could have happened to them while under sedation.

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Medicare Says Doctors Should Get Paid To Discuss End-Of-Life Issues
capital public radio

Remember so-called death panels? When Congress debated the Affordable Care Act in 2009, the legislation included a provision that would have allowed Medicare to reimburse doctors when they meet with patients to talk about end-of-life care. But then Sarah Palin loudly argued that such payments would lead to care being withheld from the elderly and disabled. Her assertions greatly distressed Dr. Pamelyn Close, a palliative care specialist in Los Angeles. “It did terrible damage to the concept of having this conversation,” she says. Amid the ensuing political uproar, Congress deleted the provision. And that, says Close, further discouraged doctors from initiating these talks.

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FDA warns reusable scope makers behind superbug outbreak
Los Angeles Business Journal

The Food and Drug Administration last week sent warning letters to three manufacturers of endoscopes that have been linked to a recent deadly “superbug” outbreak. In its strongest action yet against the device makers, the FDA said Olympus Corp., Pentax, and Fujifilm Holdings Corp. failed to report problems with the scopes as required by law and in some cases failed to ensure that the devices could be adequately cleaned, reported Bloomberg.

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Protecting Americans from Preventable Infections: Working Together Will Save Lives
The Health Care Blog

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” Those words spoken by Helen Keller nearly a century ago remain powerful and relevant today.

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) projects that thousands of lives could be saved every year if health care facilities and public health departments work together to track and stop antibiotic resistance – and if they communicate with each other about these infections to prevent spread from one facility to another.

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Cost Of Diabetes Drugs Often Overlooked, But It Shouldn’t Be
Kaiser Health News

When it comes to treating chronic conditions, diabetes drugs aren’t nearly as sexy as say, Sovaldi, last year’s breakthrough hepatitis C drug that offers a cure for the chronic liver infection at a price approaching six figures.

Yet an estimated 29 million people have diabetes — about 10 times the number of people with hepatitis C — and many of them will take diabetes drugs for the rest of their lives. Cost increases for both old and new drugs alike are forcing many consumers to scramble to pay for them.

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Survey finds higher prices for some regular users of prescription meds
Washington Post

Not all surprises are good, especially when a surprise means you have to pay more for a prescription drug that you take all the time. Yet in the past 12 months, that’s what happened to one-third of people who regularly take a medication, according to a Consumer Reports poll. These people said they paid an average of $39 above the usual cost for a prescription, and one in 10 said they paid a whopping $100 or more out of pocket.

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Microbe Mix May Play Role In Preterm Birth Risk
National Public Radio

The assortment of microbes in a pregnant woman’s vagina appears to play a role in her chances of giving birth prematurely, new research suggests. The study of 49 pregnant women, published in this week’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that those who had a diverse array of microbes were more likely to give birth prematurely.

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States Move to Cut Funds for Planned Parenthood
New York Times

With Congress in summer recess into September, anti-abortion officials in a number of Republican-controlled states are rushing to halt public funding for Planned Parenthood or to investigate it in reaction to hidden-camera videos claiming that it profits from fetal tissue sales.

On Monday, Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida sought a judge’s emergency injunction against the state health agency, which did inspections ordered by the governor and cited three clinics — in St.

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Planned Parenthood vows to continue providing fetal tissue for research
Silicon Valley Business Journal

Planned Parenthood officials said Monday they are exploring other ways to supply medical researchers with donated fetal tissue now that StemExpress has cut ties with the organization. Caught in the abortion controversy over its business and links to Planned Parenthood, Placerville-based StemExpress notified Planned Parenthood officials Friday that it will ‘terminate activities” in order to “focus our limited resources on resolving these inquiries.”

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Bringing Clinicians, Patients, and Financial Administrators into a Common Conversation About Affordable Care
The Health Care Blog

It all started a few years ago with an out-of-the-blue e-mail:

“Neel – I saw the work you are doing via the article in the journal ‘Leadership’. Congratulations as this is a great area of focus to pursue – the need to take down the complexity as it relates to cost/charge/reimbursement is a tough and an important issue. There may be some interesting ways we can collaborate. Best, Dan”

That e-mail would lead to a major initiative, a National Story Contest called The Best Care, The Lowest Cost: One Idea at a Time that we are launching this week.  More on that below, but first a little more background. 

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Healthcare reform: A right way and a wrong way
The Hill

It’s clear the GOP has stalled in its drive to repeal and replace Obamacare. In fact, it’s beginning to look unlikely this objective will ever be achieved – at least not the way the voters who returned Republicans to power in Congress over the last several elections wanted.

The idea of “ripping it out by its roots,” as more than one congressional candidate on the stump promised, has been overtaken by political reality.

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Three doctors added to Oroville Hospital staff
Oroville Mercury-Register

Oroville Hospital has announced that three doctors are joining its team.

They include Dr. Sultan Chopan, who’s been practicing medicine in Oroville for 27 years, Dr. David Lounsberry from Lake County, and Dr.

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Congressman tours Community Hospital of San Bernardino
San Bernardino Sun

Dignity Health’s Community Hospital of San Bernardino welcomed Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-San Bernardino, on Monday for a visit to its Children’s Subacute Center and busy Emergency Room.

The Children’s Subacute Center is a freestanding pediatric care facility for children who have longterm or complex conditions, and includes a unique therapy room for children — one of the few in the country to offer such multisensory therapy, officials said.

The hospital’s ER has such a large volume of patients that as many as 174 patients are seen each day.

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Hospitals battle over region’s tiniest and most fragile patients
Fresno Bee

Competition between Valley Children’s Hospital and Community Regional Medical Center for the region’s youngest patients is heating up.

Community Regional now has a surgical team that is performing operations on newborns and preemies who previously had to be transferred to Valley Children’s Hospital on the San Joaquin River bluffs in Madera County.