News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Heart Attack Test May Cut Emergency Room Diagnosis to One Hour
San Francisco Chronicle

Doctors may be able to diagnose a heart attack in one hour using a new test approach that could save time, money and crowding in hospital emergency rooms, researchers said. Using more-sensitive screening technology to detect changes in cardiac troponin, a substance in the blood tested for evidence of heart attack, and inputting the data into an algorithm, doctors were able to determine whether a heart attack had occurred in 77 percent of patients within an hour of arriving at the hospital with chest pain, according to research published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

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Hospital Glucose Monitors Overlooked as Infection Source
Health Leaders Media

The federal investigation of New Hampshire’s Exeter Hospital hepatitis outbreak linked to suspicions of drug diversion by a healthcare worker reveals an underappreciated potential source of infection in all healthcare organizations—the inadequate cleaning of blood glucose monitors. “It’s not well appreciated in the healthcare community that these devices should be cleaned and disinfected in between patients; that’s something that’s only now being realized,” says Joseph Perz, Prevention Team Leader for the Division of Healthcare Quality and Promotion for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Privacy laws complicate exchange data-sharing: Pritts
Modern Healthcare

Strong state privacy laws continue to complicate health information exchanges’ efforts to ease health-data sharing, a senior federal health technology official said Monday. And a key to overcoming such obstacles may be greater use of meta tags. Joy Pritts, chief privacy officer in the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, told a Washington health policy gathering that some health information exchanges are not accepting electronic health records containing mental health or substance-abuse data.

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Striving for Meaningful Use Stage 2
Health Leaders Media

The debate continues to rage: Are meaningful use requirements too specific or too vague? On target or wide of the mark? It still depends on who you ask. “If these guidelines remain this rigid, this inflexible, this one-size-fits-all, there may well be a number of physicians who try in good faith and fail,” says Steven J. Stack, MD, chair of the board of trustees of the American Medical Association and an emergency physician with Lexington, Ky.–based Saint Joseph Health System.

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Hospital-tied infections study cites UCD Med Center
Sacramento Bee

In a statewide ranking, the state Department of Public Health says that California hospitals overall reported a 10 percent decrease last year of a deadly type of hospital-acquired infection that can strike critically ill patients.

The so-called central line-associated blood stream infection can occur in patients who must be fitted with catheters for fluids or medication.

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Despite fears of Alzheimer’s, many would like to know their risk for the disease
Washington Post

Alzheimer’s disease can’t be prevented or cured, and it ranks second only to cancer among diseases that people fear. Still, in an international study last year from the Harvard School of Public Health, about two-thirds of respondents from the United States said they would want to know if they were destined to get the disease. Although there are no definitive tests that predict whether most people will get the disease, people sometimes want such information for legal and financial planning purposes or to help weigh the need for long-term-care insurance.

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Anti-Medicaid states: Earning $11,000 is too much
San Francisco Chronicle

Sandra Pico is poor, but not poor enough. She makes about $15,000 a year, supporting her daughter and unemployed husband. She thought she’d be able to get health insurance after the Supreme Court upheld President Barack Obama’s health care law. Then she heard that her own governor won’t agree to the federal plan to extend Medicaid coverage to people like her in two years. So she expects to remain uninsured, struggling to pay for her blood pressure medicine.

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Circumcision, long in decline in the U.S., may get a boost from a doctors’ group
Washington Post

When Tamar Jacobs became pregnant, she found herself hoping for a girl, mainly because she was dreading a difficult rite of passage that often comes with the birth of a boy — circumcision.

Growing up Jewish in Baltimore, “I never really questioned it,” she said, but the more she read and thought about it, the more “unnecessary and even cruel” circumcision seemed. By the time the grainy 20-week sonogram showed the outward sign of an XY chromosome, she knew she could not go through with it.

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Studies: Students don’t get enough EHR access
Modern Physician

Researchers studying electronic health records say not enough medical schools give students permission to access EHRs.

Based on their results, the Alliance for Clinical Education concludes that medical students need more training. They found that 64% of medical-school programs allow students access, and about two-thirds of those students are allowed to write notes within the record. The results were reported in two studies that appeared in last month’s edition of “Teaching and Learning in Medicine.”

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Obama to Encourage States to Build Health Exchanges
Insurance Journal

The Obama administration this week will try to encourage reluctant U.S. states to move forward with health insurance exchanges amid fears that time is running out for states to act on a reform provision meant to extend coverage to millions of low-to-moderate income uninsured Americans.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has scheduled four regional meetings this month to discuss the exchanges and other aspects of President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform law with state officials and others.

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Ventura family fights for testing after son born with congenital heart defect
Ventura County Star

On May 15, 2011, Michelle Bartell and her husband, Stephen, welcomed a 7½-pound baby boy.

They named their first child Lucas, and after doctors tested him for autoimmune disease and checked his hearing, the Bartells were told they had a perfectly healthy baby and could return to their home in Ventura.

But in the days after, Michelle noticed certain symptoms in Lucas — violent gagging, inconsolable crying, blue skin and the eventual inability to nurse.

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FCC: Rural health pilot program saves money, boosts quality
Modern Healthcare

Federal officials say a $415 million information technology program approved six years ago to build broadband networks among rural healthcare providers is successful in reducing costs and enhancing healthcare quality. The FCC created its Rural Health Care Pilot Program in 2006 to provide an infrastructure for letting rural healthcare providers build networks connecting them to their urban counterparts. The initiative includes programs at 50 sites across 38 states.

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Report notes CMS drug overpayments; potential savings seen in new pricing initiative
Modern Healthcare

A routine market analysis by HHS investigators concluded that the CMS overpaid for medications in a recent quarter by $4.6 million. However, Medicare could recoup nearly as much through a coming market-pricing initiative. Stuart Wright, deputy inspector general at HHS, wrote Marilyn Tavenner, acting CMS administrator, on Aug. 10 with his office’s quarterly estimate of the excessive drug prices the agency had paid in a preceding quarter.

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With reform, firms’ plans for coverage vary widely, GAO researchers find
Modern Healthcare

Among employers that may drop worker health coverage because of the reform law, most would end coverage across the board instead of for select employee groups, according to federal researchers who examined 19 employer surveys. Other data predicted there would be little change in firms’ plans to cover workers, they found. In researching the effects of the healthcare law on employer-sponsored coverage, the Government Accountability Office examined five microsimulation models and 19 employer surveys.

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Varian Medical Systems CEO to step down in September
San Francisco Business Times

Timothy Guertin, CEO of Varian Medical Systems Inc., will retire Sept. 28, when the company’s fiscal year ends. Dow Wilson, 53, will become president and CEO when Guertin, 62, steps down. Wilson is being promoted from chief operating officer. Varian hired him in 2005 to run its oncology systems business. Guertin will become vice chairman of the Palo Alto company (NYSE: VAR) Sept. 29, and he’ll remain a non-executive employee of Varian Medical Systems until his ultimate retirement in February.

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Health care reform needs local plans
The Mercury News

Federal health care reform goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2014, but it won’t be as simple as flipping a switch. State officials must take a number of steps to ensure the system works as intended, getting as many people as possible into affordable coverage. While the state took a huge step forward in 2010 by creating the California Health Benefits Exchange, ensuring that lower-income Californians will be able to afford basic benefits remains an unanswered challenge.

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Seniors would pay the price of Ryan’s plan to overhaul Medicare
Los Angeles Times

We’ve been hearing — and will continue to hear — a lot about how Paul Ryan’s plan to overhaul Medicare and Medicaid would cripple the safety-net healthcare programs.

Fair criticism? The answer, as Bill Clinton might say, depends on what your definition of “cripple” is. The Ryan plan has been around for months. It’s taken on new heft since Ryan, a conservative congressman from Wisconsin, was tapped over the weekend by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney to be his running mate.

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Ryan will make Medicare key issue in campaign
Modern Healthcare

GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney’s choice of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) as his running mate sent a clear signal that Medicare will be a major issue in this presidential election, and President Barack Obama’s remarks Sunday indicate he got the message. Ryan, the 42-year-old chairman of the powerful House Budget Committee, is the chief architect of a budget plan that made headlines in 2011 and 2012 for proposing a massive overhaul to the Medicare program.

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Hospital Quality Under Scrutiny
The Health Care Blog

Last week’s New York Times article on cardiac care at some HCA-owned hospitals yielded a chorus of comments from readers who argued that for-profit hospital care is inherently low-quality care. As it happened, in working on a history of the investor-owned hospital sector, I had just been crunching data that might either support or refute that assertion. The results are surprising, if far from decisive.

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The Coming Battle for Medicare
The Health Care Blog

Republican Vice Presidential pick Paul Ryan isn’t the only one Democrats are piling on this week. The knives have come out for Senator Ron Wyden, the Oregon Democrat. I guess that isn’t a surprise. If Ron Wyden is right on Medicare then so are Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney. The fundamental problem here is that the Democrats have decided that their best path to victory in the November elections is to say that the Republicans want to destroy Medicare as we know it and that the Democrats can preserve it.

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