News

MDs, vendors clash over EMR access

What happens when doctors are unable or unwilling to pay the bills for the patient's electronic medical records (EMRs)? In Boca Raton, FL, one EMR vendor cut doctor's access to the records when the medical group refused to pay higher support fees. This has created concerns about EMRs in the midst of a major push for doctors to digitize patient records. Currently, there is no law preventing companies from restricting physician's access to the records for financial reasons. But Dr. Joseph …

A new standard for voluntary hospitals?

In order to retain their tax-exempt status, not-for-profit hospitals must provide some kind of community benefit. But defining what constitutes "community benefit" has been a constant source of trouble for these hospitals. Now the Catholic Health Association says it has developed a set of guidelines for planning, measuring, and documenting community benefits. The CHA also says that almost all of its 4,000 facilities have adopted these measures. The association hopes its guidelines could …

Improving stroke outcomes

Not so long ago, a stroke diagnosis was practically a death sentence. By the time a doctor recognized the symptoms, there wasn't much a physician could do to save the patient. But the recent revolution brought on by clot-busting drugs has radically changed how physicians are able to treat the condition. It has also made it imperative that both physicians and patients recognize and treat symptoms within the first three hours of a stroke. In Nova Scotia, healthcare providers are undertaking …

ALSO NOTED: FDA fines Red Cross; VA plans KY hospital; and much more...

> The FDA has fined the Red Cross $4.2 million for violating laws that keep the blood supply safe. Report

> The problems at John Muir Medical Center continue as the California Nurses Association says nurses there have agreed to strike if necessary. Report

> A plan is in the words to build a new …

Editor's Corner


Yesterday I wrote about my interview with Mark Hochstetler, M.D., vice president of clinical affairs with the VHA. In the course of our discussion about …

SPOTLIGHT: Welcome to "Diabesity"

At Hospital Impact, Tony Chen blogs about "diabesity"--the combination of diabetes and obesity that's quickly becoming one of this nation's most pressing medical concerns. With ever-rising healthcare costs, the impending bankruptcy of Medicare and an enormous number of baby boomers headed for their senior years, how can hospitals deal with this epidemic? "No nation has ever faced this double-whammy of the graying and widening of [the] population at such a pace," Chen observes. Blog

Report: Nurses short on IT training

Healthcare IT is all the rage--from electronic medical records to ePrescribing, technology promises to save time, save money and reduce medical errors. Hospitals are pouring money into IT initiatives but a recent study published in eWeek finds that nurses are being overlooked when it comes to IT training. Of the 559 nurses surveyed, "one-quarter indicated they had received no IT training on the job over the last year, while another 56 percent said they had gotten only between one …

Employer clinics save time, money

As employers struggle with the cost of insuring their workers, a new trend has taken hold: Many employers are opening up their own on-site clinics for employees. The clinics save employers money in several ways. First, employees like the convenience of an easily-accessible clinic and are likely to visit the clinic for minor health issues. This saves employers the cost of paying for an employee's full-blown doctor visit, and the patient may not even have to pay a copay to use the clinic. …

AMA cites antitrust activity among insurers

Earlier this week, AMA officials testified in front of a Senate Judiciary Committee, saying that consolidation in the health insurance industry has curtailed physician's abilities to negotiate with insurers. "We have watched with growing concern as large health plans pursue aggressive acquisition strategies to assume dominant positions in their markets," the association commented. Officials also allege that the lack of competition between insurers inflates patients' premiums. The AMA …

TX docs face medical board

At the most recent meeting of Texas's medical board, a record 99 doctors faced punishment from the board. Out of the 99, seven faced disciplinary measures. A spokesperson for the board noted that the high number wasn't a reflection of more complaints. Rather, "the board is simply doing a better job of proving cases, which results in more actions." Perhaps the Texas medical board took note of a recent study published by Case Western Reserve University School of Law in Cleveland that found …

Cases of Medicaid fraud

Three Florida men were charged with fraud for trying to bilk Medicaid out of $121,000. Arnaldo Iglesias, Jorge Fernandez-Romero and Alain Fernandez billed Medicaid for medical products not prescribed by physicians. If convicted, the three face serious jail time. In an unrelated case, Boris Gokhman--a Milwaukee-based housing developer--has been charged $5,000 for each of 18 false Medicaid claims he made. Gokhman falsely claimed he was taking care of his elderly parents for 650 days and …

ALSO NOTED: PA doc bemoans high malpractice premiums; MDs have mixed reactions to Part D; and much more...

> A Philadelphia doctor paints a grim picture of the impact high insurance premiums are having on Pennsylvania's doctors. Op-Ed

> In Denver, UnitedHealthcare and HealthOne have been unable to renegotiate their contract that expired August 31.

SPOTLIGHT: Holes in consumer theory for healthcare


In a Wall Street Journal column, David Wessel examines why applying the consumer theory to healthcare simply doesn't work. Specifically, he observes that while many of us are unhappy with our healthcare system, we're generally satisfied with our own doctor whether or not that doctor provides high-quality care. Column

CMS rolls out quality improvement program

CMS announced that it is rolling out the Physician-Hospital Collaboration Demonstration (PHCD), a three-year program designed to gauge whether hospitals can improve outcomes without raising costs, if they reward doctors for providing better care. Under the program, "the hospital would be paid its usual inpatient rate for the patient's care, but would pay to the physician a portion of the savings resulting from quality improvement and efficiency initiatives taken by the physician." …

DEA eases painkiller prescription rules

The DEA has revised a policy that pain doctors say was limiting how well they could care for their patients. Two years ago, the DEA enacted a rule that made it illegal for doctors to write multi-month prescriptions for patients in need of constant morphine-based painkillers. The agency claimed that the practice was unnecessary and added to the likelihood that people would abuse prescription painkillers. Doctors were irked by the change and many patients had to come in for unnecessary …

GAO reports numerous security breaches

A GAO report found that Medicare needs to keep better tabs on how contractors manage patients' health data. The study found that over 40 percent of Medicare contractors and state Medicaid agencies experienced a breach of patient data in the last two years, though it did not examine the severity of the breaches. "According to the study, 47 percent of Medicare Advantage contractors reported privacy breaches within the past two years, as did 44 percent of Medicaid agencies, 42 percent of …

Interview: Price, quality and the Amish

In a recent interview with Mark Hochstetler, M.D., vice president of clinical affairs with the VHA, we discussed the issues of price and quality transparency and the effect that these trends are having on the healthcare industry. There have been quite a few price and quality transparency initiatives lately, driven by the current administration's support of CDHPs. Dr. Hochstetler noted that while this has caused quite a stir in the healthcare industry, it has had very little impact on …

Is $19,000 a year a good investment?

Recently, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that despite complaints of high healthcare costs, the price we pay to extend our lives is worth it. The study found that Americans have spent an average of $19,900 for each extra year of life gained in the last 40 years. But at HFMA Views, Scott MacStravic, Ph.D notes that this figure is …

ALSO NOTED: Magellan ends WellPoint contract; PA doc in trouble with IRS; and much more...

> Magellan, which manages behavioral health services in Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio, announced that it will end its contract with WellPoint in March of 2007. Report

> The Houston Chronicle examines the promise of the personal health record (PHR). Article

> Dr. Gregory Nelson of Pennsylvania made his second appearance …

SPOTLIGHT: Choosing the best service portfolio

At Hospital Impact, healthcare consultant Craig Allan Ahrens notes that a hospital's service portfolio can greatly impact a number of factors. "Choices around a service portfolio will influence whether you are more likely to get Medicare versus private pay patients, medical versus procedural patients, inpatient versus outpatient patients, etc." But advising what service mix a hospital should use creates a moral dilemma for Ahrens. Blog