News

Mayo Clinic outsources product development

Like the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and the Cleveland Clinic, the Mayo Clinic is a provider that has a history of developing new medical technologies and bringing them to market. But now, instead of licensing new innovations to outside companies, the hospital is using outsourcing strategies in a bid to retain greater control in some cases. BusinessWeek looks at the example of Mayo Clinic MRI coils, a technology for capturing images of the arm and wrist that the …

SPOTLIGHT: Med students assigned residencies

Thursday was "match day," the day that tens of thousands of graduating med students around the country traditionally learn which hospital they will be assigned to in their first year out of school. The New York Times covered student reactions at Weill Medical College of New York City, where most students got one of their top choices. Article

ALSO NOTED: Walk-through "air showers"; VA CIO resigns; and much more...

> Chutes & Ladders: Veterans Affairs CIO Robert McFarland resigned, citing frustrations with the information technology overhaul at the agency. Article

> In Japan, a small company has developed walk-through "air showers" to rid patients of pollen and dust particles clinging to their clothes. This could be useful for other things as well. …

Study: "Mediocre" care for everyone

A new study appearing in The New England Journal of Medicine from the RAND organization confirms some things we knew about care quality and challenges a few fundamental assumptions. In one of the largest studies of care quality ever conducted, researchers confirmed the earlier data published by RAND that Americans do not get the correct care much of the time. But it found that that care was broadly consistent regardless of their race or class. Numbers for different groups were …

Tenet cleared of wrongdoing during Katrina

Louisiana's attorney general cleared ten hospitals in the New Orleans area of wrongdoing during Hurricane Katrina, saying there was no evidence that their negligence lead to the death of patients. Attorney General Charles Foti's probe into suspicious deaths will now focus on five hospitals in the area. According to Foti's office, 140 people died at hospitals and long-term care facilities during the storm.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Tenet Healthcare, the company that operates …

VISICU reaches profitability, plans IPO

VISICU, the maker of remote monitoring systems for intensive care units, turned a profit of $10 million on revenues of $18 million last year according to a filing with the SEC. That performance was a marked improvement over a year earlier, when the company lost $4 million. VISICU, which is known for its eICU system and is considered a market leader, plans to go public later this year. The company expects shares to go for between $11 and $13. VISICU was founded by Dr. Brian Rosenfeld and …

Delphi subsidiary aims at healthcare market

Delphi Medical Systems is a 400 employee subsidiary of the bankrupt auto parts giant. But the company hopes that it can make some money by getting into the market using some of the technologies that its developed for autos in medical products. For example, its VitalPoint Home system reads a patient's vital signs using data collection methods used to track the vital statistics of vehicles. In addition, the IVantage infusion pump draws on electronic wiring Delphi uses in automotive parts. …

Bush nominates von Eschenbach to head FDA

As expected, President Bush nominated Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach to head the FDA. Von Eschenbach, who is serving as the acting head of the agency, is a former head of the National Cancer Institute. Observers predict a difficult and politically-charged confirmation process. Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) and Patty Murray (D-WA) have vowed to block the nomination unless the agency rules on Plan B, the emergency contraceptive pill. Washington insiders say the administration is likely …

SPOTLIGHT: Study says pay key to solving nurse shortage

A new study suggests that the real factor behind the nurse shortage may be pay that often lags behind increases in inflation. The Institute for Women's Policy Research used U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data to examine pay and employment trends among nurses. The group's conclusion: raising wages is this most effective way of attracting more job applications. Article

ALSO NOTED: Healthcare payments hit $1.5 trillion; Assessing HIPAA; and much more...

> Children's Hospital San Diego continues to try to pick up the pieces after finding out that as many as 200 children may have been molested by a respiratory therapist. Article

> When Congress passed HIPAA in 1996, the goal was to protect patients. Now critics worry that the barriers to the free flow of information that resulted may be hurting both patients and providers. …

Poll: Californians support physician-assisted suicide

A new Field Poll finds that the majority of Californians support a bill that would allow terminally-ill patients to end their own lives with a lethal prescription. The bill, drafted by Patty Berg (D) and Lloyd Levine (D), would allow a doctor to prescribe a lethal prescription if a person is found legally competent and declared terminally ill by two physicians. Supporters believe the recent Supreme Court Decision upholding Oregon's physician-assisted suicide law will help attract support …

Bush defends Part D success, concedes problems

In a speech in upstate New York, President Bush acknowledged that the new Medicare prescription drug benefit has had a rocky start. Bush defended the program as a good deal for seniors in a half hour forum, saying "Any time Washington passes a new law, sometimes the transition period can be interesting." Analysts expect Democrats to try to use the benefit's problems as political leverage in November.

The New York Times compared the speech to earlier talks in which the …

Law could hurt device makers

Under new legislation floated in Minnesota, medical device manufacturers could wind up paying the entire bill for a patient's treatment and rehabilitation when a pacemaker or defibrillator is recalled. Congressman Tony Cornish (R) introduced the legislation Monday, saying it is unfair for either Medicare or private insurers to have to pay for a device maker's mistakes. Leading device companies Medtronic, Guidant and Boston Scientific all have production facilities in the state. Device …

Impact of concierge practices examined

The Palm Beach Post looks at the impact of concierge physician practices on the Florida healthcare market. The newspaper reports that 50,000 patients have switched physicians after their doctors adopted the business model, which requires an annual fee ranging from $1,500 to $5,000. Many of the 100 or so practices in the Palm Beach area that have adopted the strategy are affiliated with MDVIP, a national chain that works with concierge practices across the country. Participating …

HIT: Medsphere takes OpenVista to market

Medsphere is the company that's trying to take OpenVista, its product based on the VA's Vista EMR, to the commercial market. In order to get Vista ready for the commercial market they had to remove the Virginia-centric features, rewrite the user interface and re-architect the middleware layer using open-source technology. For commercial hospitals, they also had to enhance the charge capture features for patient billing. Their first client is a 425-bed, three-site hospital in Texas. …

SPOTLIGHT: Oklahoma considers Medicaid HSA experiment

The Oklahoma House passed Medicaid reform legislation that would create health savings accounts for people currently enrolled in the healthcare program for low-income residents. Patterned after similar attempts in South Carolina and Florida, the Oklahoma plan will use state funds to create Medicaid-linked health savings accounts. Article

ALSO NOTED: RFID use for patients examined; HealthNet launches cross border plan; and much more...

> NPR's Talk of the Nation reviews You: The Smart Patient. An Insider's Guide to Getting the Best Treatment, by Michael Roizen and Mehmet Oz. Article

> The Washington Post examines the effort to convince hospitals to use RFID technology on patients. Article

> …

Medicare to post provider prices on the Web

In a move that could increase pressures on healthcare providers, CMS is expected to announce that it will post the prices that Medicare pays hospitals and physicians for certain common procedures on the Web. In an unusual step, officials plan to publicize data in several high-cost metropolitan areas, linking the data to specific doctors and hospitals. The plan will also post quality information. Hospitals are likely to protest that releasing specific price information will mislead …

Survey calls Part D a smashing success

A new survey released by industry trade group America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) challenges the view that Medicare Part D is a disaster. The study, which was conducted by Alexandria, VA-based Ayres, McHenry & Associates found that 8 out of 10 seniors who enrolled in a Part D plan had no trouble doing so. Three out of five surveyed said they had saved money. "What seniors are saying is this program is working for them. It's making a difference," said AHIP President Karen …

State approaches to health costs examined

Across the nation, liberal and conservative governors are pursuing very different approaches to controlling rising healthcare costs and providing coverage to the growing ranks of the uninsured. In Florida, Gov. Jeb Bush (R) is talking empowerment for low-income seniors and moving thousands from state-run Medicaid programs to managed care plans. A similar experiment is underway in South Carolina. In Illinois, Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) is taking a diametrically different approach to the same …