Healthcare Roundup—Study finds VA hospitals outperform private hospitals; CDC says gun deaths hit record high

Veterans affairs sign
At a new study from The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice found VA hospitals are outperforming private hospitals in most healthcare markets around the U.S. when it comes to health outcomes. (JeffOnWire CC BY 2.0)

Study: VA hospitals outperform in markets across U.S.

Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals have received their fair share of scrutiny in recent years for long wait times and operational deficiencies. 

But a new study from The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice found VA hospitals are outperforming private hospitals in most healthcare markets around the U.S. when it comes to health outcomes.

Published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, the study by Dartmouth researchers examined 121 regional health care markets with at least one VA facility and one non-VA hospital with the Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Studies (CMS) public hospital quality and safety database Hospital Compare

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Looking at 15 common outcome measures, such as 30-day risk-adjusted mortality rates for conditions like acute myocardial infarction and pneumonia, the researchers found that VA hospitals were likely to provide the best care in a local healthcare market and rarely provided the worst care in local markets. 

“We wanted to take a closer look at local healthcare markets and specific health conditions because if you’re a veteran deciding where to seek treatment what you’re really concerned with are the outcomes at your local VA,” said lead researcher William Weeks, M.D., said in a statement. (Study)

U.S. gun deaths reach highest level in nearly 40 years

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported deaths from firearms reached a 20-year high last year, driven by a steady rise in suicides involving firearms.

In all, there were almost 40,000 people killed in shootings in 2017, according to new CDC figures in the agency's Wonder database. That is the highest number of deaths since 1979, CNN reported. (CDC website)

Most of hospitals' self-pay revenue comes from small number of patients

A new analysis from TransUnion Healthcare suggests hospitals could be doing a much better job at making sure they are getting paid for their services.  

The analysis found 30% of self-pay accounts—or patients who don't have health insurance or who have a balance after their insurance is exhausted—generate more than 80% of self-pay revenue collected by hospitals.

According to TransUnion, this is significant because the number of patients without health insurance jumped to more than 12% at the end of last year and patient balances after insurance have also grown from 8% of the responsibility of the total bill in 2012 to more than 12% of the total bill in 2017. 

“Re-evaluating a hospital’s current approach can be a challenge for revenue cycle leaders, but it can result in a great reward by maximizing the healthcare providers’ overall return,” said Dave Wojczynski, president of TransUnion Healthcare in a statement. (Release)

Among physicians, who are the best golfers?

Among all those serious studies in medical journals, the BMJ tackled a lighter topic: golf habits among physicians and surgeons.

So who plays the best game? Turns out it's surgeons—specifically those in thoracic, vascular and orthopedic specialties, the study found. They were the best golfers—or at least, they said they were—reporting about 15% better performance than specialists in endocrinology, dermatology and oncology.

It's a well-known stereotype that many doctors spend Wednesday afternoons on the golf course. But, of course, not all physicians are into golf. Among over 1 million physicians in the Doximity physician database, only 4.1% logged golf scores in the U.S. Golfing Association amateur golfer database. Far more men (89.5%) than women (10.5%) make up those physician golfers. (Study)

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