News & Information
The Smart-Phone-Watch and the Practice of Medicine
Written by Editor   
Wednesday, September 24, 2014 03:47 PM

In an article entitled Silicon Valley Primer on the Democratization of Medicine it is noted that at the Health 2.0 Annual Fall Conference held in Silicon Valley, the effect of new technology on the Doctor–Patient relationship was explored.  The article states "we are moving quickly to a doctorless patient model for some things."  Patient diagnostics and monitoring are examples that will "largely be done by the consumer, and the doctor will be involved in treating and healing and care, with a little bit of diagnosis and monitoring."  

One of the most familiar objects of modern day, the smartphone, is driving much of this "shift in the partnership of patients and doctors."  It and similar technologies are doing that by granting consumers the power, increasingly, to take on tasks traditionally in the clinician's domain. A series of tools are now available and evolving — the digital drivers of the democratization of healthcare.  Sensors that will ultimately provide consumers with core information from any medical examination: vital signs such as heart rate, respiration rate, body temperature, and blood pressure.

One will have to wonder what the TMA will think about the consumer reaching his own diagnosis, or of a patient coming to see a doctor of chiropractic with a full set of digital data ready to be reviewed.  Will "checking your smart-phone-watch" constitute the practice of medicine?

CAUTION: Central Texas IRS Phone Scam!
Wednesday, September 24, 2014 12:05 PM

Central Texas residents should be on the alert for a phone scam involving con artists pretending to be Internal Revenue Service (IRS) agents. The IRS and Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) have reported receiving 90,000 complaints. Unfortunately, 1,100 victims have fallen for the scam losing an estimated five million dollars from these scams. Better Business Bureau (BBB) serving Central, Coastal, Southwest Texas and the Permian Basin received nearly a dozen reports of this particular scam just last week when a BBB employee received a threatening voicemail from a Washington, D.C. phone number. When she called the number back, the fake IRS agent asked probing questions and threatened her with legal action. 

One Insurer Holds Subsidies Hostage in Two States
Written by Editor   
Tuesday, September 23, 2014 04:38 PM

In Iowa and South Dakota, the two states where the ACA insurance marketplaces struggled the most, just 11.1% of residents eligible for subsidized insurance signed up for it. 

The individual insurance market in both states is dominated by one insurer, Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield. The company chose not to sell on the ACA exchanges in the first year, locking its consumers out from buying subsidized plans from the company. And it is staying out of the Iowa and South Dakota exchanges for year two.

How Much Does That X-Ray Cost?
Written by Editor   
Tuesday, September 23, 2014 04:13 PM

When Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield became embroiled in a contract dispute with Exeter Hospital in New Hampshire in 2010, its negotiators came to the table armed with a new weapon: public data showing the hospital was one of the most expensive in the state for some services.  When the dust settled, the insurer had extracted $10 million in concessions from Exeter.

The hospital "had to step back and change their behavior," said health policy researcher who studied the state's efforts to make healthcare prices transparent.  New Hampshire is among 14 states that require insurers to report the rates they pay different healthcare providers -- and one of just a handful that makes those prices available to consumers. The theory is that if consumers know what different providers charge for medical services, they will become better shoppers and collectively save billions.

Surgical Training Can Be Fun and Games
Written by Editor   
Tuesday, September 23, 2014 03:56 PM

Make simulation training like a game and surgical residents will want to play, researchers reported in a letter in JAMA Surgery.  It works even better if it's competitive and gives prizes.

In a 14-week study, researchers tried out an $85,000 da Vinci Skills Simulator to practice minimally invasive surgical techniques.  Only three residents accepted the invitation initially, for four sessions, doing 28 exercises, and spending a total of 2.7 hours training.

Then, at week seven's end, a tournament was announced and prizes were added as well, ranging from $50 to an iPad.  Participation surged -- by week 14, a total of 21 residents had done 70 sessions and 1,632 exercises, spending 83.9 hours using the simulator.

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