News & Information
Healthier Americans Mean a Stronger Economy
Written by Editor   
Friday, April 24, 2015 12:00 AM

More Americans who are in better health makes the economy stronger, said the chief White House economist at a briefing.

"The first benefit ... is healthier people are better workers," said Jason Furman, PhD, MSc, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers.  Healthier people are more likely to have jobs, more likely to be productive at their jobs, and more likely to be paid higher wages. They also take fewer sick days and are less likely to retire early due to illness or disability, he said.

It's difficult to show a causal relationship between Americans' health and employment, because doing so requires randomized trials and "we tend not to be able to do those at large scale on actual human beings," Furman joked, adding that nonetheless there is a strong correlation.

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Physical Medicine Preferable for Injured Workers and Employers
Written by Editor   
Friday, April 24, 2015 12:00 AM

Pain hurts. That simple fact can make it difficult for employers, employees and providers to see beyond the quick fix mentality of using opioids as a first line of defense to mitigate pain.

It’s an important issue as the level, extent and duration of pain is critical to the management and return-to-work (RTW) strategies of Workers’ Compensation programs. One thing is certain, the debate over opioid use is one of the hottest in the work comp industry today. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has noted that overdoses from prescription painkillers kill more people than heroin and cocaine combined. And yet, the Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) reports that between 65% 85% of injured workers who receive pain medications get narcotics.  Busy physicians want to make patients feel better, and narcotics do that. Some doctors see a pain target and think the only weapons they have are a needle for an injection and a pen to write a prescription.  The majority of comp injuries involve back, shoulder or other musculoskeletal injuries, and narcotics are the most common prescription for such pain.  Direct dispensing by physicians may play a role in the growth of narcotic prescriptions. Dispensing medications is a primary revenue generator for many physicians today.  Injured workers often simply pressure their MD to prescribe opioids.

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Health IT Underused by Primary Care for Quality Improvement
Written by Editor   
Friday, April 24, 2015 12:00 AM

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality hasissued a new white paper on health IT best practices for primary care practices to bolster adoption of the technology and to improve quality of care.“Revitalizing the primary care system in the United States is critically important to achieving high quality, accessible, and efficient healthcare for all Americans,” states the paper. “The effective use of health information technology by primary care practices to facilitate quality improvement can help practices improve their ability to deliver high quality care and improve patient outcomes.”

Despite potential to improve care through data analysis enabled by electronic health records, registries, and health information exchange, health IT is underused for supporting quality improvement in primary care, AHRQ concludes. Part of the reason is that EHR use is relatively new in primary care and users have not mastered advanced functions.

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Transparency: Patients vs. Doctors
Written by Editor   
Friday, April 17, 2015 12:00 AM

Physicians' disregard for less quantifiable problems. "The subjective experience of disease, how you feel, is really not very highly valued. It's not measurable. It's not treatable. It doesn't contribute to some sort of evidence that the disease is being treated successfully or not." But, to the patient, it matters more than a blood test or a scan, she said. "What [patients] feel actually matters and it should be part of that conversation."

For example, a 53-year-old man walked into a hospital complaining of chest pain. The emergency room team recognized he was having a heart attack and set to work. Within 30 minutes of entering the hospital, doctors were implanting a stent.  While the cardiology team and the emergency department team had celebrated their remarkable collaboration and success, the patient filed a complaint.  He thought there was another patient who was very ill, and it wasn't until he was discharged that he recognized he'd had a heart attack.

The patient may have signed a consent form but didn't remember or didn't understand its significance. His wife wasn't told that he'd been moved to the critical care unit until 6 hours after his episode.  Clearly, patients and their providers see experiences differently.  One reason for this disconnect is that patients are afraid of doctors. Another is physicians' refusal to acknowledge certain power dynamics in play during every patient-physician interaction.

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Health Insurance Data Breach Exposes 11 Million People
Written by Editor   
Friday, April 17, 2015 12:00 AM

Unfortunately, the days of massive health care data breaches are far from over. Premera Blue Cross has revealed that hackers breached its insurance customer data starting in May 2014, potentially exposing both the financial and medical records of 11 million people -- the largest such attack to date. There's no evidence yet that the data has been "used inappropriately," the company says, and it notes that both the FBI and security firm FireEye are on the case.

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