Vital Signs

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Anti-cancer forces cheer $23B verdict against tobacco giant


Tobacco giant R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. suffered another legal setback last week when a Florida court awarded $23 billion in damages to the family of a man who died of lung cancer following years of smoking cigarettes.

The family's legal counsel had argued the company withheld information about the harmful health effects and addictive nature of the cigarettes.
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Big data helps unlock rare disease's secret, but cost could remain issue


Seth Mnookin has received a lot of attention, and justly so, for his article in this week's New Yorker on rare genetic diseases. The piece is an illustration of effects, some good, some not so good, that digital health will have on healthcare.

The article features a young boy, Bertrand Might, and a mutation in the NGLY1 gene. Discovering that NGLY1 was the faulty gene required gene sequencing plus data analysis comparing Bertrand's genome to others' to discover this was the likely problem.
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Bottom-line ACA gains starting to show in hospital financials, Zacks says

1:45 pm, Jul. 21 |

Happy days are here, financially, for hospitals thanks to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, says Zacks Investment research in a recent blog post.

“The positive implications of these (ACA) reforms have started showing up in the financials of hospital and healthcare stocks,” Zacks says, pointing to preliminary quarterly results for HCA, which handily beat analysts' expectations.
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Despite cuts, Medicare Advantage benefits, premiums largely unchanged in New York


Four years after passage of the federal healthcare law, benefits and premiums for Medicare Advantage plans in New York are largely unchanged, according to an analysis conducted by the Medicare Rights Center.
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AAFP's Center for Health IT to focus on improving EHR use


Waldren
The American Academy of Family Physicians will be shifting the focus of its Center for Health Information Technology from promoting IT adoption to refining the use of electronic health records. Roughly 80% of its almost 116,000 members now are using an EHR.

Originally established in 2003 to move family doctors from paper files to computerized information systems, the center will move toward “supporting optimization” of EHR use. This will include exploring ways to achieve better workflow efficiency and filling “gaps in needed functionality,” according to an AAFP news release.
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HHS to judge: Don't revisit the 340B lawsuit we lost


The Obama administration and the pharmaceutical industry are still battling in court over HHS' authority to compel drugmakers to grant 340B discounts on orphan drugs in some instances.

In the latest volley, HHS is asking a federal judge to decline to revisit his May ruling that the administration overstepped its rulemaking authority.
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A dubious healthcare app raises FDA regulatory questions


Industry website iMedicalApps has uncovered a medical app with a tenuous relationship to accuracy: One that purports to use the iPhone's camera lens to reveal a patient's blood pressure. Big deal, you might say—the App Store is full of dubious treatments in app form.

But this app, priced at $3.99, is one of the top 10 paid apps in Apple's App store. And, judging by the reviews for the app, people are using it instead of blood pressure cuffs to manage their hypertension.
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Should state medical boards be allowed to set scope-of-practice? Supreme Court will decide


A critical question in medicine will be before the U.S. Supreme Court this fall: How much power should doctors wield over their peers when the power to regulate also potentially could tamp down competition that benefits consumers?

The court announced Monday that on Oct. 8 the justices will hear oral arguments in the case of North Carolina Board of Dental Examiners v. the Federal Trade Commission.
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Note to doctors worried about getting paid: ACA includes cost-sharing subsidies, too


Some South Florida physicians are turning away Obamacare enrollees, at least partly out of concern that they will have trouble collecting from them given the high deductibles and co-insurance imposed by many of the new exchange health plans, the Miami Herald reports.

Many of those doctors didn't like the Affordable Care Act in the first place, and that may be another reason they are spurning these patients, South Florida medical leaders acknowledged. But let's put that aside for now.
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Chemistry 101: Oxygen is not flammable

2:30 pm, Jul. 15 |

High concentrations of oxygen used during surgeries are a potential fire hazard for patients, but that doesn't mean the O2 gas itself catches fire.

This week's Modern Healthcare cover story spotlighted the slow adoption rate of surgical-fire-safety techniques among hospitals and surgery centers.
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