Vital Signs

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What's essential in some states isn't in others, study finds

4 pm, Oct. 21 |
President Barack Obama's healthcare law mandated that certain health plans start covering common services. But because the federal government offered states latitude in those initial determinations, the definition of an essential health benefit ranges widely across the country, a report finds.

For example, a person with an Obamacare plan in Illinois can receive coverage for nutrition counseling, hearing aids and infertility treatments. However, someone in neighboring Indiana doesn't have any of those in his or her standard plan.
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Consumers want an improved online healthcare experience

2:15 pm, Oct. 21 |
Consumers want online healthcare and insurance shopping to be as easy as other online shopping experiences, but currently almost half are not happy with their overall online healthcare customer experiences.

“In healthcare, consumers have been conditioned to feel powerless and routinely dissatisfied, and have never really felt in control,” the authors of a 16-page report said.
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Consumers cheer wearables, but don't wear them, yet

2:45 pm, Oct. 21 |

Consumers are highly optimistic about wearable devices' potential to improve healthcare, even though most now are not using wearables to track their own health, PricewaterhouseCoopers Health Research Institute says in a new report.

Approximately 56% of respondents to a PwC 2014 survey (PDF) of 1,000 people said that average life expectancy will be boosted by 10 years because of wearables' ability to monitor vital signs. This response comes despite such devices not yet being widely adopted; only 21% of survey respondents own a wearable product, PwC's survey found. Of that group, only about half wear it every day.
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Unless they change, devicemakers may see shrinking profits

12:01 am, Oct. 20 |
A leading consulting firm is warning medical-device companies that they either embrace the changes taking place in the global healthcare system or they will face sharply declining operating margins in the years ahead.

The study, released Monday by management consulting firm A.T. Kearney, estimates that the device industry faces a $34 billion decline in profits due to disruptive changes in healthcare.
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Joint Commission calls on C-suite to promote healthcare safety

12:15 pm, Oct. 20 |
The term “culture of safety” has become commonplace in the vernacular of U.S. healthcare facilities, yet variation in safety remains prevalent. As organizations pursue efforts to boost quality, improve outcomes and reduce patient harm, a new Joint Commission resource is aiming its message at hospital leadership.

The C-suite often struggles with creating the top-down infrastructure needed to drive an integrated safety system, the Joint Commission says. “Some hospitals have figured it out,” said Dr. Ana Pujols-McKee, executive vice president of the Joint Commission, which accredits more than 3,300 U.S. hospitals. “We see some that are well on the journey toward high reliability. But we also have organizations that are struggling, and there are many more somewhere in between.”
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Ebola insurance offered to providers

1:45 pm, Oct. 20 |
There may be no cure for Ebola, but healthcare providers can get insurance for it.

Miller Insurance Services, based in London, and William Gallagher Associates, a U.S. retail insurance broker, say they're offering Pandemic Disease Business Interruption Insurance, provided by the Ark Syndicate at Lloyd's.
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OSHA issues Ebola guidance but slow to implement rule

The federal body responsible for ensuring the safety of staff in U.S. workplaces has created a new Ebola Web page with information about protecting workers in industries at high risk of exposure, including healthcare. Advocacy groups, though, are calling on the agency to quickly move forward with an infectious-disease rule on the docket since 2010.

The new website announced Wednesday by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration provides information about protecting people who work for airlines, mortuaries, laboratories, customs, emergency response and other vulnerable fields.
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Surgical robot use criticized in new report

Using surgical robots for procedures on the ovaries, fallopian tubes or ovarian cysts does not produce better outcomes and also has higher costs, a study published this month argues.

Robotically assisted adnexal surgery—any surgery involving ovaries, fallopian tubes or ovarian cysts—had a small but statistically significantly increase in complication rates compared to laparoscopy, the common alternative to robotic surgery, according to the study, published in the October issue of the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.
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Prescription drug expenses seen steady for next decade

The United States spent $2.9 trillion on healthcare last year. Hospitals make up the single-largest share (31%) of the total, followed by doctors and clinics (20%) and prescription drugs (9%). Yet this picture is somewhat misleading.

About $109 billion in prescription drug spending last year was obscured within the $2.9 trillion total for U.S. health spending released by federal officials this fall, economists with the Altarum Institute said in a new report.
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Subsidy program for EHRs ineffective, draft report argues

The federal subsidy program encouraging hospital adoption of electronic health records has been ineffective, argues a draft paper posted on the National Bureau of Economic Research's website.

Absent subsidy funds, the level of adoption of somewhat advanced EHRs in 2011 would have been matched in 2013, according to the paper from the not-for-profit research organization. And, it elaborates, because the program gave out subsidy payments to early adopters that had already installed EHRs, it meant that $48 million in incentive dollars had to be given out for each new adoption.
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