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Vital Signs

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Medicare data cast spotlight on most prolific spinal surgeons

Experts have long been alarmed by the growth rate of spinal-fusion surgeries. Now, an analysis of new Medicare data by CBS News shows that a disproportionate number of the most risky and highest-paying procedures are being performed by a small group of high-volume spinal surgeons.

Under Medicare payment rules, the riskiest surgeries are also paid the most because they involve fusing more vertebrae together. The analysis found that just 5% of all spinal surgeons performed 40% of Medicare surgical cases that fused four or more spinal bones.
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Virginia Mason launching CPOE for outpatients

Seattle's Virginia Mason Medical Center, considered a national leader in both patient safety and information technology, this week began rolling out an electronic patient-safety tool—computerized provider-order entry—across its ambulatory enterprise.

The 256-bed hospital adopted its CPOE system in 2005, but Dr. A. James Bender, Virginia Mason's medical director of health information, said there have been projects of higher value that the organization wanted to implement first before rolling out its ambulatory CPOE system.
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Death rates much higher for American Indians, Alaska Natives

5:15 pm, Apr. 23 |

Disproportionate mortality rates among American Indians and Alaska Natives over the past decade have raised public concerns about widening health disparities between these populations and other ethnic and racial groups.

The combined death rate from all causes among American Indians and Alaska Natives was nearly 50% higher than death rates among whites between 1999 and 2009, according to findings from a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report.
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HCA shows interest in Australia's Healthscope

HCA, the largest U.S. hospital chain by revenue, is considering a bid for Australian hospital company Healthscope, according to media reports.

The Nashville-based hospital operator has tapped Deutsche Bank as its financial adviser, the reports said, citing sources familiar with the situation.
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More patients chose specialists over primary-care docs in 2013

12:30 pm, Apr. 21 |

It was probably just a matter of time before it happened, but 2013 may have marked the first year that office visits to specialty physicians outnumbered office visits to primary-care doctors.
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Consumer-driven health plans draw healthier, wealthier enrollees

People enrolled in consumer-driven health plans are better educated, wealthier and healthier than those in other coverage options, according to a report by the Employee Benefit Research Institute.

And although these plans caught on first with small businesses, in 2013 their enrollees were more likely than those in traditional plans to work for employers with at least 500 workers.
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Offshore health record storage may pose privacy risks

State Medicaid agencies could be putting beneficiaries' personal information at risk by offshoring administrative functions, according to a report from HHS' Office of the Inspector General.

The report, sent to CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner and Leon Rodriguez, director of HHS' Office for Civil Rights on April 11, analyzed the practices of 56 Medicaid agencies, including 50 states, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and several U.S. territories.
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Salmonella cases down, but other foodborne bacteria still a problem

Little progress has been made toward reducing food poisoning in the U.S., according to new federal data.

Illnesses from salmonella, the most common cause of foodborne sickness, were down 9% in 2013 compared with the average from 2010-2012, according to the findings published Thursday in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
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1 in 5 healthcare workers share passwords, survey warns

More than 1 in 5 healthcare workers share their passwords with colleagues, a security no-no, but healthcare security pros can take some solace that such risky business is no worse in their industry than some others.

Workers in the legal trade, for example, share passwords about as often as in healthcare (22%), according to findings in a report based on a survey of 250 healthcare IT security professionals in the U.S. and another 250 in the U.K. Architecture, construction and human resources personnel do even more password sharing, about 30%, according to the opinions of IT professionals in the survey.
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Play examines tragic surgery from patient, doctor perspectives

2:30 pm, Apr. 16 |

“Lady from Limerick,” a play revolving around a tragic surgery and being performed in a 60-seat New York theater, is attracting an audience that includes doctors, lawyers, insurance company representatives and patient advocates.

Based on a 2005 true story, the play tells what happened to Kathleen Kelly Cregan, a woman from Limerick, Ireland, who went alone to New York where she died from post-plastic surgery complications.
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