Vital Signs

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Prison healthcare costs leveling off, but problems loom

The amount states spent on prisoner healthcare fell from 2009 to 2011, but an aging inmate population could reverse that trend. (AP photo)
The amount states spent on prisoner healthcare services declined from 2009 to 2011, but an aging inmate population that already has generally poor physical and mental health could reverse that trend.

The Pew Charitable Trusts released a report Tuesday that showed correctional healthcare spending totaled $7.7 billion in 2011—up from $6.8 billion in 2007, but down from a high of $8.2 billion in 2009. Overall, healthcare represents about one-fifth of prison expenditures.
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Watson's New Trick: Lobbying to be free of regs

You may have first been introduced to Watson as a trivia-solving machine on Jeopardy! and then gradually become aware of its potential for assisting doctors in solving medical problems. But IBM's technologists have evidently added a new capability to the supercomputer's repertoire: lobbying.

IBM, in coordination with industry groups and the Bipartisan Policy Center, took to Capitol Hill Wednesday in an event billed “How Can Tech Innovation Help End Cancer?” but it could have easily been subtitled, “How The Federal Government Is Standing In Our Way.”
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To improve quality, value of patient data, get them involved, study says

The key to the future use of patient-generated data is focusing on data that patients want to produce, own and use and making it easy for them to produce it.
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Report looks at what drives healthcare analytics

The big hope for proponents of computer-enabled predictive analytics in healthcare is to one day see it in widespread use, at the point of care, in actionable form, to aid in real-time clinical decisionmaking.

But broad use implementation of eHPA is still in its infancy, say the authors of “Implementing Electronic Health Care Predictive Analytics: Considerations and Challenges. ”
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HHS has until July 14 to fight court's ruling on drug orphan pricing

HHS has until July 14 to respond to a recent court decision that invalidated the agency's rulemaking around the pricing of orphan drugs for hospitals participating in the 340B drug discount program.

The court decision stems from a lawsuit filed last year by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, which alleged that the government didn't have the authority to develop rules for the orphan-drug exclusion, a provision added to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act during reconciliation.

PhRMA did not oppose the extension request, according to court documents filed July 2.
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New payment model saved oncology groups $33 million, study finds

The total cost of caring for patients with three types of cancers was lowered by more than a third, in a new study detailing use of an experimental physician-payment method, an alternative to the widely used fee-for-service model. The results are encouraging, oncology and health policy leaders say. More initiatives that provide optimal care in a cost-efficient manner are needed to help curtail the skyrocketing and unsustainable cost of cancer care in the U.S., the leaders agree.

In a pilot launched in October 2009, five medical oncology groups collaborated with the insurer UnitedHealthcare to use an episode payment model, which reimbursed physicians on a fixed-price, based on episodes of best-practices and patient outcomes. The collaboration explored an alternative to the fee-for-service method, which ties financial incentives to billing for chemotherapy drugs.
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Depression treatment makes fiscal sense for heart surgery patients

5:15 pm, Jul. 8 |

Treating patients for depression after they undergo cardiac bypass surgery has previously shown to improve quality of life, but it also appears to be a money-saver, according to a study.

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine examined patients who went under the knife for coronary artery bypass graft surgery, a technique that clears up the arteries of people with coronary heart disease.
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Funding cuts continue for hospital disaster preparedness program

Federal health officials recently awarded more than $800 million to state and local health departments and healthcare systems to improve their emergency preparedness, an amount that represents a continuing cutback for hospitals, compared with funding levels from years past.

Last week, HHS announced it was funding $840 million for two grant programs designed to improve disaster readiness in the nation's public health departments and hospitals, a $76 million cut from the $916 million the agency allocated in 2013, and a $131 million reduction from 2012.
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No upcoding caused by EHRs – yet, study finds

For every technology, there's a downside—and for EHRs, one of the buzzed-about downsides was the supposed ease of upcoding: the practice of selecting the most remunerative code for a particular procedure.

But a new study in Health Affairs—published by Julia Adler-Milstein of the University of Michigan and Dr. Ashish K. Jha, an internist with the Veterans Affairs Department and professor with the Harvard School of Public Health—casts doubt on that preconception.
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Doubts raised about U.S. autism estimates

Researchers are questioning the federal government's estimates regarding the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder in U.S. children, contending that the method used to assess the condition may have led to a significant number of false positives or cases where a diagnosis was missed.

Statistics released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last March estimated that one out of every 68 children in the U.S. were living with autism, which constituted a nearly 30% increase compared with 2012 figures.
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