Medical News Archive

By: on November 4, 2019

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Week of November 25, 2019

Trump releases healthcare price transparency rules, Amazon rebrands PillPack as part of Amazon Pharmacy, and more healthcare news

AMA calls for total ban on non-FDA approved vaping products
As a consequence of a recent outbreak of lung illness, the American Medical Association (AMA) has shunned vaping, calling for ban on all vaping products not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The group also urged for more research funding to study the effects of vaping, new diagnostic codes for related illnesses, and strategies to treat vaping-induced nicotine dependence in juveniles. [Read more]

Trump releases healthcare price transparency rules
To improve price transparency in healthcare, the Trump administration has passed an executive order that requires hospitals and insurers to disclose their health plans on a public website. As per the rule, hospitals need to make their standard service charges public, including negotiated rates with insurers and the discount they are willing to accept if a patient pays in cash. Non-compliance could cost hospitals $300 per day, levied by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. [Read more]

Amazon rebrands PillPack as part of Amazon Pharmacy
Amazon has rebranded PillPack, the online pharmacy it acquired last year. The new branding changes from “PillPack, an Amazon company” to “PillPack by Amazon Pharmacy.” It is speculated that Amazon is looking to boost its pharmaceutical business. [Read more]

Week of November 18, 2019

Google’s secret project to collect patient data, Sanford and UnityPoint’s break-up, and more healthcare news

Healthcare malware infections soar 60% from 2018
According to a recent report from Malwarebytes, detected ransomware infections in healthcare organizations has increased by 60% in the first three quarters of this year since 2018. The security vendor also claims that hackers are drawn by a high ROI from attacking patient information, and that the high number of endpoints and connected devices within healthcare organizations makes for “an extensive attack surface.” [Read more]

Ascension, Google working on ‘secret’ patient data project, says WSJ
The Wall Street Journal reported that national healthcare system Ascension has been working with Google on a “secret” project called “Project Nightingale” since 2018 to collect and analyze detailed patient information. According to reports, Google is using the data to design the new AI and machine learning software they’re currently building for Ascension. After the WSJ broke the news, Ascension quickly released a statement claiming all of their work has been “HIPAA compliant and underpinned by a robust data security and protection effort.” [Read more]

Sanford Health, UnityPoint Health call off $11 billion merger
Two not-for-profit health systems, Sanford Health and UnityPoint Health, have called off their proposed $11 billion merger that would have included their 76 hospital systems. News of their intended merger broke in June, and had the two systems joined, they would have become a top 15 not-for-profit health system by revenue. Sanford president and CEO Kelby Krabbenhoft released a statement regarding the breakdown of the deal, saying the UnityPoint board “failed to embrace the vision of a new health system of national prominence.” [Read more]

Week of November 11, 2019

Solv launches app to help users navigate health insurance, Google buys Fitbit, and more healthcare news

Scanwell Health launches smartphones tests for UTIs in partnership with Lemonaid health
Scanwell Health, a Los-Angeles based diagnostics company, has rolled out a smartphone app that makes it possible to perform at-home testing for urinary tract infections (UTIs). Scanwell is launching the app in partnership with Lemonaid health, a telemedicine provider which lets patients receive online care. The partnership will allow customers to receive a diagnosis through Scanwell’s app, as well as a consultation and recommended course of treatment from the comfort of their home. The at-home test and diagnosis is expected to reduce the time it takes to start receiving treatment compared to the time-consuming process of booking and completing an office visit. [Read more]

Solv launches mobile app for consumers to navigate insurance
Solv, a San Francisco-based digital healthcare startup, has introduced a mobile app that customers can use to upload and navigate their health insurance, as well as locate nearby clinics that offer urgent care and schedule same-day appointments. The app is currently available for iOS, and an Android version is expected later this year. Solv is free for consumers, with its revenue deriving from partnerships with healthcare providers. [Read more]

Google buys Fitbit for $2.1 billion
According to a recent press release, Google is acquiring Fitbit, the wearable fitness products company. The deal, worth about $2.1 billion, is expected to close in 2020. Through this acquisition, Google will be able to leverage the data Fitbit collects and its wearables to gain ground into the healthcare sector. Some existing Fitbit customers expressed reservations about Google having access to their medical data; Fitbit says that its privacy policy will not change. [Read more]

Week of November 4, 2019

Facebook launches a healthcare app, Mark Cuban drops bombs, and more healthcare news

Lyft, Uber expand reach into healthcare
Uber and Lyft have both made recent announcements on plans to expand their healthcare services. Uber, already partnered with American Logistics to provide rides to patients, now plans to integrate their app with Cerner’s EHR system, allowing medical providers to schedule rides for their patients. Lyft has announced it will now provide covered rides for Medicaid patients in a handful of states. [Read more]

Biased algorithms affect healthcare for millions
A study published earlier this month has found that algorithm-based healthcare is actually biased, and can lead to “substantial inequality” in the treatment of patients. The algorithms in question are typically used in high-risk care management systems deployed by most major healthcare organizations. The concern around algorithms used in these systems is that they contain biases held by the humans who created them. [Read more]

Facebook unveils its first foray into personal digital healthcare tools
Facebook has just launched a new healthcare tool called “Preventive Health” aimed at encouraging users to seek regular medical checkups and more easily connect them with available service providers. The social media company has paired with healthcare organizations to create a list of recommended services based on age and gender of users. Initially, the tool will focus on helping users find treatment for heart disease, cancer, and the flu, with plans of expanding over time. [Read more]

DoD, Philips partner for AI-enabled infection control
Health tech company Royal Philips and the U.S. Department of Defense have partnered on a project called Rapid Analysis of Threat Exposure, or RATE, to create a new AI-based technology that is able to identify infections as much as two days before symptoms begin. The tech was created with the intention of diagnosing U.S. service members more quickly, but it is expected to be more widely adopted for civilians in time. [Read more]

Mark Cuban is (bleeping) mad about healthcare. Here’s what he wants to do about it
Dallas Maverick’s owner and tech investor Mark Cuban dropped some bombs on healthcare entrepreneurs and executives this week at the HLTH conference. Cuban sat down with Andy Slavitt, a long-time proponent of the Affordable Care Act and former administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services during the Obama administration, for an interview in which they discussed the current state of healthcare and how to identify and solve problems. [Read more]

Week of October 28, 2019

Cerner acquires AbleVets, Spectrum Health expands telehealth platform to include mental health, and more healthcare news

New tool helps promote ICD-10 codes for social determinants of health data
The eHealth Initiative and Foundation (eHI), a nonprofit organization formed to improve healthcare through technology, has recently introduced several new tools to facilitate the use of ICD-10-CM codes in capturing social determinants of health (SDOH) information in electronic health records. This is part of a continued effort to measure the ways in which social determinants influence medical decision-making. This project includes participation from Humana, United HealthCare, American Hospital Association, and several others. [Read more]

Spectrum Health expands DTC telehealth platform to include teletherapy
Spectrum Health, a Michigan-based health system, has added telemental health to its telehealth service offering. Last month, the company announced a partnership with Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services, a psychiatric hospital and behavioral health provider. The goal is to use the Spectrum Health Now app to deliver direct-to-consumer (DTC) teletherapy services. [Read more]

Cerner acquires AbleVets to strengthen health IT projects
Health IT provider, Cerner, is acquiring AbleVets, an IT consulting and engineering firm. AbleVets’ technical expertise in engineering, cybersecurity, analytics, and technology will help Cerner speed up the delivery of care for veterans, service members, and their families. [Read more]

Week of October 21, 2019

Amazon has a new HIPAA eligible tool, healthcare spending tops federal defense costs, and more healthcare news

Amazon sending workers away for health care
A new Amazon program pays travel costs for eligible employees who have been diagnosed with cancer to receive treatment at the City of Hope National Medical Center in LA. The previous policy was limited to workers with life-threatening diagnoses who could not find treatment within 100 miles. Amazon’s director of global benefits told the Wall Street Journal the company is aiming to give employees more options while lowering spending by providing access to better care. [Read more]

Wasted health care spending in the U.S. tops annual defense budget, study finds
According to a recent study by the Journal of the American Medical Association in which health care spending in the U.S. was analyzed, researchers determined that wasted spending costs between $760 billion and $935 billion each year, more than the total federal defense budget. The largest source of wasted spending comes from overly complex administrative tasks, followed by inflated costs and opaque pricing. [Read more]

AWS says Amazon Textract is now HIPAA-eligible
Amazon Web Services has announced its Textract machine learning tool is now HIPAA eligible. The Textract tool enables users to more easily collect data from scanned documents. This announcement brings Amazon’s list of HIPAA eligible tools up to seven, with the others being Amazon Translate, Amazon Comprehend, Amazon Transcribe, Amazon Polly, Amazon Sagemaker, and Amazon Rekognition. [Read more]

Week of October 14, 2019

Meditech to bring EHRs to the cloud, Novartis to use AI in drug development, and more healthcare news

Allscripts, Northwell Health to co-develop AI-powered EHR
Healthcare IT vendor Allscripts and Long Island-based provider system Northwell Health are teaming up to develop a cloud-based, voice-enabled EHR with artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities. The goal is to optimize both the physician and patient experiences. The joint project will see participation from Northwell’s IT team and administrators while Allscripts will focus on systems integration. [Read more]

Novartis partners with Microsoft to use AI in drug development
Novartis and Microsoft have signed an agreement to use AI to accelerate drug discovery and development. The Swiss pharmaceutical company’s scientists will leverage Microsoft’s AI tools to solve computational challenges in life sciences including generative chemistry and image segmentation and analysis for smart and personalized cell and gene therapies. [Read more]

Meditech announces collaboration with Google to bring EHRs to the public cloud
Meditech, an EHR software provider, is partnering with Google Cloud to provide an EHR through the Google Cloud Platform (GCP). The main objectives are to improve patient data access, promote interoperability, and enhance scalability. Google Cloud will provide additional options to further the the Meditech subscription’s cost effectiveness and implementation ease.. [Read more]

FDA issues six digital health guidance documents
In a continued effort to update its stance on software as a medical device (SaMD) and other electronic health products, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently released six guidance documents. The documents are a step toward addressing the evolving technological environment. Most of the updated documents cover changes to previous guidance documents that describe low-risk health and wellness devices the FDA doesn’t intend to regulate. [Read more]

Week of October 7, 2019

Patients selling their health data, FDA warning against medical device cyberattacks, and more healthcare news

54% of physicians participate in an accountable care organization
According to a recent report from the AMA, more than half of physicians (54%) are now participants in accountable care organizations (ACO). That’s up from 44% in 2016. Of the physicians who are members of ACOs, the majority belonged to a Medicare ACO. Hospital-owned practices made up the majority of ACO participants, as these organizations are more likely to have the tools and infrastructure in place to incorporate alternative payment and care delivery models. [Read more]

FDA issues warning on medical devices that are vulnerable to takeover from hackers
The FDA has issued an official warning to medical device users about flaws that make them vulnerable to attack. Devices that use a software called IPnet are at risk of hackers accessing them remotely and taking control of the devices. Hackers that gain access to a medical device may be able to “change its function, cause denial of service, or cause information leaks or logical flaws, which may prevent device function.” [Read more]

You can now make money selling your own health data, but should you?
Organizations like have set out to make it easier for people to sell their own medical data, but plenty of questions need to be answered before this market truly takes off. The consequences of selling protected health information are still very much unclear, but the price some organizations are willing to pay for this data might just outweigh those consequences. [Read more]

Week of September 30, 2019

Amazon launches virtual health clinic, Cerner partners with Simplee, and more healthcare news

University Hospitals Health System selects NextGen Population Health to improve the quality of patient care
NextGen Healthcare, a healthcare technology solutions provider, announced that it has been selected by University Hospitals Health System in an effort to improve population health. University Hospitals, an Ohio-based health provider system, hopes to leverage NextGen Healthcare’s data analytics offerings so primary care providers can recognize gaps in patient care and potential health risks at the point of care. [Read more]

Amazon launches virtual health clinic for employees
Amazon recently announced a pilot program, Amazon Care, which is a virtual health clinic. Amazon Care is available for Amazon employees and their families who live in the Seattle area. The program offers a combination of telemedicine and home visits from nurses. Amazon is marketing it as a benefit for Amazon’s employees who are enrolled in Amazon health insurance plans. [Read more]

Cerner partners with Simplee for price transparency
Health IT provider Cerner is partnering with Simplee to offer patients a more personalized and transparent medical billing process—Simplee develops SaaS tools for the patient financial experience. Cerner plans to integrate Simplee’s Patient Financial Engagement platform into its revenue cycle management portfolio in an attempt to create a more patient-focused solution and build up patient trust. [Read more]

Rush Health Systems and Ochsner Health System partner on telemedicine
Two healthcare provider systems, Mississippi-based Rush Health Systems and Louisiana-based Ochsner Health System announced their partnership with the goal of expanding tele-health access for patients. As part of the deal, Ochsner will implement healthcare software provider Epic’s electronic health record (EHR) system. As a result of the deal, Rush’s hospitals and clinics will gain access to Ochsner’s telemedicine capabilities, billing practices, and support services. [Read more]

OSF HealthCare integrates genomics software with Epic EHR
OSF HealthCare, an Illinois-based provider system has added CancerIQ’s genetic screening software to its Epic EHR system. This is part of a population health initiative through which OSF aims to identify and treat cancer more effectively. By integrating CancerIQ with Epic, OSF’s physicians will be able to identify, evaluate, and manage patients long-term within the EHR workflow. [Read more]

Week of September 23, 2019

Unsecure patient data strikes again, OxyContin maker files for bankruptcy, and more healthcare news

Health insurance that doesn’t cover the bills has flooded the market under Trump
Thanks to Trump administration amendments to the Affordable Care Act that changed the definition of “short-term” healthcare plans to protect patients in-between jobs from three months to a year, 600,000 people are expected to end up with bare bones plans that do not cover most medical bills. One provider who has taken to offering these plans, Health Insurance Innovations, is facing lawsuits and complaints by customers saying they were tricked into purchasing these plans. [Read more]

Millions of Americans’ medical images and data are available on the internet. Anyone can take a peek
A ProPublica investigation found 187 servers used by doctors’ offices and medical imaging centers in the United States that weren’t secured or password protected. As a result of these unprotected servers, millions of patients’ protected health information, e.g. medical images like X-rays and CT scans, are available to anyone on the internet. This is one more example on a growing list of why HIPAA compliant, secure EHRs are a must-have for medical practices. [Read more]

OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma files for bankruptcy protection
Purdue Pharma has officially filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the face of thousands of opioid lawsuits filed by local governments, Native American tribes, and states. The bankruptcy came after the company reached a tentative agreement to settle all of the lawsuits. There are still holdouts who have yet to agree to the deal, saying the $10 billion settlement that would be split among the plaintiffs is nowhere near enough. [Read more]

Week of September 16, 2019

Google bans ads for unproven medical treatments, more Americans lack health insurance, and more healthcare news

AI technology could identify those at risk of fatal heart attacks
It is now possible to identify someone as being high risk for a heart attack years before it happens due to new artificial intelligence (AI) technology developed by researchers at the University of Oxford. The researchers used machine learning to create a fingerprint called a “fat radiomic profile” that looks for warning signs, such as inflammation, scarring, and blood vessel changes. [Read more]

Google bans ads for unproven medical treatments
Google has announced a new policy under which advertising for “‘unproven or experimental medical techniques'” has been banned. This includes cellular, stem cell, and gene therapies. Advertising for research for clinical trials, as well as research findings, will still be allowed. [Read more]

Number of Americans who lack health insurance grows
According to a 2019 Census Bureau report, the number of U.S. residents without health insurance grew from 2017 to 2018. The report says 27.5 million residents, or 8.5% of the population, lacked health insurance coverage in 2018, nearly 2 million more residents compared to 2017. [Read more]

Google and Mayo Clinic team up on patient data and AI healthcare research
Google and Mayo Clinic recently signed a 10-year strategic partnership agreement that is meant to change Mayo Clinic’s approach toward patient data. The partnership will also open up opportunities for AI research and improved cloud-computing. Google plans to open an office in Mayo’s home of Rochester, Minnesota, where its engineers will collaborate with Mayo’s physicians and scientists on advanced computing techniques. [Read more]

MIT’s new thread-like robots could travel through blood vessels in the brain for more effective surgery
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have recently developed thread-like robots that can travel through complex and constrained areas of the body, such as the blood vessels in the brain. This new development combines robotics with current surgery techniques. The robots can treat brain blood vessel issues such as lesions and blockages that cause strokes and clear blood clots in the brain. [Read more]

Week of September 9, 2019

Walmart Health launches to compete with CVS, smartphones can detect norovirus now, and more healthcare news

Smart devices are moving from fitness tracking to monitoring patients with chronic illnesses
Healthcare organizations are starting to deploy wearable devices to track patients with chronic illnesses after they are discharged from hospitals. Wearables like Fitbits and Apple Watches have long been popular among general consumers for fitness tracking features, but the medical applications of these devices has been largely unexplored until recently. Prescribing wearables might be out of reach for independent practices today, but they shouldn’t overlook the value of consumer wearables for medical management. [Read more]

Expect Walmart Health to challenge CVS and other chains
Walmart is launching its first care center this month in its Dallas, Georgia location. The medical center, Walmart Health, will compete with other pharmacy programs like HealthHUB at CVS by offering affordable health services such as dental exams and mental health counseling. Many of Walmart’s recent expansions into healthcare can be attributed to the new leader of their wellness program, Sean Slovenski. Expect to see more competitive medical options from Walmart in the coming months. [Read more]

Using a smartphone to detect a highly contagious virus
Researchers from the University of Arizona in Tucson have created a device that uses a smartphone and paper to detect norovirus. The device could replace expensive equipment like microscopes and lasers to detect the virus just as effectively. The process involves adding “beads” of fluorescent polystyrene and water to paper operating as “microfluidic chips.” The beads then attach to antibodies that fight norovirus, and smartphone microscopes are able to pick up clusters of these beads. [Read more]

Optimists for the win: Finding the bright side might help you live longer
New research from Boston University School of Medicine and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health has found that optimism is an independent factor that can lead to longer life. The study showed that people who are generally optimistic by nature are more likely to live to be 85 or older than those who are more pessimistic. What’s more, the research found that optimists may also be better equipped to regulate stress. [Read more]

Week of September 2, 2019

Apple Health records available for Allscripts clients, Nuance expands AI-based platform, and more healthcare news

FDA plans to modernize infrastructure for improved interoperability
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is modernizing its technology infrastructure in an attempt to advance interoperability. The goal is to improve regulatory oversight so that patients receive the care they need more quickly without any added risk. This move is also intended to help the agency leverage EHR data to inform healthcare policy. [Read more]

Hospitals treat patients without admitting them, to avoid penalties
According to a recent study, hospitals are treating Medicare patients in emergency rooms (ERs) and observation areas to avoid the financial penalties levied on hospitals with higher-than-expected readmission rates. This is seen as an unintended consequence of the Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program (HRRP), which was designed to reduce readmission with improved discharge planning. Eighty-two percent of hospitals have paid this type of penalty during the 2019 fiscal year. [Read more]

Apple Health Records available for Allscripts clients
Medical technology vendor, Allscripts, recently announced that clients who use Allscripts Sunrise, TouchWorks, and Professional EHR, as well as their patients, now have access to Apple Health Records. Health Records allows patients to see their health data from participating providers in the Apple Health app. [Read more]

Nuance expands AI-based platform to help surgeons with documentation
Software provider Nuance Communications has developed an AI-based platform, Computer-Assisted Physician Documentation (CAPD), to help surgeons with pre- and post-operative documentation. Makers of the solution say it streamlines the entire workflow around operative reporting, allowing surgeons to easily find and update notes before the solution sends the notes electronically to the billing department. [Read more]

Cerner partners with LifeCenters to boost care access for senior patients
Health IT provider Cerner is partnering with LifeCenters, a planned community development company, to provide primary care, pharmacy, and fitness programs in senior living centers across the U.S. The partnership will help senior patients access primary care physicians and specialists, such as dietitians, chiropractors, and fitness and health coaches. [Read more]

Week of August 26, 2019

Decision support systems close in on EHRs, the cost of brand-name drugs, and more healthcare news

Interoperability: Health data-sharing is lacking inside and outside of hospitals, survey says
A survey of U.S. tech executives conducted by the Center for Connected Medicine and HIMSS Media has found that data-sharing at a third of hospitals and health systems is insufficient, even within single organizations. The solution for nearly 60% of survey respondents is a migration to a single EHR system to promote more efficient communication. This survey shows exactly how critical interoperability will be as EHRs move towards meeting data-sharing needs across organizations. [Read more]

Clinical decision support systems will surpass EHRs as prime caregiver interface: report
Business consulting firm Frost & Sullivan recently released a report on trends in clinical decision support systems. In it, they predict clinical decision support systems will see incredible market growth as decision support becomes more widely adopted by healthcare organizations and regulated by federal legislation. They go on to argue that clinical decision support platforms will supplant the EHR in terms of most valuable software systems for clinicians. [Read more]

Brand-name drug prices rising at slower pace, lower amounts
AP research found that while drug companies are still raising prices for name-brand prescriptions, costs aren’t increasing as much or as quickly as they once were. So far this year, drugmakers have increased prices of brand-name medications by 5% on average, compared to 14% or 15% price increases in the same time period over the last four years. [Read more]

Week of August 19, 2019

Employer groups push for Lower Health Care Cost Act, Uber partners with transportation firm to expand healthcare ties, and more healthcare news

CVSHealth aims to reduce incidence of diabetes by 58% in three years
CVSCaremark, the pharmacy benefit manager of CVSHealth, will apply modern analytics technology to pharmacy, medical, and lab data to identify at-risk members for its new Transform Hypertension Care program. Enrolled members will receive a CDC-approved connected blood-pressure cuff to capture blood pressure readings. [Read more]

Dozens of employer groups asking lawmakers to pass the Lower Health Care Cost Act
Around 61 employee benefits groups are pushing Congress to pass the Lower Health Care Cost Act, which aims to tackle unexpected costs and other healthcare issues for both employees and employers. The act primarily caps payments to out-of-network healthcare providers in cases of surprise medical bills. In addition, the act aims to enhance transparency into provider-payer contracts. [Read more]

Uber partners with American Logistics to expand ties in healthcare
Uber Health is partnering with American Logistics, a healthcare transportation company, to provide on-demand rides to medical appointments. The partnership will combine Uber’s driver network and payer partners with American Logistics’ transportation platform. Patients will benefit from accurate and efficient pickups and drop-offs and real-time GPS tracking. [Read more]

Telehealth adoption rising among hospitals and health systems
Telehealth adoption in healthcare facilities has grown from 54% in 2014 to 85% in 2019. However, adoption among outpatient facilities has not witnessed any jump. The use of population management tools, such as SMS, has also grown, from 12% in 2016 to 19% in 2019. [Read more]

Experian Health acquires MyHealthDirect
Experian Health, the health tech arm of global information services company Experian, has acquired MyHealthDirect, a Nashville-based startup that offers online scheduling services for patients. Through this acquisition, Experian aims to simplify the financial and administrative aspects of healthcare and make tasks such as scheduling, registration, and check-in smoother. [Read more]

Week of August 12, 2019

Blockchain could save healthcare billions by 2025, Amazon’s PillPack facing pushback from CVS and Walgreens, and more healthcare news

Google’s DeepMind says its AI can accurately detect acute kidney injury before doctors
Researchers for Google’s DeepMind Health have developed an artificial intelligence system that can analyst 600,000 data points like blood tests and heart rate to determine whether a patient will develop acute kidney injury, a condition in which the kidneys suddenly stop functioning. The AI algorithm could identify the diagnosis two days before doctors would normally identify symptoms. [Read more]

Healthcare blockchain could save industry $100B annually by 2025
BIS Research recently published a report that found blockchain applications in healthcare could save the industry up to $100 billion a year by 2025 by reducing costs associated with IT, operations, support, personnel, and data breaches. Additionally, the report predicts that pharmaceutical companies will be able to use blockchain to track drugs, reducing the money lost due to counterfeit drugs. [Read more]

Cerner collaborates with Amazon Web Services on cloud innovation, machine learning
Healthcare IT provider Cerner has announced a new collaboration with Amazon Web Services in which AWS will become a preferred cloud provider for Cerner. The two companies aim to explore a number of ways to advance patient outcomes, such as enhancing clinical experience, increasing efficiencies, developing and improving artificial intelligence and machine learning. [Read more]

Amazon’s PillPack is battling with CVS and Walgreens over getting patient prescriptions
With the purchase of the internet pharmacy company PillPack in 2018, Amazon has been applying it’s mail-delivery model to pharmaceuticals to deliver prescriptions to patients. Recently, though, PillPack has run into issues with acquiring prescriptions from traditional pharmacies CVS and Walgreens, both of which have rejected a number of requests from PillPack due to claims that patients aren’t consenting to these prescription transfers. It’s unclear at the moment how this dispute will be resolved. [Read more]

Week of August 5, 2019

Democratic candidates debate Medicare for all, CMS has a plan for patient data, and more healthcare news

Rite Aid goes live with virtual healthcare in-store
Rite Aid has partnered with InTouch Health, using their virtual care platform to power their RediClinic Express kiosks in stores. These kiosks will provide users with convenient virtual healthcare by connecting patients with clinicians via secure two-way audio and video connections. This launch marks an interesting and potentially impactful application of telemedicine that could make it more ubiquitous and accessible to many patients. [Read more]

CMS pilot to give docs direct access to Medicare claims data
CMS announced a new pilot called “Data at the Point of Care” that will aim to provide healthcare facilities with better access and control of patient data to improve decision making and care. Among the information physicians will now have access to will be patients’ historical Medicare claims data. The pilot will begin running with a limited number of providers in September and October. [Read more]

Democratic debate 2019: Candidates spar over trade, healthcare and gun control
The Democratic presidential debate took place last week, and healthcare was one of the most talked-about issues of the night. Most notably, centrist candidates spoke against Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren over their “Medicare for all” plans, claiming that many American workers and union members with job-based healthcare coverage could lose access to insurance under such a plan. [Read more]

Week of July 29, 2019

Contact lens start-up catches heat, President Trump signs an EO on kidney health, and more healthcare news

In a review of 337,000 patient cases, this was the No. 1 most common preventable medical error
The BMJ, a peer-reviewed medical research journal, has released a new study on the impact of preventable medical errors. In it, they found that the majority of instances of preventable harm were related to medication and other forms of treatment. Coordination of care has long been a cause of issues like these, so medical providers must continue to push for interoperability as well as engage their patients on their own healthcare. [Read more]

Contact lens start-up, big on social media, may be bad for eyes, doctors say
Hubble, a retail start-up that provides contacts directly to consumers, bypassing medical professionals entirely, has recently come under fire from optometrists and ophthalmologists who say it’s dangerous. Professionals criticize the business model that enables patients to access contact lenses without proper medical supervision, and some have accused the company of failing to properly vet prescriptions. [Read more]

CVS Health launches social determinants provider network
CVS Health and Aetna health insurance announced a collaboration with “social care coordination platform” Unite Us in an effort to address social determinants of health by reaching patients outside the doctor’s office. The goal is to reduce health costs and improve outcomes by providing a more rounded approach to care. [Read more]

New U.S. health law paves way for blockchain-based telemedicine
Earlier this month, President Trump signed an executive order with the goal of moving patients with kidney-related issues undergoing blood dialysis away from hospitals and towards less expensive at-home care, opening the door for telemedicine integrations. Providers who specialize in kidney health already have specialty agnostic telemedicine software options, but the healthcare community should expect to see more specialized systems in the future. [Read more]

Week of July 22, 2019

Canadian government pledges big donation to cancer research, Baylor researchers identify strategies for EHR inbox overload, and more healthcare news

Over half of health organizations say patient portal security is above average
A recent LexisNexis report found that over half (58%) of healthcare organizations believe their patient portal systems are more secure than others. Sixty-five percent of respondents—made up of representatives from organizations like hospitals, independent practices and payers—said they use some form of multi-factor authentication to access portals, including question and answer prompts, email verification and device identification. Medical providers who rely solely on username and password authentication for patient portal access may be operating a system that is less secure than their peers. [Read more]

House panel to vote on arbitration backstop for surprise medical bills
Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.) has proposed an amendment to the legislation banning surprise medical bills that will create an arbitration option for bills above $1,250. The original law has support from both democrats and republicans, and has already been signed into effect in Texas. The amendment came as a result from pressure applied by hospitals and other large health organizations. [Read more]

Study identifies strategies to reduce EHR inbox overload
Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine have recently published the results of a study on EHR notification management in the Journal of General Internal Medicine. In their report, these researchers provide five strategies to promote efficiency and better deal with the “EHR inbox” where notifications for things like patient test results, medication refill requests, and other events accumulate. [Read more]

America to face a shortage of primary care physicians within a decade or so
Despite a recent rise in healthcare hiring, the number of U.S. medical students filling primary care positions offered in the 2019 National Resident Matching Program (known as “the Match”) was an all-time low. Mona Signer, chief executive of the Match Program ventured an explanation for the turnout: “I think part of it has to do with income. Primary care specialties are not the highest-paying.” The low acceptance of primary care positions this year points to a shortage of primary care physicians in 2030. [Read more]

Government pledges $150 million to cancer research network that will use AI and big data
Last week, Canada’s Health Minister, Ginette Petitpas Taylor announced a government pledge to spend $150 million on a cancer research network that will explore applications of artificial intelligence, big data, and genomics. Regarding the pledge, Taylor said the Canadian government is “committed to supporting innovative and collaborative cancer research to improve health outcomes for Canadians who are living with, or may one day be affected by, cancer.” [Read more]

Week of July 15, 2019

California signed major Medi-Cal coverage plan, HHS Summit will focus on quality programs, and more healthcare news

With rural health care stretched thin, more patients turn to telehealth
NPR recently conducted a survey of rural Americans that found that nearly one in four had used some type of telemedicine service in the past few years. The survey also found that one in five rural Americans had difficulty accessing high-speed internet that would allow them to access telemedical services. This is a problem that must be rectified quickly, as telehealth is a rapidly growing service delivery method in the medical community. [Read more]

California becomes first state to provide health care coverage to some undocumented adults
California Gov. Gavin Newsom has officially signed legislation providing healthcare coverage to undocumented adults between the ages of 19 and 25, making it the first state to do so. The plan will cost around $98 million and will provide coverage for 100,000 people. It’s unclear what day-to-day changes this new legislation will prompt for California healthcare providers—generally, the biggest change will be an increase in the number of patients they’ll see with Medi-Cal (California’s version of Medicaid) coverage. [Read more]

Healthcare hiring recovered in June after spring slump
The healthcare industry has faced challenges when it came to hiring recently, with numbers taking a bit of a nosedive in April and May; however, employment seemed to be recovering in June. Last month, nearly 35,000 jobs were added—an increase from the 15,700 new jobs added in May. Most of the new jobs in June were in home health and physicians’ offices, but outpatient care centers and hospitals also made plenty of new hires as well. [Read more]

HHS summit to tackle quality improvement across programs
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced the focus of their upcoming Quality Summit will center on how the organization’s multiple healthcare initiatives can be “evaluated, adapted, and ultimately streamlined” in order to improve value-based care for patients. It marks the first “systemic objective external review” of HHS quality programs since their implementation, and healthcare professionals should be on the lookout for new changes that follow. [Read more]

Week of July 8, 2019

Bedside manner linked to post-op complications, patient skepticism of artificial intelligence in medicine, and more healthcare news

Kaiser, Centene and Molina must pay big risk-adjustment charges
According to CMS data released recently, several health insurers—including Kaiser Permanente, Centene Corp., and Molina Healthcare—owe millions due to the Affordable Care Act risk-adjustment program. This program penalizes insurers for cherry-picking healthy plan members by charging fees which are then transferred to insurers that enrolled riskier patients. The goal of the program is to stabilize health premiums in the individual insurance market. Fortunately, Kaiser has said it “expected to make a large risk adjustment payment and planned accordingly in 2018.” [Read more]

When surgeons are abrasive to co-workers, patients’ health may suffer
Bedside manner really does matter for surgeons according to a new study published in JAMA Surgery last week. Their research found that patients of surgeons who behaved unprofessionally when interacting with their teams suffered a higher rate of post-op complications. “Unprofessional behavior” was defined in this study as “unclear or disrespectful communication, poor or unsafe care, lack of integrity and failure to follow through on professional responsibilities.” [Read more]

Just one in five consumers trust AI-generated healthcare advice
A recent survey of over 2,000 U.S. adults found that only 20% would trust healthcare advice generated by artificial intelligence. That number decreases in older respondents to only 10% of adults over age 65. The healthcare AI market is expanding rapidly, but this survey makes it clear that patients aren’t entirely on board. Moving forward, doctors and administrators must figure out how to educate patients on the reliability of AI and maintain a human element in medical interactions. [Read more]

Week of July 1, 2019

AbbVie acquires Allergan, Trump signs an executive order, and more health care news

Botox maker Allergan is sold to AbbVie in $63 billion deal
Humira producer AbbVie has announced a $63 million deal to purchase Allergan, a pharmaceutical company most known for making Botox. The merger is the second-largest so far in 2019, and represents an attempt from AbbVie to diversify their offerings as their top-selling drug, a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis faces the loss of its patent protection. It’s unclear at the moment how long this merger will take to be finalized or whether or not it will affect the cost of Botox or any other drugs produced by Allergan. [Read more]

7 alerts, tools that hospitals are adding to their EHRs
Seven prominent hospitals around the country have recently added new alerts and tools to their EHR systems that will improve the patient experience and reduce the workload for physicians. These updates include an algorithm that helps identify patients at risk of sepsis, another that determines risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and a digital messaging application that patients can use to send questions to radiologists about specific imaging results. Big health systems are typically at the forefront of EHR adaptations, so it’s likely these new features will become common in time. [Read more]

US National Cancer Institute approves blockchain project to create a shared data system
On Friday, the National Cancer Institute announced its approval of a project to create a system for sharing clinical data using blockchain technology. The Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute will begin using IBM’s Hyperledger blockchain to share data between providers, patients, and researchers. The goal of this project is to create a more fluid and secure method of data exchange for the healthcare industry. [Read more]

Trump signs executive order to make health costs more transparent
After supporting proposed legislation to increase medical price transparency several weeks ago, President Trump has signed an executive order that will require pricing for health care procedures and services to be published before they can be performed on or for patients. The goal of this order is to provide patients with complete information regarding cost of care before they seek and obtain certain treatments. [Read more]

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