Tuesday, August 14, 2018
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Health in 2 Point 00, Episode 40

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In this episode Jessica DaMassa asks about the thunder from Down Under, well the noise about the My Health Record program in Australia, the latest on women in health IT from Rock Health, and nearly gets to Click Therapeutics $17m round…all under the watchful gaze of Buddha–Matthew Holt

Making Sense of the Health Care Merger Scene   

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By JEFF GOLDSMITH

In the past 12 months, there has been a raft of multi-billion-dollar mergers in health care. What do these deals tell us about the emerging health care landscape, and what will they mean for patients/consumers and the incumbent actors in the health system?

Health Systems

There have been a few large health system mergers in the past year, notably the $11 billion multi-market combinations of Aurora Health Care and Advocate Health Care Network in Milwaukee and suburban Chicago, as well as the proposed (but not yet consummated) $28 billion merger of Catholic Health Initiatives and Dignity Health. However, the bigger news may be the several mega-mergers that failed to happen, notably Atrium (Carolinas) and UNC Health Care and Providence St. Joseph Health and Ascension. In the latter case, which would have created a $45 billion colossus the size of HCA, both parties (and Ascension publicly) seemed to disavow their intention to grow further in hospital operations. Ascension has been quietly pruning back their operations in markets where their hospital is isolated, or the market is too small. Providence St. Joseph has been gradually working its way back from a $500 million drop in its net operating income from 2015 to 2016.

Another notable instance of caution flags flying was the combination of University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) and PinnacleHealth, in central PA, which was completed in 2017.   Moody’s downgraded UPMC’s debt on the grounds of UPMC’s deteriorating core market performance and integration risks with PinnacleHealth. As Moody’s action indicates, investor skepticism about hospital mega-mergers is escalating. Federal regulators remain vigilant about anti-competitive effects, having scotched an earlier Advocate combination with NorthShore University HealthSystem in suburban Chicago. The seemingly inevitable post-Obamacare march to hospital consolidation seems to have slowed markedly.

However, the most noteworthy hospital deal of the last five years was a much smaller one: this spring’s acquisition of $1.7 billion non-profit Mission Health of Asheville, NC, by HCA. This was remarkable in several respects. First, it was the first significant non-profit acquisition by HCA in 15 years (since Kansas City’s Health Midwest in 2003) and HCA’s first holdings in North Carolina.  While Mission’s search for partnerships may have been catalyzed by a fear of being isolated in North Carolina by the Atrium/UNC combination, Mission Health certainly controlled its own destiny in its core market, with a 50% share of western North Carolina. Mission was not only well managed, clinically strong and solidly profitable, but its profits rose from 2016 to 2017, both from operations and in total.

Are Doctors Bribed by Pharma? An Analysis of Data

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By RAFAEL FONSECA, MD & JOHN A. TUCKER, MBA PhD

A Critical Analysis of a Recent Study by Hadland and colleagues

Association studies that draw correlations between drug company-provided meals and physician prescribing behavior have become a favorite genre among advocates of greater separation between drug manufacturers and physicians. Recent studies have demonstrated correlations between acceptance of drug manufacturer payments and undesirable physician behaviors, such as increased prescription of promoted drugs. The authors of such articles are usually careful to avoid making direct claims of a cause-effect relationship since their observations are based on correlation alone. Nonetheless, such a relationship is often implied by conjecture. Further, the large number of publications in high profile journals on this subject can only be justified by concerns that such a cause-and-effect relationship exists and is widespread and nefarious. In this article, we will examine a recent paper by Hadland et al. which explores correlational data relating opioid prescribing to opioid manufacturer payments and in which the authors imply the existence of a cause-and-effect relationship.1

We propose the relationship between transactions between the private sector (e.g., meals provided, consulting payments) and prescribing habits can fall into one of three categories:

Type Effect Comments
0 There is no cause-effect relationship between these transactions and prescribing habits. Correlative observations may merely be reflections of practice patterns, and likelihood to use a drug category. No harm exists.
Ia There is a demonstrable cause-effect for transactions and prescribing patterns. However, this relationship is associated with increased use of drugs that have been proven to be an improvement over the current standard. The effect is beneficial for patients. “Beneficial marketing.”
Ib An adverse causative effect is documented with establishment of causation. There is a possibility of patient harm. Patient harm occurs because the wrong medication is administered and contravenes medical standards. A minor damage is done but arguably exists, if a physician prescribes a more expensive medication when a cheaper alternative exists.

“Nefarious marketing.”

 

Hadland et al.: Opioid Prescriptions and Manufacturer Payments to Physicians

The authors of this paper linked physician-level data from the 2014 CMS Open Payments database to 2015 opioid prescribing behavior described in the Medicare Opioid Prescribing Database. They explored the hypothesis that meals and other payments increase physician opioid prescribing by examining the association between receipt of meals and other financial benefits with the number of opioid prescriptions written[1]. Specifically, they found the following:

The Rise of Litigation in the US

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By SAURABH JHA

How did Americans become so litigious? What is the rationale of tort? Will tort reform work? I discuss these questions with Walter Olson, senior scholar at the Cato Institute, and author of the book, Litigation Explosion. 

Listen to our discussion on the Radiology Firing Line Series, hosted by the Journal of the American College of Radiology, and sponsored by Healthcare Administrative Partners.

Information Blocking–The AHA Comments & PPR Responds

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The focus on the CMS rules on information blocking continues on THCB. We’ve heard from Adrian Gropper & Deborah Peel at Patients Privacy Rights, and from e-Patient Dave at SPM and Michael Millenson. Now Adrian Gropper summarizes — and in an linked article –notates on the American Hospital Association’s somewhat opposite perspective–Matthew Holt

It’s “all hands on deck” for hospitals as CMS ponders the definition and remedies for 21st Century Cures Act information blocking.

This annotated excerpt from the recent public comments on CMS–1694–P, Medicare Program; Hospital Inpatient Prospective Payment Systems…  analyzes the hospital strategy and exposes a campaign of FUD to derail HHS efforts toward a more patient-centered health records infrastructure.

Simply put, patient-directed health records sharing threatens the strategic manipulation of interoperability. When records are shared without patient consent under the HIPAA Treatment, Payment and Operations the hospital has almost total control.

What’s Next in Health Tech Investment? 500 Startups VC Marvin Liao Weighs In

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What do health tech investors think is ‘hot’ these days? Where is the money going? I ran into Marvin Liao, partner at 500 Startups (a VC fund/accelerator program that has made more than 2000 investments in early-stage tech startups over the past eight years) at ICEE Health in Bucharest, Romania, last month and had a chance to ask.

With refreshing candor, Marvin weighs in on whether or not digital therapeutics, mental health, and biotech have room to grow — and if Apple, Google, and Amazon really have the power to change the future of health.

Where is he most bullish? It’s no surprise I ran into him outside the US. He’s got his eyes on bleeding edge innovations coming out of foreign markets…especially Japan. Have a look!

Filmed at ICEE Health in Bucharest, Romania, June 2018. Find more interviews about health & technology at www.wtf.health

Health in 2 Point 00 — Episode 39

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Jessica DaMassa decides the the way to deal with mourning Croatia’s loss in the World Cup Final is to make you suffer through my explanation of what’s wrong with the Trump Administration’s decision to screw over health plans and destabilize the exchanges. Oh and Higi gets a mention too — Matthew Holt

Maine Voices: Want better, less complicated health insurance? Push the narrative, not the name

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By WILLIAM ROSENBERG

A ‘single-payer’ plan is a target on the back of its supporters. But what about a ‘Medicare Public-Private Partnership’?

MOUNT VERNON — In February 2017, President Trump famously said: “Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.” Nobody other than about 99.9 percent of the almost 300 million people in the U.S. with insurance, that is. Yesterday, I received a copy of “Get to know your benefits,” the 236-page “booklet” for my new health plan. Like most people, I’ll never read the book, but its weight alone says “complicated.”

And it’s safe to guess that Trump also will never read his Federal Employee Health Plan information, even though one Aetna choice available to him has a “brochure” of only 184 pages. Thinking about the amount of information available to health insurance plan consumers, I began to wonder what Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar meant, also last February, when he said, “Americans need more choices in health insurance so they can find coverage that meets their needs.”

Presumably, were we to have more choices, we could study the hundreds of pages of information about each available plan and make better choices. According to the federal Office of Personnel Management, federal employees who live at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., Washington, D.C. 20500, have a choice of 35 monthly plans. Too bad the president doesn’t live in Maine, where he’d have only 20 plans to study!

Medical Care in Rural India

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By SAURABH JHA

I’ve humbly realized that doctors aren’t always indispensable. When I was three, a compounder – a doctor’s assistant – allegedly saved my life. Dehydrated from severe dysentery, I was ashen and lifeless. My blood pressure was falling and I would soon lose my pulse. I needed fluids urgently. An experienced pediatrician could not get a line into my collapsed veins. When hope seemed lost, his compounder gingerly offered to try, and got fluids inside my veins on the first attempt. My pulse and color returned and I lived to hear the tale from my mother.

So, on a recent trip to India, I was intrigued by Birju, a compounder in my ancestral village in Bihar, who the villagers revere like a doctor. After assisting a city physician for ten years, Birju had started his own practice. He has no formal training in healthcare. Even his education was partial – he left school at fourteen to help his father, who also was a compounder.

I wanted to see Birju practice his craft. So, I visited his clinic which is actually a shop. Birju sells stationery, conveniences such as shaving foam, and medications, which was just as well, as I needed Imodium to calm my angry Americanized bowel.

CBD (Cannabidiol) 101

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By DONNA SHIELDS

I’ve been a proponent of marijuana legalization since I heard about it in high school.  I lived in the UK in the 1970s when it was not easily available! So I was a legalization proponent before I’d ever touched the stuff. Nearly four decades later, it’s legal in many states, Canada and Uruguay and most — but by no means all — of the drug war hysteria is recognized for the idiocy it is. But while anyone who’s got stone and had the munchies knows that pot is a good appetite enhancer and antiemetic, there are now a bunch of claims being made about cannabidiol (CBD). So I thought we’d explore them. We’re including a video from ZdoggMD which gives a balanced view of the (appalling lack of) data so far, and an article from Donna Shields, co-founder of the Holistic Cannabis Academy. Donna, as you may guess, thinks it’s pretty useful. And while you think this may still be on the edge, a CBD company called Sagely Naturals won the recent G4A contest held by old world big Pharma company BayerMatthew Holt

Understanding CBD

It’s come onto the healthcare scene like a rocket yet most people don’t really understand what cannabidiol (CBD) is, how to use it and the results one can expect. Here’s a primer on the basics you need to know.

Do you know about the endocannabinoid system

We all have an endocannabinoid system; a network of receptors throughout the body whose job is to maintain homeostasis and well-being for all our organs. Like a master control system. And while our bodies make their own cannabinoids, life, through stress, toxins, poor diet and illness, has a way of depleting the in-house supply or making those receptors “less receptive”. This is when adding cannabinoids, such as CBD, can be a helpful boost.

Marijuana vs Hemp

The mother plant, called Cannabis sativa, can be cultivated to grow marijuana (the plant containing THC, CBD, and other cannabinoid compounds) or hemp, a crop with many uses from food products to building materials. Hemp also contains CBD (cannabidiol), but less than 0.3% THC. CBD is just one of over 80 different cannabinoid compounds found in both marijuana and hemp. Hemp-derived CBD products are available at retail stores and online; while marijuana-derived CBD products are available cannabis dispensary stores.