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Tag: Michael L. Millenson

XX Marks the Spot: Why Did Women Tech Experts Rule at DC Health Data Confab?

By MICHAEL L. MILLENSON

Three government experts on a health tech conference panel discuss the urgency of releasing actionable data; all are women. A more senior official, another woman, gives a TED-style talk making the same case. And a four-person, private-sector panel debates privacy and ethics; three of the four are female.

Health Datapalooza, a conference begun with government sponsorship a decade ago, proclaims its goal as “data liberación” – freeing health data from deep within federal agencies and giving it to patients and entrepreneurs. But in 2019, women’s “liberación” seems to have become an unspoken sub-theme.

Interestingly, while women’s status in tech was the focus of a plenary panel on diversity and inclusion, the panelists seemed oblivious to the robust participation of women in their own meeting.

To put some data behind my subjective impressions, I went back and examined the list of speakers, who came from a wide range of organizations and included individual patient activists. I counted 89 men and 99 women. Liberación, indeed.

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NEJM Blasts “Crusade,” Omits that Its Former Editor Launched It

A blistering attack by the national editor of the New England Journal of Medicine against the “less is more” movement in medicine omitted that the publication’s former editor-in-chief played a foundational role in popularizing the idea of widespread medical waste.

The commentary in late December by Dr. Lisa Rosenbaum, “The Less-Is-More Crusade – Are We Overmedicalizing or Oversimplifying?” has attracted intense attention.  Rosenbaum berates a “missionary zeal” to reduce putative overtreatment that she says is putting dangerous pressure on physicians to abstain from recommending some helpful treatments. She also asserts that the research by Dartmouth investigators and others who claim 30 percent waste in U.S. health care, in which she once fervently believed, is actually based on suspect methodology.

What Rosenbaum fails to mention is that the policy consensus she seeks to puncture – that the sheer magnitude of wasted dollars in U.S. health care offers “the promise of a solution without trade-offs” – originated in the speeches, articles and editorials of the late Dr. Arnold Relman, the New England Journal’s editor from 1977 to 1991.Continue reading…

The Profitability (or Not) of Harming Patients

millenson-headshotWhen the government announced recently that a patient safety partnership with hospitals had saved 87,000 lives and nearly $20 billion over four years, there was an oblique reference to the role played by “financial incentives.”

Left unsaid was that a quiet effort has been going on for years to persuade hospitals they can make more money preventing harm than by allowing it to occur. In recent years, that’s included articles in the medical literature looking at the profitability of preventing serious bloodstream infections in critically ill infants in the neonatal intensive care unit(NICU) and in kids with leukemia.

For adults, there have been analyses of the financial impact of serious infections and surgical complications. In a presentation I heard earlier this year, a vendor mentioned the return on investment (ROI) of a technology that more rapidly detects when a post-surgical patient unexpectedly stops breathing.

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