Checking Up On Health: May 20, 2014

May 20th, 2014 by Leave a Comment

Health Policy News and Views
Compiled by Benita M. Dodd


Georgia’s engaged hospitals: Kudos to Georgia’s Tanner Medical Center in Villa Rica, which ranks 46th on the list of 100 top hospitals for patient engagement in the inaugural National Patient Engagement Ranking by Becker’s Hospital Review and Axial Exchange. Tanner scored 78 out of 100. Emory University Hospital (Atlanta) scored 74.3and came in 89th. The national ranking evaluated all 3,077 U.S. hospitals’ engagement efforts based on an analysis of publicly available data, including readmissions, patient satisfaction and the extent to which organizations offered information and tools that help engage patients in self care.

Telemedicine: ABC News on Monday night had a report on “a brand-new high-tech medical service called ‘telemedicine.'” I have news for you, ABC: Telemedicine has been around a while. I wrote in February 2013 about its promise and urged the state to facilitate its use: “Telemedicine is destined to be far more than a link between doctors and rural patients. It can facilitate and promote the practice of telemedicine in urban areas as well. Physicians are few and far between and the increasing number of covered individuals and medical mandates mean even more patients in general. Patients may be too ill or elderly to visit the doctor’s office. A mother may be unable to find child care for her doctor’s visit. What if there was a way to take the physician to the patient without the time-consuming trip that takes the doctor out of his office and reduces his productivity? Telemedicine provides that opportunity, increasing efficiency in the practice of medicine while providing a cost-effective and mutually beneficial solution to both parties.”

Cellphone study: British researchers are launching the world’s largest study of whether using mobile phones and other wireless gadgets might affect children’s brain development, according to Reuters. The Study of Cognition, Adolescents and Mobile Phones, or SCAMP, project will focus on cognitive functions such as memory and attention, which continue to develop into adolescence, just the age when British teenagers start to own and use personal phones. While there is no convincing evidence that radio waves from mobile phones affect health, to date most scientific research has focused on adults and the potential risk of brain cancers. This has got to be a government-funded study. I mean, talk about a waste of money: We already know that teens are deaf, especially when they use cellphones, and withdrawn, especially when we confiscate said cellphones.

Health care woes: As I write this, Georgians are voting in this state’s primary elections. My friend Merrill Matthews of the Institute for Policy Innovation writes today that Politico’s just-released poll, conducted in states with the most competitive U.S. House and Senate races, found that 50 percent say they are most concerned about the economy. Twenty-six percent of them said it was the economy in general and 12 percent pointed to jobs. The second biggest concern after the economy is health care, (12 percent). And he points out, “Democrats own both the economy and health care, and neither issue is, shall we say, a Democratic strong point this time around.”

Dissed by your doc? Atlanta physicians Barry Silverman and Saul Adler have written, “Your Doctors’ Manners Matter,” described as a “short and easy primer addressing what patients should expect from their doctors in terms of service, respect, and human compassion.” I haven’t read the book yet, so I’m not opining on its contents. Compassion, empathy and respect, however, are important to me; the days of doctors as God are over. “In this book, you will learn what to do if you are not satisfied with the care you are receiving in the hospital. You will understand why your physician interrupts you while you are describing your illness and what to do in response. You will discover how to work with your physician to incorporate your medical treatments into your daily routine.” Watch an 11Alive television interview with Dr. Adler about the book here.

FDAvoucherNew meaning to “frontline: The Food and Drug Administration has issued four vouchers thus far for priority review as rewards for manufacturers that developed drugs for neglected diseases such as leishmaniasis. A company that ultimately redeems such a priority review voucher with the FDA could shave months off the time it takes for the agency to decide whether a new drug is ready to market. That could be worth big money to a company with a potential blockbuster. At auction, the vouchers could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars, one analyst said. Source:

Is your child afraid? has some of the best medical tales I’ve found during my research for this blog. Did you know, for example, that just like bad parents who threaten their children with the police officer instill fear of the law, the doctor’s white coat can be an inadvertent barrier to care? Don’t wear the white coat, says medical student Cullen Truett. It’s the physician’s security blanket but, “It scares the kids.” He notes, “Thinking from their perspective, the six-foot something curly headed giant with big round glasses probably appears very strange to the little human that barely scrapes my knee.  They do not cry. They just stare.  I smile, and they gape.”

Better late? Maybe not: Delaying the first measles-mumps-rubella vaccine or the first measles-mumps-rubella-varicella vaccine beyond the age of 15 months may more than double a 2-year-old’s risk for post-vaccination seizures, according to the journal Pediatrics. It’s not as bad as it sounds, although parents may be scared by the report: The rate of increase may only mean that instead of three to four out of 10,000 children possibly having seizures, the higher risk might increase incidence to seven to nine of 10,000 children. Did you know? In 1927, Massachusetts became the first state to require innoculations for children to attend school.

Nasal spray for ODs? Reckitt Benckiser has announced it will partner with another Kentuck-based AntiOp to develop a naloxone nasal spray to treat drug overdoses. The nasal spray could save the lives of thousands of narcotic pain medication and heroin overdose victims, according to the companies.

Quote of Note:

How do we stand up and say we aren’t going to take it any more? For starters, we say yes to direct care.

We say, stop, every time a doctor joins the movement, every time a doctor pledges to make that transition (and makes a plan to help their patients through it). We say it every time a patient says, ‘Give me affordable primary care.’ We say, stop, when we cut the red tape: Offer affordable services for cash, make insurance something that’s only used in real emergencies, and render EMR regulation and meaningful use incentives null and void.” – Josh Umbehr,

“We forget that about 9 out of 10 parents in the United States do immunize following their doctor’s recommended schedule. We forget not a single study finds an alternative schedule is any safer. We forget that unvaccinated and under-vaccinated kids are at risk for preventable disease. We get confused how stories like this make us feel and we ditch what the science tells us. We forget that when we immunize ourselves we protect our body, the children too small to be immunized and those at high risk for severe infection.” – Wendy Sue Swanson, M.D.

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