Health Policy News and Views
Compiled by Benita M. Dodd
The new school year begins Monday for some Georgia school systems and over the next week or so for most. Thousands of children are headed to school for the first time. Are you prepared?
I’m not talking about backpacks and boxes of Kleenex and crayons and lunch money. (Don’t even get me started about the new school lunch rules that force a one-size-fits-all lunch on children who grow at vastly differing rates with vastly different nutritional needs. …)
What I mean is this: Is your child up to date on his or her shots? Have you decided you won’t subject your child to whatever risk is involved in vaccinating? Too many parents are making the decision not to vaccinate, and it’s a dangerous trend that could expose disease not only to your child but to others in the community who are susceptible, pregnant or have weakened immune systems.
Measles outbreaks were widespread last year; they largely affect people who were not vaccinated or incompletely vaccinated. On Monday, Georgia First Lady Sandra Deal voiced her concerns to me. She told me that she had visited a hospital earlier in the day where the topic was childhood vaccinations. She’s campaigning around the state to promote immunizations; she’s uneasy about how many parents are refusing vaccinations for their children because they’re misinformed about the makeup of vaccinations. According to news reports, more than 200 Georgia schools have dangerously low vaccination rates.
It was encouraging to hear Mrs. Deal’s passion about the challenge: how to educate educated parents in Georgia about the risks to which they’re exposing their children. Ask yourself this: Is the risk in a vaccination higher than the risk of exposure to disease?
Find out more about Georgia’s vaccination requirements here.
One more thing: The First Lady, who said she suffered from rheumatic fever as a child, laughingly recalled how the doctor told her mother she needed to get a little dirty to build up her immune system. We were in total agreement that today’s children are too clean! Word to the wise: Cleanliness may be next to godliness, but a little dirt is healthy and vaccinations save lives
Remote area medical volunteers: I’ve volunteered to participate in a program run by Remote Area Medical in August and I’ll be updating you about the mission when I return. Most people think missions take them to developing countries. Sadly, it’s not Africa or Asia but closer to home that health care providers are finding too many people unable to afford treatment or unaware of where to find help. Remote Area Medical [RAM] is a non-profit that was established in 1985 to provide health care clinics over a short-time frame (usually a weekend) in impoverished areas. Originally, RAM was created to bring care to third-world countries, but over the past several years they shifted to the United States as the need increased. Their vision is to “to be the best at providing free clinic events, without discrimination, which enhance quality of life through the delivery of competent and compassionate healthcare to those who are impoverished, isolated, and underserved.” Watch this video about the program.
The health care gold rush: PwC consultants compares health care reform to a gold rush, with up to $1.5 trillion in annual ending and $150 billion in profits available in pickings. The people that will be the most successful at securing a large slice of the $1.5 trillion are those that look at the “broken industry” of health care and provide critical thinking and radical redesign. Three key players in pursuit of this they classify as gold miners, bartenders and railroad pioneers. Gold miners are organizations successfully applying technology to population health management. Bartenders are organizations that offer customized and convenient options with great marketing and design, such as Walgreens, Theranos and Fitbit as examples. And railroad pioneers that are bringing the gold miners and bartenders to the “Yukon Trail.” Epic Systems, for example, is creating the infrastructure that bartenders and gold miners can create and develop upon. The consultants also point out, though, that just like the gold rush, nothing is guaranteed in the end for these players. Source: MedCity News
Telehealth 2.0: Within the next few weeks, Telemedicine provider American Well will launch online telehealth “exchanges” where patients can search for available physicians to provide virtual consults, according to MedCity News. Patients can search for physicians able to provide immediate online consultations or in-office visits on short notice. Physicians also will be able to make themselves available whenever they have a free time slot.
Data breaches: New York-based payer Healthfirst is notifying members of a data breach affecting the protected health information of approximately 5,300 members that stemmed from a criminal fraud scheme. The Department of Justice notified Healthfirst May 27 of the breach through the payer’s online portal in April and March. No Social Security numbers or credit card information has been affected, according to the payer. Meanwhile, Georgia Health News reports that about 3,000 Georgians have been told some of their health information was inadvertently disclosed. Certain health diagnoses of clients in the Community Care Services Program, which helps people at risk of nursing home placement to remain in their communities, was unintentionally disclosed through an e-mail to a contracted provider.
When a scorecard smells rank: Physicians are incredibly dissatisfied by ProPublica’s Surgeon Scorecard – and rightfully so, judging from a comprehensive explanation of its shortcomings by Dr. Jeffrey Parks, a general surgeon who blogs at KevinMD.com. “ProPublica calls out a urologist at Johns Hopkins, one of our elite tertiary care centers, for having a higher complication rate than some of his colleagues, without accounting for any mitigating factors. What’s his patient population? Does he tend to operate on sicker patients? How many did he do? What exactly were his so-called ‘complications’? Did he perform a lot of ‘re-do’ or revisional surgery? None of these critical, enlightening factors are considered. They wanted to get their story up on line ASAP. They wanted to be first, which is a fundamental principle that drives a lot of modern journalism, but isn’t so useful when it comes to presenting highly complex, scientific data to the general public. You can’t just vomit up a thin sliver of data based on a select cohort of patients and arrogantly title your findings Surgeon Scorecard as some sort of definitive, go-to patient resource.”
Quotes of Note
“Google doesn’t care about your health. Some guy on Facebook doesn’t care about what’s important to you. Dr. Oz doesn’t care if your depression is the reason you haven’t been taking your insulin. If you are worried about something you read about a disease or a medicine, why do you automatically believe ‘some guy’? I’ve been doing this for a long, long time (and I’ll be paying off those loans for a long, long time).” – PalMD
I wanted to publicly say how much I appreciate Georgia Public Policy Foundation. For those of you that will be entering the Legislature or are relatively new you may not quite yet appreciate how much we rely on Georgia Public Policy Foundation’s research and work. As you know we’re a citizen’s legislature. We have very little staff. They have been an invaluable, invaluable resource to us. To put this [Forum] on and the regular programs that they do throughout the year make us better at what we do. (At the 2012 Georgia Legislative Policy Forum.)