March 1, 2007 Recent News





In New Jersey, a study showed physicians were not rushing to electronic health records.  The reason they came up with is cost, distrust of the system and spending more time inputting and less listening.  I hope not much money was spent on the survey.

In Oregon, the University has gone on record as to training more physicians and using more places to train them.  The University is teaming up with institutions in Corvallis.  The state is so short on physicians that even with a huge increase in students, there still wouldn't be enough physicians for at least a decade. 

UnitedHealth has instituted a new policy to be able to fine a physician $50 for each patient that has tests done at any facility besides Laboratory Corp. of America and other selected labs. The physician could also be pegged for lower reimbursement and expulsion. I wonder why any physician worth his salt would work with this type of company. 

A study by the Physician Health Service Research Committee of the Massachusetts Medical Society have found that physicians with behavioral and mental health problems are able to be rehabilitated at the same percentage as those with substance abuse problems.  there is an approximate 75% success rate for each.  This study shows that if the state licensure boards will send these physicians to appropriate classes they may be able to continue with productive medical careers.      Top


Kaiser has lost control over its renal transplant patients.  UC San Francisco will now run the post-transplant clinic at Kaiser's San Francisco Hospital.  This takes Kaiser completely out of the loop for any transplant identified patient.  The person who was in charge of the ill fated program, Dr. Sharon Inokuchi will become a mere nephrologist.  This, along with the resignation of Mary Ann Thode, and Mike Alexander, the former adminstrator of the San Francisco Kaiser finishes the botched program and those who did some of the botching. Kaiser also settled the whistleblower suit filed by the former administrator of the renal transplant program who was fired after eight weeks on the job. The investigation into how Kaiser mishandles complaints is ongoing.

Kaiser has decided to go ahead with its plan to get DNA from 500,000 of its members in Northern California.  Kaiser states that the DNA would be voluntary and that privacy would be maintained.  The information will be kept separate and unknown to the Kaiser medical staff.  This could theoretically be a researchers nirvana to study the genes and what happens during the patient's life.  I'm sorry but I just don't trust the organization that does the types of things to people that they do.

Kaiser has released its 2006 figures and its all good for the organization.  The upped their patients by 213,000 and their revenue by 10% and their net by 30%.  The operating margin is up to 2.3%.  They will need the money to build the new hospitals, retrofit hospitals and fix their EHR system HealthConnect.

The LA Times has a story about the Kaiser EHR HealthConnect and its multitudes of problems.  It is now had an inquiry from the California Department of Managed Care, which is one step toward a formal investigation.  The system has been blasted by recent former employees that either do patient care or work on the system.  Some feel it is the worst of all possible systems. 

California just released its report on the care of pneumonia in the hospital.  There are five Kaiser Hospitals at the bottom.  I guess EHRs don't translate into good care.  The best hospitals had a mortality rate of about 8% and the worse about 17% with an average of 12%.  This is the second time Kaiser has made the worst list.  They claim "foul" since they state the numbers include those in the hospital when they get pneumonia.  Of course, they do the same in other hospitals.  Kaiser is just bad medicine.   

In news other than the Kaiser missteps, the administration and Congress has ordered an investigation of the out patient areas of Walter Reed Hospital.  The Washington Post had reported problems with veterans were living in shoddy housing and faced battles with the government bureaucracy. 

The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey has lost about 25% of its heart program since its poorly conceived and illegal payments to physicians to bring business to the center.  Two cardiologists were fired and the chair of Medicine at Newark has resigned. 

University General Hospital, a physician owned full service entity, has received the green light to bill Medicare for services rendered.  The hospital hopes now for recognition from the insurers.        Top


Originally companies have decreased costs by having the patients pay more of their own medical bills.  Now some companies such as Marriott, Pitney Bowes, Mohawk, and Maine state government are giving away medications free for those with chronic conditions.  They feel that this will reduce costs later on.  The companies are doing this by eliminating any co-pay on certain meds. 

In a recent issue of Neurology, there is a blinded study by UC San Francisco investigators on the pain relief of Cannabis on the pain of HIV neuropathy.  The study showed a statistically significant reduction of pain in those that smoke marijuana over a placebo.  There is now a study to see if vaporized marijuana is comparable to smoked marijuana.  Also the group will next try the study on the pain of cancer. As an aside, the New York Times reports a law suit filed by medical marijuana groups against the feds challenging the untenable assertion that marijuana has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.  This one article refutes the fed position. 

In southern Wisconsin hospitals are attempting to buy the last two large physician groups. Once this occurs it is possible that all healthcare will be done by owned groups and hospitals will set higher prices for services from insurers.  

The ill conceived People's Republic of Massachusetts health plan is continuing to look like it has a major problem.  The low income people are signing up and the state will pay.  The people with current healthcare insurance will have to increase their coverage to meet the minimum requirements.  This will cost them more.  Those without insurance but not quite in the Medicaid area will not take the coverage at about $380 per month and instead forfeit their once a year state exemption of $150.  Even the past Governor who had the harebrained idea in the first place is distancing himself as quickly as possible from his own plan.  

To those who love Canadian Health, it has been shown that the physicians up north have the same problems with EHR as do the ones in the US of A.  In Canada there is about 10% of the visits in electronic form and almost all prescriptions are handwritten.  The difference is that in Canada the lag is due to the Government not willing to spend the $12 Billion necessary for the equipment and software.       Top


DISCLAIMER: Although this article is updated periodically, it reflects the author's point of view at the time of publication. Nothing in this article constitutes legal advice. Readers should consult with their own legal counsel before acting on any of the information presented.