September 25, 2019 | Using granular suicide data to save lives

September 25, 2019


Rising hospital prices: What’s the role of government? Employers?

What can employers and regulators do about rapidly rising hospital prices? Will addressing surprise medical bills help restrain prices more broadly? These are just some of the questions addressed in an interview with Robert Murray and Dr. Robert Galvin. Murray is the former longtime director of the Maryland Health Services Cost Review Commission. Galvin is the former chief medical officer at GE and a current partner at the private equity firm Blackstone. (Milbank Memorial Fund)

Does the international price index have traction?

Do you know what the international price index is? It’s bringing together the White House and House Democrats. They want to base U.S. drug prices on it. It would peg what the U.S. pays for a particular medication to the price paid in a set of other countries. Rachel Sachs, an associate professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis, explains in an interview with NPR. (NPR)


Diapers and ibuprofen, incoming!

Walgreens will test an on-demand drone delivery service with Wing Aviation in October. It will use drones to deliver food and beverages, over-the-counter medications and other health and wellness products in Christiansburg, Va. Prescription medications will not be available. Customers can choose either the individual products they need or select one of the packages for allergy, baby, cough/cold, first aid, pain and kids’ snacks. Wing is a subsidiary of Google parent company Alphabet. (FierceHealthcare)

Using granular suicide data to save lives

Washington County, Ore., epidemiologist Kimberly Repp, PhD, is using data to find patterns in suicides, then offering prevention training. She’s focusing on unexpected locations, the animal shelters where people give away their pets. Such training is usually offered to teachers, pastors, etc. But with the new data, the county realized they were missing people who may have been the last to see the suicide victims alive. So the county began offering the training to motel clerks and housekeepers, animal shelter workers, pain clinic staffers and more. The county’s suicide rates are dropping as the national suicide rate rises, and her model is spreading to New York, California and elsewhere. (Kaiser Health News)


Senate fails to support unique patient identifier

Despite support in the House of Representatives, health care industry efforts to establish a unique patient identifier (UPI) apparently hit a wall in the Senate. It did not include language overturning a ban in its Health and Human Services funding bill last week. Many health IT leaders see UPI as critical to solving issues with patient matching, potentially minimizing misidentification and errors, FierceHealthcare reports. HIPAA initially required the creation of a health identifier, but Congress overruled the legislation and barred federal agencies from investigating or creating patient identifiers. (FierceHealthcare)

EHR data doesn’t match clinician actions?

A small study of patient visits to the emergency department identified inconsistencies between resident physician documentation and observed behavior. This raises the possibility that “some documentation may not accurately represent physician actions,” conclude the researchers, writing in JAMA Network Open. “Further studies should be undertaken in other clinical settings to determine whether this occurrence is widespread. However, because such studies are unlikely to be performed, owing to institution-level barriers that exist nationwide, payers should consider removing financial incentives to generate lengthy documentation.” (Medscape; JAMA Network Open)


CBD research: The federal government will spend $3 million to find out if marijuana can relieve pain. However, none of the funds will be used to study THC—the part of the plant that gets people high. The nine research grants made last week are for work on CBD and other chemicals. (AP)

Dueling ad blitzes: Supporters of the Senate health committee’s approach to end surprise billing through a benchmark pay rate are fighting a media blitz from “dark money” groups trying to defeat the committee’s proposal, according to Inside Health Policy. Now, several consumer advocacy groups are sponsoring their own ad campaign. (Inside Health Policy)

The move against vaping: In announcing plans to stop carrying e-cigarettes, Walmart joined several other corporations in curbing the spread of the products. For example, Viacom, CBS and WarnerMedia promised to stop running advertisements for e-cigarettes. (USA Today)


Interactive map: Hospital concentration and price

Nearly three-quarters of metro areas had highly concentrated hospital markets in 2016, according to data from the Health Care Cost Institute. Researchers found metro areas where hospital markets became more concentrated also had larger increases in inpatient prices. The institute provides an interactive map to search by state. The American Hospital Association has registered its displeasure over the findings. Among its reasons: The report doesn't consider consolidation among insurers. (interactive map; Healthcare Dive)


Hic locus est ubi mors gaudet succurrere vitae.” (This is a place where the dead delight in helping the living.)— A sign displayed on Washington County epidemiologist Kimberly Repp’s office. Repp’s research into suicide prevention included accompanying a death investigator on his rounds.

Jorden Gunessever