Predictive Healthcare Analytics: When a Health Plan Knows How You Shop

From the NY Times:

There may be a link between your Internet use and how often you end up in the emergency room.

At least that’s one of the curious connections to emerge from a health care analysis project at the insurance division of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

U.P.M.C. is a $12 billion nonprofit enterprise that owns hospitals in western Pennsylvania as well as a health insurance plan with about 2.4 million members. It is at the forefront of an emerging field called predictive health analytics, intended to improve patients’ health care outcomes and contain costs. But patients themselves are often unaware of the kinds of intimate details about their households that insurers and hospitals may use to try to sway their treatment decisions.

“How to Get Reliable Medical Information on the Internet”

From Lifehacker:

Getting sick seems a lot more stressful now that we have the internet. You can research your symptoms, but inevitably you’ll fall down a rabbit hole of illnesses that are so unlikely, every search will turn up a life-threatening disease. It is possible to get reliable, useful information, vet it properly, and even get an expert opinion, all online. Here’s how.

Code for America is working on reducing ER calls in Long Beach using big data

From Venture Beat:

So, how to identify those people who are making ER calls repeatedly? The team aggregated ER call data from the fire department and the police department — address, time, and the type of call it was.

To make it actionable, they also poured in business-license data from the city’s Business License Division for determining what the addresses are. If a single-family home made 40 ER calls last year, you probably want to send a nurse there. If a restaurant made 40 ER calls last year, you might want to send an inspector.

The team visualized its data to identify trends for the city’s departments to look at and to assemble the right team to take action.

Alcohol Remains a Leading Cause of Premature Death

From Medscape:

Excessive alcohol drinking accounts for 1 in 10 deaths among working-age adults in the United States, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“It’s shocking to see the public health impact of excessive drinking on working-age adults,” Robert Brewer, MD, head of the CDC’s Alcohol Program and one of the report’s authors, said in a statement. “CDC is working with partners to support the implementation of strategies for preventing excessive alcohol use that are recommended by the Community Preventive Services Task Force, which can help reduce the health and social cost of this dangerous risk behavior,” he added.

Washington State Supreme Court Considers Constitutionality Of Psychiatric Boarding

From KUOW:

Parking mentally ill patients in the emergency room while waiting for treatment is a common practice, but  also controversial. Psychiatric boarding, as it’s known, used to be the exception. But in the last six years, the number of patients who’ve experienced it, has nearly tripled.  Now the state Supreme Court is considering whether boarding is constitutional.

Last July, a Pierce County court ruled that boarding violated state law and was unconstitutional. Jay Geck, lawyer for the state Department of Social and Health Services, wants the high court to overturn that ruling. He told the Court on Thursday that the alternative to boarding would be to send patients home where they could potentially harm themselves. Geck says patients are safer in the ER because it’s equipped to handle them. 

CMS Direction on Telemedicine in CAH EDs

From the Upper Midwest Telehealth Resource Center:

CMS issued a memorandum on June 7, 2013 that iterates CMS’s support for the use of Telemedicine in Critical Access Hospital (CAH) Emergency Departments (EDs).

This memo iterated CMS’s support for the use of Telemedicine in CAH EDs through two key clarifications for state surveyor’s use in the field:

1.The requirement of having a physician available to be on-site within 30 minutes (60 minutes for CAHs in Frontier areas that meet certain conditions) “can be met by the use of a telemedicine MD/DO as well as by an MD/DO who practices on-site at the CAH.” 

2.The Emergency Labor and Treatment Act (EMTALA) is not a barrier to using telemedicine to extend CAH emergency services. Specific ally, “if using telemedicine for emergency and other services, a CAH is not required to include the telemedicine physician on-call list mandated under the EMTALA regulations.” The memorandum goes on to say that “this does not mean that physicians who practice on-site must be on-call and available to appear in person at all times.”

Rural hospitals speeding up psychiatric evaluations

From USA Today:

When emergency room patients are deemed “a danger to themselves or others,” every state requires hospitals to hold them until a psychiatrist conducts a face-to-face evaluation to decide whether it is safe to let them leave. In rural hospitals across the country, it can take days for a psychiatrist to show up and perform the exam.

Five years ago, rural hospitals in South Carolina illustrated the problem. On a typical morning, more than 60 people were waiting in the state’s emergency rooms for psychiatric exams so they could either be discharged or admitted for treatment.

Today the scene is quite different, thanks to a “telepsychiatry” program that allows psychiatrists to examine South Carolina patients through videoconferencing, reducing the average wait time from four days to less than 10 hours. In 2010, North Carolina began rolling out a similar program, and a dozen other states, including Alabama, Kentucky and Wisconsin, plan to follow suit.