Powerful opioid fentanyl blamed for spike in U.S. drug overdoses

From Reuters:

Federal drug enforcement officials on Wednesday issued a nationwide alert about the dangers of fentanyl, a powerful opioid often used to increase the potency of heroin and blamed for an “alarming” spike in deadly overdoses.

Fentanyl, a prescription drug used as an anesthetic and pain reliever for terminally ill patients, is being illegally produced in underground drug labs for street narcotics, said Barbara Carreno, spokeswoman for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

Doctors’ unconscious bias may not influence their decisions

From Reuters:

Doctors may have biases for or against people of different races and social statuses, but those unconscious views don’t overtly affect the care they deliver to their patients, a new study finds.

When tested with sample scenarios, most doctors showed some unconscious racial or social bias, but those biases largely did not influence their decisions about what care they would give the fictitious patients.

Insurance Impact on Nonurgent and Primary Care–Sensitive Emergency Department Use

From the American Journal of Managed Care:

Objectives: To analyze the relationship between insurance and the likelihood of a nonurgent or primary care–sensitive (PCS) emergency department (ED) visit. Study

Design: Retrospective cohort study.

Methods: The probabilities of nonurgent and PCS ED visits were derived on the basis of the New York University ED Classification Algorithm. We constructed a logit quasi-likelihood model to examine the insurance impact using 2008 Tennessee Hospital Outpatient Discharge Data.

Results: Among a total of 2,177,955 ED visits in the analysis, uninsured status was significantly associated with the likelihood that an ED visit was nonurgent or PCS. These associations were different for men and women and across major racial groups. On average, uninsured status was associated with an increased probability of 0.038 of being nonurgent and 0.054 of being PCS, relative to private insurance status. The corresponding numbers for public insurance status were 0.060 and 0.075, respectively. For nonurgent or PCS probabilities that are not close to 0, higher nonurgent or PCS likelihoods corresponded to lower ED cost per visit to third-party insurers and patients.

Conclusions: Lack of insurance was associated with a higher probability of a nonurgent or PCS ED visit when compared with private insurance. When uninsured individuals gain coverage under the Affordable Care Act through either Medicaid expansion (public coverage) or insurance exchanges (private coverage), the average nonurgent or PCS probabilities could change either way given the opposite effects of public and private insurance coverage. If a lower nonurgent or PCS likelihood materialized, it could be associated with higher ED costs. –

The Doctor Will See you Now…On Your Computer, Smart Phone or Tablet

From Insurance News:

Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Missourimembers now have a fast, more convenient way to see a doctor for non-emergency needs when their own doctor is not readily available.

Members can now use their smart phone, tablet or computer to have a live video visit with a US-based, board certified doctor of their choice to discuss non-emergency health issues from home, work or wherever they happen to be with internet access. Doctors using LiveHealth Online can provide a diagnosis, treatment, and even a prescription if needed.

This new online care service, LiveHealth Online, launched in 2013 first to national employers. It has now been expanded to the majority of Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Missouri’s health plan customers, including health exchange members. Doctors are available 24 hours, 365 days a year, including holidays. For eligible members, a LiveHealth Online visit costs the same or less than a primary care office visit.