Senate readies for battle over opioid abuse

From The Hill:

Democratic demands for $600 million in emergency funding is threatening to take down a bipartisan bill tackling the nation’s growing opioid addition.

Legislation backed by Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) is coming to the Senate floor this week.

Illinois Telemedicine Rules: Licensing, Practice, Payment

From Health Care Law Today:

Illinois is experiencing growth in telemedicine and telehealth offerings available to patients in the Prairie State. Historically, Illinois telehealth services have been more limited to hospital and institutional settings, but the last few years have since seen an expansion among providers offering such services directly to patients. And yet, Illinois remains a state that has not seen the same level of growth or overall “embracing” of telemedicine services compared to other large states.

This article discusses three legal issues regarding telemedicine services in Illinois: 1) licensing; 2) practice standards; and 3) payment and reimbursement. Health care providers, hospitals, and start-up companies offering telemedicine services in Illinois should review these rules to best deploy their services in this state.

Wisconsin Leads the Nation in Post-ACA Non-Emergency ER Visits

From WUWM:

The Affordable Care Act was supposed to get newly insured patients out of emergency rooms and into primary care doctors’ offices. But since the ACA went into effect, ER visits have spiked, and Wisconsin is leading the nation in non-emergency visits to the emergency room.

Free-standing emergency departments will drive up costs, some warn

From the Dispatch:

The free-standing emergency departments that thousands of central Ohioans have — or will soon have — right around the corner promise convenience. But one prominent local physician says that they will blindside many consumers with large bills and ultimately drive up health-care costs.

“More people on high-deductible health plans … are just going to get pounded with the higher cost of care,” said Dr. William Wulf, chief executive of Central Ohio Primary Care, the largest physician-owned primary-care medical group in the nation. “If you’re an employer (paying the health-care bills), this isn’t creating value.”

Iowans bought 300 million addictive pills last year

From the Register:

Iowa doctors and other health care providers have cut back on prescriptions for a popular narcotic painkiller, but they still order enough addictive medication to supply every man, woman and child in the state with at least 100 pills a year, a new report shows.

The report comes amid growing concern about prescription drug addictions and overdoses. Experts say doctor-prescribed painkillers also are helping fuel the nation’s heroin epidemic, because the pills and the street drug have similar effects.

The statistics come from a computerized registry designed to record every sale of addictive medications to Iowans. The registry was started in 2010 as a response to increased overdose deaths from prescription pills.

Benzodiazepine prescriptions, overdose deaths on the rise in U.S.

From Reuters:

Even as opiate abuse has become a growing problem in the U.S., overdose deaths involving sedatives and antiseizure medications in the benzodiazepine category have also risen steeply, according to a recent study.

Prescriptions for benzodiazepines have more than tripled and fatal overdoses have more than quadrupled in the past 20 years, researchers found.

“Overdoses rose at a faster rate than prescriptions, suggesting that people were using benzodiazepines in a riskier way over time,” said lead author Dr. Marcus Bachhuber, assistant professor of medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.

Security Testers Managed to Hack Hospital Patient Monitors and Drug Dispensers

From Gizmodo:

As part of a wide-ranging, two-year-long attack, hackers managed to breach the systems of a number of hospitals, exposing critical patient systems to wide-ranging attacks. Luckily, the hacks were just a drill, but the flaws exposed are scary as hell.

In a paper published by Independent Security Evaluators, white-hat penetration testers examined the systems of 12 hospitals, two data centers, and some specific medical hardware. Using a variety of classic techniques—dropping infected USB drives next to computer terminals, or just plugging into publicly-accessible ports—the researchers gained control over some critical systems.