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.

Rural stresses trouble lawmakers

From the Telegraph:

“It’s no secret that our rural hospitals are struggling, and also some of the larger regional hospitals are struggling,” Shaw said.

Several rural hospitals have closed in Georgia over the past few years, killing good jobs and shuttering places that are important to nearby residents and businesses. Besides that, a handful of rural counties lack a general practitioner, and even more lack specialist doctors such as OB/GYNs.

Part of what puts rural hospitals in poor financial health is their relatively high caseload of patients who have no insurance and can’t pay their bills.

There are some ideas in the works to deliver better health care to rural places, which generally includes counties with fewer than 35,000 people. Last week, the state House passed a bill to let people and companies make tax-deductible donations to nonprofit rural hospitals. Its sponsor, state Rep. Geoff Duncan, R-Cumming, said House Bill 919 would be a way to “laser focus” tax dollars on financially stressed rural hospitals. His Democrat critics said it would be better for Georgia to expand Medicaid, the government insurance program for low-income people.

Compete or Complement: United Regional’s ER vs. Stand Alone ERs

From Texomas Homepage:

“When we look at what patients want in emergency care, they’re looking for fast care, they’re looking for really quality care,” Troutman said. “Our hospitals here in our community provide that, but they get overrun sometimes.”

Troutman said they’re not looking to compete with United Regional, but to complement its services and facilities.

“We consider ourselves partners with the hospitals,” he said. “Those patients, if they need admitted or need surgery, they’ll ultimately be transferred to one of those hospitals.”

The Stethoscope: Timeless Tool Or Outdated Relic?

From NPR:

“I am astounded at the things I’ll find with my stethoscope,” says Allison Rhodes, a third-year student at the Perelman School of Medicine. “I had a patient that had pneumonia, and it was really wonderful to be able to listen to her and say, ‘This is what I think it is.’ And then, later, see on the chest X-ray that that was exactly what it was.”

But some argue that the stethoscope is becoming less useful in this digital age. Dr. Bret Nelson, an emergency medicine physician at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, says clinicians now get a lot more information from newer technology.

An ultrasound, for example, turns sound waves into moving images of blood pumping and heart valves clicking open and shut; those visual cues are easier to interpret than muffled murmurs, and may produce a more accurate diagnosis, Nelson says.

He admits the stethoscope is an icon but doesn’t buy the argument that if you lose the stethoscope, you lose the tradition of “healing touch.”

“Pulling an ultrasound machine out of my pocket, or wheeling the cart over next to the patient [and] talking through with them exactly what I’m looking for and how I’m looking for it — the fact that they can see the same image on the screen that I’m seeing strengthens that bond more than anything in the last 50 years,” Nelson says.