Hospitals turn to patients for advice

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H for hospitalBy Shefali Luthra
KHN

The system, which is now being phased in, will help coordinate services and reshape how patients and doctors find and read medical information.

The fact that Partners sought the perspective of patients highlights how hospitals increasingly care about what their customers think.

“It’s such a great experience,” Maier said. “They treat us as a member – a partner – in their review process.”

Jane Maier was one of a select group of patients invited in early 2012 to help Partners HealthCare, Massachusetts’ largest health system, pick its new electronic health record system – a critical investment of close to $700 million.

Jane Maier was one of a select group of patients invited in early 2012 to help Partners HealthCare, Massachusetts’ largest health system, pick its new electronic health record system – a critical investment of close to $700 million.

Patient advisory councils, like the one Maier belongs to, often serve as sounding boards for hospital leaders – offering advice on a range of issues.

Members are usually patients and relatives who had bad hospital experiences and want to change how things work, or who liked their stay and want to remain involved.

For Maier, it all started in 2009 when she had surgery at Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital, a Partners facility.

Her husband wrote to the hospital’s CEO, praising her experience.

The couple was then invited to speak at a hospital leadership retreat, sharing with top executives both the good and the not-so-good, and Maier was recruited to serve on a new patient advisory panel.

This hunt for patient perspective, which is becoming more and more common, is fueled in part by the health law’s quality-improvement provisions and other federal financial incentives, such as the link between Medicare payments and patient satisfaction scores. Continue reading

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Top five stories of the week

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Credit: Dan Shirly

Credit: Dan Shirly

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Seattle Children’s plans 13-story downtown research facility – Puget Sound Business Journal

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The 13-story project, called Building Cure, is planned for 1920 Terry Ave., and will have 440,000 square feet of research space, according to a draft packet of information that’s on the city’s website.

Currently on the site is a small building amidst a sea of parking. The site is near two other of the institute’s facilities.

Source: Seattle Children’s plans 13-story downtown research facility – Puget Sound Business Journal

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Prescription price shock: OSU/OHSU study takes drug industry to task – Portland Business Journal

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Drugs for treating multiple sclerosis have skyrocketed 700 percent in the past 20 years, even as newer drugs have come on the market, according to a study out today from researchers at Oregon State University and Oregon Health & Science University.

“New drugs came on the market 30 to 50 percent higher than existing therapies, which ratcheted up their prices to meet the prices of the new drugs,” said Dan Hartung, the study’s lead author and an associate professor in the OSU/OHSU College of Pharmacy.

Source: Prescription price shock: OSU/OHSU study takes drug industry to task – Portland Business Journal

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Americans are drinking more heavily, especially women

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whiskey-glassBy Barbara Feder Ostrov
KHN

Whether quaffing artisanal cocktails at hipster bars or knocking back no-name beers on the couch, more Americans are drinking heavily – and engaging in episodes of binge-drinking, concludes a major study of alcohol use.

Heavy drinking among Americans rose 17.2 percent between 2005 and 2012, largely due to rising rates among women, according to the study by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, published Thursday in the American Journal of Public Health.

Over the course of the decade, the rate of binge drinking among women increased more than seven times the rate among men, a UW study has found.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines heavy drinking as exceeding an average of one drink per day during the past month for women and two drinks per day for men.

Binge drinking is defined as four or more drinks for women and five or more drinks for men on a single occasion at least once during the past month.

The increases are driven largely by women’s drinking habits as social norms change, researchers found. Continue reading

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Minnesota declares state of emergency over bird flu in poultry | Reuters

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Rooster looking through the wires of a cage

Minnesota declared a state of emergency on Thursday over a fast-spreading strain of avian flu that has led to the extermination of more than 7.3 million birds in the country. It followed Wisconsin’s action on Monday.

The highly pathogenic H5N2 strain of bird flu has been identified on 46 Minnesota farms in 16 counties and affected more than 2.6 million birds in the state.

State health officials said they were expediting prescriptions for the antiviral drug Tamiflu for farm workers and others who have been in direct contact with infected flocks.  No human infections have been reported in this outbreak.

Photo by dragonariaes

Source: Minnesota declares state of emergency over bird flu in poultry | Reuters

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U.S. FDA warns five companies over BMPEA stimulant in supplements | Reuters

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fda-logo-thumbnailThe U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned five companies on Thursday to stop selling dietary supplements containing an unapproved stimulant known as beta-methylphenylethylamine, or BMPEA.

BMPEA is an amphetamine-like substance that has been shown to raise blood pressure and heart rate in animals and is classified as a doping agent by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

Source: U.S. FDA warns five companies over BMPEA stimulant in supplements | Reuters

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Common asthma steroids linked to side effects in adrenal glands | Reuters

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Illustration of the lungs in blueAfter stopping steroids commonly prescribed for asthma and allergies, a significant number of people may experience signs of malfunctioning in the adrenal glands, a European study finds.

So-called adrenal insufficiency can be dangerous, especially if the person’s body has to cope with a stress like surgery, injury or a serious illness, the study authors say.

Source: Common asthma steroids linked to side effects in adrenal glands | Reuters

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High morale linked to longer survival among elderly | Reuters

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Smiley_FaceWhether it is cause or effect is unclear, but high morale seems to go along with a longer life, according to a new Scandinavian study.

Among people 85 years and older, those who felt optimistic about life and had something to look forward to lived five years longer on average than their more pessimistic counterparts.

Source: High morale linked to longer survival among elderly | Reuters

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Time is running out!

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Special Enrollment Period: Time is running out

The Special Enrollment Period ends next week.

The Health Insurance Marketplace is providing individuals and families who paid the fee for not having health coverage when they filed their 2014 taxes with one last chance to get covered for 2015.

Get covered, avoid the fee. The fee for people who don’t have health coverage increases in 2015 to $325 per person or 2% of your household income – whichever is greater. The good news is you have until April 30 to learn about the options and financial assistance that is available and to enroll in a plan that meets your needs.

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Join the millions who are saving: 8 out of 10 people can find coverage for $100 or less a month with tax credits through the Marketplace.

We hope you take advantage of this extended opportunity to get quality coverage this year.

The HealthCare.gov Team

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Most states list deadly methadone as a ‘preferred drug’

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465px-Methadone.svgBy Christine Vestal
Stateline

The federal government has been issuing warnings about the dangers of methadone for nearly a decade.

Two years ago, states started removing it from their Medicaid “preferred drug lists.” (Joe Amon/Getty Images)

As prescription drug overdose deaths soar nationwide, most states have failed to take a simple step that would make it harder for doctors to prescribe the deadliest of all narcotics.

Methadone is four times as likely to cause an overdose death as oxycodone, and more than twice as likely as morphine, yet as many as 33 states make it easy for doctors to prescribe. 

Methadone overdoses kill about 5,000 people every year, six times as many as in the late 1990s, when it was prescribed almost exclusively for use in hospitals and addiction clinics where it is tightly controlled.

It is four times as likely to cause an overdose death as oxycodone, and more than twice as likely as morphine. In addition, experts say it is the most addictive of all opiates.

Yet as many as 33 states make it easy for doctors to prescribe the pain medicine to Medicaid patients, no questions asked. Continue reading

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When depression and cultural expectations collide

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By Anna Gorman
KHN

“My time is coming. It’s already time for me to die. I can’t wait. … So yeah I plan to kill myself during spring break, which by the way, starts in two days.” — Wynne Lee wrote in a March 29, 2012 journal post

Wynne Lee’s mind was at war with itself – one voice telling her to kill herself and another telling her to live. She had just turned 14.

She tried to push the thoughts away by playing video games and listening to music. Nothing worked. Then she started cutting herself. She’d pull out a razor, make a small incision on her ankle or forearm and watch the blood seep out. “Cutting was a sharp, instant relief,” she said

When it comes to mental health treatment, Asian Americans often get short shrift. Researchers say they are both less well-studied and less likely to seek treatment.

Some days, that wasn’t enough. That’s when she’d think about suicide. She wrote her feelings in a journal in big loopy letters.

At first, Wynne thought she felt sad because she was having a hard 8th grade year. She and her boyfriend broke up. Girls were spreading rumors about her. A few childhood friends abandoned her. But months passed and the feelings of helplessness and loneliness wouldn’t go away.

“I was really happy as a kid and now I was feeling like this,” she said. “It was really unfamiliar and scary.”

Wynne Lee didn’t know where her despair was coming from. The words “depression” and “suicide” were not in her vocabulary. She knew, however, that she was failing — she was defying expectations of who she was supposed to be. Continue reading

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Free child car seat check-up events in King County

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Child safety seat car seat From Public Health – Seattle & King County

Child safety seats can save lives, but they need to be used properly to be effective.

Parents and caregivers can get support in fitting their children securely in car seats at five free child car seat check-up events in upcoming months, beginning Friday, April 24, 2015. Public Health – Seattle & King County is hosting the events.

Event details

Parents and caregivers will have their child safety seat checked by a certified child safety seat technician for safe installation and educational materials will be on hand. Soon-to-be parents and caregivers are welcome as well.

These events are ones of many ongoing child safety seat check-up events in the Puget Sound area. Check the Washington Safety Restraint Coalition website for locations and schedules. Continue reading

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Few using quality and price information to make health decisions

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Shopping cart redBy Jordan Rau
KHN

Despite the government’s push to make health information more available, few people use concrete information about doctors or hospitals to obtain better care at lower prices, according to a poll released Tuesday.

Prices for the health care industry have historically been concealed and convoluted, unlike those for most other businesses. The 2010 health law aimed to make such information more transparent.

Only one in five people say they had seen specific cost or quality information about a hospital, insurer or doctor.

People shopping for insurance can now compare the prices of competing plans through online marketplaces, including premiums, deductibles and their share of any medical expenses.

The federal government also publishes more than 100 quality ratings about hospitals, as do some large private insurers.

Private groups such as Consumer Reports and U.S. News & World Report also rate providers, and Internet forums such as Yelp are now littered with easily accessible opinions.

The poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that about two of three people say it is still difficult to know how much specific doctors or hospitals charge for medical treatments or procedures. (KHN is an independent program of the foundation.)

Only about one in five people said they had seen specific cost or quality information about a hospital, insurer or doctor.

The poll found that this information rarely makes a difference. About 6 percent of people ever used quality information in making a decision regarding an insurer, hospital or doctor. And fewer than 9 percent used information about prices, most commonly in relation to health plans. Only 3 percent said they used price information about physicians, the poll found. Continue reading

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