Beth Israel Deaconess
A look at the morning's top health industry news.
What Massachusetts thinks: A New York Times editorial suggests that, for all the criticism of the federal mandate that most people must buy health insurance starting in 2014, public support nationally could follow the trajectory of that in Massachusetts and get stronger. It points to a recent poll that found most people in this state, 51 percent, support the state mandate. The poll, conducted by the Globe and the Harvard School of Public Health, found 63 percent of residents support state changes to health care overall.FULL ENTRY
Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc. will announce this afternoon a partnership with leading Boston-area hospitals, medical schools, and universities -- in a novel attempt to address a major hurdle in medicine: the years-long gap between basic science advances and the testing of drugs in patients.
Under the unusual arrangement, the company will invest $100 million over five years and establish a research space in the heart of the Longwood Medical Area where Pfizer scientists will work in close proximity and team up with academic scientists. The new Center for Therapeutic Innovation, which will create about 50 new jobs, is part of a global Pfizer initiative to foster new kinds of collaboration with academia to accelerate drug development, a program that will be headquartered in Boston.FULL ENTRY
Uncertain future for brokers: Health insurance brokers could go the way of travel agents as more consumers are given the option of shopping for plans online through state exchanges, writes Michelle Andrews of Kaiser Health News for the the NPR Shots blog. The brokers are fighting to preserve their commission, asking that their fees be excluded from calculations of administrative costs for insurance companies. Under the Affordable Care Act, the companies must prove that they spend no more than 20 percent of premiums on costs other than actual medical care. Brokers worry their commissions will be squeezed by the rule.FULL ENTRY
Dr. Howard Grant, president of Lahey in Burlington, recently proposed that the two institutions join forces -- though both sides said the discussions are preliminary.FULL ENTRY
Emergency room visits have been on the rise in Massachusetts since the passage of the 2006 health law, much to the chagrin of supporters who projected that the opposite would happen as more people had insurance and were connected with primary care providers. A new study published online by the Annals of Emergency Medicine shows that the issue may be a bit more nuanced.
While overall emergency room visits increased about 4.1 percent between 2006 and 2008, visits among patients who are poor or uninsured using the emergency room for "low-severity" issues fell slightly, by about 1.8 percent.
The number is small but significant, according to the authors. It represents a slight step in the right direction. But it also provides a reality check, said lead author Dr. Peter Smulowitz, an emergency physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.FULL ENTRY
The federal government today awarded its first payments from a Medicare program designed to push hospitals and individual health care providers to adopt electronic health records. Three Massachusetts physicians received payments starting at $18,000. Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, long a leader in electronic records, received $2.57 million.
Doctors and hospitals are under pressure to get on board or face penalties come 2014. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has pledged to help with up to $27 billion in incentives approved as part of the 2009 stimulus package.
The money is not a grant for building a future system but a reimbursement for what the providers have already achieved. Hospitals and individual providers had to meet a long list of requirements showing that they had "meaningful use" of their system, including the ability to input demographic and medical information about patients, exchange data with other providers, provide patients with electronic access to their record and submit disease surveillance data to public health agencies.FULL ENTRY
A senior neurologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center says many hospitals inappropriately use the antipsychotic Haldol "like water" in agitated elderly patients, putting them at risk for serious complications.
Dr. Louis Caplan, a neurology professor at Harvard Medical School, said a recent government report that found pervasive use of antipsychotic medications in elderly nursing home patents underscores the "overuse" problem with this class of drugs.
Caplan said Haldol is typically given to agitated patients to calm them quickly, but he said older patients, especially, can become over-sedated and stiff, putting them at risk for pulmonary and urinary infections, because they have trouble moving and couging.
Recently, Dr. Mitchell Rabkin, who led the Harvard teaching hospital for 30 years, wrote a forcefully-worded letter to the search committee, requesting that they hire "a physician with both demonstrated success in medical center management and significant involvement in academic medicine, similar to that seen in ranking academic medical centers throughout the USA."
Rabkin, who was president of the hospital from 1966 to 1996, credited the most recent chief executive, Paul Levy -- who was not an MD and had no prior experience running a teaching hospital -- and his team for returning Beth Israel Deaconess to financial stability and creating a "climate of candor" about clinical issues. But, he wrote, faculty felt he wasn't as supportive of academic scholarship.FULL ENTRY
Dr. James J. Mongan, longtime chief executive officer of Partners HealthCare, died today of cancer at Massachusetts General Hospital. Mongan, 69, who lived in Chestnut Hill, led the health care system from 2003 through his retirement at the end of 2009. He was chief executive officer of Mass. General for six years before that.
Partners is the state's largest private employer and one of the biggest nonprofit health systems in the country. It includes Mass. General and Brigham and Women's Hospital, as well as six community hospitals and other facilities. Mongan was a strong advocate for the Massachusetts health care law and is credited with increasing the use of electronic health records by Partners physicians from 10 percent in 2003 to 100 percent today.FULL ENTRY
The US Department of Health and Human Services has created a new awards program to recognize hospitals that reduce hospital-acquired infections. This has been a special area of interest lately for the department, which last month pledged $500 million to help hospitals curb infections and other medical errors.
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center was one of 10 hospitals in the country recognized at a ceremony yesterday for efforts to reduce the rate pneumonia in people on ventilators and bloodstream infections caused by central intravenous lines.
“People enter a hospital expecting to get healthier, not sicker,” said Dr. Howard K. Koh, assistant secretary for health. “We applaud hospitals for their efforts in improving the quality and safety of health care for all Americans.”
About white coat notes
|White Coat Notes covers the latest from the health care industry, hospitals, doctors offices, labs, insurers, and the corridors of government. Chelsea Conaboy previously covered health care for The Philadelphia Inquirer. Write her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter: @cconaboy.|
Gideon Gil, Health and Science Editor
Elizabeth Comeau, Senior Health Producer