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News

Last 50 News Postings

 (Click on title to be directed to posting, most recent listed first)

Determining if Drug Price Increases are Justified
Court Overturns CMS' Site-Neutral Payment Policy
Pulmonary Disease Linked to Vaping
CEO Compensation-One Reason Healthcare Costs So Much
Doctor or Money Shortage in California?
FDA Commissioner Gottlieb Resigns
Physicians Generate an Average $2.4 Million a Year Per Hospital
Drug Prices Continue to Rise
New Center for Physician Rights
CMS Decreases Clinic Visit Payments to Hospital-Employed Physicians
   and Expands Decreases in Drug Payments 340B Cuts
Big Pharma Gives Millions to Congress
Gilbert Hospital and Florence Hospital at Anthem Closed
CMS’ Star Ratings Miscalculated
VA Announces Aggressive New Approach to Produce Rapid Improvements
   in VA Medical Centers
Healthcare Payments Under the Budget Deal: Mostly Good News
   for Physicians
Hospitals Plan to Start Their Own Generic Drug Company
Flu Season and Trehalose
MedPAC Votes to Scrap MIPS
CMS Announces New Payment Model
Varenicline (Chantix®) Associated with Increased Cardiovascular Events
Tax Cuts Could Threaten Physicians
Trump Nominates Former Pharmaceutical Executive as HHS Secretary
Arizona Averages Over 25 Opioid Overdoses Per Day
Maryvale Hospital to Close
California Enacts Drug Pricing Transparency Bill
Senate Health Bill Lacks 50 Votes Needed to Proceed
Medi-Cal Blamed for Poor Care in Lawsuit
Senate Republican Leadership Releases Revised ACA Repeal and Replace Bill
Mortality Rate Will Likely Increase Under Senate Healthcare Bill
University of Arizona-Phoenix Receives Full Accreditation
Limited Choice of Obamacare Insurers in Some Parts of the Southwest
Gottlieb, the FDA and Dumbing Down Medicine
Salary Surveys Report Declines in Pulmonologist, Allergist and Nurse 
   Incomes
CDC Releases Ventilator-Associated Events Criteria
Medicare Bundled Payment Initiative Did Not Reduce COPD Readmissions
Younger Smokers Continue to Smoke as Adults: Implications for Raising the
   Smoking Age to 21
Most Drug Overdose Deaths from Nonprescription Opioids
Lawsuits Allege Price Fixing by Generic Drug Makers
Knox Named Phoenix Associate Dean of Faculty Affairs
Rating the VA Hospitals
Garcia Resigns as Arizona University VP
Combination Influenza Therapy with Clarithromycin-Naproxen-Oseltamivir
   Superior to Oseltamivir Alone
VAP Rates Unchanged
ABIM Overhauling MOC
Substitution of Assistants for Nurses Increases Mortality, Decreases Quality
CMS Releases Data on Drug Spending
Trump Proposes Initial Healthcare Agenda
Election Results of Southwest Ballot Measures Affecting Healthcare
Southwest Ballot Measures Affecting Healthcare
ACGME Proposes Dropping the 16 Hour Resident Shift Limit

 

For an excel file with complete news listings click here.

A report from Heartwire described a letter written by Peter Wilmshurst to the AHA asking for full disclosure of conflicts of interest in the MIST trial. Wilmshurst was portrayed in SWJPCC on April 27, 2012 in our Profiles of Medical Courage series. We felt the report of the letter might be of interest to the readership of SWJPCC but there was no good section to pass along the Heartwire article. For this reason, a new Section entitled “News” has been started to report developments outside the usual medical journal purview or from other sources which might interest our readers. We encourage bringing news-worthy articles to our attention and would welcome submission of written reports of such articles.

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Entries in mortality (3)

Tuesday
Jun272017

Mortality Rate Will Likely Increase Under Senate Healthcare Bill

Today (6/27/17) an article was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine by Steffie Woolhandler and David Himmelstein from New York University on the effects of health insurance on mortality (1). The article has special significance because of pending healthcare legislation in the Senate.  

The Annals article concludes that the odds of dying among the insured relative to the uninsured is 0.71 to 0.97. However, the authors acknowledge that this is a very difficult study to conduct because of the nonrandomized, observational nature of the studies and lack of a strict separation between covered and uncovered Americans. For example, many people cycle in and out of insurance diluting differences between groups.

Of course, what is needed is a randomized trial, and surprisingly, one does exist which is discussed in the Annals article (1,2). In 2008, Oregon initiated a limited expansion of its Medicaid program for about 6,000 poor, able-bodied, uninsured adults aged 19 to 64 years through a lottery to win the opportunity to apply for Medicaid and to enroll if they met eligibility requirements. Compared to uninsured adults, mortality was 13% lower in the insured. However, the trial was underpowered and the mortality differences did not reach statistical significance.

Another study mentioned was one examining the mortality rates in New York, Maine, and Arizona after expansion of Medicaid (1,3). Compared to neighboring states that did not expand Medicaid, a significant decrease in all-cause mortality in the expansion states was observed (−25.4 deaths per 100,000 population; p = 0.02; Figure 1).

Figure 1. Unadjusted mortality and rates of Medicaid coverage among nonelderly adults before and after state Medicaid expansions (1997–2007). The vertical line represents the year during which the Medicaid expansions were implemented, meaning that year 1 was the first full year after the expansions.

Figure 1 shows roughly parallel death rates before Medicaid expansion, and a gradually widening split after Medicaid expansion. From this data, the authors calculated that Medicaid expansion to 176 adults would prevent one death per year.

On Monday (6/26/17), the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) concluded that the pending Senate healthcare bill, known as the Better Care Reconciliation Act, will result in 22 million fewer people having health insurance by 2026 (4,5). The bill would cut $772 billion in Medicaid spending and $408 billion in subsidies for individual enrollees. The net effect of these spending reductions is partially offset by $541 billion in tax cuts mostly to corporations and wealthier Americans. These numbers all approximate the effects under the similar House version of the bill that passed on May 4.

If Medicaid expansion prevents one death for each 176 enrolled (4), presumably dropping Medicaid for 176 Americans would result in one additional death per year. Given that the CBO estimates 22-23 million Americans will lose coverage under either bill, the potential increase in deaths is staggering. If either bill is passed, an increase in the death rate among the Medicaid population seems the likely consequence of the politics of reducing the Federal deficit and billions in tax cuts for corporations and the richest Americans.

Richard A. Robbins, MD

Editor, SWJPCC

References

  1. Woolhandler S, Himmelstein DU. The relationship of health insurance and mortality: is lack of insurance deadly? Ann Int Med. June 27, 2017. Available at: http://annals.org/aim/latest (accessed 6/27/17) [CrossRef]
  2. Baicker K, Taubman SL, Allen HL, Bernstein M, Gruber JH, Newhouse JP, Schneider EC, Wright BJ, Zaslavsky AM, Finkelstein AN; Oregon Health Study Group.The Oregon experiment--effects of Medicaid on clinical outcomes. N Engl J Med. 2013 May 2;368(18):1713-22. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  3. Sommers BD, Baicker K, Epstein AM. Mortality and access to care among adults after state Medicaid expansions. N Engl J Med. 2012 Sep 13;367(11):1025-34.  [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  4. Congressional Budget Office. H.R. 1628, Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017. June 26, 2017. Available at: https://www.cbo.gov/publication/52849 (accessed 6/26/17).
  5. Frieden J. Senate GOP's ACA repeal bill would knock 22 million off insurance: CBO. MedPage Today. June 26, 2017. Available at: https://www.medpagetoday.com/PublicHealthPolicy/repeal-and-replace/66275?isalert=1&uun=g687171d5575R5764210u&xid=NL_breakingnews_2017-06-26 (accessed 6/26/17).

Cite as: Robbins RA. Mortality rate will likely increase under Senate healthcare bill. Southwest J Pulm Crit Care. 2017;14(6):318-9. doi: https://doi.org/10.13175/swjpcc084-17 PDF 

Monday
Nov212016

Substitution of Assistants for Nurses Increases Mortality, Decreases Quality

Substituting nursing assistants for professional nurses is associated with poorer quality of care and increased mortality according to a study published in BMJ Quality & Safety (1). Linda H. Aiken PhD and colleagues analyzed the effect of increasing the proportion of less extensively trained nurses at 243 acute care hospitals in Belgium, England, Finland, Ireland, Spain, and Switzerland. They surveyed 13,077 nurses and 18,828 patients who had been in 182 hospitals between 2009 and 2010. They also consulted mortality records for 275,519 patients who had had surgery in 188 of the hospitals between 2007 and 2009.

Overall, 47% of the professional nurses in the study had bachelor's degrees, although they were unevenly distributed, with some hospitals having none. In a hospital that has average nurse staffing levels and skill mix, the researchers estimated that replacing one professional nurse with a lower-skilled worker increased the odds of a patient dying by 21%. Conversely, each 10% increase in the proportion of nurses with high-level skills was associated with an 11% decrease in the odds of a patient dying postoperatively and a 10% decrease in the odds of a patient giving the hospital a low rating.

Overall, the findings paralleled those from the United States and are consistent with the concept that a higher level of education leads to improved care. "We find a nursing skill mix in hospitals with a higher proportion of professional nurses is associated with significantly lower mortality, higher patient ratings of their care and fewer adverse care outcomes," the researchers write. They conclude "that caution should be taken in implementing policies to reduce hospital nursing skill mix because the consequences can be life-threatening for patients."

Richard A. Robbins, MD

Editor, SWJPCC

Reference

  1. Aiken LH, Sloane D, Griffiths P, et al. Nursing skill mix in European hospitals: cross-sectional study of the association with mortality, patient ratings, and quality of care. BMJ Qual Saf. 2016. Published on-line 11/15/16. [CrossRef] 

Cite as: Robbins RA. Substitution of assistants for nurses increases mortality, decreases quality. Southwest J Pulm Crit Care. 2016;13(5):252. doi: https://doi.org/10.13175/swjpcc121-16 PDF

Tuesday
Sep202016

Hospital Employment of Physicians Does Not Improve Quality

The Annals of Internal Medicine posted a manuscript on-line today reporting that the growing trend of physician employment by hospitals does not improve quality (1). In 2003, approximately 29% of hospitals employed members of their physician workforce, a number that rose to 42% by 2012. The authors conducted a retrospective cohort study of U.S. acute care hospitals between 2003 and 2012 and examined mortality rates, 30-day readmission rates, length of stay, and patient satisfaction scores for common medical conditions for 803 hospitals that switched to the employment model compared with 2085 control hospitals that did not switch. Switching hospitals were more likely to be large (11.6% vs. 7.1%) or major teaching hospitals (7.5% vs. 4.5%) and less likely to be for-profit institutions (8.8% vs. 19.9%) (all p values <0.001).

The authors used Medicare Provider Analysis and Review File (MedPAR) from 2002 to 2013 to calculate hospital-level risk-adjusted performance on mortality, readmissions, and length of stay for acute myocardial infarction, congestive heart failure, and pneumonia. Hospital Compare data from 2007 to 2013 was used to assess overall patient satisfaction. After conversion to a physician employed model, no difference was found in any of 4 primary composite quality metrics with the single exception of readmission rates for pneumonia. That decline was modest (19.3% vs. 19.1% readmissions) and judged not likely to be clinically significant by the authors.

Recently, Baker and colleagues found that hospital employment of  physicians is associated with higher spending and prices (2). This data combined with the data from the present study suggest that the trend is for higher healthcare costs without an improvement in quality. Commenting in Medscape Richard Gunderman, a well-known healthcare delivery researcher from the University of Indiana, said that those who think quality comes from increasingly larger organizations with more advanced information technology and greater standardization across the system will see these results as surprising and disappointing (3). Pointing to high levels of burnout and widespread complaints of lack of time with patients, Gunderman said less physician control over individual patient care has taken a toll. "There's no doubt that a demoralized workforce will tend to drive quality down," he said. "Many hospitals and health systems around the country are grappling with poor and, in some cases, dismal engagement scores. I think that's an indication that a lot of physicians feel that the changes taking place across healthcare are problematic."

Funding for the study was provided by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Limitations of the study was that the patients were primarily Medicare beneficiaries aged 65 years and older. Therefore, the applicability of the findings to a younger population is unknown, however, the authors doubted that after switching to an employment model, hospitals would improve care for one group and not another.

Richard A. Robbins, MD

Editor, SWJPCC

References

  1. Scott KW, Orav EJ, Cutler KM, Jha AK. Changes in hospital–physician affiliations in U.S. hospitals and their effect on quality of care. Ann Intern Med. 2016. Available at: http://annals.org/article.aspx?articleid=2552987 (accessed 9/20/16). [CrossRef]
  2. Baker LC, Bundorf MK, Kessler DP. Vertical integration: hospital ownership of physician practices is associated with higher prices and spending. Health Aff (Millwood). 2014 May;33(5):756-63. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  3. Frellick M. Physician employment by hospitals does not improve quality Medscape. September 19, 2016. Available at: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/868978?nlid=109338_2863&src=wnl_dne_160920_mscpedit&uac=9273DT&impID=1200121&faf=1#vp_2 (accessed 9/20/16). 

Cite as: Robbins RA. Hospital employment of physicians does not improve quality. Southwest J Pulm Crit Care. 2016;13(3):133-4. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.13175/swjpcc099-16 PDF