Search Journal-type in search term and press enter
Social Media-Follow Southwest Journal of Pulmonary and Critical Care on Facebook and Twitter

News

Last 50 News Postings

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

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
Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer: RT Out, Pembrolizumab In, and Vaccine
   Hope or Hype
Dental Visits May Prevent Pneumonia
Hospital Employment of Physicians Does Not Improve Quality
Clinton's and Trump's Positions on Major Healthcare Issues
IDSA Releases Updated Coccidioidomycosis Guidelines
Withdraw of Insurers from ACA Markets Leaving Many Southwest 
   Patients with Few or No Choices
Another Phoenix VA Director Leaves
Hospital Executive Compensation Act Dropped from Ballot
Banner Hacked-3.7 Million at Risk
Top Medical News Stories 2015
Banner Plans to Issue New Bonds to Cover University of Arizona Medical
   Center Purchase
HealthCare.gov Shares Personal Data with Third Parties
2014's Top Southwest Medical Stories
Troubles Continue for the Phoenix VA
Whistle-Blower Accuses VA Inspector General of a "Whitewash" 
VA Office of Inspector General Releases Scathing Report of Phoenix VA

 

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.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Entries in VA (4)

Thursday
Dec152016

Rating the VA Hospitals

USA Today is listing the star rating system for the Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers based on the quality of care. The website has a link that allows searches for individual medical centers. The ratings have been done for years but the VA has refused to release the ratings saying they are meant for internal use only.

The top-rated hospitals received a 5 and the lowest a 1. According to the star ratings the best hospitals are in the Northeast and upper Midwest.  In the Southwest the ratings are not so good with the top-rated hospital Palo Alto and the lowest a tie between Phoenix and Albuquerque (Table 1).

Table 1. Southwest VA medical center star compare VA hospitals ratings.

Quality can be difficult to measure and it is not clear what metrics were used in the VA ratings. For this reason, the VA star ratings were compared to another hospital rating service Compare VA Hospitals (2). This scale uses a 1-100 scale with 100 being the best. In this scale the Palo Alto turned out to be the best in the country with Phoenix and the VA being more in the middle of the pack. There was no correlation between the ratings (r=0.2386, p>0.05). This is consistent with a previous publication in the SWJPCC which showed no or little correlation between the various hospital ratings.

The lack of correlation between rankings and not knowing the metrics which determine the rankings suggest that the VA is right, the rankings should remain for an internal use rather than adding to the confusion already generated by the various hospital rankings.

Richard A. Robbins, MD

Editor, SWJPCC

References

  1. Slack D. Exclusive: Internal documents detail secret VA quality ratings. USA Today. December 7, 2016. Available at: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2016/12/07/internal-report-details-secret-quality-ratings-veterans/94811922/ (accessed 12/14/16).
  2. Health Grove by Graphiq. Compare VA hospitals. Available at: http://va-hospitals.healthgrove.com/ (accessed 12/14/16).
  3. Robbins RA, Gerkin RD. A comparison between hospital rankings and outcomes data. Southwest J Pulm Crit Care. 2013;7(3):196-203. [CrossRef]

Cite as: Robbins RA. Rating the VA hospitals. Southwest J Pulm Crit Care. 2016;13(6):309-10. doi: https://doi.org/10.13175/swjpcc138-16 PDF 

Monday
Nov142016

Trump Proposes Initial Healthcare Agenda

On Friday, November 11, President-elect Trump proposed a healthcare agenda on his website greatagain.gov (1). Yesterday, November 12, he gave an interview on 60 Minutes clarifying his positions (2). Trump said that he wanted to focus on healthcare and has proposed to:

  • Repeal all of the Affordable Care Act;
  • Allow the sale of health insurance across state lines;
  • Make the purchase of health insurance fully tax deductible;
  • Expand access to the health savings accounts;
  • Increase price transparency;
  • Block grant Medicaid;
  • Lower entrance barriers to new producers of drugs.

In his 60 Minutes interview Trump reiterated that two provisions of the ACA – prohibition of pre-existing conditions exclusion and ability for adult children to stay on parents insurance plans until age 26 – have his support (2). Other aspects of the ACA that might receive his support were not discussed.

On the Department of Veterans’ Affairs Trump proposed to make the VA great again by removing corrupt and incompetent individuals who let our veterans down (1).  The website goes on to say that only honest and dedicated public servants in the VA have their jobs protected, and will be put in line for promotions.

Several aspects of healthcare were not addressed. Universal healthcare which Trump has supported in the past was not discussed (3). Trump did not make major policy proposals for Medicare during the campaign and Medicare was not addressed on his website or during his interview.

According to a survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation the top three healthcare issues concerning voters were:

  • Ensuring that high-cost drugs for chronic conditions such as hepatitis and cancer become affordable;
  • Lowering prescription drug costs in general;
  • Making sure health plans have enough physicians and hospitals in their networks (4).

None were addressed on Trump's website or during his interview.

Richard A. Robbins, MD

Editor, SWJPCC

References

  1. https://www.greatagain.gov/policy/healthcare.html (accessed 11/14/16).
  2. CBS News. President-elect Trump speaks to a divided country on 60 Minutes. November 13, 2016. Available at: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/60-minutes-donald-trump-family-melania-ivanka-lesley-stahl/ (accessed 11/14/16).
  3. CBS News. Trump gets down to business on 60 Minutes. September 27, 2015. Available at: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/donald-trump-60-minutes-scott-pelley/
  4. Kirzinger A, Sugarman E, Brodie M. Kaiser Health Tracking Poll: October 2016. Available at: http://kff.org/health-costs/poll-finding/kaiser-health-tracking-poll-october-2016/ (accessed 11/14/16). 

Cite as: Robbins RA. Trump proposes initial healthcare agenda. Southwest J Pulm Crit Care. 2016;13(5):240-1. doi: https://doi.org/10.13175/swjpcc117-16 PDF 

Wednesday
Dec312014

2014's Top Southwest Medical Stories

The end of the year has traditionally been a time to reflect on the top stories of the year. Here's our list of the top local medical stories.

1. VA scandal

Phoenix was the epicenter of the VA scandal but Albuquerque and the Greeley, Colorado clinic also figured prominently in the falsification of patient wait lists. Investigations revealed that at least 70% of the VA hospitals falsified records leading to the resignation of VA secretary, Eric Shinseki, and his under secretary for health, Dr. Robert Petzel. Eventually the director of the Phoenix VA, Sharon Helman, was fired-not for the falsification of medical records but for taking inappropriate gifts. However, most of the directors of the VA hospitals that falsified data remain untouched, still receiving their bonuses. Similarly, the politicians, the inspector general and those in the VA central office whose job was to provide oversight remain unscathed. On the bright side, the scandal did result in a modest influx of monies which hopefully will be spent on patient care rather than administrative bonuses.

2. Ebola outbreak

This seems a bit odd for a local news story but the Ebola epidemic in Africa did impact locally. The outbreak was largely ignored by the American public until a patient and several healthcare workers became infected in the US. Politicians and healthcare administrators seized the opportunity to hype the hysteria and insist on training of healthcare workers. One Arizona Thoracic Society meeting was cancelled because a nursing service needed the room to do "Ebola training". As Peter Sagal said on "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" there have been more Americans married to Larry King that infected with Ebola illustrating the hysteria and resultant overreaction. This year's true medical heroes are the thousands of physicians and nurses who worked on the frontlines of the Ebola crisis in Africa at tremendous personal risk and despite chaotic conditions, underequipped facilities, and overwhelmed local health systems. In contrast to the politicians and healthcare administrators, Anthony Fauci has consistently offered reasonable recommendations and insight based on science.

3. Banner Health, University of Arizona Health Network merger

In June, the Banner Health and University of Arizona Health Network (UAHN) began negotiations to merge with Banner absorbing UAHN's $146 million debt. Banner promised to spend at least $500 million toward capital projects in the next five years and pay $300 million to establish an academic endowment. The deal is to be completed about the end of January, 2015. Mergers between the private and public health sectors have been a mixed bag and this one warrants close watching.

4. Meaningful use

Many physicians suspected that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' (CMS) meaningful use was little more than a scheme to have physicians perform useless clerical tasks. When they were not done, payment would be denied. At the end of 2014 this appears to be true. There remains no data that the meaningful use is "using certified electronic health record (EHR) technology to: Improve quality, safety, efficiency, and reduce health disparities" as intended. About 257,000 physicians will receive a 1% reduction in reimbursement in 2015.

5. Reduction in CMS hospital payments

Despite the lack of data that CMS' value-based healthcare program is doing much to benefit patients and some data that performance of the measures has been associated with adverse outcomes, CMS continues to reduce hospital payments because of hospital-acquired conditions and high readmission rates. We initially reported on this in June, 2013. We are not advocating for hospital-acquired infections or readmissions, but are advocating for measures that improve patient outcomes. Despite a phone call assuring us that CMS would look into it, nothing has seemed to change. Furthermore, much of the data is self-reported by the hospitals. As the VA scandal illustrates, self-reported data is not always reliable especially when money is involved.

6. Congress again fails to pass SGR fix

Congress passed a budget but failed to fix the widely hated sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula for physician reimbursement under Medicare. Also missing was an extension of the current pay bump for primary care. SGR has been present since 1997 and the one of the few things the politicians seem to come together on is not paying physicians, especially primary care physicians, a decent living wage.

Richard A. Robbins, MD

Editor

Southwest Journal of Pulmonary and Critical Care

Reference as: Robbins RA. 2014's top southwest medical stories. Southwest J Pulm Crit Care. 2014;9(6):350-1. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.13175/swjpcc167-14 PDF

Wednesday
Aug272014

VA Office of Inspector General Releases Scathing Report of Phoenix VA

The long-awaited Office of Inspector General’s (OIG) report on the Phoenix VA Health Care System (PVAHCS) was released on August 27, 2014 (1). The report was scathing in its evaluation of VA practices and leadership. Five questions were investigated:

  1. Were there clinically significant delays in care?
  2. Did PVAHCS omit the names of veterans waiting for care from its Electronic Wait List (EWL)?
  3. Were PVAHCS personnel not following established scheduling procedures?
  4. Did the PVAHCS culture emphasize goals at the expense of patient care?
  5. Are scheduling deficiencies systemic throughout the VA?

In each case, the OIG found that the allegations were true. Despite initial denials, the OIG report showed that former PVAHCS director Sharon Helman, associate director Lance Robinson, hospital administration director Brad Curry, chief of staff Darren Deering and other senior executives were aware of delays in care and unofficial wait lists.

Perhaps most disturbing is the OIG finding that scheduling deficiencies are systemic throughout the VA. The OIG is currently investigating 90 VA facilities. The findings prompted Rep. Jeff Miller, House Veterans’ Affairs Committee chairman to comment “We have seen no evidence that the corrupt bureaucrats who created the VA scandal will be purged from the department’s payroll anytime soon. Until that happens, VA will never be fixed,” (2).

Though whistleblowers alleged veterans died while awaiting care in Phoenix, acting Inspector General Richard Griffin did not draw any conclusions about criminal culpability and declared that he was “unable to conclusively assert that the absence of timely quality care caused the deaths of these veterans.” Phoenix whistleblowers Drs. Sam Foote and Katherine Mitchell, said the OIG standard made no sense because 45 examples described in the OIG report showed that delayed care likely resulted in premature deaths or harm to patients’ quality of life. It is the later standard that is usually applied to physicians.

The day prior to the release of the report the Deputy VA Secretary Sloan Gibson was interviewed noting that more veterans are being sent to private doctors for care reducing waiting times (3). "The fundamental point here is, we are taking bold and decisive action to fix these problems because it's unacceptable," said Gibson. It is unclear whether these reports of improved waiting times are any more reliable than the initial denials of prolonged patient waiting times from both the Phoenix VA and VA Central Office.

Richard A. Robbins, MD

Editor

Southwest Journal of Pulmonary and Critical Care

References

  1. Office of VA Inspector General. Review of alleged patient deaths, patient wait times, and scheduling practices at the Phoenix VA health care system. Available at: http://www.va.gov/oig/pubs/VAOIG-14-02603-267.pdf (accessed 8/26/14).
  2. Wagner D, Lee M. Scathing VA report stirs outcry for accountability. Arizona Republic. Available at: http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/arizona/investigations/2014/08/26/scathing-va-report-stirs-outcry-accountability/14665455/ (accessed 8/27/14).
  3. Associated Press. Watchdog report details ‘systemic’ problems at VA facilities. Available at: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/08/26/no-proof-delays-in-care-caused-vets-to-die-va-says/ (accessed 8/25/14). 

Reference as: Robbins RA. VA office of inspector general releases scathing report of Phoenix VA. Southwest J Pulm Crit Care. 2014;9(2):140-1. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.13175/swjpcc112-14 PDF