News & Commentary

Briefly Noted June 2016


HHS has challenged stakeholders in health care to design a medical bill that’s easier for patients to understand. The challenge, directed at health plans, digital tech companies, designers, and other organizations, is sponsored by the AARP. Winning designs will be featured at the Health 2.0 Annual Fall Conference this September.

Educational interventions and prompts from electronic health records caused primary care physicians to significantly reduce the number of prescriptions they wrote for antibiotics to treat acute respiratory tract infections, according to a study published in JAMA. “Among primary care practices, the use of accountable justification and peer comparison as behavioral interventions resulted in lower rates of inappropriate antibiotic prescribing for acute respiratory tract infections,” the study stated.

Hospital mergers among systems in the same state increase health care prices by 6% to 10%, according to researchers at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. Mergers across state lines did not lead to any statistically meaningful increases.

Yet another black mark for the VA health system. A study in JAMA Internal Medicine found that of 4,000 veterans who had carotid artery surgery, reasons for approving carotid screens were not clear in 83% of the cases, while 11% of the patients were screened for inappropriate reasons. “Strong consideration should be given to improving the evidence base around carotid testing, especially around monitoring stenosis over long periods and evaluating carotid bruits,” the study stated.

Three prominent hospital systems recently took measures to ensure that surgeons doing complicated surgeries have enough experience to perform the operations, reports Kaiser Health News. They are Dartmouth-Hitchcock, Johns Hopkins, and the University of Michigan health systems. “The largely un­fettered ability of surgeons with minimal expertise to perform high-risk procedures—particularly at hospitals that lack experience caring for significant numbers of patients—has been the subject of a contentious, long-running battle known as the volume-outcome debate,” the story reports.

The night shift isn’t good for heart health, according to a study in JAMA. Researchers found that nurses in the Nurses’ Health Studies who worked three or four night shifts per month have a greater likelihood of developing heart disease after 24 years compared with nurses who worked only day shifts. But the absolute risk was small, and the risk ebbed after the nurses quit shift work.

Women struggling with diabetes and obesity have four times the chance of having babies with some form of autism, according to a study in Pediatrics. That’s if diabetes was diagnosed during the pregnancy. Women who had diagnosed diabetes before becoming pregnant have a fivefold chance of having a baby with autism spectrum disorder, the study stated.

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