March 22, 2013
By Ben Daniels*
Physicians Texting with Teen Patients
NBC Nightly News (3/16) reports that an increasing number of doctors are engaging their patients and providing medical advice through texting. This relatively new practice in doctor-patient communication is gaining popularity with teenaged patients in particular with more and more doctors giving out their cell phone numbers to teens. There has been a rise in programs like "Text in The City," where teens can send anonymous questions to doctors and receive a response within 24 hours, as well. While this new take on "house calls" is likely to contribute to improved physician accessibility, issues related to patient privacy and physician reimbursement associated with patient-physician text messaging remain murky.
SUNY Votes to Shut Down Long Island College Hospital (Again)
The New York Times (3/19) reports that despite continued efforts by union workers, doctors, and nurses employed by Long Island College Hospital to challenge the decision, the board of the State University of New York (SUNY) voted on Tuesday to close the hospital for the second time. This second vote comes within weeks of the board's first vote to close the hospital, which was found by a court to violate New York open meeting laws. SUNY officials claim that the hospital is losing $1 million a week and that closing the facility is necessary to ensure the financial stability of the hospital's parent, SUNY Downstate Medical Center, which is the only medical school in Brooklyn. The final decision on whether the hospital will close is now in the hands of the New York State Health Department.
Journalists Launch CMS Incident Report Database
Modern Healthcare (3/18) reports that the Association of Health Care Journalists (AHCJ) launched an online public database (www.hospitalinspections.org) that includes patient-safety incident reports collected by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) since January 2011. Previously, anyone seeking such reports was forced to file Freedom of Information Act Requests with CMS. Notably, the database omits any filed corrective plans or actions taken by the hospital in response to the incidents listed. CMS indicated that plans to release additional information to the public for access via AHCJ's database, or otherwise, are "indefinitely suspended" due to current uncertainties with the federal budget. (Note: registration is required to access this article.)
$30 Billion in Potential Savings from Device and IT Interoperability
Healthcare Finance News (3/21) reports that a recent study on the interoperability of medical devices conducted by The West Health Institute in San Diego found that improved communication between devices could save the healthcare industry more than $30 billion a year and improve patient care. The study noted that if devices could communicate effectively with one another, hospitals would no longer require the expensive and complicated infrastructure to ensure that healthcare delivery and efficacy remain uninterrupted for the patient. With continued efforts to develop communicative devices and systems, hospitals can avoid adverse events, redundant testing, and excessive costs associated with device utilization and development, resulting in a higher quality of patient care and significant savings.
Researchers Unveil Plan to Monitor One Million Hearts
The Wall Street Journal (3/18) reports that researchers are set to launch a ground-breaking study that plans to leverage smartphone-derived data from more than one million participants to search for patterns in cardiovascular health among adults. The Health eHeart Study will use a variety of smartphone apps to track enrollees' heart health by analyzing their rates, exercise levels, and diets. Researchers hope that the wide range of data-gathering techniques, the frequency of data collection, and the large pool of participants will help them to gain insight into questions that remain unanswered by large-scale cardiovascular studies of the past.
*We would like to thank Ben Daniels, Esquire (Foley & Lardner LLP, Boston, MA), for providing this week's update.