November 2, 2012
By Sarah Kitchell*
Wide Variation in Care at Academic Medical Centers
Becker's Hospital Review (10/30) summarized a report from the Dartmouth Atlas Project which found that there was a wide variation in the types of procedures and patient experiences at the top academic medical centers. For example, the study reported that patients at New York University Langone Medical Center in New York City were "47 times less likely to contract an infection from a urinary catheter" than patients at the University of Michigan Health System. One of the principal investigators for the Dartmouth Atlas Project noted that these variations raise "a serious issue for academic medicine" because "with such drastic variations from one institution to the next, they clearly cannot all be right." The report is geared toward medical students seeking residency, noting that these variations in care are related to the quality of training available at these centers.
OIG: Per-Diem Fees for Emergency Department Coverage May Violate AKS
FierceHealthcare (11/1) reported that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General (OIG) posted a new advisory opinion on October 30. The subject of the opinion was a hospital's arrangement with specialists to provide unrestricted call coverage to its emergency department (ED) at a per-diem rate. OIG noted that paying a per-diem fee for such coverage—regardless of whether the physician was actually contacted by the ED—could potentially violate the federal Anti-Kickback Statute because these payments could be "misused to entice physicians to join or remain on the hospital's staff or to generate additional business for the hospital."
Thousands of Laboratory Animals Lost in Flooding From Hurricane Sandy
The New York Times (10/31) reported that among the "smaller but still important casualties" of the recent hurricane were "thousands of lab rodents, genetically altered for use in the study of heart disease, cancer and mental disorders." The article noted that these "carefully bred" lab animals drowned in basement laboratories at a New York University research center in Kips Bay. The article reported that while most of the animals at the research facility were saved, staff could not rescue animals in one laboratory. One research program reportedly lost more than 7,500 animals and another researcher lost approximately 2,500 mice. "The collection of carefully bred rodents was considered one of the largest and most valuable of its kind in the country," the article said.
Large Companies Encourage Their Employees to Engage in Domestic Medical Tourism
Amednews.com (10/29) reports that large companies like Wal-Mart are encouraging their employees to travel to certain highly ranked health systems across the country to seek high-quality, lower-cost care. The article notes that these arrangements often involve a "large company negotiating a bundled rate from a health system to employees who need them." Travel expenses are often included in the bundled rate. The article cites analysts who say this trend should be watched closely, because "physicians may find patients bypassing them on the way to health systems elsewhere" and physicians may have to coordinate follow-up care across long distances.
*We would like to thank Sarah Kitchell, Esquire (McDermott Will & Emery LLP, Boston, MA), for providing this week's update.