Category: Science and Other News

Naturopaths Beat Real Doctors in Online Reviews

If it quacks like a duck……

A study of more than 28,000 online reviews of doctors suggests that American healthcare consumers are fondest of naturopaths, audiologists, oncologists and osteopathic physicians among healthcare specialists, and are least satisfied with care given by psychiatrists, dermatologists, orthopedists and family-medicine doctors.

Ironically, the analysis indicates that generally as a doctor’s level of education and training increases, patient satisfaction actually decreases. (Vanguard Communcations)

Maybe people have a higher bar of expectations for physicians than naturopaths? I hope that is what this survey is telling us.

Telehealth Faces Headwinds

We’ve cheered the telemedicine compact written by the Federation of State Medical Boards, and hoped that it would lead to a rapid collapse of the barriers facing telehealth providers’ ability to provide services across state lines.

Unfortunately, some medical societies and states are unwilling to move with the times. Last month Arkansas legislators voted down a bill that would have liberalized telemedicine within the state:

During the hearing, Sullivan pointed to several large companies including DirectTV, Kohl’s, Red Lobster, Pfizer, and Home Depot that use telemedicine services in every state except for Arkansas. He also referred to a map, created by telemedicine company Teladoc, which shows that Teladoc offers its services in 48 states, excluding Idaho and Arkansas, though he added that Idaho just passed a bill that would allow Teladoc to operate there.

Now. The Texas Medical Board has moved to stifle Teledoc, a leading telehealth provider – and a Texas company:

The question at hand is whether the Texas Medical Board will change its rules to prohibit physicians in the state from prescribing medications to patients whom they’ve interacted with via phone or online, but have never seen in person.

It is kind of embarrassing that this Luddite approach persists in 2015.

Health IT Juggernaut is Stumbling

The gold rush in Health Information Technology (HIT) appears to be winding down. Mercom Capital Group, LLC, reported that venture funding in HIT dropped 35 percent in the first quarter to just $785 million. Well, no trend lasts forever. Still, I have to wonder if investors aren’t getting a little concerned about putting so much capital into a space so dominated by government.

The Office of the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology (ONC), which has an overly ambitious 10-year strategic plan that needs to be rolled back, has pretty much confessed that the $30 billion taxpayers’ dollars spent on Electronic Health Records (EHRs) has been wasted.

Seven of 10 Doctors See Effects of Climate Change on Patients!

Just within the last couple of weeks, we’ve seen Congressional Republicans join with Democrats to buy into the idea that the federal government knows how to pay doctors for “quality” and “value.” It is the main concept behind the misconceived Medicare “doc fix” bill that the Senate will consider next week.

So, if we are going to surrender even more of this power to the federal government, it might be interesting to see what the Administration thinks is important:

“The challenges we face are real, and they are clear and present in people’s daily lives,” said senior presidential adviser Brian Deese in a telephone conference call with reporters on Tuesday. Seven in 10 doctors are seeing effects on their patients’ health from climate change that is “posing a threat to more people in more places,” Deese said. (Bloomberg Politics).

Health Jobs Grow Steadily in Weak Jobs Report

Last Friday’s very weak jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) was greeted as bad news, but it disguised more good news for the heath sector: Job growth in March kept its steady pace. Obamacare’s healthcare jobs boost appears to be confirmed from February and January.

Almost one in five of the 126,000 jobs added in March were in health care, as shown in Table 1. Ambulatory facilities continued to add jobs at a faster rate than hospitals, while nursing and residential care facilities lost jobs.T1

60 Percent of Top Ten Venture Capital IPOs Are Health Deals

PitchBook has compiled a  list of Initial Public Offerings (IPOs) from the top 25 venture capital partnerships over the last ten years. The results for health care are impressive, accounting for 46 percent of the IPOs. Sixty percent of the IPOs for the top ten VCs were healthcare businesses.IPO

(PitchBook also compiled the last decade’s venture-backed M&A deals, but did not break those down by industry sector. Hoewver, it is clear form eyeballing the league table that a large share of M&A deals are from VC’s with health care as a significant share of their portfolios, such as Intel Ventures and New Enterprise Associates.)

Canadians Leave Canada for Medical Care

CanadaCanada’s government monopoly of health insurance leads to long waits, and an increasing number of Canadians have to leave the country to get care, according to The Fraser Institute:

In 2014, more than 52,000 Canadians received non-emergency medical treatment outside Canada.

Across Canada, neurosurgeons reported the highest proportion of patients (in a specialty) travelling abroad for treatment (2.6%). The largest number of patients (in a specialty) travelled abroad for internal medicine procedures (6,559).

One explanation for patients travelling abroad to receive medical treatment may relate to the long waiting times they are forced endure in Canada’s health care system. In 2014, patients could expect to wait 9.8 weeks for medically necessary treatment after seeing a specialist—3 weeks longer than the time physicians consider to be clinically “reasonable” (6.5 weeks).

The equivalent number of Americans would be about half a million, given the different sizes of the populations. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 750,000 Americans travel abroad for medical care. However, their needs are very different: Cosmetic surgery, not brain surgery, is the largest reason.

Organ Donation and Imminent Death

This blog occasionally discusses organ donation. Over the years, there has been increasing government control over organ transplantation. It is not an area where supply and demand can meet in the normal economic sense, because there is a fixed supply of organs that is not adequate to satisfy demand. Many libertarians have proposed that anybody who wants to sell one of his organs should be free to do so. (Currently, we are not.)

The Patent Trolls Are Coming To Medical Technology

“Patent trolls” (more neutrally labelled “patent-assertion entities”) are a big problem for software patents. In the House of Representatives, Representative Darrell Issa has promised to carry last year’s Innovation Act, which would reform patent litigation to keep a lid on allegedly out-of-control lawsuits targeting software That might change, according to a new report by Jay Nuttall of Steptoe & Johnson, LLP, who explains that “the patent trolls are coming to medtech.”

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Electronic Health Records: Here’s What Interoperability Looks Like (Not)

NCPA recently released an Issue Brief questioning the federal government’s dominance of health information technology, especially electronic health records (EHRs). Our conclusion came from the failure of the federal government to bring about so-called interoperability between EHRs. Jonathan Bush, CEO of Athenahealth, a provider of EHRs, illustrates how appalling this failure has been:

The patient’s information was in an electronic medical record, or EMR. And getting the patient’s records from the hospital to the nursing home, Bush says, wasn’t exactly drag and drop.

“These two guys then type — I kid you not — the printout from the brand new EMR into their EMR, so that their fax server can fax it to the bloody nursing home,” Bush says. (Eric Whitney, NPR)

This is not because of some inexplicable factors that cause health care to lag every other industry in information technology. It is a direct consequence of government control of IT in health care.