Category: Science and Other News

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.”


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.

FDA Approves First Biosimilar Drug; Still No Guidance on Names

The Food and Drug Administration has approved the first biosimilar therapy in the U.S.:electronic-medical-record

Many newer biotech drugs cost more than $100,000 per year, and together they account for nearly 30 percent of all U.S. drug spending. Five of the top 10 U.S. drugs by revenue are biotech medicines, according to IMS Health. Since their introduction in the 1980s, biotech drugs haven’t faced generic competition because the FDA did not have a system to approve copies.

In 2012, the FDA laid out a regulatory pathway to approve so-called “biosimilars.” That’s the industry term for generic biotech drugs, indicating they’re not exact copies. For years the biotech industry staved off competition by arguing their drugs were too complex to be reproduced by competitors. (Matthew Perrone and Linda A. Johnson, Associated Press via Denver Post)

VHA Sitting on Results of 140 Investigations

We recently noted that the government’s own watchdog has noted that the Veterans Health Administration is at high risk for fraud, waste, and abuse. Unfortunately, the public has little ability to see the evidence. USA Today has discovered that  the Veterans Health Administration has not been very forthcoming about the department’s shortcomings:

The Department of Veterans Affairs’ chief watchdog has not publicly released the findings of 140 health care investigations since 2006, potentially leaving dangerous problems to fester without proper oversight, a USA TODAY analysis of VA documents found.

It is impossible to know how many of the investigations uncovered serious problems without seeing the reports, but all concerned VA medical care provided to veterans or complaints of clinical misconduct.

The VA inspector general declined to provide the reports, say what’s in them or why the contents were kept from the public. (Donovan Slack, USA Today)

Weak Health Jobs Growth; Mostly in Hospitals and Physicians’ Offices

Today’s employment report, cheered as positive, had a grey lining for health workers. January’s report showed a big boost in health jobs, but that reversed itself in February.

Total nonfarm payroll increased by 295,000 from January, but only 24,000 (fewer than 8 percent of the total) were health jobs. And 9,000 of those jobs were in hospitals. Physicians’ offices saw 7,000 jobs, but employment in other health facilities grew only slightly or shrank (Table 1).

Licensing Out-of-State Doctors: Half of Medical Boards Perform Poorly

caduceus_blogTelemedicine embraces technologies as diverse as surgeons operating robots remotely, radiologists reading scanned images remotely, or psychiatrists conducting therapy sessions via videoconference. A new research article in the Telemedicine and E-Health Journal shows how difficult state regulatory barriers are making it for doctors to practice effective telemedicine.

One barrier to effective adoption of telemedicine is that states license physicians, and those licenses are not portable. When physicians seek licenses in other states, they face pointless administrative hassles.

The Future of Medicine and the Internet of Things

As previously noted on this blog, investments in digital health ventures doubled in 2014. Institutions, analysts and MDs envision the opportunity to reduce the colossal inefficiency of current medical practice by exploiting the Internet of Things.

According to a recent JAMA article, the number of mobile devices connected via the internet is doubling every five years, and there will be nearly seven connected devices per individual by 2020.


Source: Digital Medical Tools and Sensors from JAMA.

U.S. Ranks First in Intellectual Property Rights

The International IP Index, published by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Intellectual Property Center (GIPC) was released earlier this week. The full report can be found here.

Now in its third edition, the GIPC Index provides data analysis intended to be a tool for governments to understand the key IP factors that drive business innovation. In addition, the index reflects indicators that companies monitor closely as they plan their R&D. Key IP inputs measured include: Patent protection, enforcement and international treaties.

As the first ranked country in the index, the report attributes the U.S.’s score to the following areas of strength:

  • Pharmaceutical-related patent enforcement and resolution mechanism
  • Patentability and strict definition of computer-implemented inventions
  • Digital rights management legislation
  • Protection of trade secrets
  • Deterrent civil remedies and criminal penalties
  • Commitment to and implementation of international treaties
    Read More » »

Electronic Health Records and Adolescents’ Privacy

This blog has written about complaints from both physicians and nurses regarding the costs and time devoured by using Electronic Health Records, which have been imposed on practices despite not adding value.

In a JAMA article published earlier this month, three physicians discuss EHRs’ challenge to adolescents’ and parents’ privacy. So-called minor consent laws permit adolescents to secure health care services without parental consent for drug use, pregnancy and pregnancy preventions, STDs and mental health. These laws underscore the professional consensus that absent confidentiality, adolescents will be reluctant to seek care for sensitive health issues.

With paper records, care provided under minor consent laws was segregated from other medical records and difficult to access. Because EHRs aggregate information for all health care provided within a so-called integrated system, parents have the means to electronically access confidential information, often facilitated by web portals to the records.