THEY WOULD DRIVE 100 MILES, AND THEY WOULD DRIVE 100 MORE. You don't have to be a Scottish singing duo to understand that even 100 miles is a long way to drive for care that may not have occurred. A federal audit of Medicare ambulance payments released this week found cases in which urban ambulance services had averaged distances of more than 100 miles a ride, the Health & Human Services inspector general’s office stated. The program also paid $30 million for rides in which there were virtually no records of the patient’s treatment during 2012. Ambulance transport payments by Medicare in 2012 had risen to $5.8 billion, almost doubling since 2003, the report said. As a result of the audit, HHS’s Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services plans to: consider expanding present moratoria on new enrollments of ambulance services in certain cities; require ambulance companies to include the National Provider Identifier of the certifying physician on claims; and take appropriate action with the seemingly bogus claims in the report.
And one last inspector general’s recommendation to be implemented: “Increase its monitoring of ambulance billing.” Go figure.
IS HCAHPS THE 6TH VITAL SIGN? Nah, not yet. But in recent fake news, the website Gomerblog.com has the humorous but completely untrue story of Congress creating a sixth vital sign: patient satisfaction, measured through a continuously monitored Press Ganey score. How’s that going to work, Gomer? “New monitors will have an extra waveform that receives input from a mood ring on the patient’s ring finger.” Speaking of Press Ganey scores, the patient satisfaction company is trying to make it easier to screen out personal health information when its reviews are published online by hospitals or others, according to enhancements announced this week. The company, though, wants everything else that can be made available publicly to be available.
THE QUEEN’S WHISKY NETS $50,000 FOR BURN CENTER. A thirsty Minnesotan bid $50K for a bottle of Bowmore Whisky from “The Queen’s Cask” from the Regions Hospital Foundation in St. Paul, Minn. recently. The anonymous buyer is the first American to own one of the commemorative bottles, which were dedicated to Queen Elizabeth II when she visited the Bowmore Distillery in Scotland in 1980. After the tragic story Weekly Reading shared back on Sept. 18 in which a judge said 1,300 bottles of wine must be destroyed rather than auctioned off for a hospital charity, Regions Hospital’s news reaffirms our belief in humanity. The auction proceeds will go to Regions Hospital’s burn center.
MORE POSITIVE NEWS FOR BURN VICTIMS? A new Health & Human Services contract will sponsor the development of a skin substitute for the treatment of large burns in which the patient does not have enough healthy skin for skin grafts. The skin substitute, Biodegradable Temporizing Matrix, will be developed as part of an $8.2 million contract with Australian company PolyNovo for new medical products to treat people suffering from chemical, radiological or nuclear injuries.
HE'S A GENIUS, I TELL YOU. Among the recipients of the 2015 MacArthur Foundation Fellowship genius grants announced Sept. 28 was Gary Cohen, president of Health Care Without Harm. The environmental advocate works with health care organizations to reduce harmful chemicals in medical devices, cleaning agents and waste, and to design more eco-efficient facilities. MacArthur Foundation Fellows receive a $625,000 stipend over five years to continue their work.