THE UBER MODEL FOR HOUSE CALLS IS BASICALLY DOOMED. So declares one of the physicians who pioneered the concept. Way back in 2007, Dr. Jay Parkinson was fresh out of residency and had many friends in New York City’s artistic community without much money to spend on health care. So, he created a secure Internet site in which people could explain their symptoms, give him their addresses and set up times for him to visit them at home. With almost no overhead for his practice, Parkinson could charge just $100 per visit. But what seemed like a nifty idea proved otherwise. All the travel, especially during bad weather, was grueling and time-consuming. He could never fit in more than eight patients a day, compared with traditional primary care docs, who see 30 or so patients a day in their offices. In fact, 50 to 60 percent of his day was spent on supply logistics and traveling, not on seeing patients. “That wore me down both physically and financially, and therefore psychologically,” Parkinson writes in Monday’s Quartz. Given the increasing need for primary care and the shortage of primary care physicians, Parkinson now thinks doctor house calls are a bad idea altogether.

DRUG PRICES ARE OFFICIALLY AN ELECTION YEAR ISSUE. The consumer media in 2015 finally stumbled upon a topic that united Americans across the political spectrum — pharmaceutical companies that massively raised the price of certain life-saving drugs. There were several particularly egregious examples courtesy of Turing Pharmaceuticals, Valeant Pharmaceuticals and Questcor Pharmaceuticals, but, as the Chicago Tribune pointed out in an article in December, “around the industry, drugmakers slapped big prices on new drugs.” In fact, John Russell wrote, “The cost of branded drugs outpaced inflation for the 10th consecutive year, and spending on complex specialty drugs, like those for cancer and hepatitis C, increased nearly 27 percent, according to a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers.” The Senate held hearings in November, the House plans hearings this month, members of Congress from both parties have expressed anger, and the top two Democratic presidential candidates continue to address it on the campaign trail. We’ll just have to wait to see how much of the rhetoric translates into meaningful action.

KAISER PERMANENTE WINS AT 127th ROSE PARADE. Kaiser's entry was one of nearly 50 floats at the historic New Year’s Day procession in Pasadena, Calif., and featured a 55-foot-long sculpture of Mother Nature built from flowers. Titled “Helping Mother Nature Thrive,” it incorporated more than 40,000 stems of coral, orange and hot pink roses, which were accented by a plethora of other flowers, in addition to hundreds of pounds of dry organic materials such as yellow and gold strawflower petals, walnut shell paprika and cornmeal, ming moss, pampas and uva grass. More than 500 Kaiser Permanente employees and their families worked over the course of five days to build the float, and their hard work paid off: They won the Grand Marshal’s Trophy for excellence in creative concept and design.


DOES BODY LANGUAGE SHOW DOCS ARE BIASED? A small trial conducted at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine found that physicians give less compassionate nonverbal cues when treating seriously ill black patients compared with their white counterparts. “Although we found that physicians said the same things to their black and white patients, communication is not just the spoken word,” says Amber Barnato, M.D., associate professor of clinical and translational medicine. “It also involves nonverbal cues, such as eye contact, body positioning and touch. Poor nonverbal communication — something the physician may not even be aware he or she is doing — could explain why many black patients perceive discrimination in the health care setting.” The findings were published in the January issue of the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management.

THE STETHOSCOPE IS DEAD, proclaimed Jagat Narula in a Washington Post article that ran last Saturday. Narula, a cardiologist and associate dean for global health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, is on one side of a debate about whether stethoscopes have become obsolete given “the widespread use of echocardiograms and the development of pocket-size ultrasound devices,” as the Post’s Lenny Bernstein reports. Bernstein quotes others who disagree with Narula or bemoan the demise of one of medicine’s most iconic instruments — invented in the early 1800s by a French physician reluctant to put his ear against a woman’s chest to listen to her heart. Read and decide: Is the stethoscope doomed or destined to stick around?