LET ME SEE YOUR HANDS. That’s what hospitals should be saying after researchers at the University of Michigan found that close to a quarter of patients tested had drug-resistant germs on their hands upon discharge from the hospital. Two million each year get sick from superbugs in the U.S. and around 23,000 die, according to an "NBC News" report. Hospitals have made an effort to enforce hand washing for staffers, but it looks as though patients need to become part of the effort as well. More distressing is the fact that more patients acquire drug-resistant bugs in rehabs and nursing homes after discharge. “Our study shows that patients commonly bring multidrug-resistant organisms on their hands on discharge from an acute care hospital, and acquire more during their stay at the post-acute care facility,” the team of Michigan researchers said in the report.
PRESCRIPTIONS GO DIGITAL IN NEW YORK. Beginning March 27, doctors in New York state will have to drop the prescription pad and pick up a mouse for prescriptions or face stiff penalties that include fines and imprisonment. The switch to digital is part of a 2012 state law, dubbed I-Stop, which hopes to reduce fraud and mistakes caused by misinterpreted handwriting, according to a New York Times article. “Paper prescriptions had become a form of criminal currency that could be traded even more easily than the drugs themselves,” said Eric Schneiderman, the state’s attorney general, who aided in writing I-Stop. There are unintended consequences to the mandate, including the tendency for doctors to prescribe medications that are likely to be in stock. If the drug isn’t available, the doctor will have to cancel the prescription by phone and prescribe it over again. The downside for patients — the prescription is sent straight to the pharmacy, giving no option to shop for the lowest prices or shortest waiting times.
HOSPITALS STRUGGLE TO KEEP UP WITH DRUG PRICES. It’s well-known that drug prices can skyrocket overnight, but some companies are raising prices incrementally and repeatedly for medications, which add up over time, according to a Washington Post report. The report also looked at a survey by Bloomberg Business that found prices had doubled for 60 medications since December 2014 and quadrupled for 20 drugs. To stay on top of increases, doctors at University Hospitals of Cleveland are greeted by dollar sign symbols when they sign in to prescribe drugs: $$ means an alternative might be better. When sudden increases occur, patients still receive the medicines they rely on, but those costs eventually catch up to them. “It raises the cost for the hospital. Eventually, it catches up and it raises the cost for insurance companies, which is passed on to employers, employees and taxpayers through higher premiums and co-pays,” said Scott Knoer, chief pharmacy officer at the Cleveland Clinic, in the same report.
WHY AREN’T MEDICAL SCHOOLS MORE DIVERSE? Many student-led groups across the U.S. are calling on university leaders to recruit and enroll more minority students on medical campuses, but the lack of diversity in health care goes back much further than college. “The pipeline itself is just too small,” said Marc Nivet, chief diversity officer of the Association of American Medical Colleges, in a MedPage Today article. “The barriers exist up and down the continuum to our segregated education system … . Too many of our minority students are in poor-performing or underperforming K–12 school systems.” The stats on students entering med school for the 2013–14 through 2015–16 academic year are: 60.1 percent white, 22 percent Asian, 9.8 percent Hispanic, and 7.5 percent black. Although these rates are clearly a problem, equality in health care appears to go much deeper than statistics.