COMPLEX CARE CLINICS ON THE RISE

Around 3 million U.S. children suffer from complex medical conditions — many will require a lifetime of care — but hospitals are beginning to create special care clinics for this delicate population, according to a Wall Street Journal report. Pediatricians’ offices are often ill-equipped to manage the children, who require expensive therapy and may rely on feeding tubes and oxygen tanks. Complex-care clinics typically staff doctors, nurses and social workers to help with these needs and to help families cope. “Care for these kids is unbelievably time-consuming and labor-intensive, and there is no way in the current system there is enough financial incentive for providers to do this,” said Jay Berry, M.D. a physician and researcher in the complex-care services at Boston Children’s Hospital. As the benefits of complex-care initiatives keep emerging, federal and state programs are beginning to fund them. The proposed Advancing Care for Exceptional Kids Act of 2015 would create nationally designated children’s hospital networks for medically complex children on Medicaid and may save $13 billion over 10 years, by some estimates.

YOU TALKIN’ TO ME?

WR_Tribeca1Robert De Niro, co-founder of the Tribeca Film Festival, decided to pull the controversial anti-vaccine documentary, “Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe,” from the festival lineup after defending his decision to keep the movie in the festival, according to an article in STATnews.com. The film’s director, Andrew Wakefield, authored a 1988 study suggesting certain vaccines could cause autism, which public health officials have continually discounted. “My intent in screening the film was to provide an opportunity for conversation around the issue that is deeply personal to me and my family,” said De Niro, who has a son with autism. “But after reviewing it … we do not believe it contributes or furthers the discussion I had hoped for.”

PEER PRESSURE HELPS TO CURB OVERPRESCRIPTION OF ANTIBIOTICS 

Using insights from behavioral economics and psychology, the New York Times conducted a recent study to address the overprescription of antibiotics. One approach observed prescription rates of 248 clinicians at 47 primary care practices in Los Angeles and Boston over 18 months — sending doctors a monthly email comparing their performance with their peers. The email told docs if they were a “top performer” or bluntly said, “You are not a top performer.” The results: an impressive 81 percent reduction in inappropriate prescribing. A second approach asked doctors to provide an “antibiotic justification note” in the electronic health record system when antibiotics weren’t clearly called for by the diagnosis — resulting in a 77 percent reduction in inappropriate prescribing. The relatively cheap and simple methods may be a promising solution for overprescribing.

ZIKA VACCINE MAY HAVE A NEW PATH 

WR_Zika_vaccine_1A new mouse model able to successfully test the Zika virus was published in a medical journal this week, the New York Times reports. Until now, there had been no approved animal model in which to test the rapidly spreading virus — creating a roadblock for Zika drug and vaccine research. The immune-deficient mouse lost weight, became lethargic and died when infected, unlike most laboratory mice. Though the process seems bleak, it is necessary in determining whether a new drug or vaccine works, before testing in monkeys and, ultimately, humans.

“HEALTH HUBS” PUT PATIENTS FIRST 

WR_Tribeca2Kaiser Permanente Chairman and CEO Bernard Tyson is taking a new human-centered approach to the company’s exam rooms as the insurer and health care provider rolls out 10 new “health hubs” throughout Southern California over the next year, according to an article in Fast Company magazine. The hubs will act as “real-world laboratories,” said Tyson, and will allow Kaiser to fine-tune the design and workflow in future hubs. Admittedly, the hubs sound pretty nice. Waiting rooms invite people to take in the natural light and living wall of green plants and, in larger facilities, yoga classes and cooking demos promote an atmosphere of healthy living. “The culture of health care has been to get you in and out," said Tyson. “We’re inviting you to linger … this is about total health.”