Let's Ask the Patient

WR_self_assessWith health care inching further toward a patient-centered approach, patient-reported outcomes are beginning to take on more importance. A Kaiser Health News article points out that the usually heavy focus by clinicians on physical exams, medical tests and biological measures is lessening as clinicians find ways to use the patients’ own assessments of their conditions in care decision-making. Part of the drift is tied to policy and payment changes, such as the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services pilot program that will reimburse providers for collecting patient-reported outcomes. And programs like the Orchestra Project at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center are allowing patients to update their conditions between hospital visits using an online data-tracking tool for better collaboration between patient and provider.

Yelp Gets a Nod for its Hospital Ratings

WR_YelpAfter looking through 17,000 Yelp reviews of 1,352 hospitals, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania concluded that the online reviews give a “broader sense of a facility than the current gold standard,” according to a Washington Post report. The ostensible gold standard is the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Health Providers and Systems Survey, which asks discharged patients about their stay and divides answers into 11 categories. The University of Pennsylvania paper, published in Health Affairs, found that Yelp reviews covered seven categories from the HCAHPS survey, but addressed another 12 categories, as well. Researchers said a hospital administrator or caregiver might check out Yelp when considering possible improvements to their operations.

Pfizer and Allergan Say No to More Money

WR_PfizerIn a surprising twist, drugmaker Pfizer Inc. and Ireland-based Allergan called off their $160 billion deal after feeling the pressure from new U.S. Treasury rules designed to stop so-called inversions, according to a Reuters report. Pfizer was estimated to cut its tax bill by $1 billion per year by declaring its headquarters in the green fields of lower-tax Ireland.

Air Pollution Risks Births and Costs Health Care

WR_PollutionAmbient air pollution — caused by industries, cars and homes — cost the United States $5.09 billion in medical expenses and lost economic productivity related to preterm births in 2010, MedPage Today reports. Direct medical costs account for $760 million of that total, according to a study published in Environmental Health Perspectives. Researchers at New York University found that of the total births in this country in 2010, 12 percent were preterm and 3.32 percent of those were caused by fine particulate matter. “It’s fair to say that environmental issues are increasingly on the minds of obstetricians, and air pollution is one of those issues that should be on their minds,” said Leonardo Trasande, M.D., an author of the study.

Drones: Delivering Care Where You Need It

WR_DronesWe're getting closer to a world in which house calls are made by drones.  “It’s no longer a matter of ‘if’ drones will play a significant role in telemedicine going forward, but a question of ‘when,’ ” writes Michael Levin-Epstein in a telemedmag.com article. Drones have the ability to deliver medical supplies to areas that may be difficult or dangerous to otherwise get to after, say, a hurricane or earthquake. Italo Subbarao, D.O., has a drone in the testing phase, guided by GPS, that can drop a modular medical kit containing diagnostic and treatment equipment to a patient — all while a live video feed connects the patient to a health care professional. However, drones that deliver medical supplies will be far more expensive than other types, which may impede their use.