The Rundown | Week of 4.22.2019

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Study: ACA Expansion Led to Fewer Uninsured ED Visits

The rate of hospital emergency department (ED) visits declined by 50 percent between 2006 and 2016, a recent JAMA study indicates. The cross-sectional study analyzed 1.4 billion ED visits across the decade-long period. Furthermore, hospital discharges by uninsured patients also declined from six percent to four percent following the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) expansion in 2014. However, the overall number of ED visits increased. Researchers concluded that, while the statistics are promising, “continued attention is needed to address the lack of insurance in US hospital visits.”
>> Read More: US Emergency Department Visits and Hospital Discharges Among Uninsured Patients Before and After Implementation of the Affordable Care Act

Doctors, Pharmacists Among 60 Arrested in Opioid Crackdown

Federal authorities charged 60 individuals, 31 of whom are doctors, for illegally prescribing or distributing opioids. Those charged were responsible for more than 350,000 prescriptions. The charges were filed by the Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid Strike Force, a group of federal agents and prosecutors formed last year by the Trump administration. The arrests span 11 federal districts. The Department of Health and Human Services’ Secretary Alex Azar said, “It is … vital that Americans struggling with addiction have access to treatment and that patients who need pain treatment do not see their care disrupted.”
>> Read More: Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid (ARPO) Strike Force Takedown Results in Charges Against 60 Individuals, Including 53 Medical Professionals

Health Apps Disclosing User Info

Several health apps designed to manage users’ mental health or nicotine addiction may share sensitive information with third parties. According to a cross-sectional study published in JAMA Network Open, 29 of the 36 most popular apps for depression and smoking cessation sent data to Facebook or Google for ”marketing purposes or analytics.” However, only 12 of these apps “accurately disclosed this in a privacy policy.” Researchers warned providers that data may “be shared with commercial entities whose own privacy practices have been questioned” and, as a result, should only prescribe “apps with data transmission behaviors that have been subject to direct scrutiny.” For more on the ethics of data, listen to The Break Room podcast with bioethicist Lisa Eckenwiler, Ph.D.
>> Read More: Assessment of the Data Sharing and Privacy Practices of Smartphone Apps for Depression and Smoking Cessation

EHR Data Usage Increases

Data from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology shows that 94 percent of hospitals harnessed data from electronic health records (EHRs) to support clinical decisions in 2017. This represents a seven percent increase from 2015. Eighty-two percent of hospitals used the data to support quality improvement while 81 percent monitored patient safety. Researchers noted: “Hospitals that engaged in the interoperability domains, meaning they could send, find, receive, or integrate a summary of care records, had the highest rates of EHR data use.” This finding emphasizes the importance of interoperability, which Privia Health™ CTO Chris Voigt noted in his blog post, “How EHRs Improve Patient Safety.”
>> Read More: Hospitals’ Use of Electronic Health Records Data, 2015-2017

S&P Predicts End to Surprise Billing, Drug Rebates in 2019

A new report from S&P Global predicts Congress will curb surprise billing and reform drug rebates this year. The key factor to both measures is strong bipartisan support. Researchers concluded that further measures to repeal the ACA — which was ruled unconstitutional by a Texas federal court last year — are unlikely with a Democrat majority in the House. While “Medicare for All” proposals are gaining popularity, researchers suggested industries and markets wait for more development before making any reactionary changes.
>> Read More: Surprise Billing, Drug Rebates Among Likely Reforms This Year, S&P Global Says

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