The Rundown | Week of 5.6.2019

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Study: Sunscreen Chemicals Leak into Bloodstream

A new study published in JAMA shows that chemicals from sunscreen are absorbed into the bloodstream. Researchers identified the maximum plasma concentrations of four common active ingredients in sunscreen: avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene, and ecamsule. These levels exceed the threshold established by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) “for potentially waiving some nonclinical toxicology studies for sunscreens.” Researchers noted that, while the effects are unknown, the “results do not indicate that individuals should refrain from the use of sunscreen.”
>> Read More: Effect of Sunscreen Application Under Maximal Use Conditions on Plasma Concentration of Sunscreen Active Ingredients

More Physicians Employed Than Independent

A recent study from the American Medical Association (AMA) found employed physicians now outnumber self-employed physicians for the first time since data collection began in 2012. Physician employees comprise 47.4 percent of the pool while independent physicians comprise 45.9 percent of the total. “This milestone marks the continuation of a long-term trend that has slowly shifted the distribution of physicians away from ownership of private practices,” researchers noted. Younger and female physicians were more likely to be employed. Self-employed physicians were most common in surgical subspecialties, obstetrics/gynecology, and internal medicine. Increased hospital acquisition and private equity investment are two factors driving this trend toward employment.
>> Read More: Physician Practice Benchmark Survey

Unprofitable ACOs Leaving Shared Savings Programs

A recent analysis published in Health Affairs indicated that accountable care organizations (ACOs) that achieve bonuses are more likely to remain in Medicare’s shared savings program than ACOs that fail to do so. Researchers concluded that third-year ACOs were at the greatest risk of leaving the program. “Shared-savings bonus payment achievement, more care coordination, higher financial performance benchmarks, market-level Medicare cost growth, lower-risk patients, and contracts with upside-only risk were associated with longer survival,” the reports abstract read. Under Pathways to Success, which goes into effect in 2020, ACOs have between one and three years to transition from upside to downside risk. However, the study ruled that “ACOs may need more than the new period of one to three years to prepare for downside risk,” and encouraged policymakers to support ACOs’ “organizational competencies.”
>> Read More: Why Do Accountable Care Organizations Leave The Medicare Shared Savings Program?

“Medical Financial Hardship” Affects More Than Half of Americans

A recent study from the American Cancer Society found that 56 percent of adults have at least one form of “medical financial hardship” in the past year. Researchers examined three separate but related domains of financial hardship: material conditions (e.g., medical debt) from higher out-of-pocket expenses; psychological responses (e.g., distress); and coping mechanisms (e.g., avoiding treatment). “Lower educational attainment and more health conditions were strongly associated with hardship intensity,” researchers concluded. “With trends towards higher patient cost-sharing and increasing health care costs, risks of hardship may increase in the future.”
>> Read More: Prevalence and Correlates of Medical Financial Hardship in the USA

Kaiser Launches EHR-Driven Social Determinants of Health Initiative

Kaiser Permanente recently launched “Thrive Local,” a social network designed to reduce homelessness, food insecurity, and other issues related to the social determinants of health. The health system partnered with Unite Us, a “technology company that builds coordinated care networks,” to integrate the network into their electronic health record (EHR). “[C]aregivers will now have unparalleled capabilities to seamlessly match an individual’s social needs with the appropriate services from within a robust network of nonprofit, public, and private resources,” the statement reads. “The network will track community partner referrals and service outcomes to measure the degree to which participants’ needs are met — gathering data to continuously improve service delivery and better address community conditions for health.”
>> Read More: Social Health Network to Address Needs on a Broad Scale

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