The Rundown | Week of 7.9.18

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Maryland All-Payer Model Expands

Governor Larry Hogan signed a contract with the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) to expand the state’s all-payer healthcare model to include outpatient services. Hogan believes the payment model will both enhance the quality of care while saving patients money. The updated contract makes Maryland the first state to assume full risk of Medicare beneficiaries and Hogan predicts the five-year contract will save $1 billion. Maryland, unlike other states, charges payers a universal rate for hospital services. The policy dates back to the late 1970s, though significant revisions were made in 2014 to reduce costs for inpatient Medicare patients and to reimburse hospitals with a fixed sum rather than fee-for-service charges. Governor Hogan said of the contract, “The new Maryland Model will expand health care access and affordability — and ultimately improve quality of life — for Marylanders, especially those with chronic and complex medical conditions.”
>>Read More: Maryland governor signs federal all-payer health contract

Hospital Infections on the Rise

An estimated 90,000 American patients will die of a hospital-acquired infection (HAI) this year alone. According to a new report by the Leapfrog Group, the number of hospitals that reported zero HAI’s have dropped significantly since 2015, with some facilities reporting double — or even or even triple — the infection rates. Of the five infections measured, C-diff was most common with only 2.8 percent of hospitals reporting zero infections compared to the 2015 rate of 5.2 percent. HAI’s impede patients’ recovery and cost hospitals unnecessary expenses; a single HAI treatment can cost $1,000 to $50,000. While the majority of reporting hospitals have seen a positive decrease in infection rates, this report sheds light on the fact that too many are still moving backward. Patient-safety interventions like hygiene protocols and infection tests may prevent trauma associated with HAIs and decrease the $28–$45 billion hospitals spend on these cases each year.
>>Read More: Hospitals losing ground on effectively preventing infections with dramatic drop in those reporting zero infections

Citizen Scientists Contribute to Research on Ticks

Citizen scientists mailed researchers 16,080 ticks to help gain insight into insect-borne illnesses such as Lyme Disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. With this tremendous sample size, microbiologist Nathan Nieto and colleagues discovered disease-bearing ticks in 83 countries where it was not previously reported. This advancement follows the Center for Disease Control’s report that there are 300,000 cases of Lyme disease in America every year, a figure which does not factor in misdiagnoses or other diseases. In related news, new evidence suggests that a pesticide derived from chrysanthemums may help to combat the spread of tick-borne diseases. Permethrin, which was registered with the Environmental Protection Agency in 1979, is considered safe for wearers and has been used in military environments since the 1980s.
>>Read More: Researchers study thousands of ticks collected by the people they bit

Innovative Cancer Procedure Proves Effective

Experimental oncologists have successfully completed a proof-of-concept study that uses a hyper-focused ultrasound beam to non-invasively target tumors. The procedure works by administering a dose of a chemotherapy drug into the tumor, then activating the drug with the ultrasonic beam in order to keep the drug localized and potent. “Reaching therapeutic levels of cancer drugs within a tumor, while avoiding side effects for the rest of the body is a challenge for all cancer drugs, including small molecules, antibodies, and viruses,” said study author Constantin Coussios, PhD. Trial patients experienced either minor or expected side effects ranging from confusion to increased risk of infection.
>>Read More: Novel heat-activated chemo yields responses in liver cancer

CMS Proposals Favor Telehealth & Lower Drug Costs

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have proposed changes to Medicare’s physician fee schedule for 2019. One of the foremost initiatives is a new pricing model for Medicare Part B drugs that aims to reduce out-of-pocket costs for patients by cutting the wholesale acquisition cost by 50 percent. “[The] reforms proposed by CMS bring us one step closer to a modern healthcare system that delivers better care for Americans at a lower cost,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar says. He further remarked that patients will see lower costs, control, and “quality transparency.” Another proposal permits physicians to receive compensation for “brief check-ins” using telehealth technology. According to Seema Verma, administrator of CMS, “This is a big issue for our elderly and disabled populations where transportation can be a burden to care as well as to caregivers. We’re not intending to replace office visits but rather to augment them and provide new access points for patients.”
>>Read More: CMS proposes drug pricing, price transparency changes for Medicare

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