Busy provider looking for healthcare news? Check out The Rundown.
PSA: National Suicide Prevention Week
National Suicide Prevention Week (September 9–15) gives Americans a chance to raise awareness of mental health and remember the nearly 50,000 Americans who die by suicide each year. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. Though suicide rates increase proportionally with age, rates of death by suicide among children have increased 71 percent since 1999. Experts speculate that bullying, familial conflict, physical disability, sexual identity, and the impulsivity associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are factors for children who die by suicide. Depression and the “Loneliness Epidemic” were not seen as causes. Both children and adults at risk of suicide share common symptoms: significant changes in behavior, talking or joking about ending one’s life, impulsivity, hopelessness, dietary changes, and differences in activity and sleep levels. If you see these behaviors, respond quickly and nonjudgmentally and contact a mental health professional or dial 911 if it is an emergency. If you or somebody you know is in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
>>Read More: More children are dying by suicide. Researchers are asking why
$1 Million Reward Offered for New Theory of Alzheimer’s Disease
One doctor has pledged a $1 million reward to anyone who can either debunk or prove the “germ theory” circulating around Alzheimer’s disease is increasingly popular, and. Leslie Norins, MD, posits the neurodegenerative disease is infectious, that is, triggered by microbes such as bacteria, viruses, or parasites. This theory suggests that the buildup of amyloid proteins in the brain of Alzheimer’s patients is not a byproduct of the disease, but rather an immune response, as suggested by Harvard neuroscientist Rudolph Tanzi. Similar to an infectious disease model, this immune response then triggers inflammation, which impairs neuron function. Infectious Diseases Society of America has planned to offer $50,000 in grants supporting research that delves into the microbial association with this most common form of dementia. This is the first time a leading infectious disease group has acknowledged a potential association between Alzheimer’s and infection.
>>Read More: Infectious Theory Of Alzheimer’s Disease Draws Fresh Interest
Study: PCPs Benefit from Doctor-to-Doctor Telehealth
As telehealth visits gain traction among patients looking to save time and hassle, another application of the technology has emerged: physician-to-physician counseling. This application helped save more than 62,000 patients with liver disease in Ann Arbor. The SCAN-ECHO program used peer-to-peer conferencing to “upskill” Veterans’ Affairs (VA) primary care physicians in Michigan. The research, published in Hepatology, gathered five years of clinical data from 62,237 patients with chronic liver disease and found that the 513 treated by SCAN-ECHO physicians had a 54 percent higher survival rate. Grace Su, MD, chief of gastroenterology at the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System, observed, “Primary care providers really want to do the right thing, but they may not have all the necessary tools.” This program indicates that when specialty training is available to primary care physicians, patient health outcomes improves.
>>Read More: Video Counseling Can “Upskill” PCPs, Bringing Specialty Knowledge to Rural Patients
ACA Premiums to Receive Smaller Price Increase Than Previous Years
According to an analysis by the Associated Press and Avalere Health, the average proposed premium increase for Affordable Care Act (ACA) plans for 2019 is 3.6 percent. This covers 47 states and Washington, D.C., making 2019 a stable year for exchanges. ACA plan enrollment in 2019 is not expected to be affected by the individual mandate penalty repeal, as eHealth found that 73 percent of participants in a survey did not feel that the repeal significantly affected their strategy for the coming year. Short-term health plans are becoming more appealing to payers, 80 percent of whom said short-term plans are necessary for those who cannot afford ACA plans. The Trump administration aims to ease tensions resulting from three-year limits on short-term plans by allowing anyone to enroll and renew for three years. Advocates for short-term plans champion the move as an affordable option for people who want catastrophic health insurance, but critics argue that the plans will result in a flight from the exchanges and an unbalanced risk pool due to a lack of coverage. Most payers will not change their 2019 business strategy aside from 20 percent who plan to add coverage for pre-existing conditions and short-term benefits.
>>Read More: Modest ACA plan premium changes expected for 2019
Study: Low-Acuity Patients Prefer Urgent Care
Emergency department (ED) visits by low-acuity patients declined 36 percent according to a recent study in JAMA Internal Medicine. Between 2007 and 2016, private insurance claim lines for urgent care centers grew by 1,725 percent, while ED claims rose by only 229 percent. The biggest increase in volume was experienced by retail clinics, which grew by 214 percent. Experts suggest the increase in utilization may be due to the convenience of these forms of care. Patients who were formerly deterred by the inconvenience of care hospital care were more inclined to visit these facilities, many of which feature transparent pricing strategies. This shift is compounded by mergers and consolidation among urgent care facilities such as Dignity Health and Select Medical, which banded together to improve patient access and streamline best practices. The industry continues to grow, and one report predicts global urgent care market will reach $26 billion by 2023, it’s clear that such deals are likely to continue.
>>Read More: More patients sidestepping ED for low-acuity problems