The Rundown | Week of 9.4.2017

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Privia has compiled a list of stories to keep you up to date on all things healthcare:

  • Finally, Some Good News After Harvey

The Southeast Texas Regional Advisory Council estimates 90 to 95 percent of the state’s facilities will return to full service by October, STAT reports. Crisis management coordination between the state and Texas hospitals ensured care was minimally interrupted. In all, roughly 20 out of Houston’s 110 hospitals had to evacuate a total of 1,500 patients, but the Washington Post reports, “disruptive as such changes have been, doctors, health-care administrators, and the leaders of the regional network say Houston’s vaunted web of hospitals has generally come through the storm in far better condition than during the last massive rains to deliver a direct hit.”

Read more: “Houston Area Hospitals May Not Return to Normal for a Month” and “Some hospitals evacuated, but Houston’s medical world mostly withstands Harvey”

  • How Did Healthcare IT Weather the Storm?

After many lessons learned in healthcare from Hurricane Katrina, providers in the Houston area have shared that their EHRs and technology “functioned without pause” during Hurricane Harvey, according to Politico. Cloud-based systems such as athenahealth “enabled clinics to access their EHRs through a phone app [even] if internet servers crashed.” Providers struggled with treating patients displaced by Hurricane Katrina after many paper medical records were destroyed. This made the case for the HITECH Act — the 2009 EHR stimulus package that promoted the use of technology in healthcare. The next test for Gulf Coast providers? Creating a system to manage patients displaced from the storm. While providers have learned the benefits of EHRs after Katrina, “it’s no easier to put together a database for emergency response now than it was then,” according to David Brailer, former Chief of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC).

Read more: ”Health IT passes first big test with Hurricane Harvey”

  • Insight into Emergency Department Visits  

A study issued by the International Journal for Quality in Healthcare, led by a professor of Emergency Medicine at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), found that of 424 million ED visits from 2005 to 2011, just over three percent of the visits were avoidable. “Avoidable” is defined as not requiring any diagnostic or screening services, procedures, or medications, and did not result in an inpatient admit. The majority of the avoidable visits were related to mental health and dental conditions, suggesting a gap in access to mental and dental care.

Read more: “Avoidable emergency department visits: a starting point”

  • Healthcare Monopolies Raising Concerns — but Not With the DOJ

Health Affairs released a study this week describing how physician practice monopolies created by large healthcare entities are raising antitrust concerns. Even though this bypasses antitrust laws, the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission have challenged only a small number of healthcare mergers and acquisitions. Researchers found that 22 percent of physician markets were highly concentrated in 2013, noting that “most of the increases in physician practice size and market concentration resulted from numerous small transactions, rather than a few large transactions.”

Read more: “Physician Practice Consolidation Driven By Small Acquisitions, So Antitrust Agencies Have Few Tools To Intervene”

  • AMA Warns Congressional Leaders on DACA Decision

President Trump recently announced his intentions to end the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program as is, urging Congress to legalize the program as a part of immigration reform. In response, the American Medical Association (AMA) sent a letter to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Democratic leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi urging them to protect those with DACA status.The letter states that one quarter of medical professionals are  international medical graduates and many of them have DACA status. According to the AMA, the DACA initiative could help bring in 5,400 previously ineligible physicians to the U.S. healthcare system, removing physician shortages and access to care in rural and other underserved areas.

Read more: Letter from American Medical Association to Congress

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