Last week in health care

As far as health news for Americans last week was, much like a circus fire, INTENSE. Here in the Capital “Thunder” Dome there was the braying of donkeys, the stampeding of elephants, the crunching sound of every member of the health care community beating their skulls against the walls, and the immense heat of electronic devices tripping breakers over and over as the grid (and I, via bourbon) experienced rolling blackouts.

I stayed up late and got up early and skipped all my meals in an attempt to stay current, but unlike our president I will not make assertions that that means I’m functioning. Hm, maybe he’s just tired and cranky?

Things of importance from this week:

#1 Healthcare Triage short video on understanding the AHCA. You can see that Aaron Carroll is about 85% of the way to his breaking point here. And good god there were still two more days to go in the week.

#2 Paul Ryan shows he’s a bit shaky on what insurance is (we all pay for fire insurance so that if you have the terrible fortune of your house catching on fire, you are not financially devastated). BUT MR. RYAN WHY SHOULD I BUY FIRE INSURANCE WHEN MY HOUSE IS NOT AT PRESENT ON FIRE?

#2 Emma Sandoe, quickly becoming my favorite voice on the internet, expert in Medicaid, with this tweet (Poor people were once human people like me? No…)

https://twitter.com/emma_sandoe/status/839877905882759168

#3 In response to the question: what mandates do the Republicans object to? “Men paying for prenatal care.” Buh..uh..wha..wait. Since no man has ever been born or engaged in an act that might conceive a child.

#4 The AMA, ANA, AHA, and any lobbying association representing direct patient care declare the American Health Care Act to be one hot unsustainable mess. For the uninitiated, this is lions laying with lambs stuff. The orgs are not friends, and we seem to be arguing into a void at this point.

#5 The Washington Post editorial section posts a satire that would make Alexander Pope holler “SWEET BURN” in his grave. Per the Dems response to the AHCA:

“Mr. Gorbachev,” as Reagan so stirringly said, “This wall desperately needs revision.”

#6 Our collective desire to continue living is affirmed by a BBC Asia expert in his home office in Korea when his children pull back that hollow-core door veneer that keeps us believing that what we say and do is suit-and-tie worthy and crucial to the survival of humanity. From his IDAF toddler in her you’re-not-going-to-miss-this-dance yellow shirt to the younger sibling in the most successful comedy vehicle since the American Pie movies. It had to be the mom, btw. That was a woman bolting off the toilet to save her family.

Cheers to this week! Hope you’re well rested.

 

Medicaid block grant HC Triage and a quiz.

So you’re an audio/visual learner. Maybe you prefer to watch Aaron Carroll talk about Medicaid block grants on Healthcare Triage. Five minutes to being smart enough to policy wrestle any date in the D.C. metro area this week. THERE WILL BE A QUIZ.

1.) What are some of the “perverse incentives” created by Medicaid’s current funding model? (HINT: think fee-for-service care). Does block granting address these incentives? Include direct and indirect implications for state budgets.

2.) If per-person spending has remained relatively flat, and Dr. Carroll is correct in saying that the increase in overall Medicaid spending comes from the increased number of enrollees, and enrollment eligibility is tied to the federal poverty level (as well as qualifying criteria such as being a child, a pregnant woman, or disabled) what can we assume about poverty in America? HINT: I really pointed you right at this one. You don’t need a hint.

Now go out there and get’em.

Thank you for marching. Love, Me.

I knew by last Wednesday I wouldn’t make it to the march. My six-year-old had had a fever for 3 days, I was calling out of work and trying to get him to the doctor, and my nursing work schedule included non-negotiable 12 hour shifts on Friday and Sunday.

I was desperately sad when I woke up on Saturday and, like every normal human, pulled my phone from under my pillow and started scrolling twitter. All these beautiful women I love and admire, my friends! Together on The National Mall with their children. Arms linked, posters cutting, experiencing history’s counterpoint to Friday’s stiff and depressing presidential inauguration. And here I was in my PJs. A bad mom for not bringing my son to the momentous even, a bad woman for skipping the rising up of the sisterhood.

But wait, forget that guilt. You marched for me. I’m a single parent of a young child. I struggle with being a mom without a partner or adequate child support, a professional with no job flexibility to accommodate my role as parent, and due to the unaffordable nature of childcare lean on the support of my own mother to help raise my child. Also, I’m a cancer survivor and the ACA keeps me covered with health insurance and free from the fear of medical bankruptcy. Last, I am fortunate in this time of health professional shortages to work with a diversity of talented professionals from all over the world. I worry that through fear mongering or bad policy I will lose these irreplaceable nurse, tech, and doctor colleagues caring for our sick and elderly.

So to everyone who marched–I couldn’t be there on Saturday to show my support. I am forever grateful to you for marching.

Virginia Gov: Health Commissioner gives standing orders for residents to receive opioid reversal drug

Virginia responds to opioid crisis with standing orders written by State Health Commissioner Dr. Marissa J. Levine allowing residents to obtain opioid reversal drug naloxone from pharmacies. Has anyone seen a set of standing orders used in this way during a public health crisis? I’m thinking bold moves. Which is what I wholeheartedly support.

Governor McAuliffe:
“The overdose rates in Virginia have led me to agree with Dr. Levine that we are indeed experiencing a public health emergency. This declaration helps us respond in a nimble way to a rapidly changing threat, while the Naloxone standing order from Dr. Levine broadens our ability to get life-saving medication into Virginians’ hands.”

Source: Governor – Newsroom

BUT WHAT ABOUT

From Medline:
You will probably be unable to treat yourself if you experience an opiate overdose. You should make sure that your family members, caregivers, or the people who spend time with you know how to tell if you are experiencing an overdose, how to use naloxone injection, and what to do until emergency medical help arrives.

Who will do the educating? Public health campaign to instruct people on what a opioid habit looks like so they know to be prepared with the reversal drug? Pharmacists to educate on how/when to use it? What’s the plan, where’s the funding, how are we going to implement, and in what way will we measure success.

Also, check out: http://vaaware.com/treatment-recovery/

 

Many Well-Known Hospitals Fail To Score 5 Stars In Medicare’s New Ratings | Kaiser Health News

Of the 102 hospitals that received a five-star rating, few are among the elite generally praised for great care. Major academic health centers did not shine. Is the star rating an unfair measure?

Source: Many Well-Known Hospitals Fail To Score 5 Stars In Medicare’s New Ratings | Kaiser Health News

My hospital scored four stars, and we are no Cleveland Clinic. We do work hard. But we don’t take the sickest patients (we transfer to other facilities when our capabilities aren’t sufficient to care for a patient). High acuity patients can be incredibly complex and often therapies that are indicated in less complicated patients are not a wise choice for the critically ill. So, we can’t use our VTE prophylaxis bundle and must assume the risk of blood clots as smaller harm than intracranial hemorrhage. Their hospital stays can be many times longer than the average, increasing the chances for acquiring HAIs (hospital acquired infections) and pressure ulcers. Transferring to a higher-acuity major center, data-wise, is a sending a negative result across town by ambulance to another hospital’s spreadsheet.

Low-scoring large academic health centers treating our sickest patients would point out that they also treat our poorest patients. Socio-economic/demographic factors of course have influence on re-admission rates. This is one of seven measures, but has a weighted score of 22% in calculating the star rating. SO, much like schools in areas where kids are poor and hungry and the teachers spend a great deal of time figuring out how to keep them fed so they can stay awake long enough to learn an equation–making the idea of imposing the standardized testing of No Child Left Behind on that classroom and thinking it is an appropriate way to compare that school to the one in the next county where the average household income is $100,000/year and the PTA meetings are standing room only…well we know how that ended. Our large public hospitals are caring for patients with heart failure who can not read the discharge instructions, do not have access to transportation to get them to the follow up care that they don’t have the health insurance to pay for and can’t take the prescription drugs that they don’t have covered (in non-Medicaid expansion states). Maybe they also don’t have a grocery store in their neighborhood with a selection of food will keep their sodium intake at the strict low level needed to keep them from returning in a few weeks with an acute exacerbation. If that patient is 40% of your population, you have a challenge in front of you.

Good news is these low scores are really lighting a fire under hospital management. Even though right now it feels like the building is burning down a little. It is the hospital CEO’s prerogative to incorporate community building into his financial agenda (Star ratings aren’t tied to reimbursement, but they are composed of Medicare quality indicators that do affect how much the hospital gets from the Medicare-insured patients).

But the data. Where did this data came from and how just or unjust is it? My preliminary ruling is this is a treasure trove of information openly available to the public and I love that; but the population a hospital serves does have bearing on the score a hospital pulls. That doesn’t excuse the hospital from being rated. It points to where funding and research and pilot programs should be in place to address community health indicators, cause hospital walls are permeable.

If you want to go deep on the data, I encourage it! Go here. If you don’t feel like 40-odd pages of methodology and another government website, here are the two bits I found most helpful as points of reference for what was measured and how:

This chart (source):

star ratings chart

and this quote (same source):

For example, in April 2015, OP-21 (Median Time to Pain Management for Fractures) had a national average performance of 55.6 minutes with a standard deviation of 17.75 minutes. In contrast, VTE-6 (Incidence of Potentially Preventable Blood Clots) had a national average of 7.23% with a standard deviation of 9.10%. After standardization and redirection, both measures had a mean score of 0 and standard deviation of 1; both were reversed so that a higher standardized score indicates better quality.

I’m just going to leave a few more links here.
https://www.medicare.gov/hospitalcompare/About/What-Is-HOS.html — Much more on quality measures.
https://data.medicare.gov/Hospital-Compare/Hospital-General-Information/xubh-q36u –The you-need-four-computer-screens-to-read spreadsheet with all the hospitals’ star ratings! SLICK!