The Role of Crowdsourcing in Research

Crowdsourcing is defined as “a sourcing model in which individuals or organizations obtain goods and services, including ideas and finances, from a large, relatively open and often rapidly evolving group of internet users. Crowdsourcing spreads work among participants to achieve a cumulative result.”  Some well-known examples of crowdsourcing include the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, the traffic… Read More »

The Social Determinants of Addiction

By | February 15, 2018

Opioid use is a serious concern that the executive branch of the United States government recently declared a public health emergency. Based on data from the Department of Health and Human Services, in 2016, 2.1 million people misused prescription opioids for the first time, and 42,249 people died from overdosing on opioids. Also in 2016, 170,000… Read More »

In the fight against the opioid epidemic, states should update their needle and syringe access laws

By | February 8, 2018

During my time as a community pharmacist in Maryland, I often encountered individuals who would approach the pharmacy in search of syringes. Although they would try to disguise their intentions by stating that they needed it for someone else or for an animal, it was apparent why they were there; they were going to use… Read More »

Why Aren’t We Expanding Medicaid to Address the Opioid Epidemic?

By | February 7, 2018

Now more than ever, we need a sensible, unified, national response to the opioid epidemic; a response that recognizes the gravity of the situation and the reality that opioid use disorder (OUD) is a chronic – and treatable – condition. While there are many preventive measures that could pay dividends down the line, such as… Read More »

Impact of Medication Adherence on Health Services Utilization in Medicaid

By | February 1, 2018

Medication is an essential aspect of tertiary prevention, as it often addresses symptoms, may restore function, and minimizes adverse consequences associated with chronic conditions. Medication adherence is most often studied in the context of Medicare Part D. In a newly published Medical Care article, Drs. Roebuck, Kaestner, and Dougherty, instead measure the associations between medication… Read More »

Abuse-Deterrent Formulations: A Solution to the Problem

By | January 25, 2018

Despite continuous efforts to address the problem, high rates of prescription opioid use and abuse continue to plague our country.  According to the CDC, deaths involving prescription opioids in the United States have quadrupled since 1999, and so have the sales of these prescription drugs.  In 2015, the American Public Health Association published a policy… Read More »

To adequately address the opioid epidemic, we need policies supported by evidence

By | January 18, 2018

One hundred and sixty-one Americans died of an opioid overdose each day in 2016, and early 2017 data suggest this trend is continuing. The medical and public health community knows from decades of research that providing individuals suffering from opioid use disorder with specific medications can save lives. Our public policies governing opioid use disorder,… Read More »

Five principles for developing digital clinic-based, behavior-change health interventions

 In this post, we describe five principles that guided the development of Positive Health Check, a clinic-based digital health intervention for HIV-positive patients, aimed at making it acceptable and feasible in a clinic setting.

The Effect of Co-Payments on Incarcerated Women

By | January 11, 2018

Prisoners have a fundamental right to receive health care while incarcerated, a right that is mandated by the US Supreme Court. However, negligent care in prisons persists and is often an issue of limited access due to cost mitigating policies. Since the 1990’s, prison systems have integrated managed care strategies, like co-payments, to mitigate increasing… Read More »

Is your activity tracker a medical device?

Activity tracker technology has come a long way.  The first Fitbit released in 2009 only measured movement, sleep, and calories burned.  In contrast, the Fitbit Ionic smartwatch released in 2017 has a much broader range of functions, including heart rate monitoring, personal coaching, and built-in GPS. Consequently, with this change in functionality comes a change in potential uses for… Read More »

Three Reasons Why the Pro-ACA Resistance Should Take Heart

By | December 28, 2017

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) had a roller-coaster of a year.  It began with threats of almost certain repeal, followed by effort after unsuccessful effort to dismantle it. Then in the last days of 2017, there was the successful repeal of the individual mandate and penalty. This was brazen politics, suspenseful and often agonizing.  … Read More »

How do mental health conditions contribute to preventable hospitalizations?

By | December 21, 2017

What role does mental health play in preventable hospitalizations?  In a new article in the January 2018 issue of Medical Care, Dr. Laura Medford-Davis and colleagues report that in Texas, mental illnesses were associated with higher odds of preventable hospitalizations. Using an administrative database of all Texas hospital admissions from 2005-2008, the authors found that 13% of… Read More »

Top posts of 2017

By | December 20, 2017

It’s been a wonderful year for The Medical Care Blog, and we are very proud of the great work of our contributors. Thank you for reading and sharing! Here are our most-read posts of 2017: Avoiding Anticholinergic Drugs May Reduce Alzheimer’s Risk by Barbara Zabielski The Impact of Social Media in Healthcare by Alexa Ortiz and Catherine… Read More »

APHA 2018 Call for Abstracts + Awesome Accepted Abstracts Webinar Materials

By | December 19, 2017

The Call for Abstracts for the 2018 Annual Meeting of the American Public Health Association is live! Abstracts are now being accepted by the Medical Care Section (as well as the other APHA sections, caucuses, and forums), and the deadline is Friday, February 23 March 2, 2018 (*EXTENDED!*). On behalf of the Medical Care Section’s Health… Read More »

Risk Selection and Health Outcomes in Private Medicare Plans

By | December 18, 2017

A new study in the January 2018 issue of Medical Care, “Changes in Case-Mix and Health Outcomes of Medicare Fee-for-Service Beneficiaries and Managed Care Enrollees During the Years 1992-2011” by Dr. Siran Koroukian, et al., finds that while Medicare Advantage private plans continue to benefit from favorable risk selection, Medicare Advantage (MA) enrollees do not have better… Read More »

Interpersonal Violence, Behavioral Health, and the Need for Improved Healthcare Delivery for Sex Trafficking Victims

By | December 14, 2017

Each year, millions of people around the world are victims of human trafficking. In the US, the National Human Trafficking Hotline, which maintains one of the most extensive data sets, received 13,897 calls in 2017, with 4,460 human trafficking cases reported. Of the 4,460 cases reported, 3,186 cases were of sex trafficking and 689 cases were… Read More »

Hitching our Wagon to the Stars: Making the Most of Quality Reporting

By | December 7, 2017

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has a set of “Compare” websites – Hospital Compare, Nursing Home Compare, Home Health Compare, etc.; consumers and policymakers can compare physicians, long-term care hospitals, inpatient rehabilitation facilities, hospice care, and dialysis facilities today, and other settings may follow. Together with their associated health care quality measurement… Read More »

What are compassion practices, and can they play a part in improving healthcare?

Working in the healthcare profession can be both physically and emotionally draining for anyone, no matter their role or job title. Over half of physicians in the US [PDF] experience symptoms of burnout, and studies estimate a large percentage of nurses experience emotional exhaustion and have a higher prevalence of depression when compared to other US workers.  Exhaustion… Read More »

Improving the Patient Care Experience among Persons of Varying Race, Ethnicities, and Languages

By | November 24, 2017

Improving the overall patient care experience is an essential focus for organizations as healthcare delivery continues to evolve. The US Department of Health & Human Services Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) notes patient experience as an integral component of healthcare quality, which includes “several aspects of healthcare delivery that patients value highly when… Read More »

Smoking in America: Medicaid, Quitting, and Income

Over the last few decades, cigarette smoking has become a health burden concentrated primarily among low-income individuals in the U.S. In our recently published research study, Medicaid coverage expansions and cigarette smoking cessation among low-income adults, we sought to determine the relationship between recent expansions of Medicaid coverage and smoking cessation for low-income adults. Demographics… Read More »

Addressing addiction at the local level

By | November 9, 2017

As the City of Worcester Commissioner of Health and Human Services, I have developed city-wide initiatives and worked on policy change to address three primary health issues prevalent in our community, those being addiction, mental health, and homelessness, which all tend to occur hand in hand. Addiction is the largest public health and public safety… Read More »

Barriers to Care Among American Indians

By | November 2, 2017

American Indians (AIs) typically have poorer health outcomes than any other racial or ethnic minority group in the United States. This includes an increased risk for cancer, diabetes, injury related mortality, and infant mortality.  AIs tend to have the highest rates of poverty and low rates of insurance coverage. Much of the AI population uses the Indian… Read More »

The Aging Physician

There are some occupations where employees are mandated to receive age-based skills and cognitive testing. For example, the National Business Aviation Association has a mandatory retirement age of 65 for airline pilots. Additionally, firefighters, employees of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, air traffic controllers, and nuclear material couriers are all subject to age-based regulations. These agencies impose age-based… Read More »

Promoting Primary Prevention of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome

By | October 19, 2017

“Neonatal abstinence syndrome” (NAS) sounds deceptively innocuous, given that it is literally infant drug withdrawal. It is usually caused by prenatal exposure to opiates but can also result from maternal consumption of other substances, like alcohol and antianxiety medications. Common symptoms include excessive high-pitched crying, fever, sweating, irritability, vomiting, diarrhea, rapid breathing, sleep disturbances, and poor… Read More »

What happens to veterans’ health after leaving the military?

By | October 12, 2017

Veterans leaving military service face many challenges transitioning back to civilian life. More than a quarter of veterans report struggling with the return to civilian life, according a Pew Research Poll. Some challenges are psychological; a considerable body of research has linked veteran status with mental health concerns. Other challenges, however, can be physical. Civilian… Read More »

Survey says: Most women don’t know about breast cancer overdiagnosis and overtreatment

By | October 5, 2017

October is here, so along with the fall foliage, prepare yourself for a deluge of pink ribbons, umbrellas, bumper stickers, and billboards: it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Started as a well-intentioned campaign to raise awareness about breast cancer and fundraise for breast cancer research, some have said that the movement commodifies a deadly disease at… Read More »

What’s the difference between opioid use, misuse, and addiction?

By | September 30, 2017

Opioid addiction seems to be in the news every day. But what’s the difference between an opioid user and an opioid addict? First, let’s define our terms. Opioids are drugs derived from the opium poppy, including heroin and morphine. The class also includes synthetic opium-derived prescription painkillers including oxycontin and fentanyl, as well as drugs… Read More »

Preventing Health Care that Almost Nobody Needs

By | September 28, 2017

Medicine, alongside achievements in sanitation and public health, remains one of the major achievements of modern society. The reduction (or eradication) of many infectious diseases from the developed world, breakthroughs in anesthesiology and surgery, and advances in the care of chronic diseases (including HIV) are just a few of the multitudes of achievements. But these… Read More »

How Hurricane Irma Tested Emergency Preparedness Policy for Medically Vulnerable Patients

By | September 22, 2017

Hurricane Irma was the first major hurricane to hit Florida in over a decade, causing catastrophic damage in many areas. The human impact of the hurricane was also devastating, with reports of more than 50 deaths in the state. Among these deaths were ten residents of a nursing home in Hollywood Hills that lost power… Read More »

Healthcare engagement and follow-up after perceived discrimination in maternity care

By | September 14, 2017

As unconscious bias and discrimination comes to the forefront of national conversation, it is fitting to discuss bias in the healthcare system. Though we pledge to treat all patients fairly and to the best of our capacity, regardless of their background, increasing evidence suggests that healthcare providers, too, have bias and exhibit behaviors perceived by… Read More »

Mobile Apps to Improve Medication Adherence

What do you use your cell phone for on a daily basis? Many people would say using social media, texting, and placing phone calls– but have you ever considered your smartphone as a tool to improve medication adherence?  Our phones are an integral part of our lives, and consequently, researchers, clinicians, and patients have all… Read More »

Using claims to measure disease prevalence

By | August 24, 2017

Bias in claims data with respect to disease status is a problem for health services researchers, because we often rely on administrative claims (billing data) to measure disease status for large cohorts. Misclassification bias may alter the prevalence of given conditions–which is especially problematic for epidemiology and comparative effectiveness research. It may even alter the… Read More »

Reducing Ambulatory Malpractice and Safety Risk: Results of the Massachusetts PROMISES Project

By | August 17, 2017

Every physician fears being sued. Almost half of primary care doctors are subject to a malpractice lawsuit at some point in their careers. In some quarters, physicians are fatalistic about this fact. I have heard colleagues say: “It’s going to happen at some point, I know it.” But since the publication of the Institute of… Read More »

Universal Health Coverage? A Response

In a recent Health Affairs blog post, Universal Health Coverage? Why?, Walter McClure, Alain Enthoven, and Tim McDonald make a convincing case for expanding health insurance coverage in the United States. They argue that universal coverage is a “wise public investment” that “expands the workforce and makes it more productive,” similar to universal public education.… Read More »

Despite ACA mandates for states to streamline renewal, many beneficiaries still need assistance to retain Medicaid coverage

Enrollment in Medicaid has been shown to enhance access to health care for our nation’s most vulnerable citizens. Yet despite these benefits, a substantial number of beneficiaries lose coverage at the time of renewal. An article by Xu Ji and colleagues, published in this month’s issue of Medical Care, demonstrates how critical maintaining continuous Medicaid coverage… Read More »

Getting recommended preventive care: costs aren’t the only barrier

By | August 3, 2017

Annual routine check-ups, flu shots, and mammograms are among the basic preventive services for which the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 established a mandate for insurance plans: full coverage, with no out-of-pocket costs. In making it a little easier for some parts of the US population to access basic services, did the… Read More »

The Prevention and Public Health Fund: Investing in Health Equity

By | July 28, 2017

The pursuit of health equity – ensuring equal access to opportunities that enable all communities to lead healthy lives – is a critical task for the U.S. The direct and indirect medical costs associated with sickness and premature death resulting from health care inequities are enormous (estimated to be $230 billion and $1.24 trillion, respectively,… Read More »

Falls and the rise of wearable sensors

By | July 27, 2017

“I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up!” Remember that catchphrase of the late 1980s and early 1990s, based on the television commercial for LifeCall? Well, the Mrs. Fletcher of yesterday would be amazed by the wearable devices of today – they might even be able to prevent her fall in the first place! According to… Read More »

New methods in risk modeling: does adding EHR data improve predictions?

By | July 20, 2017

One of the challenges in delivering efficient medical care is identifying people who are at risk of a negative outcome, so we can focus our efforts on screening and treating those at elevated risk. We do this in individual face-to-face encounters through clinical, diagnostic processes: taking a patient’s history, performing a physical examination, recording signs… Read More »

Cancer care: sometimes less is more

By | July 13, 2017

Cancer is a dreaded disease – and in the US, a typical response to a cancer diagnosis is to try every treatment available in hopes that something might work. Understandable! But cancer overtreatment is a serious problem that drives up costs, causes avoidable morbidity and mortality, and reduces the quality of care. What is overtreatment?… Read More »

Patterns of Opioid Use and Risk of Opioid Overdose

By | July 6, 2017

Opiate overdose is now the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, killing more than 50,000 people in 2015. About 20,000 of those deaths were attributed to the use of prescription opiate medications. As a physician, I want to alleviate my patients’ pain, but I have also taken an oath to do my… Read More »

The Past, Present, and Future of Risk Adjustment: An Interview with Arlene Ash

By | June 29, 2017

Recently, I sat down to talk with Arlene Ash, PhD about risk adjustment. Dr. Ash is Professor and Chief of the Division of Biostatistics and Health Services Research, Department of Quantitative Health Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. As a methods expert on risk adjustment in health services research, she has pioneered tools… Read More »

The Intersection of Religion, Female Empowerment, and Access to Reproductive Healthcare

By | June 22, 2017

Reproductive rights have been a topic for policy making and legal jurisprudence throughout much of the past century. As the healthcare system of the United States continues to evolve, women’s health and reproductive rights remain central to the debate. A recent policy update by Aishwarya Rajagopalan and Lisa Lines here at The Medical Care Blog discusses… Read More »

POLICY UPDATE: Contraception Coverage

The burden of contraception falls primarily on women. In the United States, women need prescriptions for the majority of contraceptive methods, and so are vulnerable to changes in the healthcare system affecting access to care. Recently, President Trump has issued executive orders on religious liberty and related subjects that have paved the way for a rule… Read More »

How Accurate is Your Activity Tracker?

By | June 8, 2017

The functionality and popularity of consumer-grade activity trackers (such as Fitbit) appear to be ever-increasing.  If you don’t personally own one, you probably know at least one or two people who do.  In an online survey of 1,000 respondents [PDF], conducted in 2016 by PwC, 45% owned a fitness band, with “Health” being the primary… Read More »

Problems with Epilepsy Drug Treatment for Older Adults

By | June 3, 2017

Expensive brand-name drugs are prescribed over older, less costly generics whose efficacy and risk profiles aren’t much different. Sometimes the financial issues involved are painfully obvious, such as when a drug company introduces a new, “improved” version of a medication that is merely a longer-acting version of the same chemical entity shortly before the patent expires on the original… Read More »

Trying to Reduce Unnecessary Emergency Visits? First, Strengthen Our Primary Care System

By | May 26, 2017

Emergency departments (EDs) nationwide are busy places. In some locales they are overcrowded. In places like Los Angeles and other dense, urban areas with high poverty, they are over-capacity to such an extent that they can grind to a halt for all but the highest priority cases. In years past, it was not unheard of for… Read More »

The Impact of Social Media in Healthcare

What’s the first thing you do when you get sick? For many people, a cursory search through various online resources is the initial step in gathering information toward obtaining a diagnosis.  The internet places an infinite number of health-related resources at our fingertips, many of which are consumed through social media. Presently, 74% of US… Read More »

Can Claims Data Algorithms Identify the Physician of Record?

Medical claims data are collected for payment purposes. However, these data are often used for other purposes such as studying quality of care, assessing provider performance, and measuring health. These data are a rich resource for health services research, but when they do not include key pieces of information we can find ourselves bending over… Read More »

Patterns of Buprenorphine-Naloxone Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder

By | May 4, 2017

Despite a rapid expansion in the use of buprenorphine-naloxone (bup-nx) as a treatment for opioid use disorder, there is little understanding of the patterns of treatment. In a newly published-ahead-of-print Medical Care article, Brendan Saloner and colleagues from Johns Hopkins used an all-payer claims database to investigate what factors predict the duration of treatment, dosage, and continuity of treatment for… Read More »