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

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

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

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

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

“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?

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

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?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 »

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

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

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

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

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

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?

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

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

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

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 »

The Childhood Roots of Health Inequity: Part 4 – Dr. Jennifer Manly

This post is the final one in our 4-part series focusing on presentations that were delivered at a special panel session at APHA16 on the childhood roots of health inequity [part 1, part 2, part 3]. Our fourth presenter, Dr. Jennifer Manly, is Associate Professor of Neuropsychology in Neurology at the Gertrude H. Sergievsky Center and the… Read More »

Increasing empathy and resilience through narrative medicine

In narrative medicine, the clinician seeks to understand a patient’s story of their illness and their value system. Narrative medicine helps clinicians establish an empathic and therapeutic relationship with a patient, ideally resulting in a person-centered treatment plan. Rita Charon coined that term and approach in 2001 and expanded on it in numerous subsequent publications. Several sessions… Read More »

Smoking cessation treatment among newly covered individuals under the ACA

Smoking cessation is not innovative or trendy or even particularly exciting, but as a primary care doctor, in most cases helping a patient quit smoking is the best thing that I can do to help that patient over their lifetime. Without question. And for that reason, I always make it a priority to talk about it… Read More »

Cost-Effectiveness of Antihypertensive Medication

Anytime I see the words “cost saving” in reference to a public health or medical intervention, my first thought is “Yeah, right!” It just doesn’t happen that often. One can spend more money to get better outcomes (or more care provided), or less money for worse outcomes, but rarely less money AND better outcomes. However,… Read More »

Avoiding Anticholinergic Drugs May Reduce Alzheimer’s Risk

I’ll never forget the time Granddaddy tried to eat my hand. At least that’s how it seemed to me at age six. In reality, he’d simply confused my hand with the straw sticking out of the milkshake we’d brought to him at the nursing home. By that point in his early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, the Granddaddy… Read More »

Empathy: What We’re Lacking in End of Life Care

The population of the U.S is progressively becoming older; however, healthy aging is no longer an oxymoron.  The availability of preventative medicine and health promotion programs have extended how long people can live healthy lives without chronic disability. Those aged 65 and over are projected to reach 83.7 million by 2050 [PDF].  While modern medicine has become… Read More »

Intimate Partner Violence: The Under-Addressed Pandemic

Violence against women and girls is an international concern that cuts across all sectors of society. The United Nations defines violence against women as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary… Read More »

The Political Context of Medicaid Expansion

Republican Congressional leaders are currently debating how to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as part of the budget reconciliation process. Much of the debate over the ACA has focused on the individual mandate (and here) and the affordability (here and here) of coverage in the state-based marketplaces. The House version of the legislation, however,… Read More »

Primary Care is a Team Sport

One remedy for the looming shortage of physicians in the United States is expanding the caregiver workforce to include nurse practitioners (NPs) and physician assistants (PAs). These health professionals come from fairly disparate backgrounds, yet over the years, increasing numbers of them have practiced side by side with physicians in primary care and specialty settings… Read More »

The childhood roots of health inequity: Part 3 – Dr. Kerith Conron

This post is the third in our series focusing on presentations that were delivered at a special panel session at APHA16 on the childhood roots of health inequity [part 1, part 2]. Our third presenter, Kerith Conron, ScD, MPH, is currently the Blachford-Cooper Distinguished Scholar and Research Director at The Williams Institute of UCLA’s School… Read More »

Correct inference from systematic reviews of RCTs

To gauge the effects of medical interventions, we often use meta-analysis to combine the results of randomized control trials (RCTs). RCTs commonly use odds ratios (ORs) to measure the effect of a given intervention on the frequencies of events. Conventional methods of estimating overall ORs suffer from a number of issues. Drs. Chang and Hoaglin describe… Read More »

Going Outside the Box: Identification of Active Diagnoses in the MDS 3.0

In an effort to improve the validity and person-centeredness of the nursing home resident assessment tool (the Minimum Data Set, or MDS), the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services introduced version 3.0 in October 2010. As a result, many of the measures and items health services researchers had grown accustomed to using in the MDS… Read More »

How did Part D affect mortality among women with breast cancer?

Ten years ago, Medicare began publicly financing and subsidizing the prescription drug program for seniors known as Part D. Individuals over age 65 with incomes below poverty are dually eligible for both Medicaid and Medicare, and full-benefit dual enrollees are automatically enrolled in a subsidized prescription drug plan with minimal co-payments. Turns out, this policy intervention may have played… Read More »

Do Not Repeal the ACA Without a Comparable Replacement

I once saw a breast cancer so advanced that the tumor had eroded through the woman’s chest wall. This wasn’t in a foreign country with little access to healthcare – it was in the city where I attended medical school: New Haven, Connecticut. The patient worked a full-time job and raised a family, but did… Read More »

Lessons from Analyses of Health Insurance Expansions from the 1980s through 2012

In a recent Medical Care article, Guy and colleagues analyzed health insurance expansions among parents from 1999 through 2012 to assess the impacts of four different types of public and private expansions. They primarily examined changes in parents’ health insurance coverage, but they also analyzed whether expanding coverage for parents could “spill over” and raise coverage… Read More »