Globe: Massachusetts patient records found by photog in dump

 A good lesson for journalism students – Always be on the lookout for a story.

 A good lesson for hospitals or whoever disposes of their records – Get a shredder!

 The Boston Globe reports that one of its photographers was dumping his trash and noticed a huge pile of paper.

Upset that the paper wasn’t being recycled, he looked more closely.

The photographer said he saw health and insurance records from at least four hospitals and their pathology groups — Milford, Holyoke, Carney, and Milton — mostly dated 2009. The Globe notified the hospitals. It is unclear how many other hospitals’ records might have been discarded in the dump.

The hospitals – which found out about the runaway paperwork from the Globe — say their contractor did it.

The breach comes about a year after a Mass General worker left a pile of records on the T, Boston’s subway line.

So, while some worry about the potential confidentiality of electronic medical records, it is worth noting that a of private information leaks out the old fashioned way — on paper.  

The paper also reports that the Cambridge Health Alliance — which runs the region’s “safety net” hospital, is looking for a buyer. Partners has passed on it. The group is now reporting talking to Caritas Christi, another struggling area hospital chain slated to be taken over by a for-proft group.

Somehow “safety net” and “for-profit” don’t seem to work in the same sentence.  Stay tuned.

In other health finance news this week, The Boston Business Journal reports that insurer Harvard Pilgrim Health Plan is moving toward global payments. The story describes the move this way:

 Global or “bundled” payments reimburse health care providers per patient, or per medical episode, rather than per service. Proponents of global payments say that it discourages unnecessary tests and puts the focus on preventive care and healthy outcomes, rather than on expensive hospital stays

The story points out that a state committee looking at health care costs endorsed the approach last summer:

The Special Commission viewed global payment models as having important advantages. They offer strong incentives for the efficient delivery of the full range of services that most patients need. They emphasize primary care and reinforce the goals of patient-centered medical homes. Moreover, some Massachusetts providers already have operational experience with some form of global payment. An estimated 20 percent of commercial physician payments are currently made in Massachusetts under some form of global payment (Bailit 2009). This experience suggests that broader adoption is feasible (since many providers already are managing under it successfully) and provides a base for wider progress towards global payment.

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