The importance of the hospital patient survey and more policy news

Two local bloggers contribute to the new edition of  Health Wonk Review,  a bi-weekly digest of health policy posts.

masthead-hwrHealthBlawg offers a wrap-up post on the health information technology and health care policy conference in DC earlier this month. The Datapaloozers are looking at data streams from the government and beyond in an effort to manage the health and the health care costs of various populations…policy blog posts.

Why are patient experience surveys crucial to gaining clues for improving patient care and comfort? Many hospitals use them, notes David Williams at Health Business Blog, even though providers may not always be enthusiastic about being rated. They’ve become more important since Medicare began using patient experience as a criterion for reimbursement. 

#mahealthcarecosts: Massachusetts commission meets

  1. More about the chairman. 
  2. HCFA
    Stuart Altman starts w/ a round of introduction. Sec. Bigby talks importance of improving quality of care, not just in cutting cost. #MAHPC
  3. HCFA
    Jean Yang looks forward to next generation of health reform. #MAHPC
  4. HCFA
    Carole Allen, pediatrician, local advocate for children’s health. #MAHPC
  5. HCFA
    More meet the commission: Dr. David Cutler, health economist at Harvard. Marylou Sudders, expert on behavioral health. #MAHPC
  6. HCFA
    Jay Gonzalez, Secretary of Administration & Finance says that controlling health care costs is essential for fiscal health of MA. #MAHPC
  7. HCFA
    Dr. Wendy Everett, president of NEHI, says that the other 49 states are going to be watching us. #MAHPC #mahealthcosts
  8. HealthPolicyHub
    Thinking about health care costs today? Check out @HCFA’s feed – lots of info on MA’s first steps to “crack the cost code” #mapoli
  9. HCFA
    Dr Paul Hattis of @GBinterfaith says statute allows commission to frame, name & if necessary blame & shame to help reduce cost #MAHPC
  10. HCFA
    Rick Lord of AIM and Veronica Turner of @1199mass last to introduce. All the stakeholders working together to lower #mahealthcosts #MAHPC
  11. HCFA
    Chair Stuart Altman says #MAHPC a “sounding board” for the system & not a “one way street.” #mahealthcosts
  12. JC7109
    Groups rally in Lynn against possible cuts to health care – so much for Obamacare #MApoli #tcot

HIT: Gearing up for computerized health care

So far, the “The Huffington Post” series on health information technology has pointed out some serious problems and potential complications — including a tech industry feeding frenzy and medical errors linked to computer or data entry glitches.  

Their most recent piece focuses on the upside — improving care. And, it offers a clear-eyed overview of intended benefits and the barriers to achieving them. They also explore whether HIT will have success in managing chronic diseases where some other approaches have failed.

Many experts contend digital systems not only will help doctors cut costs, but also improve care by reducing medical errors and waste. However, critics argue that the benefits are being oversold and that the stimulus plan provides a windfall to the technology industry. Others are calling for tighter government oversight to make sure that computerized systems marketed are safe and perform as promised.

They look at “Beacon Communities” : 15 medical groups nationwide – Brewer, Maine and Providence, R.I. among them — taking part in a $220 million government program designed to show how digital records technology promotes better health care and cuts costs. Twelve of the 15 centers awarded grants—some rural and others in major cities—will focus at least partly on diabetes, a disease that is both debilitating and expensive to treat.

For more Bay State HIT news, check out this radio piece on the effort to wire three Massachusetts towns. Can Computers Save Health Care?  (Note that the$50 billion  federal investment is now down to about $27 billion. Also, click here from more HIT news on BHN, including a video interview with John Glaser, for head of IT at Partners who recently moved to Siemens.

Finally, note that the feds last week rolled out their final rules on what they want to see in subsidized HIT systems.  Video here.

Artist and activist Regina Holliday represented the patient’s point of view. She spoke about her frustration with lack of access to her late husbands records during his unsuccessful cancer treatment. She offered a key reminder :”We’re all patients in the end.”

More on Holliday and the announcement here from the Health Beat Blog.

What is striking about her story is that Holliday is not complaining that the hospital didn’t “save” her husband. She is objecting to how little information she and her husband received: “the terror of not being told what was going on.” In other words, this is less about what treatment he did or didn’t receive than it is about how he was treated. Holliday is calling for “patient-centered care” that includes the patient in the decision-making loop, giving him the information he needs to make an informed choice.

More Boston tea party plus best of the health policy blogs

Boston Health News is trying a new platform — NewsTilt — for some stories. Click here for a full story on the Tea Party Rally in Boston or check out yesterday’s photo post.

And Health Blawg hosts the current issue of the Health Wonk Review, complete with a tax day theme and an excellent link to Stevie Wonder singing “Superstition” on an episode  “Sesame Street.”

BHN Report: Massachusetts health costs hearings

The Commonwealth is getting serious about health care costs. Increases are unrelenting and over the top.

In Massachusetts, health costs are rising at three times the rate of wages, according to testimony below. Rising prices are eating away at company profits, family savings, worker’s wages and public health programs.  

Studies, bills, hearings. Will we get action?

See the Globe’s reporting on the ongoing hearings on health costs and the push toward global payments. Instead of paying per procedure, global payments cover costs per patient. The idea is to encourage quality instead of overtreatment.

The testimony continues on Thursday and Friday. The state is streaming the hearings live and posting copies of speaker statements.

BHN caught the end of Monday’s testimony, which came from Harvard Professor Nancy Turnbull and a panel of consumer groups. Below find some unedited audio from the panel, which was called “Consumer Experiences with Health Care Cost Trends.”

Nancy Turnbull, Senior Lecturer on Health Policy and Associate Dean for Educational Programs, Harvard School of Public Health.

“In Massachusetts, health insurance premiums are increasing faster than income, which is creating a crisais of affordaility for individual and families.”

Cheri Andes, Lead Organizer, Greater Boston Interfaith Organization

“GBIO believes that this trend of out-of-control health care costs is a moral issue as well as an economic one.”

Robert Restuccia, Executive Director, Community Catalyst, Inc.

Matt Selig, Executive Director, Health Law Advocates

“In our work with individual clients we find that consumers still consistently face the burden of out-of-pocket health care costs aside from premiums, deductibles and copayments.”

Deborah Banda, Massachusetts State Director, AARP

Written testimony

Finally, the March Madness review of the Health Wonk Review is up. I live with a couple of Tar Heel fans. So, with the the boys’ team out,  our motto here is — Go Big Red!  The Yankee half of the family has Cornell links.

Health care summit streaming live

Health care summit streaming live via the excellent Association of Health Care Journalists.  Or from The White House.  (11:45 Both appear to be down and the moment.)

For live blogging: a view from the right at the Cato Institute and a view from the left at the Daily Kos.

Also, it is worth noting that health care reform marches on in Massachusetts without action in Congress.

See the Globe’s story today about one group of doctors sending  most of their patients to a hospital willing to coordiate care with primary care docs. (Disclosure: I am a Harvard Vanguard patient.)

Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates said it has started sending many of its Boston patients to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, unless the patients have a prior relationship with a doctor at the Brigham, where Harvard Vanguard doctors have referred nearly 100 percent of Boston patients for years.

Dr. Gene Lindsey – chief executive of Harvard Vanguard’s parent organization, Atrius Health – said he felt the organization could better coordinate care at Beth Israel Deaconess, partly because the hospital has agreed to send patients back to their primary care doctor or a specialist at Harvard Vanguard after their inpatient stay, rather than keep them in the more expensive hospital system.

Atrius, which has more than 800 doctors, is also shifting many of its new orthopedic referrals to New England Baptist Hospital from Faulkner Hospital, which is part of the Brigham. Atrius doctors did 1,000 procedures at the Baptist last year; Lindsey said he expects that number to double this year, a move driven in part by the Baptist’s success at reducing surgical infections.

There is also a substory here about the expansion of digital health care.  Read here from John Halamka’s blog. 

Following the Money on Health Reform

The blog digest known as Health Wonk Review is up with all the updates on how Massachusetts ruined health reform.  Also, lots of good stories following the money.

Take note of the Health News Review post on turf wars at the NIH consensus conference on colon cancer screening. Sounds ugly.

..There was scuffling over screening method vs. screening method, turf wars, and conflict of interest in the setting of guidelines or recommendations.

John Z. Ayanian, of the Department of Health Care Policy at Harvard Medical School spoke at the meeting on “Primary Care Practice and Health System Influences.”