Tuesday, January 3, 2017

On Call by Casey Ross
Happy New Year! I hope you enjoyed some relaxing time off. To get you back into the swing of things, here's the latest news on hospitals and health care. For more coverage, follow @statnews on Twitter or like us on Facebook.

New poll: The new year is starting pessimistically in health care 

Delivering health care is not going to get any easier in 2017. That’s the conclusion of a new poll of health professionals by our partner, Figure 1, which found that nearly 75 percent of respondents either believe work will get harder this year or are uncertain how their jobs will be affected.

Only 5 percent said work will get easier.

So what would move things in the right direction? Here are a few of your suggestions:

Registered nurse: “Intelligent, non-punitive reimbursement schemes for hospital costs, caps on hospital administration salaries.”

Internal medicine resident: “Better cooperation between institutions communication of patient information.”

Family physician: “Less intervention from insurance companies.

Ending a dangerous guessing game in the NICU

An estimated 90 percent of medications administered to newborns are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in children so young.

Despite that massive regulatory gap, infants in neonatal intensive care units often receive dozens of medications in their first month of life. STAT contributor Megan Scudellari writes today about one doctor’s effort to change that, by conducting more clinical trials involving newborns.

It is high-stakes work on tricky terrain, and plenty of young lives hinge on its effectiveness.

Read more.

New research: In defense of Obamacare’s financial penalties

Obamacare’s controversial performance penalties succeeded in reducing costly readmissions at the nation’s lowest-performing hospitals, according to a new study.

The review of more than 15 million Medicare patient outcomes shows that the financial penalties, while often called unfair, achieved the end goal of improving the quality of care. It found that for every 10,000 patients discharged, the lowest-performing hospitals avoided 95 readmissions they would have had before the penalties were enacted in 2013.

For the conditions examined — heart attack, congestive heart failure and pneumonia —  that represents a significant reduction in the $17 billion annual cost of avoidable readmissions, as well as the underlying pain experienced by patients.

“Paying hospitals not just for what they do, but for how well they do — that’s still a relatively new way of reimbursing hospitals, and it looks to be effective,” said co-senior author Dr. Robert W. Yeh, of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. The study was conducted by researchers at Beth Israel, Harvard, and Massachusetts General Hospital.

Zag of the Day: A 12-year-old girl uses her medical struggle to help others

Wendy Wooden knows a lot about hospitals. The 12-year-old didn’t realize just how much until friends started reaching out for advice as they were preparing for their own hospital stays.

Wendy, who has type 1 diabetes and has received a kidney transplant, responded with detailed notes that formed the basis for a new video recently deployed by MassGeneral Hospital for Children. Developed by Payette, an architecture firm that does design work for MGH, the video is narrated by Wendy and includes a character with her likeness. In a calm, clear voice, she describes the people and technologies young patients might encounter in the hospital.

“I wanted to tell other kids that the hospital isn’t that scary, and that there are a lot of things in the hospital that are good for you,” Wendy told me. Her video recently won an award from the Patient View Institute.

Next year, Wendy, who is in good health, will be going for an award of a different kind at the World Transplant Games in Spain, where she will compete in track and field and swimming. She says her favorite event is the 100 meters. “I’m fast and I like to test my abilities,” she said.  


  • In Congress, repealing Obamacare is first agenda item of the new year (NPR)
  • Supervised injection site for addicts could save $3.5 million a year in San Francisco (Reuters)
  • Why you might want to cancel your cryotherapy appointment (New York Times)
  • Hearts and hips lead the path to payment reform in 2017 (Associated Press)

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Stay well, and come back tomorrow.

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