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Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

Amazon’s PillPack signs deal to contract directly with insurance customers

Amazon’s PillPack signed its first deal to contract directly with customers through a health plan's website, cementing hints reported earlier this year about the tech giant’s intentions to deal directly with health insurers. Customers of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts can now use PillPack — which delivers a month’s worth of pre-sorted prescription supplies to people’s homes — to manage their prescriptions through the insurance company’s website and app. Previously, customers would have had to go to PillPack’s website to provide their medical and insurance information before their medications were dispensed. Earlier reports have suggested that BCBS was looking to partner with Amazon to provide home delivery of prescriptions to its members. The news also comes as Amazon looks to continue expanding into the health care market, a potential threat to other pharmacies. 

Primary care physicians in the U.S. report difficulty coordinating care

A new survey of physicians from 11 high-income countries finds that primary care doctors in the U.S. still struggle to coordinate care with other providers. Here’s more: 

  • With specialists: At least 70% of physicians in Norway, France, and New Zealand receive information from specialists about changes to their patients’ medications or care, compared to 49% of doctors in the U.S.

  • With social services: About 40% of physicians in the U.S. regularly coordinate with social services, such as those providing housing or meals. About two-thirds of doctors in the U.K. and 74% of those in Germany do so. 

  • IT operability: Although physicians in the U.S. are more likely to offer patients the ability to schedule appointments and refill prescriptions online, only about half of report being able to exchange lab tests and other patient information with physicians outside their practice.

Inside STAT: How contaminants from prescription-drug plants pollute waterways

Treated waste flows from the Morgantown, W.Va., wastewater treatment plant into the Monongahela River. The plant receives effluent from a Mylan pharmaceutical factory.(JEFF SWENSEN FOR STAT) 

Ordinary folk have long been blamed for drug pollution in local waterways, either through bodily waste or flushing unused medications. But a new investigation from STAT and Type Investigations finds that drug companies are much bigger polluters, dumping substantial quantities of product from manufacturing facilities into local rivers and streams. A U.S. Geological Survey analysis found levels of an anti-seizure medication at 90 times the amount considered safe for wildlife downstream from a West Virginia treatment plant that receives wastewater from a Mylan factory. Other companies, including Pfizer and generics maker Teva, were also found to have their product in wastewater that were several levels higher than the wildlife-safety standard. STAT contributor Natasha Gilbert has more here

Labeling food with exercise needed to burn it off could help curb calorie consumption

An example of labeling with physical activity information. (Amanda J Daley)

Can labeling foods with how much physical activity it would take to burn the calories lead people to make healthier choices? The findings of a new analysis suggest they may help. Researchers looked at 15 studies that measured participants’ behavior when they were presented with food labels that included physical activity information versus when they weren’t. Those given modified labels — such as how a bar of chocolate with around 230 calories would take 42 minutes of walking to burn off — chose foods that had about 65 fewer calories. Over the three meals per day a person typically consumes, this could be up to 195 fewer calories on a daily basis. Regular overconsumption of calories leads to excess weight and even small reductions in daily caloric intake could be beneficial, the authors suggest. 

Digital ‘upskilling’ a major priority for health execs in 2020

Insurance, hospital, and pharma executives have among their top priorities in 2020 to be better prepared for the digital revolution in health care, according to a new report. About 30% of executives from those industries said that adding digital skills to the existing workforce was a main goal. For those in pharma and life sciences, using technology for tasks previously done by employees was the most important issue, while most payers said hiring employees with skills to support new products was a priority. At the same time, the majority of the respondents — and 94% of those who were from insurance companies — said that ensuring cybersecurity and privacy was a barrier to their organization’s digital strategies. 

Policies restricting abortion outnumbered those protecting access in 2019

There was a lot abortion-related legislation in 2019, and a new report from the Guttmacher Institute finds that nearly 60 policies were enacted to restrict abortion, while 36 state-level policies protected the procedure. Here’s a summary: 

  • Restrictions: 25 abortion bans were enacted across 12 states. They varied from a total ban on the procedure in Alabama to four states enacting laws that would make abortion illegal if Roe v. Wade were overturned. 

  • Protections: Four states — including New York and Illinois — passed laws to codify the right to an abortion. Maine now allows physician assistants and some nurses to perform the procedure. 

  • Other reproductive health: There were 46 different policies across states to address the high rates of maternal mortality in the U.S. Thirteen new policies expand contraception coverage and 17 improve sex education. 

What to read around the web today

  • Meet Sam Rodriques, STAT 2019 Wunderkind. STAT
  • A sick U.K. boy’s story was True. But false posts followed. The New York Times
  • Universities shouldn’t just treat mental illness – they should help prevent it too. Mosaic
  • With new trade deal, Trump deals a blow to drug makers. STAT Plus
  • FDA can regulate e-cigarettes just like conventional cigarettes, appeals court says. The Washington Post
  • These homes for mentally ill adults have been notoriously mismanaged. Now, one is a gruesome crime scene. ProPublica

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,


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Wednesday, December 11, 2019


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