Thursday, November 17, 2016

On Call by Casey Ross

Good morning! Big news for us — a STAT story and data visualization about reporting issues with clinical trials have won the AAAS Kavli Science Journalism gold award. Give it a read. In the meantime, here's what's happening in hospitals and health care today. And as always, follow us @statnews on Twitter or like us on Facebook

New report: Surgeon General says doctors must lead the fight against addiction

Finally, America’s addiction problem is getting a powerful voice.

US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy today released a first-of-its-kind roadmap for treating substance abuse in the US, where only 10 percent of people affected get specialty treatment.

Here are a few takeaways:

  1. Eliminate stigma. Addiction is a medical problem, yet many Americans, doctors included, still think of it as a moral failing. Murthy’s report says doctors can take the lead by making clear this is a problem to fight with medicine and counseling, not imprisonment.

  2. Screen for substance abuse. Murthy’s report says substance abuse must be identified in general health settings, including primary, psychiatry, and emergency care. Effective screening will help create individual treatment plans.

  3. Medication works. Use it. The report attacks the misconception that medication “substitutes one addiction for another.” That is unscientific bunk. Murthy notes that increasing access to medicine — methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone — is crucial to fighting the opioid crisis.

  4. Stop segregating addicts. Substance abuse treatment is not just the work of individual specialists. It should be treated by a mix of caregivers — social workers, recovery specialists, nutritionists — just like diabetes or cancer.

The ties that bind: A Trump-in-law whose business depends on Obamacare

Family is complicated.

For Joshua Kushner, whose brother is married to Ivanka Trump, it just got way more complicated than he ever could have imagined.

He is co-founder of a startup created to capitalize on the promise of the Affordable Care Act, a law President-elect Trump has pledged to dismantle.

We don’t know how that plays out at the Trump Thanksgiving table, but STAT’s Rebecca Robbins reports on what it is to be tied to Trump and the health care law he has spent months calling a “disaster.”


Just in: How buying local can improve health

Another way hospitals can improve the health of their communities?

Buy local, and from a diverse group of vendors.

A new toolkit created by The Democracy Collaborative shows how US providers can channel their $340 billion annual purchasing power into disadvantaged communities. Currently, only about 2 percent of that money flows to businesses owned by minorities and women.

A few examples of hospitals making a difference:

In Cleveland, University Hospitals provided $1.25 million in funding to start the Evergreen Cooperatives, a group of local businesses that hire people facing the biggest barriers to employment, including the recently incarcerated. The hospital uses the cooperative for commercial laundry and other services.

In West Virginia, Charleston Area Medical Center has started buying food for patients and hospital employees from local farmers. The change required working through existing food vendors to help farmers adjust their practices to meet the hospital’s needs.

In Dallas, Parkland Hospital has developed a department devoted to supplier diversity. When it contracts, it uses an internal database of minority- and women-owned businesses. In other words, diversity is embedded in the supply chain, not mixed in when convenient.

The Trump effect: A letter of reassurance to patients

Donald Trump’s election will certainly mean change for US health care.

But while they wait to learn what that change looks like, doctors in Cambridge, MA are reassuring patients that some things will remain the same.

A new letter by the Social Justice Coalition of the Cambridge Health Alliance, which includes STAT columnist Dr. Jennifer Okwerekwu, affirms eight beliefs on “behalf of the health of all Americans.”

It says that health is a human right, that medicine should be driven by evidence, that women’s health must be protected, and that access to care should not be limited by race, income level, or immigration status, among other principles.

The letter closes by saying, “Our statement highlights the marginalized groups...but we insist that these principles stand for white Americans and other majority groups as well. We will resist all efforts to violate these principles, as we firmly believe that such change would jeopardize the health of our patients.”


  • Price transparency for hospitals is no longer a choice (The Daily Briefing)
  • The promise of a pop-up pill that could release drugs for days (STAT)
  • Why it takes so long to hire a nurse (Stateline)
  • More US children are getting the care they need (Reuters)

Clarification: Montefiore Medical Center is the name of the organization that created special support centers to help grieving families. An item in Wednesday’s On Call misstated its name.

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Stay well, and come back tomorrow.


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