Friday, February 24, 2017

On Call by Casey Ross & Max Blau
Good morning! A reminder that next week, we'll be shifting On Call from a daily newsletter to Tuesdays and Fridays, giving you a wider variety of full-length news from STAT and more health and medicine coverage that is relevant to you. In the meantime, here's the latest news affecting hospitals and health care. Follow us at @statnews or like us on Facebook

What Trump voters like and don't like about Obamacare

ACA supporters have angrily denounced plans to repeal the health care law in town halls and protests across the US. But what do the people who voted for President Donald Trump think? A new examination of their concerns reveals an almost universal opposition to Republican proposals that would combine low-premium, high-deductible plans with expanded access to Health Savings Accounts. However, many are not fans of Obamacare either, pointing out that the law has failed to deliver affordable coverage.

Is it possible to achieve a middle ground? One participant of a focus group organized by the Kaiser Family Foundation spoke directly to Trump on that point. “I have cancer currently and I am very concerned in regards to my own health, but more importantly the health of our nation,” said the participant, a man named JT. “Do continue to listen carefully to those who assisted you...We believe in your words, and wish to believe in your actions. Help us to get well.”

Today in STAT: At-risk immigrants cancel medical care after Trump's deportation order

david mcnew/getty images
Hospitals are typically considered “sensitive locations,” and are usually overlooked by federal immigration agents. But STAT’s Ike Swetlitz reports that after President Trump's executive order on deportations, concerned immigrants have been canceling appointments in unusually high numbers from Brooklyn to Santa Monica, Calif. Researchers documented the same effect following a 2010 immigration crackdown in Arizona, where providers reported fewer visits for basic check-ups, prenatal care, vaccines, diabetes education, and other kinds of treatment.

Read more.

Norovirus tracker allows for real-time reporting of a GI scourge

A new system of tracking norovirus outbreaks has dramatically improved surveillance of the gastrointestinal bug in states across the US. The CDC reports that its NoroSTAT initiative has reduced reporting lags on outbreaks from 21 days to three days since 2012, allowing for quicker release of information to the public and better coordination between health authorities.

NoroSTAT asked five state health departments — Minnesota, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee, and Wisconsin — to report new strains within seven business days, and to provide consistent identification codes for each outbreak. The new system may not eliminate norovirus, but expanding it to other states could at least let patients and providers know when the bug is closing in.  

The human cost of medical record identity theft

A new survey released this week during the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society conference found the majority of respondents want their full medical history available to any doctor who treats them. But as more doctors share electronic health records, patients become more susceptible to hackers who steal personal data, a recent Trend Micro report found.

According to Trend Micro, hackers stole 113 million health care-related records in 2015. That’s more than any other sector except for government and retail. The report notes EHRs are considered more valuable than other kinds of records because they contain everything from social security numbers to credit card information. Cybercriminals who use EHRs to buy drugs, commit tax fraud, and steal identities target health providers because experts say providers are easy targets.

“A major reason why cybercriminals can successfully steal EHRs is the lack of safeguards implemented in healthcare institutions with regard to their digital assets,” the report says.

How should medical institutions protect patients? The report offers a number of recommendations: More IT staffing, more data encryption, and more secure devices on hospitals networks.

New poll: Health care workers split on automation in medicine

As robots become more advanced, they're likely to improve health care by improving patient outcomes. But some medical professionals — including nurses and lab techs — might also see parts of their jobs become obsolete. Our partner, Figure 1, asked caregivers: How do you think machine learning will change your job?

In short, the jury’s still out on the impact of automation. The number of supporters and skeptics were split. Here’s how some viewed the impact of machine learning:

Dentistry student: "Within our lifetime, computers will undoubtedly outperform us in practically every way. Tesla cars are already safer than human drivers. Computers will augment doctors in terms of diagnosis and research. Surgeons will always be needed, but will probably be aided by computers in some way."
EMT: "Robots are unlikely to replace nurses, physicians, medics or anyone else with advanced healthcare training. The ability to blend emotional qualities with scientific data is uniquely human for the time being."

If you haven't already, be sure to follow STAT on Figure 1.


  • Tech execs flock from Google and Twitter to health care startups (Fast Company)
  • Should we reconsider aid-in-dying medications? (MedCity
  • Children's hospitals may hold the key to better treating adults (Wall Street Journal)
  • Why geriatricians are essential to care for aging patients (Kaiser Health News)

Have a news tip or comment you want to send me?

Send us an email
Stay well, and thank you for reading On Call.

Enjoy this email? Tell your friends and coworkers to sign up here.