Friday, January 27, 2017

On Call by Casey Ross & Max Blau
Good morning! We're here to catch you up on the latest news on hospitals and health care. For more coverage, follow us at @statnews, @bycaseyross, and @maxblau on Twitter; or like us on Facebook.

Where Obama's health officials are heading

As President Trump’s team settles into its D.C. digs, Obama’s top health officials are moving on. Sylvia Matthews Burwell, the outgoing HHS secretary, will become American University’s next president – following the path of Donna Shalala, Bill Clinton’s HHS secretary, who led the University of Miami for over a decade.

Andy Slavitt, former head of CMS, will work part time inside the Beltway in hopes of saving some parts of the Affordable Care Act. Other leaders, like the CDC’s Thomas Frieden, are still searching for their next gigs. What about former Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald? Well, he’s planning to “go to the pool and drink pina coladas.” Ain’t nothing wrong with that, Bob.

When symptoms go missing from electronic records

A new study from the University of Michigan reports a wide discrepancy between patients’ self-reported eye symptoms and what physicians record in electronic health records. In only 38 out of 162 cases they looked at did the pre-appointment patient questionnaires match the symptoms listed on the EHR. Most commonly omitted: glare, eye redness, and pain.

Researchers said the incomplete records could be misleading and undermine patient care. A possible solution? Get patients to rate the severity of their symptoms on a numeric scale and then upload them automatically into the EHR. The electronic infrastructure for such a system is readily available, said study author Dr. Maria Woodward, and using it could “really change the conversation between the doctor and the patient.”

Today in STAT: How Dr. Tony’s alleged big-rig exam scheme got busted

big rig drivers can find coffee and snacks at the petro stopping center in atlanta. they also allegedly got quick and shoddy medical exams. (Max Blau)
Tens of thousands of medical practitioners conduct health exams that every trucker must pass to get their commercial driver’s license. They’re designed to keep the roads safe. But one Georgia chiropractor now faces up to 75 years in prison for allegedly falsifying thousands of exams. Prosecutors say his work was shoddy, putting the drivers and the public at risk. STAT’s Max Blau heads to the truck stop where it all took place — and where a patient’s tip prompted federal authorities to investigate and arrest Anthony Lefteris.

Read more.

Number of the Day: $20.6 billion

How much the US spends each year on treating patients injured by medication errors, according to the Network for Excellence in Health Innovation.

An infant’s death raises questions about hospital licensing laws

Do hospital operating licenses protect the public or restrict access to care? That’s one question raised in a story by Reason, a libertarian publication that looked at the death of a premature infant in Virginia. The magazine argues that the child's life could have been saved if the hospital providing emergency care had been able to build a proposed neonatal care unit.

The story looks at the history of hospital licensing, a turf war between two medical centers, and the impact on patients caught in the middle. Read about it here.


  • Obamacare's repeal has roiled the Republican ranks (Los Angeles Times)
  • White House pulls Obamacare ads in closing days of enrollment. (Politico)
  • Move over, doctors: A.I. can now spot skin cancer as well as you (The Verge)
  • Report: Hundreds of health care facilities used moldy linens linked to Pennsylvania deaths (
  • Hawaii bill would classify homelessness as a medical condition. (Associated Press)

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