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Wednesday, January 10, 2018                                                                                                                                                   

Some states may run out of money for the Children’s Health Insurance Program by mid-January, despite congressional stop-gap funding passed in December intended to carry the program through the end of March. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said that, according to its “best estimates,” the funding will carry every state through Jan. 19, but some states may fall short in their ability to pay for children’s health coverage beyond that date. The House and Senate have not been able to agree on how to fund the program going forward. (National Public Radio)

Researchers are looking closely at the rise in the incidence of cancer among certain populations—those with better access to screening—and asking the important question: Is there really a higher incidence of these cancers, or is more common screening simply finding more cases? The study focused on cancers that depend on close scrutiny, like prostate, breast and thyroid cancer, and found that, in populations where screening was more common, so was the cancer incidence. The authors warn that while many of these cases posed no mortality risk to the patient, overdiagnosis may cause unnecessary, harmful treatment. (STAT News; Annals of Internal Medicine)

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Last week, the Senate unanimously passed the Veterans in E-Health and Telemedicine Support Act, which allows licensed health care professionals to practice telemedicine at any location and in any state—regardless of where the patient is located. Currently, VA providers can only offer telehealth services if they’re located in the same state with the patient. The VETS Act is similar to a measure passed in 2017 by the House, and paves the way for the VA providers to greatly expand telehealth services nationwide. (Healthcare Informatics)

It really is okay for providers to text one another patient information, as long as a secure platform is used, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services confirmed. But providers still can’t text patient orders across any platform. To text or not to text among providers has been a source of confusion between CMS and some hospitals that received letters saying providers couldn’t use text at all, even on secure platforms.  (Healthcare IT News)

For the second year in a row, average American life expectancy has dropped. In this opinion piece, David Blumenthal makes the case that our health care system is responsible for the slide backwards. He cites aggressive marketing by opioid manufacturers for the significant increase in death rates for Americans between 15 and 62 years, as well as an inadequate safety net that leaves many without access to the care they need. (STAT News)

In a final rule released last week, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration moved to give providers more flexibility to disclose alcohol and drug abuse records, at the same time aligning privacy policy with the reality of electronic medical records and integrated delivery models. The rule only allows consent to disclose for payment, operations and audit purposes, however; it does not allow disclosure for care coordination and case management services. (Bloomberg News; final rule)

FCC raises broadband limits for rural health: The Federal Communications Commission moved to raise its spending cap to support the increased use of broadband by rural health providers—a cap that hasn’t increased since 1997. The agency will take comments on the proposed new rule until Feb. 20. (McKnight’s Long-Term Care News; Federal Register notice)

ONC releases interoperability framework: The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT released the Trusted Exchange Framework last week. A requirement of the 21st Century Cures Act, the framework proposes policies, procedures and technical standards for organizations to achieve interoperability. ONC will take comments on the framework through Feb. 18. (MedPage Today; the framework)

An internal body weight and fat mass sensor signals our bodies to cut down food intake, but a sedentary lifestyle seems to throw off this natural mechanism, scientists say. That explains the growth in worldwide obesity as jobs transition from physical labor to computer-facing tasks and sitting. One study author says, “We believe that the internal body scales give an inaccurately low measure when you sit down. As a result you eat more and gain weight.” (International Business Times; National Academy of Sciences study)

MarketVoices...quotes worth reading
"If texting solutions are good for highly classified military applications, they're probably appropriate for hospitals." 
– Robert Hudock, member at Epstein Becker & Green, in a Health Care Compliance Association report, as quoted by Healthcare IT News.


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