ABL Healthcare Member News & Industry Trendletter * April 4, 2023
  • 4/05 - Orange County IN-PERSON FIELD TRIP, TOUR & Round Table, with a Zoom Option, at Illumination Foundation's Fullerton Navigation & Recuperative Care Center - Featuring Pooja Bhalla, DNP, Co-CEO, Illumination Foundation

  • 4/11 - Silicon Valley IN-PERSON Round Table, with a Zoom Option, "AI Comes to Healthcare - and YOU!" - Featuring Robin Raff, Founder, CEO and Chief Strategist, Pulse Healthcare Marketing; at El Camino Hospital

  • 4/20 - Bay Area IN-PERSON Round Table, with a Zoom Option, "If 2 out of 3 are Impacted by Cybercrime, Are You Next?" - Featuring Oli Thordarson, Founder and CEO, Alvaka; at California State University, East Bay

  • 4/21 - Los Angeles IN-PERSON Round Table, with a Zoom Option, "Finding a Cure for the Scourge of America" - Featuring Gene Barduson, Founder and CEO, Addiction Research Institute; at Nelson Hardiman, LLP

  • Explore Membership in ABL's Executive Round Tables >>>
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Irvine Health Foundation's $14M Grant to UC Irvine Will Establish 7 Endowed Chairs - Including One Named for ABL Alum, Now Retired, Ed Kacic

A $14 million grant from the Irvine Health Foundation (IHF) to UCI will establish seven endowed chairs in the Program in Public Health to recruit and retain the field's top academic leaders and experts, who will strive for health equity among all Orange County residents. The funding will also support research to help improve outcomes and inform policy. The chairs will be named in honor of IHF board members, including President Edward B. Kacic, a UCI alumnus who earned an MBA at The Paul Merage School of Business. IHF declared that health is not simply the absence of disease but encompasses a state of physical, mental and emotional well-being. UCI is the place where the next initiatives will begin, extend throughout the community and make a global impact.
This latest grant brings IHF's total giving to UCI to more than $20 million. The foundation and UCI have partnered to launch various initiatives and projects aimed at advancing health outcomes, including the Institute for Memory Impairments and Neurological Disorders (UCI MIND), the Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, a $1 million lead grant for the UCI Medical Center hospital campaign, and a $1 million grant to establish the School of Medicine's Gerald B. Sinykin, M.D. Chair in Family Medicine. UCI is a member of the prestigious Association of American Universities and is ranked among the nation's top 10 public universities by U.S. News & World Report. UCI has 36,000+ students and offers 224 degree programs. It's Orange County's second-largest employer. IHF, established in 1985, believes that leveraging technologies, collaboration and catalyzing health movements are essential to advancing optimal health within our communities. They bring together expertise and investment .

Anthem Blue Cross Intro's Virtual-First Health Plans & Assists Underserved Regions

Anthem Blue Cross in California recently announced its Virtual-First health plans to eligible members in select commercial health plans. Virtual-First plans give individuals affordable access to virtual care options, including access to a symptom checker driven by artificial intelligence, routine wellness care, and chronic condition management, along with behavioral healthcare. Through Anthem's digital health platform, Virtual-First health plans can connect care data from various visits and providers throughout the healthcare system.
ALSO, Anthem has provided a new grant of $50,000 to California E-Consult Coalitions that will be distributed to Federally Qualified Health Centers, rural health centers, and tribal FQHCs in California's Central Valley, north rural and Sacramento regions, so the health centers can continue accessing e-consults with specialty providers to treat patients, regardless of whether patients have health insurance. Along with a previous grant, Anthem has invested $100,000 since 2020 to cover the cost of 1,000+ e-consults for uninsured patients. (David Pryor, LA)

Donor Network West Declares "HRSA Gets It Right" in Bringing Transparency & Reform to the OPTN

In HRSA Gets it Right in Prioritizing Patients Waiting for Organ Transplants by Bringing Transparency and Reform to the OPTN, Janice Whaley, CEO of Donor Network West, commends the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) for its announcement to modernize the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) through its just-announced OPTN Modernization Initiative. With a direct focus on the various complex processes that occur throughout donation and transplantation events, patients waiting for life-saving organ transplants will benefit from HRSA's objective to strengthen accountability, equity, and performance in the organ donation and transplantation system. HRSA is asking for and has included in the President's budget for fiscal year 2024, the OPTN Modernization Initiative, more than doubling HRSA's budget for organ-related work to $67 million. Donor Network West, along with its Bay Area transplant center partners, serve the largest number of patients waiting for transplants, from across northern California, northern Nevada, and from around the world.
ALSO, Janice has published an article entitled, Opinion: Increasing Organ Donation in the U.S. Requires Engagement from Communities of Color. (Janice Whaley, Bay Area)

Eitan Medical Earns Impressive NPS Score + Writes About Optimizing Medical Equipment to Tackle Gridlock

Eitan Medical announced that its Net Promoter Score has increased year on year for a fourth consecutive year - they are honored to have the majority of their customers recommend the Sapphire™ pump and 90+% of users reporting they found the pump easy to use.
ALSO, Eitan's recent article - Optimising Medical Equipment to Tackle the Gridlocked Healthcare System - discusses that the UK's healthcare system is crushing under tremendous pressure, resulting in enormous backlogs in patient care. And while there are a myriad of issues in the healthcare system that have collectively created this situation, there are changes that healthcare systems can make to help ease this strain. A large portion of the backlog is patients awaiting surgery, and by utilizing advanced medical devices such as ambulatory infusion pumps for post-operative pain management, we can ease the strain by enabling faster recovery to free up beds. (Roger Massengale, OC)

El Camino Health Lauded for Supply Chain Excellence + First in World to Adopt FloPatch

El Camino Health (ECH) has been recognized by healthcare supply chain leader Global Healthcare Exchange as a "Best 50" healthcare provider for the second year in a row. The award spotlights the top North American hospitals and health systems working to improve patient outcomes through supply chain automation and innovation.
ALSO, ECH is the first health system in the world to adopt FloPatch, an innovative new technology that monitors blood flow in real time. FloPatch is the world's first wireless, wearable Doppler ultra-sound system that helps clinicians better manage IV fluid therapy earlier in the sepsis care pathway. The FDA-approved device provides a simple, fast, and consistent method for measuring changes in heart function.
MEANWHILE, during the past year, El Camino Healthcare District and ECH provided nearly $1 million in grants to community partners working to improve nutrition through education, coaching and supportive lifestyle changes aimed at helping people improve their eating habits. (Cecile Currier, SV)

FOMAT Joins Industry Leaders at Recent Clinical Trials Summits

FOMAT and CEO Nick Focil attended the recent World Clinical Trials Congress, where Nick chaired a discussion on clinical trial design and site selection.
AND, FOMAT participated in the recent Diversity Site Solutions Summit, where Nick was a panelist in the "Best Site Practices" discussion. (Nick Focil, LA)

HumanGood Breaks Ground on New Affordable Housing Community

HumanGood recently hosted a groundbreaking ceremony for Janney Apartments, a new affordable housing community in the Philadelphia neighborhood of Port Richmond. The community will consist of 47 one-bedroom apartments for seniors 62+ years, five of which will be reserved for homeless or formerly homeless individuals. Six units will be handicapped-accessible, and two units will be fully equipped for residents that are hearing or visually impaired. Janney Apartments will meet the Enterprise Green Communities and Zero Energy efficiency standards. (Tara McGuinness, Bay Area)

Illumination Foundation Raises $1.5 Million at Annual Gala

Illumination Foundation (IF) raised $1.5 million at their recent 10th Annual Chef's Table gala at the Disneyland Hotel. Forty acclaimed chefs and 400 philanthropic individuals, businesses, and community leaders gathered to support IF as they celebrated 15 years of disrupting the cycle of homelessness. Event proceeds will provide ongoing programming support for the most vulnerable individuals, families, and seniors experiencing homelessness. The inaugural Legacy Award was presented to IF Co-Founders Paul Leon and Paul Cho to honor their collective vision and the legacy they created. (Pooja Bhalla, DNP, OC)

Newsweek Names Kaiser Permanente Top Hospitals + Among World's Most Ethical Companies

Six Kaiser Permanente (KP) hospitals have been named best U.S. hospitals in Newsweek's list of World's Best Hospitals 2023. In its fifth annual study, Newsweek ranked 2,300+ hospitals in 28 countries. The list includes KP Los Angeles, San Diego, San Diego Zion, Santa Clara, and Woodland Hills medical centers in California, plus KP Moanalua Medical Center in Hawaii, among the best in the U.S.
ALSO, KP is again one of the World's Most Ethical Companies, according to Ethisphere, an independent group. This is the fifth year in a row KP has received the distinction, having received the honor every year it's participated in the selection process. (Marcos Vasconcelos, Bay Area)

LigoLab Details Tomorrow's Tech-Enabled Clinical Lab

In How to Prepare for Tomorrow's Tech-Enabled Clinical Lab, LigoLab discusses how future labs will become tech-enabled by partnering with LIS system vendors that build enterprise-level software solutions that are capable of supporting advancements in technology. One of the most significant changes will be the addition of more automation and laboratory robotics that improve efficiency and compliance by lowering the risk of human error. Integrations with AI and machine learning technology will help with sample processing and data analysis. Personalized medicine will continue to grow as the focus shifts to healthcare tailored toward an individual's specific needs with a greater emphasis on analyzing and interpreting the data. The use of telemedicine and remote monitoring devices will help in this regard. Additionally, clinical labs will be shaped by the development of new diagnostic tests and therapies to support other growing fields of study such as genomics and proteomics.
AND, in LigoLab Offers DTC Portal Support for Provider Insurance Discovery & Eligibility Checks, LigoLab reports that its direct-to-consumer web portal, TestDirectly, now supports provider insurance discovery and insurance eligibility checks. This newly added auto-check verification feature is designed to give providers the ability to verify a patient's active insurance coverage and eligibility before accepting an online order and processing a lab test. (Suren Avunjian, LA)

MedWand CEO is Visionary Spotlight Keynoter at Connected Health Summit

Bob Rose, CEO of MedWand, was the Visionary Spotlight keynote speaker at the recent Parks Associates Connected Health Summit; this LinkedIn post shares some of Bob's insights. Bob shared with us that he "did not use ChatGPT or any other AI to write this keynote." And MedWand shared that on the same day, their VP of Quality and Integration spoke at the World Hospital at Home Congress in Barcelona. (Bob Rose, OC)

Mission Hospice Announces Upcoming Benefit + Support Group for Those Whose Loved One Chose Medical Aid-in-Dying

On the evening of April 29, Mission Hospice will present Life is a Cabaret!, which will benefit Mission's exceptional programs. The event promises a hilarious evening of laughs, songs, dinner, and dancing at the Peninsula Italian American Social Club in downtown San Mateo with award-winning cabaret star Leanne Borghesi and the Ross Gualco Trio.
MEANWHILE, this spring Mission is offering an 8-week virtual support group for those whose loved one chose medical aid-in-dying through California's End of Life Option Act.
ALSO, Mission shared the link to an article of particular interest: For-Profit Hospices Often Deliver Worse Care: Study. (Dolores Miller, SV)

Nelson Hardiman Examines "Extraordinary" Criminal Prosecution of Senior Living Facility & Confusing Intersection of Medicare Regs & Ownership Transfers

Nelson Hardiman (NH) recently published DA charges Beverly Place; Extraordinary Criminal Prosecution of Senior Living Facility Managers in Los Angeles. Managing Partner Harry Nelson commented, "This is a chilling but important case to follow - a senior care provider accused of committing crimes related to an accidental COVID-19 infection. You can make the case (as people close to the action have) that the assisted living leadership in this case acted heroically trying to save lives in the pandemic response. Or you can try to paint them as villains. Either way, all healthcare facilities should be taking notes and saving records of COVID-19 response."
AND, read NH's Healthcare M&A Update: CHOW or CHAI (COI) Anyone? The Confusing Intersection of Medicare Regulations and Ownership Transfers.
MEANWHILE, Harry has joined the Wavemaker 360 Health Council of Strategic Advisors, part of the nation's leading venture fund focused singularly on early-stage healthcare disruptors. (Harry Nelson, JD, LA)

On Lok Announces Upcoming Gala & Commendation; CEO Kicks Off PACE Policy Forum

On the evening of May 19, On Lok will present the On Lok Celebrates fundraising gala, at the City View at Metreon in downtown San Francisco. Emceed by Golden State Warriors "Hype Man" Franco Finn, this year's program will include an opening networking reception featuring delicious local cuisine and live entertainment, an auction including one-of-a-kind items and interactive fund-a-need, and a dessert and dance after-party. All the fun will be hosted at the City View at Metreon located in downtown San Francisco. Proceeds and donations will support On Lok activities, classes, meals, and services to seniors in need.
MEANWHILE, On Lok was honored to accept a commendation from Mayor Matt Mahan, Councilmember Peter Ortiz, and the San Jose City Council honoring the 5th anniversary of the On Lok PACE East San Jose Center and its work to provide program services to seniors in Santa Clara County.
AND, CEO Grace Li recently kicked off the annual NPA Spring Policy Forum, which brought together hundreds of PACE leaders and supporters from across the country. (Grace Li, SV)

PreludeDx's DCISionRT Receives Advanced Diagnostic Laboratory Test Status Approval from CMS

Signifying a major milestone, Prelude Corporation (PreludeDx) announced that CMS has approved Advanced Diagnostic Laboratory Test (ADLT) status effective April 1, 2023, for the DCISionRT test. ADLT status is reserved for innovative products with Medicare coverage that provide new clinical diagnostic information that cannot be obtained from any other test or combination of tests, among other criteria.
MEANWHILE, PreludeDx has entered into a managed care provider agreement with MediNcrease Health Plans, a national provider network, to make accessible the DCISionRT test to its clients, payers, providers, and patients throughout the U.S. (Dan Forche, OC)

PSYCHeANALYTICS CEO Participates in Primary Care Behavioral Health Workgroup

A recent article on Integrated Care News, part of Collaborative Family Healthcare Association (CFHA) - Measuring Success in PCBH: Results from a Workgroup on Behavioral Health Screening - details the Primary Care Behavioral Health Special Interest Group's efforts on catalyzing standardized outcomes for measuring success in a PCBH environment. Dave Haddick, CEO of PSYCHeANALYTICS, is part of the workgroup. (Dave Haddick, Bay Area)

Royal Ambulance a Finalist for Inspiring Workplace Award + Supports AB55

Royal Ambulance has been named as a finalist in the 2023 Inspiring Workplaces Awards in the North American region. Organizations were asked to complete the entry form consisting of key elements: Culture and Purpose; Leadership; Wellbeing; Inclusion & Diversity; Communication; and Employee Experience. Winners will be announced at a ceremony on June 7.
MEANWHILE, CEO Steve Grau shared that he is "Honored to be a part of this breakthrough effort to pass the law (AB55) to help the EMS profession pay better wages to the Frontline Heroes that serve our communities by increasing the Medi-Cal reimbursement" and included a link to this video. (Steve Grau, SV)

WestFax Cautions Against Using ChatGPT with Protected Health Info + Supplies Info on Business Associate Agreements

WestFax shares that the use of ChatGPT with protected health information could lead to stiff penalties in the U.S., noting that the creators of ChatGPT clearly warn against feeding their AI model with confidential information. WestFax has written an article - ChatGPT and HIPAA Compliance, that further delves into the subject.
ALSO, in Everything You Need to Know About BAA, WestFax discusses business associate agreements, a legally binding document that establishes the terms of a working relationship between the covered entities such as medical practices and a third-party company that may come into contact with protected health information entrusted to them.
MEANWHILE, WestFax announced that they have new capabilities to upload inbound fax documents to your Azure cloud storage automatically. (Barry Clark, OC)

Wipfli Achieves Recognition + Provides Resources

Following a year of strong strategic growth amid volatile economic and market conditions, Wipfli LLP has landed back among the top 20 national accounting and consulting firms in Accounting Today's newly released 2023 rankings.
AND, Wipfli has won the Rising Star Award from Planful, a technology platform for financial performance management cloud software.
MEANWHILE, recent healthcare-relevant resources from Wipfli include:
>> On-Demand Webinar: Answering your biggest tax questions around remote workers.
>> On-Demand Webinar: Leveraging modern, cloud-based accounting for healthcare.
>> Upcoming Webinar: Healthcare Connections: Discover workforce solutions to meet increasing demands on your organization on April 18.
>> Article: 5 ways data and analytics can help healthcare organizations prosper.
>> Article: Overcoming long-term care staffing challenges.
(Jeff Johnson, Steve Rousso & John Dao, Bay Area)

Ransomware Attacks Increased by More Than 51% in February

Ransomware activity increased in February according to the latest GRIT Ransomware Report from GuidePoint Security. The report is based on data collected by the GuidePoint Research and Intelligence Team, which reports a 51.5% increase in attacks compared to January and a 15.8% increase in attacks compared to February 2022. While the healthcare industry is often targeted by ransomware gangs, the GRIT team reports that healthcare was the 7th most targeted sector out of 10 sectors tracked. While the most active ransomware groups do not appear to be primarily targeting the healthcare industry, there are many smaller ransomware groups that are steadily conducting attacks and GuidePoint Security has warned that these smaller groups, which often break away from larger ransomware groups, are more likely than the larger groups to actively target the healthcare sector. (https://www.hipaajournal.com/ransomware-attacks-increased-by-more-than-51-in-february/)
Editor's Note: Alvaka, a national provider of IT services, cybersecurity and ransomware recovery services, where ABL Member Oli Thordarson is CEO, shared with us that they are booked solid with a record quarter for ransomware case billings.

Hospice Care Saves Medicare Upwards of $3.5B Annually, According to Report

A joint report published on March 22, 2023 found the total costs of care for Medicare beneficiaries who used hospice was 3.1 percent lower than those who did not, and that earlier enrollment in hospice and longer lengths of stay likely reduce overall Medicare spending. The study, conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago, analyzed enrollment and administrative claims data for Medicare patients covered by Medicare Advantage and traditional Medicare. This reduction in adjusted Medicare spending translates to an estimated $3.5 billion less in Medicare outlays for beneficiaries in their last year of life. (https://kslawemail.com/128/10083/pages/art2.asp?sid=962d0c76-205d-4d30-8dde-78181fbe03d1)

Administration Celebrates Affordable Care Act's 13th Anniversary & Highlights Record-Breaking Coverage

The Administration recently celebrated the 13th anniversary of the Affordable Care Act by highlighting record-breaking enrollment numbers during the 2023 Marketplace Open Enrollment Period and lower health care costs because of President Biden's American Rescue Plan and Inflation Reduction Act. Since 2014, when HealthCare.gov was launched, enrollment has doubled from 8 million to more than 16 million. Nearly 16.4 million consumers selected or were automatically re-enrolled in health insurance coverage through HealthCare.gov Marketplaces and State-based Marketplaces during the 2023 open enrollment. Enrollment has increased year-over-year, with 1.8 million more consumers signing up for coverage during the 2023 open enrollment compared to the 2022 open enrollment, a 13% increase, and nearly 4.4 million more consumers signing up compared to the 2021 open enrollment, a 36% increase. (https://www.hhs.gov/about/news/2023/03/23/biden-harris-administration-celebrates-affordable-care-acts-13th-anniversary-highlights-record-breaking-coverage.html)

Single Bivalent COVID Booster Is Enough for Now: CDC

The CDC has updated its COVID-19 booster shot guidelines to clarify that only a single dose of the latest bivalent booster is recommended at this time. "If you have completed your updated booster dose, you are currently up to date. There is not a recommendation to get another updated booster dose," the CDC website now explains. In January, the nation's expert COVID panel recommended that the U.S. move toward an annual COVID booster shot in the fall, similar to the annual flu shot, that targets the most widely circulating strains of the virus. Recent studies have shown that booster strength wanes after a few months, spurring discussions of whether people at high risk of getting a severe case of COVID may need more than one annual shot. September was the last time a new booster dose was recommended, when, at the time, the bivalent booster was released, offering new protection against Omicron variants of the virus. Health officials' focus is now shifting from preventing infections to reducing the likelihood of severe ones, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. (https://www.webmd.com/vaccines/covid-19-vaccine/news/20230329/single-bivalent-covid-booster-enough-for-now-cdc#)

Governor Newsom Announces Plan for a State Brand of Insulin

California Gov. Newsom announced a $50-million contract with the nonprofit generic drugmaker, Civica, to produce insulin under the state's own label. Newsom originally declared his intent to produce generic drugs three years ago in an attempt to lower the cost of pharmaceutical products. Pending approval by the FDA, the deal with Civica would provide the first pharmaceutical product made under the CalRX brand of generic drugs. Under the deal, a 10-milliliter vial - normally costing $300 - would be available for the same $30 it costs the state to manufacture and distribute the drug, according to the governor's office. (https://www.cbsnews.com/news/california-announces-plan-produce-30-dollar-insulin/)

CMS Eases Expected 2024 Payment Rate Cut to Medicare Advantage Insurers

Medicare Advantage providers face a 1.12% average cut in next year's reimbursement rates, CMS announced Friday - lower, after intense industry lobbying, than the 2.3% drop regulators had previously proposed. Additional changes aimed at combatting overbilling by providers will be phased in over a 3-year period. (https://khn.org/morning-breakout/cms-eases-expected-2024-payment-rate-cut-to-medicare-advantage-insurers/)

HHS Updates 2024 Medicare Advantage Program and Part D Payment Policies

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, through CMS, has released the Calendar Year 2024 Medicare Advantage and Part D Rate Announcement that finalized payment policies for these programs. CMS will phase-in certain updates, and on average, CMS anticipates a payment increase for MA plans of 3.32% from 2023 to 2024, which is approximately a $13.8 billion increase in MA payments for next year. (https://www.hhs.gov/about/news/2023/03/31/hhs-updates-2024-medicare-advantage-program-and-part-d-payment-policies.html)

Biden Admin Appeals Texas Court Decision Striking Down Free ACA Coverage of Preventive Care

The Biden administration on Friday appealed a Texas federal judge's decision to strike down free ACA coverage of preventive health-care services ranging from screenings for certain cancers and diabetes to HIV prevention drugs. U.S. Judge Reed O'Connor of the U.S. Northern District Court of Texas on Thursday struck down an Obamacare mandate requiring most private insurance plans to cover certain types of health care recommended an independent panel of experts called the Preventive Services Task Force. The case will now go to U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. (https://www.cnbc.com/2023/03/31/obamacare-biden-appeals-ruling-striking-down-free-preventive-care.html)
HOWEVER, the ruling won't affect most Californians because state law mandates that coverage for state-regulated insurers, said Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara. (https://www.sfchronicle.com/politics/article/calif-safe-texas-judge-s-aca-ruling-state-17870199.php)

Bard, Google's AI Chatbot, Steers Clear of Medical Questions

Unlike ChatGPT, Google's artificial intelligence chatbot, Bard, tends to avoid medical questions, The New York Times reported March 21. When the newspaper asked Bard for websites with information on the latest in cancer research, the chatbot declined. Google released the technology to a limited number of people March 21. Eli Collins, vice president of research for Google, told the news outlet that Bard steers away from giving medical, legal and financial advice as it could provide incorrect information. ChatGPT, a chatbot competitor from OpenAI, will wade into healthcare and often make up answers, though experts have said it is getting more accurate. (https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/disruptors/bard-googles-ai-chatbot-steers-clear-of-medical-questions.html)

Google Announces More AI Partnerships + Launches Open Source Tools to Help Developers Build Digital Health Apps

Google recently announced a slew of new healthcare AI partnerships, as well as an open source tool kit for developing digital health tools and new search functionality. In the AI space, Google said it has been working with the Mayo Clinic for the past three years to research tools for radiotherapy planning during cancer treatment. The partners focused on developing a model that could automatically outline or contour around organs on CT scans, limiting their exposure to radiation. Google said the partners would now focus on further research, model development and commercialization.
Google also partnered with Kenya-based maternal and neonatal health nonprofit Jacaranda Health to investigate how AI tools could improve care for pregnant women. It's also working with Chang Gung Memorial Hospital in Taiwan to study using AI-embedded ultrasound to find early signs of breast cancer and partnering with South Africa-based Right to Care to provide AI-backed tuberculosis screenings in Sub-Saharan Africa.
In addition, Google launched its Open Health Stack, a suite of open source tools intended to help developers create digital health products in under-resourced areas. (https://www.mobihealthnews.com/news/google-announces-more-ai-partnerships-and-other-health-updates)

Providers Tapping ChatGPT Tech to Summarize Patient Visits, Assist in Research

Healthcare startups such as Pittsburgh-based Abridge AI Inc., whose product helps doctors write notes after seeing their patients, and San Francisco-based Syntegra Inc., which uses generative AI to create realistic copies of patient data for research, say they have applied generative artificial intelligence for the safest and most accurate current uses in healthcare. At the moment, one of the earliest large-scale uses of generative AI in healthcare is being rolled out at the University of Kansas Health System. The Kansas City-area medical centers are making Abridge's tool available to their over 2,000 doctors and other medical staff, said Chief Medical Informatics Officer Dr. Gregory Ator. Abridge's platform uses generative AI to create summaries of medical conversations from recorded audio during patient visits. That helps doctors cut down on the amount of time they spend on notes, which can add up to over two hours a day, according to Dr. Ator. (https://www.wsj.com/articles/generative-ai-makes-headway-in-healthcare-cb5d4ee2?mod=hp_minor_pos5)

Personalized Stem Cells to Treat Parkinson's and CHF

Could an injection of lab-cultured brain cells, created from a person's own cells, reverse symptoms of Parkinson's disease? That's an idea that Aspen Neuroscience Inc., a startup based in San Diego, plans to test in human trials later this year. In patients with Parkinson's, neurons die and lose the ability to make the chemical dopamine, leading to erratic, uncontrollable movements. Aspen Neuroscience will test if the newly injected cells can mature into dopamine producers, stopping the debilitating symptoms of this incurable disease, says Damien McDevitt, the company's CEO. Tests in animals have shown promise, the company says.
Aspen Neuroscience is one of several groups planning human tests of treatments with stem cells created by reverse-engineering a patient's own cells back to a stem-cell state. These "induced pluripotent stem cells," or iPS cells, behave similarly to embryonic cells in that they can grow into any type of cell. Researchers are hoping that they can grow a patient's own iPS cells into an array of healthy cells to treat diseases that now have no cure. Among them, a team at the National Institutes of Health is leading a trial begun in 2019 to treat macular degeneration, a leading cause of vision loss, using eye tissue grown from samples of a patient's blood. A trial at Mayo Clinic later this year will surgically implant heart tissue grown from a patient's skin cells, in an effort to treat congenital heart disease. These early clinical trials will be "proof of principle" tests of an idea that stem-cell biologists have long chased, says Rudolf Jaenisch, a stem-cell biologist at the Whitehead Institute and MIT who did pioneering work in genetics in the 1980s and '90s. (https://www.wsj.com/articles/stem-cells-parkinsons-disease-heart-failure-60e9e21f?mod=hp_featst_pos3)

Over a Quarter of the 100 Hardest-Working Cities in America are in California

WalletHub, a personal finance website, compared the 116 most-populated cities to determine which are the hardest-working, using direct work factors, including average workweek hours, employment rate and worker engagement, and indirect work factors, including average commute, average volunteer hours and average leisure time per day. According to the analysis, these California cities are among the 100 most hardworking - implying the Bay Area is the "hardest working region," led by #1 San Francisco; San Jose (29); Fremont (31); and Oakland (50). San Diego follows at #61. Orange County cities rank lower: Irvine (67); Santa Ana (70); Anaheim (71); with LA County - Los Angeles (77); Long Beach (78), and Riverside (96) bringing up the rear. (https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/rankings-and-ratings/100-hardest-working-cities-in-america.html)

Empty CMS Parking Lot Stirs Questions About Staff Productivity

Sen. Bill Cassidy, MD, recently pressed HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra on the agency's remote work policies and raised questions around employees' productivity during a Senate Finance Committee hearing March 22. "How do we know the people of HHS are working?" the Louisiana Republican asked while presenting a photo of what he said was an empty parking lot at CMS' headquarters at 10:40 a.m. March 20.
Mr. Becerra told the senator that HHS employs nearly 90,000 people across the country and in many locations. After several back-and-forths, the secretary told the senator that HHS ensures that employees are "performing and delivering." The senator cited "generous telework policies" that he said were included in recent CMS job postings and claimed that HHS employees have told him they are only required to come into the office once a week. Dr. Cassidy specifically inquired about the percentage of full-time employees that worked in-person before the pandemic and are now physically back at their desk on any given day. He also sought VPN data to show that HHS employees are accessing their computers and emails while working remotely, and asked if salary adjustments have been made for employees that were originally hired in a high cost of living area but now work remotely somewhere else. "You're limiting the scope of what we do. We have investigators who never sit at desks," Mr. Becerra said. "Depending on the work that has to be performed, they will be in the office at times, sometimes they may be in the field. But what's important is that they're performing." (https://www.beckerspayer.com/workforce/empty-cms-parking-lot-stirs-questions-about-staff-productivity.html)

All Social Media Platforms Have TikTok-Like Risks, Transparency Group Says

Congress is considering several proposals that could limit TikTok's US operations, which is happening in parallel with the Biden administration's national security review of the platform. The Justice Department, along with other government agencies that make up the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US, has rejected TikTok's multilayered plan to protect US users from Chinese influence. The White House has urged Congress to focus on passing one bipartisan Senate bill that would give the administration the authority to evaluate and mitigate the national security risk of any adversary-owned technology such as TikTok. (https://www.financialexpress.com/brandwagon/tiktok-like-risk-posed-by-all-social-media-platforms-tech-oversight-project-says/3017114/) (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2023-03-20/tiktok-like-risks-shared-by-meta-google-amazon-and-apple-group-says)
ALSO, Nearly half of adolescent girls on TikTok feel addicted to it or use the platform for longer than they intend, according to a report that looks at social media as a central facet of American girlhood. TikTok leads the way in total time on its platform, with girls who use it logging more than 2.5 hours a day, according to researchers from Brown University and the nonprofit Common Sense Media. But YouTube is only a bit behind, at nearly 2.5 hours, with Snapchat and messaging apps at about two hours, and Instagram at 92 minutes. Many of the girls surveyed, ages 11 to 15, use multiple platforms each day. (https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2023/03/30/social-media-girls-teens-depression-tiktok/)

Payor-Led Initiatives to Strengthen Mental Health Resources

The mental health industry has begun to embrace digital health as a supplement, and even a replacement, to in-person care. In recent years, big-name insurers have expanded mental health treatment for members beyond the classic office-based therapy visit by offering on-demand virtual services, such as Blue Shield of California's Wellvolution platform, Aetna's Mindcheck platform, and Blue Shield of California's CredibleMind care management tool. Digital health platforms like these go beyond the minimum coverage required by state and federal parity laws to give members round-the-clock access to tools that allow them to manage their own mental health between traditional appointments. Not only are these tools popular among members, they are proving to be an effective means to combat the current access-to-care issues facing the mental health industry. (https://www.sheppardhealthlaw.com/2023/03/articles/behavioral-health/payor-led-initiatives-to-strengthen-mental-health-resources/)

Best Buy Will Set Up In-Home Hospital Care Through New Deal with Atrium Health

Consumer electronics retailer Best Buy said it has struck a three-year deal with Atrium Health, a North Carolina-based healthcare system, to help enable a hospital-at-home program. Atrium Health is part of Advocate Health, one of the country's largest health-care nonprofits. Best Buy's Geek Squad will go to patients' homes, set up technology that remotely monitors their heart rate, blood oxygen level or other vitals and train the patient or others in the home how to use the devices. The data would then be shared securely with doctors and nurses through the telemedicine hub from Current Health. Best Buy began setting up virtual-care systems in mid-February for 10 hospitals in and around Charlotte, NC. The company said it aims to have about 100 patients in the program each day - roughly equivalent to a midsized hospital but without a building. Best Buy and Atrium did not disclose specific financial terms but said Atrium will buy the devices from Best Buy and use Geek Squad services for installation and retrieval when the patient is cleared from care. Patients will pay Atrium through their insurance, including Medicare or Medicaid. (https://www.cnbc.com/2023/03/07/best-buy-atrium-health-in-home-hospital-care.html)

Hospitals Begin to Use "Black Boxes" to Help Reduce Medical Errors, Improve Patient Safety

Black boxes on airplanes record detailed information about flights. Now, a technology that goes by the same name and captures just about everything that goes on in an operating room during a surgery is making its way into hospitals. The OR Black Box, a system of sensors and software, is being used in operating rooms in 24 hospitals in the U.S., Canada and Western Europe. Video, audio, patient vital signs and data from surgical devices are among the information being captured. The technology is being used primarily to analyze OR practices in hopes of reducing medical errors, improving patient safety and making ORs more efficient. David L. Feldman, CMO at Healthcare Risk Advisors, says he believes that because of the anonymization of information from OR Black Box, it's unlikely to be used in malpractice litigation. He encourages hospitals to embrace black-box technology. "I believe," he says, "it will make surgery safer and thus reduce liability and malpractice claims." (https://www.wsj.com/articles/surgery-technology-data-black-boxes-a8bc483b?mod=lead_feature_below_a_pos1)

New Drugs for Cancer, Rare Disease Can Now Cost $20,000+ a Month

A new Amgen Inc. lung-cancer treatment, Lumakras, carried a hefty price tag when it came out in 2021: $17,900 per patient monthly. Just over a year later, in December 2022, a second drug for the same type of cancer, Krazati from Mirati Therapeutics Inc., had an even higher price: $19,750 a month - a 10% premium. As drugmakers face rising pressure to rein in repeat or annual price hikes on existing drugs, new brand-name medicines are coming to market with ever-higher price tags on day one. Previously, companies would carefully consider whether to crack big price barriers when launching a drug, like $5,000 and then $10,000 a month. Now, many new drugs for cancer and rare diseases routinely exceed those price thresholds, often coming in at more than $20,000 a month. These higher starting prices for new drugs have contributed to higher out-of-pocket costs for patients and stretched budgets for private insurers and federal programs including Medicare. (https://www.wsj.com/articles/new-drugs-are-coming-to-market-at-sky-high-prices-4736372e?mod=hp_listc_pos3)

This Affordable Senior Housing Project Is Aimed at the Middle Class; Industry Keeps Watch to See Whether Cost-Saving Efforts are Exportable

Construction workers in the Boston area recently broke ground on one of the rare senior housing projects that is intended to be affordable for middle-class residents. The developer 2Life Communities plans to charge monthly rents as low as $1,800 at the $100 million development in Newton, Mass. Comparable independent living communities in the Boston region charge $4,200 a month, according to the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care. 2Life said it can achieve a lower price point by breaking from the traditional senior facility model, with policies such as serving group dinners only three nights a week and requiring residents to volunteer 10 hours a month. The entrance fee starts at $395,000, which is about one-third the entrance cost at other senior housing facilities, 2Life said. When a resident leaves or dies, 80% of the fee will be refunded to them or family members. Nearly all of the project's 174 units have been reserved with deposits, said 2Life's chief executive. (https://www.wsj.com/articles/this-affordable-senior-housing-project-is-aimed-at-the-middle-class-95e51ecf?mod=hp_listc_pos2)

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