The FEHBlog notes for the record that he predicted last year that the Supreme Court will declare the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional on federalism grounds in June. Press accounts of the DOMA constitutionality arguments this week reassured that FEHBlog that his prediction will turn out correct. Following that decision, OPM can allow gay federal employees to sign up for self and family coverage for their same sex spouses and step children.  

The Agency for Healthcare Quality and Research has posted on its website a toolkit to help hospitals avoid unnecessary readmissions — a major federal government initiative that OPM has adopted. Although the toolkit is designed for hospital discharge unit staff members, the FEHBlog expects that health plan case managers will find it useful as well.

Also of interest to case managers may be the new Medicare Chronic Condition Dashboard announced today by CMS. “The dashboard offers researchers, physicians, public health
professionals, and policymakers an easy-to-use tool to get current data
on where multiple chronic conditions occur, which services they require,
and how much Medicare spends helping beneficiaries with multiple
chronic conditions.” Here is a link to the dashboard.

The American Society of Clinical Oncology announced that it is gathering de-identified data from electronic health records to build a “knowledge-generating computer network [known as CancerLinQ] that will collect and analyze cancer care data from millions of patient visits, together with expert guidelines and other evidence, to generate real-time, personalized guidance and quality feedback for physicians.”  The Wall Street Journal explains

In the ASCO project, called CancerLinQ, almost all patients would, in effect, become part of a clinical study. The system would collect data that doctors routinely record in a patient’s files, such as age, gender, medications and other illnesses, along with the patient’s diagnosis, treatment and, eventually, date of death. Once the outcome of a sufficient number of patients is pooled, doctors could tap the database for help in developing treatments for other patients.
For instance, consider a 77-year-old man with stage 3 colon cancer, heart failure and diabetes, said W. Charles Penley, a cancer doctor at Tennessee Oncology in Nashville. “That patient wouldn’t have been included in a clinical trial, but those are the folks we take care of in the real world all the time,” he said.
Using the database, Dr. Penley could see how the top three chemotherapy regimens for similar patients performed, and how age, heart failure and diabetes might have affected the treatment.
“If you can query a database in real time for a patient in your office, this is a potential game changer,” Dr. Penley said.
The database also would “give us more evidence for the treatments we actually use,” said Sandra Swain, ASCO president and a breast-cancer specialist at Medstar Washington Hospital Center in Washington, D.C.

That is cool stuff — an innovation that could help pull the cost curve down (gasp).