Tuesday follow-ups

Last week, the FEHBlog noted Uber’s new venture for rides to the hospital, doctor, or dentist. Fierce Healthcare reports today that Uber’s competitor Lyft has entered into an arrangement with a major electronic health records developer, All Scripts. This new collaboration “integrates the ride-hailing company’s API with the Sunrise EHR system. The companies expect to reach roughly 7 million patients via 180,000 physicians in 2,500 hospitals and 45,000 practices.”  It follows up on a Lyft pilot program with the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association stated last summer.

Earlier this year, the FEHBlog noted a Wall Street Journal article about a drug under development in Japan that could kill the flu in 24 hours. ABC News reported on February 28 that the Japanese government has approved the drug.

The Japanese firm that makes Xofluza, Shionogi, received the fast-tracked approval from Japan’s health ministry to make and sell it there. The drug may not be available to buy in Japan until May, though, because no price has been set by the country’s national insurer. Roche, the drug manufacturer that makes Tamiflu, is already working with Shionogi and another drugmaker on trials in the U.S.

This week the Boston Globe’s STAT reports on the state of research into a universal flu vaccine.

Revcycle Intelligence reports on a recent American Medical Association study hammering on the poor reliability of health plan provider plans. In fairness the article explains that a part of the problem is the failure of doctors to update their provider directory information. CAQH offers an automated tool for this purpose. In any event, why don’t doctors take responsibility for informing their patients. The FEHBlog’s internist does.
Another thing that annoys the FEHBlog is that Congress for nearly 20 years has blocked the development of a common patient identifier.  Health Data Management offers an opinion piece suggesting that a common patient identifier may not sole the country’s patient matching problems.  But it would be a good start. 
The Centers for Disease Control reports on a recent spike in hospital emergency department admissions for opioid overdoses. 

From July 2016 through September 2017, opioid overdoses increased for:
Men (↑30%) and women (↑24%)
People ages 25-34 (↑ 31%), 35-54 (↑36%), and 55 and over (↑32%)
Most states (↑ 30% average), especially in the Midwest (↑70% average)
SOURCE: CDC’s National Syndromic Surveillance Program, 52 jurisdictions in 45 states reporting.

Two academics also released a study today concluding that

The United States is experiencing an epidemic of opioid abuse. In response, many states have increased access to Naloxone, a drug that can save lives when administered during an overdose. However, Naloxone access may unintentionally increase opioid abuse through two channels: (1) saving the lives of active drug users, who survive to continue abusing opioids, and (2) reducing the risk of death per use, thereby making riskier opioid use more appealing. By increasing the number of opioid abusers who need to fund their drug purchases, Naloxone access laws may also increase theft. We exploit the staggered timing of Naloxone access laws to estimate the total effects of these laws. We find that broadening Naloxone access led to more opioid-related emergency room visits and more opioid-related theft, with no reduction in opioid-related mortality. These effects are driven by urban areas and vary by region. We find the most detrimental effects in the Midwest, including a 14% increase in opioid-related mortality in that region.

The FEHBlog is always keen on pointing out innovations.  The Texas Medical Center Health Policy Institute released an worthwhile report on reducing health care costs – current innovations and future possibilities. Specifically, Intermountain Healthcare based in Utah recently announced the opening of

Intermountain’s virtual hospital — Connect Care Pro — is one of the largest of its type in U.S., will make services available to under served areas Intermountain Healthcare has launched one of the nation’s largest virtual hospital services – called Intermountain Connect Care Pro – bringing together 35 telehealth programs and more than 500 caregivers to enable patients to receive the medical care they need, regardless of where they are.

Connect Care Pro provides basic medical care as well as advanced services, such as stroke evaluation, mental health counseling, intensive care, and newborn critical care.  While it doesn’t replace the need for on-site caregivers, it supplements existing staff and provides specialized services in rural communities where those types of medical care usually aren’t readily available.