Friday Factoids

Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash

From Washington, DC,

  • Federal News Network informs us
    • “As part of a big push from the Biden administration to conduct a governmentwide AI hiring surge, the Office of Personnel Management is trying to make it easier for agencies to recruit experts in the field.
    • “OPM has authorized direct hire authority for a handful of governmentwide occupations — IT specialist, computer scientist, computer engineer, and management and program analyst — according to a memo the agency published Friday.
    • “This authorization will assist agency efforts to increase AI capabilities in the federal government,” OPM said in the memo.”
  • The Washington Post explores efforts to improve access to primary care in the US.
    • “Primary care is one of the few interventions that has been shown to improve health outcomes,” said Shantanu Nundy, a primary care physician who works for a virtual care company and at a federally qualified health center. The current system devalues routine preventive care in favor of expensive treatments, he said, and “Americans are living poorer-quality and shorter lives as a result.” * * *
    • “In September, Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) announced a $26 billion legislative bill aimed at expanding primary care and reducing staffing shortages. The impact of that bill is likely to be limited, partly because it is focused almost exclusively on federally qualified health centers, which cater to less than 10 percent of the population, while the problems with primary care are far more extensive.
    • “The HHS initiative also does not change an essential flaw in the current financial structure, which relies on a physician visit to initiate the billing process. If a community health worker first knocks on somebody’s door, there is no way to reimburse that visit. Those problems became clearer during and after the pandemic, which put a spotlight on how few people have a lasting relationship with a primary care doctor. The challenge is to figure out ways to pay for entry-level services and care providers beyond the family doctor.
    • “Given the shortages and trust issues, it makes much more sense for people to be allowed to see those other health professionals first,” Nundy said. “The whole system bottlenecks on the physician.”
    • FEHBlog note: So PCP gatekeepers are now bottlenecks.

From the public health front,

  • The Centers for Disease Control’s Fluview tells us,
    • “Seasonal influenza activity is elevated and continues to increase in most parts of the country.
    • “Outpatient respiratory illness is above baselinenationally for the eighth consecutive week and is above baseline in all 10 HHS Regions.
    • “The number of weekly flu hospital admissions continues to increase.
    • “During Week 51, of the 875 viruses reported by public health laboratories, 748 (85.5%) were influenza A and 127 (14.5%) were influenza B. Of the 391 influenza A viruses subtyped during Week 51, 309 (79.0%) were influenza A(H1N1) and 82 (21.0%) were A(H3N2).”
  • Medscape points out,
    • “The COVID-10 pandemic may no longer be a global public health emergency, but millions continue to struggle with the aftermath: Long COVID. New research and clinical anecdotes suggest that certain individuals are more likely to be afflicted by the condition, nearly 4 years after the virus emerged. 
    • “People with a history of allergies, anxiety or depression, arthritis, and autoimmune diseases and women are among those who appear more vulnerable to developing long COVID, said doctors who specialize in treating the condition.”
  • STAT News reports on three addiction stories to watch next year:
    • Will methadone access expand?
    • Will there be a return to police-first drug policy?
    • Will telehealth be given a role in recovery?
  • The American Medical Association tells us what doctors wish their patients knew about their family health history.

From our U.S. healthcare business front,

  • Per Fierce Healthcare,
    • “Though often associated with gaming, virtual reality (VR) is a technology rapidly evolving in healthcare. From pain management to enabling more efficient surgeries to gamifying physical therapy, VR use cases continue to proliferate. 
    • “It especially holds promise in revolutionizing the behavioral health space, with substantial research supporting its effectiveness. VR is being used to treat a number of conditions, including anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance use disorders and autism.
    • “VR therapy is not a new concept. It was formally studied more than two decades ago, though it wasn’t until the last few years that the field became prominent, with new companies moving into the space. And as technology has improved and gotten more intuitive to use, it has also become less expensive. And in 2022, the American Medical Association approvedthe first-ever CPT code for VR-mediated therapy. 
    • “There is no question mark in my view about the clinical validity and clinical value the technology can bring to the market,” Eran Orr, CEO at XRHealth, told Fierce Healthcare, pointing out there are more than 15,000 published papers on VR’s efficacy across modalities.
    • “Not only can VR expand a provider’s arsenal of treatment tools, Orr said, but it also offers a wealth of insights on engagement, biofeedback, wellness and other data. “VR is the technology for mental health,” Orr said.
    • “Despite its potential, the technology still faces hurdles to adoption, like reimbursement, logistical challenges and regulatory pressures.” 
  • Beckers Hospital Review shares the top ten trending Google health searches of 2023 with us.