Happy Lincoln’s Birthday!

Our greatest President, Abraham Lincoln, was born on February 12, 1809, in Hodgenville, Kentucky.  RIP.

From Washington, DC,

  • The Federal Times reports,
    • “By the second week in February lawmakers are supposed to be busy picking apart the White House’ budget request with an eye towards policy debates in coming months. But the process hasn’t worked that way in recent years.
    • “Administration officials earlier this month announced their fiscal 2025 budget proposal would arrive more than a month late — on March 11 — marking the fourth consecutive year that Biden has missed the statutory deadline for a spending plan in early February.”
  • Federal News Network explains,
    • “For decades, Federal Executive Boards have been at the forefront of bridging together the nationwide federal workforce. Stretching from Honolulu, Hawaii, to Boston, Massachusetts — Seattle, Washington, to South Florida, and many places in between, FEBs have a large network already underway. Even so, recent changes to the decades-old program will refresh how FEBs function moving forward.
    • “Federal News Network has spent months connecting with FEB leaders all across the country to learn more about what they do, the impact they have had in their local areas, and their plans in store for the future. Over the next week, we’ll be focusing on four different regions of the country — one per day:
    • Eastern Region (Feb. 12) | Southern Region (Feb. 13) | Central Region (Feb. 14) | Western Region (Feb. 15).”
    • Check it out.
  • According to this press release,
    • “The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), announced today that two additional organizations—CommonWell Health Alliance and Kno2—have been designated as Qualified Health Information Networks™ (QHINs™) capable of nationwide health data exchange governed by the Trusted Exchange Framework and Common AgreementSM (TEFCASM). ONC has led a multi-year, public-private process alongside its Recognized Coordinating Entity®, The Sequoia Project, Inc., to implement TEFCA, which was envisioned by the 21st Century Cures Act to support nationwide interoperability. TEFCA became operational in December 2023 with the designation of the first five QHINs—eHealth Exchange, Epic Nexus, Health Gorilla, KONZA, and MedAllies.
    • “CommonWell Health Alliance and Kno2 can immediately begin supporting the exchange of data under the Common Agreement’s policies and technical requirements along with the other designated QHINs. QHINs are the pillars of TEFCA network-to-network exchange, providing shared services and governance to securely route queries, responses, and messages across networks for health care stakeholders including patients, providers, hospitals, health systems, payers, and public health agencies.”
  • STAT News reports,
    • “A federal district judge [in Austin, Texas] on Monday granted the Biden administration’s request to dismiss a lawsuit challenging Medicare’s new drug price negotiation program from the drug industry lobbying organization PhRMA. * * *
    • “However this [decision] wasn’t about the substance of those groups’ arguments. The Texas judge dismissed one of the co-plaintiffs, the National Infusion Center Association, from the case because it didn’t have subject matter jurisdiction to bring the lawsuit. And because NICA was the only party to the lawsuit in Texas, the whole case got tossed.
    • “That means the Biden administration still has to brace for battles in Washington D.C., New Jersey, and Delaware, where a judge recently heard arguments in an AstraZeneca suit against the negotiation plan.”

From the public health and medical research front,

  • MedPage Today points out,
    • “Blood protein profiles predicted future dementia in healthy adults, a large longitudinal study showed.
    • “Blood samples from over 50,000 people in the U.K. Biobank showed that four proteins — glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), neurofilament light (NfL), growth differentiation factor-15 (GDF-15), and latent-transforming growth factor beta-binding protein 2 (LTBP2) — consistently were associated with subsequent all-cause dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, or vascular dementia over 14 years, according to Jin-Tai Yu, MD, PhD, of Fudan University in Shanghai, and co-authors.”
  • The Hill reports,
    • A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that the rate of preterm births rose by 12 percent nationally between 2014 and 2022. 
    • Manisha Gandhi, chair of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Clinical Practice Guidelines Committee, told The Hill’s Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech that several factors could be at play. 
    • “We are seeing more patients with obesity, higher risks for hypertension or preeclampsia … seeing more diabetes,” Gandhi said. “Potentially some of those risk factors that lead to earlier delivery could be playing a role.” 
    • Environmental factors such as exposure to hormone-disrupting chemicals and air pollution may also be contributing to the rise in preterm births. 
  • The Wall Street Journal lets us know,
    • “Uterine is the only cancer for which survival has fallen in the past four decades, the American Cancer Society said. The disease will kill some 13,250 women in the U.S. this year, the group estimates, surpassing ovarian cancer to become the deadliest gynecologic cancer. 
    • “Case rates have been increasing by about 1% annually over the past decade, with steeper rises for Black and Hispanic women. Rising obesity rates are partly to blame because excess weight increases estrogen levels that can fuel the cancer, researchers said. And fewer women are getting their uteruses removed to treat abnormal bleeding or noncancerous fibroids, leaving them exposed to the risk cancer develops in the organ as they age.
    • “But those factors alone don’t explain the rise. The disease, more common after menopause, is rising across age groups including in women under 50 for reasons that aren’t completely clear. * * *
    • “Uterine cancer, also called endometrial cancer, comes in two forms. The more common one is slow-growing, linked to elevated estrogen levels, and curable when caught early. The rarer type isn’t hormonal and is harder to treat. Cases of this more aggressive kind are increasing faster and driving rising death rates. 
    • “Chemical hair straighteners have been linked to uterine cancer risk. The Food and Drug Administration plans in July to propose a ban on formaldehyde in hair straightening or smoothing products. 
    • “I don’t think it’s just hair products, sadly,” said Dr. Premal Thaker, a gynecologic surgeon at Siteman Cancer Center in St. Louis. “There’s more diabetes, more obesity, and there’s probably something else that we just don’t know.” 
  • Per Fierce Healthcare,
    • “An “overwhelming” 88% of respondents reporting healthcare discrimination in a new screening initiative were Black, according to a new Humana study.
    • “The report focused on the structural determinants of health as opposed to the more common social determinants of health. While such social determinants center on the conditions in which people live, work, play, learn and worship, structural determinants focus on the economic and social experiences and policies that influence health such as discrimination and health literacy. Both social and structural determinants are often interrelated, according to the study authors. 
    • “The study, published in the American Journal of Managed Care, is the first of its kind by a U.S. insurer to focus on the structural determinants of health, aspects which are “critical” but often overlooked, Humana said.
    • “The healthcare discrimination finding was somewhat problematic given a small sample size and how exactly to frame and ask questions but was nevertheless quite instructive, said co-author J. Nwando Olayiwola, M.D., chief health equity officer and senior vice president at Humana.” 
  • According to an NIH press release,
    • “Scientists have identified an area within the brain’s frontal cortex that may coordinate an animal’s response to potentially traumatic situations. Understanding where and how neural circuits involving the frontal cortex regulate such functions, and how such circuits could malfunction, may provide insight about their role in trauma-related and stress-related psychiatric disorders in people. The study, led by scientists at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), a part of the National Institutes of Health, was published in Nature.
    • “Experiencing traumatic events is often at the root of trauma-related and stress-related psychiatric conditions, including alcohol use disorder (AUD),” said the study’s senior author, Andrew Holmes, Ph.D., senior investigator in NIAAA’s Laboratory of Behavioral and Genomic Neuroscience. “Additionally, witnessing others experience traumatic events can also contribute to these disorders.”
  • MedPage Today explains how patients are using artificial intelligence tools.
    • “It’s no secret that patients have been using Dr. Google for years. The introduction of ChatGPT is ushering in a new era. ChatGPT and other types of artificial intelligence have their drawbacks. Still, they can offer a range of benefits to healthcare providers and patients alike.”

From the U.S. healthcare business front,

  • Per Fierce Healthcare,
    • “Kaiser Permanente wrapped up its fiscal year with $329 million of operating income (0.3% operating income), net income of $4.1 billion and more than $100 billion in both operating revenues and expenses, the Oakland, California-based nonprofit announced Feb. 9.
    • “The rebound performance follows sizable losses during 2022, when the system logged a $1.3 billion operating loss (-1.3% operating income) off of $95.4 billion in operating revenues and $96.7 billion in operating expenses. It had also weathered a net loss of $4.5 billion due to a $3.2 billion loss across “other income,” which largely reflected down investments.
    • “I want to thank the people of Kaiser Permanente for their hard work in 2023 to provide members and patients with a positive experience at all touch points while also embracing new ways to drive efficiencies, improve access, and advance health outcomes,” said Chair and CEO Greg A. Adams said in a press release sharing the year’s top-line financial results. “Together, we navigated another challenging year and are on a path to deliver on our mission and bring our distinct brand of value-based care to more people.”
  • Per BioPharma Dive,
    • “Gilead Sciences will acquire CymaBay Therapeutics and the biotechnology company’s liver disease drug in a $4.3 billion deal announced Monday.
    • “The proposed buyout would hand Gilead an experimental medicine for primary biliary cholangitis, or PBC, a chronic condition characterized by the toxic build-up of bile acid in the liver. CymaBay disclosed Monday that the Food and Drug Administration has accepted its application for the drug, called seladelpar, and will decide on approval by mid-August.”
  • Health IT Analytics notes,
    • “The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) has launched its AI Resource Hub to provide healthcare and health information (HI) stakeholders with knowledge around the use of non-clinical artificial intelligence (AI) tools.
    • “In response to the rise of AI utilization in healthcare, AHIMA partnered with Alazro Consulting to interview experts in the space and AI implementers representing over 200 hospitals and 1,000 clinics across the United States. These structured interviews were then used to develop AHIMA’s newest white paper, upon which the AI Resource Hub is based.  
    • “One of the white paper’s major findings is that the use of AI in healthcare is growing as organizations turn to the technology to optimize efficiency and workflows. These tools are often deployed to support health information management, clinical care, operations, and revenue cycle management.”
  • Fierce Healthcare identified its Fierce 15 of 2024.
    • “This year’s 15 honorees recognized a significant gap in the market, whether it’s for personalized GI care, opening up access to mental health or addressing loneliness among seniors with a robot companion. They then set to work to build forward-thinking solutions to address a specific problem.
    • “They are all taking a fresh angle to long-standing problems in healthcare, such as harnessing AI to streamline clinical documentation or using virtual care to treat the root causes of obesity.”

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