Weekend Update

From Washington, DC,

  • The Supreme Court holds its final two weeks of oral arguments for the current term this month.

From the public health and medical research front,

  • The Wall Street Journal discusses advances in Alzheimer’s Disease care.
  • NPR Shots explains new approaches to treating lung cancer.
  • Fortune Well lets us know
    • “Can’t focus on the task at hand or feeling sluggish beyond the afternoon slump? One possible cause: iron-deficiency anemia (IDA). 
    • “About 3 million Americans have anemia, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease and Prevention Disease and Prevention (CDC), and those are just the people who’ve been diagnosed. Many others live with the condition for years without realizing it. * * *
    • “After figuring out the underlying cause, the next plan of action is treatment. For many, iron supplements are the answer. Your doctor may recommend over-the-counter iron pills to replenish the iron stores in your body. However, these tablets are not a one-size-fits-all solution.”  
  • STAT News reports,
    • “Amid the many demands of practicing medicine, doctors can have less time and energy for their patients, and those relationships can suffer. Yet research has shownthat when physicians show empathy, that can generally lead to better clinical outcomes, at least over the near-term. Now, a new study, published Thursday in JAMA Network Open, demonstrates that those benefits can extend longer and be even more effective than some clinical therapies in dealing with lower back pain, which affects half of the U.S. population in any given year.
    • “Researchers at the University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth, observing patients with lower back pain over the course of 12 months, found that treatment by a “very empathic” physician was associated with better outcomes at the end of that year than treatment by a “slightly empathic” physician. And those positive outcomes were greater than those associated with nonpharmacological treatments (exercise therapy, yoga, massage therapy, spinal manipulation, acupuncture, cognitive behavioral therapy), opioid therapy, and lumbar spine surgery.”

From the U.S. healthcare business front,

  • Beckers Hospital Review lists “27 critical access hospitals to know for 2024.”
    • “These hospitals are vital components of the overall healthcare delivery system, providing quality care to the residents and visitors of rural areas. The small but mighty organizations are working to expand access to specialty care, cut down on patient travel times, and improve community health. 
    • “Critical access hospitals are those that offer 24/7 emergency care and have no more than 25 inpatient beds. While compiling this list, the editorial team examined rankings and awards from several respected organizations, including Healthgrades, the National Rural Health Association and the Chartis Center for Rural Health.”
  • Fierce Healthcare reports,
    • “A year ago, Blue Shield of California joined forces with Accolade and TeleMed2U to launch Virtual Blue, a new plan that centers on virtual care for members with the goal of boosting access.
    • “And with that first year on the books, the insurer is seeing positive results in Virtual Blue, it revealed Friday. Members were more likely to visit their primary care doctors compared to those in a more traditional PPO plan. Blue Shield saw primary care claims increase by 31% in 2023 compared to 2022.
    • “People who enroll in Virtual Blue are able to secure virtual visits with a $0 copayment and can schedule appointments online with their clinician, making it easier to fit critical visits into their daily lives. In-person care is available whenever appropriate or when the member prefers, Blue Shield said.”