FYI: Healthcare

Saturday, June 16, 2012
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Gen Y: Disconnected from Healthcare

A new online survey of 2,211 American adults finds there is a distinct disconnect between the expectations of the digitally connected Generation Y and the realities of healthcare's current infrastructure.

Among those ages 18 through 34, according to the survey, 54 percent say the process of dealing with their health is frustrating, while 63 percent feel they are at the mercy of their doctor's or dentist's front-desk staff when making an appointment.

Generation Y people are accustomed to having information available at their fingertips, as this age group makes up only 23 percent of the population but represents the largest group of smartphone and tablet owners, according to Zoc Docs, a New York-based company dedicated to improving healthcare access that commissioned the survey.

But, as the survey illustrates, with much of the healthcare industry plagued with antiquated processes and a lack of transparency or real-time information, this generation is feeling a divide between the immediacy and access they have come to expect in all aspects of their lives as compared to what today's healthcare system offers them.

"This study highlights the need for the healthcare space to play technological catch-up to other industries," says Dr. Roshini Rajapaksa, assistant professor of medicine at New York University's Langone Medical Center. "If we are not technologically savvy enough to make healthcare user-friendly for our young population, then this generation will be less likely to regularly seek out the preventive care they need and deserve. As a physician, that's incredibly concerning."

New Cybersecurity Threat Center

The Health Information Trust Alliance, based in Frisco, Texas, has established a centralized Cybersecurity Incident Response and Coordination Center where organizations can report such incidents as well as receive support around the issue, including facilitating the early identification of cybersecurity attacks, coordination of response activities, and creation of best practices.  

In addition, the center will make available cyber-threat information to the broader industry.

According to the group, the center was created to protect the U.S. healthcare industry from disruption by cyber attacks, and it will focus on cybersecurity threats and events targeted at healthcare organizations in areas including, but not limited to, networks, mobile devices, workstations, servers and medical devices. This sharing of information is crucial for organizations' preparedness, protection and crisis management.

The center is working initially with 14 leading industry organizations, representing health plans and health systems, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to share various types of incident information.

It will collaborate with HITRUST and others to identify and remediate incidents, and will also obtain and synthesize cyber-threat and response information from numerous other sources to make the information more readily available to center participants. HITRUST will also lead the center's participants in evaluating appropriate tools and related security mechanisms to support the center's efforts.

Study: Three in Five Misuse Prescription Drugs

Results of a national study of nearly 76,000 laboratory tests for monitoring prescription-drug use indicate that the majority of Americans tested misused their prescription drugs, including potentially addictive pain medications.

The results show that more than three in five patients, or 63 percent, tested through Madison, N.J.-based Quest Diagnostics, were inconsistent with clinician orders. The findings suggest many Americans take prescription medications in ways that put their health at risk, from missing doses to combining medications with other drugs without a clinician's oversight.

The Quest Diagnostics Health Trends Report entitled Prescription Drug Misuse in America, Laboratory Insights into the New Drug Epidemic is based on an analysis of 75,997 de-identified urine lab-test results of patients of both genders in 45 states and the District of Columbia performed by the company's clinical laboratories in 2011. Patients were tested for the presence of up to 26 commonly abused prescription medications and illicit drugs, such as cocaine and marijuana.

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The study found high rates of inconsistency with clinician orders among all specific drug classes tested, including opioid pain medications, such as oxycodone (including OxyContin, 44 percent), central-nervous-system depressants such as alprazolam (including Xanax, 50 percent), and the stimulant amphetamine (such as Adderrall, 48 percent). High rates of misuse were found in women and men across all ages, income levels and government and commercial health-plan coverage.

Healthcare for L.A.'s Restaurant Workers

A restaurant workers' group and a Los Angeles community clinic launched a unique cooperative to provide health coverage to illegal immigrants working in the city's restaurants, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The paper says the pilot program, believed to be the first of its kind in the nation, offers preventive and primary care to low-wage, uninsured workers in the restaurant industry. Legal immigrants and other restaurant workers who don't meet the criteria or cannot afford coverage under the healthcare law are also eligible.

About 75,000 restaurant workers in Los Angeles don't have access to insurance because of their immigration status, Mariana Huerta, of the Restaurant Opportunities Center of Los Angeles, told the paper.

"Restaurant workers are preparing, serving and cooking our food," Huerta said. "So many of these workers reported that they go to work sick. That is a public-health hazard for consumers."

Under the program, called ROC-MD, uninsured workers pay $25 a month so they can go to one of several clinics run by St. John's Well Child and Family Center for physicals, basic dental care and treatment for common illnesses.

The program began last fall, the paper reports, and restaurant workers are coming to St. John's with burns, cuts and other workplace injuries, said Jim Mangia, the clinic's president and chief executive.

David Hayes-Bautista, director of UCLA's Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture, told the paper that the new program makes fiscal sense for everyone. "Emergency rooms are the providers of last resort, and they are very expensive," he told them. "If people can be provided alternatives, that saves everyone money."


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