Weekly Dose of Health News

In this week’s summary, you’ll find information on federal grants for states to establish health insurance exchanges, new smartphone apps for monitoring patients’ health, a new Medicare program that rewards providers who improve patient services, and more!

Please let us know us what you think and if there is a particular topic you would like to see covered.

Doctors may soon be using smartphone apps to monitor patients’ health.  The New York Times  profiles the development of apps that can track a patient’s heart rate or help manage their diabetes.  The Food and Drug Administration has approved a few apps to operate as medical devices and some insurance companies have agreed to provide coverage for the cost of the apps (Brustein, 8/19).

Governor Cuomo signed into law a bill that streamlines the credentialing process for health care practitioners who provide telemedicine services to patients in New York state. The bill authorizes a facility to contract with a non-New York hospital for telemedicine provider services and rely on the out of state hospital to properly verify a provider’s credentials.

CMS announced that California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Iowa, Maryland, Nevada, New York, and Vermont have received new grants to help support the establishment of Affordable Insurance Exchanges.  New York has been awarded a Level One Exchange Establishment grant, which provides one year of funding to states that have begun the process of building their Exchange. A detailed breakdown of each grant award and what each state plans to do with its Exchange funding is available here.

Open-enrollment season for health insurance approaches, USA Today  writes that many workers are overwhelmed by the decision about what health insurance policy to chose. According to survey results published in Alfac WorkForces Report, a majority of American workers surveyed— 56% — estimate that they make mistakes when selecting health insurance benefits (Dugas 8/21).

The United Hospital Fund released a report that examines enrollment trends and the financial results in New York’s public and private insurance markets. The report, The Big Picture IV: New York’s Private and Public Insurance Markets, 2010, and the Affordable Care Act  also examines the impact of the Affordable Care Act on New York’s health insurance markets.

The Affordable Care Act is providing a steady stream of income to health care consulting firms. The Washington Post writes that many states have retained private health care experts to help them navigate the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (Ho, 8/19).

An article in Health Affairs, Health In All Policies: The Role Of The US Department Of Housing And Urban Development And Present And Future Challenges, provides a historical perspective on the development of public housing and the role such housing can play in improving public health.  In New York, the development of additional supportive housing beds was included in the Medicaid overhaul plan put forward by the state’s Medicaid Redesign Team.

Federal health officials are moving forward with a plan to reward health care providers that improve services for Medicare patients. The four-year project will be administered by the Medicare agency’s Innovation Center, a creation of the 2010 health care law that seeks to reduce costs and improve health care delivery. Under the Comprehensive Primary Care Initiative, CMS will pay primary care practices a care management fee, initially set at an average of $20 per beneficiary per month, to support coordinated services on behalf of Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries.  Providers in New York’s Capital Region and Hudson Valley area have been selected to participate in this initiative.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task force is expected to make a new recommendation on HIV screening available for public comment before the end of the year. Current guidelines regarding HIV testing leave the decision to test up to physician.  Reuters reports that the Task Force is considering recommending that physicians screen for HIV on a routine basis to increase detection of the virus. If the Task Force makes HIV testing a recommended preventive service, the Affordable Care Act’s provisions mandate that insurers cover the cost of testing (Ebrahim, 8/19).

According to a recent survey of 7,300 American physicians, a high percentage of physicians report experiencing job burnout. The survey results, which are published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine , show that more than four in 10 physicians experience emotional exhaustion or a high degree of cynicism towards their patients. Researchers also found that burnout is more common in some specialties than others. Doctors working in dermatology had lower burnout rates than those working in the “front line of care access” — emergency medicine and general internal medicine.

-Jaime Venditti, 8/24/12