Latest From California Healthline:
The U.S. government claimed that turning American medical charts into electronic records would make health care better, safer and cheaper. Ten years and $36 billion later, the system is an unholy mess. Inside a digital revolution that took a bad turn. (Fred Schulte and Erika Fry, Fortune, 3/18)
Good morning! Here are some of your top California health news stories for the day.
Judge Refuses To Dismiss California Attorney General’s Antitrust Lawsuit Against Sutter Health: California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed the suit against Sutter Health alleging that the health care giant has used its market power to control prices and exclude competition. Becerra has said his office found that Sutter prevented insurance companies from giving customers a choice of lower-cost health plans, set out-of-network prices too high and hindered access to provider costs and rates that would help customers make choices. “Yesterday’s court ruling is a giant step in the right direction,” Becerra said of the San Francisco Superior Court judge's decision. “Hospitals that participate in anti-competitive practices to the detriment of their patients must be held accountable.” Sutter has contended that Becerra’s lawsuit would favor insurance carriers and that the suit would impose expensive, unwieldy regulations that would upend Sutter's business. Read more from the Sacramento Bee.
San Francisco, Los Angeles Blazed The Trail For Electronic Consultations For Specialty Physicians: All the way back in 2005, the San Francisco Department of Public Health became the first health system in the nation to utilize eConsults. Wait times fell, and a large majority of primary care doctors said it improved care. The Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, the second-largest public health care system in the nation, followed in its footsteps and began using eConsults in 2012. A study in Health Affairs tracked waiting times for 12 types of specialists, including cardiology, gastroenterology, gynecology, ophthalmology, podiatry and urology. Before the eConsult system, waiting times for some specialists extended months. By 2015, three years after the Los Angeles County eConsults system was in place, waiting times for specialists had fallen by an average of 17 percent, to 52 days from 63 days. These early adaptors are helping lead the way as more and more systems look toward eConsults to create efficiencies in their systems. Read more from The New York Times.
Where Pharma Has Failed To Offer Hope For Alzheimer's Treatment, Medical Devices Have Shown Promise: A new study shows that a combination of lights and buzzing activate cells to start cleaning up the brain of mice who have Alzheimer's, stimulating activity throughout many parts of the brain. Experts said the new research could spawn a new class of medical devices that treat Alzheimer’s in ways that experimental drugs have so far failed to. “It’s a beautiful study,” said neuroscientist Michael M. Merzenich, an emeritus professor at UC San Francisco who was not involved in the research. Read more from the Los Angeles Times.
The History Of California’s Health-Conscious Culture: Why The Sunshine State Was Known ‘The Sanatorium Of The World’: In the 19th century, patients desperate for a cure from tuberculous, which seemed to thrive in dirty, urban areas, saw California’s open sky and sunny days as a miracle cure. “The antidote to this threatening urban existence, rife with contagion and disease beckoned,” writes Lyra Kilston, whose book “Sun Seekers: The Cure of California” examines California’s history with health. “The mountains, the desert. Southern California had both… The sky was cloudless, nights cool, days brilliant, nature abundant.” Read more in the Los Angeles Times.
Below, check out the full round-up of California Healthline original stories, state coverage and the best of the rest of the national news for the day.
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More News From Across The State
Capital Public Radio:
Unionizing Daycare? California’s Child Care Workers Seek A Seat At The Big Kids’ Table
A bill introduced by Assemblywoman Monique Limón, a Democrat from Santa Barbara, would allow self-employed child care workers who serve subsidized families to collectively bargain with the state. Included in this new class of organized laborers would be trained workers like Harvey, but also unlicensed friends, family and neighbors who parents turn to when they are out of other options. (Christopher, 3/17)
Super Bloom: Wildflower Crowds Overrun Lake Elsinore, CA
An idyllic “super bloom” of wildflowers in one Southern California city has devolved into something more menacing, according to local leaders: “The Poppy Apocalypse.” Lake Elsinore in western Riverside County is near Walker Canyon, where tourists from the Los Angeles area and beyond have rushed this month to take in hills bursting with California poppies and other wildflowers. But with those crowds have come headaches for locals — and injuries. (Gilmour, 3/17)
San Francisco Chronicle:
UCSF Study Suggests Novel Treatment For Fending Off Chronic Age-Related Diseases: Moisturizer
University researchers in tandem with the San Francisco Veterans Administration (VA) Health Care System now have reason to believe that inflammation of the skin may further the development of multiple chronic diseases, and one way to help fix the issue is by applying reparative moisturizer. The study's authors write that as skin begins to lose moisture and deteriorate around age 50, it begins to experience a breakdown of the "permeability barrier." (Pereira, 3/15)
San Jose Mercury News:
Redwood City Chicken Death Sparks Fear Bird Disease Is Here
The live poultry show has been canceled at this spring’s San Mateo County Fair. A major Peninsula veterinary hospital is postponing all chicken appointments. And worried Bay Area backyard bird hobbyists are taking special steps to protect their flocks. News that a highly contagious and deadly bird virus was detected at a veterinary clinic in Redwood City on Thursday has alarmed the Bay Area’s poultry community, indicating that the dreaded Virulent Newcastle Disease has moved north from Southern California. (Krieger, 3/15)
Gene Therapy Cures Blindness In Mice Within 1 Month, Scientists Say
Are UC Berkeley scientists on the verge of a breakthrough that could help cure blindness?A recently discovered but yet relatively simple form of gene therapy was able to restore sight in blind mice within a month of treatment, researchers with the university announced Friday in a news release. The treated mice were “navigating around obstacles as easily as mice with no vision problems,” the release said. (McGough, 3/15)
Sacramento Hospital’s Sustainability Earns James Beard Nod
The culinary standard-bearers at James Beard Foundation have made UC Davis Medical Center the first hospital to earn the organization’s designation as a Smart Catch leader, recognizing the food service team’s rigorous emphasis on sustainability in its seafood procurement. “It’s unusual for a hospital’s food services program to qualify for such an accomplishment. The focus on local sourcing and sustainability measures while using clean, healthy food ingredients truly makes a difference” said Santana Diaz, executive chef for food and nutrition services at the Sacramento-based health system. “As part of UC Davis Health’s farm-to-fork emphasis, we view supporting clean, sustainable foods as a way to complement good health because it also involves a healthy environment.” (Anderson, 3/14)
Orange County Register:
Orange County’s Top Doc Retires, Nonprofit Leaders Say He ‘Was Never Dissuaded By A Challenge’
Orange County Public Health Officer Dr. Eric Handler, who crafted several significant public-private partnerships on homelessness and hunger, retired Friday, March 15, after nearly 13 years on the job. “He was the Orange County’s Don Quixote and dragon slayer combined” on those issues, the director of the nonprofit Orange County Food Bank Mark Lowry said. (Park, 3/15)
Med School Students Nationwide Learn Where They’ll Be Residents
Graduating students at the UC Davis School of Medicine cried tears of relief, shrieked in surprise and grinned with joy on Match Day – the day the rest of the world called Friday – during a ceremony where they opened envelopes to find out which U.S. residency program had selected each of them. “It’s a single time where everyone opens up an envelope at the same time across the country to find out if they’ve matched in internal medicine or surgery or pediatrics,” said Dr. Mark Henderson, associate dean for admissions at UC Davis Medical School. “In addition, they learn where they’re going to end up spending the next three, four or five years – what hospital and what city.” (Anderson, 3/15)
Santa Rosa Press Democrat:
West County Health Services Grapples With Physical, Mental Toll Of Guerneville Flood
Now that the floodwaters have receded, a new challenge faces one of the largest providers of health care services along the Russian River. West County Health Centers, which operates clinics in Guerneville, Occidental, Sebastopol and Forestville, is helping its patients recover from the physical and mental toll left by the region’s worst flood in two decades. The clinic in Guerneville suffered $200,000 in missed appointments, a damaged furnace and cleanup costs, said Jennifer Neeley, associate director of development for West County Health Centers. The nonprofit has been operating in the county for over 40 years, offering services to everyone regardless of medical coverage. (Bordas, 3/15)
The Wall Street Journal:
Apple Watch Has Mixed Results In Big Heart Study
A massive new study found that the pulse sensor in Apple Inc.’s watch helped detect a heart-rhythm disorder in a small number of users but may have caused false alarms for others. The study’s mixed findings hinted at the potential of “wearable” gadgets to detect asymptomatic health conditions in people that might otherwise go unnoticed. But doctors said the potential false positives and other aspects of the study show that people should be cautious about relying on the technology as diagnostic tools. (Loftus, 3/16)
The Wall Street Journal:
New Guidelines Advise Against Aspirin To Prevent Heart Disease
Most healthy people shouldn’t take aspirin to prevent a first heart attack or cardiovascular disease, major heart-health organizations now recommend, saying the risk of serious bleeding outweighs the benefits. Aspirin, the pain reliever, became increasingly used for the purpose of preventing a first heart attack after studies in the 1980s and 1990s showed a benefit. (Loftus, 3/17)
Heart Guidelines Often Based On Evidence That Falls Short
Doctors turn to professional guidelines to help them identify the latest thinking on appropriate medical treatments, but a study out Friday finds that in the realm of heart disease, most of those guidelines aren't based on the highest level of evidence. A paper in JAMA, the journal of the American Medical Association, that was released online ahead of print, finds that less than 10 percent of cardiovascular guidelines are based on the most carefully conducted scientific studies, known as randomized controlled trials. A lot of the rest are based on much weaker evidence. (Harris, 3/15)
The New York Times:
Are Eggs Bad For Your Heart Health? Maybe
Some nutrition experts say eggs are good for you, even though they are high in cholesterol. Others are sure they are bad. A large new study may help resolve at least some of the confusion. The new analysis looked at data from six large prospective studies involving almost 30,000 participants, with an average follow-up of more than 17 years. It found that for each additional 300 milligrams a day of cholesterol in the diet, there was a 17 percent increased risk of cardiovascular disease and an 18 percent increased risk of premature death from any cause. (Bakalar, 3/15)
The New York Times:
Tens Of Thousands Of Heart Patients May Not Need Open-Heart Surgery
The operation is a daring one: To replace a failing heart valve, cardiologists insert a replacement through a patient’s groin and thread it all the way to the heart, maneuvering it into the site of the old valve. The procedure, called transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR), has been reserved mostly for patients so old and sick they might not survive open-heart surgery. Now, two large clinical trials show that TAVR is just as useful in younger, healthier patients. (Kolata, 3/16)
The New York Times:
E.P.A., Scaling Back Proposed Ban, Plans Limits On Deadly Chemical In Paint Strippers
The Environmental Protection Agency announced on Friday new limits on a lethal chemical found in paint stripping products that has been linked to more than 50 deaths since the 1980s. Chemical safety activists called the plan a significant scaling-back of the ban that the Obama administration had proposed. In 2017 the Obama administration concluded the chemical, methylene chloride, represented an “unreasonable risk” and moved to ban it from commercial as well as consumer use. (Friedman, 3/15)
The New York Times:
Health Savings Accounts Can Reduce Tax Bills. But Beware The Paperwork.
At this time of year, many people are looking for ways to reduce their tax bills. One option may be to make a contribution to a health savings account. You can still make contributions for the 2018 tax year to an H.S.A. until the federal tax filing deadline in April, if you qualify. “It’s not too late to save on your 2018 taxes,” said Todd Berkley, vice president of BenefitWallet, a division of Conduent that manages H.S.A.s and other employee benefits. “Most people don’t know that.” (Carrns, 3/15)
The Associated Press:
Veterans Court May Be Collateral Damage In Immigration Fight
Three decades ago, Lori Ann Bourgeois was guarding fighter jets at an air base. After her discharge, she fell into drug addiction. She wound up living on the streets and was arrested for possession of methamphetamine. But on a recent day, the former Air Force Security Police member walked into a Veterans Treatment Court after completing a 90-day residential drug treatment program. Two dozen fellow vets sitting on the courtroom benches applauded. A judge handed Bourgeois a special coin marking the occasion, inscribed with the words "Change Attitude, Change Thinking, Change Behavior." (3/17)
The New York Times:
Methadone Helped Her Quit Heroin. Now She’s Suing U.S. Prisons To Allow The Treatment.
A Massachusetts woman recovering from heroin addiction sued the Federal Bureau of Prisons on Friday over its policy prohibiting methadone treatment, which she wants to continue when she starts a yearlong sentence next month. Her suit comes four months after a federal judge ordered a county jail outside Boston to let an incoming inmate stay on methadone instead of requiring him to go through forced withdrawal, as was its policy. It adds to growing pressure on the criminal justice system to provide methadone or other evidence-based treatments to the staggering number of inmates with opioid addiction. (Goodnough, 3/15)