covid19-300x210The spreading virus that has sickened tens of thousands and killed thousands — mostly in central China in Hubei province and its big capital city, Wuhan — now has a name: Covid19.

Public health officials hope that this moniker, along with new images of the virus, will make talking about this disease easier and reduce the exploding stigma that’s attaching to it, with mis- and dis-information fueling unwelcome panic, racism, and xenophobia.

The disease continues to batter China, with the cases in two dozen or so other countries limited to a few hundred and deaths in the single digits. The Chinese remain in a sweeping lockdown or quarantine that has brought much of the most populous nation in the world to a standstill since at least the start of the lunar new year, a major travel holiday across Asia. Officials now also are conducting dragnets and round-ups of those potentially ill.

fdanulogo-300x126As snarky youngsters might say, “Well, OK, Boomer:” Federal watchdogs keep looking more than a little pitiful as they find they not only have fallen behind the times but keep racing to chase trends and technologies that have zoomed beyond their control.

In the meantime, consumers suffer the consequences.

Recent news reports show, for example, how vaping youths already may have found a big work-around with federal crackdowns on e-cigarettes and how social media has become a viper’s nest of not only quackery but a dubious diamond mine for Big Pharma exploitation.

alexahhs-150x150Federal regulators may be on the brink of not only protecting but also advancing patients access and use of a key component of their care: their electronic health records. Or will bureaucrats fold up in the face of a muscle campaign by corporate interests and hospitals?

To its credit, the giant Health and Human Services agency has emphasized that it is moving forward in its announced plans to prepare new regulations on so-called EHRs, pressing patients’ rights and newer, and potentially more nimble tech firms’ abilities to make the information in the records more accessible and helpful.

But Epic, the giant software company that has installed electronic systems in hospitals and health systems nationwide — often for billions of dollars — is leading resistance to the new rules. It has convinced dozens of institutions and groups, some sizable, to lobby officials to oppose this federal intervention.

dochands-300x200Although health policy experts and doctors themselves may sing the praises of primary care providers — medical generalists who are supposed to be the first and important caregivers for most patients — recent studies suggest that yet another idealized aspect of the U.S. health care system has cost- and access-driven problems.

Patients, to start with, are driving a concerning trend in which they in increasing numbers are declining to tap the services of family doctors and other so-called PCPs.

Doctors in this field, as well as others, say that patients may be turning to online consultations, urgent care centers in drug stores and shopping malls, or more costly visits to highly credentialed specialists due to the spiking pressure on frontline MDs to maximize revenues by minimizing their “face time.”  Physicians describe how “bean counting” executives in health systems may require them to see more than a dozen patients a day, while also handling all the bureaucracy, consultation, research this requires — or face sizable pay cuts for their “inefficiency.”

coronavirusdoc-265x300The toll of the coronavirus outbreak in China keeps worsening, with the infections exceeding tens of thousands and the deaths spiking toward 1,000, also claiming the first American and Japanese lives of people in the disease epicenter of Wuhan.

The illness’ most significant harms continue to afflict China, particularly its central province of Hubei and regional capital Wuhan.

But the infection has raised global alarms, in part because its death toll, for example, has far exceeded in China the fatalities recorded with the 2003 disease incident involving Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS. That infection killed hundreds in China.

practicefusion-300x169Federal prosecutors have provided 145 million reasons why enthusiasts may want to curb their exuberance about how high tech will work miracles in the U.S. health care system.

That’s because investigators have ferreted out “abhorrent” conduct by Practice Fusion, a San Francisco firm that specialized in electronic health care records software, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Vermont.

“During the height of the opioid crisis, the company took a million-dollar kickback to allow an opioid company to inject itself in the sacred doctor-patient relationship so that it could peddle even more of its highly addictive and dangerous opioids,”  Christina E. Nolan, U.S. Attorney for the District of Vermont, said in a statement. Practice Fusion, she added,  “illegally conspired to allow [a] drug company to have its thumb on the scale at precisely the moment a doctor was making incredibly intimate, personal, and important decisions about a patient’s medical care, including the need for pain medication and prescription amounts.”

commonwealthglobalhccostcomp-300x225If rigorous research drove policy making in a more optimal fashion than it now apparently does, how might politicians and regulators react to findings like these:

The well-respected Commonwealth Fund has revisited earlier studies, finding anew that the United States “spends more on health care as a share of the economy — nearly twice as much as the average [industrialized Western European] country — yet has the lowest life expectancy and highest suicide rates among the 11 nations. The U.S. has the highest chronic disease burden and an obesity rate that is two times higher than the average [in comparable Western industrialized and European countries.] Americans had fewer physician visits than peers in most countries, which may be related to a low supply of physicians in the U.S. Americans use some expensive technologies, such as MRIs, and specialized procedures, such as hip replacements, more often than our peers. Compared to peer nations, the U.S. has among the highest number of hospitalizations from preventable causes and the highest rate of avoidable deaths.”

Even while spending more than any other nation on health care and getting poorer outcomes, which Americans bear the heaviest burdens of the system’s costs? Here’s what researchers at the nonpartisan and independent RAND Corporation have found in a newly published study:

The public’s health and safety sometimes find protections in the civil justice system and sometimes under regulators’ threat. Here’s hoping that whatever means are required, just and proper outcomes result.

For women, two separate suits have sought a modicum of justice for sexual abuse of talented young gymnasts by a predatory caregiver and damages tied to the maker of what has become a notorious material for supposed surgical repairs in the pelvic area.

For parents, the positive but potentially inconvenient recent news is that regulators finally have cracked down on risky baby sleepers, ordering the recall of tens of thousands more of them.

cdccoronavirusmapjan31-277x300A viral outbreak in central China — centered in its province of Hubei and its largest city of Wuhan — officially has burgeoned into a global health emergency.

The United States also has reacted to the pneumonia-like infection with its toughest warnings about travel to China and restrictions on Americans returning from it, as well as temporary bans on non-Americans entering this country after recent visits to areas around Hubei and especially Wuhan. Major U.S. airlines have canceled China flights and retail operations in China  of global enterprises like Starbucks and Apple have shut down for now.

Global markets have been rattled by worries about the wider spread of the latest outbreak of coronavirus (see recent map from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)— an infection from a large family of illnesses that includes the common cold, as well as SARS (aka Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome).

adamsmug-150x150Cigarette smokers got yet more chiding from public health officials about why and how they should quit an addictive and destructive habit. To do so isn’t easy, and a “shocking” number of doctors aren’t helping enough, the Surgeon General of the United States conceded. But there are big reasons to give up the nasty vice, especially before elective surgery, the World Health Organization warned.

The health experts found much to agree on when it comes to the carnage smoking causes. As the New York Times reported on the surgeon general’s work:

“More than 55 years after the first surgeon general’s report warned that smoking causes cancer, it remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the rate of smoking in the United States has declined to an all-time low of 14%. More than 3 of every 5 adult Americans who have smoked have quit, the report said. Still, 34 million Americans currently smoke, and an estimated 480,000 die from smoking-related illnesses each year, the agency said. About 16 million people in the United States now suffer from cancer, heart disease and smoking-related disorders, according to the CDC. The financial toll is enormous too, with annual health care spending attributed to smoking exceeding $170 billion, the agency said.”

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