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Pharma’s new ad campaign, the value of incrementalists, and more

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January 26, 2017

We’ve changed our format so that you can now read shorter summaries of more top stories. As always, we continue providing links to the many other articles relating to moving our health care system toward the right care for all patients.

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It may be way too late to repair pharma’s tarnished image following last year’s exorbitant price increases. But its main lobbying group is rolling out a lavish ad campaign to repair its reputation. According to STAT, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America intends to hype breakthrough medications that better treat or cure diseases, which they say will save costs in the long run.

In his current New Yorker pieceAtul Gawande, MD, discusses the value of incrementalists, primary care practitioners, and compares it to that of interventionists or “rescuers,” physicians who provide episodic care. While interventionalists are among the highest paid, he says, the incrementalists provide a greater benefit to patients by focusing on a patient’s health over an extended time, managing and preventing illness. Success is “not about the episodic, momentary victories, though they do play a role. It is about the longer view of incremental steps that produce sustained progress,” he writes.

A new study in the journal Cancer reveals that deaths from cervical cancer and racial disparities in cervical cancer mortality are both greater than previously thought. Previous estimates of cervical cancer mortality had included women who had a hysterectomy and shouldn’t have been counted. Using corrected data without hysterectomies, researchers found that white women are dying of cervical cancer at a rate 47% higher than previously thought, and African American women are dying from cervical cancer at a rate 77% higher.

Family caregivers are an unpaid “voluntary army,” whose economic value of care is now estimated at $470 billion a year, writes Dhruv Khullar, MD, in The New York Times. Health systems continue relying on caregivers to contain costs and manage illness at home. Many caregivers are performing complex medical tasks such as changing catheters without receiving the necessary training to do so. Providing financial relief, better training, and support services for this “workforce” would help, he says, but are usually not available.

Here’s more evidence that the cost of health care is burdensome. Medical debt is the most common type of debt among consumers being contacted by debt collectors, according to a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau survey. Nearly 60% of people who reported being contacted by a debt collector for a past-due bill said the bill was for medical services. And repealing the Affordable Care Act could make the problem worse because more people might be uninsured, according to Sarah Collins, vice president at the Commonwealth Fund, quoted in Kaiser Health News.

 

Announcements

If you have a teammate or colleague in the Right Care Alliance who has demonstrated extraordinary passion and dedication to right care, nominate them for a Right Care Alliance Award. The award recipients will be recognized at the Lown Institute Conference. Early bird registration for the conference closes February 11, so register now!

For the Lown Institute’s second annual Right Care Vignette Competition, we are seeking clinical vignettes written by trainees describing harm or near-harm from medical overuse. Winners will have the opportunity to submit their vignettes to the JAMA Teachable Moment series for review and potential publication, as well as a scholarship to the Lown Institute Conference. The deadline to submit a vignette is February 28, 2017. Submit your vignette here.

 

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