In the 1993 film Groundhog Day, Bill Murray plays a TV weatherman who finds himself trapped in a do-loop, covering the numbingly boring display of Punxutawney Phil, over and over again.
Forgive those of us who follow news from the Department of Health and Human Services for feeling like Bill Murray in that movie.
Last month, HHS released an action plan to reduce racial disparities in health care. The plan called for new care models, more service delivery sites, a beefed-up health and human services workforce, and targeted efforts to reduce cardiovascular disease, childhood obesity and other scourges of minority populations.
Remarkably however, the plan came with no funding. Apparently, it was supposed to prompt agencies within HHS to assure that their own internal plans were aligned with the effort to reduce racial disparities. Worse yet, the plan involved only HHS itself. In effect, it assumed that a ‘medical model’ can solve racial disparities in health care. However as I argued here, these disparities aren’t about health, at all. They are about socioeconomic status, and HHS can’t fix that by itself.
Solving the problem of racial disparities in health care clearly requires input from many branches of government, including those involved with education, urban planning, transportation and more, in addition to HHS.
When it was all said and done, the HHS plan came off looking like a political stunt by the Obama administration. While the administration probably does want to fund a bona fide effort to reduce racial disparities, today’s incessant (and appropriate) focus on deficit reduction forced the administration to release a plan with no teeth. It isn’t going to make a dent in the problem. Read more »
*This blog post was originally published at Pizaazz*
According to American Medical News, the U.S. health system is demonstrating better performance on most measures of health care quality, but it’s failing to improve access to care or cut racial and ethnic health disparities, according to two reports released in February by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. “Quality of care continues to improve, but at a slow rate,” said Ernest Moy, MD, leader of the team at AHRQ that produced the reports. ”In contrast to that, focusing on issues of access to care, not much has changed. Focusing on disparities in care, not much changed…Those are bigger problem areas than overall quality of care.” Measures related to hospital quality are showing the most improvement. For example, in 2005, just 42% of patients with heart attacks received angioplasties within the recommended 90 minutes of arriving at the hospital. That figure improved to 81% by 2008.
While the quality improvement indicators are encouraging, the disappointing access and disparities numbers are not very surprising.
The US health care system is still largely focused on acute hospital based care. It says we are doing better at what we are doing. Read more »
*This blog post was originally published at CFAH PPF Blog*
[Recently] the Wall Street Journal‘s front page story exposed a significant privacy breech of online personal information via the world’s most popular social networking site, Facebook:
Many of the most popular applications, or “apps,” on the social-networking site Facebook Inc. have been transmitting identifying information—in effect, providing access to people’s names and, in some cases, their friends’ names—to dozens of advertising and Internet tracking companies, a Wall Street Journal investigation has found.
The issue affects tens of millions of Facebook app users, including people who set their profiles to Facebook’s strictest privacy settings. The practice breaks Facebook’s rules, and renews questions about its ability to keep identifiable information about its users’ activities secure.
So while Facebook grapples with its latest public relations nightmare, we should realize our electronic medical record app vendors are doing exactly the same thing. Worse, it’s perfectly legal, even though each of use has been assured our privacy settings are set to “maximum” through the reassurances of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) and the The Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act of 2005 (PSQIA). Read more »
*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Wes*