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Latest Posts

End-Of-Life Wishes: How To “Engage With Grace”

As patients, as family members, as friends, as health care providers, we have all faced end-of-life issues at one time or another, and we will face them again. And again. 

This weekend the “Engage With Grace” message is being broadcast virally, through a “blog rally,” at a time when many people are with family and friends over the long weekend. The point is: We all need to have the potentially uncomfortable conversation with people close to us about what kind of treatment we would want, and they would want, if incapable of making or communicating healthcare decisions. CNN ran a story on “Engage With Grace” yesterday.

End-of-life decision-making has long been an issue of great personal and professional interest to me, and I am proud to have played a role in having out-of-hospital DNR orders recognized in Massachusetts by EMS providers, as an example. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at HealthBlawg :: David Harlow's Health Care Law Blog*

“Roadmap For New Physicians”: How To Avoid Fraud And Abuse

In October, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued a report on Fraud and Abuse Training in Medical Education, finding that 44 percent of medical schools reported giving some instruction in the anti-kickback statute and related laws, even though they weren’t legally required to do so. (As an aside, do we really live in such a nanny state? Over half of all medical schools don’t teach their students anything about this issue — because nobody’s making them — even though it is an issue that looms large in the practice of medicine.)

On a more positive note, about two-thirds of institutions with residency programs instruct participants on the law, and 90 percent of all medical schools and training programs expressed an interest in having dsome instructional materials on the subject of the anti-kickback statute, physician self-referrals (Stark) rules and the False Claims Act.

So in November, the OIG released a Roadmap for New Physicians – A Guide to Avoiding Fraud and Abuse, available on line and as a PDF. It’s a good 30-page primer on the subject. While some of the examples given are specific to newly-minted physicians, anyone in the health care industry would benefit by reading it. The document offers a window into the thinking of the OIG, its perspective on the wide range of issues summarized within, and is a good touchstone for any individual or organization seeking to structure a relationship that needs to stay within the bounds of these laws. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at HealthBlawg :: David Harlow's Health Care Law Blog*

Swing To The Right: How Will The Election Affect Health Reform?

Like Tom Friedman, who lampooned some of this year’s unreasonable campaign rhetoric in a recent column, I, too, would be in favor of reality-based political campaigns, but that seemed to be too much to ask for this year. Instead of truth, we now have truthiness.

The joke news shows (and their joke political rallies) seemed to be more popular than the evening news. (I wish Jon Stewart and his 200,000 fans on the Washington Mall last weekend had stayed home, canvassing for their candidates of choice.) Fact-checkers told us that many political ads this season were in the “barely true” or “pants on fire” zones according to the Truth-O-Meter. But in the end, the buzzwords seem to have worked their magic, and many “insiders” are out, and “outsiders” are in.

The angry and the impatient on the campaign trail have, in some cases, adopted the line from the movie Network: “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore,” perhaps forgetting that while that line garnered the Howard Beale character strong ratings, network bosses arranged for his on-air assassination when his ratings fell.

The Utopia tune below, “Swing to the Right,” comes to you from the Ronald Reagan era, and perhaps we are seeing the generational swing of the pendulum back to the right. It does seem to happen every 30 years or so. But don’t blame me — I’m from Massachusetts (home to a Democratic sweep on the recent election night).

The last two years have seen a tremendous amount of change in Washington. The question of the moment, of course, is:  How will the election results affect implementation of healthcare reform? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at HealthBlawg :: David Harlow's Health Care Law Blog*

Notes From The Connected Health Symposium 2010

I [recently] attended the Connected Health Symposium in Boston. I enjoyed many of the sessions (sometimes wished I could have attended two simultaneously, though the livetweeting — #chs10 — helped on that front), and as usual enjoyed the hallway and exhibit floor conversations too. As is often the case at conferences these days, I had the opportunity to meet several online connections in real life for the first time. 

(I will not attempt to give a comprehensive report of the symposium here. Please see the livetweeting archive and other reports to get a sense of the rest of the event.)

This year’s exhibit floor included a diverse mix of distance health tools. Most striking from my perspective was the fact that most of these tools do one of two things: Enable patient-clinician videoconferencing, or upload data from in-home monitoring devices. The best of the second category also trigger alerts resulting in emails or PHR/EHR alerts to clinicians if vital signs are out of whack, or phone calls to consumers or their caregivers if, for example, meds aren’t taken on time (one company had a pill bottle with a transmitter in the cap that signals when it’s opened; another had a Pyxis-like auto-dispenser, that looked like you’d need an engineer — or a teenager — to program it). One tool — Intel’s — seemed to combine most of these functions, and more, into one platform, but it’s barely in beta, with only about 1,000 units out in the real world.

The speakers this year seemed to return again and again to several major themes: (1) Is any particular connected health solution scalable? (2) Who will pay for connected health, or mobile health (mHealth)? and (3) Does it work? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at HealthBlawg :: David Harlow's Health Care Law Blog*

Mobile Health: Joy Or Dismay?

Last month, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) issued a report, Healthcare Unwired, examining the market for mobile health monitoring devices, reminder services, etc. among both healthcare providers and the general public. One of the big take-away points seems to be that 40% of the general public would be willing to pay for mobile health (or “mHealth”) devices or services ranging from reminders to data uploads — and the reaction by insiders is either joy (40% is good) or dismay (40% is not enough).

PwC estimated the mHealth market to be worth somewhere between $7.7 billion and $43 billion per year, based on consumers’ expressed willingness to pay. Deloitte recently issued a report on mPHRs, as well — and there is tremendous interest in this space, as discussed in John Moore’s recent post over at Chilmark Research. I agree with John’s wariness with respect to the mHealth hype — there is certainly something happening out there, but significant questions remain: What exactly is going on? Is there reason to be interested in this stuff or is it just something shiny and new? Can mHealth improve healthcare status and/or healthcare quality and/or reduce healthcare costs? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at HealthBlawg :: David Harlow's Health Care Law Blog*

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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