Aug 21 2014

RWJF Scholars in the News: Costs for blood tests, dentists testing for hypertension and HIV, fudging medical history, and more.

Around the country, print, broadcast, and online media outlets are covering the groundbreaking work of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) leaders, scholars, fellows, alumni, and grantees. Some recent examples:

A new study uncovers vast variation in pricing for common blood tests by California hospitals, reports the Washington Post. Renee Hsia, MD, MSc, an RWJF Physician Faculty Scholars program alumna, says she was “very surprised” to see such variation among more than 160 hospitals studied. Hsia’s research found that during 2011, some hospitals charged as little as $10 and others as much as $10,169 for a basic cholesterol test. The study found no clear explanation for the price differences for what Hsia categorized as ten “simple and standard” tests in which blood samples are inserted into a machine that performs the analysis. Time magazine, the Boston Globe and Kaiser Health News also cover Hsia’s research.

Dentists could offer a variety of medical tests in the future, including diagnostic tests for health problems such as diabetes, hypertension and HIV, Harold Pollack, PhD, tells The mouth, Pollack says, “is the gateway to the human body.” He is an RWJF Investigator Award in Health Policy Research recipient.  

“There’s an overabundance of evidence that shows hospitals that have better staffing have better outcomes when we look at things like mortality,” Matthew McHugh, PhD, JD, MPH, FAAN, tells the Santa Fe New Mexican. In an article about nurse staffing ratios, McHugh, an RWJF Nurse Faculty Scholars program alumnus, says hospital readmissions, failure to rescue patients in distress, and patient satisfaction also correlate with increased staffing. “If you compare any two hospitals—one that’s good at staffing and one that has not as good staffing, but are similar in other factors—the hospital with better staffing is much less likely to be penalized” for bad patient outcomes by Medicare and Medicaid, McHugh notes. 

The Charlotte Business Journal reports on a recent panel discussion on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) at the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce. Mark Hall, JD, recipient of an RWJF Investigator Award in Health Policy Research, said that while the ACA might not make health care more affordable for all patients, its principal achievement is that it provides universal insurability. “Forevermore, insurance companies cannot turn people down,” Hall said, adding that he believes the law will have major social and economic implications because it will afford Americans more flexibility to start a business or leave a marriage, for instance, without fear of losing their health insurance coverage.

Patients using pacemakers and defibrillators to maintain normal heart rhythms could risk serious complications if they don’t fully understand how the devices work, according to a study covered by News Medical. “As a nurse practitioner, I use every patient encounter as an opportunity for education,” says lead study author Kathleen Hickey, EdD, ANP-BC, FNP-BC. “It’s not enough just to explain the same thing again in the same way,” she says. “You have to stop to ask more specific questions like what activities they do in a typical day and offer simple instructions so they understand, for example, the appropriate heart rate zone for exercise.” Hickey is an RWJF Nurse Faculty Scholar.

Howard Markel, MD, PhD, FAAP, recipient of an RWJF Investigator Award in Health Policy Research, identifies historical inaccuracies in the new Cinemax series, The Knick, which depicts health care at an early 1900s hospital in New York City. Markel tells the Wall Street Journal Speakeasy blog that the show’s mistakes include doctors operating without rubber gloves and using out-of-date instruments. Nevertheless, Markel believes the series’ rendering of medical history is worth watching because, “for the majority of those watching ... it may be the only time they get a history lesson of a long-ago era—or at least an inkling of what that era was like.”

Tags: HC Website Feature, Health Care Costs, Health Leadership, Education, and Training, Investigator Awards in Health Policy Research, Media Coverage, Nurse Faculty Scholars, Physician Faculty Scholars