Shulkin Out, Jackson In
The Trump administration saw another major shakeup as President Trump relieved David Shulkin, MD, as Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA), replacing him with White House physician, Rear Adm., Ronny Jackson, MD. In a widespread op-ed to The New York Times, Shulkin said he was fired because he was against the privatization of the VA, a move favored by advocates from the administration. Shulkin, a rare holdover from the Obama administration, entered the VA as Under Secretary of the Veterans Affairs for Health in 2015. In early 2017, Trump nominated him to the top spot at the VA and he was unanimously confirmed shortly after.
Jackson has served the past three administrations as White House physician. While Jackson has a deep background in medicine, The Washington Post reports that he has no experience in management . The VA employs 360,000 people and has a budget of $186 billion. It's tasked with providing care to more than 9 million veterans each year.
Walmart May Buy Humana
The convergence of retail and insurers may continue as Walmart is in early stage talks to buy health insurer, Humana, The Wall Street Journal reports. According to the report, the deal is in preliminary talks and there is no certainty that it will happen or what form it could take. Analysts suggest Walmart may be interested in Humana for its foothold with senior citizens, the insurer is the second-largest provider of Medicare Advantage plans. Last year, CVS bought Aetna for $69 million in a major case of an insurer and a retail giant coming together. Both Walmart and Humana's stocks traded up upon news of the proposed deal.
Apple's Latest Health Play
Apple announced this week that 39 health systems across the U.S. are making patients' medical records available on the iPhone. The list of health systems and academic medical centers participating includes Johns Hopkins Medicine, Geisinger Health System, NYU Langone Health, and Stanford Medicine, among others. Through these systems, patients will be able to automatically access their records through the Health app. Medical record access through the iPhone was previously only available to patients who had signed up to test a pre-release version, The Verge reports.
Quote of the Week:
"Has the joy of medicine been lost? No, it has been drowned out by the sea of systematization. While I may feel some degree of burnout sitting at my desk ticking check boxes, every time I enter an exam room and sit in front of a patient, I remember why I became a doctor. These patients have no one else. If I wasn’t here, they would be swept away in the waves of our dysfunctional system."
Linda Girgis, MD, family medicine physician, South River, N.J.