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Practice Rounds: Sharing Dangerous Opioid Medication


One in five family members share pain medications with each other. Also, ACA healthcare premiums predicted to rise dramatically.

Welcome to Practice Rounds, our new weekly column exploring what's being covered in the larger world of healthcare.

Sharing Dangerous Drugs

One in five patients said they have shared left-over opioid medication with a family member or friend, according to a research study published by JAMA Internal Medicine. The study questionnaire was sent to a random sampling of 5,000 people, with approximately 1,000 saying they had used an opioid medication in the last year. Of the group who had been prescribed an opioid drug, most said they had or expected to have unused pain medication after finishing treatment. The researchers suggested that physician behaviors need to change to address the quantity of painkillers prescribed to treat a single episode of pain and provide patient counseling on safe storage and disposal of unused opioid meds.

The Value of Preventative Services

Preventative care services could produce $61.9 billion in annual healthcare savings, if implemented for a majority of the U.S. population, according to an infographic by the University of San Francisco School of Nursing and Health Professions. Key preventative services include screenings for cancer, cholesterol, depression, hypertension, alcohol abuse, childhood immunizations, and tobacco cessation counseling. While the cost to provide these services is nominal and the benefits clear, many Americans postpone preventative care because they cannot afford it. If 90 percent of the U.S. had access to even a single preventative service, 100,000 life years could be saved, said researchers.

Digital Snake Oil

It isn't just ineffective EHR systems that frustrate physicians. At the AMA's 2016 Annual Meeting, AMA CEO James L. Madara, MD, likened questionable medical apps to the medical quackery that existed during the time the AMA was founded. "From ineffective electronic health records, to an explosion of direct-to-consumer digital health products, to apps of mixed quality - it's the digital snake oil of the early 21st century," Madara said. To combat this so-called poor quality technology, the AMA is partnering with leaders in the health IT space to create products that work better for both physicians and their patients. One example: Health 2047, a healthcare technology incubator in Silicon Valley that is dedicated to exploring new solutions for physicians' most vexing tech problems.

ACA Premiums Predicted to Rise in Key Markets

Insurance premiums for silver healthcare exchange plans created through the ACA are predicted to rise in 2017 by an average of 10 percent in certain U.S. markets, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation, reported Morning Consult. The final rates won't be set until fall of this year, and if they behave like last year's, the increase won't be as troublesome as forecast, said HHS spokesperson Ben Wakana. "Last year, Healthcare.gov premiums increased an average of just $4 per month after shopping and tax credits, and consumers will benefit from shopping and tax credits again this year."

Quote of the Week:

Safety Tips for Docs on Summer Vacation

"Sharing the details of your vacation [on social media] minute by minute is fun and exciting, but certainly not a best practice as it will often tell the whole world where you are going, how long you'll be gone, and that your home is vacant, or even worse, that only certain people are at home, leaving them exposed."

Ike Devji, attorney

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