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President Trump announced a new telehealth initiative at the VA Health System this week. Also docs are undertreating opioid addiction, researchers say.
Welcome to Practice Rounds, our weekly column exploring what's being covered in the larger world of healthcare.
Trump Touts Telehealth
A new telehealth initiative at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Health System got in-person praise from President Donald Trump this week, USA Today reports. The VA is launching a mobile app that allows physicians to conduct a telehealth visit with any veteran anywhere in the country. They also launched an app that allows VA patients to schedule and change appointments. Appearing at a press conference with VA Secretary David Shulkin, MD, Trump said the app "will make a tremendous difference for the veterans in rural locations in particular." He said it will also make a big difference in the area of mental health.
Docs Undertreating Opioid Addiction
According to findings presented at the 125th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, a drug approved to treat opioid addiction is being underutilized by private physicians. A survey of addiction professionals further states that many physicians have said they are not willing to increase their use of the drug. The two drugs approved for opioid use addiction - methadone and buprenorphine - can be used as long as a physician has obtained the proper waivers. However, researchers say the number of physicians who have done that and prescribed these drugs has not kept pace with the magnitude of the opioid epidemic.
No Clear Path on ACA Repeal
The Republicans' failure to pass a bill that would repeal certain elements of the Affordable Care Act has left them with no clear direction on what they'll do next with the health law, Politico reports. Some Republican members of Congress say they want their party to drop the issue altogether, others want to work with Democrats to fix the current law, and others are fighting to continue repeal efforts. "Our focus should be on honoring our promise to repeal Obamacare and to lower premiums," Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), said to Politico. On the other end of the spectrum, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) is working with Democratic Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash) to craft a bipartisan plan.
Two Health IT Vendors Merge
Allscripts, the Chicago-based EHR vendor, has agreed to acquire McKesson's health IT businesses for $185 million. The enterprise portfolio of McKesson includes its EHR platform, as well as its revenue cycle management and laboratory analytics solutions, according to the press release announcing the move. The two vendors mostly serve the hospital market, but trail market leaders Epic Systems and Cerner. "The healthcare IT market remains highly fragmented. Today's announcement is a proactive and strategic measure to maintain Allscripts long-term leadership and position Allscripts for continued growth," Paul Black, Allscripts CEO, said in a statement.
Quote of the week:
"Look at the U.S. healthcare system like a balloon. Squeeze prices and cost (utilization) goes up. Squeeze cost and prices go up. Squeeze both and provider failures go up while access to care and quality go down. Squeeze one part and others expand – always at the weakest points. What we need is an asymmetrical solution. Within the bounds of reality and outside of the obvious."
James Doulgeris, CEO of Osler Health Management