Monday, December 13, 2021 | Kaiser Health News

Via Peters

Med School Enrollments Soared In 2021; Diversity Did, Too

For the 2021-22 season, applications to U.S. medical schools jumped 17.8%. But interestingly, underrepresented minorities were better represented than usual. Separately, CBS News covers the efforts of a medical illustrator to include more Black people in illustrations, which are usually white.

Fox News:
US Medical Schools Enrolled The Largest And Most Diverse Class In History In 2021

Medical school applications and enrollments skyrocketed to record highs during the 2021-22 school year across the US, especially among underrepresented minorities, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). Applications typically rise and fall by 2% or 3% for the past 20 years, but for the 2021-22 season, they increased by 17.8%, with 62,443 total applicants eclipsing the previous record of 53,370 in 2019-20, according to the AAMC. (Sudhakar, 12/12)

The Whitest Specialty: As Medicine Strives To Close Its Diversity Gaps, One Field Remains A Stubborn Outlier

While medicine as a whole, and even other elite specialties like dermatology, thoracic surgery, and otolaryngology, has begun to increase the number of people of color in its ranks, orthopedics’ numbers have barely budged. Less than 2% of those practicing in the field are Black, just 2.2% are Hispanic, and 0.4% are Native American. Even Asian American physicians, a group considered overrepresented in medicine, are much scarcer in orthopedics, making up just 6.7% of these specialists. The numbers in orthopedics are woefully low in part because there are few candidates of color to begin with: Black, Hispanic, and Native American students are underrepresented in medical school. But an investigation by STAT shows the shallow pool of potential orthopedic surgeons from communities of color gets further winnowed at almost every stage: Aspiring orthopedists from these groups are less likely to apply to the specialty, less likely to be accepted into residency programs, and if they are, less likely to finish their training. The pipeline is not only narrow, it’s full of leaks.(McFarling, 12/13)

CBS News:
A Medical Illustrator Noticed Patients Are Always Depicted As White. So, He Decided To Draw Diverse Medical Diagrams.

Chidiebere Ibe, a medical illustrator and aspiring neurosurgeon, noticed that the patients in medical diagrams are always depicted as White. So, he decided to change that. Ibe, who is from Nigeria, began drawing different medical illustrations – such as a fetus in a womb, lung conditions, and eczema – all of patients who are Black. Typically, medical illustrations in textbooks or doctor’s offices are White, and Ibe said he wanted to use his passion for medicine and art to “fix that inequality.” (O’Kane, 12/9)

In corporate news —

Houston Chronicle:
Feds Extend Deadline For Terminating UMMC’s Medicare Contract Until January

An 11th hour agreement between federal health officials and United Memorial Medical Center has delayed the termination of the hospital system’s Medicare contract, pending another inspection of the hospital’s facilities to ensure that health and safety issues uncovered previously have been fixed. A spokeswoman for United Memorial Medical Center, which has four locations in the Houston area, expressed confidence that the next inspection would show that the hospital has corrected all deficiencies cited in previous inspections and it will keep its federal contracts. (Carballo, 12/10)

Houston Chronicle:
UMMC Looks To Replace Governing Board After Almost Losing Medicare Contract

United Memorial Medical Center said it is replacing its board members and forming a new governing board after the federal health officials nearly pulled its Medicare contract for repeated health and safety issues uncovered by government inspectors. The contract was set to terminate Saturda until the hospital, with four locations in the Houston area, was granted an extension late Thursday afternoon. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the agency that oversees the government health care programs, cited “changes to its governing board and key management officials” as one of the reasons for delaying the termination, pending another inspection. (Carballo, 12/11)

Modern Healthcare:
MedPAC Likely To Support Pay Increase For Hospitals In 2023

Hospitals, dialysis facilities and long-term care hospitals could see Medicare reimbursement bumps in fiscal 2023 under draft recommendations from the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission. Skilled nursing, home health and inpatient rehabilitation facilities could see 5% base pay decreases. Physicians, ambulatory surgical centers and hospices may see no change in pay from 2022. Post-acute care providers and stakeholders that could be facing pay freezes said they’re disappointed in MedPAC’s draft proposals. MedPAC’s own commissioners agreed with most recommendations staff presented. However, several members had concerns about leaving physician pay flat in 2023. Recommendations will come to an official vote at next month’s meeting. (Goldman, 12/10)

Modern Healthcare:
Rural Value-Based Care Initiative Faces Funding Cliff

The smallest and most rural healthcare providers will soon lose access to help in shifting to value-based care unless Congress steps in. Over the past five years, rural providers with fewer than 15 clinicians have been increasingly encouraged to participate in the Merit-based Incentive Payment System value-based payment program that provides financial bonuses or penalties. Participating providers must submit data on costs, outcomes, quality and interoperability or risk getting dinged with cuts to Medicare payments. This year, that amounts to a 9% decrease for not taking part in the program. (Gillespie, 12/10)

Modern Healthcare:
Centene Looks To Offload Its $2 Billion Overseas Operation

The health insurer is “reviewing its non-core assets as part of its ongoing portfolio optimization processes, including evaluating strategic alternatives for its international business,” the for-profit company announced in a news release Friday. The majority of the $32.4 billion company’s $2 billion in international revenue comes from its Circle Health subsidiary in the United Kingdom, which claims to be the largest independent hospital operator in the country with 50 facilities, according to a slide presentation provided to investors Friday. Centene also operates healthcare facilities in Spain. (Tepper, 12/10)

Modern Healthcare:
Large, For-Profit Hospital Chain Merger Didn’t Boost Profitability

A merger between large, successful, for-profit hospital chains didn’t produce significant gains in profitability or health outcomes, new research shows. The acquirer’s hospital margins decreased by 3.3 percentage points as cost inflation outpaced revenue growth, according to a peer-reviewed analysis of a 2007 merger involving more than 100 hospitals that tracked financial, management and quality data over an eight-year period. While the combined system improved their electronic medical records, prices rose by 37% at hospitals operated by the parent company and there was a negligible impact on care quality, the working paper published in the National Bureau of Economic Research revealed. (Kacik, 12/10)

In other news about the health care industry —

How To Negotiate A Medical Bill

If you’ve ever dealt with expensive medical bills or put off going to the doctor because you can’t afford the cost, you’re not alone. Nearly one in three of U.S. adults has medical debt, according to a survey. In the U.S., it’s estimated there is more than $140 billion worth of medical debt nationwide. There is more medical debt in collections than any other type of debt. When you get your medical bill following an office visit, diagnostic tests or a bigger procedure, you might be surprised by the amount you have to pay, regardless of whether you have health insurance. It might seem intimidating, difficult and time consuming to contest the bill you just received, but doing so could mean saving hundreds or even thousands of dollars. (Paul, 12/12)

What Apple, Google Smartwatches Are Learning About Our Health

Fitness trackers from companies like Apple, Amazon, and Google are making a significant shift from being low-tech devices that counted steps to now becoming what’s fashionable in personal health.Tracking fitness and workout data for personal use or sharing with friends can be useful and fun. But there’s an increasing interest in incorporating a wider range of medical data into the digital health ecosystem — piggybacking on the dramatic rise in remote telehealth services necessitated during the Covid-19 pandemic — making individuals’ information accessible to physicians and hospitals as part of electronic medical health records. (Woods, 12/12)

Wartime Trauma Hits Close To Home For Scholar Of Dementia

Oanh Meyer was a postdoctoral fellow studying the experiences of caregivers for those with dementia in 2012 when her research took a very personal turn. That year, her mother, a Vietnamese immigrant, began to show signs of dementia and paranoia that seemed to be linked to the trauma she had suffered during the long war in Vietnam, when bombing raids often drove her to hide underground and she lived in fear of Communist troops. (Galletti, 12/13)

Monday, December 13, 2021

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