Healthcare Roundup: Device Makers Eye Reform, Hospital Pay Innovation, Mayo Leader Attacks Public Plan, and More

Last Updated Jul 24, 2009 4:36 PM EDT

Device Makers' Turn? â€" There's talk that the Obama Administration may ask the medical device industry to pledge between $15 billion and $25 billion in savings over the next 10 years to help pay for healthcare reform. The Administration has already gotten agreements from hospitals and pharmaceutical companies, fueling speculation that device makers may be next. Medicare doesn't buy devices directly, so it's possible that savings could be routed through group purchasing organizations that buy supplies for hospitals. [Source: CNNMoney.com]

Reimbursement Change for Hospitals â€" Fairview Health Services, a multi-hospital system in Minneapolis, has struck an agreement with Medica, a major local health plan, for an unusual approach to reimbursement. Fairview will be eligible for tens of millions of dollars in additional payments if it meets certain targets for health outcomes. In return, the healthcare system is reportedly accepting a lower-than-expected pay hike from Medica. Among other things, the deal is intended to encourage Fairview's clinics to try innovative ways of delivering care, including group appointments and nurse-only visits. [Source: Minneapolis Star Tribune]

Mayo Leader Goes on Attack â€" Denis Cortese, CEO of the Mayo Clinic, assailed the inclusion of the public plan option in health care reform. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Cortese said that paying providers at Medicare rates without changing the underlying method of reimbursement would do nothing to restrain rapidly rising costs. Mayo believes that physicians should be paid on the basis of the value, rather than the amount of care, they provide. That is also a familiar refrain of President Obama, who supports a public plan. [Source: Wall Street Journal]

Division Over Medicare Commission â€" Because Mayo believes in change, it is one of the healthcare systems that backs the President's plan to upgrade the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission into a decision-making body with authority over Medicare reimbursement. Another organization that endorses the strategy is Corpus Health, a Catholic healthcare system that includes about 50 hospitals, mainly in Texas and Louisiana. But the AHA and the American Federation of Hospitals strongly oppose the plan, which would limit Congress to an up or down vote on the new commission's decisions. [Source: Kaiser Health News]

EHR Quality Reporting â€" Up to now, physicians who want to report data directly to CMS to get bonuses under the Physician Quality Reporting Initiative (PQRI) have had to use G codes in their billing systems. But CMS now says it will evaluate whether it is "practical and feasible" to allow quality reporting from EHRs, starting in 2010. Meanwhile, the Cleveland Clinic has just announced it will use its EHR in a comparative effectiveness trial of anesthesia management techniques. [Sources: Health Data Management and iHealthBeat]

Robot Pharmacist â€" Grady Hospital in Atlanta is purchasing a robot that can stock 720 drugs and process 550 prescriptions an hour in its pharmacy. The new machine will replace three smaller robots that were purchased a few years ago. The $2.7 million robot electronically receives a prescription, prints the label, dispenses the pills, checks for accuracy and places the little bottle on a conveyor belt to a pharmacist, who makes a final check. The aim is to reduce waiting times for patients. [Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution]

  • Ken Terry

    Ken Terry, a former senior editor at Medical Economics Magazine, is the author of the book Rx For Health Care Reform.