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Healthcare Roundup: Kaiser Farmer Markets, Family Docs Starved for Patients, Software Vendors Go After Small Practices, and More

Kaiser Opens Farmers' Markets â€" Joining the national trend to buy locally grown vegetables and fruits, which are supposedly healthier than the supermarket variety, Kaiser Permanente has opened 30 farmers' markets at its medical facilities in four states. Fresh produce is also delivered to kitchens in 23 Kaiser hospitals. Meanwhile the northern California division of Kaiser has reinforced its preventive-care message by e-mailing wellness reminders to 350 of its employees. A study comparing the employees who receiving the e-mail alerts to those who didn't found that those in the study group increased their exercise and improved their diets. [Sources: Los Angeles Times, HIT Strategist]

Fewer patients seeing doctors â€" A new report from the American Academy of Family Physicians shows that many family docs are seeing fewer patients these days, often because of canceled appointments or because they decided to forgo preventive care. Of the 500 AAFP members who responded to the survey, 54 percent reported they had seen fewer patients since January 2008. Seventy-three percent said they were seeing more uninsured patients, and 71 percent were providing more uncompensated care than in the past. [Source: Modern Healthcare]

No progress on patient safety â€" According to Consumers Union, there has been little or no progress on reducing deaths caused by medical errors since the Institute of Medicine published its famous report "To Err Is Human" in 1999. Among other things, the report blamed a lack of computerized order entry in hospitals, the failure to create a national system of medical-error reporting, and the fact that doctors and other healthcare professionals are still not held accountable for making mistakes. [Source: Modern Healthcare] Health IT Vendors Pursue Little Practices â€" McKesson has launched a new electronic health record designed for small practices. The new Medisoft Clinical product combines Medisoft v15, the latest version of the practice management system used by 70,000 physicians, with the CCHIT-certified Practice Partner EMR that McKesson purchased a couple of years ago. Like Allscripts' MyWay EHR, the repositioned Practice Partner is expected to benefit from the new government health IT incentives. Meanwhile, Allscripts is partnering with Cardinal Health, a major distributor of health care supplies, to reach small practices that are too costly for the vendor to sell to directly. Cardinal's nationwide sales force will add Allscripts' My Way EHR to their product line. According to a Cardinal representative, the government's financial incentives to physicians "made it imperative" for the distributor to find a vendor partner. Henry Schein, one of Cardinal's competitors, already sells its own EHR and practice management system. [Sources: McKesson press release, Healthcare IT News]

Don't Weep for Physicians â€" According to the government, the medical field includes the nine best-paying jobs in the U.S. The Bureau of Labor Statistics' latest Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates shows that surgeons make an average of $206,770, which makes them better-paid than any other occupation, including anesthesiologists ($197,570). Orthodonists were right behind at $194,930, followed by ob/gyns ($192,780) and oral and maxillofacial surgeons ($190,420). One wonders why plastic surgeons didn't make the list--maybe not enough people can afford plastic surgery anymore. [Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics]

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