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21st Century Cures Act Passes U.S. House of Representatives, Moves to Senate

21st Century Cures Act Passes U.S. House of Representatives, Moves to Senate | Healthcare and Technology news |

On Friday afternoon, July 10, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the 21st Century Cures Act, H.R. 6, by a vote of 344-77, sending it to the U.S. Senate. The main focus of the legislation is an attempt to remove regulatory roadblocks in the review process for new pharmaceuticals and medical devices on the part of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In addition, according to, the federal government’s official legislation tracking service, “Requirements are established [in the bill] for interoperability and certification of health information technology. Practices that discourage the exchange of electronic health information are prohibited.”

After the House’s passage of the bill, the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) released a statement attributed to Leslie Krigstein, interim vice president of public policy, praising the bill’s focus on interoperability.  “The 21st Century Cures Act is a landmark piece of legislation that will move our nation closer to a 21st Century healthcare system,” Krigstein said in the statement. “As recognized in this bill, health information technology will serve as the foundation to foster many of the ideologies in delivering lifesaving cures to patients more rapidly.”

Krigstein’s statement went on to say that “The Committee's choice to tackle the complex issue of interoperability is to be commended. Without nationwide interoperability, we will be unable to derive the value promised by the nation's $30 billion investment in electronic health records (EHRs). Expediting cures to patients will not be possible without a health information highway that allows providers and patients the data they need, when and where they need it.”

Krigstein added that “CHIME appreciates the Committee's recognition that harmonizing standards adoption will exponentially move interoperability forward. We agree that clear, enforceable standards are necessary to foster nationwide interoperability. The inclusion of increased testing requirements for certified products, including 'real world' testing, is a priority for CHIME members as a means to bring value to the certification program. We appreciate the Committee's inclusion of the need to ensure the information in one's EHR belongs to the patient. We hope that this language will begin a sincere dialogue on the need to address the ongoing patient safety and care coordination challenges arbitrarily imposed by the lack of a national approach to patient identification. Without a patient identity matching strategy, patient data matching errors and mismatches will become exponentially more problematic and dangerous.”

The CHIME statement concluded by stating that “We view this legislation as a starting point in the conversation on health IT reform. We hope to build on the language in 21st Century Cures Act to ensure the Meaningful Use Program, among other ongoing federal policy initiatives, enable the implementation and use of EHR systems to meaningfully improve patient care.”

Additional praise for the House of Representatives’ passage of the bill came from the Charlotte-based Premier healthcare alliance. Attributed to Blair Childs, Premier’s senior vice president of public affairs, it said, “Members of the Premier healthcare alliance commend House leadership for the passage of new health information technology (HIT) interoperability requirements within the 21st Century Cures legislation that passed overwhelmingly today. Requiring free and secure exchange of health information among disparate IT assets will improve patient care, reduce costs, and unlock “big data” in healthcare.  This is also an essential ingredient in enabling providers to improve the health of a defined population health across the care continuum.” That statement concluded by stating that “We are encouraged by the Senate’s equal focus on achieving interoperability among EHR systems.”

How did the legislation pass the House, and what are its chances in the Senate? Alex Lash, writing Friday in, wrote this: Passage in the House was due in no small part to the bill’s original sponsors, Reps. Diana DeGette (D-CO) (pictured) and Fred Upton (R-MI), whose work—appearances, town halls, info-gathering sessions—for more than a year leading up to the vote at times resembled a permanent campaign. But the Cures Act still must get through the Senate, where single opponents can often hold popular legislation hostage,” Lash noted. “And, despite the strong support in the House, critics are asking if the rush to approve new drugs might tilt away from traditional safeguardstoo much. Fiscal hawks will no doubt pick through the costs associated with the bill, as reported last month by the Congressional Budget Office.”

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Obamacare ruling ends threat to U.S. hospitals, insurers

Obamacare ruling ends threat to U.S. hospitals, insurers | Healthcare and Technology news |

The U.S. hospital and health insurance industries breathed a collective sigh of relief on Thursday after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld subsidies for individuals under President Barack Obama's signature healthcare law.

Shares in hospitals surged, with several hitting all-time highs, on the expectation that patients would be able to continue paying for services. Health insurer stocks also gained. Wall Street analysts called the ruling positive for an industry on the edge of consolidation.

Health economists have estimated $15 billion to $22 billion in healthcare spending was at risk with the decision. About 10 million Americans have insurance through the healthcare law's insurance exchanges and, of those, 6.4 million have subsidies.

The court ruled 6-3 that the 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA), widely known as Obamacare, did not limit subsidies to states that establish their own online healthcare exchanges. It marked the second time in three years that the high court ruled against a major challenge to the law.

Trinity Health, one of the largest not-for-profit health systems, was holding a board meeting when the ruling hit.

"There was a ‘Yahoo!’ and a big round of applause," Dr. Richard Gilfillan, chief executive of the Livonia, Michigan-based hospital chain said.

Insurers said subsidies were key to bringing in new customers.

"For a lot of the individuals who were depending on these subsidies in order to have coverage, I think it is a major sigh of relief," said J. Mario Molina, chief executive of insurer Molina Healthcare.

Annie Wisecarver, 53, of Shepherdstown, West Virginia, receives a monthly subsidy of about $200 to buy Obamacare insurance.

"I really only purchased insurance for an emergency, like if I fell off a mountain and broke my leg," Wisecarver said. "I can’t see myself spending $300 or $400 a month on insurance just because I might have an accident."

The ruling could remove uncertainty for the insurers who are seeking deals, like Anthem Inc and Aetna Inc, Leerink Partners analyst Ana Gupte said.

Anthem is pursuing an acquisition of Cigna even after being rejected, while sources previously told Reuters that Humana put itself up for sale last month, with Cigna and Aetna making offers. Bloomberg reported on Thursday that an Aetna-Humana deal could be reached as soon as this weekend.

Humana jumped 7.5 percent. Aetna Inc gained 3.6 percent, Anthem Inc 1,1 percent, Cigna Corp 2.6 percent, and UnitedHealth Group Inc rose 2.7 percent.

Among hospitals, shares of Community Health Systems were up 13.3 percent, HCA Holdings rose 8.5 percent and Tenet Healthcare jumped 12.2 percent. HCA, Universal Health Services and LifePoint Health hit lifetime highs.


Since the subsidies were introduced last year, they have helped hospitals reduce the losses from covering the cost of uninsured patients.

"It's just a very positive thing because it takes away the overhang on the company and the industry," said Alan Miller, CEO of Universal Health Services, which has hospitals in 37 states.

Bill Carpenter, chief executive of Lifepoint Hospitals, which has 64 hospitals in 20 states, was at an offsite patient safety event and said everybody in the room was excited about the ruling.

"We are just are so pleased that those people who have secured coverage through state exchanges will have the peace of mind to know that their coverage is going to continue," Carpenter said, calling on states to expand Medicaid to more income levels, another goal of the ACA. "In many states, this has been about politics and not policy."

In Florida, one of the biggest remaining issues is expanding Medicaid, said Jim Nathan, president and chief executive of Lee Memorial Health System in Fort Myers, one of Florida's largest public, not-for-profit health systems.

Jason Montrie, president of Land of Lincoln Health, a non-profit CO-OP health insurance company launched in 2013 with the government funding of the Affordable Care Act, said subsidies are vital to most of its more than 50,000 members.

"We're relieved that our court made the right decision here," Montrie said.

Options activity had been sanguine in the days and weeks leading up to the ruling, with many traders betting on a rally in the hospital names after the Supreme Court decision.

The S&P 500 healthcare sector is up 11.3 percent in 2015 so far. The sector accounts for about 15 percent of the S&P 500 index.

Margarito Cruz's curator insight, December 10, 2015 10:05 PM

The role being discussed in this article is about Cheif Executive. I didnt realize that so many people were under Obama's Obamacare. I agree with these actions because of all the accidents that happen everyday. People who dont have insurance face the same dangers that the people that do have it. It would be nice to know that theres something that will pay for the ones not as wealthy. Obama is the organizer of Obamacare.!

E. Coli In Spring Water? Don't Freak Out

E. Coli In Spring Water? Don't Freak Out | Healthcare and Technology news |

This week, Niagara Bottling, a California-based manufacturer of bottled water, sports drinks and iced tea, issued a voluntary recall of some of its products because of concerns about possible bacterial contamination. The company, whose products include the store-brand bottled water for 7-11, Shoprite and Wegman’s, reports that the spring that provides water to its plants in Hamburg and Allentown, Pennsylvania, showed evidence of E. coli that wasn’t reported by the spring’s operator.

But relax. Bottled water isn’t as scary as it seems — at least compared to other potential sources of contamination.

First off, the recall is pretty limited in scope, only covering spring water bottled June 10-18 at those two facilities — purified water and anything bottled at another facility is unaffected. Furthermore, the company claims that although the bacterium was detected in the source spring, none was found in the water at the actual bottling plant or even, says Niagara, in the water delivered to the plant before it was bottled. Still, the company temporarily shut down the plans, disinfected everything and issued a voluntary recall, predictably, “in an abundance of caution and in the interests of consumer safety.”

But considering the recall notice doesn’t note what kind of E. coli was found, it’s unclear whether it was even a form of the bacteria that’s harmful to humans. (Stan Frompovicz, Niagara’s Pennsylvania supplier, explained after this post was published that he believes the contamination happened in the testing lab. “I got a bad test result. We don’t know how,” he said, explaining that he has had eight years of no contamination and that the tests showed an extremely low overall bacteria count. “If you’re going to tell me that you have a water sample that has E. coli in it and there are no bacteria, something isn’t right.”)

The recall was still a safe move, as some strains of the bacteria are quite dangerous and can cause diarrhea, vomiting and even kidney failure. But according to the CDC, there are six types of pathogenic E. coli — but there are many more varieties that won’t really affect you at all. Some types are generally present in very low levels in the average human gut, and cultivated strains are used all the time in biology research.

Bottled water recalls aren’t tremendously unusual: a quick Nexis search for “bottled water” under lists of food recalls pulls up more than 6,100 results (although search engines aren’t perfect, and some of these results referred to things like Hot Pockets and frozen pizza instead of bottled water). The CDC lists 14 disease outbreaks associated with bottled water between 1971 and 2010; while some instances were traced back to bacteria, others are listed as being caused by cleaning chemicals or an unknown contaminant. For comparison, from 2009 to 2010 the CDC reported 2,231 illnesses related to salmonella in eggs alone.

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Eight new MERS cases in South Korea; 20th patient dies

Eight new MERS cases in South Korea; 20th patient dies | Healthcare and Technology news |

 South Korea on Wednesday reported eight new cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), while another person infected with the virus died, health officials said, bringing to 20 the number of fatalities in the outbreak that began last month.

A total of 162 people in South Korea have been infected in the outbreak, the largest outside Saudi Arabia. It has been traced to a 68-year-old South Korean man who returned from a business trip to the Middle East in early May.

South Korea's health ministry said 19 people diagnosed with the MERS virus had recovered and been discharged from hospital since the outbreak began.

The latest MERS patient to die in South Korea was a 54-year-old woman who had bronchiectasis and high blood pressure. All of the people to die in the outbreak had existing ailments or were elderly.

All of the infections known to have occurred in South Korea have taken place in healthcare facilities. Three hospitals have been at least partially shut and two have been locked down with patients and medical staff inside.

More than 6,500 people are in quarantine, either at home or in health facilities.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has called the South Korean outbreak "large and complex".

The eight new cases reported on Wednesday marked an uptick from the four and five on the previous two days, but below double-digit daily increases reported last week.

MERS is caused by a coronavirus from the same family as the one that triggered China's deadly 2003 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

The vast majority of MERS infections and deaths have been in Saudi Arabia, where more than 1,000 people have been infected since 2012, and about 454 have died.

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Quake overwhelms Nepal's weak healthcare system

Quake overwhelms Nepal's weak healthcare system | Healthcare and Technology news |

A massive earthquake in Nepal has exposed the woeful state of its medical facilities as hospitals struggle to treat vast numbers of injured with limited supplies and staff.

The country of 28 million has only 2.1 physicians and 50 hospital beds for every 10,000 people, according to a 2011 World Health Organization report.

The situation is worsening a humanitarian crisis triggered by Nepal's worst earthquake in 81 years. The 7.9 quake, which struck just before noon on Saturday, has killed more than 2,200 people and injured more than 5,400.

Casualties are expected to rise, as many more people are feared trapped in debris across the country, from the capital Kathmandu to remote villages and mountain peaks.

So far many of the seriously injured in Kathmandu were being referred to Bir Hospital's Trauma Centre, which opened in February this year with 200 beds.

Doctors said they needed more than 1,000 more beds to treat the patients that were being brought in ambulances and taxis.

"The earthquake has exposed that Nepal's best public hospital infrastructure has crumbled at a time when it should serve more people in a hurry," said Sarvendra Moongla, a senior surgeon there.

Children with multiple injuries were laid on the dusty marble floors of the hospital, while hundreds of other patients with fractured and bloodied limbs lay on the ground outside the hospital under tents as family members struggled to find drinking water and food for them.

A lack of morgue facilities meant that 13 bodies lay outside the hospital, one of the oldest in Nepal.

Many patients were prematurely discharged to accommodate the waves of injured survivors: Doctors shifted wheel-chair bound patients and several quake survivors with multiple injuries to a playground opposite the hospital.

Anita Dhungana, 31, said she was admitted to the trauma center last week and operated on just hours before the quake. Doctors had advised 48 hours of bed rest in the hospital.

"My father begged and pleaded before the doctor to keep me in the hospital. I am still bleeding and cannot walk but there is no one to examine me," Dhungana said.

Her father pitched a tent near a sewage pit where survivors washed their faces and cooked rice with lentils on kerosene stoves.

Outside the Kathmandu Medical College, about half an hour's drive east from Bir Hospital, Khile Sherpa, 20, sat in the street waiting to be treated. His right eye was lacerated, and he wore a bandage around the head, covering half his face.

He said he had been evacuated from Mount Everest base camp, where an avalanche triggered by the quake killed at least 17 climbers and injured scores.

While Nepal's healthcare facilities are limited, they quickly become much worse outside its major cities. Remote regions have only very basic medical centers that are ill-equipped to handle serious injuries.

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Superbug linked to 2 deaths at UCLA hospital; 179 potentially exposed

Superbug linked to 2 deaths at UCLA hospital; 179 potentially exposed | Healthcare and Technology news |

Nearly 180 patients at UCLA's Ronald Reagan Medical Center may have been exposed to potentially deadly bacteria from contaminated medical scopes, and two deaths have already been linked to the outbreak.

Update: FDA issues warning on contaminated medical scopes

The Times has learned that the two people who died are among seven patients that UCLA found were infected by the drug-resistant superbug known as CRE — a number that may grow as more patients get tested. The outbreak is the latest in a string of similar incidents across the country that has top health officials scrambling for a solution.

Caption FDA attributes spread of superbug to endoscope
More than may have encountered 'superbug'

UCLA said it discovered the outbreak late last month while running tests on a patient. This week, it began to notify 179 other patients who were treated from October to January and offer them medical tests. By some estimates, if the infection spreads to a person's bloodstream, the bacteria can kill 40% to 50% of patients.

At issue is a specialized endoscope inserted down the throats of about 500,000 patients annually to treat cancers, gallstones and other ailments of the digestive system.

These duodenoscopes are considered minimally invasive, and doctors credit them for saving lives through early detection and treatment. But medical experts say some scopes can be difficult to disinfect through conventional cleaning because of their design, so bacteria are transmitted from patient to patient.

These instruments are not the same type used in more routine endoscopies and colonoscopies.

The procedure in question is known as ERCP, or endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography. The superbug is carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae.

UCLA said it immediately notified public health authorities after discovering the bacteria in one patient and tracing the problem to two of these endoscopes. The university said it had been cleaning the scopes “according to standards stipulated by the manufacturer,” and it changed how it disinfects the instruments after the infections occurred.

Dale Tate, a university spokeswoman, said “the two scopes involved with the infection were immediately removed and UCLA is now utilizing a decontamination process that goes above and beyond the manufacturer and national standards.”

Tate declined to provide details on the two people who died, citing patient confidentiality.

State and federal officials are looking into the situation at UCLA as they wrestle with how to respond to the problem industrywide.

Since 2012, there have been about a half-dozen outbreaks affecting up to 150 patients in Illinois, Pennsylvania and most recently at a well-known Seattle medical center, according to experts.

These outbreaks are raising questions about whether hospitals, medical-device companies and regulators are doing enough to protect patient safety. Some consumer advocates are also calling for greater disclosure to patients of the increased risks for infection before undergoing these procedures.

Lawrence Muscarella, a hospital-safety consultant and expert on endoscopes in Montgomeryville, Pa., said the recent number of cases is unprecedented.

“These outbreaks at UCLA and other hospitals could collectively be the most significant instance of disease transmission ever linked to a contaminated reusable medical instrument,” he said.

Officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said they were assisting the L.A. County Department of Public Health in its investigation of the UCLA infections.

Dr. Alex Kallen, an epidemiologist in CDC's Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion, said the outbreaks are serious given how difficult this superbug can be to treat and the fact that additional cases might be going undetected.

“This bacteria is emerging in the U.S. and it's associated with a high mortality rate,” Kallen said in an interview. “We don't want this circulating anywhere in the community.”

Last month, Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle acknowledged that 32 patients were sickened by contaminated endoscopes from 2012 to 2014 with a bacterial strain similar to CRE. Eleven of those patients died.

But Virginia Mason said other factors may have contributed to their deaths because many of them were already critically ill.

The duodenoscopes typically involved in the outbreaks have an “elevator channel” that doctors use to bend the device in tight spaces and allow for attachments such as catheters or guide wires. Experts suspect bacteria build up in that small area.

This bacteria is emerging in the U.S., and it's associated with a high mortality rate. We don't want this circulating anywhere in the community

Kallen, the CDC official, said he hasn't found any breaches in cleaning protocol at hospital outbreaks he has investigated, but he said the problem probably is more complicated than just a design issue.

“There isn't an obviously easy solution to employ,” Kallen said. “There is action on a lot of different fronts.”

Virginia Mason instituted a new quarantine process that sets the endoscopes aside for 48 hours so evidence of any bacterial growth can be found before reusing them.

That has increased the time for equipment cleaning from a couple of hours to more than two days. Virginia Mason said it had to purchase 20 additional endoscopes to compensate for that down time.

“There is either a design issue to be addressed or a change to the guidelines for the cleaning process,” said Dr. Andrew Ross, section chief of gastroenterology at Virginia Mason. “It's the role of the federal government to make some of those decisions.”

In the wake of the Seattle cases, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Washington) pressed the FDA to issue guidelines for hospitals on how best to sanitize these scopes and devise a way to better track infections.

Some patient-safety advocates say regulators and industry officials have been too slow to respond.

“Hospitals and manufacturers often take months to assess what to do, with the infected patients being the last to know,” Muscarella said. “Bringing patients into the loop and answering their questions is important for hospitals to prevent outbreaks.”

A spokeswoman for the FDA said the agency was working to reduce the incidence of infections while maintaining access to a crucial medical tool.

The agency said it was “actively engaged with the manufacturers of duodenoscopes used in the U.S. and with other government agencies such as the CDC to develop solutions to minimize patient risk associated with these issues.… The FDA believes the continued availability of these devices is in the best interest of the public health.”

Olympus Medical Systems Group, a major manufacturer of these endoscopes and UCLA's supplier, said it was working with the FDA, physician groups and hospitals regarding these safety concerns.

The company said all of its customers who purchase Olympus duodenoscopes “receive instruction and documentation to pay careful attention to cleaning.”

UCLA said it moved quickly to protect patients once the problem surfaced. It said it alerted state and county health officials as soon as the bacteria were detected.

It is notifying 179 patients and their primary-care doctors by phone and letter. UCLA said it was offering to send patients a free home testing kit for a rectal swab, or they could come in to be tested.

Even before this incident, UCLA has struggled at times with patient safety. An influential healthcare quality organization gave the Ronald Reagan Medical Center a failing grade on patient safety in 2012.

The hospital's score improved to a C in the latest ratings from Leapfrog Group, a Washington nonprofit backed by large employers and leading medical experts.

Meanwhile, some doctors worry the outbreaks might deter patients from seeking care they need.

“ERCP is a common and critical procedure in most hospitals today,” said Dr. Bret Petersen, a professor of medicine at Mayo Clinic's division of gastroenterology and hepatology in Rochester, Minn. “It's not a procedure we can allow to be constrained, so this is a serious issue we need to address.”

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China bans U.S. poultry, eggs imports amid avian flu fears: USDA

China bans U.S. poultry, eggs imports amid avian flu fears: USDA | Healthcare and Technology news |

China has banned all imports of U.S. poultry, poultry products and eggs amid recent reports of highly pathogenic strains of avian influenza found in the Pacific Northwest, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said Monday.

All poultry and poultry related products shipped from the United States after Jan. 8 would be returned or destroyed, according to the agency and the U.S. trade group USA Poultry & Egg Export Council.

The ban, effective as of Jan. 8, also applies to poultry breeding stock, which includes live chicks and hatching eggs.

From January through November last year, U.S. exports of poultry products sent to China reached nearly $272 million, said Toby Moore, spokesman for the trade group.

U.S. chicken exports to China from January-November 2014 was 239.768 million lbs, consisting primarily of chicken feet or paws. During that same period, China imported 55.923 million lbs of U.S. turkey.

The country's import of eggs from the United States is marginal, according to industry sources.

"This move is somewhat hypocritical as there have been zero findings of high pathogenic avian influenza in a commercial poultry flock in the U.S. and, China already has a variety of avian influenza strains," said Brett Stuart, chief executive of Global AgriTrends in Denver, Colorado.

China's actions came after Hong Kong in late December suspended imports of certain U.S. poultry and poultry products after two separate virus strains were identified in Whatcom County, Washington, including H5N2 in northern pintail ducks, according to USDA.

This same strain has killed thousands of birds on two Canadian farms in British Columbia.

Additionally, the highly pathogenic 85N8 strain was confirmed in guinea fowl and chickens in a backyard poultry flock in the city of Winston, Oregon.

Neither virus has been found in U.S. commercial poultry. No human cases involving either viral strain have been detected in the United States or Canada, and there are no immediate public health concerns, said USDA.

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CVS Health Announces New Clinical Affiliations with Four Leading Health Care Organizations

CVS Health Announces New Clinical Affiliations with Four Leading Health Care Organizations | Healthcare and Technology news |

CVS Health (NYSE: CVS) announced today it has entered into new clinical affiliations with Sutter Health in California, Millennium Physician Group in Florida, Bryan Health Connect in Nebraska and Mount Kisco Medical Group, PC in New York. These affiliations will help enhance access to high-quality, affordable health care services for patients.

Through these clinical affiliations, CVS Health will provide prescription and visit information to the participating health care organizations by enabling communication between our secured electronic health record (EHR) systems, which will help enhance clinical care for patients served by the partnering organizations. In addition, patients will continue to have access to clinical support, medication counseling, chronic disease monitoring and wellness programs at CVS/pharmacy stores and MinuteClinic, the retail medical clinic of CVS Health.

"In this era of health care reform, we are pleased to work with these health care organizations to develop collaborative programs that enhance access to patient care, improve health outcomes and lower health care costs in the communities they serve," said Troyen A. Brennan, MD, Chief Medical Officer, CVS Health. "By allowing our electronic health records and information systems to communicate and share important information about the patients we collectively serve, we will have a more comprehensive view of our patients, which can aid in health care decision making and help ensure patients adhere to important medications for chronic diseases."

CVS/pharmacy currently has more than 7,800 retail pharmacy locations across the U.S. where CVS pharmacists provide counseling to patients to help them be adherent to their chronic disease medications. In addition, MinuteClinic also plays an important role by providing patients with timely, affordable and high-quality walk-in health care. There are nearly 1,000 MinuteClinic walk-in medical clinics available at CVS/pharmacy retail stores. MinuteClinic locations are open seven days a week, offering evening hours with no appointment necessary and most health insurance is accepted. The clinics are staffed by nurse practitioners and physician assistants who provide treatment for common family illnesses and administer wellness and prevention services, including health-condition monitoring for patients with chronic diseases. 

Affiliates' health care providers will receive data on interventions conducted by CVS pharmacists to improve medication adherence for their patients. The affiliation also encourages collaboration between the health care providers and MinuteClinic providers to improve coordination of care for patients seen at MinuteClinic locations.

Through this collaboration, the affiliate organizations and MinuteClinic practitioners will also work together on planning strategies around chronic care and wellness. If more comprehensive care is needed, patients can follow up with their primary care provider and have access to the services at the health care provider as appropriate. For those patients who do not have regular access to health care, MinuteClinic provides information to help patients in finding a primary care physician and a greater opportunity for continuity of health care services.

MinuteClinic, CVS/pharmacy and the participating health care organizations will begin to work toward streamlining and enhancing communication through their EHR systems. This will include the electronic sharing of messages and alerts from CVS/pharmacy to the health care organizations' physicians regarding medication non-adherence issues. In addition, MinuteClinic will electronically share patient visit summaries with the patient's primary care physician when they are part of an affiliate organization and with the patient's consent. MinuteClinic will continue its standard practice of sending patient visit summaries to primary care providers who are not affiliated with one of these participating health care organizations via fax or mail, with patient consent.

The new affiliations announced here bring the total number of clinical collaborations for CVS Health and MinuteClinic to nearly 60 major health systems and health care providers across the country.

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Cases of Wish-Bone ranch dressing recalled

Cases of Wish-Bone ranch dressing recalled | Healthcare and Technology news |

The makers of Wish-Bone Ranch Salad dressing are recalling thousands of bottles of the popular product because they contain blue cheese dressing instead.

Because blue cheese dressing contains eggs, those accidentally-filled products could be dangerous for anyone with an egg allergy.

New Jersey-based Pinnacle Foods Group said blue cheese dressing was accidentally filled into 8,678 cases of 24-ounce bottles labeled as Wish-Bone Ranch Salad Dressing.

"Those people who have allergies or severe sensitivity to eggs run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume this product," Pinnacle said. But it is still safe to eat for people who are not allergic to eggs.

Egg allergies strike mostly children and usually lead to skin rashes, nasal congestion or vomiting,according to the Mayo Clinic, but there is little danger of life-threatening anaphylaxis.

The bottles of dressing affected were filled on April 23, 2015, by a contract company, Pinnacle said. Consumers can identify them by their "best by" date of "Feb 17 16," and may return them for a full refund.

    Pinnacle said it notified the Food and Drug Administration about the issue, and has advised distributors and retailers of the product to remove affected bottles from their assortments.

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    Thailand confirms first MERS case: health ministry

    Thailand confirms first MERS case: health ministry | Healthcare and Technology news |

    Thailand confirmed its first case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) on Thursday, becoming the fourth Asian country to register the deadly virus this year.

    Public Health Minister Rajata Rajatanavin told a news conference that a 75-year-old businessman from Oman had tested positive for MERS.

    "From two lab tests we can confirm that the MERS virus was found," Rajata said, adding the man had traveled to Bangkok for medical treatment for a heart condition.

    "The first day he came he was checked for the virus. The patient ... contracted the MERS virus."

    The health minister said 59 others were being monitored for the virus, including three of the man's relatives who traveled with him to Bangkok.

    MERS is caused by a coronavirus from the same family as the one that triggered China's deadly 2003 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

    The vast majority of MERS infections and deaths have been in Saudi Arabia, where more than 1,000 people have been infected since 2012, and about 454 have died.

    Last month, a MERS outbreak erupted in South Korea resulting in 23 deaths so far. A total of 165 people have been infected and 6,700 people are in quarantine.

    But there have been signs that the outbreak, the largest outside of Saudi Arabia, may be slowing in South Korea. The daily number of new cases has dropped to single digits this week compared to as many as 23 last week. Three were reported on Thursday - the lowest number since June 1.

    All of the infections known to have occurred in South Korea have taken place in healthcare facilities. Three hospitals have been at least partially shut and two have been locked down with patients and medical staff inside.

    China and the Philippines have also reported one MERS case this year.

    Earlier, Thailand's Disease Control Department said it was screening travelers at 67 points of entry.

    "We are checking 67 ports including land, sea and air," said Sophon Mekthon, secretary-general of Thailand's Disease Control Department.

    "We've told all hospitals in Thailand to be on alert. Those who come back from the Middle East and South Korea must be checked thoroughly."

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    Nepal quakes: How medics race to avert a health crisis

    Nepal quakes: How medics race to avert a health crisis | Healthcare and Technology news |

    Three weeks, two earthquakes. More than 8,000 deaths and 17,000 injuries. Nearly 3 million displaced and more than 4 million people affected.

    Nepal was brought tumbling down through a series of disasters beyond its control. The collapse of buildings may have ceased -- for now -- but the lives of Nepal's residents remain at risk with the deluge of health consequences now facing them.

    "The first priority is immediate medical services for trauma care, surgeries and wounds [such as] broken bones, spinal injuries and head injuries," says Jesse Hartness, director of Emergency Health and Nutrition at Save the Children, whose Nepal-based staff were at the scene the day after the earthquake hit on April 25.

    But this crucial starting point was made difficult by teams finding 90% of remote health facilities destroyed. "[Risk of] mortality increases within the first 24 hours if people aren't treated immediately," says Hartness.

    But as aid agencies rushed to those caught in the rubble, their attention was needed simultaneously by others now finding themselves homeless, in need of shelter, and at risk of a multitude of health consequences -- including malnutrition and infection.

    "In Nepal, you already have more than 50% of children malnourished, this was already a nutritional emergency," says Hartness. The response provided by Save the Children therefore made sure to encompass access to good food and breastfeeding practices to prevent the enhanced risk of infection that comes with malnourishment.

    "Typhoid and cholera are [also] endemic," he says, meaning these diseases were already present in the country and pose a risk to aid efforts. Health teams must be prepared for the arrival -- and spread -- of cholera whilst also preventing its onset by ensuring that people have access to clean water.

    The numbers of people reporting diarrhea has already risen in affected areas. According to Nepal's Ministry of Health and Population (MOHP), 445 cases -- averaging 64 per day -- were reported between May 2 to May 8 2015.

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    Vietnam reports outbreak of H5N6 bird flu virus

    Vietnam reports outbreak of H5N6 bird flu virus | Healthcare and Technology news |

    Vietnam reported an outbreak of highly pathogenic H5N6 bird flu virus in a village in the northern province of Thanh Hoa, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) said on Thursday.

    Over 350 birds were found infected by the virus in a village in Tinh Gia district last week, the Vietnamese agriculture ministry said in a report posted on the OIE website. This lead to the culling of a total of 670 birds, it said.

    The outbreak follows a series of cases of highly pathogenic H5N1 virus found in birds in the southern part of the country earlier this year.

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    California measles cases top 100

    California measles cases top 100 | Healthcare and Technology news |

    The number of confirmed measles cases in California has grown to 103, the state's health department said Friday.

    Many of the cases -- 32 -- are in Orange County, home to Disneyland, where an outbreak of the disease began in mid-December.

    Eight of the children who have contracted measles are younger than 1, the California Department of Public Health said on its website.

    Dozens of those cases occurred in the last month of 2014, a record year for measles in the United States since measles was considered to be eliminated in 2000.

    Since January 1, there have been 110 confirmed cases in 16 states, including California, and the District of Columbia, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and health departments in four of those states.

    Officials in New Jersey are awaiting test results in a suspected case involving a 1-year-old who has already recovered from what made the child sick. Health officials told residents of the same apartment building where the baby lives they would be in the clear if they didn't get sick by this weekend.

    On Thursday, officials in Cook County, Illinois, announced two children from a day care center have measles and three other youngsters were diagnosed but awaiting definitive test results that would confirm they had the disease.

    Measles hit Illinois day care

    Measles is a highly contagious respiratory disease. It causes fever, red and sore eyes, runny nose, cough and a rash. It can cause deadly health complications including pneumonia and encephalitis.

    Measles is spread by contact with an infected person through coughing or sneezing. It can remain in the air and on surfaces for up to two hours.

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    Senate confirms new surgeon general

    Senate confirms new surgeon general | Healthcare and Technology news |

    The Senate confirmed Vivek Murthy as surgeon general on Monday night as Democrats -- in the final days of their majority control of the chamber -- overcame stiff opposition from the National Rifle Association.

    The 51 to 43 vote ends more than a year of uncertainty over Murthy's nomination. Obama had tapped the founder of the pro-Obamacare group Doctors for America for the post in November 2013.

    But a confirmation vote had been held up after the gun lobby pointed to a letter Murthy had signed calling for new gun control measures in the wake of the Newtown, Connecticut, school shootings, and promised to score a vote in Murthy's favor against senators in its ratings of how strongly lawmakers support gun rights.

    Murthy, 37, is America's youngest-ever top doctor, and he is also the first surgeon general of Indian-American descent.

    Obama lauded Murthy's confirmation, saying he will help the United States combat the threat of Ebola.

    "As 'America's Doctor,' Vivek will hit the ground running to make sure every American has the information they need to keep themselves and their families safe. He'll bring his lifetime of experience promoting public health to bear on priorities ranging from stopping new diseases to helping our kids grow up healthy and strong," Obama said in a statement.

    "Vivek will also help us build on the progress we've made combating Ebola, both in our country and at its source," he said. "Combined with the crucial support for fighting Ebola included in the bill to fund our government next year, Vivek's confirmation makes us better positioned to save lives around the world and protect the American people here at home."

    But soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican whose party will take control of the chamber once new members are in place next month, called Murthy a political appointment.

    "The surgeon general is known as America's doctor and the men and women chosen to fill that role in the past have usually been highly qualified individuals with substantial experience in patient care," McConnell said in a statement.

    "Unfortunately, Dr. Murthy's nomination had more to do with politics -- he was a founder in 2008 of a group called Doctors for Obama, and has been an outspoken political advocate of Obamacare and gun control -- than his medical experience," he said. "With America facing the challenge of Ebola and other serious health challenges, it's unfortunate that the President chose a nominee based on the candidate's political support instead of a long career delivering patient care and managing difficult health crises."

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