The vexed problem of properly discharging elderly patients from hospital back into the community

By John Tingle

The National Health Service (NHS) just does not seem to be able to deal properly with discharging elderly patients from hospital back into the community. There have been major issues in this area going back decades. Stories in the media and official reports regularly appear about ‘bed blocking’ by elderly patients or hospitals discharging them back into the community without proper care arrangements being made.

There is a real fear that the NHS will never be able to turn things around here and that the lessons of the past are not being learnt .There are seemingly intractable problems being faced by trusts, social services and others in doing a proper job with elderly patient discharge.The high financial cost to the NHS of keeping well elderly patients in hospital has also been widely discussed.

Hospitals and social services have faced a barrage of criticism of failing to have coordinated care policies and arrangements leading in some cases to deaths of patients.
Two reports have been published recently which show that patient safety is being seriously compromised in this area. Read More

Updated Nurse Practitioner Scope of Practice Map

The Policy Surveillance Program staff has recently updated the Nurse Practitioner Scope of Practice Dataset on LawAtlas.org to include laws through May 2016.

Fifty jurisdictions and the District of Columbia have laws pertaining to nurse practitioners’ scope of practice. In general, scope of practice laws regulate the autonomy nurse practitioners are given within their practice to treat patients. State laws fall into two main categories: limited practice and full practice. In limited practice states, the law limits autonomy for nurse practitioners by requiring them to collaborate with, or work under, the supervision of another health care provider. By contrast, full practice states allow nurse practitioners to practice independently.

In total, there are 29 limited practice states. In those states, collaboration, supervision, or a combination of the two are required in performing activities such as prescribing medication, ordering tests, performing examinations, and counseling or educating patients, among other activities.

1map

– States with limited practice authority

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Medical Malpractice vs. General Negligence under California Law

By Alex Stein

In its recent decision, Flores v. Presbyterian Intercommunity Hosp., 369 P.3d 229 (Ca. 2016), the California Supreme Court has sharpened the critical distinction between “medical malpractice” and general negligence.

Under California statute, a plaintiff’s ability to file a medical malpractice suit expires in one year after the accrual of the cause of action. The statute tolls this period for two additional years, provided that the plaintiff files the suit within one year after he discovers the injury or could reasonably have discovered it. Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 340.5 (providing that suits for medical malpractice must be filed “three years after the date of injury or one year after the plaintiff discovers, or through the use of reasonable diligence should have discovered, the injury, whichever occurs first.”). For other personal injury suits, the limitations period is “two years of the date on which the challenged act or omission occurred.” Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 335.1.

In the case at bar, the plaintiff was injured when one of the rails on her hospital bed collapsed. Read More

NOW AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER! Nudging Health: Health Law and Behavioral Economics

This volume, edited by I. Glenn Cohen, Holly Fernandez Lynch, and Christopher T. Robertson, stems from the Petrie-Flom Center’s 2014 Annual Conference “Behavioral Economics, Law, and Health Policy.” Pre-order your copy today!

Nudging HealthBehavioral nudges are everywhere: calorie counts on menus, automated text reminders to encourage medication adherence, a reminder bell when a driver’s seatbelt isn’t fastened. Designed to help people make better health choices, these reminders have become so commonplace that they often go unnoticed. In Nudging Health, forty-five experts in behavioral science and health policy from across academia, government, and private industry come together to explore whether and how these tools are effective in improving health outcomes.

Behavioral science has swept the fields of economics and law through the study of nudges, cognitive biases, and decisional heuristics—but it has only recently begun to impact the conversation on health care. Nudging Health wrestles with some of the thorny philosophical issues, legal limits, and conceptual questions raised by behavioral science as applied to health law and policy. The volume frames the fundamental issues surrounding health nudges by addressing ethical questions. Does cost-sharing for health expenditures cause patients to make poor decisions? Is it right to make it difficult for people to opt out of having their organs harvested for donation when they die? Are behavioral nudges paternalistic? The contributors examine specific applications of behavioral science, including efforts to address health care costs, improve vaccination rates, and encourage better decision-making by physicians. They wrestle with questions regarding the doctor-patient relationship and defaults in healthcare while engaging with larger, timely questions of healthcare reform.

Nudging Health is the first multi-voiced assessment of behavioral economics and health law to span such a wide array of issues—from the Affordable Care Act to prescription drugs.

Read the introduction on SSRN and pre-order your book now!

NOW ONLINE! Oxford Union Debating Society DNA Manipulation Debate

DNA fingerprints.The Oxford Union Debating Society at Oxford University has published full video of its DNA Manipulation Debate, filmed on May 26. The Motion under debate was, “This House Believes the Manipulation of Human DNA is an Ethical Necessity.” Oxford billed its DNA Manipulation Debate as “historic” in a year when rapid advances in gene editing and genome synthesis suddenly confront humans with the possibility of being able to write, edit, re-write, and ultimately control their own genetic destinies.

The team supporting the Motion was led by Sir Ian Wilmut, famous for cloning Dolly the Sheep and now Chair of the Scottish Centre for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Edinburgh, and included Oxford’s noted moral philosopher Julian Savulescu and Oxford student debater Lynda Troung, a fast-rising star in RNA research.

The team opposing the Motion included Dr. Norman Fost, professor emeritus of pediatrics and director of the medical ethics program at the University of Wisconsin; Professor Barbara Evans, Director of the Center for Biotechnology & Law at the University of Houston Law Center and a frequent participant in Petrie-Flom conferences; and Oxford student debater Dr. Rahul Gandhi, a young medical doctor and monk focusing on rural healthcare, who is pursuing an MBA at Oxford this year as a prelude to seeking an MPH at Harvard next year.

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Monthly Round-Up of What to Read on Pharma Law and Policy

By Ameet Sarpatwari and Aaron S. Kesselheim

Each month, members of the Program On Regulation, Therapeutics, And Law (PORTAL) review the peer-reviewed medical literature to identify interesting empirical studies, in-depth analyses, and thoughtful editorials on pharmaceutical law and policy.

Below are the papers identified from the month of June. The selections feature topics ranging from lessons from the history of randomized controlled trials, to the prevalence and predictors of generic drug skepticism among physicians, to the availability and dissemination of results from FDA-mandated post-approval studies of medical devices. A full posting of abstracts/summaries of these articles may be found on our website.

  1. Bothwell LE, Greene JA, Podolsky SH, Jones DS. Assessing the Gold Standard–Lessons from the History of RCTs. N Engl J Med. 2016;374(22):2175-81.
  2. Gellad WF, Good CB. Prescription of Brand-Name Medications When Generic Alternatives Are Available-Patently Unfair. JAMA Intern Med. 2016 Jun 27. [Epub ahead of print]
  3. Hwang TJ, Sokolov E, Franklin JM,  Kesselheim AS. Comparison of rates of safety issues and reporting of trial outcomes for medical devices approved in the European Union and United States: cohort study. BMJ. 2016;353:i3323.
  4. Ioannidis JP. Why Most Clinical Research Is Not Useful. PLoS Med. 2016;13(6):e1002049.
  5. Kesselheim AS, Gagne JJ, Eddings W, Franklin JM, Ross KM, Fulchino LA, Campbell EG. Prevalence and Predictors of Generic Drug Skepticism Among Physicians: Results of a National Survey. JAMA Intern Med. 2016;176(6):845-7.
  6. Kesselheim AS, Gagne JJ, Franklin JM, Eddings W, Fulchino LA, Avorn J, Campbell EG. Variations in Patients’ Perceptions and Use of Generic Drugs: Results of a National Survey. J Gen Intern Med. 2016;31(6):609-14.
  7. Luo J, Seeger JD, Donneyong M, Gagne JJ, Avorn J, Kesselheim AS. Effect of Generic Competition on Atorvastatin Prescribing and Patients’ Out-of-Pocket Spending. JAMA Intern Med. 2016 Jun 27. [Epub ahead of print]
  8. Moore TJ, Furberg CD, Mattison DR, Cohen MR. Completeness of serious adverse drug event reports received by the US Food and Drug Administration in 2014. Pharmacoepidemiol Drug Saf. 2016 Jun;25(6):713-8.
  9. Quesada O, Yang E, Redberg RF. Availability and Dissemination of Results From US Food and Drug Administration-Mandated Postapproval Studies for Medical Devices. JAMA Intern Med. 2016 Jun 27. [Epub ahead of print]
  10. Sarpatwari A, Kesselheim AS. Navigating the Dermatological Drug Cost Curve. JAMA. 2016;315(24):2724-5.
  11. Sarpatwari A, Avorn J, Kesselheim AS. State Initiatives to Control Medication Costs–Can Transparency Legislation Help? N Engl J Med. 2016;374(24):2301-4.
  12. Schwartz LM, Woloshin S, Zheng E, Tse T, Zarin DA. ClinicalTrials.gov and Drugs@FDA: A Comparison of Results Reporting for New Drug Approval Trials. Ann Intern Med. 2016 Jun 14. [Epub ahead of print]

UPDATED – Dental Hygiene Practitioners: Why they’re needed in Massachusetts, and why the amendment failed

Special guest post from Kelly Vitzthumoral health policy analyst at Health Care For All, a Massachusetts health policy and consumer advocacy organization. This post has been updated to reflect the non-inclusion of the Dental Hygiene Practitioner amendment in the final version of Massachusetts’ FY 2017 budget.

Former U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher described poor oral health as “a Silent Epidemic.” Oral health diseases are by and large preventable, and yet they are incredibly widespread. Disadvantaged and marginalized populations suffer disproportionately from poor oral health, and children are especially vulnerable. Many low-income individuals and families are priced out of needed care and struggle to find providers who accept Medicaid.

Though Massachusetts is a leader in health care and health reform, oral health is still often overlooked in state health policy discussions. Though MassHealth – Massachusetts’ Medicaid program – covers 40% of the state’s children, most dentists do not accept it. A shocking proportion of children have untreated oral decay, which affects their ability to eat, learn, and play. A full tenth of the population currently lives in a federally-designated Dental Health Professional Shortage Area (DHPSA), and emergency department visits for preventable dental conditions cost the state millions annually. Read More

Whole Woman’s Health and the Future of Abortion Regulation

By John A. Robertson

Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt (WWH) is the most important abortion case since Casey in 1992, and a major setback for the anti-choice movement.  By allowing courts to weigh the importance of the health benefits of a regulation, it will most likely invalidate most TRAP laws, which usually only marginally advance health while making it more difficult for women to access abortion.  WWH, however, will not stop the anti-choice movement from pressing its fight against abortion in other ways.  It now controls many state legislatures, and more legislation in areas left open by WWH may be expected.

Future health-related regulation will have to hew to the WWH line of providing real benefit, at least if substantially limits access to abortion.  But close questions may still arise.  What if a state has a valid health justification for a regulation that does limit access to abortion, as Jonathan Will notes would occur if a state law that directly promotes women’s health leads to that one clinic closing, as might occur in a state like Mississippi?  Here there would be a substantial burden on access, but given the health benefit of the law, which interest should take priority?  Neither Casey nor WWH are clear on this point.  In my view the question will turn on how great is the health benefit from the requirement.  A state, for example, should be able to close the only clinic in the state if it was as derelict as the Gosnell clinic.  In that case, however, one could show serious danger to women’s health and life that would be comparable or even greater than the risk of childbirth.  If the health benefit is less but still substantial, the question is harder.  Such a situation would call into question whether the state itself must allow even a sub-standard abortion facility even when acceptable facilities exist across a state line. (See Jackson Women’s Health v. Currier.) Read More

Data at Work

By Scott Burris, JD

The past few weeks saw two important studies published using legal mapping data to understand the role law plays in addressing health inequity and disparities. Both provide immediately actionable insights for health policy.

The first, published in the American Journal of Public Health, evaluates more than 200 changes in state minimum wage laws over 31 years (1980-2011) using LawAtlas data, and the impact of those changes on infant mortality and birth weight. Komro and her colleagues find that a $1 increase in the minimum wage above the federal level was associated with a 1 to 2 percent decrease in the number of low birth weight births and a four percent decrease in infant mortality in the United States. The research was built on data that identified every change in state and federal minimum wages over 31 years. The natural experiment represented by 206 state law changes—which can be compared by month both before and after within state and against states that did not change—can give us great confidence that the effect of the increases is causal. Read More

Malpractice, Terminal Patients, and Cause in Fact

By Alex Stein

Any person interested in medical malpractice or torts in general must read the Missouri Supreme Court’s recent decision, Mickels v. Danrad, 486 S.W.3d 327 (Mo. 2016). This decision involved a physician who negligently failed to diagnose the presence of a malignant brain tumor, from which the patient was doomed to die. The patient first saw the physician when he experienced numbness, blurred vision, and headaches. The physician sent the patient to an MRI scan, which he subsequently reviewed but made no diagnosis. Eleven weeks later, the patient arrived at a hospital in an altered mental state and underwent a CT scan of his brain, which showed a malignant and incurable tumor. Four months later, the patient died of that tumor. According to patient’s oncologist – who testified as a witness in a subsequent malpractice trial – the tumor was incurable when the patient first saw the physician. The plaintiffs offered no evidence controverting that testimony. Read More