KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Longer Looks: The Trouble With Medical Device Patents

Every week Shefali S. Kulkarni selects interesting reading from around the Web.

Time: Lessons from Storm Sandy: When Hospital Generators Fail
When it comes to preparing for a natural disaster like superstorm Sandy, hospitals drill for such evacuations and activate emergency command centers to manage any increase in patients. Still, events like superstorm Sandy are hard to prepare for. “It’s been an unprecedented situation that has required an unprecedented response from the whole tri-state health care system,” says Jim Mandler, assistant vice president for public affairs for Continnum Health Partners hospitals. All three hospitals took in patients from NYU with St. Luke’s and Roosevelt Hospital taking in 63 patients ranging from cardiac patients to preemies (Alexandra Sifferlin, 10/30).

Fortune Magazine/CNN: The Bloody Patent Battle Over A Healing Machine
It's pronounced "vack" and stands for vacuum-assisted closure. Here's what it is: You cut a piece of foam to size and place it in a wound as a barrier and protector. Then you cover the wound and seal it up. ... If it sounds simple, it's because it is simple. For much of the past 20 years this device was controlled by a San Antonio company called Kinetic Concepts Inc. The VAC transformed KCI from a second-tier medical manufacturer into a global juggernaut. For Wake Forest University, which licensed the VAC patents to KCI, the device has meant about $500 million in royalties. ... This is the story of what happens when there are billions of dollars wrapped up in a prosaic piece of technology. ... It's a story about luck and timing and the squeezing of the health care dollar (Ken Otterbourg, 10/30).

Slate: The Undecided Voter Revealed
For these undecided voters, this election is a referendum on Romney. They’ve mostly already made up their mind about the incumbent. ... These voters think Romney can handle the economy, but they worry he will embrace an extreme agenda on social issues ranging from abortion to gay marriage. ... Jenelle Kirchoff is a pro-choice Catholic, but she is considering voting for Romney because "I am struggling with Obama's insistence that all entities mandate birth control coverage." Kirchoff is also the mother of seven, and though after her divorce she accepted limited government assistance, she thinks Obama is in favor of subsidies that are too generous (John Dickerson, 10/31).

Mother Jones: Rep. Jim Matheson: Endangered Species 
The congressional career of Rep. Jim Matheson (D-Utah) has often seemed like a decadelong exercise in political survival. Utah Republicans have twice tried to redistrict him out of office, and he presently represents the most solidly GOP district in America held by a Democrat. ... Nationally, conservative Democrats like Matheson are an endangered species. ... Despite this disadvantage, Matheson has managed to hang on to his seat, in part due to his conservative credentials. He was one of 34 House Democrats to vote against Obamacare, and his pro-business voting record is so solid that he is one of just five House Democrats this year to win an endorsement from the US Chamber of Commerce (Stephanie Mencimer, 10/31).

The Wall Street Journal: One Stanford Doctor Wants To Focus On Real Patients, Not iPatients
Creators of electronic medical records never envisioned that the technology might actually decrease the quality of patient care. Instead, they saw a world where medical errors would drop because charts could be easily accessed and read. They also hoped that electronic records would result in fewer duplicated tests and lower costs. Yet, the difficulty of using many of these systems means that, in some cases, it’s encroaching upon the quality of patient care (Rachel King, 10/26).

The Oregonian: 50-50 Chance: Does A Rare Form Of Dementia Lurk In Amy Eissler's Genes?
Amy Eissler doesn't remember the social worker's name or the agency she represented, only the bombshells she delivered by phone one evening in fall 2005. The woman told Amy, a University of Oregon junior, she needed to take over as legal guardian for her father, Mark Eissler, in his 50s and declining swiftly from a rare form of dementia. Plus, Amy should never procreate, as the caller put it, because her father's illness was hereditary. ... No doctor had dubbed her dad mentally or physically ill. ... But later, when Mark Eissler's father, Amy's grandfather, checked on him, his apartment was in shambles. He couldn't care for himself and it appeared he hadn't been able to for a long time (Katy Muldoon, 10/27).


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