KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Hospitals Take Steps To Figure Per Patient Costs

New tools rely heavily on data to figure out just what it will cost to treat a patient -- and in some cases, companies are buying additional information from "data brokers." 

Kaiser Health News: Retooling Hospitals, One Data Point At A Time
When a car rolls off an assembly line, the automaker knows exactly what parts, labor and facilities cost.  Not so in health care, and now some health executives are trying to change that. Although U.S. hospitals account for the single largest chunk of the nation's $2.7 trillion in health spending, few of them can say how much it actually costs them to care for every patient they admit. ... Today, the [University of] Utah health system is one of a handful in the nation with a data system that can track cost and quality for every one of its 26,000 patients. That data is shared with doctors and nurses for further input about ways to streamline cost and improve care (Appleby, 6/30).

PBS NewsHour: Hospitals Turning To Data Brokers For Patient Information
A new report this week describes how hospitals are buying information from data brokers to determine how likely you are to get sick and what it may cost to treat you. For more on this Shannon Pettypiece of Bloomberg News joins Hari Sreenivasan in New York (Sreenivasan, 6/29).

Elsewhere, a large Massachusetts hospital will screen all patients for substance abuse, and a bill there would mandate how many nurses would work in ICUs --

The Boston Globe: MGH To Screen All Patients For Substance Abuse
Massachusetts General Hospital will take the unusual step of questioning all patients about their use of alcohol and illegal drugs beginning this fall, whether they are checking in for knee surgery or visiting the emergency department with the flu. How often have you had six or more drinks on one occasion, caregivers will ask, or used an illegal drug in the past year? If the battery of four questions reveals a possible addiction, doctors can summon a special team to conduct a "bedside intervention" and, if needed, arrange treatment (Kowalczyk, 6/30).

Modern Healthcare: Mass. Law Would Set ICU Nurse Staffing Ratios
Massachusetts lawmakers have passed a bill to mandate how many nurses must be on duty in intensive-care units -- and hospital officials are encouraging the governor to make it law. This week both chambers of the Massachusetts Legislature unanimously approved a bill that would require every patient in a licensed intensive-care bed to have at least one nurse caring for them, except in cases where the ICU nurse determines she can care for two patients, because one of her charges is less acutely ill. Staffing in Massachusetts ICUs could never drop below one nurse for every two patients (Carlson, 6/27).

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