KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Medical Researchers Race To Find Ways To Use Gene Sequencing To Fight Cancer

Technology is quickly revamping medical care. The New York Times looks at the possible use of gene sequencing, while other news outlets examine apps and online tools that are helping Alzheimer's and autism caregivers.

The New York Times: Cancer Centers Racing to Map Patients' Genes
Major academic medical centers in New York and around the country are spending and recruiting heavily in what has become an arms race within the war on cancer. The investments are based on the belief that the medical establishment is moving toward the routine sequencing of every patient's genome in the quest for "precision medicine," a course for prevention and treatment based on the special, even unique characteristics of the patient's genes. ... Sequencing an entire genome currently costs in the neighborhood of $5,000 to $10,000, not including the interpretation of the information. It is usually not reimbursed by insurance, which is more likely to cover tests for genetic mutations that are known to be responsive to drugs. The treatments themselves, which are sometimes covered, typically cost several times that (Hartocollis, 4/21).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Apps And Online Tools Make Tough Life A Bit Easier For Alzheimer's, Autism Caregivers
From GPS devices and computer programs that help relatives track a wandering Alzheimer's patient to iPad apps that help an autistic child communicate, a growing number of tools for the smartphone, the tablet and the laptop are catering to beleaguered caregivers. With the baby boom generation getting older, the market for such technology is expected to increase (4/21).

Meanwhile, some people are exploring using Internet-based coupons to cut medical costs -

Philadelphia Inquirer: Could Groupons Sell Trouble For Doctors And Patients?
The saying "There is no such thing as a free lunch" has been popular for decades. But in the case of physicians using Groupons, there may be another applicable saying, "There is no such thing as a good deal." From both the patient and physician perspective, offering daily deals for medical procedures can be risky. Groupon and other daily deal sites became popular several years ago as buyers saw benefit in buying a coupon that would allow them to pay for services at typically half the retail cost. While most daily deals are offered for restaurants, haircuts, and vacations, some physicians, particularly plastic surgeons, have offered deals for noninvasive procedures (Cohen, 4/20).

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