All posts in Feature Articles

Sexually transmitted diseases rose 10 percent in Minnesota last year

Article by Jeremy Olson, Star Tribune
Updated: April 16, 2014 – 9:48 PM

Health professionals worry that the risks are being ignored, doctors slow to promote testing.

A 10 percent increase in sexually transmitted infections last year has Minnesota health leaders concerned that people are unaware of the risks and that doctors aren’t pushing testing hard enough.

A record 18,724 chlamydia infections were reported last year, a 4 percent increase from 2012, the Minnesota Department of Health reported Wednesday. Infections involving gonorrhea and syphilis aren’t as common, but the number of reported cases increased last year by 26 percent and 64 percent, respectively.

More than half of the chlamydia and gonorrhea infections involved teens and young adults ages 15 to 24, and health officials suspect there are many more whose infections are undiagnosed and are either unaware of the risks or afraid to get tested because it would mean disclosing they are sexually active to doctors and parents.

“They are basically silent carriers who can infect other people,” said Dr. Andrew Zinkel, associate medical director for health plan quality at HealthPartners, a Bloomington-based medical provider. “That’s why the rates are going up everywhere,” including in urban, suburban and rural parts of the state.

While an increase in chlamydia cases could be due to more frequent testing, state clinic performance data suggest the opposite: that a lack of testing allows people to spread their infections to new sexual partners. Only 40 of the 138 clinic groups reporting to Minnesota Community Measurement test more than half of their young, sexually active females for chlamydia.

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Medicare data: Minnesota providers collect less on average than peers

By Christopher Snowbeck

The federal Medicare health insurance program winds up paying the fare for many of the ambulance rides provided by the city of St. Paul.

That’s why the city in 2012 was one of the largest single recipients of the program’s payments among nonhospital health care providers in Minnesota, according to data released this month by the federal government.

Of more than 19,000 providers who in 2012 cared for Medicare patients in Minnesota, St. Paul’s take of more than $2 million was the ninth-largest individual sum.

Whether they were providing ambulance rides or treating illnesses, the state’s nonhospital providers collected less money on average in 2012 than their peers across the country, according to a Pioneer Press analysis of the data.

Health care experts say relatively low payments in Minnesota make for a familiar story, since low use of health care services here means doctors and other providers tend to collect less overall from Medicare.

“We tend to not only have lower prices here, we tend to have lower utilization,” said Mark Sonneborn, vice president for information services at the Minnesota Hospital Association.

“Where a physician somewhere else might see a patient six times per year, we see a similar patient four times — it’s just our way.”

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Massive doctor data release aimed at helping consumers

GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. – It is considered the mother lode of doctor information and up until recently consumers did not have access to it.

Once the clock strikes midnight on the east coast, Medicare plans to release billing records for more than 800,000 physicians across the country.

RELATED from USA Today: Medicare data release puts scope on payments, reach

“It’s the market place of ideas. Don’t keep the data bottled up,” said Robert Krughoff, president of Consumers’ Checkbook.

Krughoff said the release is a big win for consumers. Since 2005 his advocacy group has been fighting to make this type of data public, even suing the government.

“I hope it will be a part of a wider trend for information to be available to consumers,” he said.

The data will show payments to doctors for their services and how those payments compared to other physicians.

While the federal government is only releasing data from 2012, Krughoff believes the information will eventually allow consumers to look up how often a doctor has performed a certain procedure.

“Doctors who have done more cases with certain types of procedures on average are going to do better in terms of their results,” he said.

There has been some push back by the American Medical Association, according to the Associated Press.

A spokesperson told the AP, a “broad approach to releasing physician payment data will mislead the public into making inappropriate and potentially harmful treatment decisions and will result in unwarranted bias against physicians that can destroy careers,” said AMA president Ardis Dee Hoven.

The AP also reports the access could change the way medicine is practiced in America by combining billing data with other sources of information which would allow people to focus in on a certain doctor.

Just because the information is available, however does not mean it will make it easier for consumers.

Geoff Bartsh, a vice president at Medica told KARE 11, the information the government plans to release Wednesday will be vast and unfiltered, which is why he doesn’t call this a game-changer, at least not yet.

“I think we’re a ways away from again finding a way to display the data, that is will be a game-changer for the consumer,” said Bartsh.

A Medicare official told KARE 11 a website could be set up for consumers as soon as later this week allowing people to look up individual doctors as it relates to their billing records.

Bartsh said Minnesota has been a head of the “transparency curve” as it relates to medical information. He points to Minnesota Community Measurement, a website that allows consumers to learn more about health care providers in the state.

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A Focus on Quality and MNCM Data Improve Patient Care Results

A community makes a difference in providing effective health care

Two poor communities have contrasting approaches to  healthcare. One takes a collaborative approach to medicine, creating better outcomes for residents receiving treatment.

By  Noam N. Levey
Photography, video by Carolyn Cole
March 9, 2014

BATON ROUGE, La. — Patients begin lining up outside Capitol City Family Health Center before the doors open at 7:30 a.m.

The clinic, on a ragged stretch of the boulevard that separates the black and white sections of town, is a refuge for thousands of this old southern capital’s poorest and sickest residents. They come seeking relief from diabetes, heart disease and other debilitating illnesses.

Twelve hundred miles up the Mississippi River, in the shadow of a public housing tower in St. Paul, Minn., the waiting room at the Open Cities Health Center also fills daily with the city’s poorest.

But the patients in Minnesota receive a very different kind of care, which  leads to very different outcomes. They are more likely to get recommended  checkups and cancer screenings. If very ill, they can usually see specialists.  Their doctors rely on sophisticated data to track results.

Diabetics at the St. Paul clinic are twice as likely as those in Baton Rouge  to have their blood  sugar under control. That can slow the onset of more serious problems such  as kidney failure and blindness.

Young patients with asthma also benefit from Minnesota’s more comprehensive  medical system. Asthmatic children in the state’s poorest neighborhoods are 37%  less likely than those in Louisiana to end  up in a hospital.

And poor seniors in Minnesota are half as likely to be prescribed  a high-risk drug and 38% less likely to go to the  emergency room for an ailment that could have been treated in a doctor’s  office.

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AF4Q Highlights MNCM’s Composite Diabetes Measures

Composite Measures: A New Gold Standard in Diabetes Care

Type II diabetes has become a national public health threat. As a chronic disease, diabetes is one of the leading causes of death and disability.  As rates of diabetes increase, so, too, do associated direct and indirect costs.  Aligning Forces for Quality communities that have implemented customized diabetes composite measures into their public reporting structures are already experiencing success in both clinical outcomes and improved performance. Synthesizing indicators of good diabetes management has helped simplify the challenges of chronic care management while improving efficiency and performance.

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