Hilary Lau

New Texas Laws Help Children, But Misses Abound, Too

The 83rd Texas Legislature was instrumental in facilitating policy changes to benefit Texas children, but among its successes were a number of missed opportunities. As Rep. Toni Rose, D-Dallas, stated at a recent Children at Risk luncheon and panel discussion: “We still have a lot of work to do.” Rose’s words could be construed as the overarching theme of the whole session. Great strides were made in a variety of areas ranging from pediatric healthcare and public education to human trafficking and juvenile justice, but there were several equally promising bills that ultimately died as a result of gubernatorial vetoes or… Full Story

New Hep C. Screening Guidelines Issued by Preventive Services Task Force

New recommendations from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) advise doctors to consider offering screening for hepatitis C virus (HCV) to all adults born between 1945 and 1965. New and less invasive blood test screening methods are now backed by enough evidence to deem them safer than liver biopsies, which supports the USPSTF’s recommendation. The task force’s previous guidelines, released in 2004, recommended against screening people at average risk for HCV. They were based on lack of adequate evidence for or against screening high-risk adults, namely injection drug users. The new recommendation comes after a similar statement from Centers for… Full Story

Physician Pay Growth Trails That of Other Health Professionals

According to a study published in The Journal of the American Medicine Association, physicians’ salaries grew more slowly than those of other healthcare professionals between 1987 and 2010, though they still remain high. The study found that annual physician incomes grew 24 percent between 1982 and 1989, and decreased 7.1 percent between 1995 and 2003. Between 2006 and 2010, professionals from other healthcare fields—including dentists, nurses, and pharmacists—saw a 44 percent average salary increase, compared to a 9.6 percent increase in physicians’ salaries. The survey took into account differences in earnings and hourly wages of 6,258 physicians, 1,640 dentists, 1,745… Full Story

Fort Worth’s Healthpoint Biotherapeutics Sold to UK Company for $782 Million

Smith & Nephew of London has agreed to acquire Fort Worth-based Healthpoint Biotherapeutics for $782 million in an all-cash deal. The acquisition is expected to close next month, subject to regulatory approval. Privately owned Healthpoint Biotherapeutics was founded in 1992 by Paul Dorman, chairman and CEO. It specializes in acute, chronic, and burn-related wound care. Its lead commercial product is its Collagenase Santyl product. It also just completed a second successful trial of a promising new cell therapy product (see additional info below). A third trial is under way. “Healthpoint and Smith & Nephew have much in common,” Dorman said, in a statement.… Full Story

Online Access to Doctors Results in More Visits

Kaiser Permanente Colorado researchers found that providing online access to doctors resulted in more—not fewer—office visits. These results are in reference to its five-year retrospective study, which examined the effects of physicians utilizing email correspondence to interact with patients and address some of their questions without an office visit. Back in 2006, when their new email access program, MyHealthManager (MHM), was installed, researchers noticed a spike in visits and phone calls to doctors’ offices among users of the new program. Although this initial surge ebbed after a few months, researchers saw that even a year after the launch of MHM, users of… Full Story

CDC: Abortion Rate Sees Largest Decline in a Decade

New Centers for Disease Control data finds that, after years of holding steady, the abortion rate in the United States has dropped to a low of 15.1 for every 1,000 women of reproductive age. There were 784,507 total abortions performed in the United States in 2009, the most recent year for which figures are available. This represents a 5 percent decrease from 2008—the largest decline in a decade. Data also indicated a decline in the abortion ratio, which measures the number of pregnancies terminated per every 1,000 live births. This ratio dropped from 232 to 227 between 2008 and 2009—a… Full Story

Texas Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Rate Below U.S. Average

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 5.5 percent of Texans have been diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD. This compares with a national average of 6.3 percent. COPD became the third leading cause of death in the United States in 2008. It encompasses a number of progressive, debilitating respiratory conditions, including emphysema and chronic bronchitis. The CDC’s report says COPD is “characterized by difficulty breathing, lung airflow limitations, cough, and other symptoms; is often associated with a history of cigarette smoking; and is the primary contributor to mortality caused by chronic lower respiratory diseases.” The highest… Full Story

Texas Bill Would Make Abortion More Restrictive

New legislation filed by Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, would increase the requirements for physicians performing abortions by requiring that they personally administer both of the two medications (Mifeprex/RU-486 and Cytotec/misoprostol) used for drug-induced abortions, in addition to seeing the patient for a follow-up assessment within two weeks. Patrick’s bill also requires the physician performing an abortion to have a written contract with a back-up physician, and to provide the state with that doctor’s name and phone number. Pro-choice advocates and abortion providers fear that particular measure might discourage doctors with hospital privileges from partnering with physicians who perform abortions. The 2011 abortion… Full Story

Broad HIV Testing Recommended by U.S. Preventive Services Task Force

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is recommending testing for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) for all Americans aged 15 to 65 in an effort to control its spread, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. An estimated 1.1 million Americans have HIV, and there are approximately 50,000 new cases annually. The new draft recommendation aims to prevent the estimated 200,000 Americans who are infected with HIV and don’t know it from infecting others or developing AIDS themselves. Should this significant panel recommendation be finalized, private insurers would have to pay for HIV testing. According to the WSJ report,… Full Story

AAP: Teenage Patients Require Medical Record Privacy

The American Academy of Pediatrics has published a policy statement in the November of Pediatrics, its affiliated journal, stating the necessity of modifications to electronic health record (EHR) systems to improve the privacy of teenage patients—an area of concern because of discrepancies between federal and state laws and regulations regarding EHRs. In the report, the organization said adolescents who feel they cannot trust their health information would be kept confidential might not seek  services such as treatment of sexually transmitted infections.  The AAP urges reform for EHRs, citing data from a December 2009 Pediatrics study that indicated 24 percent of… Full Story