Rising Number of Standalone ERs Concerns Health Experts

The number of standalone emergency rooms nationwide has more than doubled in the past four years, a trend that could increase healthcare costs across the board, Kaiser Health News reports. Free-standing emergency rooms can charge higher rates, even though they typically don’t treat heart attacks or trauma. Most patients should instead use urgent care centers, argues Vivian Ho, a health economist at Rice University in Houston. While the standalone emergency rooms charge insurers double or triple the amount per patient as an urgent care center or a doctor’s office, patients regularly use them for routine care that could be provided in… Full Story

FDA Investigation Prompts Dallas Supplement Maker to Destroy $8 Million Worth of Product

The Dallas-based manufacturer of two bodybuilding supplements has voluntarily destroyed its $8 million inventory of the products, the FDA announced Tuesday. In April, the FDA announced that the stimulant dimethylamylamine (DMAA) was an illegal dietary ingredient and could pose serious health risks to users. Regulators said the stimulant could elevate blood pressure and potentially lead to heart attacks. Later that month, Dallas-based USPlabs said that it would stop producing DMAA products and instead create products without the stimulant. But the company continued to distribute its remaining inventory of Jack3d and OxyElite Pro, the FDA announced, which prompted the agency to ask the company to destroy… Full Story

Generic Drug Makers Soon to Receive More Freedom, May Also Face More Liabilities

Beginning in September, generic drug companies will be allowed to make changes to their labels without Food and Drug Administration approval, a luxury previously reserved for brand-name drugs, the department announced earlier this month. Currently, generic drugs are only allowed to update the safety information on their labels if the FDA ordered the companies to do so, or the associated brand-name drug has done so. Once the new rule becomes law, though, generic drug manufacturers will face the same liabilities as brand-name drugs currently do. The FDA’s decision follows several Supreme Court rulings arguing that if generic companies are required to use… Full Story

‘Blue Zone’ Project May Be Heading to Fort Worth

Fort Worth could become the nation’s largest Blue Zones urban project, designed to improve community health using methods based on the best-selling book of the same name. Officials from Franklin, Tenn.-based Healthways will be meeting with community stakeholders over the next two weeks to determine whether there is sufficient commitment to launch the project. If selected, Fort Worth would receive assistance from experts to develop and implement a plan to make environmental, social and policy changes that encourage healthier behavior. Local restaurants would be guided to offer healthier food choices, and the city would invest in walking and cycling paths… Full Story

Texas Legislature Approves Fund Increase for Loan Repayment Program

The Texas Legislature has approved $33.8 million for the Physician Education Loan Repayment Program, which allows physicians who agree to serve four years in a primary care physician shortage area to apply for up to $160,000 to repay their medical school loans. The appropriation is a 500 percent increase from the $5.7 million that funded the program in the 2012-13 budget. PERLP is in the works to expand further in 2014 to allow physicians who treat high levels of Medicaid patients to apply for the loan repayment, even if they do not practice in a physician-shortage area. The deadline to… Full Story

Irving-based MedSynergies Partners With Catholic Health Initiatives to Create New Management Services Organization

Catholic Health Initiatives and Irving-based MedSynergies have formed a new management-services organization, charged with delivering key business functions and physician-management services under a centralized, national organization. The new group, Catholic Health Initiatives Physician Services, will give CHI’s providers access to a centralized model, delivering services including revenue-cycle management, patient referral and scheduling solutions, practice analytics, and practice management. CHI partnered with MedSynergies, a developer of physician-management services organizations, to provide key services within the MSO. Processing nearly 12 million patient visits a year, MedSynergies handles more than $1 billion in billing and collections for its more than 8,000 providers. “This new… Full Story

Baylor Medical Center Named Best Hospital in Dallas-Fort Worth by US News and World Report

Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas has been ranked No. 1 among hospitals in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and No. 2 in Texas by US News and World Report, the magazine announced this week. The Dallas hospital has been included in the rankings for more than 20 years, and this year was ranked nationally in seven medical specialties: gastroenterology and GI surgery (No. 16 in the nation), nephrology (No. 18), pulmonology (No. 22), orthopedics (No. 24), gynecology (No. 32), neurology and neurosurgery (No. 36), and diabetes and endocrinology (No. 38). “Dallas-Fort Worth is an extremely competitive healthcare environment with some of… Full Story

Lewisville Congressman Warns of Fraud in ACA Mandate Delay

Amidst the announcement that the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate will be delayed for a year, U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Lewisville) points out a cause for concern when individuals are left to the honor system in self-reporting these facts. According to the Houston Chronicle, Burgess said the honor system opens the door for massive fraud and questioned the concept of “trust, but verify.” Once the reporting requirements take effect, those who have received more federal help in purchasing a health plan than they should have will be required to pay the funds back. “It is clear that the delays within… Full Story

Texas Health Resources May Leave Pioneer ACO Program

Plus ACO—the accountable care organization comprised of Texas Health Resources and North Texas Specialty Physician— has indicated to CMS that it intends to withdraw from the Pioneer ACO program within the next 30 days, THR announced Tuesday. Despite that announcement, the two entities have requested conversations with CMS about the possibility of remaining in the ACO program, if it can find an economically viable way to do so. “We look forward to working with CMS in other areas, and we will continue to support the accountable care framework’s fundamental components—reducing costs, improving patient outcomes through enhanced quality of care and care coordination across the continuum,”… Full Story

Parkland Recognized as Leader in LGBT Equality

Parkland Hospital has been named as a “Leader in LGBT Healthcare Equality” by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, in the group’s recently released Healthcare Equality Index. Parkland joins eight other healthcare facilities in Texas in receiving the distinction, which is based on the facilities’ non-discrimination policies for LGBT patients and employees, equal visitation policies for same-sex partners and parents, and LGBT health education programs. Roberto de la Cruz, one of Parkland’s board members who led the hospital’s effort, said the recognition reflects Parkland’s movements to provide for a safe and respectful facility. He added that the hospital’s leadership has been… Full Story