Office Nurses' Role Evolves In Marketplace; Studies Look At Heart Procedures

The Wall Street Journal examines how companies, facing higher insurance costs, are using office nurses to "nudge employees about long-term, expensive conditions." Meanwhile, heart studies probe where hospitals are building new angioplasty centers and how Medicare Advantage handles cardiac treatment.

The Wall Street Journal: The Office Nurse Now Treats Diabetes, Not Headaches
Workplace health clinics used to be a lot like the school nurse's office, dispensing Band-Aids, treating occupational injuries, and serving as a first stop for emergencies like asthma attacks. But as companies face rising insurance costs and an aging workforce, they're turning clinics into something new: A place to aggressively nudge employees about long-term, expensive conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol (Weber, 7/9).

Kaiser Health News: Study: Competition, Not Need, Drives Hospital Cardiac Care Investment;
U.S. hospitals spent up to $4 billion adding angioplasty services over a four year period, but the new services did little to improve access to timely medical care, says a study published Tuesday in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes. Between 2004 to 2008, some 251 hospitals added the invasive and often life-saving cardiac care, but researchers found that the new programs were mainly built near existing ones in competitive health care markets, rather than where the need for the services was greatest (Galewitz, 7/9).

Kaiser Health News: Medicare Advantage Plans Cut Total Cardio Procedures, But Regional Variations Remain
Patients in Medicare Advantage plans got expensive balloons and stenting to clear coronary arteries at a rate 31 percent lower than patients in traditional Medicare, according to the study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association by Dr. Daniel Matlock and colleagues. ... What they didn't expect were enormous differences in utilization rates among Medicare Advantage patients from one city to another. They figured cost-control incentives would smooth out the notorious regional swings in how often procedures are administered under traditional Medicare. They didn't (Hancock, 7/9).

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