Friday News Dump: Wonkbites

by Adrianna McIntyre

In case you were too busy, I don’t know, livetweeting a filibuster or trying to follow the nuanced developments of a certain state’s Medicaid expansion proposal, we’ve served up some of the other headlines from the week. Get your wonkbites while they’re hot!

  1. So, the sequester happened. Last Friday, the sequester officially went live. Sarah Kliff breaks down  what that means for the health world on Wonkblog. It’s a pretty brutal outlook for medical and health services researchers—especially the greener ones who already struggle against their established colleagues to score coveted grants. Actual providers don’t have as much cause for worry, and Medicaid has been entirely sheltered from cuts.
  2. Forget me not? Tremendous news: we may be able to identify Alzheimer’s decades before memory loss manifests itself. Researchers learned that appears to take about 20 years of beta amyloid deposition before dementia sets in, creating a window of opportunity to slow (or reverse!) disease progression. It’s hard to overstate how important this development is—the number of diagnoses has been projected to double by 2030 and triple by 2050.
  3. Do you make a habit of diagnosing patients in-flight? This guy does. Dr. Eric Topol is a well-known cardiologist who used a mobile medical device to diagnose a heart attack during a flight 17 months ago; the plane made an emergency landing so the man could be treated. Tuesday he was at it again—this time it was a less urgent atrial fibrillation, so the flight proceeded as scheduled, but it’s still pretty remarkable. We wish we were this cool. 
  4. Going electronic comes with a price tag. A survey out of the University of Michigan (obligatorygoblue) found that about two-thirds of providers would lose money installing new electronic medical record systems even after federal subsidies designed to make them more cost-effective. Lead author Julia Adler-Milstein expressed concern over the “rhetoric and the hype and the assumption that we’ll put these systems in and we see the benefit the next day.” Don’t get too discouraged, though—she also calls it “money well spent.” It will just take time to see the full benefits of integrated EMR in our health care system.
  5. HIV KO a big win for science. Researchers believe they have “functionally cured” a little girl of HIV by administering a high dose of antiretroviral drugs within 31 hours of birth, possibly knocking out the virus before it had a chance to hide out in immune cells. This was largely a success of happenstance, and might be tricky to replicate widely anytime soon, but we think Dr. Atul Gawande phrased it best: “This is huge, stunning, world changing.”

Thoughts on the news or our coverage? Leave them in the comments!

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Adrianna is a graduate student in public policy and public health at the University of Michigan.
Follow her on Twitter @onceuponA or subscribe to the blog.

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