Hands and feet inside the car, please
Friday Pulse Check
Well, I am glad to see that everyone has made it through the week. It is a dreary March day where I am, but I am sure that in other places across our beautiful country it is much nicer.
First, I want to welcome all our new subscribers. The Friday Pulse Check is one of the few things we will be sending to your email (after all we promised not to spam you). It is our way of bringing you up to speed about what we are publishing on our website each week. That way we don’t have to rely on clicks every single day.
So, without further ado, here is what we did this week.
The Beginning of the End?
Ron and I spent our entire podcast on Wednesday discussing COVID-19. Of course, in our day and age, you cannot talk about the coronavirus without discussing how viruses and vaccines work, lest we get called out from conspiracy ridden websites (on both sides mind you) that claim we have no idea what we are talking about because “you didn’t read this article I found on the ten-thousandth page of Google.”
Needless to say, it was a good exercise for both Ron and myself because it gave us a chance to look back at the last fourteen *ahem* I mean two years and what it means for patients and physicians going forward.
One thing we can expect is that telemedicine is here to stay. Though it was around before the pandemic, it expanded greatly, even if it was mostly out of necessity. Personally, I like telemedicine, particularly because I can talk to my primary care physician this way, and I am optimistic about its future. There are potential draw backs, however, as Ron pointed out. It is strange that I can call a number on my insurance card and speak to a doctor I’ve never met who will prescribe me something based off what I tell him my symptoms are. I’m sure we haven’t seen the end of regulation of telemedicine and it is only a matter of time before Congress catches up.
Another important point from the podcast is something Ron discussed last week in an article here on FLATLINING. He believes we aren’t at the beginning of the end, rather we are at the end of the beginning. With only just over half of the world having the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, we cannot expect that the virus won’t mutate and evolve more so. By saying we are at the beginning of the end, Ron is saying that we are just merging onto the highway of endemic COVID-19.
You can check out our podcast here on our website or by subscribing on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, the iHeartRadio app, Amazon Music, Google Podcasts, and Audible.
The NSA Roller Coaster
Just this morning, Ron published a new explainer on the No Surprises Act. This is an update from our previous explainer that we published before the court ruling in Texas. If you have ever had a question about how the NSA could affect you as a patient or as a physician, you’ll want to check out our explainer.
To sum it up, be thankful a federal judge struck down HHS’s interim final rule. It really did prevent what could have been a huge disaster for physicians, and not just those covered under NSA. If the IFR went through, I have no doubt we would have seen more letters from payors (like that of BCBS NC) demanding rate cuts or risk getting kicked out of network.
It has definitely been a roller coaster of a ride (particularly since last October). And if you like more rides at our government-themed amusement park, be sure to check out the Medicare-for-All Twister coming in 2024.
COVID-19’s silver lining
Just when you thought I was done talking about COVID-19, right? This article was originally published on Kaiser Health News and we shared it at FLATLINING. Even though we have all suffered through the pandemic, we have seen some interesting and good developments in medicine.
mRNA vaccines have been successful at combating COVID-19 and because of their success, they have opened new doors to fight influenza, Zika, rabies, HIV, and even cancer. It may be a while before they are used in active treatment, but having a new focus for research is good.
Update on Ukraine
Though we haven’t been publishing much about it on our website, I have taken to sharing some healthcare related updates for the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. This week, UN News published a first-person account from Jarno Habicht, a World Health Organization representative to Ukraine.
He has detailed how Ukraine, particularly in the Donbas region has needed healthcare related assistance since the Russian invasion into Crimea in 2014. Additionally, government corruption (particularly up to 2016), the detection of polio, COVID-19, and constant worry of a military invasion has put a massive strain on their healthcare system.
He also is reporting that WHO has done a good job at getting healthcare related aid into Ukraine and neighboring countries, such as Poland. He also accounts, however, that hospitals are running out of food, water, and electricity. You can read his account here.
Have a good weekend.