The Daily Rise: Thursday, June 2

Free Labor by Patients

Why are patients forced to provide free labor for the health care industry?

Patient and Vox writer Sarah Kliff raises that point and, in effect, reframes the discussion over case management. Patients spend hours of our time and emotional energy dealing with bureaucracy and paperwork.

“What I didn’t understand was the burden patients face in managing the health care system: a massive web of doctors, insurers, pharmacies, and other siloed actors that seem intent on not talking with one another,” she writes. “That unenviable task gets left to the patient, the secret glue that holds the system together.”

It’s a part-time job. And we’re not paid to do it.

“It’s up to me to ferry medical records between different providers, to track down a pharmacy that can fill my prescription, and to talk to my insurance when a treatment gets denied to find out why,” Kliff writes of her experience fighting to gain access treatment.

The paperwork nightmare and case management is routinely forced upon patients.

“Every three months, I just know I’m going to lose a few days of my life,” says Aaron Carroll, a pediatrician at the University of Indiana who directs the medical school’s Center for Health Policy and Professionalism Research, told Kliff. “Basically I call the pharmacy, and tell them I’m out of medication. And sometimes they’ll call my doctor for a prescription, and sometimes they won’t. So I call the doctor’s office to say, ‘Hey, I’m out of meds, either the pharmacy will call you or you need to call them.'”

Tell us your experience as a free worker for the health care industry tweeting us @patientsrising #patientworker

First Rise in U.S. Death Rate

Health statisticians are sharing some disturbing news: for the first time in a decade, the death rate in the United States increased.

In 2015, the overall death rate increased to nearly 730 deaths per 100,000 people, according to a preliminary review of 2015 death certificates. That marks the first yea-over-year increase since 2005. And while the increase was slight – just 7 deaths per 100,000- it’s still a sign that our national health is in need of improvement.

“It’s an uptick in mortality and that doesn’t usually happen, so it’s significant,” said Robert Anderson, the chief of mortality statistics at the National Center for Health Statistics, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told the New York Times. “But the question is, what does it mean? We really need more data to know. If we start looking at 2016 and we see another rise, we’ll be a lot more concerned.”

Our health isn’t static, and neither is our health care system. Although we benefit from greater medical knowledge and a better understanding of how to fight disease, we’re also seeing new challenges. We must constantly invest in developing a dynamic health care system that provides every patient with access to the right treatment.

Why We Always Need Innovation

If the uptick in the U.S. mortality doesn’t drive home the importance of innovation, then our next story should do the trick.

Experts on antibiotic resistance at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are cautioning that more patients are carrying an antibiotic resistant superbug.

“We don’t know a lot about this particular gene,” Beth Bell, director of the CDC’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, told the Washington Post. “It’s possible, in this particular situation, that we won’t ever find out.”

The bacteria, which was found in the urine of a Pennsylvania woman, is the first time that a colistin-resistant gene has been found in an individual in the United States.

According to the Washington Post, “The E. coli bacteria contained a gene, known as mcr-1, that makes it resistant to the antibiotic colistin, the drug used against particularly dangerous types of superbugs that can already withstand other antibiotics. In the short term, experts stress that there is no need to panic because the strain found in the woman is still treatable with other antibiotics. E. coli is common and is typically present in the human gut.”

State Spotlight: Losing Doctors in Louisiana

Louisiana’s health care system is bracing for substantial budget cuts as state lawmakers work to a $600 million budget deficit.

“Louisiana’s deep, persistent budget troubles are endangering the future of medical training programs,” the Associated Press reports. “Proposed cuts to hospitals could damage the stream of new doctors for a generation, in a state that has chronic shortages of health care workers and some of the worst health care outcomes in the nation.”

Just the threat of cutbacks is making it difficult for the state’s doctor training programs to attract top talent.

“Most residents stay in the state where they train, so if we lose a student, say, to Mississippi or Alabama for residency, there’s a good chance they’re not going to come back to Louisiana,” Bahnsen Miller, an internal medicine doctor at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge told AP.

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