Daily Rounds: Bizarre ER Charges; ‘Sober Home’ Scam; Smartphone Health, And More

The bizarre calculus of emergency room charges (The Los Angeles Times) – “There is lots of head-scratching out there, and stories like these have poured in from across Southern California and beyond since I wrote last week about an 11-year-old girl and her $5,000 trip to an emergency room with a stomachache…The larger point in last week’s column was that the calculus for medical charges in general is beyond comprehension, with outrageously high fees used as a starting point in a bizarre game of bargaining. Glenn Melnick, who teaches hospital finance at USC, told me it’s as crazy as if he asked to buy the TV in my living room, and I gave him a price of $1 million to start the conversation.”

Seeking help but finding a scam in sober homes (The Boston Globe) – “Ahlgren soon discovered the dark side of this little-known niche of the drug world: Recovering addicts were cash cows for a financial alliance between sober homes and private drug-testing labs. Landlords needed the labs to show they were serious about sobriety, largely to get referrals to fill their rooms. And the labs needed access to lots of indigent substance abusers whose drug-screening tests qualified for lucrative Medicaid reimbursements worth millions of dollars a year.”

As Smartphones become health aids, ads may follow (The New York Times) – “Young adults are much more likely than older people to have a smartphone and to use it to look for health information, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, which surveys technology trends. And their health concerns differ markedly from those of older people.””

And related: Apps help you find discounts on drugs (The Boston Globe) – Honest Discounts LLC, a Boston start-up, is launching on Monday a series of mobile apps to help consumers find savings on prescription drugs at major pharmacy outlets like CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart.”

Puberty before age 10: A new normal? (The New York Times magazine) – “Now most researchers seem to agree on one thing: Breast budding in girls is starting earlier. The debate has shifted to what this means. Puberty, in girls, involves three events: the growth of breasts, the growth of pubic hair and a first period. Typically the changes unfold in that order, and the proc­ess takes about two years. But the data show a confounding pattern. While studies have shown that the average age of breast budding has fallen significantly since the 1970s, the average age of first period, or menarche, has remained fairly constant, dropping to only 12.5 from 12.8 years. Why would puberty be starting earlier yet ending more or less at the same time?”

Rock Health, incubator for digital healthcare startups, to expand to Boston this summer (Boston Globe) – “Tecco says the program’s goal is to bring “radical innovation” to healthcare. The Harvard Med School relationship — and the Longwood location of the program — will give entrepreneurs who participate an opportunity to test their prototypes in partnership with experienced docs and other medical professionals, she says. Tecco says that Rock Health was the first incubator program exclusively targeting health startups (there are now others, like Blueprint Health and Healthbox.)”

And a very fun April Fool’s Day parody: Neuroscientists: We don’t really know what we’re talking about either (Scientific American)

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.