I had the privilege of attending a prestigious medical school, so I’m always on the lookout for articles about our “rivals” doing something that my alma mater’s institutions aren’t. Johns Hopkins recently launched what may be a first: the Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research. They received a $17 million donation from a private foundation and four philanthropists, one of whom is Tim Ferriss, author of “The 4-Hour Workweek.”
The center’s director is interested in studying drugs such as LSD and their potential to treat depression, anorexia, substance abuse, and possibly early Alzheimer’s disease. Apparently Hopkins isn’t the only place who wants to be on this cutting edge. Research is also being done at institutions including New York University, Yale University, University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of California, and the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The center’s director expects that federal funding for psychedelics will increase.
In the article, he speaks at length about a typical psilocybin treatment session. It’s about as far from eating magic mushrooms at a party as one can get. Prior to the session, patients spend up to eight hours with the clinical team reviewing their personal and family histories as well as “life circumstances” to build rapport since the drug can make patients feel vulnerable. On the treatment day, patients receive the medication, lie on a couch, wear eye shades, and use headphones to listen to music. They are encouraged to focus their attention inward while two clinical guides monitor them for six to eight hours. Drug effects typically begin after about 30 minutes and peak a few hours later, then gradually resolve. Patients report sensations that range from love and joy to anxiety or panic. Test subjects often feel that they have a redefined sense of self, which can lead to ongoing positive changes in mood and behavior.
The team has studied the compound in patients with cancer who report decreased depression and anxiety. Patients have reported a positive impact on tobacco cessation efforts. I was surprised to hear that a couple of pharmaceutical companies have shown interest in the drug. I suppose it’s not much different from other drug agents where we don’t entirely understand the mechanism of action or how effective it might be, but companies smell profit potential and so they dive in. Psilocybin has been decriminalized in Denver and Oakland, but those cities aren’t entirely representative of the rest of the US as far as potential for future use.
Of course, this topic has little bearing on the world of healthcare IT, other than use of platforms for research and data aggregation, but it was a good diversion from reading about CMS releasing the Final Rule for the 2020 Quality Payment Program.
CMS continues to tweak the recipes for the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) along with the Advanced Alternative Payment Models (APMs) under the guise of reducing burden, responding to stakeholder feedback, and better aligning with various legal requirements. I’ve honestly given on up trying to follow all the MIPS details since my practice remains opted out, and most of my clients have hired full-time people to keep up on everything rather than relying on consultants.
Long story short, various performance categories have been re-weighted, thresholds have been increased, and the finish line keeps being moved. CMS is also finalizing its proposal for MIPS Value Pathways, which of course carry the MVP moniker. I’m sure anyone who participates in the program, which starts in 2021, won’t consider themselves most valuable players in the eyes of CMS.
In other random web surfing this weekend, I saw that Amazon and JPMorgan plan to roll out new health insurance plans for their employees for the 2020 year. The new Haven Healthcare plan will include wellness incentives and will be deductible free. Berkshire Hathaway apparently has a similar pilot. The plans will be offered through traditional insurance providers, including Cigna and Aetna, and may vary slightly depending on the state. The plans are supposed to be more clear than other plans as far as what patients have to pay and how co-pays are applied. Patients will receive rewards for meeting health-related goals.
I had the unique opportunity this weekend to deliver an impromptu education session (which I fear may have turned into a little bit of a sermon) about the state of healthcare delivery in the US. We had some unexpected downtime at my clinical gig, so I was doing some reading on value-based care and my staff asked me what it was all about. Since most of them were in high school when Meaningful Use came about, we did a brief tour through the history of US healthcare, the rise of electronic health records, and what life was like back in the dinosaur days before the internet came into being.
Even though several of them are applying to medical school and have been working in various clinical settings for some time, they had shockingly little understanding of how healthcare is financed here, other than knowing that when patients don’t have insurance, things often get dicey. At least one had experience working in a free clinic and had that frame of reference, but for others, it was eye-opening. Many of the jobs done by aspiring medical students are focused tours through the healthcare system. They might be in the emergency department, at a clinic, or volunteering in a medical office. I can’t imagine that many of them are spending time in the local billing office or following around certified professional coders, although maybe they should be.
They left with some homework assignments. Not only books to read, but also to consider watching “Halt and Catch Fire” on Netflix so they can better appreciate the overwhelming assortment of technology that they can choose from every day. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a fictional tour through the early days of the PC industry and the creation of the internet and search engines. I enjoyed it tremendously during my treadmill sessions earlier in the year. I’m currently watching Charité on Netflix, which depicts the prominent Berlin hospital during the 1800s. The series is in German with English subtitles, and I’m enjoying the depictions of famous physicians of the time.
What random tidbits are you thinking about? Leave a comment or email me.
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