Beyond privacy concerns: Interactive gadgets can pose threat to children’s psychology

Children, who are learning what’s appropriate social interaction, can be affected more than adults by the human-computer relationship that’s becoming more commonplace in homes. In other public health news: early menopause, the shingles vaccine, fatty liver disease, racism, and gun safety.

NPR: Parenting in the age of Alexa, are artificial intelligence devices safe for kids?
Earlier this month, the toy-giant Mattel announced it had pulled the plug on plans to sell an interactive gadget for children. The device, called Aristotle, looked similar to a baby monitor with a camera. Critics called it creepy. Powered by artificial intelligence, Aristotle could get to know your child — at least that was how the device was being pitched. (Doucleff and Aubrey, 10/30)

The New York Times: Underweight women at risk of early menopause
Underweight women are at increased risk for early menopause, a new study has found. This study, in Human Reproduction, followed 78,759 premenopausal women ages 25 to 42 beginning in 1989. Over the following 22 years, 2,804 of them reported natural menopause before age 45. (Bakalar, 10/26)

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Amazon is poised to enter Pharma landscape — so what will that look like?

Stat: Who wins and who loses if Amazon enters the prescription drug business

Will pharma be the next business Amazon disrupts?In industry after industry, the company has turned practices and expectations inside out — and the pharmaceutical world is the latest poised for change as speculation mounts that Amazon will soon start selling prescription medicines. Anticipation has been building for months, in fact, but it heightened last week on the news that Amazon (AMZN) obtained wholesale pharmacy licenses in at least a dozen states. (Silverman, 10/30)

Bloomberg: Amazon’s ambitious October spooks stocks standing in its path
The looming threat of Amazon.com Inc. siphoned billions in market cap from Under Armour Inc. to FedEx Corp. to Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. — more than $30 billion combined — in October. Companies are gearing up to face Bezos’s behemoth heading into the holiday season, with some appearing ready to get creative as the state of their industries is shaken. (Smith, 10/31)

The New York Times: The more lavish the gifts to doctors, the costlier the drugs they prescribe
When drug companies give gifts to doctors, the doctors prescribe more — and more expensive — drugs. The more lavish the gifts, the greater the effect. Researchers used data from the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services on the prescriptions written by doctors in Washington, and information from the D.C. Department of Health on gifts from pharmaceutical and medical device companies given to providers in 2013. (Bakalar, 10/25)

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Modern Healthcare,Stat,The New York Times,Vanderbilt University Medical Center

This technology may allow computers to sniff out diseases

Patients give off a unique odor that can hold clues to any medical problems going on in their bodies, but it can’t be detected easily by humans. Also in technology news, doctors ponder the future of artificial intelligence and the role it has to play in medicine, and a look at Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s roll out of its new electronic health record system.

The New York Times: One day, a machine will smell whether you’re sick
Blindfolded, would you know the smell of your mom, a lover or a co-worker? Not the smells of their colognes or perfumes, not of the laundry detergents they use — the smells of them? Each of us has a unique “odorprint” made up of thousands of organic compounds. These molecules offer a whiff of who we are, revealing age, genetics, lifestyle, hometown — even metabolic processes that underlie our health. (Murphy, 5/1)

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In ambitious health data project, researchers happily trade ‘moonshots’ for day-to-day drudgery

Verily Life Sciences, formerly Google Life Sciences, is launching its initiative to collect information on 10,000 volunteers to create a baseline of health for the population. But, despite the scope of the project, those running it say they have their feet firmly planted on the ground and in reality.

Bloomberg: Google’s Health Moonshot Comes Back To Earth 
Opening on April 19, the study is called Baseline, as in a starting point for what healthy biometric data should look like. It’s the first serious public test for Verily Life Sciences, formerly Google Life Sciences. While Verily has separated from Google’s internet business within the Alphabet Inc. holding company, it’s taking a page from the playbook of its former parent, which aims to collect and organize information online. Verily wants to collect data from our bodies, using it to guide better health decisions. While that sounds ambitious, it’s much more modest than the missions Verily promoted when it was officially part of Google. Years ago, the biotech division promised projects such as glucose-monitoring contact lenses and all-in-one medical scanners; those remain in the lab. (Chen and Bergen, 4/19)

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Google Verily Project Baseline: New Study To Predict How We Get Sick
In partnership with both Duke University School of Medicine and Stanford Medicine, the landmark study, part of its Project Baseline, aims to collect health data from 10,000 participants over the course of at least four years, the company announced in a news release Wednesday… Using physical and biochemical traits of the study population, researchers hope to better understand how people get sick, when they get sick and identify any additional risk factors and biomarkers leading up to disease, including diseases related to both cardiovascular disease and cancer. (Pirani, 4/19)

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Trump set to extend flawed ‘fix’ for VA health scandals

It was a fix that didn’t fix much — but Veterans Choice is expected to be extended anyway, with a stroke of President Donald Trump’s pen that could come as early as Wednesday.

Veterans Choice is a $10 billion response to the 2014 scandal in which Veterans Affairs health facilities altered records to hide months-long waits for care in Phoenix and elsewhere. The troubled Choice program pays for private-sector health care for veterans and was set to expire in August, but the VA and some of the program’s harshest critics in Congress have agreed to extend it, with a few changes, until January. They said that will give the VA time to propose a more comprehensive package of reforms — fixes for the fix.

Montana Democratic Sen. Jon Tester authored the extension bill, which won bipartisan support in the House and Senate this month. It will become law when Trump signs it.

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California,California Hospital Association,quality of care

California hospitals lose ground in quality of care, report card shows

Nearly half of California hospitals received a grade of C or lower for patient safety on a national report card aimed at prodding medical centers to do more to prevent injuries and deaths.

The Leapfrog Group, an employer-backed nonprofit group focused on health care quality, issued its latest scores last week. The report card is part of an effort to make consumers and employers aware of how their hospitals perform on key quality measures, so they can make better-informed health care decisions. The scores are updated twice a year, in spring and fall.

After steady improvement in recent years, California hospitals lost ground in last week’s report card. Two years ago, 37 percent of California hospitals received a C, D or F grade. That increased to 46 percent of the 271 California hospitals rated in the most recent report.

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breast cancer,vaccination

Out-of-this-world technology co-opted for breast cancer research

Scientists see the potential for medical breakthroughs with the help of tools originally designed to monitor space and protect planets. In other public health news: vaccinations, Zika-related epilepsy, dragon’s blood, third-hand smoke and more.

Stat: Using Space Tech To Unlock The Mysteries Of Breast Cancer
For decades, scientists here at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory have sent spacecraft deep into the solar system. Now, they’re exploring another mysterious terrain: the human breast. The lab’s primary mission, of course, is to dream up and create robotic spacecraft to look for water on Mars or peer below the dense clouds that shroud Jupiter. But in recent years, top scientists here have realized that JPL’s powerful technology for exploring the cosmos might also help solve daunting medical questions here on Earth. (McFarling, 4/18)

The Washington Post: Why It’s A Bad Idea To Space Out Your Child’s Vaccination Shots
With so many vaccines being required for young children today, some parents are asking their doctors whether they can space out or delay the vaccine schedule. They’re concerned that too many vaccines might overwhelm their child’s immune system. Parents also worry that getting more than one shot at a time increases the pain and stress. (Sun, 4/17)

Sacramento Bee: Vaccinations Rise When Parents Chat With Other Parents 
A new pilot program in Washington hopes to boost vaccination rates by having parents who support vaccines talk to parents in the neighborhood who might be unsure. A study released this week by Kaiser Permanente and published in the journal Health Promotion Practice shows the model is already working. (Caiola, 4/17)

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artificial intelligence

Viewpoints: Another fight on healthcare coming; Artificial intelligence in the hospital

A selection of opinions on health care from around the country.

Huffington Post: Democrats Say They Will Fight Trump Over Health Insurance Subsidies
Get ready for another big congressional fight over Obamacare. The flashpoint this time is a key funding stream for the program ― one that subsidizes insurers so they can offer low-income consumers plans with reduced out-of-pocket expenses. President Donald Trump suggested in a Wednesday Wall Street Journal interview that he and other Republicans might cut off the funds. Now Democrats are saying they’ll fight this by demanding that Congress include the money as part of a spending bill that is supposed to keep the government running past April. (Jonathan Cohn, 4/13)

The New York Times: Can Trump Take Health Care Hostage?
Three weeks have passed since the Trumpcare debacle. After eight years spent denouncing the Affordable Care Act, the G.O.P. finally found itself in a position to do what it had promised, and deliver something better. But it couldn’t. And Republicans, President Trump very much included, had nobody but themselves to blame. (Paul Krugman, 4/14)

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Apple,Google

Tech giants dream big on curing diseases, but realities of healthcare may drag them down

Stat looks at three diseases that technology companies are attacking — and how they might fail. In other public health news: a gene-editing breakthrough, type 2 diabetes in teens and kids and homeopathic teething tablet dangers.

Stat: How Apple, Google, And Other Tech Titans Aim To Shake Up The Way We Treat Disease
Silicon Valley has audacious plans for shaking up the way we diagnose — and cure — disease. But the life sciences are far more challenging than the tech titans of this world might realize: There are countless regulatory hurdles, health care delivery obstacles, and — most of all — the challenge of untangling the extraordinarily complex biology of the human body. Still, giants like Apple, Google, IBM, Intel, and Microsoft are charging ahead. (Keshavaan, 4/13)

Los Angeles Times: Type 2 Diabetes, Once Considered A Disease For Adults, Is Increasingly Common In Tweens And Teens
For years, health experts have bemoaned the rise of childhood obesity in the United States. About 17% of kids and teens in the U.S. are now considered obese, a figure that has more than tripled since the 1970s, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A report in this week’s edition of the New England Journal of Medicine lays out one of the consequences of all this excess weight: a corresponding increase in childhood cases of type 2 diabetes. (Kaplan, 4/14)

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Massachusetts,medical prices

Massachusetts to create website to help consumers navigate tricky healthcare world

Part of the goal of the site is to get patients to shop around like they would with any other service.

Boston Globe: State Aims At Elusive Goal: An Online Guide To Health Care Prices 
After years of delay, Massachusetts is taking another crack at a job that has proven especially tough: creating a one-stop online shop to help consumers make educated choices about their health care. The state’s Center for Health Information and Analysis has hired a vendor to design and launch a user-friendly website that includes the average prices of dozens of common health care procedures, safety and quality measures for individual hospitals, and basic information about obtaining insurance and getting care. (Dayal McCluskey, 4/14)

In other news —

New Orleans Times-Picayune: How Much Will That Cost? Finding Out Medical Prices In Advance
If you’re insured, ask your provider or check the company’s website for pricing tools. Many insurers now offer them, though not all are extremely useful. Some states have terrific pricing tools, such as Minnesota and New Hampshire, but a lot of the state resources are not so great. In Ohio, for example, the prices are simply the list or “chargemaster” prices, which are the top-end rates, and thus not very useful. The National Conference of State Legislatures has a scorecard of those resources. (4/13)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. 

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