MERIDEN — Last month three MidState Medical Center physicians earned Physician Recognition Awards. Hospitalist Mark Schaner, MD earned the Joseph Goodman Clinical Collaboration and Teamwork Award. Pathologist Mark Ludwig, MD was named recipient of the Daniel Kahn Clinical Quality Award. Also. radiologist Gary Dee, MD was recognized with the David Park Leadership Award.

Nominations for the awards came from the MidState community including colleagues, staff, patients and patients' family members.

 DERBY — The Griffin Hospital Cardiac Rehabilitation Department and Eunice Lisk, MS of Stratford will be honored with the Caring Heart Award at the ninth annual “Women and Heart Disease” program February 6 at Grassy Hill Lodge in Derby. The award recognizes individuals and groups that foster initiatives to promote and improve the general health and well-being of all. This is the sixth year that the award will conferred.

The event is hosted by Griffin Hospital’s Women and Heart Disease Committee, which consists of health-care professionals, heart patients and women from throughout the Valley communities. According to the American Heart Association, heart disease kills nearly twice as many women in the United States as all types of cancer.

Event registration and a silent auction will start at 5 p.m., followed at 6 p.m. by dinner and the awards program. Tickets for the dinner are $35 and the event is open to the public. Proceeds benefit the Women and Heart Disease Fund, which supports heart wellness programs for women in the Valley. Reservations are due January 30. To make a reservation or learn more, call 203-732-7584 or 203-732-1137.

 NEW HAVEN — A rare genetic mutation that disrupts production of histamine in the brain is a cause of the tics and other abnormalities of Tourette syndrome, according to new findings by Yale School of Medicine researchers.

The findings, reported January 8 in the journal Neuron, suggest that existing drugs that target histamine receptors in the brain might be useful in treating the disorder. Tourette syndrome afflicts up to one percent of children, as well as a smaller percentage of adults.

“These findings give us a new window into what’s going on in the brain in people with Tourette. That’s likely to lead us to new treatments,” said Christopher Pittenger, associate professor in the psychiatry and psychology departments and in the Yale Child Study Center, and senior author of the paper.

Histamine is commonly associated with allergy, but it also plays an important role as a signaling molecule in the brain. Interactions with this brain system explain why some allergy medications cause people to feel sleepy. 

Drug companies have developed medications that target brain-specific histamine receptors in an effort to treat schizophrenia and ADHD. While not approved for general use yet, those drugs or others that target histamine receptors should be tested to see whether they can treat symptoms of Tourette syndrome, Pittenger said.

 A new state Web page is intended to streamline resources to help families with insurance coverage and reimbursement for behavioral health and substance-abuse treatment.

The state Department of Insurance’s “Mental Health Parity” Web page is a compilation of free resources, publications and tools that consumers can access through the Insurance Department’s Web site. 

The new site includes the Insurance Department’s Behavioral Health Took Kit, a step-by-step plain-language template that families and providers can use to submit to insurance companies for preauthorization of medically necessary behavioral health services. The Tool Kit was launched in October, the same time the state announced it was dedicating $9 million in federal funds to address the needs of children in schools.

For more information on the new Web page visit the CID Web site, ct.gov/cid.

 BRIDGEPORT — On December 5, federal court Judge Stefan Underhill issued a decision granting members of the Fairfield County Medical Association and Hartford County Medical Association a preliminary injunction preventing UnitedHealthcare from unilaterally cutting hundreds of doctors from the insurer’s Medicare Advantage Network.

 

The two medical associations filed the legal challenge in early November seeking to block UnitedHealthcare from terminating as many as 2,250 physicians, or approximately 20 percent of its entire doctor network in Connecticut.  The associations estimated that as many as 20,000 to 30,000 Medicare patients could be impacted by UnitedHealthcare’s decision to eliminate a significant portion of its physicians in Connecticut.

 

The preliminary injunction order prohibits UnitedHealthcare from terminating any of the Associations’ members from the Medicare Advantage Network, notifying their Medicare Advantage customers/insured that certain providers will be terminated from Medicare Advantage Network as of February 1, 2014; and removing or failing to advertise/market the Association’s affected physicians in UnitedHealthcare’s 2014 directories for the Medicare Advantage Network.

 

“Both the Fairfield and Hartford County Medical Associations took this bold step for our patients and for our member physicians.  We won’t let UnitedHeathcare get away with interfering with the doctor-patient relationship. While this is one huge step in the right direction, the journey is far from over,” said Robin Oshman, MD, president of the Fairfield County Medical Association in response to the judge’s decision.

 

A spokesperson for UnitedHealthcare said the company intends to appeal the ruling.

“We believe the court’s ruling will create unnecessary and harmful confusion and disruption to Medicare beneficiaries in Connecticut,” said Jessica Pappas, a spokeswoman for UnitedHealthcare, in a statement.

 NEW HAVEN — Checking back into the hospital within 30 days of discharge is not only bad news for patients, but also for hospitals, which now face financial penalties for high readmissions. The key to reducing readmissions may be focusing on the whole patient, rather than the specific conditions that caused their hospitalizations, according to a new study by Yale School of Medicine researchers.

Published November 20 in the British Medical Journal, the researchers found that top-performing hospitals — those with the lowest 30-day readmission rates — had fewer readmissions from all diagnoses and time periods after discharge than lower performing hospitals with higher readmissions.

“Our findings suggest that hospitals may best achieve low rates of readmission by employing strategies that lower readmission risk globally rather than for specific diagnoses or time periods after hospitalization,” said lead author Kumar Dharmarajan, MD, a visiting scholar at the Center for Outcomes Research and Evaluation at the Yale School of Medicine and cardiology fellow at Columbia University Medical Center.

Despite the increased national focus on reducing hospital readmissions, Dharmarajan said it had not been clear whether hospitals with the lowest readmission rates have been particularly good at reducing readmissions from specific diagnoses and time periods after hospitalization, or have instead lowered readmissions more generally. To find out, Dharmarajan and colleagues studied more than 4,000 hospitals in the United States caring for older patients hospitalized with heart attacks, heart failure or pneumonia from 2007 through 2009. The authors examined more than 600,000 readmissions occurring within 30 days of hospitalization.

The Connecticut Foundation for Better Health (CFBH), New Haven’s newest nonprofit foundation, has awarded small-grant funding to nine recipients to facilitate disease prevention, health promotion and the integration of healthcare delivery at the local level.  

 

“The foundation will afford the health-care community broad opportunities to develop innovative solutions to health-care delivery for residents of the New Haven region,” said Fredric Finkelstein, MD, president of the CFBH board.

 

Start-up support for the foundation came from a generous donation made by the New Haven Community Medical Group in 2012. Foundation Treasurer Steve Wolfson, MD explained that the donation “was seen as an opportunity to give back and directly foster the health of the community, and represents our highest values.”

 PLAINVILLE — Triad, a musculoskeletal (MSK) specialty benefits management company, has been acquired by MedSolutions of Franklin, Tenn.

 

Triad specializes in programs that address pain management, spine surgery, joint surgery and physical medicine (PT, OT and chiropractic). When combined, these areas of medical care average 18 percent of commercial medical care payers’ costs and ten percent of Medicaid costs.

 

Originally announced September 5, the deal represents the first significant acquisition for MedSolutions and enables the company to broaden and deepen its existing services in this area of growing medical spend.

 

“MedSolutions’ now-expanded musculoskeletal offering is another important step in helping us fulfill our longtime mission of driving positive change in the healthcare system,” said Gregg Allen, MD, MedSolutions’ chief medical officer. “Together with Triad, we are expanding our ability to deliver proven, tailored products and services that measurably improve patient outcomes and reduce costs.”

 

Said Triad President Vince Coppola: “My team and I are thrilled to be working with MedSolutions because we see so much alignment in the services we provide. In creating a stronger, unified company, we are better able to serve our customers, patients and providers.”