Paper, Pen, And A Book

The Paper

Electronic Medical Records (EMR)

It might sound like items on a back to school shopping list, but these are not school supplies. In fact, this is no ordinary paper and pen and this book just might just save your life or the life of someone you may know. Courtesy of Lynn Shepler MD,  who brought this issue to our attention; the Hyde Park resident appears to have run afoul with the University of Chicago (UofC) in obtaining “readable” copies of her electronic medical records.
If you recall, not too long ago, medical records were kept in paper form. But thanks to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), commonly referred to as “The Recovery Act” doctors and health care providers were mandated under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) portion of the Act to switch to electronic health record (EHR), or electronic medical record (EMR), by 2015.
Congress included penalties for institutions and doctors who failed to use EMRs by 2015 versus continued use of paper records. The penalty – decreased Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements.  To comply, many healthcare providers including the UofC are using software provided by a company called Epic Care. According to Shepler, Epic Care’s software dominates the industry and compares it to Microsoft’s Windows.
In a 6-page email, she alleges among other things that the UofC deliberately provided “degraded PDF” medical records to “thwart their [ patient’s] ability to use the document as intended.” Further, the 1,000 page EMR “. . .cannot be converted to text by Adobe Acrobat or even ABBY Finereader,” as required by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA -2009).
The practice referred to as “health information blocking” appears to be so rampant that it prompted a Congressional report last year, appropriately titled “Report on Health Information Blocking.”  A review was commissioned by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology to produce a report on the extent of health information blocking and a comprehensive strategy to address it. Stay tuned for further developments on this important issue.

The Pen

download (5)“Stop Immoral Price Gouging for Life-Saving EpiPen” is the name of an online petition challenging the price of the multinational pharmaceutical company Mylan, the maker of EpiPen. The petition’s author Glenn Simpson alleges the company has a “near monopoly” on the pocket-sized medical device that can be a “literal life-saver” for folks at risk of fatal allergic reactions from bee stings to accidentally consuming peanuts.
Simpson says the pharmaceutical giant’s profits skyrocketed to 1.2 billion off the EpiPen alone after the wholesale price went from $100 in 2007 to about $600 today for a pack of two pens, according to the New York Times.
Mylan’s CEO Heather Bresch is under fire from stock holders, investors and the public while receiving huge pay increases over the years as her salary went from over 2 million in 2007 to a 671% increase of 19 million in 2015, according to Forbes magazine.
The daughter of US Senator Joseph Manchin III (D), from West Virginia, Bresch also oversees the Generic Pharmaceutical Association — the generic industry’s lobbying group. The online petition has so far garnered over 294,378 signatures and needs 300,000.
Says Mrs. Bresch “I am running a business. I am a for-profit business. I am not hiding from that.” Stay tuned for further developments. . .

The Book

health guide
Chicago Health Guide

Health insurance is a booming industry with private insurance companies earning a reported $884 billion-a-year – a staggering amount. Despite the gains of Obamacare, access to decent and affordable health care still remains a challenge for up to one million Illinoisans – until now. Last month, the National Association of Hispanic Nurses, the National Black Nurses Association (NBNA) and United Way of Metropolitan Chicago in partnership with Pfizer published the Chicago Health Guide.
The bi-lingual guide provides healthcare resources to uninsured and underinsured individuals and families throughout Chicago. Says Dr. Sandra Webb-Booker, board member of the planning committee for the NBNA “Our job was to determine what health issues are vital to those that are uninsured as well as those underinsured in Chicago.” The guide she adds is a good tool for comparing health care providers before determining a course of action for predominant diseases.
Self-employed, business consultant, Mike Smith used the guide to help his recent college graduate daughter find a provider for breast cancer prevention. Her mother who passed away in 2013 from breast cancer told her that it’s never too early for a young woman to start checking for breast cancer. “Since my daughter graduated, she hasn’t found a permanent job and therefore doesn’t have health insurance provided through employment. When I heard about the guide, I jumped on it right away,” he shares. “The health guide will come in handy until she can find permanent employment.”
“Today, close to half the population is affected by chronic conditions that require patients to play a role in their health and health care every day,” says Susan Pisano, Vice President of Communications America’s Health Insurance Plans.  “So, consumer engagement isn’t an option or a fad or an add-on. Consumer engagement is an imperative.”
download (6)
Dr. Sandra Webb-Booker, board member, National Black Nurses Association

The health guide, written in an easy to understand format contains health information about Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (P10), men’s health (P15), LGBT health (P18), lead poisoning (P11) special needs populations (P20), refugee services (P52) and let’s not forget senior care. Did you know that there are over 20 senior resource centers listed throughout Chicago (P51).
In response to the alarming increase of HIV and the lead debacle unfolding in CPS schools, Dr. Webb-Booker says “The Black Nurses Association is indeed concerned about all health issues that affect Black people. We have a Black nurses day on Capitol Hill where we advocate and lobby for those issues and laws that impact the services we [Black community] are provided.”
Pfizer, through their Pfizer RxPathways – a patient assistance program to help Pfizer patients afford their medications – also collaborated on the project which has health guides in Atlanta, GA, Rio Grande City, TX, and the Bronx, NYC.  The Chicago English version is available for free by downloading at  or you can order a free copy by calling 1-888-720-1337
Per the NBNA’s website “Provision for the enjoyment of optimal health is the birthright of every American.”

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