People in the US are living longer (and elsewhere, too, surely). Healthcare spending in the US is expected to increase from 5.5% of the economy today to almost 9% by 2046. But why? With most healthcare spending occurring in the last five years of life, that spending is fixed, and an increasing life expectancy should just push that spending out a few years. Several studies suggest that technology is a major cause of healthcare spending increases, accounting for as much as one-third to two-thirds of the increase. And technology, while good, is expensive. Just ask someone with a heart condition or ask a premature baby how technology helped them. They can answer because they’re still alive. That’s right. Our premature baby talks. So?
Nerds from the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid are about to experience the world’s most disgusting printer jam. They have developed a prototype of a printer that prints one of the first living human organs…skin. This bio-skin replicates the natural structure of human skin and can be produced in large scale for cosmetic, chemical and pharmaceutical product testing. It can also produce autologous skin. That’s a ten-dollar word that means “cells from one individual.” (Use it later. Impress your colleagues.) The autologous skin would be appropriate for individual patient uses such as severe burns. It doesn’t take a dermatologist, PETA representative or Xerox repair man to realize the amazing potential here.
Insurance: taking the safe path that might cost you now, but will benefit you in the long run. Insurance company Aetna apparently tried the safe path to accomplish a “megamerger” with Humana by pulling out of ACA exchanges where the two were competing. According to Judge John D. Bates, who officially blocked the merger on Monday, Aetna pulled out of these markets not simply due to profit concerns, but to “improve its litigation position.” Turns out, as anyone with insurance could tell you, the safe path doesn’t always benefit you as much as you think it will. The blocked deal doesn’t bode well for the Anthem-Cigna merger, which has a larger price tag than the Aetna-Humana deal and is similarly stalled by the US Justice Department.
Automation has improved many of our daily activities in the past few decades, like how the ATM replaced visits to bank tellers. In the future, we may replace visits to the dermatologist for mole checks with a self-scan using a smartphone and an app, thanks to a team of Stanford researchers who have trained a computer to identify cancerous moles as accurately as a dermatologist. One key objective of the effort is to “bring the expertise of top-level dermatologists to places where the dermatologist is not available” said Sebastian Thrun, senior author of the study. Reason being, melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, has a 99% 5-year survival rate when caught early, compared to 14% when detected in its latest stage.
In the first study of its kind, JAMA has published a new finding. Nearly half—yes, HALF—of men were found to have genital HPV infections and roughly a quarter have at least one high-risk HPV subtype. While this finding is a bit mind-blowing, as well as horrifying, there is some good news. There’s an HPV vaccine that protects against nine different types of the virus, which the CDC recommends for all kids 11 to 12 years old. The study also found that just one in ten men had been vaccinated. Getting the vaccine is a good first step in prevention, however, more work may need to be done for awareness of the disease in men and the types of cancer associated with it.