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Domestic Health Reform

My own study of global health grew in parallel with the HIV virus. When I was a surgical intern, the virus did not exist in America. Since then it has hollowed out societies and kills 2 million people a year. Yet, we have no cure for it. 1.2 billion people don’t have access to clean water. 16,000 kids die every day of easily preventable causes. Pneumonia is the number one killer of children – There are ways each one of us– no matter who we are or what we are doing – can make a meaningful difference in the health of people around the world.

Diet quality should become a core SNAP objective (The Hill)

THE HILL | As Congress considers reauthorizing SNAP as part of the 2018 Farm Bill, we believe it’s time to make nutrition a top priority for the program. First, we request that diet quality become a core SNAP objective. Specifically, we recommend eliminating sugar-sweetened beverages from the list of items that can be purchased with SNAP in…

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Updated Nutrition Labels Can Make Us Healthier Consumers (Forbes)

FORBES | As health-minded consumers of food, I think we all deserve to know what is in the packaged food we buy. Giving consumers information to make their own choices sounds as American as apple pie, but somehow in today’s fractured political system, it’s become a major point of contention. For the health of our…

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New Model Can Advance Treatments, Cures For Rare Diseases (Forbes)

FORBES | If your child suffered from a rare and incurable disease, what would you do to find a cure? My former colleague and good friend Dr. Chip Chambers faced just such a challenge, and took the bull by the horns. Last month, Dr. Chambers organized a unique medical conference that should serve as a model…

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Groundbreaking 21st Century Cures Act

The US Senate just voted 94-5 to pass the 21st Century Cures Act. This is an historic moment for American medical innovation and the millions of patients who will benefit. The Cures Act is groundbreaking. Over the 40 years I have been in medicine, there has never been a more exciting time for medical innovation…

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How NashvilleHealth Is Maximizing Community Population Health (Health Affairs)

HEALTH AFFAIRS | How can Main Street, America, move the needle in a city’s population health and wellbeing? It begins with a solid, organizational structure built for the long term. I fondly call my hometown, Nashville, the “Silicon Valley of Health Services.” With 18 publicly traded national health care companies headquartered here with annual global health…

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TrumpCare: In The Beginning… (Forbes)

FORBES | The immediate question for those whose lives focus around lifting the health of individual Americans is, “What does Donald J. Trump’s presidency mean for health care in America?” At the heart of the answer is uncertainty. Trump is an “unknown unknown” when it comes to deep, thoughtful health policy. He has excelled in many…

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Our Abysmal Maternal Health Statistics And How To Improve Them (Forbes)

FORBES | This past year, the United States received the dubious distinction of being one of only 7 countries in the world, including Somalia and Afghanistan, which have seen an increase in maternal mortality. While countries with far fewer resources such as India and Brazil have made great strides to decrease the number of women who…

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Systems Strategies for Better Health Throughout the Life Course: A Vital Direction for Health and Health Care (National Academy of Medicine)

NATIONAL ACADEMY OF MEDICINE | Health and health care outcomes for Americans should be better for most, and much better for some. This should be possible with currently available knowledge and resources. Capturing the potential will require adapting our strategies and approaches to the reality that health is not immutably determined at birth, but shaped by different…

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The right prescription for biomedical innovation (The Hill)

THE HILL | If you were a patient suffering from a disease, and you read about a treatment option for your illness, you would probably be eager to learn more. Imagine that the drug, device or other intervention had been on the market for several years, and studies showed that it was especially effective in some…

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The Food We Eat Daily That Leads To Poor Heart Health For Our Children (Forbes)

FORBES | Earlier this year, I called attention to the dangers added sugars pose to cardiovascular health and other health outcomes.  In the months since, many people have told me how surprised they’ve been to learn about the sugar hidden in their healthy morning yogurt or afternoon energy bar.  Frankly, I was too.  And this lack of food literacy…

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How Real-World Data Could Change Medicine (US News & World Report)

US NEWS & WORLD REPORT | With continuing advances in science and technology, the pace of medical breakthroughs is accelerating. Today, we can treat or even cure conditions that significantly shortened life just a generation ago. The exciting promises of personalized medicine are now becoming reality. Congressman Bart Gordon and I co-chair the Bipartisan Policy Center’s…

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Tennessee Quit Week a first step to healthier Nashville (The Tennessean)

THE TENNESSEAN | Of the thousands of heart and lung operations I have performed, the most common cause of the underlying disease in these patients was a single voluntary behavior: smoking. That tragedy is what Tennessee Quit Week (Feb. 22-28) is all about. Smoking absolutely leads to a shorter, poorer-quality life. It more than doubles a person’s…

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Flint’s Water Crisis and Public Health 3.0

When looking at the ongoing crisis over safe drinking water in Flint one thing is abundantly clear, the decisions made–at multiple levels–were made without a comprehensive evaluation of the impact on public health. Karen DeSalvo, Acting Assistant Secretary for Health and National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, and I take a look at the public health approaches…

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Approve Limited-Population Antibacterial Drug Pathway (The Tennessean)

THE TENNESSEAN | A recent study about antibiotic resistance hit close to home for me. It projected that drug-resistant bacteria are developing at a pace that could soon threaten the lives of thousands more surgery patients each year. This study also revealed that as many as half of infections after surgery are already being caused by pathogens…

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The Numbers are In: The Case for NashvilleHealth

I like to keep an eye on my hometown’s statistics. I love seeing Nashville listed among the nation’s best cities to launch a startup, raise a family and visit for a weekend away. According to some estimates, we gain 80 new Nashvillians each day, transplants from all over, drawn to our welcoming atmosphere and our…

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The Superbug Fight at your Grocery Store

You may have heard statistics about the over-use of prescription drugs, with reports indicating that up to half of all antibiotics prescribed today are used improperly. It’s a huge problem contributing to the rising threat of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. What you may not have heard, however, is that the majority of drugs used in the U.S. aren’t even taken…

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Making Dementia Friendly Communities The New Normal (Forbes)

FORBES | Alzheimer’s may be one of the most frightening health challenges today. Over five million Americans—one in eight age 65 and older and one in three age 85 and older—are living with dementia and we don’t yet have a treatment that can prevent or cure the disease. But these men and women are not alone….

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Podcast: Medicare and Medicaid at 50

Fifty years after Medicare and Medicaid were created, healthcare in America is still rapidly evolving. Carefully observing where we’ve been will help inform where we are going, so in today’s special issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Kaiser Family Foundation President and CEO Drew Altman and I look at the Perspectives of Beneficiaries,…

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Three Challenges Impacting The Future Of Obamacare (Forbes)

FORBES | Last week’s Supreme Court decision puts the Affordable Care Act firmly and securely into institutional and cultural permanence.  It still bears flaws due to its imperfect construction and divisive passage, but after five years, the new certainty for insurance markets will permit a maturity of risk pools, and the more direct and predictable provider…

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Advancing transparency in healthcare: A call to action (The Hill)

THE HILL | “How much does health care cost?” It isn’t an easy question to answer. Your yearly check-up, a colonoscopy, or trip to the emergency room doesn’t typically come with an obvious price tag. And it isn’t just finding out the price of a service or product that’s difficult; it’s also difficult to determine the…

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Why Texas is missing out on the future of medicine

If you’ve read much of anything here, you know that I am a big fan of health technologies to improve care and create a sustainable healthcare system. I think it’s essential that we choose the right technologies that will serve patients, and I firmly believe telemedicine is one of those solutions (so much so that…

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The Promises and Challenges of Precision Medicine

Only 15% of our health is determined by the healthcare we receive, the rest are the social determinants of health: environment, economic stability, access to care, education and community resources. Paying attention to that 85% is imperative, and precision medicine aims to take targeted genetic and molecular information and consider it in tandem with data about…

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Telemedicine Is A Game-Changer For Patients, The System

The Affordable Care Act won’t address our physician shortage–a problem expected to grow to as many as 52,000 needed physicians by 2025. And for many, the ACA still isn’t providing actually affordable care. To bridge these gaps, we must find innovative ways facilitate hassle free access to a provider that is more cost-effective. There is a…

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Separate Health Care For Veterans Does Not Best Serve Our Vets (Forbes)

FORBES | I had the privilege of speaking at the Concerned Veterans for America Summit last week in Washington, D.C. I’ve written about my concern for veterans’ healthcare before (and I highlighted some of my thoughts immediately before the Summit). Our healthcare system needs a lot of work, and having served as a VA staff surgeon for nine years, the care…

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A bold blueprint for transforming veterans’ health care (The Washington Post)

THE WASHINGTON POST | Imagine how we would meet the service-related health-care needs of military veterans if we had a clean slate and were considering the question for the first time. The answer is obvious. Just as we do with veterans’ educational benefits, we would use the private sector. We would never create something like the Veterans…

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FDA Reform (Morning Consult)

MORNING CONSULT | The FDA’s warning letter Anne Wojcicki received as the CEO of 23andMe in November 2013 came as a shock to the direct-to-consumer product industry dealing in the “peri-medical” device space. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had not previously made such a move, and perhaps 23andMe was being used to set an example,…

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Save the Children’s Insurance (New York Times)

NEW YORK TIMES | NO child in America should be denied the chance to see a doctor when he or she needs one — but if Congress doesn’t act soon, that’s exactly what might happen. For the past 18 years, the Children’s Health Insurance Program has provided much-needed coverage to millions of American children. And yet,…

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New Tennessee telemedicine law grows health care access

I am convinced that telemedicine is a crucial part of the solution for delivery of healthcare in the United States–care that isn’t yet affordable or accessible for all. Tennessee has made important steps toward ensuring telemedicine is an option for our citizens, but there’s more to do. Telemedicine is in its infancy in Tennessee. Specialists…

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Bill Frist supports Haslam’s Insure Tennessee plan (The Tennessean)

THE TENNESSEAN | Medicaid expansion has been a contentious topic since the Supreme Court’s 2012 decision holding mandatory state participation was unduly coercive. And the arguments against expansion are well-founded: Does the federal government really have enough money to fund this? What happens if the money runs out? We have tried this before and it was…

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The Cadillac Tax: Implications and a Potential Silver Lining?

(Forbes, February 26, 2014 ) Like much of the Affordable Care Act, the Cadillac tax—Obamacare’s solution to a tax subsidy created during World War II—offers a solution to an important problem, but is fraught with unintended consequences. Ideally, the tax would prompt employers to offer more cost-effective plans, with some shift of risk to employees…

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Connected Health and the Rise of the Patient Consumer

(Health Affairs, February 2014) How to achieve better care at a lower cost? Two powerful new forces may hold the answer. America’s health care delivery sector stands at a tipping point—a convergence of a growing, graying, and highly consumptive population with increasingly limited financial and human capital resources. Policy makers naturally gravitate toward government to…

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Notes from the Road: Global South Summit 2013

NASHVILLE | At the Global South Summit last week, I moderated a panel on one of my favorite topics: transforming healthcare into health. There is much discussion about how the current model of healthcare is “broken.” But the fact is, the system is producing exactly what it was designed to produce. The problem is that…

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End-of-life care plan can ensure wishes are respected

(The Tennessean, November 4, 2013) By Sen. Bill Frist, M.D. and Manoj Jain, M.D Fifth of six parts that will appear this fall “I would never have my mother, who has cancer, go through this,” a hospital case manager in her 50s says. “I would never have her be strapped to the bed. Never have a…

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Health care group a guide in time of change

(The Tennessean, September 15, 2013) By Larry Van Horn, Ph.d., and Sen. Bill Frist, M.D. October 2014 is a month that our nation has eyed for more than four years. We will take a historic step to revamp our health care system by enrolling millions of Americans in federally mandated health insurance coverage. At the…

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