gifts-300x184Looking for a gift with more meaning for a holiday season of higher purpose and lasting impact? Here are some ideas:

jet-300x154Tens of thousands of Americans will hit the skies in the next few days, struggling to squeeze in that last bit of business before the holidays shut down 2017 opportunities. Are these business travelers harming their own health?

The New York Times has put up an interesting report on the ubiquity and stress of business-required travel, arguing that jet-setting for work not only has lost whatever glamor it once may have held but also that experts increasingly are worried about the health toll it inflicts.

The paper, noting that more formal research needs to done, cites studies showing that “frequent business travel accelerates aging and increases the likelihood of suffering a stroke or heart attack, and that more than 70 percent of business travelers report some symptoms of an unhealthy lifestyle, including poor diet, lack of exercise, excess drinking, stress, mood swings and gastrointestinal problems.”

srdrugs-300x178When families and friends visit Kansas nursing homes, they may be startled to see how listless and lethargic their elderly loved ones may be, especially if the facility residents suffer from dementia. There’s a sad, simple, and likely reason—the seniors may be drugged up with potent anti-psychotics.

The Kansas City Star deserves credit for providing a powerful reminder that nursing homes, not just in the Heartland but nationwide, persist in over-relying on off-label dosing of their sometimes difficult to handle patients with drugs such as olanzapine (more commonly known by the branded product Zyprexa), aripiprazole (Abilify), risperidone (Risperdal), or quetiapine (Seroquel).

As the newspaper reported:

alive-300x115Nick Tullier once was a handsome, strapping sheriff’s deputy in Baton Rouge, La. Then, in a blink, he and five others were gunned down by a former Marine and black separatist who had come from Missouri to Louisiana to kill cops. Tullier was one of three deputies who survived the attack.

What happened next to him is part of a series worth reading in the Houston Chronicle, a year-long dig the newspaper has dubbed “Alive Inside.” The work asks whether doctors and hospitals across the country have stayed current with medical advances that maybe, just might, possibly offer greater glimmers of hope to patients like Tullier who suffer traumatic brain injuries.

Such individuals, the Chronicle carefully says, may too quickly be deemed too injured to survive. Doctors, in sincere acts of perceived compassion, may be too fast to urge family and loved ones to withhold or halt medical services for the brain-injured, partly out of the pragmatic reality that their recovery prospects remain poor.

mitch-300x226It may take days, weeks, years, or even a decade to fully determine what the Republicans in Washington have done to the nation’s health care with the U.S. Senate’s middle-of-the-night approval of more than $1 trillion in changes to the U.S. tax code. But it will at least be big, and maybe huge.

The House and Senate still must reconcile their versions, and President Trump must agree to what lawmakers settle among themselves. So the extent of the health harms the ostensible tax bill—which many have said is really a health bill with tax cuts attached—may inflict on Americans remains up in the air, to a degree.

Millions will lose their health insurance coverage,  because the tax bill repeals Obamacare’s requirement that taxpaying citizens show they have health coverage, the so-called individual mandate. Without the mandate, consumers can wait to buy insurance until they get sick, the equivalent of buying fire insurance on your house when it’s burning down. But this means insurers have to jack up rates to offset all the gaming of the system.  It also opens the way to “skinny” or skimpy health plans that really offer little or no coverage for the sick or those in need of medical services.

cutting-300x205Teen-aged girls are turning up in increased numbers for emergency treatment at hospitals because they have cut, burned, poisoned, or otherwise tried to harm themselves. This disturbing trend may be linked to the obsession by the young, especially girls ages 10 to 14, with smart phones and their aggressive online, but weak real world, social lives.

The data developed by researchers from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control also provide a serious warning about girls’ struggles to reach maturity because the rise in detected instances of self-harm also may signal increases in suicides—the No. 2 cause of death of young people ages 10 to 14.

Researchers say the negative numbers —most pronounced as an 18.8 percent increase in incidents of self-harm among girls ages 10 to 14 — affected young females most, with young males showing no major changes in comparable cases of cutting, poisoning, burning, or otherwise hurting themselves.

emergency-services_overviewThe last thing Americans need to fret about as they struggle to keep down medical costs is worrying about getting hit with a  surprise bill for a ride in an ambulance.  Just how ridiculous can those bills be? Think thousands of bucks for a few miles.

The independent and nonpartisan Kaiser Health News service and the Washington Post deserve credit for their recent story on how companies slam patients with huge tabs for transporting them in dire medical circumstance. Ambulance rides, the news organizations have reported, based on a review of 350 consumer complaints in 32 states, “can leave patients stuck with hundreds or even thousands of dollars in bills and with few options for recourse.”

Lawmakers in 21 states have passed measures to protect consumers from “surprise” medical bills, many inflicted on them for “out of network services” by profit-seeking medical providers. But as much as patients would like legal protections against getting gouged by ambulance services —some run by local governments, including police and fire agencies —the issue gets complex and daunting.

womenmds-300x200The profession of medicine gets mixed reviews in rolling back the centuries of  chauvinism, arrogance, and boorish behavior of top (male) doctors.  It’s now generally if grudgingly recognized that health care, though it may be a life-and-death practice, needn’t be a rude and obnoxious one. Nurses, many of them women but many men, too, shouldn’t be bullied and demeaned by doctors. It makes for mistakes and malpractice and bad patient outcomes, for one thing.

As health care leaders look around at mighty male leaders who are falling left and right in the entertainment, news and political industries, they may wish to look closely at their own talent and its treatment. Women doctors, for example, get a bad deal on a matter as basic as pay: They earn, on average, 20 percent less than men do, even within various specialties, data from 36,000 self-reporting MDs has found. Male vascular surgeons earn $89,000 more than their female counterparts, while male pediatric rheumatologists get about $45,000 more than their female peers do.

The American Medical Association has reported that only 12 percent of internal medicine, 1 percent of surgical, and 22 percent of obstetrics and gynecology department chairs at important, prestigious academic medical centers are women—figures that also are tough to reconcile because 83 percent of obstetrics and gynecology residents are women.

wreck-300x169Tens of millions of Americans, starting with Thanksgiving, hit the roads for a hectic season of family get-togethers and holiday social events. And though the alarms have sounded for a bit now, there’s yet more evidence that our highways are killing us at far worse rates than Americans have a right to expect..

David Leonhardt, writing in the New York Times Upshot column, points out that America has become “a disturbing outlier” in its road deaths—and its inattention to slashing them to levels that might be expected in a wealthy, developed nation.

He cites data showing that the U.S. now lags not only industrialized nation peers like Canada and Australia, it’s getting embarrassed by countries like Slovenia. Slovenes died at five times the rate Americans did due to road wrecks in 1990. Now their roads are safer than ours. And did we mention that’s a part of the world that struggled through a brutal, violent break-up of the former Yugoslavia?

Patrick Malone & Associates, P.C. listed in Best Lawyers Rated by Super Lawyers Patrick A. Malone
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