Articles Posted in Communication

ambcenterleapfrograting-300x109They may be more appealing and convenient because they’re located in the neighborhood with better hours and more parking. They also may be less costly because they lack the high overheard of big hospitals. But those booming same-day surgery centers have patient safety issues of their own.

Their doctors and nurses may not be as well-trained as patients might find at big hospitals or academic medical centers, with 1 in 3 centers not having staff who were all board-certified, according to the Leapfrog Group, a consortium of big companies and other major health care users focused on patient concerns.

Leapfrog has issued — to its considerable credit — its first safety and quality study of the facilities, also finding that, “not all ambulatory surgery centers and hospital outpatient departments provide surgery consent materials before the day of surgery. Just 14% of ambulatory surgery centers provided the information one to three days before the surgery, while just 20.7% of hospital outpatient departments do so,” Modern Healthcare, an industry news source, reported.

biogenlogo-300x104With as many as 14 million Americans potentially suffering from various forms of dementia by 2040, including the common  Alzheimer’s disease, and with the costs of the care for them forecast to soar soon to more than $500 billion, a frenzied race is on for ways to deal with the debilitating cognitive syndromes. But will individual initiative or Big Pharma products matter most for seniors and their loved ones in the days ahead?

Industry analysts and patient advocates alike were stunned when drug maker Biogen reversed itself and announced that it would seek federal Food and Drug Administration approval for aducanumab, which the New York Times reported “is a monoclonal antibody, an expensive type of drug that attaches to specific proteins in order to disable them. The drug clears a key protein in Alzheimer’s disease — beta amyloid — that accumulates in plaques in patients’ brains. Aducanumab is given as an intravenous infusion once a month.”

Biogen had spent heavily on multiple tests of this drug, suddenly pulling the plug on it last spring, declaring with the counsel of an independent advisory board that the prospective prescription medication — and possibly the line of inquiry about beta amyloids and Alzheimer’s that had led to its creation — was a failure.

breastimplantAngry women, anxious that officials were failing to protect their health, besieged a federal Food and Drug Administration hearing in the spring. That unusual outcry may have helped push regulators off their bureaucratic backsides, getting them finally to warn about risks of one of the most commonly used medical devices for women: breast implants.

But will a similar gender uprising be required to quash a rising and dubious medical testing of women, the so-called “3D mammogram?”

The FDA’s sudden, fast stepping on breast implants is occurring after years of inaction. Under new rules proposed by the agency, the devices’ packaging would be required to carry “boxed warnings,” the FDA’s most serious caution.  The agency also would call on surgeons to step up their discussions with women about implant risks, including for rare cancers. As the Washington Post reported, doctors also would be told to tell patients:

sleeperteen-300x180If millions of young folks in the nation’s largest state seem even sunnier than before, that may be because they are getting a wee bit more needed shut eye: California has become the first state in the nation to order public schools to roll back their start times, so middle school classes generally won’t start before 8 in the morning and high school teaching doesn’t start until after 8:30 a.m.

The rule — pushed by experts and resisted by parents juggling already hectic and conflicting family schedules — will be phased in over three years. It also will be accompanied by yet more research on how teens doze and how sleep can best benefit their rapidly growing minds and bodies.

California’s later start to teens’ schools got a boost from groups like the American Academy of Pediatrics, the California Medical Assn., and the California State Parent Teacher Assn. They cited a growing body of research, including by organizations like the RAND Corporation, tying more sleep from later start times to adolescents’ better school performance and health.

fallhospitalIt’s the 21st century, and excellent information is more available than ever due to communication and technology advances. But doctors and hospitals keep harming patients by testing and treating them in ways that are unsupported by rigorous medical evidence, and by carrying out safety recommendations in extreme ways.

Just consider:

cardformedicare-300x188Americans in coming weeks will make important decisions on the national and personal level about how best to safeguard themselves and their loved ones with a crucial component of the U.S. health care system: their insurance coverage.

Though the exact timing of the open enrollment season varies by geography and plan, it’s that key time for millions who get their coverage via Medicare and may wish to make changes. These are important weeks, too, for many who obtain health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. Many workers are hearing a lot from their human resources folks about their employer-provided plans.

It’s clear from the political polling and the sometimes-dreary Democratic presidential debates that there’s huge interest and lots of devil in the details about Americans’ health insurance options.

drugbottles-300x200Tens of billions of dollars. Those sound like hefty sums. But will it ever be enough? Will, say, $50 billion offer justice and appropriate recompense to a nation wracked by an opioid and overdose crisis?

These figures aren’t pulled from thin air. They’re part of the reported settlement under negotiations to resolve more than 2,300 lawsuits, all bundled up now and under the sway of a federal judge in Ohio. He will launch a landmark opioids’ trial this week, starting with claims by two Ohio counties, unless Big Pharma firms remaining as defendants and the plaintiffs — including states, counties, cities, and Indian tribes — can strike a deal and settle.

The claimants, of course, themselves represent huge and diverse interests: their millions of individual constituents. And they disagree on how much money is fair, how it should be divided, and more. The drug makers and distributors, having seen some of their peers bail already for significant sums, assert they have reached their negotiating ceiling, somewhere around that magic $50 billion.

azarshot-300x169It’s an imperfect predictor, health officials concede. Still, a nasty season of infections Down Under has increased the urgency of their recommendations to the U.S. public to get the annual flu shot before Halloween and certainly before everyone sits down for Thanksgiving dinner.

Although concern already had been growing about bad months ahead in the United States for flu, an early and “fairly severe” season in Australia has increased officials’ worries, the New York Times reported.

That’s because the Aussies, while not a 100% reliable bellwether, showed the more populous States about flu severity as recently as last season, according to Donald G. McNeil Jr., who has reported on disease outbreaks in more than 60 countries for the New York Times. He wrote this:

dcscooter-300x150In the cooler, rainier autumnal weather, transportation officials may be planting the seeds of significant change for the health, safety, and way that residents and visitors get around Washington, D.C. They may allow a smaller number of private companies to double the number of scooters zipping around the nation’s capital by the new year. By the spring, the devices may quadruple in number.

This could mean the estimated 5,000 or more scooters in the district now would increase to 10,000 by January and to 20,000 by June.

District officials say they’re responding to a spike in demand from the public for convenient ways to get around and to do so with needing to use multiple clumsy and confusing smart phone apps.

cashrain-300x225Politicians almost by reflex decry the skyrocketing cost of U.S. health care by blaming much of it on waste, fraud, abuse. They, alas, really may be on to something, newly published research shows.

Health care experts, including a medical leader of health insurer Humana, “combed through 54 studies and reports published since 2012 that estimated the waste or savings from changes in practice and policy,” leading them to some jaw-dropping calculations about how well spent is the $3.5 trillion or so that Americans drop on health care, the New York Times reported.

Answer: Really badly. The researchers, in their published work, estimated that 20%-25% of American health care spending is wasteful. That turns into giant sums, fast, as the newspaper reported, including:

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