Articles Posted in Communication

figure-300x169Big data and numbers may seem to drive the world these days, but human factors can play a dizzying role when it comes to statistics and medical treatments.

For those fascinated by numeracy in health care, writer Hannah Fry, in a readable New Yorker essay, details how medicine and patients alike have been bedeviled by attempts to quantify life-and-death decision making.

She tracks centuries of investigators experiments in applying rationality, logic, and mathematics to human lives and their care by doctors and others, reporting about Adolphe Quetelet, an 1830s Belgian astronomer and mathematician:

https://www.protectpatientsblog.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/69/2019/09/google2.0.0-300x200.jpgConsumers, regulators, politicians, and journalists need to keep pressing big corporations to better protect the public’s health because such campaigning can work.

It has led to steps that may cut down on reckless promotion of expensive, burgeoning, and dubious treatments involving purported stem cells. It may make vehicles safer, so children and pets don’t die or suffer heat injury when mistakenly left in rear seats.

More tough work still needs to be done, however, with a new version of the persistently problematic off-road vehicle, and, indeed, with the federal agency that oversees road safety.

cloudvape-300x222How well does Scott Gottlieb, the former federal Food and Drug Commissioner, sleep at night? Or does he even pause to think much about his role in opening the door to what has become a widening and lethal health menace: vaping and e-cigarettes?

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has joined with respected specialists in public health and lung disorders to urge the public, most especially young Americans, to stop vaping and using e-cigarettes at least until authorities can sort out an outbreak of serious problems connected with the trendy practices involving inhaling of substances catalyzed by electric devices.

Vaping suddenly has been implicated in 450 cases in 33 states and it has been tied to at least five deaths. Dozens of young people have been hospitalized, some with significant and sustained lung damage requiring extensive medical treatment.

A key feature of great civilizations is that they strive to prevent outbreaks of deadly contagious diseases. So it’s more than worrisome that measles is making what the World Health Organization calls a “dramatic resurgence” in Europe.

Measles, an entirely preventable disease, has in a single year doubled the number of its cases in four European nations, including Great Britain, in the first half of 2019: 90,000 cases versus 44,000 in 2018. Measles has come back with such force that the countries no longer may be considered as having eliminated the infection.

This is a continental meance, too, as the New York Times reported:

lightred-290x300Red means stop, right? That’s a driving basic. But Americans’ flouting of a fundamental traffic regulation — the red light — is costing more lives than it has in a decade.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has found that two people die daily in vehicle wrecks involving the running of a red light, NPR reported, noting:

“Drivers blowing through red lights killed 939 people in 2017. That’s an increase of 31% from a low in 2009, when 715 people were killed. More than half of those killed were passengers or people riding in other vehicles. About 35% were the drivers who ran the red light. Pedestrian and cyclist deaths connected to red light running represented about 5% of total deaths.”

billssurprisefearof-300x228It may be bad for the blood pressure. But to understand a key reason why Americans seethe when talking about medical bills and medical costs, just start perusing a timely new magazine report on hospitals and debt collection.

The Atlantic article — “What Happens When You Don’t Pay a Hospital Bill” — details the horrors and frustrations experienced by Joclyn Krevat, an occupational therapist in New York. She sought medical care for what she thought was a nasty case of flu. She, instead, suffered from a severe heart inflammation — and ended up undergoing a costly and physically draining heart transplant.

Weak, sick, and on the brink, Krevat still was hounded by out-of-control debt collectors — cruel men and women who not only lack hearts of their own but who engage in relentless, often ridiculous tactics (like trying to connect on social media, just to harp on patients there about their bills) to wring pennies out of those with illness and injury, reported writer Olga Khazan.

brandjj-300x106Big Pharma has hit at least two pain points of potential significance as government officials and trial lawyers work to hold drug makers accountable for at least some of the carnage caused by prescription painkillers.

There’s still a far way to go before companies see a full legal reckoning in the civil justice system for opioid overdose deaths that have killed an estimated 400,000 Americans since 2007, as well the drugs causing tens of thousands of cases of suffering and addiction.

brandpurdue-300x170But Oklahoma officials have struck hard at pharmaceutical interests by winning a $572-million nuisance ruling from a state judge against Johnson and Johnson, a legendary and once-respected health care brand.

frenzpediatrician-300x203Moms and dads, please don’t gawk at the college-aged and older men and women parked in the pastel-colored, animal-themed pediatrician’s waiting room. Sure, they stick out among the runny-nosed, bawling babies and wiggly little children. But these older patients are part of a reported trend that says a lot about contemporary health care and the current difficulties of growing up.

As Caren Chesler reported in the Washington Post, a popular and important aspect of the Affordable Care Act allows parents to keep their sons and daughters on their health insurance plans up to age 26. That has proved a boon for those in the Millennial and Generation Z age groups, providing parent-supported health coverage to more than 2 million young adults between 2010 and 2014 alone.

But along with health insurance from the ‘rents, many young adults also have kept their medical care givers, chiefly their beloved pediatricians. These specialists in some cases have treated them almost from birth. They know well their patients and their medical conditions. This can be important, Chesler reported:

Doctors and medical scientists have their hands more than full these days, struggling to get out vital, evidence-based information to benefit the public’s health. They must cope with challenges ranging from  battles with the growing problems of infections and vaccine “hesitance” to how to debunk celebrity humbug on diet and well-being.

The medical establishment’s communication nightmares, though, may be especially bad with women — a group that makes up half the population and plays a huge role in most households with medical decision making. Just consider two recent news reports, including on:

All drugs carry costs, risks, and harms as well as benefits. Illegal ones too. Americans can’t escape the toll of harm as they use and abuse recreational and illicit substances, recent news reports show.

With the long Labor Day weekend upcoming — the traditional summer’s end, with gatherings of friends and families for outdoor barbecues, relaxing, fun, and potentially drinking and use of marijuana or more — it may be worth taking note of some indicators of the serious problems associated with substance abuse:

  • The nonprofit, independent RAND Corp. reported that its studies suggest that American drug users spent an estimated $150 billion on cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamine in 2016 alone. The marijuana market is now roughly the size of the cocaine and methamphetamine markets combined, and the size of the retail heroin market is now closer to the size of the marijuana market than it is to the other drugs. Further, after plunging from 2006 to 2010, cocaine consumption’s decline slowed by 2015. Results suggest there were 2.4 million individuals who used cocaine on four or more days in the past month in 2015 and 2016. Results also suggest that consumption grew in 2016 among a stable number of users as price per pure gram declined. And heroin consumption increased 10% per year between 2010 and 2016. The introduction of fentanyl into heroin markets has increased the risk of using heroin. From 2010 to 2016, the number of individuals who used marijuana in the past month increased nearly 30%, from 25 million to 32 million. RAND experts estimate a 24% increase in marijuana spending over the same period, from $42 billion to $52 billion.
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