Articles Posted in Misdiagnosis

alztest-300x79It isn’t just the testing for the novel coronavirus that has already anxious Americans upset these days. Controversies also are swirling around existing and developing ways for experts to screen older patients for cognitive decline, namely  dementia and its most familiar form,  Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s disease, which accounts for 60%-80% of dementia cases, is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States overall and the fifth leading cause of death for those age 65 and older, researchers say. Medical scientists have engaged in furious efforts for a while now to determine the condition’s causes and to create treatments for it — a response that is sorely lacking now.

But the New York Times reported that experts believe they are nearing a better way to screen and diagnose the illness using the blood rather than current “expensive methods like PET scans of the brain and spinal taps for cerebrospinal fluid.” As reporter Pam Belluck wrote:

algorithmwoes2-300x200High-tech wizards may be pushing medicine into a brave new world where important medical decisions rely on supposedly data-driven findings that also may be rooted in an old malignancy: discrimination against black patients.

A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine warns that race-based tools and formulas, algorithms aimed to assist doctors in speeding up their diagnosis and treatment in such areas as heart disease, cancer, and kidney and maternity care, improperly steer blacks away from therapies commonly given to whites without sound reasons, the New York Times reported:

“The tools are often digital calculators on web sites of medical organizations or — in the case of assessing kidney function — actually built into the tools commercial labs use to calculate normal values of blood tests. They assess risk and potential outcomes based on formulas derived from population studies and modeling that looked for variables associated with different outcomes. ‘These tests are woven into the fabric of medicine,’ said Dr. David Jones, the paper’s senior author, a Harvard historian who also teaches ethics to medical students. ‘Despite mounting evidence that race is not a reliable proxy for genetic difference, the belief that it is has become embedded, sometimes insidiously, within medical practice,’ he wrote.”

calguardvirusaid-300x169The coronavirus outbreak spreading across the globe may be providing Americans with an unhappy view of the dirty downsides of the too-often dysfunctional U.S. health care system as it grapples with spiking Covid-19 infections.

Congress has appropriated more than $8 billion, so the federal government can provide the nation the support it needs in battling the respiratory illness that exploded out of central China a few weeks ago. Almost 100,000 people globally have been infected with the virus, which has killed thousands. The deaths in this country are rising into the dozens, while infections are increasing into the hundreds. In Italy, the government took a drastic step in dealing with steeply rising infections and ordered a virus-related quarantine of much of the northern part of the country — a tough lock down because the Lombardy area is the largest economic powerhouse of the nation.

In the U.S., federal efforts to stockpile needed medical supplies, notably masks, gloves, and gowns — personal protective equipment or PPEs — continue to lag. The administration is under fire for its slow and ineffectual roll-out of virus testing kits. Vice President Pence promised that big numbers of screening supplies would be available quickly — at least 1 million, asap — but he since has been forced to walk back that pledge. Even as he talked about 75,000 test kits becoming available soon, the Atlantic magazine reported that as few as 1,895 Americans have been tested so far for the virus.

bias1999-300x169Highly educated and rigorously trained doctors may be just as susceptible to a built-in bias that bargain-seeking consumers yield to when they hit stores seeking 99 cent goods, buy into TV hype for $19.99  wares, or fall for a salesman’s pitch for a used car priced at $17,999.

Ivy League researchers call the cognitive flaw “left digit bias.” They warn that this common irrationality can have consequences with doctors and patient care.

As Anupam B. Jena of Harvard and Andrew R. Olenski of Columbia reported in the New York Times’ evidence-based column “The Upshot:”

covid19-300x210The spreading virus that has sickened tens of thousands and killed thousands — mostly in central China in Hubei province and its big capital city, Wuhan — now has a name: Covid19.

Public health officials hope that this moniker, along with new images of the virus, will make talking about this disease easier and reduce the exploding stigma that’s attaching to it, with mis- and dis-information fueling unwelcome panic, racism, and xenophobia.

The disease continues to batter China, with the cases in two dozen or so other countries limited to a few hundred and deaths in the single digits. The Chinese remain in a sweeping lockdown or quarantine that has brought much of the most populous nation in the world to a standstill since at least the start of the lunar new year, a major travel holiday across Asia. Officials now also are conducting dragnets and round-ups of those potentially ill.

alexahhs-150x150Federal regulators may be on the brink of not only protecting but also advancing patients access and use of a key component of their care: their electronic health records. Or will bureaucrats fold up in the face of a muscle campaign by corporate interests and hospitals?

To its credit, the giant Health and Human Services agency has emphasized that it is moving forward in its announced plans to prepare new regulations on so-called EHRs, pressing patients’ rights and newer, and potentially more nimble tech firms’ abilities to make the information in the records more accessible and helpful.

But Epic, the giant software company that has installed electronic systems in hospitals and health systems nationwide — often for billions of dollars — is leading resistance to the new rules. It has convinced dozens of institutions and groups, some sizable, to lobby officials to oppose this federal intervention.

dochands-300x200Although health policy experts and doctors themselves may sing the praises of primary care providers — medical generalists who are supposed to be the first and important caregivers for most patients — recent studies suggest that yet another idealized aspect of the U.S. health care system has cost- and access-driven problems.

Patients, to start with, are driving a concerning trend in which they in increasing numbers are declining to tap the services of family doctors and other so-called PCPs.

Doctors in this field, as well as others, say that patients may be turning to online consultations, urgent care centers in drug stores and shopping malls, or more costly visits to highly credentialed specialists due to the spiking pressure on frontline MDs to maximize revenues by minimizing their “face time.”  Physicians describe how “bean counting” executives in health systems may require them to see more than a dozen patients a day, while also handling all the bureaucracy, consultation, research this requires — or face sizable pay cuts for their “inefficiency.”

coronavirusdoc-265x300The toll of the coronavirus outbreak in China keeps worsening, with the infections exceeding tens of thousands and the deaths spiking toward 1,000, also claiming the first American and Japanese lives of people in the disease epicenter of Wuhan.

The illness’ most significant harms continue to afflict China, particularly its central province of Hubei and regional capital Wuhan.

But the infection has raised global alarms, in part because its death toll, for example, has far exceeded in China the fatalities recorded with the 2003 disease incident involving Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS. That infection killed hundreds in China.

freedhoff2-150x150Bravo, brevity. Four dozen words is all it takes for a doctor and noted writer on diet and obesity to offer plenty of sound advice on how to get and stay healthy.

Here are the suggestions from Yoni Freedhoff, associate professor of family medicine at the University of Ottawa, founder and medical director of Ottawa’s Bariatric Medical Institute, blogger at Weighty Matters, and author of “The Diet Fix: Why Diets Fail and How to Make Yours Work:”

“Don’t smoke. Get vaccinated. Avoid trans fats. Replace saturated fats with unsaturated if you can. Cook from whole ingredients — and minimize restaurant meals. Minimize ultra-processed foods. Cultivate relationships. Nurture sleep. Drink alcohol at most moderately. Exercise as often as you can enjoy. Drink only the calories you love.”

HowardUhospital-300x126Big hospitals keep getting bigger. But, contrary to what the suit-wearing MBAs may claim, the rising number of institutional mergers and acquisitions isn’t necessarily better for patients and their care.

At hospitals subjected to corporate wheeling and dealing, the quality of care got worse, or, at best, it stayed the same and didn’t improve, a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine reported.

Researchers scrutinized federal data “from 2007 through 2016 on performance on four measures of quality of care … and data on hospital mergers and acquisitions occurring from 2009 through 2013,” they said. These measures, the Wall Street Journal reported, included: patient satisfaction; deaths within a month of entering the hospital; return trips to the hospital within a month of leaving; and how often some heart, pneumonia, and surgery patients got recommended care. They looked at 246 hospitals involved in M&A activity,  controlling their findings with data from 1,986 institutions not similarly affected.

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