Articles Posted in Research Studies

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:

carteslasummon-300x225Technology advocates may be ignoring due cautions as they put software ahead of safety in the push to make the vehicles of today and tomorrow more self-driving (aka autonomous).

Car and truck owners, safety advocates warn, should proceed with care before relying on automatic emergency braking systems, especially as they purport to safeguard pedestrians. Restraint also may be the watchword for a new feature that allows a luxe electric car to be “summoned” to its driver, shifting out of a parked position and navigating short distances on its own.

The American Automobile Association reported that it sought to get ahead of the curve by subjecting the new automatic emergency braking systems to track tests in mid-sized sedans of their safety applications under “real world” conditions. The outcomes were worrisome, AAA found:

broillondonwikipedia-300x225The elite of public health organizations are up in arms about a new report from a group of international researchers who looked at red meat and its health benefits and harms, and more or less shrugged. The new take goes like this, reported the New York Times:

“If there are health benefits from eating less beef and pork, they are small, the researchers concluded. Indeed, the advantages are so faint that they can be discerned only when looking at large populations, the scientists said, and are not sufficient to tell individuals to change their meat-eating habits.”

That view, of course, contradicts what public health and nutrition experts have recommended for years, and so blue-chip health outfits like the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, and Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health condemned the researchers for supporting what now may be akin to a health heresy.

bestdrink-300x150Milk and water — it’s that simple. That’s the latest and official recommendation for what children 5 and younger mostly should drink.

For parents, if any doubt persists, that advice comes from leading health authorities, including Healthy Eating Research, a nutrition advocacy group funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The group developed the kids’ drink guidelines with the backing of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American Heart Association, and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.

The experts cautioned grown-ups about giving children sugary drinks, including, in a sure-to-be-contested suggestion, recommending a hard cap on fruit juices: for 100% juice, less than a cup a day.

candidaauris-300x224The battle to reduce the sky-high cost of hospital care may have created its own unforeseen and harmful consequence: By hastening to get patients out of traditional hospitals and into skilled nursing facilities and long-term care centers, doctors and policy-makers may be contributing to a medical nightmare — serious infections acquired in health care institutions.

The New York Times reported that “public health experts say that nursing facilities, and long-term hospitals, are a dangerously weak link in the health care system, often understaffed and ill-equipped to enforce rigorous infection control, yet continuously cycling infected patients, or those who carry the germ, into hospitals and back again.”

Hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) pose significant risks to already ill and injured patients, as well as adding to the fearsome costs of institutional care, the Leapfrog Group, an independent patient safety and advocacy group has found. As Leapfrog has reported:

census2019uninsuredrises-300x277The Grand Old Party may have just won the dictionary definition of a Pyrrhic Victory. That’s because Republicans’ decade-long assault on the Affordable Care Act his finally showing predictable results, with the share of Americans lacking health insurance increasing for the first time in 10 years.

The rate and number of people without health insurance increased from 7.9%, or 25.6 million, in 2017 to 8.5%, or 27.5 million, in 2018, officials reported.

The nation’s children got a kick in the face, too, with almost half a million more youngsters uninsured in 2018 versus 2017 — a decline attributable mostly to a reduction in the number of kids covered by safety net programs like Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program aka CHIP.

ecigshhssept2019-265x300After standing to one side while vaping hooked a generation of young Americans on nicotine, the Trump Administration has now abruptly decided to try to vaporize youthful vaping by banning candy-like flavorings favored by e-cigarette users.

The president and Alex Azar, the chief of the Health and Human Services agency, announced the latest e-cigarette and vaping crackdown. It still must be defined in regulations, practices, and the financial support for the federal Food and Drug Administration to enforce it. FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless and First Lady Melania Trump also participated in the Oval Office session.

The White House announcement came as public officials add daily to the toll of a sudden outbreak of reported deaths (at least a half dozen) and serious respiratory harms (hundreds of cases in three dozen or so states) blamed on vaping. Investigations continue as to the cause of the e-cigarette-related fatalities and injuries.

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:

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.

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