New limits on Medicare prescriptions of opioids are controversial, as some doctors believe patients could suffer more pain. Others believe the limits will achieve a much needed brake on the temptation to overprescribe while allowing legitimate treatment. Experts discuss.
Curing Chronic Sinusitis
Many people confuse allergies, colds, and sinus infections. A physician specializing in these maladies describes the differences, and the new ways sinusitis can be treated.
Opioid drugs are a major public health threat but two new studies in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggest that legalizing pot may be a way to reduce their impact. The studies show that in states that have legalized marijuana the number of opioid prescriptions have fallen dramatically. Researchers can’t say for sure that people are replacing opioids with marijuana or whether it’s patients or doctors that are the driving force.
Therapy dogs are a welcome sight in some hospital wards but an editorial in the journal Critical Care says they’d do a world of good in the one place you wouldn’t expect them—intensive care. Doctors say trained therapy dogs can substantially ease physical and emotional suffering of the most seriously ill patients. Therapy dogs also do a good job getting patients engaged one of the more difficult tasks in the ICU.
And finally, if you lose your life savings, you’re at a much greater risk of early death. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that losing at least 75 percent of your net worth increases the odds of death by about 50 percent over the next 20 years. And if you lose your home, the risk of death is even worse. Researchers say a personal financial crash makes people put off expensive doctor’s appointments and creates intense stress that’s harmful to your health.
Perinatal depression (previously known as postpartum depression) is seldom brought up by a new mother, so healthcare providers must screen for it carefully. However, sometimes they err on the side of caution in efforts to prevent the mother from harming herself or her baby. Experts discuss the balancing act.
Foreign Accent Syndrome
People who suddenly speak with what sounds like a foreign accent often have a brain injury due to a stroke or other trauma. Experts discuss the syndrome and chances of recovery.
Paramedics and EMTs are the first responders of the health system and often find volent, confusing situations on their arrival. A former paramedic describes the “inside story” of the job, its dangers and rewards.
The Mystery of Meniere’s Disease
Experts discuss symptoms and treatments of Meniere’s disease, an often misdiagnosed disorder producing loss of hearing and crippling vertigo.
How safe is vaping? A new study in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives says it’s not. Researchers say people using e-cigarettes are likely to inhale significant amounts of lead, chromium, manganese and other toxic metals. The problem apparently isn’t in the e-liquids the devices use. It’s the heating coils that leak heavy metals. Scientists say that nearly half of the aerosol vapers tested had lead concentrations higher than health limits defined by the epa.
A lot of people, including doctors, mistakenly judge a person’s health by their weight. But a new study in the journal BMC Obesity finds that it’s very possible to be healthy and fit even if you’re obese. Scientists tested more than 800 people and found that more than 40 percent of those with mild obesity still had high fitness levels. Twenty-five percent of those with moderate obesity had high fitness and 11 percent of those with severe obesity still had high fitness. Researchers say it takes a lot less physical activity to improve health than to lose weight.
And finally, scientists have determined that money can, indeed, buy happiness but it takes the right amount of cash. Too much can be as bad as too little. A global study in the journal Nature Human Behavior finds that 60-to-95 thousand dollars per year is the ideal income for a single person. Researchers say income greater than that is likely to prompt the pursuit of more material gains and social comparisons, which make people less happy.
Hospitals and very large medical groups are buying up independent physician practices to the point that in some areas, it’s hard to find independent doctors. Studies show purchased practices cost more for patients. Experts discuss the incentives that have prompted consolidation and moves to eliminate them.
The Vaccine Race and Ethics
Millions of lives have been saved as a result of vaccines. But in the development of desperately needed vaccines, scientists cut corners in ways that wouldn’t be allowed today. An expert discusses the balance of need and ethics in science and medicine.
We all know that doctors endure years and years of schooling and training in order to learn how to diagnose their patients and provide them with the best care. But, studies have shown that many doctors tend to miss details about other aspects of a patient’s life that can also have an affect on their wellbeing. Dr. Saul Jeremy Weiner, Professor of Medicine, Pediatrics & Medical Education at University of Illinois and co-author of Listening For What Matters: Avoiding Contextual Errors in Health Care, explains that patients will make important comments that do not necessarily pertain to their symptoms, but that this information is often overlooked despite being critical for a doctor to understand in order to provide the patient with an effective care plan. But, what is the overall impact of this on the patient? Dr. Weiner and Dr. Alan Schwartz, Michael Reese Endowed Professor of Medical Education at University of Illinois, Chicago, and co-author, Listening For What Matters: Avoiding Contextual Errors in Health Care, have done their own research that has shown the effects of doctor’s that are too focused on the biomedical details in providing care for patients. Dr. Schwartz explains that the results of their research showed that doctors who address the patient’s personal life were able to provide a much more successful care plan for the patient. Furthermore, the study also showed that the cost of healthcare for the patient increased when the doctor was too concerned with the science of the diagnosis. In order to have the most successful outcome without increasing the cost of healthcare, doctors must address more than just the patient’s biomedical symptoms.
So, how can doctors learn to listen to their patients more efficiently? Dr. Weiner suggests using an approach commonly used in other industries: mystery shoppers. In the medical field, a mystery shopper is an unannounced standardized patient that is trained to go into a physician’s office and provide data to help identify problems–a tool that many doctors have found to be helpful in improving their practice. Dr. Schwartz states that by investing in improving contextual care doctor’s will be able to provide better care for their patients and decrease the cost of healthcare, too. However, all patients and employees in the medical field must be willing to undertake these methods and procedures in regular practice in order to improve the overall experience for everybody.
Dr. Saul Jeremy Weiner, Professor of Medicine, Pediatrics & Medical Education at University of Illinois and co-author of Listening For What Matters: Avoiding Contextual Errors in Health Care
Dr. Alan Schwartz, Michael Reese Endowed Professor of Medical Education at University of Illinois, Chicago, and co-author of Listening For What Matters: Avoiding Contextual Errors in Health Care.