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An outbreak at a Pennsylvania hospital in late 2012 should have been an early warning that a reusable medical scope was spreading deadly infections and nearly impossible to disinfect. But staff at the federal Food and Drug Administration lost the report, one of multiple missteps that allowed doctors and hospitals to continue using the scope for three more years even as dozens of patients were sickened. The missing paperwork, revealed in a recent Senate inquiry, underscores the serious shortcomings in the antiquated national database used to monitor the safety of medical devices, which even the FDA has long admitted is flawed. But the fix called for by the Senate investigators — the speedy implementation of a new system already a decade in the making — has hit a roadblock put up by two powerful opponents who say an essential part of the safety upgrade will cost too much. Patients may now have to wait another decade for the new system, a delay that could lead to more patient deaths. "We need to build a better system to find these problems more quickly," said Dr. Josh Rising, director of healthcare programs at the Pew Charitable Trusts. Further postponement, he said, "could compromise the safety of millions of Americans." The device known as a duodenoscope is only the most recent example of a risky medical device that was used in tens of thousands of patients before regulators finally pinpointed a deadly problem in its design. Regulators did not warn hospitals about its risks until after The Times reported an outbreak at UCLA that killed three patients.   To read full story Click Here Credit Melody Petersen 
Imagine your child requires a life-saving operation. You enter the hospital and are confronted with a stark choice.    Do you take the traditional path with human medical staff, including doctors and nurses, where long-term trials have shown a 90% chance that they will save your child’s life?   Or do you choose the robotic track, in the factory-like wing of the hospital, tended to by technical specialists and an array of robots, but where similar long-term trials have shown that your child has a 95% chance of survival?   Most rational people would opt for the course of action that is more likely to save their child. But are we really ready to let machines take over from a human in delivering patient care?   Of course, machines will not always get it right. But like autopilots in aircraft, and the driverless cars that are just around the corner, medical robots do not need to be perfect, they just have to be better than humans.   So how long before robots are shown to perform better than humans at surgery and other patient care? It may be sooner, or it may be later, but it will happen one day.   But what does this mean for our hospitals? Are the new hospitals being built now ready for a robotic future? Are we planning for large-scale role changes for the humans in our future robotic factory-like hospitals?   To read full article Click Here   
Doctors train for years in order to be able to correctly diagnose cancer - but could they soon be replaced by pigeons?   Well, no. Obviously not.   However, scientists have now discovered that pigeons are surprisingly adept when it comes to spotting cancerous cells.   In a study led by Professor Richard Levenson of the University of California, pigeons were shown microscope images of breast tissue, and then rewarded with food if if they correctly pecked a coloured button that corresponded to either cancerous or healthy tissue.      In 15 daily sessions, each an hour long, the pigeons got the right answer 85 per cent of the time - with accuracy levels increased to 99 per cent when responses from a panel of four pigeons were pooled.   In their introduction to the study, Pigeons as Trainable Observers of Pathology and Radiology Breast Cancer Images, researchers said: "Although pigeons are unlikely to be called upon to offer clinical diagnostic support, it does seem quite possible that their discriminative abilities may be turned to a useful purpose."   To read full story Click Here   Credit Adam Boult
Red meat has been linked to cancer for decades, with research suggesting that eating large amounts of pork, beef or lamb raises the risk of deadly tumours. But for the first time scientists think they know what is causing the effect. The body, it seems, views red meat as a foreign invader and sparks a toxic immune response. Researchers have always been puzzled about how other mammals could eat a diet high in red meat without any adverse health consequences. Now they have discovered that pork, beef and lamb contains a sugar which is naturally produced by other carnivores but not humans. It means that when humans eat red meat, the body triggers an immune response to the foreign sugar, producing antibodies which spark inflammation, and eventually cancer. In other carnivores the immune system does not kick in, because the sugar – called Neu5Gc – is already in the body. Scientists at the University of California proved that mice which were genetically engineered so they did not produce Neu5Gc naturally developed tumours when they were fed the sugar. "This is the first time we have directly shown that mimicking the exact situation in humans increases spontaneous cancers in mice,” said Dr Ajit Varki, Professor of Medicine and Cellular and Molecular Medicine at the University of California. "The final proof in humans will be much harder to come by. "This work may also help explain potential connections of red meat consumption to other diseases exacerbated by chronic inflammation, such as atherosclerosis and type 2 diabetes.   To read full story Click Here Credit Sarah Knapton, Science Editor   
We are increasingly aware of the tremendous geographical variation in health care—in utilization, prices, and the growing role of local market power that arises from consolidation. The idea behind the Healthy Marketplace Index, supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), was to develop a concise way to compare health care markets in different places, somewhat in the spirit of the County Health Rankings and Roadmaps program, also funded by the RWJF. The goal was to come up with timely measures that reflected important attributes of health care markets—such as prices, efficiency, and provider consolidation.   The thought was that this would be interesting to employers and other stakeholders, such as local civic and political leaders, and would hopefully contribute to efforts to improve competitiveness in local health care markets. We knew when embarking on this project that employers consider population health and health care costs to be very important aspects when deciding where to locate their businesses. The results demonstrated how complex an endeavor managing health and costs can be because of the complexities of health care markets.   The danger inherent in any project that attempts to create an index or ranking system is that there is a tendency to sacrifice accuracy for simplicity, resulting in measures that either minimize differences or overemphasize them, thereby distorting true comparisons in the name of creating something that is easy to comprehend or perhaps grabs headlines.   To read full story Click Here
Healthcare data security needs surgical intervention in 2016. Over the past year we’ve seen a tremendous number of attacks on the sector, and the healthcare industry needs some strong medicine to cure its data security problems. Major hacks may draw the headlines, but there were many other, everyday practices in hospitals and doctors’ offices that put our healthcare data at risk. Fortunately, there are proven, implementable solutions. Why healthcare data security is so hard Users and IT always seem to butt heads on security versus user experience, but health IT has some issues that you might not see in fields like banking or retail, which also deal with sensitive data. Take authentication: a five-second delay for a doctor to log in and check the database for allergies or co-existing conditions could be a matter of life and death for a patient, yet the same delay would merely irritate a loan officer or sales clerk.   But, there’s also more at risk when a healthcare record is breached versus a credit card account. A financial record may have your contact information and social security number, but a medical record can have that, plus your unique medical history including diagnoses, treatments and physical markers. That makes healthcare records more valuable on the black market than other types of stolen data, according to Ponemon. Healthcare and IT don’t always understand each other’s needs, advantages and limitations, which hinders the industry’s overall ability to secure data. Here are some of the major things that healthcare is doing wrong, followed by some of the things that can help fix their problems.   To read full story Click Here Credit Mark Wilson, Chief Evangelist at BlackBerry
As doctors know, every patient is unique. Each person's DNA makes some medicines more effective than others. Making it even more complicated for medical professionals, new drug therapies and medical studies come out nearly every day. To keep up with the differences in our bodies and the wealth of information out there, doctors are increasingly getting assistance — particularly in treating cancer — from a sophisticated technological source: IBM Watson Health. In creating cognitive healthcare solutions, IBM teamed up with oncologists to sift through available data from around the world, gaining comprehensive and up-to-date insights on cancer-causing mutations.   Lightning-fast medical insights One of the most difficult and complex diseases to treat is cancer. Most of the 1.6 million Americans who are diagnosed with cancer each year receive surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation treatment. Yet when standard treatments fail and as genetic sequencing becomes increasingly accessible and affordable, some patients are beginning to benefit from treatments that target their specific cancer-causing genetic mutations. Watson for Genomics helps clinicians to analyze each mutation, then identify tailored treatment options for patients. Without Watson, this kind of personalized treatment can take weeks.    "When you are dealing with cancer, it always a race,” Lukas Wartman, MD, assistant director of cancer genomics at The McDonnell Genome Institute at Washington University in St. Louis, told IBM. “As a cancer patient myself, I know how important genomic information can be. Unfortunately, translating cancer-sequencing results into potential treatment options often takes weeks with a team of experts to study just one patient’s tumor and provide results to guide treatment decisions. Watson appears to help dramatically reduce that timeline." To read full story Click Here Sponsored by IBM
Imagine you’re a Medicare patient, and you go to your doctor for an ultrasound of your heart one month. Medicare pays your doctor’s office $189, and you pay about 20 percent of that bill as a co-payment. Then, the next month, your doctor’s practice has been bought by the local hospital. You go to the same building and get the same test from the same doctor, but suddenly the price has shot up to $453, as has your share of the bill. Patients around the country are getting that unpleasant surprise, as more and more doctors’ offices are being bought by hospitals. Medicare, the government health insurance program for those 65 and over or the disabled, pays one price to independent doctors and another to doctors who work for large health systems — even if they are performing the exact same service in the exact same place. This week, the Obama administration recommended a change to eliminate much of that gap. Despite expected protests from hospitals and doctors, the idea has a chance of being adopted because it would yield huge savings for Medicare and patients. In the dry language of the annual budget, the White House asks Congress to “encourage efficient care by improving incentives to provide care in the most appropriate ambulatory setting.” In normal English, that means reducing financial incentives that are causing many doctors to sell their practices to hospitals just to take advantage of extra revenue. The heart doctors are a great example. In 2009, the federal government cut back on what it paid to cardiologists in private practice who offered certain tests to their patients. Medicare determined that the tests, which made up about 30 percent of a typical cardiologist’s revenue, cost more than was justified, and there was evidence that some doctors were overusing them. Suddenly, Medicare paid about a third less than it had before.   To read full story Click Here (Credit Margot Sanger-Katz)
Health tracking apps and devices offer consumers the ability to track an increasing number of relevant metrics. Over the years a number of the companies behind them, especially the ones with larger user bases, have released their own insights based on interesting correlations in the data sets they've collected. For example, just last week, Runkeeper Director of Marketing tweeted a link to a post titled “Android runners are male, Russian, goal-setting night owls.” But these sorts of data inights stories have been a staple for many years now. _________________________________________________________________________ Happiness: People who get between 8 and 9.5 hours of sleep are happier than those who slept less or more than that. Jawbone also found the more steps people took one day, the better mood they recorded the next morning. India: The average sleep time in India is about 6.5 hours. The city in that country that gets the most sleep is Goa, but this is also the city that clocks the most steps and stays up the latest. Heart health: The resting heart rate for men is 3.4 beats lower on average than for females. Additionally, Jawbone users with a lower BMI have a lower resting heart rate. And users that track more steps also have a lower resting heart rate. Mood, energy, and schedule: Users who work out in the morning had more a consistent workout schedule. And while those who work out more often are happier, people are generally more happy on the day they work out. Runkeeper Android: Runkeeper’s Android community is most likely to go for runs between 5 pm and 6 pm and 16 percent more likely to work out go for a run between 5 pm and midnight than Runkeeper's iOS users were. This community is also 4 percent more likely to set goals in the app and 66 percent more likely to make walks their primary workout mode vs iOS users. To read full story Click Here Credit Aditi Pai
Some 75 percent of US adults said it is "very important" that their important health information can be easily shared between physicians, hospitals, and other health care providers, according to a survey of 1,011 adults conducted by ORC International. The Society of Participatory Medicine published the study. "What this survey points out is that when critical health information can't be shared across medical practices and hospitals, patients are put at risk," Daniel Z. Sands, cofounder of the Society of Participatory Medicine, said in a statement. Additionally, 20 percent of respondents said that they, or a family member, had experienced a problem receiving medical care because their health records could not be shared between different healthcare providers. To read full story Click Here Credit Aditi Pai


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