By Nancy Shute, NPR
Women and their doctors have a hard time figuring out the pluses and minuses of screening mammograms for breast cancer. It doesn’t help that there’s been fierce dissent over the benefits of screening mammography for women under 50 and for older women. Continue reading
Researchers looked at how effectively patients had their blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol controlled. (Getty Images)
A major new study looking at health disparities across the U.S. finds that significant gaps in managing heart disease and diabetes persist — except in Western states, where the gap has been eliminated.
‘It’s possible to eliminate deeply ingrained racial disparities.’
Researchers at the University of Michigan and Harvard University looked at 100,000 Medicare patients
who were enrolled in HMOs, called “Medicare Advantage” plans, from 2006 to 2011. While management of blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar improved overall, blacks “substantially” trailed whites everywhere except the Western U.S
., an area from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific, as well as Alaska and Hawaii.
“We were certainly hoping we would see indications of progress in eliminating disparities in the country as a whole,” said lead author Dr. John Ayanian, who heads the Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation at the University of Michigan. He said that while it was “disappointing” that disparities persisted, “it’s also heartening to see that … in the West, the disparities had been eliminated, and that was both surprising and encouraging.” Continue reading
Two women in California are having a baby for the first time. They are both low risk, having uneventful pregnancies. But how they will deliver their baby — whether they’ll have a c-section, for example — depends dramatically on the hospital each woman chooses when she delivers.
The California Hospital Assessment and Reporting Taskforce, or CHART, crunched the numbers and found wide and, frankly, stunning variation in the rates of four common procedures related to delivery and newborn care: c-section, episiotomy, breastfeeding and vaginal birth after c-section.
The Oakland-based California HealthCare Foundation created this infographic to illustrate what CHART found:
(Courtesy: California HealthCare Foundation)
New evidence on the effectiveness of medical treatments can take a long time to be adopted by doctors.(Getty Images)
By Patti Neighmond, NPR
Cancer doctors want the best, most effective treatment for their patients. But it turns out many aren’t paying attention to evidence that older women with early-stage breast cancer may be enduring the pain, fatigue and cost of radiation treatment even though it doesn’t increase life expectancy.
Radiation had no impact on survival rates in older women with early-stage cancer.
Researchers from Duke University Medical Center analyzed the impact of a large randomized trial published in 2004 that compared treatment options for women over the age of 70 with early-stage breast cancer. That study compared cancer recurrence and survival rates among women who had surgery, chemotherapy and radiation with that of women who had surgery and chemotherapy only.
While there was a slight decrease in recurrence of cancer in the group who had radiation, there was no difference in survival, thus raising the question of whether radiation treatment for this group of patients is worthwhile. Continue reading
Derika Moses, a former softball star, lost her job, and then her home, as she grappled with pain and illness after her spinal surgery.
By Christina Jewett and Will Evans, The Center for Investigative Reporting
This story was originally published by The Center for Investigative Reporting.
With a metallic clatter, evidence of an elaborate scheme to enrich a few landed in the receiving room of Richard Walker’s surgical supply firm in South Africa.
‘I’m a walking time bomb.’
Although the true extent of the caper remains buried in the necks and backs of people scattered around the U.S., it began to unravel that day in 2009.
Ortho Sol makes precision screws for the most delicate of construction projects: spinal fusion. Doctors around the world drive them into the vertebrae of patients with devastating back injuries.
The company had repossessed some of its screws after one U.S. distributor – Spinal Solutions LLC – stopped paying its bills. But now, nestled with the returns, the brighter yellow luster of a few screws caught Walker’s eye.
Testing confirmed his fears. Some were not made of his firm’s medical-grade titanium. Their uneven threads showed potential for backing out or breaking, he said. He feared the laser-etched markings intended to make them look authentic could be toxic to patients. Continue reading
San Jose student receives eye exam from nonprofit “Vision to Learn.” (Jane Meredith Adams/EdSource Today)
By Jane Meredith Adams, EdSource Today
It was a good week for the 90 students at Merritt Trace Elementary School in San Jose who climbed into a mobile eye exam van and emerged with the promise of a free pair of eyeglasses. But for thousands of students across the state who need glasses but don’t have them, it was another blurry week of not seeing the blackboard or the letters in a book.
Effective Jan. 1, two new state laws will clarify and expand the protocol for mandatory vision screening of students. But they don’t address the crux of a major children’s health conundrum: ensuring that students who fail the vision test actually get eyeglasses.
As many as one in four students in kindergarten through 12th grade has a vision problem, but in some California schools, the majority of students in need of glasses don’t receive them, researchers said. One study of 11,000 low-income first-graders in Southern California found that 95 percent of students who needed eyeglasses didn’t have them, one year after their mandatory kindergarten vision screening.
“You would hope that the problems would have been caught,” said Dr. Anne Coleman, a co-author of the study and an ophthalmologist at UCLA’s Jules Stein Eye Institute. Continue reading
By Mina Kim and Peter Shuler
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will consider Tuesday lifting a 31-year-old ban on blood donations from gay men.
Originally fueled by fear and little understanding of AIDS, federal regulators in 1983 banned donations from men who have sex with men. Now a federal health advisory committee recommends that the FDA ease that ban, saying that men who have not had sex with another man for a year may donate blood.
Hank Greely is a professor of law and medicine at Stanford and directs the Center for Law and the Biosciences. He reminded listeners of how little we knew about AIDS when the ban was first put in place. “No one really knew what caused AIDS” at that time, he said. “They did know people were getting the disease from transfusions, and that gay men were one of the groups that had the highest incidence of the disease.” Continue reading
By Irene Noguchi
It seems almost unbelievable, but medical errors may be the third leading cause of death in America, after heart disease and cancer. That’s according to an analysis from Journal of Patient Safety. Could the key to change be in better communication? A new study from UC San Francisco and eight other institutions, says yes. Researchers found that improving communication between health providers can reduce patient injuries from medical errors by 30 percent.
The team found that a highly risky period was when patients are transferred or “handed off” between medical providers. Critical information gets passed between doctors, nurses and pharmacists.
When there’s a shift change or a patient moves to another hospital, “there’s an opportunity for communication failure,” says Daniel West, professor of pediatrics and vice-chair at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital. Continue reading
“Location, location, location” may be a well-known maxim in real estate, but it applies in health care, too. Where you live matters in terms of what treatment you will receive for a given condition.
A new statewide survey published Tuesday found significant variation in the rate of 13 common elective procedures for several health conditions — including heart disease, childbirth and arthritis of the hip or knee. Treatments for these conditions are considered “elective” because deciding which treatment is best (or deciding on no treatment at all) can depend on someone’s preference.
It would be ideal if the patient was fully informed of all treatment options and made a decision based on his or her own preferences. But often it’s the doctor’s preferences that drive the decision. Continue reading
(Illustration: Andy Warner)
Since June, KQED has been crowdsourcing health care prices.
For starters, insurers paid from $128 to $694 for a screening mammogram.
Why turn to crowdsourcing? Because health care prices are notoriously opaque. Negotiated rates between insurance companies and providers, both doctors and hospitals, are sealed tight, by contract. We know there’s variation, but comparing what one insurance company pays with another is virtually impossible.
So we asked you, the members of our community, to share what you paid.
Together with our collaborators KPCC in Los Angeles and ClearHealthCosts.com, a New York City startup dedicated to health cost transparency, we created a form to make it easy for people to share what they paid — and easy for consumers to see apples-to-apples comparisons of prices. Continue reading