Beyond Ebola—How Safe Is Your Hospital?

The media frenzy over Ebola has focused a glaring spotlight on hospitals across the country this fall. One man has died from the virus in the United States, and a handful of nurses have been infected. And even though the chance of a large-scale U.S. outbreak is tiny, nearly 36 percent of Americans said they are worried that a family member will contract Ebola, according to today’s Washington Post-ABC News poll. Maybe instead of Ebola, though, what we should be concerned about are …

States’ Role in Limiting Inappropriate Use of Antipsychotic Meds in Nursing Homes

As nursing homes have moved away from using physical restraints, there is evidence that some institutions are substituting antipsychotic medications to sedate residents with behavior problems. Why is this a dangerous and inappropriate practice? Inappropriate use of antipsychotic drugs by nursing homes exposes elderly vulnerable people to increased risk of falls, delirium, stroke and death. In 2011, the Department of Health and Human Services inspector general testified before the Senate Aging Committee that antipsychotic drugs were being prescribed in “violation of …

House Calls for Frail Medicare Patients Bring Savings

By Lauran Neergaard, AP Medical Writer WASHINGTON (AP) – Ten or 12 times a year, Beatrice Adams’ daughter would race her frail mother to the emergency room for high blood pressure or pain from a list of chronic illnesses. Then Adams found a doctor who makes house calls, and the 89-year-old hasn’t needed ER care in the nearly two years since. “I’m not a wimpy female,” Adams said as Eric De Jonge, M.D.,  wheeled his medical bag into her dining …

Medicare Overpays $6.7 Billion for Patient Evaluation Services

Medicare spent $6.7 billion too much in 2010 by “inappropriately” paying claims from physicians who had submitted the wrong billing codes or no documentation at all for certain services, according to a new report from the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Although that amount was a small fraction of Medicare’s total spending of more than $525 billion in 2010, it still added up to 21 percent of what Medicare paid for all “evaluation …

How Smart Phone Apps Help Doctors Track Your Health

By Daniela Hernandez, Kaiser Health News Staff Writer, produced in collaboration with Wired Eric Topol, a cardiologist at the Scripps Clinic in San Diego, knows when his patients’ hearts are racing or their blood pressure is on the rise, even if they’re sitting at home. With high-risk patients hooked up to “personal data trackers” – a portable electrocardiogram built into a smartphone case, for instance – he and his researchers can track the ups and downs of patients’ conditions as they …

Becoming a Better Caregiver With Help From Actors

Training medical students to do a better job by using actors to play patients is not new. But at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, actors are faking dementia and Parkinson’s disease to help family caregivers be more effective – and that’s downright novel. Last month, 16 caregiver spouses gathered at the hospital’s simulation center to boost their communication skills with a loved one. These husbands and wives were dealing with challenging behaviors and wanted help solving real-life issues. In the process, …