HERE'S A HOT-POTATO QUESTION: SHOULD DOCTORS TALK TO PATIENTS ABOUT GUNS? The authors of an opinion piece that ran in the Journal of the American Medical Association say they absolutely should, but they must do so without being judgmental or disrespectful. Sometimes, "physicians might unintentionally talk to their patients in a way that can come across as judgmental or insensitive, or as an attempt to take away their guns," said Marian Betz, M.D., who co-authored the JAMA piece with Garen Wintemute, M.D. As noted by Hanneke Weitering in Wednesday's MedPage Today, several states have proposed or enacted legislation about what doctors can or can't say to patients about firearms. However, "physician counseling concerning gun safety has been identified as a key component of the prevention of firearm injury and death," Betz and Wintemute said. They maintain that gun counseling should be routine for high-risk populations. Weitering points out that about 20,000 deaths a year in this country are attributed to suicide by firearm, thousands of children are hospitalized for unintentional gunshot wounds, and gun violence now trails only car accidents as the most common cause of death for kids and teens. A dissenting point of view comes from Timothy Wheeler, M.D., director of Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership, who says that physicians aren't trained in firearm mechanics, safety or tactics in medical school or during residencies and, therefore, "they simply are not qualified to counsel patients about firearms."
"A KITTY HAWK MOMENT." That's how the chief executive of a new company that manufactures drones described a successful attempt last month to deliver medications to a health fair held in a remote area of Appalachia. According to Samantha Masunaga, writing in the Los Angeles Times, the 24 packages of medicine and other supplies were first flown to Lonesome Pine Airport in Wise County, Va., in a NASA aircraft that can be remotely operated from the ground (though a safety pilot is always on board). They were then taken by a hexacopter drone to a clinic 0.7 miles away. Those involved say drones could be used to carry not only medicines, but also food and water to people isolated in emergency situations. Such tests are being held at six Federal Aviation Administration-approved sites across the nation.
"IF YOU'RE A HOSPITAL DOING A GREAT JOB, BUT THE HOSPITAL DOWN THE STREET ISN'T, your patients are at risk," Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Tom Frieden, M.D., said Tuesday. He was referring to a CDC report finding that more than half a million antibiotic-resistant infections could be prevented over five years if providers coordinated efforts across their community's continuum of care. The CDC commended hospitals' efforts to reduce such infections as Clostridium difficile caused by so-called superbugs within their individual facilities. Now, hospitals can accelerate those efforts and "facilities can alert one another when enhanced infection control is needed for transferred patients." The CDC urged providers to work with their public health departments to determine best practices for sharing the data.
HEALTH CARE LEADERS "NEED TO STAND UP FOR THIS. LITERALLY," declared an editorial last Thursday in the European Heart Journal. The editorial accompanied a study that found big health benefits associated with — wait for it — standing. "An extra two hours per day spent standing rather than sitting was associated with approximately 2 percent lower average fasting blood sugar and 11 percent lower average triglycerides (fats in the blood)," researchers found. Standing more also lowered cholesterol levels and could have benefits for individuals' waistlines and body mass index. "While the benefits of walking have been well-established, until now the benefits (or harms) of replacing sitting with standing have been less well-understood," said Genevieve Healy, who led the study and is a researcher at the University of Queensland in Australia. Employers should encourage staff to get up more and might consider things like stand-up desks, the researchers suggested. "Health care providers, policy makers and people in general need to stand up for this," asserted Mayo Clinic's Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, M.D., in the accompanying editorial.