SHALL WE BEGIN THIS INSTALLMENT OF Weekly Reading with a “believe it or not” item I came across on the Tampa Tribune website? It seems a surveillance camera at Morton Plant Hospital in Clearwater, Fla., recorded video of a man sneaking a $48,000 bed out of an operating room, wheeling it to a loading dock and pushing it into a white van. The 52-year-old man, who was arrested last Saturday on burglary and grand theft charges, was not a hospital patient, employee or vendor. He was released on $15,000 bond.
“SOMETIMES YOU CAN LOOK AT A SLIDE and know in half a second exactly what disease process it is. You know that this person’s gonna be dead in a month. … When you really sit there and think about it, it can be a quite moving thing.” That’s how one pathology resident explains the allure of “medicine’s most-maligned specialty” in Rachel Wilkinson’s July article in The Atlantic. Wilkinson spent time in the autopsy lab at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, observing an autopsy, which she describes in fascinating and not-too-gruesome detail. She also spoke with students and seasoned clinicians about why they chose a specialty that other medical professionals often look down on, deriding pathologists as “doctors who don’t like patients; the ones who would rather hang out in basement labs all day.” In fact, pathologists are “the doctor’s doctors,” who play a significant role in patient care. “When they see a sample or slide, they’re the ones who tell a doctor what it is,” Wilkinson writes. “Whatever’s in the once-mysterious sample — carcinoma, a nasal polyp, pancreatitis — it now has a name.”
THE WAY BABIES ARE IDENTIFIED in most neonatal intensive care units is too vague and confusing and can lead to medication mixups and other errors, according to a study published Monday in Pediatrics. Traditionally, NICU babies are temporarily identified by gender and last name, such as Babyboy Jackson or Babygirl Smith. Researchers at Montefiore Health System and the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore found that just by adding the mother’s first name — Wendysboy Jackson or Catherinesgirl Smith — wrong-patient errors can be cut by nearly 40 percent. It’s a low-cost, low-tech solution that every NICU can easily adopt.
“BY AND LARGE, CANCER TREATMENT in the U.S. has not been subject to rigorous cost controls by health insurers or Medicare,” according to Moody’s Investor Services. That will no doubt change as health insurers consolidate, gain more leverage and become stingier with reimbursements to health care providers, according to Monday’s Wall Street Journal blog by Ed Silverman about the Moody’s report. Pharmaceuticals — in particular, those high-priced cancer drugs — are likely to be a big target. Moody’s expects insurers to adopt a pay-for-performance model, rewarding providers “for meeting specific treatment protocols” while linking “reimbursement to a drug’s value, based on various metrics.” Silverman points out that oncology practices buy cancer drugs upfront and typically are reimbursed based on a percentage of the cost of drugs they administer. “But of course,” he writes, “this can create an incentive to use more expensive treatments.”
TWO FACTORS MAY BE FRUSTRATING attempts to get Americans to improve their eating habits — (1) healthier groceries cost more and (2) a lot of people don’t want to or can’t be bothered. Researchers led by the University of Kansas Medical Center’s Susana R. Patton found that a family of four will spend about $1,500 more a year replacing items like white bread and fatty meat and dairy products with more healthful choices like whole grains and lean meat. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and other initiatives could help, according to a Reuters Health piece by Kathryn Doyle. Then again, only 9 percent of U.S. adults across the economic spectrum consumed the recommended daily amount of vegetables and only 13 percent the recommended amount of fruit in 2013, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported last Thursday. U.S. dietary guidelines call for adults to eat one and a half to two cups of fruit and two to three cups of vegetables a day. The CDC recommends substantial new efforts to build consumer demand, such as competitive pricing, more prominent placement in stores and restaurants, and promotion in child care, schools, grocery stores, worksites and elsewhere.