Hospitals add lawyers to aid patients

Lawyers for PatientsAs we’ve reported extensively, hospitals are expanding their scope of services to ensure that they provide not only the best medical care for patients, but also address the nonmedical issues that might affect an individual’s well-being. To that end, Kaiser Health News reports that about 300 health care systems, children’s hospitals and federally qualified health centers have incorporated “lawyers into the team of professionals who are on hand to help people at no additional charge to patients.” Lawyers can help people who are fighting eviction, at risk of having their utilities shut off, need an order of protection from a violent spouse, want to appeal an insurance claim denial or face any number of other legal issues.

Reporting cancer complications online — researchers ‘floored’ by findings

Reporting Cancer OnlineCancer patients who reported side effects like nausea and fatigue online were treated more quickly than if they had called their doctor’s office or waited for the next appointment, AP reports. What really surprised researchers was that using the online tool improved patients’ survival rate by nearly half a year, which is more time than many new cancer drugs can achieve. Study leader Ethan Basch, M.D., said he “was floored by the results,” which were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Drug deaths soar 19 percent; doctors rethink pain care

Opioid deathsPreliminary data compiled by The New York Times indicates that drug deaths jumped by 19 percent from 2015 to 2016; that means more than 59,000 people in the United States died by overdosing last year. As the nation’s opioid epidemic intensifies, Vox reports that the movement to eliminate patients’ pain — a movement that took hold in the 1990s and included federal regulations, as well as pressure from patient advocates to measure pain on a scale of 1 to 10 and to treat it by all means possible — appears to be over. Increasingly, health professionals acknowledge that for some patients, a degree of tolerable pain is inevitable and that it might actually be positive in certain circumstances. Most doctors now are looking for alternatives to highly addictive opioids to ease pain.

Thanks for the microorganisms, Fido

Dog agaisnt germs“Studies show that children who grow up in households with dogs have a lower risk for developing autoimmune illnesses like asthma and allergies,” writes The New York Times’ Richard Schiffman. The pets “track countless germs into our homes on their paws, snouts and fur” — which may help to counteract the fact that today’s indoor environments are so clean and free of bacteria that they fail to stimulate babies’ immune systems. Then, when the kids get older, they become overly sensitive to what should be harmless substances.

From the backyard henhouse to the hospital

Salmonella OutbreakAs more Americans become enthralled with the notion of raising cute little chicks in their backyards, Salmonella infections are increasing, NPR reports. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that 372 people in 47 states became ill from the infection between January and May, with several Salmonella strains linked to contact with live poultry. Seventy-one people have been hospitalized, but no deaths have been reported. Health professionals should offer this advice to their poultry-raising patients: Don’t snuggle or kiss the chickens, don’t touch your mouth or eat or drink around them, wash your hands with soap and water after handling the chickens or their eggs and, for heaven’s sake, supervise children around the birds.