Think Ticks Aren’t an Issue in Your Community? Think Again.
Health care providers in city and suburban areas that have never even seen a case of Lyme disease should beware: A variety of tick species are moving out of their native regions and across the country. The lone star tick, for instance, originated in the Southwest but has now been found in 39 states. And these various invaders are not just bringing the familiar and dreaded Lyme disease, Aneri Pattani reports in the New York Times, they’re carrying other diseases that are so new to certain regions many physicians may not realize what’s making their patients sick. Of special concern is babesiosis, which one expert tells Pattani can cause malaria-like symptoms and require hospitalization and intensive care. For some patients, the infections are fatal.
More Women Are Dying in Childbirth. What Can Providers Do?
Twice as many women in the U.S. are dying in childbirth today than in 1990, and health care professionals are doing what they can to reverse the trend. In an interview with St. Louis Public Radio’s Dorrie Bouscaren, Shilpa Babbar, M.D., who specializes in high-risk pregnancies at SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital, says the nation’s obesity epidemic and the fact that more women are having children later in life are among the reasons that the national maternal mortality rate has climbed to 20 deaths per 100,000. Another factor: the lack of prenatal care for uninsured women. Hospitals around the country have tackled the obesity issue by sending dietiticians and nurses into schools, churches and other organizations to educate the public about good nutrition and share healthy recipes. Some even sponsor farmer’s markets on their own campuses. Many hospitals also are working with social-service and public health groups to bring prenatal care to women who may not even have a primary care doctor. And SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital is one of many hospitals around the country working to reduce C-section rates, which, as Babbar notes, are major surgeries in which “life-threatening complications can occur.”
Number of Older Physicians Soars. Time to Test Them?
Should physicians undergo regular testing when they hit a certain age to ensure they are physically and cognitively capable of performing their work? An article in JAMA Surgery notes that the number of physicians older than 65 still practicing in the U.S. has climbed 374 percent since 1975 to approximately 242,000. Research shows a mean cognitive decline of more than 20 percent between ages 40 and 75, but the article points out that cognition varies greatly among individuals and “while some older physicians are profoundly impaired, others retain their ability and skills.” Among the authors’ recommendations: Health care organizations should develop policies for older employees similar to the Federal Aviation Administration and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. “As physicians age, a required cognitive evaluation combined with a confidential, anonymous feedback evaluation by peers and coworkers regarding wellness and competence would be beneficial both to physicians and their patients,” they write.