Doctor Housecalls Blog

Healthcare related news and updates

Doctors Dissatisfied with Health Care Digitization Program

In a 12/29 report from Politico, Arthur Allen explains the possible threats in 2015 to the Administration’s $30 billion program which seeks to digitize health records.  Widespread dissatisfaction amongst doctors along with a new Congress means that if physicians are unable to prove that they are communicating to provide their patients with better care, the program will be viewed by many as a failure.

Doctors who have been unable to prove “meaningful use” of the software have begun receiving fines, or having their payments cut, leaving some physician groups “fighting mad.”  A new bill signed by President Obama in December means that the Administration will begin to investigate the inadequacies of the program and may begin to decertify software doesn’t allow the records to flow smoothly.


Lifting Ban for Blood Donations from Gay Men

The FDA has recommended lifting a ban on blood donations from gay men.  ABC News reported that FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg released a statement regarding the proposal, indicating that the move could increase the nation’s blood supply by 4% a year (12/23, story 7, 0:15, Muir).   The FDA statement goes on to explain that the proposal comes with recommendations from an independent expert advisory panel and the HHS Advisory Committee on Blood and Tissue Safety and Availability .

The FDA report concludes that modern blood screening techniques mean that there is no longer need for a ban on blood donations from gay men, the Wall Street Journal reports (12/24, Burton, Subscription Publication). Current blood screening techniques are able to find HIV in one unit of blood as early as 9 days after a donor was exposed to the virus, according to MSNBC (12/24).  The FDA also indicated that, along with the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, it will put in place a monitoring system to detect any effects that the proposed change has and to ensure the continued safety of the nation’s blood supply.

A new research study recently released indicates gender differences in risk factors related to sleep apnea.  The New York Times (10/20, D6, Bakalar) “Well” blog reports on a Circulation-published study by a group of Epidemiologists who examined sleep disorders and heart risk factors. The study looked at gender differences in the likelihood of the development of cardiovascular complications by measuring such things as troponin T, a protein that is released into the bloodstream when there is damage to the heart.

The study followed 752 men and 893 women over the course of 14 years and measured the incidence of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) against incidents of coronary artery disease, heart failure, and death from cardiovascular disease.   The study found that OSA was independently associated with increased levels of troponin T, heart failure and incidents of death in women.  This was not the case with men.  Also, sleep apnea was found to be associated with an enlarged heart in women.

Life Threatening Flu Strain

Doctors are warning families this year about a potentially life threatening flu strain.  Mayo Clinic infectious diseases physician Dr. Pritish Tosh explains that this year’s strain of flu can be fatal for even healthy children.  The virus works by entering the blood stream first and eventually the brain, resulting in symptoms such as shortness of breath and a very high fever.  The body may then overcompensate by sending white blood cells into the lungs, resulting in serious complications.  Three children in Minnesota have died due to complications from the virus, with another seven currently in the ICU according to the Minnesota Health Department.  Nationwide, the total deaths for children from this flu is reported to be 15.

This particular strain of flu, H3N2, has accounted for approximately 90% of flu cases this year, according to the CDC.  And while this year’s flu vaccine does not appear to match this particular strain, doctors are advising that patients, especially those in high-risk groups, continue to get the flu shot as some cross-protection may occur

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