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Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

Submit questions here by Friday, Nov. 1 for a Q&A with Dr. David Liu, a researcher at the Broad and MIT, and one of the inventors of a new type of gene editing using CRISPR. STAT Plus subscribers will be able to read the full Q&A on Nov. 12. 

Facebook rolls out new preventive-health tool — and vows strict privacy safeguards

Facebook just launched a new preventive-health tool, but its success may depend on whether the company can regain people’s trust. The tool — which people can access by typing “preventive health” into the search bar on Facebook — will prompt users to enter their gender and age to then reveal a list of care recommendations including blood pressure tests, Pap smears, and mammograms. A map feature also allows users to find the closest government-funded clinic or pharmacy for a flu shot. But Facebook is still facing fallout from months of controversy over its handling of user data and misinformation on its platform. The company vowed not to share data from the new tool with third parties and said that activity won’t be visible to other Facebook users. 

Patients and caregivers often unaware of medication risks

A new survey of more than 2,700 older adults and caregivers finds that nearly 40% don’t know that certain medications can impact cognition. About 20% of patients — and 26% of caregivers — knew about some medications’ associations with long hospital stays. Caregivers are more likely to report mobility issues  — about half said the person they were caring for fell in the year before being surveyed, compared to 28% of patients who said the same. 

As issues of elder care continue to gain more attention nationwide, the latest U.S. News & World Report rankings of nursing homes finds that the vast majority of such facilities — regardless of whether they provide long- or short-term care — are of average quality. Only 420 facilities of the nearly 16,000 homes evaluated got top ratings for both kinds of care. 

New report calls for dropping ‘apocalyptic’ language on antibiotic resistance 

A new report from the Wellcome Trust finds that although “apocalyptic” messages about antimicrobial resistance can work to capture people’s attention, such messages lack credibility. The report therefore recommends reframing the problem of antibiotic resistance as undermining modern medicine, in which drugs that once worked to kill bacteria are no longer effective. The report also calls for explaining the underlying concepts more succinctly, including the fact that microbes — and not people — are what develop resistance. Also worth emphasizing, according to Wellcome, is the fact that resistance is already having an impact now, and isn’t something that’s only going to be a future issue. To that end, the report also encourages framing the problem as solvable so people are inspired to take immediate action. 

Inside STAT: Dear Evan Hansen’ is fiction, but its actors hear from real people in pain

Alex Boniello and Andrew Barth Feldman in “Dear Evan Hansen” on Broadway. (MATTHEW MURPHY)

Shows and plays that portray suicide often try to prepare by hiring mental health consultants to look at the script or adding resources to their credits. But they still have to grapple with another problem after the premiere: handling deeply personal messages from fans, including some that signal a person is in crisis. This has been the case for Alex Boniello, who plays Connor Murphy in the Broadway show “Dear Evan Hansen,” which deals with teen suicide and severe social anxiety. “I get so, so, so many letters sent to the theater of young people telling me their story,” Boniello tells STAT’s Megan Thielking. Now, three years after the show’s premiere, the team has a streamlined approach for responses, including flagging potentially concerning messages and sharing mental health resources with the senders. Read more here

Male and female physicians in training show a bias for men in leadership roles 

A new survey of around 1,600 residents in emergency medicine or OB-GYN programs finds that they seem to favor men in leadership positions. A smaller fraction of respondents were tested for implicit bias, and the men in the group showed a stronger preference for male leadership, even though women also showed the bias. Those in emergency medicine programs also had a stronger preference for male leaders than their colleagues in OB-GYN residencies. 

At the same time, a survey of more than 7,400 surgery residents finds that a third report feeling discriminated against because of their gender. Some 65% of women report facing such treatment, most frequently from patients or patients’ families. Among men and women, residents who reported discrimination or harassment a few times a month were also more likely to say they felt burned out or had suicidal thoughts. 

Medicare fraud and abuse could mean more patient deaths and hospitalizations

A retrospective study finds that patients who receive care from physicians who commit Medicare fraud or patient abuse have a higher rate of mortality and hospitalization than those who are treated by doctors without those records. Looking at data from more than 8,200 patients who were treated by those who would turn out to have been defrauding Medicare or engaging in other harmful behavior, researchers found that these patients had between a 13%-23% higher risk of dying during the study follow-up period than those who weren’t treated by physicians who engaged in risky behavior. Patients treated by those found to be engaging in some kind of illegal activity also had between 11%-30% higher rates of emergency hospitalizations. In addition to the financial savings to Medicare, identifying perpetrators could also improve patients’ health, the authors suggest. 

What to read around the web today

  • Opinion: Realizing the promise of prescription digital therapeutics. STAT
  • California's blackouts reveal health care's fragile power system. The Verge
  • Cost of dying: Hospice’s biggest fans now have second thoughts. Nashville Public Radio
  • Why Starbucks expanded its transgender health benefits. The Wall Street Journal
  • Google owner Alphabet in bid to buy Fitbit. Reuters

Here's an update for you: Last week, I wrote about a new study that found that a widely used hospital algorithm was racially biased. Just yesterday, New York insurance officials announced they're now investigating UnitedHealth Group and its unit Optum, which sells that algorithm. 

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,


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Tuesday, October 29, 2019


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