Wednesday, February 22, 2017

On Call by Casey Ross & Max Blau
Good morning! Here's the latest news affecting hospitals and health care. For more coverage, follow us at @statnews@bycaseyross, and @maxblau on Twitter. Or, like us on Facebook. If you're on Doximity, you can share our stories there using the social icon near the top of each STAT article.

New research: Patients who avoid math could make poor cancer care choices

Fighting cancer is a constant calculation. But what happens when patients struggle with math? Ellen Peters, a psychology professor at Ohio State University, says patients with limited math skills may rely more on emotions in deciding what treatments and medications to pursue, rather than examining the full risks of all their options. This decision-making process could lead to poorer outcomes.

"Numbers are important, whether you like them or not. Nowhere are they more important than when it comes to your health," Peters says. She presented her work at the recent American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Boston.

Instead of avoiding medical math, Peters says, patients should ask their doctors for the data along with an explanation of each treatment's pros and cons. With a doctor’s help, patients who embrace the math behind cancer care can turn confusion into clarity regarding the best options for treatment.

Today in STAT: Why scientists can’t cower in the face of Trump

President Donald Trump’s health care and immigration policies are generating plenty of concern among scientists and doctors who might shy away from sharing their opinions publicly. 

But in a First Opinion for STAT, Dr. Duncan Maru of Brigham and Women’s Hospital argues those groups owe it to their profession to speak up in the face of anti-science, anti-medicine policies. He says recent examples of activism are encouraging, including the protest of Saturday's Dana-Farber Cancer Institute fundraiser at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort. The protest did not halt the fundraiser, but it did spur discussion and a critical examination of the cancer center — and that’s a mission scientists must carry forward.

Read more.

Sponsor content by Tufts Medical Center

Father, son cardiologists change narrative on a once grim genetic disease

Fifty years ago receiving a diagnosis of Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM) was virtually a death sentence. Categorized by thickening of the heart muscle, HCM may be best recognized as the most common cause of sudden death in young athletes. But due to the life’s work of a father and son physician team now at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, HCM is not only treatable, but patients with proper management can achieve normal life expectancy. Read more.

Number of the Day: 7

That’s the median number of online ratings per doctor in a new analysis of 28 commercial rating web sites. Published in JAMA, the review found that the sites have cumbersome search mechanisms, making it difficult for patients to find enough information about a given doctor to accurately characterize his or her effectiveness.  

How a children’s hospital saved a baby hippo’s life

When veterinarians at the Cincinnati Zoo had trouble getting an IV into a premature baby hippo with severe dehydration, they called for help — from a children's hospital.

The hippo's name is Fiona, and after a couple of tries, Cincinnati Children's Hospital's Vascular Access Team was able to get an IV into one of her legs Friday. Since then, she's taken in five bags of fluids, gotten plenty of rest and has started bottle-feeding. Count it as a win for #TeamFiona.

Narrative medical writing makes its way into universities

Doctors have embraced writing as a form of treatment for conditions like PTSD in veterans and dementia in seniors. That’s one reason why a growing number of universities are offering courses on narrative medicine. Sara Berzingi, a West Virginia University pre-med student, says her writing course has taught her how patients understand their own conditions. She hopes to put what she's learned to use in improving palliative care.

Such writing courses have also found a home at universities including Georgetown, the University of Virginia, and Columbia University. Dr. Rita Charon, a general internist who oversees Columbia’s narrative medicine program, believes her master’s program gives students a greater insight into “what their patients go through” over the course of care. “We write in order to learn what we think,” Charon says. “More importantly, we can access what we perceive about patients by writing about them.”


  • Feds want to know who's behind opioid thefts at VA hospitals (CBS News)
  • Why is Florida's governor trying to cut funds to hospitals that cared for Pulse shooting victims? (Politico)
  • One Utah health system publishes patient reviews. It's paying off. (STAT)
  • Health insurance concerns make the risky business of farming even riskier (NPR)

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