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Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

U.K. health service partners with Amazon’s Alexa for medical queries

Amazon’s Alexa will now help answer questions about common illnesses such as flu or chickenpox through a new government-sponsored program in the U.K. The National Health Service will be partnering with the tech giant to bring the voice app to patients, especially helping the elderly and adults with disabilities who may have trouble readily accessing medical information. But there are still privacy concerns: Some news reports in April revealed that Alexa listens and records conversations in people’s homes. Amazon said that any patient information would be kept confidential and won't be shared with third parties, and also that patients could choose to delete any recordings. 

University of California loses access to new Elsevier journal articles 

The University of California system just lost access to new and some old articles in Elsevier journals, more than four months after UC decided not to renew its contract with the publisher. Negotiations between the two broke down over payment for open-access research, which is free and publicly accessible online. The fight is indicative of a larger discussion within the academic community about the proper price and access to research publications: Last year, UC paid $10 million for journal subscriptions, which is on top of the $1 million Elsevier took in from authors for article processing fees. Access to Elsevier hasn’t been completely revoked, and it seems to vary depending on the campus and the journal in question. In the meantime, UC has prepared a guide for how students and faculty can still legally access articles. 

Q&A: Battling mistrust in medicine

Access to medical information — and misinformation — is so easy now that many experts are grappling with the best way to preserve trust in physicians and the medical field. I spoke with Adam Berinsky, a political scientist at MIT and the co-author of a new article in the New England Journal of Medicine, to learn more. 

How is misinformation and an erosion of trust in medicine a political science issue? 

This is a real public policy issue. And it has huge implications for the structure of the health care system. When can the government say it's OK or not OK to do something that has important public health consequences?

So what’s the fix? 

I don't really have happy stories. There's no one solution. The basis of the facts is not enough. You also need to think about the most effective voice to say that. When it comes to vaccines and autism, maybe it's the mother of a kid with autism [who is the voice], as doctors could be dismissed as being in the pocket of Big Pharma. 

Inside STAT: Canada case highlights the long-term risks of turning to experimental stem cell therapies

Neurons (red) and astrocytes (green) derived from human neural stem cells growing in culture. (Steven Pollard/Wellcome)

Unproven stem cell treatments are regularly being touted by unregulated clinics. And even though the FDA is trying to crack down on such places, many people have already opted for such care, and some have suffered serious injury. Take the case of a 38-year-old man who suffered a spinal injury at the age of 20, and chose — after some conventional therapy still left him paralyzed — to undergo stem cell transplantation in Portugal. A new report outlines how that man now has a tumor on his spinal cord, and the tumor cells match those that were transplanted into him nearly two decades ago. The case highlights a growing concern about unapproved stem cell treatments: More than providing little benefit, they could end up doing a lot of harm. STAT’s Brittany Flaherty has more

Fewer training hours for residents does not negatively impact patients

Physician burnout has been a growing concern, but a new study shows that at least one step to curb the problem — cutting back on residency hours — does not have a detrimental effect on patient care. In 2003, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education reduced medical resident hours from more than 100 hours a week to 80 a week, and in 2011 made changes to cap shift lengths. New research found that, despite concerns that fewer training hours could mean worse care, many measures of a doctor’s performance have stayed steady. There were no changes, for instance, in the number of patients being readmitted to the hospital or the number of patients who died within a 30-day period. One caveat: The study only looked at internists, so other specialties may perform differently. 

Everyone grieves, but many feel obligated to do so quickly

A new survey finds that although everyone experiences grief at some point, many people feel rushed through the process. Here’s more: 

  • Overall findings: More than half the survey respondents said they felt like they had to get over their grief within a certain time frame. This was especially true when people were grieving the loss of a pet. 

  • Time frame: Most people spent less than a year grieving a loss, while about 13% of people said the time was longer than that. 

  • Physical and mental symptoms: Nearly 70% of respondents said they also experienced physical symptoms — such as fatigue — during their grieving period, while nearly 90% experienced sadness, anger, or other mental symptoms. 

What to read around the web today

  • Suzanne Eaton, US scientist, found dead in WW2 bunker on Crete. BBC
  • How Australia could almost eradicate HIV transmissions. The New York Times
  • Every data point has a face: What Michael Becker taught us. STAT
  • Immigrant children sent to Chicago shelters are traumatized and sick, in some instances with chicken pox or tuberculosis. ProPublica
  • Startups trying to fix Nigeria’s broken healthcare system are winning global investor interest. Quartz

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,


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Thursday, July 11, 2019


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