Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Morning Rounds by Megan Thielking

Good morning, folks! I'm here to get you ahead of the day's biggest stories in science and medicine. For more, check us out on Twitter and Facebook

Electronic health records get some love

HHS just announced that a whole host of groups — the companies that provide 90 percent of electronic health records, the five biggest private health care systems, and others — have committed to making EHRs much easier to use. That's great news for doctors, health IT workers, and others in the industry who've lamented the notoriously labor-intensive systems. 

And that announcement comes alongside another dose of good news for EHRs — 49 states in the US report they’re meeting “meaningful use” benchmarks for the systems, up from just 2 in 2013, according to the CDC's Prevention Status Report. Meaningful use of the systems has focused on three big areas in the past few years: Collecting patient data and making it shareable, making clinical work more efficient, and improving outcomes for patients. 

FDA recommends black box label for Essure, but doesn't pull from market

The FDA announced yesterday it'll force Bayer AG, the drug maker behind the controversial contraceptive implant Essure, to further study the device's safety. The move comes on the heels of thousands of complaints filed by women who say Essure has caused problems ranging from pelvic pain to dizziness and bleeding. The FDA also said it'd like to see a black box label — which lays out the device's potentially serious risks and adverse effects — put on Essure. But critics of the move say that's not a sweeping enough action against the implant; they wanted to see it pulled from the market. 

Scientists come up with a remote control for research

An organ on a chip that can be controlled remotely. (Yu Shrike Zhang / Brigham and Women's Hospital)

Organs on chips offer a way for scientists to experiment on tiny models of human organs, but they require near-constant monitoring. A new study published in Scientific Reports this morning lays out an interesting solution: using Google Glass. Researchers developed software and hardware that allowed scientists to go about their days while the high-tech glasses kept watch on their experiments. Researchers were even able to control livers and hearts on a chip remotely, dosing out pharmaceutical compounds by using valves controlled by Glass. The authors say the software might be particularly useful for doctors or researchers running risky experiments, such as those involving highly infectious bacteria or radioactive materials, by allowing them to keep a safe distance.

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Cancer drugs that get tossed out cost $3 billion a year

Insurers toss nearly $3 billion a year down the drain on cancer medicines that don't end up getting used to treat patients, finds a new study published in BMJ. Drug makers package the medications in single-dose vials that contain too much for most patients. After measuring out how much a patient needs, nurses will often discard the rest of the drug for safety reasons. That's running up a steep bill, and warrants a look at whether drug companies should reconsider their dosing sizes, the authors say. One 

Mayo Clinic is live streaming a colonoscopy on Periscope this morning

Remember Katie Couric’s infamous colonoscopy on the Today Show? The 2016 version of that is this morning's live-stream of the procedure on the mobile app Periscope. The Mayo Clinic’s social media director Lee Aase will undergo a colonoscopy live on the app at 8:30 a.m. ET this morning. “I’m due for a screening,” Aase told me, “And if I wasn’t willing to do it myself on Periscope, I didn’t have any business asking someone else.” They’ll be tweeting it, too, under #ScopeScope.

Inside STAT: Zika's role in Guillain-Barré syndrome

There's powerful new evidence that a 2013 Zika outbreak in French Polynesia led to Guillain-Barré syndrome in dozens of people in the region. The condition triggers temporary paralysis in patients. In a new study published in The Lancet, scientists in French Polynesia and France found that a large majority of Guillain-Barré patients showed evidence of a prior Zika infection. STAT contributor Karen Weintraub brings you the stories of patients in Tahiti with the condition — read here. 

Lab Chat: How docs might deal with direct-to-consumer genetic test results

Patients shelling out for personal genetic testing — known as direct-to-consumer testing — can choose what they want to do with those findings. Medical geneticist Robert Green of Harvard kept tabs on nearly 2,000 people who had the testing done to see how they used their results. Here’s what he found, as described in the new issue of Annals of Internal Medicine.

Did people actually share their results with their doctors?

[Before testing,] 63 percent of them had intended to take their results to their primary care provider. But only 27 percent ended up doing that. A number of people thought the results weren’t important enough, but an almost equal amount hadn’t had time to go see their doctors.

What was the experience like for people who did share the results?

Interestingly, when you looked at the number who had actually discussed results with their primary care provider, 35 percent were very satisfied and 18 percent were very dissatisfied. Some people reported situations where the doctor dismissed the results, or dismissed the entire enterprise. But there’s an aspect of actionability to these results, so doctors are able to say ‘Let’s use this to talk about your blood pressure, your diet, etc.’ So I think there can be ways for doctors to use these results even if they don’t fully endorse direct-to-consumer testing, which many don’t.

Is daylight savings time dangerous? 

Researchers have seen an interesting trend that shows up when we spring forward and fall back for daylight savings — an increased risk of stroke. The overall rate of ischemic stroke was 8 percent higher in the two days after daylight savings time goes into effect. After two days, they didn’t see a difference in stroke risk. But this is also the kind of study that's potentially vulnerable to publication bias, as Sharon Begley explains. The findings came from a decade of stroke data in Finland, and specifically looked at ischemic stroke, which is what happens when a clot blocks the flow of blood to the brain. The preliminary research was presented at this week's American Academy of Neurology meeting.

What to read around the web today

  • Ignoring stuff is good for your memory. Scientific American
  • How your supplements interact with prescription drugs. WSJ

More reads from STAT

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,


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