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Patients in labor denied care, advertising for alternative therapies, and more

March 9, 2017

In order to bring you more of the news you want to read, Right Care Weekly presents articles related to moving our healthcare system toward the right care for all patients.

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According to a ProPublica review of federal inspection reports, many rural hospitals are still turning away patients arriving in labor, although that has been against the law for 30 years. This has forced some patients to travel hours for care, especially endangering those patients facing serious complications. Low volume of deliveries, staffing concerns, and high costs have made it difficult for rural hospitals to provide obstetric care. Experts recommend rural hospitals update their training and equipment to make sure they can fulfill their legal obligations to patients in labor.

This week, a report from STAT reveals how top medical research centers in the U.S. are pushing unproven alternative therapies, including “energy healing” and “detoxification programs.” While some doctors support their hospital’s appeal to expand health care beyond traditional medicine, others are concerned that their hospital is simply “following the money” — promoting treatments that have no evidence of effectiveness, to attract more patients. “We’ve become witch doctors,” said Steven Novella, MD, a professor of neurology at the Yale School of Medicine, quoted in the article.
Too often patients with cognitive disabilities in need of an organ transplant are rejected for the transplant without clinical justification, according to The Washington Post. Part of the problem is a lack of accountability. Currently, health professionals in transplant programs are allowed to take cognitive disabilities into account when making eligibility decisions, so bias toward people with disabilities can manifest in discrimination. Disability advocates are taking action on both the state and federal level to address discrimination in organ transplant decisions.

One public health crisis seems easily resolved, and it involves vehicles. Drivers should stop using digital devices behind the wheel. Last year 40,000 Americans died in highway crashes–up 14 percent over the last two years. David Leonhardt of the The New York Times writes “the only plausible cause is the texting, calling, watching and posting that people now do while operating a large piece of machinery.” Technology has made it too tempting for overconfident drivers, Leonhardt asserts, and is placing the public at great risk.

STAT news questions whether the traditional Pap test should be replaced with HPV screening as an effective way to find cervical cancer. Proponents say the HPV test allows for early detection, cost savings and at-home testing, a plus for reaching impoverished populations. Studies have also found the screening more sensitive than the Pap. The US Preventive Services Task Force is currently reviewing its screening policies for HPV testing. Spain and Netherlands already have guidelines recommending HPV testing as the primary test for cervical cancer.

Announcements

The Lown Institute Conference, Beyond the Bottom Line: Defending the Human Connection in Health Care, will take place in Boston, MA on May 5-7. There will be more than a dozen interactive workshops such as rooting out “fake news” in health care, engaging community members in a cafe-style dialogue, and taking on Big Pharma. Don’t miss it – register now!

Are you ready to stand up for science? On April 22, members of the Right Care Alliance will be joining the March for Science, a non-partisan gathering of scientists and science enthusiasts advocating for evidence-based policies in the public interest. So far there are Right Care Alliance groups marching together in Boston, Washington DC, San Francisco, Chicago, St. Louis, and Charlottesville. If you’d like to join a march or start one in your city, contact organize@lowninstitute.org.

Challenges to Professionalism in a Time of Change, a joint effort of the Lown Institute, Maine Medical Association, New Hampshire Medical Society, Vermont Medical Society, Maine Alliance of Health Care Professionals, and others, will take place Saturday, June 17, 8 am to 4 pm at the Sheraton Portsmouth (NH). Keynotes are Thomas Bodenheimer, MD, MPH, professor, family community medicine at UCSF School of Medicine and Eric Campbell, PhD, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. Information here.

Bridging Health & Community, an organization committed to overcoming the disconnect between the health sector and communities, will be holding their first symposium, “Community Agency & Health.” Participants will explore ways how to improve health by fostering community agency in an inclusive, participatory, and responsive way. The meeting will take place May 15-16, in Oakland, CA. More information here.

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