Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Doctor Is Out; You May Be in Luck - NYTimes.com

Professional meetings for cardiologists may have an added benefit: In some cases, heart patients survive longer when their doctors are away at conferences.

In a retrospective analysis, researchers studied 30,000 patients admitted to teaching hospitals for heart attack, heart failure and cardiac arrest during national professional meetings and compared them with 79,000 admitted during the three weeks before and after meetings. The study is in JAMA Internal Medicine.

During nonmeeting days, 24.8 percent of heart failure and 69.4 percent of cardiac arrest patients died within 30 days. But while cardiologists were at meetings, only 17.5 percent of heart failure and 59.1 percent of cardiac arrest patients died within a month. There was no significant difference among heart attack patients, although in high-risk heart attack patients there were fewer insertions of a stent to open blocked coronary arteries during nonmeeting days.

The lead author, Dr. Anupam B. Jena, an assistant professor of health care policy at Harvard, said that the difference in death rates may be attributed in part to overly aggressive treatments, such as when a stent is inserted unnecessarily.

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Sunday, January 18, 2015

When Medical Apps Do More Harm Than Good | Mother Jones

In 2013, when Julie Hudak read about an iPhone app that could diagnose skin cancer, she downloaded it right away. Her husband and sister-in-law had both died of melanoma, and she didn't want to miss any early signs of the disease in her three children. It was easy to use—simply upload a photo of a mole and get a color-coded result: Green meant cancer was unlikely, yellow was a maybe, and red indicated danger. Even though the dermatologist had assured Hudak just a week earlier that her children's skin looked fine, she decided to snap photos of her 11-year-old daughter's moles. Seconds later, the results appeared. "Some came up yellow, and one was red," Hudak recalls. "I panicked." She called the dermatologist for an emergency appointment.

Online retailers like iTunes and Amazon offer thousands of apps promising all kinds of real-time information about your body—they can measure blood pressure, take your pulse, track your menstrual cycle, and tell you how well your lungs are working. Mobile health is one of the fastest-growing app categories: According to the consulting firm research2guidance, there are 100,000 mobile health apps on the market, double the number available two and a half years ago. The industry is worth some $4 billion today, and analysts predict that it will reach $26.5 billion by 2017.

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