Monday, November 28, 2016

Hsieh Forbes Column: UK Vs US Aortic Aneurysm Deaths

My latest Forbes pieces is now out: "Patients With Aortic Aneurysms More Likely To Die In The UK Than The US".

I discuss a recent New England Journal of Medicine study which showed that if you have an abdominal aortic aneurysm (aka "AAA") in the US vs the UK, the UK patients have to wait longer for surgery, and the aneurysms don't get repaired until they are larger (and more at risk of rupture.)

The researchers conclude: "Rates of aneurysm rupture and aneurysm-related death were significantly higher in England than in the United States".

I also cover three natural follow-up questions:

1) Were US surgeons jeopardizing their patients by operating more aggressively than UK surgeons?

2) Did the UK nationalized health system contribute to the lower rates of appropriate surgery in the UK?

3) Will US government policies incentivize American surgeons towards more — or less — appropriate treatments?

For more details, read the full text of "Patients With Aortic Aneurysms More Likely To Die In The UK Than The US".

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Hsieh Forbes Column: How Your Doctor's Politics Affects Your Health Care

My latest Forbes piece is now out, "How Your Doctor's Politics Affects Your Health Care -- And What You Can Do About It".

I discuss the latest research indicating the doctors' own personal political biases can affect the advice they give patients in three areas -- abortion, gun ownership, and marijuana use. And strategies that patients and doctors can adopt to minimize inappropriate physician bias in the exam room.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Hsieh Forbes Column: No, There's No 'Smoking Gun' in Clinton's Doctor Letter

I have a new short Forbes piece out now, discussing a couple of issues related to Hillary Clinton's health: "No, There's No 'Smoking Gun' in Clinton's Doctor Letter".

tldr; Clinton's opponents should concentrate on her bad public policy positions, not her medical record.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Hsieh Forbes Column: How Government Quality Guidelines Hurt Transplant Patients

My latest Forbes piece is now up: "How Government Quality Guidelines Hurt Transplant Patients".

I discuss how federal government "quality guidelines" created perverse incentives to deny medical care to the sickest patients.

In particular, many transplant centers started dropping the sickest patients from their transplant waiting lists in order to keep their success rates up. Plus many hospitals rejected less-than-perfect organs out of fear of harming their federal government score cards.

As transplant surgeon Dr. Adel Bozorgzadeh said:
“If you have young guy who has a 100 percent chance of dying, but only a 30 percent chance of dying with a transplant, you would say, ‘What the hell, give the guy a chance,’” even if the operation might be risky, he said. “But if I make an argument like that, I will be under pressure from all these other stakeholders who would penalize me.”
The federal guidelines created a conflict of interest for hospitals, caught between their government paymasters and the patients they were supposed to care for.

For more details, read the full text of "How Government Quality Guidelines Hurt Transplant Patients".

(Related piece: "Doctor ‘Report Cards’ May Be Hazardous To Your Health.")

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

FIRM Website Problems Fixed

My  deepest apologies for the recent downtime of the FIRM website. And many thanks to my ex-wife Diana Brickell for fixing the DNS issues! I should be back in action soon.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Hsieh Forbes Column: Why I Don't Trust Government-Backed 'Gun Violence' Research

My latest Forbes piece is now out: "Why I Don't Trust Government-Backed 'Gun Violence' Research".

I discuss the anti-gun bias at the federal government Centers For Disease Control (CDC) and why we should be suspicious of calls for more CDC-backed research into "gun violence".

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

When Everything Is "Critical", Then Nothing Is

Another consequence of poorly designed electronic medical records (EMRs) is "alert fatigue":
Electronic health records increasingly include automated alert systems pegged to patients’ health information. One alert might signal that a drug being prescribed could interact badly with other medications. Another might advise the pharmacist about a patient’s drug allergy. But they could also simply note each time that a patient is prescribed painkillers — useful to detect addiction but irrelevant if, say, someone had a major surgery and is expected to need such meds. Or they may highlight a potential health consequence relevant to an elderly woman, although the patient at hand is a 20-something man.

The number of these pop-up messages has become unmanageable, doctors and IT experts say, reflecting what many experts call excessive caution, and now they are overwhelming practitioners.
Clinicians ignore safety notifications between 49 percent and 96 percent of the time, said Shobha Phansalkar, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

“When providers are bombarded with warnings, they will predictably miss important things,” said David Bates, senior vice president at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
This can have real-life consequences:
In one instance at Children’s [Hospital of Philadelphia], doctors ignored relevant information about how a patient might respond to a drug, Shelov said, because it appeared alongside heaps of other superfluous notifications — warnings, for instance, about drugs that posed minimal risk of interfering with each other. Consequently, the patient received medication that induced a potentially lethal reaction.

The hospital caught the mistake in time, but the incident spurred a series of changes. A team of pharmacists, doctors and other clinicians have sorted through what triggered alerts in their system, turning off the ones they decided weren’t actually relevant or necessary. That has helped. But it’s still an ongoing battle, Shelov said. “It’s a little bit of trying to turn off the firehose.”
When everything is "critical", then nothing is.