Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Personal Health: Music and Electronic Medical Records

Published on Monday, June 29, 2009 in THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER

Music therapy may help control blood pressure
When it comes to matters of the heart, music may be more than just the food of love. A small study by Italian researchers has linked swelling crescendos - volume increase - to heart rate arousal and gradual decrescendos to relaxation.

The 24 subjects, half of whom were experienced singers, were monitored using electrocardiograms while they listened to five random tracks of classical music, including Beethoven's Ninth Symphony and Verdi's La Traviata. As volume increased, so did the subject's blood pressure, heart rate, and blood flow. Long melodies led heart rhythms to synchronize with the tempo. And during a two-minute silence, breathing and blood pressure dropped.

The authors, who have done similar research before, hope their findings will show how music therapy can help in rehabilitative medicine. The paper was published in the journal Circulation.

- Heather J. Chin

Some patients are often left in dark on test results
Physician failure to notify patients or accurately record notifications about abnormal test results is common, according to a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Records that were part electronic and part paper-based were more likely to be incomplete than those consisting entirely of one or the other.

The study examined 5,434 outpatient medical records from 19 community-based and four academic medical centers that offered primary care services, as well as the centers' methods of documentation - paper records, electronic medical records, or partial electronic records. Eleven blood tests and three screening tests - mammographies, Pap smears, and fecal occult blood matter - were examined in patients who were between 50 and 69 years old when treated.

Out of 1,889 abnormal test results, 135 patients were not informed of them promptly - either within 21 or 90 days, depending on the type of test. That was a failure rate of 7.1 percent. Three medical centers had a zero error rate while the rest ranged up to 26.2 percent.

The authors aim for more awareness of how often these errors occur and how managing results can reduce failure rates and successful malpractice claims from uninformed patients.

- Heather J. Chin

Philly Local: Philadelphia VA Prostate Cancer Scandal

Published on June 23, 2009 in THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER.
I contributed some reporting to this story.

Specter plans hearing on VA prostate cancer treatment

By Marie McCullough
Inquirer Staff Writer

Four years ago, after talking to doctors at the Philadelphia VA Medical Center, the Rev. Ricardo Flippin opted for a radiation therapy that would precisely target his prostate cancer and leave nearby organs unharmed.

Instead, his prostate cancer got too little radiation while his rectum received so much that he suffered excruciating, permanent damage.

Flippin, 68 - a minister, teacher, and Air Force veteran - is hardly unique.

The Philadelphia VA has notified 92 prostate cancer patients treated between 2002 and 2008 that their "brachytherapy" radiation doses were too high or too low. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has shut down the brachytherapy program in Philadelphia and three other VA hospitals with less serious problems.

Yesterday, the unfolding scandal prompted Sen. Arlen Specter (D., Pa.) to say he would hold a hearing on the matter in Philadelphia on Monday.

Read more here...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Philly Local: High School Health Fellowships

Published June 10, 2009 in THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER.

Fellowship seeks to give ninth graders a boost

By Heather J. Chin
Inquirer Staff Writer

A new fellowship program will pair about two dozen low-income ninth graders in Philadelphia with professional mentors this fall to prepare them for careers in health care and science.

The Karabots Junior Fellows Program will offer traditional mentoring from physician experts over three years as well as field trips, extra classes, college prep, internships, video seminars, and online networking. It is funded with an initial $800,000 grant from the Karabots Foundation in Fort Washington.

"You can't fulfill a dream unless you have the dream," said George M. Wohlreich, chief executive officer of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, a professional society that is hosting the fellowship and providing mentors. "Our goal is to help them create a dream and show them how to fulfill it."

As the need for health care rises, the demand for qualified candidates is growing, too. But many low-income minority youth lack academic and familial support to keep up with their better-off peers.

Read more here...