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

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