Noteworthy: To Accept, or Not to Accept; Better than a Fortune Teller

October 5, 2011

Temporary tattoo monitors vital signs; chocolate helps boost your workout; accepting gifts as a physician; and more.

To Accept, or Not to Accept

It's hard to turn down those sports tickets, that bottle of fine wine, that dinner gift certificate … do you have to? One of our newest Physician Practice bloggers, Ericka Adler, a lawyer specializing in health law, recently shared her tips regarding gift giving and receiving from fellow providers - especially from those who refer patients to you, and those to whom you refer patients. The key, Adler says, is to implement a practice-wide giving and receiving policy.
Here's how:

• Consider the intent behind past gifts your staff gave and/or received.
• Decide if similar gifts should be refused and/or given in the future.
• Track the monetary value of gifts to make sure they don't exceed legal limits.
• Talk with counsel about past noncompliance with federal law.

Stat

600,000 - The number of 19- to 26-year-olds who received health insurance in the first five months of 2011 due to health reform. Source: The Commonwealth Fund. That's about equivalent to the population of Seattle.

Better than a Fortune Teller

A new website, http://columbia.news21.com/our-future-selves, helps visitors explore their future health.

Here's how it works: Site users input their birth year, state of residence, sex, race/ethnicity, and living situation.

That information is combined with projections based on documented healthcare trends from economists, biostatisticians, and demographers.

The final product? A graph showing the likelihood the visitor will develop heart disease, cancer, and/or diabetes as they age.

The site also includes (on the national and state level) projected increases in population ages 65 and older.

The site, developed by fellows at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, is entitled "Our Future Selves."

PowerBar? Bite into a Chocolate Bar Instead

Exercising just got a bit more appetizing. In fact, eating chocolate before a workout could help make you fitter.

That's according to scientists at the University of California, San Diego, and other institutions. They used treadmill-running mice to prove their deliciously tempting theory.

The mice underwent a 15-day diet and exercise regimen. Each day, half the mice ate epicatechin (the primary ingredient in chocolate), and half drank water. In addition, half the mice in each group participated in a brief treadmill stroll. Finally, all of the mice participated in a treadmill run.

The gold medalists? The epicatechin-eating-training mice. Yet, even the epicatechin-eating-non-training mice outlasted the water-drinkers who trained.

The researchers suggest about half of one square of a typical chocolate bar before exercising may produce similar results in humans.

The study was published in The Journal of Physiology.

'Temporary Tattoo' Monitors Vital Signs

Researchers say they've developed a new electronic device that measures vital signs like heart and brain waves. Here's why it's unique: it sticks to the skin, it's nearly weightless, and it's thinner than a human hair.

The small monitor - filled with sensors, a power supply, and other components - sticks to human skin, just as a temporary tattoo does, according the journal Science.

Weak forces, called van der Waals forces (the same forces that allow geckos to stick to walls) hold the device in place.

The researchers hope the monitor will replace the bulky electronics and wiring currently used to monitor patients' physiological signals.

Researchers also say the device could potentially serve as an electronic bandage to speed up healing in wounds, burns, and other skin conditions, according to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which publishes the journal.

The device was developed by an international team of researchers.

Craving Comfort Food? Here's Your Excuse

Can't get that gooey grilled cheese sandwich out of your head?

Here's why: A new study finds that comfort food actually possesses comforting qualities, beyond its look, taste, and smell.

The study suggests the fatty acid source - whether it's cheesy, sweet, or decadent - decreases sad emotions.

Study participants fasted for 12 hours. Then, they listened to pieces of sad classical music while looking at images of sad faces. Finally, they were administered fatty acid or saline solution through gastric feeding tubes.

Those given the fatty acid said they felt 50 percent less sad than the others. And their nerve cell responses to sad emotions decreased.

The study was just published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Quotables

"It really makes for a great practice environment where you're needed and you're appreciated for what you do."
Alabama-based family physician Beverly Jordan speaking about our 2011 Best States to Practice results

"I support basic medical care and preventive healthcare for everybody, but not the way the government is imposing it. They're not doing anything to increase the number of primary-care doctors and there's already a shortage because it does not pay well and there is little professional regard for primary care among other physicians."
Chicago-based solo practitioner Francisco J. Sanchez

This article originally appeared in the October 2011 issue of Physicians Practice.