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Noteworthy: Difficult Decision Aid; 5 Reasons to Love mHealth


Difficult decision aid; reasons to love mobile health; comic health reform; and more.

Difficult Decision Aid

When caring for elderly patients, life expectancy sometimes plays a role in treatment decisions (this can prevent overtreating and undertreating). Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, have created an interactive website,, which can help physicians determine the likelihood of a patient's death within six months to five years, according to the New York Times. Site users pick from 16 published geriatric prognostic indices, then plug in a patient's information - such as health status, age, cognitive function, and level of independence. The site then provides a percentage indicating the likelihood of the patient's death within a particular time frame.

Double Trouble

Seeing double? The number of twins born each year in the United States has doubled since 1980, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. One reason is women are having children later in life, and older women are more likely to have twins. In addition, more women are using fertility treatments, a big factor in multiple births. Unfortunately, two bundles of joy can also lead to more high-risk pregnancies and newborn health problems.

5 Reasons to Love mHealth …

1. It increases patient engagement. Patients can use their phones to become more participatory in their healthcare, such as tracking their vital signs or connecting to ancillary services.

2. It provides more than snapshot data. Physicians can receive patient health updates more frequently through mhealth monitoring.

3. It's mobile. Physicians can access patient information anywhere.

4. It makes office encounters more meaningful. Since patient data is more accessible to physicians more frequently, the patient visit is a time of dialogue rather than data entry.

5. It improves the doctor-patient relationship. Mobile technology encourages a coordinated care effort between patients and providers.

Source: Cardiologist David Lee Scher of DLS Healthcare Consulting, LLC, in a blog appearing on

… And One Reason to Worry

As more and more physicians use handheld mobile technology in their day-to-day work, some critics are raising concerns about "distracted doctoring." Though mHealth tools provide physicians access to patient information anytime, anywhere, some doctors may be focusing more on technology than patients, according to the New York Times. "The iPatient is getting wonderful care across America," Abraham Verghese, a physician and professor at the Stanford University Medical Center told the Times. "The real patient wonders, 'Where is everybody?'"

From Scientific Finding to Bioweapon

A finding from an experiment on a strain of the bird flu virus may go unpublished due to fears it could provide a blueprint for catastrophic bioterrorism. In an attempt to learn more about bird flu, scientists have been manipulating its genes. Critics fear that if such findings are published, someone could use them to create a highly contagious version of the bird flu, causing a deadly epidemic, according to National Public Radio.

Comedic Health Reform

An economist at MIT aims to increase awareness of health reform through a comic book entitled "Health Care Reform: What It Is, Why It's Necessary, How It Works." When Kaiser Health News asked the book's author, Jonathan Gruber, why he chose to write it, he said it was clear to him health reform needed to be explained "in a way that people understood." Though initially Gruber was reluctant to write the book in comedic form, he said his publisher and teenage son encouraged it. "When you're on a plane and they want to teach you what to do in case of accident, they hand you a graphic," he said. "I think it was the right call."


"It is possible for a patient to come across valid information that their physician hasn't seen."

Dave deBronkart, patient empowerment advocate

"Most practices have a policy [stating that after a certain period, records will be destroyed unless a patient asks to copy his or her records], but how many actually destroy these records or at least convert them to a form that makes them indecipherable? The main point is: Document retention and data security are inextricably linked."

Jason Straight, managing director of Kroll's Cyber Security and Information Assurance unit
Source: American Medical News


39 The percentage of U.S. physicians who practice in the same state they went to medical school. Association of American Medical Colleges

This article originally appeared in the March 2012 issue of Physicians Practice.

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