The Dr. Larry Nasser case has publicized doctors who sexually abuse patients. However, the extent of these assaults is unknown, as few doctors are ever punished and their misdeeds are never known. A reporter who investigated the official response to the problem and a physician who has worked on a sexual assault crisis line discuss the issue.
Teaching Doctors to Listen
Studies have found that many doctors don’t really listen to their patients, and so miss how illness is affected by the “other things” in life. Experts discuss how to help doctors consider the patient as a whole.
In the past, healthcare has spent thousands of dollars on treating the homeless, and often times the hospitals are never paid for these treatments. Homelessness affects an individuals health and severely decreases their life expectancy. Stephen Brown, Director of Preventive Emergency Medicine at University of Illinois Hospital and Health Sciences, Chicago, explains that homeless people are admitted to the hospital more than the average person and on a more consistent basis. Yet, following these treatments, the homeless are often sent back to the streets and forced to fend for themselves again.
However, some hospitals around the nation are beginning to acknowledge their role in helping homelessness. In light of this growing problem, bigger cities around the nation have started to provide housing to the homeless. But, they have replaced the traditional model that required people to be clean of their addiction before they were provided with housing with a much more efficient model that has already shown higher success rates. Shannon Nazworth, President and CEO of Ability Housing in Jacksonville, Florida, explains that the new “housing first” model takes people straight from the street and provides them with shelter, and then gives them access to resources that help them get back on their feet. She explains that they have the responsibility to pay rent, but the program helps the individuals access funds through benefits. The end goal of this program is to help the person work toward a financial position in which they are able to to move from program housing to different community housing.
Since “housing first” programs began, they have shown a significant increase in getting homeless individuals off the streets and keeping them off the streets. But, the programs have still faced backlash. Nazworth explains that due to stigmas associated with mental health and homelessness there have been misconceptions about the individuals that would be allowed in these programs. In order to change this, Nazworth states that the program allows people to come in and observe the housing to acquire more knowledge on it. By providing homeless individuals with the opportunity to receive housing and aid, many of them are capable of redeeming their health and eventually no longer rely on the programs for help anymore.
Stephen Brown, Director of Preventive Emergency Medicine at University of Illinois Hospital and Health Sciences, Chicago
Shannon Nazworth, President/CEO of Ability Housing, Jacksonville, Florida
Currently, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a group of lung diseases that decrease the performance of the lungs and make it hard to breathe, is the third leading cause of death in the United States, yet many people who suffer from it go undiagnosed for a long time. Despite being a prevalent disease, it is tough to detect and even more difficult to gain control of. Dr. Jack Coleman, Medical Director of Lung Health Institute, states that patients with chronic lung diseases have a tendency to not do well after being diagnosed because of the limited treatments available to do them. Along with this, the treatments do not work to cure the disease, but instead are implemented to help control the symptoms.
However, in recent years, the quality of life of COPD patients has increased. Dr. Coleman explains that research has discovered a new approach to treating COPD that direct a patient’s own healing abilities to control the processes damaging the lungs. Since stem cells do not know where the damaged part of the body is, the lungs benefit more from stem cell treatments than other part of the body because they are the first part of the body that the stem cells interact with. Dr. Coleman states that the treatment has been effective in helping patients with COPD; in fact, approximately 85% of the Lung Health Institute’s patients have seen an improvement in their quality of life. The process of using stem cells to treat chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is not yet a faultless procedure, but it has given promise to patient’s for a better life in the future.
Dr. Jack Coleman, Medical Director of Lung Health Institute
More than 25 years after the first war in Iraq, more than 200,000 veterans are still affected by Gulf War Illness, a syndrome believed to be caused in part by exposure to toxic chemicals. Victims typically suffer from sleep disorders, chronic fatigue and memory problems. But now a study in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity finds that curcumin, a component of the spice turmeric, may be able to reverse some of the disease’s effects. Researchers say curcumin has also been shown to improve memory in older adults, but they say more testing is needed.
A new national survey shows that more than half of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth have been diagnosed with an eating disorder, and of those who haven’t been diagnosed, more than half suspect they have an eating disorder. The survey by the National Eating Disorders Association also finds that among those diagnosed, 88 percent have considered suicide.
And finally, plastic surgeons say a lot of people are showing up in their offices asking for a nose job, showing selfies to prove their nose is too big. But a study in the journal JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery finds that most selfies distort the size of the nose by as much as 30 percent because they’re taken from too close a distance. Researchers say close-up selfies are the equivalent of a fun house mirror. If you want a more accurate portrait take the picture from about five feet away.
A number of hospitals, particularly in large cities, are beginning to develop or operate housing units for the homeless, finding they markedly reduce healthcare costs for this population. Experts discuss their “housing first” approach that does not require people to get off addictions before they get an apartment.
Stem Cells for COPD
Lung diseases such as COPD are difficult to treat, but a new method taking a patient’s own stem cells, concentrating them, and reinfusing them is showing success. An expert explains.
It’s a fact that college students drink, and often in large quantities. Students are also quite familiar with the phenomenon of the ‘Freshman 15,’ the inevitable weight gain that comes along with the frequent consumption of alcohol. Studies show that some students avoid food altogether when they plan to drink later on. Their motives are two-fold; to manage weight gain associated with a large number of calories consumed in a night of drinking and to achieve a greater buzz from drinking on an empty stomach.
Dr. Dipali Rinker, a research assistant professor at the University of Houston, explains drunkorexia, a colloquial term describing diet-related behaviors associated with alcohol use. More often than you’d think, students make the risky decision to eliminate food calories and replace them alcohol calories. The degree of drunkorexia varies. One student might simply eat less or skip one meal, while another may avoid food for an entire day, but both do so because they plan to go out and drink later on.
The dangers of drunkorexia are far-reaching. Dr. Petros Levounis, Professor and Chairman of Psychiatry at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, says the frequent practice can lead to vitamin and essential amino acid deficiencies, resulting in malnutrition. He also adds that students can be tricked into thinking there’s not much difference between alcohol and food calories, but this is not true. Students engaging in this behavior put their bodies at risk and can develop significant health problems over time. In fact, the consistent practice will likely result in the very weight gain that caused the behavior in the first place, concludes Dr. Levounis.
In addition, Joy Stephenson-Laws, founder of the non-profit Proactive Health Labs, explains it’s easy to get too drunk when drinking on an empty stomach. The high-risk behavior of drunkorexia often goes hand-in-hand with other high-risk behavior, such as blacking out and skipping class. One college, the University of Texas-Austin, has taken a more active approach. William Mupo, Health Promotion Coordinator, says Texas-Austin promotes the fun aspects of drinking in moderation, rather than simply condemning all drinking. The school also informs students they should eat healthy fats and proteins during a night of drinking, which helps maintain a lower blood alcohol level. Most importantly, they debunk the myth that all students drink to excess, which studies have shown is greatly exaggerated.
Dr. Dipali Rinker, Research Assistant Professor, University of Houston
Joy Stephenson-Laws, founder Proactive Health Labs
Dr. Petros Levounis, Professor and Chairman., Psychiatry, Rutgers New Jersey Medical School
William Mupo, Health Promotion Coordinator, University of Texas-Austin
Big data is changing almost every aspect of modern-day life. Healthcare is one of the most recent adopters of big data collection. Paddy Padmanabhan, a healthcare IT expert and CEO of Damo Consulting, says over the past ten years health records have been moved to digital files, but most of the time the advantages of doing so are not fully utilized. Most of the time, health providers do not share information with each other, so when you go to a new provider they have to start from scratch.
Padmanabhan, also the author of The Big Unlock: Harnessing Data and Growing Digital Health Businesses in a Value Based Healthcare Era, advocates for evidence-based healthcare, which entails providers are accountable for providing data which illustrates they are delivering acceptable care at an acceptable price. Consumers have more financial responsibility than ever for their healthcare cost. Previously, when insurers would pay providers directly and in far higher percentages, patients had almost no idea of the actual cost associated with their treatment. Providers had incentive to charge whatever they could get away with. Today, patients have more choices and providers are forced to offer more transparency. Big data is the next logical step if the goal is to improve accountability.
Eventually, so much healthcare data will be available that artificial intelligence will be needed to assist in diagnosis and recommend possible treatment options. There is such a vast range of potential applications for the data. For example, sequencing you genome can provide far more information that your medical history alone. There are, however, downsides to the collection of this data. There is potential for the data to fall into the wrong hands, primarily the possession of insurance companies who could use the data to predict complications extremely accurately. Eventually, insurers could refuse to cover certain individuals because they could predict the high cost of their treatment, so steps must be taken to protect valuable healthcare data.
Paddy Padmanabhan, CEO, Damo Consulting and author, The Big Unlock: Harnessing Data and Growing Digital Health Businesses in a Value Based Healthcare Era