The Daily Rise: Monday, July 18

Why Providers Need to Listen to Patients

Can patients beat blood tests in assessing their health?

PsychCentral reports on a new study that shows patient self-assessment offers a better indicator of their overall health than blood tests, blood pressure measurements, or other symptomatic evidence a doctor might gather.

“A couple of years ago there was a boom of work in psychology and medicine about what we call patient-reported outcomes, the idea that what patients actually feel like and say they feel like seems to be more prognostic of morbidity and mortality than all the cholesterol ratings and blood tests we get from doctors’ offices,” said Dr. Christopher Fagundes, a Rice University assistant professor of psychology and lead researcher. “That was an odd finding. You would think that objective markers like blood pressure would be more accurate. The way people generally report how they feel is more often linked to a future disease or mortality than what the doctor accesses.”

Of course, this is one study, which focused on an illness that is associated with high levels of inflammation. Nevertheless, it’s a great example of why providers need to listen to their patients. The best care will incorporate all available information – evidence gathered by a doctor or nurse AND patient feedback — to make the right decision for that patient.

Never let your provider brush off your symptoms. If you as a patient “feel” that something isn’t right, insist on a second opinion or additional tests. As this study indicates, your assessment has scientifically-proven merit.

Zika Funding Stalled, Again

Research into a vaccine for Zika virus won’t get congressional funding until the fall.

Last Thursday, Senate Democrats again blocked a procedural vote on $1.1 billion in research spending for the Zika virus. That means at least another “seven weeks without providing any funding to respond to the virus,” Morning Consult reports.

This is a classic case of government gridlock. And it’s a valuable reminder why we need a robust private medical research sector. Patients can’t rely on Congress to make the proper investments in research.

Protecting Patient Information

With the rise in technology, we’re mindful of the ever-growing need to secure patients’ electronic records. Then again, our focus on cyber-security can’t be to the exclusion of proper overall security. There’s always the risk that a human being with access to health records will share our data — as more than 5,400 patients in Oregon are learning.

Providence Health & Services announced on Friday that an employee improperly accessed patient records from July 2012 to April 2016. Providence learned of the breach in May during an internal audit, but only warned patients in mid-July.

What took so long? Why did it take four years to discover the security breach? Shouldn’t Providence have protocols in place to review who is gaining access? And shouldn’t patients have been notified immediately upon learning of the breach?

Electronic security isn’t enough. Yes, we want to see providers invest in cyber-security. But, patients must also insist that providers are taking the proper steps to vet employees and monitor who has access to our information.

Bypassing the Artery

Bypass the artery instead of the vein.

That’s the conclusion of new research published online by The Annals of Thoracic Surgery into diabetic patients who undergo heart bypass surgery. According to Science Daily, patients are “living longer and have much better long-term outcomes when cardiothoracic surgeons use arteries rather than veins for the bypasses.”

“Going into this study, we believed that diabetic patients would do better using total arterial techniques,” said James Tatoulis, MD, FRACS, from the Royal Melbourne Hospital in Australia. “But it was gratifying to actually prove it and also be able to document the significant magnitude of the difference.”

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