Entries in Patient (8)


California Hospital Patient Dies During Strike

Thomas Northcut/Thinkstock(OAKLAND, Calif.) -- California authorities are investigating the death of a patient at an Oakland hospital that police and hospital and union officials said resulted from a medication error made during a labor dispute between nurses and the health system that runs the hospital.

Police and officials at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center told the local media the woman died after she received an incorrect dose of medication administered by a replacement nurse. At the time, regular staff nurses employed by Sutter Health System were locked out following a one-day strike by 23,000 nurses across the state.

The California Nurses Association, the state nurses' union, blamed the woman's death on the lockout. After Thursday's strike, the association said, nurses at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center tried to return to work Friday, but hospital officials turned them away.

The union called the lockout "dangerous" and questioned whether the nurses hired as replacements were clinically qualified to care for the patients.

"Nurses are in the hospital caring for our patients who don't have the proper training, who aren't familiar with our equipment, and there's been a tragic death," said one nurse who participated in a Sunday vigil outside the hospital. A video showing highlights of the vigil is posted on the union's web page.

The hospital, however, said the fill-in nurses were all highly competent and experienced.

"Every single one of the nurses is an experienced nurse that has been working in the areas to which they are assigned," Dr. Steve O'Brien, the hospital's vice president of medical affairs, told local media. "We did not skimp on any of the nurses."

The hospital explained that it was contractually obligated to hire replacement nurses for a certain number of days, which was the reason for the lockout. Staff nurses can return to work Tuesday.

The union said it's fighting against Sutter Health System's demand for 200 contract concessions that the union said would undermine patient safety.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Group Doctor Visits Beneficial to Well Being?

Comstock Images/Thinkstock(BALTIMORE) -- Group patient visits – a medical appointment during which five to 10 patients with the same condition, usually a chronic one, meet with a physician for a longer period of time than an individual session would last – “may be a feasible means of providing care to individuals with PD [Parkinson's disease],” according to researchers, because of their cost-effectiveness.

Researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine tested the group visits model to see whether it would improve patient satisfaction and quality of life. In a study of 30 Parkinson’s patients, the authors of this latest research – published in Neurology – found that the quality of life measurements were no different in the group receiving group care compared to the one receiving standard, individualized care.

The group visits model has been used in diabetes patients, as well as with those who have heart disease and other illnesses, and has previously demonstrated improvements in patients' satisfaction and quality of life.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Pain Contracts: Would You Sign One to Get Treatment?

Keith Brofsky/Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- An increasing number of patients are being required to sign pain agreements, and doctors who use them say the documents are an effective way to communicate what the expectations are for the treatment of chronic pain using opioids, and how patients can use these medications safely.

But critics of the agreements, sometimes called contracts, say they undermine the patient-provider relationship.

Pain agreements vary from provider to provider, but in general, they outline conditions patients must meet to continue treatment for chronic pain.

"For example, the agreement may say patients have to keep the medication out of of other people's reach, the medication has to be kept in a locked container, there are no early refills, no sharing of medication, they may be required to submit to random tests to determine whether there's compliance and so forth," said Dr. Melvin Gitlin, chairman of the Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Management Medicine at the University of Miami's Miller School of Medicine.

In addition to random testing, doctors may require patients to have their pills counted to make sure they're the only ones taking them, or require them to use only one pharmacy.

The American Academy of Pain Medicine, the American Pain Society and the Federation of State Medical Boards all recommend the use of opioid agreements in certain circumstances.  They started recommending the use of agreements in the late 1990s, according to Gitlin.

But the Center for Practical Bioethics, a Kansas City, Missouri, nonprofit policy institute, believes these agreements can create an adversarial relationships between patients and providers.

Last November, a panel of pain and policy experts, including some from the Center for Practical Bioethics, published an in-depth discussion of pain contracts.

One criticism was that the contracts put chronic sufferers, often in a weakened and vulnerable state, at the mercy of providers, shifting the balance in the patient-provider relationship.  Another concern is that the language could offend patients.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Patient with Chronic Lung Cancer Becomes Hospice Caregiver

JupiterImages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- After several years of lung cancer treatments, surgeries and therapies that showed no progress, Jim Stanicki said he'd had enough.

Last year, Stanicki, a 60-year-old-man from Denmark, Maine, chose the option of palliative care, a form of medical treatment that concentrates on reducing pain and other effects of the disease, rather than attempting to reverse the progression of the disease itself.

"I realized that, for me, a day living on chemo is a day I'm not living," said Stanicki, who was diagnosed with bronchoalveolar cancer in 2007. "I'd rather walk outside, live a life, and breathe the air for as long as I can."

Stanicki has not only accepted his fate, but has become a leading voice on how to enjoy life, whether you know the end is coming or not.

"I seem to be able to deal with death a lot better than others, so it seemed like the work I am supposed to do right now," said Stanicki. "I'm not excited about dying, but I'm having a splendid end-of-life. I appreciate everything I have."

On, a health and wellness social network that covers a wide range of health conditions, Stanicki has been active in sharing the highs and lows of his chronic disease, while also becoming a voice of reason, comfort and wisdom, for other members in their end-of-life experience.

Now, Stanicki is on a new mission, a new "dying kind of work." He has finished nine three-hour hospice training sessions. With his own experience, Stanicki hopes to comfort others who are in their end-of-life.

"A lot of people, understandably, have problems with the end of their life," said Stanicki, "It seems to be something that I can handle well."

While Stanicki can't be sure when he will die, he said he feels healthy enough to make use of the hospice training while he can. But, still, hospice trainers were concerned when he entered the program.

"They were worried I'd die before the hospice patient," said Stanicki with a chuckle. "They figured that wouldn't be too good for morale."

Dr. Mohana Karlekar, medical director of the palliative care program at Vanderbilt University, said that it is important for end-of-life patients to connect with others in a similar situation.

"Having patients talk about their real stories is wonderful because one cannot argue that 'they do not understand,' said Karlekar. "There are so many people afraid to talk about it, and leading by example is very powerful."

Karlekar cited a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine that demonstrated decreased mortality in those with advanced lung cancer in patients who chose palliative care and chemotherapy versus chemotherapy alone.

"I think as palliative care grows, one will see more patients volunteering in palliative care programs," said. "If we integrate palliative care as we should, we will see lot more patients undergoing, for example, chemotherapy and palliative care, and more patients being able to volunteer as Jim has."

But Dr. Michael Ashburn, director of pain medicine and palliative care at the Penn Pain Medicine Center in Philadelphia, said that, in his experience, it is not common for palliative care patients to volunteer as hospice caregivers, probably due to several reasons.

Hospice patients usually have limited energy, as they're experiencing symptoms of a serious medical condition, said Ashburn. And if they are well enough, Ashburn said that those patients tend to focus on personal and family issues.

"They [may] want to complete a task that they are already engaged in," said Ashburn. "Therefore, what Mr. Stanicki is doing is truly unique."

Stanicki made it clear that he continues to "tie up loose ends" for his family. He has made sure bank accounts are intact and insurance is verified, and has even written specific instructions for each family member so as not to leave his wife and children with further hassles after his death.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Device Could 'Revolutionize' Care for Heart Failure Patients

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(COLUMBUS, Ohio) - A new device could help improve the quality of life for heart failure patients, reports HealthDay News.

The device, which monitors fluid build-up in the lungs, is implanted in the pulmonary artery in the lung and can wirelessly alert doctors if problems occur. The device could help keep heart failure patients out of the hospital by allowing a doctor to adjust a patient's medication.

"This promises to revolutionize the way we manage patients who have moderate or severe heart failure," said study author Dr. William T. Abraham, director of the division of cardiovascular medicine at Ohio State University Medical Center. "Prior to this, the tools that we could use to evaluate how heart failure patients were doing were not very revealing and so we have failed to keep patients out of the hospital."

The device, which is currently undergoing an approval process by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, is expected to cost about $15,000.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Is Doctor Empathy the Best Rx?

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The ability to empathize with a patient not only makes doctors more likable but improves the quality of care they provide, according to a report published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. And as with knowing what test to run or what treatment to prescribe, empathy is a skill doctors have to learn, some doctors say.

"Currently, there is insufficient emphasis and time apportioned to teaching the empathic response in medical school, postgraduate training and continuing medical education," wrote Dr. Robert Buckman of the University of Toronto and his colleagues.

Medical training has historically emphasized understanding diseases rather than patients. But some medical schools in the United States are changing their game to produce more empathetic doctors.

"I think all of us as doctors should understand that our main role is to not just help people, but to really understand them and to have every encounter with a patient be something they leave feeling better," said Dr. Steven Abramson, senior vice president and vice dean for education, faculty and academic affairs at New York University's Langone Medical Center.

"In the sufferer, let me see only the human being," said Abramson, quoting the prayer of Maimonides, a pledge similar to the Hippocratic oath.

"A patient is far less likely to adhere to a treatment plan if they don't have trust in their doctor," said Matthew Mercuri, a first-year medical student at Langone. "If they don't trust their doctor, they won't trust the treatment."

But learning to balance empathy with doing what needs to be done is harder than it looks.

NYU's Abramson said, "It's very nice to have a doctor that you love and who puts an arm around you, but not if that doctor makes bad medical decisions.

"Compassion is important but compassion without competence is not a virtue."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


One in Seven Medicare Patients Harmed During Care

Photo Courtesy of Getty Images(BETHESDA, Md.) -- A new report suggests that adverse events during the care of Medicare beneficiaries lead to around 180,000 deaths in patients each year, reports The New York Times.

One of every seven Medicare patients, or around 134,000 each month, experiences an adverse event during their stay, according to the study from the Office of Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services.

The events, which range in seriousness from temporary health setbacks to death, are estimated to add around $4.4 billion each year to government health costs.

The study was based on expert reviews of 780 patient files. 

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Healthcare 'Not as Safe' as Americans Believe?

Photo Courtesy of Getty Images(SAN FRANCISCO) – A new measure of patient safety may show that the U.S. healthcare system is not as safe as some may think, according to an associate professor of medicine at the University of Utah.

"While traditional measurements of patient safety show that our system is very safe, a new global trigger tool developed by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) shows that the current safety measures pick up less than 10 percent of injuries patients suffer in the hospital," said David Classen at the MedeAnalytics Clinical Leadership Summit in San Francisco.

Classen said the new measurement can detect 60 different adverse outcomes in patients -- a tool he said may help to show flaws in the healthcare system and improve care to Medicare patients.

The new method is expected to be detailed in a report to Congress over the next several months.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio