The Quest for Scientific Certainty Is Futile

“I had to learn over and over again that extreme conviction requires extraordinary evidence, and the evidence we have is usually far from extraordinary. For instance, our frontline anti-depression drugs are supposed to work by changing serotonin levels in the brain, but a review published last year found that there’s no consistent evidence that serotonin has much to do with depression at all. (Maybe that’s why antidepressants don’t seem to work that well, especially in the long term.) It seems obvious that sunscreen should protect you from skin cancer, but a 2018 meta-analysis could not confirm that this is true … Read More

Misdiagnoses cost the U.S. 800,000 deaths and serious disabilities every year, study finds

“Analyzing the nature of misdiagnoses also provides significant opportunities for solutions: The errors are many, but they are quite concentrated. According to the study, 15 diseases account for about half the misdiagnoses, and five diseases alone — stroke, sepsis, pneumonia, venous thromboembolism, and lung cancer — caused 300,000 serious harms, or almost 40% of the total, because clinicians failed to identify them in patients. “That’s a lot that you could accomplish if you cut those harms by 50% for just those five diseases — that would be 150,000 prevented serious permanent disabilities or death,” said [lead author of the BMJ … Read More

Hospital Problems

“Since the early 2000s, hospitals have been developing metrics to define high-quality care. In addition to readmission rates and the incidence of various iatrogenic infections, reducing hospital length of stay has been a popular target. Most people prefer nonhospital days to hospitalized days, and insofar as effective treatments hasten the return to health, it seems plausible to assume that shorter stays correlate with effective stays. As an ancillary benefit, shorter stays may cost less and increase “throughput,” resulting in more revenue for hospitals. Because tallying the length of stay is easier than quantifying high-quality care for heterogeneous “hospital problems,” patients … Read More

The Problem With How the Census Classifies White People

“Like people of Middle Eastern and North African origins, millions of other Americans have been funneled into one side of our country’s enduring binary of whiteness or the other. According to today’s census forms, Greeks, Irish, Italians, Slavs (who were systematically excluded for a century), and Jews—who are still the target of white-supremacist violence—are indistinct from people with Mayflower backgrounds. Being an unspecified “white” person has allowed many of us to blend in, when the most unifying thing we might do in this era of identity-driven polarization is acknowledge all the ways we are different. Today’s nationalist identity politics are … Read More

Machine-learning enhancement of urine dipstick tests for chronic kidney disease detection

From the article abstract: “[Objective] [..] We developed machine-learning models to detect CKD [chronic kidney disease] without blood collection, predicting an eGFR [estimated glomerular filtration rate in ml/min/1.73 m2] less than 60 (eGFR60 model) or 45 (eGFR45 model) using a urine dipstick test. [Materials and Methods] The electronic health record data (n = 220 018) obtained from university hospitals were used for XGBoost-derived model construction. The model variables were age, sex, and 10 measurements from the urine dipstick test. The models were validated using health checkup center data (n = 74 380) and nationwide public data (KNHANES data, n = 62 945) for the general population in Korea. [Results] The … Read More

CMS’s Universal Foundation Measures Are Not Universally Good For Primary Care

“Primary care is where most people have relationships with a health professional, where more than one-third of all health care visits happen, and the only part of the health system that demonstrably produces longer lives and more equity. However, primary care is experiencing widespread and longstanding shortages and skyrocketing rates of burnout and moral injury. Primary care physician turnover, often associated with burnout, is estimated to cost CMS nearly one billion dollars annually. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, more than one-third of family physicians reported frequent burnout. Since the pandemic, primary care physicians are stepping up to meet patient needs even … Read More

Addressing Serious Illness Care in Medicare Advantage

“we believe the quality bonus program (QBP), which offers incentives for providing high-quality care in Medicare Advantage, needs critical review and strengthening to improve accountability — steps that will be particularly important to support enrollees with serious illness. The foundation of the QBP is a five-star rating system in which plans are scored on the basis of claims-based performance measures and patient surveys. [..] A decade after the QBP’s implementation in 2012, however, concerns about its accuracy in measuring quality and its ability to drive quality improvement have been persistently documented in academic research and MedPAC reports. The inaccurate reflection … Read More

Addressing Health-Related Social Needs in the Clinical, Community, and Policy Domains

“The effects of social determinants of health (SDOH) on health outcomes have been extensively evaluated and described. Efforts to elucidate the impact of specific unmet health-related social needs (HRSN), such as food insecurity and lack of transportation, on specific outcome measures can help pinpoint necessary interventions and policy changes. [..] In recent years, the Centers for Medicare &Medicaid Services (CMS) have placed higher priority on addressing health equity, including directly addressing unmet HRSN and accounting for social risk in Medicare payments. For payments, a growing body of literature has demonstrated that health care systems caring for patients with higher social … Read More

How a depression test devised by a Zoloft marketer became a crutch for a failing mental health system

“The PHQ-9 became a means for time-crunched primary care doctors, under pressure to see more and more patients in shorter appointments, to dole out prescriptions with barely a conversation. Despite its prevalence, data suggesting that PHQ-9 has actually improved outcomes is ambiguous at best. Meanwhile, mental health outcomes for patients are dismal and only getting worse, with depressive symptoms and suicide climbing ever higher. A combination of good intentions and straightforward business savvy lies behind the PHQ-9. Pfizer invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in its development [..]. The company naturally hoped its investment would pay off with increased Zoloft … Read More

Prevalence of Colorectal Neoplasia 10 or More Years After a Negative Screening Colonoscopy in 120 000 Repeated Screening Colonoscopies

“Screening colonoscopy has been shown to reduce colorectal cancer (CRC) incidence and mortality by enabling detection and removal of precancerous lesions. However, the available evidence about the optimal screening interval is limited. [..] More targeted screening offers would potentially reduce the burden of testing and demand of capacities and costs associated with colonoscopy, thereby also counteracting the frequently reported overuse and underuse of screening examinations in considerable proportions of the population. [..] Anonymized registration of screening colonoscopy findings and the use of the anonymized data for program evaluation by the Central Research Institute of Ambulatory Health Care in Germany is … Read More