Stories We're Following This Week

News + Insights from around the Web + The Patient's Playbook Bottom Line. 


Nearly 500 Hospitals to Pay for Improper Cardiac Implants

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Thinkstock

In one of the largest whistleblower lawsuits in U.S. history, more than $250 million in Medicare payments will be returned by hospitals across the country, CBS News reports. The allegations? Placing implantable cardioverter defibrillators, or ICDs, in Medicare patients too soon after they suffered a heart attack, had heart bypass surgery, or had angioplasty. The U.S. Department of Justice has more details online

Bottom line: Overtreatment isn't just costly, it can be deadly. In a 2011 study of 111,707 patients who received ICDs, nearly a quarter didn't need them, received no clinical benefit, and were at a higher risk of postprocedural complications, including death. For steps you can take to avoid errors in the hospital, see Leslie's tips in Chapter 12 of The Patient's Playbook.


Open Enrollment 101: What You Need To Know

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thinkstock

"People are not spending enough time on the decision or understanding their healthcare benefits, which is one of the most important financial decisions they make all year."

—Open enrollment began Nov 1. What does that mean for you?
The Los Angeles Times has tips for those who are shopping for insurance through their employer. 

Bottom line: Before you commit to any insurance plan, carefully review the policy’s limitations; consider the size and quality of physicians in the network; find out if it excludes any of the major academic hospitals in your area (a nonstarter, because the significant institutions are where you need to be for any significant conditions); and verify with your primary care physician’s staff that you are selecting a plan that they accept.


What is Lewy body dementia?

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Thinkstock

"I've spent this last year trying to find out what killed Robin. To understand what we were fighting, what we were in the trenches fighting, and one of the doctors said, 'Robin was very aware that he was losing his mind and there was nothing he could do about it.' "

—Susan Williams, Robin Williams' widow, who recently told People magazine that Lewy body dementia,
a complex brain disease that affects 1.3 million Americans, was the underlying cause of her husband's death.

Bottom line: Lewy body dementia, or LBD, is the second-most common type of dementia, after Alzheimer’s. LBD accounts for about 20% of all cases of dementia, but it is commonly confused with Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease, and many clinicians aren't actively screening for the symptoms, according to an excellent overview of the condition in Time. There is no cure for LBD, but early detection is key to helping patients and their families to manage the symptoms and ensure quality of life.


3 Questions To Ask Before Hiring a Caregiver

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THINK STOCK

"If your potential caregiver loves caring for people who are aging, sick or debilitated, then you’re more likely to have a positive experience. If he or she is there to get a paycheck and go home, then it’s probably not going to be a good fit." 

—Thinking of hiring an in-home caregiver? Amy Osmond Cook, executive director of the Association of Skilled Nursing Providers, suggests three must-ask questions (OC Register).

Bottom line: Developing effective support systems for a loved one can be a daunting task. Take a breath, recruit help from family members if you can, and spend a little time doing research and conducting interviews. The Caregiver Action Network and AARP have additional helpful resources.


Are Doctors Ready For the Digital Age?

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Thinkstock

"Earlier this fall, 17-year-old Paul Houle noticed that he had an elevated heart rate through the heart monitor on his Apple watch... Houle's heart, liver and kidneys were shutting down because of a serious medical condition called rhabdomyolysis.... Responding to the data from his watch helped save his life."

—Digital devices have the potential to save lives.
But are doctors ready for the modern age of medicine? (Today)

Bottom line: Technology has the power to transform the way we monitor our own health—but most physicians still don't have the time and capacity to adopt new devices into their practices. Until that day comes, it's crucial that you do two things: 1. Maintain a strong, open, and communicative relationship with your primary care physician; 2. Be the boss of your medical data, and ask for a copy of your records after each doctor visit. The yearlong study OpenNotes, which gave patients total online access to their exam notes, shows that patients better follow their care plan and feel more in control of their health when they have access to their records.