Mar 28 2013

Human Capital News Roundup: Testing for genetic conditions, discussing spirituality with patients, using emergency rooms, and more.

Around the country, print, broadcast and online media outlets are covering the groundbreaking work of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) leaders, scholars, fellows and grantees. Some recent examples:

Patient-centered end-of-life care leads to happier patients who are in less pain and whose care costs less, RWJF/U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Clinical Scholar Jonathan Bergman, MD, and his colleagues write in the journal JAMA Surgery. Such care is already provided,  the Los Angeles Times reports, at the UCLA Health System, where urology residents are receiving education about end-of-life care, and at the West L.A. Veterans Affairs Medical Center where researchers are integrating palliative care into cancer treatment.

The current system used to evaluate the appropriateness of emergency department visits—and sometimes to deny payment—is flawed, according to a study co-authored by RWJF Physician Faculty Scholars alumna Renee Hsia, MD, MSc, because it only takes into account a patient’s discharge diagnosis (for example, acid reflux), which is often not the reason they originally presented at the ER (chest pain). The researchers warn this could have serious implications, including dissuading patients from using the ER even when their symptoms indicate that they should, United Press International reports.

Susan Wolf, JD, recipient of an RWJF Investigator Award in Health Policy Research, spoke to the Boston Globe about new recommendations from a national organization of genetics specialists that “urge doctors who sequence a patient’s full set of genes for any medical reason to also look for two dozen unrelated genetic conditions, and to tell the individual if they find any of those conditions lurking in the DNA.” All of the genetic mutations on the list are rare, but some indicate an increased risk of cancer or heart disease. In some cases, the genetic results could also indicate that the patients' blood relatives have increased risk, as well.

Life Health Pro reports on a paper co-authored by RWJF Scholar in Health Policy Research Neale Mahoney, PhD, presented recently at a conference sponsored by the SCAN Foundation, about the private long-term care insurance market. Neale and his colleagues identify shortages of both supply of, and demand for, long-term care insurance.

“As physicians, we interact with patients during some of the most important moments of their lives—at their births and at their deathbeds, at events bursting with spiritual significance,” Investigator Award recipient Peter Ubel, MD, writes in a column for The Atlantic. “And yet most of us are afraid to talk about spirituality with our patients, much less discuss religion, out of fear that such conversations would be inappropriate.”

Harold Pollack, PhD, MPP, was a guest on Minnesota Public Radio’s The Daily Current to discuss mental illness and gun violence. Pollack, who co-directs the University of Chicago Crime Lab, is an alumnus of the Scholars in Health Policy Research program and recipient of an Investigator Award.

Tags: Clinical Scholars, Human Capital News, Investigator Awards in Health Policy Research, Physician Faculty Scholars, Research & Analysis, Scholars in Health Policy Research