Whose Patients Have Lower 30-Day Mortality? Younger or Older Doctors?

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Yusuke Tsugawa, MD, MPH, PhD</strong> Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health Department of Health Policy and Management Cambridge, MA 02138

Dr. Tsugawa

Yusuke Tsugawa, MD, MPH, PhD
Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health
Department of Health Policy and Management
Cambridge, MA 02138

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Although evidence has suggested that older physicians may experience a
decline in medical knowledge and are less likely to adhere to standard care, patients in general had a perception that older doctors are more
experienced and therefore provide superior care.

Using a nationally representative sample of Medicare beneficiaries who were hospitalized
for medical conditions in 2011-2014, we found that patients treated by
younger doctors have lower 30-day mortality compared to those cared
for by older doctors, after adjusting for patient, physician, and
hospital characteristics.

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Study Finds Disconnect Between Price and Quality in Health Care

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Eric Roberts, PhD

Post-doctoral fellow
Department of Health Care Policy
Harvard Medical School

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Increasing consolidation of health care providers has raised regulatory concerns that less competition will lead to higher health care prices and possibly lower quality care for patients. On the other hand, some industry observers have contended that larger and higher-priced practices are better able invest in systems to support care management, and ultimately, better patient care. In this study, we examined whether larger and higher-priced physician practices provided better and more efficient care to their patients.

Higher-priced physician groups were paid an average of 36% more by commercial insurers, and were substantially larger than lower-priced practices located within the same geographic areas. Despite large differences in practices’ prices and size, we found few differences in their patients’ quality and efficiency of care. For example, when we compared patients who received care in high-priced versus low-priced practices, we found no differences in patients’ overall care ratings, physician ratings, access to care, physician communication, and use of preventive services. We also found no differences in patients’ hospital admissions or total spending, suggesting that higher-priced practices were not managing their patients’ care more efficiently than their lower-priced counterparts.

We did find that patients in higher-priced practices were more likely to receive recommended vaccinations, review of their medications, and results of medical tests, and that they spent less time in the waiting room for a scheduled doctor’s appointment. However, once practice prices exceeded the average for their geographic area, we observed no further gains in quality on most of these measures.

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Late Menopause and Oral Hormone Therapy Linked To High Risk of Hearing Loss

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Sharon G. Curhan, MD, ScM Channing Division of Network Medicine Department of Medicine Brigham and Women's Hospital Harvard Medical School Boston, MA 02115

Dr. Curhan

Sharon G. Curhan, MD, ScM
Channing Division of Network Medicine
Department of Medicine
Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Harvard Medical School
Boston, MA 02115

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Hearing loss affects approximately 48 million Americans and the number is expected to increase as the population ages. Some previous studies suggested that menopause may increase the risk for hearing loss, presumably due to the reduction in circulating estrogen levels, and that postmenopausal hormone therapy might slow hearing decline by “replacing” estrogen. To evaluate the role of menopause and postmenopausal hormone therapy as risk factors for hearing loss, we examined the independent associations between menopausal status, oral hormone therapy, and risk of self-reported hearing loss in 80,972 women who are participants in the Nurses’ Health Study II, aged 27-44 years at baseline, and were followed from 1991 to 2013.

After more than 1.4 million person-years of follow-up, 18,558 cases of hearing loss were reported (~23% of the women developed hearing loss). We did not observe an overall independent association between menopausal status and risk of hearing loss.

However, the risk among women who underwent natural menopause at an older age was higher. Specifically, the risk among women who underwent natural menopause at age 50 or older was 10% higher than among those who underwent natural menopause before age 50 [multivariable-adjusted relative risk (MVRR): 1.10, 95% CI 1.03, 1.17]. When we conducted an analysis restricted to women who underwent natural menopause and did not use hormone therapy (HT), the multivariable-adjusted relative risk among women who underwent natural menopause at age 50-54 years was 21% higher (MVRR: 1.12, 95% CI: 1.10, 1.34), and among women who underwent natural menopause at age 55+ years was 29% higher (MVRR: 1.29, 95% CI: 1.11, 1.50), compared with women who underwent natural menopause before age 50.

Among postmenopausal women, we also found that use of oral HT was associated with higher risk of hearing loss, and the magnitude of the risk tended to increase with longer duration of use (p-trend < 0.001). Compared with women who never used any type of HT, the MVRR of hearing loss among women who used oral HT for 5-9.9 years was 15% higher (MVRR: 1.15, 95% CI: 1.06, 1.24), and for 10+ years was 21% higher (MVRR: 1.21, 95% CI: 1.07, 1.37). When specific types of oral HT were examined, longer duration of use of either oral estrogen-only or of combined estrogen plus progestogen HT were each associated with higher risk. Fewer women reported use of progestogen-only oral HT, yet among these women a higher risk was suggested, but not significant (MVRR: 1.15, 95% CI: 0.98, 1.35). Transdermal HT use was less common, but the associations observed were similar to those with oral hormone therapy. When examined separately by type of menopause, the results for HT use were similar.

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Granzyme B Probe Plus PET Scanning Helps Determine Response To Immunotherapy

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Ben Larimer, PhD research fellow in lab of Umar Mahmood, MD, PhD Massachusetts General Hospital Professor, Radiology, Harvard Medical School

Dr. Ben Larimer

Ben Larimer, PhD research fellow in lab of
Umar Mahmood, MD, PhD

Massachusetts General Hospital
Professor, Radiology, Harvard Medical School

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response:
Although immunotherapies such as checkpoint inhibitors have revolutionized cancer treatment, unfortunately they only work in a minority of patients. This means that most people who are put on a checkpoint inhibitor will not benefit but still have the increased risk of side effects. They also lose time they could have spent on other therapies. The ability to differentiate early in the course of treatment patients who are likely to benefit from immunotherapy from those who will not greatly improves individual patient care and helps accelerate the development of new therapies.

The main purpose of our study was to find a way to separate immunotherapy responders from non-responders at the earliest time point possible, and develop an imaging probe that would allow us to distinguish this non-invasively.

Granzyme B is a protein that immune cells use to actually kill their target. They keep it locked up in special compartments until they get the right signal to kill, after which they release it along with another protein called perforin that allows it to go inside of tumor cells and kill them. We designed a probe that only binds to granzyme B after it is released from immune cells, so that we could directly measure immune cell killing. We then attached it to a radioactive atom that quickly decays, so we could use PET scanning to noninvasively image the entire body to see where immune cells were actively releasing tumor-killing granzyme B.

We took genetically identical mice and gave them identical cancer and then treated every mouse with checkpoint inhibitors, which we knew would result in roughly half of the mice responding, but we wouldn’t know which ones until their tumors began to shrink. A little over a week after giving therapy to the mice, and before any of the tumors started to shrink, we injected our imaging probe and performed PET scans. When we looked at the mice by PET imaging, they fell into two groups. One group had high PET uptake, meaning high levels of granzyme B in the tumors, the other group had low levels of PET signal in the tumors. When we then followed out the two groups, all of the mice with high granzyme B PET uptake ended up responding to the therapy and their tumors subsequently disappeared, whereas those with low uptake had their tumors continue to grow.

We were very excited about this and so we expanded our collaboration with co-authors Keith Flaherty and Genevieve Boland to get patient samples from patients who were on checkpoint inhibitor therapy to see if the same pattern held true in humans. When we looked at the human melanoma tumor samples we saw the same pattern, high secreted granzyme levels in responders and much lower levels in non-responders.

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Adolescents Perinatally Infected with HIV Are At Increased Risk of Serious Physical and Mental Health Problems

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Anne M Neilan, MD,MPH Assistant In Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital Research Fellow, Harvard Medical School Department: Medicine Service Division: Infectious Disease Department: Pediatric Service Massachusetts General Hospital Boston, MA 02114

Dr. Neilan

Anne M Neilan, MD,MPH
Assistant in Medicine and Pediatrics
Massachusetts General Hospital
Instructor at Harvard Medical School
Department: Medicine Service
Division: Infectious Disease
Department: Pediatric Service
Massachusetts General Hospital
Boston, MA 02114

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Adolescents infected with HIV – either at birth or later in life – experience poorer health outcomes compared to adults with HIV in nearly every respect. This study found that U.S. youth infected with HIV around the time of their birth are at higher risk throughout their adolescence and young adulthood for experiencing serious health problems, poor control of the HIV virus (having high levels of HIV virus in their bodies and fewer CD4 immune cells which protect the body from infection), or death. The study also found that among those with good HIV control, serious health problems are rare.

By combining data from two large, long-term U.S. studies – the Pediatric HIV/AIDS Cohort Study (PHACS, www.phacsstudy.org) and the International Maternal Pediatric Adolescent AIDS Clinical Trials (IMPAACT, www.impaactnetwork.org) Network – we were able to study the health of more than 1,400 perinatally HIV-infected children, adolescents and young adults ages 7 to 30 years between 2007 and 2015. The study found that youth ages 13 to 30 were most likely to have poor HIV control AIDS-related illnesses, and death compared to younger participants. Among 18 – 30 year-olds, the study found that poor control of the HIV virus – meaning higher levels of HIV virus and lower levels of CD4 immune cells which protect the body from infection –35 percent of the time, increasing the risk that these youth would stop responding to certain HIV medications and could transmit HIV to others. These findings are consistent with other U.S. and European reports. Despite being engaged in health care, the number of deaths among youth born with HIV in the U.S. is 6 to12 times higher than for youth without HIV of the same age, sex and race.

Along with HIV-related health problems, the most commonly reported health conditions concerned mental health and brain and nervous system development. Many women in the study also had sexually transmitted infections, which was found to be associated with lower CD4 immune cell counts. This may suggest a biological mechanism or may reflect that patients who have difficulty with their medications are also engaging in more frequent risky sexual behaviors.

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Skin Testing Plus APP May Reduce Overdiagnosis of Penicillin Allergy

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Kimberly Gold Blumenthal, M.D
Assistant Professor of Medicine
Massachusetts General Hospital

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Over-reported penicillin allergies negatively impact patient care, as alternative drugs that are often used can be less effective, more toxic, more broad-spectrum (killing all of the good bacteria and leaving patients increasingly vulnerable to C.diff colitis), and more expensive. Most hospitalized patients who have a recorded penicillin allergy are not actually allergic. This has drawn attention by national organizations such as the CDC, National Quality Forum, and both allergy and infectious diseases professional societies. The message is clear: Address reported penicillin allergies in some way to improve care.
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Increased Physician Spending On Hospital Care Does Not Improve Outcomes

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Yusuke Tsugawa, research associate

Department of Health Policy and Management
Harvard T H Chan School of Public
Division of General Internal Medicine and Primary Care
Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, MA     

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: It is well known that health spending varies substantially across geographical regions, and yet regions that spend more on health care dot not achieve better health outcomes. These findings has led to many to conclude that at least 20% of U.S. health care spending could be reduced without compromising quality of care. However, while physicians play a critical role in health care decision making, little is known as to how much health care spending varies between physicians, and its implications for patient outcomes.

In this study, we found that the variation in spending across physicians is slightly larger than the variation across hospitals. More importantly, higher spending by physicians did not lead to lower patient mortality or readmission rates, within the same hospital.

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Family Input Improves Hospital Safety Surveillance

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Alisa Khan, MD, MPH Staff Physician Instructor in Pediatrics Boston Children's Hospital

Dr. Khan

Alisa Khan, MD, MPH
Staff Physician
Instructor in Pediatrics
Boston Children’s Hospital 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: ​Medical errors are known to be a leading cause of death in the United States. However, the true rate at which errors and adverse events occur in medicine is believed to be even higher than what has been found through the most rigorous patient safety studies.

Families are typically excluded from safety surveillance efforts, both in research and operationally in hospitals. We found that including families in safety reporting at four pediatric hospitals led to significantly higher error/adverse event detection rates, compared to the safety surveillance methodology typically considered most rigorous and highest yield in safety research. In addition, families reported errors/adverse events at similar rates as providers and at several-fold higher rates than the hospital incident reports which typically form the basis of operational hospital safety surveillance.
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Stopping Warfarin in Dementia Patients with Atrial Fib Associated With Increased Risk of Stroke and Death

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Ariela Orkaby, MD, MPH Geriatrics & Preventive Cardiology Associate Epidemiologist Division of Aging, Brigham and Women's Hospital Instructor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School

Dr. Ariela Orkaby

Ariela Orkaby, MD, MPH
Geriatrics & Preventive Cardiology
Associate Epidemiologist
Division of Aging, Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Instructor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Atrial Fibrillation is a common heart rhythm that affects 1 in 25 adults over age 60 and 1 in 10 adults over age 80. The feared consequence of atrial fibrillation is stroke, leading to the prescription of blood thinning medications (anticoagulants such as warfarin) to prevent strokes. However, there is an underutilization of these life-saving medications in older adults, and particularly in those who have dementia. In part, this is due to a lack of research and inclusion of older adults with dementia in prior studies.

In this study, we used clinical Veterans Administration data, linked to Medicare, to follow 2,572 individuals over age 65 who had atrial fibrillation and until a diagnosis of dementia. The average age was 80 years, and 99% were male. We found that only 16% remained on warfarin. We used statistical methods to account for reasons why a patient would or would not be treated with warfarin and found that those who continued to take warfarin had a significantly lower risk of stroke (HR 0.74, 95% Confidence interval 0.54- 0.99, p=0.47) and death (HR 0.72, 95% CI 0.60-0.87, p<0.01) compared to those who did not continue to take warfarin, without an increased risk of bleeding.

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Diabetes Drug May Enhance Melanoma Chemotherapy

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Bin Zheng, PhD Assistant Professor Cutaneous Biology Research Center Massachusetts General Hospital Harvard Medical School Charlestown, MA 02129

Dr. Bin Zheng

Bin Zheng, PhD
Assistant Professor
Cutaneous Biology Research Center
Massachusetts General Hospital
Harvard Medical School
Charlestown, MA 02129 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Response: Melanoma is the most deadly form of skin cancer with more than 75,000 newly diagnosed cases in the US each year. Over the years, various genetic driver mutations have been identified that cause melanoma, including mutations in the genes BRAF and NRAS. Recent genetic insights into the development of melanoma showed that also mutations in NF1 can lead to melanoma. While there are targeted therapies available for BRAF-mutant melanoma, thus far no such therapies are available for NF1-mutant melanoma. We identified that using a combination of an ERK inhibitor, SCH772984, and the antidiabetic drug phenformin could provide a novel therapeutic strategy for NF1-mutatnt melanomas.

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Gene Therapy Restores Hearing Down To A Whisper, in Mice

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Gwenaelle Geleoc, PhD Assistant Professor Department of Otolaryngology F.M. Kirby Neurobiology Center Children's Hospital and Harvard Medical School Boston, MA

Dr. Gwenaelle Geleoc

Gwenaelle Geleoc, PhD
Assistant Professor
Department of Otolaryngology
F.M. Kirby Neurobiology Center
Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School
Boston, MA

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: We seek to develop gene therapy to restore auditory and balance function in a mouse model of Usher syndrome. Usher syndrome is a rare genetic disorder which causes deafness, progressive blindness and in some cases balance deficits. We used a novel viral vector developed by Luk Vandenberghe and package gene sequences encoding for Ush1c and applied it to young mice suffering from Usher syndrome. These mice mimic a mutation found in patients of Acadian descent. We assessed recovery of hearing and balance function in young adult mice which had received the treatment. Otherwise deaf and dizzy, we found that the treated mice had recovered hearing down to soft sounds equivalent to a whisper and normal balance function.

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Study Validates Good Quality Care Provided By Foreign-Trained Doctors

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Yusuke Tsugawa, MD, MPH, PhD Research Associate at Department of Health Policy and Management Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Dr. Yusuke Tsugawa

Yusuke Tsugawa, MD, MPH, PhD
Research Associate at Department of Health Policy and Management
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health  

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Prior evidence has been mixed as to whether or not patient outcomes
differ between U.S. and foreign medical graduates.

However, previous studies used small sample sizes or data from a small number of states.
Therefore, it was largely unknown how international medical graduates
perform compared with US medical graduates.

To answer this question, we analyzed a nationally representative
sample of Medicare beneficiaries admitted to hospitals with a medical
condition in 2011-2014. Our sample included approximately 1.2 million
hospitalizations treated by 40,000 physicians. After adjusting for
severity of illness of patients and hospitals (we compared physicians
within the same hospital), we found that patient treated by
international medical graduates had lower mortality than patients
cared for by US medical graduates (adjusted 30-day mortality rate
11.2% vs 11.6%, p<0.001). We observed no difference in readmissions,
whereas costs of care was slightly higher for international medical
graduates.

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