Paid Family and Childbearing Leave Policies at Top US Medical Schools Found Lacking

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Christina Mangurian, MD, MAS Associate Professor of Psychiatry Vice Chair for Diversity, Department of Psychiatry, UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences Director, UCSF Public Psychiatry Fellowship at ZSFG Core Faculty, UCSF Center for Vulnerable Populations

Dr. Mangurian

Christina Mangurian, MD, MAS
Associate Professor of Psychiatry
Vice Chair for Diversity, Department of Psychiatry
UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences
Director, UCSF Public Psychiatry Fellowship at ZSFG
Core Faculty, UCSF Center for Vulnerable Populations

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

Response: We examined paid family and childbearing leave policies at top-10 medical schools across the US. Despite recommendation from national medical societies for 12 weeks paid childbearing leave because of the benefits to both infant and mother, the average leave at these top schools of medicine was only around 8 weeks. In addition, most policies are very difficult to understand, and are at the discretion of departmental leadership – both of which put women at a disadvantage at getting leave they deserve. Additionally, family leave was only available to the parent that identifies as the “primary caregiver” at five universities, disallowing cooperative parenting.

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Unnecessary Routine Preoperative Cataract Testing Costs Medicare Millions

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Catherine L. Chen, MD, MPH

Assistant Professor
UCSF Department of Anesthesia & Perioperative Care

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

Response: Routine preoperative medical testing (such as common laboratory tests looking at a patient’s blood cell counts and kidney function, or cardiac tests like an EKG) are not recommended in patients undergoing cataract surgery, but these tests still occur quite frequently among Medicare cataract surgery patients because these patients tend to be older and sicker than the general population. In the past, researchers have used a 30-day window counting backwards from the date of surgery to determine whether a given test should be categorized as a routine preoperative test. However, we know that testing often takes place outside this window and therefore, the frequency and cost of routine preoperative medical testing has generally been underreported.

In our study, we used a new method to figure out how to determine the start of the routine preoperative testing period. In cataract patients, ocular biometry is a diagnostic test that is performed in anticipation of cataract surgery, and this test is only performed in cataract patients who will be having cataract surgery in the near future. For each patient, we calculated the elapsed time between the ocular biometry and cataract surgery dates to get a better idea of when to start looking for unnecessary routine preoperative testing. Our goal was to identify all the routine preoperative medical testing that occurs once the decision has been made to operate and better estimate the cost to Medicare of this unnecessary testing.

In a previous study that we published in the New England Journal of Medicine, we reported a significant spike in the rate of routine preoperative medical testing that occurs in the 30 days before surgery compared to the baseline rate of testing. In our current study, we discovered that there is a second spike in testing that occurs in the 30 days after ocular biometry. In fact, even if you exclude the testing that takes place during the 30 days before surgery, there is still a 41% increase in testing rates during the interval between ocular biometry and cataract surgery over the baseline rate of testing. In addition, we found that the cost of routine preoperative testing was 47% higher when looking at the entire biometry to surgery timeframe compared to testing that occurs just in the 30 days before surgery.

We estimate that the cost to Medicare of all of this unnecessary testing approaches $45.4 million annually. Continue reading

Non-Cigarette Tobacco Products Double Chances of Youth Smoking Within a Year

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
“hookah” by Ksenia M is licensed under CC BY 2.0Benjamin Chaffee, DDS MPH PhD

UCSF School of Dentistry
San Francisco, CA 94118

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

Response: Non-cigarette tobacco products, which include electronic cigarettes, hookah (tobacco waterpipe), smokeless tobacco, and non-cigarette combustibles, like cigars, are increasingly popular among young people. Considerable debate surrounds whether use of these non-cigarette products encourages youth to begin smoking conventional cigarettes.

Several previous studies have shown associations between non-cigarette tobacco use and youth smoking. These studies had largely looked at only one type of tobacco product at a time. This study included more than 10,000 adolescents from all over the United States, surveyed at two time points one year apart. Therefore, this study featured enough participants and detailed information about tobacco behaviors to consider all types of tobacco products in a comprehensive way.

We found that each type of non-cigarette tobacco product (i.e., e-cigarettes, hookah, combustibles, or smokeless tobacco) added to smoking risk. Among youth who had never smoked a cigarette at the start of the survey, use of any of the non-cigarette products approximately doubled the odds of cigarette smoking within a year, after adjusting for multiple smoking-related risk factors. Each product independently increased risk. The adolescents most susceptible to future smoking to were those who had tried two or more types of non-cigarette tobacco.

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Program Improves Sleep For Mothers Hospitalized For Delivery

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
“Now I’m having contractions.” by Remus Pereni is licensed under CC BY 2.0Kathryn A. Lee, RN, CBSM, PhD
Department of Family Health Care Nursing
University of California at San Francisco
San Francisco, California 

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

Response: Sleep deprivation can adversely affect health and wellbeing in any patient population.

In pregnancy, adverse outcomes may include preterm birth, longer labor, cesarean birth, and depression.

We found that women with high-risk pregnancies were sleep deprived even prior to hospitalization. Our sample averaged 29 weeks gestation, and half reported getting only between 5 and 6.5 hours of sleep at home before hospital admission. Our sleep hygiene intervention strategies gave them more control over the environment in their hospital room, and they self-reported significantly better sleep than controls. Interestingly, both groups increased their sleep time to almost 7 hours at night, on average, in the hospital before they were discharged home.

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Advanced Directive Forms Rarely Completed by Patients Seen For Palliative Care Consult

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Kara Bischoff, MD Assistant Clinical Professor, Hospital Medicine & Palliative Care Director of Quality Improvement for the Palliative Care Service UCSF Department of Medicine

Dr. Bischoff

Kara Bischoff, MD
Assistant Clinical Professor, Hospital Medicine & Palliative Care
Director of Quality Improvement for the Palliative Care Service
UCSF Department of Medicine

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

Response: Care planning, which we define as including both advance care planning and goals of care discussions, are a common need in seriously ill patients and a key function of palliative care teams.

However, few studies have looked at how often and how care planning is being done by inpatient palliative care teams throughout the United States, and similarly few studies have examined the precise impact of these care planning activities. Therefore, using data from a large quality improvement registry in palliative care called the Palliative Care Quality Network, we examined:

1) the characteristics of hospitalized patients who are referred to inpatient palliative care consult services,

2) the activities that occurred during those inpatient palliative care consults, and

3) the outcomes that resulted.

In looking at data from 73,145 patients who referred for an inpatient palliative care consult, we found that care planning was the most common reason for inpatient palliative care consultation, requested for 71.9% of patients who were referred to palliative care. Further, care planning needs were found in more than half (58%) of palliative care patients even when the consult was requested for reasons other than care planning. Patients referred to palliative care for care planning were somewhat older than patients referred for other reasons, they were less likely to have cancer, and were more often full code at the time of referral. Through care planning conversations, palliative care clinicians frequently identified surrogates and clarified patients’ preferences for life-sustaining treatments (including code status). For instance, 31% more patients chose a code status of DNR/DNI after a conversation with the palliative care team.

However, we also found that legal forms such as advance directives and Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatments (POLST) forms were completed for just 3.2% and 12.3% of the patients see by palliative care teams, respectively. This highlights an important quality gap in need of improvement.

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In Euthyroid Individuals, Higher Free Thyroid Levels Linked To Greater Risk of Atrial Fibrillation

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Christine Baumgartner MD
Inselspital
Universitätsspital Bern
Bern, Switzerland
Research Fellow, Division of Hospital Medicine
UCSF

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

Response: Overt and subclinical hyperthyroidism increase the risk of atrial fibrillation, but it is unclear whether subclinical hypothyroidism, which is known to increase cardiovascular events, or thyroid function in the normal range are also associated with incident atrial fibrillation. Given the high prevalence of atrial fibrillation and its associated morbidity and mortality, identifying potentially modifiable risk factors is important. Therefore, we aimed to assess the risk of atrial fibrillation in individuals with subclinical hypothyroidism or variations of thyroid function within the normal range.

Our main findings are that higher free thyroxine levels are associated with an increased risk of atrial fibrillation in euthyroid individuals, but thyroid-stimulating hormone levels within the euthyroid or subclinical hypothyroid range was not related to atrial fibrillation risk.

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Patients With Dementia Less Likely To Receive Chemotherapy for Colon Cancer

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Yingjia Chen, M.Sc, MPH, Ph.D. Postdoctoral Fellow University of California, San Francisco

Dr. Chen

Yingjia Chen, M.Sc, MPH, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Fellow
University of California, San Francisco 

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

Response: Both colon cancer and dementia are prevalent among the elderly and have a high risk of co-occurrence. Previous studies found that patients with dementia were treated less aggressively. In this study, we hypothesized that presence of pre-existing dementia was associated with worse survival for stage III colon cancer patients, and that post-operative chemotherapy was on the causal pathway.

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Heavy Marijuana Use May Harm Kidneys, But More Study Needed

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dr. Julie H. Ishida MD Division of Nephrology, Department of Medicine San Francisco and San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center University of California

Dr. Ishida

Dr. Julie H. Ishida MD
Division of Nephrology, Department of Medicine
San Francisco and San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center
University of California

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

Response: Marijuana is becoming increasingly accepted in the United States, and animal studies suggest that marijuana could affect kidney function. However, data in humans are limited to case reports of acute kidney injury related to synthetic cannabinoid use and small cohort studies of relatively short duration.

Among 3,765 participants with normal kidney function in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults or CARDIA study, my colleagues and I found that higher marijuana use was associated with lower kidney function at the start of the our study. However, we did not find that marijuana was associated with change in kidney function or albuminuria, which is a sign of kidney damage, over long-term follow-up.

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Pubic Hair Grooming–Related Injuries Surprisingly Common

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Thomas W. Gaither, BS
Department of Urology
University of California, San Francisco
General Hospital, San Francisco

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

Response: We study genitourinary trauma and reconstruction. This study was motivated from a previous study showing that Emergency Room visits due to grooming were increasing over the past nine year. We sought to better characterize who was at most risk for grooming injuries. We found that grooming is extremely common in both men and women and minor injuries occur in about 25% of groomers. Surprisingly, a little over one percent sought medical care due to their injury. Participants at most risk our those who remove all of their pubic hair frequently ( as opposed to those who just trim). We did not find any instruments that were necessarily putting participants at risk for injury.

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Clinicians Multitask on Electronic Health Records 30% of Visit Time with Patients

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Neda Ratanawongsa, MD, MPH Associate Chief Health Informatics Officer for Ambulatory Services, San Francisco Health Network Associate Professor, Division of General Internal Medicine UCSF Center for Vulnerable Populations Physician, Richard H. Fine People's Clinic (RHPC) Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital San Francisco, CA 94110 

Dr. Ratanawongsa

Neda Ratanawongsa, MD, MPH
Associate Chief Health Informatics Officer for Ambulatory Services, San Francisco Health Network
Associate Professor, Division of General Internal Medicine
UCSF Center for Vulnerable Populations
Physician, Richard H. Fine People’s Clinic (RHPC)
Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital
San Francisco, CA 94110

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

Response: U.S. federal incentives allowed many safety net healthcare systems to afford fully functional electronic health record systems (EHRs). Although EHRs can help clinicians provide care to vulnerable populations, clinicians may struggle with managing the EHR workload, particularly in resource-limited settings. In addition, clinicians’ use of EHRs during clinic visits may affect how they communicate with patients.

There are two forms of EHR use during clinic visits.  Clinicians can multitask, for example, by ordering laboratory tests while chatting with a patient about baseball.  However, like distracted driving, using EHRs while talking with increases risks – in this case, the risk of errors in patient-provider communication or in the EHR task. Alternatively, clinicians can use EHRs in complete silence, which may be appropriate for high-risk tasks like prescribing insulin. However, silence during visits has been associated with lower patient satisfaction and less patient-centered communication.

So we studied how primary and specialty care clinicians used EHRs during visits with English- and Spanish-speaking patients in a safety net system with an EHR certified for Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services meaningful use incentive programs. We found that multitasking EHR use was more common than silent EHR use (median of 30.5% vs. 4.6% of visit time). Focused patient-clinician talk comprised one-third of visit time.

We also examined the transitions into and out of silent EHR use. Sometimes clinicians explicitly stated a need to focus on the EHR, but at times, clinicians drifted into silence without warning. Patients played a role in breaking silent EHR use, either by introducing small talk or by bringing up their health concerns.

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