Daily Rounds: Medicare Electronic Flaws; Mayor Works On Walking; Cough Vaccine Fades; Immortal Jellyfish

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Medicare is faulted on shift to electronic records (The New York Times) - "The conversion to electronic medical records — a critical piece of the Obama administration’s plan for health care reform — is “vulnerable” to fraud and abuse because of the failure of Medicare officials to develop appropriate safeguards, according to a sharply critical report to be issued Thursday by federal investigators...The report says Medicare, which is charged with managing the incentive program that encourages the adoption of electronic records, has failed to put in place adequate safeguards to ensure that information being provided by hospitals and doctors about their electronic records systems is accurate. To qualify for the incentive payments, doctors and hospitals must demonstrate that the systems lead to better patient care, meeting a so-called meaningful use standard by, for example, checking for harmful drug interactions."

Menino in 3 hours of physical therapy a day (The Boston Herald) - "Mayor Thomas M. Menino is walking “with assistance” and is doing three hours of physical therapy daily as he tries to regain mobility lost during a monthlong hospital stay. “He’s not walking as well as he wants to, but he’s walking,” said Menino spokeswoman Dot Joyce. “With his therapy, he’ll be better than he was before (his hospitalization).” Menino was hospitalized Oct. 26 after returning home early from a vacation in Italy. The mayor had a flulike virus and a blood clot and suffered a compression fracture in his back while in the hospital. He also sustained an infection in his back, the source of which has not been determined, Joyce said. Doctors also discovered he has type 2 diabetes, which was exacerbated by the stress of his illness."

More evidence suggests shortcomings for whooping cough vaccine (NPR-Shots) - "Whooping cough went on a tear in California back in 2010. There were more than 9,000 pertussis infections in the state, a 60-year high. In recent years, there has been a resurgence of the disease across the country.Why? Some people aren't getting immunized. And it's also probably the case that more sensitive tests and greater awareness of whooping cough are spurring doctors to do a better job of diagnosing it. Another factor may be that the vaccines kids get to protect them against the respiratory illness appear to be losing their effectiveness faster than expected. Results from a study that compared California kids who got whooping cough with some who didn't adds more weight to that hypothesis."

Can a jellyfish unlock the secret of immortality? (NYT Magazine) "One of the paper’s authors, Ferdinando Boero, likened the Turritopsis to a butterfly that, instead of dying, turns back into a caterpillar. Another metaphor is a chicken that transforms into an egg, which gives birth to another chicken. The anthropomorphic analogy is that of an old man who grows younger and younger until he is again a fetus. For this reason Turritopsis dohrnii is often referred to as the Benjamin Button jellyfish. Yet the publication of “Reversing the Life Cycle” barely registered outside the academic world. You might expect that, having learned of the existence of immortal life, man would dedicate colossal resources to learning how the immortal jellyfish performs its trick. You might expect that biotech multinationals would vie to copyright its genome; that a vast coalition of research scientists would seek to determine the mechanisms by which its cells aged in reverse; that pharmaceutical firms would try to appropriate its lessons for the purposes of human medicine; that governments would broker international accords to govern the future use of rejuvenating technology. But none of this happened."

Your couch may be killing you (Mother Jones) - "It's not your imagination, or a bad trip: Your couch could be trying to kill you. A new study in the journal Environmental Science and Technology found that 85 percent of the sofas researchers tested contained flame retardant chemicals that have been identified as carcinogens and potential neurotoxins. The stats were even worse for newer couches—those made after 2005: 94 percent of those contained chemicals that were either confirmed toxic or had not yet been tested adequately enough to know if they pose a risk. The chemicals accounted for as much as 11 percent of the weight of the foam in the cushions, they found."

This program aired on November 29, 2012. The audio for this program is not available.

Carey Goldberg Twitter Editor, CommonHealth
Carey Goldberg is the editor of WBUR's CommonHealth section.