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Health Highlights: Doctors lower costs, the measles vaccine's hidden powers, a surprise about narrow networks

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This week's top consumer health stories will make you rethink how you approach health care: Are narrow provider networks really so bad? And could the measles vaccine be preventing childhood deaths from other diseases? Plus, find out what it’s like to be a journalist with autism.

Showing doctors the way to lower cost, improved care

In a post this week for Impatient, I write that convincing doctors to avoid ordering unnecessary tests, or avoid prescribing expensive brand name drugs when generic versions are available, will require a larger, cultural shift in health care.

Sutter Health, a health system in Northern California, has developed a way to concretely change physicians' behavior. Could this be a model for a cultural shift toward more cost-conscious, high-quality care? I also discussed this topic on Take Two.

Narrow provider networks don't affect quality of care, study says

Narrow provider networks are often considered synonymous with a lower quality of health care. But that might not be the case, Stephanie O'Neill reports.

A study published in the health policy journal Health Affairs found that while Covered California plans offered almost 20 percent fewer hospitals than did plans sold outside of the exchange, the care provided by these restricted networks is just as good - and in some cases better - than what consumers are getting from the non-Covered California plans.

Study: Vaccination against measles may have other benefits

A new study suggests the measles shot comes with a bonus: By preventing that disease, the vaccine may also help your body fight off other illnesses for at least two or three years, writes Alicia Chang for the Associated Press.

The study also argues that conventional wisdom has been wrong regarding how long measles renders a child susceptible to other infectious diseases. Until now it's been thought that an infected child is vulnerable for a month or two until his immune system recovers; this study contends that period can last for two to three years. 

Journalist and autism watchdog Robert Moran, working at ABC with Asperger's

Here's your weekend read/listen: Off Ramp host John Rabe speaks with Robert Moran, one of the few journalists who've "come out" about their autism. 

Moran describes how Asperger's affects his work at ABC News (the network, not ABC7), where he works two days a week as a digital news associate. Rabe writes:

He says his ability to focus on detail (an Asperger's trait) is helpful, because he's thorough. "But that can also be hurtful because if you're working in television news, it's a team effort. So if you're tunnel vision, you may forget the social niceties."

What consumer health stories are you reading this week? Tell me about it in the comments section below or find me on Twitter.

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