Helping make the health care system work for you

Will the Apple Watch affect health and hearts?

Apple Unveils iPhone 6

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Apple unveiled the Apple Watch wearable tech and two new iPhones, the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, on September 9.

A few months ago, Impatient readers told us they love their Fitbits.

"I love my Fitbit and so do my dogs, who get more and longer walks so I reach my 10,000-15,000 steps daily," Toronto Walker commented on this blog.

Will the new Apple Watch – revealed last week – have the same impact on people's health and hearts?

The Features

The watch – announced with a $349 price tag – will be customizable, and available in different colors, sizes, body types and bands, according to The San Francisco Chronicle.

Reporters Benny Evangelista and Stephanie M. Lee explain the Apple Watch's health-focused features:

Coupled with the accelerometer and GPS sensor of the required iPhone, the Watch can provide real-time feedback of all physical movements, such as cycling, sitting and standing. Over time, it's supposed to suggest personalized daily fitness goals.

Those features, available through the new apps Fitness and Workout, could be useful because people need instant and specific advice, not just raw data, to improve their health, said Malay Gandhi, managing director of Rock Health, a San Francisco accelerator that seeds digital health startups.

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Do you have a compound cream story?

How compound creams are made - STEP 4

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

A mortar and pestle are used during the process of producing a compound cream.

This week KPCC's Investigative Producer Karen Foshay  produced a series of stories on the world of compound creams, pain medications that are supposed to be custom-made for patients who for one reason or another can't take oral meds.

Karen found that their average price has taken off as they have become increasingly popular among some doctors, especially those handling workers' compensation cases, and that there are questions about how they are marketed, produced and regulated.

She finished her series with an in-depth look at the indictments of 15 people in Orange County accused of carrying out an elaborate scheme to defraud workers compensation insurers by prescribing huge amounts of expensive compound creams.

The series tracked how some are pushing creams as an alternative for all kinds of pain management, even though they were intended for use in limited instances. There are also indications that creams are being mass produced, which would violate the law, since they are not FDA approved products.

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Enterovirus outbreak FAQ: Do you need to worry about EV-D68 in Calif.?

13-year-old Will Cornejo of Lone Tree, Colo., recovers at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children in Denver from what doctors suspect is enterovirus 68. His parents found him unconscious on the couch and called 911. He was flown to Denver for treatment.

Cyrus McCrimmon/Denver Post/Getty Images

Will Cornejo, 13, of Lone Tree, Colo., recovers at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children in Denver from what doctors suspect is enterovirus 68. His parents found him unconscious on the couch and called 911. He was flown to Denver for treatment.

Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported an increase in a severe respiratory illness in children seen in emergency rooms and hospitals in Chicago and Kansas City, Missouri.

The CDC confirmed that in most of the cases, the culprit was Enterovirus 68.

As of Sept. 10, the agency has confirmed 84 respiratory illnesses caused by EV-D68, as it's known, in Missouri and Illinois, as well as in Colorado, Iowa, Kansas and Kentucky.

I know what you’re thinking: Should I be worried about this disease showing up in California? Read on, I have the answers to your questions!

The Basics: What is Enterovirus 68?

It's a "fairly uncommon" non-polio enterovirus, according to Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of CDC's national center for immunization and respiratory diseases.

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The persistence of the vaccine-autism controversy

syringe vaccination injection innoculation doctor medical hospital

Photo by ad-vantage via Flickr Creative Commons

A retracted journal article has reignited the debate about vaccines and autism.

Last week, I shared the Los Angeles Times' findings that California parents are opting out of vaccinating their kids at twice the rate they did seven years ago.

A natural follow-up question is: Why, since the supposed link between vaccines and autism has been thoroughly debunked?

I found one answer to this question on the website Retraction Watch.

Another vaccine-autism study controversy

In late August, Retraction Watch's Adam Marcus wrote that the journal Translational Neurodegeneration had pulled an article "purporting to find that black children are at substantially increased risk for autism after early exposure to the measles-mumps-rubella [MMR] vaccine."

A note on the journal's website reads:

This article has been removed from the public domain because of serious concerns about the validity of its conclusions. The journal and publisher believe that its continued availability may not be in the public interest. Definitive editorial action will be pending further investigation.

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Advanced dementia patients often prescribed unnecessary drugs, study finds

Hospice Cares For Terminally Ill During Final Stage Of Life

John Moore/Getty Images

More than half of long-term nursing home residents with advanced dementia received at least one "questionably beneficial medication," according to the study in JAMA Internal Medicine.

More than half of long-term nursing home residents with advanced dementia are receiving at least one "questionably beneficial medication," according to a new study in JAMA Internal Medicine.

The authors of the study conclude there's a high use of unnecessary, inappropriate drugs for terminally ill dementia patients, whose goal of care should be comfort, not prolonging life.

If this sounds familiar, it's because appropriate end-of-life care is a common theme on this blog. Recently, I reported on a study finding that providing futile care in the intensive care unit could hurt another patient's chances of getting needed treatment.

The study

The study relies on information collected from the prescription-dispensing database of a national long-term care pharmacy that operates in 47 states, according to the report. It assessed the drugs prescribed to 5,406 nursing home residents with advanced dementia between October 1, 2009, and September 30, 2010.

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