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Ask these questions to avoid the 'superbug'

nurse mask hospital infection germs

Photo by Emergency Brake via Flickr Creative Commons

If you're scheduled to undergo a procedure with a duodenscope, a hospital safety expert suggests asking pointed questions like: How is the facility cleaning and disinfecting the scopes?

The "superbug" outbreaks at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center have raised questions about the most effective way to decontaminate a particular type of medical device, called the duodenoscope.

It's a flexible, lighted tube that's threaded through the mouth, throat, and stomach, and into the small intestine. It's used in more than 500,000 endoscopic procedures every year. The procedure, known as ERCP, allows doctors to diagnose and treat problems in the bile and pancreatic ducts.

Do you have an ERCP surgery scheduled? If so, don't be alarmed.

These are critical, life-saving procedures, and the infectious complication rate of these procedures is only about one percent, according to the American Gastroenterological Association.

Still, following the highly publicized cases of antibiotic-resistant bacteria - known as Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, or CRE - at UCLA and Cedars, patient safety experts say there are a couple of steps that patients can take to ensure their surgery is as safe as possible.

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Friday Favorites: High deductibles, adult vaccines, and a doctor shortage

Bill Brooks via Flickr Creative Commons

If you have a high-deductible health plan, how has it affected your health care decisions?

It's a beautiful weekend for a trip to Joshua Tree National Park!

Joshua Tree, home to a vast desert and its otherworldly trees, is also where I fell and hit my head in January. I ended up getting three stitches in the emergency room – at a cost of at least $1,600. I'll pay that bill, and possibly many more, before I reach my deductible of $3,000.

Here's my story about high-deductible health plans, plus KPCC's other top consumer-focused health stories of the week:

Are high-deductible health plans keeping you from seeking care?

A 2012 study from the California HealthCare Foundation finds that consumers with high deductible plans spend less on care, which is how high deductibles are supposed to work. But the study finds that people are also cutting back "on preventive care such as immunizations and cancer screeenings - even though that care was not subject to a deductible."

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Are high-deductible health plans keeping you from seeking care?

Doctors Seek Higher Fees From Health Insurers

Adam Berry/Getty Images

In 2014, 80 percent of all covered workers had an annual deductible, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Back in January, I had a little accident in Joshua Tree National Park.

I fell backwards, clocked my skull on a rock, and got a sweet gash on the back of my head. I ended up going to the local emergency department and getting the wound closed up with three staples.

I had no idea what this trip would cost me, but because I'm on a high-deductible health plan I knew I'd be on the hook for a lot of it.

I recently received the Explanation of Benefits from my insurance company. It looks like I’ll owe at least $1,600. If that's the case, I'll be halfway to meeting my $3,000 deductible for the year.

High deductibles

Like me, more and more Americans are now responsible for a larger share of their health costs.

The Kaiser Family Foundation's 2014 Employer Health Benefits Survey has the proof: In 2014, 80 percent of all covered workers faced an annual deductible, or the amount they must pay before most services are covered by their health plan.

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Adults need vaccines too, but many don't have them

Beyond the flu shot – which she recommends for virtually every adult, every year – there are four major vaccines that adults should have, says Dr. Sharon Orrange, an assistant professor of medicine at Keck School of Medicine of USC.

Earlier this week, I told you about the California Medical Association Foundation's new campaign focused on adult vaccinations. The campaign – called Community Immunity – is intended to raise low vaccination rates among adults.

How low are we talking about?

Everyone over 19 years old should get a tetanus booster shot every 10 years. But in 2013, fewer than two in three adults ages 19 to 64 had done so, according to a February report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The numbers are even worse for the herpes zoster shot, which prevents shingles and is recommended for all adults over age 60. Less than one in four adults in that age group had received the shot in 2013, according to the CDC.

I reached out to several Los Angeles-area doctors to find out why adult vaccination rates are so low. I also asked them for  more information about which vaccinations adults should definitely get.

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New campaign spotlights need for adult vaccination

Sanofi Pasteur / Gabriel Pagcaliwagan via Flickr Creative Commons

The California Medical Association Foundation says it's distributing an adult vaccination guide to thousands of doctors and patient advocates.

The California Medical Association Foundation has launched a campaign to educate doctors and their patients about adult vaccinations. 

As part of its "Community Immunity" campaign, the CMA Foundation is distributing an adult vaccination guide to thousands of doctors and patient advocates. The guide features vaccine recommendations for adults based on age, dosage and vaccine type.

In a statement, Dr. David Holley, chair of the CMA Foundation, said unvaccinated adults expose themselves to contagious diseases, and also "endanger vulnerable populations including infants, the elderly, and pregnant women, who are increasingly vulnerable to serious illness."

The campaign has a lot of ground to make up: A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that adult vaccination rates are low for several recommended shots.

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