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Improving patient safety and making anesthesia more effective: In health news today

56156 full
56156 full

In today's health news:

A new report from the federal U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality urges health care providers and professionals to follow 10 strategies in order to improve patient care and safety, reports HealthDay. Making that list: hand-washing; "barrier precautions" like masks, gloves and gowns; use of electronic medical orders; and better use of safety checklists for surgical procedures.

There's a high level of public support for government efforts to change the lifestyles that lead to obesity, diabetes and other communicable diseases – but not if those efforts are seen as intrusive or coercive. That's according to a new study in Health Affairs, which also found that people prefer that the government supports healthier decisions (e.g. menu labeling requirements) rather than penalize certain conditions or choices (e.g. higher premiums for obese people).

Alcohol has become the third-leading cause of "the global burden of disease and injury" worldwide, reports a new study in the journal Addiction, which found that folks in Eastern Europe and Southern sub-Saharan Africa are, on average, the world's unhealthiest drinkers: They tend to drink a lot of alcohol often, drink to intoxication, binge-drink in a prolonged manner and drink mainly outside of meals. North Americans drink more than 50 percent above the global average.

Another Health Affairs study found that female mortality rates increased across nearly 43 percent of U.S. counties over the past two decades – and the West is a problem area. Researchers said the disparity in women's mortality rates in the U.S. goes beyond access to health care services – higher education levels, not being in the South or West and low smoking rates were associated with lower mortality rates. Male mortality rates saw a rise in just over 3 percent of U.S. counties.

Two drugs were dealt a major blow in their attempt to become the first non-hormonal treatment options for women with hot flashes, says the New York Times, when an advisory committee to the Food and Drug Administration voted overwhelmingly against approving both drugs on Monday, citing "marginal effectiveness." The FDA doesn't have to listen to the advisory panel, but it'd be unusual for the agency to go against such a strong negative vote.

A fairly unsettling survey has found that about one-third of health providers admit to having missed electronic alerts that are set to go off when a patient has an abnormal test result. TIME says providers attribute the problem to information overload, which is just one of many challenges that come with moving the paper-based medical field to electronic records and systems.

And finally, while we're in the realm of the unsettling, consider this: The Los Angeles Times details patient reports of anesthesia going wrong – one said he could remember how the saw felt cutting into him; another remembered waking up and just feeling panicked. That's in part because anesthesiologists don't have a reliable way to monitor brain activity in people who have gone under to make sure they're unconscious. But a new study may change that – researchers claim to have a found way to track brain activity that may be able to help providers better identify loss and recovery of consciousness than current methods. Thank goodness.

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