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Good Reads: Dog Days of Summer Edition

Good Reads: Dog Days of Summer Edition

Picture of Barbara Feder Ostrov

These are the dog days of summer, right? So snuggle up to your air conditioner and check out these recent great health reads:

1. Hospital Chain Inquiry Cited Unnecessary Cardiac Work, New York Times. This stunning piece of reporting by Reed Abelson and Julie Creswell examines how the for-profit hospital chain's internal concerns over unnecessary heart procedures at some of its Florida facilities centered far more on the bottom line than patient harm. One doctor performed as many as 13 unnecessary procedures according to HCA's internal investigation, yet still works at his hospital, according to the Times. You know there's a problem when hospital officials call one of their physicians their "EBITDA M.D."

2. Big Med, New Yorker. Yes, everyone's reading this, but Atul Gawande's dissection of why healthcare should be more like the Cheesecake Factory (more standardization, more quality control) is just plain brilliant. However, the piece is getting some pushback in the health blogosphere:  “a lot of medicine really isn’t quite as reducible, as standardizable, as many of the advocates and management gurus would like to believe,” wrote Dr. David Shaywitz in Forbes and The Health Care Blog.

3. Modern Life is Killing Us, Will Doig, who pens Salon’s Dream City urban issues blog, examines new efforts to build mental health goals into urban planning. Many cities already use health impact assessments to identify the health effects of plans to build shopping malls or parks, but a new mental health impact assessment tool is now being developed to make sure city dwellers’ psychological health is also being taken into account. 

4. A boy’s serious ailment required only a simple fix once it was diagnosed, Washington Post. The Post’s Medical Mysteries series is full of great reads, and Sandra Boodman’s account of a family’s five-year search for the correct diagnosis for their son’s mysterious endocrine disease unfolds like a classic whodunit. What’s the cheap food ingredient that cured the boy’s condition, which turned out to be glycogen storage disease? No spoilers here; you can find it at the end of Boodman’s story.

5. Millions in health care district deals involve firms with ties to officials, California Watch. This is a classic investigation of questionable alliances and conflicts of interests between officials of California’s public health care districts, which operate taxpayer-financed hospitals, and the companies and nonprofits who wanted their business. Reporters Jennifer Gollan and Health Journalism Fellow Katharine Mieszkowski combed through contracts, vendor payments, tax filings and financial disclosures from 22 of the state’s 74 health care districts to uncover suspect transactions involving millions of dollars. Their investigation is a great road map for examining similar dealings in your own community.



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