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William Heisel's Antidote: Investigating Untold Health Stories

William Heisel, former investigative reporter for the Los Angeles Times, writes about investigative health reporting. He is currently the director of global engagement at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

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When problems arise at a hospital, there are often three responses: Blame the patient, blame the nurse, or blame some forces beyond their control. All three happened in the wake of recent Ebola cases in Dallas, but reporters should be wary of those kinds of claims.

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The professional history of California doctor James Privitera includes a series of questionable practices that contributed to the death of at least one patient. And yet the physician's reprimand by the state medical board can be wiped from online records as early as next month.

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Should California doctors' public records be expunged from an online database after 10 years? Patient safety advocates didn't think so, and helped pass legislation to undo that expiration date. But the new rules are full of serious compromises.

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New rules go into effect today that will make it harder for doctors to prescribe some of the nation's most popular painkillers. Doctors can no longer sign off on automatic refills, nor can they call or fax in prescriptions for hydrocodone products, now classified as Schedule II drugs.

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The Medical Board of California has new guidelines for treating pain with drugs. Two board officials explain how the guidelines will work, and comment on the challenges doctors face in trying to diagnose pain and prescribe relief in short, infrequent patient visits.

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The Medical Board of California is currently discussing new guidelines for prescription pain medicines. The recommendations urge physicians to better distinguish between types of pain, remain vigilant for abuse, and help addicts find treatment.

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As hospital closures and physician shortages continue to afflict rural and low-income areas, Walmart is announcing an expansion of in-store primary care clinics in states such as Texas and South Carolina. Will this be the new face of primary care in rural regions?

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The California Medical Association has fought efforts to make the drug-tracking system CURES a better physician oversight tool. Now a weak case against a California doctor has given the doctors' lobby a fresh chance to undermine the system.

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The California Medical Board's case against a physician accused of improperly prescribing drugs has backfired, opening a door for the state’s influential doctors’ lobby to eliminate one of the board’s only weapons against reckless prescribing.

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In California and many other states, skilled nursing facilities do not have to secure a signed consent from a resident or family member to administer antipsychotic drugs. Does that result in unnecessary use of potentially dangerous drugs?

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