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Wrightsville Beach Personal Injury Law Blog

Doctors may be able to use AI to diagnose patients

The University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center is one of the first medical facilities in the world to partner with IBM on a computer-aided diagnostics program. IBM's artificial intelligence technology, Watson, is being used to analyze patient data and compare that data to the medical literature in order to come up with diagnoses.

Many people are optimistic about the potential of Watson and other AI diagnostic programs. There are about 7,000 known rare diseases, and no human doctor can realistically memorize the diagnostic criteria for every single disease. With computer aids, a doctor may be able to narrow down the list of possible diagnoses more quickly and then use human reasoning skills to correctly diagnose a patient.

Breast cancer may be present without finding a lump

As North Carolina women know, finding a breast lump may be a matter of concern and needs to be checked to ensure that it is not serious. However, breast cancer may present itself in other ways and treatment delayed because medical care is put off.

A British study examined data on breast cancer patients over a two-year period. As part of the study, researchers wanted to determine how long the delay was before women sought a physician.This was important because slow diagnosis may affect survival rate over a five-year period. Of those who found a breast lump, 7 percent waited over 90 days, while the percentage rose for those with other symptoms. The percentage of those who waited the longest amount of time was highest in those who found a lump and had other symptoms as well.

How to handle errors as a medical professional

It is not uncommon for newly-registered North Carolina nurses to take several years to become fully acclimated to their working environment. With patients taking up to 20 medications per day combined with a lack of experience, the odds are good that those new to the nursing profession will make mistakes. However, it is possible to recover from a mistake regardless of how embarrassing it may feel to make it.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says that up to 98,000 deaths occur each year in hospitals because of medical errors. Medication errors are among the most common with alarm fatigue also a common reason why errors occur, according to the Joint Commission. However, a variety of factors can result in an error such as fatigue or failure to follow hospital policy. If an error is made, it is important that it is acknowledged.

Difficulties for those dealing with rare diseases

North Carolina health care professionals treat numerous conditions, but rare diseases can be particularly challenging to address. A disease is classified as rare if it affects less than one out of every 200,000 U.S. residents. Since many doctors have limited experience with rare diseases, diagnostic efforts can be difficult.

Approximately half of the 30 million Americans dealing with rare diseases are children. The number of rare diseases currently identified exceeds 7,000. However, it is possible that there are many more individuals dealing with such diseases who have not yet been diagnosed. Further, new conditions could be added to the list of rare diseases over time. At times, symptoms can vary greatly from patient to patient. In other cases, symptoms could mirror those of other diseases, which could cause a misdiagnosis.

Rules change on filing lawsuits for nursing home abuse

North Carolina residents who have a loved one in a nursing home may also be able to file a lawsuit against the facility they believe has been neglecting or abusing the patient. A ruling from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is now in place that will allow this, although it is expected that it will be challenged. In the past, nursing home contracts contained an arbitration clause that made it impossible for families to sue. This meant that even if an arbitrator ruled against the nursing home, it never became public knowledge.

There are a number of things a family can do when choosing a nursing home that may reduce the likelihood of picking a facility where abuse or neglect occurs. They should not feel rushed into making a choice. They should visit not just the facility but the actual room where their loved one will be staying. They can also research the facility on the Medicare website where there is a tool for comparing nursing homes and seeing star rankings from one to five.

Traffic accident deaths up sharply again

North Carolina motorists may have noticed that the roads have become far busier in recent years. American drivers covered 50.5 billion more miles between January and June 2016 than they did during the first six months of 2015, and this increased traffic congestion contributed to a 10 percent surge in accident fatalities according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration over the equivalent period in 2015. A NHTSA report released on Oct. 5 revealed that 17,775 people died in motor vehicle accidents during the first half of the year, which puts 2016 on pace to be the deadliest year on the nation's roads in five decades.

The Department of Transportation reacted to the sobering figures by announcing a bold goal. The Swedish government managed to cut fatality rates by more than 50 percent over 15 years, but the DOT hopes to eliminate traffic accident deaths entirely within three decades. Experts say that this goal could actually be achievable thanks to self-driving cars that have the potential to eliminate the human error that plays a role in 94 percent of car accidents.

Different types of dementia may be hard to diagnose

As some North Carolina residents know, Alzheimer's disease is being diagnosed at an ever-increasing rate. However, there may be many instances where this diagnosis is incorrect.

One type of dementia is referred to as frontotemporal lobar degeneration. It results in atrophy of both the temporal and frontal parts of the brain. This early dementia affects individuals at a younger age and causes about 10 percent of cases. It occurs as often as Alzheimer's in patients under the age of 65 and is subject to being erroneously diagnosed as that disease.

How peer pressure could impact North Carolina patients

While it is impossible to know how often a doctor will lie to protect a colleague, there is evidence to suggest it does happen. Studies have shown that medical professionals don't like telling patients if a mistake occurs while health care providers are unlikely to speak up if something seems out of place. According to statements given to ProPublica, medical professionals fear retaliation if safety issues are made public.

One man who says that he lied on the witness stand during a medical malpractice trial has spoken out about his experience. Although it is not clear if his testimony played a role in the jury's decision to acquit the doctor, he says that it still haunts him today. The case took place roughly 20 years ago, and the man testified that he hadn't known his colleague's work to be substandard.

Promising new technology may help heal spinal cord injuries

Medical research out of Rice University may change the way spinal cord injuries are treated in North Carolina. Researchers at Rice have spent 10 years developing a material made of graphene nanoribbons that may help repair spinal cord damage.

The journey began when researchers discovered a chemical process that unzips the ribbons from nanotubes of carbon. Nanoribbons have dozens of uses; they've already been used to improve batteries, natural gas containers and airplane wings. Researchers have developed a material called Texas-PEG which may help grow neurons.

Study shows radiologists have trouble detecting hernias

Patients in North Carolina hospitals may think that CT scans and MRIs are capable of detecting medical conditions with pinpoint accuracy. In fact, these diagnostic testing methods are not always accurate, and communication between doctors and radiologists may greatly affect test results. At the 2016 Americas Hernia Society annual meeting, a hernia specialist talked about why she did not trust radiologists to diagnose hernias.

According to her, radiologists do not have a good track record for diagnosing both occult and palpable hernias. A study of 159 radiology reports for patients with inguinal hernia showed that occult hernias were diagnosed accurately just 7 percent of the time when a CT scan was used and 33 percent of the time when an MRI was used. CT scans accurately diagnosed palpable hernias with 25 percent accuracy, and MRIs detected palpable hernias with 41 percent accuracy.

Butler Daniel & Associates, P.L.L.C.

Butler Daniel & Associates, P.L.L.C.
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