The Rundown | Week of 7.30.18

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Inequality in Female Salaries and Leadership Within Healthcare  

A new survey from Rock Health suggests women represent just 22 percent of Fortune 500 healthcare executives, a third of all executives at hospitals, and only 10–12 percent of CEOs and venture-capital partners at funded digital-health startups. Even as women outpace men in medical school admissions, women comprise only 5 percent of orthopedic surgeons and make, on average, $40,953 less per year than their male counterparts. According to a McKinsey & Co. study, companies with female leaders are 21 percent more likely to achieve above-average profitability. The reasons for the disparity and discrimination are both elusive and many. For instance, there are fewer female mentors in specialties such as orthopedic surgery. Women are sometimes drawn to lower-paying specialties. However, there are programs to address and combat this gap, such as leadership development programs, flexible meeting times, awareness training, and alternative payment models centered on productivity and accomplishments.
>>Read More: Women healthcare professionals pessimistic about industry equality; don’t expect parity for 25 years, survey says

Dehydration’s Oft-Overlooked Effects

A recent study from the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta revealed dehydration’s dangerous effects, not only physically, but cognitively as well. Researchers analyzed mental capabilities such as reaction time and attention in both hydrated and dehydrated subjects, noting the errors made by the two groups. Stunningly, the loss in ability began after a 2 percent drop in water proportional to one’s body mass index. The mistakes were particularly pronounced in monotonous tasks such as operating controls in repetitive patterns, a motor function frighteningly similar to driving a car. In another study, participants who increased their water intake during an intensive card game made 12 percent fewer errors than their dehydrated counterparts. In order to avoid this decline in functioning — as well as mood changes or kidney stones — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has proposed guidelines.
>>Read More: Off your mental game? You could be mildly dehydrated

FDA Pressured to Regulate e-Cigs

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has experienced increased pressure from major health groups to expedite the regulation of e-cigarettes and non-cigarette tobacco products. The groups, which include the Truth Initiative and the American Heart Association, among others, have backed a lawsuit by the American Lung Association that alleges the agency’s reluctance has caused significant, irreparable harm to adolescents. The lawsuit is predicated on the FDA’s 2017 decision to delay regulatory review by extending the deadline until 2022 for these devices. There is little data on the health effects of the $4 billion industry. The lawsuit challenges this by requiring manufacturers to move the deadline back to this month. Despite the lawsuit, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, has criticized manufactures and  directed them to submit documents that provide insight into the “toxicological, behavioral or physiological effects of the products, including youth initiation, and use.” Although many cigarette smokers use e-cigs to reduce or quit smoking, a January report in National Academy of Sciences indicated that adolescent e-cigarette use is associated with a greater risk of smoking later in life.
>>Read More: Health groups call on FDA to speed up regulation of e-cig, cigars

Controversy Surrounds Association Health Plans

While President Trump’s proposed association health plans (AHPs) are designed to provide low-cost insurance coverage, recent reports predict the expansion may cause individual and small-group rates to skyrocket by 4 percent in some instances. Furthermore, between 130,000 and 140,000 individuals are expected to lose insurance due to premium increases in the individual market by 2022. While advocates believe the reduced regulations will benefit small businesses, critics declare the lack of regulation will lead to higher premiums in individual and small-group markets, which may in turn result in fraudulent companies. Concerns surrounding the new rule have already spurred a lawsuit involving 11 states and Washington, D.C. The plaintiffs’ case is founded on the grounds that the proposal violates the Administrative Procedures Act, thereby jeopardizing state efforts to protect residents through stronger regulation while also forcing states to allocate significant enforcement resources to curb the risk of fraud.
>>Read More: States sue Trump administration over AHP expansion

“Trust Your Gut, Doctors” Study Suggests

While artificial intelligence may one day unlock medical breakthroughs, researchers from MIT determined that humans still outperform computers when it comes to patient symptom analysis. The study looked at records from 60,000 patients in the intensive care unit at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston over a 10-year period. The team of computer scientists first conducted sentiment analysis — a research method that measures positive or negative attitudes expressed in the text — on the doctors’ notes to pinpoint their “gut feeling.” These sentiments were correlated with the frequency of subsequent tests the doctors prescribed. Researchers discovered a link between negative sentiments and increased testing, which heavily influences patient outcomes and accurate diagnoses. This relationship shows that intuition, not just medical data, is strongly correlated to necessary testing. This study follows the announcement that IBM Watson for Oncology’s AI may contain “multiple examples of unsafe and incorrect treatment recommendations.”
>>Read More: AI can’t replace doctor’s gut instincts, MIT study says

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