How to Keep Emergency Rooms Focused on True Emergencies

From the Wall Street Journal:

Fortunately, there’s an alternative approach to addressing emergency-room overuse: focusing on supply-side strategies. These include providing telephone consultation services, more accessible primary-care services (including extended and urgent care hours), and integrated delivery of health care, which certain health systems offer. These measures can reduce the demand for emergency care while meeting the immediate needs of the population. Health plans are evolving to recognize this, and integrated delivery systems are reliably lower-cost due to this attention to patient-centered care delivery. For the truly nonemergent patient, the peace of mind alone from knowing that there is an accessible voice or consultant available may be enough. Early evidence suggests that telemedicine (including telephone consultations) can decrease costs by reducing ED visits.

Oklahoma Doctor Charged in Opioid Deaths of 5 Patients

From US News:

An Oklahoma doctor has been charged with second-degree murder in the overdose deaths of at least five patients from the powerful painkillers and other drugs she had prescribed them.

Oklahoma’s attorney general announced on Friday five second-degree murder counts against Regan Nichols, whose patients died while she worked at a Midwest City clinic. A judge also issued a warrant for her arrest.

A probable cause affidavit alleges that Nichols prescribed more than 1,800 opioid pills to the patients who died even though they didn’t need them. She prescribed three of the five patients a lethal combination of painkillers, muscle relaxants and anti-anxiety drugs.

More consistent guidelines needed for therapy animals

From Reuters:

Hospitals and other healthcare facilities don’t consistently follow guidelines to ensure the safety of therapy animals and the people they aim to help, according to a survey of U.S. hospitals, eldercare facilities, and therapy animal organizations.

“While most facilities allowed therapy animals to visit, they didn’t always have strong policies in place to ensure programs that were safe and effective – for both the people and the animals,” Dr. Deborah E. Linder from Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, Tufts University, North Grafton, Massachusetts told Reuters Health.

“Many facilities assume that a friendly animal or any therapy animal organization will have liability insurance, strong training and testing programs, and rigorous health and grooming requirements. But this study shows that this is not always so,” she said in an email.