Doctor Shortage Looming? Maybe Not

Nov 18, 2014

The United States is facing a critical shortage of doctors that could seriously jeopardize the ability of a patient to get medical care in the coming years.

Could you walk through an Ebola treatment center in Liberia without catching the virus?

Soon you may be able to find out from the comfort of your living room. Shift Labs, a Seattle-based tech outfit, has developed a prototype for a video game that could be used to train health workers on duty in West Africa.

As children grow, they learn to crawl, to walk and then to drive. It turns out, the way they get hurt, and in particular their heads, evolves as as their forms of motion change.

Small children suffer head injuries from falling, while teenagers are at risk from car accidents, assaults and sports injuries, according to a paper published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Medical experts are meeting today and tomorrow at the World Health Organization in Geneva to figure out how to test potential Ebola drugs in Africa. In addition to determining which experimental drugs should be the highest priority, the experts are sorting through some difficult ethical issues.

In short, they're trying to figure out how to design tests that will provide the fastest and most trustworthy answers — and yet minimize the need for comparison groups who won't be offered the experimental treatments.

Breast-milk banks are a great way to help babies whose mothers aren't able to breast-feed. Breast milk, in case you didn't know, does a better job than formula at bolstering a baby's immune system, especially if the tot is premature or underweight. barely worked when it launched last fall, with only six people able to enroll in a plan on opening day.

Critics of America's health care system say it's really a "sick care" system. Doctors and hospitals only get paid for treating people when they're sick.

But that's starting to change. Health insurance companies and big government payers like Medicare are starting to reward doctors and hospitals for keeping people healthy.

So, many health care companies are trying to position themselves as organizations that help people stay well.

The kids are asleep, and I've settled into a comfy armchair in the corner of my New England living room, one of my favorite spots for shopping online. I've got my laptop open and I'm ready to search for a bone density test.

Hmmm ... looks like the price that my insurer pays for that test varies from $190 at Harvard Vanguard to $445 at Brigham and Women's Hospital.

What if you could track people getting sick just by analyzing how they surf the Web?

In 1854, an English doctor named John Snow pinpointed an outbreak of cholera in London to a single contaminated water pump.

A pioneer of modern epidemiology, Snow used information about where the sick people lived to deduce that they were drinking tainted water from that source.

And while using clues about peoples' locations is an important tool in public health, it's now set to make individual health care even more personal.

The hunt to find genes that cause autism has been a long slog, one hampered by a lack of technology and families willing to be tested.

But the effort is starting to pay off. On Tuesday, researchers at more than 50 laboratories said they had identified more than 100 genes that are mutated in children with autism, dozens more than were known before.

For Lori Bandt, who works as a medical technician and an EMT in a suburb of Madison, Wis., the print on vials of medication has become so difficult to read that if she forgets her reading glasses she has to resort to having a younger EMT worker read the directions. The 45-year-old says: "I'm just stuck."

A carnivorous plant has inspired an invention that may turn out to be a medical lifesaver.

Nepenthes, also known as tropical pitcher plants or monkey cups, produce a superslippery surface that causes unfortunate insects that climb into the plant to slide to their doom.

Scientists at Harvard's Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering wondered if they could find a way to mimic that surface to solve a problem in medicine.

In the 1950s, four people — the founder of the birth control movement, a controversial scientist, a Catholic obstetrician and a wealthy feminist — got together to create a revolutionary little pill the world had never seen before.

They were sneaky about what they were doing — skirting the law, lying to women about the tests they performed and fibbing to the public about their motivations.

Dr. Jack Ross is used to seeing potentially lethal viruses, and he is used to putting patients into isolation. Still, Ebola is different.

"I think, for any hospital today, Ebola represents one step higher than anything else, if we had to do it," says Ross, who directs infection control for Hartford Healthcare's five hospitals in Connecticut.

On a tour of Hartford Hospital, Ross explains how his Ebola control plan would affect various parts of the facility — from the emergency room, to the intensive care unit, to the floors of rooms where patients stay.

When essayist Eula Biss was pregnant with her son, she decided she wanted to do just a bit of research into vaccination. "I thought I would do a small amount of research to answer some questions that had come up for me," she tells NPR's Audie Cornish. "And the questions just got bigger the more I learned and the more I read."

On Friday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell broke a week of silence following the release of a video that showed former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice assaulting his then-fiancee.

Goodell apologized for his role in the NFL's handling of the matter.

Chronic stress is hazardous to health and can lead to early death from heart disease, cancer and of other health problems. But it turns out it doesn't matter whether the stress comes from major events in life or from minor problems. Both can be deadly.

And it may be that it's not the stress from major life events like divorce, illness and job loss trickled down to everyday life that gets you; it's how you react to the smaller, everyday stress.

The most stressed-out people have the highest risk of premature death, according to one study that followed 1,293 men for years.

It is the biggest anti-Ebola effort yet.

After months of calls by aid workers for the global community to do something about the escalating crisis, President Obama has announced plans for a massive international intervention.