Stories from Texas Medicine, May 2020

Talk to Patients About: What’s Wrong With Vaccine Exemptions? - 07/08/2020

In 2003, the Texas Legislature allowed parents to opt their children out of getting mandatory public school vaccines. Since then, exemptions have jumped more than 3,000%, to 72,743 statewide, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. That number of exemptions threatens “herd” or “community” immunity for vaccine-preventable diseases.


No Double-Dipping: Tacking Settlement Money onto Negligence Awards at Issue - 04/30/2020

Like many broad legislative measures, Texas’ 2003 medical liability reforms continue to be a target for opponents long after being signed into law. The Texas Medical Association is fighting again to defend them. The measure under siege this time prevents patients who file negligence or other lawsuits from adding to their damage award through family members’ settlements stemming from the same case – that is, no “double-dipping.”


Clear as Mud? Federal Rule Will Mandate Hospitals to Post Prices on a Menu of Services - 04/30/2020

From electronic health records to quality reporting, today’s physicians deal with plenty of distractions from patient care. Starting in 2021, hospital-employed physicians may find themselves adding another one: explaining to patients the difference between their hospital’s multiple published prices for the same service.


The Temperature's Rising: Preparing for the Health Effects of Climate Change - 04/30/2020

In Texas, climate change has been blamed for contributing to the severity of several weather and health events, including the 2011 statewide drought, the 2012 outbreak of West Nile virus in Dallas, Hurricane Harvey in 2017, and the steadily increasing prevalence of vector-borne diseases like Zika and chikungunya. Here are some of the most important climate-related health problems Texas physicians can expect according to climate scientists and the physician experts Texas Medicine spoke to.


Commentary: I'm a Better Physician 'Thanks' to Cancer - 04/30/2020

The last thing a nonsmoking asymptomatic female physician expects during her usual hourly aerobic exercise is a phone call from her internist about a “spiculated lung nodule.” There was no need for the rest of the radiologist’s sentence: “suspicious for malignancy.”


The Power of Data: UTHealth Publishes Claims Statistics - 04/30/2020

After three years of work, the Center for Healthcare Data at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth is sharing part of its growing trove of numbers for data-driven discussions on many aspects of health care in Texas. The center doesn’t have all the answers. But its work under a federal certification from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has resulted in valuable state and regional statistics that the center leaders believe provide food not only for thought, but also for policy.