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Oregon Medical Injury Updates: May 2012

The development of scanners that use child-sized doses of radiation; giving a new name to an old affliction, and Oregon’s health care proposals attracting national attention are stories that an Oregon medical injury lawyer feels are worth updating. The past month has seen new developments in all three areas.

New Regulations on CT Scans and X-Rays

Medical professionals are growing increasingly concerned at the amount of radiation young children are being subjected to when undergoing medical testing. Doctors believe that children being subjected to too much radiation have a greater chance of developing some form of cancer in later life.

Now the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is trying to help parents protect their children from the ill-effects of large doses of radiation. Earlier this month, they sent out a list of proposals to manufacturers and advice to parents. Among their suggestions were:

  • Asking manufacturers of medical scanning equipment like CT scanners and X-ray machines to design new machines that will deliver child-sized doses of radiation to the smallest, most vulnerable patients
  • Advising parents to speak up when a doctor orders an imaging scan for their child. The FDA suggests that parents ask:
    • Is the scan really necessary?
    • Is a scan the best option, or is there an alternative that’s radiation free?
    • How much radiation will be delivered to the child in the recommended scan?
  • All new medical imaging devices should come with dose settings and clear instructions for use on children of different ages and sizes, or they should be labeled as not for pediatric use.
  • Existing scanners would eventually be upgraded and fall under the same standards.

Parents have also been advised by the FDA, medical specialists and Oregon medical injury lawyers to keep track of the number of scans their children receive and to let the doctor advising a new scan know how many X-rays or CT scans the child has already had.

While imaging scans are helpful in providing a good diagnosis, their use has soared over the past few years, and some doctors say many scans are performed when they’re not really needed. This is particularly true for children. Recent studies have revealed the following disturbing statistics:

  • The average child nowadays will have had as many as seven radiation-emitting imaging scans by the time they reach 18 years of age.
  • Children’s rapidly growing tissues are far more susceptible to the negative effects of radiation than an adult’s.
  • Though 90 percent of imaging scans for children are performed in general hospitals, there are no means to tell if and by how much the scanner’s radiation levels are adjusted to take account of the age and size of the patient.
  • A CT scan of the head uses radiation equivalent to approximately 100 X-rays; a CT scan of the abdomen brings even more.
  • The average doctor does not keep track of the number of radiation-emitting scans their patients receive.

The FDA’s final word on the subject was to tell parents to keep a complete list of the number and type of imaging scans their child receives, and to pull that list out every time a doctor orders a new scan. As an Oregon medical injury lawyer confirmed, “Any radiation you don’t need is radiation you shouldn’t get.”

PTSD to be Renamed?

Is Post Traumatic Stress really a disorder, or is it an injury? Oregon medical injury lawyers say that the term “disorder” places an unwelcome stigma on the treatable illness that prevents sufferers from getting the help they need.

A name change to Post Traumatic Stress Injury has been debated and has received a modest level of support among mental health professionals and military veterans, who are the main victims of post traumatic stress. The reason for the spike in interest is that the American Psychiatric Association is about to update a widely-used mental health manual for the first time in 12 years.

Oregon medical injury lawyers and health professionals say it’s only right that the name should be changed, for a variety of reasons including:

  • More people are likely to seek help if the term “disorder” is removed.
  • PTSD, as it is called now, is defined as a normal reaction to a highly abnormal event or series of events. Therefore, as a normal reaction, why use the word ‘disorder?’
  • The need for treatment is already great, and it’s growing. The VA treated 1.3 million veterans for a mental health care need in the year 2010-2011, yet many others who need help have not come forward because they don’t want to be labeled as having a disorder.

Some observers have said that destigmatizing the illness could see health insurance companies treat cases less fairly than they do at the moment. Changing the word disorder to ‘injury’ “might help in terms of stigma, but it might hurt in terms of…claims,” according to retired Army psychologist Larry C. James.

Others don’t care what it’s called, so long as people get the help they need. “I just don’t think it’s about the words as much as it is (about) seeking help,” said Heidi Kraft, a former Navy psychologist to combat Marines in Iraq.

Oregon: a health care model for others to follow?

Without question, Oregon is leading the way with a highly ambitious health care initiative that aims to prevent the need for expensive medical treatments—thereby saving the taxpayer billions of dollars in Medicaid payments—by investing in preventative care to keep patients healthy.

According to Governor John Kitzhaber, the federal government could save $1.5 trillion over just 10 years  if all 50 states followed Oregon’s new initiative.

If it’s a case of “putting your money where your mouth is,” then an Oregon medical injury lawyer says the Obama administration has done just that. The federal government is so impressed by the Oregon health plan, they are granting the state an impressive $1.9 billion in funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services over five years to help kick-start the new program. If the details can be worked out in time, the first phase of $620 million will be paid out on July 1 of this year.

Gov. Kitzhaber has the experience and the credentials to back up the new plan. He was formerly an emergency room physician, and he has worked for decades to improve the way health care is operated. “If this works, I think other states are going to be looking at this as a way to manage that patient population,” he said.

The target of the Oregon initiative is to reduce the current growth in state health care spending to about 4 percent per annum. To do this, the plan aims to:

  • Reduce duplicated treatments and avoid hospitalizations where possible, without affecting the standard of care provided
  • Make one payment per episode of care to health care providers
  • Enforce a restricted drug list
  • Limit patients’ choices of health care providers
  • Provide incentives to health care providers to give better care by paying more to those who get the best results from their patients
  • Create coordinated care organizations to manage all mental, physical and even dental care for the 600,000 low-income patients covered under the Oregon Health Plan.

The plan will no doubt meet with some resistance, but Oregon medical injury attorneys broadly support the new initiative. If the cost to Oregon tax payers of providing health care can be brought down, while maintaining or improving the standards of care provided, the new health care plan is certainly to be welcomed.

Whenever there are new developments in the medical field, people will quite rightly be curious and in some cases concerned. In situations where children receive unnecessary doses of radiation, or people avoid getting treatment for a condition because of what it that condition is called, Oregon medical injury lawyers feel these things should be brought to the public’s attention.

If you have any questions regarding medical treatment or injuries that you’re not comfortable with, get some peace of mind by contacting a highly knowledgeable Oregon medical injury lawyer, who will be very happy to answer your questions.