Health/Science/Tech | KERA News

Health/Science/Tech

Every week, KERA explores the latest in health, science and technology in North Texas through two main series, Vital Signs and Breakthroughs.

Charts at UNT Health Science Center's Human Movement Performance Lab.
Credit Stephanie Kuo / KERA News

Vital Signs

In Vital Signs, Sam Baker taps into the expertise of local health care leaders to provide insight into your everyday health and well-being.

Breakthroughs

In Breakthroughs, KERA reporters delve into the latest health-related technologies developed in North Texas and across the state. From the Zika virus to fried chicken, no scientific topic is off limits. 

Learn more in-depth multimedia projects: Surviving Ebola, a look at how Ebola made its way to Dallas and the lessons local hospitals and governments learned; Growing Up After Cancer, the journey of one North Texas boy with cancer; and The Broken Hip, an in-depth look at how a fall can change everything. 

Hospitals and health plans are increasingly using the huge amount of medical data they collect for research. It's a business worth billions of dollars, and sometimes those discoveries can be the foundation of new profit-making products and companies.

When a company profits from your data, should you get a cut?

This isn't just a hypothetical question. When Steven Petrow was 26 years old, back in 1984, he was treated for testicular cancer at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.

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Working out can make you hungry and thirsty, but what you choose to eat or drink makes a difference in how well your body recovers from exercise.

Over the past year, companies have been rolling out electric scooters by the thousands in cities across the country — from Milwaukee to Washington, D.C., to Lubbock, Texas. People download the app, find a nearby scooter and then just unlock and ride. But as these shared scooters have spread, so have concerns about safety.

Charlie Hinderliter wasn't opposed to the flu shot. He didn't have a problem with vaccinations. He was one of about 53 percent of Americans who just don't get one.

"I figured [the flu] was something that's dangerous to the elderly and the young, not somebody who is healthy and in their 30s," says Hinderliter, who is 39 and the director of government affairs at the St. Louis Realtors association.

"Turns out, I was wrong," he says.

Ensuring that people with pre-existing health conditions can get and keep health insurance is the most popular part of the Affordable Care Act. It has also become a flashpoint in this fall's midterm campaigns across the country.

And not only is the ACA protection, which mostly applies to people who buy their own coverage, at risk. It's also possible that pre-existing condition protections that predate the federal health law could be in play.

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New guidelines in screening for cervical cancer include the option of HPV testing, a move that may soon signal the end for the Pap smear test.

The trauma of sexual assault or harassment is not only hard to forget; it may also leave lasting effects on a woman's health. This finding of a study published Wednesday adds support to a growing body of evidence suggesting the link.

Baylor Scott & White

Two major not-for-profit health care providers in Texas plan to merge with a goal of improved patient care and more cost-effective services.

AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes

The Tarrant County Health Department is keeping an eye on a recent, small outbreak of mumps at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth.

Mumps is a virus often spread by close person-to-person contact. It has flu-like symptoms, but swollen salivary glands are the most recognizable.

Mary Altaffer, File / AP

The popularity of video games has skyrocketed in the last decade. People who used to play at home with their friends can now play games — such as Fortnite, Dota 2 and League of Legends — professionally and often at sold-out convention centers. 

Updated at 3:45 pm ET

The Department of Health and Human Services says it is reviewing all medical research involving human fetal tissue.

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Most think a good workout can help you blow off steam, but researchers have found strenuous exercise while angry can raise the risk of a heart attack for some people.

Parde, C. J., Castillo, C., Hill, M. Q., Colon, Y. I., Sankaranarayanan, S., Chen, J. C., and O'Toole, A. J. (2017, May)

The human face conveys our thoughts and emotions, and we seek it out when trying to identify others. It's also a focal point for the future of identification technology. 

Governments, law enforcement and even businesses are interested in being able to identify people at a distance. 

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The Justice Department in June announced charges against more than 600 people responsible for more than $2 billion in health care fraud losses over a 12-month period.

That stems in part from 10 strike forces across the country created to investigate Medicare fraud. The Dallas unit began in 2011.

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Faced with a shortage of donor hearts, transplant centers have had to expand their criteria for acceptable organs. 

For the first time in years, the uninsured rate in Texas is starting to climb again. After the Affordable Care Act went into effect in 2014, the state’s uninsured rate dropped from 22 percent to about 16 percent in 2016. However, that trend has started to move in another direction.

UT Southwestern Medical Center

Suicide rates have been rising in nearly every state.

It's the 10th-leading cause of death, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention nearly 45,000 Americans age 10 or older died by suicide in 2016.

Suicide is rarely caused by a single factor. That's why researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas are working on a study that combines an intervention program with a personalized app aimed at teenagers.

From Texas Standard:

You’ve heard of minimally invasive surgery – it’s often called laparoscopic surgery. Instead of making a large cut in a patient, and moving tissues and organs that are in the way, doctors make smaller cuts and focus on just the area they need to with the help of a tiny camera.

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Treatment for early stage breast cancer can involve dozens of radiation treatments over a month or more, but a clinical trial now underway may shorten that to a single dose.

When Drew Calver had a heart attack last year, his health plan paid nearly $56,000 for the 44-year-old's emergency hospital stay at St. David's Medical Center in Austin, Texas, a hospital that wasn't in his insurance network. But the hospital charged Calver another $108,951. That sum — a so-called balance bill — was the difference between what the hospital and his insurer thought his care was worth.

Though in-network hospitals must accept previously contracted rates from health plans, out-of-network hospitals can try to bill as they like.

Christopher Connelly / KERA News

In Texas, organizations that work with victims of sexual violence are seeing more women and men coming forward to report assaults this year.

One Tarrant County group has seen a 9 percent increase in calls from victims since January. It’s not entirely clear what is behind the trend, but the increased demand for services for sexual assault survivors comes as sexual harassment and violence have made national headlines.

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Texas is trying to stop the Affordable Care Act — and argued as much in federal court in Fort Worth Wednesday. 

Callie Richmond for The Texas Tribune

U.S. District Judge David Alan Ezra struck down a Texas law on Wednesday that would have required hospitals and clinics to bury or cremate fetal remains, causing another courtroom setback for state leaders and anti-abortion groups.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is challenging the Affordable Care Act at a hearing in federal court in Fort Worth today.

Wednesday is looking like yet another pivotal day in the life-or-death saga that has marked the history of the Affordable Care Act.

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When you walk into the hospital with chest pain, doctors will conduct a physical exam, get your medical history and do an echocardiogram or EKG to measure electrical activity in the heart.

And then there’s the blood test to diagnose or rule out a heart attack. 

Consumers who buy insurance through the Affordable Care Act markets may be pleasantly surprised this fall as average premiums are forecast to rise much less than in recent years.

The price of a 2019 policy sold on the ACA exchanges will increase less than 4 percent, according to an analysis of preliminary filings from insurers in all 50 states by ACASignups.net, a website and blog run by analyst Charles Gaba that tracks ACA enrollment and insurer participation.

And those insurers are expanding their offerings.

A Texas man has a heart attack – and good medical insurance – and still finds himself on the hook for $109,000 in medical bills.

Another man in Florida owed $3,400 for a CT scan, after his insurance company pays its part.

A Texas hospital that charged a teacher $108,951 for care after a 2017 heart attack told the patient Thursday it would slash the bill to $332.29 — but not before a story about the huge charge sparked a national conversation over what should be done to combat surprise medical bills that afflict a growing number of Americans.

The story of Drew Calver was first reported by NPR and Kaiser Health News on Monday as part of the "Bill of the Month" series, which examines U.S. health care prices and the troubles patients run up against in the $3.5 trillion industry.

A hospital in Texas has cut ties with a nurse who apparently posted about a young patient with the measles in a Facebook group dedicated to "anti-vaxxers," people who reject the scientific evidence of the safety and effectiveness of vaccines.

Screenshots show a self-identified nurse saying the sick child's symptoms helped her understand why people vaccinate their children, but that "I'll continue along my little non-vax journey with no regrets."

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