Archive for February, 2009

“The Flu Season Is Coming – Tips to Research Prevention and Treatment”

Wednesday, February 18th, 2009

Earlier this week, CNN Health reported that the flu season started later than normal but is now on the rise based on data from Google flu trends. The story also referenced an article from Health.com that outlined how doctors diagnose the flu.

We decided to look into this further and found some fantastic information on how to protect ourselves from the flu.  We did this by copying the entire 176 words from the Health.com article and pasting it into DeepDyve. The top result was an article from Sage Publications called “Cold and Flu Survivor Guide” (The Diabetes Educator , Volume 30 (1) :(80-90)).  It mentions “Three of the antiviral drugs (amantadine, rimantadine, and oseltamivir) have been approved for prevention of the flu. These drugs are not, however, a substitute for influenza vaccination. All of these drugs are prescription drugs, and a doctor should be consulted before the drugs are used…”.  Please note that this article is fee-based and can be purchased at the Sage website for $30.

Other useful results included:
• “An Ounce of Prevention Is Worth a Pound of Cure” (Patricia T. Alpert; “Home Health Care Management & Practice”, Volume Prepublished; SAGE Publications) also available for $30.
• “What three-letter word spells m-i-s-e-r-y? The CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine as the first and most important step in defending against the virus” which is available for free.

Empowered Patients, Empowered Consumers

Friday, February 13th, 2009

“Here are the important stories and why”. “5 experts surveyed say this product is the best”. “Our analysts rate this stock a Buy”. And perhaps most importantly, “Here’s your diagnosis, here’s your treatment”.

Historically, information dissemination was a top-down affair where large institutions and so-called experts analyzed hard-to-get-to data and provided their authoritative voice on what we should do. The general masses lacked the tools and until relatively recently, lacked the education, to probe or even challenge the expert advice. For example, according to a recent study from the U.S. Department of Education, in 1960 just 41.1% of Americans age 25 and over had completed high school or higher, whereas by 2007 that figure had increased to 85.5%.

In today’s highly educated and highly digital world, consumers are not only well-schooled but also well-trained to find and analyze information for themselves through the Internet. And increasingly they are also well-connected through online forums and social networks. In the area of healthcare, this empowerment is taking an even further turn as patients become more active in their own diagnosis and treatment. Last December, BusinessWeek ran an art article titled “Can Patients Cure Healthcare?” (Catherine Arnst, 12/15/08), in which critically-ill patients joined together, shared their medical history and even collaborated on experiments to treat their particular disorder. They would not or could not passively accept their fate as prescribed by the doctors, drug companies, and government regulators.

This “patients-as-partners” model is often called Health 2.0 and represents the broader trend of individual empowerment that is enabled as a result of wealth of information available on the internet, and the easy-to-use tools by which to search against this data. There are already precedents or parallels to this macro-trend, most notably in entertainment where the digitization of music has led to massive, and often illegal, distribution. The small number of gate-keepers, i.e. the music labels, could not stop the millions of persistent consumers who found new keys to getting their content. If not wisdom of the masses, perhaps it’s innovation of the masses. The question which we will discuss in a future blog, is what does this mean for the information industry? Can they fight the trend of consumer empowerment and digital distribution of content, or will they need to rapidly adopt new strategies and technologies to capitalize on this seemingly inevitable movement?

More to come…

Did Kawaski Syndrome cause Jett Travolta’s Seizure?

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

As you may have read in the popular media, John Travolta’s son, Jett, died tragically earlier this month. The cause of death was reported as complications resulting from seizures apparently brought on by his childhood affliction from Kawasaki syndrome, an illness that leads to inflamed blood vessels. This month, searches on terms related to Kawasaki syndrome have increased quite a bit in DeepDyve. And similarly, according to Google Trends, the popularity of that term spiked by near 10X and even surpassed “Obama” and “Paris Hilton” on the days following the story.

There has been some intrigue concerning the details of his death. According to an article in WebMD, there is no association between Kawasaki disease and seizures. This belief has made its way into news articles and the blog world such that there are questions as to whether Travolta’s son actually was autistic, exhibiting a mental condition which is not recognized by his church of Scientology and which commonly leads to seizures.

We decided to do a quick look into this question.  Using DeepDyve, we searched on the phrase “kawasaki syndrome seizures”, we immediately found a “Seizure characteristics in Kawasaki disease” (Shimakawa S, Yamada K, Hara K, Tanabe T, Tamai H; No To Hattatsu 2008 Jul; 40(4):289-94).  The report starts with “It is well known that convulsions may occur in clinical course of Kawasaki disease. However, the features of such seizures remain unclear,” then goes on to present a possible cause, namely “proinflammatory cytokines”.

In The Journal of Child Neurology, we found “Other neurologic associations and complications of Kawasaki disease have been described and include extreme irritability, aseptic meningitis, seizures and meningoencephalitis, facial nerve palsy, subdural collection, ataxia, stroke, and sensorineural hearing loss.”1

We are not maintaining that Jett Travolta’s death was caused by Kawasaki; nor are we refuting the allegations made in these articles.  Our point is merely that there is more science data to this story which challenges the research claims being made by most of the media reports. Given the terrible tragedy and deeply personal innuendo written in so many of the articles, shouldn’t we demand a higher standard of investigation?

1 Entesar Husain and Enamul Hoque; J Child Neurol; “Meningoencephalitis as a Presentation of Kawasaki Disease”; 2006; 21; 1080; DOI: 10.1177/7010.2006.00232