That’s News

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Is Screening Older Doctors Good for Business or Discriminatory?

A 2017 study in The BMJ found that older doctors had higher patient mortality rates. And a 2010 JAMA survey found that over a third of physicians didn’t report colleagues they knew to be incompetent or impaired.

These findings may explain why many hospitals have instituted cognitive screenings for older physicians. However, several lawsuits have been filed over these screenings recently, alleging age discrimination. Is it worth the legal risk to implement them?

For a smaller practice, simple observation of older physicians may provide more knowledge than a test. But for practices of any size, instituting a one-size-fits-all screening for older physicians could be problematic. One such policy was found in violation of both the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and Americans with Disabilities Act.

— Cari Wade Gervin

Apathy: A Potential Clue to Dementia Onset

One 2020 study published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association demonstrates lack of interest or motivation may be a key indicator of early stages of dementia. Brain scans of patients with frontotemporal dementia, which can manifest in adults between ages 45 and 65, reveal early atrophy of the frontal or anterior temporal lobes. An associated change is shrinkage in the area of the brain that affects apathy. After following 304 participants who each carried a gene for frontotemporal dementia, researchers noted increased levels of apathy that accelerated by the time participants reached an estimated age of onset of dementia symptoms.

This study gives medical providers a valuable tool to recognize cognitive decline before symptoms appear, giving them the opportunity to treat the disease in its earlier stages.

— Kate Anastas

Wearable Devices Track Patient-Caregiver Dynamic

Smart watches are playing an unexpected role — enabling researchers to examine the relationships between people with dementia and their caregivers. Medical scientists at the University of California, Berkeley used a Bluetooth-enabled tracking watch to predict the mental and physical health of patients with dementia and to evaluate the bonding relationships between patients and their family caregivers. Their findings were recently published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Researchers recruited 300 dementia patients and their caregivers for the project. Patients and caregivers wore a specialized watch continuously for six months. The research team found that those in a satisfied relationship exhibited coordinated patterns in their physiological responses, including heart rate and skin conductance changes. These patterns indicated a better connection between the two people, or “linkage” in their physiological response, which had positive implications on their overall health. Findings also suggested the more synchronized a patient and caregiver’s physiological activity was, the less anxiety a caregiver experienced.

— Katy Mena-Berkley