A look back at the big stories of 2011

Selected articles on trends, challenges and controversies in the changing world of medicine

Posted Jan. 9, 2012

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The 10 stories that generated the largest number of online page views in 2011 gave insight into what was driving reader interest in an eventful year for medical news.

Audit finds hospital EMRs vulnerable to data breaches

The HHS Office of Inspector General looked at seven hospitals and uncovered more than 150 problems with their electronic medical record systems. The OIG said the vulnerabilities meant individuals could have accessed confidential patient information improperly. Read more

1 in 3 surrogate decision-makers carries lasting emotional burden

A study found those who are forced to make medical decisions for loved ones often suffer from stress, guilt and other upsetting emotions. The authors concluded that advance directives could go a long way toward alleviating those problems. Read more

Hospitals make almost no headway in cutting readmissions

Roughly one in six Medicare patients was rehospitalized within 30 days after discharge in 2009, according to a study. If hospitals don't improve their stats by October 2012, they'll start seeing Medicare payment penalties. Read more

Donor families join anatomy students at ceremony honoring their loved ones

Northwestern University medical students have a way to honor the people whose bodies served as cadavers in anatomy class. During a ceremony attended by the donors' families and friends, the students sing, read essays and give thanks for what they have learned. Read more

More adults going without medical care because of costs

Medical care was among the casualties of the U.S. economic downturn. A study found that a greater percentage of working-age adults went without doctor visits, tests and medication in 2010 because they believed they could not afford them. Read more

Nearly all U.S. doctors are now on social media

Nearly nine in 10 physicians reported in August 2011 that they used at least one social media site. But although many doctors use such sites professionally and not just for personal use, they have been reluctant to engage with patients through social media. Read more

Revealing their medical errors: Why three doctors went public

Physicians who are responsible for a medical error often suffer so much guilt that it can lead to depression and even suicide. Some doctors have made the decision to share their stories with the world in an effort to get colleagues to realize that all human beings will make mistakes. Read more

Decline in doctor office visits could be permanent

The economic downturn caused patients to cut back on medical expenditures. Recent studies suggest those patients might not be coming back along with the economy, now that many have altered their behavior to avoid making appointments unless they believe them absolutely necessary. Read more

Nearly all states cut Medicaid payments as stimulus runs out

Federal stimulus money allowed many states to preserve Medicaid benefits and physician pay when tight budgets otherwise would have forced cutbacks. But with the federal dollars drying up, Medicaid physician pay is back on the chopping block. Read more

Aetna sues 9 N.J. doctors for "unconscionable" fees

The insurer took several out-of-network physicians to court over what it deemed outrageous charges for care, including one inpatient consultation that was billed at $50,000. But some of the doctors countersued, saying Aetna was the one guilty of fraudulent billing practices. Read more

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Confronting bias against obese patients

Medical educators are starting to raise awareness about how weight-related stigma can impair patient-physician communication and the treatment of obesity. Read story

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American Medical News is ceasing publication after 55 years of serving physicians by keeping them informed of their rapidly changing profession. Read story

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Policing medical practice employees after work

Doctors can try to regulate staff actions outside the office, but they must watch what they try to stamp out and how they do it. Read story

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Diabetes prevention: Set on a course for lifestyle change

The YMCA's evidence-based program is helping prediabetic patients eat right, get active and lose weight. Read story

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Medicaid's muddled preventive care picture

The health system reform law promises no-cost coverage of a lengthy list of screenings and other prevention services, but some beneficiaries still might miss out. Read story

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How to get tax breaks for your medical practice

Federal, state and local governments offer doctors incentives because practices are recognized as economic engines. But physicians must know how and where to find them. Read story

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Advance pay ACOs: A down payment on Medicare's future

Accountable care organizations that pay doctors up-front bring practice improvements, but it's unclear yet if program actuaries will see a return on investment. Read story

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Physician liability: Your team, your legal risk

When health care team members drop the ball, it's often doctors who end up in court. How can physicians improve such care and avoid risks? Read story

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