Loose Screws Mental Health News

Call me old-fashioned (I am 26 after all; that's 62 in technology years) but I don't like the idea of putting my personal health records online. Google Health has just launched in an attempt to rival Microsoft's Revolution Health. GH's site appears way more personalized than RH and the idea of uploading medical records doesn't thrill me. GH has features where you can put in the "general" information people don't mind giving out (ie, height, weight) and personalize the diseases, disorders, or conditions you might suffer from (somewhat like WebMD). This is about as far as I would go in using the site. No way would I upload a PDF from my doctor with my name, address, social security number, and health insurance information on the a site — I don't care HOW secure. Medical identity theft is a reality now and the last thing I need to worry about is some idiot hacker stealing people's medical records online. We already have enough problems with people stealing VA SSNs.

On the topic of health, the AP is reporting that an estimated 300 to 400 doctors commit suicide every year — a rate that rivals that of the general population. (Hat tip: GP Essentials)

As for the VA, the news keeps on getting better and better. The Washington Post reports that psychologists at VA facilities are being told to keep their PTSD diagnoses to a minimum so the VA can stem the tide of veterans seeking disability payments for the condition. Depending on the severity of the disorder, veterans can receive up to a little more than $2500 per month. Norma Perez, PTSD coordinator for a Texas VA facility, sent an internal e-mail to mental health and social workers saying:

Given that we are having more and more compensation seeking veterans, I'd like to suggest that you refrain from giving a diagnosis of PTSD straight out."

Instead, she recommended that they "consider a diagnosis of Adjustment Disorder."

VA staff members "really don't . . . have time to do the extensive testing that should be done to determine PTSD," Perez wrote.

The Post quotes psychiatrist Dr. Anthony T. Ng who says that "adjustment disorder is a less severe reaction to stress than PTSD and has a shorter duration, usually no longer than six months." This means less payout for the VA.

After the e-mail went public, VA Secretary Jim Peake issued a statement saying that Perez "has been counseled" and "is extremely apologetic." Of course. She has to be. She still has a job. (Credit to Kevin M.D.)

Lots of studying to do

I don’t know much about the CATIE study (haven’t researched it yet) but feel free to go to the FREE CATIE breakfast symposium near you.

From the site:

Objectives:
At the end of these educational activities, participants should be able to:

  • Differentiate the clinical outcomes among patients prescribed the various treatment modalities in the CATIE study.
  • Choose an efficacious medication that improves symptoms in patients with schizophrenia who have failed on previous treatments.
  • Choose a tolerable medication to improve compliance in patients with schizophrenia who have discontinued previous treatments.
  • Individualize treatment for patients with schizophrenia based on history of symptoms, ability to tolerate adverse effects, and comorbid illnesses.
  • Discuss the effectiveness of antipsychotic medications for schizophrenia in terms of efficacy, tolerability, and cost.

I’ve heard about the CATIE study from sites like Furious Seasons and Clinical Psychology and Psychiatry, but now that I know it deals with schizophrenia, I’m interested in learning more about it.

CashIn other news, I attended a Bipolar and Depression Support Group tonight and received a presentation from UPenn on a genetics study they are doing to study bipolar disorder. They need 4,000 volunteers with bipolar disorder to help and they currently only have 2,000. If a person qualifies for the study, he or she will receive a $100 compensation. The study closes in December 2007. The following is some more information:

  • Individuals 16 and older with Bipolar I Disorder or Schizo-affective Diorder, Bipolar Type, are eligible to join this study.
  • Participation involves the following:
  1. Completion of questions
  2. A 1-2 hour interview (in person or over the phone)
  3. Small blood sample (drawn at UPenn’s expense)
  4. $100 compensation
  • The study does not change your treatment.
  • No travel required.

I can’t stress enough that people will bipolar disorder should participate in the study. Again, people do NOT need to live in the Philadelphia or Pennsylvania area to participate. People with bipolar disorder who live ANYWHERE in the United States can participate in the study. Please, let’s help make this study a success to improve treatment – not only for ourselves but also for future generations.