Monday, January 31, 2011

Brain teasers: Use it or lose it

Charlotte's Pat Battaglia, a longtime rocket scientist turned puzzle creator, has a new book of mental games and puzzles designed to exercise the minds of young and old alike.

"Smart Is As Smart Does: Brain Games to Reveal the Genius in You" is Battaglia's fourth book in a series of "Smart" books. See

Here's an example: What unusual characteristic do the following words have in common?
Christmas, castle, listen, chestnut, whistle, often, mortgage.
Hint: To solve this puzzle think quietly.

Battaglia, 73, who moved to Charlotte 13 years ago from Niagara Falls, N.Y., also writes a syndicated newspaper column, "If You're So Smart," and is glad to have made his pastime his new profession.

In his new book, he lists the answers upside down on a different page. Here's the answer to the question above: All words have a silent "t."

Monday, January 24, 2011

Competing hospitals

At a health-care forum last week, representatives of Charlotte’s two large hospital systems and the state’s largest health insurance company talked about how they need to work together to improve care and reduce costs.

Carolinas HealthCare System and Presbyterian Healthcare have been zealous competitors for decades.

Carolinas HealthCare is the bigger, public system, with more hospitals and beds, a medical residency program to train doctors and a network of clinics that provide care for the indigent. Presbyterian, the private system, has grown too, through its merger with Novant Health of Winston-Salem, but suffers from an out-of-date reputation as a place that caters to wealthy, insured patients.

“We need to look at it being a new day and not being so, forgive me for saying this, competitive in Charlotte,” Mark Billings, president of Presbyterian Healthcare. “(We need to be) more collaborative. We see banks working together on things all the time.”

But despite the call for change, it didn’t take long for competition to creep into the discussion at Central Piedmont Community College’s Harris Conference Center.

When the moderator half-jokingly asked whether he should get bids before having a knee transplant, Russ Guerin, a executive vice president at Carolinas HealthCare, said: “You could, I suppose. But I would just go to our hip and knee center at Mercy Hospital.”

The audience erupted in laughter at the self-serving plug.

When Billings got the floor again, he couldn’t resist.

“Since we’ve already thrown it out there,” he said, “there’s only one orthopedic hospital in the area.”

He didn’t need to explain that he was talking about Presbyterian Orthopaedic Hospital.

“And by the way,” Billings said, as laughter continued, “it’s the top-rated orthopedic hospital in the country.”

Friday, January 21, 2011

Mobile mammography center takes the road

On Monday, Jan. 24, Charlotte Radiology will launch a new mobile mammography unit to provide early screening for breast cancer for women in Mecklenburg, Gaston, Union and York counties.

The mobile unit is 38 feet long, with a registration and waiting area, two private dressing rooms and a private exam room. Staffed by two certified mammography technologists, the unit offers digital mammography, which provides better quality exams, reduces radiation and shortens exam times.

Each exam will be interpreted by a board-certified physician who specializes in breast imaging. Most appointments take less than 30 minutes.

About 68 percent of women ages 40 and above have had a mammogram within the past two years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Mecklenburg County reports more than 120 cases of breast cancer per 100,000 people, higher than the national average, according to the National Cancer Institute.

To schedule a mammogram, call 704-367-2232 or go to

To schedule the mobile breast center at your business, call Charlotte Radiology at 704-334-7811.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Is Health Reform Legal?

Legal challenges to the 2010 health reform law are winding their way through the courts. And predictions are that the Supreme Court will have the final word on whether the federal government can require every citizen to buy health insurance.

Read more about the reasoning behind these challenges and decisions in The New Republic's first "Online Cover Story" by Jonathan Cohn, author of "Sick: The Untold Story of America's Health Care Crisis - and the People Who Pay the Price."

Here's a link to Cohn's article, called "The Worst Case: How health care reform really could get repealed—and why the repercussions would go well beyond health care."

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

To repeal or not to repeal

Up to 4.1 million non-elderly N.C. residents with a pre-existing medical condition could be denied health-care coverage without the new health reform law, according to an analysis released today by U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

Across the country, up to 129 million Americans would be at risk.

Under the new law, which takes full effect in 2014, Americans with pre-existing conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease, can get health insurance when they need it, and families don't have to worry about having insurance cancelled or capped when a family member gets sick or about going broke because of the medical costs of an accident or disease.

See the full report at:

In a new column, Drew Altman, president and CEO of the Kaiser Family Foundation, discusses the upcoming vote by the House of Representatives on repeal of health reform and reviews polls about what Americans think. Here's a link if you want to read more:

Thursday, January 13, 2011

No improvement on medical mistakes

Hospitals are falling short on efforts to make medical care safer, according to a recent study that collected its data from 10 N.C. hospitals.

It was the first major study to analyze harm from medical care since a well-publicized 1999 report by the Institute of Medicine sparked a movement to reduce errors and make hospitals less hazardous.

The new study, published in November in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that the most common problems - complications from procedures and drugs, and hospital-acquired infections - have not improved.

If you haven't read about the study, here's a link to the New York Times story:

And here's an interesting commentary:

If any of you have had experience with hospital-acquired infections, I'd like to hear from you.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Health-care Forum Cancelled

Tomorrow evening's free health-care forum featuring State Sen. Bob Rucho, a Matthews Republican, and Alison Rose Levy, a health reporter for the New York Times, has been cancelled because of the snow and ice.

Sponsored by the Institute for Emerging Issues at N.C. State University, the forum had been planned for Tuesday Jan. 11, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Booth Playhouse in Blumenthal Performing Arts Center.

The program will not be rescheduled.

MURDOCK Study Reaches 5,000 Participants

In less than two years, the Murdock study at the N.C. Research Campus in Kannapolis has enrolled 5,000 volunteers.

With blood samples and other information from these volunteers, researchers are building a database that they say will "rewrite the textbook of medicine" by helping to better understand common diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease and multiple sclerosis.

The goal is to recruit about 50,000 volunteers from Kannapolis and Cabarrus County for the Duke University study, named for billionaire Dole Food owner David Murdock, who donated $35 million for this project.

Volunteers must live in Cabarrus County or Kannapolis and be at least 18 years old. Schedule an appointment at 704-250-5861 or

You'll be asked to make a 30-45 minute, one-time visit to one of 17 enrollment sites. Staffers will check vital signs and obtain blood and urine samples. Volunteers agree to be contacted every year for follow-up and may be asked to participate in additional research studies.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Are Seniors Selfish?

I'm weeks behind in reading The New Yorker, but I want to belatedly alert readers to the Nov. 22 article about "the revolt of the retired" that has led to so much talk about repealing the federal health reform law of 2010.

The article, by James Surowiecki, points out that "in every age group but one - seniors -a plurality of voters want to keep the bill intact."

The reason? Seniors believe health reform is coming at their expense. "Never mind that...the (new law) also has a host of provisions that benefit seniors - most notably the closing of the infamous drug benefit 'doughnut hole,' which had left people responsible for thousands of dollars in prescription drug costs."

The author adds, "There's a colossal irony here: the very people who currently enjoy the benefits of a subsidized, government-run insurance system are intent on keeping others from getting the same treatment."

Read for yourself at:

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The ideal health-care system

If you had the power to design your own health-care system, what would it look like?

This is the question participants will be asked Tuesday, Jan. 11, at a free forum, "My Healthcare, My Way," featuring State Sen. Bob Rucho, a Matthews Republican, and Alison Rose Levy, a health reporter for the New York Times.

The free program, sponsored by the Institute for Emerging Issues at N.C. State University, is from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Booth Playhouse in Blumenthal Performing Arts Center, 130 North Tryon Street.

Rucho will kick off the event by describing North Carolina's health-care challenges. Levy will share her thoughts on patient responsibility for health.

Then, the tables will be turned, and participants will be asked for their opinions about how to design the best health-care system.

Space is limited. Register at Under "News and Events," click on My Healthcare, My Way.