Australian Medical News Brief December 2016

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Welcome to Medshop Australia’s monthly series, News Brief, where we talk about what you may have missed. These are mostly articles we’ve posted in our social media news feeds. We consider them the most newsworthy events in Australian health and medicine from the last month. You will find links to the original articles. Let’s look back and review the top stories from December.


Friday essay: can looking at art make for better doctors?

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As reported by The Conversation, the University of Melbourne has a unique program for their medical students that involves delving into the study of art appreciation.

Originally piloted in 2012, the University of Melbourne medical faculty has their students visit the university's own art gallery, the Ian Potter Museum of Art as part of their education.

The students are asked to look at particular works of art and come up with their own interpretations and feelings about them. The group then shares their experiences with one another, not for the sake of coming to a group consensus about the meaning of a work, but rather to explore multiple meanings and interpretations.

This is designed to give the students a practical example of the medical method of differential diagnosis. The endeavour is also designed to encourage the development of students empathy and enhance their ability to appreciate alternative perspectives, thoughts, and feelings.


Pregnant Women Warned To Avoid Smartphone App With Two Babies

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As reported by the Daily Telegraph Australia, pregnant women are being warned against the use of any smartphone apps that claim to be able to accurately detect foetal heartbeats.

The message comes from the department of maternal and foetal health at the Sydney Royal Hospital where they have recently cared for two women who had been using this type of app. Unfortunately, both of these womens' pregnancies resulted in stillbirths.

They are urging women with reduced foetal movement to contact their doctor immediately so the issue can be investigated accurately and safely. The smartphone apps are not accurately able to predict foetal health or activity.

With early medical intervention, it is possible that these babies can be saved and the tragedy of stillbirths can be avoided wherever possible.


A Third of People Given Antibiotics Don’t Need Them

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As reported by The National Geographic, with antibiotic resistance a pressing issue that is on the rise, this article discusses the ways in which people are being incorrectly prescribed antibiotics when they really aren't required.

Part of this reason is due to increase pressure on doctors to work faster and see more patients, in both a hospital and general practice setting.

In many cases, broad spectrum antibiotics are being given as somewhat of a precautionary measure despite not necessarily having a definite diagnosis that would warrant a more specific course of treatment.

It can also be attributed to patient demand, with some patients specifically asking for antibiotics just in case.

There are cases where antibiotics are even being prescribed to treat flu or other viral illnesses just as a means to be thorough in case there may be some bacterial infection present, often without this having been confirmed.


Heart of Australia bus helps save bush lives

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As reported by Queensland Country Life, the community run Heart of Australia bus is now the dominant health service provider that travels around rural Queensland to provide health services to these remote communities.

Servicing 13 rural towns per month, the Heart of Australia bus service was designed by local cardiologist Dr. Rolf Gomes as an answer to the health care access challenges faced by those living in remote communities.

The risk factors for cardiovascular disease are increased in remote communities and limited access to health care plays a role in this. The Heart of Australia bus team includes a driver, a health assistant, an endocrinologist, a physician and Dr. Gomes himself.

Together this team brings hope and a better chance at optimal health and survival for those living in remote communities.


We don’t know enough about mental health in Australian medical students

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As reported by The Conversation, Medical students, and mental health issues are coming to our attention again following a comprehensive review and study conducted by the American Medical Association.

The study comprised of mental health analysis of medical students from 47 countries and provided some concerning data. Over a quarter of students studied were classified as depressed and 1 in 10 admitted to having suicidal thoughts.

This study has caused a stir but it only adds to the existing body of research that all suggests the same thing, that more needs to be done to address mental health issues within the medical student and junior doctor communities.

Closer to home, an Australian study conducted by Beyond Blue reported that 40 - 50 % of medical students experienced emotional exhaustion and or symptoms of anxiety and depression.

It seems obvious that more needs to be done, hopefully, these recent studies give rise to more action on the matter.

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