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Conditions that mimic Parkinson's may cause treatment delays

Many West Virginia patients may be diagnosed with Parkinson's disease based on their symptoms. These symptoms typically include trembling, weakness, muscles that feel stiff and walking with an unsteady gait. Unfortunately, because the symptoms of Parkinson's disease also mimic those of other illnesses and conditions, people may be misdiagnosed and receive the wrong treatment. Getting the correct diagnosis and beginning treatment as soon as possible gives patients the best prognosis.

The symptoms of Parkinson's disease are similar to many disorders, but mainly mimic two -- essential tremors and drug-induced Parkinson's disease. Essential tremors, which are also known as benign essential tremors or familial tremors, is a movement disorder that causes brief, uncontrollable shaking in the hands. Essential tremors may also be experienced in the neck, head, voice box and in the lower body. There is a treatment for the tremors, but it is different than Parkinson's treatment, so it's important the correct diagnosis is made.

What is the state doing to keep motorcycle riders safe?

Motorcycles are a popular way to get around. While they only account for 3 percent of all vehicles on the road, there are many people who are loyal biking enthusiasts. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety notes a significant rise in motorcycle-related crashes and deaths from 2011 to 2016. Motorcycle fatalities account for 13 percent of all motor vehicle accident fatalities.

Every state passes motorcycle laws to keep motorcyclists safe on roads and highways. Knowing the laws in West Virginia before you decide to purchase that new hog is essential.

Malpractice premiums and claims on the decline

Doctors in West Virginia might pay as much as $50,000 to $200,000 per year in medical malpractice insurance premiums, but the rate is not rising. This contrasts with the turn of the century when rates were going up as much as 25 percent. The average jury award was $3 million, and this drove some companies out of the business, leading some doctors to struggle in search of coverage.

One of those companies was St. Paul Cos. In 2001, when it ended malpractice coverage, it was the largest in the business, and over 40,000 physicians were affected. The trend today is for more physicians to work for large practices or hospitals, which help pay some of the malpractice insurance premiums.

Understanding LBD

West Virginia residents who suffer from Lewy body dementia, or LBD, may have their condition misdiagnosed. That's because the condition's symptoms are very similar to well-known diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. Even though almost 1.4 million people in the United States are believed to have LBD, many medical professionals are not familiar with the condition.

LBD is a complex and progressive disorder of the brain. With this condition, Lewy bodies, or abnormal deposits of the alpha-synuclein protein, accumulate in the parts of the brain that oversee movement, cognition and behavior. It is a progressively debilitating disease that impacts the autonomic function of the body, including temperature regulation, bladder function, blood pressure control and bowel function. People who suffer from LBD are also likely to act out their dreams or have visual hallucinations.

Tractor-trailers with automatic braking systems are rare

Automatic emergency braking systems are either standard or optional equipment on many of the passenger vehicles available in West Virginia and around the country, and car makers have vowed to equip all of their vehicles with this potentially life-saving technology by 2022. However, few semi-tractor trailers are fitted with such systems despite evidence suggesting that they are highly effective and an alarming increase in truck accident fatalities over the last two decades.

The National Transportation Safety Board made the first of at least 10 calls for NHTSA to mandate commercial vehicle automatic emergency braking systems in 1990. The agency says that the technology is currently being tested and evaluated in the field. This testing is expected to be completed within the next two years according to the agency. Logistics industry trade groups have opposed a new regulation. Organizations including the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association say that new rules should be implemented on a voluntary basis.

Construction work is booming, but so are contract disputes

The construction industry in West Virginia is booming; in fact, it is running rings around states like California and Nevada. However, more construction activity brings a greater opportunity for disputes over various issues. Some contract disputes must be settled in court, but many can be resolved without litigation.

The good news

FMCSA seeks comments on proposal for HOS rule changes

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is responsible for implementing hours-of-service rules for commercial truck drivers. In August 2018, the agency published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking listing several potential changes to the HOS rules. Truckers and the owners of truck fleets in West Virginia may be happy to see some of the changes under consideration. Below is a summary of them.

First, the FMCSA is planning to make an exception to its current 14 on-duty hour limitation: it may allow two extra hours to truckers who are faced with bad driving conditions. It also plans to revise the rule that a 30-minute break be taken after eight consecutive on-duty hours. Truckers with a sleeper berth compartment may again be allowed to split up their 10 hours of mandatory rest in between shifts.

Radiology mistakes contribute to serious diagnostic failures

Physicians in West Virginia often rely on reports from radiologists when trying to diagnose their patients. An analysis of over 10,000 closed malpractice claims conducted by an insurer of health professionals between 2013 and 2017 identified radiologists as a vulnerable link in the diagnostic chain. The claim data indicated that the misinterpretation of clinical tests contributed to 80 percent of diagnostic-related insurance claims. When drilling down into diagnostic-related claims, 80 percent of cases resulting from radiologist failures caused permanent injury or death.

Mistakes by radiologists typically contributed to missed opportunities to detect serious cancers like breast, lung, pancreatic and ovarian. A report issued by the Institute of Medicine highlighted the critical role of radiologists and pathologists in producing accurate diagnoses. The report noted that these physicians usually work in isolation from the medical teams attempting to diagnose patients.

Misdiagnosis may constitute medical malpractice

A report published by Coverys, an insurance agency, found that 80 percent of cases of missed radiology diagnosis lead to permanent injury or death for the patient. The report was based on five years' worth of medical professional liability claims and also noted that 80 percent of all claims related to diagnosis arose from a worker misinterpreting a clinical test. People in West Virginia might want to be aware of this common area of medical errors.

The author of the report, also vice president of business analytics for Coverys, said there was an opportunity to reduce errors in radiology diagnosis in order to improve outcomes for patients and prevent harm. Researchers examined more than 10,000 closed Coverys claims that were filed from 2013 to 2017. According to the report, approximately 15 percent of diagnosis-related malpractice actions involved one or more radiologists. Among claims that alleged errors in diagnostics, misdiagnosis of cancer was the most common. The most prevalent misdiagnosed cancers were those of the lungs, ovaries, breasts and pancreas.

Data research may alleviate distracted driving accidents

In West Virginia and across the United States, many people may not realize that distracted driving is often the cause of major truck accidents. These accidents can result in pain and suffering, lost wages, serious injuries and even permanent disability for victims.

Long-distance truck drivers are not easily distracted by smartphones or other personal computing devices; these professionals are trained to handle various data and communications devices installed in the cabins of their vehicles, but distracted driving can be prompted by other factors such as fatigue or being away from home at a time when family problems are developing. The road transportation industry is known to make extensive use of telematics and analytics to improve its operations, which is why it makes sense that this data is now being used to study distracted driving situations.

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