Kaiser Health News — Medicare failed to investigate suspicious infection cases from 96 hospitals
Almost 100 hospitals reported suspicious data on dangerous infections to Medicare officials, but the agency did not follow up or examine any of the cases in depth, according to a report by the Health and Human Services inspector general’s office. Most hospitals report how many infections strike patients during treatment, meaning the infections are likely contracted inside the facility. Each year, Medicare is supposed to review up to 200 cases in which hospitals report suspicious infection-tracking results. The IG’s study, released Thursday, was designed to address concerns over whether hospitals are “gaming” a system in which it falls to the hospitals to report patient-infection rates and, in turn, the facilities can see a bonus or a penalty worth millions of dollars.

CNN — Life expectancy differs by 20 years between some U.S. counties
Life expectancy at birth differs by as much as 20 years between the lowest and highest United States counties, according to new research published Monday in the medical journal JAMA Internal Medicine. Dr. Christopher J.L. Murray, lead author of the study and director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, estimated life expectancy for each US county from 1980 through 2014. Murray and his colleagues analyzed county-level data and then applied a mathematical model to estimate the average length of lives. Life expectancy at birth increased by 5.3 years for both men and women — from 73.8 years to 79.1 years — between 1980 and 2014, Murray and his colleagues wrote. During that time period, men gained 6.7 years, from 70 years on average to 76.7 years, while women gained four years, from 77.5 years to 81.5 years.

Science Daily — Empathy from the sick may be critical to halting disease outbreaks
A little empathy can go a long way toward ending infectious disease outbreaks. That’s a conclusion from researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology, who used a networked variation of game theory to study how individual behavior during an outbreak of influenza — or other illness — affects the progress of the disease, including how rapidly the outbreak dies out. The research study pitted the self-interests of susceptible individuals against those of infected persons, and found that only if sick persons took precautions to avoid infecting others could the illness be eradicated. Healthy people attempting to protect themselves couldn’t, by themselves, stop the disease from spreading. Among the key factors was empathy of infected persons.

NPR — Public restrooms become ground zero in the opioid epidemic
There’s very little discussion of the problem in public, says Dr. Alex Walley, director of the Addiction Medicine Fellowship Program at Boston Medical Center. “It’s against federal and state law to provide a space where people can use [illegal drugs] knowingly, so that is a big deterrent from people talking about this problem,” he says. Without some guidance, more libraries, town halls and businesses are closing their bathrooms to the public. That means more drug use, injuries and discarded needles in parks and on city streets. Walley and other physicians who work with addiction patients say there are lots of ways to make bathrooms safer for the public and for drug users.