News in brief: New metric could help improve cognition monitoring in the elderly; Physicians missing from social media; Australia wins bronze in global health services ranking

9 Aug 2021

New metric could help improve cognition monitoring in the elderly

A new neuroimaging metric could help clinicians better monitor age-related cognitive decline in older adults, according to an Australian study.

Developed by researchers from the UNSW Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing, the diffusion weighted imaging- (DWI) derived ‘difference in distribution functions (DDF)’ measure is designed to characterise white matter integrity, capture age and cognition changes and distinguish diseased brains from healthy ones, the authors wrote in NeuroImage.

DDF — which is the difference between a patient’s mean diffusivity (MD) distribution and that of a reference — “better explained the variance of changes related to age and cognition” than traditional DWI measures such as fractional anisotropy and MD, they wrote.

It also had “higher diagnostic accuracy for classifying cerebral small vessel disease (CSVD) from controls”.

The measure was generated using a population-based cohort from the UK Biobank and validated using data from the community-dwelling Sydney Memory and Ageing Study sample and CSVD and control patients from the Renji Cerebral Small Vessel Disease Cohort study.

The mathematical framework for calculating DDF can be applied to other DWI metrics, they wrote.

A computer program for DDF is available online:

Physicians missing from social media

While most physicians (70%) have some kind of social media presence the vast majority are not active, a study of 650 randomly selected doctors at the top 10 US hospitals has found.

Physicians were most likely to have a social media profile on LinkedIn (45%), followed by Facebook (23%) and Twitter 19%) and 7% had a blog or personal webpage.

However, almost 90% had no engagement on social media in recent months in terms of posts or interactions with other users, the survey found.

Physicians had a median of 99 followers on Twitter, 301 on Facebook and 161 followers on LinkedIn. Female physicians were more likely than males to have a social media presence, according to the findings published in JAMA Network Open.

The survey also showed that surgeons had higher number of followers than physicians and were also three times more likely to be active on social media.

Australia wins bronze in global health services ranking

The COVID-19 ravaged UK’s National Health Service has slipped from first place to fourth in a ranking of global health services in 11 high-income countries allowing Australia to step onto the podium in third place overall.

US think tank the Commonwealth Fund’s assessment of healthcare system performance looked at 71 measures across five areas – access to care, care process, administrative efficiency, equity, and healthcare outcomes.

It found the top-performing countries overall to be Norway, the Netherlands, and Australia, followed by the UK.

Australia was first in the domains of equity and health care outcomes, second in administrative efficiency but performed less well in care process and access to care.

The UK’s drop in rankings has been attributed to the impact of the pandemic on the overall health service.

The United States ranked last overall and in all but one domain, despite spending far more of its gross domestic product on health care than other countries.

New Zealand topped the domain of care process which measures activities such as preventive care, safe care, coordinated care, and engagement and patient preferences.

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