Update

December 15, 2006

Deer crashes, mortgage foreclosure; MCAT discrimination?

MCAT

A national standard isn't good enough for this court

Deer crackups are sad-and pricey

Collisions with deer caused an average of $2,800 in property damage in 2005-2006, and the crash rate has gone up almost 6 percent from last deer season, says State Farm. Accidents involving deer are more frequent in the fall and winter, when the animals are migrating and mating. Deer are also most active between 6 and 9 p.m. Pennsylvania has the highest number of deer crashes, followed by Michigan, Illinois, and Ohio.

CHECKING

Interest-paying accounts barely make cents

The average yield for a checking account that pays interest is the highest in more than three years, but it's still a dismal 0.34 percent, says Bankrate.com. That's up from a mere 0.27 percent in 2003. To get that measly rate, you'll have to make an initial deposit that's seven times that of a noninterest-bearing account and park an average of $2,660 in the account to avoid paying average fees of $10.74 a month. On the other hand, more than 60 percent of noninterest-bearing accounts have no balance requirements or monthly service fees. For those that do charge a monthly fee, the average is only $2.52.

TECHNOLOGY

Will Google replace The Merck Manual?

Searching with Google may help you formulate a differential diagnosis, according to a study published in the BMJ. Australian researchers took a sample of diagnostic cases presented in The New England Journal of Medicine and did a search for each case without knowing its differential diagnosis or conclusion. Researchers used terms they believed would rule out nonspecific results and selected "statistically improbable phrases" (such as "cardiac arrest sleep") whenever possible. Then they compared the correct diagnosis as published in the case records with the three most prominent diagnoses returned by the search engine that best fit the signs and symptoms. Google was correct 58 percent of the time. Sometimes, the search engine gave the correct diagnosis, but researchers thought it wasn't specific enough. In one case, Google returned a diagnosis of extrinsic allergic alveolitis instead of extrinsic allergic alveolitis caused by Mycobacteriumavium, also known as "hot tub lung."

SHOPPING

Add yourself to the holiday list

Nearly half of holiday shoppers get a little something for themselves, too, says a survey released by Bill Me Later, an online payment service. About 48 percent spend more than $50 on themselves, while 23 percent plunk down more than $100 on "self-shopping." Men and women both like to treat themselves to clothing more than anything else.

REAL ESTATE

More people are losing their homes

INTERNET PHARMACIES

Protecting patients from counterfeits

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, the professional and regulatory body for pharmacists in England, Scotland, and Wales, plans to launch a pilot program to help patients identify bona fide online UK pharmacies. The RPSGB has designed a logo that would appear on the website of pharmacies registered with the society and enable visitors to link to the society's online registry of pharmacists and pharmacy premises. (All pharmacists in Great Britain are required to register with the society.)

Stock Pick

Energy prices will always be volatile, but strong demand out of Asia, generally healthy economies in the US and Europe, limited excess production capacity, and ever-present geopolitical risk are likely to keep prices elevated. That, in turn, means more business for Tidewater, as energy companies increase their spending to meet demand. With oil prices relatively low over the past two decades, management actively repurchasing the stock, and shares sporting a lean price-earnings ratio, Tidewater's three-to-five-year target price is $84-a nearly 60 percent jump from the current price.

Our stock analyst is John Buckingham, the editor of The Prudent Speculator, the investment newsletter rated No. 1 for total return performance for 25 years by The Hulbert Financial Digest. Buckingham also manages the Al Frank Fund and Al Frank Dividend Value Fund, mutual funds that focus on undervalued and out-of-favor companies. *Data through Nov. 30, 2006. Source: Morningstar

QUALITY CARE

When saying "I'm sorry" just isn't enough

The Leapfrog Group, a national coalition of large healthcare purchasers, is asking hospitals to agree to be held accountable for "never events"-medical errors that occur rarely, are clearly identifiable, largely preventable, have serious consequences, and should never happen. Under the proposal, when such an error does occur, hospitals must apologize to the patient, notify at least one reporting agency (the JCAHO, for instance), perform a root-cause analysis, and either waive all costs directly related to the event or pay for additional care that's needed as a result of the original treatment. However, the group suggests that the specific details of "waiving costs" should be handled on a case-by-case basis. The 28 Serious Reportable Events (as defined by the National Quality Forum) include operating on the wrong body part, leaving a foreign object in the patient, and discharging an infant to the wrong person. Hospitals agreeing to the policy would be recognized publicly through the 2007 Leapfrog Hospital Quality and Safety Survey. AHA President-elect Richard Umbdenstock says the AHA agrees with the policy, which "articulates what many hospitals are already doing."

RETIREMENT

Happy Birthday, 401(k)!

First offered 25 years ago as supplements to traditional pensions, 401(k) plans have taken over the realm of retirement savings. Twice as many workers are covered by 401(k)s as by traditional pensions, says the Investment Company Institute, a national association of investment companies. Through the end of 2005, 401(k) plans had 47 million active participants, compared to 21 million who participate in private-sector defined-benefit pension plans.