Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

[Press release]Paper electronics could make health care more accessible

aPaper electronics could make health care more accessible.

From the 19 November 2014 EurekAlert

Flexible electronic sensors based on paper — an inexpensive material — have the potential to some day cut the price of a wide range of medical tools, from helpful robots to diagnostic tests. Scientists have now developed a fast, low-cost way of making these sensors by directly printing conductive ink on paper. They published their advance in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.

Anming Hu and colleagues point out that because paper is available worldwide at low cost, it makes an excellent surface for lightweight, foldable electronics that could be made and used nearly anywhere. Scientists have already fabricated paper-based point-of-care diagnostic tests and portable DNA detectors. But these require complicated and expensive manufacturing techniques. Silver nanowire ink, which is highly conductive and stable, offers a more practical solution. Hu’s team wanted to develop a way to print it directly on paper to make a sensor that could respond to touch or specific molecules, such as glucose.

The researchers developed a system for printing a pattern of silver ink on paper within a few minutes and then hardening it with the light of a camera flash. The resulting device responded to touch even when curved, folded and unfolded 15 times, and rolled and unrolled 5,000 times. The team concluded their durable, lightweight sensor could serve as the basis for many useful applications.

November 25, 2014 Posted by | health care, Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

High-Cost Generic Drugs — Implications for Patients and Policymakers — NEJM

High-Cost Generic Drugs — Implications for Patients and Policymakers — NEJM.

Excerpt

It is well known that new brand-name drugs are often expensive, but U.S. health care is also witnessing a lesser-known but growing and seemingly paradoxical phenomenon: certain older drugs, many of which are generic and not protected by patents or market exclusivity, are now also extremely expensive. Take the case of albendazole, a broad-spectrum antiparasitic medication. Albendazole was first marketed by a corporate predecessor to GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) outside the United States in 1982 and was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1996. Its patents have long since expired, but no manufacturer ever sought FDA approval for a generic version. One reason may be that the primary indications for the drug — intestinal parasites, neurocysticercosis, and hydatid disease — occur relatively rarely in the United States and usually only in disadvantaged populations such as immigrants and refugees. In late 2010, the listed average wholesale price (AWP) for albendazole was $5.92 per typical daily dose in the United States and less than $1 per typical daily dose overseas.

….

 

Meanwhile, there is little that individual consumers can do. Some drug companies, such as Amedra, offer assistance programs for indigent patients, but these programs often have complicated enrollment processes, and they do not offer an effective general safety net.5 Some patients instead seek to acquire these drugs in other countries, since many of them are widely and inexpensively available outside the United States, but such foreign sources may be of variable quality. Until regulatory and market solutions are implemented to reduce prices for these older drugs, patients requiring such drugs and the physicians treating them will continue to be faced with difficult choices.

November 25, 2014 Posted by | health care | , , | Leave a comment

[News item] Finding new ways to make drugs — ScienceDaily

Finding new ways to make drugs — ScienceDaily

Excerpt

Date:November 18, 2014
Source:Australian National University
Summary:Chemists have developed a revolutionary new way to manufacture natural chemicals by clipping smaller molecules together like Lego. They have used the new method to assemble a scarce anti-inflammatory drug

November 25, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , | Leave a comment

[Press release]Herbs and spices enhance heart health as well as flavor

Herbs and spices enhance heart health as well as flavor.

English: cinnamon bark Cinnamomum verum. Franç...

English: cinnamon bark Cinnamomum verum. Français : Canelle Cinnamomum verum. Ελληνικά: Κανέλα, μπαχαρικό (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Excerpt

Spices and herbs are rich in antioxidants, which may help improve triglyceride concentrations and other blood lipids, according to Penn State nutritionists.

Triglyceride levels rise after eating a high-fat meal — which can lead to an increased risk of heart disease. If a high-antioxidant spice blend is incorporated into the meal, triglyceride levels may be reduced by as much as 30 percent when compared to eating an identical meal without the spice blend. The spiced meal included garlic powder, rosemary, oregano, cinnamon, cloves, paprika, turmeric, ginger and black pepper.

Sheila G. West, professor of biobehavioral health and nutritional sciences, and Ann C. Skulas-Ray, research associate in nutritional sciences, reviewed a variety of research papers that focused on the effects that spices and herbs have on cardiovascular disease risk. They published their findings in a supplement to the current issue of the journal Nutrition Today, based on papers presented at the McCormick Science Institute Summit held in May 2014.

“The metabolic effects of spices and herbs and their efficacy and safety relative to traditional drug therapy represent an exciting area for future research given the public health significance of cardiovascular disease,” the researchers wrote.

West and Skulas-Ray looked at three categories of studies — spice blends, cinnamon and garlic.

“We live in a world where people consume too many calories every day,” said West. “Adding high-antioxidant spices might be a way to reduce calories without sacrificing taste.”

West and Skulas-Ray reviewed several cinnamon studies that looked at the effect of the spice on both diabetics and non-diabetics. Cinnamon was shown to help diabetics by significantly reducing cholesterol and other blood lipids in the study participants. However, cinnamon did not appear to have any effect on non-diabetics.

The garlic studies reviewed were inconclusive, but this is likely because the trials had a wide range of garlic doses, from nine milligrams of garlic oil to 10 grams of raw garlic. The reviewers noted that across the studies there was an eight percent decrease in total cholesterol with garlic consumption, which was associated with a 38 percent decrease in risk of heart problems in 50-year-old adults.

November 25, 2014 Posted by | Nutrition, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Datasets used by policymakers, scientists for public health analyses inconsistent [press release]

 

From the 17 November 2014 press release at the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Science 

Commercially available datasets containing a wealth of information about food and alcohol establishments differ significantly, raising concerns about their reliability as sources of information that could be used to set public policy or conduct scientific research, according to a University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health investigation.
The analysis, funded by the Aetna Foundation, will be presented Monday at the American Public Health Association’s (APHA) annual meeting in New Orleans. It examined systematic differences in two commercially available datasets when they were used to determine the relationship between neighborhood socioeconomic characteristics and the density of food and alcohol establishments.
“If we’re making decisions about setting public policy to improve public health – such as incentives for grocery stores that offer fresh produce in economically depressed areas – then we need to be making these decisions based on accurate data to back up the need for such incentives,” said lead investigator Dara Mendez, Ph.D., M.P.H., an epidemiologist at Pitt Public Health. “Our study found that relying on just one of these commercially available datasets likely wouldn’t provide robust information.”
There are numerous datasets available for a fee that give detailed information about food and alcohol establishments across the U.S. Typically, these datasets are purchased by companies that use them for marketing purposes.
Dr. Mendez and her team used two different commercially available datasets containing information about food and alcohol establishments in Allegheny County, which includes Pittsburgh. The information was divided into the 416 distinct census tracts in the county as a means to define neighborhoods. Each census tract consists of an average of 4,000 people.
Both of the datasets showed that the density of alcohol outlets increased as neighborhood poverty increased. However, the datasets differed when it came to grocery stores. One showed that as poverty increased, the number of grocery stores increased. The other showed no association.
“This is a perplexing disagreement that likely comes down to the datasets using different classification systems and also not accurately capturing all the information. For example, because we are familiar with Allegheny County, my team was able to determine that some of the key grocery stores in our area were not included,” said Dr. Mendez. “However, if we were doing a similar analysis for a city we were not familiar with, we likely wouldn’t catch the discrepancy and could come to an inaccurate conclusion.”
The Aetna Foundation funded the study as part of a larger grant to Pitt Public Health to study the potential influence of living in stressful neighborhoods on the health of African-American mothers and their babies.
Additional researchers on this study include Anthony Fabio, Ph.D., M.P.H., and Kevin H. Kim, Ph.D., both of Pitt; and Cecily Hardaway, Ph.D., of Duke University.
APHA Abstract No. 302593, “Examining systematic biases in secondary commercial data sources of food and alcohol environments: Differences across neighborhood racial and socioeconomic characteristics,” will be given as an oral presentation at 12:30 p.m. CST on Monday, Nov. 17, 2014.

 

November 25, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

[Press release] Complementary and alternative medicine for veterans and military personnel — update from Medical Care

Complementary and alternative medicine for veterans and military personnel — update from Medical Care.

From the 17 November 2014 press release

Special issue reports progress, but more work needed to incorporate CAM into military health settings

November 17, 2014 – A growing body of research evidence shows that complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) has health benefits for US military veterans and active duty personnel, according to a special December supplement to Medical Care. [All articles are free].The journal is published by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, a part of Wolters Kluwer Health.

The special issue presents new studies and commentaries on the benefits and increasing use of CAM techniques in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) and other military health settings. “The papers in this supplement represent promising steps to improve the health of veterans and active military personnel,” according to an introductory article by Guest Editors Stephanie L. Taylor, PhD, of Greater Los Angeles VA Healthcare System and A. Rani Elwy, PhD, of Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital, Bedford, Mass. “They mirror the countless stories we hear from veterans and their providers about the positive effect that CAM is having on their lives.”

Studies Show Value of CAM for Improving Health of Military Personnel

The supplement presents 14 original studies reporting on specific CAM therapies and on the current use, perceptions, and acceptance of CAM in veterans and current military personnel. The special issue of Medical Care is sponsored by the VHA’s Office of Patient Centered Care and Cultural Transformation.

Complementary and alternative medicine therapies are increasingly available, used, and appreciated by military patients, according to Drs Taylor and Elwy. They cite statistics showing that CAM programs are now offered at nearly 90 percent of VA medical facilities. Use CAM modalities by veterans and active military personnel is as at least as high as in the general population.

 

Previous systematic reviews have reported benefits of CAM treatments for many of the important problems seen in military populations, including chronic pain, anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and depression. Those prior results suggest that CAM therapies are “moderately effective” for these conditions–although these conclusions must be weighed against the weaknesses of the evidence base.

Highlights of the research included in the special issue include:

  • Studies reporting benefits of specific types of meditation practices. One study finds that a mindfulness-based intervention reduced depression and improved psychological well-being in veterans with PTSD. A study of mindfulness-based stress reduction for veterans shows reductions in anxiety and depression, as well as suicidal thoughts.
  • A report showing beneficial effects of acupuncture for veterans with PTSD. In addition to reduced severity of PTSD symptoms, the study shows improvements in depression, pain, and physical and mental health functioning. Another study finds that most veterans use vitamins and nutritional supplements, often substituting them for prescription drugs.
  • Studies showing high rates of use and favorable perceptions found of CAM modalities among veterans of the Gulf War and Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom. Veterans with PTSD are more likely to be accepting of CAM therapies.
  • Reports describing the rates and preferred types of CAM mind-body and other modalities among military members and veterans, as well as on health care providers’ attitudes toward CAM. While VA providers vary in their knowledge of CAM, many perceive benefits for their patients.

A commentary by Laura P. Krejci, MSW, and colleagues of the VA’s Office of Patient Centered Care & Cultural Transformation discusses the role of CAM in meeting the “number one strategic priority” of providing “personalized, proactive, patient-driven health care to veterans.” Dr Wayne B. Jonas and colleagues of the Samueli Institute, Alexandria, Va., draw attention to several bodies of research on CAM in the US military. They conclude that current policy and priorities leave “the majority of active duty service members, veterans, and their families to fend for themselves, to pay for or go without the beneficial effects of CAM and integrative medicine practices.”

While the studies in the special issue show progress, Drs Taylor and Elwy stress the need for additional rigorous research to better understand CAM’s potential for managing important conditions seen in military populations. They conclude, “It is time for more funding to be awarded to CAM …to improve the capacity of the field to carry out rigorous CAM research, which in turn will benefit veterans and military personnel, as well as the general population.”

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Click here to read “Building the Evidence Base for Complementary and Integrative Medicine Use among Veterans and Military Personnel.”

November 25, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , | Leave a comment

[New item] Secondhand marijuana smoke may damage blood vessels as much as tobacco smoke — ScienceDaily

From Secondhand marijuana smoke may damage blood vessels as much as tobacco smoke — ScienceDaily.

English: one high-quality "bud " nug...

English: one high-quality “bud ” nugget of marijuana (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Date:November 16, 2014

Source:American Heart Association

 Summary:Secondhand marijuana smoke may have similar cardiovascular effects as tobacco smoke. Lab rats exposed to secondhand marijuana smoke had a 70 percent drop in blood vessel function.

“If you’re hanging out in a room where people are smoking a lot of marijuana, you may be harming your blood vessels,” he said. “There’s no reason to think marijuana smoke is better than tobacco smoke. Avoid them both.”

Secondhand tobacco smoke causes about 34,000 premature deaths from heart disease each year in the United States among nonsmokers according to the U.S. Surgeon General’s 2014 report on the consequences of smoking.

More research is needed to determine if secondhand marijuana smoke has other similar effects to secondhand cigarette smoke in humans.

 

 

November 25, 2014 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , | Leave a comment

Poor-quality weight loss advice often appears first in an online search — ScienceDaily

From the 14 November 2014 item at ScienceDaily

Source:Health Behavior News Service, part of the Center for Advancing Health
Summary:More than 40 percent of U.S. Internet users use online search engines to seek guidance on weight loss and physical activity. A new study finds that high-quality weight loss information often appears after the first page of search engine results.

Given that obesity affects one-third of Americans, it is not surprising that more than 40 percent of U.S. Internet users use online search engines to seek guidance on weight loss and physical activity. A new study in the American Journal of Public Health finds that online searchers often initially encounter poor-quality weight loss information.

The study reveals that the first page of results, using a search engine like Google, is likely to display less reliable sites instead of more comprehensive, high-quality sites, and includes sponsored content that makes unrealistic weight loss promises.

..

“Federal agencies, academic institutions and medical organizations need to work a lot harder at search engine optimization to get their links on top of searches,” Modave added. “Consumers need to be more critical when reading online. Ideally, they could read original studies from which many stories are written but, of course, that’s not realistic for most people.”

 

Related Resources

 

November 25, 2014 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , , | Leave a comment

[Psychology Resource] APA Center for Organizational Excellence

APA Center for Organizational Excellence

·http://www.apaexcellence.org

From the Scout Report

The science of psychology is often associated with either carefully controlled lab experiments or the soft-spoken tones of a therapist’s office. But psychologists actually study a huge range of behavioral phenomena. This site from the American Psychological Association (APA) focuses on work and work environments, asking questions such as: What makes work meaningful? How can companies help people love their jobs? And what’s in it for the companies if they invest in making the workplace healthier? There is a lot to discover here, including the Articles & Research section, which links readers to coverage of workplace research by such media outlets as USA Today and Market Watch. The Good Company section is another great find and features Podcasts as well as a Newsletter and Blog that provide focused, research-based content for both employers and workers. Company executives may also want to look into the Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award, which has been “shining the spotlight on exemplary organizations” since 1999. [CNH]

November 25, 2014 Posted by | Psychology, Uncategorized, Workplace Health | , , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog] Tech Innovations in Healthcare | HealthWorks Collective

Tech Innovations in Healthcare | HealthWorks Collective.

From the 6 November 2014 post

As technology continually expands with each passing year so do the industries it affects. This year the world has been witness to everything from wearable technology like Fitbit Google Glass to 3D printing, both of which are prime examples of tech and healthcare melding.

The healthcare industry has been no stranger to advancements in technology. These medical marvels are changing the way people are impacted and thereby changing the face of the healthcare industry.

1. Mobile Apps

2. Telehealth

google glass3. Google Glass

4. 3D Printing

5. Optogenetics

 

6. Digestible Sensors

 

 

November 25, 2014 Posted by | Health News Items | , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog] Rewarding Patient Recovery | HealthWorks Collective

Rewarding Patient Recovery | HealthWorks Collective.

From the 6 November 2014 item at HealthWorks Collective

What if we paid for patient recovery rather than just patient services?

What if we paid to treat patients rather than just conditions?

What if we paid to personalize care rather just population health quality measures?

While these questions may sound academic, there is a groundswell of innovative healthcare providers working on the answers.  To realign the healthcare system to overall patient recovery and well-being, it will take physicians and other healthcare providers transforming the entire system. The good news is that this is quietly happening from within, with physicians, healthcare systems and health plans working together.

They include the over 500 Accountable Care Organizations6,500 providers considering bundled payment pilots and providers signing risk sharing agreements with health plans.  Physicians, healthcare systems and insurance plans are sharing data, sharing financial risk and focusing on improving overall patient outcomes and cost.

With little debate or fanfare outside the healthcare industry, Medicare quietly saved $372 million with their versions of the ACO. While some critics predict that ACOs will follow Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) demise in the 1990s, ACOs are different.  Patients are assigned to ACOs and remain free to go to any provider.  ACOs can’t limit care or require patients to see providers in their network.  The ACO’s were still able deliver great results even with these two major challenges which they call “churn” (ACO assigned patient turnover) and “leakage” (patients going outside the provider network).

Bundled Payments are just getting started with up to 6,500 providers deciding soon whether to go live Jan 1, 2015 with Medicare’s Bundled Payment for Care Improvement (BPCI) pilot. Provider/Health Plan risk sharing arrangements are expanding rapidly, indicating they are delivering.  This surge began when the Affordable Care Act (ACA) started requiring health plans to write rebate checks if they paid out less than 85% of their premiums in medical claims. This encouraged Health Plans to partner and reward providers for improvements in patient outcomes and cost. Health Plans leaders believe that the “blurring of the lines” between providers and health plans is just getting started.

Patient Recovery vs. Patient Services

 

 

November 25, 2014 Posted by | health care | , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog] “Health care consumers in the dark” – no kidding

“Health care consumers in the dark” – no kidding.

From the 24 November 2014
That headline appeared in the Minneapolis Star Tribune print edition yesterday. The focus of the article was how difficult it is to obtain medical cost data despite a state law and other efforts to increase transparency.item at HealthNewsReview.org

The same newspaper had a brief column the previous day about open enrollment season for workplace medical benefits, but that column’s final line seemed to conflict with the point of the longer story mentioned above.  The shorter column quoted the executive director of the MN Community Measurement group saying that the group’s rankings – “rating doctors on whether they provide optimal care to patients with diabetes, depression and other conditions….can help consumers make informed choices.”  The exec said consumers can now ask, “Is there much difference in quality, given the difference you might be asked to pay in price?”

Well, the “Health care consumers in the dark” story drove home the point that consumers can’t get the price answers.

Meantime, it was great to see a JAMA Internal Medicine article about a great piece of journalism on this same topic.  The article, by Lisa Aliferis of KQED radio in San Francisco, was entitled, “Variation in Prices for Common Medical Tests and Procedures.” It gives details about the PriceCheck project of KQED, KPPC, and the excellent ClearHealthCosts.com effort run by Jeanne Pinder.  Aliferis concludes the article:

“The window is cracked open on health cost transparency. We have been here before—with car sales, with airline tickets. Now, technology in combination with transparency can do the same for health care.

And yes, we have been asked whether people should “shop” for medical treatment in the same way they shop for a new car. If there were a correlation between cost and quality, this might be a reasonable question. Instead, in American health care, money is spent on unnecessary or unproven treatments much too often, and there’s widespread variation in price. People are waking up to these facts.

The money conversation makes the practice of medicine very complicated: the “gotcha” bill and the medication that is not covered challenge the physician-patient relationship. It is time to take off the blindfold and embrace transparency in pricing for medical care and services.”

 

November 25, 2014 Posted by | health care | , | Leave a comment

   

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