Real World Health Care Blog

Tag Archives: asthma

“I Don’t Know What I Would Have Done without HealthWell”

During the month of August, Real World Health Care will take a short break from focusing on medical breakthroughs and the researchers who are shaping the future of medicine. We will instead bring you a special series from our sponsor, the HealthWell Foundation, about what happens when families cannot afford the medical treatments their children desperately need. The families we will profile have turned to the Foundation for help, through the HealthWell Pediatric Assistance Fund®, the only fund of its kind.


Did You Know?

100 percent of donations to HealthWell go directly to patient grants and services.


Sophie

Sophie

Since its launch in 2013, HealthWell’s Pediatric Assistance Fund has awarded more than $850,000 in grants to help more than 400 children start or continue critical treatments covering more than 90 disease areas and conditions, including ADHD, autism, cerebral palsy, Type 1 Diabetes, epilepsy, scoliosis, seizure disorder and many more. The Fund covers family cost-shares for surgical procedures, medical devices, counseling services, prescription drug copays and other out-of-pocket costs. This week, we’d like you to meet the Ambassador of the Pediatric Assistance Fund, Sophie.

Sophie suffers from a chronic illness affecting millions of Americans: asthma. In her own words, Sophie describes what it’s like to live with asthma and how HealthWell helped her family afford the medication she needs.

“Finding HealthWell was like a breath of fresh air,” says Pat, Sophie’s father.

Sophie is one of 14 million children in the United States whose family is underinsured. You can help kids like Sophie afford the medical treatments they desperately need by donating your tax deductible gift to HealthWell’s Pediatric Assistance Fund. Donate today. Watch Sophie’s story.

Sophie TY

 

HCUP: Potentially Preventable Pediatric Inpatient Stays for Asthma and Diabetes

A statistical brief from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP) addresses one of the key issues in the healthcare industry today: preventing hospitalizations. HCUP examined trends in the rates of potentially preventable pediatric visits for asthma and diabetes, which have increased by 21 percent in recent years after seven years of decline.

Linda Barlow

Linda Barlow

Potentially preventable pediatric stays were more common for asthma than for diabetes, with asthma-related stays occurring at over four times the rate of diabetes-related stays. According to HCUP, asthma and diabetes remain more common in certain racial and ethnic minority groups and among poor and underserved populations.  Many hospital stays are potentially avoidable through regular ambulatory care by specialty and primary care physicians. Efforts to improve clinical guidelines and establish medical homes, as well as other initiatives may also result in a decline in potentially preventable pediatric hospital stays, according to the brief.

What strategies can patients and caregivers pursue to help reduce the rate of preventable hospital stays for children suffering from asthma and diabetes? Let us know your ideas in the comments section.

Get Your Flu Shot Now to Stay Healthier Later

So you think you’re too busy to get your flu shot? It’s easy to put off, but taking the time to do it sooner rather than later could prevent you from getting sick while helping to protect those you care about – during the holidays and beyond. That’s why the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), state and local health departments as well as other health agencies are raising visibility around National Influenza Vaccination Week (NIVW), from Dec. 8-14.

Paul DeMiglio

Paul DeMiglio

With the flu season beginning in the fall and not peaking until January-February, it’s certainly not too late to get your influenza shot. In fact, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends that everyone 6 months of age or older receive it, including:

  • Children
  • Seniors 65 and older
  • Pregnant women
  • American Indians and Alaska Natives
  • Those with underlying health conditions like asthma
  • Those living with conditions including chronic lung disease, heart disease, HIV/AIDS, cancer and diabetes

Although the effectiveness of flu vaccination varies each year, the CDC reports that recent studies demonstrate the evidence-based public health benefits. The Mayo Clinic agrees, calling flu shots your best defense against the flu, enabling “your body to develop the antibodies necessary to ward off influenza viruses.”

“The single best way to protect against the flu is to get vaccinated each year,” said CDC’s Anne Schuchat, M.D., Director, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. “Today, flu vaccines are available in more convenient locations than ever. The few minutes it takes to get a flu vaccine can save you from experiencing several unproductive days due to influenza. The most common side effects are mild and short-lasting, especially when compared to symptoms of influenza infection.  Flu vaccine cannot cause flu illness.”

Despite evidence that the influenza vaccine is an effective tool, some still fear that getting their shot might put them at risk for experiencing severe side effects. No more than one or two cases per million people vaccinated acquire Guillain-Barré syndrome, an outcome much lower than the risk of developing severe complications from influenza. From 1976-2006, in fact, estimates show that far more people died from flu-associated deaths in the U.S. (3,000-49,000) than from negative reactions to the vaccines that protect against influenza.

To build awareness and support of NIVW and encourage people to get their shots, the CDC is making a rich variety of online tools and resources available to a wide spectrum of patients, educators and providers, such as:

Partnering with Reckitt Benckiser, Inc., the makers of LYSOL® Brand Products, the CDC is also spotlighting the Ounce of Prevention Campaign, which seeks to empower consumers and professionals with practical tips and information around effective hand hygiene and cleaning habits to prevent infectious diseases like the flu.

Click here to see if the vaccine is available in your area. To find a nearby location to get the vaccine, check out HHS’s “Flu Vaccine Finder” on Flu.gov, enter your ZIP code and share the widget to let your family members, colleagues and friends know where they can go too. HHS also provides a series of informative YouTube videos that cover prevention strategies, share tips for identifying symptoms and provide recommended treatment practices.

You can also make a powerful statement by taking the pledge to get vaccinated for the 2013-14 season, commit to taking a friend with you and in the process spread the word by clicking here. To get the latest updates on flu vaccination efforts, follow the CDC on Twitter (@CDCFlu and @CDCgov) and “like” them on Facebook.

Now tell us if you’ve gotten your flu shot. Where did you go? How long did it take? What ways could providers and health care stakeholders more effectively remind patients to get vaccinated?

Make Life a Little Easier for Sick Children This #GivingTuesday

Cyndi from Midland, TX didn’t know how she was going to pay for the asthma medication her son Ethan desperately needed. Feeling like nothing was going right and not knowing where to turn, she was on the verge of losing hope. Then something dramatic happened that would change everything. Cyndi discovered the HealthWell Foundation:

Cyndi didn't know how she was going to pay for her son Ethan's (right) asthma medication until she found the HealthWell Foundation.

Cyndi didn’t know how she was going to afford asthma medication for her son Ethan (right) until she applied to the HealthWell Foundation for financial assistance.

Our son was born very sick. He spent 5 weeks in the NICU, 2 of which were on a ventilator. When we finally brought him home, we knew I had to stay home with him. If we put him in daycare, we knew he would get sick and that would be hard on his lungs. With me not working, it put a huge cloud over our finances. We quickly found out that his asthma medication was not cheap, even with insurance. I also found out that there isn’t a lot of help for people who have insurance and a decent job. I spent hours and hours on the Internet and the phone trying to find some help. One day I found HealthWell. We applied thinking we would be denied. The day I got the acceptance letter in the mail, I sat on the kitchen floor and cried. I felt a sense of relief. Finally, something was going right. We cannot be more grateful for all the help HealthWell has given us. 

When you give to HealthWell’s Pediatric Assistance Fund for #GivingTuesday, you will make a difference for children who have been diagnosed with a chronic or life-altering condition, just in time for the holidays. Every penny of your donation will help us provide financial assistance to patients so they can afford the rising cost of care:

  • To date, HealthWell has awarded more than 274,000 grants to insured adults and children across all of our funds to help them afford treatments.
  • In just two months, we awarded grants of up to $5,000 to more than 20 families.

No family should ever have to wonder whether they can afford to save their child’s life. By giving to the Pediatric Assistance Fund, you will help us remain a lifeline for families so they can afford life-saving treatment for their sick children.

Your gift will help ensure that families with children who have chronic conditions – including leukemia, cystic fibrosis, or juvenile diabetes – are not forced to choose between paying the bills and affording quality care. Here’s a breakdown of how donations, large and small, will have a tangible impact:

  • $10 covers the cost of diabetes test strips for Michael for one month.
  • $45 supports Yessenia’s pituitary hormone treatment for 1 week.
  • $75 covers Quinnlian’s lesion treatment for immunosuppressive disease for one month.

Start the holidays off right by donating to HealthWell for #GivingTuesday and make life a little easier for more families like Ethan’s. Your gift will make the season brighter for children and families struggling to afford the medications or treatments they need.

Categories: Cost-Savings

It Takes a Community for Effective Disease Prevention and Management

To help stem the tide and high cost of persisting disparities in U.S. health care, providers are leveraging Community Health Workers (CHWs) as critical players in improving health outcomes by successfully linking “vulnerable” patient populations to better care. Living in the communities where they work, CHWs understand what is meaningful to those communities, communicate in the language of those they serve, and incorporate cultural buffers to help patients cope with stress and promote health outcomes.

As the CDC reports, growing evidence supports the involvement of CHWs as a critical link between providers and patients in the prevention and control of chronic disease:

  • They help high-risk populations, especially African-American men in urban areas, to control their hypertension.
  • They enable diabetic patients to reduce their A1C values, cholesterol triglycerides and diastolic blood pressure.
  • Their interventions improve knowledge about cancer screenings as well as screening outcomes.
  • Their interventions help patients reduce the severity of asthma.

Many Americans – especially those with low incomes, have no insurance or face other socio-economic barriers to primary care – often distrust the health care system, or lack the resources and awareness needed to take charge of their health. As a result, they wait until health issues and chronic disease escalate enough to drive them into the emergency department, where they receive short-term solutions that drive up the total cost of health care.

CHWs are changing that, community by community. Examples of CHW programs – both at home and abroad – abound. One is Penn Medicine’s IMPaCT Program.

IMPaCT (Individualized Management for Patient-Centered Targets) pairs patients in need of extra support with relatable neighbors and peers (people who have shared language, ethnic and geographic backgrounds) to assist them in navigating the medical system and identify the underlying causes of illness.

“Lower income patients tend to poorly manage chronic disease and have worse health outcomes than other patient populations,” explains Dr. Shreya Kangovi, Director of the Penn Center for Community Health Workers, which houses the IMPaCT program. “They are less likely to get preventive care and more likely to end up in the hospital. This scenario leaves health care practitioners frustrated, because they can’t move the needle on health outcomes. And it makes it difficult for the health system to meet its quality targets.”

Dr. Kangovi notes that many patients served by IMPaCT didn’t have a relationship with a primary care physician prior to joining the program.

“There is a lot of focus today on reducing hospital re-admissions,” she says. “But before we can reduce re-admissions, we need to make sure patients have a substitute for the emergency department.”

She shared the story of “Ben,” a young man with a bad case of lupus and no insurance. Ben had been visiting Penn’s Emergency Department regularly for lupus flare-ups. There, he received steroids and pain medications before being sent along his way. Thanks to IMPaCT, Ben was set up with a primary care doctor who understands his health problems, and placed Ben on a better medication regimen. Not only does Ben now feel better, he has more trust in the health care system that he sees as an ally, she says.

IMPaCT currently serves about 500 patients via two programs – one for hospitalized inpatients and one for primary care outpatients. The program’s CHWs meet with patients upon admission to the hospital to set short-term goals and identify pathways to solving their clinical and socioeconomic hurdles. They advocate for patients during their hospitalization, then work with them during discharge and beyond to get them connected to resources in their community. On the primary care side, patients work with their IMPaCT partner over six months to break long-term health goals down into smaller, achievable steps.

“Once patients leave the hospital, real-life issues intervene,” Dr. Kangovi says. “IMPaCT’s community health workers address these health and life issues on the ground, and do so much better and at a much lower cost than clinically trained personnel.”

Are CHWs making a difference where you live? How are they helping to reduce costs and improve access to health care?

Categories: Access to Care