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Tag Archives: prevention

Groundbreaking Report Spotlights Benefits of Going Green for Hospitals

The Healthier Hospitals Initiative (HHI), a program that encourages hospitals to go healthier for patients by going greener, is marking its one-year anniversary by releasing the first-ever report (2012 Milestone Report) that quantifies the success of sustainability initiatives among hospitals in the U.S. and Canada.

HHI is made up of 13 sponsoring health systems and three nonprofit organizations including Health Care Without Harm, The Center for Health Design and Practice Greenhealth. As we reported in June, many hospitals are exploring ways to lower costs through environmentally friendly options and sustainable energy strategies.

Paul DeMiglio

Paul DeMiglio

“The HHI Milestone report shows that hospitals are increasingly embedding sustainability into their core operating system,” said Gary Cohen, President of Health Care Without Harm and Founder of HHI.  “HHI also offers hospitals a powerful way to meet the Triple Aim of improving the patient experience, addressing population health and lower their costs.”

The report demonstrates how the green efforts of 370 hospitals are translating to substantial cost-savings and a reduction in waste. In addition to recycling more than 50 million pounds of materials and saving approximately $32 million from single-use medical device reprocessing, the report also found that participating hospitals are:

  • Preventing 61 million pounds of waste from going to landfills (among 44 member hospitals).
  • Creating more healthful meals for their patients by limiting overall meat intake, decreasing the amount of meat served by 10 percent from 2010-12.
  • Increasing the overall amount of money spent on healthful beverages from 10 percent to 62 percent.
  • One hospital reported purchasing more environmentally friendly cleaning supplies, spending on average more than 37.75 percent of their cleaning supply budgets on green cleaning products.

“At Practice Greenhealth, our strength comes from the collective expertise and knowledge that members bring to the table about what works to make our health care more sustainable,” said Laura Wenger, RN, Executive Director of Practice Greenhealth. “HHI’s 2012 Milestone Report is proof that hospitals of all sizes benefit from this wisdom.”

The Commonwealth Fund 2012 report found that if health care organizations, such as hospitals, adopted sustainable practices, industry savings could add up to an estimated $5.4 billion in 5 years and more than $15 billion over 10 years.  The study also concludes that health systems that embrace green initiatives are examples for the health care system as a whole to follow.

“As part of a preventive approach to controlling chronic disease, increasing numbers of hospitals have committed to minimizing adverse environmental impact of their operations on patients, staff, and the community, serving as role models for the health sector and society at large,” the study authors noted.

Are health systems in your community embracing green initiatives? What do you see as the major barriers to more hospitals going green and what incentives could be created to overcome these challenges?

Categories: Cost-Savings

August Health Awareness Days Provide Opportunities to Take Action

As young people across the country go back to school, patient advocates and government stakeholders are leveraging awareness days to help communities learn about health issues impacting children, prevention strategies and efforts to improve care. Here are some examples:

Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month
Each August organizations including the Envision Foundation underscore the need for screenings and examinations to promote early detection, intervention and prevention of vision problems in children.

Paul DeMiglio

Paul DeMiglio

Vision disorders in children cost Americans more than $5.7 billion in direct and indirect expenses each year, while the overall cost of vision problems nationwide soars to an estimated $139 billion (includes long-term care, productivity loss and medical bills), according to Prevent Blindness America. Treating eye disorders and vision loss early in life helps protect children from developing chronic, lifelong conditions that become more expensive to treat because of long-term, indirect costs that increase as populations age.

“The beginning of a new school year is an exciting time in a child’s life,” Hugh R. Parry, President and CEO of Prevent Blindness America, said in a statement.  “By working together with parents and educators, we hope to give all our kids a bright and healthy start!”

National Immunization Awareness Month
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Public Health Information Coalition (NPHIC) highlights the need to improve national immunization coverage levels throughout August. To communicate the importance of immunizations now and throughout the year, NPHIC also developed a toolkit tailored to various populations including babies and pregnant women, pre-teens and teens, young adults, and adults. The toolkit seeks to:

  • Encourage parents of young children to get recommended immunizations by age 2.
  • Help parents ensure older children, preteens and teens have received all recommended vaccines by the time they return to school.
  • Remind college students to catch up on immunizations before they move into dormitories.
  • Educate adults, including health care workers, about vaccines and boosters they may need.
  • Urge pregnant women to get vaccinated to protect newborns from diseases like whooping cough.
  • Raise awareness that the next flu season is only a few months away.

The CDC also makes a wide array of resources available for those who want to learn more about the importance of immunizations or spread the word.

Neurosurgery Outreach Awareness Month
The American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) is among the organizations that underscores why the beginning of the school year is a great time to educate communities about strategies to prevent sports-related head and neck injuries like concussions. AANS provides tools to help others more effectively identify symptoms of potentially serious head/neck injuries and take preventive steps to ensure safety, also offering the following tips:

  • Buy and use helmets or protective headgear approved by the American Society for Testing Materials for sports 100 percent of the time.
  • Remain abreast of the latest guidelines and rules governing sports with a high prevalence of head injuries including cheerleading, volleyball, and soccer.

“Concussion awareness, understanding the symptoms of a potential concussion or other traumatic brain injury, is critically important in all sports,” AANS Public Relations Committee chair Kevin Lillehei, MD, FAANS, said in a statement. “Educating the public is one of the best weapons we have when it comes to combating these types of injuries. That is why it’s so important to raise awareness in the community and explain just what some of the effects are that these injuries have.”

Psoriasis Awareness Month
Sponsored by The National Psoriasis Foundation each year, Psoriasis Awareness Month is dedicated to “raise awareness, encourage research and advocate for better care for people with psoriasis.”

The most common autoimmune disease in the US affecting 7.5 million Americans, Psoriasis occurs when the immune system sends out faulty signals that speed up the growth of skin cells and produce red, scaly patches that itch and bleed. About 20,000 children under 10 are also diagnosed, often experiencing symptoms that include pitting and discoloration of the nails, severe scalp scaling, diaper dermatitis or plaques.

As part of Psoriasis Awareness Month, NPF is creating a community of “Pscientists” to “answer real‑world questions about psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.”

Spinal Muscular Atrophy Awareness Month
Although it’s considered a “rare disorder” with approximately 1 in 6000 babies born affected by it, Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) is a motor neuron disease that causes voluntary muscles to weaken and in some cases can lead to death, according to the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). Types I, II and III belong to a group of hereditary diseases that weaken the voluntary muscles in the arms and legs of infants and children, contributing to breathing issues, difficulty eating and drinking, impaired mobility and orthopedic complications.

Families of SMA, which has coordinated activities around SMA Awareness Month since 1996, and the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA), are two national organizations that support those living with SMA. Click here to learn about events this month, community networks and research projects for treatment and therapies.

What activities are taking place in your community to support one or more of these awareness days? What could the institutions in your neighborhood, workplace or at your school be doing year-round to more effectively engage populations about critical health issues?

Categories: Access to Care

World Hepatitis Day Spotlights Importance of Early Detection to Improve Prevention and Treatment Strategies

This Sunday, July 28, is World Hepatitis Day, an observance that reminds us that hepatitis (inflammation of the liver) remains largely unknown as a major health threat. Approximately half a billion people worldwide and 4.4 million people in the U.S. live with chronic viral hepatitis, with one million deaths resulting from the disease each year.

Linda Barlow

Linda Barlow

The goal of World Hepatitis Day is to move from awareness to action to address the “silent epidemic” of viral hepatitis – so named because most people don’t experience symptoms when they first become infected, often not until they develop chronic liver disease many years later.

Stakeholders in government and private industry are stepping up to answer the call, supporting early detection and medical intervention as key starting points to effectively address the epidemic.

Earlier this month, Quest Diagnostics announced a partnership with the CDC to improve public health analysis of hepatitis C screening, diagnosis and treatment for the 3.2 million Americans living with it. Under the collaboration, anonymous patient data will be evaluated to identify and track epidemiological trends in hepatitis C virus infection, testing and treatment and determine how those trends differ based on gender, age, geography and clinical management.

“Our collaboration with the CDC underscores the importance of using diagnostic information to derive useful insights enabling effective prevention, detection and management programs for diseases with significant impact on public health,” Jay Wohlgemuth, M.D., senior vice president, science and innovation, Quest Diagnostics, said in a statement.

Early detection was also the focus of a 2012 National Institutes of Health (NIH) study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In the study, researchers concluded that elevated blood levels of a specific enzyme and a specific protein early on in the course of hepatitis C infection were much more likely to develop into advanced fibrosis or cirrhosis. The study found:

  • The long-term course of chronic hepatitis C is determined early in infection.
  • Rapidly progressive disease correlated with persistent and significant elevations of alanine aminotransferase (ALT), an enzyme released when the liver is damaged or diseased.
  • Rapidly progressive disease correlated with persistent and significant elevations of the protein MCP-1 (CCL-2), a chemokine that is critical to the induction of progressive fibrogenesis and ultimately cirrhosis.

Armed with this information, clinicians are expected to make a fairly accurate assessment of which patients are likely to develop advanced disease rapidly. Instead of waiting for a new class of drugs to be approved, these patients are likely to be pressed to start treatment right away – with the goal of treating the virus before it causes cirrhosis of the liver.

Because hepatitis does not result in symptoms until serious liver damage occurs, getting tested is also crucial. In fact, the CDC recommends that everyone born from 1945-65 get a one-time test for hepatitis C because they are five times more likely than American adults in other age categories to be infected and face an increased risk of dying from hepatitis C-related illnesses.

The first FDA-approved hepatitis C genotype test is now available in the U.S. From Abbott, the fully automated Realtime HCV Genotype II test determines the specific type or strain of the HVC virus present in the blood of an HCV-infected individual.

To locate organizations where you can access services including Hepatitis testing, vaccines and treatment, click here. You can also take this 5-minute Hepatitis Risk Assessment to obtain a personalized report from the CDC.

Early awareness and prevention-based practices are crucial to avoiding hepatitis. But what else can be done to ensure access to and availability of reliable and cost-effective screening and diagnostics, in addition to safe and simple treatment regimens for people with the disease?

We hope this post serves as a resource for journalists covering or interested in writing stories about World Hepatitis Day and related issues. Also stay tuned for our follow-up post next week that will address the cost-savings implications of vaccination and early treatment of hepatitis.

More Patients Choosing Hospice “Comfort Care” Option

In today’s health care environment, so much attention is paid to preventing and eradicating disease to improve health outcomes. But for patients facing terminal illness or life-limiting conditions, accessing quality care can be a frightening and lonely challenge.

Linda Barlow

Linda Barlow

That’s where hospice comes in as an option for more and more people. A unique philosophy of care, hospice enhances quality of life for many patients and strengthens the health system’s quality of care by saving critical resources.

Supporting those who choose comfort care with pain and symptom management rather than curative care, it is designed to neither hasten nor postpone death. Hospice is provided in the patient’s home, hospital, extended care facility or residential care homes. Individual insurance plans vary in terms of coverage guidelines.

According to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO), an estimated 1.65 million patients received services from hospice in 2011.

“It is important for patients to understand that hospice is as much a part of the health care system as the birthing process,” says Barbara J. Westland, RN, BSN, Director/Administrator, BJC Hospice. “We are there to bring you into the world and we will be there to support you in your journey through hospice until the end.”

Because hospice focuses on care rather than cure, patient outcomes are measured in more qualitative ways, focusing on issues like pain relief within 48 hours of admission, avoiding unwanted hospitalizations and avoiding unwanted cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). And according to NHPCO, family caregivers who had the support of hospice report less instances of serious depression in the six months following the death of their loved one.

In addition to serving the physical, emotional, spiritual and practical needs of patients and their families, hospice also saves money. In fact, research published in the March issue of Health Affairs found that hospice enrollment saves money for Medicare – from $2,561 to $6,430 per patient, depending on the length of care – and improves the quality of care across a number of different lengths-of-stay.

“If 1,000 additional beneficiaries enrolled in hospice 15 to 30 days prior to death, Medicare could save more than $6.4 million,” notes the study’s authors. “In addition, reductions in the use of hospital services at the end of life contribute to these savings and potentially improve quality of care and patients’ quality of life.”

J. Donald Schumacher, NHPCO president and CEO, points to a study on the benefits of hospice from a cost and quality of care perspective:

“Hospice can reduce the number of intensive care visits, hospital readmissions and other services, which not only saves health care system dollars, but also contributes to a higher quality of life,” he says.

“With the aging population, we expect to see the hospice population growing,” Westland says, noting that between 2000-2007, the number ofhospice patients nearly doubled and the number of providers grew by 45 percent. “Hospice offers a choice for the final journey that is selected by some, but not right for everyone.”

Despite evidence that hospice provides many benefits some critics question whether the implications of market competition and commercialization driving this form of care are ethically consistent with the delivery of health services. In an article that appeared in the Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics during the summer of 2011, the authors argue that hospice care should be considered with great caution:

“The conflicting interests inherent in the incentive structures of for-profit health care endeavors demand careful scrutiny,” they say. “This is particularly important in the end-of-life hospice context.”

What do you think? Share your experiences and thoughts with us.

Patient Venture Philanthropies: Catalyzing the Development and Delivery of Therapeutic Breakthroughs

Linda Barlow

Linda Barlow

How are patient-focused organizations making tangible advances in creating life-saving and life-enhancing therapeutic innovations? The experiences of at least two foundations show that collaboration with stakeholders across industries – private, government, academia, insurers and clinicians – is a good place to start.

One example of success is JDRF (formerly the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation), the only global organization with a strategic plan to systematically eradicate the effects of type 1 diabetes (T1D) from people’s lives. As a foundation with cure, treatment and prevention strategies that drive the core of its mission, JDRF funds $530 million in scientific research across 17 countries. JDRF’s highest priority is funding research to deliver a cure for T1D and its complications. It is also committed to:

  • Developing better treatments that will transform the way people of all ages with T1D treat the disease at any stage, in order to help them live healthier lives; and
  • Preventing T1D, to keep future generations from developing the disease.

JDRF focuses its funding on therapies and devices that are truly impactful, either in the sense of bringing something to market more quickly or by reaching the largest possible number of patients.

“The challenge is bigger than we anticipated,” according to Jeffrey Brewer, President & CEO of JDRF. “We remain committed to a cure, but are also focused on helping patients live safely and well until a cure comes, through preventive and treatment strategies and treatments.”

Brewer says that JDRF has started working more with industry, noting that historically, the organization focused on academic-based research.

“Forty years of advances in the academic labs has given us the opportunity to translate developments in the labs to companies that will develop therapies to deliver to people,” he says. “Academic research is a critical early component in the pipeline, but company support is also a critical part of the pipeline. That’s why we incentivize companies to do things they otherwise wouldn’t have done.”

“JDRF is willing to take on more risk at an early stage than pharmaceutical companies,” adds Dr. Richard A. Insel, M.D., Chief Scientific Officer, JDRF. “We also are not driven by profit margins or market size. We act as a sort of virtual pharma or biotech company in the early stages of research, and our industry partners step in to bring therapies and devices to market.”

Brewer explains that once companies are able to successfully commercialize therapies and see a financial return, JDRF is “paid back” by those companies, with funds JDRF drives back into more therapeutic research.

“We also work closely with our industry partners and the government, particularly the National Institutes for Health, to make sure resources are being used most effectively and without duplication of effort,” says Insel. “And we work with regulatory agencies to help them better understand what it is like to live with type 1 diabetes so they can evaluate the risk and benefits of new therapies with an eye toward approving them as quickly as possible.”

The Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation (ADDF) also focuses on prevention, treatment and cure. Using a venture philanthropy model to bridge the worldwide funding gap between basic research and later-stage drug development, ADDF leverages any return on investment to support new research.

The result? ADDF has granted more than $60 million to fund over 400 Alzheimer’s drug discovery programs and clinical trials in academic centers and biotechnology companies in 18 countries.

“Our biomedical venture philanthropy model adapts the operating principles of venture capital investing to the ADDF’s philanthropic mission to advance biomedical research in Alzheimer’s disease. We seek a return on investment for our grants based on the achievement of scientific and/or business milestones. When these milestones are met, funds come back to the Foundation to increase our ability to fund more research,” according to the Foundation.

Source: Parkinsons Action Network

Source: Parkinson’s Action Network

Dr. Insel argues that the participation of patients and families in clinical trials is crucial to translating funding research into impactful therapies.

Do you agree? What other ways can patients living with type 1 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease or other chronic disease act as advocates for themselves and the disease in general? What other patient venture philanthropy models have you seen work?

Self-Service Kiosks Provide Innovative Path to Testing and Connection to Providers

The recent proliferation of affordable do-it-yourself consumer tools is one way patients are now empowered to take control of their health through prevention and wellness strategies.

One successful example is SoloHealth Station – a free, self-service kiosk offering comprehensive vision, blood pressure, weight and body mass index screenings. Currently located in select Wal-Mart, Safeway, Sam’s Club and Schnucks Markets, more than 10 million people have already used the kiosk in the past two years.

A $1.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health played a major role in expanding the company’s free medical screening technology, education and wellness programs to a wider audience, including traditionally underserved communities.

“Seventy-one percent of SoloHealth Station users are at medium to high risk of hypertension and 51 percent are overweight or obese,” says Bart Foster, CEO and Founder of SoloHealth. “At the core, we believe that awareness and action can lead to preventative measures that lead to lower costs. So, consumers who realize they are at high risk of BP or BMI would be more propelled to click through to access a doctor or search and scan our database. They are now empowered with knowledge they probably never had before and they want to act on it.”

Foster shares some compelling data that illustrates how SoloHealth links patients to providers:

  • Nearly 40,000 users have clicked through to one or more nearby doctors via the kiosk’s search function.
  • Users with high risk of blood pressure problems are 57 percent more likely to choose a physician.
  • Users with high risk of BMI problems are 97 percent more likely to select a doctor.
  • Users taking the Health Risk Assessment are over seven times more likely to choose a physician.

SoloHealth Station leverages an interactive touch-screen and incorporates videos as part of a 4.5-minute process that guides about 85,000 users each day through its tests. Individuals then receive a comprehensive follow-up health assessment, view their test results, get suggestions for improvement and are given access to a vast network of accredited medical professionals.

Some urge caution about self-service health kiosks, raising concerns about patient privacy, how companies might use personal health data, the quality of their medical information, and whether advertisers and other sponsors might shape their advice and referrals for commercial reasons.

Foster points out that even with the spread of health kiosks, medical professionals remain necessary.

“Technology like the SoloHealth Station can make access to health services and tools easy, free and convenient,” he says. “We believe people will use these accessible tools to take better control of their health care. Once enlightened about a potential health problem, the majority of consumers will act. And knowing is better than not knowing, because prevention leads to better outcomes and lower costs.”

Have you used a SoloHealth Station or other self-help kiosk? Would you do it again? Why or why not? Comment below.

Categories: Access to Care