DiversityNursing Blog

Innovations: Testing A Digital Pillbox To Improve Medication Compliance

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Wed, May 20, 2015 @ 03:10 PM

By Darius Tahir

www.modernhealthcare.com 

Digital pillbox.jpg&q=40&maxw=600&maxh=600 resized 600In the fall of 2012, Nick Valilis was diagnosed with leukemia just as he was starting medical school. In treatment he found it difficult to remember to take his medications at the proper time and in the right order.

“He struggled handling the sheer complexity,” said Rahul Jain, Valilis' classmate at Duke University. “He went from no meds to 10 meds a day. How is an 85-year-old cancer patient supposed to handle that same regimen?” 

Since then, Jain, Valilis and a few other Duke classmates have formed a startup company called TowerView Health with the goal of making it easier for patients to manage their medication regimens. Jain is CEO of the company, which was incorporated last year; Valilis is chief medical officer. They are about to launch a clinical trial, in partnership with Independence Blue Cross and Penn Medicine in Philadelphia, to test whether their technological solution helps patients understand and comply with their drug regimens.

That could be an important innovation. Poor medication adherence is estimated to cause as much as $290 billion a year in higher U.S. medical costs, as well as a big chunk of medication-related hospital admissions.

TowerView has developed software and hardware that reminds patients and their clinicians about medication schedules, and warns them when a patient is falling off track.

Dr. Ron Brooks, senior medical director for clinical services at Independence Blue Cross, said he thinks TowerView's solution is a notable improvement over previous medication-adherence technology. “Most of the apps I've seen are reminder apps,” he said. “It might remind you to take a medication, but you have to input that you actually take it. There's no closing of the loop.” By contrast, TowerView automatically provides reminders and tracking, with the opportunity for clinician follow-up.  

Here's how TowerView's system works. When clinicians prescribe drugs and develop a medications schedule for a patient, the scrips and schedule are sent to a mail-order pharmacy that has partnered with TowerView. The pharmacy splits the medications into the scheduled dosages on a prescription-drug tray. The tray is labeled with the schedule and sent to the patient, who places the tray into an electronic pillbox, which senses when pills are taken out of each tray compartment. 

The pillbox sensors communicate with connected software through a cellular radio when patients have taken their pills and when it's time to remind them—either through a text message, phone call or the pillbox lighting up—that they've missed a dose. The system also compiles information for providers about the patient's history of missed doses, enabling the provider to personally follow up with the patient.

But some question whether tech solutions are the most effective way to improve medication adherence. A 2013 literature review in the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association identified nearly 160 medication-adherence apps and found poor-quality research evidence supporting their use.

Experts say it's not clear whether apps and devices can address the underlying reasons why patients don't comply with their drug regimens. For instance, patients simply might not like taking their drugs because of side effects or other issues. “I'd wager that improved adherence—and a range of other health benefits—are ultimately more likely to be achieved not by clever apps and wireless gadgets, but rather by an empathetic physician who understands, listens and is trusted by her patients,” Dr. David Shaywitz, chief medical officer at DNAnexus, a network for sharing genomic data, recently wrote.

Jain doesn't disagree. He notes that his firm's system empowers empathetic clinicians to provide better care. “This solution allows more of a communication element,” he said. “We'll be able to understand why patients don't take their meds.” 

That system soon will be put to the test in a randomized clinical trial. TowerView and Independence Blue Cross are enrolling 150 diabetic patients who are noncompliant with their medication regimens; half of those participants will receive usual care. The goal is to improve compliance by at least 10% over six months.

If it works, Jain and his company hope to sell the product to insurers and integrated healthcare providers working under risk-based contracts. The idea is that patients' improved adherence will reduce providers' hospitalization and other costs and boost their financial performance.

Topics: pills, software, technology, health, healthcare, medication, medical, patients, medicine, patient, treatment, digital pillbox

IdentRx Promises to Prevent Nearly All Medication Errors

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Wed, Apr 29, 2015 @ 11:08 AM

www.medgadget.com 

describe the imageMedication errors continue to plague the clinical community and even rare cases of mistakes can make a big splash in the news. And for a good reason: we all expect to be treated than harmed when receiving medical care. A new device is currently in the third round of pilot testing, including at major retail pharmacies and Purdue University, that may help avoid prescription errors altogether. The IdentRx system from PerceptiMed, a Mountain View, California firm, optically analyzes every single pill that will be given to a patient to make sure it precisely matches each prescription.

It is the only device that visually inspects each pill, recognizing the manufacturer imprints on them all. The system confirms that the pills themselves, and not only the container bottles, match the issued prescriptions, hopefully preventing errors just before the pills are handed to the patients.

Topics: medical technology, prescription, medication errors, technology, health, healthcare, medication, medical, patients, medicine, patient

'Miracle Baby' Eli Is One In 197 Million Born With Rare Facial Anomaly

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Thu, Apr 02, 2015 @ 12:01 PM

By Michelle Matthews

Source: www.al.com

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Shortly before their baby, Eli, was born, Brandi McGlathery and Troy Thompson talked about the physical qualities they hoped he would possess.

"I said I wanted him to have blond hair," Brandi said. "And Troy said, 'I hope he doesn't get my nose.'"

At the time, it was just a joke between two parents anxiously awaiting their baby's arrival. After Eli was born, though, it became the kind of memory that now makes them wince at its irony.

When Eli was born at South Baldwin Hospital on March 4, weighing 6 pounds, 8 ounces, Dr. Craig Brown immediately placed him on Brandi's chest. As the doctor helped Troy cut the cord, Brandi looked at Eli for the first time.

"I pulled back and said, 'Something's wrong!' And the doctor said, 'No, he's perfectly fine.' Then I shouted, 'He doesn't have a nose!'"

The doctor whisked Eli away, and for about 10 minutes Brandi was left alone in the delivery room thinking surely she hadn't seen what she thought she saw - or didn't see.

When Dr. Brown returned, he put his arm on her bed and took a deep breath. "He had the most apologetic look," she said. She knew something was wrong with her baby. She started to cry before he said a word.

She looked to Troy, who, she said, never cries. He had tears in his eyes.

She'd been right. Eli didn't have a nose.

Meanwhile, he had started breathing through his mouth right away. She remembers that he was wearing a tiny oxygen mask. Not having a nose "didn't faze him at all," she said.

"I was the first person to see it," she said. "Even when they took him away, my family still didn't know something was wrong, due to being caught up in the excitement of his arrival. It wasn't until they opened the blinds of the nursery that everyone else saw."

Before she knew it, Eli was taken to USA Children's and Women's Hospital in Mobile. Throughout the night, Brandi called the number they'd given her every 45 minutes or so to check on her baby. She wasn't sure he would make it through the night -- but he did.

And her "sweet pea," her "miracle baby," has been surprising his parents and others who love him, as well as the medical staff who have cared for him, ever since.

Nothing unusual

The next day, her doctor checked her out of the hospital in Foley so she could be with her baby in Mobile. The doctor had also had a sleepless night, she said. "He said he'd gone back over every test and every ultrasound," but he couldn't find anything unusual in her records.

There were a few aspects of her pregnancy that were different from her first pregnancy with her 4-year-old son, Brysen.

Right after she found out he was a boy, at around 17 weeks, she said, she lost 10 pounds in eight days because she was so severely nauseated. Her doctor prescribed a medication that helped her gain the weight back and keep her food down. She continued to take the medication throughout her pregnancy, she said.

On a 3D ultrasound, she and Troy even commented on Eli's cute nose. The imaging shows bone, not tissue, she said - and he has a raised bit of bone beneath the skin where his nose should be.

After going into early labor three times, Brandi delivered Eli at 37 weeks. At 35 weeks, her doctor told her that the next two weeks would be critical to the development of the baby's lungs and respiratory system. "He said, 'Let's try to keep him in as long as we can,'" she remembered.

Happy, healthy baby

For the first few days of his life, Eli was in one of the "pods" in USA Children's and Women's Hospital's neonatal intensive care unit. At five days old, he had a tracheotomy. "He has done wonderfully since then," Brandi said. "He's been a much happier baby."

Because of the trach, he doesn't make noise when he cries anymore, so Brandi has to watch him all the time. She has been going back and forth between the Ronald McDonald House and Eli's room during his stay.

"Between the nurses here and Ronald McDonald House, everyone has gone above and beyond," she said. "The nurse from the pod comes to check on her 'boyfriend.' She got attached to him."

Besides not having an external nose, he doesn't have a nasal cavity or olfactory system. (Despite that fact, she said, he sneezes. "The first time he did it, we looked at each other and said, 'You heard that, right?'")

Eli Thompson has an extremely rare condition known as complete congenital arhinia, said Brandi, adding that there are only about 37 cases worldwide like his. The chance of being born with congenital arhinia is one in 197 million, she said.

Even at USA Children's and Women's Hospital, Eli's case has baffled the NICU. "Everyone has used the same words," Brandi said. As soon as they found out he was on his way, she said, the staff started doing research. They only found three very brief articles on the condition. Now, his doctors are writing a case study on him in case they ever encounter another baby like Eli.

After he got the trach, Brandi wanted to start breastfeeding. The lactation consultant encouraged her, and together they searched the Internet for more information. Brandi became the first mother ever to breastfeed a baby with a trach at the hospital, she said - and now the lactation consultant "is actually using him to put an article together about breastfeeding with a trach to encourage mothers of other trach babies to attempt it."

Thanks to her Internet research, Brandi found a mother in Ireland, Gráinne Evans, who writes a blog about her daughter, Tessa, who has the same condition as Eli. She also found a 23-year-old Louisiana native who lives in Auburn, Ala., and a 16-year-old in North Carolina, she said. With every case she found, Brandi started to feel better and more convinced that Eli could not only survive his babyhood, but that he'll grow to adulthood.

Communicating with Tessa's mother in Ireland has been especially gratifying for Brandi. She knows she and Eli are not in this alone.

'He's perfect'

While it would seem easy enough for a plastic surgeon to build a nose for Eli, it's not that simple, Brandi said. "His palate didn't form all the way, so his brain is lower," she said. "It's a wait-and-see game."

His condition affects his pituitary gland, she said. He'll have to be past puberty before his nasal passageways can be built. Until then, she'd like to spare him any unnecessary facial surgeries.

"We think he's perfect the way he is," she says, nodding toward the sweet, sleeping baby in his crib. "Until the day he wants to have a nose, we don't want to touch him. We have to take it day by day."

Within a month after Eli goes back home to Summerdale, he will have to travel to the Shriners Hospital for Children in Houston and Galveston, Texas, to meet with craniofacial specialists. "They will work with him for the rest of his life," she said. "Every three to six months, we'll be going back for scans and checkups for at least the next ten years."

Brandi said that, of the people she's found online, some are opting to have noses and nasal passageways built (including Tessa), while others haven't.

"We're going to do our best to make sure he's happy," she said. "The rest of him is so cute, sometimes you don't realize he doesn't have a nose."

Brandi's older son, Brysen, and Troy's four-year-old daughter, Ava, are too young to interact with Eli in the hospital. Brandi was grateful to one of the nurses who unhooked him and let the kids see him. "Ava asked me, 'When you were little, did you have a nose?'" Brandi said. "She said, 'I think he's cute.'"

Brysen pressed his hands against the window separating him from his baby half-brother and said, "He's perfect!"

'Facebook famous'

Brandi, who got pregnant with Brysen when she was a senior in high school, had planned to start going to school to become an LPN like Troy's sister and his mother. "That's all on the back burner now," she said. Because of her experience at USA Children's and Women's, she said she now wants to be a NICU nurse.

Her best friend, Crystal Weaver, logged onto Brandi's Facebook account and created the Eli's Story page to let friends and family members know what was going on. "It's easier that way to update everyone at once rather than to call everyone individually," Brandi said. "It's overwhelming. It's all on my shoulders." Within a day, she said, Eli's Story had 2,000 likes (it now has around 4,500). "People I didn't know were sending messages," she said.

Crystal also started a Go Fund Me account, which has raised about $4,300. "We've got years and years of surgeries and doctor's appointments nowhere close to us," said Brandi, who returned to her job as a bartender this past weekend. She plans to keep working two nights a week for a while. Being around her work family, she said, helps her maintain a sense of normalcy.

A fish fry is planned as a fundraiser for Eli's medical fund on April 11 at Elberta Park in Elberta, with raffles for prizes including a weekend stay at a condo in Gulf Shores and a charter fishing trip.

"It makes me feel really good that I have a support system," Brandi said. "Everybody's been awesome."

Updating Eli's page, adding photos and reading the positive, encouraging comments from hundreds of people, as well as reaching out to others who have been through what she's going through "keeps me sane," Brandi said.

Recently, Brandi posted a video of Eli waking up from a nap. From Ireland, Gráinne Evans commented: "I've actually watched this more times than I could admit!"

Eli is "100 percent healthy," she said. "He just doesn't have a nose. He has a few hormone deficiencies, but other than that he's healthy."

Brandi seems wise beyond her years. She is already worried about "the day he comes home and someone has made fun of his nose," she said. "We don't want anyone to pity him. We never want anyone to say they feel sorry for him. If other people express that, he'll feel that way about himself."

She jokes that Eli is "Facebook famous" now. "I can't hide him," said Brandi, who is a singer. "Eli's gotten more publicity in the past two weeks than I have in my whole life!"

She's been putting together a "journey book" full of medical records and mementoes to give Eil one day. "I'm excited to show him one day, 'Look, from the moment you were born people were infatuated with you.'"

'I'm doing something right'

In his short time on earth so far, Eli has brought his family together, Brandi said. She and Troy had been engaged, then called off the wedding and were "iffy," and then they broke up. A week later, she found out she was pregnant.

"Eli has made Troy my best friend," she said. "He has brought us closer than when we were engaged. To see Troy with him is really awesome."

Troy has been her rock, reassuring her since Eli was born, she said. "He tells me, 'Brandi, it's OK. It will end up happening the way it's supposed to be."

Last Thursday, Brandi posted on the Eli's Story page that Eli had passed his car seat trial and newborn hearing screening. "He now weighs 7 pounds, and we'll be meeting with home health to learn how to use all of his equipment so we can go home Monday."

Everyone in their family has taken CPR classes, and Brandi and Troy have learned how to care for Eli's trach. The couple has extended family nearby, and Troy's father and stepmother plan to move to Baldwin County from Mobile to be closer to Eli.

As she prepared to take her baby home from the hospital on Monday morning, almost four weeks since he came into the world, Brandi was excited to take care of him for the first time in the comfort of her own home, and to finally introduce him to his big brother and sister.

Though Brandi said her heart melts when Eli's little hand wraps around her finger, he's the one who already has her wrapped completely around his. He recognizes his parents' voices, and seems comforted by them. "As soon as he hears us, he looks around for us, finds us, then stares at us smiling," she said. "It makes me feel like I'm doing something right, that through the ten to twelve other women, the nurses who have been caring for him for the past month, he still knows who Mommy is!"

Topics: Nicu Nurse, infant, newborn, breastfeeding, baby, pregnancy, nurse, doctors, medication, hospital, treatment, NICU, rare, tracheotomy, Ronald McDonald House, children's hospital, nose, delivery room, facial, trach, congenital arhinia

FDA Approves ADHD Drug to Treat Binge Eating

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Mon, Feb 02, 2015 @ 12:04 PM

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The Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of an attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder drug to treat binge eating.

Should ADHD medication be prescribed to help cut compulsive overeating?

The drug, Vyvanse, is usually used for ADHD but it's been shown to help control binge-eating disorder, the FDA said.

"In binge-eating disorder, patients have recurrent episodes of compulsive overeating during which they consume larger amounts of food than normal and experience the sense that they lack control. Patients with this condition eat when they are not hungry and often eat to the point of being uncomfortably full," the FDA said in a statement.

"Patients may feel ashamed and embarrassed by how much they are eating, which can result in social isolation. Binge-eating disorder may lead to weight gain and to health problems related to obesity."

The drug is not approved for weight loss, and it's a Schedule II controlled substance because it has high potential for abuse and dependence. But any doctor can write a prescription for any approved drug for any use he or she sees fit.

"The concern in our country especially is the desperation to lose weight," said NBC's diet and nutrition editor Madelyn Fernstrom. "Everyone will say, 'Oh, I have binge eating disorder'. I think there's a huge potential for abuse in our country."

Source: www.nbcnews.com

Topics: FDA, weight, ADHD, prescription, prescribed, binge eating, overeating, disorder, health problems, health, healthcare, medication, patients, medicine

A Friend Gave Her An Antibiotic; Now She's Fighting For Her Life

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Mon, Dec 15, 2014 @ 04:24 PM

By Tony Marco and Catherine E. Shoichet

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 It started with a sore throat on Thanksgiving and an antibiotic from a friend who wanted to help.

Now 19-year-old Yaasmeen Castanada is fighting for her life inside a California hospital's burn unit, suffering from an allergic reaction that's so severe she has large open wounds all over her body.

"It is heartbreaking, every day is a different look. Every day, she's like, shedding away. ... Overnight, it's a whole different person that you're looking at," Martha Hughes, Castanada's aunt, told CNN affiliate KABC.

Doctors diagnosed Castanada with Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, a rare disease that can be triggered by antibiotics or other medications.

"When she took the medication, she started having a hard time breathing, and she told her mom that her lips were burning, her throat, her eyes, they got so red that she couldn't talk. So she rushed her to the ER, and that's when they diagnosed her with the disease. And from there it has just spiraled to a nightmare," Hughes said.

Now Castanada, the mother of a 4-month-old, is in critical condition at the University of California, Irvine, burn center.

Her prognosis is good, even though the disease has a high mortality rate, according to Dr. Victor Joe, the center's director.

But the situation, Castanada's family says, has been devastating.

"Just unreal, just watching your daughter burn in front of you, literally, burn in front of you," her mother, Laura Corona, told KABC. "Every day, a new blister, a new burn, a new scar. And she's just, 'Mommy, I want to go home.' And I can't take her home. I can't put water on her lips."

Mom: 'Don't share medication'

On a website created to raise funds for Castanada's care, her mother said the harrowing ordeal began soon after her daughter took the medicine.

"A friend offered her an antibiotic pill that she had from a previous illness," Corona wrote. "She was thinking that it would help her. This would be the biggest mistake of her life."

Now, Corona says she's hoping to spread the word so others don't make the same mistake.

"Don't share medication. Don't give someone else your medication. Don't offer medication," she said.

She also advises parents to find out what their children are allergic to -- before it's too late.

Doctor: Reaction causing skin to separate

At first, doctors diagnosed Castanada with Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, which refers to a condition where between 10% and 30% of the skin on the body is affected, Joe said. Now she's experiencing Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis, the diagnosis when more than 30% of the body is affected. Joe estimates that 65% of Castaneda's skin and mucus membranes have been affected.

The allergic reaction is causing layers of Castaneda's skin to separate, Joe said, creating lesions that grow into large open wounds.

"Patients can experience problems with taste, swallowing, eyesight and sexual functions can be affected. In Yaasmeen's case, we are particularly concerned because her eyes have been affected. This can cause scarring of the corneas, which could lead to permanent blindness," he said. "We are trying to prevent that from happening."

Photos on the fundraising website show Castanada lying in a hospital bed, with openings for her eyes cut from the bandages that cover her.

As part of her treatment for the disease, doctors have wrapped her body in a special dressing, Joe said.

"We have chosen to place a dressing that adheres to the open wound, which allows her skin to heal without having to remove the bandages to wash the wounds," he said.

Mortality for those suffering from Stevens-Johnson Syndrome and Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis can be as high as 25% in adults, but tends to be lower with early treatment, according to the Merck Manual.

Though it's uncommon, Joe said his hospital has treated around six cases in the past year, because the burn center has experience treating open wounds.

"This is very sobering. The fact that you can get a life-threatening situation from taking a medication. It can happen, and most people don't think twice about taking pills for things," Joe said. "In fact, most of the time you do have some sort of side reaction to medication, just not this severe."

After recovering from Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, patients usually only have minor issues with their skin, such as dryness, Joe said.

"Hopefully new skin will come in," Corona told KABC. "I'm just there watching. All I can tell her is, "Hang on, hang on. It's almost over.'"

Source: www.cnn.com

Topics: pain, antibiotic, reaction, burning, burn center, Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis, nurses, doctors, medication, hospital, medicine, patient

Diet Stops Seizures When Epilepsy Drugs Fail

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Wed, Oct 29, 2014 @ 02:48 PM

By JESSICA FIRGER

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When Jackson Small began having seizures at 7, his parents hoped and assumed at least one of the many epilepsy drugs on the market would be enough to get things under control. But one seizure quickly spiraled to as many as 30 a day.

"He would stop in his tracks and not be aware of what was going on for 20 or 30 seconds or so," his mother Shana Small told CBS News. Jackson was eventually diagnosed with juvenile myoclonic epilepsy, a type of epilepsy characterized by brief but often frequent muscle jerking or twitching.

But a number of medications typically prescribed to patients with this type of epilepsy were not effective. And so the quest to help Jackson gain control over his seizures led the family from their home in Orlando, Florida, to the office of a registered dietician at the NYU Langone Comprehensive Epilepsy Center in New York City.

They were there to discuss the medical benefits of heavy cream, mayonnaise, eggs, sausage, bacon and butter.

A lot of butter.

The plan was to treat Jackson with a diet that is heavy in fat, low in protein and includes almost no carbohydrates. It's known as the ketogenic diet and has long been in the arsenal of last-resort options for patients with epilepsy who are unresponsive to medication. Doctors may recommend a patient go on this special diet after unsuccessfully trying two or three prescriptions.

The diet works by putting the body in a "fasting" state, known as ketosis. "When we're fasting the body needs to find fuel so our body will break down fat storage and break down their own fat and enter a state of ketosis," Courtney Glick, the registered dietician who coordinated and fine-tuned Jackson's diet plan, told CBS News. "But with this diet, instead of breaking down the body's fat, the body breaks down dietary fat."

The ketogenic diet consists of as much as 90 percent fat. Some patients who feel they can't make such an extreme change adopt a modified Atkins diet, which is between 65 and 70 percent fat. It can be nearly as effective for controlling seizures, though every patient is different.

Though experts don't know everything about why this diet is effective for seizure control, they do know that eating mostly fat causes the body to fuel on ketones rather than glucose, which ultimately lowers insulin levels. This can have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body and may prevent seizures by calming the brain, said Glick.

One study by researchers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School found that a child's ability to stave off seizures is tied to a protein that affects metabolism in the brain. The protein, called BCL-2-associated Agonist of Cell Death, or BAD, also regulates metabolism of glucose. The researchers discovered that by modifying this, they switched metabolism in brain cells from glucose to ketone bodies, which are fat byproducts.

Glick said the diet plan didn't work for Jackson until he tried the most strict version, which was a 4 to 1 ratio of fat to protein and carbohydrates. Each day, he ate approximately 160 grams of fat, 8 to 10 grams of carbohydrates and 30 grams of protein, all of which amounted to about 1,700 calories a day.

Four months into the program, Jackson was seizure-free. He remained on the strict diet for two years with no return of seizures. His mother prepared foods from special recipes such as "keto" pizza made with a macadamia nut crust or chicken nuggets with coconut flour.

Over the summer -- after receiving a green light from his doctors -- Jackson, now 10 years old, began to wean himself off the diet, and his mother has slowly introduced foods such as breads and ice cream. He has maintained seizure-free and takes very little anti-seizure medication.

Research has found that for pediatric patients the anti-seizure effects of the diet often continue long after the child stops following the food plan, though the reason why remains unclear. This is typically not the case for adults, who may need to stay on the diet for life in order to control seizures.

"We've probably seen more kids go on the diets than adults, and adults are really set on their eating patterns," said Glick, adding that social obligations can make the diet difficult to fit into a grown person's lifestyle.

Jackson's mother said his doctors are hopeful that in the near future he may no longer need medication -- or a keto diet -- to stay seizure-free. "I think it's taught him a very important lesson about how food is as important as medicine, and how food affects the chemistry of your body," she said.

Source: www.cbsnews.com and http://www.dana-farber.org/

Topics: health, healthcare, health care, medication, children, diet, medical, food, seizures, Epilepsy

New device will help monitor Parkinson's patients

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Mon, Aug 18, 2014 @ 01:08 PM

By Karen Weintraub

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Parkinson's disease is like a "rolling wave" of ever-changing symptoms, not a lightning strike of different events, says its most famous patient, the actor Michael J. Fox.

So when doctors ask for a list of recent symptoms, they miss a lot of the subtleties of the progressive disease.

Hoping to change that, the Michael J. Fox Foundation and Intel announced Wednesday that they are collaborating on a project to track Parkinson's patients 24/7.

Using a device like the popular FitBit (a wristband activity monitor), patients will be tracked over the course of their day, as their medication kicks in and wears off, as food hits their system, as their environment changes and as they sink into sleep. The data generated will be so enormous that Intel's digital expertise will be needed to make sense of it, both organizations said.

The information should lead to new insights into a disease diagnosed in about 60,000 Americans a year, leading to tremors, paralyzing stiffness and physical awkwardness, among other symptoms.

"The answers are within us," Fox said in an interview. "We just need to find a way to let people into our brains both literally and figuratively to help us figure this out."

The collaboration, which started with a small pilot trial of 25 people this spring, aims to measure patient gait, tremors and sleep patterns, among other metrics, and stream the data in real time to the cloud. Intel, which provided the servers and software to collect and manage the data, is also developing algorithms to help analyze it, said Diane Bryant, senior vice president and general manager of Intel's Data Center Group.

Former Intel CEO Andrew Grove has had Parkinson's since 2000, and initiated the discussion between the company and the foundation, Bryant said.

The company isn't disclosing how much it is investing in the project, but Bryant said that costs for this kind of effort have fallen dramatically in recent years. "Ten years ago it would have been ridiculous to consider" a project like this, she said.

The collaboration is Intel's first step into health care, but it likely won't be the last.

"It's a wonderful first step for us," Bryant said. Health care lends itself well to so-called big-data analytics, because there is so much information to collect on a patient, from symptoms to genetics to lab results.

Fox Foundation CEO Todd Sherer said doctors score the disease's severity based on how the patient feels during a visit – but symptoms can change minute by minute, from near normal to completely disabling.

"If the doctor is running 15 minutes late, the assessment could be completely different than if they'd seen the disease 15 minutes earlier," Sherer said.

Also, he said, sometimes patients minimize symptoms for their doctor, or time their medication so they'll perform well during the visit. "The doctor might say everything's doing great, and we'll hear from the spouse: 'You should have seen them yesterday.' "

The same problems also make research into the disease more difficult. It's hard for researchers to get a realistic view of whether a treatment is effective, if they only get occasional snapshots of a patient.

The new devices will therefore provide a much more realistic – and objective – view of the disease than has been possible before, Sherer said.

If shown effective during pilot studies, he said, the devices will likely be used both for clinical research trials – in which the patient data will be anonymous – and, say, for a week before a doctor's visit, to provide an update on a patient's disease.

Source: www.usatoday.com


Topics: Parkinson's, device, technology, healthcare, medication, patients

Regional nurse hired to ensure people take medications properly

Posted by Alycia Sullivan

Fri, Feb 15, 2013 @ 03:39 PM

By Laura Krantz

A new regional public health nurse will help three local towns tackle a big problem: making sure residents take their medications properly, officials said Tuesday.

Thanks to a wellness grant administered by the MetroWest Regional Collaborative, nurse Alyssa Kaiser has been hired part time to run preventative medicine programs in Ashland, Hopkinton and Medway. The programs will range from mental health to concussion safety to fall prevention for the elderly, local health agents said Tuesday.

"I’m able to be creative and implement a lot of programs I don’t think just being a clinical nurse you’re able to do," said Kaiser, 30, recently graduated from the Mass. College of Pharmacy and Health Science’s Worcester campus.

She said she is eager to begin learning the major health needs of each town.

"What I’m trying to do is trying to take a look at all of the town sand trying to see what are the issues…in each one of the towns and what can we do to help solve that problem or prevent these issues?" she said. "I don’t think that has been addressed before."

The nurse is meeting with local officials this month. Once her work is in full swing, one of her main goals will be to encourage residents, especially seniors, to properly administer their medications.

"There’s such a large amount of the elderly population that becomes sick from either taking too little of their drugs or too much," said Stephanie Bacon, Medway’s health agent.

According to a 2010 article in the New England Journal of Medicine, as many as half of all patients do not adhere faithfully to their prescription medication regimens, resulting in more than $100 billion spent annually on avoidable hospitalizations. 

The article said unorganized care as well as psychological issues, health literacy and side effects can lead to people not taking their medicine properly.

Kaiser said many adults, not only seniors, struggle to take medicine properly. They can receive dangerous combinations of medicines from two different doctors or have dietary restrictions that interfere with a medicine, for example.

"It’s a huge, huge issue," she said.

Kaiser will work with seniors, schools and sports groups on topics including mental health and abuse, disease prevention and nutrition.

She was at the Medway senior center Tuesday talking with seniors about medicine adherence, Bacon said.

Hopkinton Public Health Administrator Ed Wirtanen Tuesday said he is thrilled to have a nurse in an era of shrinking budgets and an uncertain future of public health. He said the town hasn’t had a nurse since at least 2008.

"We’re desperately trying to get a nurse," he said.

Bacon said Kaiser will also help the elderly prevent themselves from falling. For seniors, a single fall can cause health complications from which many never recover.

"Literally, a fall can be the end of their life," Bacon said.

Those who do recover often live in fear of falling again, she said. The nurse Tuesday gave out spike-type tools to put on the bottom of canes to help prevent falling in icy weather, Bacon explained.

Mark Oram, Ashland health agent, said people often set up pillboxes but don’t always adhere to the plan.

He said the nurse will also film public service announcements for local cable access channels in the three towns. The part-time position is scheduled to run through July but Oram said they have asked that it be extended through the end of 2013.

Source: MetroWest Daily News

Topics: public health nurse, taking medication properly, MetroWest nurse, wellness grant, medication

Helping patients to reduce medication errors

Posted by Pat Magrath

Fri, Sep 09, 2011 @ 11:40 AM

Mr. W had a heart attack and was in the ICU last week.  While reviewing his discharge medication list, you realize Mr. W unintentionally discontinued his medication for hypertension and dyslipidemia.  Unfortunately, these medications were not on the discharge medication list.  

Jay has been a well controlled diabetic for many years.  Today his A1C is 10.5.  He insists he is taking his medication regularly.  

A medication error is any preventable event that may cause or lead to inappropriate medication use or patient harm while the medication is in the control of the health care professional, patient, or consumer. 1   Efforts to decrease or prevent medication errors often focus on improving systems and procedures utilized by nurses, physicians and pharmacists during the multistep process of medication administration.  Decreasing medication errors by patients must also be addressed.  

According to the landmark 2006 report "Preventing Medication Errors" from the Institute of Medicine, medication errors injure 1.5 million Americans each year and cost 3.5 billion in lost productivity, wages and additional medical expenses.​2 1/3 of medication errors occur in outpatient settings.  Patients often unintentionally discontinue medications after a hospitalization or transfer of care.  Numerous studies have shown that patients with chronic conditions adhere only to 50% to 60% of medications as prescribed despite evidence that medical therapy prevents death and improves quality of life.3   Knowledge deficits and poor understanding of drug label directions often result in medication errors initiated by patients. 

How to reduce medication errors by patients:

  1. Decrease medication knowledge deficits.  Review with patients in plain language what medications were prescribed, how to take them, discuss side effects and address concerns regarding drug interactions and cost.  Use visuals and show me techniques to ensure patient understanding.  Enlist the help of the PCP and pharmacist for additional education.
  2. 2.   An accurate medication list that includes discharge medications and/or chronic care medications is essential.  Learn how to take an accurate medication history.    Use clear communication techniques during conversations with patients.  Provide patient and PCP with discharge medication list.   
  3. Monitor for medication adherence.  Ask patients to bring in all of their medications or contact pharmacies for information on most recent refill dates.  Evaluate and address medication knowledge deficits.  Medication reminders, automatic med refills, medication home delivery, assistance of family members or home care services can be utilized to improve adherence.  Call recently discharged patients to ensure they are taking prescribed medications and chronic care medications. 

Stephanie Wilborne, APRN

HealthLit.com:  Clear & Simple Patient Education/ Tools for Chronic Disease Management


1 National Coordinating Council for Medication Error Reporting and Prevention: http://www.nccmerp.org/aboutMedErrors.html

2Anderson, Pamela, and Terri Townsend. "Medication errors: Don't let them happen to you." American Nurse Today 5.3 (2010): 23-27: http://www.nursingworld.org/mods/mod494/MedErrors.pdf

3 Bosworth, Hayden, Bradi Granger, Stephen Kimmel, Larry Liu, John Musaus, William Shrank, Elizabeth Buono, Karen Weiss, Christopher Granger, Phill Mendys, Ralph Brindis, Rebecca Burkholder, Susan Czajkowski, Jodi Daniel, Inger Ekman, Michael Ho, and Mimi Johnson. "Medication adherence: A call for action." American Heart Journal 162.3 (2011): 412-424. Print.

4 Preventing Medication Errors: Quality Chasm Series Committee on Identifying and Preventing Medication Errors, Philip Aspden, Julie Wolcott, J. Lyle Bootman, Linda R. Cronenwett, Editors

Topics: reduce medication errors, medication errors, employment, hispanic nurse, ethnic, diverse, hispanic, black nurse, nurse, nurses, medication

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