DiversityNursing Blog

America's 9 biggest health issues

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Mon, Jan 05, 2015 @ 11:20 AM

By Sanjay Gupta

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After an incredibly busy 2014, during which health stories like Ebola, new food nutrition label rules, and the debate about the right to die sparked by Brittany Maynard dominated the headlines, it's now worth looking at what we may be covering in the next 12 months. 

So, in no particular order, here's my take on the nine big health stories to watch for, and the questions they will likely raise, in 2015.

Doctor shortage. There aren't nearly enough of us to care for the U.S. population. By some estimates, the country is already short of tens of thousands of doctors, a problem that will only get worse as the demand for care increases with our aging population. That could mean longer wait times for you when you need to make an appointment. But that also means policy makers will have to consider questions like: Is there a way to increase the number of residency training slots? Are there other health care professionals who can reasonably fill in the gaps? Will the nation's quality of care go down? How can the country avoid a situation where only the wealthy will be able to afford quality care? 

Hospital errors and infections. Hospital mistakes and infections are still one of the leading causes of preventable death (indeed, some studies suggest "hospital-acquired conditions" kill more people than car accidents or diabetes). 

True, a recent study showed the rate did get better this year, saving tens of thousands of lives. But what else can hospitals do to prevent these mistakes and infections? Can technology like e-prescriptions and electronic health records prevent problems that most often occur: the mistakes caregivers make with a patient's drugs? 

Antibiotic resistance. It has been called public health's "ticking time bomb."The World Health Organization calls antibiotic resistant infections one of the biggest threats to global health today. Each year, at least 2 million peoplebecome infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics, and at least 23,000 people die each year. Most of these deaths happen in health care settings and in nursing homes. How can we respond? Well, research teams around the world have already started searching for the next generation of infection-fighting drugs. But it remains to be seen if time will run out, sending us back to the beginning: a time before antibiotics, where even a cut that becomes infected could kill you. 

More do-it-yourself health care: apps and technology. Technology has made do-it-yourself patient care much easier. This goes beyond just a patient's ability to look up their symptoms online. There are apps to help with autism, apps that can simulate a check-up, apps that can monitor conditions. Wearables can motivate you to walk more or sleep more or check a diabetic's glucose level. But how does all this helping yourself make your health care better? How much is too much? And what does this mean for your privacy? After all, the health care industry accounted for 43% of all major data breaches in 2013. Meanwhile, although 93% of health care data requires protection by law, some surveys suggest only 57% of it is "somewhat protected." What could this mean for your privacy and personal information if security doesn't get better? 

Food deserts. While not everyone agrees with the term food desert, the USDA still estimates 23.5 million people live in these urban neighborhoods and rural towns with limited access to fresh, affordable, healthy food. Without grocery stores in these areas, residents often have to rely on fast food and convenience stores that don't stock fresh produce. It takes a real toll on their health. Families who live in these areas struggle more with obesity and chronic conditions, and they even die sooner than people who live in neighborhoods with easy access to healthy food. More farmers markets are now accepting food stamps and many nonprofits have stepped in to try to bring community gardens and healthy food trucks to these areas, but so far it's not enough. Will cities offer incentives to grocery store chains to relocate to these neighborhoods?  How else can this system be helped? 

Caregivers for the aging population. We are heading into a kind of caregiver crisis. The number of people 65 years and older is expected to rise 101%between 2000 and 2030, yet the number of family members who can provide care for these older adults is only expected to rise 25%. This raises a series of related questions, not least who is going to step up to fill the gaps? Will cities that don't traditionally have strong public transportation systems add to their routes? Will developers create more mixed-use buildings to make shopping and socializing easier to access? Could the government create a kind of caregiver corps that could check in on the isolated elderly? Who will pay for this expensive kind of safety net? 

The cost of Alzheimer's. Currently about 5.2 million Americans have Alzheimer's. That number is expected to double every 20 years. With a cure some way off, what can be done to ease the emotional and financial burden on families and communities affected by the disease? The Alzheimer's Association predicts that by 2050, U.S. costs for care will total $1.2 trillion, making it the most expensive condition in the nation. How will we be able to afford the costs of caring for this population? What can the country do to achieve the goal the White House set for preventing and effectively treating Alzheimer's by 2025?

Marijuana. With the growing acceptance of weed, we can expect that more laws will change to allow medical and recreational use of marijuana. How will the rest of the laws in this country adjust? For instance, Washington state is coming up with a Breathalyzer-type device to check if drivers are high. But it will be interesting to see how readily available these devices are going to be. Will legalization improve the scientific understanding of the long-term consequences of the drug? What other uses could this drug have to help those who may need pain relief most?

Missing work-life balance. Americans spend more time on the job than most other developed countries. We don't get as much vacation, we don't take what vacation we have, and we are prone to working nights and weekends. This stress has a negative impact on Americans' health. What are companies doing to help? What technology can change this phenomenon? Will millennials who say work-life balance is a bigger priority than other generations rub off on the rest of us? What can we personally do to find a better balance? 

We may not be able to answer all these questions in 2015, but we sure will try. And the health team and I look forward to exploring these issues with you in the coming New Year.

Source: www.cnn.com

Topics: life, work, 2015, marijuana, New Year, doctor shortages, antiobiotic resistance, food deserts, caregivers, apps, technology, health, healthcare, nurse, doctors, population, Alzheimer's, medicine, treatment, hospitals, Americans

Blood Pressure Apps Could Be Dangerously Wrong

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Mon, Dec 29, 2014 @ 10:47 AM

By Ronnie Cohen

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Millions of people could be trying to measure their blood pressure with untested, inaccurate and potentially dangerous smartphone applications, or apps, a new study finds.

Researchers analyzed the top 107 apps for "hypertension" and "high blood pressure" that are available for download on the Google Play store and Apple iTunes and found that nearly three-quarters offered useful tools for tracking medical data.

But they also found seven Android apps that claimed users needed only to press their fingers onto phone screens or cameras to get blood-pressure readings - claims that scientists say are bogus.

"This technology is really in its nascent stages, and it's not quite ready for prime time," lead author Dr. Nilay Kumar told Reuters Health.

Kumar, an attending physician at the Cambridge Health Alliance in Cambridge, Massachusetts and a Harvard Medical School instructor, was surprised to learn that apps marketed as turning smartphones into blood pressure measuring devices had been downloaded at least 900,000 times and as many as 2.4 million times.

"That's concerning that such a small number of apps have been downloaded so many times," he said. "We were surprised by the popularity."

He wasn't sure how the technology supposedly works but said the phone camera appears to read a finger pulse.

"It's really in a research-and-development stage. It's not ready for clinical use. For now, we need to be careful that we are not using things that are inaccurate and could be potentially dangerous," he said.

Apps that inaccurately measure blood pressure could lead to false alarms and possibly fatal false assurances, Kumar said.

About one in three American adults has high blood pressure, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Also known as hypertension, the condition has been called the silent killer because it often shows no warning symptoms but increases the risk of heart disease and stroke, two leading causes of death.

A growing number of hypertension patients use mobile-health technologies to track and manage their conditions, the authors write in the Journal of the American Society of Hypertension.

The study, conducted earlier this year, in general found good news about blood pressure apps. The majority, or 72 percent, of the most popular apps allowed consumers to keep track of their medical data. About a quarter could directly export recorded information to physicians' offices. And nearly a quarter included tools to enhance medication adherence.

But healthcare agencies, such as universities, helped develop only a tiny fraction of the apps, 2.8 percent, the study found.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates medical devices, has not approved any of the blood pressure apps, the authors write.

The study's findings raise "serious concerns about patient safety" and reveal an "urgent need for greater regulation and oversight in medical app development," the authors say.

Dr. Karen Margolis, an internist and director of clinical research at HealthPartners Institute for Education and Research in Minneapolis, would also like to see more oversight.

"The idea that you're going to be able to stick your finger on the camera of your smartphone and get an accurate blood pressure reading is pretty farfetched right now," she told Reuters Health.

Margolis has studied devices to measure blood pressure but was not involved in the current study.

"There is virtually no information at all about how accurate these apps are," she said. "It doesn't sound to me like it's ready for routine use in any way that medical decisions could be based on."

Regulatory authority over smartphone apps that can be turned into medical devices remains unclear, Kumar said.

Writing earlier this year in The New England Journal of Medicine, a group of three lawyers, led by Nathan G. Cortez of the Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law in Dallas, Texas, warned that mobile health, or mHealth, poses a challenge for the FDA.

"Many members of Congress and industry believe that regulation will stifle mHealth innovation," the lawyers wrote. "The true challenge, however, is creating a regulatory framework that encourages high-value innovation while also preventing the market from being overcome with products that are ineffective or unsafe."

Source: www.huffingtonpost.com

Topics: phones, blood pressure, smartphone applications, hypertension, high blood pressure, medical data, apps, technology, health, healthcare

Thumbs-up for mind-controlled robotic arm

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Wed, Dec 17, 2014 @ 11:43 AM

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A paralysed woman who controlled a robotic arm using just her thoughts has taken another step towards restoring her natural movements by controlling the arm with a range of complex hand movements.

Thanks to researchers at the University of Pittsburgh, Jan Scheuermann, who has longstanding quadriplegia and has been taking part in the study for over two years, has gone from giving "high fives" to the "thumbs-up" after increasing the manoeuvrability of the robotic arm from seven dimensions (7D) to 10 dimensions (10D).

The extra dimensions come from four hand movements--finger abduction, a scoop, thumb extension and a pinch--and have enabled Jan to pick up, grasp and move a range of objects much more precisely than with the previous 7D control.

It is hoped that these latest results, which have been published today, 17 December, in IOP Publishing's Journal of Neural Engineering, can build on previous demonstrations and eventually allow robotic arms to restore natural arm and hand movements in people with upper limb paralysis.

Jan Scheuermann, 55, from Pittsburgh, PA had been paralysed from the neck down since 2003 due to a neurodegenerative condition. After her eligibility for a research study was confirmed in 2012, Jan underwent surgery to be fitted with two quarter-inch electrode grids, each fitted with 96 tiny contact points, in the regions of Jan's brain that were responsible for right arm and hand movements.

After the electrode grids in Jan's brain were connected to a computer, creating a brain-machine interface (BMI), the 96 individual contact points picked up pulses of electricity that were fired between the neurons in Jan's brain.

Computer algorithms were used to decode these firing signals and identify the patterns associated with a particular arm movement, such as raising the arm or turning the wrist.

By simply thinking of controlling her arm movements, Jan was then able to make the robotic arm reach out to objects, as well as move it in a number of directions and flex and rotate the wrist. It also enabled Jan to "high five" the researchers and feed herself dark chocolate.

Two years on from the initial results, the researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have now shown that Jan can successfully manoeuvre the robotic arm in a further four dimensions through a number of hand movements, allowing for more detailed interaction with objects.

The researchers used a virtual reality computer program to calibrate Jan's control over the robotic arm, and discovered that it is crucial to include virtual objects in this training period in order to allow reliable, real-time interaction with objects.

Co-author of the study Dr Jennifer Collinger said: "10D control allowed Jan to interact with objects in different ways, just as people use their hands to pick up objects depending on their shapes and what they intend to do with them. We hope to repeat this level of control with additional participants and to make the system more robust, so that people who might benefit from it will one day be able to use brain-machine interfaces in daily life.

"We also plan to study whether the incorporation of sensory feedback, such as the touch and feel of an object, can improve neuroprosthetic control."

Commenting on the latest results, Jan Scheuermann said: ""This has been a fantastic, thrilling, wild ride, and I am so glad I've done this."

"This study has enriched my life, given me new friends and co-workers, helped me contribute to research and taken my breath away. For the rest of my life, I will thank God every day for getting to be part of this team."

Source: www.sciencedaily.com

Topics: researchers, robotic, limbs, paralysis, computer, technology, health, healthcare, patient

Toddler giggles when implant lets him hear mom's voice for the first time

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Mon, Dec 15, 2014 @ 04:41 PM

By Terri Peters

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When 2-year-old Ryan Aprea had cochlear implant surgery in November, his mom, Jennifer, says she wasn’t sure what to expect when the device was activated a month later.

Aprea shared the moment last week in a video that has now gone viral. In the clip, the Huntington Beach, California, mom says, “Hi, Buddy,” to her son, and is rewarded with a reaction she calls “amazing” — a fit of giggles from her little boy.

Born as a micro preemie at only 25 weeks gestation, Aprea says Ryan began his life with a seven-month stay in the neonatal intensive care unit, where she and her husband learned that he was deaf shortly before his discharge.

But a cochlear implant offered hope.



 

“We went into the appointment not knowing if he would respond at all. Throughout this process, they had informed us that while sound would enter his brain, every child has a different response. We weren’t sure if his brain would process the sound, but we wanted to give him a chance to hear us and communicate because he is also visually impaired,” said Aprea.

Aprea, who has posted frequently about the cochlear implant process on the Facebook page of her cloth diaper supply company, tells TODAY Parents that since the activation, Ryan has been doing great — exploring toys that make sounds for the first time and taking in his surroundings with his newfound ability to hear.

“He’s been interacting with us and giving us more intentional eye contact just in the few days since he’s had it turned on. My heart melts every single time he looks at me,” said Aprea.

As for future plans for Ryan’s treatment, Aprea says she and her family are taking things one day at a time. The mother of two says she’s looking forward to taking her son for a drive to look at holiday lights while listening to Christmas music — a tradition her family shares every year, but one that will have new meaning this season.

Aprea says she is shocked that her video has gone viral, adding that she looks forward to seeing more people learn about cochlear implants as videos and articles about stories like Ryan’s become more prevalent.

She’s heard a lot of strong opinions about cochlear implants from online commenters — including some negative ones — and offers some advice to parents dealing with big decisions about their child’s health care.

“You know your child better than anyone — I learned that one in the NICU. You need to do what’s best for him or her and give them every opportunity available to succeed in life. I would say, do a lot of research, talk to people who have been through it with their own kids, and then go with your heart,” she said.

Source: www.today.com

Topics: ICU, child, deaf, hearing, cochlear implant, first time, technology, nurses, doctors, medical, hospital, patient

This 19-Year-Old College Student Built an Artificial Brain That Detects Breast Cancer

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Wed, Dec 10, 2014 @ 01:35 PM

By Elizabeth Kiefer

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Brittany Wenger is one seriously smart cookie. In 2012, the then-17-year-old submitted her "artificial brain" technology -- which assesses tissue samples for breast cancer -- to the Google Science Fair and walked away with the grand prize. It was no wonder: Her invention, which uses a type of computer program called neural networks, can identify complex data patterns and make breast cancer detection calls with 99 percent accuracy. But she's not stopping there: Brittany hopes to help wipe out cancer completely.

Since she took home the gold two years ago, she's been named one of Time's 30 Under 30, given a truly inspiring TED Talk, and launched her app, Cloud4Cancer, which allows doctors to enter their own data and fuel continued cancer research. And did we mention she's also holding down a full course load at Duke University? Um, yeah. 

We recently chatted with Brittany about how she got started, her challenges along the way, and how she balances being a college student with breaking the barriers of cancer diagnostics.

How did you get into computer programming?

When I was in 7th grade I took an elective class on futuristic thinking. When we were assigned our final paper, I decided to write mine on technology of the future. The moment I started researching artificial intelligence and its transcendence into human knowledge, I was inspired. I went out and bought a coding textbook, and taught myself how to code. I remember one of the first projects that I ever worked on was an artificial neural network that taught people how to play soccer.

You're a self-taught coder who went on to create a potentially game-changing cancer detection tool. How did that happen?

Well, it definitely didn't happen overnight. I spent over five years working with neural networks, starting with an entire year of research to try and recognize patterns and connect breast cancer to artificial intelligence. I faced a lot of roadblocks along the way, as this was a very complicated program with no predefined solution. I went through thousands of pages of coding and data that was available through public domains, and performed over 7.6 million test trials. I two failed projects before finally succeeding on my third attempt, taking what didn't work the first few times to optimize the code that helped build the Cloud4Cancer app.

Why did you decide on developing breast cancer detection technology?

When I was 15, my cousin was diagnosed with breast cancer. I have a very close-knit family, so seeing the impact that the disease can have on a woman and her family, firsthand, was so real to me. When I learned that one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime, I knew that I wanted to get involved in making the process better for patients. Now, the coding that I first used to help detect breast cancer has been extended into diagnosing other types of cancers, including blood-based diseases like leukemia.

What's been the most rewarding part of the process?

The people. I've already had the opportunity to work with real patients and breast cancer survivors, as well as talk with kids who are interested in doing research or coding in the future. Knowing that my cloud application has the potential to save lives and expedite the process of discovery is so rewarding. I still get chills thinking about how, a couple of years down the line, my research can actually contribute to finding the cure for cancer.

You've got a lot on your plate these days, between Cloud4Cancer and school. How do you balance everything?

The great thing about where I am with school right now is that my schedule is entirely what I make it. I can attend classes during the week and then travel over some weekends. School is not something that I will ever bend on, as I'm actually going for my MD, PhD in pediatric oncology. At the same time, my initiative is so important to me, I don't want either one to ever outweigh the other. Luckily, I think they complement each other well and what I'm learning in my classes helps me improve Cloud4Cancer.

What's one thing you want other young women to know if they're thinking about going the tech route?

If you're interested, go for it! There have never been so many available resources or opportunities -- for women, and for society as a whole -- to pursue a career in the field. I love how technology allows you to make new things by putting together the little pieces and working towards something bigger that can really benefit the world. There's no greater feeling than solving a problem and seeing your code come to life.

Source: www.huffingtonpost.com

Topics: innovation, artificial intelligence, college student, technology, brain, medical, cancer, detection, breast cancer, app

New Device May Ease Mammography Discomfort

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Wed, Dec 03, 2014 @ 12:17 PM

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Researchers have developed a new device that may result in more comfortable mammography for women. According to a study being presented next week at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA), standardizing the pressure applied in mammography would reduce pain associated with breast compression without sacrificing image quality.

Compression of the breast is necessary in mammography to optimize image quality and minimize absorbed radiation dose. However, mechanical compression of the breast in mammography often causes discomfort and pain and deters some women from mammography screening.

An additional problem associated with compression is the variation that occurs when the technologist adjusts compression force to breast size, composition, skin tautness and pain tolerance. Over-compression, or unnecessarily high pressures during compression, is common in certain European countries, especially for women with small breasts. Over-compression occurs less frequently in the United States, where under-compression, or extremely low applied pressure, is more common.

"This means that the breast may be almost not compressed at all, which increases the risks of image quality degradation and extra radiation dose," said Woutjan Branderhorst, Ph.D., researcher in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Physics at the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam.

Overall, adjustments in force can lead to substantial variation in the amount of pressure applied to the breast, ranging from less than 3 kilopascals (kPa) to greater than 30 kPa.

Dr. Branderhorst and colleagues theorized that a compression protocol based on pressure rather than force would reduce the pain and variability associated with the current force-based compression protocol. Force is the total impact of one object on another, whereas pressure is the ratio of force to the area over which it is applied.

The researchers developed a device that displays the average pressure during compression and studied its effects in a double-blinded, randomized control trial on 433 asymptomatic women scheduled for screening mammography.

Three of the four compressions for each participant were standardized to a target force of 14 dekanewtons (daN). One randomly assigned compression was standardized to a target pressure of 10 kPa.

Participants scored pain on a numerical rating scale, and three experienced breast screening radiologists indicated which images required a retake. The 10 kPa pressure did not compromise radiation dose or image quality, and, on average, the women reported it to be less painful than the 14 daN force.

The study's implications are potentially significant, Dr. Branderhorst said. There are an estimated 39 million mammography exams performed every year in the U.S. alone, which translates into more than 156 million compressions. Pressure standardization could help avoid a large amount of unnecessary pain and optimize radiation dose without adversely affecting image quality or the proportion of required retakes.

"Standardizing the applied pressure would reduce both over- and under-compression and lead to a more reproducible imaging procedure with less pain," Dr. Branderhorst said.

The device that displays average pressure is easily added to existing mammography systems, according to Dr. Branderhorst.

"Essentially, what is needed is the measurement of the contact area with the breast, which then is combined with the measured applied force to determine the average pressure in the breast," he said. "A relatively small upgrade of the compression paddle is sufficient."

Further research will be needed to determine if the 10 kPa pressure is the optimal target.

The researchers are also working on new methods to help mammography technologists improve compression through better positioning of the breast.

Source: www.sciencedaily.com

Topics: mammography, tests, screenings, technology, health, healthcare, nurses, doctors, medical, breast cancer

3-D printing Used To Guide Human Face Transplants

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Mon, Dec 01, 2014 @ 01:21 PM

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Researchers are using computed tomography (CT) and 3-D printing technology to recreate life-size models of patients' heads to assist in face transplantation surgery, according to a study presented today at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).

Physicians at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston performed the country's first full-face transplantation in 2011 and have subsequently completed four additional face transplants. The procedure is performed on patients who have lost some or all of their face as a result of injury or disease.

In the study, a research team led by Frank J. Rybicki, M.D., radiologist and director of the hospital's Applied Imaging Science Laboratory, Bohdan Pomahac, M.D., lead face transplantation surgeon, and Amir Imanzadeh, M.D., research fellow, assessed the clinical impact of using 3-D printed models of the recipient's head in the planning of face transplantation surgery.

"This is a complex surgery and its success is dependent on surgical planning," Dr. Rybicki said. "Our study demonstrated that if you use this model and hold the skull in your hand, there is no better way to plan the procedure."

Each of the transplant recipients underwent preoperative CT with 3-D visualization. To build each life-size skull model, the CT images of the transplant recipient's head were segmented and processed using customized software, creating specialized data files that were input into a 3-D printer.

"In some patients, we need to modify the recipient's facial bones prior to transplantation," Dr. Imanzadeh said. "The 3-D printed model helps us to prepare the facial structures so when the actual transplantation occurs, the surgery goes more smoothly."

Although the entire transplant procedure lasts as long as 25 hours, the actual vascular connections from the donor face to the recipient typically takes approximately one hour, during which time the patient's blood flow must be stopped.

"If there are absent or missing bony structures needed for reconstruction, we can make modifications based on the 3-D printed model prior to the actual transplantation, instead of taking the time to do alterations during ischemia time," Dr. Rybicki said. "The 3-D model is important for making the transplant cosmetically appealing."

The researchers said they also used the models in the operating room to increase the surgeons' understanding of the anatomy of the recipient's face during the procedure.

"You can spin, rotate and scroll through as many CT images as you want but there's no substitute for having the real thing in your hand," Dr. Rybicki said. "The ability to work with the model gives you an unprecedented level of reassurance and confidence in the procedure."

Senior surgeons and radiologists involved in the five face transplantations agreed that the 3-D printed models provided superior pre-operative data and allowed complex anatomy and bony defects to be better appreciated, reducing total procedure time.

"Less time spent in the operating room is better for overall patient outcomes," Dr. Pomahac added.

Based on the results of this study, 3-D printing is now routinely used for surgical planning for face transplantation procedures at Brigham and Women's Hospital, and 3-D printed models may be implemented in other complex surgeries.

Source: www.sciencedaily.com

Topics: transplants, 3-D printing, CT images, procedure, technology, health, healthcare, nurses, doctors, medical

Goodbye, needles: measles vaccine could be delivered with a puff of air

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Wed, Nov 26, 2014 @ 11:45 AM

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The current measles vaccine - administered by an injection - is effective and safe, but experts say coverage could be made better by a vaccine that is easier to administer and transport. Now, a measles vaccine consisting of dry powder that is delivered with a puff of air has proven safe in early human trials and effective in previous animal trials.

Though many people living in the US consider measlesto be a thing of the past - thanks, in large part, to widespread vaccination efforts - the disease has made a comeback in recent years. 

In fact, 2014 has so far seen a record number of measles cases in the US, with 603 confirmed cases reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD) between January 1st and October 31st.

The organization says this is the highest number of cases since measles elimination was confirmed in the US in 2000.

Measles is spread by droplets or direct contact with the nose or throat secretions of people who are infected, but it can also be spread through the air or by objects containing nose and throat secretions.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), measles is "one of the most readily transmitted communicable diseases and probably the best known and most deadly of all childhood rash/fever illnesses."

In 2013, the disease killed 145,700 people worldwide - most of whom were children - despite an already existing effective injectable vaccine.

"Delivering vaccines in the conventional way, with needle injections, poses some serious challenges, especially in resource-poor parts of the world," says Prof. Robert Sievers, author of the latest study from the University of Colorado Boulder's Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

New vaccine safe, with evidence of positive immune response

To improve the delivery of the vaccine, Prof. Sievers and his colleagues created a dry delivery technique - that involves an inhalable, dry powder - in order to circumvent the need for injections and liquid storage, and to avoid risk of vaccine contamination.

In previous work, he and his team showed that their vaccine protected rhesus macaques and cotton rats from measles infection, and they also demonstrated that their dry vaccines can be safely stored for 6 months to 4 years at room temperature or in refrigerators kept at 36-46° F (2-8°C).

But their latest study heralds the success of the first phase 1 clinical trial for their vaccine in humans. "Out of an abundance of caution," says Prof. Sievers, "we test first in people who have already had the disease, or been injected earlier by needles with liquid vaccines."

As such, they enrolled 60 adult males aged 18-45 years who were already seropositive for the measles antibody. In the clinical trial, the researchers tested delivery of the powder using two devices and compared those two groups with a group that received the typical injection.

Results showed that the men from all three groups responded similarly and displayed no clinically relevant side effects. What is more, there was also evidence of a positive immune response to vaccination from the powder.

Any adverse events were recorded with diary cards for 28 days after the vaccination, and researchers followed the participants for 180 days post-vaccination to watch for any long-term adverse events. Additionally, the team measured measles antibodies 7 days before vaccination and 21 and 77 days after vaccination.

Commenting on their new dry vaccine, Prof. Sievers says:

"You don't need to worry about needles; you don't need to worry about reconstituting vaccines with clean water; you don't need to worry about disposal of sharps waste or other vaccine wastage issues; and dry delivery is cheaper."

Vaccine trials in humans are ongoing

Though their trial demonstrated that their powder vaccine is safe, because the men were already immune to measles, it could not compare effectiveness of the vaccines.

"It is very good news that we encountered no problems," says Prof. Sievers, "and now we can move on."

He and his team plan to continue their research through phase 2 and 3 trials in people who are not yet immune to measles, including women and children.

The research was funded by a $20 million grant from the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health, with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It should be noted that the authors of the paper include researchers from the Serum Institute of India, Ltd. - the largest manufacturer of childhood vaccines used in developing countries.

Additionally, Prof. Sievers is president and CEO of Aktiv-Dry, LLC, a Colorado-based company that provides dry powder solutions for the vaccine, pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries.

Topics: needles, measles, technology, health, healthcare, medical, patients, vaccine, medicine

Low-Cost Incubator May Save More Babies

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Wed, Nov 19, 2014 @ 02:11 PM

By George Putic

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Each year, about one million babies throughout the world die of complications due to premature birth. Many of them could have been saved if given access to an incubator. But this expensive device is sorely lacking in developing countries. A young British researcher says he has found a solution -- a low-cost inflatable incubator.

Doctors say many expectant mothers in developing countries give birth prematurely, especially in refugee camps, largely because of poor diet and unhealthy living conditions.

Premature birth is the biggest killer of children worldwide. Because these tiny babies are born before their lungs are fully developed, they are more susceptible to often deadly infections. But they could survive if placed in an incubator, where they would continue to develop in the closed chamber and warm, controlled environment.

However with a price tag of around $50,000, incubators are out of reach even for some hospitals.

Design engineering student James Roberts, 23,  of Britain says his $400 inflatable incubator may help solve this problem.

“It's basically an insulated piece of air, so it's like the difference between double and single glazing, so it's easier to keep the inside at a stable heat environment, heat temperature," he said.

The inflated incubator is collapsible and when folded resembles an ordinary travel bag.

It is powered through a regular electrical line, but Roberts said he has found a solution in case there is a power outage, which often happens in refugee camps.

“I thought 'why not car batteries?' There's loads of cars out there, they're pretty readily available. So you can plug this into a car battery. It will run for 24 hours and then when the mains [regular electrical line] comes back on, the mains can then charge this battery, and then that can run the incubator," he said.

Roberts' won the $47,000 James Dyson Award earlier this year for his incubator design. He said the project is still in the development phase, but the prize money will help him start a company for the mass manufacturing of inflatable incubators.

Source: www.voanews.com

Topics: premature birth, incubator, life saving, developing countries, technology, health, healthcare, medical, patients, babies

Three Tips for Better Nurse–Physician Communication In The Digital Age

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Mon, Nov 17, 2014 @ 12:58 PM

By Melissa Wirkus

Milisa Manojlovich resized 600

“HIT has been shown to help some patients, but it has also been shown to perhaps provide some complications in care, or less than adequate care, when messages are not received, when messages are interrupted or when messages are routed to the inappropriate person,” explained Milisa Manojlovich, PhD, RN, CCRN, associate professor at the University of Michigan School of Nursing (UMSN) and member of U-M’s Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation.

Manojlovich will serve as the primary investigator on a new $1.6 million grant from the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) that will focus on health IT’s effects on nurse–physician communication. Manojlovich and her co-investigators will look at how communication technologies make it easier or harder for doctors and nurses to communicate with each other. They hope their research will identify the optimal way to support effective communication while fostering improved and positive interdisciplinary team-based care.

Until the research is completed, Manojlovich offers some simple procedures clinicians can begin to adopt right now to help alleviate common problems with digital communication:

1.   Use multiple forms of technology  

Just like there is more than one way to treat a cold, there is more than one way to communicate electronically. Utilizing multiple forms of technology to communicate important information, or sometimes even reverting back to the “old-fashioned” ways of making a phone call or talking in person, can help ensure the receipt of a message in an environment that is often inundated.

“One of the things we are going to investigate is this idea of matching the message to the medium,” Manojlovich said. “So depending on the message that you want to send, you will identify what is the best medium to send that message.”

Using the current Ebola situation in Texas as an example, Manojlovich explained that using multiple forms of technology as a back-up to solely documenting the information in the EHR system could have mitigated the breakdown in communication that occurred. “Although the clinician did her job by entering the information into the EHR, she maybe should have texted or emailed the physician with the information or found someone to talk to in person about the situation. What we are trying to do with this study is see if there is another way that messages like this could have been transmitted better.”

2.   Include the whole message 

Reducing fragmented messages and increasing the aggregation of key data and information in communications may be one of the most critical pieces to improving communication between nurses and physicians. Manojlovich has been passionate about nurse–physician communication throughout her career and has conducted several previous studies on communication technologies.

“What we’ve noticed, for example, is that nurses will sometimes use the same form of communication over and over again. In one of the studies we actually watched a nurse page the same physician three times with the same question within an hour period.”

The physician did not answer any of the messages, and Manojlovich concluded it was because the pages were missing critical components of information related to the patient’s care plan. Increasing the frequency of communications can be beneficial, but only if the entire message and all important facets of information are relayed.

“If you do what you’ve always done, you’re going to get what you’ve always gotten. If you don’t alter or change the communication technology you are using, you are going to get the same results,” she added.

3.   Incorporate a team-based approach 

“At a really high level the problem is that a lot of these computer and electronic health record technologies are built with individuals in mind,” Manojlovich said. “When you talk about care process and team processes, that requires more interaction than the technologies are currently able to give us. The computer technologies are designed for individual use, but health care is based on the interaction of many different disciplines.”

Infusing this collaborative mindset into the “siloed” technology realm will undoubtedly help to improve the communication problems between providers and clinicians at all levels and all practice settings--which is especially important in today’s environment of co-morbidities and coordinating care.

Nurses play a critical role in improving communication as frontline care providers. “Nurses are the 24-hour surveillance system for hospitalized patients. It is our job to do that monitoring and surveillance and to let physicians know when something comes up.”

“I believe that for quality patient care, a patient needs input from all disciplines; from doctors, nurses, pharmacists, nutritionists--everyone,” Manojlovich said. “We are being trained separately and each discipline has a different knowledge base, and these differences make it difficult for us to understand each other. Developing mutual understanding is really important because when we have that mutual understanding I think outcomes are better and it can be argued that the quality of care is better when you have everyone providing input.”

Source: www.nursezone.com

Topics: physician, digital, technology, health, healthcare, nurses, patients, hospital, communication

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