Monthly Archives: August 2014

Designed for Recovery Speed

While a significant amount of research has been done surrounding the factors that matter most for patient recovery, a recent New York Times article discussed an unexpected factor which could enhance recovery times: the design of a patient’s room.

Several years ago, the University Medical Center of Princeton decided to open a larger facility. Throughout the design process, they engaged their medical staff as well as patients, seeking input on the layout of the new patient rooms. Then, according to the article, something interesting happened:

“Equipment was installed, possible situations rehearsed. Then real patients were moved in from the surgical unit — hip and knee replacements, mostly — to compare old and new rooms. After months of testing, patients in the model room rated food and nursing care higher than patients in the old rooms did, although the meals and care were the same.

But the real eye-opener was this: Patients also asked for 30 percent less pain medication.”

Reduced pain hastens recovery and rehabilitation times. Those figures, in turn, translate into shorter stays, diminished costs and fewer chances for accidents and infections. Today, with the rooms fully operable, patient satisfaction ratings are in the 99th percentile, up from the 61st percentile before the move, and infection and accident rates are lower than ever.

Source: The New York Times
Source: The New York Times

All of this because of the room’s design. It’s so interesting that the healthcare industry continues to form new, innovative ways to care for patients and get them on the path to recovery more quickly. What types of things would you install in your dream patient room?

Buckets of Ice Equal Buckets of Money

Over the past few weeks you may have noticed your friends, family and celebrities – basically everyone you know and most everyone you don’t – dumping buckets of ice water on themselves. The act, which has gone viral since mid-July, is in an effort to raise both money and awareness about the debilitating condition of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly referred to as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Most videos follow a similar format. Someone standing alone with a bucket of ice water at the ready. People typically say who challenged them, before dumping the water overhead. They then post it to their social media accounts, challenging a few friends to do the same or to donate some amount of money to ALS. Celebrities including Matt Lauer, Jimmy Fallon, Taylor Swift and LeBron James have posted videos in support of the campaign.

There’s been a lot of conversation challenging the impact that these videos are actually making. Opponents to the video campaign are calling on people to avoid posting the video altogether, referring to it as slacktivism, and to just donate money to the cause.

Proponents of the videos merely turn to the numbers. According to a recent NYT story:

  • More than 1.2 million videos were posted to Facebook between June 1 and August 13
  • More than 2.2 million Tweets mentioned the challenge since July 29
  • $13.3 million in donations to the ALS Association since July 29, compared with $1.7 million during the same period last year
  • 260,000 new donors to the association in that same timespan

In 2014, activism and social engagement look tremendously different than even 5 years ago. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have been changing the landscape of how people, especially young people, get involved with causes. The evolution has been fascinating to watch, and I feel confident it will only continue.

What’s your take on the Ice Bucket Challenge?

How to Prepare for Super Strains?

As the Ebola epidemic continues to terrorize much of West Africa, a conversation is happening in the science and research communities about what can be done to prevent or address another deadly outbreak. This week on NPR, a segment titled “Biologists Choose Sides In Safety Debate Over Lab-Made Pathogens” laid out the debate: is the risk of conducting experiments with infectious elements worth it?

“Proponents of the work say that in order to protect the public from the next naturally occurring pandemic, they have to understand what risky infectious agents are capable of — and that means altering the microbes in experiments.”

This side of the debate shifts the argument away from whether or not scientists should even conduct these experiments, saying instead that we should focus on giving them the safest equipment possible. Scientists should research infectious and contagious bacteria, this line of thinking says, to understand the outbreaks and be prepared to protect the public’s health if something were to happen.

Meanwhile, “critics argue that the knowledge gained from making new strains of these germs isn’t worth the risk, because a lab-made pathogen might escape the laboratory and start spreading among people.”

Both sides have garnered support from the science community and have formed their own coalitions of heavy hitters in the research field. The National Academy of Sciences has been called on to arrange a forum where both sides can come together for an open conversation.

The outcome is TBD, but this topic has clearly taken on new relevance in recent weeks.

Scottish Traipse

As I’ve mentioned before, I love having the opportunity to explore new places and immerse myself in new cultures. I’ve been fortunate enough to see a lot of beautiful and exciting places around the world – including a recent visit to Scotland.

I was in absolute awe of the country. From the rolling hills to the beautiful countryside to the incredible food and drinks, Scotland is an amazing place and a hidden gem in the United Kingdom. I’ve shared some pictures with you on this post, but they just won’t do it justice.

Where’s the most amazing place you’ve been? I’d love to know.

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Never Say Never

Earlier this week, USA Today ran a story called “Feds stop public disclosure of many serious hospital errors”. The title immediately caught my attention. Effective this week the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has removed data from their public spreadsheets on eight avoidable “hospital acquired conditions” (HACs). These include, for example, how often a hospital gives a patient the incorrect blood type or how many patients have surgical towels left in their body accidentally. CMS said the new data includes more reliable measurements of the same condition, but the change has advocates for patient safety up in arms.

Patients want to know when their neighborhood hospital does something truly great for the community. This could include delivering exceptional care, advancing cutting-edge research or attracting top-notch doctors. Likewise, many patients believe they deserve to know if the hospital has areas needing significant improvement. This may mean the hospital regularly makes a certain kind of major medical error or has a high rate of accidental patient deaths.

This shift in data available to patients and their families is interesting, especially in light of the recent pressures for hospitals to be more transparent with patients.

So-called “never” events, unfortunately, sometimes happen. And sometimes, no one is to blame – but should the public still know about it?

The Solution to America’s Weight Problem? Stop Being Sedentary.

In my field of healthcare, we constantly hear and spread messages about what’s healthy. The messages range from the best and worst fast foods to exercises that will slim you down more quickly. Now – more than ever – these messages seem to be everywhere, and this week I read a fascinating story on NPR called “What Makes Us Fat: Is It Eating Too Much Or Moving Too Little?”

A recent study shows that the increase in overweight Americans is not necessarily due to the fact that we eat worse than we did 50 years ago, or even that we consume bigger portions. The findings suggest that a shift in the types of jobs Americans hold has led to a significant decrease in physical activity.

“In 1960, 1 out of 2 Americans had a job where they had lots of physical activity and actually exercised at work; by 2008, very few Americans do work that doesn’t involve sitting around all day,” according to Dr. Tim Church, a professor of preventative medicine at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center at Louisiana State University.

His research found that only 1 in 5 Americans move on the job, but Church says that’s likely a “gross underestimate,” adding that it’s probably more like 1 in 10.

I believe that it’s the culmination of a number of factors that have led to a more overweight and unhealthy culture. I know it can be difficult to find the motivation to exercise after coming home from a long day at the office. However, this article suggests (as we’ve all heard before) that just 30 minutes a day of exercise will help combat the sedentary lifestyle of the office worker. Walk your dog (as I do) or find a fun and engaging exercise class at a nearby gym. Whatever it is, just 30 minutes can lead to a healthier and happier you.

Meet Logan

I’d like to introduce you to Logan. He’s my 5-year-old Shiba Inu who quickly became more than just my dog; he’s an important part of my family.

Originally bred in Japan, Shiba Inu’s are an ancient dog breed with a long and interesting history. They are energetic and independent animals that can be extremely protective but loving. He’s an incredibly smart dog with a loyal and affectionate nature. His quirky personality definitely keeps me on my toes, but he’s a great face to come home to after a long day at work. Though, as you can see, he’s not much use when I need help getting out of bed in the morning!

Think Before You Share

The healthcare landscape looks drastically different than it did even ten years ago. The economic crisis of ‘08 played a big hand in the changes we see today, from mergers and acquisitions to reorganizing hospitals and finding creative ways to cut costs. There was also a tiny piece of legislation passed, which you may have heard about.

All that aside, I also believe the boom of social media has made a significant impact in the evolving healthcare landscape.

Social media has shifted how we communicate with people across the board. Physicians, patients and families now have the ability to reach out and engage with hospitals like never before. They can post shining reviews on their Facebook or a scathing complaint on their Twitter. Pictures of the hospital or the patient can be uploaded in the blink of an eye to Instagram. With social media has come a layer of accountability hospitals and doctors have not experienced in years past.

Ragan’s Health Care Communications News ran an article this week titled “Are health care and social media a bad combination?” It focused on a story about a New York nurse who posted a picture of a messy trauma room after a patient had been treated. The nurse was fired for violating the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

In years past, HIPAA simply meant not sharing a patient’s information or any part of their medical records without their consent. In 2014, camera phones and social media has blurred the line of privacy. Posting anything of or about patients can lead to a terrible public relations nightmare – or even worse a serious lawsuit.

This article lays out some good, common sense tips to avoid situations like what happened in New York:

  1. Don’t engage in unauthorized photo sharing on social media.
  2. Always keep HIPAA in mind.
  3. Enforce a written policy for social media including an action plan if someone violates the policy.
  4. Hold classes to teach employees about acceptable social media behaviors.