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Healthcare Headlines Week of June 23, 2014

June 27, 2014

Healthcare_Headlines_6.23.14Can Soccer be Beneficial to Seniors?

Americans of all ages have enjoyed watching the World Cup on television, but a new study suggests that soccer training could have health benefits for men 60 and over. Read the story

Teaching Hospitals Marked for Readmissions Penalties

As penalties go into effect for hospitals with higher-than-expected readmissions rates, teaching hospitals are expected to fare particularly poorly, because they have higher complications rates for various reasons. Read the story

Senators Suggest a Tweak to Affordable Care Act

A small, bipartisan group of senators is suggesting that taking patients’ socioeconomic status into account when calculating readmissions penalties could undo what they feel is unfair penalizing of the hospitals that take care of the poorest patients. Read the story

Long-term Care Hospitals Serve an Important Need

Many people, even doctors, don’t know that long-term acute care hospitals exist, but these facilities serve an important need, when recovery at a short-term hospital proves elusive. Read the story

Study: Mentally Stimulating Activities Can Stave Off Dementia

By engaging in activities like reading and playing games by middle age, people may be able to stave off the development of dementia, according to new research. Read the story

Changes Coming for ACOs

A CMS official has indicated that a proposed rule addressing changes in the Accountable Care Organizations program is coming soon. Read the story

“Fundamental Shift” Underway in Senior Care

The senior living news has been dominated lately by stories of takeovers, mergers and acquisitions, and the developments reflect a sea change in the world of senior care and living brands. Read the story

Revolutionary Brain Surgery May Give Hope to the Paralyzed

A chip, implanted in the brain, has been shown to give a quadriplegic man the ability to move his hand. Read the story

The technology is gonna take brain activity from a tiny chip we’ve implanted in his brain and translate that activity to a message that muscles can understand, and then send those signals to the muscles and he’s gonna be able to open and close his hand — Engineer Chad Bouton

Advance Directive? Check. But Could it be Ignored?

Even when patients have advance directives, which give instructions about what treatments they want and don’t want at the end-of-life, their wishes sometimes go ignored because of confusion and misinformation. Read the story

Health Industry Leaders Push for More Data Sharing

Health industry leaders participating in a roundtable discussion at the House Energy and Commerce Committee advocated for more sharing of patient data but acknowledged privacy concerns. Read the story

Opinions expressed in any of the included stories or their publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Kindred Healthcare and this blog post is a compilation of news stories from other sources that have appeared during the past week.

Reducing the Risk of Heat-Related Illness

June 26, 2014

Heat SafetyEarlier this week, we discussed heat safety and various factors that can contribute to heat-related illness. Below are ways to reduce your risk as well as first aid tips.

Stay tuned to local weather news for heat alerts or warnings as you plan your outdoor activities. Be aware of the Heat Index, which factors in humidity levels as well as air temperature. With relative humidity at just 55 percent, 92 degrees has a Heat Index temperature of 101.

If you’re outside:

  • Drink plenty of water, limit caffeinated beverages and avoid alcohol.
  • Dress in loose-fitting, light-colored clothes.
  • Keep activities light (or stay indoors during the hottest part of the day).
  • Make sure your skin is protected to avoid sunburn.
  • Rest frequently and don’t overdo.

If you’re traveling in the car:

  • Before you buckle up the family, check surfaces to avoid burns.
  • Never leave kids, disabled adults or pets in parked vehicles.
  • Lock your car when you park it, even at home, and make sure kids know not to play around or in parked vehicles.

For more information, the National Institutes of Health offers advice for the elderly on reducing heat risks. Be sure to check on elderly and those with disability or who are experiencing limited mobility due to surgery or recovery. Ensure they are safe and have access to water and a cool environment.

Heat-related illness first aid (from the National Weather Service)

Heat cramps

  • Apply firm pressure on cramping muscles or gently massage to relieve spasm.
  • Give sips of water. If nausea occurs, discontinue water.

Heat exhaustion

  • Move person to a cooler environment.
  • Remove or loosen clothing.
  • Apply cool, wet cloths.
  • Fan or move victim to air conditioned room.
  • Offer sips of water. If nausea occurs, discontinue water. If vomiting continues, seek immediate medical attention.

Heatstroke (or sunstroke)

  • Heatstroke is a severe medical emergency. Call 911 or get the victim to a hospital immediately. Delay can be fatal.
  • Move the victim to a cooler, preferably air-conditioned, environment.
  • Reduce body temperature with a water mister and fan or sponging.
  • Use fan if Heat Index temperatures are below the high 90s.
  • Use extreme caution.
  • If temperature rises again, repeat process.
  • Do NOT give fluids.

The Heat Is On: Stay Cool and Safe

June 24, 2014

Heat SafetyWhen temperatures drop into the teens, most people take extra precautions to stay warm and limit their exposure outside. Rising temperatures call for extra safety measures, too.

As the days warm up, don’t underestimate how deadly the heat can be: The National Weather Service (NWS) calls it “one of the leading weather-related killers in the United States.”

You can prevent heat-related illness and fatalities. Understanding and limiting the risks will go a long way toward keeping you and your family safe all summer.

Heat-Related Risks

When summer is at its hottest, a day that only hits 81 degrees can feel mild. But even then, the inside of a parked car can reach nearly 100 degrees in just 10 minutes. Kids can get burned by the car’s hot interior, but it can be fatal if they’re left in the car unattended. “Each year dozens of children and untold numbers of pets left in parked vehicles die from hyperthermia,” the NWS says.

Hyperthermia occurs when your body can’t handle the heat it’s absorbing and your temperature rises. Even normal outdoor activities can be dangerous and can lead to heat-related illness.

In its mildest form, hyperthermia can start with heat cramps but, according to the Mayo Clinic, “If you don’t cool down, you may progress to symptoms of heat exhaustion, such as heavy sweating, nausea, lightheadedness and feeling faint.”

If your body temperature continues to rise, heatstroke occurs. Heatstroke victims may experience seizures, be disoriented or act strangely, and they need immediate medical treatment. Without treatment, heatstroke can be fatal. It can take only a matter of hours for the brain, heart, kidneys and muscles to be severely damaged.

Children, Certain Adults at Higher Risk

Children’s bodies heat up more quickly than those of adults, so they’re at greater risk. The danger is also higher for the elderly, those who are obese and people taking certain medications. Overexertion, dehydration and alcohol consumption can put even healthy adults at greater risk.

Sunburn affects your body’s ability to regulate heat and also makes you more susceptible to heat illness. A warmer climate than you’re used to can also play a role.

You can get more information on heatstroke risk factors from the Mayo Clinic website.

Healthcare Headlines Week of June 16, 2014

June 20, 2014

Healthcare_Headlines_6.16.14Communal Living on the Rise Among Seniors

For older Americans who have been through divorce or the death of a spouse, communal living, a la The Golden Girls TV sitcom, is becoming increasingly popular. Read the story

Lawmakers Consider Readmissions Penalty Calculations for Dual Eligibles

A group of bipartisan Congressional legislators is giving consideration to the method for calculating readmissions penalties in order to weigh the issues faced by facilities that take care of dual eligibles, who often represent the sickest of the sick. Read the story

Coverage for Lung Cancer Test Urged

Many lawmakers are pushing for Medicare to cover a lung cancer screening test that they believe could be beneficial to many seniors. Read the story

In a letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the lawmakers called for a timely decision on coverage for low-dose CT scans for older patients at higher risk of developing lung cancer.

“Prior Authorization” for Hospice Drugs Questioned

A “prior authorization” process used to reconcile payment for some drugs used at end-of-life is a burden to Medicare beneficiaries seeking the drugs, according to advocates who would like to see the rules withdrawn. Read the story

Large Insurer Expands Palliative Care Program

A large insurer in the Pacific Northwest is expanding its palliative care program, offering training to providers and additional benefits to policyholders. Read the story

Palliative care at its best is in partnership with curative care. It’s not after curative care when it no longer matters or no longer is working. — Mark Ganz, president and CEO of Cambia Health Solultions

Will HIPAA Fines Increase?

According to Health and Human Services Chief Regional Civil Rights Counsel Jerome Meites, recent HIPAA fines are low compared to what’s to come. Read the story

Post-Hospital Syndrome may be a Cause of Readmissions

According to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, a phenomenon known as “post-hospital syndrome,” which renders patients suceptible to things like gastrointestinal issues, mental health issues, nutrition-related problems, electrolyte imbalances, and trauma, including falls, could be a cause of readmissions. Read the story

Hospitalists a Growing Specialty

Hospitalists, who specialize in taking care of patients in the hospital, make up the fastest growing specialty in medicine, today and maybe to date. Read the story

Device Theft to Blame for Many HIPAA Violations

Device theft in long-term care facilities continues to be a leading cause of HIPAA violations, according to a recently released government report. Read the story

When it Comes to Blood Pressure, Lower is Better…to a Point

A new study has found that lowering blood pressure has many positive health benefits, but people whose blood pressure is lower than the normal range (120-140) are at no greater advantage than those who fall within the normal range. Read the story

Opinions expressed in any of the included stories or their publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Kindred Healthcare and this blog post is a compilation of news stories from other sources that have appeared during the past week.

2014 LTPAC HIT Summit: The Future of Connected Care

June 19, 2014

The 10th Long-Term and Post-Acute Care Health IT Summit is taking place June 22-24. This annual gathering of people involved in post acute care will be looking at broad directions for the future of healthcare and technology. The Summit combines health and healthcare trends, information technology directions and Federal legislative and regulatory policy.

Kindred has been a strategic partner of the LTPAC HIT Summit for several years, shaping the agenda and leading the panel discussions. This year, I will be presenting work I’ve done for the Federal Health IT Policy Committee on a voluntary certification program for LTPAC Electronic Health Records.

The 2014 LTPAC HIT Summit has five different themes:
• Connected patients and caregivers
• Connected workers
• Connected partners
• Health intelligence, and
• Changing business imperatives.

We live in a connected world. We now expect to be connected in the palm of our hand to all the critical information we need to get through our day. We connect with family and friends, arrange meetings, find the information and resources we need and make financial transactions. Mobile apps and the Internet have changed what happens outside of work and is also changing what happens at work. The Summit will explore how post-acute and long-term care is participating in these changes, how we connect with our patients, residents and their families and caregivers, how we connect our workforce to the information they need and how we connect with the many partners we have in providing care.

We are also seeing “smart” apps. They are context aware, know what we are doing, what we need to do next and feed us the information and options for action. We are applying this to healthcare, looking at how technology can provide the intelligence that powers the user experience, clinical decision support and real-time guidance for our organizations.

We’re improving the exchange of information amongst care settings. There are new incentives for acute care hospitals to provide electronic information as patients transition to post-acute care. Kindred and other providers are preparing to receive these secure messages and integrate them into our care processes. This is an early step in the journey to improve care transitions with improved information.

These are exciting and challenging times for healthcare providers. We are developing new business models in response to the economic and care demands placed on us. We are being asked to improve care and reduce costs. Information and the use of information technology are central to meeting these challenges. I am proud to represent Kindred at this event and hear from others in healthcare.

Communicating With Aphasia

June 18, 2014
Photo courtesy of the American Stroke Association.

Photo courtesy of the American Stroke Association. Click to enlarge.

Aphasia is a little-known language disorder that affects nearly one-third of stroke victims. It occurs when there is damage to the communications hub in the left side of the brain. While aphasia disrupts communication skills, it does not affect a person’s thinking skills.

There are many types of aphasia, but the most general categories are receptive and expressive aphasia. With receptive aphasia, the person can hear a voice or read print, but may not understand the meaning of the message. With expressive aphasia, the person knows what he or she wants to say yet has difficulty communicating it to others.

Someone with receptive aphasia may:

  • Have difficulty comprehending what others say
  • Have difficulty with reading comprehension
  • Be unaware that they are using words incorrectly

Someone with expressive aphasia may:

  • Be able to understand what others say
  • Have difficulty saying what they are thinking
  • Speak in a jumbled manner
  • Say a word different than the one they want to say
  • Have difficulty writing

While understanding the disorder is important, learning how to best communicate – either as someone with aphasia or as the loved one of someone with aphasia – is essential.

Does this apply to you or to a family member? First, determine how you or your loved one prefer to communicate. Do you want assistance with words or would you prefer to work on your own? If you say the wrong word or misunderstand what is spoken, do you want to be corrected? Once you establish how you or your loved one wish to communicate, the following tips may help along the way:

  • Be patient
  • Stay positive
  • Speak slowly
  • Remove distractions such as television or music
  • Find a quiet, well-lit space
  • Use printed cue cards or letters
  • When in a group, speak one at a time
  • Consider seeing a speech-language pathologist (SLP)

The American Stroke Association has developed an extensive list of tips for communicating after stroke. Read them here.

Healthcare Headlines Week of June 9, 2014

June 14, 2014

Healthcare_Headlines_6.9.14Red Tape Holds up Medicaid Applications

Six million people have gained Medicaid coverage since September, largely thanks to the Affordable Care Act, but a backlog of applications is holding up the processing for many. Read the story

Readmissions Causes Continue to Confound

Even when hospital staff do everything “right,” the return of some patients is sometimes inevitable. This blog post muses over the reasons why and how we can change our thinking to try to do better. Read the story

Hospitals’ efforts to eliminate some of their worst habits have indeed led to modest improvements. (For comic relief, it should be noted that a few of these strategies backfired and raised readmission rates, possibly because they helped outpatient providers see clearly just how sick their discharged patients were.)

Directors of Nursing Discuss Top Issues

At the annual National Association of Directors of Nursing Administration in Long Term Care meeting, attendees discussed the top issues they face, which include pain management at end-of-life, antipsychotic use in dementia patients and medication for epileptic patients. Read the story

Do End-of-Life Wishes Belong in Medical Record?

A study done in Oregon, using the POLST (Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment) program, demonstrated that when patients’ end-of-life wishes are communicated in their medical records as instructions, they are more likely to be followed. Read the story

Study Tests Drug Potentially Protective Against Alzheimer’s

A major study has just gotten underway to see if an experimental drug can protect the brains of healthy seniors who have markers indicating they may be at risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Read the story

ACA Provides Greater Job Flexibility

The Affordable Care Act, which allows the uncoupling of employment and health insurance, may lead to greater job flexibility, according to this article. Read the story

Government Arms Have Differing Opinions on Painkillers

The party line on painkillers varies between different areas of the federal government, from the White House’s position that overuse of opioids is a national “epidemic” to the CDC’s stance that the onus is largely on doctors to scale back the prescription of such drugs. Read the story

Bill Supports Development of New Antibiotics

The Antibiotic Development to Advance Patient Treatment (ADAPT) Act would provide more incentives to drugmakers to develop new antibiotics. Read the story

Nearly One-Tenth of Americans Have Diabetes

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 9.3 % of Americans have diabetes, a number that is up from last year. Read the story

Hispanics Worry About Long-Term Care, but Don’t Want to Discuss it

According to a new poll, Hispanics in California are more worried about long-term care than other ethnic groups, but they are hesitant to talk about it or plan for it. Read the story

 

Opinions expressed in any of the included stories or their publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Kindred Healthcare and this blog post is a compilation of news stories from other sources that have appeared during the past week.

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