The iconic Star Wars story is coming to a dramatic conclusion as Disney gets ready to release the final film of the legendary series. The film, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, will hit theaters Friday, December 20th and tickets are going fast. To get ready for the big premiere, show off your inner fandom with these new Star Wars scrubs from Tooniforms, a special line of cartoon scrubs from Cherokee Uniforms.
The Women’s V-Neck Star Wars Print Scrub Top features a cartoon head of Princess Leia, the toughest woman in the galaxy. It even comes with a saying, “The future of the galaxy is female,” so you can send the right message to all the girls who want to be Jedi masters when they grow up. It’s the feminist Star Wars top you’ve always wanted, and Avery Woods (pictured) looks like a superwoman.
The Men’s V-Neck Infrared Print Scrub Top sets a much darker tone, but you didn’t think we’d let Darth Vader get in the way of Santa, do you? Of course not, so the funny folks at Cherokee put a Santa hat on the Storm Troopers (we like to call them Santa Troopers). The Dark Side is strong with this one. You probably remember James Earl Jones’ booming voice from your childhood, so now you can relive all your favorite memories with your patients. Check out Nurse Rozay on Instagram. We triple dare you to DM him with ‘May The Force Be With You.’
Star Wars fans are known for dressing up as their favorite characters, such as Obi Wan Kenobi, Princess Leia, R2D2, and even the man himself, Luke Skywalker. If you’re going to the premiere in theaters, get ready to see plenty of hardcore fans dressed up in cosplay. Looking to join in on the fun at work? These Star Wars scrubs are just what you’ve been looking for.
This year’s release is bound to make all kinds of headlines. Sadly, Carrie Fisher passed away at the end of 2016, but the movie magicians at Disney have found a way to bring her back to the silver screen using previously unseen footage. The movie will also bring the saga of Rey, Finn, Poe, and Kylo Ren to a dramatic conclusion. These actors have carried the franchise to new heights, creating millions of new Star Wars fans in the process.
There are plenty of reasons to get excited as Star Wars heads to a theater near you. Show off your love for this iconic universe with a pair of limited-edition scrubs.
You can find a retailer at www.CherokeeUniforms.com. Follow Cherokee on Instagram at Instagram.com/CherokeeUniforms and tag us with your Holiday snaps.
Hospitals tend to be some of the most dangerous places at which people earn a living. As a healthcare worker, you may be exposed to workplace violence, hazardous chemicals, illnesses and bodily fluids, long hours on the floor, slips and falls, and intense physical and mental stress. Healthcare workers are nearly twice as likely to get injured on the job as those in other industries.
Even without the threat of workplace violence and possible exposure to hazardous materials, all that walking, lifting, bending, and writing can easily take a toll on your physical health, raising your risk of developing a range of medical conditions, including what’s known as work-related musculoskeletal disorder (WMSD), carpal tunnel syndrome, or tendonitis.
That’s why we’re taking some time to talk about the ergonomics of healthcare. Improving the ergonomics of your workplace will help you and your employees work smarter, not harder. The job won’t feel as physically demanding, and you won’t have to worry as much about throwing out your back, pulling a muscle, or injuring yourself on the job. Learn more about improving the ergonomics of healthcare.
What Is Ergonomics?
Ergonomics is the science of optimizing workplace conditions based on the capabilities of your workforce. For example, forcing your employees to lift heavy objects day in and day out will wear away at their ability to do their jobs, considering the limitations of the human body. Instead, have your employees use a lift truck or dolly to move heavy objects, so they don’t have to bend over or exert their muscles as often throughout the day.
If the ergonomics of your workplace are strong, your employees should be able to comfortably complete the task at hand without injuring themselves in the process. Strong ergonomics lead to higher productivity, fewer workplace injuries, and increased employee satisfaction.
Unfortunately, the healthcare industry isn’t known for its strong ergonomics. Healthcare and social assistance workers experience some of the highest rates of musculoskeletal disorder, with an incidence rate of 208.4 per 10,000 workers. Overall, WMSD accounts for around 53% of all injury and illness cases among nurses. Back injuries in the healthcare industry cost an estimated $20 billion annually. Nursing home and long-term care employees tend to face a higher risk of sprains, muscle aches, MSD, and back injuries than traditional care providers.
Tips for Improving the Ergonomics of Your Facility
Improving workplace ergonomics all depends on your specific facility and the duties and responsibilities of your employees. Start by taking stock of your workplace. Conduct a safety assessment using a licensed professional to identify any potential risks in your workplace, including not only threats of physical violence and potential exposure to hazardous materials, but also possible stress points that may take a toll on the health and wellbeing of your employees.
You’ll also need to consider the daily routines of your employees. Talk to your staff members to see which aspects of the job tend to be the most physically challenging. Your nurses and healthcare aides are bound to be exhausted at the end of a 12-hour shift, so do your best to relieve some of the most physically demanding aspects of the job, such as bending, lifting, moving patients, carrying equipment, and walking to and from different parts of the facility.
Once you’ve done your research, start adjusting your workplace and analyze the results. Here are a few examples of how you can improve the ergonomics of your workplace:
- Avoid storing in-demand equipment and supplies in hard-to-reach areas, such as low to the ground or on the top shelf.
- Consider investing in more comfortable office equipment, such as reclining desk chairs, to improve the wellbeing of your employees.
- Increase the lighting to help your employees see more clearly on the job.
- Avoid storing equipment and gurneys in narrow aisles and pathways.
- Create a system for cleaning up spills and leaks as quickly as possible to prevent trips and falls.
- Raise the height of patient beds when possible, so your employees don’t have to bend down as far to care for patients.
- Make sure your employees have a safe place to sit down and relax on their breaks.
- Limit the number of hours your employees can work in a day, week, or month.
- Swap out the junk food in your vending machine for healthier options.
- Encourage everyone to put items and equipment back where they belong to prevent accidents and mishaps.
- Consider moving workstations to a new area, so your employees don’t have to walk as far within your facility.
- Encourage your employees to wear proper shoes, so they don’t get as tired on the floor.
Keep these ideas in mind when adjusting the ergonomics of your facility. Small changes can yield big results. Your employees won’t feel as tired at the end of their shifts and they won’t have to worry about breaking their backs on the job. It’s all about keeping your employees comfortable.
Alexis Skjelbred always wanted to be a nurse, but life had other plans. After struggling in high school due to her test anxiety, Skjelbred was ready to throw in the towel when it came to pursuing her degree. As a single mom trying to keep a roof over her head, she started working in construction and plumbing to make ends meet. She had just enrolled at Spokane Community College in 2013 when she received an unexpected call from the Spokane Valley Fire Department. Her house wasn’t on fire; instead, she was awarded the Spokane Valley Fire Employees Scholarship, giving her the funds she needed to complete her education.
Today, Alexis Skjelbred has completed her goal of becoming a practicing nurse. She even cares for some of the firefighters who helped support her education. Learn more about her amazing story and how the Spokane Valley Fire Department helped her make her dreams come true.
Firefighters Give Back to the Local Community
Spokane Valley firefighters are committed to serving their local community in more ways than one. In addition to risking their lives to save their neighbors, friends, and colleagues, they’re also making sure local students have access to higher education. Every year, the department awards the Spokane Valley Fire Employees Scholarship to students in need. To raise money for the scholarship, firefighters sacrifice a portion of their paychecks.
These firefighters want their community to be successful. That means funding the education of aspiring professionals that want to make their community a better place. As Darrin Coldiron, SVFD firefighter and a scholarship founder, writes, “As firefighters, our job is to serve the community. We do that in emergency situations all the time, but I think our service doesn’t leave when we leave the job. We’re dependent on the community being healthy and strong, and this is a way we can help the community.”
In 2013, the Spokane Valley Fire Department interviewed Alexis Skjelbred as a possible contender for the scholarship. As Skelbred recalls, “I had put in a generic scholarship application about the year before and never heard anything back. I got a phone call, and someone identified themselves from the Spokane Valley Fire Department. I’m saying, ‘Oh, is my cat OK? Did my house burn down?’” After illustrating her passion for nursing, the firefighters eventually awarded the scholarship to Skelbred.
With additional financial support, Skelbred was eventually able to transfer to Washington State University Spokane to finish her nursing degree. Several years later, Skelbred landed her first nursing job in 2017, working as a cardiac nurse at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center.
Skelbred went on to recall, “What blew me away was that these smart guys who really know their stuff and do a lot in the community thought I was worthy of their hard-earned money. They had faith in me. It gives you courage and motivation when you’re having a hard time because I’m here to tell you, nursing school is tough.”
Prior to her studies, Skelbred worked in the referrals department at the Community Health Association of Spokane. This gave her a chance to work with medically underserved people and help them navigate the often-confusing world of specialty care.
While Skelbred was more than grateful to receive the scholarship, she admits she wasn’t going to let anything get in the way of her dreams of becoming a nurse. Thanks to all her hard work, her dreams eventually came true. As you can see in the photo above, Skelbred is rocking a pair of scrubs from Cherokee Uniforms, a uniform she’s been vying to wear ever since she was a little girl. After seeing their mom take so much pride in her work, Skelbred’s two daughters are even considering a career in healthcare.
Returning the Favor
During her time at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center, Alexis Skelbred got the chance to give back to the firefighters who supported her education. She cared for some of the same firefighters who interviewed her all those years ago. Skelbred recently shared a post on social media talking about how she cared for one of these firefighters towards the end of their life.
Firefighters tend to suffer from a range of workplace illnesses and injuries, including heart disease, cancer, chronic respiratory disease, hepatitis B and C, and high levels of physical and mental stress. As a practicing nurse, Skelbred understands the stresses that come with serving the larger community. Just like these firefighters, she uses her body to save lives every day.
This heartwarming story is a great reminder that it’s important to give back to your local community. Support aspiring healthcare professional in your area and help them reach their goals.
You’ve probably heard of the Apple Watch or Fitbit. Maybe you were even hoping to get one for Christmas this year. These devices are designed to track your health, including your heart rate, daily physical activity, sleep patterns, and your weight. However, the market for wearable healthcare devices is quickly expanding, making way for a new generation of wearables, such as remote patient monitoring, heart monitors, and reproductive cycle trackers. While some have argued that these devices may not be as reliable as once thought, they could end up improving clinical outcomes for patients.
Let’s take a closer look at the relationship between wearables and healthcare, so you can keep up with the latest trends in your industry.
Healthcare providers have always looked to data when treating their patients, and wearable healthcare devices expand upon this idea. With wearables, providers can monitor the health of their patients in real time. Patients can also take their health into their own hands by collecting data on their own habits and activities. There tend to be two different kinds of wearable technology: patient-centric wearables and provider-centric wearables.
Patient-centric wearables are meant to help individuals better monitor their own health, whether it’s how many steps they’ve walked that day, how much sleep they got that week, or whether a woman will start menstruating this week. Individuals may choose to disclose this information to their healthcare provider, but it’s mostly for their own personal use.
Provider-centric wearables help providers better manage the health of their patients. Providers will prescribe pieces of technology for their patients if they’re struggling with their weight, recovering from surgery, or dealing with a chronic condition at home. Providers can use these devices to improve patient outcomes by learning as much as they can about the health of their patients. They can ensure their patients are taking their medications, getting regular physical activity, and maintaining a healthy diet.
The Latest in Wearable Healthcare Technology
Tech companies all over the world are researching, investing in, and releasing new wearable healthcare devices. These devices have exploded in popularity over the last few years, and tech developers are looking to cash in. According to research from Business Insider Intelligence, more than 80% of consumers are willing to wear fitness technology. On the clinical side, tech companies are looking to invest in one of the biggest industries in the world: healthcare. Everyone needs healthcare at some point in their lives, and creating a practical wearable medical device could help propel the industry forward.
Here are just some recent examples of what this technology can do:
- A new app called Ava can track women’s menstrual cycles, helping them learn more about their fertility, sleep, resting heart rate, pregnancy, and their overall health.
- Developed by AliveCor, KardiaMobile is an electrocardiogram (ECG) that attaches right to the user’s smartphone. It uses chest and finger sensors to monitor heart activity. Both providers and patients can use this product.
- My Skin Track UV uses a tiny sensor to monitor the user’s exposure to UV rays, pollen, humidity, and air pollution. It’s great for those with sensitive skin, allergies, or anyone who’s worried about the quality of the air they breathe.
- TempTraq uses a soft, padded Bluetooth sensor to track the temperature of infants during illness. Parents can install the sensor in the crib to monitor the temperature of their children in real time. If the baby’s temperature gets too high, the parents can contact a healthcare provider or take them to the emergency room.
As convenient as these devices can be, wearables present new concerns in the healthcare industry. Here are some potential issues to keep in mind as you or your patients start wearing this technology.
- Privacy Issues
As a user, your private health information may fall into unexpected hands. Some of these tech companies and developers may be unfamiliar with patient privacy laws. Furthermore, some of these devices fall outside the realm of healthcare, which means HIPAA and other federal laws do not apply. Use caution when uploading information to the cloud. Make sure you know who has access to your health information and whether this information could put you at risk.
It’s best to do your research before buying a wearable device for yourself, a loved one, or prescribing one to your patients. Some of these devices are more accurate than others when it comes to recording health information. For example, the menstrual tracking app Ava currently offers “an average of 5.3 fertile days per cycle with an accuracy of 89%.” Leave room for error when analyzing your own health data or those of your patients.
- Too Much Data
Some have also worried that putting wearable devices in the hands of consumers can lead to over-reporting. Our lives are already inundated with a great deal of digital information. In order to make sense of healthcare data, it needs to be presented to the user in a coherent way. Consumers and providers simply don’t have time to read through pages of data every week.
Patients may also use this data to develop their own theories about their health. As a provider, some of your patients may start referring to their Fitbit or smart watch during a consolation. They may pay more attention to these devices than their primary care provider. Other patients may prefer to use wearable devices instead of scheduling an appointment with their doctor. Overall, it may muddy the waters when it comes to monitoring our health.
We’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg when it comes to wearable healthcare technology. Keep these ideas and trends in mind as you research these devices. Wearables aren’t meant to replace in-person consultations. Make sure you know the facts before prescribing these devices to your patients.
The healthcare industry is in the middle of what some have called the “Great Digitalization.” Healthcare facilities large and small have been implementing digital technology for years. From smartphones to cloud-based data storage systems and virtual care, new technology can improve efficiency in more ways than one. As of today, nearly all U.S. hospitals use electronic health records (EHRs).
While your practice or employer may be hesitant when it comes to investing in the latest technology, using outdated communicators and fax machines can actually drive up costs and reduce efficiency. It may even put the health and safety of your patients at risk. If you’re still clinging to paper records and manual tracking, learn how outdated workflow can put you, your patients, and your practice at a disadvantage.
Why the Resistance the Change?
The Hippocratic Oath states, “Do no harm,” and the same may apply to your beliefs about technology. Some smaller facilities and practices may be hesitant to digitize their operations for numerous reasons. Administrators and staff may not feel comfortable using the latest technology. Diminishing profits and limited financial resources may also hinder their ability to adopt digital healthcare platforms.
However, other facilities may simply be wary of the future. Older care providers may groan at the idea of using a computer all day long. These offices have used paper records for decades, and switching to new models of care can seem risky to some. If a system is working, why change it? However, updating to the latest technology is about more than just personal preferences and beliefs. Outdated technology can hold your facility back as more of your competitors embrace digitalization.
How Outdated Technology Can Put Your Practice at Risk
Many practices and facilities say they can’t afford to invest in the latest digital technology, but, in fact, the healthcare industry loses around $8.3 billion per year due to outdated technology. Using outdated charting techniques can slow down your operations, driving up the cost of care. Your facility will likely have to spend more time and money caring for each patient, limiting how many patients you and your team can care for throughout the day.
In addition to higher costs, using outdated technology can hurt your practice or facility in the following ways:
- Reduced Response Time
You and your team need to act fast in the face of an emergency. Consider connecting employee smartphones to a real-time locator system (RTLS), so you can monitor the location of your employees in real time. You can call or text employees based on their proximity to the facility to speed up response times.
- Poor Patient and Internal Communication
Communication is the name of the game in the healthcare industry. Outdated tech like fax machines, pagers, and paper records, to name a few, can make it harder for you and your team to exchange information in the heat of the moment. You can only send so much information with things like these, which can take several minutes to operate. Furthermore, paper records are difficult to send across long distances.
With an EHR system and smartphones, you and your team can send and share complete records with the touch of a finger. You won’t have to wait as long for a response as you would with outdated technology; and you won’t have to be near a computer to access patient information. If one of your patients requests access to their medical records, they can have it sent right to their inbox instead of waiting for a paper copy to arrive in the mail.
- Increased Competition
Healthcare is a business, after all, which means you need to keep up with the latest trends if you want to stay competitive. Unless you’re the only doctor in town, your patients have a choice when it comes to receiving care. Some of your patients may prefer to bring their business to some of your competitors if you continue to cling to outdated technology.
Updating your technology improves the patient experience. Patients and providers can use instant messaging to stay in touch. Patients can also schedule appointments online instead of having to call the office directly. You can also coordinate treatment with the patient’s pharmacy to improve medication adherence. You can send reminders to your patients in real time, so they remember to pick up their medication or schedule a follow-up appointment.
Patient reviews and ratings can also affect your overall standing in the healthcare industry. Your reputation may sour over time as you continue using outdated technology. Patient reviews can affect your facility’s HCAHPS scores, a direct correlation to Medicare reimbursements, limiting how much money you receive from the federal government.
The benefits of modernizing your technology are clear. You and your staff can get things done more efficiently, while improving patient outcomes. If your facility is still behind the curve, consider investing in digital technology today!
Algorithms, machine learning, and artificial intelligence are slowly taking the world by storm, upending traditional processes across virtually every industry, and healthcare is no different. When you pull up your Netflix account, the website will recommend certain titles based on your previous viewing habits. Meteorologists use previous weather patterns to predict future outcomes. And now doctors can look to millions of electronic health records (EHR) when diagnosing and treating their patients.
Major tech companies like Google are trying to collect as much health data as they can to create a sort of online search tool for doctors and physicians. When a doctor evaluates a patient, previous clinical outcomes and patient data will tell them what to do next, so they can move on to the next patient as quickly as possible without second-guessing themselves or compromising patient care. If you’re curious about the future of healthcare, dive into all things AI and what we mean by “predictive care”.
The Poverty of Attention
Doctors have access to large quantities of data when evaluating their patients, including the patient’s health history, similar clinical outcomes, and information regarding the latest treatment methods. However, when we’re exposed to too much information all at once, it creates what’s known as “poverty of attention”. Our minds simply can’t process and absorb this information in a meaningful way. Part of Google’s plan is to condense healthcare information as much as possible, so doctors and physicians don’t have to read through pages of data when treating their patients.
Making Decisions on the Spot
Every second counts when a patient’s life is on the line, so doctors need to work fast. Doctors are also working harder than ever before, and they need to use their time wisely if they’re going to treat all their patients effectively.
According to a 2018 survey by the Physicians Foundation, doctors on average work 51 hours a week and see 20 patients a day. Considering their workload, doctors need to be able to access meaningful insights in a matter of seconds instead of combing through a patient’s entire medical history.
At any given moment, doctors need to decide whom they’re going to treat first and how based on data from their chart. Deciding which data to focus on and how to best treat the patient isn’t always easy. With AI-assisted technology, the algorithm can start making some of these decisions on the doctor’s behalf, so they can spend more time doing the work and less time figuring out what to do next.
Aggregate Electronic Health Records
To help doctors make complex healthcare decisions on the spot, Google is in the process of collecting a wealth of healthcare information from a diverse array of sources. To comply with patient privacy laws, such as those outlined in HIPAA, hospitals have agreed to de-identify patients before releasing these records. The EHRs contain a range of important information, including medications, laboratory values, diagnoses, vital signs, and medical notes.
All these EHRs will then be converted into a single standardized data structure format, with relevant information ordered and arranged per individual patient. Google’s new invention will then use three deep learning methods to predict future clinical outcomes. The technology will also be able to quickly summarize past medical events and incidents with patients with similar conditions as they relate to the situation at hand. Using this model, doctors could see the final outcome before ever treating the patient.
The tool will be able to predict a range of important clinical information, including:
- Unplanned transfers to the intensive care unit
- Unplanned hospitalizations
- ER visits or readmissions within 30 days after discharging the patient
- Patient length of stay in the hospital
- Inpatient mortality
- Primary diagnosis
- Atypical laboratory results that could signal a new chronic condition or health issue
- Primary and secondary billing diagnoses at patient discharge
Doctors will receive an alert on their tablet or smartphone when the machine predicts future clinical events. The alert will also contain “attention mechanisms” that track how much information the machine accessed when predicting the outcome, such as the number of individual words in a note, lab measurements, medications, etc. This helps the doctor decide how much confidence they should place in the predicted outcome.
It’s important to remember that this new machine is meant to be used as a tool. Doctors will be free to use or refuse information regarding predicted outcomes as they see fit. AI algorithms will only supplement their medical knowledge and expertise, not replace it entirely. While this project is still in the early phases, Google has focused its efforts on ophthalmology and digital pathology. The more information Google collects over the years, the more comprehensive the algorithm will be.
Google isn’t the only one experimenting with predictive healthcare. Amazon is looking upload EHRs to the cloud, while researchers at the University of Nottingham recently created an AI algorithm that can predict death. Depending on the results of this initial experiment, AI and healthcare may prove to be a match made in heaven.
Going in for surgery can be terrifying for some patients. While some procedures are considered routine, others can have deadly side effects, which is why we’re taking a look at some of the riskiest medical procedures being performed today. Some of your patients may have to go in for these procedures from time to time, so we’re here to give you the lowdown as to why these six are considered so risky.
Riskiest Medical Procedures
We’ve compiled data from several different sources to learn about some of the riskiest procedures in the medical industry. Based on our findings, here’s our list of the six riskiest medical procedures:
A complete removal and reconstruction of the esophagus. Possible risks include leakage where the new esophagus is connected to the stomach or rupturing of the new esophagus.
Removal of all or part of the pancreas, usually due to cancer. Possible risk factors include postoperative bleeding, delayed gastric emptying, a condition in which food and liquids are slow to leave the stomach, and internal anastomotic leaking.
- Repairs of Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm
An abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) refers to an abnormal widening of the abdominal aorta, the main artery supplying blood to the organs in the abdomen and lower part of the body. The vast majority of those that suffer an AAA die before they reach the hospital. There are three ways to repair an AAA: surgery, in which the doctor sews in a synthetic graft to replace the damaged aorta; endovascular aneurysm repair (EVAR), in which a stent graft is inserted through the groin, and laparoscopic repair, when a stent graft is inserted through cuts in the patient’s abdomen. While all these methods come with risks, EVAR can reduce complications by making smaller incisions into the body.
- Surgical Ventricular Restoration
This procedure restores the heart ventricle to its normal shape after a heart attack or congestive heart failure to improve functionality. The poorly functioning ventricle is remodeled to a calculated size based on each person’s body surface area.
This procedure involves removing part of the skull so doctors can inspect it or the brain, leaving portions of the brain vulnerable if not protected properly. Complications can include loss of vision, mobility, speech, memory, and coordination. If fluid starts to build up in the brain, it could lead to stroke, seizures, spinal fluid leakage, and possible swelling of the brain.
- Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement
TAVR is used to replace a narrowed aortic valve that fails to open properly, a condition known as aortic valve stenosis. In this procedure, the doctor will insert a catheter into the patient’s leg or chest and guide it to their heart.
As you can see, these procedures deal with some of the most delicate parts of the body, including the heart, brain, and pancreas.
Varying Survival Rates
While these procedures come with more than a fair share of risks, not all patients will have the same chances of survival. A study from the nonprofit Leapfrog Group, a patient-safety organization supported by large employers, and Castlight Health Inc, which sells software for employers to manage healthcare spending, shows that survival rates can vary by as much as 23% for any of the four riskiest procedures based on which hospital the patient chooses.
Leapfrog asked 1,500 hospitals for data on the four riskiest surgeries, including the number of procedures performed and patient deaths. It adjusted the numbers to come up with a “predicted survival” estimate for each. The study found the following:
- For pancreatectomy, predicted survival rates ranged from 81% to 100%. Of 487 hospitals reporting data, 203 had rates of at least 91.3%.
- For esophagectomy, expected survival ranged from 88% to 98%. Only 182 of 535 hospitals had rates of at least 91.7%.
- For repairs of abdominal aortic aneurysm, survival rates ranged from 86% to 99%; 268 of 792 hospitals met the benchmark of 97.3%.
- For replacing the heart’s aortic valve, survival ranged from 92% to 97%; only 95 of 544 hospitals hit 95.6%.
Hospital ratings tend to vary widely based on data from numerous groups and organizations, so choosing the “best” hospital for a certain procedure can be a challenge. If a patient is looking to have one of these procedures performed, they can request data regarding their chances of survival from different area hospitals. This may help inform their decision in terms of where to get treated.
Choosing a hospital can mean the difference between life and death for some people. Keep this data in mind when advising your patients.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services filed a lawsuit against drug manufacturer Gilead, the company responsible for developing Truvada, or pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). When taken daily, the drug prevents the HIV virus from taking root in HIV negative patients, but the drug isn’t exactly cheap. Patients with health insurance may get the pill for free, but others may have to pay up to $2,000 a month.
HHS is suing Gilead for patent infringement in hopes of releasing a generic version of PrEP, but the company argues it should maintain sole access to the profits of the drug so it can recoup all the money that’s been spent on research and development. However, HHS helped develop the drug with Gilead, using taxpayer money, no less. Learn more about this contentious showdown between HHS and Gilead and what it could mean for the future of HIV prevention.
Who Owns PrEP?
The Department of Health and Human Services owns thousands of patents. Normally, the department will license these patents to drug manufacturers in exchange for royalties, but Gilead never paid up. A recent study of Gilead shows the company owes the federal government over a billion dollars in overdue royalties. The complaint filed in court accuses Gilead of acting in bad faith when it started developing the drug with the help of HHS. The department accuses Gilead of engaging in “malicious, wanton, deliberate, consciously wrongful, flagrant” conduct. The department is also suing Gilead for damages, so the company could end up paying more than the overdue royalties if the HHS lawsuit holds up in court.
Gilead maintains that the department’s lawsuit is invalid. Even though the company used HHS funds to develop the drug, Gilead maintains it should retain full ownership of the profits. To diffuse its critics, the company announced earlier this year that a generic version of PrEP will be available in the U.S. as early as September 2020, but critics worry Gilead will still be in control of the price of the drug.
Putting an End to HIV
From the government’s perspective, suing Gilead could be a way to gain leverage over the company. With these funds in hand, HHS could release its own generic version of PrEP at a lower cost, helping millions of Americans access the drug that otherwise may not be able to afford it. HHS could also use the lawsuit to negotiate down the price of PrEP.
Around 40,000 people still get HIV infections every year here in the U.S. The Trump Administration recently declared war on HIV and AIDS in the U.S., hoping to get rid of the virus completely by the year 2030. Suing Gilead may help expedite this process.
Activists argue Gilead has been inflating the cost of PrEP for years. The drug can be manufactured for as little as $6 a pill, but Americans end up paying around 250 times that amount, raising the cost of care for high-risk patients. Non-profit groups have been urging HHS to break up Gilead’s profits for years. Finally, the government heeded their concerns.
HIV Prevention for All
To help decrease the number of new HIV cases in the U.S., HHS recently announced the development of a new program called Ready, Set, PrEP, which will supply at-risk patients with free doses of PrEP. In order to qualify, patients must prove they are HIV negative, have a prescription for PrEP, and be uninsured. Individuals can find a provider and sign up for the program at www.getyourprep.com or by calling the toll-free number 855-447-8410.
According to HHS Secretary Alex Azar, the program is expected to benefit up to 200,000 patients a year. Currently, just 18% of the 1.2 million people that could benefit from this drug have a prescription. Many of these individuals, including those most at risk of contracting HIV such as African American gay and bisexual men, do not have access to the drug or lack knowledge of its existence.
As these lawsuits play out in court, HHS will continue fighting for the rights of uninsured and underinsured patients that need access to HIV prevention. By cooperating in the Ready, Set, PrEP program, Gilead is working to increase access to the drug, but more needs to be done if the U.S. is going to eradicate HIV by 2030. Stay tuned as we follow this story in the months to come.
A new study shows life expectancy is on the decline for most working-age Americans. Those between the ages of 25 and 64 are now less likely to reach the age of retirement than at any point in recent history. For many of us, this news may come as a bit of a shock. We’re used to going to work every day, collecting a paycheck, and saving up for retirement, but reaching the age of retirement may not be as attainable as we once thought.
As a healthcare provider, discover what’s causing this trend and how you can help your patients live a long, healthy life.
Understanding the Results of the Study
We may like to assume that recent medical advances are helping us live longer, healthier lives, but as this new study confirms, that’s not always the case. The study was conducted by Dr. Steven Woolf and Dr. Heidi Schoomaker. They collected life expectancy data from the U.S. Mortality Database and cause-specific mortality rates from the CDC WONDER database.
According to their findings, U.S. life expectancy increased from 69.9 years to 78.9 years from 1959 to 2016, but rates have declined over the last three consecutive years. This trend seems to have started in the 1980s and 90s and has only gotten progressively worse over time. From 2010 to 2017, midlife all-cause mortality rates increased from 328.5 deaths per 100,000 people to 348.2 deaths per 100,000 people.
Decreasing life expectancy rates seem to be related to a wide variety of diseases, illnesses, and other health concerns. By 2014, midlife mortality was increasing across all racial groups. Many of these deaths seem to have been caused by drug overdoses, alcohol abuse, suicides, and a diverse list of organ system diseases. Overall, researchers pointed to 35 conditions and diseases that were responsible for this trend, including liver and heart disease, cancer, and stroke.
What’s Causing the Decline?
As shocking as the results of this study may seem, the results tend to vary by geographic location. New England and the Midwest seem to have been affected the most by these trends. According to the report, the largest relative increases in midlife mortality rates occurred in New Hampshire (23.3%), Maine (20.7%), Vermont (19.9%), and the Ohio Valley, including West Virginia (23.0%), Ohio (21.6%), Indiana (14.8%), and Kentucky (14.7%). The increase in midlife mortality during 2010-2017 was associated with an estimated 33,307 excess U.S. deaths, or those associated with a temporary increase in the mortality rate. Of these additional 33,307 deaths, a whopping 32.8% occurred in these four Ohio Valley states alone.
Researchers have tied their findings to recent national trends, including the rise of globalization and the decline of American manufacturing. Once known as the Rust Belt of America, the Ohio Valley has changed radically over the last few decades. With more factories and jobs moving overseas or turning to automation, many of these individuals have been forced to find new ways of making ends meet. Crippling economic stress, increased substance abuse, and depression may all play a role.
Here are a few examples of how the health of the nation has changed over the last few years:
- Fatal drug overdoses for people in midlife increased 386.5% between 1999 and 2017.
- Midlife mortality rates related to obesity have increased 114%.
- Deaths due to hypertension for people in midlife increased by 78.9%.
- Mortality rates linked to alcohol-related problems, such as chronic liver disease and cirrhosis, increased 40.6%.
- For those between the ages of 25 and 34, the rate of alcohol-related disease deaths increased by 157.6%.
- Suicide rates increased by 38.3% for people ages 25 to 64, and by 55.9% for people ages 55 to 64.
How You Can Help
Healthcare providers should adjust their assumptions about working-age life in America. While you may think of middle-aged patients as relatively healthy, this may no longer be the case. To help your patients live a long, healthy life, keep an eye out for some of the issues and concerns mentioned above.
Encourage working-age patients to schedule regular appointments with their healthcare provider. They should also sign up for regular screenings to make sure they are disease-free.
If one of your patients has recently lost their job or is having trouble making ends meet, encourage them to see a mental health professional. Be aware of how your patient’s feelings and stress can increase their risk of substance abuse, drug overdose, and suicide.
Do not assume your patients are healthy based on their age. Remember that these trends are on the rise for all working-age Americans, regardless of age, race, or gender.
Studies show around 80% of adults don’t meet physical activity guidelines and 71% are overweight. Talk to your patients about the importance of physical activity and maintaining a balanced diet.
The healthcare community also needs to instill these values in children, so future generations can reverse these trends by living longer, healthier lives. Many children learn about health from their parents. Younger generations may be doomed to repeat these trends if we don’t intervene in the meantime. Keep this information in mind as you talk to your patients about their health.
Sunday, December 1st is known as World AIDS Day. The event was designed to raise awareness regarding AIDS/HIV treatment and prevention, and there’s still more work to be done. Here at Scrubs Mag, we think one day isn’t enough time to discuss this important issue, so we’re taking the conversation beyond World AIDS Day.
In 2018, there were 37,832 people diagnosed with HIV in the U.S. Thanks to new drugs like PrEP and increased HIV awareness, the annual number of new diagnoses decreased 9% from 2010 to 2016 in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. While new infection rates have remained fairly stable here in the U.S. over the last few years, the same can’t be said for many countries around the world.
Globally, there were about 1.7 million new cases of HIV in 2018, bringing the total number of people living with the condition to around 37.9 million. However, just 23.3 million of these individuals received medicines known as antiretroviral therapy (ART) as treatment. ART reduces the amount of the virus in a person’s body, which allows them to live a long, healthy life. It also reduces the person’s chances of transmitting HIV to others.
Sub-Saharan Africa is still struggling to catch up with the rest of the world when it comes to HIV prevention. The region still accounts for 61% of all new cases. Asia and the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Eastern Europe and Central Asia continue to lag behind the U.S. and other Western nations as well.
While the U.S. continues to make advances, these other regions could use a lending hand. Learn more about what can be done to reduce AIDS/HIV rates around the world.
Increasing Access to Care
Living with HIV/AIDS means scheduling regular appointments with a healthcare provider, but unfortunately, many of those living with the virus do not have access to these services. Patients must visit their doctors regularly in order to receive ART medications. Without access to healthcare, far too many patients will die unnecessarily as a result of the disease. An estimated 770,000 people died from AIDS-related illnesses in 2018.
While around 80% of those living with HIV receive ART medications here in the U.S. and throughout Western Europe, UNAIDS reports that just 32% of people living with the virus in the Middle East and North Africa are accessing the treatment.
Increasing HIV Prevention
The international healthcare community also needs to do more to prevent new HIV infections. Ever since PrEP, which stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis, went on the market back in 2012, it has proven to be remarkably effective at preventing new HIV infections. Studies have shown that PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by about 99% when taken daily. As for those who inject drugs, it reduces the risk of getting HIV by at least 74% when taken daily.
For many high-risk individuals, PrEP is an easy way to drastically limit their chances of contracting the virus. However, preventative medicines like it can be hard to come by in certain parts of the world. Without insurance, these medications can cost up to $13,000 per year.
Regions with high rates of new HIV/AIDS infections also need to figure out a way to deliver these drugs to high-risk patients. Countries across Sub-Saharan Africa and beyond need to have a practical way of identifying high-risk populations and delivering the drug on a regular basis if they are going to reduce the rate of new infections. International health organizations like WHO will need to work with local healthcare providers to ensure high-risk populations have access to preventative medicine.
Educating Patients Around the World
Lastly, it’s also important for patients to be aware of their risk of getting HIV/AIDs and how they can protect themselves from contracting the virus. HIV rates tend to be higher among African Americans and Hispanics compared to Caucasians. In the U.S., most cases of HIV are caused by male-to-male sexual contact. In 2018, gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with other men accounted for 69% of all new HIV diagnoses in the United States, while those who identify as heterosexual accounted for just 24% of all HIV diagnoses. The most affected subpopulation is African American gay and bisexual men.
In the U.S. and beyond, high-risk individuals and communities need to be aware of their risks. Healthcare providers in all areas need to convey important information about prevention and treatment to their patients. Reducing the rate of HIV/AIDS often comes down to public education.
We still have a lot to do when it comes to defeating HIV/AIDS once and for all. While scientists continue looking for a preventative vaccine, we need to use the resources we already have to reduce the rate of new infections. Spread the word and keep the conversation going long after World AIDS Day.