• October 16, 2014
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Telemedicine saves money, time and life of people out of the hospitals

According to American Telemedicine Association research, the telemedicine industry has expanded by 24 percent nationally since 2012. Going to the doctor's office for diagnosis of a minor ailment may soon become a thing of the past.

CentraCare Health recently unveiled its eClinic telemedicine service provided by the St. Cloud VA Health Care System and HealthPartners, that helps diagnose and treat patients via the Internet. Doctors are legally allowed to prescribe medications through the Internet. However, providers stress that telehealth services aren't supposed to be used in emergency cases.

On its website, CentraCare lists the conditions it will treat via the Internet. Among the things CentraCare will treat with its eClinic include the flu, colds, allergies and pink eye. If the eClinic service isn't able to treat a patient, CentraCare refunds the patient's money and recommends the patient see a provider in person. "There are carefully created protocols in the system that help decipher a patient's symptoms to safely treat online", said Dr. Darin Willardsen, a CentraCare eClinic provider. 

Similar to the newly launched eClinic, VA hospitals and clinics use a program called My HealtheVet. It links patients with providers virtually and distributes a diagnosis through email. They also use a Skype-like program for patients to see specialists in other cities.

"Telehealth made significant strides in last few years although it's still not available to the entire health care system, while it can save time and money and help keep people healthy and out of the hospital " said Mark Schoenbaum of the Minnesota Department of Health.

References:

  1. Central Minnesota clinics adopt telemedicine services
  • October 03, 2014
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Telemedicine - that is where the money is

The idea of telemedicine has a lengthy history and begins as long ago as 1924. The fantasy became reality when in the 1960s NASA began monitoring astronauts in space.

At conference in Rome on October 7-8th, participants discussed the problems that must be solved if telemedicine’s day is to come. They include redesigning laws and payment systems set up for face-to-face care, and finding ways to keep patients’ data secure and private.

In America, the jurisdiction depends on the patient’s location, not the doctor’s. It requires that doctors be licensed in all states where they have patients and meet care standards. Only 21 states in US had mandated that telemedicine be compensated at the same rate as face-to-face care.

In the European Union countries is other situation: doctors need only be licensed in one country to practice in all. But member states, including Germany, do not agree to pay for remotely administered care.

The Telemedicine technology can look similar to Skype but needs for security and privacy is greater. The FBI warned American health-care providers that their cyber-security systems were not up to snuff. In August Chinese hackers had stolen data on 4.5m patients.

Some small countries are at the forefront of. Due to fully digitized health-care system of Israel patients may have access to their electronic medical records fulfilled by doctors. So countries where provision is currently limited or non-existent may be quickest to move. But if telemedicine is to take off, big, rich countries must embrace it—not least because that is where the money is.

References:

Stuck in the waiting room http://www.economist.com/news/international/21623710-long-touted-health-care-revolution-may-last-be-about-arrive-stuck-waiting

  • September 24, 2014
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Five servings of fruit and vegetables a day reduces risks of deaths

Consumption of sufficient amounts of fruit and vegetables are recommended as part of a healthy diet. Fruit and vegetables may reduce chronic diseases and more specifically, coronary heart disease (CHD), by means of their protective constituents such as potassium, folate, vitamins, fiber, and other phenolic compounds.

These nutrients act through a variety of mechanisms, such as reducing antioxidant stress, improving lipoprotein profile, lowering blood pressure, increasing insulin sensitivity, and improving hemostasis regulation. However, the recommendation to eat fruit and vegetables to prevent chronic diseases is mainly based on observational epidemiological studies, which leaves much uncertainty regarding the causal mechanism of this association.

The researchers found that compared to people who never eat fruit, those who eat fruit every day cut their heart disease risk by 25% to 40%. Those who ate the most amounts of fruit also had much lower blood pressure compared to the participants who never ate fruit. In March a study by University College London found that eating seven portions of fruit and vegetables reduces risks of deaths from all causes by 42 per cent.

One of the recent meta-analysis provides further evidence that a higher consumption of fruit and vegetables is associated with a lower risk of all cause mortality, particularly cardiovascular mortality. However, there was a threshold around five servings of fruit and vegetables a day, after which the risk of all cause mortality did not reduce further.

Understanding the relation between fruit and vegetable consumption and mortality is important for guiding consumer choices and prioritizing dietary guidelines to reduce risk.

References

  1. Alexandra Sifferlin. Eating Fruit Cuts Heart Disease Risk by 40%.
  2. Luc Dauchet, Philippe Amouyel, Serge Hercberg, Jean Dallongeville. - Fruit and Vegetable Consumption and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease: A Meta-Analysis of Cohort Studies. J. Nutr. October 2006 vol. 136 no. 10 2588-2593.
  3. Fruit and vegetable consumption and mortality from all causes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. BMJ 2014; 349 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g4490 (Published 29 July 2014)Cite this as: BMJ 2014;349:g4490.

 

  • September 15, 2014
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The key competitive advantages of medical tourism industry in India

Medical tourism is the travel of people to another country for the purpose of obtaining medical treatment in that country. Traditionally, people would travel from less developed countries to major medical centers in highly developed countries for medical treatment that was unavailable in their own communities. The recent trend is for people to travel from developed countries to third world countries for medical treatments because of cost consideration, though the traditional pattern still continues.

The medical tourism industry in India gets maximum patients for heart surgery, knee transplant, cosmetic surgery and dental care as the cost of treatment in India is considered to be the lowest in Asia, much lower than Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore and Hong Kong.

According to a joint report by consultancy firm KPMG and industry body FICCI a person coming to India for his/her medical treatment can have savings anywhere in the range of 30 to 70 per cent. “Even if we consider the ticket expenses and accommodation expenses along with the treatment cost, the overall expenditure would be lower than the treatment cost in the UK or the US or many other countries. The inflow of medical tourists is expected to cross 320 million by 2015 compared with 85 million in 2012,” the report stated.

Amit Mookim, partner and head of healthcare practices, KPMG India had pointed out that India has a fragmented approach where individual hospitals have been promoting themselves as the hospital destinations. The medical-value-travel stakeholders in India need to consolidate their efforts and strategies on how to leverage the available opportunities.

References

  1. Jasleen Kaur Batra. Medical tourism industry in India to reach $3.9B this year, says report.
  2. Medical tourism
  • September 09, 2014
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How Telemedicine Can Help in Triple Aim Efforts

Telemedicine is one of the few avenues that leads to better health care as well as lower costs, both elements of the Triple Aim initiative. It could actually be among the “cornerstone solutions to the problem,” says Yulun Wang, Ph.D., president of the American Telemedicine Association Board of Directors.

Telemedicine has extensive and diverse applications. If this is tapped aggressively, it could benefit physician practices, hospitals and health systems in many different ways. “In some shape or form, telemedicine can be used in any aspect of healthcare delivery at a lower cost while driving up quality simultaneously,” Wang says.

When it comes to chronic diseases, for instance, telemedicine helps in managing a patient’s condition under a pay-for-value model that in turn enables the health care industry to generate savings. Specifically, the approach integrates telemedicine with preventive care. This way, providers can use the latest technologies to connect with and check on chronic patients who are at home. Through such online consultations, they can gather and track data on the patients in order to “head off negative trend lines,” says Wang.

But before telemedicine can actually be used for the Center of Connected Health Policy’s six-month Triple Aim initiative, valid evidence has to be established together with improved financing and reimbursement.

Researchers from the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, however, found a limited number of digital health technologies that could satisfy completely all the elements of Triple Aim. There was also no apparent link between investment and evidence of the value of the different technologies. Plus, in some categories like telemedicine solutions, no example of an evidence-based offering could be presented. Based on an analysis by Towers Watson, telemedicine on the whole could eventually save American employers up to $6 billion each year.

  • August 22, 2014
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Uses of 3D Printers in Healthcare

The health care sector is increasingly tapping 3D printing - a process that creates solid objects from digital 3D designs.

According to Visiongain, health care investments in 3D printing will reach $4 billion by 2018. The technology can be used to customize medical products, lower surgery risks and even print human cells, tissues and organs.

So far, 3D printers have been able to turn out not just surgical tools but also prostheses, hearing aids and medical implants that are personalized to the bone or organ structure of the patient.

Dental labs have utilized 3D printing to automate processes than were once done manually.

In surgical planning, detailed models based on a patient’s MRI or CT scan data are constructed through 3D printing. Surgical teams use the models to plan operations and in turn ensure successful outcomes in complex cases, such as those of conjoined twins.

Lawrence Livermore National Lab and Organovo, among other researchers and startups, have been focused on the 3D printing of human cells and tissues, and the University of Iowa on organs.

A few research universities in Australia and Europe have actually began offering bioprinting—the method of growing human tissue via 3D printers—as a master’s program.

At the University of California’s Derisi Lab, 3D printing allows users to create designs for lab equipment. This gets them what they need much faster (and at a lower cost) than ordering from vendors or having the parts custom-machined.

Product development is getting a boost as well, with companies relying on 3D printers to quickly build prototypes for medical devices and equipment.

All this is just the start of the 3-D revolution, as some call it. There is still a vast array of potential applications for 3-D printers and the health care sector will surely see more innovative designs and solutions in the coming years.

  • August 13, 2014
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Telemedicine in Pre-Hospital Care

The right person in the right place and at the right time is not always possible; telemedicine offers the potential to give audio and visual access to the appropriate clinician for patients. Advances in information and communication technology (ICT) in the area of video-to-video communication have led to growth in telemedicine applications in recent years. For these advances to be properly integrated into healthcare delivery, a regulatory framework, supported by definitive high-quality research, should be developed. Telemedicine is well suited to extending the reach of specialist services particularly in the pre-hospital care of acute emergencies where treatment delays may affect clinical outcome. The exponential growth in research and development in telemedicine has led to improvements in clinical outcomes in emergency medical care.

There is a critical global shortage of healthcare professionals. As a consequence, qualified professionals may not be physically present particularly in under-resourced regions, and providing quality healthcare may be quite challenging. This challenge can be tackled by providing specialist medical services using information and communication technologies to remotely located healthcare workers and patients where such expertise is not immediately available. This is known as telemedicine. In telemedicine, the client is separated from the expert in space. The concept of telemedicine has been used in one form or another for centuries, the light house which was used to guide the ships in the sea and lead them to harbor.

Using telemedicine as a prophylaxis method against expected diseases is very useful in preserving health. In emergencies, it is necessary for some people to be checked by qualified doctors. Telemedicine make that thing possible and easy. Telemedicine is a growing industry that makes everyone happy and healthy.     

  • August 13, 2014
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Telemedicine and its Benefits

Telemedicine was disregarded for being an unwieldy, unreliable, and unaffordable technology. Rapidly evolving telecommunications and information technologies have provided a solid foundation for telemedicine as a feasible, dependable, and useful technology. Practitioners from a variety of medical specialties have claimed success in their telemedicine pursuits. Gradually, this new modality of healthcare delivery is finding its way into the mainstream medicine. As a multidisciplinary, dynamic, and continually evolving tool in medicine, researchers and users have developed various definitions for telemedicine. 

The meaning of telemedicine encapsulated in these definitions varies with the context in which the term was applied. An analysis of these definitions can play an important role in improving understanding about telemedicine. In this paper we present an extensive literature review that produced 104 peer-reviewed definitions of telemedicine. These definitions have been analyzed to highlight the context in which the term has been defined. The paper also suggests a definition of modern telemedicine. The authors suggest that telemedicine is a branch of e-health that uses communications networks for delivery of healthcare services and medical education from one geographical location to another. It is deployed to overcome issues like uneven distribution and shortage of infrastructural and human resources. We expect that this study will enhance the level of understanding and meaning of telemedicine among stakeholders, new entrants, and researchers, eventually enabling a better quality of life.

Telemedicine is not a separate medical specialty. Products and services related to telemedicine are often part of a larger investment by health care institutions in either information technology or the delivery of clinical care. Even in the reimbursement fee structure, there is usually no distinction made between services provided on site and those provided through telemedicine and often no separate coding required for billing of remote services. ATA has historically considered telemedicine and telehealth to be interchangeable terms, encompassing a wide definition of remote healthcare. Patient consultations via video conferencing, transmission of still images, e-health including patient portals, remote monitoring of vital signs, continuing medical education, consumer-focused wireless applications and nursing call centers, among other applications, are all considered part of telemedicine and telehealth.

While the term telehealth is sometimes used to refer to a broader definition of remote healthcare that does not always involve clinical services, ATA uses the terms in the same way one would refer to medicine or health in the common vernacular. Telemedicine is closely allied with the term health information technology (HIT). However, HIT more commonly refers to electronic medical records and related information systems while telemedicine refers to the actual delivery of remote clinical services using technology. 

Telemedicine Benefits:

  1. Providing healthcare services via telemedicine offers many advantages. It can make specialty care more accessible to underserved rural and urban populations.
  2. Video consultations from a rural clinic to a specialist can alleviate prohibitive travel and associated costs for patients.
  3. Video conferencing also opens up new possibilities for continuing education or training for isolated or rural health practitioners, who may not be able to leave a rural practice to take part in professional meetings or educational opportunities.
  4. The use of telemedicine can also cut costs of medical care for those in rural areas.

So, telemedicine is one of the main ways of the future, would you join it now?

  • July 21, 2014
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New cost saving technology for patients and physicians benefits

In the event of impending heart problems, early detection allows for swift and appropriate action which can significantly reduce harm to the health. In the past, a visit to the hospital was necessary to diagnose heart-related problems. The difficulty remains that any heart abnormalities can only be detected when the electrocardiogram (ECG) is taken at the time of discomfort.

Smartphones and apps can be important tools to help manage healthcare. The low-cost software programs and ability to obtain a real-time ECG is essential and can help patients better manage their disease at home and avoid costly hospital admissions.

A new device and application created by Dr. Dave Albert and AliveCor, has recently been cleared by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for sale. The device uses electrodes embedded into a standard phone case to measure electrical signals in the fingertips.  These signals are then transmitted via the phone’s microphone to the AliveCor app on the patient’s phone.  This device then allows the patient to record, share and upload their ECG tracing for analysis by their physicians.

The AliveCor device has many practical applications for patients, including monitoring heart rhythm during periods of symptoms. This correlation of real-time heart rhythm with symptoms is often the critical step in helping physicians make a diagnosis.

“Let’s take advantage of what technology has to offer and provide patients and physicians with the tools they need to expedite care and improve outcomes” – says Dr. Kevin Campbell, assistant professor of medicine in the division of cardiology at University of North Carolina.

References

1. Dr. Kevin Campbell. Real-time ECG from your fingertips. 2014.

2. http://www.heartronics.com.my/WhatECGDetect.html

3. http://www.alivecor.com/home

  • July 21, 2014
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Dark chocolate improves cardiovascular health

Dark chocolate has recently been discovered to have a number of healthy benefits. Quality dark chocolate is rich in Fiber, Iron, Magnesium, Copper, Manganese and a few other minerals. The fatty acid profile of cocoa and dark chocolate is excellent. The fats are mostly saturated and monounsaturated, with small amounts of polyunsaturates. It also contains stimulants like caffeine and theobromine.

Dark chocolate is loaded with organic compounds that are biologically active and function as antioxidants. These include polyphenols, flavanols, catechins, among others. The flavanols in dark chocolate can stimulate the endothelium to produce Nitric Oxide which sends signals to lower resistance to blood flow and therefore to reduce blood pressure. Dark chocolate improves blood flow and may help prevent the formation of blood clots. This is reducing the risk of stroke, infarction and peripheral artery disease. Increasing blood flow to the brain dark chocolate can improve also cognitive function.

In a controlled trial, dark chocolate was found to significantly decrease oxidized LDL cholesterol. It can also reduce insulin resistance, which is another common risk factor for cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Multiple observational studies show a drastic reduction in cardiovascular disease risk for the people who consume the dark chocolate.

“Nutrients are key components of health and disease. In the context of atherosclerosis, following an appropriate diet is crucial for reducing the burden of vascular disease. Eating such polyphenol-rich nutrients as dark chocolate leads to improved blood flow in the legs,” said Dr. Lorenzo Loffredo, the study’s lead author from Sapienza University in Rome.

References

  1. Dark chocolate may ease walking for patients with artery disease. 2014.
  2. Stephen J Crozier et al. Cacao seeds are a "Super Fruit": A comparative analysis of various fruit powders and products. Chemistry Central Journal 2011, 5:5  doi:10.1186/1752-153X-5-5
  3. Kris Gunnars 7 Proven Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate. 2014.
  • June 23, 2014
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Sedentariness and its Relation to Cancer

If we take a closer look upon our daily routine and lifestyle, we can easily say that our lives have totally become static. We have limited most of our activities to our rooms. There were times when people use to go out in search of jobs to earn money but now money can easily be earned by just sitting in front of laptops and start investing in shares and stock markets. Previously, playing outside the home with friends or going on long walks with the close friends, were considered as the most lovable activities but now Facebook and Twitter has taken that place. In simple words, we have encaged ourselves in our homes and that’s badly affecting our health.

So, in what manner this sedentary lifestyle is affecting our health? How this attitude of ours is getting us closer to death? Well, research studies and detailed analysis has proved that sitting at one place for long period of time gives rise to different kinds of cancers in human beings. Chances of colon cancers, endometrial cancers and lung cancers have been on up rise among those who prefers sitting for most of the day. People who use to watch television for a longer period of time or sit at some place for more than three hours are actually at increase risk of getting such type of cancers.

One cannot enjoy his life if either he is suffering from some kind of cancer or if he doesn’t involve himself in some meaningful physical activity. The actual charm of life has always been in roaming around, seeing the world and enjoy the nature, rather than keep sticking to your sofa seat and totally paralyze your life.  

  • June 22, 2014
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Iodine Biokinetic Model for Thyroid Cancer Patients

Radioactive iodine therapy is suggested for the patients suffering either from hyperthyroidism or thyroid carcinomas. Iodine plays its role by regressing the growth and size of the thyroid gland thus decreasing the excess thyroid hormones production. But, it has been seen that radiotherapy has always been associated with some kinds of side effects in the form of loss of hair, increase susceptibility to other infections, anemia etc. However, now scientists have programmed a specific biokinetic model for those patients who are undergoing 131I (radioactive Iodine) therapy, to provide necessary precautions to such patients and thus minimize the radiation side effects.

The pioneers of this radioactive iodine biokinetic model were some scientists from China. They put forward their detailed analysis after practicing this model upon the patients who were ready to undergo radio-iodide ablation therapy or for the treatment of thyroid metastatic disease. After the therapy, they measure the levels of radioactive iodine both in the thyroid tissue and in the extra thyroidal compartments as well, and their values were compare to those described in American Thyroid Association (ATA) and Nuclear Regulatory Models (NRC). It was seen that the patients who were undergoing through ablation therapy showed the mean initial dose rate was 28% which was about 36% lesser to the value described in ATA and NRC models. Also the patients who were suffering from metastatic thyroid cancers and used this biokinetic model for follow up purposes, the values were also significantly reduced among those patients as well. The half life value of remaining 131I in the thyroid remnant tissues was also decreased from 175.2 to 47.6 hours.

Keeping in view, it can be concluded that iodine biokinetic model provide more precautionary measures to the patients who undergoes radio-iodide therapy for thyroid cancers.