Friday, September 30, 2011

Health Care and FaceBook

Social media is huge. Starting with MySpace, then FaceBook, and others in the mix including YouTube, LinkedIn, and others, hundreds of millions of users around the world are hooked on social media. With the advent of smart phone technology, the increase in cell phones exponentially around the globe has also driven increased socialization of media content and personal information. Some of the info is good, and some not so good. However, there is valuable material to be found on social media sites, including health care topics and how to improve your life for your own personal welfare and those around you.

Some of the material on FaceBook (FB), now with over 500 million members, is for consumers and some is designed for professionals. For example, this website is geared for helping professional health care providers by listing the Top 25 FB health care links for that group:  . If you are a medical professional or in the health care field, then you should be sourcing info on this page.

Patients and consumers are also getting into the act. According to the Dayton Business Journal, more users are relying on the social networking site for health information. In fact, 41 percent of people said they use social media as a health care resource, according to a National Research Corporation survey of over 23,000 people. Most of them -- 94 percent -- said they turned to Facebook for medical content such as diet and exercise tips and health education videos. And some respondents even said the information was likely to impact their future health decisions. With more citizens turning to social media for health care decisions, hospitals and other health care providers are taking steps to ramp up their social media presence. Patients are using these social media sites for multiple purposes such as:

• To view health education videos;
• Get diet and exercise tips;
• Learn about upcoming health events; and
• Study disease awareness and
• Health statistics.

Among health care providers with Facebook pages, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's site has more than 80,000 fans, while the American Cancer Society has over 225,000 fans. Recent posts on the CDC's page give smoking cessation tips, statistics on prescription drug-related deaths and ways to improve your diet. On WebMD's Facebook site, the latest content includes exercise tips for adult workouts and children's active video games. The site, which has over 53,000 fans, also uses health issues in the news to raise awareness among readers.

According to Social Media Today, In a new survey by the National Research Corporation, one in every five Americans use social media for healthcare information, specifically Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter (in order of popularity). Hospitals in particular are getting into the social media frenzy. General ways hospitals benefit from a strategic social presence:

•To listen and monitor its brand.
•Ability to administer real-time customer service.
•Creation of brand ambassadors – people who promote the organization without an agenda.
•Creation of a community who WANTS to stay connected.
•Cost-effective method to disseminate information quickly.
•Communities ripe for qualitative research gathering (focus groups, poll, etc.).
•Additional tool in crisis situations (natural disasters such as Haiti, Japan,).
•Media relationships, alternative to news releases.

According to Social Media Today, here are industry-specific ways hospitals and health care facilities can use social media:
•Preventative healthcare – use as an educational platform.
•Way to tell inspirational stories (positive happenings) that happen every day.
•Practice interactive healthcare – which is about engaging everyone in the “process of care.” This includes empowering physicians and healthcare professionals to participate. “Interactive health is about making health knowledge, supportive care, and motivation available to us, anytime and anywhere, so that we can integrate this wisdom into our daily actions to live longer, healthier, happier lives.” – Forbes (Read the full article.)

Navigating the path to affordable health coverage can be tricky, especially for young adults. You may be in and out of school, changing jobs, or moving all around the country, according to After the passage of PPACA, the Affordable Care Act, you may have access to consistent health insurance coverage. Before the Affordable Care Act, health plans could remove enrolled children usually at age 19, sometimes older for full-time students. Now, most health plans that cover children must make coverage available to young adults up to age 26. Parents just need to enroll their children during the appropriate open enrollment period. This gives young adults the flexibility to look for jobs and pursue the higher education of their choice. And the government has a FB page designed for this specific situation. Check out the page at:  .

According to the Dayton Business Journal, The main appeal of the media for patients, is the ability to have an immediate two-way conversation with their providers. In contrast to a health organization's Web site that only states information, Facebook provides patients with the opportunity to ask questions and share their opinions. The medium acts as a forum for health care discussions among people as well as health professionals. Patients can link to others with similar illnesses, ask their health provider questions and give feedback on their health facilities. However, the concern some professionals in medicine have is to not violate any HIPAA regulations. So the need for privacy still remains a huge issue when dealing with the patient/provider relationship.

There are boundaries that cannot be crossed for both legal and for ethical reasons. Despite many benefits, gaining health information from social media also has some negatives. While the Facebook pages give patients quick, convenient access to health information from their homes, some medical professionals also worry about the release of inaccurate health information and how people will utilize it. Social media has been a great boon for health care, but there are a few drawbacks, especially when patients want immediate answers but cannot access that information because they are not permitted to view private medical info in a public forum.

However, there are many health care companies using FaceBook and other social media with great success, not only for informational purposes to consumers, but also as an avenue to increase their business and presence in the market place. For example, For example, Careington International occasionally offers special deals on discount health care ( through FaceBook. CIGNA has a presence on Linked In (, and Aetna Global Benefits (AGB) members have access to an additional online resource designed to help them easily navigate their benefits and achieve their optimal health. Aetna’s international business segment launched its presence on Face Book in early 2010, specifically designed to enhance the service experience for the organization’s more than 400,000 members located worldwide.

Social media is here to stay. Health care needs to take a lesson--no more old school. New school rules!

Until next time.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Health Care and Shingles

Suffering from shingles can be a painful experience. This rash is common and can cause you temporary medical problems. Although it's not life threatening, this health issue demands attention from a physician or medical office.

According to WebMD, shingles (herpes zoster) is a viral infection of the nerve roots. It causes pain and often causes a rash on one side of the body, the left or right. The rash appears in a band, a strip, or a small area. Shingles is most common in older adults and people who have weak immune systems because of stress, injury, certain medicines, or other reasons. Most people who get shingles will get better and will not get it again.

The shingles virus is the same virus that causes chickenpox, according to the Mayo Clinic. After you've had chickenpox, the virus lies inactive in nerve tissue near your spinal cord and brain. Years later, the virus may reactivate as shingles. While it isn't a life-threatening condition, shingles can be very painful. Vaccines can help reduce the risk of shingles, while early treatment can help shorten a shingles infection and lessen the chance of complications.

You can't catch shingles from someone else who has shingles. But a person with a shingles rash can spread chickenpox to another person who hasn't had chickenpox and who hasn't gotten the chickenpox vaccine, according to WebMD. Shingles symptoms happen in stages. At first you may have a headache or be sensitive to light. You may also feel like you have the flu but not have a fever. Later, you may feel itching, tingling, or pain in a certain area. That’s where a band, strip, or small area of rash may occur a few days later. The rash turns into clusters of blisters. The blisters fill with fluid and then crust over. It takes 2 to 4 weeks for the blisters to heal, and they may leave scars. Some people only get a mild rash, and some do not get a rash at all. It’s possible that you could also feel dizzy or weak, or you could have long-term pain or a rash on your face, changes in your vision, changes in how well you can think, or a rash that spreads. If you have any of these problems from shingles, call your doctor right away.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the first symptom is usually one-sided pain, tingling, or burning. The pain and burning may be severe and is usually present before any rash appears. Additional symptoms may include:
•Abdominal pain
•Difficulty moving some of the muscles in the face
•Drooping eyelid (ptosis)
•General ill-feeling
•Genital lesions
•Hearing loss
•Joint pain
•Loss of eye motion
•Swollen glands (lymph nodes)
•Taste problems
•Vision problems
You may also have pain, muscle weakness, and a rash involving different parts of your face if shingles affects a nerve in your face.

Factors that may increase your risk of developing shingles, according to the Mayo Clinic, include:

--Age. Shingles is most common in people older than 50. The risk increases with age. Some experts estimate that half the people who live to the age of 85 will experience shingles at some point in their lives.
--Diseases. Diseases that weaken your immune system, such as HIV/AIDS and cancer, can increase your risk of shingles.
--Cancer treatments. Undergoing radiation or chemotherapy can lower your resistance to diseases and may trigger shingles.
--Medications. Drugs designed to prevent rejection of transplanted organs can increase your risk of shingles — as can prolonged use of steroids, such as prednisone.

Your doctor may prescribe a medicine that fights the virus, called an antiviral. The drug helps reduce pain and complications and shorten the course of the disease, according to the NIH. Acyclovir, famciclovir, and valacyclovir may be used. The medications should be started within 24 hours of feeling pain or burning, and preferably before the blisters appear. The drugs are usually given in pill form, in doses many times greater than those recommended for herpes simplex or genital herpes. Some people may need to receive the medicine through a vein (by IV). Strong anti-inflammatory medicines called corticosteroids, such as prednisone, may be used to reduce swelling and the risk of continued pain. These drugs do not work in all patients.

Other medicines may include:
•Antihistamines to reduce itching (taken by mouth or applied to the skin)
•Pain medicines
•Zostrix, a cream containing capsaicin (an extract of pepper) that may reduce the risk of postherpetic neuralgia

Cool wet compresses can be used to reduce pain, according to the NIH. Soothing baths and lotions, such as colloidal oatmeal bath, starch baths, or calamine lotion, may help to relieve itching and discomfort. Resting in bed until the fever goes down is recommended. The skin should be kept clean, and contaminated items should not be reused. Nondisposable items should be washed in boiling water or otherwise disinfected before reuse. The person may need to be isolated while lesions are oozing to prevent infecting other people who have never had chickenpox -- especially pregnant women.

According to eMedicineHealth, Many cases of shingles go away by themselves, with or without treatment. The rash and pain should be gone in two to three weeks. However, shingles may last longer and be more likely to recur if the person is older, especially older than 50 years of age, or if they have a serious medical problem.

•Pain may last after the rash is gone. This is called postherpetic neuralgia (PHN). About 10%-15% of all shingles patients get PHN. The older the patient, the more likely they will develop PHN, and the pain that develops frequently is severe. PHN pain often lasts months and occasionally may go on for years.

•Other possible complications include a bacterial skin infection, spread of infection to internal organs of the body, or eye damage. Scarring is common.

•About 10%-25% of people with shingles develop eye involvement. This is termed herpes zoster ophthalmicus and may involve several eye structures. The disease can lead to blindness and should be considered a medical emergency. Ramsay Hunt syndrome is a variation of this infection that involves the facial nerves and results in facial paralysis, usually on one side of the face.

•Unfortunately, individuals can get shingles more than once. Although multiple shingles outbreaks are seen infrequently, they are significant because they usually occur in people with multiple medical problems or increasingly weakened immune responses. This complication of shingles often indicates that the person has increasing medical problems that need to be diagnosed or aggressively treated (or both).

•Pregnant females who get shingles are not at as high a risk for viral complications as those pregnant females who become infected with chickenpox. However, if shingles develops within a few weeks of the delivery date, the infant may be at risk for viral complications, and the affected woman should notify her OB-GYN doctor immediately. In addition, shingles at any time during pregnancy may require special treatments; the OB-GYN physician needs to be contacted to help arrange individualized treatment plans.

According to the Mayo Clinic, Two vaccines may help prevent shingles — the chickenpox (varicella) vaccine and the shingles (varicella-zoster) vaccine.

1.) Chickenpox vaccine: The varicella vaccine (Varivax) has become a routine childhood immunization to prevent chickenpox. The vaccine is also recommended for adults who've never had chickenpox. Though the vaccine doesn't guarantee you won't get chickenpox or shingles, it can reduce your chances of complications and reduce the severity of the disease.

2.) Shingles vaccine: The Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of the varicella-zoster vaccine (Zostavax) for adults age 50 and older. Like the chickenpox vaccine, the shingles vaccine doesn't guarantee you won't get shingles. But this vaccine will likely reduce the course and severity of the disease and reduce your risk of postherpetic neuralgia. The shingles vaccine is used only as a prevention strategy, however. It's not intended to treat people who currently have the disease. The vaccine contains live virus and should not be given to people who have weakened immune systems.

So, although shingles is not typically fatal, you should see a medical professional if you feel that you may be experiencing the symptoms. Left untreated, the disease could cause long term health issues in severe cases. Those who have contracted the disease should stay away from exposing others to it, and attempt to maintain a degree of personal comfort during the period of time they are going through treatment. Shingles usually are a short term medical issue, but taking care of the problem in a preventive manner is best rather than leaving it untreated.

Until next time.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Health Care and Nine Eleven

Ten years ago, on September 11, 2001, the world changed forever. A committed group of terrorists boarded four planes and committed atrocities so horrific that the American psyche was permanently altered. To remember those images that flashed across television screens that day brings back memories of innocent lives lost, landscapes scarred and blackened in New York, Washington DC, and Shanksville, PA, and the end of business as usual.

A decade has elapsed, and yet within that time frame, a new generation of children have been born who will only know about that day as a moment in time on a calendar, and framed in context to references in history books that focus primarily on the incident from a factual perspective and not address the human element so attached to what has become known as 9/11. But those Americans who were old enough to remember the events of the day know that facts only tell part of the story. Images frozen by still cameras, and video taken by unknown numbers of recorders provide a mind numbing recollection of the horrors lived on that beautiful early fall morning.

The events of that tragic day shaped the Presidency of a new administration. George W. Bush had only been in office a few months and was focused on a domestic agenda. This month, National Geographic Channel presented George W. Bush: The 9/11 Interview, a world premiere documentary that reveals exclusive, first-person insight into the former president's experience following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. In the most in-depth on-camera interview he has ever given on the subject, President Bush recalls what he was thinking and feeling and what drove the real-time, life-or-death decisions he faced in the first minutes, hours and days after the most lethal terrorist attacks ever on U.S. soil. Hear in unprecedented, intimate detail what he grappled with as both commander in chief, and as a man concerned for his family and fellow citizens. George W. Bush: The 9/11 Interview also takes viewers behind the scenes with extensive archival footage and exclusive materials directly from his library that open a new window into his personal experiences during that historic day that changed the face of America, and the world, forever.

But as the morning broke over the East Coast, the aircraft that left with hundreds of passengers bound for planned destinations were rerouted by terrorists who murdered flight crews and took control of what would become flaming missiles of death. Who  of those bleary eyed men and women, struggling to find their seats during the early morning boarding process, would have imagined that within the next few minutes that they would never see home again? Not one of them--lives lost in the human story of life and death.

Who would imagined the night before as they were going to bed on September 10th, that a few hours later the lives of over 3,000 people would be gone, a huge chunk of the Pentagon would be in flames, a smoking crater would be in a field in southwestern Pennsylvania, and the focal point of New York City's skyline, the Twin Towers, would be dust in the wind? America, and the world, was indeed changed forever. Millions of people were affected by the September 11 terrorist attacks — from physical and mental health problems to financial loss. This large and diverse population had different exposures after the collapse of the World Trade Center (WTC), and health effects have varied as a result, according to the NYC Health Commissioner.

What We Know:

Recent studies suggest that post-traumatic stress symptoms are the most common health effect of 9/11. Almost one in five (19%) adults enrolled in the Health Department's WTC Health Registry reported post-traumatic stress symptoms 5 to 6 years after 9/11, roughly 4 times the rate typically found in the general population. Risk factors for probable PTSD included:

--Intense dust cloud exposure or suffering an injury on 9/11.
--Witnessing horror or knowing someone killed or injured on 9/11.
--Little or no social support after 9/11.

Rescue and recovery workers who started rescue work on or soon after 9/11 or who worked at the WTC site for a long time were also more likely to develop PTSD. Workers from non-emergency occupations also suffered high rates of PTSD. People who experienced trauma before or after 9/11, such as losing a job after the attacks, were at increased risk for developing PTSD. Despite widespread evidence of PTSD among all exposed groups, studies have not shown an increase in suicide in the four years after 9/11.

Those exposed to WTC-related dust were more likely to develop respiratory symptoms, sinus problems, asthma or lung problems. One in 10 (10%) Registry enrollees developed new-onset asthma within 6 years of 9/11, 3 times the national rate. New cases were highest during the first 16 months after 9/11. Intense dust cloud exposure on 9/11 increased everyone's risk for developing asthma. The risk was also increased among: rescue, recovery and clean-up workers who arrived early at the WTC site or worked at the WTC site for long periods of time; Lower Manhattan residents who didn't evacuate their homes, and Lower Manhattan residents and office workers who returned to homes or workplaces covered with a thick coating of dust; people who both lived and worked in lower Manhattan after 9/11.

Recent studies show that the steep declines in pulmonary function first detected among firefighters and emergency medical service (EMS) workers within a year of 9/11 have largely persisted even among those who never smoked. It is estimated that four times as many firefighters and twice as many EMS workers had below-normal lung function for their ages six to seven years after 9/11 as they did before the attacks. Among the few active smokers, pulmonary function declines were even greater than for non-smokers. Many WTC-exposed people report heartburn, acid reflux or other gastroesophageal reflux sypmtoms, often with respiratory or mental health symptoms. Since these symptoms are common among the general population, more research is needed to determine if there is a connection between them and WTC exposure.

Several studies have suggested that WTC exposure is associated with sarcoidosis (an inflammation that can affect any organ, but typically affects the lungs) among rescue, recovery and clean-up workers who worked on the debris pile. However, these studies cannot rule out the possibility that increased medical attention and testing may be responsible for the detected increases in sarcoidosis rates among WTC workers. WTC-related mental and physical health conditions often co-exist.

Few studies have addressed the impact of WTC exposure on child and adolescent health, especially physical health, although data from the WTC Health Registry's baseline survey of 3,000 children and adolescents indicate that very young children caught in the dust cloud on 9/11 were at increased risk for developing asthma. In December 2008, the Registry completed a survey of child and adolescent enrollees. The results will help determine to what extent physical and mental health conditions have persisted among children after 9/11, and whether any new symptoms and conditions have emerged. Researchers are actively studying if there is a connection between WTC exposure and other late-emerging illnesses, such as cancer. They also are studying mortality rates in those affected.

As the nation focuses its attention on this tenth anniversary of 9/11, may it's citizens remember what is good about America. May the people of every town, every hamlet, every city, and all across the country recognize that our nation is great, not because of what it owns or how much money or wealth it has, or the quality of the lifestyles it makes available to anyone, but because it is good.  There is always hope that over time, the nation heals from its psychological and emotional scars. The financial recovery has taken care of itself, but there are still lessons to be learned.
The spiritual insight into what happened ten years ago has been explored and discussed and rehashed multiple times. Regardless of your denominational bent, the focus of personal relationships and the spiritual impact of a relationship with God rise to the top of any discussion about the events of 9/11. Although that day was a national tragedy and had international repercussions, it was deeply personal for everyone in America. And, for those around the world who watched the events unfold on their TV screens, it became a more personal connection with a nation mourning the loss of its innocence. What did it mean for you? How did you deal with the loss, the shock, the horror, the sadness, the fallout from images burned into your brain as you watched countless reruns of people dying? Have you processed those and buried them over time, or do those pictures spur memories that cause you to stand still and remember?
As America, and you as an individual, pauses this Sunday to reflect on the last ten years and the souls that went into eternity on 9/11, 2001, remember what's important in life. Stay close to family and love them unconditionally. Make lots of friends and be a friend to them. Love what you do, and don't stress out over the unimportant. Reflect on the majesty of the universe and of nature, and know that the Creator of all knows you by name. Pray for peace. No one is guaranteed more than a day at a time. Life is short, like a vapor. Take steps to make sure of your eternal destiny, and look to salvation in a loving God who keeps His faithfulness to those who call him by name. Security is not in buildings, or investments, or houses and land, or in any other thing. Those tangible assets provide a way to live, but they don't provide peace or comfort beyond the grave. Be ready. This weekend you should set time aside to meditate on your relationships and what you can do to increase your faith--in America, in your family and friends, and in God.
Until next time.