Austin Travis County Integral Care issued a press release on January 6 announcing its accreditation by The Joint Commission, an independent, non-profit healthcare certification organization. Integral Care, a provider of community-based behavioral health and developmental disabilities services, was awarded The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval for meeting national quality standards for safety and behavioral healthcare. This award was conferred after a team of surveyors performed a rigorous evaluation of the organization’s standards and practices in areas ranging from leadership to infection prevention. David Evans, Integral Care’s chief executive officer, describes this accomplishment as “a major step toward maintaining excellence and continually improving the care [Integral Care] provide[s].”
The MDNews published this article in its November/December issue discussing the development of the Texas Institute for Robotic Surgery (TIRS) at St. David’s North Austin Medical Center. The institute, which recently recruited the renowned Randy Fagin, M.D. to act as Chief Administrative Officer, will develop new educational programs to train physicians, hospital leadership, and operating-room teams in best practices and performance enhancement. David Huffstutler, President and Chief Executive Officer of St. David’s HealthCare, comments that “with the development of this institute and its educational component, we are reaching a broader base of patients and attracting physicians and surgical teams that are eager to hone their skills, improve patient care and conduct clinical research.”
This brief article published in the Bryan College Station Eagle on December 25 discusses a $1.3 million, three-year grant awarded to the Center for Community Health Development at the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Rural Public Health by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to serve as the national evaluator of state-driven falls prevention programs for older adults. The evaluation team will work with injury programs at the state health departments in Colorado, New York, and Oregon.
This December 22 article in the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal discusses an initiative between the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center (HSC) and Texas Tech University to contribute funding to cancer-related projects. Two proposals were awarded $50,000 each. A professor from Texas Tech’s engineering department and a professor and chief of the Otolaryngology division at the HSC received a grant for work with tongue carcinomas. The other project will involve collaboration between a professor from the HSC’s School of Pharmacy and two Texas Tech professors from the chemistry and biochemistry department and chemical engineering department working with breast cancer cells. These two initiatives were selected by Texas Tech faculty for funding out of a pool of 14 proposals.
Posted on the Microsoft Developer Network’s HealthBlog, this January 4 article discusses how technological innovation is making telemedicine more accessible to patients in rural areas. US Medical IT partnered with Microsoft to create a comprehensive telemedicine system that includes HD cameras, access to electronic medical records storage software, and access to lab results and x-ray images. The article includes a video interview of Stephen Cracknell, CIO of US Medical IT, who explains the telemedicine solution in more detail, including efforts to expand the initiative on a global scale.
Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce issued a press release on January 4, announcing its new study Hard Times. The study examines the value of an undergraduate education in the current job market, and finds that the likelihood of a college degree leading to employment is heavily influenced by the student’s major. Areas of study that fared better than other majors include education and health. While the unemployment rate for graduates with degrees in education and health is 5.4 percent, the unemployment rate for all college graduates is 8.9 percent. The full report may be accessed here.
This article, posted by HealthLeaders Media on January 10, summarizes a report by the ECRI Institute on ten cutting-edge technological innovations. The ECRI Institute analyzed clinical evidence on the effectiveness of tools, techniques, new drugs, and promising devices. Technologies described by the report include electronic health records, minimally invasive bariatric surgery, digital breast tomosynthesis, CT radiation reduction technologies, robot assisted surgery, and new cardiac stent developments. The report may be accessed in its entirety here.
This January 4 NPR Morning Edition piece discusses the increase in marketing campaigns by hospitals in 2011 in an effort to recruit not only students and faculty, but also paying patients. Joel English, with the marketing firm BVK, says such marketing strategies are particularly important for teaching hospitals, as it helps to sustain research, education, and patient care in the face of declining reimbursement rates from Medicare and Medicaid. Jill Austin, chief marketing officer for Vanderbilt University Medical Center, indicates its marketing campaign has multiple purposes, such as attracting students and faculty, and educating the public on treatments for cancer and heart disease that are based on an individual’s DNA. Included in this piece are an audio clip and transcript of the story that aired on the radio.
This January 9 article from Johns Hopkins University’s (JHU) Gazette discusses a grant from the Coulter Foundation that will fund efforts by the JHU Departments of Biomedical Engineering and Medicine to move new medical technology into clinical use. The Coulter Foundation Translational Partnership Award, coupled with funding from the schools of Engineering and Medicine, will provide $5 million to JHU physicians and engineers to design and develop new devices and diagnostics that can significantly improve treatment of patients while reducing costs. The program will also identify and fund projects annually, guiding them from the lab through early commercial development. Youseph Yazdi, assistant professor of biomedical engineering and director of the Coulter Translational Research Program, notes “[S]tudents, clinicians and faculty all benefit from the experience of creating and developing something that goes into commercial use, but the true beneficiaries are the patients who receive better care that also reduces costs.”
The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health, a report published in 2010, describes findings of a study regarding the future of nursing. The report chronicles a two-year initiative begun in 2008 by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Institutes of Medicine (IOM) to respond to the need to assess and transform the nursing profession. The purpose of this initiative was to create “an action-oriented blueprint for the future of nursing.” The committee that produced the report set out four key messages from which recommendations are made, including education and training and nurses’ relationships with physicians and other medical professionals.
11. Two Central Texas health care giants teaming up in new federal program for Medicare patients
This December 19 article in the Austin American-Statesman describes a partnership between Austin Regional Clinic and the Seton Healthcare Family. This partnership, called an Accountable Care Organization (ACO), is intended to target thousands of seniors and people with disabilities in an attempt to coordinate their Medicaid-subsidized care in a way that is much more effective and efficient. The initiative is one of only 32 Pioneer ACO’s nationwide, and one of two Texas ACO’s approved by the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services.
12. UT project gets Gates grant to find quick tuberculosis test
The Austin American-Statesman reports in its December 26 issue that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awarded a $1.6 million grant to Andrew Ellington, a chemistry professor at the University of Texas at Austin. This grant funds a project that endeavors to develop a cheap, accurate “spit test” for tuberculosis. Current testing methods for tuberculosis require costly equipment and highly trained technicians. Development of a “portable, cheap, and disposable field test” could allow individuals to test themselves for the disease, opening up potential diagnosis to those who may not have access to healthcare facilities. The Gates Foundation and Grand Challenges Canada awarded $31 million to this and 21 other projects whose goals are to create inexpensive, effective, and easily-utilized tools to help improve health care in impoverished areas that lack healthcare infrastructure.
13. UT researchers bringing custom prosthetics to war amputees
This January 4 article in the Austin American-Statesman reports on the work of Rick Neptune, a University of Texas at Austin mechanical engineering professor, to produce custom prosthetics for war veterans. Neptune and his class of graduate students are making prosthetics that will be able to take into account the unique characteristics of the patient (i.e. weight, height, how they walk/run on different surfaces), increasing the comfort of the patient. Working in collaboration with the Center for the Intrepid at the San Antonio Military Medical Center, Neptune and his students are using a technology that allows “exact and complex shapes” allowing for the optimal customization of the prosthetic.
14. Two UT researchers using worms in personal quest for Alzheimer’s treatment
This January 2 Austin American-Statesman article discusses a $3 million, five-year grant awarded by the National Institute of Health to two University of Texas at Austin researchers in search of a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. Adela Ben-Yakar, a neurobiology professor, and Jon Pierce-Shimomura, a mechanical engineering professor, are using microscopic ringworms in their research to streamline the process. Ringworms, which reach middle age in about five days, share a number of biological characteristics with humans. Using these worms in their research will enable the researchers to see the effects of drug treatment quickly, allowing them to test millions of drugs per year.
15. The Best & Worst Cities for Men 2012
On December 16, Men’s Health magazine released a list of the best and worst U.S. cities for men. Taking into account 35 categories that include exercise, employment, heart disease, and depression, the magazine computed a list that includes 100 cities. Information for the categories was taken from various sources including the Bureau of Labor Statistics, CDC, and FBI. Plano and Austin ranked 3rd and 6th respectively, and were the only Texas cities in the top 10.
16. Population Health Pays Off
Posted online January 5, this article in the December 2011 issue of HealthLeaders Media reports on the work of Donna Rice MBA, RN, CDE, FAADE, at Baylor Health Care System’s Diabetes Health and Wellness Institute to establish “population healthcare.” Rice, who became the president of the institute in 2008, has implemented an “integrated behavior-driven, patient-centric model with other healthcare providers, tailored to specific populations.” The institute considers the chronic condition as part of the patient’s care and not the sole focus. This model addresses diabetes and the behaviors associated with it, such as eating and exercising habits, rather than addressing only the patient’s acute needs. This model also works to promote the health of entire populations, often leading to hospital partnerships with organizations and other hospitals in the area. The article reports results showing emergency room visits for diabetes-related issues dropped from 1.29 to 0.77 per patient since the inception of this new program. Across the board, population health is gaining attention from hospitals as a new model through which health services will be provided.
17. Local organizations partner to help more people with disabilities
The KYTX news outlet reported on December 20 the formation of partnerships between local businesses, and the East Texas Center for Independent Living, the Aging and Disability Resource Center and the ARC of Gregg County to provide support for people with disabilities. The members of the “awareness, inspiration, and motivation” (AIM) group are working together to assist individuals with disabilities to find jobs, housing and transportation, and to obtain a higher level of independence. The group encourages employers in the area to get involved, educating them on the benefits of hiring people with disabilities. The need for such a group is high in Gregg County as one out of every four residents suffers from a physical or mental disability.
18. Planned Medicaid cuts to impact poor, elderly patients
This Dallas Morning News article from December 31 discusses the cuts in Medicaid reimbursement that went into effect on January 1, 2012. According to the president of the Texas Medical Association (TMA), the new regulations will decrease reimbursement to physicians by 20 percent. The article states that the change will impact approximately 333,000 patients, mostly elderly, low-income residents, but also younger patients who are disabled. These $296 million in cuts were approved by the Texas Legislature last session to balance the budget. While the number of recipients on Medicaid rolls rise, the cuts make it more difficult for physicians to treat these patients according to Steve Levine, a TMA spokesperson. With an already low Medicaid reimbursement plan, these cuts are expected to result in fewer doctors willing to treat Medicaid recipients.
19. Interactive: Mental Health Workforce Shortage More Critical in Minority Communities
This December 22 interactive piece in the Texas Tribune describes how the mental health professional shortage in Texas has disproportionately affected minority communities. In addition to the already documented shortage of professionals, the article notes that there is “a disparity in diagnosing and treating the state’s rapidly growing minority communities.” Minorities make up a disproportionately small percentage of the state’s current population of licensed psychiatrists. The Kaiser Family Foundation found that people of color generally have less access to mental and physical healthcare. In addition, when people of color do seek treatment, those treatments are rarely provided in a manner that is culturally sensitive. Included in this link are a video discussing the issue of minority health care in Texas, and an interactive map showing the percentages of race of clients served in community mental health service centers from 2005-2011.
20. How states are keeping doctors from moving out
The American Medical Association reports in a December 19 article that states are working to retain their medical school graduates and “doctors-in-training”. On average, 39 percent of doctors practice in the same state where they received their medical degree, and 48 percent practice in the same state where they complete their graduate medical education (e.g. residency). With physician shortages projected to grow, states are beginning to address the issue through several strategies, including offering bonuses, scholarships, and loan repayment programs to entice doctors to stay. Additionally, targeted graduate medical education is being utilized to link physicians to the area. According to the article, the retention rate of doctors in Texas is currently between 50.1 percent and 60 percent.