Articles Posted in Primary Care

axioscovidmay152021-289x300Let’s say “WoW” for those coronavirus vaccines.

Federal officials have given emergency approval for their use now in kids as young as 12. And parents are racing to get their youngsters vaccinated, not only against Covid but also other infectious diseases that put children at risk.

The steady increase in vaccinations — which 59% of Americans older than 18 have now gotten at least one dose of (as of May 14) — also has led federal experts to ease guidelines on face covering and distancing.

primary-care-300x199The U.S. health system is in dire need of dramatic reforms to put patients first, most notably by ensuring that everyone in this country has a formally designated primary care physician to help monitor, navigate, and oversee their medical treatment.

That is the latest recommendation of yet another blue-chip experts’ group: the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, a self-described collective of “private, nonprofit institutions that provide expert advice on some of the most pressing challenges facing the nation and the world.”

An expert panel from the academies, after deep research and in issuing a 448-page report, has expressed disappointment that policy makers seemingly ignored the 1996 recommendations of its independent, nonpartisan sister group, the respected Institute of Medicine. The institute offered a blueprint for moving Americans into an approach, built on primary care, that has shown major benefits elsewhere in the world.

surgerylown-300x196When it comes to hospitals performing low-value tests or procedures and putting older patients at increased risk, Dixie may have little to whistle about.

The Lown Institute, a respected and nonpartisan think tank that says it “believes a radically better American health system is possible,” has published a new hospital index that puts dozens of southern institutions in a dubious light.

That’s because institute researchers scrutinized federal Medicare records on more than 1.3 million fee-for-services provided to older patents at more than 3,300 hospitals nationwide. They reported in findings published in an online part of the Journal of the American Medical Association that “hospitals in the South, for-profit hospitals, and nonteaching hospitals were associated with the highest rates of overuse” of health care services.

cdcnhomesmay72021-300x156Residents and their loved ones may have reached a major turning point with nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, agonizing as to whether the institutions really can provide safe, hygienic, and welcoming places for the vulnerable — or whether other, tough options must be considered.

Who can forget that that 132,000 elderly, injured, and seriously ill residents died of the coronavirus during the many months of the pandemic, and almost 1.4 million infections were recorded in 38,000 long-term care facilities? The institutions — even as the pandemic’s terrible toll keeps rising — still account for a third of all U.S. deaths due to the disease.

The facilities’ covid-related deaths have plummeted by 91% since December, especially as public health officials campaigned to get residents and staff vaccinated, the New York Times reported (see chart above, based on federal data). But public confidence in long-term care facilities also has plunged, as reflected in admissions and occupancy:

cdcvax7may2021-300x165The campaign to quell the coronavirus pandemic is a lot like a Herculean tug of war now, with the prospect tantalizingly near of  pulling a big measure of success over the line.

The Biden Administration, to its credit, is not easing a bit in conveying the urgency of its task in dealing with a disease that has infected more than 32 million in this country and killed at least 576,000 — roughly equivalent to the population of Baltimore.

At the same time, more than 148 million Americans older than 18 have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine, roughly 57% of the adult population. Those statistics, as shown in the chart above from federal experts, were reported as of May 7.

comparesite-300x126Hospitals in the Washington, D.C., area got generally lackluster ratings for quality and safety of health care in the latest reviews by federal and independent groups. Two well-known D.C. hospitals got one star, the lowest ranking, in a federal survey, while a nonprofit rater gave another D.C. hospital a flunking grade of F.

The reviewers, due to the coronavirus, suspended their 2020 ratings, so the new measurements were the first in many months and they showed, to a degree, how institutions held up during the pandemic. The rankings also underscored the urgency of local officials’ announced plans to revamp hospital care, including helping to fund two new facilities.

The stars awarded by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) reflected criteria revised to deal with criticisms from hospitals themselves and others. The CMS rankings, as described by the industry publication Becker’s Hospital Review, were launched in 2016 and “assigns stars based on 48 measures in the following five categories: mortality, safety of care, readmission, patient experience, and timely and effective care. This differs from CMS’ previous method, which included 65 measures across seven groups.”

cigsmenthols-300x227The Biden Administration will ban menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars with new regulations to be issued within the next year — actions that Big Tobacco is expected to battle but which proponents say could have big health benefits for those who have been targeted to buy and use these products.

Smoking is a leading cause of death in this country, and especially among African Americans, with critics saying cigarette makers have exploited communities of color, the poor, and LGBTQ people with flavorings to popularize damaging goods. As the Washington Post reported of the announced plans of the federal Food and Drug Administration:

“[Its] menthol ban would reduce health disparities between white and black smokers. About 85% of African American smokers use menthol cigarettes, three times the rate of white smokers, and their rate of quitting smoking has not declined as quickly as it has for whites. As a result, black smokers suffer disproportionate rates of disease and death. Similarly … the effort to remove menthol and flavorings from small cigars [is] a way to prevent young people from starting the smoking habit and helping them quit. The small cigars are increasingly popular with young smokers; more high school smokers now use small cigars than cigarettes.”

bupe-300x188Health workers with legal prescribing privileges have gotten newly revised federal guidelines — once again — making it easier for them to help those addicted to powerful opioid painkillers by prescribing buprenorphine, another powerful medication.

This action could be beneficial in battling the opioid abuse and drug overdose crisis that ebbed in recent times and then worsened during the coronavirus pandemic, overall killing hundreds of thousands of Americans.

As the Washington Post reported of regulators’ latest decisions:

apindiafuneralpyres-300x200After months of chafing under tough restrictions to battle the coronavirus pandemic, who among us isn’t ready for more relaxed times, especially as the summer nears? For tens of millions of Americans, vaccination means new safety and freedoms, notably for long awaited closeness with loved ones.

But are those allures and more enough to coax the resistant and reluctant to get the shots, as tens of millions of us already have?

The Biden Administration and health officials across the country may need to give the unvaccinated not only altruistic but practical reasons for joining a campaign that has achieved the notable result of getting shots for 100 million of us.

copradar-300x225Motorists nationwide, having acquired a taste for speed during the coronavirus pandemic, need to get that pedal off the metal — or the consequences can be legally dear, shockingly costly, and deadly. And that includes car owners who let  computers navigate their vehicles.

Look out, drivers, because the alarms have grown so much for traffic safety experts that they and road authorities say they will beef up enforcement, including with more camera systems and tickets, lower speed limits in problem areas, and campaigns with the public to please slow down.

As the pandemic seems to be ebbing and warmer weather also is encouraging more of us to get out and about, the great road haste that gripped the country for months isn’t letting up and is a cause for unnecessary carnage, officials told the Wall Street Journal:

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