Articles Posted in Medical News

Questions about nursing home facilities’ staffing are always important to know whenever there is a report of an injury, neglect or abuse in any nursing home setting. A study from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College concluded that when the economy is strong, death rates at nursing homes rise. This research shows that when general employment levels rise, staffing at nursing homes drop. It turns out that the reason is that many nursing home staff prefer to work elsewhere. Therefore, the loss of caregiving for the elderly is linked with higher death rates, particularly in older women who outlive their male partners.

As Americans live longer, the need for nursing home facilities and care-giving resources are being stretched to their limits. Those living into their 80s are among the fastest growing age groups in the United States.

Because the federal and state governments have reduced Medicare funding for nursing home facility reimbursement rates, the elderly face much greater financial pressure. There is continued pressure to reduce healthcare spending, particularly on caregivers. The study found a precipitous rise in deaths at nursing facilities as the economy expands and workers find jobs in other work places.
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Many people are considering careers in the medical field, particularly in nursing. According to one study, the state of Michigan faces a critical shortage of nurses.

In order to meet this estimated job shortage, many workers are changing from their current volatile careers to what they see as a more stable career choice. A recent New York Times article showcased some Michigan natives making the shift to nursing, many of which were male. Examples are the 49-year-old grocery warehouse employee who now works at a nursing home, or the 59-year-old nursing student who used to work as an automotive vibration engineer. These men represent the growing trend of keeping their options open and finding work where it’s available.

Currently, Michigan’s unemployment rate is at 4.3 percent. In order to not become a number in that statistic, many former automotive employees are turning to nursing as a way to jumpstart a new career. In fact, the trend is so common that Oakland University in Rochester, Mich., established a program specifically geared toward training former autoworkers in nursing careers.
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Hospital-borne infections have been a problem for years, and drug-resistant bacteria like MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) have become household names. However, a New York Times article highlights another virus that is causing a high rate of death among children and the elderly. The article provides some insight into how the medical community could help decrease the number of deaths.

Norovirus is an extremely contagious virus and in recent years has become the leading cause of acute gastroenteritis. And while many of the symptoms caused by norovirus mimic that of the flu or a severe cold, e.g. nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach pain; epidemiologist Aron Hall warns, “I think there is perhaps a misperception that norovirus causes a mild illness; . . . [it is] a major problem that requires some attention.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each year norovirus causes over 20 million illnesses, leads to 70,000 hospitalizations, and results in 800 deaths. In addition, norovirus is the most common cause of food disease outbreaks in the U.S. Because norovirus has much in common with C. difficile, a bacterial infection, medical officials are examining the ways hospitals and nursing homes have tried to combat the spread of C. diff to try and help reduce the spread of norovirus.
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A New York Times article described a family that encountered a common family problem: What to do with our aging mother, living alone, who doesn’t want to move into a nearby nursing home?

Dr. Socorrito Baez-Page, a general practitioner in Alexandria, Va., moved her parents first into a nursing home. She converted a dining room and TV nook on the main floor into a bedroom. But the problem was that the bathroom was down four steps, which were difficult and dangerous for her mother to navigate. It was embarrassing for her mom to use a commode next to her bed.

As an alternative, the Page family found that they could buy a high-tech MedCottage, which is a pre-fabricated 12×24 bedroom-bathroom-kitchenette set up as a free standing structure in the backyard.

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On Nov. 20, 2018, the Illinois Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of Rosenbach v. Six Flags, which reportedly is the first case concerning Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA). The issue in the case was whether a person whose biometric data has been inappropriately collected in violation of BIPA has standing to sue under the Act’s private right of action.

The requirements of BIPA for collection and use of biometric information by private entities is outlined in Section 15(b), which requires that a private entity collecting a person’s biometric information (1) inform a person in writing that his or her biometric information is being collected, (2) explain the purpose and length of time for which the information will be used, and (3) receive written consent. In addition, Section 20 of the Act provides a right of action for “[a]ny person aggrieved by a violation of this Act” to recover damages, legal fees and other relief.

In this case, Stacy Rosenbach filed a lawsuit in the Circuit Court of Lake County, Ill., on behalf of her minor son, alleging that Six Flags had collected his fingerprint in violation of Section 15(b) and sought damages and injunctive relief pursuant to Section 20 of the Act. Six Flags moved for dismissal maintaining that Rosenbach was not “aggrieved” because there was no injury beyond the BIPA violation.
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According to a report in Modern Healthcare, the University of Colorado Health and its flagship hospital, University of Colorado Hospital, reduced the sepsis mortality rate by 15% in less than one year. In 2016, about 10% of patients with sepsis died from it. At the University of Colorado Hospital, officials conducted an internal study and found that some septic patients did not receive the needed antibiotics quickly enough. According to CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services), antibiotics should be given to patients with sepsis within three hours. The University of Colorado Health has found that patients regularly waited three hours or longer to get the needed antibiotic after sepsis was diagnosed.

At the University of Colorado Health, it was proven convincingly that if the patient receives antibiotics within an hour of the sepsis diagnosis, the sepsis death rate dropped by 50%. At the University of Colorado Hospital to reduce this response time, its officials developed a multi-step process that uses patients’ electronic medical records to identify patients who are at risk of sepsis. The electronic health records (EHR) monitors patients’ vital signs and alert a nurse of any abnormalities. The nurse then will check for other signs of sepsis and enter those symptoms into the EHR, which determines whether the patient has a low, medium or high probability of sepsis.

When patients are determined to have a medium or high probability of contracting sepsis, the hospital’s sepsis team, a group of caregivers made up of a nurse, pharmacist and a physician or advanced practitioner, who are dedicated to making quick sepsis diagnoses, are put into place. If the team determines that the patient is septic, antibiotics are immediately ordered and given. The prescription is marked as urgent to make sure that the pharmacist fills the order within the hour.
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Annually in the U.S., at least 3.5 million people are treated for traumatic brain injuries (TBI). A recent article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association’s neurology section reports that the development of therapies for TBI has been limited by the absence of diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers. The microtubule-associated protein Tau is an axonal phosphoprotein. Up to now, the presence of the protein in plasma from patients with acute TBI and chronic TBI has not been investigated.

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is considered an event and/or a disease. Traumatic brain injuries may lead to chronic functional, neurocognitive and neuropsychiatric deficits. The three classifications of a TBI are measured by severity, which can be mild, moderate or severe.

There were more than 3.5 million emergency department visits for TBI and more than 280,000 patients are hospitalized annually with TBI; most of these are classified as mild TBI. It is presumed that there are many more individuals who have mild TBI, but do not seek medical attention. Between 2000 and 2014, more than 300,000 members of the military sustained TBI during combat and training. Approximately half of the patients with TBI in the U.S. have at least some short-term disability related to that injury or illness. TBI is associated with an increased risk of neurodegenerative disorder such as Alzheimer’s disease, which can occur in individuals years after the injury.
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On July 25, 2017, Kreisman Law Office’s Robert Kreisman was one of the principal speakers at the Professional Negligence Section’s full-day session. Mr. Kreisman was one of several speakers on the topic of maternal deaths and the causes related to medical malpractice. The seminar was part of the American Association for Justice‘s (AAJ) annual convention that was held in Boston, July 22-26, 2017. Robert Kreisman is the immediate past chair of the Professional Negligence Section of AAJ.

Mr. Kreisman has often been a speaker at both annual and mid-year meetings of AAJ. In addition, Mr. Kreisman has been a faculty member for many professional negligence seminars sponsored by AAJ over many years. Several years ago, he was honored with the “diplomat” status for his participation as a speaker and teacher of trial technique and strategies with the organization.

At the July 25, 2017 program, Mr. Kreisman spoke on the subject of proving cause in maternal deaths due to influenza. It is unfortunate that the United States statistically has a dismal record in maternal deaths. In fact, the number of maternal deaths in the U.S. has been rising alarmingly over the last decade.
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It is no secret that thousands of American patients die or are permanently and seriously injured by medical providers. More than 250,000 Americans die in hospitals every year due to medical errors. That staggering number makes deaths in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, assisted living facilities and long-term care centers the third most common cause of death in the United States. The number of Americans who die because of the negligent errors made by medical providers is higher than those who die because of respiratory disease, accidents, stroke and Alzheimer’s disease.

According to the study by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, the causes of the deaths are not isolated to one common medical practice area.

The Johns Hopkins research involves a comprehensive analysis of four large studies. According to a report a year ago by the Washington Post, the Johns Hopkins report took into account studies from the U.S. Health and Human Services Department’s Office of the Inspector General and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality between 2000 to 2008. The calculation of 251,000 deaths in a year amounts to nearly 700 deaths a day — about 9.5 percent of all deaths annually in the United States.
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“Leaders must commit to creating and maintaining a culture of safety.” National Patient Safety Foundation. Free From Harm: Accelerating patient safety improvement for 15 years after To Err is Human.  2015 (accessed Dec. 8, 2016). This is just a part of the Sentinel Event Alert publication of The Joint Commission Issue 57, March 1, 2017.

The core of the publication is that leadership in hospitals and medicine generally have a priority to be “accountable for effective care while protecting the safety of patients, employees, and visitors. Competent and thoughtful leaders contribute to improvements in safety and organizational culture.”

This alert acknowledges that hospitals, doctors, nurses and health care professionals must do a better job of protecting their patients from harm. The article states that “The Joint Commission’s Sentinel Event Database reveals that leadership’s failure to create an effective safety culture is a contributing factor to many types of adverse events-from wrong site surgery to delays in treatment.” Smetzer, J, et al. Shaping systems for better behavioral choices: lessons learned from a fatal medication error. Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety. 2010; 36: 152-164.
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