Better Living Through Well Being
It’s no secret there is getting to be a serious shortage of primary care doctors in the United States. This is something that will become increasingly significant as the burgeoning aging population and many other individuals seek access to health care. While public discussion and debate seek solutions in order to shape a functional health care policy, there will inevitably be a lot of change in how Americans will select, pay for and receive primary care over the next 10 to 15 years. A futuristic report, “Primary Care 2025: A Scenario Exploration” provides best estimate scenarios based on current trends. It confirms that primary care will not be a continuation of what we have been doing; it encourages us to think about the future we prefer.
Some forecasts held in common by these scenarios are that electronic health records will become ubiquitous, community health centers will give high quality care to low income people, and a small persistent group of affluents will receive great fee-for-service ‘concierge’ health care. You will also see more virtual care, personal health avatars and doctors operating remotely. The scenarios also include challenging and visionary possibilities so policy makers, health care professionals and consumers can think about and help shape the future.
IBM is looking to develop a commercial product that will exploit Watson’s capabilities as a clinical decision support system to aid in the diagnosis and treatment of patients. Watson (affectionately referred to as ‘Dr. Watson’) is an artificial intelligence computer system developed by IBM capable of answering questions posed in natural language.
According to IBM, the overall future goal of the technology is to have computers start to interact in natural human terms across a range of applications and processes, understanding the questions that humans ask and providing answers that humans can understand and justify.
In September 2011, IBM and Wellpoint, a major health care solutions provider in the United States, announced a partnership to utilize Watson’s data crunching capability to help suggest treatment options and diagnoses to doctors. Just as Watson analyzed massive data on Jeopardy! to reach a set of hypotheses and list several of the most likely outcomes, it could help doctors in diagnosing patients. Watson could analyze the patient’s specific symptoms, medical history and hereditary history, and synthesize that data with available unstructured and structured medical information, including published medical books and articles. IBM has made it clear that Watson does not intend to replace doctors, but assist them to avoid medical errors and sharpen medical diagnosis with the help of its advanced analytics technology. By accurately extracting medical facts and quickly understanding relationships buried in large volumes of data, such as medical records, family medical history, and the latest clinical research, the Watson technology can help accelerate and improve clinical decisions, reduce operational waste, and enhance patient outcomes.
Other articles in this Spring 2012 TMIS eNewsletter include interesting inquiries into what it means to be human, narrative communication strategies for patient-centered and life-framed practice, and how employee wellness programs have now expanded to include well-being (mental and emotional health, financial health, work-life effectiveness, and workplace environment and stress) within many organizations.
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From the Front Page of TMIS News
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What Will Health Care Look Like in 2025? Futurists Predict Everything from Health Avatars and Shortages of Primary Care Physicians to Growing Disparities in Access and Quality Based on Income and Where People Live
By 2025, patient-doctor relationships and health care delivery will look radically different than they do today, according to the Institute for Alternative Futures. In the Institute's new report Primary Care 2025: A Scenario Exploration, available here, the nationally recognized futurists give readers a preview of how Americans could select, pay for and receive primary care.
Working with more than 50 national health care leaders, the Institute for Alternative Futures, a nonprofit think tank based in Alexandria, Virginia, has created four scenarios, coherent stories describing alternative futures to show what primary care might look like in 2025. The scenarios (summarized below) take into consideration the nation's economic challenges, political polarization, and opportunities afforded by technological advances and new delivery systems.
Clem Bezold, Institute for Alternative Futures chair and senior futurist, said the organization's projections reflect how primary care may be shaped by factors such as a slow economic recovery or another recession, federal debt, an aging population, unsustainable health care costs, pressure for cuts in Medicare and Medicaid payments, an explosion of information available through the Internet and social media, and empowered, motivated consumers.
Nationally, health care cost $2.57 trillion in 2011, 17 percent of the gross domestic product, and is expected to grow to 20 percent of the gross domestic product by 2020. Bezold said while other sectors, including retail, manufacturing, finance, insurance and real estate learned to do more with less, the number of health care employees grew between 1990 and 2010, resulting in lower per capita productivity. Health care premiums have increased 131 percent since 1999, compared to a 38 percent increase in workers' earnings and an overall inflation rate of 28 percent during the same period.
IBM Forms Watson Healthcare Advisory Board
Armonk, New York
IBM has announced the formation of a new Watson Healthcare Advisory Board. The board members include medical leaders with expertise in areas such as primary care, oncology, biomedical informatics and medical innovation. They will provide IBM with insights on healthcare issues that could be positively impacted by Watson technology adoption. The advisory board will specifically focus on medical industry trends, clinical imperatives, regulatory considerations, privacy concerns, and patient and clinician expectations around the Watson technology and how it can be incorporated into clinician workflows.
Watson represents a new class of industry-specific analytical solutions and decision support systems that use deep content analysis and evidence-based reasoning and natural language processing. By accurately extracting medical facts and quickly understanding relationships buried in large volumes of data, such as electronic medical records, family medical history, and the latest clinical research, the technology can help accelerate and improve clinical decisions, reduce operational waste, and enhance patient outcomes.
"Watson represents a technology breakthrough that can help physicians improve patient outcomes," said Dr. Herbert Chase, a professor of clinical medicine at Columbia University. "As IBM focuses its efforts on key areas including oncology, cardiology and other chronic diseases, the advisory board will be integral to helping align the business strategy to the specific needs of the industry."
"Being Human 2012" Reveals Revolutionary Insights into Human Nature
San Francisco, California
The Baumann Foundation (TBF) launched a new public event, "Being Human 2012: Science, Philosophy and Your Life," where pioneers in the exploration of human nature, from behavioral economics, cognitive neuroscience, evolutionary psychology, social anthropology and philosophy,came together for the first-ever multidisciplinary event of its kind. Its purpose was to engage the public in a conversation about how recent revolutionary insights from science and philosophy challenge basic assumptions about human nature and how these insights can fundamentally shift one's experience of daily life. The first-annual Being Human event was hosted at the Palace of Fine Arts, in San Francisco, on March 24, 2012.
"We live at the dawn of a scientific revolution. Recent findings from science and philosophy promise to overthrow long-held biases and stories about what it means to be human," said TBF founder Peter Baumann. "Many of these fresh insights can have a profound impact on our experience of daily life. We are delighted to bring these new understandings into the public arena, so that they are accessible to anyone who is curious about their own experience. Ultimately, our goal is to serve as a bridge between the theoretical and the practical, and to foster increased well-being."
"We are thrilled that so many esteemed pioneers joined us for Being Human 2012," said TBF Advisory Board member Richard Davidson, who moderated Being Human 2012. Davidson, a leader in the field of mind-body medicine and one of Time Magazine's 100 most influential people (2006), is best-known for his research on brain plasticity, his collaboration with the Dalai Lama and studying the brain activity of meditating Tibetan Buddhist monks. "This was a unique event, where we explored together the frontiers of understanding human nature, asking questions such as: How does the nonconscious mind influence the decisions we make? What is the relationship between self and culture? Are you who you think you are, or is that just an illusion? What does science tell us about our relationship with fellow humans? What are the evolutionary origins of the human mind?"
Seminar Will Teach Narrative Medicine Techniques to Health Care Professionals to Improve Care and Support for Wounded and Traumatized Veterans
New York, New York
Health care professionals require specific training if they are to successfully treat veterans who have experienced the unique physical and psychological traumas of war. In an effort to increase the satisfaction of veterans and their families with the care they receive at Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals and clinics, Columbia University Medical Center's (CUMC) Program in Narrative Medicine hosted a first-of-its-kind three-day workshop, "Challenges in VA Health Care: A Narrative Response," from March 9-11, 2012.
The workshop aimed to equip VA doctors, nurses, social workers and therapists with the narrative techniques to form therapeutic alliances with veterans and their families and improve communication and respect among members of the VA health care team. Participants learned narrative approaches to clinical interviewing, ways to develop enriched therapeutic relationships, and reading and writing interventions that will enable them to better hear and understand patient experiences.
"Our partnership with VA will instill in participants the clinical tools to listen, encourage patient stories, honor the meaning of their patients' stories and grant permission to share thoughts and concerns," said Rita Charon, MD, Executive Director of CUMC's Program in Narrative Medicine. "Using cost-effective and evidence-based methods to train VA clinical professionals, we look to improve the patient care of veterans across the country through this workshop and future work with VA."
WorldatWork Report Shows Employee Wellness Programs Now Expand to Well-Being
The WorldatWork 2012 survey report on Total Rewards and Employee Well-Being found that organizations' health & wellness offerings have expanded beyond traditional programs (that primarily focus on physical health) to integrated well-being programs that now include mental and emotional health, financial health, work-life effectiveness, and workplace environment and stress.
"Organizations ought to consider a more rounded and integrated approach to their well-being programs," said Rose Stanley, a WorldatWork Certified Benefits Professional and work-life practice leader. "One idea is to open up some of these programs, such as financial counseling or diet and nutrition, to extended family. This could potentially provide the support needed to change behavior."
Caradim, 50-50 Joint Venture, Will Combine Microsoft's Deep Platform Expertise with GE Healthcare's Experience in Clinical and Administrative Workflow Solutions
General Electric Co. (GE), through its healthcare IT business, and Microsoft Corp. has announced several developments for their planned 50-50 joint venture. The new company, to be named Caradigm, is expected to launch in the first half of 2012, pending regulatory approvals and customary closing conditions.
Caradigm will be aimed at driving a paradigm shift in the delivery of care by enabling health systems and professionals to use real-time, systemwide intelligence to improve healthcare quality and the patient experience. Upon formation, the new company will develop and market an open, interoperable technology platform and collaborative clinical applications focused on enabling better population health management to improve outcomes and the economics of health and wellness.
Study Published in Neuro-Oncology Journal Shows Brain Tumor Eradication and Prolonged Survival in Mice Treated With Toca 511 and 5-FC
San Diego, California
Tocagen Inc. has announced the publication of data showing the company's investigational treatment for high grade glioma eradicates brain tumors and provides a dramatic survival benefit in mouse models of glioblastoma. Almost all mice receiving the top dose of Toca 511 followed by 5-FC were still alive at 180 days, which was the termination date for the experiment, whereas all control mice died by day 43. The article was published today in the February issue of the Neuro-Oncology journal.
"After administration of Toca 511, the efficiency and specificity of viral spread through the tumor in an immune-competent animal model was impressive," said John Coffin, Ph.D., American Cancer Society Professor at the Sackler School of Biomedical Sciences at Tufts University and Special Advisor to the Director, HIV Drug Resistance Program, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute. "As a career retrovirologist and advisor to the scientists at Tocagen, I am pleased to see the progress they have achieved with their retroviral replicating vector technology, and I look forward to seeing how this approach translates in humans with advanced cancer."
The results published in Neuro-Oncology showed that Toca 511 delivers a pro-drug activating gene to tumor cells where it converts the pro-drug 5-FC (flucytosine) into the anti-cancer drug 5-fluorouracil. Treatment with the high doses of Toca 511 resulted in elimination of tumors in most animals after dosing with 5-FC. The combination treatment of Toca 511 and 5-FC was well tolerated and did not cause toxicity over the course of the six month treatment protocol.
How to Lose Weight Quickly Without Adding More Meat to Your Diet
Palm Beach Gardens, Florida
PEERtrainer, a leader in healthy weight loss solutions, has found that many people who are looking to lose weight in a short amount of time often start to add a lot more meat to their diet, and cut down on certain carbohydrates. This is in spite of a widely cited study by the Harvard School of Public Health published in 2010 that showed an increase in health risk from a diet rich in animal foods.
Other studies that have looked into low-carb and high-protein diets have shown that despite a good short term track record for weight loss, the long term track record for keeping this weight loss off is poor.
As a result of this continuing behavior pattern, PEERtrainer would like to propose some alternative ways to lose weight in a short amount of time that don't involve the health risks, and are ultimately more effective long term.
Micronutrients Aid People in Achieving a Healthy Nutritional Balance
With the recent announcement by celebrity chef, Paula Dean, of her battle with Type 2 Diabetes, the nation has reinvested an important and necessary interest in the disease and nutrition. Over the past two decades, reported cases of diabetes and pre-diabetes have risen dramatically. The American Diabetes Association reported 1.9 million people in the United States alone were diagnosed with diabetes, and 79 million with pre-diabetes. Once thought to be a disease reserved for the elderly, obese and or those identified by specific racial backgrounds, today this disease affects Americans across the board. Research shows, and leading experts in the healthcare and nutrition fields agree, that Type 2 Diabetes is a disease that is preventable, can be managed through a healthy diet and may even be reversible.
Dr. Darlene McCord of Pinnaclife in Coralville, Iowa is a biochemist and works in the field of cellular micronutrients. Her companies, McCord Research and Pinnaclife develop and distribute healthcare products that focus on the supplementation of small-molecule micronutrients to promote health. McCord commented, "As a cancer survivor, I know the courage it takes to accept that you've been diagnosed with a disease, and begin the long journey towards healing. As a public figure, what Ms. Dean has done is courageous. More importantly, she has allowed this country to strike up the conversation about Type 2 Diabetes and nutrition again. She's opened the door for all of us, celebrity and private citizens alike, to take action."
Dr. McCord added, "There is a new hope on the horizon for people struggling with their health. We have worked with hundreds of people and helped them manage their nutritional requirements and allowed them to look forward to improved health. Nutrition is critical. Our body's cells rely on the nutrients we get from our diet to function optimally. If we fail in our diets, we have a greater chance of encountering disease in our lifetime."
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