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Researchers Credit Telemedicine For Better Wound Care 

A recent study led by a professor at the West Virginia University (WVU) School of Medicine suggests that telemedicine may improve patients’ satisfaction with their postoperative care, including wound care, as well as their quality of life. The study included 30 patient participants who were recovering from vascular surgery, according to a report by WVU. In each case, the surgeon made an incision in the patient’s groin to access the arteries that needed rebuilding or rerouting. The study focused on whether the incisions healed without complications. According to the report, 16 patients received tablets with Enform, a telemedicine application that facilitates communication with nurses managing the care. As part of an in-home monitoring kit, patients also received thermometers, blood pressure cuffs, scales, and devices to measure blood oxygen saturation levels. Each day, patients who had been discharged from the hospital weighed themselves, took their temperature, measured their pulse and blood pressure, and determined their blood oxygen levels using the app. They completed a wellness and symptom tracking and each week answered satisfaction and emotional wellness questions. These data, along with photos of the surgical incision sites that patients captured with the app, were made available to the patients’ care team. 

Care managers, in turn, logged into the telemedicine platform daily to review the information patients had submitted from their homes, according to the report. Care managers received notifications of abnormalities, such as blood pressure spikes and fevers. Based on the information they gathered, the care managers intervened, answered patients’ questions about symptoms or wound care, called in prescriptions, scheduled appointments with physicians, and modified care plans based on consultations with the medical director. The other 14 participants received standard-of-care treatment and no monitoring equipment, tablet, or telemedicine app, the report states. 

Researchers made a number of comparisons between the two groups after 30 days, including how common wound infections were, whether one group required more hospital readmissions, how members of each group rated their own well-being, and whether patients were happy with their postoperative care. Hospital readmission and wound infection rates reportedly did not differ significantly between groups, attributable to the study’s small sample size, according to researchers. However, patients in the telemedicine group reportedly scored better on measures of physical function, mental health, and role limitations due to physical health problems. In addition, the vast majority of patients who used the app found it intuitive to use, the report claims. Patients assigned to the telemedicine group lived an average of 60 miles from their vascular care center while nearly one-third lived more than 77 miles away. 

CDC Reveals Year’s Worst Health Threats 

The opioid overdose epidemic, foodborne disease outbreaks, antimicrobial resistance, and the Ebola virus have been among the most challenging healthcare concerns in the United States, and a new analysis of data reveals that life expectancy for Americans continues to decline, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Mortality rates increased for seven of the 10 leading causes of death in the U.S., according to a recent CDC report. 

CDC officials also continue to carefully study cases of acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), a serious but rare condition that causes weakness in one or more limbs. In November, the CDC announced the establishment of an AFM task force to aid in the ongoing investigation to define the cause of, and improve treatment outcomes for, patients living with AFM. 

Officials also claim that the CDC continues to make strides in disease control and elimination; however, challenges remain. One health consequence of the opioid epidemic has been a dramatic increase in infectious disease. Hepatitis C infections have more than tripled in recent years, and the evidence points to people who inject drugs being at a high risk for hepatitis C and other forms of viral hepatitis. Additionally, the CDC has released data that show steep and sustained increases in sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in the U.S., including nearly 2.3 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis. This surpassed the previous record by more than 200,000 cases and marked the fourth consecutive year of sharp increases in these STDs. 

Mölnlycke Acquires Danish Company 

Officials at Mölnlycke, a global medical products and solutions company with a United States headquarters in Norcross, GA, have announced the acquisition of M&J Airlaid Products A/S (M&J), a Danish private company and manufacturer of specialized, high-quality absorbent airlaid nonwoven materials. M&J’s airlaid technology is critical along with foams and soft silicone in Mölnlycke's wound care products, officials said. The acquisition is expected to improve Mölnlycke’s security of supply of the airlaid material that is essential in the production of advanced wound care dressings and will help grow the wound care business by accelerating innovation and product development in existing and future products. The parties have agreed to keep the purchase price confidential, officials said. 

“We are very happy to welcome M&J into the Mölnlycke family,” said Richard Twomey, chief executive officer of Mölnlycke. “Our relationship dates back several decades, and thus is a natural unification of forces. This is fully in line with where we want to be as a company, and M&J's strong research and development capabilities combined with Mölnlycke's end-product knowledge will help us further improve our competitive position within the advanced wound care industry.” 

Organogenesis Announces Supports of ADA Compendium on DFU Complications 

Officials at Organogenesis Inc., a regenerative medicine company based in Canton, MA, have announced the company’s support of the American Diabetes Association’s (ADA’s) publication of a recent scientific compendium reviewing the latest methods for diagnosing and treating diabetic foot ulcers (DFUs). 

“We are proud to support the production of the compendium, which will be an invaluable resource for both clinicians and patients,” said Shabnam Vaezzadeh, vice president of global medical and clinical affairs at Organogenesis. “Diabetic foot ulcers represent a significant and ongoing public health challenge, and we applaud the ADA for this rigorous, independent, and timely review of evidence-based interventions.” 

The compendium, Diagnosis and Management of Diabetic Foot Complications, is a comprehensive review of the latest scientific evidence related to the treatment of DFUs, including best practices for early screening and diagnosis, prevention strategies, and wound care and treatment options. The content for the compendium was developed by a team of independent researchers and clinicians, and is the responsibility of the ADA and ADA leadership. DFUs are the leading cause of diabetes-related amputations in the United States, with nearly 100,000 nontraumatic amputations performed each year, a number that includes one in six patients living with a DFU, according to the ADA. Proper foot care and access to advanced wound care treatment options are critical to prevent amputation or premature death due to DFUs. 

Hospital Transparency Rule Officially Takes Effect 

As of Jan. 1, a federal law requiring hospitals to publish their price lists online has taken effect. The final rule by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services that was passed in August in an effort to increase price transparency and empower consumers to make more informed choices about their healthcare requires facilities to reveal the costs for all procedures, services, and medications available to patients at the chargemaster rate. 

According to a report by HealthPayerIntelligence.com, hospitals can choose the format for presenting data, provided that it’s “machine-readable” and includes all items and services provided by the facility. For payers, the mandate will publicize existing differences between hospital charge rates and reimbursement amounts, the report states, which may require payers to open dialogues with their contracted providers to answer questions about how the open price lists will affect future financial relationships. 

According to the report, 92% of providers are “somewhat” or “very concerned” about the public perception of their prices per recent polled results. Payers should prepare to field a higher volume of inquiries from members and beneficiaries about financial responsibility and any disparities between payment rates, according to the report. 

However, the new rule is also being seen as an opportunity for health plans to share educational materials and strategies about how to choose healthcare, maximize the value of high-deductible plans and health savings accounts, and develop better financial management skills, the report states. 

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