ECG Coming to an Android Phone Near You

ECG appon Anroid phone
A heart to heart talk?

App vendor AliveCor is about to roll out a version of its popular ECG smartphone app for Android phones, capturing the two biggest platforms in just the past few months. AliveCor debuted an iPhone version of its ECG Heart Monitor technology at last year’s CES expo.

The product is a single-lead wireless cardiac recorder that its creators insist is clinical quality, although not on par with 12-lead full ECG machine. The app displays the heartbeats using the phone screen as a monitor. Patients can press the case against their chests or into their hands to obtain a reading.

The product essentially is a skin placed on the phone, and then held up to the patient. That’s a step up from other ECG products, like Imec’s wearable ECG, which requires a lead and strap to connect to the ECG plugin.

Android phones already sport apps for streaming samples of “bad” ECG rhythms for diagnostic purposes, plus a look-up reference for clinicians on ECG interpretation.

To learn more:
– read this Medical Smartphones article

CA DWC Updates Hire Pamphlets

CA DWC Updates Hire Pamphlets, English and Spanish versions

The Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC) has posted a new time of hire pamphlet on its Web site. This optional pamphlet meets the requirements under Labor Code section 3551 to notify new employees about California workers’ compensation rights and benefits either at the time of hire or by the end of the first pay period.

“This pamphlet is one way we can help employers and claims administrators ensure employees know what to do if they get hurt or sick because of work,” said DWC Chief of Legislation and Policy Susan Gard. “We want to provide easy to understand information in multiple languages that meets the needs of California’s diverse workforce.”

The pamphlet, posted in English and Spanish, was developed in response to requests from claims administrators and provides employees with information about what to do if they are injured on the job and ways to resolve disputes over workers’ compensation benefits. In addition, it discusses the role of the primary treating physician and medical provider networks (MPNs). Predesignation forms are included as part of the document.

This optional time of hire pamphlet is presented in a graphic format that can be customized to meet individual needs and is also offered in “text only” format in English and Spanish, which gives claims administrators the option to more fully customize the presentation. The text of the pamphlet meets the “time of hire” legal requirements.

This new pamphlet is the latest publication helping DWC reach out to assist employers and workers. DWC recently posted updated fact sheets and guides for injured workers in English and Spanish.

150 years of dieting fads and still no quick fix

Dieting ad for Blue Beans from the 1940'sBefore there was Dr. Atkins, there was William Banting. He invented the low-carb diet of 1863. Even then Americans were trying out advice that urged fish, mutton or “any meat except pork” for breakfast, lunch and dinner — hold the potatoes, please.

It turns out our obsession with weight and how to lose it dates back at least 150 years. And while now we say “overweight” instead of “corpulent” — and obesity has become epidemic — a look back at dieting history shows what hasn’t changed is the quest for an easy fix.

“We grossly, grossly underestimate” the difficulty of changing behaviors that fuel obesity, says Clemson University sociologist Ellen Granberg, after examining archives at the Library of Congress. She believes it’s important to show “we’re not dealing with some brand new, scary phenomenon we’ve never dealt with before.”

Indeed, the browning documents are eerily familiar.

Consider Englishman William Banting’s account of losing almost 50 pounds in a year. He did it by shunning “bread, butter, milk, sugar, beer and potatoes, which had been the main (and I thought innocent) elements of my existence” in favor of loads of meat.

His pamphlet, “Letter on Corpulence, Addressed to the Public,” quickly crossed the Atlantic and become so popular here that “banting” became slang for dieting, Granberg says.

While obesity has rapidly surged in the last few decades, we first changed from a nation where being plump was desirable into a nation of on-again, off-again dieters around the end of the 19th century, Granberg says. Continue reading 150 years of dieting fads and still no quick fix

Why coffee protects against diabetes

Vintage 5¢ cup of coffee graphic
Just add blueberry pancakes!

Coffee, that morning elixir, may give us an early jump-start to the day, but numerous studies have shown that it also may be protective against type 2 diabetes. Yet no one has really understood why.

Now, researchers at UCLA have discovered a possible molecular mechanism behind coffee’s protective effect. A protein called sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) regulates the biological activity of the body’s sex hormones, testosterone and estrogen, which have long been thought to play a role in the development of type 2 diabetes. And coffee consumption, it turns out, increases plasma levels of SHBG.

Reporting with colleagues in the current edition of the journal Diabetes, first author Atsushi Goto, a UCLA doctoral student in epidemiology, and Dr. Simin Liu, a professor of epidemiology and medicine with joint appointments at the UCLA School of Public Health and the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, show that women who drink at least four cups of coffee a day are less than half as likely to develop diabetes as non-coffee drinkers.

When the findings were adjusted for levels of SHBG, the researchers said, that protective effect disappeared.

Continue reading Why coffee protects against diabetes

The Health Technology Boom(er)

iPod showing mobile medical app
Paging Doctor App

Report: Boomers will shape m-health technology efforts

By Dan Bowman

Already top consumers of healthcare technology, baby boomers, ages 46 to 64, are poised to not only continue that trend, but to shape it–particularly in the field of mobile healthcare, a new report from the MIT Enterprise Forum Northwest says. The report was created for an MIT Enterprise Forum to be held in Seattle next week.

“Boomers view tech-enabled health products as a way to foster control and ongoing independence for themselves, especially in light of the rise in incidence in chronic disease with aging, and their desire to reduce costs,” the report reads. “Nearly 56 percent of boomers show a high willingness to use in-home health monitoring devices in tandem with the care of their primary physician.”
The report’s authors point to the increased use of health apps for smartphones–200 million worldwide–and the aforementioned desire for more personal monitoring as an indication of where things are headed. They also note that technology enablers, like the FCC’s National Broadband Plan to bring high-speed web access to underserved areas in the U.S., will make the transition even easier.

“[W]ith medical personnel and senior care facility bed shortages as well as Alzheimer-afflicted patients staying at home longer along with solutions targeting wellness management, the monitoring and tracking opportunity is ripe for more focus in this area,” the authors write. “Given the current low barriers to entry for smartphone applications, the door is open for entrepreneurs with mobile, open source, and social networking expertise.”

To learn more:?- here’s the report (.pdf)

60 Years Old and Worried About Chicken Pox?

boy with chicken illustration
Are you playing chicken with shingles?

Zoster Vaccine Associated With Lower Risk of Shingles in Older Adults

Vaccination for herpes zoster, a painful rash commonly known as shingles, among a large group of older adults was associated with a reduced risk of this condition, regardless of age, race or the presence of chronic diseases, according to a study in the January 12 issue of JAMA.

“The pain of herpes zoster is often disabling and can last for months or even years, a complication termed postherpetic neuralgia. Approximately 1 million episodes of herpes zoster occur in the United States annually, but aside from age and immunosuppression, risk factors for this condition are not known,” the authors write. Although prelicensure data provided evidence that herpes zoster vaccine works in a select study population under idealized circumstances, the vaccine needs to be evaluated in field conditions to show whether benefits of the vaccine can be generalized to conditions of clinical practice, according to background information in the article. The researchers note that this is particularly important for the herpes zoster vaccine, given the medical and physiological diversity in the elderly population for whom the vaccine is indicated.

Hung Fu Tseng, Ph.D., M.P.H., of Southern California Kaiser Permanente, Pasadena, Calif., and colleagues evaluated the risk of herpes zoster after receipt of herpes zoster vaccine among individuals in general practice settings. The study included community-dwelling adults, age 60 years or older, who were members of a managed care organization. There were 75,761 members in the vaccinated cohort, who were age matched (1:3) to 227,283 unvaccinated members.

Compared with the unvaccinated cohort, individuals in the vaccinated cohort were more likely to be white, women, and to have had more outpatient visits, and a lower prevalence of chronic diseases. There were 5,434 herpes zoster cases identified in the study (6.4 cases per 1,000 persons per year among vaccinated individuals and 13.0 cases per 1,000 persons per year among unvaccinated individuals). In the fully adjusted analysis, vaccination was associated with reduced risk of herpes zoster. The reduction in risk did not vary by age at vaccination, sex, race, or with presence of chronic diseases. Herpes zoster vaccine recipients had reduced risks of ophthalmic herpes zoster and hospitalizations coded as herpes zoster. Overall, the vaccine was associated with a 55 percent reduction in incidence of herpes zoster.

“Herpes zoster vaccine was licensed recently, which means the durability of its protection needs to be assessed in future studies. Meanwhile, however, this vaccine has the potential to annually prevent tens of thousands of cases of herpes zoster and postherpetic neuralgia nationally. To date, herpes zoster vaccine uptake has been poor due to weaknesses in the adult vaccine infrastructure and also due to serious barriers to the vaccine among clinicians and patients. Solutions to these challenges need to be found so that individuals seeking to receive herpes zoster vaccine will be able to reduce their risk of experiencing this serious condition,” the authors conclude.

One Shot + One Shot = Hangover

photo of dog with hangoverVaccine could give alcoholics ‘hangovers’ after one drink

Chilean researchers are developing a vaccine that causes alcoholics to feel the effects of a hangover after just one drink. The shot targets aldehyde dehydrogenase, the enzymes that metabolize alcohol and control alcohol tolerance. About 20 percent of Asians lack aldehyde dehydrogenase, which causes feelings of unease, sweating, nausea and accelerated heartbeat when alcohol is consumed. The shot is designed to cause the same side effects in people who do have the enzymes. “With the vaccine, the desire to consume alcohol will be greatly reduced thanks to these reactions,” noted head researcher Juan Asenjo.

The vaccine was tested in mice who were dependant on alcohol. They were able to reduce their alcohol intake by half after receiving the shot.
Asenjo hopes see human subjects cut their alcohol intake by up to 95 percent. The group has completed animal trials and plans to begin human
testing as early as 2012.

– take a look at the AFP story

California May Provide 20 Percent Tax Credit for Workers Comp

tax cut graphic

California Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D-Pasadena, has proposed legislation that would lessen the burden on small businesses.
According to the Pasadena Star-News, the bill, Assembly Bill 11, would establish a 20 percent tax credit to help small businesses pay for workers compensation premiums. Qualifying employers would be those with fewer than 20 employees and with less than $1 million in annual revenue. (WCxKit)
The workers comp credit would be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.
The bill is geared to maintain protections for California’s labor force, while helping to prevent the forms of cuts and layoffs that have been prevalent since the Great Recession began.
Portantino also noted that the bill would not make any changes to the California’s current workers comp laws. It simply assists small businesses in paying for it. (WCxKit)

A.B. 11 would be funded by allocating $200 million presently available under the seldom used small-business hiring credit to the workers comp credit.