Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Boston health officials investigating severe infections from “medical tourism”

Boston health officials are investigating some reports of severe infections in patients who took a trip to the Dominican Republic for cosmetic surgery.

Mycobacterium abscessus, a bacteria that is not easily battled with antibiotics, and can take months of treatment to vanquish was believed to infect at least two patients in Boston, and another in Worcester.

The patients were part of a group that went to the Dominican Republic during the summer for surgeries and started having health problems, including abscesses and drainage from their surgery sites, earlier this fall, said Dr. Anita Barry, director of the infectious disease bureau at the Boston Public Health Commission.

Other patients in the group who live in Maryland, Connecticut, and New York have also been infected, she said.

Health officials are anxious for the reason that so-called “medical tourism” has become a major industry in many Latin American countries.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approximation that 750,000 people from the United States travel abroad every year seeking low cost medical care.

“We became aware because one of the out-of-state people knew someone in the Worcester area, who was having similar post-op problems,” Barry said. “That person knew someone in Boston who was having the same problems, and that person told us about a second Boston case.”

The germ can be spread by means of contaminated medical equipment, medical supplies, or poor surgical techniques.  Severe pain and swelling are the effects of the infection, and frequently does not show up until some weeks after surgery.

The infection is not contagious to other people, but is serious and needs to be treated, Barry said.

“We’re trying to get the word out that if you are going overseas for surgery, you have to find out how many infections this place has had, and also find out how many people have died having medical procedures in this place,” Barry said.

The commission suggests that patients thinking about surgery in another country talk with their primary care provider regarding the procedure at least four to six weeks before going trough traveling, and secure copies of all medical records associated to the surgery and medical care provided abroad prior to going back home.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Thanksgiving dinner’s ‘sweat equivalents’ Eat hard, play hard

Sure thing everyone wants to know how to work off Thanksgiving dinner.  Maybe cancel your plans to watch movie night or watch football after dinner or maybe why not cancel your plans on going shopping on Friday because more probably it will take over a weekend to work it off.

In a proposition to center Americans on keeping an eye and controlling their weight, public health advocates have embraced posting calories, labeling nutritional content and offering all manner of helpful and eye-catching logos to catch consumers’ awareness to “better-for-you choices.” But there’s rising evidence that no form of consumer information suggests the probable impact of a food choice on one’s weight quite as mightily as do “sweat equivalents.”

Sweat equals leave little room for self-delusion.  They don’t have need of anything to know how many calories a day she should be taking in, or what percentage of that total that bag of potato chips represents.  They simply say: “If you eat this, this is how long you’d have to jog (or swim, or jump rope or play basketball) to work it off.”

Simple’s good. And in experiments, posting sweat equals forcefully steered consumers toward water over sugar-sweetened soda, pretzels over chips, salads over cheeseburgers.

CoachUp, a service that connects athletes intent on stepping up their game with private coaches, brings you the “sweat equivalents” of a typical American Thanksgiving.

The average American takes in 4,500 calories on Thanksgiving which means that is a lot of turkey, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, creamed onions, candied yams and pumpkin pie — actually, about seven Big Macs’ worth of calories.

From of good reputation of sources on the energy-expenditure of a variety of activities, are some of the activities you will have to engage in to work off the average American intake on Thanksgiving:

– Run (or play basketball or football) for 7.7 hours;
– Cycle for 15 hours;
– Row (or hike) for 10.3 hours;
– Swim for 10.6 hours, (or bowl for almost twice that long — 20.6 hours)

You may be anticipating forward to spending hours on the elliptical machine this weekend, or have plans anyway to run a marathon or marathons.  However you might try to alter what scientists call the “energy balance equation” (calories taken in versus calories expended in activity) a little on both sides if you want to limit Thanksgiving’s damage: Don’t go back for thirds on Thanksgiving Day and plan a long hike or an epic game of flag football after the meal, and run the next day.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Exercise ‘can be as good as pills’

A study has found that exercise can be as good a medicine as pills for people with conditions such as heart disease.

British Medical Journal or BMJ’s work looked at hundreds of trials linking almost 340,000 patients to assess the merits of exercise and drugs in avoiding death. Physical activity challenged some heart drugs and proved that it is better than stroke medicine. According to the researchers, the findings suggest exercise should be added to prescriptions.

Experts emphasized that patients should not ditch their drugs for exercise – but, they should use both in tandem. Lesser and lesser adults at present get enough exercise.  No more than a third of people in England do the suggested at least 2.5 hours or more of moderate-intensity activity, like cycling or fast walking, every week.

In contrary, while that is happening, prescription drug rates continue to rise. In 2010, there were averages of 17.7 prescriptions for every person in England while 11.2 in 2000.

For the study, scientists based at the London School of Economics, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute at Harvard Medical School and Stanford University School of Medicine trawled medical literature to find any research that compared exercise with pills as a therapy. They recognized 305 trials to incorporate in their analysis.  Such trials looked at managing conditions like existing heart disease, stroke rehabilitation, heart failure and pre-diabetes. They found exercise and drugs were comparable in terms of death rates when they studied the data as a total.

Although there were two exceptions, drugs called diuretics were the clear winner for heart failure patients, while exercise was best for stroke patients in terms of life expectancy. Amy Thompson, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said that although an active lifestyle brings many health benefits, there is not enough evidence to draw any firm conclusions about the merit of exercise above and beyond drugs.

“Medicines are an extremely important part of the treatment of many heart conditions and people on prescribed drugs should keep taking their vital meds. If you have a heart condition or have been told you’re at high risk of heart disease, talk to your doctor about the role that exercise can play in your treatment.”

Dr Peter Coleman of the Stroke Association said exercise alongside drugs had a vital role that merited more research. “We would like to see more research into the long-term benefits of exercise for stroke patients. “By taking important steps, such as regular exercise, eating a balanced diet and stopping smoking, people can significantly reduce their risk of stroke.” “Moderate physical activity, for example, can reduce the risk of stroke by up to 27%.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

$63 Million Medicare Fraud Sentenced to Former Office Manager for Health Care Solutions Network

To serve 68 months in prison for her role in a fraud scheme that resulted in more than $63 million in fraudulent claims to Medicare and Florida Medicaid, A former office manager at the defunct health care provider Health Care Solutions Network Inc. (HCSN) was sentenced today in Miami.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer of the Southern District of Florida; Special Agent in Charge Michael B. Steinbach of the FBI’s Miami Field Office; and Special Agent in Charge Christopher B. Dennis of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) Office of Investigations, Miami office, made the announcement.

Forty five year old Lisset Palmero of Miami was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga in the Southern District of Florida.  Palmero was also added prison term of three years of supervised release and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $17.4 million.

Palmero was employed as a receptionist and office manager at HCSN of a mental health facility that purported to provide Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) services during the course of the conspiracy.  A PHP is a form of intensive treatment for severe mental illness.

HCSN of Florida (HCSN-FL) operated community mental health centers at two locations.  According to court documents, Palmero was aware that HCSN-FL paid illegal kickbacks to owners and operators of Miami-Dade County Assisted Living Facilities (ALF) in exchange for patient referral information to be used to submit false and fraudulent claims to Medicare and Medicaid. Palmero also knew that many of the ALF referral patients were ineligible for PHP services because they suffered from mental retardation, dementia, or Alzheimer’s disease.

Court documents expose that Palmero was aware that HCSN-FL personnel were fabricating patient medical records.  Many of these medical records were formed weeks or months after the patients were admitted to HCSN-FL for purported PHP treatment. Palmero was also aware that medical records were fabricated for “ghost patients” who were never admitted to the HCSN-FL PHP. During her employment at HCSN-FL, Palmero actively concealed the production of medical records by preparing, and causing others to prepare, documentation that was later used to support false and fraudulent billing to government-sponsored health care benefit programs, counting the Medicare and Florida Medicaid.

According to court documents, from 2004 through 2011, HCSN billed Medicare and the Florida Medicaid program approximately $63 million for purported HCSN-FL mental health services.

The FBI and HHS-OIG and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, under supervision of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida are investigating this case.  Trial Attorney Allan J. Medina and former Special Trial Attorney William J. Parente prosecuted the case.

The Medicare Fraud Strike Force is now working in nine cities in the country, have charged more than 1,500 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $5 billion since its inception in March 2007.  And also, HHS’s Centers for Medicare & Medic aid Services, working in conjunction with HHS-OIG, is taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Springhill Group New York Warns Of Medical-Alert Device Robocalling Scam Targeting Seniors

Most of you know to be suspicious when someone calls out of the blue to tell you you’ve been approved to get something for free. But not everyone is as savvy as y’all, which is what scammers depend on to make their money.

Apparently, some scammy jerks have been placing illegal robocalls to senior citizens to let them know they’ve been approved to receive medical-alert devices “at no charge.” | some medical news

According to New York state Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman (the T stands for “tough,” or maybe Thomas or Todd… we have no idea), the calls — coming from a business calling itself Senior Medical Alert or Senior Medical Advisors — use scare tactics, warning consumers of a “significant rise in the number of senior citizens suffering death and serious life-threatening injuries from a delay in response times for medical emergencies, fires, burglaries or even a simple fall.”

The goal is to get people to hand over their billing information so they can be charged $35/month for “monitoring services.”

Some say the scammers are making follow-up calls that are more aggressive than the original. We’re guessing they figure that they’ve already broken any number of laws already, so what’s the harm in a few more?

The AG’s office says these calls appear to be coming from within the state of New York, more precisely from the Syracuse or Utica area. During an undercover call by an investigator, the scammers gave a fake Orlando address as the location of their company’s headquarters. They also claimed to be affiliated with insurance biggie United Health, though we’re pretty sure that’s a big fat lie too.

“Unfortunately, the elderly are disproportionately targeted by scam artists and are often the victims of fraud and abuse,” said Schneiderman. “To prevent senior citizens from becoming victimized, we must educate them and their loved ones with information they can use to protect themselves.”

As always, some things to remember to avoid being scammed over the phone:

· Never give out billing or other personal information over the phone, especially if you receive an unsolicited telephone call from a stranger
· Never cash a check from an unknown source, especially if you are being asked to wire a portion of the proceeds to a stranger
· Never wire money to someone you don’t know who contacts you; it’s the same as handing over cash
You can — and should — file a complaint with the FTC and your state’s Attorney General when you come across a scam, whether you’ve been a victim or not.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Group says: Curb junk food ads aimed at children

A coalition of medical groups says, Canadian children under 13 shouldn’t be exposed to marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages.

Calls on food companies to immediately stop marketing foods high in fats, added sugars or sodium to children was made on Thursday’s policy statement from the Canadian Medical Association, Heart and Stroke Foundation, Hypertension Canada, College of Family Physicians of Canada and others.The proposed advertising restriction includes characters or mascots promoting sugary cereals. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

Dr. Norm Campbell, a hypertension specialist at the University of Calgary who led the campaign Federal, provincial and territorial governments have said that protecting the health of children is a priority.
The groups say that in 1989, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that “advertisers should not be able to capitalize upon children’s credulity” and “advertising directed at young children is per se manipulative.” Food companies in Canada, except Quebec, are not obliged by law to restrict unhealthy food and beverage marketing to children.

Dr. Marie-Dominique Beaulieu is the president of the College of Family Physicians of Canada and practices in Montreal, where she says companies have clear rules on what is considered healthy. “Up to 80 per cent of food advertising actually advertises unhealthy food and we know that it has a direct impact on the choices that children make,” Beaulieu said.

Canada hasn’t acted

The World Health Organization released recommendations on the marketing of food and beverages to children and called on governments worldwide to reduce the exposure of children to advertising and to reduce the use of powerful marketing techniques employed by the manufacturers of foods and beverages high in saturated fats, trans-fatty acids, free added sugars or sodium last May 2011.

Canada has not acted on the recommendations, the health groups said.

The group’s statement describes the policy goal this way: “Federal government to immediately begin a legislative process to restrict all marketing targeted to children under the age of 13 of foods and beverages high in saturated fats, trans-fatty acids, free sugars or sodium and that in the interim the food industry immediately ceases marketing of such food to children.”

They intend to use WHO’s suggestions on high content of saturated fats, trans-fatty acids, free sugars or sodium.

“Right now, we have a voluntary ban on marketing of unhealthy foods to children from the food industry,” said Campbell. “The industries that have signed on to that are the worst offenders. What they’ve done is made their own definition.”

If the plan passes, the restrictions would apply to TV, internet, radio, magazines, mobile phones, video and adver-games, brand mascots, product placement, cross-promotions, school or event sponsorships and viral marketing.

The Centre for Science in the Public Interest said on Wednesday night, NDP member of Parliament Libby Davies’s bill to phase in lower sodium levels in prepackaged foods and add simple, standardized labels, failed to pass with a vote of 147 to 122

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Women Smokers is More Risk from Colon Cancer

It is now well-established that cancer is well-linked to smoking.  And now according to researchers, cigarettes increase the odds for developing colon cancer, especially for women.

According to the new study, published April 30 in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, women who've ever smoked have an almost 20 percent increased risk for colon cancer, compared with women who never smoked.

"Women who smoke even 10 or fewer cigarettes a day increase their risks for colon cancer," said lead researcher Dr. Inger Gram, a professor in the department of community medicine at the University of Tromso in Norway.

"Because colon cancer is such a common disease, even these moderate smoking accounts for many new cases," she said. "A lot of colon cancer can be prevented if people don't smoke -- especially women."
More than 600,000 men and women ages 19 to 67 are involved in the study whereas they were surveyed by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.  Participants answered questions concerning their smoking habits, physical activity and other lifestyle factors.

Over 14 years of follow-up nearly 4,000 people developed colon cancer, and the odds were greatest for smokers, women in particular according to Gram's team.  The risk for colon cancer increased 19 percent among women who smoked and 8 percent for men who smoked, they added.

The researchers said, the more years a woman smoked, the earlier she started smoking, and the more packs of cigarettes smoked a year, the greater her risk of developing colon cancer. Women who smoked for 40 years or more increased their risk for colon cancer almost 50 percent, they added.

Gram noted, their risk was especially high for developing proximal, or right-sided, colon cancer, with a type of tumor specifically related to smoking.

Gram said she was surprised the link between smoking and colon cancer was so much greater for women, and said the reasons aren't clear.

Although this study shows an association between smoking and colon cancer, it does not establish a cause-and-effect relationship. However, the link between smoking and colon cancer is more than a coincidence, Gram pointed out.

"Colon cancer is a smoking-related cancer," she said. "That has recently been established by the International Agency for Research on Cancer of the World Health Organization." Based on a review of prior research, the WHO says long-term smoking appears to double the risk of colon cancer. It also increases risk for bladder and pancreatic cancer, according to the agency.

One expert, Dr. Stephanie Bernik, chief of surgical oncology at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, doesn't believe the heightened risk for colon cancer among women is solely related to smoking. Alcohol use, diet and lack of exercise may also play a role, Bernik said.

"Usually, smoking goes along with other bad health habits," Bernik said. "However, this adds to the growing data that cigarette smoking contributes to the increased risk of colon cancer."

Another expert offered some advice. "If you smoke, you should quit," said Dan Jacobsen, from the Center for Tobacco Control at North Shore-LIJ Health System in Great Neck, N.Y. "There are a lot of good methods, programs and resources out there if you want to try to quit smoking," he added.

"Smoking is just toxic to our bodies," said Jacobsen. "It's the number one preventable cause of death and disease."