Long-term care facilities across the country are being hit hard by the seasonal flu, partly due to a problem with this year’s vaccine. This year, the main virus strain is H3N2, which is especially dangerous for older adults. During the first week of January, people 65 and older were hospitalized at a rate of 91.6 per 100,000, according to the CDC. Additionally, as opposed to the flu vaccine’s effectiveness at 60% during good years, this year’s vaccine is only 23% effective at warding off the flu. Researchers say the dominant virus strain is “drifted,” meaning that it underwent genetic changes and is therefore resistant to the vaccine that was developed in the spring. Because the flu does not peak at the same time every year, it is possible that this season will improve going forward, but it could also worsen. The CDC urges all Americans to get vaccinated and recommends that healthcare providers begin antiviral treatments promptly if the flu is suspected in people at high risk for complications or death.
According to experts, falls are the leading cause of death from an injury for older Americans. For women, it’s even worse. In fact, three quarters of those with hip fractures are women. For some, the broken hip starts a chain reaction since many older people also tend to suffer from other underlying conditions such as diabetes, arthritis, hypertension or dementia. After a fall, when one is bedridden or hospitalized, chances of developing everything from bed scores to pneumonia also significantly increases. Additionally, studies have shown that delaying surgery after a fracture for just 24 hours increases the chances of complications and even death. Approximately 1 out of 10 people over the age of 50 will die within a month of surgery for a broken hip; this figure increases to 1 in 5 if the patient already has an acute medical problem. However, researchers say falls can be prevented. Tips include removing rugs, installing better lighting, getting an updated prescription for glasses, improving balance, and exercising.
Flublok is the only licensed recombinant flu vaccine and the only flu vaccine that is 100% egg-free and purified. The Flublok vaccine also contains three times more antigen than traditional flu vaccines.
Yesterday, CDC Director Tom Frieden and other top officials were questioned by members of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations on the response to Ebola infections in the country. Most of the questions focused on why the U.S. had not issued a travel ban from Ebola-stricken countries. Frieden stated that restricting travel would mean that the CDC could not screen and track passengers as they entered the U.S., especially if they decided to enter the country under false pretenses via another country.
The CDC recommends a protocol for hospitals and healthcare workers to follow when they deal with a known or suspected case of Ebola. Here are some key points from the federal recommendations:
How to handle personal equipment. Everyone entering the room must wear personal protective equipment (PPE). PPE must consist of gloves, a fluid-resistant gown, goggles and a face mask. Additional safety measures include doubling up on gloves and wearing disposable shoes and leg coverings. The PPE should be carefully removed and thrown away.
Isolation. The patient must be placed in a single room with its own bathroom and door that closes. Hospitals must keep a log of everyone who goes into the room and use plastic covering on mattresses and pillows.
Needles must be kept at a minimum. When needles are used, they should be handled with extreme caution.
How to monitor for possible infection. Anyone who develops the symptoms of Ebola, including fever, muscle weakness or pain, vomiting or diarrhea should stop working and seek a medical evaluation.
How to prepare the dead body of an infected individual. The body of an infected person should be wrapped in plastic shroud and any intravenous lines or tubes in the body should be left in place. The body must also be wrapped and placed in two leak-proof plastic bags.
Click here to view all the recommendations from the CDC.
CMS has issued a proposed rule to improve Medicare’s Home Health Agency Conditions of Participation to ensure safe delivery of quality care to home health patients. The proposed rule reflects the most current home health agency practices by focusing on the care provided to patients and the impact of that care on patient outcomes.
The proposed rule focuses on key changes in the home health industry, including promotion and protection of patient rights, enhancing the process for care delivery and coordination of services, streamlining regulatory requirements and building a foundation for ongoing, data-driven, agency-wide quality improvement.
According to a new study by the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, home health agencies can help hospitals reduce readmissions and control healthcare costs. However, the effectiveness of these agencies in meeting such goals depends on the quality of organizational support given to healthcare field workers. Researchers note that home health care nurses are so frequently overburdened with non-care responsibilities that it affects their ability to provide patients with the level of services they need. Additionally, reduced reimbursement from Medicare, such as the 14 percent cut from 2014 through 2017, makes it harder for high-performing agencies to continue their success. In determining which agencies to work with, hospitals should be aware of the work environment pressures agencies are under and how these pressures may impact their ability to be an effective partner.