Archive for November, 2014

EMR Updates Make Tracking Health Risks Easier

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

In the wake of the Ebola situation in the United States, vendors of electronic medical record (EMR) technology are making improvements to how their systems identify and flag patients who may be suffering from a serious disease. These updates will allow practitioners to respond more quickly to outbreak scenarios.

Hospital administrators laud the change as a way to overcome the information decay caused by shift changes by keeping every fact about a case in the system. EMR advances include notifications about potential issues, such as an “Ebola” notification for a West African patient experiencing flu-like symptoms, and more targeted questions to establish a patient’s more recent travel and living history.

Healthcare technology developers are continuously working on new ways to collect and use patient information in EMR systems through applications and better data collection. Though doctors complain that the systems are still difficult to navigate, developers maintain that doctors are equally critical to the effective use of an EMR system.

EMR development is an important positive outcome of the Ebola situation and will hopefully prompt vendors to make their systems even more responsive to future outbreaks of infectious disease.

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Single Gene May Reduce Breast Cancer Risk by 80 Percent

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

Breast cancer is the most prevalent form of the disease to affect women. Fortunately, new genetic research may provide a better way to identify those at risk before a diagnosis.

Researchers have identified a genetic variant that results in less dense breast tissue, eliminating one of the key risk factors associated with breast cancer. The gene is present in women of Hispanic descent in varying proportions based on their ancestry.

Women whose genetic code shows the variant in question are between 40 and 80 percent less likely to contract breast cancer in their lifetime, depending on whether they inherited the code from one or both sides of their family.

While non-Hispanic women are less likely to benefit from the gene, the confirmation of this research could help doctors target screening and prevention measures more effectively toward women based on their respective level of risk. In addition, further research will lend insight into how the genetic variant actually protects carriers – ideally, a finding that doctors could then replicate in future preventive treatments.

Regardless of ethnic heritage, all women are encouraged to follow a recommended screening schedule including self-tests and mammograms. The National Cancer Institute has identified a list of risk factors as well as a risk assessment tool that women over 35 can use to estimate their risk of contracting breast cancer. (The online tool should not take the place of an exam by a licensed physician.)

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