New York Health Goes Digital

hospitalThe New York Digital Health Accelerator was developed as a way of helping health IT start-ups present their product to customers.  The problem that these companies often encounter is a reluctance of doctors to pay or a product that is not exactly what the hospital originally intended.   With this in mind, New York health is being digitized to some extent.  Now, the Accelerator is inaugurating a class of 8 start-ups (that were selected from an original 250 applicants).

One of the winners was Aidin.  This organization provides assistance for hospitals to enable them to refer patients to the correct care facility after they are discharged.  Its service will be piloted at four hospitals. The New York City Investment Fund and the New York eHealth Collaborative got together to set up the accelerator, raising $4.2m from a variety of investors.  The mission of the accelerator is to respond to the needs of the state and healthcare providers.  Start-ups need a product that focuses on care coordination, patient engagement, message alerts or analytics. Right now, New York health is moving toward improved patient outcome which requires coordinating care among health care providers to prevent the likelihood of hospitalization.

Public Health Emergency Sunday


Andrew Cuomo recently declared a public health emergency Sunday.  With this, pharmacists were told they could administer the flu vaccination to additional people, most notably to patients between the ages of 6 months and 18-years-old.  (Ordinarily they are given only to those who are over 18 by pharmacists).  It has been declared the worst outbreak of flu in New York in a number of years, for sure at least since 2009.  Indeed, throughout the nation, the flu has been reported to have reached “epidemic proportions,” especially since it started so early this year.  According to a report put out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ninety percent of American regions reported an increase in the level of flu, with 20 childhood fatalities.

As a result of what has been happening, state officials have been instructed by the governor to “marshal all needed resources to address this public health emergency and remove all barriers to ensure that all New Yorkers – children and adults alike – have access to critically needed flu vaccines.”  In addition, people who have not yet gotten their flu shots are now being encouraged to do so as the cases of reported influenza in NYC are continuing to rise.

New York’s Hospitals: A Disgrace?

New York’s principal health official – Commissioner Dr. Nirav Shah – is in a battle against one of America’s best known watchdogs – the Consumer Reports Health Ratings Center – on the matter of safety in hospitals.  In response to the Consumer Reports’ safety ratings undertaken in February assessing 1,100 hospitals in America, various problems were found with local institutions.  But Shah argued that the information and methods used were “incomplete and flawed.” Indeed, in Shah’s favor, while various hospitals in the region – such as Beth Israel and Harlem Hospital – received these disappointing reports, America’s Department of Health and Human Services had credited them as being “better than the national average.”

Over the years, Consumer Reports has been conducting its investigations on all matters, form infection rates to health outcomes and patient satisfaction.  However, in response to the attack, the Consumer Reports Health Ratings Center director, Dr. John Santa, argued that New York State’s hospital infection data is more thorough than most other states and the federal government.

Origins of the Data

Santa said New York State’s hospital infection data is more thorough than most other states and the federal government. He also said that Shah used numbers for the ratings from his own department.   In New York’s favor, it has been taking the investigation much more seriously than other states and even the federal government has been.  As well, several of the state’s hospitals are much safer than others in the five boroughs.

The main issue is a comparative one.  If two hospitals are dealing with very similar issues and one is doing much better than the other, for no apparent reason, one has to question this. For example, Detroit’s Henry Ford is doing much better than NY’s urban hospitals where those investigated argued they are encountering many low-income patients with more challenging health problems than those in suburban areas.  But Henry Ford doesn’t seem to be struggling, despite dealing with the same issues.  Why?

Still, regardless of this, according to Baystate Medical Center’s Dr. Peter Lindenauer, these results aren’t having any impact on people’s choice of treatment/surgery facility.  This is probably due to the fact that there is so much conflicting information.  It is going to take time until the kinks are ironed out and such reports can be properly trusted as a true, helpful resource.

Adverse Events in NY Hospitals

However, there are other sources of information that are perhaps more accurate.  These also bemoan the poor state of hospitals in New York.  For example, there have been 40,000 adverse events recorded in hospitals since 2007.  These include: unexpected deaths; delays in treatment; wrong-patient surgeries (including a woman being given a C-section who wasn’t even pregnant) and a variety of other mistakes throughout the state’s hospitals.  As well, it seems like these are being covered up in a database that is hidden from public records, since only a small minority of these can be accessed at the NY Health Department website.

The reason this is allowed to happen – hiding the facts from the public – is due to the state law that lets hospitals report such problems through the New York Patient Occurrence Reporting and Tracking System (NYPOTS) which are kept confidential.  One of these was the case noted above of a mistaken C-section, regardless of the fact that such surgical errors be reported to the Health Department within 24 hours, although the claim was, that it was processed through NYPORTS. Further, there were 14 cases of unexpected deaths not recorded for public access.  Indeed, perhaps not surprisingly therefore, NYPOTS has undergone substantial criticism from patient safety advocates, given that there is no procedure for giving patients the assurance that hospitals are reporting what they should be reporting.

Clearly, patients in New York deserve better access to accurate data about hospital treatment and care and at the same time, there needs to be greater checks and balances on the system in its entirety, as everyone should be working toward the same goal – improved care in NY health care facilities.

Sleep Disorders and Sleep Apnea

Steve Feinsilver, director of the Center for Sleep Medicine at Mount Sinai, specializes in treating sleep disorders. Nearly 1,500 patients see him each year.

The upcoming holiday season is especially stressful (think: family get-togethers and highly caloric dishes) and so the quality of your sleep is that much more important.

“The CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) reports that between 50 and 70 million American adults have a sleep disorder,” Feinsilver said. “Studies show that good sleep hygiene is essential for your overall health- and that getting enough good sleep helps you eat less.”

In fact, sleep deprivation often leads to weight gain. Disorders like sleep apnea, which is characterized by poor breathing during sleep, can actually shorten your life span if left untreated.

“It’s normal to have a little irregular breathing during sleep, but an apnea event is a 10-second pause in your breathing that wakes you up very slightly,” Feinsilver explained. “To have the disease sleep apnea, you need to have 10 or more apnea events an hour.”

“It probably gets worse as you get older, it’s more common in men than women, and more common in people that are overweight,” Feinsilver continued. “Some people are more anatomically predisposed to this because they have what we call ‘crowded throats’- the muscles of the tongue and soft palate just don’t leave them as much room as the throat to breathe through.”

Ex-Vivo Lung Transplant Procedure Opens New Opportunities

Manhattan’s NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center is conducting a groundbreaking lung transplant trial. The new method differs from traditional transplants in that it is conducted “ex-vivo,” or, outside the body. Instead of making a quick decision regarding whether an organ is suitable for transplant, the ex vivo procedure allows doctors to revive the lung and determine its potential by pumping it with oxygen and a nourishing solution.

“These would have been lungs we would have turned down because of poor quality. This provides the opportunity to increase lung transplants performed,” explained Frank D’Ovidio, the head doctor on the FDA trial.

New York’s Pedestrians Suffer Numerous Bike Accidents

A recent analysis published by Hunter College professors revealed that more than 500 New York City residents suffer severe injuries after being struck by cyclists. Though the number seems small in comparison to the number of pedestrians injured by cars, it has been growing rapidly over recent years.

The survey studied hospital data from the State Department of Health gathered between 2007 and 2010. Results showed that 1,000 pedestrians were treated at hospitals every year after being hit by cyclists, 55% of whom were residents of New York.

An additional study, conducted by Professors Peter Tuckel and William Milczarski, found that the number of pedestrians treated in hospitals annually was not much higher than 1,000. Dr. Tuckel explains that these figures represent “the tip of the iceberg,” because they list only the pedestrians who ended up at the hospital, and not those who then visited a doctor’s office or clinic.