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Buckhead country club allegedly hid 2 restaurants from health department

A whistleblower accused a Buckhead country club of hiding two restaurants from the health department, Channel 2 Action News reported.

A former employee of the Capital City Country Club, who asked to remain anonymous, told Channel 2 he was fired after complaining to managers about being asked to hide from health inspectors.

“They hurriedly asked us to clean off all the tables and hide in the back,” he said. “(The manager) said the inspector is here, and they’re not supposed to know that this restaurant is running.”

An inspector returned to the country club, which straddles the borders of Buckhead and Brookhaven, after the man told the health department about the alleged hidden restaurant.

The Fulton County Board of Health spokesman Ellis “Eli” Jones sent Channel 2 a statement on the incident: “One of the inspectors discovered two facilities without a permit at the club as a result of the complaint. Legal notices were issued, and they have 10 business days to come into compliance.”

A country club spokeswoman, Mira Hale, sent the news station the following statement regarding the situation:

“The Capital City Club takes very seriously the health and safety of all its members and guests who utilize the dining facilities at all three club locations. We have always been cooperative and compliant with the Fulton County Board of Health. The Club is in the process of reviewing the information from the health department and is taking every step necessary to comply with its requests. For many years, including 2018, our dining facilities have received A ratings and have stellar track records. We hope to immediately resolve the request for information.”

The former employee said he was fired last week, and he believes it was because he complained about the alleged cover-up. Hale said the country club wouldn’t comment on personnel issues to Channel 2.

The health department said it wouldn’t speculate on why the restaurants were not disclosed, but they said the act is common in Fulton County to save money by avoiding paying for the permits.

In other news:


Article source: https://www.ajc.com/news/crime--law/buckhead-country-club-allegedly-hid-restaurants-from-health-department/P9gPghIyxHlpl6DPagiK8I/

Fiat Chrysler replaces Sergio Marchionne at the helm amid health struggles, ending impressive near 10-year run

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Sergio Marchionne, the maverick auto executive who created and oversaw nearly a decade of post-bailout growth at Fiat Chrysler, has been replaced as CEO amid ongoing health struggles.

The Fiat Chrysler board of directors made the move following Marchionne’s shoulder surgery three weeks ago, but did not give specifics about his condition. The Italian-born Marchionne will also exit his dual CEO role at Ferrari, the race car manufacturer spun off from Fiat more than 2 years ago.

In a statement, the company said that “while Mr. Marchionne was recovering from surgery,” his health has “worsened significantly in recent hours.” The company added that Marchionne will not be returning to work. He is being replaced by Mike Manley, who has run the Jeep brand for several years.

The move came just days before Fiat Chrysler is scheduled to report second quarter earnings. While the transition will generate plenty of questions from analysts and reporters, it is not expected to impact the automaker’s report.

Marchionne’s departure from the C-suite marks the end of one of the most successful runs ever by an auto industry CEO. Almost a decade ago, Marchionne orchestrated Fiat’s acquisition of Chrysler out of a bankruptcy overseen by the U.S. government. At the time, several members of the Obama administration were lobbying to let Chrysler collapse and go out of business, but Marchionne convinced them to let Fiat buy the beaten down automaker, thereby saving thousands of jobs.

After acquiring Chrysler, Marchionne immediately set out to rebuild the auto company by focusing on an aggressive expansion of the Jeep and Ram brands, while spending less on the Dodge and Chrysler brands. That decision, which coincided with U.S. auto buyers seeking more SUV’s and pickup trucks, helped Fiat Chrysler more than double its U.S. sales since 2009. Marchionne also oversaw the wildly successful IPO of Fiat Chrysler’s ultra-luxury brand Ferrari.

Despite concerns by Ferrari fans that Marchionne would damage the brand as he expanded sales, the opposite has happened. That’s lead to spectacular run in shares of Ferrari: Since its IPO in October of 2015, the stock has almost tripled in value. In the last year, shares of RACE are up 37 percent.

Phil Lebeau

A big overlooked flaw with health tech: Patients hate going to the doctor

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Digital health is one of the hottest spaces for investment, with companies raising $1.6 billion in venture capital in the first quarter of 2018 alone. Apple, Alphabet and Amazon are also making moves in the space with their own health-tracking apps and devices.

These companies are getting really good at screening populations of people for health problems before they develop into serious medical issues.

But they struggle to help patients with greater medical needs.

Medical experts say that digital health can’t do much for users that are already sick, or at high risk of a serious medical condition. Many of these companies won’t diagnose disease for regulatory reasons, even if they’re picking up strong signals through sensors and algorithms, so instead they’ll suggest that a user see their doctor.

That’s the case with smart watches from Apple and Fitbit, which are increasingly picking up on serious problems like sleep apnea, a sleep breathing issue, and atrial fibrillation, a heart rhythm disorder, but can’t do much more than steer these patients to medical care.

The glaring problem? Patients do not like going to the doctor.

Ample studies have found that many avoid it because the experience sucks, while others are put off by the cost.

“All the things done well by digital health — they’re simple, fun, visual with great user experience — are still missing from most clinical visits — so it remains pretty unpleasant to be a patient,” said Jeffrey Wessler, a cardiology fellow at Columbia University Medical Center and the founder of a digital health company called Heartbeat.

“To me, this gap gets closed by bringing the clinical experience up to the same standards as our digital health solutions.”

In other words, digital health companies need to get inside the clinic or hospital through partnerships or new products, rather than just focusing on the experience outside of traditional health care.

Wessler is moving in that direction with Heartbeat which is leveraging existing digital health solutions but also rethinking the in-person primary care experience to help people at risk for heart disease.

Others in the medical sector agree this is a serious problem that needs to be addressed.

Digital health today is hampered by this “see your doctor” endpoint, explains Joel Dudley, director of the Institute for Next Generation Healthcare at Mount Sinai.

He believes that the industry can move from acting as a “funnel or a stopgap rather than a revolution,” once the right pieces are in place.

One potential solution will be to incorporate telemedicine, or virtual doctor’s visits, into the experience of care so that patients can immediately get a phone call or video consult. And that way, digital health companies can be assured that they’ve at least talked to a medical expert, rather than ignored the problem.

Doctors can also learn from digital health apps and services by improving their practices so that patients won’t dread or avoid an upcoming visit.

If this gap isn’t closed, he fears, “digital health solutions will really just create more separation between patient and care provider.”

US Health Care Companies Begin Exploring Blockchain Technologies

The sprawling US health care industry has trouble managing patient information: Every doctor, medical office, hospital, pharmacy, therapist and insurance company needs different pieces of data to properly care for patients. These records are scattered all over on each business’s computers—and some no doubt in filing cabinets too. They’re not all kept up to date with current information, as a person’s prescriptions change or new X-rays are taken, and they’re not easily shared from one provider to another.

For instance, in Boston alone, medical offices use more than two dozen different systems for keeping electronic health records. None of them can directly communicate with any of the others, and all of them present opportunities for hackers to steal, delete or modify records either individually or en masse. In an emergency, doctors may not be able to get crucial medical information because it’s stored somewhere else. That can result in direct harm to patients.

There might be a way out, toward a health care system where patients have accurate and updated records that are secure against tampering or snooping, and with data that can be shared quickly and easily with any provider who needs it. In my work on health care innovation at the Center for Health Law Studies, at Saint Louis University School of Law, I have been following the rise of a technology that may help us address the weaknesses in today’s health care record-keeping: blockchain.

A Secure System to Store Private Information

Blockchain systems, best known in connection with cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, are networks of databases stored in different places that use securely encrypted messages to connect with each other over the internet. Information can’t be deleted, but it can be updated—though only by authorized users, whose identities are recorded along with their actions.

That would keep years of patient data secure and make any human errors in data entry easy to track down and correct. Patients themselves could review and update information, and even add new information they collect or observe about their own conditions. Both hacking and fraud would be extremely difficult.

There are many blockchain systems, each with its own security methods and practices, but developers are working to help them connect with each other, working out how to make the process of collecting records much cheaper and faster than today.

Helping Patients and Practitioners

Blockchain can also help other areas of the health care industry. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are developing blockchain-based systems to share data on threatening pathogens, analyze outbreaks, and manage the response to public health crises. Some commentators have even suggested that a blockchain system might help track opioid use and abuse.

Clinical trials, too, may benefit from blockchain. Today, patchy data and inefficient communication among all players involved in clinical trials pose serious problems. The drug discovery and development processes could see similar benefits.

Pharmaceutical companies currently monitor drug shipments and delivery through an inefficient web of scattered databases. In 2017, Pfizer and other drugmakers announced their support for MediLedger, seeking to transfer those tasks to a blockchain—which Walmart is already doing to track its food shipments.

First Steps in the US

In addition to the major pharmaceutical companies’ supply-tracking experiment, other major US health-care companies are beginning to explore blockchain technology. In early 2018, five of the country’s largest health-care companies started using a blockchain system to collect data on health-care providers’ demographics.

What’s most striking about this collaboration—including a medical claim processor and a national medical testing lab—is that it includes major health insurers that directly compete against each other: Humana and the UnitedHealth Group. That signals a potential shift toward industry-wide approaches to handling health care data.

Europe Takes the Lead

Europe offers some examples and useful guides for US efforts to use blockchains in health care.

In 2016, the European Union began funding a multinational collaboration with privacy companies and leading research universities to build a blockchain system that would aggregate and share biomedical information between health care organizations and individual patients all across the EU. Among other things, this would offer patients secure personal health data accounts online, accessible from computers and mobile devices.

Using a similarly collaborative approach, Sweden recently began rolling out an interoperable blockchain health data platform called CareChain. CareChain is being publicized as “infrastructure that is owned and controlled by no one and everyone.” Companies and individual people can use the system to store health information from disparate sources. The system also lets developers create apps and services that can access the information, to analyze users’ data and offer them tips, ideas and products to improve their health.

Offering an idea of what’s possible is Estonia, which since 2012 has been using blockchain technology to secure health care data and transactions, including putting 95 percent of health data in electronic form. All of the country’s health care billing is handled electronically, and 99 percent of its prescriptions are digital.The ConversationThat’s a future the US could look forward to, as it experiments on its own and learns from the experience of these existing projects.

Image Credit: Guschenkova / Shutterstock.com

Ana Santos Rutschman, Assistant Professor of Law, Saint Louis University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Article source: https://singularityhub.com/2018/07/20/us-health-care-companies-begin-exploring-blockchain-technologies/

How Mental Health Apps Are Messing With Our Heads

Photo: VisualHunt

Even before you download an app to help you meditate, or to manage your depression, it’s speaking to you. Apps’ marketing often implies that everyday stresses should be seen as mental health issues, and that you’re on your own (with the help of the app, of course) to fix whatever is wrong with you.

These messages kept turning up in the 61 apps that were reviewed in a recent study led by Lisa Parker of the University of Sydney. I spoke with her about what some of these messages are, and why they’re problematic.

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You’re on Your Own

The mere existence of apps implies that you and the app can, together, solve your problems. That goes double if the app was recommended by your therapist or doctor.

But social support is hugely important—having a support network can help you manage your mental health better, and you might need professional help as well. The apps were largely silent on that, Parker says. Meanwhile, the reasons you’re having mental health issues in the first place might have something to do with factors in your life you can’t fully control. There’s a fine line between focusing on what you have the power to control, and feeling bad that you haven’t managed to control things you can’t control.

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You’re also on your own when it comes to determining whether the app is appropriate for you at all, but how are you supposed to know? For example, Pacifica states: “We give no representation or warranties about the accuracy, completeness, or suitability for any purpose [of our] advice.” So the responsibility is all on you. That’s a lot for someone who’s seeking help.

Not Everything Is a Mental Health Problem

We all have stresses and disappointments in our life. If you have a mental health issue, these stresses can exacerbate or trigger your symptoms—for example, a deadline can set off a panic attack or an afternoon of unfocused worrying. (Ask me how I know.) But that doesn’t mean that anyone who worries about a deadline has a mental illness.

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Some apps reviewed in the study described mental health issues in terms of everyday problems, like feeling tired or irritated. Some implied that you had a problem if you weren’t happy and positive all the time. And others defined mental health problems in a way that included not achieving success in some area of life, like schoolwork or relationships.

None of these amount to symptoms of mental illness, except as part of a bigger picture. For example, if you’re so depressed you can’t do your homework, then sure, you’ll fall behind at school.

Constant talk about being “at risk of” mental illness is also potentially problematic. “I worry about that message,” says Parker, because it gives the impression that human beings are fragile. You’re not going to accidentally slip into mental illness just because you didn’t use an app.

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The People in the Apps May Be Nothing Like You

Apps make assumptions about their users. Even though mental health issues cut across boundaries of race, class, and more, most of the apps seemed to assume that their users are white, middle class, employed, and part of a loving family. “Even something as simple as a mindfulness app, they show white people with families going to the orchestra,” Parker says.

That’s okay if you fit that profile, but many folks don’t. If you’re in a marginalized group to begin with, scrolling through all of these apps can make you feel even more alone. And if you’re dealing with serious stresses, like poverty or homelessness, your life may look very different from the idyllic images in the apps.

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Apps Want You to Keep Using the App

Some apps include a test to help you figure out whether you have a condition the app can help with. Parker is wary of these, because they’re likely to be biased toward whatever will keep you using the app. If you don’t have a problem, then you could be wasting your time. And if you do have a serious problem, you could end up delaying treatment because you’re hoping the app will help.

Apps also want you interacting with them a lot. Maybe there are reminders every day (or several times a day) to check in. Maybe they end up making you feel bad for not sticking with your program. Even if an app is helpful, it may not be worth all of the time and effort that it requires.

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How to Find the Least Bad Apps

There aren’t any solid rules that can lead you to the right app. There may not be a perfect app for you, since few to none of the apps currently available have been tested to see if they improve users’ mental health.

If you must use an app, Parker says, it helps to know about the messages they’re sending, so you can spot them and question them rather than letting them seep in and make you feel discouraged. She recommends watching out for privacy issues, ad tracking, or subscriptions that you’ll forget to cancel. Decide what you’re trying to get out of the app—say, meditation tracks to help you relax—and choose an app that provides just that.

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The American Psychiatric Association has a guide to evaluating mental health apps, but it’s made for therapists and is a bit vague. You’re supposed to do background research on whether the company is one you’re comfortable doing business with; pore through the privacy policy; determine whether there’s any evidence it will actually work; and then consider whether it’s easy to use and whether you can share data from patient to therapist.

Unfortunately, none of these are easy tasks. How do you know what’s worth worrying about in a privacy policy? Do you really know if the app maker is trustworthy? And by the way, almost none of the apps you can download have any evidence base to tell whether they work.

So we’re kind of on our own—exactly when we shouldn’t be. Personally I’ve found meditation apps to be helpful when I need to relax, so I’ll keep using them, but I’ll pay more attention to the messages they send. Mental health apps aren’t automatically all bad (especially if yours comes recommended by a therapist) but it’s important to notice what it tells you and not take the messages for granted.

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Article source: https://vitals.lifehacker.com/how-mental-health-apps-are-messing-with-our-heads-1827727989

Turning Vacant Lots Into Green Spaces Can Improve Mental Health. Here’s How

Researchers have long touted the mood-boosting effects of green space and spending time outdoors — and a new study emphasizes just how much of an impact your environment can have on your mental health.

The paper, published Friday in JAMA Network Open, found an association between urban restoration efforts in Philadelphia and the mental health of city residents. “Cleaning and greening” urban lots in Philadelphia was linked to a drop in neighborhood residents feeling depressed or worthless, and a slight uptick in overall resident mental health, the study says.

“Vacant lot greening is a very simple structural intervention that’s relatively low-cost and that can have a potentially wide or broad population impact,” says study co-author Dr. Eugenia South, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine. “Performing simple interventions to the neighborhood environment has an impact on health.”

For the study, a team of researchers identified 541 vacant lots in Philadelphia and divided them into clusters: groups of lots within a quarter-mile radius that all showed signs of urban blight, like illegal dumping, abandoned cars and overgrown vegetation. Next, they interviewed 442 adults living within one of these clusters. People were told they had been chosen for a study focused on “improving our understanding of urban health,” and answered questions about mental health. They did not know the researchers were involved in forthcoming urban greening efforts.

After the initial surveys were completed, the researchers randomly selected 37 lot clusters for a greening intervention that involved removing trash and debris, planting grass and trees, installing a fence and performing routine maintenance. Another 36 clusters had trash removed and minor maintenance, but little in the way of increasing green space. The final 37 were left untouched.

Within 18 months of completing the restoration efforts, the researchers re-interviewed 342 of the original study participants, about a third of whom lived near one of the clusters assigned to the greening intervention. Compared to people who lived near lots with no improvements, these people experienced a 41% drop in depressive feelings and an almost 51% drop in feelings of worthlessness. Overall improvements to mental health didn’t quite reach statistical significance, but South says the researchers are “pretty confident that people are experiencing better mental health.”

The study’s results suggest that there’s something special about green space, as people living near a lot cluster that only went through trash removal did not see significant mental health benefits.

“The green space in and of itself is important,” South says. “There are several mechanisms through which that’s proposed to happen, including increased social connections and recovery from mental fatigue and coping with general life stress. The fact that it’s green space, and not, say, a parking lot, is important. The wooden fence also matters: That fence kind of delineates the space as a space that is now being cared for — it’s a space that people are paying attention to.”

MORE: Why Hiking Is The Perfect Mind-Body Workout

Greening was particularly impactful for people living in neighborhoods falling below the poverty line. “The poorer neighborhoods are the most hard-hit, as far as the neighborhood environment being dilapidated and run down,” South says. “Those people are potentially the people who have the biggest health impact from the neighborhood environment, so making changes to this environment could have the biggest impact on them.”

Taken together, the results suggest that urban greening could offer a real opportunity for cities looking to improve population mental health, especially since it only cost about $1,600 to transform an abandoned lot, and $180 per year to maintain it, South says. She and her colleagues are already working with the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society to implement the program more widely in Philadelphia and says other cities have also expressed interest.

“This is not an end-all and be-all treatment for depression in any way — this goes along with other individual patient treatments — but when you think about the amount of money [spent on mental health care], it’s a pretty low-cost intervention,” South says.

 

Article source: http://time.com/5341975/urban-greening-depression-study/

How Genetics Can Help Your Financial Health

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Article source: https://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/the-smarter-mutual-fund-investor/articles/2018-07-19/how-genetics-can-help-your-financial-health

Texas health building invaded by mold, raising health concerns

Only one word comes to mind looking at photos that Texas Department of State Health Services employees took of gray, green and brown-hued mold dotting their office furniture: Ew.

As of July 10, as many as 127 state workers have been affected by mold in the building, with some finding mold infiltrating their desks, chairs and keyboard hand rests in the Austin State Hospital 636 building. Mold also spotted the carpet. One state worker even found mold on shoes left in the office. As a result, employees whose job it is to analyze data on tuberculosis, HIV and sexually transmitted diseases in Texas have lately found themselves also researching what kind of health risks their own offices might pose.

The state agency has tried to ward off the mold — with little success. A department staff memo, emails obtained by The Texas Tribune and inquiries to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission and Department of State Health Services reveal $15,721.19 spent on dehumidifiers and a mold assessment, and some workers placed on emergency leave or relocated to vacant cubicles or a nearby building. The agency is even planning for Ketki Patel, a department epidemiologist who specializes in occupational health, to lead QA forums about mold in the workplace.

“It is very distressing for me (and much more so for you) that there are so many significant building issues in ASH 636, particularly the high humidity and mold,” wrote Janna Zumbrun, associate commissioner for Laboratory and Infectious Disease Services for the Department of State Health Services, in a June 27 email to staff members.

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Are you a state employee working in substandard conditions? We want your stories — and photos — of bugs, mold, rodents and other maintenance issues you’ve encountered.

Contact us at tips@texastribune.org

The mold, which officials at the Texas Health and Human Services Commission and the Texas Department of State Health Services confirmed to the Tribune, is another setback in Texas state agencies’ losing battle with building maintenance issues, which have forced them to spend money from their budgets to contract out for help. Another example emerged last year when the Texas Health and Human Services Commission said its Austin building was overrun by “several hundred rats.” Typically, the Texas Facilities Commission handles maintenance issues, but Texas Health and Human Services Commission officials say the facilities agency isn’t involved with fighting the mold problem.

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission, which oversees the Department of State Health Services, hired Baer Engineering and Environmental Consulting to conduct a mold assessment in late June. That cost $4,826.24, according to Kelli Weldon, a spokesperson for the agency.

The Baer Engineering mold assessment report, obtained by the Tribune, found “visible suspect mold was observed on desks, cabinets, chairs, carpet, walls, and around skylights.” The report found that throughout the dozen areas inside the building where samples were taken there was mold visibly seen or detected. Baer Engineering noted that the building’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning system was a factor, since “cycling at nights and weekends is causing temperature and humidity issues that promote mold growth.”

The company recommended the agency either professionally clean or toss all furniture contaminated by mold; remove and replace damaged drywall walls in three areas of the building; keep the humidity at or below 65 percent or the temperature at 82 degrees Fahrenheit; and have the building ventilation evaluated by a specialist.

The Department of State Health Services has so far spent $10,894.95 alone on dehumidifiers to fight the mold. As of July 2, the agency is renting six large dehumidifiers — $90 each for a total of $540 per day — so far racking up $9,720. In addition, the agency purchased five small dehumidifiers for $1,174.95.

Lara Anton, a spokesperson for the Texas Department of State Health Services, said in an emailed statement that the agency is “concerned about the health and safety of our employees” and asked for the mold assessment.

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“We recently received the results of the assessment and we have begun implementing the recommendations to improve the indoor air quality in the building, including removal of furniture with mold on it and instructing the cleaning staff to thoroughly wipe down all surfaces on a regular basis,” Anton said.


A Texas Department of State Health Service employee found mold on an office mousepad in June 2018.

A Texas Department of State Health Service employee found mold on an office mousepad in June 2018.
Obtained by The Texas Tribune

She said the agency is working to move people out of the affected areas to other open spaces and other short-term space “while continuing the preexisting search for long-term office space to house those employees.”

Seth Hutchinson, vice president of the Texas State Employees Union, said broken elevators, leaks, mice, cockroaches and electrical outages in state buildings are common problems he hears about from members. He said state workers can talk to their supervisors about these problems but nothing happens without proper funding.

“All of these issues are rampant throughout the state and state office buildings because the Legislature is not putting the money toward these maintenance problems,” Hutchinson said.

One staff member, who requested anonymity for fear of being fired, told the Tribune that department employees have expressed exasperation with how the agency has expected business to proceed as usual during the mold problem. Staffers who found mold on their chairs have been using whichever mold-free ones they can find around the office.

State workers have dreaded showing up to work, the staff member said. Employees try to wipe down any mold that’s visible but, according to the worker, “in terms of mold in the air, who knows.”

“To me, the scariest part is that you actually have people who have mold allergies,” the worker said. “There’s one person I know who has mold allergies and he just couldn’t breathe.”

Employees have also complained about how it took the agency three weeks from a recent mold sighting last month to get a contractor to come in. They’re also frustrated that there’s been no permanent fix to what they described as the office’s longtime humidity problem.

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“They haven’t really done much to try and actually fix the actual problem or find the actual problem,” the employee said.

Felipe Rocha, director of the TB/HIV/STD Section under the Texas Department of State Health Services, told staff in an email on June 6 that the department would relocate people into cubicles divvied up around the office and in another building about five minutes away. He noted it would be “conducive” for staff who have a laptop and can use Wi-Fi.

“I would consider you working remotely elsewhere but there needs to be a compelling reason for it,” Rocha said.


A Texas Department of State Health Services employee found mold on an office chair in June 2018.

A Texas Department of State Health Services employee found mold on an office chair in June 2018.
Obtained by The Texas Tribune

Other employees who need to stay home but haven’t been approved to work there would need to request emergency leave, he said.

Currently, three employees are on emergency leave. Anton said in an email that the agency doesn’t know how many employees are unable to work from home, saying only a limited number of employees have agency-issued laptops.

Rocha wrote in a June 7 email to employees that fans and a large dehumidifier had been brought into the office. Plus, housekeeping staff was applying an enzyme solution to the carpet “to keep any additional mold from growing.”

“What type of testing will be done to confirm that mold is no longer growing in my workspace?,” one employee replied to Rocha. “It is very important to me because I have a severe mold allergy and will need to confirm no more mold.”

Rocha responded to the employee that Patel, the epidemiologist who specializes in occupational health, was providing resources and that Rocha would be discussing testing with her and Zumbrun, the associate commissioner. The next day he emailed that the commission ordered two dehumidifiers.

The Department of State Health Services’ web page on indoor air quality warns about the risk of mold, saying its presence in a home “is an unsanitary condition that may present potential health risks to occupants.” Some health side effects, according to the site, include allergic reactions, respiratory problems, nasal congestion, eye irritation, coughing, skin rashes, headaches and fatigue.

The site says health issues from mold “depend on the amounts and types of mold present, the length and frequency of exposure, and the sensitivity and health condition of exposed individuals.” Those most at risk of severe symptoms include people with allergies or asthma, people with weakened immune systems, young children and the elderly.

“I know that this situation has been incredibly disruptive and that the mold has also affected different staff in different ways,” Rocha said in a June 21 email. “Some staff may have had their allergies exacerbated and others have seemingly not been affected at all.”

According to a Rocha email on June 22, a mold assessment consultant from Baer Engineering set up data loggers to track temperature and humidity readings. A follow-up email from Rocha after a staff meeting about the mold problem noted that the consultant would return at the beginning of the week to collect mold samples from the carpet and chairs.

Rocha wrote at the end of the email, “P.S. Don’t forget to turn off the dehumidifiers.”

In recent weeks, the agency has opted to keep them on at all times on weekdays and weekends.

But that’s becoming another point of contention in the mold saga. On July 11, the power went out in the TB/HIV/STD Section.

“We have noticed that sometimes power is going off in certain cubicles and pods so we may end up having to amend our plan to continuously run the dehumidifier,” Rocha wrote in a July 11 email to workers.

In addition, with the dehumidifiers running at all hours, employees are being put on rotation to empty them — even on weekends.

“Shelley and Jonathon will coordinate putting together a schedule of staff to assist with this duty,” Rocha wrote. “I am sure they will take volunteers.”

More troubling for employees is that the whole ordeal feels like deja vu. In May 2017, staffers were told Baer Engineering had not found a mold issue in Suite 1102 of the Austin State Hospital 636 building.

According to Baer Engineering’s report at the time, there was a “musty and stuffy feel” but “no indication of a mold concern at the time of this assessment.” However, Baer Engineering said the office’s high humidity meant there was “a higher than normal chance of future mold growth.”

On June 2, 2017, one employee wrote they weren’t convinced.

“There is black mold on the middle refrigerator next to Justin’s office, and the mini-fridge in the pump room has been largely colonized on the magnetic seal (which doesn’t seal well),” the employee said in an email obtained by the Tribune. “There may not be mold circulating in the air, but there is definitely mold in the building.”

Article source: https://www.texastribune.org/2018/07/19/texas-health-building-invaded-mold-placing-state-workers-risk/

US Health Care Companies Begin Exploring Blockchain Technologies

The following essay is reprinted with permission from The Conversation, an online publication covering the latest research.

The sprawling U.S. health care industry has trouble managing patient information: Every doctor, medical office, hospital, pharmacy, therapist and insurance company needs different pieces of data to properly care for patients. These records are scattered all over on each business’s computers—and some no doubt in filing cabinets too. They’re not all kept up to date with current information, as a person’s prescriptions change or new X-rays are taken, and they’re not easily shared from one provider to another.

For instance, in Boston alone, medical offices use more than two dozen different systems for keeping electronic health records. None of them can directly communicate with any of the others, and all of them present opportunities for hackers to steal, delete or modify records either individually or en masse. In an emergency, doctors may not be able to get crucial medical information because it’s stored somewhere else. That can result in direct harm to patients.

There might be a way out, toward a health care system where patients have accurate and updated records that are secure against tampering or snooping, and with data that can be shared quickly and easily with any provider who needs it. In my work on health care innovation at the Center for Health Law Studies, at Saint Louis University School of Law, I have been following the rise of a technology that may help us address the weaknesses in today’s health care record-keeping: blockchain.

A secure system to store private information

Blockchain systems, best known in connection with cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, are networks of databases stored in different places that use securely encrypted messages to connect with each other over the internet. Information can’t be deleted, but it can be updated—though only by authorized users, whose identities are recorded along with their actions.

That would keep years of patient data secure and make any human errors in data entry easy to track down and correct. Patients themselves could review and update information, and even add new information they collect or observe about their own conditions. Both hacking and fraud would be extremely difficult.

There are many blockchain systems, each with its own security methods and practices, but developers are working to help them connect with each other, working out how to make the process of collecting records much cheaper and faster than today.

Helping patients and practitioners

Blockchain can also help other areas of the health care industry. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are developing blockchain-based systems to share data on threatening pathogens, analyze outbreaks, and manage the response to public health crises. Some commentators have even suggested that a blockchain system might help track opioid use and abuse.

Clinical trials, too, may benefit from blockchain. Today, patchy data and inefficient communication among all players involved in clinical trials pose serious problems. The drug discovery and development processes could see similar benefits.

Pharmaceutical companies currently monitor drug shipments and delivery through an inefficient web of scattered databases. In 2017, Pfizer and other drugmakers announced their support for MediLedger, seeking to transfer those tasks to a blockchain—which Walmart is already doing to track its food shipments.

First steps in the US

In addition to the major pharmaceutical companies’ supply-tracking experiment, other major U.S. health-care companies are beginning to explore blockchain technology. In early 2018, five of the country’s largest health-care companies started using a blockchain system to collect data on health-care providers’ demographics.

What’s most striking about this collaboration—including a medical claim processor and a national medical testing lab—is that it includes major health insurers that directly compete against each other: Humana and the UnitedHealth Group. That signals a potential shift toward industry-wide approaches to handling health care data.

Europe takes the lead

Europe offers some examples and useful guides for U.S. efforts to use blockchains in health care.

In 2016, the European Union began funding a multinational collaboration with privacy companies and leading research universitiesto build a blockchain system that would aggregate and share biomedical information between health care organizations and individual patients all across the EU. Among other things, this would offer patients secure personal health data accounts online, accessible from computers and mobile devices.

Using a similarly collaborative approach, Sweden recently began rolling out an interoperable blockchain health data platform called CareChain. CareChain is being publicized as “infrastructure that is owned and controlled by no one and everyone.” Companies and individual people can use the system to store health information from disparate sources. The system also lets developers create apps and services that can access the information, to analyze users’ data and offer them tips, ideas and products to improve their health.

Offering an idea of what’s possible is Estonia, which since 2012 has been using blockchain technology to secure health care data and transactions, including putting 95 percent of health data in electronic form. All of the country’s health care billing is handled electronically, and 99 percent of its prescriptions are digital.

That’s a future the U.S. could look forward to, as it experiments on its own and learns from the experience of these existing projects.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Article source: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/u-s-health-care-companies-begin-exploring-blockchain-technologies/

Hu-manity wants to create a health data marketplace with help from blockchain

Imagine a world where you could sell your medical information to a drug company on your terms for a specific purpose like a drug trial. Then imagine you could restrict the company from using that data for anything else, including selling it to other medical data brokers, and enforcing those ownership rules on the blockchain.

That’s what Hu-manity.co, a data ownership startup wants to do and they are putting the pieces in place to create a data marketplace. This is not an easy problem to solve, but co-founder and CEO Richie Etwaru, sees it as a crucial cultural shift in how we treat data.

Etwaru, who wrote a book on using the blockchain and smart contracts in a business context called Blockchain Trust Companies, sees the blockchain as just a small piece of a much broader solution. It can provide a rules engine and enforcement mechanism, but he doesn’t see this as the gist of the company at all.

For Etwaru and Hu-manity it’s about viewing your data as your property, and giving you legal control of it. “We’re starting with the idea that your data is your digital property, and we are allowing you to have the equivalent of a title, like you have for your car,” he explained.

You may be wondering how they can bring this notion to business, which after all has been allowed to use your data for some time without your explicit permission, never mind pay you for it under a set of specific contractual terms. To achieve that, Hu-manity wants to create large pools of users that would make it attractive to the data buyers.

“We are pooling large communities together to be able to notify corporations that don’t respect digital data streams of property, because they take a very business centric view of regulations to opt out, then invite them back into a property centric view of data within the new terms and conditions defined by the marketplace,” he said.

They are starting with health data because Etwaru says that this data is often sold for medical studies, whether you know it or not — albeit with PII removed. The other thing besides market pressure, which could drive companies like big pharma to make contracts with individuals to buy their data, is that they get much better data when they understand the whole patient. Even if they could figure out who the patient is, and it’s becoming increasingly possible with digital fingerprinting, they are legally prohibited from contacting an individual to correct the record or to get a better understanding of their history.

Hu-manity plays a couple of roles here according to Etwaru, For starters, they are attaching a traceable title number to the data. Then they plan to set up the marketplace and help put the seller and buyer together, all the while providing a track and trace mechanism that allows the data owner to ensure their data is being used in a way they wish. In that sense, they are acting as a broker between buyer and seller.

Interestingly, Etwaru admits there is no set market value for this data, at least as of yet, although he believes an individual’s medical data sets could sell for between $200-$400. For now, the company is working with a group of economists to determine the best way to approach pricing. He doesn’t believe it’s a good idea for individuals to negotiate their own terms, and that we should let these market cooperatives determine the value. His company will take 25 percent of the selling price as a brokerage fee, regardless of how it ultimately works.

The company was founded last spring and has raised $5.5 million on a $50 million valuation. There are many issues to work out before that happens, and many ways to stumble along the way, but the company has a compelling vision and it will be interesting to see if it can pull this together and gain market traction.

Article source: https://techcrunch.com/2018/07/18/hu-manity-wants-to-create-a-health-data-marketplace-with-help-from-blockchain/