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A new approach to flu season

Covid-19   Diagnostics   Patient Care   Quality & Performance Improvement   Advice & Tips for Work   Research

Today’s Read: 3.5 minutes

UnitedHealthcare attempts to be proactive this flu season, a smartphone picks up on stroke symptoms, and shiftwork’s effects explained. Plus, a popular breast cancer hashtag is 10 years old.


UnitedHealthcare ships flu kits

In an effort to mitigate the effects of flu season on a healthcare system already taxed by Covid-19, UnitedHealthcare is sending at-risk patients flu kits that include Tamiflu, a digital thermometer, and a coronavirus P.C.R. diagnostic test. People can take the test at home and then mail it in for laboratory analysis, helping patients and doctors determine the cause of their symptoms. The New York Times reports that 200,000 kits will be sent to MediCareAdvantage members who have signed up to receive the packages.

And as for the legal aspects of doling out medication to a population that isn’t sick, members had to attest, either via phone or online form, that they wouldn’t take the Tamiflu or the coronavirus test until after a telemedicine appointment with their HCP. In addition, they agreed not to give the medication to others. However, there is no additional verification process once they receive their kits.

What do you think about this preemptive attack on the flu? Do you think it will help decrease caseload during flu season?

Your body on shift work

Those who work nights tend to be at higher risk for obesity, type 2 diabetes, and other diseases. Researchers at the University of Missouri might know why. Night-shift work creates confusion between cells in the body and the central clock in the brain. The result is a disruption of the synchronicity of the body’s systems that can cause increased insulin resistance and other health issues. Read more about the study and its implications here.

Identifying stroke symptoms via smartphone

When it comes to diagnosing a stroke, the options are either send the patient for head scans or call a neurologist. Researchers at Penn State and Houston Methodist Hospital have created a new tool that could diagnose a stroke with the accuracy of an ED provider based on abnormalities in a patient’s speech ability and facial muscular movements within minutes of interacting with a smartphone. 

This novel approach analyzes emergency room patients with suspicion of stroke by using computational facial motion analysis and natural language processing to identify abnormalities in a patient’s face or voice, such as a drooping cheek or slurred speech. Researchers found that its performance achieved 79% accuracy—comparable to clinical diagnostics by emergency room doctors, who use additional tests such as CT scans. Despite its lower accuracy, the model could help save valuable time in diagnosing a stroke, with the ability to assess a patient in as little as four minutes and greatly increased accessibility.

Lessons from 9 years of #BCSM

A UCLA-led review of nine years of social media posts under the hashtag #BCSM suggests that Twitter can be a useful resource not only for patients, but also for healthcare professionals and researchers. The hashtag, which stands for “breast cancer social media,” first appeared on Twitter in 2011. In that first year, it was used 27,700 times. In 2019, #BCSM was used 145,600 times, an increase of 424%.

The Journal of Patient-Centered Research and Reviews study reveals that as social media increasingly became a part of everyday life, more people with breast cancer turned to online communities for support and education. In addition, the hashtag made it easy for family members, patient advocates, healthcare professionals, researchers, journalists, and others to source good information.

In particular, the #BCSM gave healthcare providers insight into the patient’s perspective and a better understanding of the patient’s many issues since patients’ online interactions are more honest and raw compared to exam room interactions. In addition, professionals had the opportunity to correct misconceptions, provide guidance to people with breast cancer, and steer them toward credible resources in real-time, the researchers said.

Do you follow health-related hashtags on social media? Which ones and why? How have they helped you?



The number of people who could die between September and February if states shut down social interaction and some economic activity for six weeks. If 95% of the population adheres to wearing face coverings and social distancing, that number decreases to 381,000, a study published in Nature Medicine suggests.


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