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Distracted Driving Is Very Dangerous

Distracted driving is any activity that diverts attention from driving, including talking or texting on your phone, eating and drinking, talking to people in your vehicle, flddling with the radio, entertainment or navigation system - anything that takes attention away from safe driving.

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month. I get questions all the time from parents worried about their kids, from kids worried about their parents, and everyone else. Distraction is not only dangerous, but it can also be deadly. Here are some 2015 statistics involving distracted drivers from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:

  • 3477 people were killed during distracted driving
  • 391,000 people were injured during distracted driving
  • 660,000 drivers are using cell phones while driving

The National Safety Council lists these Five Myths about Distracted Driving in this informative Infographic below:

  • Myth #1: Drivers Can Multitask -> Reality: You cannot totally focus on talking on the phone and safely driving. Trying to do both slows reaction time
  • Myth #2: Talking on a Cell Phone Is Just Like Speaking to a Passenger -> Reality: People in the car can help alert the driver to traffic problems. Those on a cell phone cannot.
  • Myth #3: Speaking Hands-Free Is Safe To Use While Driving -> Reality: Drivers on cell phones can miss seeing up to 50% of their driving environment including pedestrians and red lights
  • Myth #4: I Only Use My Phone At Stop Lights So It's Ok -> Reality: You're still distracted. In a recent study by AAA, people are distracted 27 seconds after they finish sending a voice text.
  • Myth #5: Voice-To-Text is Safe To Do While Driving -> Reality: Actually it's not. If thinking and sending the text is not distracting enough, the autocorrect (or lack of it) will drive you nuts!

With May's upcoming Graduation and Prom season quickly coming upon us, you need to know the facts about distracted driving. If you want more information, check out the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the National Safety Council, and the Distracted Driving Awareness month website.

NEOMED Social Media Talk 2017

I'm honored to be a guest of the medical student organization Physicians for Social Responsibility at the Northeast Ohio Medical University. I'll be giving a talk at the university on March 22, 2017. The slides I'll be using are below. I'll be posting more following the talk. If the embed doesn't work below, then click on my slideshare account right here.

Initial Reaction: ZDoggMD Launches Weekly FB Live Show

Tonight, Zubin Damania, MD, otherwise known to his legions of fans as ZDoggMD, took his popularity, passion, and activism to another level, with the launch of a weekly Facebook Live show called "Against Medical Advice," which is scheduled to air Sunday nights at 7pm Eastern time on his Facebook page.

"This is the show for the rest of us," he begins Episode 001, "The show for front line healthcare providers who, for too long, haven't had a voice." "This is your show," he continues, "We need to transform healthcare. If we don't do it, someone else will do it for us."

This initial 32 minute program is part pep rally, part Saturday Night Live skit, and part ZDogg travelogue. In this first episode, ZDogg visits HIMSS, the largest healthcare IT conference of the year. There's also a skit with "Doc Vader" ranting about current events. The last segment of the program is ZDogg at his best, connecting with his audience by responding to the flurry of FB comments happening during the live show.

If you don't have 32 minutes, the best stuff is in the first 6 minutes where he makes the case of why this show is needed. "This show is about the tribe of healthcare - trying to transform healthcare," his opening monologue starts. ZDogg then outlines the failed Healthcare 1.0 paternalistic and expensive model. "The world of Healthcare 2.0 includes the electronic health record which is a glorified cash register with a little patient stuff tacked on." "For Health 3.0, the frontline healthcare provider needs a voice, and that's what the show is about."

According to ZDogg, Health 3.0 is the return to personalized medicine which including the voice of the frontline healthcare worker, team based care, evidenced based medicine. Sound familiar? How about the ideas being talked about by Family Medicine For America's Health and the Health Is Primary campaign? (see videos below)

At its height, there were over 1,200 live viewers during the program. Right after the show ended, there were 38,000 views with over 1,200 FB 'reactions,' and 488 shares. At the time of this posting, which is about 2 hours after the show, there are over 60,000 views, 1,700 FB 'reactions,' 700 shares, and more than 1,200 FB comments.

This show has huge potential. I'm no expert, but here's what I'd like to see in the show (and maybe there are already plans for this). If the show is about the frontline healthcare worker, I'd love to see interviews with those people, like when ZDogg is on the road. I also hope that he does something similar with his shows, to what he does with his songs - have theme based shows. Would love to see a show, for example, on the opioid epidemic, and a content expert be interviewed on this. Finally, what ZDogg does best is connect with his audience. If/When FB Live allows people to "call in" like skype, would love to see him chat with a front like healthcare worker live during the show, and respond to FB live comments.

I don't care if you're a physician, a patient, a nurse, a social worker, a physical therapist, a pharmacist, or anyone else in the healthcare community. I believe we have to come together to have our voices be heard. And, I think that "Against Medical Advice" by ZDoggMD is a great way to do that.

Getting Ready For Daylight Saving Time

The beginning of March means getting closer to the first day of Spring. One of the things that symbolize this is "Springing Ahead" by turning the clocks one hour ahead for Daylight Saving Time.

Did you know that turning clocks head one hour is actually dangerous? Here are some of the less known consequences of sleep deprivation due to Daylight Saving Time:

  • Heart Attacks: The number of acute myocardial infarctions jumps 24 percent on the Monday after the time change, according to as study from the University of Colorado
  • Workplace Injuries: An examination of mining injuries from 1983 to 2006 revealed that the Monday after the time change, workers sustained more injuries and more severe injuries versus the rest of the year
  • Increased Car Accidents: Sleep deprivation can delay reaction time. Also sleep deprivation sometimes prevents you from making good decisions

Daylight Saving Time doesn't have to be so dangerous. Here are some tips to help you "Spring Forward" into Daylight Saving Time:

  • Gradual Transition Into The Time Change: Especially for those taking care of children, start now by putting your children to bed in 15 minutes early, and working towards one hour.
  • Avoid Bright Lights Before Bed: This includes TV, smartphones, and computers
  • Get Some Exercise During The Day: Aim for at least 30 minutes, most days of the week
  • Get Up If You Can't Sleep: If you've been awake for more than 20 minutes, get up, go to another room, and do something relaxing to help get you drowsy, like read a book

Thanks so much to WKBN-TV for posting the HD videos below. Also check out the article on their site, "Not Ready For Daylight Saving Time? Tips On How To Adjust To The Time Change"

Youngstown Northside Hospital Sold: Who Is Steward Health Care?

Today it was announced that Northside Medical Center in Youngstown, Ohio (the hospital in which I was born) is being sold, along with three other area hospitals to Steward Health Care of Boston from Community Health Systems company (WKBN). A total of eight hospitals in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida are included in this deal.

Who Is Steward Health Care? According to the Boston Globe, Steward Health Care System was founded in 2010 to take over the hospitals formerly run by the Archdiocese of Boston. Steward is a for-profit health care provider and is backed by Cerberus Capital Management.

Why did Steward buy these hospitals? Since entering the market in 2010, Steward has become one of the largest health systems in Massachusetts, according to the Boston Globe. On September 26 2016, the Boston Business Journal reported that "Steward Health Care announces national plan, $1.25 billion investment." Around that same time, Modern Healthcare reported on September 24, 2016, Community Health Systems, "Why one of the largest US hospital chains is dismantling itself." Sounded like the business perfect storm.

What's good about Steward? It seems to be able to turn losses into gains. In fiscal 2011, the first year of running the hospitals, Cerebrus reported a $14.6 million loss (modern healthcare). However, by 2015, the company showed an operating profit of $131 million (boston globe). During this process, Quincy Medical Center was closed in 2014. 

What's bad about Steward? In addition to closing the hospital above, Steward has been fined over $40,000 for failing to submit financial data on time to state agencies in Massachusetts. The Boston Globe states, "The company remains locked in a dispute with state officials over what financial information it must disclose." I'm no bureaucrat, but I would imagine Steward would have to submit financial information to Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida where they now own hospitals. Are more fines in the future?

What does this mean for the Youngstown, Ohio hospital market? For those locally here in the area, it is no secret that Northside Hospital has been struggling, even before Community Health Systems purchased them. Meanwhile, its local competitor, Mercy Health, has been expanding its presence in the Valley. In addition, regional competitors Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals of Cleveland have been trying to come in from the north, and University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) has been trying to come up from the south.

So, this area, like other areas in Ohio, is becoming a very competitive hospital market. What will be the fate of Northside Medical Center in Youngstown, Trumbull Memorial Hospital in Warren, Hillside Rehabilitation Hospital in Warren, and Sharon Regional Health System? Looking at the short history of Steward, and, let me tell ya, I'm no economist. But, my guess is that it's likely that one, or more than one of these four hospitals may be closing in the near future. Which one(s)? We'll see...

Second Child Dies From Flu Illness In Columbiana County

For the second time in two weeks, a child dies from influenza related illness in Columbiana County, Ohio. On Jan 28, 2017, CJ Avila from Salem, passed away. On Feb 11, 2017, Colton Williams from East Liverpool passed away at East Liverpool City Hospital.

According to the CDC, there have been 20 pediatric deaths nationally from influenza related illnesses. In Ohio, in addition to the two pediatric deaths here in Columbiana County, there was the death of a 6 year old girl in Cuyahoga County, and the death of a 7 year old girl in Fulton County.

In the past two weeks, I've been getting a lot of questions about influenza, especially with these deaths locally. Is it time to panic? Absolutely not! But, here is some information to know during this critical time.

Is it too late to get a flu shot? Absolutely not! Visit your doctor as soon as you can. However, you have to know that the flu shot does not immediately take effect. It may take up to two weeks for your immune system to respond. Until then, wash your hands frequently and utilize the other preventative measures below.

How does the flu spread? Flu viruses are thought to spread mainly from person to person through droplets made when people with the flu cough, sneeze, or talk. People infected may be able to infect others beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to 5-7 days after becoming sick.

What are everyday preventative actions?

  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • If you or your child gets sick with flu-like illness, CDC recommends that you (or your child) stay home for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone. The fever should be gone without use of medication.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Germs spread this way
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.

Thanks to WKBN-TV for including a soundbite in their report: "7-Year-Old East Liverpool Dies After Flu-Related Illness" from Feb 13, 2017

February Is American Heart Month

President Lyndon Johnson proclaimed the very first American Heart Month in February 1964 and it has been proclaimed every year since then. Even though we have made great strides in the diagnosis and treatment of heart disease, it remains the leading cause of death in the United States. Every year, one in four deaths are caused by heart disease. Here are some quick tips to remind you of your heart disease risk, symptoms of a heart attack, and what you can do to prevent heart disease.

What are the Risk Factors for Heart Disease?

  • High Blood Pressure
  • High Cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Family History of Heart Disease

What are the Symptoms of a Heart Attack?

  • Discomfort, pressure, or heaviness in the chest
  • Discomfort radiating to the back, jaw, throat, or arm
  • Sweating, nausea, vomiting, or dizziness
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat

What are the best steps to Prevent Heart Disease?

  • Regular checkups with your doctor
  • Stop smoking
  • Exercise about 30 minutes most days of the week
  • Eat a heart healthy diet
  • Get enough quality sleep

Of course, if you have any symptoms that resemble a heart attack, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room immediately. As I discussed previously, kick off the new year right, and make a visit to your family doctor and get your regular checkups and health screenings!

#SaveToledoFM - Show Your Support

There has been a lot of traditional media and social media support for the WW Knight Toledo Hospital Family Medicine Residency whose closure was announced less than 10 days ago.  For those on twitter, follow the hashtag #SaveToledoFM. And, you'll see from this blog, I've been writing a lot about the people affected in that area.

How can you show support? First, join and sign the petition on Change.org entitled, "Save W. W. Knight Family Practice Residency." In the first few days of the petition, they have garnered more than 1000 signatures. Join the cause and click on the image below.

Secondly, show your support on social media by taking a selfie with the #SaveToledoFM image created by the Ohio Academy of Family Physicians who placed the image on their facebook page. You can get the image by clicking on the image above or below. Show your support for #SaveToledoFM and post your selfie on twitter with the hashtag. Thanks for continuing to raise awareness for this important story!

Inauguration Day Thoughts

Stop reading this. Stop reading now. Unfriend me now. Unfollow me now. This blog post will neither gloat nor whine. This is not the blog post that you think. I am not a partisan. I am a pragmatist.

I admit that I'm a little bit of a political junkie. The first presidential inaugural I remember was in the 6th grade, when I was glued to the television watching Ronald Reagan, while the rest of the kids in the class were chatting at lunchtime. Fast forward to the 1992, when I was in college, and I remember seeing Bill Clinton & Al Gore exit the campaign bus in Youngstown, Ohio, and my friends and I were fascinated by the energy of the crowd. Fast forward again to 2009, when I watched the inauguration of Barack Obama on my computer screen, live video streaming as I was seeing patients that January day.

Now, it's January 20, 2017, and two simultaneous events will happen today, for which I will be very proud American. First, I have always been fascinated by the most peaceful transfer of power in the world. In many parts of the world, regime change sometimes involves the military, shots fired, and people killed. But, not in the United States where we have a presidential transition team, tradition and pageantry, honoring the past, and looking forward to the future.

The second event of which I will be most proud will be the great tradition of self expression and the right to protest. This week, in addition to news stories about the inauguration, there have also been stories about people who will be protesting the inauguration events. And, I have no problem with that. I'm proud that we have a country in which both events can occur at the same time. And, I have friends who will be participating in the inauguration, and I have friends who will be participating in the protests today, both in DC and on social media. Even though it seems like we're more divided than ever, my hope is that we can find common ground and some kind of civility will return to our nation.

#SaveToledoFM - TV Interviews

On January 16, 2017, one of the local television stations did a story called "ProMedica Cuts Family Practice Residency Program." In this interview are physicians Nate Balusik, Ann Steck, Lindsey Bostleman, and Stephanie Williams. Hopefully, this story is gaining traction, and more print and television media will start talking about #SaveToledoFM

Addendum: In addition, another local television statement did a story on the late local news called "ProMedica To Ramp Down Toledo Hospital Residency Program In Future." Our friend Dr. Holly Dickman gives a soundbite in this story, in addition to a patient of the residency protram, and a ProMedica administrator. The public relations war is on!