Health Life

Telemedicine use disparity during COVID-19 among head and neck cancer patients

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

The use of telemedicine services has shown to be exceptionally effective in meeting the health care needs of patients throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. But an analysis by Henry Ford Health System found that socioeconomic factors may affect certain patient populations on how they use the technology for accessing care.

In a Research Letter published in the Journal of the American Medical Association’s Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery, Henry Ford researchers report that head and neck cancer patients who were , on Medicaid or uninsured were more likely to complete a virtual visit by telephone rather than by video. They also said women with a lower median household income were less likely to complete a telemedicine visit than men in the same income bracket.

Researchers said further study was needed to explain patients’ reticence with completing a video visit, which provides a more comprehensive health care assessment than a phone call with their doctor. “While virtual care may provide a promising platform for expanded access to care in some patients, it must be implemented in a way that it doesn’t create barriers to already disadvantaged patient populations,” said Samantha Tam, M.D., a study co-author and otolaryngologist in Henry Ford’s Department of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery.

The pandemic-driven need for accessing care using telemedicine services prompted researchers to evaluate whether impacted a patient’s ability to receive virtual care. In their , they analyzed census-based socioeconomic data of head and neck cancer patients who had a telemedicine visit between March 17 and April 24, 2020 and compared the results to a similar cohort from the same time frame in 2019.

Data included patients’ age, sex, race, insurance status, household income, education, marital and employment status, and English-speaking households. Patient visits were categorized by virtual visits

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Pulse Oximeters and Oxygen Concentrators: What to Know About At-Home Oxygen Therapy



To survive, we need oxygen going from our lungs to the cells in our body. Sometimes the amount of oxygen in our blood can fall below normal levels. Asthma, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the flu, and COVID-19 are some of the health issues that may cause oxygen levels to drop. When the levels are too low, we may need to take extra oxygen, known as oxygen therapy.

One way to get extra oxygen into the body is by using an oxygen concentrator. Oxygen concentrators are medical devices required to be sold and used only with a prescription.

You should not to use an oxygen concentrator at home unless it has been prescribed by a health care provider. Giving yourself oxygen without talking to a doctor first may do more harm than good. You may end up taking too much or too little oxygen. Deciding to use an oxygen concentrator without a prescription can lead to serious health problems such as oxygen toxicity caused by receiving too much oxygen. It can also lead to a delay in receiving treatment for serious conditions like COVID-19.

Even though oxygen makes up about 21 percent of the air around us, breathing high concentrations of oxygen may damage your lungs. On the other hand, not getting enough oxygen into the blood, a condition called hypoxia, could damage the heart, brain, and other organs.

Find out if you really need oxygen therapy by checking with your health care provider. If you do, your health care provider can determine how much oxygen you should take and for how long.

What do I need to know about oxygen concentrators?

Oxygen concentrators take in air from the room and filter out nitrogen. The process provides the higher amounts of oxygen needed for oxygen therapy.

Health Life

Discovering the secrets of viral sequences in COVID-19

From the SARS-CoV-2 genome (a) sequences of nucleotides and amino acids are extracted (b); sequences are then deposited to world-wide open repositories: GENBANK, GISAID, COG-UK (c), and imported to the centralized database at Politecnico, where the search engine ViruSurf is accessed (d). Credit: Politecnico di Milano

Since the beginning of 2020, labs from all around the world have been sequencing the material from positive tests of people affected by COVID-19 and then depositing sequences mostly to three points of collection: GenBank, COG-UK, and GISAID. Rapid exploration of this huge amount of data is important for understanding how the genome of the virus is changing. For enabling fast ‘surfing’ over this data, the research group at Politecnico di Milano led by Prof. Stefano Ceri has developed ViruSurf, a search engine operating on top of a centralized database stored at Politecnico. The database is periodically reloaded from the three sources and as of today contains 200,516 sequences of SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing COVID-19, and 33,256 sequences of other viral species also associated with epidemics affecting humans, such as SARS, MERS, Ebola, and Dengue.

Every sequence is described from four perspectives: the biological features of the virus and the host, the sequencing technology, the project that has produced the original data, the mutations of the whole sequence of nucleotides and of gene-specific amino acids. The advantage provided by ViruSurf is the use of an algorithm for computing viral mutations homogeneously across sources, using cloud computing. The database is optimized for giving quick responses to the surfers.

Among the future developments of ViruSurf, the most important, funded by a six-month-long project by EIT Digital, is a bio-informatic service for ingesting new viral sequences, which highlights the presence of viral mutations associated with enhanced or reduced severity and virulence as they are discovered.

Health Life

Moving toward accessible healthcare for all in sub-Saharan Africa

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Achieving universal access to healthcare is a key development priority and a major target of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 3. The COVID-19 pandemic has only reinforced this urge. A rapid development and expansion of public, affordable healthcare infrastructure is particularly crucial in sub-Saharan Africa. In the region, communicable diseases are the first cause of death, infant mortality rates are above five percent, and lengthy journeys to healthcare facilities undermine the accessibility to basic healthcare for millions. At least one sixth of the population lives more than two hours away from a public hospital and one in eight people is no less than one hour away from the nearest health center.

The team of researchers from the RFF-CMCC European Institute on Economics and the Environment (EIEE), Catholic University of Milan, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei and Decatab recently published in PNASProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences a study that provides a comprehensive planning-oriented, inequality-focused analysis of different types of healthcare accessibility in sub-Saharan Africa based on a state-of-the-art georeferenced database of public .

Researchers, among them Soheil Shayegh, scientist at the RFF-CMCC European Institute on Economics and the Environment (EIEE), elaborate a strategy to efficiently abate the measured inequalities based on a geospatial optimisation algorithm which identifies the optimal location of future healthcare facilities of different tiers based on the projected distribution of the population of each country by 2030 in order to satisfy the conditions of SDG 3 targets.

“We were able to devise a spatial optimization framework to identify the optimal location and required bed capacity of public healthcare facilities in the region to ensure universal accessibility by 2030,” explains Giacomo Falchetta, Research Fellow at FEEM and at the Catholic University of Milan and lead author of the study. “The