Week in Review: July 21

The Week in Review provides an overview of the past week’s top health care content, including industry news and trends, Mayo Clinic and Mayo Medical Laboratories news, and upcoming events.

Industry News

More Than Half of Rural U.S. Counties Lack Access to Hospital Maternity Wards

Hospitals are scaling back services, shutting their maternity wards or closing altogether, according to data from hospitals, state health departments, the federal government, and rural health organizations. Nationally, 119 rural hospitals that have shut since 2005, with 80 of those closures having occurred since 2010, according to the most recent data from the North Carolina Rural Health Research Program. To save on insurance and staffing costs, maternity departments are often among the first to get shuttered inside financially stressed rural hospitals, according medical professionals and healthcare experts. “It’s been a slow and steady decline,” said Michael Topchik, the National Leader for the Chartis Center for Rural Health, about maternity ward closings. “It’s very expensive care to offer, especially when it’s lower volume.” Via HuffPost.

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Hearing Is Believing: Speech May Be a Clue to Mental Decline

Your speech may, um, help reveal if you're uh . . . developing thinking problems. More pauses, filler words, and other verbal changes might be an early sign of mental decline, which can lead to Alzheimer's disease, a study suggests. Researchers had people describe a picture they were shown in taped sessions two years apart. Those with early-stage mild cognitive impairment slid much faster on certain verbal skills than those who didn't develop thinking problems. "What we've discovered here is there are aspects of language that are affected earlier than we thought," before or at the same time that memory problems emerge, said one study leader, Sterling Johnson of the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Via ABC News.

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Low-Calorie Sweeteners Don’t Help with Weight Loss—and May Lead to Gained Pounds

Artificial and low-calorie sweeteners do not appear to help people lose weight—and in some studies are linked with weigh gain, diabetes, and cardiovascular issues, finds a sweeping new study. Why it matters: U.S. consumption of artificial sweeteners has increased dramatically over the past 15 years. These days aspartame and sucralose aren’t just in diet sodas and chewing gum but English muffins and toothpaste as well. But as to their healthfulness, researchers disagree. Some studies show they help people lose weight, while others show no effect or even weight gain, along with a host of other possible health risks. Researchers wanted to look more broadly at what’s going on by doing a large-scale analysis of dozens of studies on low-calorie sweeteners. Via STAT.

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The Chemicals in Your Mac and Cheese

Potentially harmful chemicals that were banned from children’s teething rings and rubber duck toys a decade ago may still be present in high concentrations in your child’s favorite meal: macaroni and cheese mixes made with powdered cheese. The chemicals, called phthalates, can disrupt male hormones like testosterone and have been linked to genital birth defects in infant boys and learning and behavior problems in older children. The chemicals migrate into food from packaging and equipment used in manufacturing and may pose special risks to pregnant women and young children. The Food and Drug Administration has not banned their presence in foods, though a 2014 report to the Consumer Product Safety Commission urged federal agencies to assess risks “with a view to supporting risk management steps.” The report concluded that food, drugs and beverages, and not toys, were the primary source of exposure to phthalates. Via NY Times.

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Pushing Hospitals to Reduce Readmissions Hasn't Increased Deaths

Too often, people return home from the hospital only to find themselves heading back soon after. Sometimes the need arises because, despite the best care, it is difficult to slow the progression of disease. But other times, it's because we in the health care system fail to communicate, coordinate, and orchestrate the care that people need to successfully make the transition from hospital to home. Historically, U.S. hospitals have had little incentive to keep patients healthy following discharge. Hospital discharge indicated success, and we paid little mind to what happened on the other side. Meanwhile, 1 in 5 patients returned to the hospital within 30 days of discharge, and the health system largely felt it had no responsibility for that. Hospitals were paid each time a patient was readmitted. Via NPR.

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Mayo Clinic News

Interrupted Sleep May Lead to Alzheimer’s, New Studies Show

Getting a solid night’s sleep is crucial not only for feeling good the next day—there is increasing evidence that it may also protect against dementia, according to new research presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in London. It may be in the deepest stages of sleep that the clearing up takes place, said Ronald Petersen, M.D., Ph.D., Director of the Mayo Clinic Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center and the Mayo Clinic Study of Aging. “If you’re only making it to Stage 1 or Stage 2 and then you start choking or snoring or whatever and you wake yourself up and you do it again and again, you may not even be aware of it, but you may be accumulating this bad amyloid in the brain rather than clearing it,” he said. Via Washington Post.

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Mayo Clinic Launches New $1B Electronic Records System

Mayo Clinic officials say a $1 billion project launched by the health care provider will combine all of its electronic health records into a single, upgraded computer system. Mayo Clinic Health System sites switched to the new system by Wisconsin-based Epic Systems Corp. on Saturday, the Post-Bulletin reported. It allows all medical personnel involved to see information about a patient's medications, allergies, and health issues. "By applying the world's most forward-thinking technology and processes to our electronic health records and collaborative care systems, our experts will be even more connected in delivering the high-value care, research, and education that Mayo is known for and patients deserve," said Christopher Ross, a spokesman for Mayo Clinic. Via U.S. News & World Report.

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Mayo Clinic School of Medicine Welcomes First Cohort of Students in Scottsdale

Last fall the nation’s most innovative university and the world leader in patient care and research formalized a dynamic relationship of more than a decade with the announcement of the Mayo Clinic and Arizona State University Alliance for Health Care, a collaboration aimed at transforming medical education and health care in the U.S. This week the alliance will experience an important next step when Mayo Clinic School of Medicine welcomes its first cohort of 50 students in Scottsdale. The inaugural class was chosen from more than 3,000 applicants. By 2020, the school’s four-year medical training program will mushroom to 200 students—doubling the overall size of Mayo’s national medical school to more than 400 students across campuses at Mayo Clinic sites in Rochester, Minnesota, and Jacksonville, Florida, along with Arizona. Via ASU Now.

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Study Pioneers Use of Pharmacogenomic Data in Electronic Health Record

Each one of us has a unique genetic makeup, and we all respond differently to drugs. In recent years, precision medicine has made headlines by predicting the possibility an individual may develop a specific disease—think BRCA1 and BRCA2 genetic mutations linked to breast and ovarian cancer. But that is just the tip of the genomic iceberg, says Richard Weinshilboum, M.D., Director of the Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine’s Pharmacogenomics Program and the Mary Lou and John H. Dasburg Professor of Cancer Genomics. “When you look at the clinical application of genomics, everyone thinks of cancer—and this is appropriate because cancer is a genomic disease,” Dr. Weinshilboum says. “However, the aspect of clinical genomics that will affect everyone everywhere is pharmacogenomics,” or how an individual’s genetic makeup influences how the body responds to medications. Via HuffPost.

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Rochester Residents Talk Discovery Square during Open House

Described as an "urban life science hub," Discovery Square is a cornerstone of Destination Medical Center. And on Tuesday evening, developers and designers updated the public about the project. They had an open house at Bleu Duck Kitchen in Rochester, where residents got to ask questions and brainstorm ideas. Discovery Square is a proposed four-story, 88,000-square-foot building that would be located at the corner of 2nd Avenue Southwest and 4th Street Southwest, according to developer Mortenson Company. Via KTTC.

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Gina Chiri-Osmond

Gina Chiri-Osmond is a Marketing Channel Manager at Mayo Medical Laboratories. She manages public relations and media outreach. Gina has worked at Mayo Clinic since 2011. Outside of work, Gina is going for gold in volleyball at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo . . . or at small-town summer festivals.