Noteworthy: iInfect; Unwrapping the 'Twinkie Diet'; A Shot at Savings

January 10, 2011

Noteworthy in January 2011

iInfect
Touch-screen smartphones are great for sharing pictures, videos, games, and, of course, communicable illnesses.
No surprise here, but new research shows that glass-covered surfaces - like those on iPads, iPods, iPhones, and BlackBerry Droids - not only capture dozens of greasy fingerprint impressions, but also 30 percent of viruses as well. Stanford University doctoral student Timothy Julian, who authored the study, told The Sacramento Bee that if you are sharing a smartphone, “you’re sharing your influenza with someone else who touches it.”
British researchers, meanwhile, note that mobile phones harbor 18 times more bacteria than a flush handle in a typical men’s restroom. Yikes.
So the next time someone offers you their phone, be sure to wash your hands, use some antibacterial gel, or perhaps just say “iPass.”

A Meal for All Seasons
Usually, a McDonald’s Happy Meal gets gobbled up within minutes by a hungry child, but one particular meal has lasted - in a not-so-good way - since April 2010.
Manhattan artist Sally Davies bought the hamburger and French fries combination with the specific intent of leaving it out in her studio to see how the meal aged.
The hamburger and fries remained mold-free and in a state of frozen animation, according to CBS News.
As of press time, the meal was still well intact, albeit inedible.
In a statement, McDonald's said, “without knowing the conditions in which these food items were kept,” it was “not possible” to explain
Davies’s claims of the perfectly preserved patty and potatoes.

More Heart=Less Ache
Perhaps Huey Lewis and The News were right when they sang of the “Power of Love.”
Researchers at Stanford University say that intense, passionate feelings of love are similar to the effects of painkillers or illicit drugs - like cocaine - when it comes to blocking pain.
In the study, 15 Stanford undergrads brought pictures of their loved ones to look at while a thermal stimulator placed in the palm of their hand caused mild pain. A scan of their brains turned up some interesting findings.
One of the study’s authors, Arthur Aron, says it turns out that the areas of the brain activated by intense love are the same areas affected by painkilling drugs. Furthermore, when thinking about their beloved, the undergrads experienced feelings similar to being under the influence of cocaine or winning a lot of money, he added.
Now the caveat to the study is that these intense feelings usually subside - in about a year or two, the study notes. Hmm, maybe that explains Huey’s follow-up hit, “I Want a New Drug.”

Getting to the Bottom of Swallowed Objects
Gastroenterologist Steven F. Moss and his fellow doctors at Rhode Island Hospital have great success in getting knives, batteries, and even toothbrushes out of their patients’ bodies. The real puzzler is why they get there in the first place.
Moss estimates that between 2001 and 2009, the Providence, R.I., hospital has seen 305 cases of intentional consumption of odd objects, costing the facility more than $2 million to remove them, MSNBC reports.
Moss, who said the hospital sees a swallowing incident “almost every week or two,” says the clearest indicator is the presence of a psychiatric disorder in 26 of the 33 people examined as part of a recent study. One such patient was responsible for 67 separate swallowing incidents.
The study notes that for some, swallowing items ensures a change of scenery, from another hospital or even from prison. But Moss and his colleagues cannot figure out how to prevent patients from doing it, as patients eventually become psychologically stable and discharged from their care, where they are free to continue such behaviors.

A Shot at Savings
Need another reason to encourage flu shots with your patients and in your own office? Look no further than the bottom line.
The American Public Health Association says that for each employee receiving a flu vaccination this season, an employer can experience a savings of between $63 and $95 per person. The study, conducted at the University of Pittsburgh, explored the cost of providing vaccines to employees and the cost related to absenteeism and lost productivity due to sick workers. The association notes, however, that the key is early vaccination of employees - say in December - or else the savings drop.
The APHA encourages early flu clinics by employers especially in years with a pandemic flu, which could result in a savings of between $34 and $701 per employee, according to The Los Angeles Times.

Unwrapping the 'Twinkie Diet'
So long Atkins. Adios South Beach.
There is a new diet spurring a delicious debate in health circles: The Twinkie Diet.
The approach comes from Kansas State University nutrition professor Mark Haub, who set out to prove that it is not the nutritional value of the food you eat, but the calories that matter, according to CNN. For 10 weeks, the professor limited himself to 1,800 calories a day, with two-thirds coming from powdered donuts, Doritos, and Twinkies. The result was an astounding 27-pound weight loss, a drop in his body mass index, and an increase in his “good cholesterol.”
Haub noted his success, but also the failure in determining whether he is truly “healthier” as a result of the diet, CNN noted. He added that there is value to the claims of portion size and moderation as key elements in weight loss.
Fellow nutritionists warn that while Haub’s initial success is notable, it is unlikely that a long-term diet based largely on the cream-filled confections would generate similar results.

Quotable:
“My attitude is, ‘I’m going to ask you for this money, but in return, how can I work with you to improve the delivery of healthcare on my end to reduce costs because you too are going to save money on your end?’”
Business advisor Reed Tinsley on having the right attitude in negotiations with payers in our 2010 Fee Schedule Survey story, "Not Getting Paid Enough? We'll Fix That!"Stat:$367,500
Median compensation of physician CEOs/presidents working at hospitals in 2009
Source: Beckers Hospital Review/American College of Physician Executives

Recommended Resource
Cleveland’s ‘Game Changing’ Tools

What do an oral treatment for multiple sclerosis, a handheld breath test for asthma diagnosis, and a new cancer vaccine have in common? They are among the tools the Cleveland Clinic thinks will change medicine this year.
Each year, the renowned medical center releases its list of up-and-coming, or “game changing” technologies that will have the biggest impact in healthcare.
After interviews with more than 60 of its experts, the clinic ranks the innovations it feels will have the most impact on you and your patients.
This year’s top innovation goes to the brain imaging compound AV-45 for its ability to provide early detection of Alzheimer’s disease.