Issue 53: Prescription Heroin, HIV+ status, telemedicine hiring startup and more

Prescription heroin

Image from Rand Corp

The opioid epidemic is one of the biggest health issues of our time. We had over 47,000 OD's in 2017. We need new solutions to save lives. The RAND corp, a famous policy think-thank, has proposed an unusual solution of prescribing heroin to patients who are fighting addiction. The approach would involve giving opioid users, who have failed other treatments, pharmaceutical grade heroin. Although this may seem like a crazy idea it is already being done in several European countries as well as Canada. Patients are given heroin while in a controlled setting and encouraged to decrease their dependence while talking to counselors. The idea is that if patients are given heroin in a controlled setting they are less likely to get impure dangerous drugs from off the street that could be cut with fentanyl. Prescription heroin dates back to the 1920's in Europe and was even used in the US for a brief time until federal drug laws banned the practice. It should be noted that the prescription heroin program would only be for patients who have failed first line treatments such as naltrexone and methadone numerous times. At this point using prescription heroin in the US is just an idea –– one that is sure to cause a lotttt of controversy.

Teachers as first responders

student on her phone ignoring teacher

The MU Disaster and Community Crisis Center just reported that media coverage of national disasters can have harmful impacts on children lasting for years. And honestly, who’s surprised? With all the news outlets always yelling about the same horrible events every single day of the week, it’s enough for fully grown adults to suffer from apocalyptic nightmares too. The researchers found that seeing images of wildfires, national shootings, and hurricanes without being able to process such heavy information causes these images to stay with children for a very long time and have negative impacts on their mental health. Because of this, the researchers developed a set of step-by-step guidelines for teachers (who spend a large chunk of the day with children) to help discuss such disasters with children in a way that helps them cope. Helping kids feel secure during these times begins with using teachers as first responders to help minimize kids’ fears and teach them about safety measures and how to help victims. 

More than 9 million people are HIV+ and unaware of their status 


A worrisome statistic was recently released by UNAIDS that close 9.4 million people in the world are HIV+ and don't know their status. About 37 million people are HIV+ and around a quarter do not know their status. The most cited reasons for this lack of awareness is fear of stigma and discrimination, living far away from a clinic, and long wait times to get seen at a clinic. Getting tested is just the first step though –– being compliant is also tough. More than half of patients with HIV had uncontrolled viral loads. According to UNAIDS we have a lot of room for improvement in helping patients who are diagnosed with HIV.  

Medicare will be fining nursing homes for bounce backs

we need to take better care of our seniors

Medicare is making nursing homes more accountable by fining those that have high rates of hospital readmission. Up until recently large hospital systems were the only ones being punished for readmission, however, Medicare is stepping up it's game by holding nursing homes accountable. The new Medicare program will impact 15k nursing homes in the US based on how often the residents bounce back to the hospital after being discharged over a period of 30 days. An estimated 11,000 nursing homes are expected to be fined. The worst performing will receive up to 2% less Medicare payouts for each patient.  Doesn't sound like much, but apparently it's enough to put several players in the red.

Telemedicine hiring platform Enzyme Health gets $1.7 mill Series A 

Enzyme Health website

A new startup called Enzyme Health that lets doctors search and apply for telemedicine jobs just received $1.7 million in series A funding. The company based out of Austin Texas received backing from Silverton Partners. And yes they did find a way to mention machine learning in their pitch. The service matches doctors to jobs based on their skill sets. The service is currently being used by telemedicine powerhouses like MDLive and Doctors on Demand.