Health Care

From left, Eureka VFW Post Commander Rick Weldon, Deborah Scher of the VA, and VFW National Commander William Schmitz cut a ribbon to welcome a VA telemedicine pod to the post.
Jay Price / American Homefront

The Department of Veterans Affairs has begun installing telehealth pods in remote locations. It's part of an ongoing VA push to shift more outpatient appointments to telehealth.

Dr. Joanne Fruth of Avance Primary Care at the Oberlin Road office.
Jason deBruyn / WUNC

Dr. Joanne Fruth knocked on the exam room door and walked in with a warm smile on her face.

"Hi Jamie, it's Doctor Fruth, it's so good to see you," she said. "So you're here for a wellness visit?"

child doctor
Alex Prolmos / Flickr / Creative Commons

North Carolina House Republicans touted a bill on Tuesday that would expand health coverage to more uninsured adults who make too much to qualify for Medicaid. 

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina headquarters in Durham.
BCBSNC

It's become cliché for executives of health systems and insurers to talk about the need to move away from a fee-for-service reimbursement model toward one that pays for value and rewards health providers for keeping patients healthy, not for simply treating them when they are sick.

Ariel view of the UNC Rex Healthcare campus in west Raleigh
UNC Rex Healthcare

UNC Rex Healthcare announced a plan to build a $65 million cancer center at its west Raleigh campus. The new center will ratchet up competition with Duke Raleigh Hospital – which already has two cancer centers, including one in the shadow of Rex's campus – and sets up the UNC Health Care system hospital to pad its bid for a new piece of expensive medical equipment in 2019.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina headquarters in Durham.
BCBSNC

Premiums for the majority Affordable Care Act plans in North Carolina will decrease for the first time in history, but the chief executive of the state's largest health insurer says they would be 15 percent lower if not for actions taken by the Trump Administration.

UNC Health Care CEO Dr. Bill Roper, left, and Atrium Health CEO Gene Woods in August, 2017.
UNC Health Care

There appear to be more disagreements than initially thought in a proposed combination of UNC Health Care and Charlotte-based Atrium Health – formerly Carolinas HealthCare System.

In August, the massive health care systems announced a plan to "join their clinical, medical education and research resources ... with the goal of entering into final agreements by the end of the year."

New UNC research ties pharmaceutical industry payments to higher prescription rates.
Flickr

Physicians who receive compensation from pharmaceutical companies for speaking engagements, food or travel were more likely to prescribe cancer-fighting drugs from those companies, according to new research from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

State Senate chamber
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

Optometrists and ophthalmologists don’t see eye to eye on this proposal.

The bill under consideration in the state house would allow optometrists to perform certain kinds eye surgery, including procedures that only medically trained ophthalmologists may treat under current law.

UNC Hospital
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

Across North Carolina, health systems will again face penalties because too many patients returned to hospitals shortly after being discharged.

In fact, hospitals will pay higher penalties in 2017 than any year in history.

Physician Assistant, Duke Medicine, Rural Health
Leoneda Inge

This is the Affordable Care Act’s third open enrollment season and Obama Administration officials expect at least one million more people will enroll by the end of next year. 

The increase in the country’s insured population has resulted in major growth in one profession in particular – the physician assistant. This year, Duke University is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its Physician Assistant Program, the oldest in the country.

A picture of a patient and a doctor meeting over a web connection.
Cisco Systems

Cisco Systems employees can now make appointments at the tech company's private medical practice in the Research Triangle Park.

The new LifeConnections Health Center offers medical, mental, vision, telehealth and holistic care, and an in-house gym. It replaces a smaller telehealth-only clinic on the grounds. RTP is the third of Cisco's LifeConnections Centers. This facility will serve about 5,000 employees and their families.

A picture of a baby born prematurely.
Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matthew Jackson / US Navy via Wikipedia

A study from the Womack Army Medical Center shows a connection between deployments and premature delivery as well as postpartum depression.

Captain Christopher Tarney is an obstetrician and lead author of the report published in the Internet Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics. His team studied about 400 women who, throughout their pregnancies, had husbands deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

An image of life expectancy across NC counties
VCU Center on Society and Health

A couple miles up Highway 540 in Raleigh could mean a difference of 12 years in life expectancy, according to new maps from the Virginia Commonwealth University Center on Society and Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF).

Image of stethoscope
Dr. Farouk / Flickr Creative Commons

People who live in rural North Carolina are still more likely to suffer from serious health problems than their urban counterparts. Rural counties show higher rates of heart disease and obesity, and rural residents have a lower life expectancy.

The recent closures of rural hospitals around the state makes those residents even more vulnerable. Research shows that systemic problems like slow economic development and spotty insurance coverage also contribute to rural health disparities.

Image of tools in doctor's office
Morgan / Flickr/Creative Commons

The Affordable Care Act is still attracting big enrollment numbers in North Carolina.

Nearly 500,000 people in the state have coverage, but premiums could rise by as much as 40 percent next year for some health plans.

   

And the Obama administration says more than 300,000 people still are not covered because the state did not expand Medicaid. 

Image of Chapman in Shanghai with Professor Meihua Zhu, on the left, a former visiting scholar at UNC.
Mimi Chapman

The power of art is not lost on Mimi Chapman. She is a professor at the UNC School of Social Work who believes that art can have a profound impact on people’s ability to empathize. She also studies how art can help illuminate conscious and unconscious biases and affect how people treat one another.

Image of a nurse checking vitals.
Flickr/Londa Dudley

Campbell University plans to open a new School of Nursing in rural Harnett County in 2016. Graduates will earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).

Director Nancy Duffy says that's becoming the new standard for nursing jobs, especially with the population growing and Baby Boomers aging, dealing with more chronic illnesses.

“Really, healthcare needs an entirely different kind of nurse in the future. And I hope we're able to start changing that education to meet that healthcare need.”

A picture of a boy receiving a shot.
Kaiser Permanente

A mathematical model from Duke University mathematicians suggests more can be done to protect people from the human papilloma virus.  

A picture of a child's height being measured.
Alec Couros, NC-SA / Creative Commons

More children living in North Carolina are now covered by health insurance. That's one of the positive findings in the annual health report card issued today by NC Child.

The group says teen pregnancy rates are falling, which is also good news.

But NC Child’s Director of Policy Rob Thompson says the emergence of e-cigarettes is a growing problem. 

HealthServe is closing in Greensboro this week and 20,000 people will have to find a medical provider elsewhere.
Flickr.com

Health outcomes are tied to income and education, according to many studies, but little work has been done to examine the connections between long-term wealth and levels of well-being. 

Researchers will explore that idea and other ways economic mobility relates to health in minority populations on Friday at UNC-Chapel Hill's annual Minority Health Conference. 

The X-ray of nurse Tove Schuster's spine shows the metal cage and four screws her surgeon used to repair a damaged disk in her back. Terry Cawthorn underwent a similar procedure.
Daniel Zwerdling / NPR

A little-known epidemic has swept through hospitals across the country: thousands of nursing staff suffer debilitating back and arm injuries every year. 

An NPR investigation into the injuries shows most happen as a result of on-the-job incidents. Hospitals can reduce the rate of injury if administrators invest time and money into prevention and training mechanisms. 

Illustration: Cadeceus
Flickr user takomabibelot

Roughly 480,000 people in North Carolina have signed up or been automatically re-enrolled for Obamacare plans by the end of January using the healthcare.gov system, according to government data released Friday. Almost 7.5 million in total have signed up across the country.

gloved hands holding blood packet and needle
Fotos GOVBA / Flickr/Creative Commons

Are you about to have a medical procedure? Have you chosen a provider yet? Before you do, you might consider taking a look at what the procedure will cost. Blue Cross-Blue Shield of North Carolina now has an easy online tool  to help you do just that.

We used the tool to search for a variety of common procedures. The user can enter a town or zip code, and the number of miles s/he is willing to travel.

Researchers appear to have found a new risk factor for Alzheimer's disease: leaky blood vessels.

A picture of a woman with a hand on her face.
Send me adrift / Flickr

Cape Fear Valley's new Roxie Avenue Behavioral Healthcare Center is up and running.

Behavioral Health Services Director Doug Webster says the Fayetteville facility is meant to free up beds in the hospital, where people can wait days for mental health treatment.

Webster says, left untreated, such crises can escalate.

North Carolina also has behavioral health centers in Durham and Raleigh. In Fayetteville, Webster says they’re serving members of the military and civilians alike.

Illustration: Cadeceus
Flickr user takomabibelot

Dozens of people advocating for and against abortion rights filled a room at the North Carolina health department headquarters on Friday morning to respond to proposed rules that will apply to the 14 clinics that provide abortion in the state.


Linwood Watson, MD, Rex Express Care of Knightdale
Still from Youtube video

Several area doctors star in a new video that is getting some buzz online. The video aims to answer the question of when it's appropriate to go to urgent care, and when one should head to the emergency room:

The video features doctors from Rex Express Care in Knightdale, Holly Springs, Wakefield and Cary.

Image of tools in doctor's office
Morgan / Flickr/Creative Commons

State health officials and an advisory board have released a six-year plan to help fight cancer in North Carolina. The plan identifies six specific cancers that are prevalent in the state and recommends specific strategies to fight them.

Dr. Ruth Petersen is with the Department of Health and Human Services. She notes lung cancer is one of the diseases identified in the report. Petersen says causes include exposure to smoke, secondhand smoke, or radon gas.

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