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EPtalk by Dr. Jayne 5/13/21

May 13, 2021 Dr. Jayne No Comments

Not surprisingly, the big news around the virtual water cooler this week was the approval of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for the 12- to 15-year-old age group. In my community, most of the health system vaccination sites began to schedule vaccination appointments for that group for Thursday and Friday in advance of the expected approval. Only the retail clinics held the line, and my guess is they were frantically updating websites Wednesday evening. Colleagues in several other states reported that vaccination sites weren’t waiting for the final CDC approval but took the FDA emergency use authorization as enough to go ahead and start vaccinating younger teens on Tuesday. It will be interesting to see what happens to vaccine rates now, with many parents wanting their children vaccinated so they can get “back to normal.”

Another boost to vaccination rates, particularly among young healthy men, might be this article that explores concerns about COVID-19 causing erectile dysfunction. Researchers at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine found detectable viral RNA in the penile cells of COVID-19 positive patients at a substantial interval after the initial infection. They conclude that the same kinds of cellular dysfunction caused elsewhere by COVID-19 infections may be contributing to erectile dysfunction. I’ve been saying for a while now that this is a weird virus and we’re a long way from understanding exactly what it can do. I suspect this isn’t the last of the unusual complications that we’ll learn of.

Another journal article that crossed my desk this week should be near and dear to many healthcare IT professionals. Molecular Psychiatry published a piece describing how “Habitual coffee drinkers display a distinct pattern of brain functional connectivity.” Researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to assess brain changes. The findings support an association between coffee consumption, improved motor control, cognitive focus, and alertness. Similar changes could also be seen in the brains of non-coffee drinkers after consuming even a small amount of coffee. I’m not a huge coffee drinker, but do like an iced coffee from time to time, although too much tends to make my hands shake, which is not good when you have to sew people up for a living. Maybe I’ll be able to enjoy it more often now that I’m no longer in the urgent care trenches.

We’ve certainly moved into a new phase of the pandemic, and that’s the one where drug companies begin direct-to-consumer advertising for COVID-19 related treatments. Regeneron has started its advertising campaign for monoclonal antibodies. The advertisements are permissible under the FDA’s emergency use authorization, and four commercials have been developed. As with nearly every other drug ad, patients are told to “ask your doctor” about the treatment. We screened people for potential treatment at my former employer, and the reality was that very few patients qualified and even fewer actually wanted to go to the infusion center for a treatment. It will be interesting to see if the ads actually drive business.

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The HIMSS21 schedule for in-person general education sessions is now live. I went ahead and dropped the keynotes, exhibit hall times, and registration info on my calendar, but it’s hard to get excited about choosing sessions just yet. Many of my healthcare IT colleagues are still debating whether they’re going or not, wondering if the expense will be worth it, especially if they have to pay out of pocket. My local university is still on a travel ban as are several of my favorite vendors, so right now very few of my besties are planning to attend. Those of us going will make the most of it, though, and it will certainly be good to see people in person.

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Sometimes I run across products that are solutions in search of a problem, and I’m fairly certain the Q-Pad by vendor Qvin fits this description. The device is a menstrual pad with an embedded test strip used for laboratory-based hemoglobin A1c testing. The company differentiates itself based on needle-free blood testing without regard for the fact that patients who are in need of hemoglobin A1c testing also need a variety of blood tests that aren’t available on their platform. Like any good device vendor, the company provides a smartphone app. Direct-to-consumer pricing is available on a one-time, monthly, or quarterly basis despite the lack of evidence for random testing in the menstrual-age population. The website contains a video interview with the founder, who says the device appeals to the “quantified self” crowd.

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I’m a big fan of the Honor Flight Network and had the privilege of traveling on a flight with my favorite Korean War veteran. It’s an amazing experience that was curtailed by the COVID-19 pandemic, with only one flight going in 2020 before everything shut down. I was glad to see an outstanding application for virtual reality technology to help continuing honoring veterans, as T-Mobile partnered with Healium and the Honor Flight Network to virtually transport veterans to see their memorials in Washington, DC. Honor Flight is gearing up to restore the trips as soon as it is safe and practical, but the reality is that we will lose many of our WWII veterans before they can travel, and many more are not physically able to make the trip. Kudos to these organizations for their support of our veterans.

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Marketing folks of the world – I highly recommend testing your email blast software on a small distribution list before just cutting it loose. Clearly the email I got didn’t format as intended, and since it’s supposed to be coming from a communications specialist, it doesn’t inspire confidence.

For fans of “The Six Million Dollar Man,” the time for “bionic” eyes has arrived. Researchers at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California have created the Argus II to provide limited vision to blind individuals. Although it’s currently limited to helping people recognize shapes and patterns, they hope to eventually provide the ability to see colors and details.

What’s your favorite technology from vintage TV that has become a reality, or that you can’t wait to see some day? Leave a comment or email me.

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