Doctors Could Start Prescribing Video Games Instead of Pills

When Eran Orr couldn’t pick up his 2-year-old daughter due to pain in his right hand, he knew something had to change.
Orr, a former executive officer in the Israeli Air Force, was suffering from cervical disc herniation. During his own rehab process, he saw major flaws with the physical therapy regimen, such as arduous PT sessions and difficulty quantifying results.
“At the same time I saw people playing with VR devices, so for me the combination was obvious,” says Orr, CEO and founder of VRHealth.
Orr saw potential to leverage virtual reality as a tool in the practice of physical therapy. He founded VRPhysio, now called VRHealth, in 2016.
VRHealth is a virtual reality software company that uses VR technology for physical therapy, pain management and reduction. During a painful or arduous procedure, VR can transport a patient to sunny beaches in Bali or to a calming rainforest in South America. Distraction is a key element in managing pain because it blocks pain signals before they reach the brain.
Pain is largely psychological, says Jorge Gomez-Mantellini, marketing manager at VRHealth. Sometimes a person experiencing pain just needs to be distracted from it. “If we can make people unaware of the pain, that’s when we are successful,” he says.
Other studies confirm that virtual reality as a tool for relaxation or distraction during medical procedures can help with managing pain.
A study published in the journal Pain Management found that “participants immersed in VR experience reduced levels of pain, general distress/unpleasantness and report a desire to use VR again during painful medical procedures.” Another study published in 2016 found that virtual reality provides a significant amount of relief for patients experiencing chronic pain.
“We’re not inventing a new exercise,” says Gomez-Mantellini.  “We just apply the VR to it.”
Gomez-Mantellini notes that, of course, severe pain needs to be addressed. So VRHealth has software systems that help with pain management. The overall goal is to relax patients and provide them with tools, like breathing techniques, to help them handle their pain.
VRHealth sells its products to clinics, hospitals and offices for about $2,000 a year. Each headset costs about $900, and the software starts at $100 a month.
The technology also encourages patients to test their limits. Gomez-Mantellini says that patients are sometimes worried about reinjuring themselves and can be hesitant to push themselves to make optimal progress.
While VRHealth’s original focus was on improving the experience of physical therapy so that exercises didn’t feel repetitive, VR can also be used in other healthcare contexts, such as training medical students, calming patients and improving doctor accuracy.
The technology can also track patient progress. It starts by assessing a baseline range of motion, and each VR session tracks improvements over time.
Virtual reality is becoming a staple in the healthcare industry, with many applications that go beyond pain management. It’s projected to become a 6.9 billion dollar industry by 2026.
For example, IrisVision is helping patients with low vision regain sight. And Bravemind uses virtual reality as exposure therapy for patients with PTSD.
Virtual reality can also be an important tool for doctors.
ImmersiveTouch uses virtual reality to create patient-specific surgical plans. By using MRI and CT scans, ImmersiveTouch creates accurate 3D models of each patient. For example, a patient with a spinal cord injury will go through scans, and ImmersiveTouch uses those scans to create an individualized model of that patient’s spine. Doctors now have the ability to look at a 3-D model from any angle, which helps with planning the surgery and performing it more quickly.
VR can also strengthen the doctor-patient relationship. Instead of just talking to patients, doctors can now give a patient a VR headset and show them exactly what is going to happen during surgery.
“It’s helping real patients, and our mission is that this should be used, really, in every surgery,” says Jay Banerjee, the president and co-founder of ImmersiveTouch.
ImmersiveTouch, and other VR companies, like Medical Realities, are applying virtual reality to training. It can be difficult for medical students to get hands-on experience, so virtual reality creates a no-risk practice space. It also uses haptic technology, which uses vibrations to recreate the sense of touch.
Banerjee says surgeons rely on their sense of touch, dexterity and manual skills. “It’s not only just cognitive and mental, but it also has a lot of physical components.” The training improves accuracy, retention and speed, he says.
As the software, technology and capabilities expand, VR has the potential to find a home in most hospitals, clinics and operating rooms.
“It’s a tool in your arsenal,” Gomez-Mantellini says. “You can do so much in so many different landscapes of healthcare.”

These Pilots Provide Free Flights to Patients Who Need Them Most

When Norien was born, his parents faced an immediate challenge. Their son, now 2 years old, was born with a rare congenital condition called arthrogryposis multiplex congenita (AMC), a disorder that affects the movement and flexibility of a newborn’s joints and muscles. “The doctors at home in Virginia had no idea what it was,” says Tess, Norien’s mother.
Unlike other conditions that inhibit movement, AMC doesn’t worsen with age, so long as kids with the condition get proper medical treatment. So Norien’s parents had to figure out a way for their son to receive expert care at Shriners Hospital in Philadelphia, and traveling by train to and from the hospital quickly became expensive. That’s when they reached out to Angel Flight East, a nonprofit run by volunteer pilots who combine their love of flying with a desire to help others.
“It’s very rewarding to be able to take something that you love doing and give back to folks in need,” says Nevin Showman, a pilot for Angel Flight Mid-Atlantic.
Watch the video above to hear Norien’s story, and to learn how Angel Flight and similar nonprofits make a difference nationwide.
More: The Harry Potter Producer Who Gave Up The Movie Business To Help Families With Sick Children

There Is a Cure for Hepatitis C, If Only Patients Could Access It

Jackie Johnson never considered himself a risk-taker. In fact, he says, he had a pretty normal existence working as a manager of a Taco Bell in Dallas.
“My life was nothing crazy,” Johnson, 42, tells NationSwell. So it was an unexpected and devastating blow when he received a double-whammy diagnosis of HIV and the hepatitis C virus, or HCV, 12 years ago. “I was confused for three months. I tried to stay optimistic, but your body just goes through denial.”
Johnson can trace his transmission to one of two events: getting tattooed with a possibly unsterilized needle in 2006, or a sexual assault that happened around the same time. But no matter the method of infection, he was well aware that he was carrying two viruses that, at the time, were completely incurable.
There are thousands of cases like Johnson’s each year, where HIV transmission coincides with contracting hepatitis C. In the past decade, HCV has become a national health problem, with the Centers for Disease Control estimating that the number of new infections increased nearly threefold between 2010 and 2015. Much of the rise has been attributed to increased intravenous opioid use.
But in the past four years, new drugs that can cure most cases of HCV have become available. The problem: Many people in need of the cure — which can cost thousands of dollars — are the same people who depend on Medicaid, which has rolled back HCV treatments nationwide. And in addition, reaching the population most at risk for spreading HCV is a task that continues to elude health officials.
But in New York, a new plan that has shown success in an earlier incarnation is taking hold. If it works, it might just pave the way for other states looking to curb the rise of HCV infections.


Hepatitis C is different than other viruses. Whereas most die when they make contact with the air, HCV is — by one health advocate’s description — “ambitious.”
“In theory you can get hepatitis C from sharing toothbrushes or razors — anywhere where blood-to-blood contact is possible,” says Clifton Garmon, senior policy analyst for VOCAL-NY, an advocacy group for those living with HIV and HCV. “As long as you have blood in your body, you’re at risk.”
What’s more, experts estimate that of the roughly 3.5 million Americans living with HCV, more than half of them don’t even know they’re infected. Those who do have symptoms may experience fatigue, jaundice, nausea or dark urine. In either case, if left untreated HCV can eventually result in liver failure or even death.
In New York State, the rate of people diagnosed with acute HCV more than doubled between 2011 and 2013, according to annual reports. In 2016, the total number of infections again jumped, from 14,000 to nearly 19,000 cases.
While HCV rates were rising in New York, Gilead Pharmaceuticals developed and patented the first known drug that can eradicate the virus. Called Harvoni, the drug debuted in 2014 with a hefty price-tag; one treatment cost around $60,000, a figure that initially led many states to decline to offer it.
With generic drugs hitting the market in the years since, costs have dropped significantly, though many states still restrict access to them. Until recently North Carolina, for example, only offered treatment if a patient developed stage two liver damage as a result of HCV.
But even with a more affordable cure available, people who need the treatment often aren’t getting it, and that’s due to a lack of education, say advocates and organizations working to close the gap.
“The primary issue is finding people who have hep C,”  says Terry Leach, head of pharmaceuticals for Amida Care, a nonprofit insurer in New York City, adding that drug users who shoot up are a tricky population to reach. “You can never quite track them down, and they’re never quite engaged in care. You may have somebody who gets identified with hep C and knows it, but they don’t follow up with their therapy.”
As a solution, the New York health department has modeled an educational campaign after a similar one that helped stem the tide of another virus that was once out of control: HIV.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo plans to fight the spread of hepatitis C using the same strategy that’s worked to curb HIV infections.


Only a few years ago, New York health officials faced the daunting task of dramatically reducing HIV cases. At one point, the state had the highest rate of infections in all of the Northeast (the South, for decades, has been and continues to be the hardest hit). A task force was put together in 2014 with the goal of reducing the spread of HIV, particularly in vulnerable communities.  
Last year, for the second year in a row, the state reported that the number of new infections of HIV had dipped, putting the Ending the Epidemic initiative closer to its target of no more than 750 new cases by 2020.
Much of that downturn, health experts say, is due to increased awareness and usage of pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, preventative medication that reduces the chances of HIV transmission by up to 99 percent. New York was one of the first states to allow Medicaid recipients at most risk — including gay men and men who have sex with other men — to take the drug Truvada.
Simultaneously, subway and bus ads started appearing in neighborhoods with the highest rate of HIV infections — the same New York City neighborhoods, in fact, that also tend to be the most affected by HCV.
Just last month, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced increased funding that will expand the Ending the Epidemic campaign to include HCV prevention and treatment — the first state-level plan of its kind. In addition, New York also is expanding the promotion of its Good Samaritan Law, which allows drug users who need help to call emergency assistance without fear of arrest.
For Leach, of Amida Care, using New York’s HIV-education initiative as a primer for combating HCV makes sense. Most of the nonprofit’s patients are living with both HIV and HCV, and its program has been able to tackle one virus through education and treatment of the other. By providing the drug Harvoni and similar medications, Amida Care has eradicated HCV in 95 percent of its patients, he says.
“Our treatment paradigm for HIV sets the stage for hep C,” he says. “If you follow that treatment regimen, it fits nicely.”
Amida Care finds those most at risk through outreach and word of mouth. Treatment first tackles a patient’s HIV infection by lowering their viral load to an undetectable level, which means they’re unable to spread the virus. Then, the focus turns to treating a concurrent HCV infection.
It’s the same way Amida Care approached working with Johnson, who went there after moving from Dallas to New York five years ago.
“I was skeptical,” Johnson says, adding that he had been through injection treatments that weren’t effective in curing his HCV, and instead had rough side effects including nausea and aches and pains. “But before I even started, they gave me as much knowledge as needed to make me comfortable with [HCV]  treatment. And it was something that was simple to do.”
Johnson, who now resides in The Bronx, was cured of HCV two years ago. He says that now, thanks to treatment, he’s closer to his former, normal self.



The Demand for Volunteer Physicians Is Rising. The Number of Uninsured Is Too

The class and financial borders in Bridgeport, Connecticut’s largest city, are prominent. Within a 10-minute drive, the landscape in any which way can go from tidy, two-story homes with picket fences to burned-out buildings and blighted neighborhoods.
It’s this divide that has ranked Connecticut — and specifically Fairfield County — as one of the best (or worst, rather) examples of America’s wealth gap. It’s also home to more than 83,000 people who are uninsured — the leftovers from Obamacare who are either undocumented or can’t afford private health insurance.
And it’s those residents who Dr. Ken Grossman thinks about when he volunteers once a month at the Fred Weisman Americares Free Clinic in Bridgeport, about 30 minutes south of his main practice.
“There’s this paradox where we’re the richest and the poorest county in the nation,” Grossman tells NationSwell. “The population I see, they are some of the hardest working people. Some of the poorest too, but it’s because of that they take nothing for granted.”
Grossman is one of thousands of doctors that volunteer their time at free clinics, of which there are about 1,200 across the nation serving 6 million people, according to the National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics. Their mission is simple: provide free healthcare to those who can’t afford it. These medical facilities were the lifeblood for the uninsured before the Affordable Care Act. But as Medicaid expanded in 31 states, including the District of Columbia, following the law’s passage, more people were able to get coverage, leaving free clinics fighting for survival.  
Now, with national healthcare on unsteady ground, there could be more people relying on these clinics again, but there’s a dearth of skilled and well-practiced physicians willing to volunteer.
“If you ask me what I need, I’ll always tell you dollars and docs,” says Karen Gottlieb, executive director of Americares’ four free clinics in Fairfield County. “And we desperately need docs.”

Americares Free Clinics Nurse Practitioner Mary Beth Fessler takes a patient’s blood pressure at the Boehringer Ingelheim Americares Free Clinic in Danbury, Conn.


Volunteering among professionals has seen a gradual decline over the past six years, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The percentage of volunteers with advanced education, including doctoral degrees, dropped from 42.4 percent in 2011 to 38.8 percent in 2015.
And though more than 90 percent of physicians emphasize that volunteering or community outreach is paramount for their jobs — specifically helping the poorest patients — only 39 percent have volunteered their time, according to a 2008 survey.
“Pro bono work in law is mandated, but you don’t have that in medicine,” says Yasmin Meah, founder and program director for Mount Sinai’s East Harlem Health Outreach Program, a free clinic in New York City. “A few years ago we were really struggling as far as recruiting and maintaining volunteers. We’d have to close about four to five times per year because there were no volunteer physicians.”
The decrease in volunteers has forced clinics like Meah’s to get creative in attracting doctors to donate their services. One way they’ve done so is by offering malpractice insurance for physicians, which can cost thousands of dollars a year. Americares’ clinics, for example, provides liability coverage to its volunteer doctors — an incentive that convinced Grossman to get on board.
Still, covering malpractice isn’t the answer in every case. Free clinics affiliated with hospitals, like Mount Sinai’s for example, often prefer to work with doctors who currently practice at the hospital, because their insurance is already covered. This in turn can lead clinics to pass up the services of older, retired physicians, who otherwise have the time, experience and desire to volunteer.
It’s a conundrum that’s only become more pronounced as clinics, most of which rely on a shoestring budget and bare-bones volunteer staff, struggle to stay open. After the rollout of the ACA, many had to convince donors to keep funding their operations, says Sasha Bianchi, executive director of Volunteers in Medicine.
“The challenge was the perception more than the reality of the situation,” says Bianchi. “Everybody was thinking, ‘Oh, society solved [the uninsured] problem, so I’ll send my money somewhere else.’”


Despite the uninsured rate dipping to 9.1 percent in 2015, a record low in the U.S., there has been a slow trend upward that has many clinic leaders worried — and fighting for funding.
According to the Gallup Health Index, the uninsured population saw an increase to 11.7 percent in the second quarter of 2017. The reasons behind the uptick are numerous: insurers leaving the ACA, higher premiums and an uncertainty of where the law will go under the current administration.
But that could all change, for the worse, as higher premiums proposed next year push more people back into the uninsured ranks. In June of this year, the two companies in Connecticut selling individual plans through the ACA — Anthem and ConnectiCare — have both proposed rate increases for 2018, ranging from 17.5 to 33.8 percent.
And Americares’ clinics won’t be able to treat everyone, says Gottlieb.
“We’re only taking care of 3,200 of them, and there are a lot more people out there who don’t have insurance,” says Gottlieb. “We could see more patients if we had more resources, but we are resource-constrained.”


For those clinics that didn’t close their doors, they became de facto medical homes or navigation facilities. And many were able to rise to the challenge as demand fell and patients were able to be seen faster and more frequently.
Which is all good news, as free clinics also provide a training ground for medical students. At the East Harlem Health Outreach Program, any given Saturday will see 35 volunteer med students working, all of whom get to see the troubles facing a beleaguered population whose health is sometimes made critical by lack of consistent or quality healthcare.
It’s that same population, about a quarter of which are immigrants, that Grossman, the Americares volunteer, loves to help, despite the political arguments against the undocumented and their use of the healthcare system.
“I became a physician to take care of people,” he says. “These are people. They have hearts, arms, brains and medical issues, just like everyone else. And I’m going to help them.”

From Farm to Patient: How One Medical Facility is Rethinking Hospital Food

The words “hospital food” usually inspire thoughts of rubbery jello and syrupy fruit cups. But the St. Luke’s University Health Network in Easton, Pa. is doing its best to change that.
In the fall of 2013, it teamed up with the Rodale Institute, a nonprofit dedicated to establishing organic farms and spreading organic practices, to establish a produce farm serving the hospital network. The farm’s harvest quota for this season (its first) was set at 44,000 pounds from five acres of tilled land; as of this writing, it’s is on track to exceed that amount.
The excess land used for the farm is part of the St. Luke’s Anderson Campus, the newest addition to the St. Luke’s hospital network. Opening its doors three years ago, the hospital itself covers about 40 acres – but in total, it owns 500 acres of land. The additional land was acquired, according to Anderson Campus hospital president Edward Nawrocki, as part of a long-term expansion strategy.
Last year, however, Nawrocki began looking for creative ways to use the extra real estate. Some employees suggested an organic farm, an idea that Nawrocki jumped on.
He contacted the Rodale Institute and spoke with executive director Mark “Coach” Smallwood. Coach started looking for a farm manager and quickly decided upon Lynn Trizna, a young woman involved in organic farming that Coach identified as “a farmer without a farm.”
Nawrocki, “Farmer Lynn”, and Coach picked a site for the farm and a smaller, five-acre parcel for the first season. Following organic practices, 12 types of produce— from tomatoes to kale to beets — were planted.
Often, ripe produce is picked in the morning, transported, prepared and served the same day.
“Health care in the past was about sick care. We got paid when people got sick.” says Nawrocki. “In the next decade, it’s going to be about keeping people well.”
But this change doesn’t come without challenges. The existing food vendor, Sodexo, has had to modify its food acquisition practices to incorporate the local produce since many of the items it sources already come prepared. Farmer Lynn and Nawrocki have taken a hands-on approach to working with Sodexo on menu modifications, something that the vendor’s staff is excited and proud of.
Currently, the Rodale Farm organic produce is served in the cafeteria, plus it’s also gradually being incorporated into the patients’ meals, as many are on restricted diets.
As the farm grows, Nawrocki and Farmer Lynn and Nawrocki are working to expand patient options. Both hope that other hospitals with land investments will adopt this idea, revolutionizing how food is prepared for those who need good nutrition the most. Who knows? Maybe in the future jello cups and prepackaged food will be seen in the same light as bloodletting today – an anachronism of a less sophisticated time.

How Price Tags in Hospitals Can Help Patients Avoid Huge Medical Bills

The Affordable Healthcare Act created marketplaces to expand affordable healthcare and to underscore that promise, Massachusetts is now requiring private health insurance companies to use price tags on anything from an MRI to a general check-up.
Beginning Oct. 1, all heath insurers in the Bay State are required to list prices in real-time, outlining the otherwise hidden costs of healthcare, much like an online shopping site. While it’s unclear if every insurer met the deadline, there is no penalty if they failed to do so, according to 90.9 WBUR
By using an online calculator on their insurer’s website, users can find out how much they’ve spent this year toward their deductible. If coverage does not include a deductible, the calculator will add up the balance toward the out-of-pocket maximum. Blue Cross customers can find the calculator under “Find a Doctor,” Tufts is under Empower Me” and Harvard Pilgrim’s is under “Now iKnow.”
While the mandate underscores a sea change in health care practices, Massachusetts first began the process two years ago when the state passed a law to increase transparency among hospitals and health insurers.

“This is a very big deal,” says Undersecretary for Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation Barbara Anthony. “Let the light shine in on health care prices.”

But the new law has its flaws, and though it’s still early, WBUR points out a few glaring issues with the new health care price tags.

No standard price: There is no standard price and no list of priced tests and procedures. Pricing out a visit depends on the insurer and can range in price drastically. For instance, an MRI for the upper back can cost between $614 and $1,800 on the Harvard Pilgrim “Now I Know” tool. The prices are also listed in real-time, which means they can change day-to-day.

Prices are ambiguous: Since insurers negotiate their rates with hospitals and physicians, they may entail hidden costs. For example, a listed price tag may not include the cost of reading a test or a facility fee.

Prices focus on outpatient care: The information is not comprehensive and encompasses few prices outlining what it would cost for inpatient care or an overnight stay at the hospital.

However, as Tufts Health Plan Director of Commercial Product Strategy Athelstan Bellerand notes, the new prices “are a major step in the right direction.”
By adding price tags, state officials are forcing us to think more about our health spending and how much a procedure actually costs, rather than leaving it to our private insurance. Anthony is also hoping by illuminating the price difference, more physicians will become sensitive to where they fall on the scale and ultimately encourage more competition and drive down costs.
“I’m just talking about sensible rational pricing, which health prices are anything but,” she adds.
MORE: The Checklist That Can Reform Healthcare

This California City Is Staffing A Firehouse with A Different Kind of Life-Saver

As the need for health care services continues to grow across the country, a small California city is rethinking where residents can seek out treatment without worrying about long lines or costly hospital bills.
Government officials in Hayward, Calif. and Alameda County have begun construction on a newfangled fire station that will not only address home emergencies, but medical concerns as well. The Firehouse Clinic combines a local firehouse with a stand alone health clinic, creating cost-effective access to primary and emergency care for local residents, City Lab reports.
The new care center is part of a larger plan created by Alameda officials to build similar health portals within its 150 square-miles within the county. The project, which began in 2012, identified 14 sites within seven jurisdictions that could potentially serve as an alternative health care center.
Kyle Elliot, an architect behind the design and partner at WRNS Studio in San Francisco, explains how the idea stems from the reputation of firefighters, who are often entrusted in communities.

“There’s an EMT on site, typically, in a fire house. It makes a good symbiotic relationship to place a clinic,” Elliot said. 

The firm designed a prototype for Hayward, free of charge, in partnership with Public Architecture, a firm focused on social design. The team also collaborated with six California healthcare and emergency organizations to determine guidelines in creating accessible and reliable health care centers.

The location of the pilot clinic caters to an important part of Alameda County, serving a larger community of low-income and uninsured families in the Tennyson Corridor. Officials plan to encourage locals with limited healthcare benefits or little access to visit the 2,400-square-foot space before heading to the hospital, for both emergency and preventative care.

More than 5,000 patients are expected through the door during the first two years, according to Alameda County Health Care Services Agency. To serve the influx of patients, the facility will house 7 exam rooms, staff will extend clinic hours from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays and guarantee appointments within 72 hours of a request.

“Firefighters traditionally have a great relationship within the community. The trust and respect we have is incredible, said Melinda Drayton, battalion chief at Oakland Fire Department. “The familiarity is there for them to come and get the care they so desperately need without having to use the 911 system.”

MORE: Extreme Makeover: Fire Hydrant Edition

How Crowdsourcing Medical Bills Can Usher in a New Era of Health Care Transparency

Clarification appended February 10, 2014. 
Despite all the changes that the Affordable Care Act has brought to the U.S. health care industry, many patients still don’t know the up-front costs of common procedures and checkups. Enter Doctible (working title), a website that will allow patients to compare out-of-pocket costs on common procedures in their area, as well as view doctor ratings based on patient reviews. The site was conceived after Erich Graham, 27, injured himself playing hockey a few years ago. He realized that he was going to need an MRI, and because he had a high-deductible plan, he knew it was probably going to be expensive. Graham tried shopping around for the best price in his area, and found it almost impossible to learn the real costs before the imaging was performed. “It’s like looking at apartments, checking out the amenities, meeting the landlord, signing the lease, and then finding out what the rent is,” he told Fast Company.
MORE: Why House Calls Are Health Care’s Future, Not Just Its Past
Graham knew there had to be a better way, so he teamed up with a fellow graduate from Cornell Tech, Greg Tobkin, 28, and together they came up with an idea to allow consumers to crowdsource their doctor bills, in order to inform other users of their medical experiences — and most importantly, the costs of procedures and checkups. The pair is currently seeking funding and advisers to help them navigate the tricky world of health care pricing. But while there are some barriers to overcome before launch, Graham and Tobkin know that, given the success of sites like ZocDoc and Yelp, which already offer patient reviews, the ability to compare health care costs is a service that could be incredibly helpful. “This will definitely exist in five years, whether it’s us or someone else who does it,” Tobkin says. “There’s too big a need.”
Clarification: Doctible was the working title of Graham and Tobkin’s Cornell Tech project. Their idea is not related to the startup Doctible, a website that allows consumers to negotiate prices on medical bills. Graham and Tobkin are seeking a new name for their venture, and are in talks with startup accelerators to get their idea off the ground.

Critical Care Nurse Turns Frustration Into Innovation for Pennsylvanians

Meet Alice Yoder. Her early work as a critical-care nurse came with high levels of frustration, as she saw too many patients suffering problems like heart attacks because of behavioral problems that might have been easy to correct. She didn’t let frustration turn her away from the idea of improving community health, though. Instead, she took on the role she describes as “convener and collaborator,” and has served as community health director at Lancaster General Hospital for more than two decades. In that time, she has overcome budget challenges and multiple changes in healthcare infrastructure to successfully make dramatic changes in the area’s health and lifestyle. She implemented new programs, like the hospital’s Wellness Center, and originated the area’s healthy-lifestyle organization, Lighten Up Lancaster County.


In Alaska, a Plan to Help Patients Brave the Winter and Get Medical Attention

Throughout the winter, plenty of people in the country face some troubles when challenging weather makes it tough to get to medical appointments. Sometimes it’s just a matter of braving the cold to make it to a checkup, other times it’s getting through heavy snow in an emergency or for crucial treatments. Alaskans, naturally, face some of the greatest challenges, given the state’s cold climate and expansive land area. Accessing care in Alaska isn’t just a problem of weather; key centers like the Anchorage Native Medical Center simply don’t have enough space to evaluate and treat the patients who travel there. Patients end up reserving about 100 nearby hotel rooms every night. The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium is stepping in to help by planning a new 170-room housing facility. The building will be connected to the medical center, and as Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium CEO Roald Helgesen explains, improving access means improving the quality of care.