On the Pulse

New Study Highlights Need for Medical Interpreters

Study: Doctors’ Language Tests Spotlight Need to Provide Interpreters in Medical Settings

Issue

The U.S. population is becoming increasingly diverse. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey Reports, in 2006, 13.7% of U.S. children under age 5 lived in a home where a parent or guardian spoke English less than “very well”. In medical settings, where effective communication between provider and patient is essential to quality care, language barriers have a negative impact. Research has shown that language barriers affect patient satisfaction and compliance, cost, medical errors, and risk of litigation.

While many doctors in the U.S. have some ability to communicate in a foreign language, there are no standards that determine what degree of proficiency is required to communicate effectively with patients. Often, doctors are left to determine themselves whether they’re up to the task of discussing complex medical information in a foreign language. They may not be the best judges of their own abilities. Read full post »

Study: Teens and Young Adults with Mental Health Disorders at Risk of Long-Term Opioid Use

Issue

In a new study, Laura Richardson, MD of Seattle Children’s Research Institute and co-investigators found that young adults ages 13 to 24 with mental health disorders were more likely to be prescribed opioids such as OxyContin and Vicodin for chronic pain and also more than twice as likely to become long-term opioid users than those who didn’t have a mental health disorder. The study, “Mental Health Disorders and Long-term Opioid Use Among Adolescents and Young Adults With Chronic Pain,” appears in the June 2012 issue of  Journal of Adolescent Health, and underscores the increase in the use and abuse of long-term opioid painkillers among teens in the U.S.

In this video, Dr. Richardson discusses the findings of the study and what they tell us about this trend:


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Protecting Children from Harmful Effects of Violence in the News

Issue

Tragic news of multiple fatal shootings rocked Seattle today.

Children can be especially at risk to experience fear and anxiety as reactions to these events. Research shows that children who witness violence  in regular news coverage, as well as in their families, schools and communities, are vulnerable to serious long-term emotional harm.

In the video below, Dr. Bob Hilt, child and adolescent psychiatrist at Seattle Children’s Hospital, discusses ways parents can help their children cope during disasters such as earthquakes,  man-made disasters, and random acts of violence.

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Deploying an Automobile Manufacturing Process to Serve Patients Better

On the face of it, lean manufacturing, which is used by Toyota and other major global companies, doesn’t seem to fit very well into the world of medicine.

But, on closer examination, surgeons are beginning to see that lean has a good deal in common with the scientific method used in research – it’s just a matter of terminology, although it’s important to point out that this isn’t like randomized controlled trials; instead, it’s about testing hypotheses.

Indeed, the overall goal of lean is to define and refine a process, and then make the end product better for the customer; in medicine, that’s the patient. Read full post »

Study Shows Hypertonic Saline Ineffective with Very Young CF Patients

Issue

While tremendous advancements have been made over the past several decades in treating cystic fibrosis (CF), many CF therapies are not one-size-fits-all.  What works for adult patients doesn’t necessarily help very young patients.  And yet, it’s critical to begin therapies early in life to delay lung disease caused by CF from progressing.

Inhaled hypertonic (extra salty) saline is one such therapy recommended for many CF patients age 6 or older, but its effectiveness has never been evaluated in patients age 5 or younger.  Despite this, since 2007 inhaled hypertonic saline has been increasingly used among U.S. children with CF ages 2 to 5.

Several years ago, Australian researchers stumbled on the benefits of hypertonic saline when they noticed that surfers with CF had fewer respiratory flare-ups than people with CF who didn’t surf.  The researchers speculated that the salty mist of ocean water lessened respiratory CF symptoms and their subsequent study confirmed their hypothesis.
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Deceptively Simple Science Aims to Save Premature Babies

Sometimes even a simple idea can make a difference in people’s lives.  In my case, I hope that the creative adaptation of a simple science concept will one day save the lives of premature infants in the developing world.

As a program manager in the Center for Developmental Therapeutics, I support researchers working in the realm of preterm birth and neonatal health.  So far, the main focus of that work has been on treatment options for premature infants, including the development of the Seattle Children’s Positive Airway Pressure ( Sea-PAP) device, an easy to use respiratory support device for preemies.

The aim of my research project is to investigate new ways of easily and inexpensively diagnosing lung immaturity in premature infants.  Premature birth is a leading cause of neonatal death in the U.S., but not many people realize that it is also a huge issue in developing countries.  New research has shown that  15 million premature babies are born each year, and helping preterm infants everywhere lead long, healthy lives is an important goal of my research. Read full post »

Kelly Clarkson Shares a Special Message with Seattle Children’s Hospital Cancer Patients

It didn’t take Kelly Clarkson very long to find out about Seattle Children’s Hospital patient Chris Rumble’s uplifting music video of her song “Stronger.” Chris posted the video on Sunday and by Tuesday Kelly tweeted, “Oh my goodness y’all have to see this! It’s beautiful! I can’t wait to visit these kids and nurses! It’s Seattle Children’s Hospital, I believe. God Bless y’all!”

Kelly was so moved that today she sent a video response to Chris and all the patients, families, and staff in Seattle Children’s Hospital’s Hematology Oncology unit. Everyone was so excited to hear from her, including many of the video’s star performers.

Check out Kelly’s video and the excitement it created with our patients, families and staff:

If you haven’t heard, check out the history of the video.

Resources

Cancer Patients Sing Their Strength in “Stronger” Music Video

Saturday, May 5th, was unlike any other day on Seattle Children’s Hospital’s Hematology Oncology floor. The beats of Kelly Clarkson’s song “Stronger” rang through the halls as patients sang out the familiar chorus, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger…”

Doctors, nurses, parents and patients showed off their best dance moves while harmonizing to the tune with big smiles on their face. Patients held up signs with the words “hope” and “fighter” – all communicating the important message that they are strong.

This fun celebration of strength was thanks to Chris Rumble, a 22-year-old Children’s cancer patient who lives in Kent, Wash., who was recently diagnosed with leukemia in April. Chris had the idea to make a music video to share with his old hockey team in Wenatchee because his teammates had made him a music video for his birthday. Read full post »

Cancer Survival and the Impact on Long-Term Health

For children and their families, surviving cancer is an incredible triumph. The good news is that about 80 percent of children who have cancer now survive their disease (National Cancer Institute). However, this important milestone also marks the beginning of a child’s lifelong journey as a cancer survivor – A journey that may be difficult as their disease and treatment can affect their health for many years to come.

While cancer recurrence may be the overriding fear for many cancer survivors, a recent national study found that nearly half of survivors die of something other than cancer later in life, such as heart disease or diabetes, underscoring the importance of survivors being aware of their long-term risks and overall health. This especially rings true for childhood cancer survivors where about two-thirds suffer from at least one chronic health condition and about one-third have a life-threatening condition, according to a 2006 study in the New England Journal of Medicine. Read full post »

5-month-old Receives Seattle Children’s 100th Heart Transplant

Despite being born premature at 30-weeks gestation, Rachel Robbins’ new baby boy Ethan was an extremely alert and cheerful newborn. But at three days old, doctors first noticed that something was not right with Ethan. He had a heart murmur. The cause, ventricular septal defect (VSD), a hole in his septum located in the middle of his heart. Due to the hole, when his heart would contract, Ethan’s aorta would become so blocked that blood could not get out of his left ventricle causing pressure on his lungs.

It was only one week later that Ethan developed congestive heart failure.  By the time he was six weeks old his condition had worsened so that doctors diagnosed him with hypertropic cardiomyopathy, a genetic condition that may have been inherited from Rachel that caused the left ventricle of Ethan’s heart to enlarge and thicken in utero.

“He began to have difficulty breathing, he was sweating, and had a greyish-blueish color in his skin,” said Rachel. “He was also sleeping a lot more than he should have been, and it appeared he was using most of his energy to breathe. I knew something was not right.”
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