Health Care

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.

A picture of a stethoscope.
jasleen_kaur / Flickr/Creative Commons

Health care organizations in North Carolina are expanding an initiative to see how doctors and pharmacists cooperate to streamline patient care.

Community Care of North Carolina has already set up a program in which 3,000 GlaxoSmithKline employees see doctors who coordinate all their treatment.

But CCNC President Doctor Allen Dobson says that primary care physicians don't always know all the medications a patient is taking, especially if they're seeing other specialists for multiple conditions.

Gavel
SalFalko / Flickr Creative Commons

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond will hear oral arguments tomorrow over a North Carolina law that would require abortion providers to show patients an ultrasound and describe the image in detail.

The Republican-led state legislature passed the law back in 2011. It would require abortion providers to show their patients images of an embryo or fetus and describe them.

Six organizations quickly challenged the law, and U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles temporarily blocked the ultrasound requirement.

Kay Hagan and Thom Tillis shake hands after the debate at UNC-TV Wednesday night.
Mike Oniffrey / UNC-TV

  Healthcare and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) continue to be a topic of discussion on the North Carolina campaign trails. 

A map of North Carolina Infant Mortality Rates 2009-2013
NCDHHS

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported Tuesday that infant mortality is at its lowest level in state history.

For the past two years, infant mortality rates had risen -- going from 7.0 per 1000 live births in 2010 to 7.4 in 2012. But last year, the numbers shot back down, returning to 2010 levels, the lowest in history.

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