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Get on the “Fast Track” to the PVH Lab

August 3- Penobscot Valley Hospital is pleased to announce a new “Fast Track” registration program for patients with orders for the PVH Laboratory. The Fast Track program allows patients to call ahead and pre-register for lab work they need done.

First, your physician will fax or mail a patient order for lab work to the hospital. Then, you are encouraged to call PVH and pre-register to save time. This will involve answering a few demographic questions and stating the day you plan to come in for your lab work. Fast Track patients are welcome to come in any time it is convenient on the day stated in pre-registration. To ensure PVH employees have time to follow up with your physician if necessary, you will need to pre-register prior to 4:00 p.m. the day before you intend to come in for lab work.

“Our lab is open at 6:00 a.m.,” explains PVH Lab Director Scott Warner. Since most physicians’ offices don’t open until 8:00 a.m., if a phlebotomist has a question on an order the patient will typically have to wait and return after our lab has reached a physician’s office.

Warner clarifies, “If you are a Fast Track patient and pre-register, it gives us time to contact your physician’s office if we have questions, order any special tubes or kits, and order your lab tests in our system. We’ll have everything ready when you arrive, saving you time.”

The new Fast Track program is one of many aspects of the PVH Service Excellence initiative. Dave Shannon, Chief Executive Officer at PVH states, “All of us at PVH have been striving to improve customer service, making our programs and hospital services more convenient and easy to use while improving the overall atmosphere of the hospital and its efficiency.”

The Fast Track program is very convenient for patients, allowing staff to clarify questions they may have for physicians’ offices and to get the proper supplies ready ahead of time for the patient. Occasionally, special tubes or kits need to be ordered, so calling ahead can assure the correct supplies are on hand. The Fast Track program will save quite a bit of time for patients as they come in for lab work at PVH.

“The patients with standing orders for lab work will especially benefit from the Fast Track program,” describes Warner. “The lab has around 350-400 patients with multiple orders that can be difficult and time consuming to sort out. If that can be done prior, it can save the patient a lot of time in the long run.”

Even though patients can pre-register, they are still reminded to bring their insurance card(s) to each appointment, and each patient will need to sign a consent form before having any procedure done. VA patients are also reminded to come in for lab work before 3:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday as the Veteran’s office courier service runs on a limited schedule.

PVH offers a full-service, state accredited laboratory providing a range of diagnostic testing services. The lab is open from 6:00 am to 8:00 pm, Monday through Friday and from 8:00 am to noon on Saturdays. The next time you have lab orders filled at PVH, call ahead at (207) 794-7270 and join the “Fast Track”!

PVH Medical Laboratory Technician Karen Sullivan prepares a chemistry specimen for analysis. PVH Photo

TIPS FOR STAYING SAFE IN THE HEAT

From Penobscot Valley Hospital

July 6 - Maine has been dealing with some significantly higher temperatures and humidity this week, and it's important for all of us to take precautions to avoid heat-related health illnesses. Penobscot Valley Hospital reminds people that the big things to remember are to keep cool, drink lots of fluids, and lie low.

"We've been seeing a lot of symptoms in the PVH Emergency Department in Lincoln related to heat exhaustion and heat stroke, including nausea, vomiting, and dizziness," says PVH Emergency Services and Cardiopulmonary Director Lisa O'Connor, R.N. "On hot day, it's crucial that people keep well hydrated with water, specifically—not just coffee or soda."

Dr. Dora Anne Mills, Director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, says, "Heat-related illnesses and deaths are preventable, yet over the last 30 years more people have died in this country from heat than from hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes combined."

Mills says that people most susceptible include infants and young children, adults over age 65, people with mental illness and those who are physically ill with chronic ailments such as heart disease or high blood pressure. She said it's important for family and friends to check on those at higher risk, especially if those people live alone.

High temperatures often contribute to poor air quality, which disproportionately affects people with lung or heart conditions. People may check for any air quality advisories on http://www.maine.gov/dep/air/.

Mills added that summer camp counselors should pay attention to the conditions. "It is important for coaches and counselors to make sure children and youth are given frequent rest breaks and are drinking plenty of fluids," Mills said. "Camp participants should be encouraged to take a fluid or rest break whenever they desire. Strenuous camp activities should also be curtailed because of these unhealthy weather conditions."

During normal weather, the body's internal thermostat produces perspiration that evaporates and cools the body. However, during periods of extreme heat and high humidity, evaporation is slowed and the body must work extra hard to maintain a normal temperature. If the body cannot cool itself, serious illness can result.

How to Keep Cool

Use air conditioning to cool down or go to an air-conditioned building such as a store, a library, or a cooling center.
If you don't have air conditioning in your home, open windows and shades on the shady side and close them on the sunny side to try to cool it down.
Take a cool shower or bath.
Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing to help keep cool.
Stay out of the sun as much as possible.
Wear sunscreen and a ventilated hat (e.g., straw or mesh) when in the sun, even if it is cloudy.
Never leave children, pets or those with special needs in a parked car, even briefly. Temperatures in the car can become dangerous within a few minutes. Even with the windows rolled down two inches, it only takes 10 minutes for the inside of a vehicle to reach deadly temperatures on a hot summer day.
Drink Fluids

Drink more fluids regardless of your activity level.
Avoid alcohol, caffeine and sugary drinks, since these actually cause you to lose more body fluid.
If you are on fluid restrictions or on diuretics, ask your doctor how much fluids you should drink.
Lie Low

Take regular breaks from any necessary physical activity – at least every hour.
Avoid strenuous activity during the hottest part of the day (between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.).
If you must be out in the heat

Try to limit your outdoor activity to morning and evening hours.
Cut down on exercise. If you must exercise, drink two to four glasses of cool, nonalcoholic fluids each hour.
Rest often in shady areas – at least every hour.
Protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses and by putting on sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher (the most effective products say "broad spectrum" or "UVA/UVB protection" on their labels).

Just remember the recommendation from the CDC. On days when the temperature reaches above 95, keep cool, drink lots of fluids, and lie low.


Insulin Pills For Diabetes Now In Clinical Trials

By Mike Boyle

June 4 - For years, drug manufacturers have tried to develop oral insulin for people with diabetes without much success.

Now after years of research, several insulin pills are in various stages of clinical trials, which no doubt will be music to the ears of the millions of diabetes patients worldwide who inject insulin, the hormone that helps to bring their blood sugar to within normal levels.

Problems scientists have had in the past with developing oral insulin came from the fact that stomach acids and enzymes easily destroy insulin and other protein-based drugs, reports Medical News Today.

However, scientists have now developed special coatings for insulin pills that prevent stomach acid from destroying them. They are also using additives that make it easier for the intestine to absorb large molecules like insulin.


Headaches Are a Pain: Tips for Prevention

PVH photo

June 1 - Don't let your headache get the best of you! Penobscot Valley Hospital is promoting National Headache Awareness Week next week (June 6-12th). More than 90% of all men and women suffer from a headache at some time during the year, and many people deal with the symptoms of headaches every day. Some blame it on genetics, the environment, stress, anxiety, diet or lifestyle, but many factors can play roles in creating pain in the upper neck or head.

Headaches may sometimes be related to dietary factors. Consumption of alcohol or caffeine can often play a role, especially since consuming these instead of water and other fluids can be related to poor hydration. Another commonly experienced cause of headaches is simple caffeine withdrawal. Mark Robinson, Registered Dietitian at PVH explains, "Many coffee drinkers suffer from caffeine withdrawal headaches if they miss their morning coffee." It is recommended to limit your intake of caffeine to less than 200 mg/day which is about the equivalent of one regular coffee plus one soda.

In some cases a particular food or ingredient may trigger headaches in individuals with a sensitivity. Persons suffering from frequent migraine headaches may be advised to avoid a variety of foods or ingredients, including chocolate, Monosodium Glutamate (MSG), and food sources of Tyramine, which include aged or cured meats and cheeses. "Some people may also be sensitive to aspartame," says Robinson. "Many diet products--especially diet soda and other diet beverages--are made with the artificial sweetener which may trigger headaches in some individuals."

If you suffer from severe headaches, you should seek a diagnosis from a qualified healthcare provider. If your headache is different than your usual headaches, accompanied with persistent nausea or vomiting, associated with fever, stiff neck, seizures or recent head trauma, you should seek medical attention.

Dr. David Dumont, PVH Hospitalist says most headaches can be treated at home with over-the-counter medications, "But people who have a new, severe headache - often described as the worst headache of their life - should seek medical treatment." The onset of a sudden, severe headache can be a sign of a stroke, along with sudden confusion, numbness or weakness in the face or limbs, trouble walking or dizziness, or difficulty seeing with one or both eyes.

Studies have shown that over 50% of people suffering with migraines never received a medical diagnosis or treatment. Today, there are many treatments available for migraines including acute medication for occasional sufferers as needed and daily preventive medications for those with very severe or frequent migraines.

Many people can reduce the frequency of their headaches by maintaining a daily routine in eating and sleeping at regularly scheduled times. Other techniques to reduce headaches include managing stress through:

Deep breathing exercises – at the first sign of a migraine, the patient breathes deeply, slowly and steadily while focusing on the diaphragm
Muscle relaxation – the patient contracts and releases different muscle groups one after another until relaxation is achieved
Visualizations – think of images or situations that are pleasant and relaxing

Penobscot Valley Hospital now has a free Headache Diary available on its website at www.pvhme.org. The form is designed to help track when your headaches occur, what triggers might have caused the event, and any relief you had from taking medications. Headache sufferers are encouraged to track your headaches and share this information with your physician for a more accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Today, healthcare providers have the resources to significantly reduce the frequency and severity of your headaches.


PVH Increases Infection Control Efforts

March 2 - Penobscot Valley Hospital is taking more steps than ever to prevent the potential spread of infection. Patients and visitors will most likely notice an increase in the number of hand sanitization stations placed strategically around the facility, along with signs asking people to frequently wash or use gel to sanitize their hands.
PVH’s efforts to keep infections from spreading go far beyond hand washing, though. One of the chief concerns these days in the health care world is the type of infection which stems from central lines or IVs (Intravenous Therapy). PVH is committed to using the following methods to ensure everyone’s safety:

· Implementing rigorous hand hygiene practices, making sure clinicians clean their hands before and after providing care to a patient, as well as before and after having any contact with a patient’s environment or room.

· Using advanced barrier precautions including gloves, gowns, masks, caps, etc.

· Separating patients with serious infections from other patients to avoid transmission.

· Demanding the highest level of sterilization of surgical equipment used for patient care, as well as proper disinfection of the patient’s skin prior to any medical or surgical procedures.

· Encouraging staff to bring attention to any shortcomings in infection control so they can be addressed immediately.

· Cleaning and decontamination of equipment often touched or used by patients such as bedrails, tables, and portable equipment.

· Providing frequent staff education on best practices to prevent infections.

· Supplying regularly updated education on prevention infections such as central-line bloodstream infections and the spread of resistant organisms such as MRSA (Methicillin Rresistant Staphylococcus Aaureus) and C. Diff (Clostridium Difficile).

· Sharing information with patients so that they understand the importance of infection control both in the healthcare setting and at home.

The hospital has a coordinated and extensive set of practices in place to protect everyone who comes into the facility. The rules dictating these measures have come down from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

PVH is encouraging those who stop by to see patients in the hospital to be sure to use hand sanitizer or wash their hands before and after their visits. Non-clinical employees of PVH are also instructed to sanitize their hands frequently throughout the day. Along with hand gel, many of the hand hygiene stations also have tissues and surgical masks, so people with a cough can cover their mouths and further prevent the spread of viruses.

Sherry McCafferty, Infection Control Officer for PVH asserts, “We take infection prevention very seriously at PVH. We’ve posted new signs to remind people to use good hand hygiene and to help prevent the spread of the flu, and the hospital has set procedures to make sure patients with serious infections are kept away from others to prevent transmission of the infections.”

McCafferty says the employees at PVH are committed to make sure everyone is protected from infection—including patients, visitors, families, and clinicians. “This is something that is everyone’s responsibility, and we all need to take those few extra steps each day to wash our hands regularly.”


H1N1 Flu: Situation Update

2009-2010 Influenza Season Week 16 ending April 24, 2010
All data are preliminary and may change as more reports are received.

Synopsis:
During week 16 (April 18-24, 2010), influenza activity decreased in the U.S.

16 (1.2%) specimens tested by U.S. World Health Organization (WHO) and National Respiratory and Enteric Virus Surveillance System (NREVSS) collaborating laboratories and reported to CDC/Influenza Division were positive for influenza.
Among eight subtyped influenza A viruses, seven were 2009 influenza A (H1N1) and one was influenza A (H3).
The proportion of deaths attributed to pneumonia and influenza (P&I) was below the epidemic threshold.
No influenza-associated pediatric deaths were reported.
The proportion of outpatient visits for influenza-like illness (ILI) was 1.0%, which is below the national baseline of 2.3%. All 10 regions reported ILI below region-specific baseline levels.
No states reported widespread or regional influenza activity. Two states reported local influenza activity. The District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and 30 states reported sporadic influenza activity. Seventeen states reported no influenza activity, and the U.S. Virgin Islands and one state did not report.