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Archive for May, 2016

Dr. Peter Rhee Named Grady Memorial Hospital’s new Chief of Acute Care Surgery

Monday, May 30th, 2016

Nationally renowned trauma surgeon Dr. Peter Rhee has been named Grady Memorial Hospital’s new Chief of Acute Care Surgery and Medical Director of the Marcus Trauma Center. Rhee will begin work in June. He comes to Grady from the University of Arizona where he served as Chief of Trauma, Critical Care, Burn and Emergency Surgery and was a professor of surgery.

A 1983 summa cum laude graduate of Georgia Tech with a Bachelor of Science in Health System Engineering, Rhee received his medical degree from Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, Maryland. He holds a Masters of Public Health from the University of Washington and a diploma in the Medical Care of Catastrophes from the Society of Apothecaries of London. Rhee completed a fellowship in trauma and critical care at the University of Washington’s Harborview Medical Center and is double boarded in general surgery and surgical critical care.

“We are extremely excited to have a surgeon of Dr. Rhee’s extraordinary talents and experience join the Grady medical leadership team,” said Dr. Robert Jansen, Executive Vice President, Chief Medical Officer and Chief of Staff, Grady Health System. “Under his direction, Grady’s already outstanding trauma services will advance to an even higher level of care.”

Rhee is a retired U.S. Navy Captain, with 24 years of active duty. He served in Afghanistan and Iraq during Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. A founding member of the Tactical Combat Casualty Care Committee, Rhee serves on national steering and research committees including the Defense Health Board’s Subcommittee on Trauma & Injury and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s blood products advisory committee.

A member of the American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma, Rhee is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, a Fellow of Critical Care Medicine and a member of several associations including the American Surgical Association, American Association for the Surgery of Trauma, the Association for Academic Surgery, the Society of Critical Care and the Shock Society. He has authored or co-authored more than 350 peer reviewed publications, 20 book chapters and 3 books.

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Stem Cell Study Sees Improved Heart Failure Outcomes

Monday, May 30th, 2016

Patients with heart failure who received an experimental stem cell therapy experienced a reduced rate of death, hospitalization and unplanned clinic visits over the next year compared to a placebo group, according to results presented at the American College of Cardiology meeting in Chicago.

The results of the ixCELL-DCM study were published online by The Lancet. It was reportedly the largest cell therapy study done in patients with heart failure so far (58 treated vs 51 placebo).

Emory University School of Medicine investigators led by Arshed Quyyumi, MD, and their patients participated in the study, and Emory was one of the largest enrolling sites. Lead authors were Timothy Henry, MD of Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles and Amit Patel, MD of the University of Utah.

“For the first time, a clinical trial has shown that administration of a cellular therapeutic results in an improvement in cardiac outcomes based on a pre-specified analysis,” an editorial accompanying an editorial accompanying the paper in The Lancet says.

This study, which was sponsored by Vericel Corporation, was phase II, meaning that a larger phase III study will be needed before FDA approval.

Heart failure is often treated with drugs. However, patients who have class III or IV heart failure symptoms, despite optimal medical treatment, now have few options outside of a heart transplant or a left ventricular assist device (LVAD).

To be part of the study, patients had to have ischemic cardiomyopathy, the most common cause of heart failure, and an implanted cardioverter defibrillator (ICD), and be ineligible for other procedures such as bypass surgery. Most patients had experienced a previous heart attack and were taking several medications such as statins, beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors and diuretics.

In the ixCELL-DCM study, which began in 2012, doctors removed some of each patient’s own bone marrow and sent it to Vericel’s laboratory in Michigan, where it underwent a two-week process to selectively expand two types of cells: mesenchymal stem cells and anti-inflammatory macrophages. Researchers think that these cells may help the heart remodel and function better, but they do not directly rebuild the heart muscle.

The cells were introduced into the patient’s heart with a catheter. The target tissue was selected based on imaging of the border between viable and non-viable heart muscle, according to the rationale and design of the study, published in March in Cell Transplant(open access).

Doctors from 31 sites followed 109 patients over a 12-month period. The 58 patients who received bone marrow cells showed a 37 percent lower rate of deaths, hospitalizations and unplanned clinic visits for symptoms such as fluid buildup and shortness of breath compared to the 51 patients who received a placebo.

Four of the patients who received bone marrow cells died compared to eight in the placebo group. Two patients who received bone marrow cells had an LVAD implanted and died following the implant.

Twenty-two patients (38 percent) who received bone marrow cells were hospitalized with cardiovascular issues during the study while 24 (49 percent) of those who received placebo were hospitalized. There were fewer adverse events, such as those related to catheterization or injection procedures, in the bone marrow treated group compared to the placebo group.

Investigators also monitored structural changes in the heart such as left ventricular ejection fraction (a measure of the heart’s pumping capacity) as well as a patient’s ability to walk for six minutes, but did not see significant differences in either of these measures. Effects beyond one year were not reported. The most recent patient’s 12 month follow-up was in February 2016.

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Hypertension and Sexual Dysfunction: Let’s Start The Conversation

Monday, May 30th, 2016

By Brittany Thomas, M.D.

It has been estimated that more than 150 million men worldwide have some degree of erectile dysfunction. The prevalence of erectile dysfunction is approximately two fold higher in hypertensive patients compared to normotensive patients.

Due to the private nature of this problem, erectile dysfunction is often overlooked and left to the patient to initiate discussion. The consequences of unrecognized erectile dysfunction included medication non-adherence and decreased quality of life for the patient and the patient’s partner.

Research suggests that erectile dysfunction is a risk predictor of cardiovascular disease. Physicians should therefore inquire about sexual dysfunction, understand the physiology, recognize medications that contribute to sexual dysfunction and risk stratify patients with erectile dysfunction.1

Pathophysiology

Normally, the cavernosal nerves synthesize and release nitric oxide (NO) onto the smooth muscle cells of both the corpora cavernosa and the penile arterial system. The NO causes relaxation of the smooth muscle within the media of the penile arterial vessels and cavernosal bodies. With aging, the smooth muscle cells are replaced by collagen fibers. These cells are not able to relax and store blood as well as previously.2

 Vasculogenic ED results from an impairment of smooth muscle relaxation and occlusion of the cavernosal arteries by atherosclerosis or a combination of these. Hypertension plays a role in ED through various mechanisms, including prolonged exposure to elevated systemic blood pressure, endothelial dysfunction and circulation of vasoactive substances such as angiotensin II. These mechanisms lead to structural and functional alterations in the penile arteries.3

 Relationship of ED and CV

ED is a risk predictor of cardiovascular disease. Approximately 40 percent of men who present with ED are shown to have occult cardiovascular disease. It has been shown that ED precedes the onset of symptomatic CAD by a mean of approximately 3 to 5 years. Men with ED appear to carry a 23 percent increased risk of cardiovascular death. Screening for erectile dysfunction may help to identify and improve the management of cardiovascular risk. 2-3

 Treatment

It is important to exclude other causes of erectile dysfunction before vasculogenic sexual dysfunction is diagnosed. The mainstay of treatment for ED is lifestyle modification. Moderate physical activity can reduce the risk of erectile dysfunction compared to a sedentary lifestyle. Caloric reduction, weight loss, alcohol reduction and smoking cessation may improve sexual function.

In terms of medical therapy, testosterone therapy may be helpful in men with testosterone deficiency. Regarding antihypertensives, thiazide-class diuretics have been shown to cause erectile dysfunction. Indapamide is rarely associated with an adverse effect on male sexual function.4

The incidence of sexual dysfunction linked to centrally acting antihypertensives such as clonidine has been estimated to be 20 percent.4 Most beta blockers have the potential adverse side effect of erectile dysfunction. The first-generation beta blockers such as propranolol are more likely than the second-generation beta blockers, like metoprolol, to cause erectile dysfunction. Nebivolol, a third-generation beta blocker, may even improve erectile dysfunction through nitric oxide production. ACE inhibitors and calcium channel blockers have a neutral effect on erectile function.

Angiotensin receptor blockers also have a positive effect on erectile function. Angiotensin receptor blockers block the vasoconstrictive action of angiotensin II. Angiotensin receptor blockers are considered a first-line treatment in hypertensive patients with erectile dysfunction.

Phosphodiesterase-5 (PDE5) inhibitors are effective medications used to treat erectile dysfunction. They are useful even for patients on multiple drug regimens unless contraindicated. They cannot be used with long- or short-acting nitrovasodilators due to hypotension. They should be used with caution in patients taking alpha blockers.

When conservative management fails, surgical penile prosthesis (inflatable or semi-rigid) should be considered. An implantable prosthesis has a high satisfaction rate but carries the risks of mechanical failure and infection.

Women

Research regarding female sexual dysfunction (FSD) is limited. The underlying pathophysiology of hypertension contributing to female sexual dysfunction is similar to the role of hypertension in erectile dysfunction. Decreased blood flow from vascular remodeling and atherosclerosis causes clitoral and vaginal insufficiency. In addition, fibrosis of the clitoral smooth muscle and vaginal wall leads to impaired sexual stimulation. The ultimate result is vasculogenic FSD.

Sexual dysfunction was found in 42.1 percent of women with essential hypertension compared with 19.4 percent of normotensive women.5 The duration of hypertension, beta blockers and uncontrolled hypertension have been linked to sexual dysfunction in women. Hypertension is associated with decreased lubrication and orgasm and increased pain. 6

Although there is limited data on female sexual dysfunction, it is critical to recognize that there is an association with antihypertensive therapy. Changes in medication may improve quality of life and compliance with therapy.

In August 2015, the FDA approved flibanserin for premenopausal women with hypoactive sexual desire disorder. This medication does not target vasculogenic sexual dysfunction but may improve libido in those suffering from the disorder. Flibanserin is a centrally acting serotonin receptor 1A agonist and serotonin receptor 2A antagonist that results in transient decreases in serotonin and increases in dopamine and norepinephrine in certain regions of the brain.7 It has been associated with hypotension and dizziness and should not be taken with alcohol.

Sexual dysfunction is commonly associated with hypertension and antihypertensive medications in both men and women. It is time to start conversations with patients regarding this matter to improve quality of life, medication adherence and risk factor reduction.

 

  1. Duncan et al. Does hypertension and its pharmacotherapy affect the quality of sexual function in women? American Journal of Hypertension. 2000;13(6):640-647.
  2. Doumas M et al. Female sexual dysfunction in essential hypertension:
    A common problem being uncovered.
    Journal of Hypertension. 2006; 24(12):2387-2392.
  3. Al Khaja et al. Antihypertensive drugs and male sexual dysfunction: A review of Adult hypertension Guideline Recommendations. Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology and Therapeutics.
  4. Vlachopoulos C. et al. Erectile dysfunction in the cardiovascular patient. European Heart Journal. 2013;34 (27): 2034-2046.
  5. Clavijo RI, Miner MM, Rajfer J. Erectile Dysfunction and Essential Hypertension: The Same Aging-related Disorder? Reviews in Urology. 2014;16(4):167-171.
  6. Viigimaa M, Vlachopoulos C, Lazaridis A, Doumas M. Management of erectile dysfunction in hypertension: Tips and tricks. World Journal of Cardiology. 2014;6(9):908-915.
  7. Simon JA et al. Efficacy and safety of flibanserin in postmenopausal women with hypoactive sexual desire disorder: results of the SNOWDROP trial. 2014;21(6):633-40.
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12 Tips for Hypertension in the Athlete

Thursday, May 26th, 2016

By John Davis Cantwell, M.D., MACP, FACC

For the past 40 years, I have been doing pre-season Atlanta Braves baseball physicals at their spring training facility in Florida. Thirty-five years ago, I began doing pre-season cardiovascular examinations on freshman Georgia Tech athletes.

Usually every year there are several athletes noted to have hypertension. This is not surprising, since prior surveys suggest that 3.5 percent of children and up to 9 percent of young adults are hypertensive1. Yet, in all those years, we have never had to disqualify an athlete from competition due to this disorder.

I have a mental checklist in evaluating the hypertensive athlete, which includes:

  1. Using a wide cuff in large athletes. I also check the blood pressure in both arms at least once.
  2. Arranging to get multiple follow-up blood pressure (BP) readings with the athletic trainer or with the athlete (using an Omron home arm BP cuff), noting the findings on our graph paper chart.
  3. Taking a thorough family history, especially regarding hypertension, strokes and early coronary events (male relatives < age 55, female relatives < age 65).
  4. Asking about weekly caffeine and alcohol intake and use of nonsteroidal drugs, amphetamines and anabolic steroids.
  5. Checking the body mass index. The BodPod is a more accurate determination of excess body fat in heavily muscled, weight-training athletes.
  6. Discussing the athletes’ typical daily diet, including their sodium intake.
  7. Reviewing the urinalysis, blood creatinine, calcium, TSH and lipid results.
  8. Looking at the QRS voltage on the ECG. We find it to be falsely suggestive of myocardial hypertrophy, especially in some of the Georgia Tech track athletes, compared to the more precise echocardiographic readings.
  9. Remember the ABCDs in choosing drug therapy, when indicated: Ace/ARB, Beta blocker-best in young, whites. Calcium channel blockers, Diuretics-in older, blacks. However, I usually do not start with beta blockers in any athlete as it seems to affect the perceived exertion level in some, while athletes have enough issues with sweating and fluid balance without adding a diuretic. Accordingly, I usually start with low-cost generic ACE or ARB (like lisinopril, losartan), watching the creatinine and potassium levels. Be sure that any drug you prescribe is okay with the appropriate governing body, like the NCAA or International Olympic Committee (IOC).
  10. Consider a 24-hour continuous blood pressure monitor reading in selected cases. Unfortunately, this is not readily available.
  11. I rarely screen for pheochromocytomas, Conn’s syndrome, and renal artery abnormalities, but I do listen for abdominal bruits, check for radial and femoral pulse delays and auscultate the posterior chest to exclude coarctation, but have never found these disorders.
  12. Be aware of the new American College of Cardiology Guidelines on dealing with a hypertensive athlete.

Finally, bear in mind as Harvard cardiologist, Elliott Antman, M.D., recently stated: “The epidemiologic evidence clearly shows that increased blood pressure relates to an increased risk for cardiovascular events across a blood pressure range from 115/75 mmHg to 185/115 mmHg.” As Ventura and Lavie remind us, “Projecting into the athlete’s future, for every 20 mmHg systolic BP reading above 115 mmHg and/or 10 mmHg diastolic reading above 75 mmHg, there is a two-fold increase in mortality associated with strokes and coronary artery disease.”

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Is marketing healthcare like marketing shoes?

Thursday, May 26th, 2016

By Richard Lenz, president/CEO of Lenz Marketing, Atlanta’s healthcare marketing experts

Is marketing healthcare like marketing shoes?

Well, kind of.

Healthcare marketing obviously requires extra sensitivity since the subject is private and deeply personal for most people. And because doctors should never prioritize a healthy business over a healthy patient.

Lenz marketing shoesBut in many ways, marketing is marketing—whether for medical services or sneakers. Either way, your job is to communicate the value of your product to your audience in order to change or reinforce their behavior.

I’ve spent more than 20 years marketing healthcare organizations, so, yes, I do consider it a specialized field. But, if you’re a doctor, practice manager, or hospital administrator, don’t forget the basics.

Your prospective patients want value. They want to make choices with confidence. And most of all, they want to associate with brands, organizations and products that reinforce their views of themselves.

If the shoe fits, your audience will wear it.

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Kaiser Permanente Georgia Named 2015 Million Hearts Hypertension Control Champion

Thursday, May 26th, 2016

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has named Kaiser Permanente Georgia as a 2015 Million Hearts® Hypertension Control Champion for the health care organization’s success in helping patients control high blood pressure.

“Thanks to our electronic medical record, evidence-based medicine and most importantly, the efforts of our clinicians and staff, we are able to help our members live longer, healthier lives by reducing their risk for heart attacks and strokes,” said Mary L. Wilson, MD, MPH, executive medical director of Kaiser Permanente Georgia. Dr. Wilson leads the Southeast Permanente Medical Group, which cares exclusively for Kaiser Permanente members in Georgia.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one of the major operating divisions of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, launched the Million Hearts Hypertension Control Challenge to recognize health care professionals/practices that achieve blood pressure control rates at or above 70 percent in their adult patients with hypertension. Kaiser Permanente Georgia was one of 18 champions recognized nationwide.

Kaiser Permanente Georgia achieved hypertension control rates of 82.08 percent and 88.40 percent for its Commercial HMO and Medicare members, respectively, in 2015 (performance year 2014). These rates are well above the 90th percentile of 75.13 percent for Commercial HMO and 82.73 percent for Medicare, according to the National Committee for Quality Assurance’s Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set, known as HEDIS®.

According to the CDC, nearly 1 in 3 American adults has hypertension, also known as high blood pressure. Fewer than half of those have it under control, putting them at greater risk of developing heart disease or stroke — two of the leading causes of death in the U.S.

“Clinicians are our first line of defense against the hundreds of thousands of deaths caused by high blood pressure each year,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH. “We applaud the 2015 Champions and hope other health care teams learn from these successes and save even more lives.”

In its fourth year, Million Hearts® is a national initiative to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes by 2017. Previous Million Hearts® champions include Kaiser Permanente Southern California (2014), Kaiser Permanente Northern California (2013) and Kaiser Permanente Colorado (2012).

To learn more about the Million Hearts® Campaign and see the complete list of recipients, please visit http://millionhearts.hhs.gov.
– See more at: https://share.kaiserpermanente.org/article/kaiser-permanente-georgia-named-2015-million-hearts-hypertension-control-champion/#sthash.pZrT1QZU.dpuf

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Emory’s Drs. Larsen and Pearson Help Develop the Drug Belatacept

Monday, May 30th, 2016

Dr. Larsen and Dr. PearsonA study of kidney transplant recipients has shown for the first time that the drug belatacept, which controls the immune system and prevents graft rejection, has a better record of patient and organ survival than a calcineurin inhibitor, previously the standard of care.

Emory University School of Medicine dean and professor of surgery Christian Larsen, MD, DPhil, played a key role in developing belatacept, together with Emory Transplant Center executive director Thomas Pearson, MD, DPhil. Belatacept was approved by the FDA in 2011 and is produced by Bristol Myers Squibb.

Results from the worldwide study, led by Larsen and UCSF transplant specialist Flavio Vincenti, will be published in the Jan. 28 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Kidney transplant recipients need to take drugs to prevent their immune systems from rejecting their new organs, but the drugs themselves can cause problems. Long-term use of calcineurin inhibitors can damage the transplanted kidneys and lead to cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Belatacept acts as a “co-stimulation blocker,” inhibiting one of two signals T cells needed to trigger an immune response. Belatacept carries short-term risks that include an increased possibility for a certain cancer, and research continues at Emory on the best regimens for kidney transplant patients.

“While the best uses of belatacept still need additional definition, these results indicate that using belatacept as standard of care has the potential to improve long-term outcomes that matter to patients,” says Larsen.

“Belatacept is potentially a transformational drug in kidney transplantation because unlike the currently used calcineurin inhibitor drugs cyclosporine and tacrolimus, it is not toxic to the kidney,” Vincenti says. “In fact, it helps preserve the function of the kidney over the long term and is more effective in suppressing antibodies against the kidney, which are important causes of late graft loss.”

The study, called BENEFIT (Belatacept Evaluation of Nephroprotection and Efficacy as First-line Immunosuppression Trial) was sponsored by Bristol-Myers Squibb and began in 2006. FDA approval of belatacept in 2011 was partly based on the first three years of results.

The seven-year, multi-center study showed that kidney transplant recipients taking belatacept experienced a rate of mortality and graft loss significantly lower than patients taking a calcineurin inhibitor-based regimen. The risk of death or loss of the transplanted kidney after seven years was 12.7 percent for belatacept, compared to 21.7 percent for cyclosporine A.

Post-transplant drugs can cost tens of thousands of dollars per year, and a belatacept-based regimen is more expensive than one based on calcineurin inhibitors. Many U.S. insurance companies now cover belatacept as medically necessary for kidney transplant patients. Belatacept is given by infusion monthly at a doctor’s office, in contrast to calcineurin inhibitors, which are taken in daily pills at home.

BENEFIT Trial Results

In the BENEFIT study, 666 kidney transplant patients were divided into three groups that received either a more intense belatacept-based regimen (B1), a less intense belatacept-based regimen (B2) or a cyclosporine A-based regimen (CsA). The study followed 447 patients for all 84 months. All groups received additional drugs to inhibit graft rejection (basiliximab, mycophenolate mofetil and corticosteroids) in the weeks immediately after their transplants.

After 84 months, the Kaplan-Meier adjusted mortality rate was 9.2, 8.2 and 14.4 percent for the B1, B2 and CsA groups, respectively. For adjusted graft loss, the rate was 4.7, 5.4 and 9.8 percent. The rate for combined mortality and graft loss was 12.7 percent, 12.8 percent and 21.7 percent.

Immediately after transplant, belatacept-treated patients had a higher rate of acute rejection, a temporary flare up of the immune system against the donated kidney. The acute rejection rates were 24.4 percent in B1 and 18.3 percent in B2, compared with 11.4 percent in CsA. However, in most cases, acute rejection was successfully treated with drugs and did not lead to graft failure.

Patients taking belatacept showed slight improvements in kidney function (glomerular filtration rate) over time, in comparison with a decline in the CsA group, and comparable rates of serious adverse events (70.8, 68.6 and 76 percent). Viral and fungal infections were the most frequent serious adverse events.

Belatacept carries an FDA-mandated warning for an increased risk of developing post-transplant lymphoproliferative disorder (PTLD), a type of cancer where white blood cells grow out of control after an organ transplant. In the BENEFIT study, PTLD occurred in three patients in the B1 group, two in B2 and two in CsA.

The study authors note that the results of the BENEFIT study contrast with those from the companion BENEFIT-EXT study, in which patients received “extended criteria” kidneys from donors who were older than 60 or had chronic diseases. In the BENEFIT-EXT study, mortality and graft loss rates were similar between B1, B2 and CsA groups.

Other contributors to the NEJM study were Lionel Rostaing, MD, PhD, University Hospital and INSERM U563, IFR-BMT, Toulouse, France; Joseph Grinyo, MD, PhD, University Hospital Bellvitge, Barcelona, Spain; Kim Rice, MD, Baylor University Medical Center, Dallas; Steven Steinberg, MD, Sharp Memorial Hospital, San Diego; Luis Gaite, MD, Clínica de Nefrología, Santa Fe, Argentina; Marie-Christine Moal, MD, Hôpital de La Cavale Blanche, Brest, France; Guillermo Mondragon-Ramirez, MD, Instituto Mexicano de Trasplantes, Morelos, Mexico; Jatin Kothari, MD, Hinduja Health Care and Apex Kidney Foundation, Mumbai, India; Martin Polinsky, MD, and Herwig-Ulf Meier-Kriesche, MD, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Princeton; and Stephane Munier, MSc, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Belgium.

Study funding was provided by Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Larsen has received research support from the company.

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Content is King in Healthcare, Too

Sunday, May 1st, 2016

By Mike Killeen, VP of Marketing for Lenz, Atlanta’s Healthcare Marketing Experts

Closeup on medical doctor woman using tablet pcIn the marketing industry, “content is king” is a popular cliché.

The phrase is widely associated with Bill Gates in a blog he wrote nearly 20 years ago. Today, his messages seem prophetic, among them: “Content is where I expect most of the real money will be made on the Internet…” (see Netflix) and “No company is too small to participate” (see the millions of small businesses with a WordPress blog).

“Content” is shorthand for the engaging parts of your web presence—the blogs, photos, and videos, for example—that intend to connect with audiences rather than convert, or sell. And while some think of content purely through the prism of search engine optimization, a proper content strategy holistically considers the entirety of the user experience (another cliché) from the search query through the on-site conversion. In other words, getting people to your site is the first step, but they also need to find what they’re looking for, have a fulfilling visit, and eventually buy something from you.

This brings me to Lenz. When I joined the company way back in 2002, I was fresh out of UGA’s journalism school with visions of Woodward and Bernstein dancing in my head. Lenz hired me to write news and feature articles that would appear strictly on our clients’ web sites. When my friends would ask about my new job, I would say, “I write web releases, they’re kind of like press releases, but not important enough to send to the press.” Today I and the rest of the marketing world understand the value of blogging, while Lenz understood it from the beginning.

Ask a Lenzer how we market healthcare and she’ll tell you, “just like we market everything else.” Patients are people, we like to say. Lenz recognizes that healthcare is a unique industry and healthcare marketing, a specialized field. However, this does not mean you push the best marketing practices aside every time you work in a new industry. For patients, choosing a doctor—like choosing a soda, brand of sneakers, or presidential candidate—is a buying decision, and many commonalities apply.

According to the Pew Research Center, 72 percent of Internet users looked online for health information within the past year. And 77 percent of online health seekers start with a search engine—as opposed to going directly to a healthcare provider’s web site or an online review site.

Translation: Healthcare is a consumer industry and the web largely determines the winners and losers. And what comprises a winning website? Informative, entertaining, and insightful content that people want to read, view, share, and comment on.

When it comes to healthcare, the website’s job is to introduce the hospital or practice and its providers, demonstrate their qualifications and compassion, and establish trust—the holy grail in healthcare marketing—all before the doctor actually meets the prospective patient.

Research shows, time and again, that patients want to build relationships with their doctors. Lenz’s independent research has shown that patients care very little about their physicians’ training, board certifications, or leadership positions at the hospital. So, a great CV won’t cut it.

If you’re a physician eager to grow your practice, consider instead a blog retelling the moment you knew you wanted to enter medicine, share your favorite letter from a patient or a photo from your last mission trip, or produce a video that helps family members understand their role in your patients’ care journey. These are great ways to build the trust that your success depends on.

Remember: Content is king in healthcare, too.

If you want to work with Lenz, please let us know. We’ve got a great team that is eager to help quality healthcare businesses reach their goals.

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World Allergy Week: Are Warming Trends Contributing to Pollen Allergies?

Sunday, May 1st, 2016

The World Allergy Organization (WAO), an international umbrella organization whose members consist of 97 regional and national allergology and clinical immunology societies from around the world, addressed the theme of “Pollen Allergies – Adapting to a Changing Climate” during World Allergy Week 2016 in April.

When Atlanta Allergy & Asthma physicians are asked as to why the pollen count seems to grow higher every year. The WAO offers the following explanation, “Data show that carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are increasing which leads to overall warming trends; plants are producing more pollen which results in more pollen in the air and therefore increased allergen exposure.” The attribution for that statement comes from a 2013 scholarly article titled “Allergenic Pollen, A Review of the Production, Release, Distribution and Health Impacts.”

Anecdotally in metro Atlanta, March 2016 witnessed 11 days in the “extremely high” range for the pollen count whereas March 2015 had only one. Pollen season started later in 2015, as April had 10 days in the “extremely high” range, the last of occurred on April 12. In 2014 and 2013, the pollen count did not reach into the “extremely high” range at all in March but in 2012 it saw some of the highest counts ever recorded in metro Atlanta.

“Data show that the pollen allergy season is arriving earlier but is not ending earlier,” said Atlanta Allergy & Asthma’s Dr. Stanley Fineman, who sits on the board of the WAO. “Each year is different. We are seeing a longer season mostly because of warmer temperatures.”

Fineman said that he has noticed that locally pollen season seems to be lasting between six and eight weeks in more recent years.

“We have been keeping the pollen count for more than 30 years in metro Atlanta and the numbers do seem to be not only starting earlier but also growing higher than we have ever seen,” he said. “The five highest pollen counts on record have all come since 2012.”

According to the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC), pollen allergy prevalence in children ages 13 to 14 across the world is 22.1 percent.

The safest way to manage allergy symptoms is to treat them before they begin to manifest themselves. Atlanta Allergy & Asthma’s board-certified allergists are available to discuss this initiative of World Allergy Week and any topic related to pollen season.

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Georgia CORE Welcome New Chairman

Sunday, May 1st, 2016

unnamedThe Board of Directors of Georgia CORE, the Center for Oncology Research and Education, announces the election of Andrew W. Pippas, MD, as Chairman of its Board of Directors. Dr. Pippas has served on the Board since 2009.

Dr. Roland Matthews of Morehouse School of Medicine, Vice Chair of the Georgia CORE Board and Chair of the Nominating Committee noted, “Dr. Pippas is ideally suited to assume the role of Chair. He represents a leading institution, the John B. Amos Cancer Center of Columbus Regional Health. He has served as a member of the Georgia CORE Board and Executive Committee and as an investigator on Georgia CORE clinical trials. We are delighted to have such an accomplished physician to continue the tradition of community oncology leadership of Georgia CORE.”

Dr. Pippas is Chief Medical Officer and Director of Clinical Research with the John B. Amos Cancer Center, a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary program accredited by the Commission on Cancer of the American College of Surgeons. The John B. Amos Cancer Center is also the only treatment center with this designation in the 14-county service area of Columbus, Georgia and has an active portfolio of 40 clinical trials.

Born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah, Dr. Pippas received his B.A. in Physics from Northwestern University. He earned his Doctor of Medicine from the University of Utah’s School of Medicine in Salt Lake City, and completed his residency in internal medicine and a fellowship in medical oncology/hematology at the Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina. He is board-certified in Medical Oncology and is a recipient of the National Institutes of Health’s Physician Scientist Award. He is also an active member of the American Society of Clinical Oncology and the American Society of Hematology

Dr. Pippas noted, “It is an honor to serve as the Chair of Georgia CORE – the main mechanism for enhancing oncology collaboration and clinical trials accrual in the state.” Dr. Pippas succeeds Dr. Thomas E. Seay who served as chair from 2009 until his death in December.

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