Category Archives: Virginia Mason

Macular Degeneration: a leading cause of blindness

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Learn Basics about the Leading Cause of Blindness in the U.S.

Chen_Connie_2015

Dr. Connie Chen

By Guest column Connie Chen, MD
Virginia Mason 

Stephen King, Georgia O’ Keefe, Sam Snead, Bob Hope and Edgar Degas all have something in common — loss of vision due to a condition called macular degeneration.

As many as 11 million Americans have some form of the disease and it is the leading cause of blindness in the United States.

The part of the eye affected is the macula, the area of the retina that is responsible for the sharp, central vision we need for reading and tasks that require seeing things in detail, such as sewing.

Although macular degeneration sometimes occurs in younger people, the condition mainly affects people 65 and older, so it is generally referred to as age-related macular degeneration or AMD.

Symptoms of AMD

The onset of AMD is so gradual that early in the course of the disease most patients don’t notice any loss of vision. As a result, early AMD often goes undiagnosed until the individual has an eye exam.

However, as the disease progresses, vision may become blurred and objects may appear distorted. Individuals with AMD may first notice they are missing letters in words when they read or have difficulty seeing smaller print.

In more severe cases, there may be a significant loss or graying of central vision, while peripheral vision remains unchanged. A person’s ability to adapt to different lighting environments may also be affected.

Causes of AMD

Drusen (yellow spots) in the retina

Drusen (yellow spots) in the retina

The loss of vision is associated with two major changes in the retina. First, there is a build up of cellular debris within the retina, which produces yellow deposits called “drusen.” Second, in some cases the retina releases chemicals that stimulate the growth of new blood vessels, a process called “neovascularizaiton.” The new blood vessels, however, are weak and often leak blood and fluid that damages the surrounding retinal tissue.

Risk factors for AMD

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Virginia Mason to absorb Memorial Family of Services in latest Washington hospital affiliation – Puget Sound Business Journal

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Virginia Mason VM ThumbIn the Puget Sound region’s latest affiliation deal, Seattle-based nonprofit Virginia Mason Health System announced Wednesday that it will affiliate with Yakima-based Memorial Family of Services.

Source: Virginia Mason to absorb Memorial Family of Services in latest Washington hospital affiliation – Puget Sound Business Journal

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VM begins posting online ratings, patient comments about clinic providers

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Virginia Mason VM ThumbSeattle’s Virginia Mason Medical Center has begun posting online star ratings for, and patients’ comments about, its clinic physicians and providers.

The ratings (up to five stars) and comments are based on patient satisfaction surveys and appear with providers’ biographies on the Virginia Mason website, VirginiaMason.org.

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Click on image to see the ratings and comments

To find a specific provider, type his or her name in the “Search” field at the top of the homepage. Click here to see an example.

In satisfaction surveys, patients rate physicians and other providers (i.e., physician assistants, advanced registered nurse practitioners) as Very Poor, Poor, Fair, Good or Very Good on these topics:

  • Friendliness/courtesy of the provider
  • Explanations the care provider gave you about your problem/condition
  • Concern the care provider showed for your questions or worries
  • Care provider’s efforts to include you in decisions about your treatment
  • Degree to which the provider talked with you, using words you could understand
  • Amount of time the care provider spent with you
  • Your confidence in the provider
  • Likelihood of your recommending this care provider to others

Ratings and patients’ comments are verified by Press Ganey Associates, an independent company that conducts ongoing satisfaction surveys.

The Virginia Mason Patient Relations and Service Department also uses information from the satisfaction surveys to identify and address issues of importance to patients and their families.

Virginia Mason is among a few health systems across the U.S. that post ratings for, and patient comments about, its providers on the Internet. Others include Cleveland Clinic, University of Utah Healthcare, Stanford Healthcare and University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Virginia Mason has launched several other similar initiatives include: implementing the Patient Cost Estimator, which offers comprehensive estimates of out-of-pocket costs for numerous medical exams and procedures; posting online the estimated prices of the 100 most common outpatient surgical procedures; and enabling Virginia Mason patients to see clinical notes about their care on the secure, online patient portal, called MyVirginiaMason.org.

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Simple care can help keep your skin healthy for years to come

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Pham_Catherine_2014Guest Column by Dermatologist Catherine Pham, MD
Virginia Mason University Village Medical Center

As a dermatologist, I often hear from patients that they don’t have time for intensive skin care.

However, people should still take care of their skin by doing the basics over their lifetimes.

Good skin care and healthy lifestyle choices can help delay the natural aging process and prevent various skin problems.

Protect yourself from the sun

One of the most important ways to care for your skin is to protect it from the damaging effects of overexposure to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. A lifetime of sun exposure can cause wrinkles, age spots and other problems, like skin cancer.

For the most complete sun protection Continue reading

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Is a double knee replacement right for you?

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Having both knees replaced at the same time has advantages

By Dr. David Kieras
Virginia Mason

samIf someone you know has severe arthritis in both knees that greatly reduces their quality of life, they may be a candidate for bilateral simultaneous knee replacement surgery, where both joints are simultaneously operated on in one surgical procedure.

Although not an option for everyone, this approach is enticing to many people who dread the idea of recovering from two separate surgeries, which delays recovery and a return to normal activities for several months, if not years.

Bilateral ‘staged’ knee replacement – one knee surgery followed by another – is not uncommon.  However, bilateral simultaneous knee replacement is more advanced and uncommon due to the special expertise and team coordination required.

It can be beneficial for people who have limited time off from work for rehabilitation and need to return to a more normal lifestyle as quickly as possible. Continue reading

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Online scorecard helps you pick a surgeon

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surgeons performing surgery in operating roomThe independent investigative journalism website ProPublica has created online “Surgeon Scorecard” that you can use to find out a surgeon’s complication rate for eight commonly performed operations.

To learn about the complication rates of surgeons working at hospitals in Washington state go here.

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Widow sues Virginia Mason; hospital begins notifying ‘superbug’ victims | The Seattle Times

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creTheresa Bigler, of Woodway, is suing Virginia Mason Medical Center and a medical-device manufacturer after the death of her husband following a “superbug” infection. Hospital officials have reversed course to reach out to affected patients and families.

via Widow sues Virginia Mason; hospital begins notifying ‘superbug’ victims | The Seattle Times.

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Q & A about Public Health’s investigation of an endoscope associated outbreak

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Tcrehe Seattle Times reported this morning that there had been an outbreak of multidrug-resistant “superbug” infections spread by contaminated endoscopes between 2012 and 2014 in which at least 32 patients at Virginia Mason Medical Center were infected .

Neither the hospital nor health officials notified patients or the public, the Seattle Times reported.

In response to the paper’s report, Public Health – Seattle & King County has posted the following  Q & A on its Public Health Insider blog:

Q & A about Public Health’s investigation of an endoscope associated outbreak

Voluntary reporting by Virginia Mason Medical Center led to identification of an outbreak of multidrug resistant bacterial infections in 2013. After months of investigative work, Public Health—working with Virginia Mason Medical Center, Washington State Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control Prevention (CDC)—linked the outbreak to a procedure called endoscopic retrograde cholanCREgiopancreatography (ERCP). Since discovering the risk from this procedure, our Communicable Disease Epidemiology staff has taken a leadership role in drawing national attention to this issue in the medical community. Dr. Jeff Duchin, Interim Health Officer and Chief of Communicable Disease Epidemiology answered questions about this outbreak.

What is an ERCP used for?

The ERCP procedure uses a scope, or tube, that goes through a patient’s mouth and throat to reach their upper small bowel and bile duct system. ERCP is used in persons with serious medical problems including cancers and other diseases that cause obstruction or narrowing of the bile ducts.

What kind of bacteria caused the infections?

Infections were caused by two closely-related types of bacteria that are resistant to many antibiotics. In some cases, the bacteria were also resistant to powerful antibiotics called carbapenems.  These bacteria are referred to as CRE (carbapenem resistant Enterobacteriaceae).

Was the outbreak caused by a CRE “superbug?”

No. The type of CRE that has caused outbreaks in other healthcare facilities has been referred to as a “CRE superbug.” It usually produces an enzyme that inactivates carbapenem antibiotics. The outbreak we investigated was not caused by this type of CRE, which did not have a carbapenemase enzyme.

What is the role of Public Health in this investigation? Continue reading

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Boeing, Starbucks demand and get better healthcare for their workers – LA Times

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starbucks-logoSeattle’s big companies have pushed local hospitals and doctors to meet the kinds of rigorous standards they use to build airplanes or brew coffee, reports The Los Angeles Times. Also in the news are a look at the SHOP exchanges for small businesses and the rate increases some of those employers are facing.

Where employers use quality control to shape healthcare – LA Times.

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Eight Washington hospitals identified for Ebola care

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ebolaAlthough all hospitals in the state are making plans to rapidly identify, isolate and safely evaluate people with suspected Ebola, eight hospitals are preparing to care for a person with Ebola for the duration of the illness.

These are:

  • CHI Franciscan Health (Harrison Medical Center – Bremerton campus),
  • MultiCare Tacoma General Hospital,
  • Providence Regional Medical Center Everett,
  • Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center and Children’s Hospital in Spokane,
  • Seattle Children’s Hospital,
  • Swedish Medical Center (Issaquah),
  • Virginia Mason Hospital, and
  • UW Medicine (Harborview Medical Center, UW Medical Center, Valley Medical Center)

“The chance of a confirmed case of Ebola in Washington is very low, but in the event it happens we want to be sure we have the capacity to provide ongoing care to a patient,” said Dr. Kathy Lofy, state Health Officer. “Patients with Ebola can become critically ill and require intensive care therapy. Care needs to be delivered using strict infection control practices. We are working with each of the committed hospitals to ensure we are coordinated and thorough in our response.” Continue reading

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Virginia Mason helps patients understand confusing out-of-pocket costs – Puget Sound Business Journal

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Virginia Mason VM ThumbThe Patient Cost Estimator is available to Virginia Mason patients as well as others who are just shopping around to find out where to find the most affordable medical procedures. Some health care facilities might provide estimated prices or charges for a procedure, but those can be a much different amount than the cost the patient actually ends up with because there are a variety of bills that might come from hospitals, labs, physicians and elsewhere.

via Virginia Mason helps patients understand confusing out-of-pocket costs – Puget Sound Business Journal.

 

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That new hip will come with a guarantee: Virginia Mason to offer warranties on joint replacement surgeries – Puget Sound Business Journal

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Hip replacement  - thumbSeattle’s Virginia Mason is offering surgical warranties for hip and knee replacements that would cover the additional costs of any avoidable, surgery-related complications.

via That new knee will come with a guarantee: Virginia Mason to offer warranties on joint replacement surgeries – Puget Sound Business Journal.

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Group Health ends 15-year relationship with Virginia Mason, switches to Swedish – Puget Sound Business Journal

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Group Health IconGroup Health has signed an agreement with Swedish Health Services to provide Group Health’s Seattle-based hospital services, a decision that will end a 15-year-long acute-care relationship with Virginia Mason.

via Group Health ends 15-year relationship with Virginia Mason, switches to Swedish – Puget Sound Business Journal.

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Hospital prices vary wildly for common treatments

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Some heart surgeries have become so common — the angioplasty, for example, to open clogged arteries — you might think the charge for it wouldn’t vary much from hospital to hospital.

You might assume the same about hip or knee replacements, which now hold the top spot in this country as the reason for overnight hospital stays by Medicare patients.

You would be so wrong. Continue reading

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