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CDC: Asthma hits all-time high

BY Alaric DeArment

Coughing, wheezing, difficulty breathing — many people have symptoms like these for a variety of reasons, ranging from common colds to smoke inhalation to running. While unpleasant, they’re usually not serious. But for many Americans, they’re the result of medical conditions that are chronic, dangerous and sometimes fatal.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1-in-12 Americans has asthma, a lung disease that causes repeated episodes of breathlessness, tightness of the chest and coughing at night and in the morning. This includes 18.7 million noninstitutionalized adults, or 8.2% of that population. Meanwhile, 7 million children, or 9.4%, have the disease. The disease is ranked among the most common in children, with attacks usually triggered by something that bothers the patient’s lungs. During an attack, the airways that lead to the lungs swell and tighten, thus blocking air from entering and causing fits of coughing and chest tightness, while mucus can exacerbate the problem. Common triggers for asthma attacks include secondhand smoke, mold, outdoor air pollution, dust mites, pet allergies and even some foods.

In 2007, according to the CDC, there were about 17 million visits to physicians’ offices, hospital outpatient wards and emergency rooms in which asthma was listed as the primary diagnosis. In 2009, there were 479,000 hospital stays that resulted from the disease, with patients staying in the hospital for an average of more than four days. That year, the disease resulted in 3,388 deaths, or 1.1 deaths per 100,000 people.

Another disease that causes symptoms often similar to asthma is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, which includes the diseases of emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Most COPD in the United States results from smoking, emphysema being a leading and well-known illness associated with tobacco use. However, other causes — such as exposure to indoor and workplace pollutants, respiratory infections and genetic factors — play a role as well; in the developing world, indoor air quality is said to play a greater role in COPD than in the United States, according to the CDC. In addition to its similarities to asthma in terms of symptoms, COPD also is similarly widespread but much more deadly.

According to Drive4COPD, a campaign run by the COPD Foundation, the disease affects some 24 million Americans, and according to the CDC, it causes more than 100,000 deaths per year. In 2000, for example, 116,494 Americans died from COPD, a number that increased to 126,005 in 2005. The number of women dying from the disease was higher than the number of men, with 65,193 women dying in 2005, compared with 60,812. Meanwhile, while death rates for COPD declined from 57-per-100,000 in 1999 to 46.4-per 100,000 in 2006 for men, there was no significant decline in death rates among women, which went from 35.3-per-100,000 to 34.2-per-100,000 during the same period.

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MinuteClinic, Hackensack University Health Network sign clinical affiliation

BY Antoinette Alexander

WOONSOCKET, R.I., and HACKENSACK, N.J. — Retail-based clinic operator MinuteClinic, which is owned by CVS Caremark, is partnering with Hackensack University Health Network, the largest provider of inpatient and outpatient health services in New Jersey, in a clinical affiliation that expands access to healthcare services in northeast New Jersey.

Under the agreement, HackensackUMC physicians will serve as medical directors for six MinuteClinic walk-in medical clinics inside select CVS/pharmacy stores in Bergen, Passaic and Hudson counties and parts of Essex County. MinuteClinic and HackensackUMC also will collaborate on patient education and disease management initiatives, and refer patients to one another when clinically appropriate. HackensackUMC will accept patients requiring a level of care not provided by MinuteClinic; while MinuteClinic will offer patients walk-in services for common family illnesses and wellness and prevention services, such as health condition monitoring.

Signage at MinuteClinic locations will inform patients that each site has a clinical affiliation with HackensackUMC.

"MinuteClinic’s HackensackUMC affiliation will enable both organizations to capitalize on our strengths and share valuable knowledge as we continue improving our patient-centered approach to high quality healthcare services," said Andrew Sussman, president of MinuteClinic and SVP/associate chief medical officer for CVS Caremark. "We look forward to having HackensackUMC physicians collaborate with our nurse practitioners to provide quality oversight, teaching and back-up so we can provide the best care at the lowest overall cost."

HackensackUMC has more than 1,600 physicians providing a range of healthcare services to patients in northeast New Jersey.

"We are pleased to partner with MinuteClinic on this important clinical affiliation," added Robert Garrett, president and CEO of HackensackUMC. "Combining our award-winning clinical expertise with the trusted reputation of MinuteClinic will undoubtedly serve as an asset to members of our local community. This affiliation is another demonstration of our commitment to providing patient-centered, efficient care, and we look forward to a longstanding relationship with MinuteClinic."

In addition to collaborating on patient care and education programs, MinuteClinic and HackensackUMC will work toward fully integrating electronic medical record systems to streamline communication around all aspects of patients’ care. With patient permission, MinuteClinic will electronically share medical histories and visit summaries with HackensackUMC locations in northeast New Jersey. In the meantime, MinuteClinic will continue its standard practice of sending patient visit summaries to primary care providers via fax or mail, typically within 24 hours of the visit.


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Tablets driving online revenue for retailers, survey finds

BY Allison Cerra

WASHINGTON — With the digital age in full swing, many retailers have reported that their online sales are being boosted by orders made via a tablet, according to the 2012 "State of Retailing Online" survey from Shop.org and Forrester Research.

According to the survey, 49% of retailers said their average order value via a tablet now is higher than traditional Web sales, while nearly 3-in-10 (28%) retailers said they are seeing about the same average order value from tablets as their website. When it came to actual sales retailers are reporting, the survey found tablet and smartphone sales as a percent of retailers’ total Web sales in 2011 were 3.2% and 1.5%, respectively.

Despite these notable increases, 8-in-10 retailers said search and email are the top two drivers of a company’s Web traffic from either a smartphone or tablet. Additionally, retailers surveyed report that, on average, 20% of emails opened in a given campaign are opened on a mobile device. What’s more, when it comes to mobile marketing tools, the majority of retailers (75%) said that they have turned to QR codes and other barcode scanning options to serve as part of advertising and mobile marketing efforts within their stores.

Although many retailers have stepped up their game in the digital space, the survey found retailers still are adjusting to the sea of change that mobile is having on consumer shopping behavior, which, in turn, has influenced retailers’ marketing initiatives. In terms of marketing, retailers said that, on average, 3.9% of their total interactive marketing budgets this year are dedicated to mobile advertising, suggesting a strategy of testing and measuring consumer response.

"Retailers must continue to look for unique ways to elevate their brand in such a competitive market. Tablets and mobile devices offer the perfect answer, with opportunities to create specialized apps, drive Web sales and create an engaging and convenient shopping experience," Shop.org executive director Vicki Cantrell said. "Overall, we expect smartphone shopping adoption rates to stay low but fully believe tablet sales will continue to change how retailers garner the attention of new and current customers. With tablet usage marching towards true ubiquity, retailers will continue to plan ahead by examining their customers’ behaviors and shopping patterns."

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