Why visit this Blog?

Conveying via blog useful information, including for organ donation and transplantation, as well as a social media emphasis.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Why Innovation is a hot topic in the health care sector

It is relatively easy for anyone who works in the healthcare sector to concentrate only on the day to day, week to week activities which are the major focus of ones working life. So what do you think of when you hear the term 'Innovation' being used? Do you think of innovation as being like the light bulb switching on (i.e. a new idea), or perhaps even a new process?

In fact innovation is a little more complicated than just being a light bulb moment. You can have the best idea in the world but if it does not translate into an outcome that results in some fundamental change, then it remains ..... just an idea.

One of the best definitions of Innovation can be found via Wikipedia and involves the notion of doing something differently versus just doing something better.

Due to the ongoing challenges faced across the world in the healthcare sector  'Innovation' is beginning to feature in the parlance of a number of major healthcare organizations. Examples include the Center for Innovation Mayo Clinic , the Cleveland Clinic Innovations Centre as well as the web portal for the Innovation Dashboard NHS in the United Kingdom.

What all of these organizations have in common, is an understanding at the leadership level of the importance of harnessing the untapped talents of all of the employees. This is in order to bring about the types of ongoing fundamental change that will enable increasing value to be derived from the allocation of resources within the organization. This involves building both a community and culture for innovation within the organization. This process requires that a number of  elements be in place as summarized in the following graphic-

So why is it important for healthcare organizations to embrace innovation? As outlined in this online post via the Harvard Business Review there remain a number of unmet challenges facing healthcare organizations and hence embracing innovation is one strategy for addressing these challenges,                                                  

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Decided about organ and tissue donation? - DonateLife Australia Video

This well put together video has been produced in order to inform Australians of the importance of organ and tissue donation and what is required to ensure that as many people as possible can then benefit

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Why a cirrhotic liver needs to be replaced with a transplanted liver.

Often during conversations that transplant surgeons have with potential candidates for liver transplantation procedure, it can take a while to reach an understanding of exactly why the whole liver needs to be replaced. Particularly as this will involve major surgery along with waiting for a suitable liver from an organ donor. Also there are currently no other types of medical treatment which can reverse end stage liver disease once it is diagnosed.

With the liver being hidden from view under the right lower rib cage at the top of the abdomen as described in this British Liver Trust post, it can be hard for any individual with liver disease to know exactly what is going on. Plus many types of liver disease in the early stages do not usually lead to specific symptoms such as abdominal pain or the development of yellow jaundice.

So by the time the symptoms of chronic liver disease do occur there is often already a significant amount of liver scarring present, i.e. there is cirrhosis.  This means that the underlying disease process in the liver can already be well advanced. Cirrhosis affects the whole liver and the scarring process turns the liver from being a slightly soft triangular shaped organ into being a far harder, scarred organ with lots of nodules. This can be seen in the image below or via watching this video What is cirrhosis of the liver?  


Cirrhosis can also lead to other significant changes occurring within the abdomen which also tend not to be visible until this type of liver damage is well advanced. Changes like the accumulation of fluid lead to abdominal swelling and this is otherwise known as ascites. Increased pressure within certain veins in the abdomen cause a condition known as portal hypertension which can lead to major bleeding from the junction of the oesophagus with the stomach.  In advanced cirrhosis yellow jaundice and problems with kidney function may also occur. Further information on liver disease and cirrhosis can be obtained via the MedLine Plus WebMD or the American Liver Foundation sites.

Hence this is why in the advanced stages of many of the chronic liver diseases which lead to cirrhosis, liver transplantation is currently the only long lasting effective treatment, because the whole diseased liver must be replaced. As yet other therapies such as stem cells and bio engineered organs are nowhere close enough to being considered effective therapies for this condition.
If you are a patient receiving treatment for liver disease or a relative you should always check with your doctor that any information you source online is appropriate for your circumstances.


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Why ‘every tablet every time’ is so important for transplant recipients

No conversation about an organ transplant surgical procedure is complete without mention being made of one other important topic. That is the absolute necessity for additional medicines to be given post transplant, otherwise known as the ‘immunosuppressive medications’. So why are these types of medicines needed? Why do transplant recipients need to understand the importance of the saying “every tablet every time”?
Well it is all about the fact that our ‘immune system’ is designed to protect us by repelling anything from entering our bodies that is not made up of our own tissue. This includes bacteria, viruses and yes vital transplanted organs. A very general overview of how our immune system works can be obtained via this YouTube video.

Hence these white blood cells (lymphocytes), and other related factors need to be kept suppressed by medications as summarised in this article via  News Medical This prevents the newly transplanted organ from being ‘rejected’.

These extra medications will commence in most cases around the time that the organ transplant surgical procedure occurs. Initially quite high dosages are usually required and as a result side effects may occur, as summarised via this article from the National Kidney Foundation 

In order to limit the long term consequences of all of the possible side effects from these medications, many transplant recipients will ultimately be managed on the lowest dose that is possible. Hence why taking “every tablet every time” is essential. Skipping medications can allow the immune system to be triggered, which then contributes to premature loss of the vital transplanted organ. No one wants this outcome.

General information on ‘immunosuppressive medications’ can also be obtained via web sites maintained by legitimate professional organisations for e.g. eMedicine Medscape or Up to Date

NB: Immunosuppressive medication regimens do vary markedly, as there are many factors which go into the decision making as to which medications are suitable for each recipient. Hence this is why all transplant recipients if they have any concerns over their medications, need to also seek advice from their treating doctor.


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Using Social Media for information streaming in healthcare

Are you in health care and accessing social media for work purposes? Are you also comfortable with using some of the current social media platforms as tools for the streaming of information that meets your needs? If so, the following information is probably not new. However, if you do not fit in either of these two categories, then feel free to read on.

The amount of information related to health care is burgeoning whether it be in the form of facts, published scientific reports, or related to other day to day work processes. Much of this information is now sourced electronically including via the Internet. This situation has not gone unnoticed in some areas with there being an increasing realisation that somehow all of this needs to be managed. At times individuals can feel like they are "trying to drink from a fire hydrant" (Mitchell Kapoor) as pictured.

This same analogy was featured in a blog written by a medical student in Scientific American Blog-Unofficial Prognosis where the impact of this information deluge on medical students was explored.

So how can you use social media to help with your information needs regardless of where you are in the health sector? Plus why might this now be an increasingly important topic? First you need to gain familiarity with use of the most common social media platforms which include Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Linked In (see below image). Then you need to ascertain which organizations, groups and individuals are relaying information via these platforms which can help meet your learning needs. As it turns out an increasing number of organizations are relaying important information via social media.


For example if you have recently joined Twitter but still feel a little unsure of how to go about finding the organizations or individuals of interest, the good news is that help is at hand. This is in the form of the Symplur hashtags project- @healthhashtags Via this Symplur web site you can find hashtags including for organizations, communities of practice(eg nursing, medicine, audiology), diseases, treatments, management and informatics. As a result of exploring the hashtags you will also be able to find relevant organizations, plus individuals on Twitter as well as their related web sites and other social media channels. As everyone has slightly different learning needs in health care, this is why it is now important that you know how to source useful information for yourself.

Finally feel free to explore, find like minded individuals and most important of all continue to learn! Also take some time to check out advice that is available on the safe use of social media platforms eg for Facebook via reputable channels including Mashable Social Media.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Organ Donation: Three essential 'A's.

You may notice that the postings on to this site mainly provide information on 3 topics - organ donation, organ transplantation and use of social media. So what would you say it you were told that there are important common messages contained within these topics? What does this represent? Well it comes down to three important words all beginning with ‘A’.

A is for Awareness, a term used frequently over the last 10-20 years for various campaigns promoting organ donation around the world. So do you think that having lots of ‘Awareness’ leads to higher organ donor rates? What would you say if you were told that the country with the highest organ donor rate in the world-Spain- does not run ‘awareness’ campaigns? Can you say that you or your family are truly aware of the importance of organ donation or what is involved? How about your friends or work colleagues? What steps have you taken to find out more about organ donation even though you may be ‘aware’ of its importance? This is where one other word beginning with ‘A’ becomes important.

A is for Action, a term used when individuals or organisations take steps to convert their ‘Awareness’ of a problem or issue into steps that lead to real change and hence results. Without taking action ‘Awareness’ on its own will not achieve any lasting impact. Probably the greatest example of awareness not leading to appropriate action for health is the world-wide obesity epidemic. Despite clear documentation of an increasing problem for e.g. CDC statistics, numerous campaigns via both media and professional organisations including, reports from the Institute of Medicine, the problem continues. You can view an Obesity info graphic from the Australian Science Media Centre which outlines the projected rates of obesity in that country if action is or is not taken.

So what do you need to do to take action on organ donation? Well first you need to find out the facts and there are a number of good web sites which include Organdonor.gov, United Kingdom NHS Then you need to talk to your family. You can also note your decision via your Facebook timeline if you wish. If you belong to an organisation with an interest in organ donation, then you will be combining Awareness with Action which are two essential components as depicted in order to help form a platform for leading and driving change

A is for Advocacy, a term used to signal the action being taken by individuals, groups or organisations who want change [or reform] to occur, including within the health care system and at policy level, for the barriers to organ donation to be overcome.

Three essential A's required for change

So there you have it, the 3 A’s as they relate to organ donation as depicted above, which is of enormous importance for organ transplantation. You cannot have one without the other two. As for social media, well this is now a conduit via which relevant information [for both Awareness and Action] is being relayed both by individuals and organisations with an Advocacy role. This is in order to facilitate the changes that are required in many countries to ensure that the maximum benefits of organ donation are realised.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Most Important Transplant Surgeon Conversation- Providing an Outline of the Transplant Surgical Procedure

The  most important conversation that a transplant surgeon needs to have with any potential recipient relates to the planned transplant surgical procedure. This involves describing what the actual procedure involves, as well as any potential problems that can occur with the surgery followed then by the expected post-operative course.

All transplant surgical procedures are considered major operative procedures and there are common elements which they all share-

a)     Making an appropriate incision either on the chest or the abdomen to gain the required access

b)    The surgical removal of the recipients own diseased organ in the case of the lungs, liver and heart in order to make space for the new organ to be transplanted. This also requires that some blood vessels and other structures need to be preserved to assist with the next phase of the surgery.

c)    Implanting the new donor organ which involves suturing a number of vessels and other pipes/structures that are specific to each type of donor organ

d)    Ensuring that any other problems such as bleeding are then dealt with

e)    Inserting drainage tubes and closing the incision

 Once the surgery is completed one of two things then happens-

1)    In the case of kidney recipients, most of the time the patient can be woken up from the anaesthetic and transferred to a ward or step-down unit for close post-operative monitoring to occur

2)    For the heart, lung and liver recipients most patients are kept asleep at the end of the surgery and transferred straight from the operating room to the intensive care unit for ongoing close monitoring. This is required until it is apparent that the patient is stabilising following the surgery and that the newly transplanted organ is functioning.

The nature of the surgery and the expected post-operative course can generate many other questions. There are some general guides available including via the Internet. In particular via the MedlinePus site in the United States-  Liver transplantation heart transplantation kidney transplantation  lung transplantation

The pieces of information that need to be put together for every transplant recipient including the last piece of information that can be obtained only during the actual transplant procedure.

However both the magnitude of the surgery as well as the range of possible complications do vary depending on both the organ being transplanted and how unwell each potential recipient is at the time of the transplant procedure -

       a) How each transplant recipient fares during the surgery and early on post operatively is   
           related to the many specific bits of information that need to be put together at the time-as 
           outlined in the above image.  

      b)  It is important to remember that the last 2 pieces of the recipient information jigsaw 
           puzzle are only able to be put together in the operating room during the actual transplant   
           surgery. For example there is no test for how much scarring may be present in the 
           abdomen in a liver recipient who has undergone previous surgery, hence this can only be 
           determined during the actual transplant surgical procedure. 

      c) Also if the combination of all of the non-surgical pieces of information were to predict an 
          unfavourable outcome in advance for a recipient, then the transplant surgery would not be 
          able to go ahead.

Hence specific advice should be sought by potential transplant patients and their relatives from the transplant programme that they are currently in contact with. There are both pluses and minuses from currently seeking health care advice only via the Internet as outlined via the following link- Mashable- what-doctors-think-about-your-online-health-searches

Image designed by Deb Verran 2012: acknowledgement Presentation magazine