Absent federal action, states take the lead on curbing drug costs

What's your state's stance on the cost of prescription drugs? See how Maryland has moved forward in their decision making for drug prices, giving themselves the ability to say "no" in this article from Benefits Pro written by Shefali Luthra.

You can read the original article here.


Lawmakers in Maryland are daring to legislate where their federal counterparts have not: As of Oct. 1, the state will be able to say “no” to some pharmaceutical price spikes.

A new law, which focuses on generic and off-patent drugs, empowers the state’s attorney general to step in if a drug’s price climbs 50 percent or more in a single year. The company must justify the hike. If the attorney general still finds the increase unwarranted, he or she can file suit in state court. Manufacturers face a fine of up to $10,000 for price gouging.

As Congress stalls on what voters say is a top health concern — high pharmaceutical costs — states increasingly are tackling the issue. Despite often-fierce industry opposition, a variety of bills are working their way through state governments. California, Nevada and New York are among those joining Maryland in passing legislation meant to undercut skyrocketing drug prices.

Maryland, though, is the first to penalize drugmakers for price hikes. Its law passed May 26 without the governor’s signature.

The state-level momentum raises the possibility that — as happened with hot-button issues such as gay marriage and smoke-free buildings — a patchwork of bills across the country could pave the way for more comprehensive national action. States feel the squeeze of these steep price tags in Medicaid and state employee benefit programs, and that applies pressure to find solutions.

“There is a noticeable uptick among state legislatures and state governments in terms of what kind of role states can play in addressing the cost of prescription drugs and access,” said Richard Cauchi, health program director at the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Many experts frame Maryland’s law as a test case that could help define what powers states have and what limits they face in doing battle with the pharmaceutical industry.

The generic-drug industry has already filed a lawsuit to block the law, arguing it’s unconstitutionally vague and an overreach of state powers. A district court is expected to rule soon.

The state-level actions focus on a variety of tactics:

“Transparency bills” would require pharmaceutical companies to detail a drug’s production and advertising costs when they raise prices over certain thresholds. Cost-limit measures would cap drug prices charged by drugmakers to Medicaid or other state-run programs, or limit what the state will pay for drugs. Supply-chain restrictions include regulating the roles of pharmacy benefit managers or limiting a consumer’s out-of-pocket costs.

A New York law on the books since spring allows officials to cap what its Medicaid program will pay for medications. If companies don’t sufficiently discount a drug, a state review will assess whether the price is out of step with medical value.

Maryland’s measure goes further — treating price gouging as a civil offense and taking alleged violators to court.

“It’s a really innovative approach. States are looking at how to replicate it, and how to expand on it,” said Ellen Albritton, a senior policy analyst at the left-leaning Families USA, which has consulted with states including Maryland on such policies.

Lawmakers have introduced similar legislation in states such as Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Montana. And in Ohio voters are weighing a ballot initiative in November that would limit what the state pays for prescription drugs in its Medicaid program and other state health plans.

Meanwhile, the California legislature passed a bill earlier in September that would require drugmakers to disclose when they are about to raise a price more than 16 percent over two years and justify the hike. It awaits Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature.

In June, Nevada lawmakers approved a law similar to California’s but limited to insulin prices. Vermont passed a transparency law in 2016 that would scrutinize up to 15 drugs for which the state spends “significant health care dollars” and prices had climbed by set amounts in recent years.

But states face a steep uphill climb in passing pricing legislation given the deep-pocketed pharmaceutical industry, which can finance strong opposition, whether through lobbying, legal action or advertising campaigns.

Last fall, voters rejected a California initiative that would have capped what the state pays for drugs — much like the Ohio measure under consideration. Industry groups spent more than $100 million to defeat it, putting it among California’s all-time most expensive ballot fights. Ohio’s measure is attracting similar heat, with drug companies outspending opponents about 5-to-1.

States also face policy challenges and limits to their statutory authority, which is why several have focused their efforts on specific parts of the drug-pricing pipeline.

Critics see these tailored initiatives as falling short or opening other loopholes. Requiring companies to report prices past a certain threshold, for example, might encourage them to consistently set prices just below that level.

Maryland’s law is noteworthy because it includes a fine for drugmakers if price increases are deemed excessive — though in the industry that $10,000 fine is likely nominal, suggested Rachel Sachs, an associate law professor at Washington University in St. Louis who researches drug regulations.

This law also doesn’t address the trickier policy question: a drug’s initial price tag, noted Rena Conti, an assistant professor in the University of Chicago who studies pharmaceutical economics.

And its focus on generics means that branded drugs, such as Mylan’s Epi-Pen or Kaleo’s overdose-reversing Evzio, wouldn’t be affected.

Yet there’s a good reason for this, noted Jeremy Greene, a professor of medicine and the history of medicine at Johns Hopkins University who is in favor of Maryland’s law.

Current interpretation of federal patent law suggests that the issues related to the development and affordability of on-patent drugs are under federal jurisdiction, outside the purview of states, he explained.

In Maryland, “the law was drafted narrowly to address specifically a problem we’ve only become aware of in recent years,” he said. That’s the high cost of older, off-patent drugs that face little market competition. “Here’s where the state of Maryland is trying to do something,” he said.

Still, a ruling against the state in the pending court case could have a chilling effect for other states, Sachs said, although it would be unlikely to quash their efforts.

“This is continuing to be a topic of discussion, and a problem for consumers,” said Sachs.

“At some point, some of these laws are going to go into effect — or the federal government is going to do something,” she added.

Kaiser Health News, a nonprofit health newsroom whose stories appear in news outlets nationwide, is an editorially independent part of the Kaiser Family Foundation. KHN’s coverage of prescription drug development, costs and pricing is supported in part by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation.

Source:

Luther S. (29 September 2017). "Absent federal action, states take the lead on curbing drug costs" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/09/29/absent-federal-action-states-take-the-lead-on-curb?page=2


4 Trends Shaping Cybersecurity in 2017

The threat of cyber attacks is increasing every day. Make sure you are stay up-to-date with all the recent news and trends happening in the world of cyber security so you can stay informed on how to protect yourself from cyber threats. Check out this great column by Denny Jacob from Property Casualty 360 and find out about the top 4 trends impacting cybersecurity this year.

No. 4: Growing areas of concern

Organizations with a chief information security officer (CISO) in 2017 increased to 65 percent compared to 50 percent in 2016. Staffing challenges and budgetary distribution, however, reveal where organizations face exposure.

Finding qualified personnel to fill cybersecurity positions is as ongoing challenge. For example, one-third of study respondents note that their enterprises receive more than 10 applicants for an open position. More than half of those applicants, however, are unqualified. Even skilled applicants require time and training before their job performance is up to par with others who are already working on the company's cybersecurity operation.

Half of the study respondents reported security budgets will increase in 2017, which is down from 65 percent of respondents who reported an increase in 2016. This, along with staffing challenges, has many enterprises reliant on both automation and external resources to offset missing skills on the cybersecurity team.

Another challenge: Relying on third-party vendors means there must be funds available to offset any personnel shortage.

If the skills gap continues unabated and the funding for automation and external third-party support is reduced, businesses will struggle to fill their cybersecurity needs.

No. 3: More complicated cyber threats

Faced with declining budgets, businesses will have less funding available on a per-attack basis. Meanwhile, the number of attacks is growing, and they are becoming more sophisticated.

More than half (53 percent) of respondents noted an increase in the overall number of attacks compared previous years. Only half (roughly 50 percent) said their companies executed a cybersecurity incident response plan in 2016.

Here are some additional findings regarding the recent uptick in cyber breaches:

• 10 percent of respondents reported experiencing a hijacking of corporate assets for botnet use;• 18 percent reported experiencing an advanced persistent threat (APT) attack; and

• 14 percent reported stolen credentials.

• Last year’s results for the three types of attacks were:

• 15 percent for botnet use;

• 25 percent for APT attacks; and

•15 percent involving stolen credentials.

Phishing (40 percent), malware (37 percent) and social engineering (29 percent) continue to top the charts in terms of the specific types of attacks, although their overall frequency of occurrence decreased: Although attacks are up overall, the number of attacks in these three categories is down.

No. 2: Mobile takes a backseat to IoT

Businesses are now more sophisticated in the mobile arena. The proof: Cyber breaches resulting from mobile devices are down. Only 13 percent of respondents cite lost mobile devices as an exploitation vector in 2016, compared to 34 percent in 2015. Encryption factors into the decrease; only 9 percent indicated that lost or stolen mobile devices were unencrypted.

IoT continues to rise as an area of concern. Three out of five (59 percent) of the 2016 respondents cite some level of concern relative to IoT, while an additional 30 percent are either "extremely concerned" or "very concerned" about this exposure.

IoT is an increasingly important element in governance, risk and cybersecurity activities. This is a challenging area for many, because traditional security efforts may not already cover the functions and devices feeding this digital trend.

No. 1: Ransomware is the new normal

The number of code attacks, including ransomware attacks, remains high: 62 percent of respondents reported their enterprises experienced a ransomware attackspecifically.

Half of the respondents believe financial gain is the biggest motivator for criminals, followed by disruption of service (45 percent) and theft of personally identifiable information (37 percent). Despite this trend, only 53 percent of respondents' companies have a formal process in place to deal with ransomware attacks.

What does that look like?

Businesses can conduct "tabletop" exercises that stage a ransomware event or discuss in advance decisions about payment vs. non-payment. Payment may seem like the easiest solution, but law enforcement agencies warn it can have an encouraging effect on those criminals as some cases lead to repeated attacks of the same business.

Many cybersecurity specialists argue that the best way to fight a ransomware attack is to avoid one in the first place. Advance planning that might include the implementation of a governing corporate policy or other operating parameters, can help to ensure that the best cybersecurity decisions are made when the time comes to battle a breach.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Jacob D. (2017 August 25). 4 trends shaping cybersecurity in 2017 [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/08/25/4-trends-shaping-cybersecurity-in-2017?ref=hp-in-depth&page_all=1


The Risk of Being Uninsured (and the Hidden Bargain in Addressing It Now)

Are you aware of all the risks associated with being uninsured? Take a look at this great column by Erica Oh Nataren from Life Happens and find out how you are putting yourself in harm's way by being uninsured.

With all the expenses of everyday living, it’s tempting to think of insurance as just another cost. What’s harder to see is the potential cost of not buying insurance—or what’s known as “self-insuring”—and the hidden bargain of coverage.

The Important vs. the Urgent
We’ve all experienced it: the tendency to stay focused on putting out fires, while never getting ahead on the things that really matter in the long run. For most people, there are two big things that matter in the long run: their families and their ability to retire. And being properly insured is important to both those concerns.

Life Insurance: a Hidden Bargain?
It’s exceedingly rare, but we all know it can happen: someone’s unexpected death. Life insurance can prevent financial catastrophe for the loved ones left behind, if they depend on you for income or primary care—or both.

The irony is that many people pass on coverage due to perceived cost, when in fact it’s far less expensive that most people think. The 2016 Insurance Barometer Study, by Life Happens and LIMRA showed that 8 in 10 people overestimate the cost of life insurance. For instance, a healthy, 30-year-old man can purchase a 20-year, $250,000 term life insurance policy for $160 a year—about $13 a month.

Enjoy the Benefits of Life Insurance—While You’re Alive
If budget pressures aren’t an issue, consider the living benefits of permanent life insurance—that’s right, benefits you can use during your own lifetime.

Permanent life insurance policies typically have a higher premium than term life insurance policies in the early years. But unlike term insurance, it provides lifelong protection and the ability to accumulate cash value on a tax-deferred basis.

Cash values can be used in the future for any purpose you wish. If you like, you can borrow cash value for a down payment on a home, to help pay for your children’s education or to provide income for your retirement.

When you borrow money from a permanent insurance policy, you’re using the policy’s cash value as collateral and the borrowing rates tend to be relatively low. And unlike loans from most financial institutions, the loan is not dependent on credit checks or other restrictions. You ultimately must repay any loan with interest or your beneficiaries will receive a reduced death benefit and cash-surrender value.

In this way, life insurance can serve as a powerful financial cushion for you and your family throughout your life, in addition to protecting your family from day one.

Disability Insurance: For the Biggest Risk of All
The most overlooked of the major types of insurance coverage is the one that actually covers a far more common risk—the risk of becoming ill or injured and being unable to work and earn your paycheck.

How common is it? While no one knows the exact numbers, it’s estimated that 30% of American workers will become disabled for 90 days or more during their working years. The sad reality is that most American workers also cannot afford such an event. In fact, illness and injury are the top reasons for foreclosures and bankruptcies in the U.S. today. Disability insurance ensures that if you are unable to work because of illness or injury, you will continue to receive an income and make ends meet until you’re able to return to work.

It’s tempting to cross your fingers and hope misfortune skips over you. But when you look at the facts, it’s easy to see: getting proper coverage against life’s risks is not just important, but a bargain in disguise.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Nataren E. (2017 May 11). The risk of being uninsured (and the hidden bargain in addressing it now) [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.lifehappens.org/blog/the-risk-of-being-uninsured-and-the-hidden-bargain-in-addressing-it-now/


Helping Your Employees Protect Against Identity Theft

Are you doing enough to help your employees protect themselves from identity theft? Make sure to take a look at this article by Irene Saccoccio from SHRM on what employers can do to protect their employees from identity theft.

Social Security is committed to securing today and tomorrow for you and your employees. Protecting your identity and information is important to us. Security is part of our name and we take that seriously.

Identity theft is when someone steals your personally identifiable information (PII) and pretends to be you. It happens to millions of Americans every year. Once identity thieves have your personal information they can open bank or credit card accounts, file taxes, or make new purchases in your name. You can help prevent identity theft by:

  • Securing your Social Security card and not carrying it in your wallet;
  • Not responding to unsolicited requests for personal information (your name, birthdate, social security number, or bank account number) by phone, mail, or online;
  • Shredding mail containing PII instead of throwing it in the trash; and
  • Reviewing your receipts. Promptly compare receipts with account statements. Watch for unauthorized transactions.

It is important that your employees take the necessary steps to protect their Social Security number. Usually, just knowing the number is enough, so it is important not to carry your Social Security card or other documents unless they are needed for a specific purpose. If someone asks for your employees’ number, they should ask why, how it will be used, and what will happen if they refuse. When hired, your employees should provide you with the correct Social Security number to ensure their records and tax information are accurate.

If your employees suspect someone else is using their Social Security number, they should visit IdentityTheft.gov to report identity theft and get a recovery plan. IdentityTheft.gov guides them through every step of the recovery process. It’s a one-stop resource managed by the Federal Trade Commission, the nation’s consumer protection agency. You can also call 1-877-IDTHEFT (1-877-438-4338); TTY 1-866-653-4261.

Your employee should also contact the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and file an online complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.

Don’t let your employees fall victim to identity theft. Advise them to read our publication Identity Theft and Your Social Security Number or read our Frequently Asked Questions for more information. If you or an employee suspects that they’re a victim of identity theft, don’t wait, report it right away!

See the original article Here.

Source:

Saccoccio I. (2017 May ). Helping your employees protect against identity theft [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://blog.shrm.org/blog/helping-your-employees-protect-against-identity-theft


Is Social Media Putting Employees’ Health, Safety at Risk?

Do your employees know about all of the risks that can come from their social media? Find out how social media can affect your employee's safety and health in this article from Employee Benefit News by Jill Hazan.

The issue of personal online safety has finally crossed over into the healthcare arena — and employers need to step up and learn to best educate employees about keeping them safe.

A recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics, “Parental Sharing on the Internet: Child Privacy in the Age of Social Media and the Pediatrician’s Role,” highlights how parents who post information about their children on social media put them at greater risk for identity theft. In addition, this trend toward oversharing compromises a child’s protected health information. What might happen when that child applies for a job in the future and a simple internet search reveals health information she would not want an employer to know?

While HIPAA protects the confidentiality of an individual’s medical records, it doesn’t provide comprehensive protections outside the healthcare environment. The laws around the privacy rights of children relative to their parents’ online disclosures are still evolving. The article recommends that pediatricians ask parents about their social media habits to help keep children safe and their data private. It is a natural extension that all primary care providers should be asking patients about social media behaviors, as the issues of identity theft and data privacy are relevant to children and adults alike.
This recommendation is increasingly significant from an employee benefit perspective.

So what should employers do?

Employers routinely provide healthcare benefits to employees. If health plans and physicians are acknowledging and addressing the risks of social media from a privacy and security perspective, shouldn’t employers extend that focus into the workplace? With the continued employer emphasis on wellness, it is incumbent on health plans and employers alike to educate employees on online security and the risks of identity theft.

There are a variety of resources and benefits that employers can access to assist employees in navigating the online world safely. A series of well-structured, engaging seminars on identity theft and online security that combine real-life stories with actionable advice are effective in educating employees and changing behaviors. Online tutorials, like those provided by the Center for Identity at the University of Texas, Austin, can guide employees on setting proper privacy settings on social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest.

Identity theft protection plans provide monitoring and restoration services, as well as education to help keep employees and their families secure. EAPs may provide guidance on identity theft and counseling for victims. Comprehensive legal benefit plans provide legal advice and representation for victims of identity theft. Employers may also provide employees access to online data protection tools for use at work and home with features that encrypt communication and block malware and phishing attempts.

Employees need to understand how to navigate the social media and online environment to keep their families safe. Identity theft of a family member affects more than just one person. It can register an emotional, physical and financial toll on the entire family. Employers need to structure a comprehensive approach to managing the health and wellness of employees as it relates to their online behaviors. A program with a combination of employee benefits, from healthcare to identity theft protection benefits, supplemented by onsite employee education, will support the goals of the health plan and, ultimately, the organization’s overall business objectives.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Hazan J. (2017 May 1). Is social media putting employees' health, safety at risk? [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/is-social-media-putting-employees-health-safety-at-risk?feed=00000152-18a4-d58e-ad5a-99fc032b0000

Photo Credit: HowToStartABlogOnline.net


Cyberbullies: Worse than Swirlys in the Bathroom Stall?

Insightful post from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) by Jillian Caswell

Technology and an unending stream of social media messages, notifications, and alerts have invaded our personal lives more than ever before – leaving the door wide open for the bullies of yesterday to get off the playground and into the Twittersphere. It’s almost comical to hear of exes who continue to stalk one another on Instagram and we all compare our traditional 9-to-5 careers to the jet setting elite on Snapchat, but have you ever stopped to think how this can impact our work lives? Unfortunately, the reality is the more connected we become, the more insidious bullying, and its close relative harassment, can become. As HR professionals, we have a duty and responsibility to understand not only how technology and social media can hinder business operations such as lost productivity, but also how it creates an environment of opportunity for employees to fall victim to bullying and harassment.

Become Aware and Observant

This goes beyond monitoring your own company’s social media channels! Before you can hope to identify and rectify potential cyberbullying incidents in your workplace, you must first prepare yourself with an understanding of what kinds of harassment and bullying can transpire in the digital realm. If you’re new to social media, there are numerous resources online to get you the crash course you need to become familiar with popular resources such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter. Live streaming functionality with outlets such as Periscope and Facebook Live create additional areas of opportunity for workplace bullies to exploit. Knowing how to monitor, identify, and respond swiftly and appropriately to harassment in these mediums is key to building a solid company policy relating expectations for employee interaction with company social media channels as well as harassment policies that are inclusive of online activities, privately or on public channels. There are dozens of masks that the face of cyberbullying can wear, whether it’s an Instagram post poking fun at a specific employee shared with other staff members, a ceaseless spewing of threats on Twitter, or an employee texting explicit content to coworkers. By becoming familiar both with the platforms themselves and the different forms of harassment and bullying that can occur in these environments, you will add another resource to your HR toolkit in navigating potentially sticky employee relations issues.

It may at first feel overwhelming to think of all the different variations of harassment that can play out on the stage of our smart phones and personal devices; however, employers are responsible to ensure they can provide a workplace free of harassment – a bridge that bullying can often rapidly cross over. Cyberbullying is often also more difficult to detect as it can transpire well out of the watchful eyes of the company HR department. In addition to familiarizing yourself with the different social media channels, consider the following suggestions to build a robust defense to cyberbullying:

  •          Training – For both your HR department and the other staff, it can become quite enlightening to provide trainings on what does and does not constitute harassment. This is also a great opportunity to provide a refresher on company policy relating to bullying and harassment.
  •          Demonstrate Appropriate Behavior – Take inventory of your own social media use. Are there potentially offensive postings or messages on your personal channels (which we’re sure you’ve already have on a private setting – right?!) or are you yourself aware of (even if not participating in) derogatory commentary circulating online about other staff members?
  •          Respond Adequately to Violations – Multiple court cases have provided substantial monetary awards to bullied employees who proved their arguments that their employer was aware harassment was occurring. Ensuring appropriate discipline occurs for those violating bullying policies demonstrates company efforts to provide workplaces free of harassment.

What’s Next?

So you’ve brought yourself up to speed with the most popular forms of social media and established a solid company policy with no tolerance for bullying and harassment. Think you’re set? Not always. Social media and technology is evolving and morphing into new formats at the speed of light – meaning that as HR professionals, our organizations rely on us to stay just as current with the latest trends and changes in the digital realm as much as in the office space. Stay current with the changing world of social media and digital communications and you’ll continue to be as effective as you are in all your other HR competencies!

See the original article Here.

Source:

Caswell, J. (2016 September 15). Cyberbullies: worse than swirlys in the bathroom stall? [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://blog.shrm.org/blog/cyberbullies-worse-than-swirlys-in-the-bathroom-stall


Non-drug approaches to pain management prove effective

Helpful insights on pain coping techniques from Industrial Safety & Hygiene News (ISHN)

Data from a review of U.S.-based clinical trials published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings suggest that some of the most popular complementary health approaches — such as yoga, tai chi, and acupuncture — appear to be effective tools for helping to manage common pain conditions. The review was conducted by a group of scientists from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) at the National Institutes of Health.

Millions of Americans suffer from persistent pain that may not be fully relieved by medications. They often turn to complementary health approaches to help, yet primary care providers have lacked a robust evidence base to guide recommendations on complementary approaches as practiced and available in the United States. The new review gives primary care providers — who frequently see patients with chronic pain — tools to inform decision-making on how to help manage that pain.

“For many Americans who suffer from chronic pain, medications may not completely relieve pain and can produce unwanted side effects. As a result, many people may turn to nondrug approaches to help manage their pain,” said Richard L. Nahin, Ph.D., NCCIH’s lead epidemiologist and lead author of the analysis. “Our goal for this study was to provide relevant, high-quality information for primary care providers and for patients who suffer from chronic pain.”

The researchers reviewed 105 U.S.-based randomized controlled trials, from the past 50 years, that were relevant to pain patients in the United States and met inclusion criteria. Although the reporting of safety information was low overall, none of the clinical trials reported significant side effects due to the interventions.

The review focused on U.S.-based trial results on seven approaches used for one or more of five painful conditions — back pain, osteoarthritis, neck pain, fibromyalgia, and severe headaches and migraine — and found promise in the following for safety and effectiveness in treating pain:

  • Acupuncture and yoga for back pain
  • Acupuncture and tai chi for osteoarthritis of the knee
  • Massage therapy for neck pain with adequate doses and for short-term benefit
  • Relaxation techniques for severe headaches and migraine.

Though the evidence was weaker, the researchers also found that massage therapy, spinal manipulation, and osteopathic manipulation may provide some help for back pain, and relaxation approaches and tai chi might help people with fibromyalgia.

“These data can equip providers and patients with the information they need to have informed conversations regarding non-drug approaches for treatment of specific pain conditions,” said David Shurtleff, Ph.D., deputy director of NCCIH. “It’s important that continued research explore how these approaches actually work and whether these findings apply broadly in diverse clinical settings and patient populations.”

Read more about this report at nccih.nih.gov/pain_review.

About the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH): NCCIH’s mission is to define, through rigorous scientific investigation, the usefulness and safety of complementary and integrative health approaches and their roles in improving health and health care. For additional information, call NCCIH’s Clearinghouse toll free at 1-888-644-6226, or visit the NCCIH Web site at nccih.nih.gov. Follow us on Twitter (link is external),Facebook (link is external), and YouTube.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.

See the original article Here.

Reference

Nahin RL, Boineau R, Khalsa PS, Stussman BJ, Weber WJ. (2016 September 7).  Evidence-based evaluation of complementary health approaches for pain management in the United States. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. 2016;91(9):1292-1306. Retrieved from address http://www.ishn.com/articles/104834-non-drug-approaches-to-pain-management-prove-effective


Is There Really A Five-Second Rule About Food On The Floor?

Are your employees being break-room conscious about food safety? The article below gives more insight on the "five-second" rule and how it may effect your employees safety.

Original Post from CNN.com on June 15, 2016

When you drop a piece of food on the floor, is it really OK to eat if you pick up within five seconds? This urban food myth contends that if food spends just a few seconds on the floor, dirt and germs won't have much of a chance to contaminate it. Research in my lab has focused on how food and food contact surfaces become contaminated, and we've done some work on this particular piece of wisdom.

While the "five-second rule" might not seem like the most pressing issue for food scientists to get to the bottom of, it's still worth investigating food myths like this one because they shape our beliefs about when food is safe to eat
So is five seconds on the floor the critical threshold that separates an edible morsel from a case of food poisoning? It's a bit a more complicated than that. It depends on just how much bacteria can make it from floor to food in a few seconds and just how dirty the floor is.

Where did the five-second rule come from?

Wondering if food is still OK to eat after it's been dropped on the floor (or anywhere else) is a pretty common experience. And it's probably not a new one either.
A well-known, but inaccurate, story about Julia Child may have contributed to this food myth. Some viewers of her cooking show, The French Chef, insist they saw Child drop lamb (or a chicken or a turkey, depending on the version of the tale) on the floor and pick it up, with the advice that if they were alone in the kitchen, their guests would never know.
In fact it was a potato pancake, and it fell on the stovetop, not on the floor. Child put it back in the pan, saying "But you can always pick it up and if you are alone in the kitchen, who is going to see?" But the misremembered story persists.
It's harder to pin down the origins of the oft-quoted five-second rule, but a 2003 study reported that 70% of women and 56% of men surveyed were familiar with the five-second rule and that women were more likely than men to eat food that had been dropped on the floor.
So what does science tell us about what a few moments on the floor means for the safety of your food?

Five seconds is all it takes

The earliest research report on the five-second rule is attributed to Jillian Clarke, a high school student participating in a research apprenticeship at the University of Illinois. Clarke and her colleagues inoculated floor tiles with bacteria then placed food on the tiles for varying times.
They reported bacteria were transferred from the tile to gummy bears and cookies within five seconds, but didn't report the specific amount of bacteria that made it from the tile to the food.
But how much bacteria actually transfer in five seconds?
In 2007, my lab at Clemson University published a study -- the only peer-reviewed journal paper on this topic -- in the Journal of Applied Microbiology. We wanted to know if the length of time food is in contact with a contaminated surface affected the rate of transfer of bacteria to the food.
To find out, we inoculated squares of tile, carpet or wood with Salmonella. Five minutes after that, we placed either bologna or bread on the surface for five, 30 or 60 seconds, and then measured the amount of bacteria transferred to the food. We repeated this exact protocol after the bacteria had been on the surface for two, four, eight and 24 hours.
We found that the amount of bacteria transferred to either kind of food didn't depend much on how long the food was in contact with the contaminated surface -- whether for a few seconds or for a whole minute. The overall amount of bacteria on the surface mattered more, and this decreased over time after the initial inoculation. It looks like what's at issue is less how long your food languishes on the floor and much more how infested with bacteria that patch of floor happens to be.
We also found that the kind of surface made a difference as well. Carpets, for instance, seem to be slightly better places to drop your food than wood or tile. When carpet was inoculated with Salmonella, less than 1% of the bacteria were transferred. But when the food was in contact with tile or wood, 48%-70% of bacteria transferred.
Last year, a study from Aston University in the UK used nearly identical parameters to our study and found similar results testing contact times of three and 30 seconds on similar surfaces. They also reported that 87% of people asked either would eat or have eaten food dropped on the floor.

Should you eat food that's fallen on the floor?

From a food safety standpoint, if you have millions or more cells on a surface, 0.1% is still enough to make you sick. Also, certain types of bacteria are extremely virulent, and it takes only a small amount to make you sick. For example, 10 cells or less of an especially virulent strain of E. coli can cause severe illness and death in people with compromised immune systems. But the chance of these bacteria being on most surfaces is very low.
And it's not just dropping food on the floor that can lead to bacterial contamination. Bacteria are carried by various "media," which can include raw food, moist surfaces where bacteria has been left, our hands or skin and from coughing or sneezing.
Hands, foods and utensils can carry individual bacterial cells, colonies of cells or cells living in communities contained within a protective film that provide protection. These microscopic layers of deposits containing bacteria are known as biofilms and they are found on most surfaces and objects.
Biofilm communities can harbor bacteria longer and are very difficult to clean. Bacteria in these communities also have an enhanced resistance to sanitizers and antibiotics compared to bacteria living on their own.
So the next time you consider eating dropped food, the odds are in your favor that you can eat that morsel and not get sick. But in the rare chance that there is a microorganism that can make you sick on the exact spot where the food dropped, you can be fairly sure the bug is on the food you are about to put in your mouth.
Research (and common sense) tell us that the best thing to do is to keep your hands, utensils and other surfaces clean.


New Workers Are at Highest Risk for Heat-Related Death

Did you know new employees or workers coming back from an extended break are at more risk of heat stroke? It is important to make sure these workers review safety procedures and gradually build up their tolerance to the heat. See the article by Dana Wilkie below and make sure your new workers are safe.

Original Post from SHRM.org

Who would you guess is most at risk for heat-related death while on the job?

It’s not necessarily older workers, first responders or those who toil outside all day.

Instead, the majority of recent heat-related deaths investigated by federal authorities involved workers who’d been on the job for three days or less.

That finding by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) highlights how important it is for employers to ensure that new workers—and returning employees who have been back to the job for a week or less—are prepared to protect themselves, OSHA authorities said.

With weather forecasters calling for above-average temperatures across much of the country this summer, the standard precautions—drink lots of water, take frequent breaks and spend time in the shade—may seem obvious. Yet those precautions may not be enough for new workers or employees returning to the job after extended time away. OSHA recommends allowing new or returning workers to gradually increase their workload and take more frequent breaks as they build up a tolerance for working in the heat.

Prevention

 Construction workers make up about one-third of heat-related worker deaths, but employees who work outdoors across many industries—agriculture, landscaping, transportation, utilities, grounds maintenance, emergency response, and oil and gas operations—are at risk when temperatures go up. Additionally, indoor employees who do strenuous work or wear bulky, protective clothing and use heavy equipment are also at risk. High humidity increases the chances of heat-related maladies such as heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

In 2014, 2,630 workers suffered from heat illness, and 18 died from heat stroke and related causes on the job, according to OSHA.

Under the general duty clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, employers are responsible for protecting workers from hazards on the job, including extreme heat. To prevent heat-related illness and fatalities, OSHA offers these suggestions:

  • Prepare a heat acclimatization plan and medical monitoring program. Closely supervise new employees, including those who are temporary workers or returning seasonal workers, for the first 14 days on the job—or until they acclimate to the heat. Though most heat-related worker deaths occur in the first three days on the job, more than one-third occur on the first day. If someone has not worked in hot weather for at least a week, his or her body needs time to adjust.
  • Encourage workers to drink about one cup of water every 15-20 minutes, even if they say they’re not thirsty. During prolonged sweating lasting several hours, they should drink sports beverages containing electrolytes.
  • Provide shaded or air-conditioned rest areas for cooling down, and encourage workers to use them.
  • Provide workers with protective equipment and clothing, such as hats, light-colored clothing, water-cooled garments, air-cooled garments, ice-packet vests, wetted overgarments, and heat-reflective aprons or suits.
  • Be familiar with heat illness signs and symptoms, and make sure employees are, too. Some heat exhaustion signs are dizziness, headache, cramps, sweaty skin, nausea and vomiting, weakness, and a fast heartbeat. Heat stroke symptoms include: red, hot, dry skin; convulsions; fainting; and confusion. In general, any time a worker has fainted or demonstrates confusion, this represents an emergency situation.
  • Tell workers to notify a supervisor or to call 911 if they or their co-workers show signs of heat illness. Implement a buddy system where workers observe each other for early signs and symptoms of heat intolerance. Have someone stay with a worker who is suffering from the heat until help arrives.
  • Encourage supervisors and workers to download OSHA’s Heat Safety Tool on their iPhone or Android device. [https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/heat_index/heat_app.html] This app calculates the heat index, a measurement of how hot it is when taking humidity into account. The app also has recommendations for preventing heat illness based on the estimated risk level where one is working.

Dana Wilkie is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Read original article here.

Wilkie, D. (2016, June 6). New workers are at highest risk for heat-related death [Web log post]. Retrived from https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/hr-topics/employee-relations/Pages/New-Workers-Are-at-Highest-Risk-for-Heat-Related-Death.aspx


Rethinking the Modern Accumulation of Technology

In an article from SHRM.org, Natalie Kroc addresses how technology is impacting security measures.

Original post from SHRM.org on June 16, 2016.

It wasn’t the latest gadget or platform or program that the speakers discussed at a recent conference session on how to keep teleworkers and remote workers connected. Instead, it was the most basic of modern technologies that kept being stressed:

E-mail. An Internet connection. Maybe a webcam (though this proved controversial).

“I am a Millennial, and I … primarily communicate through e-mail,” said Greg Caplan, founder and CEO of Remote Year, a year-old startup that has brought together a group of 75 people to travel the world while holding down various remote jobs. Caplan believes that, for work purposes, e-mail is still king.

The other panelists at the Telecommuting, Remote and Distributed (TRaD) Works Forum, held June 9-10 in Washington, D.C., agreed that the simplest of technologies can successfully keep offsite employees connected. TRaD refers to the different kinds of offsite employees: Telecommuters are those who work from home sometimes, remote workers do their entire jobs from home and a distributed workforce is when an organization doesn’t have a physical location so its employees all work remotely.

Employees who work offsite only need “an Internet connection. Anything else we can work around,” said Carol Cochran, director of people and culture for Boulder, Colo.-based FlexJobs, a job search site that focuses on telecommuting, part-time and other flexible work opportunities. FlexJobs was a co-host of the forum.

Organizations may want to consider providing their remote workers a cellphone with Internet capabilities as a backup. This all but guarantees that employees will be able to work—even if they are having difficulties with their home Internet connection.

A chat function can be useful as well, if the work that employees are doing would benefit from the ability to reach out and have real-time conversations.

Many organizations that employ remote workers have the routine of a “daily huddle” or something similar, wherein employees are expected to check in at the start of the day, whether in a brief meeting or by writing their day’s plans in a shared document.

When an organization’s workforce is made up of remote or teleworking employees, or a mix of offsite and onsite workers, it’s especially important to use the time when everyone gets together effectively. Meetings should be “30 minutes, if not 15 minutes, instead of an hour,” Cochran said. If certain employees are inclined to speak for long periods of time, establish a time limit—and then stick to it.

Video: Love It or Hate It

“I hate video,” Cochran said. “I’m really reluctant to put it on, it’s so awkward.” FlexJobs uses it only rarely, and even then it’s often for social occasions. Cochran said she has found that workers become preoccupied knowing they are being viewed on screen, and worry about their hair and clothes and background surroundings.

This was a point of fierce contention among the panelists and forum attendees alike, though. Some organizations believe that video is essential, and that any initial awkwardness that employees may feel will disappear with habitual use.

Alex Konanykhin, CEO of Transparent Business, a platform that aims to help companies that employ teleworkers and freelancers, offered a solution: Get the organization’s leaders to work from home—and to exercise right before the meeting. When they dial in, they should be in full post-workout gear, including messy hair or a baseball cap. “All it takes is one time” of seeing that, he said, to have a workforce that can be comfortable with being on screen.

Video is a way of giving voice to remote workers and “making them feel part of the organization,” he added.

For those organizations that decide to incorporate webcams into the remote-worker experience, the panelists had some advice:

  • Don’t keep the webcams on all day—turn them on at specific times, such as for meetings or training sessions.
  • Suggest to employees who express reluctance that they may want to purchase a simple screen or backdrop to place behind them so that their home surroundings will not be visible on screen. This also may help to convey a more-businesslike feel.
  • Consider making video an option, not a requirement, for meetings.
  • Finally, if the organization’s video capabilities prove to be less than ideal—and repeatedly involve technical snafus such as the video shutting off or freezing, then stop trying to make video happen.

Adopt New Tools Cautiously

The speakers had their individual favorites among newer technologies, such as messaging app Slack, electronic signature platform DocuSign, Google Drawings for collaborating on charts and diagrams, and Zoom for streamlining remote communications. However, the panelists also derided many new offerings as being unnecessarily confusing and others for seeming to be more about entertainment than practical application.

Tools that are adopted by an organization need to be fully embraced by both remote and onsite workers, the speakers agreed. “When you take on a tool, you have to have a very clear expectation of how it is to be used,” Caplan said. “And that’s just culture.”

That said, it’s important for organizations to pick their tools wisely. Each new tool should represent an improvement from whatever employees were using before to accomplish a particular task. And while entertainment shouldn’t be a priority, each new tool should make employees’ jobs easier, the panelists said.

“Why do people love Facebook?” asked Konanykhin. “It’s instant gratification.” Employees expect the same ease of use and sense of satisfaction with the tools they use for work.

Natalie Kroc is a staff writer for SHRM.

See the original article here.

Source:

Kroc, N. (2016, June 16). Rethinking the modern accumulation of techonology [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/hr-topics/technology/Pages/Rethinking-the-Modern-Accumulation-of-Technology.aspx