HIPAA Training and Compliance

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act or HIPAA was enacted in 1996 and has been amended several times.  In addition, thousands of pages of rules have been issued.  HIPAA’s major purpose was to allow Americans to port coverage when they leave an employer to go to another employer, so they would not lose benefits.  It also enacted some of the strictest privacy rules in the world about who can access your medical information and how it must be safeguarded.


In an era where NSA intelligence gathering, drones and other concerns exist about privacy, it is more imperative than ever that people be fully informed on medical records privacy.  Compliance means that only people who directly have a reason to see your information for billing or treatment are allowed to, and only for that portion they need.  It does not allow for non-encrypted emailing of the information, sending it to an unsecured fax, or even sharing it with family members unless you specifically authorize it in writing.


You can imagine the impact of a spouse being treated for an STD from an extra-marital affair being told to the other spouse.  Or the effect on co-workers or employment if they know you have an infectious or terminal disease.  It is none of their business unless you and no one else thinks it is.  That is why organizations owe it to their patients to train anyone who comes into contact or potential contact with this information.


The Valley Schools Employee Benefits Trust (VSEBT) offers annual HIPAA training seminars to staff and members that may come into contact with personal health information (PHI).  This year they are including information from Aon/Hewitt on how such information and compliance tools can be found on the new benefits dashboard provided to VSEBT members.  The class can be taken both in person and by webinar.  They are conducting their next seminar on the morning of August 21, 2013.

If you are a member of VSEBT, or are interested in participating, contact Sheri Gilbert at 623-594-4370.  Only current and prospective members of VSEBT will be able to attend.




Women’s height linked to cancer risk, study shows

Women’s height linked to cancer risk, study shows

By Amanda Woerner

Published July 25, 2013

  • cancer_cells.jpg

    Cancer cells. (iStock)

Height may be a disadvantage for some women when it comes to their risk for developing cancer. A new study published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarker’s and Prevention indicates that taller women are at a greater risk for contracting some forms of the disease.

Furthermore, researchers said their findings held strong even when controlling for numerous other factors linked to cancer, such as body mass index (BMI).

“We didn’t find much difference in heavy or lighter women, so it’s a pretty consistent association right across the spectrum,” senior study author Dr. Thomas Rohan, chair and professor of epidemiology and population health at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, told FoxNews.com.

In a 12-year study of 20,928 postmenopausal women, researchers noted that height was linked to breast, colon, endometrium, kidney, ovary, rectum, and thyroid cancers – as well as multiple myeloma and melanoma.

The taller the women were, the higher their cancer risk. Each 3.95 inch increase in height was associated with a 13 percent increased risk for developing any type of cancer, when researchers compared the heights of all women in the study. For example, a woman who was 5 feet 10 inches tall would have a 13 percent higher risk for cancer than a woman who was approximately 5 feet 6 inches tall.

Furthermore, some cancers were more strongly associated with height than others. For cancers of the kidney, rectum, thyroid and blood, women experienced a 23 percent to 29 percent increased risk with each incremental gain in height.

While researchers can’t say exactly why the link exists, they have a few theories.

“There are many genetic determinants of height, and some may also be related to cancer risks,” Rohan said.

Another potential explanation may be related to environmental factors, such as childhood nutrition.  Increased energy intake during childhood is thought to influence adult height and may also impact certain systems in the body, according to Rohan.

“The intake may influence height, which somehow is influencing cancer risk,” Rohan said. “It may have an effect on hormones, which…may influence cancer risk.”

However, Rohan points out that many additional factors throughout adolescence and young adulthood could also be influencing women’s risk for cancer – and that a true explanation for this phenomenon remains unknown.

Despite their findings, Rohan and his fellow researchers hope that taller women don’t lose sleep over the matter. Instead, he hopes researchers will continue to explore the link between height and cancer, as they search for some of the underlying biological mechanisms that may be responsible for the correlation.

“The goal of this study was not to make clinical recommendations,” Rohan said. “From my perspective, this is an interesting observation. But there’s enough for people to worry about without worrying about how tall they are.”

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/health/2013/07/25/womens-height-linked-to-cancer-risk-study-shows/?intcmp=obnetwork#ixzz2amhud5N7

US drugmakers cheer ‘speed lane’ for breakthrough therapies

US drugmakers cheer ‘speed lane’ for breakthrough therapies

Smarter America

Published July 25, 2013

  • Assorted Pills

A new regulatory pathway could shave years off the traditional drug approval process in the United States, according to some companies whose drugs have been given “breakthrough therapy” designation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Speaking at a briefing in Washington to raise awareness of the drug review process, Dr. Jay Siegel, head of global regulatory affairs at Johnson & Johnson, said he expects two years to be knocked off the time it would typically take the FDA to review ibrutinib, the company’s experimental cancer drug.

To be granted breakthrough designation, an experimental drug must show early indication of clinical improvement over existing therapies, even if the clinical trial is small. It might apply, for example, to a new type of cancer drug that shows strong early promise.

J&J’s ibrutinib, which it is developing with Pharmacyclics Inc, would be the first in a class of oral medicines that block a protein known as Bruton’s tyrosine kinase. It is being developed for patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia/small lymphocytic lymphoma and for patients with mantle cell lymphoma, both cancers of the blood.

Dr. Jeffrey Leiden, the chief executive of Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc, who also spoke at the briefing and whose cystic fibrosis drug Kalydeco was approved under the designation, said his company’s experience working with the FDA was dramatically different from the normal drug approval process.

Under breakthrough designation, he said, “everything is on the table” for discussion in order to move the process along as quickly as possible. Communications that might typically take weeks and months, under the breakthrough pathway take minutes.

“We pick up the phone and talk in real time,” Leiden said. “It makes the process immeasurably smoother.”

The breakthrough pathway was spearheaded by Friends of Cancer Research, a patient advocacy organization. It received bipartisan support in Congress and was signed into law in July 2012. As of July 12, the FDA had received 67 requests for breakthrough designation. It had granted 24 and denied 18.

Dr. Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA’s drugs division, said during the discussion that the breakthrough pathway was designed to accommodate new science, particularly targeted therapies that may work in people with certain genetic mutations. She noted that just because the review process is speeded up there is no guarantee of approval.

In the 1990s, she said, the agency was not seeing drugs whose promise could be detected in early clinical trials.

“We didn’t see these therapies in Phase I or II where you said ‘bingo,’ you’ve got a likely winner,” she said.

Still, there are challenges associated with speeding up a drug’s development timeline. For one thing, other nations might not be willing to approve the products based on the FDA’s more flexible clinical trial standards under the breakthrough designation.

“Our hope is that foreign regulators will catch up,” Siegel said.

Moreover, he said, it is not clear that insurers will pay for drugs if the data do not show improved survival or other clear benefit they are used to seeing when drugs are approved. One task, he said is to figure out “how to bring payors on board.”

The panelists did not discuss what happens once a drug reaches the market under the breakthrough designation.

Under a separate pathway known as “accelerated approval” drugs may be approved based on a so-called surrogate endpoint – a measure, such as tumor shrinkage – that might reasonably be expected to confer a clinical benefit such as improved survival.

Companies that win approval for a product under the accelerated approval process are required subsequently to prove through further clinical trials that the surrogate measure does in fact correlate with improved survival or a reduction in disease symptoms.

“A discussion on this topic is reckless if it doesn’t discuss the next stage after the drug reaches the market,” said Sidney Wolfe, co-founder and senior adviser to Public Citizen’s Health Research Group, a watchdog organization that has frequently criticized the FDA for approving, or failing to withdraw, drugs it considers unsafe.

Woodcock said the FDA is now working to develop a mechanism to speed the development of breakthrough diagnostics that can be used in conjunction with new drugs to help identify which patients will respond to a particular therapy.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/health/2013/07/25/us-drugmakers-cheer-speed-lane-for-breakthrough-therapies/?intcmp=obnetwork#ixzz2amhHDnZG

Toronto researchers develop potential treatment for deadliest cancers

Toronto researchers develop potential treatment for deadliest cancers

About half of all advanced cancer tumours lack a certain gene making them very hard to destroy with chemo and radiation. Toronto researchers may have found a way around this.

Vuk Stambolic, senior scientist at Princess Margaret's Ontario Cancer Institute, led a study that could take personalized cancer treatment to a new level.


Vuk Stambolic, senior scientist at Princess Margaret’s Ontario Cancer Institute, led a study that could take personalized cancer treatment to a new level.

By:  News reporter, Published on Thu Jul 25 2013

A new tool is being forged to treat advanced cancer tumours — the kind that are almost impossible to destroy using just chemotherapy and radiation.

Fifteen years ago Vuk Stambolic, a senior scientist with theOntario Cancer Institute at Princess Margaret Hospital, and his colleagues were studying the tumour-suppressing gene PTEN.

Without it, they discovered, cancer cells become “endlessly surviving.”

About half of all advanced cancer tumours either lack PTEN or have a defective version of the gene, says Stambolic. Nearly all cancers of the uterus and the endometrium are PTEN-deficient, as are about half of all breast cancers and prostate cancers.

  • A pet's cancer journeyA pet’s cancer journey

“When you don’t have PTEN it’s a pretty bad scenario,” says Stambolic. “It really makes the tumours more aggressive and spread faster.”

But that was only half the story, he adds.

They didn’t have a treatment response to PTEN-deficiency that worked.

A new study published in the latest issue of Science on which Stambolic is the principal investigator could change that.

It found that certain drugs make cells lacking PTEN vulnerable to chemotherapy and radiation — creating the potential for a new treatment combination that could tackle the most lethal cancers.

And it could reach cancer patients sooner rather than later.

“The agents that our research indicates would work in this scenario are already undergoing advanced clinical trials (in Toronto and around the world),” says Stambolic. “So it’s not like we’re inventing a new drug or anything . . . It’s the cocktail (of chemotherapy and the drugs) that has previously not been recognized as a tool for treatment.”

PTEN-deficiency is already easily determined through genetic testing as part of the movement toward personalized cancer care.

The approach, being studied extensively at Princess Margaret, builds a genetic profile of a cancer tumour and uses that information to match patients with treatment.

“We’re no longer thinking of cancers by site — breast cancer, prostate cancer, cancer of the lung. We’re molecular profiling, we’re thinking about a cancer that is defective in this number of genes. We’re starting to categorize cancer by their genetic information rather than the site of origin,” says Stambolic.

He hopes his research will help bridge the gap between just cataloguing that genetic information and using it to figure out the most effective therapies.

“This opens up a number of new doors for going after the cancers that are deficient in PTEN,” he says.

Paradise Valley Unified School District Hosts QBM

The Paradise Valley Unified School District (PVUSD) hosted the Quarterly Benefits Meeting (QBM) of the Valley Schools Employee Benefits Trust (VSEBT).  VSEBT is a non-profit organization created to provide group purchasing and professional trust management for school district staff and families.  VSEBT has over 30,000 members.  Each QBM trains member district human resources, finance and benefits staff on the latest changes in healthcare, benefits, legal requirements and updates on innovations.


At this QBM the speakers included:

Andrea Billings, Administrator of VSEBT – Presented an update on National Health Care Reform.  The program is undergoing massive changes on a regular basis.  Andrea Billings is an expert in this field and keeps members up to date on changes and how VSEBT is ensuring compliance.

Jamison Davis, Hays Company – Presented on benchmarking, rate renewal determinations and calculations, demographic and claims trending, and what to expect for future medical costs.

Kevin Van Skike, Total Dental Administrators (TDA) – Presented on exciting new programs and discounts offered by TDA to members of the VSEBT.

Molly Gagnon, ING – Presented on portability and convertion options through ING for life insurance.  These options allow members to take their coverage with them when they change employers or they leave their jobs or retire.

Ryan Comstock, AON/Hewitt – Presented on AON’s Compliance Dashboard, a tool that all VSEBT Members who have medical coverage with VSEBT have access too at no additional cost.  The dashboard and its reporting tool is designed to log all compliance and notice activity.   Maintaining compliance grows more complicated with thousands of new regulations being added each month.  Having all of those compliance issues managed through one dashboard is a tremendous benefits to employers.


Health Plays Prominent Role at AASBO Annual Conference

The Arizona Association of School Business Officials (AASBO) held its 60th Annual Conference – the Diamond Jubiliee Event – last weekend, July 17-20, 2013 at the Starr Pass in Tucson.  This year, the Valley Schools Employee Benefits Trust (VSEBT) sponsored a run/walk event to promote health and wellness.  School employees often lead a sedentary life of lesson planning, paperwork, and educating children in a classroom setting.  Opportunities to involve them in organized wellness events can make a big impact on their health, and also set a good example for children who view them every day.

Valley Schools sponsored the free Healthy Heart Walk/Run that started bright and early at 6:45 a.m. Friday morning.   Around a hundred walkers showed up and made the mile trek into the beautiful hills of Tucson. Walkers were given T-shirts, Sunscreen and Water and staff were available to assist anyone who needed help.

As AASBO stateed in their brochure for the event:  Continuing in the tradition of past years, remember to plan to participate in this family- oriented AASBO event. Research indicates that a routine of moderate exercise will relieve stress, help with weight control and increase the likelihood of reaching those “golden years”.  This event involves an invigorating walk/jog (approximately one-mile) around the grounds of the JW Marriott Starr Pass complex.


5 Ways to Drink More Water

5 Ways to Drink More Water

TAKE CHARGE on 03.19.13
ContributorBIO | TWITTER

Photo: Nattu/Creative Commons

How much water should you drink every day? The answer depends on several factors, including how much you exercise and sweat. But for most people, the simplest answer is: more than you’re drinking right now. Experts have estimated that as many as 80% of Americans aren’t getting enough water.

Although pregnant and nursing moms are at a higher risk for dehydration, all busy parents should be on the look out for signs that life has gotten in the way of us taking care of ourselves. Dehydration can cause dry mouth, increased thirst, dizziness, heart palpitations, and confusion. If you want to avoid these symptoms and reap the rewards of proper hydration, which can include looking younger, having more energy, and losing weight more easily, it’s time to ramp up your liquid intake.

1. Drink something with every meal. Whether it’s water, orange juice, or a cup of coffee, a glass of something liquid instantly makes your meal better for you. And contrary to popular belief, caffeinated beverages do actually improve hydration (just not as well as water does). So get in the habit of sipping between bites!

2. Carry a water bottle everywhere. If you have water with you, you’re more likely to drink it. If you don’t, it’s just to easy to dismiss that tiny hint of thirst when you’re on the go. Invest in a water bottle you really like and start taking it with you whenever you leave the house.

3. Keep a pitcher of water in your fridge. You’re more likely to grab a glass of water if that’s the first thing you see when you go looking for a snack. Plus, cold water seems to taste better than the room temperature stuff that comes out of the tap. Everyone in my family drinks more water when we make sure to keep a pitcher full.

4. Replace what comes out. If you have trouble picking up the all-day sipping habit, try keeping a glass on your bathroom counter. Every time you urinate, drink a cup of water to immediately replace what was lost.

5. Give in to your taste buds. Is ice cold water just not appealing to you? Try flavored waters, cucumber water, or green tea. Even drinking coffee is better than not drinking anything (although you will want to watch your caffeine intake if you’re having trouble sleeping).

Coconut Milk Is Good For You

Coconut Milk Is Good For You

coconuts in Thailand
One of medical columnist Mitchell Hecht‘s readers recently asked a good question related to Thai food. The reader said they enjoy Thai food, but wondered about dishes with coconut milk.

The reason they asked is because coconuts sometimes have a bad reputation. They have a high fat content (70 percent) with 90 percent of that being saturated fat.

Hecht then picked up an old April 2003 study in Atherosclerosis that compared the number of deaths from heart disease between residents of Singapore and Hong Kong. The study found that deaths from heart disease were about three times higher in Singapore. Researchers cited one factor could be a higher consumption of coconut and palm oil in Singapore.

“While experts are still debating the matter, the cautious thing would be to limit the amount of all saturated fats,” he concludes.

And, that said, Mitchell Hecht is wrong. Any time you consider eating foods, you have to weigh the potential risks with the potential benefits. First thing’s first, coconut in coconut milk and coconut oil has notbeen shown to increase cholesterol levels. Rather, some studies show that coconut actually lowers cholesterol and raises HDL in some populations.

Thailand, where coconut is abundant in the diet, has the lowest cancer rate of the 50 countries surveyed by the National Cancer Institute. So it could very well be that the Singapore diet has other factors involved that have nothing to do with coconuts.

Why Coconut Is Good For You.

Coconut milk is a good source of calcium, manganese, selenium, zinc, and iron. The recent trend in drinking coconut water is related to these nutrients as well as the fact that coconut water measures the same pH as our blood. According to one wellness center article, coconut milk and coconut oil contain lauric acid, which is considered antiviral, antibacterial and antiprotozoal.

Coconut milk is also believed to cause the disintegration of viruses, including HIV, measles, herpes simplex, cytomegalovirus influenza virus, and pneumonovirus. And, it can eliminate many fungi, yeast, and protozoa, including several species of ringworm. Even more amazingly, coconut oil can help decrease white fat stores, produce fewer fat cells, and improve the body’s metabolic rate.

So how could a medical health columnist get it mostly wrong? The only time fats in coconut oil are bad for you is when those fats are hydrogenated and turned into trans fatty acids that they become harmful. Trans fatty acids are what can cause a rise in blood cholesterol, but these substances do not occur naturally in coconut oil.

If we had to guess, the columnist probably researched some studies on the presumption the reader’s concern was valid. So, he looked up studies that say coconut oil is good for you, or bad for you, and made an “educated” opinion based on those studies. While he did say “an occasional Thai meal made with coconut milk isn’t going to cause heart disease,” the whole answer made coconut milk look suspect.

Thai food is one of the healthiest cuisines on the planet. And when it comes to Las Vegas restaurants, Thai cuisine really can’t be beat.

Dr. Fuhrman’s Famous Anti-Cancer Soup

Dr. Fuhrman’s Famous Anti-Cancer Soup


*Note: this recipe has been updated. See the update at the bottom of the post.*

Making this soup involves more time and effort than the other recipes, so you might want to make a huge amount and save it in the refrigerator for the whole week. It tastes so good that a patient of mine who owns a fine restaurant offers it on his menu.

1 cup dried split peas and/or beans
4 medium onions
6-10 zucchini
3 stalks leek
5 lbs. carrots
2 bunches celery
1 cup raw cashews
2 tbsp. VegiZest
1 package mushrooms, any type (optional)

Place the beans and 4 cups of water in a very large pot and start cooking them, covered, on the lowest flame possible. Take the outer skins off the onions and place them in the covered pot. Do not cut them up, put them in whole. Add the zucchini, uncut. Cut the bottom roots off the leeks and slice them up the side so each leaf can be thoroughly washed, because leeks have lots of dirt hidden inside. Throw away the last inch at the green top. Then place the entire leek (leaves uncut) into the pot. Juice the carrots and celery in a juice extractor. Add the juice to the pot. While the soup is simmering, chop up the mushrooms (if desired). By the time you get to this stage, the zucchini, leeks, onions should be soft.

This next step only works if you have a Vita-Mix, a powerful blender, or a food processor. Ladle some of the liquid from the pot into the machine. Use tongs to remove the soft onions, zucchini, and leeks. Be careful to leave the beans in the bottom of the pot. In a few separate batches, completely blend together the onions, zucchini, and leeks. Add more soup liquid and cashews to the mixture, and blend in. Return the blended, creamy mix back to the pot. Add the textured vegetable protein and the mushrooms, if desired. Simmer another 20 minutes, and you have my soup that is famous the world over. I know a doctor who makes and freezes my soup and sells it to his patients to cure everything from sinusitis to cancer. It’s not really a cure, but it sure does taste great.


1/2 cup dried split peas
1/2 cup dried adzuki or cannellini beans
4 cups water
6-10 medium zucchini
5 pounds large organic carrots, juiced (5-6 cups juice; see note)*
2 bunches celery, juiced (2 cups juice; see note)*
2 tablespoons Dr. Fuhrman’s VegiZest (or other no-salt seasoning blend, adjusted to taste)
1 teaspoon Mrs. Dash no-salt seasoning
4 medium onions, chopped
3 leek stalks, cut lengthwise and cleaned carefully, then coarsely chopped
2 bunches kale, collard greens or other greens, tough stems and center ribs removed and leaves chopped
1 cup raw cashews
2 1/2 cups chopped fresh mushrooms (shiitake, cremini and/o white)
Place the beans and water in a very large pot over low heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer. Add the zucchini whole to the pot. Add the carrot juice, celery juice, VegiZest and Mrs. Dash.

Put the onions, leeks and kale in a blender and blend with a little bit of the soup liquid. Pour this mixture into the soup pot.

Remove the softened zucchini with tongs and blend them in the blender with the cashews until creamy. Pour this mixture back into the soup pot. Add the mushrooms and continue to simmer the beans until soft, about 2 hours total cooking time.

* Freshly juiced organic carrots and celery will maximize the flavor of this soup.

What your eyes say about your brain

What your eyes say about your brain

By Cassie Shortsleeve

Published July 14, 2013

  • 0_21_450_Eye.jpg

Eyes are the window to the . . . brain? A breakthrough study in Psychological Science finds that the small vessels behind your eyes could reveal how healthy your noggin is. (Feeling fried? Go green and Recharge Your Brain in 10 Minutes.)

The scientists found that people with wider veins scored worse on IQ tests in middle age. Other factors like smoking, diabetes, or socioeconomic status couldn’t be to blame for the scores, says Idan Shalev, the study’s lead author.

What gives? Your eyes’ vessels may reflect the condition of your brain’s vessels because they’re similar in size, structure, and function, says Shalev. “Eye vessels are developed from the same cells that brain vessels are developed from,” he adds.

Previous studies have linked the size of blood vessels in your eyes to risks for other diseases like dementia, cardiovascular disease, or stroke—but those studies were done in older people, says Shalev. This study found that the health of your eyes could indicate brain health at a much earlier age. The results were seen even in children.

(Dodge this leading killer with these 5 Steps to Save Your Heart.)

So what does it mean for you? Pencil in the eye doctor. Even if you’re blessed with 20/20 vision, retinal imaging (a fancy term for the photo eye docs take of your eyes) does far more than test vision: It could be the easiest way yet to check in on your brain.  It’s also a good way to keep track of changes if you’re at high risk for a disease like cardiovascular disease, Shalev says. Being able to compare images over time could help ID changes in midlife that hint towards problems. Otherwise, these changes could go unnoticed as they may not show symptoms until much later, he says.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/health/2013/07/14/what-your-eyes-say-about-your-brain/?intcmp=features#ixzz2ZHNXuH5A