Nursing homes’ woes • Online genetic exome browser • Day of action for home care workers – Crain’s Chicago Business

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NURSING HOMES BRACE FOR ANOTHER PANDEMIC-INDUCED SHAKEUP: Many nursing home operators are struggling to stay afloat in the face of high vacancy rates, rising costs, staff shortages and the threat of coronavirus-related lawsuits. The financial toll threatens to drive some companies under, push others out of the elder care industry and pave the way for deeper-pocketed systems to snap up struggling rivals.

Though vaccines and infection control measures have lately helped prevent the sort of outbreaks that marked the darkest days of the lockdown era, health care providers are now grappling with a new and more contagious COVID variant. Add in the lingering fear of contagion among families weighing the pros and cons of caring for elder loved ones at home versus in a facility, and it’s little wonder that nursing homes report that they are on life support.

Only one-quarter of nursing homes and assisted living communities nationwide are confident they’ll last a year or more, according to a recent survey of 738 facilities by the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living. READ MORE.

NORTHWESTERN OPENS MOKENA FACILITY: Northwestern Medicine continues expanding in the south suburbs after bringing in Palos Health earlier this year. The system opened a three-story, 48,000-square-foot medical office in Mokena in mid-June.

“Opening the new Mokena location is a milestone is our expansion into the southwest suburbs,” Dr. Howard Chrisman, senior vice president, Northwestern Memorial HealthCare, said in a statement. 

The ambulatory site will extend access to Northwestern Medicine into the south suburbs. The facility will offer specialty services including gynecology with plans to add orthopaedics and obstetrics, x-ray, CT, and a point-of-care laboratory, the statement said.

Palos Health became part of Northwestern Medicine on Jan. 1, 2021. Palos Medical Group, which includes more than 60 physicians, 32 providers and 100 staff members, will join Northwestern Medicine Regional Medical Group on Sept. 1.

ABBVIE, BIOGEN AND PFIZER DEBUT GENETIC EXOME BROWSER: The world’s largest browsable resource linking rare protein-coding genetic variants to human health and disease has been launched by AbbVie, Biogen and Pfizer. The browser is managed by the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and gives access to results from analyses of whole exome sequencing data from 300,000 U.K. Biobank research participants, the companies said in a statement. These genetic data have been paired with detailed health information to create this browsable resource, the statement said. The browser can be accessed at https://genebass.org.

U of I LAUNCHES ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE IN MEDICINE CERTIFICATE: The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign has created a new AI in Medicine Certificate program, a self-paced, online program for health care professionals.

The interdisciplinary partnership brings in U of I’s the department of bioengineering at the Grainger College of Engineering, the Carle Illinois College of Medicine and the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine. The program provides a conceptual understanding of AI and its applications through real-world medical case studies using machine learning models, the university said in a statement. 

The AI in Medicine program is divided into six modules and delivered by Dr. Kevin R. Teal, a staff neurosurgeon at the Carle Foundation Hospital.

EXPLORER LIVE EXPANDS INTO ROBOTIC SURGERY: Chicago-based medical device digital platform company Explorer Surgical said it has moved into robotic surgery.

Medical robotics companies can use the company’s digital platform, Explorer Live, which provides a procedural playbook, video capabilities and data collection to provide support and insight into workflow and performance, the company said.

“Our goal is simple, yet critical: find a better way to provide medical device companies with actionable insights on the black box of surgery,” Jennifer Fried, CEO and co-founder of Explorer Surgical, said in a statement. “For example, there is a perception of surgery that the surgeon is the key to successful outcomes, but we know this downplays the role of the nurses, scrub techs, reps, and others that can greatly contribute to workflow and efficiency.”

HOME CARE WORKERS PLAN DAY OF ACTION TOMORROW: A nationwide collection of home care workers, led by the Service Employees International Union, plan activities in Washington, D.C., and around the nation on July 13 to advocate for better funding for home care. The nationwide day of action includes plans for care workers to rally at at 11:30 a.m. tomorrow at Federal Plaza in Chicago.

The groups will demand the White House and Congress invest in the nation’s care economy as a matter of racial and gender justice through “good union, living-wage jobs and a down payment to expand access across the care system,” SEIU said in a statement. The effort will emphasize the urgency of prioritizing an industry led by women of color in COVID-19 pandemic recovery plans, it said.

“The day of action comes as Congress moves to make major decisions on whether and how to invest in care, marking a crescendo of recent activity in support of President Biden’s plan to invest $400 billion in the nation’s home care workforce,” the statement said. 

“Our lives depend upon one another—we cannot truly thrive when structural racism, sexism and ableism are holding us back. People with disabilities know that their lives are at stake when the supports they need to live in the community disappear, and home services workers, who are majority Black and brown women, receive poverty wages for their essential work,” Amber Smock, director of advocacy at Chicago-based disability rights organization Access Living, said in the statement. “Our current support system is not sustainable. Both people with disabilities and the workers who provide direct supports need long term, real investment in expanding and stabilizing our home and community care infrastructure.”

VACCINATION SAVED NEARLY 280,000 IN U.S., SAYS STUDY: A Commonwealth Fund study estimates that the U.S. COVID-19 vaccine rollout has saved about 279,000 lives and kept another 1.25 million Americans out of the hospital. Some 600,000 deaths in the U.S. attributed to COVID-19. But the Commonwealth Fund report says the effort that’s so far resulted in 67 percent of adults in the U.S. receiving at least one dose had a dramatic effect on the death rate and hospitalizations. If the U.S. effort had reached only half that pace of vaccination, the nation would’ve added to its tally nearly 121,000 additional deaths and 450,000 hospitalizations, the report said.

ABBOTT LAYING OFF WORKERS IN MAINE: With a decrease in demand for COVID-19 testing, Abbott Laboratories is laying off around 400 workers in two Maine communities, according to a report by Portland, Maine-area TV station WMTW. “We’ve recently seen a significant, rapid decline in COVID-19 testing demand and anticipate this trend will continue,” Abbott told the local TV station in a statement. “Because of this, we are reducing our workforce that produces rapid tests in Westbrook and Scarborough. These sites will continue to play an important role in manufacturing tests for COVID-19 and other infectious diseases around the world. We’re grateful for the contributions our workers in Maine made to our country during the pandemic.”

ICYMI: CHICAGO-AREA HOSPITAL REQUIRING WORKERS TO GET VACCINATED AGAINST COVID-19: Loyola Medicine announced a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for all employees and contractors. The requirement applies to the Maywood-based, three-hospital network’s over 9,500 employees and 500 affiliated community doctors.

Other large Chicago-area hospital systems, including Advocate Aurora Health and Amita Health, are not requiring that workers get vaccinated against COVID-19 at this time, though they are strongly encouraging vaccination. At the start of the vaccine rollout, some local hospitals said they likely wouldn’t mandate COVID-19 shots like they do flu shots until they’re FDA-approved, rather than authorized under emergency-use rules, as the COVID vaccines currently are.

“We expect to make a determination in the near future as to whether to continue this approach” of strongly encouraging employee vaccinations “or require our employees to be vaccinated,” the University of Chicago Medical Center said in an emailed statement.

Northwestern Medicine spokesman Chris King said in an email that the health system continues to “provide information and learning opportunities to educate any employee that may have questions or concerns” about vaccination. READ MORE.

PEOPLE ON THE MOVE

The Chicago-based American Nutrition Association has announced a new board leadership structure and board members.

The ANA has streamlined its leadership structure, with an ANA Board of Directors governing the organization and the Scientific Advisory Board stewarding the scientific mission of the ANA, the association said in a statement. A newly created Strategic Advisory Board will provide advice from nutrition-oriented stakeholders,

The Board for Certification of Nutrition Specialists and the Accreditation Council for Nutrition Professional Education continue to be governed by their boards of directors.

The ANA board consists of chair Jeffrey Blumberg, board members Deanna Minich, Stacie Stephenson, Dr. Robert Beardall, Rajesh Grover and Dana Reed and new board members Joye Blount and James Lintott.

Joining the ANA Scientific Advisory Board are Dr. Derrick MacFabe, Dr. Melania Manco, Dr. David Perlmutter, Dr. Ananda Prasad and Dr. Stephen Sinatra.

The first members of the mew ANA Strategic Advisory Board are Tom Aarts, Aaron Bartz, Tom Blue and Scott Sensenbrenner.