Research Roundup: Staying One Step Ahead of Your Health

Close to 2,000 studies involving Kaiser Permanente (KP) clinicians and researchers are in progress at any given time across the organization’s seven regional research centers. This work helps to shape policy and practice for KP and the health care system at large as it strives to improve patient quality and satisfaction, population health, and reduce the per capita cost of care. To further this goal, each month the KP Institute for Health Policy will highlight several research studies with policy implications as part of our new research roundup series. The inaugural summary includes three studies that examine the effectiveness of steps that patients can take to help control the symptoms of a variety of health conditions.

Scanning for Alzheimer’s Disease

Rachel Whitmer from Northern California is part of a national leadership team for a study titled Imaging Dementia – Evidence for Amyloid Scanning (IDEAS), led by the Alzheimer’s Association, managed by the American College of Radiology and the ACR Imaging Network, and funded by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Researchers will be examining a positron emission tomography (PET) scan that detects brain plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease. The research group will determine how this scan affects doctors’ treatment plans and patient outcomes. If the PET scan is shown to be beneficial, Medicare may decide to cover it. With an early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, patients can receive proper care sooner to avoid accidents from cognitive impairments and to potentially slow the progression of the disease.

Supplements for Menopause

Another study examined whether vitamin D and calcium supplements help to alleviate menopausal symptoms. Erin LeBlanc from the KP research center based in Portland, Oregon conducted a longitudinal study and found that women who took these supplements had the same number of menopausal symptoms as those who did not. Some of the symptoms included sleep disturbance, emotional well-being, and fatigue. The average age of women at the beginning of the study was 64. Dr. LeBlanc suggests that future research on the effects of supplements on menopause should include younger women to see if the results are different based on age.

Lessening the Pain of Shingles

A study from Southern California was published this month about an additional benefit of the shingles vaccination. Hung Fu Tseng and his team found that those who get shingles after receiving the vaccination (herpes zoster) have a lower risk of developing a painful complication from the condition called post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN). The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices currently recommends the vaccination for adults over 60 years old. This research provides additional support for the vaccination, both to decrease the likelihood of getting shingles and to reduce the severity of PHN and the mental health consequences from long-term pain.

Kaiser Permanente continues to set the bar for evidence-based care. Look for next month’s research roundup: the Institute will look at three studies about investing in community clinics. If you’d like to learn more about the research studies, please contact Al Martinez at Albert.Martinez@kp.org.

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