Oakdale hosts 12 Hours of Giving Blood Drive

The American Red Cross will hold the sixth-annual 12 Hours of Giving Blood Drive 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 20 at Inwood Oaks, 484 Inwood Ave. N., Oakdale. It is Minnesota's largest, one-day Red Cross blood drive.

All who come to give blood will receive a long-sleeved Red Cross T-shirt while supplies last. Donors will also be treated to live holiday entertainment and food, free parking, complimentary gift wrapping and visits from Santa throughout the day. In addition, donors can enter to win hourly prize drawings including a 40-inch TV and laptop computer. "This annual blood drive comes at a crucial time of year for the Red Cross," said Steve Seering, Donor Recruitment director for the Red Cross North Central Blood Services Region. "There is an urgent need for blood donors to give now to ensure blood is available for medical treatments and emergencies during the holiday season." A seasonal decline in donations occurs from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day when donors get busy with family gatherings and travel. In addition, severe winter weather can cause blood drive cancellations and negatively affect the blood supply. However, patients don't get a holiday vacation or stop needing life-saving transfusions when disasters strike. To make an appointment for the 12 Hours of Giving Blood Drive, donors can use sponsor code "12 hours" on the Red Cross Blood Donor App, go online to www.RedCrossBlood.org or by calling 800-RED CROSS.

Therapy dog volunteers needed for hospice

Lakeview Hospice is seeking registered pet therapy dogs and handlers to make a difference by bringing comfort and compassion to hospice patients in their homes across Washington and St. Croix counties.

"The dog opens up so many doors for communication," said Pat Bettendorf, who currently volunteers for Lakeview Hospice with his two registered Pitbull-mix therapy dogs, Jake and Sugar. "It's rewarding and it's so necessary. You know you've done something for that person in their last days or weeks or months and you are better for it. I know they appreciate our visits. You've made a difference in somebody's life. You've made that person a little happier for a little while."

Pet therapy teams can reduce anxiety, encourage storytelling and reminiscing, and bring joy to patients who have had to give up their own pet, according to a news release.

Dogs should be at least two years old, calm, obedient and certified by Therapy Dogs International or a similar organization. Adult handlers will need to take approximately 20-25 hours of hospice training at no charge.

"I hear stories of so many patients who are touched by our pet therapy dogs and handlers," said Nancy Kuckler, Lakeview Hospice volunteer coordinator. "We would love to add additional teams so we can bring their comfort and joy to more patients at a delicate, meaningful time in their lives."

For more information, contact Kuckler by calling 651-275-8255 or emailing Nancy.S.Kuckler@lakeview.org.

Check toy list for eye dangers

As the holiday season approaches, members of the Wisconsin Optometric Association remind parents that some toys can cause serious eye injuries and urges them to be vigilant in regards to safety when purchasing their child's toys.

"It comes down to common sense," said Dr. Chris Marquardt, WOA president and a Wausau, Wis. optometrist. "Be proactive and watch for dangerous toys that could injure your children. Better yet, choose gifts that are both fun and enhance children's vision development."

When purchasing toys, the American Optometric Association advises that it's important to select well-made toys which are appropriate for the child's age and maturity level. While manufacturers often give suggested age ranges for toys, parents should keep their individual child's development in mind when selecting such gifts, as children do develop at different rates. If buying toys that have a more obvious potential to cause eye injuries in older children, make sure the proper safety equipment is purchased. Toys like slingshots, BB guns, dart guns and arrows present the most risk, and parents may wish to avoid those gifts completely, especially if younger children are also in the household.

While video games are popular and can be educational, today's electronic devices also give off high-energy, short-wavelength blue and violet light which may affect vision and even prematurely age the eyes. Overexposure to the blue light from handheld video devices and gaming systems can contribute to poor focusing ability, nearsightedness and may lead to serious conditions in later life such as age-related macular degeneration, which can cause blindness.

Some toys are simply unsafe and may be recalled by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. For a list of toy recalls and further information on toy safety, visit the CPSC's website at www.cpsc.gov. There are many safe toys on the market today that will not only enhance your children's creativity and personality, but will also allow them to have fun and stay safe while helping to develop and sharpen their vision.

Study: Virtual medical visits on the rise in Minn.

Telemedicine, or the remote diagnosis and treatment of patients, grew at a rapid pace in Minnesota between 2010 and 2015 with a nearly seven-fold growth in visits jumping from 11,113 in 2010 to 86,238 visits in 2015, according to a new Minnesota Department of Health and University of Minnesota School of Public Health study highlighted in Health Affairs.

In a first-of-its-kind study, health department and School of Public Health researchers joined together to analyze the Minnesota All Payer Claims Database to discover the patterns of telemedicine use in Minnesota between 2010 and 2015. The research did not look into the effectiveness of telemedicine, but it did find a rapid increase in its use. Tens of thousands of patients received medical care through virtual visits.

Though still a very small slice of Minnesota’s health care pie - less than 1 percent of patients used telemedicine - the researchers found that telemedicine evolved to serve somewhat different uses for metro-area and Greater Minnesota patients and for those with private or public insurance, such as Medicare, MinnesotaCare and Medical Assistance, Minnesota’s Medicaid program.

Non-metro patients in greater Minnesota more commonly used telemedicine for real-time visits initiated by providers and included specialty consultations. For example, an emergency department physician may initiate a telemedicine visit with a neurologist for a patient suffering a stroke. Or, a primary care provider may refer a patient to a specialist to provide psychotherapy and medication management for clinical depression.

“This research shows that telemedicine may be emerging as an option to overcome some of the geographical barriers of accessing specialty care in Greater Minnesota, particularly in the area of mental health,” said Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm. “We need more research to ensure quality is being maintained, but this study highlights the importance of seeking innovative ways to provide access to health care in Greater Minnesota, including thinking broadly about funding investments in the health care workforce, as well as technology such as telemedicine equipment and broadband access.”

In metropolitan areas, which included the Twin Cities, Rochester, St. Cloud and Duluth areas, the majority of telemedicine services were online evaluation visits for primary care provided by nurse practitioners to patients with commercial insurance. Such “direct-to-consumer” telemedicine visits provide care for common non-emergency conditions, such as the common cold or strep throat. A greater number of telemedicine users lived in metro areas, however the rate for telemedicine use was higher in non-metro areas for people with Medicare and Medicaid.