Cigna and VA join forces to help veterans at risk of opioid misuse


White pharmaceutical pills spilling from prescription bottle over American map

Health insurer Cigna and the Department of Veterans Affairs have partnered in an effort to aid veterans with chronic pain who are also at risk for opioid misuse.

By teaming up, the organizations seek to educate healthcare providers as well as veterans and their families about safe opioid use.

In a statement, Cigna president and CEO David Cordani noted that his organization plans to share its resources and practices to help veterans.

The VA and Cigna also intend to promote existing support resources like the Veterans Crisis Line and Cigna’s Veterans Support Line.

“This partnership is in line with VA’s priorities of transforming our business systems and supporting more robust partnerships with state and local communities,” VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said in a statement. “By partnering with Cigna, we have extended our reach to help improve the way healthcare providers approach opioid use and we demonstrate our commitment to place Veterans’ safety and well-being above all.”

The ultimate aim of the partnership, which was formalized in early March, is to improve opioid use-related patient-provider interactions and boost the delivery of care and health outcomes for veterans.

As the opioid epidemic rages on, other organizations are working to offer solutions to the problem.

At the Health 2.0 conference last fall, startups in the $50,000 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Opioid Challenge pitched ideas on using tech to support substance abuse treatment. The winner of the competition was Boston-based Sober Grid, which created a platform to help users locate nearby treatment centers. It also offers telehealth capabilities that can connect patients to professional and peer counselors. The startup was founded back in 2015.

Additionally, Blue Shield of California launched a Narcotic Safety Initiative in 2015. Earlier this year, the results of that project showed a 56 percent reduction in overall opioid use among the payer’s members with chronic, non-cancer pain compared to 2014.

Photo: Stuart Ritchie, Getty Images


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How Alcohol Affects Sleep | POPSUGAR Fitness UK


Relaxed young woman reading a book

If you have trouble falling asleep, it can be tempting to have a glass (or two) of wine before bed. Insomnia is often accompanied by restlessness and anxiety, and alcohol can make you feel drowsy and relaxed — an ideal combination when you desperately need to wind down. Having a nightcap seems like an easy, harmless solution, but unfortunately it’s not that simple.

“Alcohol might make it easier to initially fall asleep, but it can have a negative impact on the overall quantity and efficiency of sleep,” Julia Samton, MD, a board-certified psychiatrist and neurologist, told POPSUGAR.

How Does Alcohol Affect Quality of Sleep?

Kent Smith, DDS, a dental sleep specialist and president of the American Sleep and Breathing Academy, said that, although having a few drinks before bed may help you fall asleep more quickly, alcohol-induced slumber isn’t as refreshing.

“It takes about two hours for a drink to completely metabolise, and during the process, you’re not getting the deep sleep you should,” Dr. Smith explained. “In addition, alcohol can also lead to frequent waking to get up and use the restroom and an increased risk for sleepwalking.”

Both doctors said that drinking alcohol before bed can also throw off the body’s circadian rhythm (or biological clock). “By disturbing the natural sleep-wake cycle, alcohol interferes with our normal circadian rhythms,” Dr. Samton said. Sleep is disrupted on a night of overindulgence and, as a result, it may produce a rebound effect on the quality of sleep in the nights that follow.

Are There Other Risks Associated With Drinking Before Bed?

Consistently consuming alcohol before bed can cause sleep problems or make existing ones worse. “[People] can experience difficulty falling and staying asleep, poor sleep quality, and daytime sleepiness,” Teofilo L. Lee-Chiong, MD, a pulmonologist in the Section of Sleep Medicine at National Jewish Health, told POPSUGAR. He explained that alcohol can also worsen snoring and abnormal breathing during sleep in people with obstructive sleep apnea, and increase symptoms in those suffering from restless leg syndrome.

Dr. Samton said that, although alcohol does not directly cause sleep apnea, it can cause weight gain and obesity, which are common risk factors. Additionally, “for those with existing sleep apnea, it can exacerbate their condition and prevent them from remembering to use their continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine,” she told POPSUGAR.

If you’re having trouble sleeping, your best bet is to establish a healthy nighttime routine and focus on improving your sleep hygiene. It may not solve your sleep problems instantly, but in the long run you’ll be more likely to consistently get full nights of quality sleep.


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Giacomo Gianniotti and Nichole Gustafson Married


Sorry, Meredith Grey, Giacomo Gianniotti is officially off the market! On Sunday, the Grey’s Anatomy actor tied the knot with his fiancée, makeup artist Nichole Gustafson, during a romantic ceremony in Rome, Italy. “Huge thank you to the incredible team that gave us the most incredible wedding we are forever indebted to you for making this day a dream come true,” Giacomo captioned a photo of him and his bride on Instagram. “We are still floating. To all our friends and family who came, we love you and we will never forget you.”

Giacomo first announced his engagement back in November 2017, when he shared a photo of him and Nichole sharing a kiss. “She said yes . . .” he wrote on Instagram at the time. “I am truly one lucky guy, and I wouldn’t rather be walking down this crazy road of life with anyone else. I love you. Thank you.” Congrats to the happy couple!

Image Source: Getty / Vivien Killilea


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London Prosecco Festival 2019 | POPSUGAR Food UK


Photographer: Jae Payne

It’s unlikely that we’ll ever tire of Prosecco. It just makes every occasion that little bit fancier, whether you decide to pimp it for a party or if all you’re doing is having a picnic after work. Even better: it’s always on offer in the supermarkets. Now we’ve got something even more exciting to clink our glasses over, as a Prosecco festival is coming to London!

Prosecco Springs Festival returns to London in May for its third year and will be held over three days
from May 17 to May 19, 2019. It describes itself as “the UK’s first and largest festival dedicated to everybody’s favourite sparkling wine.” You’ll be given a passport on arrival, which gives you access to the Oval Space and allows you to choose eight tasting glasses of Prosecco from small-batch producers. It’s not just about drinking fizz, though. There’s plenty to learn about the history of the drink and how it’s made, too. For the connoisseurs amongst you, there will also be the opportunity to try your hand at cocktail making. The master classes are lead by mixologists from Grey Goose, Chambord, St Germain, and Martini. See, it’s an educational experience and definitely not just boozing with your mates.

If you fancy getting fizzy with it, tickets are £40, while the cocktail-making classes are £20 each and must be booked separately. You can choose whether you go for the evening or afternoon sessions. Now grab your best pals, and make sure you’ve stocked up on the best hangover cures. Saluti!

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Jae Payne


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Best Houseplants For Allergy Sufferers


Sure, houseplants are a great way to decorate your apartment, especially when you’re on a budget. But there are lots more reasons to pick up some plants. They can help you ward off colds and flu and get a more restful night’s sleep, and keep your home cool during the warmer months ahead. It should come as no surprise then that indoor plants can also help ease allergy symptoms by trapping dust, filtering household air, and more. If you’re an allergy sufferer, try one of these expert picks.

1. Dracaena

“The dracaena is an ideal plant for people with allergies, as it absorbs allergens from the air and traps them in its leaves,” Pol Bishop, a gardening and plants expert at Fantastic Gardeners, told POPSUGAR. “It does grow to be quite large, though, so regular pruning is required.” If you decide to bring this plant into your home, find it a spot with moderate sun exposure.

2. Bamboo Palm

The bamboo palm is a tropical houseplant that’s very effective at improving air quality. “It tops the list of air-purifying plants, filtering out carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, xylene, and even carbon,” Pol said. Pollutants are known to exacerbate allergy symptoms. “On top of that, the bamboo palm has strong insect-repellent capabilities,” Pol added. It requires bright but indirect sunlight and needs to be watered regularly.

3. Dracaena Marginata Colorama

“The marginata plant helps purify the air from chemicals such as formaldehyde and benzene,” Pol explained. It also helps control humidity in your home, and breathing dry air can make allergy symptoms worse. This low-maintenance plant can survive in low light and doesn’t need to be watered constantly.

4. Gerbera Daisies

Assuming you don’t have pollen allergies, this happy, flowered plant is a perfect addition to your home. Gerbera daisies help filter out benzene, a harmful chemical compound that is found in common irritants such as pesticides, paints, dyes, and tobacco smoke. “They’re fairly easy to grow,” Pol told POPSUGAR. “Just remember to place them in a spot where they will get direct sunlight.”

5. English Ivy

A preliminary study found that English ivy can greatly reduce the amount of mold spores in the air — a welcome change for those whose allergies are triggered by them.


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AmerisourceBergen’s Lash Group teams up with Medisafe to address patient adherence


Lash Group, a patient support services company that’s part of AmerisourceBergen, has teamed up with Medisafe, which makes an app to track medication adherence levels and remind people to take their prescriptions.

Through their collaboration, the entities will tackle patient adherence.

Boston-based Medisafe’s app will deliver real-time interventions to help patients stay adherent. Additionally, the tool can alert Lash Group’s clinicians when patients are considered “at-risk.”

Now, patients can receive support after therapy is prescribed but before they fill their first prescription. Overall, the alliance provides more visibility into the shipment status of the patient’s medication and offers an opportunity to better engage with patients.

In a statement, Medisafe CEO Omri Shor commented:

We are excited to move upstream in the patient journey making it easier for new patients to get started on therapy. And this solution offers patients further support throughout their journey as a trained clinician is never more than a tap away. Our strategic collaboration will improve the well-being of patients with severe illness and complex medication regimens at scale by helping them stay adherent to specialty medications for longer.

According to a news release, Lash Group president Tommy Bramley added: “We are excited to work with Medisafe to provide an additional layer of digital communication to improve adherence rates and instill healthy behaviors. We meet patient needs by providing both digital and human support to help guide patients on their path to recovery and to a higher quality of life.”

Other organizations have also sought to address patients’ adherence to their meds.

Last year, University of Maryland Health Partners, a Medicaid managed care organization, and digital health startup emocha Mobile Health joined forces in an effort to improve medication adherence among patients with type 2 diabetes.

Separately, medication adherence startup MyMeds partnered with Mayo Clinic Global Business Solutions in an effort to improve adherence rates. As part of their alliance, patients enrolled in MyMeds’ platforms can access medication-related educational content from Mayo Clinic.

Photo: Martin Barraud, Getty Images


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Engagement Playlist | POPSUGAR Love UK


Engagement season is upon us! Chances are, somebody you know will be getting a ring in the near future. When she does, she’ll want to celebrate the incredible news with her favourite ladies. Be the best friend a girl can have by blasting this playlist — it will totally get her pumped to plan the wedding. Check out all the songs that will have you and the future bride hearing wedding bells!

  1. “Dog Days Are Over,” Florence and the Machine
  2. “Chapel of Love,” The Dixie Cups
  3. “Celebrate,” JazzyFunk
  4. “Today Was a Fairytale,” Taylor Swift
  5. “Marry You,” Bruno Mars
  6. “Just Say Yes,” Snow Patrol
  7. “All I Want Is You,” U2
  8. “I Do,” Colbie Caillat
  9. “Marry Me,” Jason Derulo
  10. “I Do (Cherish You),” 98º
  11. “Love Is an Open Door,” Kristen Bell, Santino Fontana
  12. “I’m in the Mood For Love,” Jools Holland, Jamiroquai
  13. “Cupid,” Amy Winehouse
  14. “Jump Then Fall,” Taylor Swift
  15. “Signed Sealed Delivered I’m Yours,” Anju Ramapriyam
  16. “Us,” Regina Spektor
  17. “Love and Marriage,” Frank Sinatra
  18. “January Wedding,” The Avett Brothers
  19. “We’ve Only Just Begun,” Carpenters
  20. “You’re Getting Married,” The Modern Machines
  21. “Let’s Get Married,” Al Green
  22. “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” Marvin Gaye, Tammi Terrell
  23. “Stay With You,” John Legend
  24. “I Do,” Jewel
  25. “Maybe I’m Amazed,” Billy Joel
  26. “Love,” American Authors
  27. “Drunk in Love,” Beyoncé, Jay Z
  28. “Marry Me,” Train
  29. “She Will Be Loved,” Maroon 5
  30. “Fall in Love,” Phantogram

To listen to the playlist below, download the free Spotify software or app.


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Opinion: Interoperability – What every cybercriminal is waiting for


Interoperability is one of the biggest issues facing healthcare providers today as far as technology goes. In fact, one of the most scathing criticisms of major healthcare IT suppliers is that their solutions don’t play nicely together and that’s a problem. We want to shift patient care into the community, develop integrated care systems and focus on population health rather than just treating the sick. None of these things can happen without interoperability.

Now, we’re getting there slowly but surely and as policy and procurement mandates get given teeth then suppliers will start to realise that it’s in their commercial interests to alter their behaviours. However, my job isn’t to preach about the benefits of interoperability but to tell you about the other side of the coin –  how interoperability can break healthcare.

Let me caveat this by saying that this isn’t an excuse for suppliers or anyone else to push back against interoperability and a more open ecosystem but a warning about what needs to be done to make sure that new risks aren’t ignored that could derail the benefits. With that out of the way, what we need to accept is that the security across NHS trusts still has a fair way to go before it can be considered mature. I would suggest that the general digital maturity across all trusts far outweighs security maturity which means the average trust is increasingly dependent on digital systems for its core workflows but not proportionally capable enough to secure those dependencies.

Now, let’s take the concept of interoperability to its logical conclusion which involves independent trusts within a region being able to share all kinds of clinical and operational information to manage regional services effectively and safely. Perhaps that’s what an Integrated Care System should do? Let’s extend that capability so that any trust in the country can connect directly to specialist centres of excellence outside of their regions like a paediatric or eye hospital which in turn need to be able to communicate with every possible referral source. That’s just healthcare providers connecting seamlessly so how about we add another layer – the general public. Everyone has NHS applications or third-party supplier solutions that are used to access or outsource NHS services which connect not only with centralised systems but which double back into local trust IT systems. We haven’t even got to IoT medical devices yet.

How many of these services do you think are likely to have exploitable vulnerabilities?

How hard would it be to get into this ultimate healthcare network of networks?

How fast could an attacker spread malware through the links between all these organisations? Faster than we can respond?

This is the inevitable place that interoperability will take us and we have to be prepared because the clinical risks and the scope for operational disruption will be on a totally different scale than we have previously experienced. At this stage, the NHS is a national security issue as far as I am concerned and everyone involved in its digital transformation has to plan, prepare and deliver with that level of risk in mind.

Dr Saif Abed is the founding partner of health IT consultancy firm AbedGraham. He will be speaking at the HIMSS and Health 2.0 European conference taking place in Helsinki, Finland on 12 June in the Healthcare and Cybersecurity, a New Frontier workshop. The opinions in this piece are Dr Abed’s and don’t necessarily reflect the opinions of Healthcare IT News or HIMSS.


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Why Having a Low-Key Bachelorette Party Was the Best



I’ve been to loads of hen parties — fancy ones, clubby ones, party bus ones, and even family ones. They all were a blast, of course, but if I do say so myself, my own party has been my favourite of them all. You see, I had an incredibly low-key hen party. My friends and I didn’t put on one ounce of makeup, nor did we pack a curling tong to do our hair. Instead, we let the breeze blow through our undone hair, poked our toes in the sand, and sipped on beers. And I don’t regret a single second of it.

My friends reserved a rustic cabin for about 20 of us for a long weekend. It served as the perfect party destination. The cabin was small and quaint. One room had about 15 beds in it (yup, we were that cosy). Outside was a deck overlooking the crystal blue lake below us. We were surrounded by the trees and each other. There was no noise from anything or anyone else.

I was truly able to connect with everyone who took the time out of their busy schedules to celebrate me.

Each morning, my friends and I woke up slow. We sat in the small family room, most of us sprawled out on the floor. We enjoyed the conversations with each other while sipping on the coffee that would get us through another day of too much fun. Once the sun warmed the beach below, we headed down with towels in our hands. We stretched out in the sand, chatted, and played games. Many of us stayed in our swimsuits and cover-ups the entire time with our hair thrown into a knot on the top of our heads. We never had to dress up for any fancy dinners. We has a barbecue out one night, and just ordered pizza the next. Everything about the weekend was relaxing. I was truly able to connect with everyone who took the time out of their busy schedules to celebrate me.

One evening in particular my friends dedicated to my honour. They whipped out all of the hen party plates and utensils, silly games and, of course, the gifts. I was showered with silly newlywed type games and even some beautiful lingerie for my honeymoon. I was able to take my time reading each card and thanking each person because we were in no rush to get anywhere, so I soaked in every single minute.

My low-key party symbolised the easiness of the friendships in my life. My friends are always there for me in a no-fuss, no-frills kind of way.

Hen parties where you get dressed up and go to the club are just fine, but I loved the fact that we didn’t have to spend any time doing any of that for mine. I didn’t have to fight for my friends’ attention in a loud bar or among a large group of people. Together, we could all share our stories, even secrets, and enjoy. My low-key party symbolised the easiness of the friendships in my life. My friends are always there for me in a no-fuss, no-frills kind of way, and now I have the memory of my hen party to always look back on and serve as a reminder of just that.


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How to Prevent Overeating While Cooking Dinner


At the end of my day of writing, I close my laptop and open the refrigerator. Time to make dinner! I know many moms dread this time of day, but it’s one of my favourites. It gives me a little me time to unwind, to listen to one of my favourite podcasts or some bluegrass, and I love to get creative in the kitchen and come up with new, healthy recipes for my family to try.

The only issue is that when I’m chopping and stirring at 5:00 p.m., I’m so hungry! I would end up eating the entire time I was cooking dinner. I not only reached for handfuls of food from the snack pantry, like pre-measured containers of almonds, but I also taste tested dinner along the way as it cooked.

I ended up completely full by the time I sat down with my family to the amazing meal I prepared. And I ate it! Oh the discomfort and bloating I felt from overeating! I was so stuffed, I just wanted to lay on the couch, and didn’t have the energy to do the dishes, or play with my kids. I went to bed feeling so puffy, and sometimes I’d wake up still feeling that way, which would affect my ability to work out, and sometimes would make me skip it all together.

You think I’d learn my lesson, but this went on for months, until I heard a fellow mom talk about her hack for dealing with hungry kids that came home from school, looking to eat before dinner was ready. She said she’d meal prep a platter of cut up veggies, so when the kids came off the bus starving, she’d place the veggies on the counter with two or three dips. It satisfied their hunger, while also getting her kids to eat more veggies.

I thought, this could work for me! So that Sunday, I prepped myself a week’s worth of veggie snack packs. I cut up carrots, peppers, and cucumbers, and stored them in mason jars. Each night while cooking dinner, I’d grab a jar and crunch while I cooked. The veggies satisfied my hunger, but they were light enough that I didn’t feel stuffed when I sat down to enjoy the roasted sweet potato and Buddha bowls, savory maple cumin lentils over spaghetti squash, or whatever plant-based dinner I had made.

This little Sunday mason jar snack hack, which takes under 10 minutes to throw together, has been the key to preventing overeating at dinnertime. I even started to make smaller versions for my kids! For some reason, a big plate of veggies isn’t appealing, but if I give them they’re own personalized jar of veggies with hummus, they’re super excited! We crunch together, and aside from helping to satisfy pre-dinner hunger and prevent overeating, I feel good knowing we’re all getting in some extra fibre.


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