Category Archives: General

6 Powerful Antibacterial Essential Oils

Commonly used in medicines across the world for their many benefits, essential oils are natural products which have strong antimicrobial, antioxidant, antiseptic activity and can provide natural protection against several types of pathogens.

As a result of their chemical composition, a large number of aromatic natural oils has been investigated for their potential antibacterial properties against bacteria, fungi, viruses, and protozoa. Most notably, the oils of oregano, tea tree, eucalyptus, and peppermint have been found to contain the strongest antibacterial and anti fungal properties. Other studies have found that lemongrass and orange are also among the oils effective against bacterial strains.

Biomedical research is increasingly focusing on a wide variety of essential oils hoping to identify novel and natural applications for the inhibition of microbial pathogens, according to a review published in Antimicrobial Compounds.

Antibacterial Essential Oils

The unique benefits and wide range of uses of essential oils can be helpful at the time of a virus outbreak by offering antibacterial properties.

1. Oregano Oil

Believed to be useful both when consumed and applied topically, oregano oil has demonstrated a spectrum of antibiotic properties as well as strong antimicrobial, antiviral, and anti-fungal activity.

Preliminary findings implicate that the oil may be helpful in fighting bacterial infections; a mice trial found that oregano oil was effective at preventing and treating Staphylococcus aureus infection, while another study found the compound was able to destroy bacteria associated with dysentery.

Oregano oil is believed to derive its power antioxidant properties and fragrance from a combination of protective compounds – carvacrol, thymol, and rosmarinic acid. Research has evidenced that carvacrol, the most abundant phenol in the oil, may stop the growth of several bacteria strains, while the natural anti-fungal thymol has been shown to boost immune functioning and protect against toxins. The powerful antioxidant rosmarinic acid also contributes to the healing properties as it protects the body against damage caused by free radicals.

2. Tea Tree Oil

For many years tea tree oil has been used as a healing agent in Australia and in recent decades, its popularity as an alternative treatment has increased across the globe.

Distilled from the leaves of the Melaleuca alternifolia plant, the essential oil is known to possess strong antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and anti fungal properties. It can be used in the treatment acne, athlete’s foot, contact dermatitis, and many other health conditions. Today, it can also be found in many popular cosmetics, topical medicines, and household cleaning products.

While further research is needed to conclusively determine these findings, some studies have found that tea tree oil can help in the treatment of certain viruses and that its antimicrobial activity is associated with the ability to damage bacterial cell walls.

3. Eucalyptus Oil

Similarly to tea tree oil, eucalyptus oil has been used as an antiseptic and often as an ingredient in cosmetics and household products. Many styles of medicine, including Chinese and Indian Ayurvedic, have used it to treat a variety of conditions for centuries.

Due to antioxidant flavonoids and anti-inflammatory tannins found in the plant, eucalyptus has been increasingly studied for its potential antimicrobial properties.

Serbian researchers found evidence supporting a positive interaction between eucalyptus oil and existing antibiotics, potentially reducing the need for use of the latter. Meanwhile, a study published in Clinical Microbiology & Infection reveals the oil’s possible antibacterial effects on pathogenic bacteria found in the upper respiratory tract.

4. Peppermint Oil

Peppermint essential oil is often used for aromatherapy or as a topical treatment for itching, muscle pain, and headache relief. It has demonstrated antimicrobial properties against types of bacteria and fungi, however, its effectiveness may depend on the species of bacteria as research findings have been mixed.

A study published in the Arabian Journal of Chemistry reported antibacterial activity in peppermint oil against Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacterial strains revealing that concentrations of essential oils were able to inhibit the growth of microorganisms at a rate comparable to the antibiotic gentamycin.

5. Lemongrass Oil

A popular tool for stress relief, lemongrass essential oil can be used as a natural alternative to heal wounds and help prevent infections. Prior research has found the oil to be effective against bacteria that cause skin infections, pneumonia, blood infections, as well as serious intestinal infections.

Animal studies have reported the antimicrobial benefits of lemongrass oil, which was able to effectively protect against 6 species of bacteria at higher rates than 11 antibiotics tested on the same strains.

In addition, the compound has been found to help the body fight free radical damage and reduce inflammation in mice with ear edema.

6. Orange Oil

Orange essential oil has been used to treat acne, reduce pain and inflammation, relieve stomach discomfort, and as a natural household cleaner due to its antibacterial properties.

Studies have found that orange oil can be effective at inhibiting E.coli bacteria and drug-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. Additionally, orange essential oil may have anti-fungal properties, having proven to protect against several species of fungi in clinical trials.

Orange oil has been found to be more effective than other citrus oils as an antimicrobial agent and anti-fungal, indicating not only its potential for antibacterial uses but also as a food preservative.

Despite the promise of these 6 essential oils as strong antibacterial agents, it is important to note further investigation is required as many listed benefits are derived from anecdotal evidence and animal studies. However, the risk of adverse health outcomes related to essential oil use is low. Essential oils may provide a natural alternative or complementary therapy for a variety of health conditions, helping support the body in its defense against infections while also easing stress, anxiety, and depression symptoms.

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Physician’s Recession Guide: How to Protect Your Practice During COVID-19

Medical practices managing patients during the COVID-19 pandemic are being confronted with new and unique operational challenges as many have turned to telemedicine, bringing their services online to continue patient care. Other providers may find it increasingly difficult to continue conducting business in light of wide-scale cancellations of elective procedures and recommendations against in-person office appointments. Unprecedented economic fallout related to the virus outbreak is proving to be another significant concern facing the healthcare system.

In response to this complex issue faced by clinicians across the country, the American Medical Association has compiled a set of recommendations and guidelines on handling the financial and operational repercussions of the outbreak for practice owners and office administrators.

To better adapt practices to current demands and protect them from adverse financial impact at this time, medical professionals should consider the following important variables and strategic responses:

Insurance Coverage 

A critical first step to securing the medical practice is to ensure it is protected against COVID-19 related liabilities under business insurance policies. Whether the protection is part of insurance policies will determine the associated risks and help providers make vital business and operational decisions. Experts urge practices to contact their insurance brokers to obtain a complete copy of all insurance policies, understand government emergency orders and decrees, as well as to track losses and expenses incurred during this time for future claims.

Further, practitioners are urged to consult legal counsel for explanations of how they can exercise existing policies and how government orders impact business operations in their state. “You may need to notify professional liability carriers in the event practice providers are called upon to assist with emergency care, including outside of their normal clinical service arrangements,” the AMA adds in its latest guidelines.

In addition, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has published a declaration of liability protection against certain medical countermeasures related to COVID-19 which can be accessed here. 

Financial Obligations and Contingency Planning

To minimize potential economic risk, practices are encouraged to revise financial plans at this time and ensure their ongoing liquidity; this will hopefully protect those businesses suffering from a loss of clinical revenue due to cancelled procedures, decreasing outpatient visits, and partial or whole closures. It is recommended practices develop a financial contingency plan based on minimum cash flows needed to remain in operation, review existing loan documents and financial covenants, and determine if slowdown of business could trigger a default situation.

Practices should prioritize managing cash to the best extent possible and consider delaying payments of discretionary bonuses as well as other such payments. They may also choose to consider requesting forbearance, forgiveness, or a standstill from lenders and other creditors. Proactive communication with these third-parties can help ensure accommodations are granted during revenue disruptions.

Additionally, clinicians are urged to monitor resources as they become available concerning economic relief packages for business and workers affected by the outbreak; the U.S. Small Business Administration has already begun introducing low-interest loans while other organizations – such as United Way – have created COVID-19 relief funds to provide additional funding.

Current and Future Supply Needs 

In light of global shortages of essential medical supplies, such as personal protective equipment and respirators, practices are encouraged to evaluate their current and future supply needs. While a reduction in in-person office visits may decrease the number of interactions requiring the use of such equipment, practices should determine how much cash flow can be devoted to stocking up on essential supplies for the forthcoming months.

“While your business may be interrupted, you may also be called upon to triage patients outside of your normal workflow, so contact your supply vendors and, if necessary, your state and local health authorities to ensure that you are in the queue to receive necessary supplies,” the AMA recommends.

Continuing Business Operations 

A growing number of “shelter in place” orders and their extensions may impact the ability of medical practices to continue business operations. However, many of these orders designate healthcare services as essential businesses but publicly available guidance may remain unclear. Practitioners are urged to consult with local counsel to determine the implications of executive orders and how to apply them to their practice.

To further assist clinicians, the AMA provides two non-jurisdiction specific template letters that can be modified to suit the needs of each practice in COVID-19 related circumstances. These templates aim to function as a resource for providers who may encounter questions from authorities or resistance from employees who may not report to work due to “shelter in place” orders.

Regular Communication with Patients

Whether a practice is operating normally or offering digital medical services, it is currently essential to maintain regular communication with patients – in particular, those who may be at-risk of adverse health outcomes as a result of the disruption in healthcare. Reports reveal a silent sub-epidemic caused by COVID-19, that of an increasing number of patients forgoing needed medical care out of fear of contracting the virus in a hospital or medical facility. Patients need to be made aware of the COVID-19 prevention and safety protocols enforced at a practice or other healthcare center and be encouraged to stay in contact with their physicians via telehealth and to come in for in-person care when needed.

Administrative Resources

Despite interruptions in operations, many practices will still operate remotely. To assist healthcare providers in meeting immediate care needs while working from home, office administrators are encouraged to compile essential resources outlining best telemedicine practices. This includes putting in place methods of maintaining documentation protocols to obtain payments, including processes for collection of accounts, claims submissions, and other activities. More information regarding medical codes and scenario planning has been made available as part of the AMA’s resource hub.

Workflow and Digital Health Tools 

To protect staff members, conserve valuable equipment and supplies, and reduce the safety and liability risk to your practice, providers are urged to follow the latest guidance issued by governmental agencies when reviewing scheduled visits and choosing which appointments to postpone, cancel, or proceed with as usual.

Digital tools can assist providers by allowing them to continue conducting business remotely via telehealth services and remote patient monitoring. Following the CMS’ telemedicine toolkit can help physicians and practices utilize these technologies during the COVID-19 outbreak and provide insight into emerging policy changes and practice flexibilities.

 Employee Management 

Keeping employees updated and informed is essential to managing concerns about health and safety. Practices are encouraged to institute interim guidelines that aim to educate their employees, including outlining circumstances under which they should not report to work, contact information for relevant resources, and specify leave policies related to COVID-19.

Depending on revenue and cash flow challenges, practices may need to furlough or terminate non-essential employees. In these cases, practices should seek legal counsel to understand their obligations, requirements regarding communication of employment status, and identify workflow changes which may be necessary at this time.

While all practices may not be able to sustain each of their employees, healthcare staff is urgently needed at medical facilities across the nation – as such, administrators should identify external opportunities for their furloughed or terminated staff members when possible.

The CDC has issued interim guidance to assist business and employers in navigating the evolving situation, while the U.S. Department of Labor also released resources pertaining to employee furloughs and unemployment benefits.

The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted unprecedented policy and regulatory changes affecting the healthcare system nationwide; it is essential for medical professionals to stay current on the latest developments in requirements and afforded flexibilities. As the COVID-19 outbreak continues to evolve, federal guidance and relief efforts are forecasted to offer further support for front-line workers as well as those physicians whose practice has been affected by the pandemic. To access the latest recommendations for practices and physicians navigating patient care at this time, visit our COVID-19 Resource Hub.

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Updated Practice Management Guidelines for Healthcare Facilities

Healthcare providers today have found themselves in the midst of an unprecedented public health emergency requiring the combined efforts of the entire workforce. In times like these, clear and effective guidance is a necessity. To assist clinicians with navigating this challenging landscape, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have released interim guidelines outlining preparation strategies for healthcare facilities anticipating community spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and those which may be experiencing it currently.

 As the situation is unfolding dynamically it is impossible to predict the course of the outbreak and the medical workforce’s preparedness is vital to improving patient outcomes. The CDC stresses the importance of continual care for all patients, despite a surge in demand at healthcare facilities, and the need for concentrated efforts aimed at mobilizing all aspects of the system to reduce the spread of COVID-19 while decreasing its burden. As the situation continues to evolve, public health guidelines will likely change; clinicians and healthcare facilities should remain aware of the latest updates on local and state public health recommendations as they become available.

 Preventative Actions to Take Now

 At this time, the primary goals for the U.S. healthcare system are to reduce morbidity and mortality rates, minimize COVID-19 transmission, protect medical personnel, and preserve healthcare system functioning. To do so, the CDC recommends several preventative solutions to prepare healthcare facilities for potential outbreak spread.

 In communities yet unaffected by the virus, the CDC urges healthcare facilities to take time to educate staff on COVID-19 preparations and protocols. This includes informing them about transmission mechanisms, the clinical management of COVID-19 patients, as well as infection prevention and control recommendations outlined by the agency.

 Additionally, providers are urged to minimize the amount of face-to-face contact with patients by encouraging patients to use advice hotlines, patient portals, online assessment tools, and to call medical professionals directly. Implementing or expanding an existing telehealth program can prove vital at this time, helping clinicians provide safe and effective care remotely.

 Personal protective equipment is lacking all over the country, however, providers should plan to optimize their facility’s supply before they reach a dire need. Identifying flexible mechanisms of procuring additional supplies when needed and organizing local drives for equipment donations can help prepare for future shortages.

 It is also essential for healthcare facilities to prepare to safely triage and manage patients with COVID-19, which includes implementing visual alerts, instruction on hygiene and prevention etiquette, ensuring supplies are available, and offering facemasks to patients with respiratory symptoms. In addition, an area should be created to spatially separate patients with such symptoms, ideally allowing for at least 6 feet of space between individuals. It is also important to ensure patients with symptoms are aware of healthcare facility protocols – such as the need to call before arriving in person to allow care teams to prepare.

 Handling COVID-19 Community Spread

 In communities currently experiencing community spread of the virus, healthcare facilities are urged to work with local and state public health organizations, healthcare coalitions, and other local partners to minimize disease spread. Designated staff – trained on the CDCs’ infection prevention and control guidelines – should be responsible for caring for COVID-19 patients; these providers should also be monitored closely for symptoms.

 Facilities experiencing widespread transmission may opt to screen staff members for fever or respiratory symptoms and prepare for increased absenteeism by extending hours, cross-training current employees, and hiring additional staff. Further, it is essential for staff to be aware of sick leave policies, recommended work restrictions, staff monitoring procedures, and be given the opportunity to stay home if they present symptoms of illness.

Medical professionals are encouraged to manage mild cases of COVID-19 remotely; if patients are able to engage in home monitoring safely, then telehealth is preferred. Caregivers and patients should be aware of home care instructions and be able to access the healthcare facilities for urgent care. Working with local public health authorities and community organizations can help affected communities offer support services for COVID-19 patients recovering at home – including food, medication, and other necessity delivery.

 Considerations for Outpatient Care

 The CDC urges facilities with outpatient services to reschedule non-urgent outpatient visits as necessary. Providers should consider reaching out to patients deemed at high risk of COVID-19 complications – including the elderly and those with underlying health conditions – to ensure they adhere to current treatment plans, confirm they have sufficient medication refills, and provide instructions on how to notify their providers if they begin to experience symptoms. Additionally, it may be helpful to accelerate the timing of high priority screening and interventions in anticipation of an upcoming influx of COVID-19 patients. To support optimal hospital capacity, the CDC also recommends eliminating patient penalties for cancellations and missed appointments in cases of respiratory symptoms.

Considerations for Inpatient Care

 Based on the latest guidance, facilities should reschedule elective surgeries as necessary at this time. When feasible, providers are urged to shift elective urgent inpatient diagnostic and surgical procedures to outpatient settings to further preserve hospital capacity. In planning for a forthcoming influx of COVID-19 patients, inpatient facilities should identify additional or alternate space in the ER, ICUs, and other patient care areas along with dedicated staff to care for known or suspected COVID-19 patients. Visitors of COVID-19 patients should be limited as well.

Considerations for Long Term Care Facilities

 Long term care facilities are recommended to limit visitors, post visual alerts with hygiene instructions, ensure adequate supply availability, and employ targeted efforts toward preventing COVID-19 patients from exposing other patients. This can be achieved by limiting the movement of COVID-19 patients, designating staff members responsible for care of these patients, and observing incoming patients and staff for respiratory symptoms. 

 Although times are uncertain and it is not possible to determine if, how, and when the COVID-19 outbreak will affect your community, it is essential for healthcare providers and facilities across the nation to be prepared for potential emergency situations. These may include surges in incoming patients seeking care, potential staff shortages, closures related to social distancing, and a rising need for telehealth programs. Shifts in the healthcare model as a result of the outbreak are complex and expected to continue evolving as more information about the virus becomes available; clinicians are encouraged to communicate with their local public health officials to stay up to date with the latest guidance.

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