Tuesday January 28, 2020

Machine Learning Can Help Doctors to Improve End-Of-Life Conversation with Patients

A deeper understanding of these conversations, which are often freighted with emotion and uncertainty, will also help reveal what aspects or behaviors associated with these conversations are more valuable for patients and families

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Machine Learning
A Research used Machine Learning algorithms to analyze 354 transcripts of palliative care conversations collected by the Palliative Care Communication Research Initiative, involving 231 patients. Pixabay

Researchers at University of Vermont have used Machine Learning and natural language processing (NLP) to better understand conversations about death, which could eventually help doctors improve their end-of-life communication.

Some of the most important, and difficult, conversations in healthcare are the ones that happen amid serious and life-threatening illnesses.

Discussions of the treatment options and prognoses in these settings are a delicate balance for doctors and nurses who are dealing with people at their most vulnerable point and may not fully understand what the future holds.

“We want to understand this complex thing called a conversation. Our major goal is to scale up the measurement of conversations so we can re-engineer the healthcare system to communicate better,” said Robert Gramling, director of the Vermont Conversation Lab in the study published in the journal Patient Education and Counselling.

Gramling and his colleagues used machine learning algorithms to analyze 354 transcripts of palliative care conversations collected by the Palliative Care Communication Research Initiative, involving 231 patients.

They broke each conversation into 10 parts with an equal number of words in each, and examined how the frequency and distribution of words referring to time, illness terminology, sentiment and words indicating possibility and desirability changed between each decile.

“We picked up some strong signals,” said Gramling.

Conversations tended to progress from talking about the past to talking about the future, and from sadder to happier sentiments. “There was quite a range, they went from pretty sad to pretty happy,” Gramling added.

Machine Learning
Researchers at University of Vermont have used Machine Learning and natural language processing (NLP) to better understand conversations about death, which could eventually help doctors improve their end-of-life communication. Pixabay

The consistent results across multiple conversations show just how much people make meaning out of stories in healthcare.

“What we found supports the importance of narrative in medicine,” he said.

That knowledge could eventually help healthcare practitioners understand what makes a “good” conversation about palliative care, and how different kinds of conversations might require different responses.
That could help create interventions that are matched to what the conversation indicates the patient needs the most.

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A deeper understanding of these conversations, which are often freighted with emotion and uncertainty, will also help reveal what aspects or behaviors associated with these conversations are more valuable for patients and families. (IANS)

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Skin Cream Used To Treat Warts, Skin Cancer May Help in Fighting Against Dengue, Zika Viruses

By boosting the immune system and not targeting a specific virus, this strategy has the potential to be a 'silver bullet' for a wide range of distinct mosquito-borne viral diseases

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Cream
A study shows that a clinically approved, widely used skin cream has the potential to be repurposed as a valuable protector against insect-borne diseases. Pixabay

A skin cream used to treat warts and skin cancer could help protect people against viral diseases such as Zika and dengue, according to new study.

The cream, called imiquimod or Aldara, is commonly used to treat genital warts and some forms of skin cancer.

“This study shows that a clinically approved, widely used skin cream has the potential to be repurposed as a valuable protector against insect-borne diseases,” said study lead author Clive McKimmie, from the University of Leeds in UK.

For the findings, published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, researchers studied four types of virus transmitted by mosquitos and found that applying a cream within an hour of a mosquito bite dramatically reduced infection rates in their models.

They used two different models to understand the effect of the skin cream – human skin samples and mice. In both cases, applying the skin cream acted like a warning signal which caused a rapid activation of the skin’s immune response that fights any potential viral threats. This prevented the virus from spreading around the body and causing disease.

“What is especially encouraging about our results is that the cream was effective against a number of distinct viruses, without needing to be targeted to one particular virus,” McKimmie said. “If this strategy can be developed into a treatment option then we might be able to use it to tackle a wide range of new emerging diseases that we have not yet encountered,” McKimmie added.

There are hundreds of viruses spread by biting mosquitoes which can infect humans. These include the dengue virus, West Nile virus, Zika virus and chikungunya virus, which have all had large outbreaks in recent years. At present, there are no anti-viral medicines and few vaccines to help combat these infections.

According to the researchers, when a mosquito bites the skin, the body reacts in a very specific way to try and mitigate the physical trauma of the skin being punctured. The bite causes a wound healing repair mechanism to begin, however, the skin does not prepare itself to respond to viral attack. This means mosquito-borne viruses that enter the skin through a bite are able to replicate quickly with little anti-viral response in the skin and then spread throughout the body, the study said.

Cream, Lotion, Hands, Sunscreen, Spa, Skin, Wellness
A skin cream used to treat warts and skin cancer could help protect people against viral diseases such as Zika and dengue, according to new study. Pixabay

By applying skin cream after a bite, researchers found that they could pre-emptively activate the immune system’s inflammatory response before the virus becomes a problem. The cream encouraged a type of immune cell in the skin, called a macrophage, to suddenly spring into action to fight off the virus before it could spread around the body.

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“By boosting the immune system and not targeting a specific virus, this strategy has the potential to be a ‘silver bullet’ for a wide range of distinct mosquito-borne viral diseases,” said study co-author Steven Bryden. (IANS)