For better or worse, the year 2016 is behind us, and many are breathing a sigh of relief after a year that seemed wrought with unexpected celebrity deaths, virus scares, partisan politics, unpredictable weather, and other difficulties. But 2016 was also a busy year in the healthcare industry, and here are the top seven stories that captured our attention this year.
- The Zika Virus – While the outbreak began in 2015, coverage of the virus dominated much of 2016, with the World Health Organization finally declaring an end to the epidemic this past November. Because of the risk of microcephaly to babies born to infected women, fears quickly mounted as the virus slowly crept across United States borders, though at final count, only 216 cases were ever contracted locally (210 of which were contracted in Florida).
- Gene-Editing Breakthroughs – 2016 brought us the CRISPR-CAS9, a gene-editing tool that promises some amazing future applications. Basically, the tool uses an enzyme to allow scientists to manipulate DNA-a process that could eventually lead to leaps forward in cancer treatment and organ transplants.
- Opioid Epidemic – Opioid abuse continued to hit epidemic levels in the United States in 2016, with drug overdoses now killing more Americans than cars or guns.
- The Cancer Moonshot – Earlier this year, President Obama announced his administration’s goal to create a Cancer Moonshot Task Force-an ambitious program that aims to accomplish a decade’s worth of cancer research in just half that time. And in December of 2016, a bill that will fund the initiative was signed into law.
- Mortality Rates Are Rising – For the first time in a decade, the U.S. death rate ticked upward, lowering our overall life expectancy. Deaths due to “firearms, drug overdoses, accidental injuries, suicides, Alzheimer’s disease, hypertension, and stroke” were among the main contributors, according to Fortune.
- The EpiPen Skyrockets In Cost – 2015 ended with Turing Pharmaceutical raising the cost of Daraprim from $13.50 a pill to $750 a pill, and 2016 followed suit when the Mylan NV company raised the price of EpiPens to $600 a pair (compared to $100 a pair in 2007). The decision resulted in both a backlash from consumers and the U.S. government, as well as the introduction of a new “generic” EpiPen injector.
- The Artificial Pancreas – A first-of-its-kind device, the artificial pancreas measures the glucose levels of patients with Type 1 diabetes and injects insulin as needed. The device won’t be available until 2017, and still requires daily interaction, but the era of multiple blood sugar tests per day could be coming to an end.
While not all of the news this year was good news, each and every story can be used to illustrate the need for more hard-working, qualified healthcare workers. Whether they’re helping with the next breakthrough or treating the current epidemics, nurses and medical assistants will be needed more than ever in 2017 and the years following. There’s no telling what next year has in store, but with the right people in scrubs, we’re sure we’ll be able to handle whatever 2017 throws at us.
If you’d like more information on taking your first steps towards a career in nursing or medical assisting, contact Unitek College here.