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  • Inexpensive Graphene and Rubber Band Composite Could Be the Future of Body Movement Sensors

    The next generation of body motion sensors may be a combination of low and high tech: researchers have found that common rubber bands infused with graphene produce adaptable and accurate sensors capable of functioning at high strain rates, all at a materials cost of "essentially zero."

    Researchers from Surrey University and Trinity College Dublin were able to create "G-bands," body sensors that they claim check all the needed boxes when it comes to monitoring everything from heart rate to high-force, high-velocity joint and muscle movements—they're cheap, lightweight, stretchable, and sensitive. "One can envisage weaving G-band based sensors into clothing to monitor the motion of athletes or patients undergoing rehabilitation," authors write. The results of the research were recently published in the journal ACS Nano.

    The G-bands were created by infusing rubber bands with graphene, a 1-atom-thick layer of carbon molecules capable of conducting electricity. Graphene is able to maintain its ability to conduct throughout stretching and twisting, a quality "generally not compatible with traditional silicon/metal-based electronics," according to authors. The G-bands deliver information even at strains above 800%, they write, and "demonstrate impressive performance as kinesthetic motion sensors, detecting motions as subtle as those associated with breathing and pulse."

    "Ultimately, one can imagine a wearable network of G-bands performing wellness monitoring by continuous recording of functions," authors write. They add that the low cost "will make it possible to roll out G-band based sensors extremely widely; for example, facilitating use in the developing world."

    Business Associate Agreements Must Be Updated by September 22

    September 22 is the deadline for meeting new HIPAA rules on some types of business associate agreements, and APTA is reminding members to make sure they're compliant.

    The HIPAA Omnibus final rule that was published in January 2013 requires that all business associate agreements entered into before January 25, 2013, be updated. A template of the HIPAA-compliant business associate agreement can be found at the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) website and on APTA’s HIPAA Resource webpage under the “Model Business Associate Contract Language” link.

    HIPAA requires covered business entities and associates to enter into agreements that outline the provisions necessary to safeguard protected health information. The rule defines a “business associate” as “a person or entity, other than a member of the workforce of a covered entity, who performs functions or activities on behalf of, or provides certain services to, a covered entity that involve access by the business associate to protected health information.” A subcontractor that creates, receives, maintains, or transmits protected health information on behalf of another business associate may also be a “business associate.”

    Although HHS provides a business associate agreement template, it’s wise to tailor the template to your business relationship(s). It’s also wise to consult with an experienced health law attorney in your state when entering into or revising agreements so that the agreement is in compliance with all applicable federal and state laws.

    APTA on Capitol Hill to Push for Lymphedema Coverage

    APTA believes Medicare coverage of lymphedema treatment should be expanded, and the association is helping to bring momentum to the issue by participating in a congressional briefing on the condition. The briefing and other activities are part of Lymphedema Lobby Days on Capitol Hill, and are part of a push for a new law that would increase coverage.

    The September 9 briefing seeks to bolster legislator support for the Lymphedema Treatment Act (H.R. 3877), a bill introduced by Rep Dave Reichart (WA-8) that seeks to provide Medicare coverage and payment for lymphedema treatment items and supplies. APTA is a supporter of the bill, and APTA Board of Directors member and lymphedema specialist Nicole Stout, PT, DPT, CLT-LANA is a member of the expert panel speaking at the briefing.

    In a letter to Reichart, APTA President Paul A. Rockar Jr, PT, DPT, MS, notes that "many of these [lymphedema-related] items and services are either not covered or are only covered on a limited basis. Passage of this legislation would ensure access to these supplies for individuals with lymphatic impairments and conditions." Rockar also points out the crucial role physical therapists play in the treatment of lymphedema and in patient education on how to avoid injury and infection, improve skin care, and modify diet to decrease fluid retention.

    APTA staff will monitor the progress of the bill and update members with news and opportunities for advocacy.