Scientific research deals with countless projects that seek to improve our quality of life, in such diverse areas as our diet, artificial intelligence or safety. There now follow some brief, inspiring stories of teams of scientists who, with the aid of the Ignacio H. de Larramendi research grants awarded by Fundación MAPFRE in the 2016 edition, strive each day to enhance our health and future retirement prospects.
TEXT: JUAN RAMÓN GOMEZ
The importance of the collaboration between doctor and pharmacist
With age, new diseases sometimes appear that require medications which have to be added to those already taken, and such polymedication may be behind the high rate of readmissions of elderly people to our hospitals. With this premise, detected by a multidisciplinary team of pharmacists and general practitioners at the Doce de Octubre Hospital in Madrid, Dr. Carlos González Gómez has set out to show whether a pharmacotherapy intervention – based on advice, information and monitoring the patient shortly after discharge – could reduce this readmissions rate.
With extensive experience as a clinical specialist in internal medicine, Dr. García – together with two pharmacists specializing in hospital pharmacy and residents of both specialties – detected that many admissions “appeared to be motivated by alterations of the underlying pathology, due to the medication itself, or to adverse effects of this medication.” This project has a twofold objective which led to Fundación MAPFRE considering it worthy of support with one of this year’s grants: develop an intervention that may have an impact on the health and quality of life of the elderly; and improve the utilization of health care resources.
The first phase of the project has already been completed. It consisted of studying all internal medicine patients who were readmitted four or more times within one year. On the basis of variables such as age, diagnosis, comorbidities, presence of polymedication, type of medications and alterations derived from their use, a statistical analysis is being conducted to identify which of these variables could be related to the readmission. An arduous task which the team must combine with the everyday workload in a large hospital, in this case considered the fourth best in Spain, and the third in the internal medicine specialty. But Dr. González highlights their motivation: “We are a young, active team, which has dedicated extra time outside normal working hours to make progress on this project.”
The second phase of the study aims to “demonstrate that collaboration between the doctor and the pharmacist is essential, and see to it that this intervention becomes the clinical practice quality standard for polymedicated elderly patients.”
How to choose a pension plan
Mutual funds, pension funds… All in all, a complicated matter for ordinary citizens and also, it would seem, for the managers, financial advisors and savers themselves. For this reason, the objective of this project is to offer guidance to all of them on the factors they must bear in mind when selecting pension plans.
“Doing research is something I’m really passionate about,” says Luis Otero González, Professor of Financial Economics and Accounting at the University of Santiago de Compostela. With that declaration, it is clear that research is not something new to him. In fact, the project on which he is now embarked, and which has been supported by Fundación MAPFRE, is the continuation of a previous one: “We’ve been working for some time on an analysis of mutual funds and on the determinants of the performance they achieve, and we wanted to expand the analysis to include pension funds.”
Risk management and assessing the performance of financial products are Otero’s chief areas of interest. In this project he has a team of three researchers from the universities of Santiago de Compostela and La Coruña, whose doctoral theses he himself had previously directed.
«We are a young, active team, which has dedicated extra time outside normal working hours to make progress on this project.»
Identify the population at risk of a heart attack
Identify the population at risk of a heart attack With the aim of creating an organizational model offering the optimum care to patients with an acute myocardial infarction, the Cardiology Service at the University Clinical Hospital in Santiago de Compostela (CHUS) decided to compile a highly detailed record of patients admitted to the center with that pathology.
Alfredo Redondo Diéguez, one of the four cardiologists who, together with a statistician, are working on this project, explains: “Our autonomous region was one of the pioneers in the development of an acute myocardial infarction care program, and one of the first to implement the electronic medical record system. All of this information stored for years will allow us to undertake a high-quality, very longterm follow-up of our patients’ health. The value of these records is key to medicine nowadays. The starting point for improving is knowing where we stand. What’s more, it’s the only way to be able to compare your results.”
These data will prove essential for moving on to the next phase: “An analysis of these records will facilitate the identification of populations of interest, training and dissemination programs, and the publication of scientific articles. In this way, for example, we will be able to develop programs to reduce the time it takes for patients to seek medical assistance when they suffer a heart attack.”
This project has not started from scratch, but rather is in keeping with the history of the cardiology service at the CHUS, which was a pioneer in the treatment of myocardial infarction by primary angioplasty, as well as research and development in the acute coronary syndrome field. Building the database, the most difficult phase, continues apace and it is expected to reach over 1,700 patients and 200,000 entries. For Redondo, “the reward will come when we start analyzing the data and obtain results, because, as doctors, our goal is to enhance the quality and length of our patients’ lives.”
«Hacer investigación es algo que realmente me apasiona»
Celiacos; ¿buena salud nutricional?
El Grupo en Nutrición y Ciencias de la Alimentación de la Universidad CEU San Pablo, liderado por el profesor Gregorio Varela, fue noticia recientemente por haber detectado una ingesta insuficiente de vitamina D en niños y adolescentes celiacos. Los resultados de su estudio les han servido para demostrar que es necesario hacer un seguimiento nutricional de estas personas para identificar sus necesidades y las carencias de una dieta sin gluten.
«Se trata de un proyecto que, al igual que la epidemiología de la enfermedad celiaca, se podría describir como la punta de un iceberg», asegura la doctora Natalia Úbeda Martín, del equipo del profesor Varela. «Dado que todas las personas que sufren enfermedades relacionadas con el gluten deben seguir una dieta restrictiva en ciertos alimentos, nos propusimos conocer el estado nutricional de la población que sigue este tipo de dieta», explica sobre el proyecto.
La doctora Úbeda relata los avances: «Hasta el momento, hemos conseguido valorar nutricionalmente a un grupo de 65 niños y adolescentes celiacos y hemos obtenido unos resultados muy reveladores, que nos hacen pensar que están en muy buen estado de salud nutricional, prácticamente a la par que sus homólogos sin la enfermedad. Sin embargo, sí hemos encontrado un ligero déficit de vitamina D en las niñas celiacas, pero todavía tenemos que seguir con la investigación para conocer los factores que afectan a este nutriente».
A esta investigación aún le queda recorrido, como explica la doctora: «Actualmente estamos desarrollando el mismo estudio en población adulta y, en función de los resultados que obtengamos, estableceremos la continuación de la investigación. Tenemos muchísimo trabajo por delante».