Cancellations in Bad Weather? You May Need A Specialist to Help Fill Open Slots

Cancellations in bad weather? You may need a specialist to help you fill open slots. If you work in operations in a healthcare provider organization, then you know how bad it can get when the weather gets bad. Patients cancel or need to be rescheduled. Holes in the calendar have to be filled to avoid costly downtime. The phones are jammed and you might also be short-staffed.

Here’s how an actual medical practice in Baltimore is responding with technology:

We are a busy practice, and patients expect to wait at least three to four weeks for an appointment in the best of circumstances. Like any practice in our area, we get cancellations as soon as there is a hint of bad weather. But we hardly get stuck with any open slots. At least not for very long. As soon as someone cancels, the opening is posted on Everseat, and usually not more than a minute or two later an existing patient or even a new patient clicks on it to indicate they want to take that appointment. Our office is notified in real time and can determine in a matter of minutes whether it makes sense to fit them into that slot or to accommodate them in some other way. How do these patients know our available appointments are posted on Everseat? When they call us or visit the office, we tell them about it. We say that they can opt in for digital notification of available open slots. At any given time, we have dozens of people who have chosen to be pinged on their smartphone when something convenient for their specifications opens up. When they get in, they feel like they won the appointment lottery. And we are delighted because we are here to take care of our patients and there is nothing we would rather be doing.IMG_0781_2

Here are a few thoughts to consider as you cope with weather chaos or think about what you will do when it next comes your way:

  •    When patients start canceling, you need an efficient and reliable way to replace them with the right patients in the right slots.
  •    Using the phones to find the right patients on short notice is not easy. And it’s probably not working. At least not well enough.
  •    If your practice is closing due to weather, re-booking all of those patients will tie up your staff and your phones for hours.
  •    As great as your EHR or other tools are for many things, for this job you need technology, strategy and expertise
  •    With Everseat, you can automate the entire process. You will get more done in less time; for the practice and the patients.

Everseat partners with health and wellness provider organizations of all sizes across the United States. We want to work with you. Email us at providers@everseat.com. We can have you up and ready before bad weather hits again.

Identifying and Solving Patient Access Problems

As the technology around us continues to advance, our lives continue to become more efficient. Now more than ever, things like transportation, shopping and dining are increasingly accessible to consumers. However, the medical field has lagged behind these other industries. Why is that?

With the passing of the Affordable Care Act, more citizens have become insured thus increasing the demands for health care. Alarmingly the average patient must wait 18 days for a physician and in some high-density cities such as Boston; the wait time is as high as 66 days for an appointment. Long waits to access care endanger patient well-being and damage health systems’ reputations and finances.

But don’t fear, there are solutions to embrace. Acknowledging the necessity for change in health care is simple, but how would a successful health care system go about acting on this knowledge?

Creating a specific approach aimed at accessibility and efficiency is the first step. Hospitals and health systems that develop patient-centered scheduling systems will reap the extraordinary benefits of a healthier and more satisfied patient base.

Our recent white paper—How Accessible is Your Health System? Identifying and Solving Patient Access Problems—describes the challenges of creating a more accessible health system, and explores the latest solutions. Learn how to move your own health system toward greater accessibility with emerging technology and improved protocols.


ES_BlogBadge2

 

 

3 Innovative Healthcare Models Advancing Personalization

3 Innovative Healthcare Models Advancing Personalization

Are the days of assembly-line healthcare coming to an end? Skeptics would be forgiven for doubting it, as millions of newly insured patients flood a system already burdened by access challenges.

But consider: Advances in genomics are leading to individualized treatments for cancer and other diseases; 3-D printing technology is opening new possibilities for customized medications; and the growth of a range of new healthcare-delivery models — all aimed at making the patient king (or queen) — continues unabated.

Indeed, the personalization of medicine is flourishing today more than ever before. What new models are emerging to advance it, and how can you take advantage of the trend?

Holistic Care
In the new world order of value-based reimbursements and paying providers for outcomes, treating the whole person, mind as well as body, has gained traction.

Following the patient-centric model, in which patients are active participants in their own care, the patient-centered medical home (PCMH) has emerged as a means for facilitating collaboration between patients, their doctors, and their families in order to provide better outcomes. PCMH systems include fewer patients per provider than a typical practice. They get lengthier visits, more detailed preventative recommendations, and better coordination among specialists. The model is appealing to physicians: according to one recent survey, one-third of physician respondents said they were already part of or moving toward becoming part of a PCMH model.

Also gaining interest is the concept of concierge medicine, or “retainer medicine,” in which patients pay a monthly or yearly “membership” fee to providers. In exchange, they become part of an exclusive group of patients who can expect executive-level service from their doctor: lengthy consultations, appointments whenever they need them, even house calls. Frustration over the inability to get face time with the doctor has driven patients’ willingness to pay for a concierge service. And the model seems to be catching on: A 2014 Merritt Hawkins survey of 20,000 physicians showed that 20 percent of respondents said they were either currently practicing a concierge model or planning on doing so in the future. And today there are approximately 6,000 concierge practitioners, up from just 4,400 in 2012.

Retailized Care
Many of us have done it before: turned to a retail clinic at Target or Walmart, CVS or Walgreens, when we have a minor ailment but can’t get in to see our “regular” doctor. Many more will do so in the years to come as the proliferation continues of retail clinics boasting not just a variety of acute illness services and consultations under $100 but also preventive screenings, chronic illness management, infusion services, and more.

The convenience of same-day  appointments or walk-in service sometimes trumps the desire to see the same provider, and the accelerating shift of payment burdens from insurance companies to patients may reduce patient willingness to wait lengthy periods before getting an appointment — all while an ongoing shortage of primary care providers continues to exacerbate the problem of appointment availability.

All signs point to a more “retailized” approach to care continuing to grow: current U.S. retail clinical sales are valued at over $1 billion; mega-pharmacy CVS alone projects opening 1,500 clinic outlets by 2017; and annual retail clinic visits were projected to reach 10.5 million in 2015.

Cash-only Practices
“No insurance? No problem.” The idea of a cash-only practice model is not new: the first iterations sprung up in the early 1990s, and the concept stuck around largely due to provider fatigue from dealing with insurance red tape and a desire to have higher quality relationships with patients. The explosion in patient volume due to reforms under the Affordable Care Act has further shortened the amount of time that primary care doctors have to spend with patients. And though the number of physicians who don’t accept insurance today remains fairly small, it’s growing steadily: in 2013, 6 percent of doctors practiced on a cash-only basis, 2 percent more than the year prior.

And some patients seem intrigued by a model that can enable doctors to provide more in-depth appointments at predictable, flat costs.

The emergence of the modern healthcare consumer, triggered by widespread reforms to the roiling marketplace, has meant that striving for competitive, personalized approaches will remain critical for practices to stay competitive moving forward. This is especially true given that the value-over-volume model shows no signs of fading: according to Medical Economics, 40 percent of commercial in-network payments were tied to performance or “designed to cut waste.” Even hospitals that resisted letting go of fee-for-service contracts are acknowledging that value-based payment is here to stay. In the modern medical marketplace, models that emphasize convenience, accessibility, and the unique needs of the consumer will continue to succeed.

Want to learn how to make your practice more accessible to your patients and more flexible to their individual needs? Contact Everseat to discover tools to boost patient satisfaction and retention.

ES_BlogBadge2

Understand the Challenges Facing Your Front Desk Staff

Understand the Challenges Facing Your Front Desk Staff

Your front desk staff: they’re the face of your practice to every patient who walks through the door or calls your phone number. They are the front lines, responsible for everything from greeting patients to managing patient flow to collecting copayments.

The performance of front desk staff directly affects your ability to retain patients — and thus your bottom line, according to practice management expert Elizabeth Woodcock. Yet they’re often among the most overlooked employees in a practice.

It may be an overstatement to say that the ability of your front desk staff to maintain an efficient, frictionless, and welcoming waiting room experience will make or break your practice, but maybe not by much. Indeed, regardless of a patient’s relationship with their doctor, if the front office staff is unpleasant to deal with, that could be one reason why they may consider changing practices.

You’re probably already aware of some of the more obvious challenges faced by your front desk staff — managing inbound phone calls, scheduling, and greeting patients — but your staff are also dealing with issues that you may not have considered. What else are they facing?

Managing patient emotions
A study in the journal Social Science and Medicine found that a “significant portion” of front desk staff’s work involved managing patients’ and families’ emotions, ranging from “confirming a prescription with an angry patient, to congratulating a new mother, to consoling a man whose wife had just died, to helping a mentally ill patient make an appointment.”

Handling call volume and maintaining phone etiquette
Your front desk handles dozens (maybe more than 100) calls a day, and it’s impossible to know how time-consuming an individual call will be. A patient may be calling to confirm the time of an appointment (a less than five-minute call), update their insurance information, or reschedule an appointment. Patients also ask questions about their doctor’s instructions, which may not be something the front desk can answer — but those staff still have to field the calls.

Much has been written (and many phone system solutions developed) to help practices manage their incoming calls and maintain exceptional phone etiquette. Using a patient portal can help significantly reduce call volume by enabling patients to get many of their questions answered online. But few practices have robustly embraced portals. Another way to temper call volume is to offer patients other ways to book, reschedule, or cancel appointments (i.e. an online appointment system or scheduling app).

Managing patient wait times and patient flow
It’s simple: patients hate waiting to see the doctor. According to a survey by Consumer Reports, long waits were among the top 10 gripes that patients have about their doctors. Managing that frustration isn’t so simple.

That’s because it’s not just patient frustration over wait times that receptionists must balance — it’s the needs of the doctors who are juggling increasingly packed schedules and who need help choreographing the flow of patients from the waiting room to the exam room. From using techniques like keeping waiting room patients informed about delays to referring to “scripts” that help guide service during common challenging patient scenarios, receptionists are constantly on their toes keeping patients calm and balancing the flow of traffic somewhere between a trickle and a tsunami.

Complaint resolution
Receptionists are responsible, at least in the immediate, for fielding and responding to complaints about issues ranging from long hold times to the quality of care they’ve received. Balancing empathy for the patient’s situation and determining how best to address it is a drain on energy and time, no matter how experienced a receptionist may be.

In sum, your front desk staff are the unsung heroes of your practice, and they’re key to maintaining efficiency and productivity as well as excellent patient relationships. Don’t forget to spend time acknowledging and evaluating the challenges they face. The effort you spend managing your front desk will pay off handsomely.

For more information about how to make life easier for your receptionists and other front office staff by streamlining the appointment booking process and more, contact Everseat today.

ES_BlogBadge2

Not Just Docs: Healthcare Reform Affects Staff, Too

The Affordable Care Act continues to bring millions of new patients into hospitals and medical practices by extending coverage to the previously uninsured. In fact, nearly 60 percent of primary care physicians are seeing more patients who are newly insured under a private plan or Medicaid. And it’s not just patient volume that’s changing — the way care must be delivered is changing, too, requiring more accountability and transparency on the part of providers.

To be sure, doctors are feeling that pressure. But how have these changes affected support staff at practices and hospitals?

Patients don’t understand their plans
Consider this: some sources report that more than 15 million Americans who didn’t have health coverage before the Affordable Care Act was signed into law were covered by the end of open enrollment in 2014. That’s great, but many of these patients are unclear about what is or isn’t covered by their plans.

As you well know, even people who have had health insurance their whole lives often have questions about the details of their coverage. So those who are new to the system understandably require explanation of certain aspects of what they’re paying for. Although support staff aren’t hired to be insurance educators for patients, they’re increasingly accepting that role during the check-out process, and those conversations take time.

Practices must decide which plans to take
Practice managers and administrators must navigate the particularities of individual plans offered on the new healthcare exchanges in order to determine which ones to accept — a time-consuming task under any circumstances, made more so by the sheer volume of new insurance offerings on the exchanges.

Collection is getting harder
The responsibility for collecting payment has shifted more heavily from insurance companies to individual practices and hospital staff as patient accountability for payment has increased with the rise in popularity of high deductible health plans (HDHPs). Indeed, as many as 17.4 million people held HDHPs as of January 2014. Today, billing department representatives must spend more time trying to hunt down payments from patients. With the size of the average deductible more than doubling over the last eight years — from just under $600 to over $1,200 — many patients experience sticker shock when their bill arrives, and may even avoid paying for as long as possible because they simply don’t have the money. And, by all accounts, HDHPs are here to stay.

Widespread pre-authorizations aren’t going away
Prior authorizations (PAs) for tests and procedures aren’t new, but the frequency with which these often time-consuming processes are required is increasing, resulting in millions of potential hours of lost productivity. According to one estimate, that adds up to 868.4 million hours of physician time, plus untold additional staff hours, spent on this task. Many expect the problem to get worse, with some physicians now facing PA requirements for generic drug prescriptions, or prescriptions for medications that patients have been on for a long time.

“Customer” is king
A key element of the ACA is the tenet that patient engagement and satisfaction scores — determined by patient survey responses and patient reported outcomes — will factor in to how hospitals and practices receive reimbursements going forward. That means that greater attention is now being paid to delivering a better patient experience, from more personalized attention by front desk staff and administrators to facility cleanliness, waiting room pleasantness, and more. With some experts predicting that as many as one-third of hospitals will close over the next five years, partly due to poor patient experiences and reviews, the importance of patient satisfaction has never been more important.

Securing patient data is growing more complex
HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) has been around for nearly two decades, and when it was first passed, paper records for patients were the norm. Today, electronic records have taken hold, with nearly 71 percent of physicians having adopted EHRs at the end of 2014. Electronic records require careful security measures, including password management, standardized policies on who gets access to what information, and how records can be accessed (via mobile device, etc.) as well as regular assessments of security risks — not only to prevent breaches but also to make practices and hospitals both compliant with HIPAA and eligible to attest to meaningful use.

Medicare and Medicaid compliance programs are required, not optional
Due to ACA’s Section 6401 mandate that all providers establish a Medicare/Medicaid compliance program, support staff are now on the hook not just to establish such programs, but also to manage them in order to ensure proper billing as part of a waste-fraud-abuse-inefficiency reduction strategy. Effective compliance is also key to improving the experience — and ultimately, the patient-generated review of care — of patients who are covered under a Medicare or Medicaid plan.

Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? Support staff — the unsung heroes of any medical practice — are facing just as much pressure as doctors because of the changes caused by healthcare reform.

Is your practice feeling the strain of increased patient volume? To discover how Everseat can help relieve the pressure of more appointments on your scheduling system, get in touch today. Everseat has helped practices nationwide reduce cancellations and missed appointments and improve the bottom line.

ES_BlogBadge1

Patients Outpace Doctors in the Use of Digital Technology

Chances are, you see patients immersed in smartphones all the time in your waiting and exam rooms. It likely comes as no surprise, then, that patients are plugged in more than ever before — and turning to digital technologies not only to connect with friends but also to manage and improve health. Consider, for instance, these findings from Makovsky Health’s 2015 “Pulse of Online Health” survey:

  • 91 percent of patients in the United States look online for health and medical information.
  • 88 percent would share personal information digitally to improve care and treatment options.
  • 66 percent would use a mobile app to manage their health. (Millennials all the more so.)

Yet as patients’ use of digital grows, studies show that doctors and healthcare organizations are slower to adopt these same technologies — whether because they question the ability of popular technologies to solve health problems, or they’re simply stretched thin and don’t have time to learn a new tool. If you run or operate a medical practice, hospital, or health system, turning your back on digital can come with hefty consequences, from failing to meet the needs of patients to disgruntled staff members, inefficient work processes, and even a loss of revenue.

If you’re struggling to keep pace with patients’ use of technology, what can you do to catch up? For starters, know and understand the three key ways patients use (or want to use) digital technologies to live healthier, less stressful, and more active lifestyles.

1. To boost knowledge and learn
Friendly, easy-to-use tools like Dr. Google, WebMD, and various web-based “symptom checkers” tout the ability to diagnose patients in seconds. Of course, the convenience of a speedy “diagnosis” is alluring, given the increasing amount of time patients have to wait to see doctors across a range of specialties. And the information patients can glean is growing more credible, with platforms like Dr. Google utilizing top-notch physicians (including those from the Mayo Clinic) to validate and fact-check information.

Many doctors, on the other hand, use the Internet far less often to research medical information, relying instead on traditional channels like print-based medical journals, a recent article from Physician’s Weekly explains. Plenty, in fact, have been quite vocal about the dangers of so-called “DIY diagnosis.”

But whether you prefer print or digital resources to stay abreast of your field is, ultimately, your own business. The fact of the matter is that your patients most certainly look for health information online. So instead of scoffing at their use of the web, work with them to suggest websites, forums, and other sources that align with your approach and meet your approval.

2. To track and monitor health
Digital technology provides more than information. Today’s patients use digital tools to track and stay on top of their health. From mobile apps that count calories and track nutrition, cholesterol, and exercise, patients are leveraging technology to acquire their own health data — and use it to gain insights and make sound health-related decisions. In 2014 alone, FitBit, Inc. had 6.7 million subscribers and sold a staggering 10.9 million of the wristwatch-like devices that track physical activity, sleep, and other health-related data. To date, however, clinicians have shown little interest in data collected by wearable devices.

Where physicians have shown more interest is in areas that blur the line between medical devices and consumer health products. Just this last year, Dexcom created a way to transmit real-time blood sugar readings to smartphones and smart watches — a move with real potential to improve life for people with type 1 diabetes. Plenty of other medical device companies are following suit, finding ways to use mobile to make data accessible not only to patients but also to doctors. Patient portals facilitate the sharing of data and information between doctors and patients — and are improving care.

3. To make healthcare more convenient
Skyrocketing healthcare prices, hectic schedules, and long appointment wait times likely contribute to the fact that people in the U.S. actually go to the doctor less than those in other countries — as few as four times a year, compared with, for example, Japan’s 13 times. But studies show that patients in the U.S. place a high value on convenience when it comes to healthcare, and this is where digital technologies can help. How, exactly?

For one, remote monitoring systems communicate symptoms, vital signs, and even pain levels for chronically ill patients to their doctors via a safe and secure server. And electronic medical records (EMRs) potentially eliminate the need for patients to coordinate their own care across physicians and health systems.

Likewise, mobile and web-based appointment booking apps like Everseat empower patients to schedule doctor appointments on demand, without having to pick up the phone and endure long hold times, only to be told they need to schedule weeks (or even months) in advance.

The reality? You can no longer dismiss digital technologies as a passing trend. To stay afloat and compete in the modern healthcare market, you have to embrace the same technology your patients use day in and day out to manage all aspects of life, from finance and parenting to entertainment, education, philanthropy, and social networking.

Want to learn how digital technologies can help you streamline operations and get ahead in today’s competitive marketplace? Get in touch to find out how Everseat’s revolutionary mobile and web-based app can streamline your operations, grow your bottom line, and increase patient access to timely care.

ES_BlogBadge2

4 Reasons Your Patients Cancel Appointments at the Last Minute

The occasional missed appointment happens at every medical practice, and may even feel like a welcome break in an otherwise jam-packed schedule. But last-minute appointment cancellations and no-shows hurt your practice’s finances — and can even take a toll on your patients’ health. By some estimates, missed appointments and last-minute cancellations cost the U.S. healthcare system $150 billion per year. Another study found that, in family medicine practices, cancellations and no-shows represented nearly one-third of all scheduled appointments, with only about 60 percent of those appointments being filled subsequently by walk-ins.

The amount of staff time spent trying to fill last-minute cancellations adds to the high cost and interferes with other priorities, like greeting patients and managing check-in and check-out procedures efficiently. The bottom line? Cancellations hurt your bottom line. Key to reducing them is understanding why patients cancel in the first place. If your practice isn’t doing what it can to remind and encourage patients to attend their appointments, you may be just as culpable for cancellations as patients themselves. At a time when medical liability experts say that missed appointments pose significant legal risks for physicians, reducing cancellations isn’t just good for business — it’s an ethical responsibility.

So, what’s keeping your patients from keeping their appointments?

Nerves
Let’s face it: going to the doctor isn’t at the top of most people’s fun list. But for many patients, fear and dread of the doctor visit result in avoiding, delaying, or cancelling appointments altogether. It’s not hard to imagine the reasons. Doctors can bring bad news. They might tell patients something they don’t want to hear, or lecture patients for putting off treatment, not following medical advice, or engaging in unhealthy behavior. With procedures like colonoscopies, stress tests, and blood work, prepping for the procedure (fasting, for instance) or the procedure itself can be reason enough to call and cancel.

How, then, can you calm patients’ nerves? Understanding and empathy go a long way. Instead of lecturing patients, try to understand why the problem exists and work with them to address it in ways that make sense for their lifestyle. A friendly demeanor matters, too. As the independent research organization NORC at the University of Chicago found in 2014, patients consider listening, attentiveness, a caring attitude, and bedside manner among the most important factors in determining quality of care.

Money
In the first quarter of 2015, only 11.9 percent of Americans were uninsured. But being insured is no guarantee of good care. A late-2014 Gallup poll found that as many as a third of people in the United States say they don’t get the medical care they need because of the cost. In fact, 22 percent of the 828 people surveyed put off treatment for a serious condition due to the expense, up from 12 percent in 2001 and 19 percent in 2013, Gallup found.

The Great Recession might be over, but plenty of patients struggle or aren’t able to pay for medical care. What’s to blame? Rising out-of-pocket costs and employer deductibles, combined with stagnant U.S. wages, are common culprits. So when patients are strained financially, cancelling an appointment last-minute might look like the only option.

Convenience
Hectic work and family schedules can make for a packed day. Studies show, in fact, that U.S. citizens not only work more hours per week than people in any other developed country, we’re also working more than ever in our own history. When the repercussions of taking time out of the work day to go to the doctor feel more serious than the health problem itself, it’s easy for patients to prioritize meetings and tasks over the doctor appointment they scheduled — especially if they aren’t acutely ill. Add anticipated wait times in your waiting and exam rooms, and the motivation to keep appointments can dwindle further down the list of priorities.

Offering early morning, evening, and weekend appointments, your practice can offset the cancellations you receive from harried patients who, despite best intentions, can’t feasibly get there during the workday.

Availability
Is your practice’s waiting list growing? Do your patients have to wait too long to get an appointment? If so, know that these factors affect your cancellation rate. Sick patients frustrated by having to wait a long time to get an appointment will cancel and go elsewhere if another doctor can see them sooner. Practice loyalty flies by the wayside, especially if someone isn’t feeling well and needs urgent care.

Last-minute cancellations come at a high cost to both your practice and your patients’ health. By figuring out what barriers your patients face — and working with them instead of against them — you can take the first steps in creating a system that works for your practice and patients alike.

Want more help reversing the revenue loss and other consequences of last-minute cancellations? At Everseat, we’ve created a mobile and web-based application to solve the problem on all ends. Get in touch or sign up for a demo to learn more.

ES_BlogBadge1

Don’t Wait! See Your Doctor Now!

MillennialsHow many times have you cancelled a doctor’s appointment because of work? I can personally say that I have rescheduled or cancelled about five doctor appointments in the last six months. For many people, especially those of us in the millennial generation, this is not uncommon. According to a study, 41% of Millennials would cancel a doctor’s appointment because they are too busy. Why go in to the doctor when you can just research your symptoms?

While it may be a more convenient to sit in bed and self diagnose, it’s not exactly the best option for your health. Making time for the doctor is hard, but it’s worth it. People who visit the doctor for regular checkups are less likely to be diagnosed with preventable chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise and proper nutrition can help you avoid seeing the doctor frequently for different illnesses. But, there are other reasons why it’s a good idea to see your doctor at least once a year. Here are a few to consider:

  1. Avoid preventable diseases – Your primary care physician preforms many routine checks and tests to catch anything out of the norm before its too late. It’s also their job to gather information about your lifestyle to make sure that you’re maintaining healthy habits. Asking questions and educating you about weight management, alcohol abuse, stress & anxiety, and tobacco use can prevent issues later in life.
  2. Build your medical records – Creating a base line to monitor your health from will be extremely valuable for you over time. If an emergency comes up, your medical records can be used to rule out any existing conditions and any changes to your health can be a sign that something is up.
  3. Maintaining a trusted relationship – Building and maintaining a trusted doctor patient relationship is extremely important so that the doctor knows your specific wants and needs in your healthcare. Having a relationship with your doctor will also make it easier to talk about hard or uncomfortable issues you may be having.
  4. Get your appointment faster – When you become an established patient, the doctor will often make time to squeeze you in, and may even be willing to treat or diagnose small issues over the phone or email. This is great news for us Millennials who hate leaving work to go to the doctor.

While it might be a pain to schedule an appointment with your doctor now, it will definitely make a difference in the long run. With Everseat, you never have to worry about the hassle of booking an appointment over the phone. All you have to do is show up once a year.

A Plethora of Patients; A Deficit of Doctors

The medical world in the United States has a perfect storm approaching – we could have a shortage of 90,000 doctors by 2025 as our population ages and lives longer. With fewer funds, fewer doctors, and more demand for healthcare, technology for running a more efficient practice will become a necessity for every office and hospital.

doctor demand

The crux of this problem is that there are already not enough doctors, and this deficit will only increase if certain issues are not taken care of. There are plenty medical students – a record 49,480 people applied to medical school all over the US in 2014, a number that continues to grow year after year. But, only 20,343 – less than half – were admitted. More people than ever before want to be doctors, and many are going to school and studying to be doctors. So why is this large group not making it all the way to practicing?

Because there is an on-going 17-year cap on residency program funding, there is a limit on the number of newly graduated medical students getting into these programs. In 2014, several hundred medical students did not match to a residency.

To combat this issue, medical schools have started accepting more students, and learning hospitals are willing to expand their programs. But, because there isn’t the federal funding to cover the cost of residency, hospitals cannot expand their programs and these students are not becoming practicing doctors.

Additionally, as many as a third of the nation’s doctors will be hanging up their stethoscope and retiring this decade. Not only will they not be replaced fast enough, they will become part of another piece of this puzzle: the aging Baby Boomer generation.

 

A major foreseeable challenge over the nexkey findingst few decades is the aging Baby Boomer generation. This generation is much larger than the generations it precedes, meaning less funding from taxes, and fewer doctors to take care of them as their medical needs increase. Also, because medicine has advanced, people are living much longer lives, with more expensive care needed as they age. There is a huge need for doctors to provide healthcare to these patients, a need which will only continue to grow in the coming years.

With healthcare patient demand shooting way up and healthcare provider supply sinking, every person will be affected. Wait times for appointments will become staggering. A study done by Merritt Hawkings, Physician Appointment Wait Times and Medicaid and Medicare Acceptance Rates, shows wait times in Boston average 45.4 days. Boston had the longest average wait time of the 15 cities surveyed and Dallas had the shortest wait time, still 10.2 days. Overall, wait times are down across the country from 2009 but that trend could change soon with the continued shortage of doctors and aging population. Perhaps one of the more shocking stats is “The average appointment wait time to see a family physician ranged from a high of 66 days in Boston to a low of 5 days in Dallas.” Boston has many doctors, but even more demand.

This issue could also cause a larger gap in care provided to the poor, and possibly all the way up through the middle class. Although the Affordable Care Act allowed for many people to get coverage, there is a large group that falls between the cracks of coverage. This group cannot get coverage on their own or through the state. If the current trends continue, this type of problem could grow to where premium care is only for the wealthy.

Technology is needed now more than ever to face these challenges. Doctors’ offices and hospital units will need to become their most efficient to keep up with the growing demand. Schedules need to be optimized – appointment gaps will become much more than frustrating. The inner workings of the medical system will hopefully change in time to ensure the nation continues to provide top of the line healthcare throughout every hospital. Until that happens, to level out supply and demand, we will have to rely heavily on technological advancements.

Got Allergies? Stop Suffering and See Your Allergist Now!

allergy_fieldIt’s that time of year again. The sun and fun of summer are quickly slipping away to be replaced by the crisp cool of fall. This seasonal change means that many of us will once again have our sinuses assaulted by those pesky allergies.

If you are one of the 50 million people in the United States who suffer from sneezing, runny or stuffy nose, and itchy throat, eyes or skin around this time every year, you may have seasonal allergic rhinitis.

Seasonal allergic rhinitis, or hay fever, is most often caused by ragweed in the fall. On the East Coast, allergy symptoms spring up in August when ragweed starts to bloom, are at their peak in mid-September, and can last through November. While ragweed is the most common allergen, other triggers include mold spores and pollen from trees, grass and weeds.

According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, there are many different climate and weather factors that can go into how bad your allergies will be on any particular day:

  • Expect pollen counts to rise the day after heavy rainfall or when it’s windy and warm out.
  • Mold tends to grow faster in the heat and high humidity.
  • Don’t bother trying to move to get out of the way of your allergies; triggers can be found in all parts of the United States.

So what can you do about your allergies? There are many little things you can do throughout your day to lessen the effects of allergies:

  • Seasonal allergies can often be controlled with over the counter medication like decongestants and antihistamines.
  • It might be helpful to keep windows in your home and car closed during the day, so pollen can’t get in.Also, if you can, stay indoors in the middle of the day when pollen is at its peak.
  • If you do go outside for an extended period of time, shower and wash your clothes right away.
  • Hair can often carry a lot of pollen or other allergy triggers. Women with long hair should change your pillowcase frequently to avoid allergens sticking to your pillow and rubbing your face while you sleep.

If these at home remedies aren’t enough to control your symptoms, you should see an allergist. The doctor will be able to narrow down your triggers and put you on a specific treatment plan.

One of the treatment plans an allergist can recommend for seasonal allergy sufferers is immunotherapy. Immunotherapy is a series of shots that your doctor will give you that contain small doses of the allergen that you are allergic to. Over time, your body will start to produce an antibody that will reduce the symptoms you experience when exposed to that allergen in nature. Treatment plans can last up to 5 years depending on how bad your symptoms are, but the success rate is very high so it is usually a worthwhile investment.

So instead of suffering through yet another fall with a box of tissues and countless meds, you should go see your allergist. Your body will thank you.