You Say ‘Patient’ and I Say ‘Consumer’ – Either Way, We Both Want Convenience

What do you call a person seeking care from a health professional these days? Some say patient, and others say consumer. Either way, one thing is true: when we need to see a doctor, one thing we really want is convenience.

New public policy efforts and the efforts of entrepreneurial thinkers are changing the game on the convenience issue already. We have more choices than we used to, and it is undeniable that as patients, we are becoming better consumers, looking for providers who will meet a range of needs we have and not just treat our ailment.

Should we wait for a regular check-up to get a doctor’s advice? Or should we track our own health indicators and review our own records with one of the many devices bloggers Todd Hixon and Neil Versel have been writing about in Forbes?

Should we go to a minute clinic at the mall or visit the emergency room at a hospital?

Should we take the “next available appointment” or shop around for the magic words: “the doctor will see you now?”

Dr. Sanjay Gupta wrote an entire column last year with advice on how to get in to see your doctor sooner. His prescription? Convey urgency, be thorough, get a referral, and ask questions.

I would not dare disagree with Dr. Gupta. Still, the patient/customer is craving a more efficient solution without having to grovel. And let’s face it: most of us don’t even want to have to call the doctor’s office at all. There is no doubt that physicians and their all-important office staffers would like to get off the phone too. They have work piling up and patients right there in front of them who need their attention.

According to Pew Research Center, 64% of adults in the United States have smart-phones, and if you are a provider not primarily treating people above age 65, the percentage in your patient population may be much higher. As patients and as consumers, we need the option of using personal technology that helps us get in to see the doctor as soon as possible when that is what we think we need to do.

Healthcare innovators and entrepreneurs will keep making it easier for all of us to get timely access to quality care. The rest of us can contribute by asking our providers to invest in technology tools that improve our experience whether we think of ourselves as patients or consumers. Either way, we can all be advocates for greater convenience as part of a better patient experience. Be polite but tell them we need it in a hurry.

Ready for Summer? Not until you see your dermatologist!

sunscreen

After the rough winter we had this year, bring on the heat, the beach and the sun – but remember your skin needs a little extra TLC during the summer months.

The benefits of the sun are endless; it’s important for the planet and for each of us. Sunbathing helps your body create vitamin D, a vital nutrient for everything from your bones, to your brain to aiding in weight loss. Sun helps your skin heal things like wounds or conditions like acne. It’s been linked to helping with depression and building your immune system. The sun is wonderful and necessary – but as with all good things, you can have too much of it.

There are many easy steps you can take to avoid serious damage to your skin from the sun. To get you started:

  1. Wear a hat whenever possible to protect your face from the sun. Since your face is always exposed, it gets the most damage.
  2. Wear sunscreen and lip balm every day. It’s best to wear it even on cloudy days since the sun can still come through. Many moisturizers and foundations have up to SPF 30 included to help make this even easier.
  3. Since the sun can cause melanoma build up in your eyes, wear UVA-protective sunglasses.
  4. Stay out of the sun from 10-2 if possible. This is the most intense sunlight of the day, so if you need to be outside, be cautious.
  5. Never tan in a tanning bed – this can increase your chances of skin cancer by up to 75%. It’s not worth it.
  6. Moisturize and hydrate. Even when you’re not in the sun, you can take actions to make your skin healthier. Drink your water and moisturize every night before bed!

The best step you can take for healthy skin is to make an appointment with your dermatologist. You stick to your daily dental routine but you wouldn’t skip your bi-annual dentist check up. Similarly, everyone should make their skin and seeing the dermatologist a priority, especially around the summer time. It is recommended that even if you have no skin ailments, you see a dermatologist once a year for a thorough exam.

Dermatologists will check each mole and can give you better, more specific instructions for how to protect your skin. With so many sunscreens and other skin care products on the market, a doctor can help you choose which is best for you. You can also find out which moisturizers are best, what to be on the lookout for and key signs that you need to come back for a check up. Seeing a dermatologist can help with prevention, early detection and recovery, especially for you sun lovers.

So, buy some sunscreen and a hat for the beach, and then book an appointment with your dermatologist today.

Wanted: A New Relationship Based on Empathy

Patients are seeking a new relationship with their doctors and other health providers and what they want is … empathy, according to the renowned healthcare provider organization Cleveland Clinic, which just concluded its 6th annual summit on patient empathy, experience and innovation.

Thousands of healthcare leaders, researchers, clinicians and advocates gathered in Cleveland to focus on “how organizations around the world strive to deliver the best clinical, physical and emotional experience to patients and families.” An untold and undoubtedly even larger audience followed the proceedings online.

Numerous innovations in patient experience were on the agenda, including patient-centered care models, communication techniques, plans for educating caregivers, as well as uses for wearable devices, data-rich websites, and mobile apps.

Don’t be misled by the trendiness of the buzzwords. This was not just a gathering to talk about new tricks and new treatments.

Christy Dempsey, chief nursing officer at healthcare consultancy Press Ganey captured the spirit of the event in her address to the audience, saying “[i]t is no longer OK to be just a great clinician, and, “I want you to take a minute and remember that your patients are scared.”

Dempsey’s words support the logic behind University of Indiana Medical School professor Dr. Richard Frankel’s advocacy for better doctor communication, which he spoke about in Cleveland. Frankel recently told a University of Indiana publication that “There now are a number of studies and systematic reviews that show the positive effects of improved communication on patients’ biomedical as well as psychosocial health outcomes.”

Bedside manner, or examining room manner, provides the iconic image of the doctor-patient relationship. But of course the relationship starts even before the patient arrives. It begins with the seemingly innocuous but routinely stressful task of scheduling an appointment. Thanks to creative uses of digital technology, and the talent and innovative spirit of key staff in healthcare provider offices, there are ways to make the process simpler and easier for patients. And it keeps getting better.

The innovations Everseat has developed are very much a part of the push for empathy in the doctor-patient relationship. It all starts with a hassle-free system for setting up a convenient time to see the doctor as soon as possible. When beginning a relationship as important as this one, who wants to get off on the wrong foot?

Trying to Improve Your Inner Chi and Outer Beauty? Five Health and Fitness Apps that are Actually Useful

Summer has finally arrived! In order to take advantage of the longer days and warmer weather, I’ve set a few goals to improve my mind, body, and overall health. To aid in my wellness goals for the summer, I found a few fitness, diet and mental health apps that I’m sure will allow me to get the most out of my summer. With literally thousands on the market, it’s tough to decide which ones are actually useful and which ones are duds.

Since I’m not jumping on the wearable bandwagon, I was looking for something that could track my activity and improve my overall health without bursting my wallet with overpriced additions. Here are some of my favorite downloads:

MapMyFitness is an easy to use tracking app that allows me to input my food consumption, workouts, and even track the wear and tear of my sneakers. I especially love the calorie counter feature so that I know how much more I can eat during the day. You can connect with friends to hold each other accountable and sign up for challenges together.  Sharing my weight loss triumphs and failures with other likeminded friends has given me the encouragement and strength to continue. One negative about the app is that they have large amount of available features, which can be overwhelming and confusing for a first time user. (Free; iOS and Android)

Calm is a great app for your overall mind and body health. The interface delivers multiple themes with calming music and compositions for any mood. I discovered this app during a particularly stressful time on the job and realized that listening to it at work not only lowered my stress and anxiety levels, but it increased my productivity! For a small fee, you can even download guided meditations that can lower your anxiety, give you pep talks, improve your sleep, and help better your self-esteem. ($9.99/month; iOS and Android)

If you are a foodie or an adventurous eater, you need to download Ingredient1. It’s the perfect app if you’re looking for something different to spice up your mundane menu. You can create a personal food profile with a list of food allergies, diet specifications, and your favorite flavors and cravings and Ingredient1 provides suggestions of healthy foods to eat. I always crave something salty around 3pm, and with this app, I now have multiple new foods and ingredients to try. The app even lets you know the nearest location to pick up these delicious new treats so that you can try them right away. (Free; iOS)

Pump-Up is a fun, interactive, and dynamic app for building a targeted workout and then sharing your successes with friends. The app features customizable workouts for every part of the body. My favorite part about it is that it’s a new platform to share your post workout pics, that healthy salad you just ate and encouragement posts to other health and fitness gurus.  The social feed is a great place to find inspiration to make this bikini season better than last.  (Free; iOS and Android)

Need a step-by-step guide to loose weight from personal coaches? Noom coach is the perfect app for people like me who have no idea what they are doing when it comes to dieting!  The simple interface allows you to log in your meals and lets you know how many calories you have left in your daily budget. Noom coach also gives you simple suggestions for improving your diet and tips for getting the most out of the app. For a small fee, you can even go pro to unlock recipes, join groups of other dieters, and access additional features. (Free; iOS and Android)

If you are like me, and have been searching for tools to help improve your mind, body, and spirit, try downloading some of these apps. We are always on our phones anyways, might as well use that device for something useful! I guarantee that this summer will be the best one yet.

Best of luck, Morgan

Your Next Doctor Appointment Will Be Done by Your Dishwasher

Imagine a medical assistant with the bedside manner of a microwave but the intelligence of 400 Einsteins.

And while you don’t have to pay him, you do  have to pay for him, and he is kind of an energy hog. Is that someone you’d want to have on your staff?

 

His name is Watson, and he’s one of the most advanced pieces of artificially intelligent software in the world. Whether you’re ready for him or not, he just inked several big deals to make his way into medical care offices across the world.

Watson is one of the biggest projects to come out of the computer giant IBM to date, but it may surprise you to know that Watson was originally developed not for medical practices or physics problems, but to compete on Jeopardy!

Watson was first introduced in 2011 to compete against two of Jeopardy’s biggest winners, Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter. Watson had two matches against these human competitors, and amassed $112,881, more than 3 times the earnings of the 2nd place winner Brad Rutter[1]. You can see him competing here:

To put Watson’s power into perspective, consider this[2]:
Watson has access to 4 terabytes worth of data. Compare this to Apollo 11, which used about 4 kilobytes of data. 4 terabytes = about 4 billion kilobytes, which means Watson uses a billion times more data than the first mission to the moon!
Or, for a more modern comparison, the iPhone 5 can store 64 GB worth of data — about 62 times less than Watson’s 4000 GBs.
If you think the storage capacity is insane, look at the processing stats — while the Apollo 11 computer had a 1 megaHertz processor, Watson has a 2,625,000 gigaHertz processing engine.
Again to bring that back to a 2015 comparison, the iPhone 5 works with a mere 1.3 gigaHertz processor.

Apollo 11's guidance computer
Apollo 11’s guidance computer

The leap to practical applications was only natural — if this supercomputer could outplay humans in Jeopardy, what else could it do?

Watson’s first foray into the healthcare field was as a decision support application for Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City:

  • When utilizing Memorial Sloan Kettering’s unmatched breadth and depth of experience, gained from treating more than 30,000 patients with cancer every year, Watson will take information about a specific patient and match it to a huge knowledge base incorporating published literature and the treatment history of similar patients. Watson’s ability to mine massive quantities of data means that it can also keep up — at record speeds — with the latest medical breakthroughs reported in scientific journals and medical meetings. Additionally, because it utilizes cognitive computing, Watson continually “learns,” thereby improving its accuracy and confidence in the treatment options it suggests.[3]

That 400-Einstein-sized “brain” of Watson’s is able to take a patient’s unique health profile and tailor both diagnostic and treatment options to deliver the best medical outcome to them. The applications for this kind of decision support are limitless — even the simplest health problems have hundreds of factors that go into their diagnosis and treatments. Watson is able to take a lot of the guesswork out of these medical decisions, reducing the chance of a misdiagnosis or providing the wrong treatment.

So that begs the question — what does this mean for the medical professional?

First of all, you don’t have to worry about robots taking over your job anytime soon. While machines may be better at accessing information, they’re still a long way off from being able to tell patients how to best utilize that information.

Machines also can’t deliver the kind of professional bedside manner or social and moral support that human doctors can. There’s something about talking with a doctor about your medical problem that helps to relieve a lot of stress and anxiety about it.

Despite our best efforts to stay strong in the face of things like cancer and Alzheimer’s, it helps more than we think to hear the calm and collected voice of an experienced physician instead of the cold robotic diagnosis of an advanced supercomputer.

Only time will tell to what extent we’ll see supercomputers and artificial intelligence in your practice and in our lives.

I for one plan on embracing the robot love.

Yours in tech,

Ken Swearengen

P.S. Just when you thought he couldn’t get any greater, it turns out Watson is a philanthropist as well. As the Christian Post reports:
[Watson’s builder] IBM had announced in January that 100 percent of its $1 million prize from “Jeopardy” would go to charity. Half went to World Vision and the other half went to World Community Grid, a nonprofit that seeks to build the world’s largest public computing grid benefiting humanity.

References:
[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Watson_%28computer%29
[2] http://www.thedailycrate.com/2014/02/01/geek-tech-apollo-guidance-computer-vs-iphone-5s/
[3] https://www.mskcc.org/blog/msk-trains-ibm-watson-help-doctors-make-better-treatment-choices

Do Your Patients Keep Bailing?

Today, it seems, there are an increasing number of less-than-ideal realities concerning dental patient retention. Broken appointments can wreak havoc on any dental practice and as you already know; your schedule only translates into profits if patients actually come in. dental_blog_pic

According to the Journal of the American Dental Association, dentists retain less than 41% of new patients, that’s not even half! While the leading causes of this loss are issues such as realizing the importance dental care and access to affordable dental care, there are other, more fixable reasons. One such problem with patient retention is customer service—simply because dentists don’t use the patient data they have in order to give the care they could.

So, how do dentists become more patient-focused in order to retain new and existing patients? Here are some insights you can implement to improve patient retention in your practice:

Get smart about patient reminders. The average dentist schedules a reminder 2 days before an appointment. It’s more effective to send reminders via text up to 1 week prior the appointment.

Make the most of patient data. Use patient info to track birthdays, holidays, and outstanding treatments. You will be more top-of-mind to patients who are bogged down by other responsibilities and could let their dental appointment fall by the wayside.
Reward patients for loyalty. Offer discounts, rewards or bonuses for being a new patient, for hitting a patient milestone, for pulling through a difficult treatment, for providing a testimonial or online review, or for referring new patients. Loyalty programs help encourage patients to keep coming back to you.

With better utilization of technology, smart service tactics, and proactive patient engagement, dental patient retention can improve.

Telehealth & mHealth for Acute Care? There’s a Bunch of Apps for That

Healthcare mobilization (mHealth) is a growing trend, and one that is beneficial for both providers and patients. Healthcare is becoming increasingly available to patients whenever and wherever they need it.  It is an important tool for many situations – for those that need to go to the doctor often, or those that can’t find the time for even their yearly checkups, or for those mishaps that sometimes happen:

There are two groups in particular that have seen a greater need for this type of service – patients with chronic conditions and those with mental health issues. Programs in Colorado, Iowa and New York have already paved the way of this new type of patient care.

Telehealth for Chronic Conditions

Health apps, monitoring systems with Bluetooth capabilities, and electronic health records have granted patients the ability to pull their health history online, or get a helpful tip for their chronic condition in the form of a text message. Chronic conditions range from having a mostly normal life to needing assistance to get through the day. Through telehealth, a doctor can offer a busy mom with a mild chronic condition the personal touch of a video chat to check in. Or, a grandfather suffering severe pain and his caretaker who needs to weight in can have a consultative video conference with his doctor. All without causing patients any of the undue pain of travel or the discomfort of a waiting room.

On March 22, 2015, Governor Hickenlooper of Colorado signed a bill into law expanding telehealth services, which began in 2008. The telehealth service in Colorado provides subsidized broadband connectivity to 200 physical and behavioral healthcare sites. Providers have advocated for virtual care for patients to help with:

  • Managing chronic conditions.
  • Educating on diseases and home treatment.
  • Answering health-related maintenance advice from home.

The University of Iowa’s eHealth Extension Network began a similar initiative a year ago, after receiving a nearly $500,000 grant to bring needed equipment to rural healthcare facilities throughout Iowa. This includes telehealth carts, equipped with high quality video conferencing and cloud-based image sharing which will allow for better telehealth services to those who cannot get to their healthcare providers. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vislick said this investment meant that “people who live and work in rural areas will not have to travel long distances for specialized healthcare services.”

The more access we give to these patients through the convenience of their mobile phones, the more we can bring comfort to those with chronic conditions.

mHealth Services for Mental Health

Chronic conditions are not the only group that has seen a great need for this type of technology. People with mental diseases need greater and easier access to help, such as that offered in New York City.

TXT ME is a new campaign launched in New York City for teens that struggle with ailments such as substance abuse or depression. This pilot was the brainchild of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s 20-year-old daughter, Chiara, who has seen these struggles herself: “I know from personal experience that reaching out when you’re in pain can be the turning point – the first step on the road to recovery.”

Simply text “TXT ME” to the helpline and a counselor will respond via text. They provide compassionate services, actively participate in the teen’s concerns, and help them get through whatever they need. They can also look up local counselors in the teen’s area to provide more help or face-to-face encounters. Technology has often been criticized for taking away some humanity from our day-to-day, however, programs like TXT ME take advantage of technology by offering care for those that need it.

Keeping Patient Care Focused on the Patient

Patients in need of acute care can especially benefit from the growing popularity and possibility of personal care through technology. Making services more easily available to these patients can lessen the chance of chronic pain or a mental health issue going untreated. And while telehealth and mHealth are valuable for practices, healthcare and technology are pushing the focus to the convenience and comfort of the patients.

Right now, rapidly changing technology is directly affecting healthcare. Healthcare is also changing through legislation. Telehealth has been caught in the crossfire, with many people supporting covering telehealth– particularly those in defense of the elderly on Medicare – because it allows for the personal touch, without the cost or time of travel for the patient or doctor. To protect these patients, bringing technology to personal care is becoming better regulated all the time to mitigate the chances of privacy, or data errors.

As technology continues to advance, we will certainly see an increase of these trends. Hopefully, with more initiatives focusing on the specialized, ongoing needs of those with chronic conditions and those with mental health issues. mHealth and telehealth services are working towards the same goal: helping patients find the appointments and care they need faster and easier.

The “Uberization” Healthcare

Just as the driver-passenger dynamic shifted in the taxi industry with such mobile app-based transportation networks as Uber, so too will the caregiver-patient dynamic shift in healthcare.

In a speech delivered at MD&M West in February, Stuart Karten, the president of the product innovation consultancy Karten Design, predicted the “Uberization” of healthcare: “While medical technology lags behind consumer technology development due to more regulatory oversight, the Uber model is becoming analogous to what we are currently seeing at our design firm: more and more companies come to us in an effort to ‘disrupt’ existing models.”

It would seem that passengers and patients aren’t so different. Both are consumers, after all—people who expect to get what they want when they want it. As was the case for the taxicab model in the transportation industry, the current appointment-making model in healthcare is inefficient, not mobile, often times even unpleasant for the consumer.

Mobile technology had existed for more than a decade before Uber entered the fray, but the taxi industry had simply refused to accept it. Times are different now, but big change is rarely recognized right away. “Healthcare hasn’t yet seen its version of Uber,” said Karten, “But the signs are there: within the next decade, Uber-like companies will emerge.”

But what are the signs? They are manifested in two main forces that are presently transforming healthcare: cultural forces—as seen in the need of an aging population for daily management and care, as well as in Accountable Care’s pressure on many healthcare systems to quantify and measure results; and socio-economic forces—as seen in the widespread connectivity that has emerged across all economic classes in recent years. Today, some 6.9 billion cell phones are estimated to be in use worldwide—that’s up from 2 billion about a decade ago, according to Wireless Intelligence.

Products like Everseat stem from a culmination of these forces coupled with the growing consumer demand for access. Trends show more and more people want to become actively engaged in their own healthcare. Now patients expect to be able to research their doctors, access their own health data, or monitor symptoms quickly & easily.

The shift begins now. As Karten says, “Just as Uber has demonstrated with putting the passenger first, ignoring the patient will be fatal for health solutions companies: they will be the new taxi drivers, baffled by how the world has passed them by.”

Emerging Technologies—Digital Self-Scheduling Solutions

In the ever changing world of healthcare, one of the latest hot topics is how patients book appointments.

According to a 2014 study conducted by Accenture, one of the world’s leading technology consulting services, statistics show that digital self-scheduling is set to explode in healthcare over the next 5 years.

Screen_Shot_2015-04-09_at_1_58_23_PMThe study projects that by the end of 2019, 66% of all health systems will offer digital self-scheduling, and that 64% of all patients will book appointments digitally. Think about that—in just a few years, 986 million doctors’ appointments will be made through services like Everseat. This roughly equates to a total value of $3.2 billion in services rendered by healthcare practitioners

Perhaps even more importantly, digital self-scheduling provides a new level of convenience to the patient. Patients should be empowered to be in control of their health, their schedules, and their lives. Accenture reported that 77% of all patients believe the ability to book, change, or cancel an appointment digitally is important. Apps like Everseat provide easier, faster access to appointments in a simple, practical manner. Report findings go on to state that historically the average time for a patient to complete a scheduling call is just over 8 minutes. Leading health professionals are already starting to take note that digital self-scheduling tools are outpacing these older methods and are investigating alternative solutions. A practice using Everseat can post an open appointment in less than 30 seconds—a significant time & effort savings for a busy front office.

More and more health professionals are turning to digital self-scheduling to differentiate themselves competitively, improve their appointment-making efficiency, and enhance their overall patient engagement and satisfaction. The consequences for late adopters of digital self-scheduling could be severe. Don’t miss out on investing in your future in healthcare. Here’s to the next 5 years.