Across the United States, persistent and growing gaps in care are driving health disparities and presenting barriers to improving overall health and health outcomes. Many health disparities stem from inherent inequalities in social determinants of health (SDOH), such as where a person lives or works, their education level, and their access to healthcare.
Health equity — defined by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation as when everyone has a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible — is not a new concern. For decades, health equity has been in the spotlight within the public health realm. But the COVID-19 pandemic brought the topic of health equity to the forefront like never before. Something once discussed only among policy experts, advocates, and health communicators is now mainstream news and discussed around the dinner tables of Americans across the nation every single day.
As COVID-19 quickly spread, it became increasingly apparent that minority patients were disproportionately affected compared to other populations. A recent study found that Black people were 3.57 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than white people. The reasons are varied: Multigenerational families and insufficient access to care contributed to higher infection and mortality rates for minority populations. This disparity serves as a reminder that systemic inequalities persist across many facets of American society.
Social determinants of health can be far reaching
SDOH often present barriers to care. Research has shown that when assessing a person’s health, their ZIP code is often more predictive than their genetic code. But despite their prevalence, SDOH should never dictate health outcomes or the quality of care a patient receives.
By Noel Felipe, revenue cycle practice leader, Firstsource.
The pandemic has created a sense of urgency around improving patient engagement. Consumers accustomed to Amazon-like retail experiences are now embracing digital across personal transactions, including healthcare. Telehealth and remote monitoring have gained rapid traction, especially for non-emergent conditions and follow-up. At the same time, outpatient visits are rapidly outpacing inpatient. Together, these two trends are resulting in patients spending very little time at hospitals receiving care and paying bills.
With more care delivered through outpatient and virtual settings, healthcare leaders are asking: how do we effectively engage patients to optimize the patient financial experience and enhance recovery?
The answer lies in understanding shifting consumer expectations and designing a patient engagement solution that best fits their evolving needs.
What do modern consumers expect?
As robo calls continue to rise, Americans are using their smartphones to screen calls, making it harder for providers to connect with patients after service. Studies show that the chance of collecting goes down by 58% once patients leave the facility, as they are less motivated to pay once the services have been rendered. This means providers must begin the patient engagement process early in the revenue cycle at the pre-service stage and maintain high levels of engagement during and after service to improve their net revenue.
The good news is consumers increasingly prefer digital channels of communication that offer the flexibility to engage with providers outside traditional business hours and in the privacy of their homes. They also want to get things done quickly and easily. Whether they are shopping for a provider or checking their health insurance coverage, they want to get the information they need, when they need it – and they are willing to use self-service to achieve this.
Scheduling an appointment with your doctor is usually the first thing you do when you’re feeling a little under the weather or have some questions about your health. But as technology keeps advancing, your options for healthcare are rapidly expanding. One of these options includes telemedicine, which enables you to get medical advice when you need it most, all without leaving the comfort of your home.
What Exactly is Telemedicine?
As the name implies, telemedicine is a way for patients to communicate with their healthcare practitioners with tech instead of physically popping into the doctor’s room or hospital for a consultation.
Telemedicine enables you to discuss your symptoms and questions with your doctor using video, web-based platforms or apps, and email. In turn, your doctor can send you a diagnosis, discuss your treatment options with you, and send over a prescription, all without the need for physical interaction.
Telemedicine is nothing new, but the name is. In fact, healthcare providers have been using this care method since the 1950s, when telemedicine was offered through landline telephones. Thankfully, technological advances have made it possible for healthcare providers and their patients to use various options for care these days. These options include online portals, apps managed by companies that offer telemedicine, and video software that even facilitates video remote interpreting services.
How Does Telemedicine Work?
Telemedicine isn’t suitable for emergencies like broken bones, lacerations, strokes, or heart attacks. Anything that requires immediate physical care should always be handled in person, at a clinic, or hospital. But telemedicine is an excellent supplemental care solution for issues you’d usually turn to your GP for.
A quick virtual consultation with your healthcare provider can help patients get the preventative care they need when physical consultations aren’t possible or not entirely necessary. Telemedicine is also helpful for other applications, including virtual dermatology and psychotherapy.
Is Telemedicine the Same as Telehealth?
Although the terms telemedicine and telehealth are often used interchangeably, there’s a considerable difference between the two. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), telemedicine allows patients to “heal from a distance” and receive healthcare services without physically visiting their physicians.
Health IT states that telehealth comprises the use of electronic data and telecommunications technology to promote and support remote clinical healthcare and professional health education and public health.
Unlike telemedicine, telehealth is not a virtual healthcare service but rather a way to improve patient care and education opportunities for physicians.
By Ken Perez, vice president of healthcare policy and government affairs, Omnicell, Inc.
On July 9, President Joe Biden issued a wide-ranging executive order (EO), “Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy,” that is highly critical of big business and advocates policy and regulatory changes to spur competition in seven areas: labor markets, healthcare, transportation, agriculture, internet services, technology, and banking and consumer finance. The EO has been described as the centerpiece of a new Democratic Party emphasis on restraining the nation’s most powerful companies, bolstering and consolidating the federal government’s power.
Of course, as with all presidential EOs, the EO by itself does not impose new requirements on the business community; rather, federal agency-driven policy changes, formal rulemaking or passage of legislation by Congress are required. Moreover, an EO can be easily overturned by a new president, as Biden has done with several Trump-era EOs.
The EO tackles four areas in healthcare where the Biden administration contends that lack of competition increases prices and reduces access to quality care: prescription drug prices, hearing aids, hospitals, and health insurance. In accord with the status of the high cost of prescription drugs as the public’s top healthcare-related concern, three-fourths of the EO’s healthcare verbiage is devoted to this area, with only brief paragraphs addressing the other three. Here are the specific proposals in the EO for the four areas.
Earlier this year, a recent survey by Ernest & Young showed a rapidly widening gap between vacancies and job applicants in the U.S. As the world recovers from a crippling pandemic, industries are facing large challenges in securing qualified workers for their vacancies. One of the industries leading the list: the healthcare industry. Experts have said the pandemic has only exacerbated the healthcare worker shortage that is ongoing in the country right now.
According to Dr. Ernest Grant, president of the American Nurses Association, “Nurse shortages are a long-standing issue, but because of COVID, it is anticipated to grow even more by next year.” As healthcare providers facing unprecedented labor shortages, the focus is turning to the impact that closed borders have had on migrants filling those vacancies, and the invaluable but unrecognized role migrants have been playing in the healthcare industry for years.
Migrant Healthcare Workers Leading The Frontline Of Global Crisis
Recently, the contribution of migrant workers to the global pandemic has come to the forefront- particularly in the healthcare industry. After and during the outbreak, migrant healthcare workers have been on the frontlines of providing medical care. In several key outbreak locations and metro cities across the U.S, they have made up more than double of their national average in the healthcare industry. According to New American Economy Research Fund, immigrant healthcare workers are 51 percent of the healthcare worker population in Miami. For New York, the epicenter of the recent outbreak, that number is 41.8 percent.
Senior And Disabled Healthcare Services Rely Heavily On Migrant Healthcare Workers
Throughout the years, migrants have accounted for a significant proportion of the healthcare industry. In 2017, migrants were 18.2 percent of healthcare workers. Fast forward to the latest national statistics and they now account for 28 percent of physicians and 24 percent of dentists in the U.S. These success stories, in regards to the legal side of things, transpire due to professional legal help. In other words, an immigration lawyer helps individuals jump through immigration hoops, which can drastically lessen stress for the immigrant family as well as their employee. Furthermore, another notable point is the contribution of migrant healthcare workers to senior healthcare. They also account for 38 percent of home health aides – commonly used with those aging at home or those with disabilities.
With 1 in every 4 Americans living with a disability, the support they provide to a significant portion of the American population is undisputed. Also, 30.2 percent of migrant healthcare workers are nursing home workers, providing critical support to the aging population in their later life. There is also a brewing shortage of care workers for older adults.
Greenway Health, a leading health information technology services provider, announces an expanded partnership with HealthLinc, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving healthcare for the residents of northern Indiana. A Greenway client for more than a decade, HealthLinc will be leveraging Greenway Telehealth, the first tool in the company’s virtual care portfolio, to remove care delivery barriers, enabling greater provider productivity and improved patient outcomes.
HealthLinc is a leading nonprofit organization with 12 community locations, serving five counties in northern Indiana with 97 providers and over 150 staff. The organization operates a Patient-Centered Medical Home model, offering medical, dental, optometry, behavioral health and more. HealthLinc implemented telehealth early into the pandemic but was seeking an improved solution that did not require separate logins for each of their providers, and that was easier for patients to use while completely protecting their data. With Greenway Telehealth, the organization now benefits from a secure, HIPAA-compliant solution that is integrated with its core electronic health record.
“Our goal at HealthLinc is to make a difference in our patients’ lives by delivering the exceptional care they deserve,” said Melissa Mitchell, chief operating officer, HealthLinc. “Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic we were seeking a telehealth solution that would offer the convenience and flexibility our patients were requesting. Now, with Greenway Telehealth, we have a long-term solution in place that will further enable us to improve access to resources and care, including as part of our paramedicine program for homebound patients. Our improved experience with Greenway Telehealth enables us to focus more on innovation, exploring what virtual care looks like for our most at-risk patients, ultimately closing gaps in care and improving outcomes.”
Launched in October of 2020, Greenway Telehealth was developed in direct response to evolving client needs and the increasing demand for a secure, high-quality and flexible remote care solution that practices can implement as part of a long-term virtual care strategy. Since its initial launch, the solution has been implemented by thousands of users and featured on Becker’s list of Telehealth Companies to Know.
“For ambulatory care providers, having a telehealth solution integrated with its core EHR is a key component to reducing administrative burden and provider burnout, while maximizing the efficiency of the practice with added flexibility to maintain business continuity,” said David Cohen, chief product and technology officer, Greenway Health. “We’re excited to expand our partnership with HealthLinc and to provide them with the telehealth solution they need to further improve care and patient outcomes.”
Greenway Telehealth is now available at a special rate of $39 per provider, per month. For more information on how Greenway’s EHR-integrated telehealth solution can help your practice maintain business continuity, create additional revenue streams and reach new patient populations, visit http://www.greenwayhealth.com/solutions/telehealth.
This bipartisan movement in the House to remove barriers to accurate patient identification and increased patient privacy has been strengthened in the past year by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Patient misidentification caused challenges for health systems during the pandemic, including thousands of duplicate records created during the vaccination registration process, and disruptions in vaccine availability at provider sites because of inaccurate patient documentation.
Patient ID Now is calling on the US Senate to finally follow suit to protect patient safety and patient privacy — and to bolster the public health system — by removing Section 510 from its Labor-HHS bill. In a letter sent this year to the Senate Appropriations Committee, more than 100 healthcare organizations called for the removal of this ban. With a third year of bipartisan support in the House of Representatives and overwhelming support from the healthcare community, this must be the year the Senate takes action to remove this outdated and harmful ban.
The coalition would like to thank Representative Bill Foster (D-IL) and Representative Mike Kelly (R-PA) for their steadfast leadership, and House Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Representative Katherine Clark (D-MA) for their continued support to advance patient identification.
People are constantly under the glare of artificial light these days, with lighting systems brightening the night and their eyes constantly on a screen. It’s impossible to avoid artificial light exposure, and unfortunately, sometimes it can be risky. Studies show that artificial light can have a negative effect on mental and physical health.
The primary issue with artificial lighting is the color spectrum it uses because it includes a blue spectrum, brighter than natural light. Research suggests that the artificial light in digital devices’ screens emits blue light at peak emissions and can influence people’s natural sleeping and waking patterns.
The dangers of artificial light: Artificial light impacts the circadian rhythm
The circadian rhythm works like an internal clock that regulates the body’s feelings of wakefulness and tiredness. Some outside factors like light can influence its functioning because the human body relies on light to regulate its metabolisms. The hypothalamus controls the circadian rhythm. When the night comes and the lights dim, the eyes signal to the hypothalamus to release melatonin and get the body ready for sleep.
But if you’re exposed to too much light (you use digital devices at night or don’t switch off the lights in the bedroom), your sleeping patterns can get disturbed. Artificial light can cause several mental and physical issues like a negative effect on your memory and disruption to the melatonin cycles.
Artificial light can increase the risk of cancer
Specialists connected overexposure to artificial light to the diagnosis of breast and prostate cancer. As stated before, light interferes with melatonin production, which should be at peak during the night and lower during the day. The Barcelona Institute for Global Health studied how heavy artificial light exposure affects residents of large cities. It concluded that the residents in these areas have a doubled risk of suffering from prostate cancer and 1.5 times higher risk of having breast cancer. Studies also suggest that people who work night shifts are more likely to develop these types of cancer because their bodies are exposed to both natural and artificial light 24 hours a day.
Artificial light can cause macular degeneration
Blue light can damage the eye’s retina. When blue light penetrates the macular pigment in the eye, it can lead to a breakdown in the retina. It makes the eyes more likely to develop cell degeneration that can cause issues like cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration. Even if blue light can trigger macular degeneration in various ways, the most common one is retinal damage through a photochemical mechanism.
COVID-19 sent telemedicine on the fast track for widespread adoption, helping doctors manage and care for their patients — especially those at high risk — during the nationwide shelter-in-place ordinance. But for patients in low-income families, there wasn’t such a simple solution.
While the ACA makes health insurance accessible for a significant number of Americans, there are still millions of vulnerable people who rely on receiving care from free clinics like CommunityHealth. So when COVID-19 hit the U.S. in March 2020 and strict shelter-in-place orders went into effect across the Chicagoland area, many low-income patients were left unable to seek basic treatment for their preexisting, ongoing, or newly-developed medical needs.
At CommunityHealth, the nation’s largest volunteer-based free clinic, we strive to deliver high-quality care to those who need it most, providing 15,000 medical and dental visits to thousands of Chicagoans who are underserved and uninsured each year. Up to 65 percent of our patients live at or below the federal poverty line, which is $24,300 for a family of four. Many also suffer from chronic conditions such as diabetes and hypertension, which require ongoing medical treatment.
While most healthcare providers turned to telehealth solutions to continue providing care to their high-risk patients during the pandemic, we knew that many of our low-income families wouldn’t be able to download additional software in advance of a virtual visit — a common prerequisite for many telemedicine tools — or even have reliable access to high-speed internet.
What we needed was a solution that worked with any smartphone as seamlessly as possible, and an easy-to-use telehealth solution that could be rapidly deployed across our network of providers. We also needed a simple platform for physicians and, most importantly, a user-friendly and accessible solution for our patients.
COVID-19 brought its fair share of trials and tests with it. Not only has it taken lives, infected millions, and left thousands unemployed, but it has also changed the course of society as we know it. A new normal has taken over: social distancing, face masks, frequent medical visits, and a shift online.
With millions of cases around the world, medical professionals have their work cut out for them. Healthcare workers have to manage other patients, their education, and the rising number of COVID-19 cases at the same time. Managing their time in such cases can be a tough challenge to overcome.
As a healthcare professional, if you have a hard time managing time, this article is for you. We will be talking about six things you can incorporate into your daily routine to help with time management
Prioritize your tasks
With college deadlines piling up, work commitments to attend to, and managing your daily chores, you may feel overwhelmed at times. Most medical practitioners are studying something or another most of the time.
Whether it’s a subject to diversify their expertise or something that will help them grow in their field, chances are, you will see them with their face buried in books after their shift ends. With mounting deadlines, you may want to look at tackling the most critical tasks first.
Not only does this reduce stress, but it ensures that the consequences of missed deadlines decrease as you move through your tasks. It wouldn’t make sense to start with the most trivial tasks and leave the big ones for the end. Missing those could have far-reaching implications which may affect your career.