Author: Scott Rupp

The Solution To Rising Healthcare Wait Times

Rebecca Chi

By Rebecca Chi, chief client experience officer, AristaMD

Accessing specialty medical care shouldn’t be difficult, yet 27% of people in the U.S. wait one month or more to see healthcare specialists. A survey by AristaMD of four in-demand specialties – cardiology, dermatology, endocrinology, and gastroenterology, revealed that appointment wait times for some specialties exceed 90-days.

Endocrinology has an average wait period of 67 days, which surpasses the overall survey average by 19 days. Gastroenterology generally has more providers per clinic, yet still averages a 64-day wait time per provider and a 16-day increase from the overall average.

While these metrics reflect a broader trend of rising healthcare wait times across the country, the daily impact on individuals is cause for concern. Each day that patients wait to receive specialty care, the likelihood the appointment will be canceled, or the person will suffer additional medical complications rises. The time-lapse to see a specialist is lengthening in the U.S., but one solution is working to effectively combat the wait-time challenge – eConsults.

The Issue of Long Wait Times

While endocrinology and gastroenterology top the wait-per-provider by specialty, several states are experiencing higher-than-average wait times as compared to the rest of the nation. For example, Oregon has the most extreme wait times with an above-average wait time across cardiology, dermatology, endocrinology and gastroenterology. Specifically, the city of Portland ranks as having one of the highest appointment wait times in the country, averaging a total of two months to secure a patient appointment for an emergent condition. Additionally, areas such as Tacoma, Washington and Richmond, Virginia are seeing staggering appointment scheduling challenges with dermatology appointments booked 139 days out, which is 103-days greater than the specialty’s average.

Here are a few possible causes for the growing wait times to see healthcare specialists:

Regardless of the issue behind the rising delay in scheduling patients needing advice from a specialist, the outcomes are:

The Benefits of eConsults

As wait times continue to soar at healthcare clinics, there is a solution to reduce the impact of the shortage of available specialist appointments. With electronic physician-to-physician consultations, or eConsults, primary care physicians are empowered to provide specialist-guided care to patients – efficiently and effectively. All patients deserve timely, cost-effective access to healthcare, and eConsults are available to help reach this goal.

Electronic consultations are online medical consultations between physicians to communicate about a patient’s current symptoms, possible diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan with the benefit of the expertise of a physician specialist. This collaboration between primary care providers and specialists not only improves the patient experience but also optimizes clinical revenue, offers rapid access to specialty care and reduces routine clinical referrals by 70 percent. Instead of sending patients to find a specialist who participates in their health plan’s provider network, primary care physicians can reach out to specialists and get back to their patients within hours with the next steps in their treatment plan. A process that required multiple trips to the specialist’s office and traditionally spanned months is completed within hours.

It’s time to challenge the status quo against unprecedented healthcare wait times with a solution that advocates for timely patient care and less unnecessary face-to-face referrals and repeated diagnostics. eConsults can connect primary care physicians to specialists to decrease wait times, expand care capacity, and improve quality ratings. With the average wait per specialty provider growing, physicians can take the issue into their own hands and meet patients’ needs in the primary care setting.

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America’s Mental Health Crisis Simply Requires Better Mental Care

It’s no secret that America’s mental health is in crisis, with more than 7.5% of adult Americans reporting at least one depressive episode per year, according to Time Magazine. The mental health challenges for young adults are even more disparaging, with 17% of those aged 18-25 struggling with a mental health-related issue.

Yet the initiatives and measures put in place to curb America’s mental health crisis are in shambles. The same folks who have been protesting against progressive programs like Critical Race Theory have now switched their attention to mental health, as per an NBC News report, some wondering why certain professional school counselors are paid $90k.

Most experts note that the COVID-19 pandemic is partly responsible for the restricted access to psychotherapy personnel and therefore a big player in the ongoing mental health crisis. It’s imperative that we need a better medical care system to match.

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Using PPC To Attract New Patients

Pay Per Click (PPC) Google AdWords - Farland Lee Studios

Pay per click (PPC) is a paid advertising strategy that can help your hospital or clinic generate more leads. It helps you reach your target market by placing ads in search engines like Google and Bing.

Though organic digital marketing efforts can help establish a long-term brand identity, sales revenue may take months to begin. PPC is the quickest way to generate leads and accommodate patients online. Here are some ideas for using PPC to attract new patients.

Show Your Ads on Google

Google lets you to bid for keywords and show your brand in the top search result. If you are just starting your website and want timmediate patient inquiries through PPC, you will need to bid higher for keywords to beat those who have established high website ranks.

While you’re doing your PPC came, continue with your search engine optimization (SEO). As you gain a higher website rank, you will spend less on your medical PPC ads, according to Digital Authority Partners.

To improve your sites, create well-researched content, and providing exceptional customer support.

Meanwhlie, to generate quality leads, refine your Google ad campaign’s demographic profile. For example, if you house patients near a hospital, target local women of childbearing age.

Choose keywords with a high click-through rates but are not too expensive. Go for those that will bring traffic to your hospital or clinic. If you have more money, bid on expensive keywords.

Maximize YouTube’s Ad Campaign Potential

Google owns YouTube. If you have video materials for clinic promotion, you can also use YouTube’s PPC to drive more inquiries and boost your lead generation campaign. YouTube can provide a separate ad promotion for your website or brand aside from your Google PPC.

YouTube leverages your video material. Still, you must join the bidding process and specify your target audience to attract suitable patients or clients for your advertisement.

You should also build and optimize your YouTube account, so it goes along with your Google PPC and SEO campaigns. Be consistent with your messages across the platform to establish your credibility online.

In essence, if your YouTube ad contains a website link, the landing page must have related medical content that helps the user know more about what the ad contains. If a user cannot find more information about the ad’s content, he or she will simply leave the page. You wouldn’t want to waste leads because PPC campaigns cost more.

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Why Independent Practices Need EHRs To Boost Productivity

7 Key Privacy and Security Considerations While Using Healthcare APIs

By Andrea Kowalski, senior vice president of product, Tebra.

As private practices everywhere struggle to maintain their independence, they face changing reimbursements, demanding regulatory requirements, and ever-increasing costs. Implementing an electronic health record (EHR) system can help them to address these challenges. An EHR can improve profitability, reduce operational costs, and increase patient and physician satisfaction — all while having an overall positive impact on patient care.

An EHR has the ability to shape the future of a small practice. From efficiency to a satisfying return on investment to saving time and money, an EHR has demonstrable advantages. Implementing and having a system in place requires commitment and investment. However, such a step will help practices maintain their independence and continue to adapt and thrive in the future.

Centralized Data and Analytics

Thanks to its visual representation, an EHR dashboard offers relevant data with immediate analytics that relate to financial performance, patient care, and open tasks. Each member of the practice can take in a full-picture view that constantly refreshes with new or updated data. With a certified EHR solution, providers and clinical staff have better control of how they deliver care. The practice’s needs, whether charting, documentation, patient history, or eLabs, are delivered all together for smoother operations.

An EHR not only provides insights into critical information but also allows providers to easily and quickly generate reports and examine the data behind the analytics. For example, practice managers can access a real-time view of patients scheduled for the day and their eligibility data, copay information, and more.

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Investment In Health Tech Startups Drops

Jake Hare

By Jake Hare, founder and CEO, Launchpeer.

The year 2021 experienced a global deceleration of the venture capital market that impacted the broader startup ecosystem, regardless of company size and stage of growth

In the first quarter of 2022, CB Insights found that the $10.4 billion that was invested in global health tech startups was down 36% compared to the $16.2 billion that was put into the global market from Q4 of 2021. Experts predicted this drop and don’t believe a rebound as drastic as the one seen during the pandemic will be happening any time soon. 

This not to say, of course, that the health tech industry will be seeing its end. There is still an obvious need for innovation and development in the area. Rather, the funding frenzy of 2020 and 2021 has come to a halt, and the explanation as to why is rather simple.

The cool-off in health tech investing has much to do with the normalization of COVID-19. It follows a larger trend of investors pulling back from backing startups after a year of all-time-high cash flow for the businesses. 

The stagnation in funding for health tech in particular followed a massive jolt of investment in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It makes sense – the perceived value of the industry in the short-term shot up exponentially. But now that the immediate need for health tech innovation has receded, VCs are exploring what other industries may be the next to explode. And why wouldn’t they? Compared to other ventures, the health tech industry has slower ROIs due to its longer and expensive cycles of R&D, not to mention the bureaucratic hoops. It’s likely that investors are looking to shift their ventures towards markets with a clearer path to returns.

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Medical Device Manufacturers Sue Library of Congress Under DMCA Exemption

Shannon Flynn

Shannon Flynn is a freelance blogger who covers education technologies, cybersecurity and IoT topics. You can follow Shannon on Muck Rack or Medium to read more of her articles.

The right to repair is a contentious topic that has spent a lot of time in the news over the last couple of years. Consumers believe they should have the right to repair devices they own, while many manufacturers contest this. When discussing repairing an automobile or a smartphone, the law should side with the consumer – but where does the right to repair fall when dealing with medical devices?

A new lawsuit brought against the Library of Congress by a trade association of medical device manufacturers could change how DMCA gets applied moving forward.

DMCA Section 1201 and the Triennial Review

Congress passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) in 1998. It has evolved into a seemingly comprehensive tool for copyright protection in the intervening decades. Unfortunately, people have found ways to exploit it. Many of its sections and processes operate contrarily to one another, making it difficult for even those versed in DMCA law to keep track of all the potential loopholes and exploits.

On paper, Section 1201 of the DMCA seems like a straightforward process to prevent the law from being circumvented. Section 1201 explains that attempting to “circumvent a technical measure” would also be considered copyright infringement in very broad terms. It also creates a tool for people to obtain exemptions to this section of the DMCA. Every three years, people are allowed to apply for exemptions.

2021 provided the latest opportunity for exemption applications. Some of the approved exemptions included an expansion on an exemption from six years ago which allowed for the circumvention of technological protection measures (TPMs) on medical devices. The initial exemption limited this sort of circumvention to partially or wholly implanted devices, but petitioners in 2021 sought to expand the exemption to include any medical devices.

For medical professionals, this exemption makes a lot of sense. It allows medical professionals to access data on their patients’ devices, regardless of any TPMs in place. The medical device industry doesn’t see it that way.

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Fostering A Data Culture Within An Organization

Brendan Watkins

By Brendan Watkins, chief analytics officer, Stanford Children’s Health.

The purpose of analytics is to provide insights using data to enable people in an organization to make smarter decisions. It gives decision-makers a better understanding of what is going on, what has happened, why it happened, and what is likely to occur based on hard data. Done well, analytics will improve the overall performance of the organization.

It is important to ensure that insights are spread throughout a company in a strategic way to maximize the benefits. Just as an organization’s culture is a major factor in its performance, its data culture is crucial to spreading this wealth of knowledge and information.

What is data culture?

Data culture is a broad term encompassing various aspects. The most obvious aspect is how much value executives place on data and analytics, and how aligned leaders are on the organizational data strategy. How leaders view analytics has a huge impact on the motivation of analysts to improve their skills at reading, interpreting and analyzing standardized data (also known as data literacy.) Data culture requires connection among the cohort of analysts as well as the organization’s data strategies, and it is critical to establish a network that permeates the organization.

Establish networks

The formal way to establish this network is through the establishment of federated analytics and named analytics power users. This structure enables alignment while empowering analysts with tools, data and support they need. It is important that these analysts glean value from the collaboration and are incentivized to obtain valuable skills and relationships.

The informal network of relationships is key to developing a positive and impactful data culture. The data governance structures should support a strategic roadmap of analytics initiatives undertaken as partnerships between the central analytics team and analysts in business areas. Shared ownership in developing analytics solutions fosters a virtuous cycle whereby the team members have deeper buy-in.

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Could Better Engagement and More Empowerment Help Solve The Nursing Crisis?

Jori Short

By Jori Short, RN, COO, Ally Medical.

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the bravery and commitment of health care professionals in the face of danger and tragedy. Unfortunately, the continued stress of the crisis took a severe toll on the heroic nurses who provided invaluable care and hope to our communities. It also further exposed the crippling nurse shortage that is plaguing the health care system nationwide and in Texas and increased the call to think outside of the box to address the crisis.

Some hospitals in Texas and across the country are taking steps to address the shortage, and they’re doing it by making changes for a more inclusive and friendly environment – providing nurses with better engagement and empowerment to shape operations and improve patient care.

Addressing the causes

The nursing shortage is a long-standing challenge, but the pandemic has significantly worsened the problem. Nurses and physicians have left in record numbers, due to fatigue and exhaustion. High turnover has severely affected employee morale, creating a snowball effect that could encourage more nurses and other staff to leave. It can also have an impact on attracting new talent.

The difficulties of COVID-19 created a wave of early retirements due in part to the extended period of limited access to medical facilities for both patients and staff. Because hospitals stopped doing elective surgeries – and many patients made it a point to stay away for safety reasons – hospitals had less income and needed to reduce staff to stay afloat. A 2015 study reported that more than 1 million RNs would retire from the workforce between now and 2030. As they go, they take with them their invaluable accumulated knowledge and experience.

Unfortunately, the critical nursing shortage shows no sign of abating, and experts project that 1.2 million new RNs will be needed nationwide in the next eight years in order to address the shortage. According to the Texas Workforce Commission, there are already 23,000 more unfilled RN jobs, and that number is expected to increase 50% by 2030. What’s more, the shortage of RNs will only intensify as baby boomers age and the need for health care grows.

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What’s The Current State of Aesthetic Medicine?

Aesthetic medicine has come a long way in the last couple of decades. The field is in a very advanced state at this point, and many people have been enjoying the benefits it brings to the table. Watching that progress unfold has been exciting for those with an active interest in observing the field and tracking improvements in it as well. With that in mind, where do we stand right now, and what’s the current state of aesthetic medicine?

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Empower the Patient: How eCOAs Amplify the Patient Voice

By Melissa Mooney, director, eCOA Solutions Engineering, IQVIA.

Patient centricity has quickly become the biggest buzzword in medicine and clinical research – but it is much more than a trend. Patient centric clinical research allows the healthcare industry to deliver more holistic outcomes for patients, meaning that new treatments not only deliver the desired outcome, but also leave intact or even improve the patient’s quality of life while they are undergoing treatment. As a result of this shift, implementing strategies for capturing the patient’s voice in clinical research has become a top priority for the biopharma industry.

Patients today certainly have more advocacy and are playing a more active role in clinical trial planning and data collection as a condition of their participation, which is a major contributor to this shift. However, regulators and payers are also driving the shift by showing increasing interest in the perspectives of patients as they review submissions for new drug approvals. Electronic clinical outcomes assessments (eCOAs) have emerged as an effective approach to capturing these patient insights that can make or break the trial by giving them a structured platform for reporting their experiences and capturing those reports in measurable and meaningful ways.

What are eCOAs?

An eCOA is a digital approach to capturing patient experience data in traditional clinical trials and real-world studies. During the pandemic, eCOAs shot to prominence in the research space as sponsors sought out more agile tools to capture patient data remotely. At this critical point in time for agile research, eCOAs made it easier for investigators and sponsors to keep track of patient progress outside of the site environment’s confines and collect more patient-specific information to support the safety and efficacy of treatments and their impact on patients’ quality of life.

eCOAs are custom-built interactive assessments that clinical trial participants are prompted to respond to, through provided or personal devices. They allow patients, clinicians, and caregivers to directly report outcomes, supplying real-time insights, and high-quality data collection. These digital assessments have led the way in simplifying patient engagement and amplifying the voice and experience of patience.

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