The pMD Blog

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pMD Blog...

where we cover interesting and relevant news, insights, events, and more related to the health care industry and pMD. Most importantly, this blog is a fun, engaging way to learn about developments in an ever-changing field that is heavily influenced by technology.

Here's The Latest in Health Care:

•  The emergence of 5G technology has potential to revolutionize health care delivery, especially through telehealth. 5G will help support remote medical consultations by providing real-time, high-quality video and imaging, allowing patients in rural areas to get better and faster treatment. Cisco, the multinational technology conglomerate, is conducting a trial in the U.K. called “5G RuralFirst” that hopes to demonstrate the full potential of 5G to improve connectivity in rural communities where access had previously been a challenge.  Read More

•  A new study found significant age and race disparities in the use of hospital patient portals. Researchers examined patient portal usage over a one-year period and found that patients age 60 to 69 used the inpatient portal 45 percent less than the 18 to 29 age group, and African American patients used it 40 percent less than white patients. The study’s results suggest disparities in usage may stem from limited system knowledge and access issues, among other more nuanced differences that require further research. Health and technology companies continue to evolve their patient portals to be universally beneficial across all demographic groups.  Read More

•  According to a recent study, applying the maximum recommended amount of sunscreen can cause the absorption of chemicals into the bloodstream. These findings have caused people to question if sunscreen should be the go-to form of sun protection. Experts say that while sunscreen is still very effective, alternative types of sun protection, such as seeking shade, avoiding hours of the day when sun exposure is most intense, and using hats and clothes to block the sun, are also effective in reducing the risk of sun effects. Another viable option to avoid chemical absorption are “physical sunscreens,” such as titanium dioxide and zinc, which the body does not absorb into the bloodstream.  Read More

•  The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo an international health emergency. The outbreak has killed over 1,650 people so far. This week was the fourth time the WHO’s International Health Regulations Emergency Committee has met since the DRC outbreak was declared back in August 2018. The committee is seeking international funding to stop the spread of virus and its rapid expansion to neighboring cities.  Read More

Each Friday, Signor Goat reports the latest from the week in health care. Check back next Friday for your dose of our little medical corner of health care news. Brought to you by pMD, innovators in charge capture, secure messaging, clinical communication, MIPS registry, and care navigation software.

Here's The Latest in Health Care:

•  Cloud-based technologies can give pharmaceutical companies access to greater resources and more data, which could have a large positive impact on the industry. According to Dr. Larry Ponemon, the founder and chairman of the Ponemon Institute, the shift to a cloud environment could have positive impacts on data security, supply chain processes, and artificial intelligence innovations. Even so, there’s still a divide when it comes to seeing the value in public clouds, as many harbor security concerns.  Read More

•  The Federal Communications Commission is developing a new program to support telehealth and remote patient-monitoring services to improve access to care in underserved populations such as low-income patients and veterans. The three-year, $100 million Connected Care Pilot program plans to cover up to 85% of the broadband internet cost needed for telehealth services, giving patients better access to their doctors. The pilot program aims to provide treatment for patients in rural and disadvantaged areas whose difficulty in accessing a broadband internet connection previously made telehealth an unattainable option.  Read More

•  A new study has found that moderate levels of air pollution can potentially cause just as much damage to lung function as smoking does. Researchers found that each increase in five micrograms per cubic meter in PM2.5, tiny pollutant particles that can be damaging to one’s health, resulted in a 52 percent increase in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The effects of moderate air pollution were also found to be four times more harmful than secondhand smoke.  
Read More

•  A new study found that outcomes for patients suffering from opioid use disorders have improved since the launch of CMS’ April 2018 initiative to reduce preauthorization requirements for buprenorphine, the most common drug used for treating opioid addiction. Research found that the percentage of Part D and Medicare Advantage insurance plans that required prior authorizations dropped tremendously from 87.5% in 2017 to 3.5% in 2019. By eliminating these authorization requirements for buprenorphine, 30% more people will receive treatment for their addiction, and over 50% of deaths from the disorder could be prevented.  Read More

Each Friday, Signor Goat reports the latest from the week in health care. Check back next Friday for your dose of our little medical corner of health care news. Brought to you by pMD, innovators in charge capture, secure messaging, clinical communication, MIPS registry, and care navigation software.

Chat with Patients: A Case for Secure Patient Text Messaging

Chat with Patients? A Case for Secure Patient Text Messaging

Recently, I was talking with a physician who is a new pMD customer. We were having a great conversation as she sought to satisfy her curiosity with how to get the most from the pMD software. Then I mentioned our new Chat with Patients feature, and she turned away from me, her previous openness instantly gone. She made a half turn away and laughed dryly, “Oh God. No.”

This was not surprising. The idea of patients having unfettered access to a doctor’s phone can seem like the loss of a last vestige of privacy, unfiltered patient needs adding to the cacophony of the many already trying to reach them.

So I shared a different story, one not filled with an endless interruption and immediate need. This type of communication can be better for both the medical provider and the patient receiving care. Surgery offers one compelling example.

Patient Text Messaging Before & After Surgery

Surgery represents a great opportunity to connect with patients via secure text for the following reasons: there is a clear episode of care, which includes a scheduled procedure, preceded by an instruction-filled pre-operative visit and followed by a post-operative period where concerns over pain, discomfort, new medications, and other follow up issues often emerge.

There are problems with other types of communication. Phone calls can offer endless rounds of telephone tag and voicemails, and email messages often are lost, misunderstood, or don’t have immediacy. Further, for patients who work, calls to workplaces and messages left can create privacy concerns. So, having a way to securely text and communicate in an asynchronous and timely way - texts don’t pile up the way emails do - can offer both better clinical outcomes and higher patient satisfaction.

Using Chat with Patients App Feature: The Process & Results

Below is the process for how a current pMD user is using the new Chat tools for text messaging with patients:

The scheduling coordinator invites patients who have a capable smartphone as part of their pre-operative process. She lets the patients know that pMD is a tool for them to have a direct contact as they go through their procedure.

She has found that younger patients have no issues with loading and using pMD and neither, to her surprise, did older patients. As long as they have a supported iPhone or Android, they have been able to easily download the app and get started.

Patient Text Messaging Helps Avoid Surgery Rescheduling

Prior to their procedure, patients commonly reach out to her with questions about the timing of the surgery, medications, and location of the facility where the procedure will take place. So far, at least one patient was saved from missing their surgery as they asked about a medication which, had they taken it, would have caused their surgery to be rescheduled.

Chatting with Patients After Surgery

The types of messages the coordinator receives after surgery often include those of the “what is normal?” variety, as well as questions about pain, medications, and the timing and location of follow up appointments. Having an easy way for patients to ask these questions helps avoid readmissions and missed appointments and allows the practice to stay on top of patient outcomes!

Secure Patient Messaging with pMD a “Real Life Saver”
The scheduling coordinator reports the following on using pMD as a tool to connect with patients:

"This has made such a huge difference in my contact with patients. They work, and texting them is so much simpler and more convenient than calling or email. I also love that it's not invasive. They don’t get my private info. This has been a real life-saver for me."

I also had the opportunity to connect with a patient using the platform, who reported more satisfaction with the care they received and a closer bond to the practice providing the care:

“Using the pMD app was a real anxiety reducer. If you have a question and something’s not right, you can get an answer through the pMD app. It’s immediate. You feel closer to the doctor and staff. It’s more personal. The app was very easy to download and use. I would recommend this to everyone! Doctor’s offices could really cut down on the number of phone calls. I would prefer practices that use this type of technology!”

I shared this story with the physician, and her demeanor quickly changed. Her practice is in the process of hiring a nurse to contact all their procedural patients, and pMD’s Chat with Patients would be a more effective way of connecting. With the right plan, secure patient text messaging offers unique and compelling benefits. Contact us and we will help you put a winning plan together!

Find out more about pMD's suite of products, which includes our MIPS registry, charge capture, secure messaging, clinical communication, and care navigation software and services, please contact pMD.

Here's The Latest in Health Care:

•  A recent study found that the number of messages physicians receive on a daily basis contributes to their increasing burnout. System-automated messages from the EHR, meant as task reminders, account for half of the messages physicians receive. The study found that these extra in-basket messages influence physician burnout by 40% and created a 38% probability for reduction in clinical work time. Health systems should look for ways to present relevant EHR messages to the appropriate recipients while also improving the quality of patient care.  Read More

•  According to Rock Health’s midyear report, investment funding in the digital health sector is well on its way to surpass 2018’s annual total, with $4.2 billion invested so far in 2019. Some digital health companies highlighted in the report include Telehealth company American Well, direct-to-consumer genetics company 23andMe, and the AI company HeartFlow. Tech giants like Amazon, Google, and Apple are also moving into the health space by acquiring digital health companies predicted to have big returns. As digital health becomes more common and proves to have a positive impact on the health sector, investors are likely to continue to show interest.  Read More

•  Netflix announced that moving forward they will reduce depictions of smoking in their shows aimed towards younger audiences. This came after a study was released that found that the amount of tobacco imagery in popular young adult television programs has more than tripled in the past year. These smoking and e-cigarette depictions were found most prevalent in Netflix shows. Increased exposure to tobacco use is likely to have an impact on younger generations and is a public health concern. Netflix pledged to limit the depiction of smoking and e-cigarette use and also to include information about smoking as part of its rating system.  Read More

•  First introduced 13 years ago in 2006, the HPV vaccine has proven to be successful in preventing cervical cancer in women. A study done by the HPV Vaccination Impact Study Group found that the prevalence of cervical cancer-causing strains of HPV decreased by 83 percent in girls ages 13 to 19 and by 66 percent in women 20 to 24.  Read More

Each Friday, Signor Goat reports the latest from the week in health care. Check back next Friday for your dose of our little medical corner of health care news. Brought to you by pMD, innovators in charge capture, secure messaging, clinical communication, MIPS registry, and care navigation software.

Here's The Latest in Health Care:

•  A number of public health organizations have labeled climate change as “the greatest public health challenge of the 21st century.” The medical groups argue that climate change poses health risks due to extreme weather events, air pollution, and mosquito and tick-borne illnesses. The organizations advocating the climate change agenda, which include the American Medical Association and the American College of Physicians, urge U.S. leaders to take actions to reduce the global epidemic. These actions include increasing the use of renewable energy and public transportation.  Read More

•  The state of Louisiana officials recently made a deal with Asegua Therapeutics, a pharmaceutical company specializing in the treatment of Hepatitis C, to treat its affected Medicaid and prison populations. There are at least 39,000 Louisiana residents suffering from hepatitis C who are either on Medicaid or in prison. The cost of providing treatment for these patients is extremely high, outside of the state’s constrained budget. Asegua Therapeutics has stepped in to offer a solution: providing the state of Louisiana with an unlimited supply of the generic version of the lifesaving hepatitis C drug Epclusa. In return, the state will make fixed monthly payments and give Asegua exclusive access to Louisiana’s Medicaid and corrections markets.  Read More

•  A new survey found that patients would be open to using health-monitoring wearable devices if it means fewer trips to the doctor. Patients had an overwhelming interest in wearables such as Fitbit and the Apple Watch, with over half of the participants leaning towards the idea of using a monitoring device at home. Health care professionals are starting to recognize the convenience and cost savings in telemedicine, but there are still providers that remain unconvinced.  Read More

•  Apple is now selling a glucose monitoring device in its physical retail locations. The health device, called One Drop, integrates with the iPhone and Apple Watch and is yet another way the tech giant is breaking into health care. Free coaching on topics related to managing diabetes is included with the purchase of a One Drop device.  Read More

Each Friday, Signor Goat reports the latest from the week in health care. Check back next Friday for your dose of our little medical corner of health care news. Brought to you by pMD, innovators in charge capture, secure messaging, clinical communication, MIPS registry, and care navigation software.

Here's The Latest in Health Care:

•  According to the American Cancer Society, less than five percent of cancer patients in the US participate in clinical studies, even though doing so could improve care and prolong their lives. There are several common barriers to pursuing clinical trial treatment, including restrictive enrollment parameters, fear of receiving placebos, and insufficient information. Clinical trial navigators who work to locate and help patients understand trial options can help increase the number of cancer patients involved in clinical trial programs and increase their odds of fighting the disease.  Read More

•  CMS is proposing updates to electronic prescribing standards that would ensure secure transmission and expedite prior authorizations by allowing clinicians to complete these transactions online. If and when these standards are finalized, all Medicare Part D plans would be required to support them. The new rule aims to reduce the amount of time it takes for physicians to complete transactions electronically and for patients to receive their medications.  Read More

•  The scientific community has long been working on treatment to counteract the effects of chronic pain. Although a solution may be a long way away, new research has revealed a protein expressed on the surface of nerve cells that could be targeted for drug treatment. Scientists have conducted successful experiments on laboratory mice that showed the potential for reducing neuropathic pain, pain triggered by chronic diseases such as diabetes and multiple sclerosis.  Read More

•  New research from the University of Pittsburgh has ophthalmologists and engineers working to develop a neuromorphic vision system to capture visual information in a new way. Instead of the conventional frame-by-frame image sensing model, this neuromorphic system is based on timings of changes in dynamics of the input signals.  This model, inspired by the human brain, should benefit new technology such as neural prosthetics and self-driving cars. The improved approach will work more efficiently and enhance computational abilities to create technology that seemed impossible years ago.  Read More

Each Friday, Signor Goat reports the latest from the week in health care. Check back next Friday for your dose of our little medical corner of health care news. Brought to you by pMD, innovators in charge capture, secure messaging, clinical communication, MIPS registry, and care navigation software.

Design Thinking: An Empathetic Approach to Innovation article

Design Thinking: An Empathetic Approach to Innovation

The original Apple computer mouse. A children’s toothbrush with a fat, grippy handle. pMD’s secure chat with patients. What do they have in common? They are all prime examples of products born from a thorough design thinking process.

What is Design Thinking?

At its core, design thinking can be defined as a human-centered approach to problem-solving. The process of design thinking is often simplified into five steps: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test.

Design Thinking Model

(source: Stanford

In my discussion, I’ll take a deeper dive into the first two steps (and arguably most important): empathizing with the human and defining the problem.

Empathy and Definition in Design Thinking

What do empathy and problem definition look like in practice?

In 1966, designers were approached to reimagine a children's toothbrush. At the time, all children’s toothbrushes were fairly similar: shorter versions of adult brushes, which were skinny sticks with a brush head. The designers spent a large amount of time simply watching children and adults brush their teeth. What they discovered was revolutionary -- children, unlike adults, gripped the brush with a clenched fist. In contrast, adults displayed increased dexterity and balanced the brush between their fingers. To tackle this difference, the design team created a new toothbrush featuring a thicker handle lined with squishy gel. An adult might not care for the design, but to a child, the thick handle and colorful, grippy gel made all the difference. That model quickly became the best-selling toothbrush worldwide...for the next 18 months. Needless to say, the rest of the market caught on, and now all children’s toothbrushes still feature the same original design elements: a fat handle with grippy gel.

The reason for the success of the children’s toothbrush is that the design team first empathized with the human (“Why is brushing my teeth no fun?!”) before defining the problem they were actually solving (“Why is my toothbrush difficult to use and hold?”). Connecting with the customer is arguably the most important part of design thinking, because without the human connection, designs often miss the mark for real-life use cases.

Design Thinking at pMD: Empathy is #1

Empathy forms the basis of all pMD interactions with customers. In meetings and on support calls, before diving right into what might be wrong or how customers might need our help, we first make sure to check in and ask how their day is going or what exciting plans they have made for the weekend. Talking with customers about their daily life not only shows that we see them as real people with real lives, but these seemingly trivial conversations can also yield intriguing insights into how we can improve our products. For example, when talking with some of our users, we found their day was less than ideal due to an increased amount of time spent playing phone tag with patients. This led to an internal discussion about improving provider communication with patients and ultimately resulted in a new Chat with Patients feature available soon for all users of pMD. Through constant refinement and testing, we eventually created a solution that both providers and patients love. This positive response stems from a deeply-rooted passion for the most important steps of design thinking: empathizing with people and hearing their real problems. At pMD, we wear many hats, but the one that we wear first and most proudly is the hat of empathy. When empathy and design connect, wonderful solutions abound:

Customer Reviews of pMD Chat with Patients

I urge you to challenge convention and speak to your customers on a more personal level. Instead of viewing customers as numbers on a spreadsheet, see them as people that you can help in ways you haven’t yet discovered.

Find out more about pMD's suite of products, which includes our MIPS registry, charge capture, secure messaging, clinical communication, and care navigation software and services, please contact pMD.

Here's The Latest in Health Care:

•  The Cleveland Clinic partnered with Propellar health to find that the use of electronic inhaler monitoring reduced hospital visits for COPD patients by a significant average of 1.2 trips per year. A small sensor was combined with patients’ existing inhaled COPD medication, sending alerts on medication adherence and usage to the patient’s smartphone. The digital medicine data gathered from the study allowed clinicians to receive information on patients’ adherence to their medication regimen, information they were previously unable to objectively monitor.  Read More

•  In an effort to impact public health, Facebook is expanding a feature that helps coordinate blood donations by allowing blood banks and other health care facilities to alert users where there are shortages. The tool will launch in major cities such as San Francisco, Chicago, New York City, Washington D.C., and Baltimore. According to Facebook’s Product Director of Health, one donation of blood can potentially save three lives. Facebook’s goal is to help raise awareness around this problem and make it easier for people to donate blood.  Read More

•  Research shows that spending time outdoors can reduce stress levels, decrease blood pressure, boost mental health, and increase life expectancy. According to the journal Scientific Reports, the recommended amount of time one should spend outside per week is about 120 minutes. People who spent less than 2 hours outside per week exhibited a lesser sense of well-being and did not reap as many health benefits as people who did. This new development has led clinicians to start prescribing nature for their patients, acting as a treatment for stress.  Read More

•  According to a new report by the American Cancer Society, the number of cancer survivors in the U.S. is steadily increasing. Researchers claim that these improvements are most likely due to better screening and treatments. Although survivorship has increased, there are still barriers that cancer patients face after completing treatment. The report found that differences in race, health insurance coverage, and wealth impact challenges patients may have in surviving cancer.  Read More

Each Friday, Signor Goat reports the latest from the week in health care. Check back next Friday for your dose of our little medical corner of health care news. Brought to you by pMD, innovators in charge capture, secure messaging, clinical communication, MIPS registry, and care navigation software.

Here's The Latest in Health Care:

•  An upcoming HIMSS session in Finland will examine the cross-sector collaboration between the pharmaceutical and technology industries and how such a partnership could add tremendous value to improved patient outcomes and experiences. The pharmaceutical industry offers deep knowledge about patient data in addition to scientific expertise, while tech provides ways to capture data and make predictive analytics. However, the differences between the two industries could present a significant barrier to seeing this collaboration work well on a large scale.  Read More

•  According to a new study, two-thirds of health systems in the U.S. are very slow at scaling innovation, and many still do not have a clear definition for the term. A health system’s approach to innovation usually corresponds to its system-level priorities, such as reducing cost or improving patient outcomes. It was also found that less than half of health systems had a formal process or department dedicated to innovation, and some turn to outside organizations such as tech companies to help develop strategies.  Read More

•  A new study from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute found that microplastics have made their way into the deep ocean. After taking samples from up to 3,000 feet deep in the Bay, researchers found that microplastics were widely distributed throughout the surface and deep-water levels, meaning that these microplastics are not just washing off the California Coast, but also coming from other parts of the ocean. The study also found that out of 2,000 fish examined, one in every three has plastic in its stomach. This means that plastic being introduced by humans is also being introduced into the marine food web, ultimately affecting animals that people consume.  Read More

•  Research conducted at the University of Bergen shows that gum disease plays a role in developing Alzheimer’s disease. Results from their study prove that bacteria causing gingivitis can move from the mouth to the brain, producing a protein that destroys nerves cells leading to memory loss. To lower the risk of Alzheimer’s, professionals encourage brushing and flossing your teeth to reduce the presence of these bacteria. Researchers have also developed a new medicine for blocking the harmful enzymes these bacteria excrete, slowing down the progression of Alzheimer’s.  Read More

Each Friday, Signor Goat reports the latest from the week in health care. Check back next Friday for your dose of our little medical corner of health care news. Brought to you by pMD, innovators in charge capture, secure messaging, clinical communication, MIPS registry, and care navigation software.

Health Care Communication: Electronic vs Paper Follow-Up for Millennials article

Follow-Up for Millennials: Paper vs. Electronic Health Care Communication

I am 23 years old and, unfortunately, I have already had my fair share of injuries and medical mishaps. These injuries have led to plenty of urgent care and emergency room visits, several rounds of physical therapy, and even a couple of surgeries. Each of these encounters has been accompanied by some varying amount of post-visit instruction from my health care providers, most commonly in the form of a paper packet. For physical therapy there were exercises, for kidney stones there were instructions on prevention, and with surgery came a list of symptoms to look out for after the operation.

Problems with Paper Patient Education Packets

The paper packets worked fairly well in a couple of regards: I always trusted the information I was getting, I could reference what the physician told me if I had forgotten, and I often had access to helpful diagrams alongside the instruction text. I was, however, very prone to losing or destroying the important yet vulnerable packet and the information it contained. All it took was one spilled cup of coffee, a visit from the overzealous family dog, or a well-meaning mass recycling effort, and I was back to using the internet to guide me or calling up my doctor’s office for information.

These paper packets came with a couple of other flaws. In addition to the extra paper resources used (save the trees!), they didn’t cover every single question that I hadn’t known to ask when I was sitting with the physician. Also, in the event I wanted to share the information with a friend or family member, I would have to find a scanner, to which I normally did not have access. I would usually settle for a photo from my phone sent over text messaging, which was a cumbersome process with a low-quality output. In the end, these packets served a limited purpose for a short amount of time.

Electronic Health Care Communication is Easier for Millennials

What form of communication would have been easier for an injury-prone twenty-something? In my opinion, the top priority is to deliver the information electronically, preferably on a smartphone. That way, I wouldn't lose the information provided by the medical practice and could easily share that information with others. Ideally, I would also have the ability to reach out to the physician in the event of a complication or additional follow up questions.

Of course, it is important that any health care communication tool does not become a hindrance to the physician or inhibit their ability to complete their daily tasks. In the end, I was looking for a mobile application that I could use to reference and share files that also gave me the ability to contact my physician.

Benefits of Communicating Electronically with Patients

The electronic delivery of information has more benefits than simply preventing someone’s dog from eating their post-surgery instruction packet. It also allows patients to access information more relevant to their needs, as well as make information more accessible and more portable. Patients can also have direct access to a knowledgeable health care professional, rather than turning to the dubious activity of searching their symptoms on the internet.

At pMD, we are dedicated to helping overcome communication barriers wherever they exist in health care. We are similarly dedicated to building software, including HIPAA-compliant text messaging with patients, that is up to the usability standards of modern websites and mobile applications. This dedication to quality ensures that everyone is able to use pMD’s software with ease, regardless of their comfort level with technology.  All in all, our goal is to provide more effective communication between patients and health care providers, ultimately resulting in better health outcomes for patients.

Find out more about pMD's suite of products, which includes our MIPS registry, charge capture, secure messaging, clinical communication, and care navigation software and services, please contact pMD.