Medical Communications

Medical Communications: Sharing Knowledge Towards Enabling Effective Healthcare Service Delivery

Medical communications is a general term for the development and production of materials that deal specifically with medicine or healthcare. Scientific and medical communication is essential for all scientific and pharmaceutical business wishing to share their data with the scientific community, healthcare professionals, patients or health authorities.

The need for medical communications in serving the healthcare sectors lies behind the fact of mixing scientific insights with relevant scientific data which are ethically Good Publication Practice (GPP2) guidelines approved. This will create awareness among different communities of healthcare providers along with clients. In addition to this, preparation of medical communication is based on the target audience, who will be the end user of the relevant documents.

Medical writers have expertise in writing, editing, and developing materials related to medicine and health. The tasks include gathering, organizing, interpreting and presenting information in a manner appropriate for the client. Professional medical communicators have communications expertise, awareness of ethical standards and healthcare knowledge. Materials prepared by them, in collaboration with public, private or NGO firms includes: Patient education brochures, News articles, Web content, Books, Journal articles and Education monographs. Besides this, some regulatory documents for submission in government agencies of different countries are also prepared. Preparation of literatures for product promotion, sales training and marketing materials for the pharmaceutical companies constitute vital role in medical communications.

Besides these, there are certain medical communications agencies which provide consultancy services to the pharmaceutical industry, advising them on maximizing the dissemination of the available clinical data and devising campaigns to help the drug gain a slice of the limelight in a crowded marketplace. As far as medical education is considered, the role of medical communication is to advice the company on how best to educate and inform its customers (i.e. doctors, nurses, hospital managers, pharmacists, patients) about the risks and benefits of the therapy using clinical and economic data. All materials must comply with best practice guidelines, as issued by regulatory authorities like European Medical Writers Association and the International society for Medical Publication Professionals.

Health Information and communication technology (HICT) has played key role in delivering the information in very rapid succession. The presence of computers in the examination room has already transformed the traditional patient-doctor relationship from dyadic to triadic. It is now an interaction between the patient, the doctor and the computer.

Searching the World Wide Web for healthcare information is second only to searching for sites related to sex, while multiple forms of social media, now increasingly mobile, are challenging the limits of healthcare providers’ professionalism. Nowadays, physician digital consultation network is gaining popularity along with the use of iPads and Skype are also in routine medical practice. Web based patient support groups, information sites and patient oriented health interventions are also few important medium of communication.

The Good Publication Practice (GPP2) guidelines is framed to maintain ethical practices and comply with current requirements when they contribute to the communication of medical research sponsored by companies. These guidelines apply to peer reviewed journal articles and presentations at scientific congresses.

County Health Department

County Health Department – A Great Resource for Physician Groups and Hospitals

As clinical providers seek ways to improve the health of their patients at the population level, one great resource that they should tap is their county health department. There are many resources and skills that health departments will share with physicians and other providers that will improve their ability to improve the health of their patients.

In my work I have had numerous occasions to collaborate with the chief epidemiologist of the Kent County Health Department of Michigan-Mr. Brian Hartl. Through these contacts and through an introductory epidemiology course I have found that health departments are experts at providing population level health services. This is in contrast to most clinical providers who excel at working with their patients on a face-to-face level. Both staff of physician offices and staff of health departments are concerned with the health of individuals and groups of people.

Clinicians most often work with individuals during face-to-face encounters. They treat the disease or injury of an individual one at a time. For instance, if a physician is treating a patient with hypertension, she will plan a course of treatment with the individual in mind. If the physician considers the population level in her work, then she is looking at how the treatments and instructions that she provides affect a group of her patients. For instance, she may consider how effective she is in treating her patients with hypertension collectively.

The patients of a county health department are the population of the county. Only in a few instances do health departments treat individuals one at a time. Much of their work would not be considered clinical interventions. However, their work does affect the population as a whole. For instance, health departments are responsible for seeing that food at restaurants is handled and cooked correctly. Health departments track reports of communicable disease to identify potential clusters or outbreaks, such as measles, in order to mobilize the community and physician groups to respond and prevent further transmission.

Can these two health groups benefit each other in improving the health of their patients and, if so, how? I recently interviewed Brian Hartl about this and he shared some thoughts that I believe can help clinical providers do a better job. As an expert in population level health, Mr. Hartl sees much of his work as preventive in nature. In the emerging world of population level medicine it is important for physicians and other clinical staff to focus on prevention too-prevention of chronic diseases worsening for patients, such as prevention of patients diagnosed with prediabetes advancing to diabetes, and prevention of teen patients from misusing alcohol and other drugs, including tobacco. The Kent County Health Department has many resources that can help physicians achieve their goal and would be very willing to collaborate with clinical groups. In fact, KCHD currently has a grant whose funds can be used to improve patient opportunities for chronic disease prevention, risk reduction or management through clinical and community linkages.

Mr. Hartl believes there is potential to work together with physicians to establish a system for prescribing healthy living activities and lifestyles as non-clinical interventions for the prevention/management of chronic disease. For instance, the Kent County Health Department is actively engaged in helping communities develop walking paths in underserved areas in the City of Grand Rapids. He thinks that patients with chronic diseases can greatly benefit if they became more active by walking. He is willing to share maps and information about the location of such paths so that a physician can prescribe a walking agenda for a patient and then point them to nearby paths that they can easily access.

The Kent County Health Department is also engaged in working with community partners to bring fresh foods to locations in the county where access to fresh fruits and vegetables is difficult. These are known as ‘food deserts’ and often only have retail food stores that are ‘quick markets’ that have only boxed food, such as those found in many gasoline stations. His group is working with such retailers in the community to overcome the barriers to providing fresh foods. Mr. Hartl is willing to share with physician groups the locations of fresh food sources in the community so that clinicians can inform their patients of the locations and improve their food lifestyles.

These are just two examples of information that the health department is willing to share with clinical groups so that their patients can achieve healthy, active lifestyles. Besides information, health departments also have community contacts that could be useful. For instance, the Kent County Health Department works with the YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids, which has a nationally recognized program (the Diabetes Prevention Program) that helps prevent individuals diagnosed with prediabetes from becoming diabetic. The health department also has links with community educators, the Grand Rapids Urban League and prevention groups that focus on the prevention of the misuse of alcohol and other drugs.

As you can see there are many resources that are available from health departments. Will it be beneficial to clinical providers to access these resources? I believe that accessing these resources will help physicians and other clinical providers greatly improve the quality of life of their patients. Also, it will help in improving the outcomes of patients at the population level. This is very important for groups that have risk-based contracts with private payers and for those who serve patients who are covered by Medicare. According to an article in Modern Healthcare dated January 16, 2015, about 40% of all private payer contracts are incentive based now; those with such contracts need to focus on population level health.

There is a treasure of information at the health department for patient-centered medical homes that have patient care coordinators. One of the responsibilities of these coordinators is inform their patients of community resources that would be useful to them. The health department is an excellent source of such information.

The goals of healthcare providers remains to provide safe and high quality care to their patients while their management staff work to improve the bottom line. With the rise of risk based contracts that dictate managing care at the population level, I believe that county health departments can do a great deal to help providers meet their goals.

How To Recognise A Reliable EMR Company

How To Recognise A Reliable EMR Company

Having an Electronic Medical Record (EMR) system in place is becoming an essential component of the modern medical practice, with benefits of this type of system ranging from improved patient care to better doctor-patient relationships and greater productivity.

As a result, there are many different systems on the market today, each one offering a number of specific benefits to their professional clients. Although choosing a good system is essential to getting better results at your medical practice, selecting a reputable and reliable company to provide that system is also of critical importance.

Choosing good EMR companies is important as it is not only the system or software which needs to be of a high standard, but also the accompanying services which you will no doubt need when facing the every day pressures of running an efficient medical practice.

Firstly, it is important that the EMR company that you choose to purchase a solution from has an in-depth understanding of the issues that medical practitioners face on a regular basis, especially when trying to maintain accurate and up-to-date medical records or when using traditional medical scribes.

The best EMR companies will be those that understand the working practices of a medical center and how revenue, productivity and workflow can be affected by the presence of a medical scribe or by the use of hand written medical notes rather than a reliable electronic system.

If the individuals who have created the system themselves have no medical experience, look for a company that has an advisory board of trusted medical professionals so that you can be sure that the service you are investing in was created for medical professionals by medical professionals.

The service provider’s knowledge should not be limited to their understanding of the challenges that medical practitioners face, however. In addition to this, they should also offer the benefit of excellent technical knowledge regarding the electronic medical record system used.

In some cases, top companies will use the most advanced cloud-based systems ensuring a very high level of reliability that supports the rapid recovery of data in the event of a catastrophic failure. A company that offers not only understanding of the challenges of your profession but also knows how to deliver an expertly crafted electronic solution will provide you with the best results.

It is advisable to also look for a company that offers an excellent technical support service. Whilst the team at the EMR company should have a high level of technical knowledge, it is a red flag if they expect you to have a similar level of knowledge too. Look for a service provider that can assist you every step of the way, right from your initial inquiry.

The reason for this is that all electronic systems will suffer from some kind of failure at some point, at which time you will need rapid and efficient technical support to solve the problem as soon as possible. Failure to solve issues quickly can not only lead to disastrous practical consequences in your day to day medical activities, but also can damage your professional reputation.

Lastly, look for a company that has a good reputation with other medical professionals. There is nothing worth quite as much as a personal recommendation, so asking a trusted colleague about the best EMR companies from their point of view can help you find a reliable company a great deal quicker.

Finding a reliable provider of a quality electronic medical record system does not have to be a difficult task, but care should be taken before making a final decision on the best solution. Look for a team of creators with expert medical and technical knowledge, and a great technical support team. Finally, do not hesitate to seek out reviews and recommendations from other medical practitioners.

Electronic Medical Record System

The Features To Look For When Investing In An Electronic Medical Record System

Keeping accurate and up-to-date medical records for a large number of patients can be the bane of any medical practitioner’s life. Not only are these professionals tasked with attending to the needs of many different patients each and every day, but the additional administrative duties that need to be fulfilled are often time-consuming and arduous.

The invention of the electronic patient record system has meant that it is now easier than ever before for doctors to handle this kind of task. There are many benefits to this type of system, including saved time, a positive impact on doctor-patient relationships, increased productivity at the medical practice and much, much more.

When selecting an electronic medical record system to implement in a doctor’s practice, however, there are a few particular features to look out for that can be particularly advantageous. Whereas it is true that there are many great options on the market of this kind of system, each one has its own merits and downfalls, and each one will have distinct differences.

The first thing to look for is an electronic patient record that keeps an accurate record of patient data over time. This is vital as it will provide at a glance not only the most recent information about the patient that has been entered into the system, but also will show up any major changes or developments in the health of the individual.

Ideally, this information should be presented in a format that is both quick to read and easy to understand. When bringing up this information on a computer during an appointment with a patient, it is vital that time is not wasted trawling through large volumes of data to find the information needed.

Instead, a good electronic patient record system will make all the necessary data easily accessible in order for the doctor to draw relevant information from it. When choosing a system, care should be taken to verify that this usability is present in the software and that medical practitioners at the particular practice will find it easy to use.

Secondly, look for a system that does not require excellent penmanship. Whereas writing out information clearly and legibly by hand can be a long and sometimes arduous process – and can result in errors – a good system will allow information to be entered easily with basic typing skills.

Some record systems will also have shortcuts that will also make data input much easier. This means that all staff can quickly and easily update the records as and when they need to. All the data is centralized too, meaning all members of staff at the practice can view it as and when they need to.

It is beneficial to also look for a record system that sends alerts and reminders for when a particular patient needs to attend preventive visits, vaccinations and screenings. This can also show missed appointments and missed screenings, which again makes sure that nothing is forgotten and that patients receive the highest standard of care and attention.

Lastly, a good electronic patient record system will make sure that a patient’s vitals are also monitored to track changes in health over an extended period of time. Information that can be included on these records can comprise blood pressure, vaccinations, temperature and much more.

All of these features can be considered essential in order to get the most out of your new electronic medical record system. It is therefore worth looking for these specifically if you decide to invest in such a system for your medical practice. In addition to those listed above, search for features that you believe will benefit you, your staff and your patients.

Insights Into Predictive Analytics and Population Level Health

Insights Into Predictive Analytics and Population Level Health

In the introduction to the November 2014 issue of HealthLeaders the editor states that “individual hospitals and health systems can analyze their own data sets to find opportunities to save money and provide more effective care for individuals or groups of patients.” I have found in my work with data that there are tremendous opportunities for healthcare providers to greatly improve the lives of patients while using fewer resources through the use of predictive analytics and population level management systems. By examining data from a global or population level and using predictive statistics to identify key performance indicators providers can improve the outcomes for many of their patients.

What are the key processes that can provide such success in providing high value outcomes? I would like to illustrate how a health system can leverage data to improve care. Much can be done with basic databases and advanced statistical analysis. A system does not need to invest in expensive IT solutions to achieve good results, although for larger systems such an investment would be worthwhile, I believe.

The first step is to set goals for the analysis and population level management. It is not enough just to collect data and present it to physicians. The goals should also include action steps. One goal, for example, could be to prevent patients of primary care physicians identified as being prediabetic from progressing to type 2 diabetes. This goal identifies a population-patients with prediabetes-and an action-keeping the patients from advancing to type 2 diabetes.

Goals should focus on preventive activities or strategies. These can be at the primary level, secondary level or tertiary level. Primary preventions strategies try to prevent the occurrence of disease or increasing resistance to disease. An example of this is having as many patients as possible have flu vaccinations. Another is counseling teens to avoid smoking and using alcohol.

Secondary prevention strategies seek to identify indicators or test results in patients that would predict the likelihood of developing a disease. For instance, a provider group could try to identify all patients with hypertension in order to provide services to prevent coronary disease or strokes.

Tertiary prevention strategies seek to prevent more serious outcomes for patients with serious conditions, such as type 2 diabetes. The goal here is help patients manage their condition so as to keep them from needing emergency medical help or from being readmitted to a hospital.

Once a goal(s) is set, a healthcare system needs to collect baseline data for future reference in data analytics. For instance, for systems with a goal of keeping patients with prediabetes from developing type 2 diabetes, data should be collected that indicates what percentage of their prediabetics developed diabetes. One could look at data over a one year period or a shorter time if the patient population of prediabetics is large enough. Another approach to this goal that would generate more useful data would be to track the fasting glucose level of patients with prediabetes. Such data would indicate how variable this measure is in patients, which would be an accurate indicator of how well patients and physicians are reducing the level of this indicator or at least keep it from getting worse.

As data is being collected and analyzed for variability and trends, clinicians along with support staff such as nurse coordinators should determine a variety of prevention strategies that can be employed to improve the outcomes. Administration should be involved in these decisions as their input on the costs of providing such services is important, especially in a value-based reimbursement environment. Strategies can be drawn from best practices research and from insights gained from clinician experience.

It is important that several strategies be employed concurrently in the designed prevention services. From the perspective of data analytics trying one strategy at a time provides much less predictive power than employing several at a time. Analyzing the interaction of several strategies through complex analysis provides much more useful information that can be used to provide better care.

For instance, strategies for the treatment of prediabetics could include having patients test their glucose level every three months, referring the patient to nutrition services if their payer will cover it or if there is a nutritionist on staff, have the patient join the YMCA as the Y has a nationally recognized diabetes prevention program that will work with physicians and providers, and have the patient keep a journal of their diet and exercise. Patients can even be asked to report selections from their journals through a patient portal, as directed by their physician.

After a sufficient data is collected as determined by a data analysis professional, it should be analyzed to determine what progress is being made in achieving the set goals. Using predictive analytics not only can progress be determined but also the most effective strategies or treatments can be identified that lead to the outcomes being measured. For instance, in the prediabetic example it may be determined that the best strategies are having the patient join the YMCA preventive program, report on his/her progress through a patient portal and interact with the nurse coordinator after each of the glucose tests.

Once the predictive analytic results are in the information should be shared with the clinical staff, including physicians. The results should be discussed in a group setting and ways to implement the new findings of the analysis should be discussed. Not all clinicians may be on board to modify the care that they provide but if several are then their progress in providing better care can be shared in future meetings. This will be very useful in motivating other physicians and staff to adopt the recommended changes, especially if the data from the clinicians adopting the recommended changes show success in their prevention work.

The work on providing improved care is not completed after the implementation of strategies shown to be effective by predictive analytics. Data should continue to be collected. Long-term data collection can provide refined strategies that deliver even better results. Plus, research and experience may identify new strategies that can produce even better care outcomes with improved savings for the providers. These new strategies can be implemented and after a period of time data analysis can indicate whether such strategies are effective for the providers. A word of caution, even though research of effective treatment by scientists and providers may show a strategy generally effective, it may not be in a given care setting. The strategy may not match the skill set of the providers, for instance.

In summary, a well-defined program of predictive data analytics and population health management can produce much better outcomes for the patient and the providers. The steps of collecting baseline data, identifying several strategies implemented concurrently, the continuation of data collection, the analysis of the data and the implementation of the best strategies as identified in the analysis should be carefully followed for optimum results. As payers such as Medicare base more of their reimbursement on the achievement of certain population level outcomes it is very important for healthcare systems to adopt the strategies that I have identified.