The March 2012 Issue

Ambs Call Center to Sponsor Medical Call Center News

Medical Call Center News (MCCN) is pleased to announce that Ambs Call Center is now the exclusive sponsor of the popular bimonthly newsletter. “Ambs Call Center is a professional outsource call center that offers efficient and effective service,” noted MCCN publisher, Peter DeHaan. “We are proud to be associated with them in producing Medical Call Center News. Quite simply, Ambs Call Center makes Medical Call Center News possible.”

Ambs Call Center focuses on providing highly customized solutions to all of its clients in the healthcare industry, offering medical answering service, telephone triage, physician referral, appointment setting and reminders, and health surveys.

Ambs is a medium-sized call center, which means that they are large enough to deploy the latest technologies and handle excessive call volumes but small enough to personally know their clients. Throughout its long history, Ambs Call Center has been committed to providing the highest quality communication services to its clients at a reasonable cost.

For more information, contact Aaron Boatin, vice president, at 800-214-3884, aaron@ambs.info, or visit www.ambscallcenter.com.

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Home Care Software Solutions Releases EDI Smart Reader

Home Care Software Solutions, Inc., released EDI Smart Reader™, a tool that converts HIPAA 5010 277CA and 999 responses into human readable format. Among other applications, the tool will be useful for call centers involved in processing medical billing for clients.

The conversion by Medicare to the HIPAA 5010 format on January 1, 2012, resulted in updated response files that require time-consuming decoding to understand. The EDI Smart Reader software converts response files into an easy-to-read-and-understand format that includes error and rejection reasons, allowing Medicare claim billers to quickly correct claims and resubmit.

“The response from medical billing companies and home health agencies during beta testing was so positive that we decided to offer this product to any medical provider, independent of our flagship software, CareSmart AMS™,” according to Jana Barile, president of Home Care Software Solutions. “EDI Smart Reader is simple, powerful, and more importantly, affordable.”

Home Care Software Solutions, Inc. provides software and billing solutions to home health, hospice, and medical providers.

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Upcoming Telephone Triage Seminars

Telephone Triage Consulting presents “Telephone Triage as Professional Nursing Practice: Improve Quality & Reduce Risk”:

  • April 16-17, 2012 – Embassy Suites Bloomington, Bloomington, MN 55431
  • April 19-20, 2012 – Crowne Plaza Chicago-Northbrook, Northbrook, IL 60062
  • April 23-24, 2012 – Four Points Sheraton BWI Airport, Baltimore, MD 21240
  • April 26-27, 2012 – Embassy Suites Philadelphia Airport, Philadelphia, PA 19153

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Remote Interpretation Applications in Healthcare

By Liz Elting

The healthcare applications of remote interpreting services are numerous.

Imagine heading to the pharmacy to purchase medicine and not being able to ask an important question about drug interaction because the pharmacist doesn’t speak your language. Or, if you are trying to find critical drug information by calling your health insurance company’s patient support line and the person who answers your call can’t understand you. How would you feel? Would you feel safe taking the new medication?

Consider a pharmaceutical company conducting trials around the world that needs to be accessible to patients 24 hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week in the case of drug interactions or complications. Using remote interpreters, company representatives and trial participants can be connected in moments no matter what the language needs are.

For hospitals, remote interpreting allows receptionists, nurses, and doctors to correctly diagnose and treat patients with limited English. Remote interpreting companies provide the hospital with a guide on how to determine what language a patient speaks and then connects them with the appropriate interpreter through a call center.

As the market segment in the US that does not speak fluent English grows, the need for remote interpreting services will continue to expand. Any customer-facing healthcare organization can increase their market by having the ability to communicate with every potential customer.

Liz Elting is the co-founder and CEO of TransPerfect.

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20 Hospitals with Inspiring Social Media Strategies

Hospitals and social media are a great mix, offering a wealth of opportunities for connecting with the community, with patients, and even collaborating across health systems and between different hospitals. Some medical groups are wary of the liability and privacy issues that social media may open up, but others have found ways to manage these concerns and enjoy the benefits of using social media. First on the list is Mayo Clinic.

The Mayo Clinic has long been an online resource for medical information, with a website that offers advice and expertise from more than 3,300 medical professionals for free, so it’s not at all surprising that the medical group has been successful in social media. In an interview with Med City News, the Mayo Clinic was named the “poster child for healthcare social media” with social media chief Lee Aase at the helm. The Mayo Clinic has its own social media network where patients can connect, several health promotion campaigns, including “Know Your Numbers,” which promotes heart health, and a healthy presence on just about every social media outlet available, including YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook. Even Mayo Clinic doctors are encouraged to take part in social media. The clinic has been so successful in social media, in fact, that they are the hosts of the Health Care Social Media Summit, most recently held in October 2011 with 375 attendees and a buzz reaching about 100 tweets per hour.

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One in Five American Families Struggled to Pay Medical Bills in 2010

More than one in five American families had problems paying medical bills in 2010, about the same proportion as in 2007, according to a national study recently released by the Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC), funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF).

While problems paying medical bills stabilized in recent years, the proportion of Americans with medical bill problems remained significantly higher in 2010 compared with 2003 – 20.9 percent versus 15.1 percent – according to findings from HSC’s 2010 Health Tracking Household Survey, a nationally representative survey with information on 17,000 people.

Many people in 2010 experienced severe financial consequences from their medical debt, with about two-thirds reporting problems paying for other necessities and a quarter considering bankruptcy, the study found.

“Given the recession, the sluggish recovery and healthcare costs continuing to increase faster than incomes, it’s a bit surprising that the rate of medical bill problems didn’t increase,” said HSC Senior Researcher Anna Sommers, PhD, coauthor of the study with Peter J. Cunningham, PhD, HSC director of quantitative research. “The steady rate of medical bill problems may be a byproduct of decreased use of medical care – both by people who lost jobs and health insurance during the recession and others who cut back on medical care in the face of uncertain economic times.”

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Heart Medications Only Help When Taken

People take their prescribed medications for chronic conditions such as heart disease only about half the time. This high rate of “nonadherence” leads to an estimated 125,000 preventable deaths in the United States each year and costs the healthcare system between $100 and $300 billion annually. The February 2012 issue of the Harvard Heart Letter looked at this problem and offered practical tips on how to ensure that people take the medications they need when they should be taking them.

Cost is one barrier, of course, but so are complicated dosing regimens, hassles in getting prescriptions filled, and side effects. The February Heart Letter offers some hurdle-clearing ideas:

  • Cost: When you get a new prescription, check with your health plan to make sure it’s the lowest-cost option available. If not, talk with your doctor. Also, take advantage of free medication programs sponsored by pharmaceutical companies and the discount plans at large retailers and pharmacies.
  • Complexity: If you take several medications with different dosing schedules, talk with your doctor about how to streamline your medication regimen. Also, recent studies have shown that using mail-order pharmacies can improve medication adherence, presumably through convenience and cost advantages.
  • Side effects: Heart medications come with non-life-threatening but bothersome side effects, including fatigue, nausea, coughing, and muscle pain. Both doctors and pharmacists can offer effective strategies to ease side effects, but only if you talk with them about it.

Read the full-length article: “Medications Help the Heart — If You Take Them

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Recession Accelerated Decline of Employer Health Coverage

Between 2007 and 2010, the share of U.S. children and working-age adults with employer-sponsored health insurance dropped 10 percentage points from 63.6 percent to 53.5 percent, according to a new national study by the Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC) for the nonpartisan, nonprofit National Institute for Health Care Reform (NIHCR).

The enormous loss of employment – the proportion of people younger than sixty-five with no workers in the family jumped 10 percentage points to 31.6 percent in 2010 – was the key driver of the decline in employer health coverage. This accounted for about three-quarters of the drop since 2007, according to findings from HSC’s 2010 Health Tracking Household Survey, a nationally representative survey with information on 13,595 non-elderly people.

However, well before the start of the recession in December 2007, a steady decline of employer health coverage was underway, with fewer firms offering coverage and fewer workers choosing coverage – likely because of rising healthcare costs, the study found. While overshadowed by the massive employment loss, declines in access and take up each explain more than 10 percent of the total drop in employer coverage between 2007 and 2010, according to the study.

“What’s happened to employer-sponsored health insurance in recent years is akin to an acute illness aggravating a chronic condition,” said Chapin White, PhD, an HSC senior researcher and coauthor of the study with HSC Senior Fellow James D. Reschovsky, PhD. “The acute illness – the sluggish economy and weak employment situation – likely will resolve at some point, but the underlying chronic condition – rising healthcare costs – likely will persist.”

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ATA 2012 – 17th Annual International Meeting & Exposition

The American Telemedicine Association’s Annual International Meeting & Exposition will be held April 29 through May 1 at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, California.

The Educational Program at the ATA Annual Meeting is based on peer-reviewed research and presentations related to specialty areas within the broad field of telemedicine. Thousands of healthcare professionals have received telemedicine training by attending ATA’s Annual Meeting each year, listening to presentations, and networking with experts and others leaders in the field.

This year, the education program has been built around five macro focus areas: Business, Finance, and Economics; Model Programs and Best Practices; Scientific Research, Outcomes, and Evidence; Innovative Applications; and Public Policy. These programmatic themes guide the entire program, and are addressed in all the educational tracks.

The ATA 2012 Educational Program features diverse topics for the up-to-date healthcare professional. The program contains over 450 peer-reviewed presentations, exploring an array of topics related to telemedicine, telehealth, mHealth, and remote medical technologies. Presentations are organized into nine thematic educational tracks: Clinical Services, Model Programs, Operations and Business, Pediatric Telehealth Colloquium, Industry Executive Roundtables, Public Policy, Remote Monitoring, Technology: Telemedicine & HIT, and Telemental Health.

For more info, go to www.americantelemed.org.

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Exercise Combats Parkinson’s Disease

Early symptoms of Parkinson’s, a brain disease, includes tremors, a shuffling gait, and an overall slowing of physical movement. Yet exercise may be one of the best – and most underutilized – ways of combating the condition, according to the March 2012 Harvard Health Letter.

Several prospective studies that followed tens of thousands of people for many years have shown a correlation between exercise earlier in life and a reduced chance of developing Parkinson’s later on. Exercising in your thirties and forties – decades before Parkinson’s typically occurs – may reduce the risk of getting Parkinson’s disease by about 30 percent, notes the Health Letter.

Physical activity is often part of the recommended treatment for Parkinson’s, especially early in the disease. Dr. Edward Wolpow, a neurologist at Harvard-affiliated Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and a member of the Health Letter’s editorial board, urges his patients with early Parkinson’s to work on building up their strength, balance, and endurance, “because they will be needed later on.”

Patients often receive targeted physical therapy, but they may also benefit from many other types of exercise and overall physical fitness. Exercise – especially if it’s aerobic and gets the heart beating faster – seems to have a protective effect on brain tissue. There are fewer findings specific to Parkinson’s, but studies have found that patients with the disease who are in good cardiovascular shape score better on cognitive and muscle control tests and may live longer.

 

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About Peter DeHaan

Peter DeHaan is the president of Peter DeHaan Publishing, Inc., (http://peterdehaanpublishing.com) the publisher and editor of Connections Magazine and AnswerStat, and editor of Article Weekly.

Peter DeHaan’s personal website (http://peterdehaan.com) contains information and links to his blogs, newsletter, and social media pages.