The March 2013 Issue

NotifyMD to Sponsor Medical Call Center News

Call center e-newsletter garners the exclusive support from industry leader

Peter DeHaan announced that NotifyMD, enhancing provider-patient communications for over a quarter of a century, has become the exclusive sponsor of Medical Call Center News (MCCN). MCCN is a bimonthly email publication of Peter DeHaan Publishing Inc., in conjunction with AnswerStat magazine. MCCN and AnswerStat provide valuable information to the healthcare call center and medical contact center industry.

AnswerStat magazine and Peter DeHaan Publishing salutes NotifyMD for their grand support of Medical Call Center News,” stated Peter DeHaan, publisher of MCCN. “NotifyMD is an industry leader, advancing communication between healthcare providers and patients. We are honored to have a company of this caliber affirm the value of Medical Call Center News through their exclusive and enthusiastic support.”

MCCN, now in its fifth year of publication, has enjoyed enthusiastic reader support and continued growth each year. For more information, go to Medical Call Center News.

Since 1986, NotifyMD has worked with healthcare providers to help them overcome patient communication difficulties. Throughout the years, NotifyMD has evolved to meet the challenges facing healthcare providers, expanding their services to include appointment scheduling, complete virtual receptionist services, patient outreach, and patient acquisition. NotifyMD provides HIPAA-compliant, medical only, live-voice and automated communication services by phone, email, and secure text for thousands of providers in all fifty states.

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 Why I’m Willing to Wait for Dessert

By Peter DeHaan, PhD

Peter DeHaan, publisher and editorCraving dessert is a habit my wife, “The Queen of Desserts,” cultivated in me. She claims, however, my affection for sweets was ingrained in me before we met.

When eating at home, I pace myself through the meal in expectation of a tasty treat at the end. At restaurants, oversize proportions and my training to clean my plate leaves no room for my preferred conclusion to a meal. So I decline the dessert menu.

I’ve often joked that someday I’ll order dessert first. After all, if the world were to end halfway through my meal, I wouldn’t want to die with a stomach full of salad but void of dessert.

But events require a proper order.

You can’t receive a prize before you win the race. You can’t win the race before you run. And you can’t run before you start. Plus, if you’re wise, you won’t start before you practice.

This applies to most things in life. We want the easy way, but satisfaction takes time. We desire the reward but often want to skip the requisite work.

While I like dessert, I know a diet of only sweets is unhealthy, unwise, and unsustainable. So I’m willing to eat my vegetables first.

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Easier Access to After-Hours Care Linked to Less Emergency Department Use

One in five Americans report difficulty reaching primary care practice after hours

Patients with problems reaching their primary care practice after hours are more likely to report ending up in the emergency department or going without needed medical care, according to a study by the Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC) published by Health Affairs.

Funded by the National Institute for Health Care Reform, the study is the first to use a nationally representative sample to describe the US population’s access to after-hours care via people’s usual primary care practice. In the study, HSC senior fellow Ann S. O’Malley, MD, MPH, analyzed data from HSC’s 2010 Health Tracking Household Survey related to the 9,577 respondents who reported having a usual source of care.

The study, detailed in a Health Affairs’ article titled “After-Hours Access to Primary Care Practices Linked with Lower Emergency Department Use and Less Unmet Medical Need,” found that of the 9,577 people with a usual source of care, 1,470 reported trying to contact their primary care practice after hours in the previous twelve months. Of the 1,470 people who tried to contact their practice, 20.8 percent reported it was “very difficult” or “somewhat difficult” to reach a clinician after hours.

After adjusting for age, health status, and other factors, the study found that people reporting more difficulty in contacting their primary care practice after hours were significantly more likely to report an emergency department visit or going without needed medical care compared to those who described their after-hours access experience as “not at all difficult” or “not too difficult.”

In particular, those who reported more difficulty accessing after-hours care had higher rates of emergency department use (37.7 percent versus 30.4 percent for those with less difficulty) and higher rates of unmet medical need (13.7 percent versus 6.1 percent).

“The findings indicate that increased support for primary care practices to arrange for accessible after-hours care – whether by phone, email, or in person – has the potential to reduce rates of emergency department use and unmet medical needs,” O’Malley said.

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Common Causes of Memory Slips

When memory seems to slip, many older people wonder if they are sliding into Alzheimer’s disease. Most of the time, the cause of that forgetfulness is something more common and easily remedied. For example, stress can contribute to memory slips. In fact, stress is one of the four horsemen of forgetfulness in aging brains, along with anxiety, depression, and sleep deprivation, reports the February 2013 Harvard Men’s Health Watch.

Disturbances in mood and sleep are among the most common causes of memory problems in adults. Stress and anxiety make it harder to concentrate and retain new information. Depression can cripple memory, and so can alcohol consumption. Some medications can interfere with memory, as well as some medical conditions.

A conversation with a doctor can help pinpoint the cause of memory slips – especially if the change is sudden or uncharacteristic. “If it’s worse than it was a few months ago, or somebody is asking you about it, that would definitely be something to see a doctor about,” says Dr. Anne Fabiny, chief of geriatrics at Cambridge Health Alliance and an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Sometimes it’s useful to just give your brain a break. “As you get older, it may become more difficult to maintain a high level of attention for several things at once,” Dr. Fabiny says. “Dividing your attention can definitely cause you to think you are having memory problems.”

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Few Americans Switch Employer Health Plans for Better Quality, Lower Costs

Workers switching health plans drops from 1 in 6 in 2003 to 1 in 8 in 2010

Less than 2.5 percent of nonelderly Americans in 2010 with employer coverage – about the same proportion as in 2003 – initiated a change in health plans to reduce their health insurance costs or get a better quality plan, 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).

Overall, about one in eight (12.8 percent) people younger than sixty-five with employer coverage switched health plans in 2010 – down from one in six (17.2 percent) in 2003, the study found.

As was true in 2003, about 5 percent of people with employer coverage switched plans in 2010 because of a job change. However, the proportion of people changing plans for other reasons fell from 12 percent in 2003 to 7.5 percent in 2010.

Of the 7.5 percent who changed plans in 2010 for reasons other than a job change, most switched plans because of a change in their employer’s benefit offerings (62.7 percent). The other third of plan changes were worker initiated – usually to obtain a less expensive plan or a better quality plan. Among nonelderly people with employer coverage, 2.3 percent changed plans in 2010 in search of better quality or lower costs.

“These findings suggest that consumer choice plays a relatively small role in health plan switching, with most changes resulting from job changes or changes in employers’ plan offerings,” said study author Peter J. Cunningham, PhD, HSC senior fellow, and director of quantitative research.

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Stop the Physician Burnout Epidemic: Tools to Lower Doctor Stress Levels

Over 117 ways healthcare organizations can keep doctors engaged and enjoying medicine

With physician burnout at epidemic levels and a wave of newly insured patients on the way, physicians and healthcare organizations are stretched to the breaking point. The Physician Burnout Prevention Matrix Report from Dike Drummond, MD, CEO of TheHappyMD.com, was developed in response to this crisis in the front lines of healthcare. This free report is a comprehensive resource for methods to lower stress, prevent burnout, and create a healthier workplace for physicians and staff. The report is the playbook for a balanced approach to physician wellness with tools for both individual doctors and organizations.

Research shows that an average of one in three physicians suffers from burnout on any given office day and, in a 2012 study, 60 percent of doctors said they would quit if they “had the means.” Healthcare organizations are struggling to keep the doctors healthy and patients happy. Adding to these pressures, the implementation of the Affordable Care Act is projected to produce a physician shortage of 91,500 by 2020.

“These days physicians are often “the canary in the coal mine of medicine,” and that has to change. The most successful healthcare organizations in the years ahead will be those who take excellent care of their providers and staff. These organizations will understand that physician satisfaction is the only true foundation for consistent patient satisfaction,” Drummond says.

TheHappyMD.com is the premier source of tools and training to reduce doctors’ stress levels, prevent burnout, and optimize the physician experience.

 

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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.