May 27, 2011

Doctors' Use of Email and Social Media : Guidelines

Tens of Thousands of Indian doctors are using the internet, efficiently and otherwise. From search rankings to blogs and community building to branding, the internet has brought up new ways to communicating and researching. Here are the links to a few helpful guidelines to help doctors navigate the online world.

Doctor-Patient Email Communications is a growing trend and hard to underestimate. Very often, physicians are unsure of the limits and liabilities of conducting medical communication via email. Luckily the American Medical association has long back issued a set of practical guidelines to follow

Social Media is now being widely used by doctors as well as patients. All doctors even remotely on social media face many ethical and moral questions regarding online physician-patient relationships. Recently, the AMA posted some guidelines for Doctors use of social media tools in a professional capacity. Even the Australian and New Zealand Medical Associations have come out with their combined effort on this dilemma. Here’s the link to the Physician Social Media Guidebook (a 14 page pdf you can download/ view online). It is one of the most practical and useful guide of its kind online.

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May 24, 2011

Doing More With EMRs: What Are The Top Reasons For Failure?

Electronic Medical Records hold a lot of promise. When used well, EMRs decrease drug errors, streamline work flow, assist in clinical decisions and allow efficient accounting. At the same time, EMRs chosen without proper thought and assessment can cause long term pains. The really restrictive EMRs won't even let you shift medical data elsewhere and healthcare providers maybe stuck with outdated EMRs soon after buying them.

EMR failures are most often a cause of one or more of the following four reasons
  • Technical EMR implementation failures, because of issues with hardware/ software combination or wireless connectivity issues;
  • Financial failures, where the expected EMR ROI wasn’t realized, or the costs were significantly more than expected;
  • Software incompatibility issues, where the EMR system didn’t interface with an existing medical practice management system; and
  • People-related issues, where some physicians or staff members avoid training or simply refuse to use the EMR system. 
Making an EMR work for a healthcare provider needs work before, during and after installation of an EMR system. When choosing an EMR system, Ignore the bells and whistles and Look at the nuts and bolts.

May 16, 2011

The 10 Most Innovative Companies in Healthcare '2011

Here's a list of 10 most innovative companies in health care ( as per Fast Company), working to provide simple but effective technology solutions in healthcare.

1) Epocrates

For creating software that gives doctors and nurses instant information on drug-to-drug interactions, treatment recommendations, and more on their mobile devices or laptops.

2) SynCardia Systems

For giving mobility to artificial-heart recipients. Syncardia makes the world's only FDA-approved completely artificial heart. During a ten-year study for the FDA, 79 percent of patients successfully lived on the man-made heart until receiving a human heart transplant.

3) Voxiva

For developing mobile apps that coach users through everything from smoking cessation to diabetes management. The company recently worked with the U.S. government to launch Text4Baby, a mobile education program for pregnant women, and its work in poor countries like Rwanda has been a lifeline.

4) Cleveland Clinic

For rethinking the entire hospital experience, from the buildings to the hospital gown, with an eye to delivering a better patient experience. Ombudsman complaints dropped over 40% last year (versus 2009), patient satisfaction scores have gone up, and medical outcomes have been better across the board.

5) SafePoint

For providing a solution for one of the most intractable global health care issues: reused syringes, which render most injections in India, Pakistan, and Africa--and a growing number in the U.S.--unsafe and sometimes fatal. Inventor Marc Koska's low-cost syringe can't be reused--one use, it locks in place. Now, after eight years in the marketplace, Koska has licensing agreements with 14 countries and SafePoint's global awareness campaigns have reached over 500 million people.

6) Envoy Medical

For creating the first FDA-approved surgically implanted hearing system to address hearing loss caused by aging, noise and viral infections. Placed under the skin behind the ear, the Envoy device comprises a sound processor, sensor, and driver that convert vibrations in the ear into electrical signals that are processed so they're perceived as sound.

7) GE

For promising to revolutionize diagnosis with the Vscan, a mobile, pocket-size ultrasound machine the size of an iPod, connected to short wand. It works just like the bulky conventional ultrasound machine, providing an instant visual image (in color or black and white) inside the body, beyond a patient's vital signs.

8) PharmaSecure

For coming up with cost-effective protection against counterfeit drugs, which are especially prevalent in developing nations. Each individual drug package is stamped with a unique code and phone number. Consumers submit the code via text message, and PharmaSecure confirms the drug's authenticity. The service launched last year and is currently being used in India, where the government has moved to mandate the technology.

9) Neurovigil

For building a database of brainwave activity to help researchers recognize disease patterns in people affected by neural or nervous system maladies. The company's iBrain headband, worn at night, uses wireless electrodes to capture brainwaves. NeuroVigil's software interprets the data to produce a map of activity during sleep that's richer than anything previously available.

10) Second Sight Medical Products

For its ground-breaking retinal-implant technology, which recently hit the European market. FDA approval is pending.

You can also see the last year's list:

May 6, 2011

Indian Medical Association Plans Programs to Make Members Tech Savvy

The potential of improving Healthcare quality by proper use of technology is immense.Recent advances in information technology offer clinicians valuable new tools to support the medical management of patients. HIT has the potential to enable a dramatic transformation in the delivery of health care, making it safer, more effective, and more efficient.

The national unit of the Indian Medical Association (IMA) has decided to make its two lakh members across the country, especially senior medical practitioners, more tech savvy. The National vice-president of IMA, Dr Devendra Shirole says,Short contact programs of four days will be organized at all local branches of the IMA. Doctors will be trained on how to use information technology for the betterment of medical profession and patents’ data collection.” He said the doctors will be also trained on using e-books in their daily practice.

The IMA will launch this project initially in Maharashtra and the inauguration will take place in Mumbai. Groups, formed for research purposes, will use information technology to study diseases and viruses.To undertake this vast project, talks are on with software companies to provide trainings and technical support, as well as help IMA build web pages for the same.

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May 5, 2011

Impact of Use of Healthcare Information Technology on Environment

Optimum use of technology in healthcare can work wonders on many parameters. It improves patient safety. It streamlines use of hospital resources. It betters regulatory compliance. Patient satisfaction and physician efficiency is increased.But there's another parameter which has never been measured before : Impact of use of healthcare information technology on environment.

An analysis by Kaiser Permanente shows that use of health information technology can dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and produce other important environmental savings.The analysis found that comprehensive use of health IT by Kaiser Permanente:

  • Avoided the use of 1,044 tons of paper for medical charts annually
  • Eliminated up to 92,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions by replacing face-to-face patient visits (and the associated travel) with virtual visits
  • Avoided 7,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions by filling prescriptions online
  • Reduced the use of toxic chemicals, such as silver nitrate and hydroquinone, by 33.3 tons by digitizing and archiving X-ray images and other scans
  • Resulted in a positive net effect on the environment despite increased energy use and additional waste from the use of personal computer

Though paper based records are legally still required in India (for 5 to 15 years, depending on type of record and location of institution), the numerous benefits of health IT and use of electronic medical records by hospitals and physicians cannot be ignored.
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