Friday, September 26, 2014

How Technology Can Help You Manage Your Health.

Have you ever wanted to be able to check your vital signs without seeing your doctor?  Now, you can because of new digital technology that makes it all possible.  Other tasks that may be fulfilled are home tests, as well as, the ability to access their medical information.  This is extremely handy because if you are seeing another physician who does not have your records on file, you will be able to provide them with the necessary information you need to be examined.  Eric Topol, a cardiologist, geneticist and researcher describes how power is being shifted from physicians and hospitals to patients as the world of medicine enters "an age of democratization" in his book "The Creative Destruction of Medicine." 

This change is becoming so rapid because todays society is all wrapped up in social media and digital technology, thus creating a shift in power from physicians to patients who will have all the technology they need in the same place that they can communicate with their friends.  Each year this software advances creating faster and easier ways of checking your health without having to wait in a waiting room.  For example, say your not feeling well, just search your symptoms on WebMD from home and you can at least narrow it down to very few results to what you may have.  If it is something serious that may require surgery, digital technology has progressed enough to create digital  three-dimensional reconstructions of any part of the body to make the procedure easier and faster.  Also, while the body part is digitally reconstructed doctors are able to monitor all of your vitals, brain waves, oxygen concentration in the blood and even mood.  Who would have thought that we would have such advanced technology today that can reconstruct a human digitally with such detail down to granular size!  With such innovations, who knows what we'll be able to do next?!

EVERA. Everyone should feel this good about healthcare.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Concierge Doctors > Traditional Doctors

If you've ever used UBER you know that it's just better than taking a cab. At the end of the day, they accomplish the same thing. The process however, is just elite with UBER. It was created to tend to the needs and lifestyle of people TODAY, not 20 years ago. I mean, do we actually need to make a cash transaction or dig in our pockets for our credit cards? Seems so 2010. So how does this relate to doctors?

In the past, doctors for the most part got paid from insurance companies, medicare, and medicaid. These 3 entities pay doctors for the TASKS they perform. There are many tasks that would benefit the patient that are not included under the list of things doctors get paid to do. So they don't do them! They didn't go to school for 15 years to work for free!

When YOU pay a doctor directly (DPC or Concierge Medicine) for care, there is no longer a list of things the doctor gets paid to do. Now they get paid to take care of you and give the best service/treatment they can. This encourages physicians to use more time effective strategies and go the extra mile for THEIR patients. It becomes a much more personal experience. Doctors will now be more likely to follow up with emails, talk with you on the phone, and even prescribe a more inexpensive medication and tell you which pharmacy has the lowest price. With concierge medicine it's about the patient.

If you want the best care concierge medicine is the way to go.

EVERA. Everyone should feel this good about healthcare.


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Top 5 Issues in Healthcare

When you hear "healthcare issue" what comes to mind?  Does lack of service, quality of service or insurance coverage come into perspective when you think of healthcare issues?  In this post I'm going to talk about five major health care issues our nation is facing today, as well as how each one affects patients.

First, there is too much unnecessary healthcare being provided to the extent that patients needs are accommodated and then some.  This may not sound like an issue at all, but it is creating extra costs for the government adding up to hundreds of billions of dollars annually which is detrimental to productivity.  Second, preventable harm to patients is one of the most common forms of healthcare problems because it is primarily based on the physicians error, whether it be a misdiagnosis or faulty procedure.  This is a growing issue because it can easily be avoided to keep the patients safer as well as save money for the treatment of other patients.  Statistics say that one in every four patients is misdiagnosed which is a staggering number because it is costing insurance providers as well as patients more money in the long run depending on the extent of the treatment.

Next, as i touched upon before billions of dollars of healthcare money are wasted annually.  In a report done by the Institute of Medicine Health they state that at least a third of health costs are wasted every year becoming a rising issue for the industry as a whole.  Another healthcare issue is perverse incentives on patients paying for healthcare.  Usually, health plans with Medicare and Medicaid pay for whatever services are provided for the benefit of the patient.  Unfortunately, as an example, early elective deliveries of babies are encouraged by our industries payment system because they provide the most money for Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICU) centers which are basically just profit centers across the country.  Many studies suggest that reducing the numbers of these premature births may eliminate as much as half a million NICU centers across the country which will lower health costs for the country but financially hurt hospitals.  Employers and states across the country have begun trying to reverse these incentives but they are still unfortunately the only exceptions that are proving the horrible rule of incentive payments.

Finally, the lack of transparency in the healthcare industry is showing that patients may not know as much as they should when it comes to choosing healthcare.  The prime example of this is once again early elective deliveries because the numbers of these deliveries has continued to rise over the years despite all of the warnings from medical societies.  Not until recently these rates declined from 17% to 11.2% because patients are just starting to become aware of these statistics.  The overall message from this issue is that patients deserve to know what exactly they are getting into when it comes to choosing healthcare providers and treatments to lower costs for themselves and stay safer.

For patients and providers the next big step is to keep up pressure against these deliveries and other potentially harmful unnecessary procedures to hopefully soon inflict real change in the industry as a whole.

EVERA.  Everyone should feel this good about healthcare.


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The E-Cig Part 2

About 4 months ago I wrote a post depicting whether or not people who smoke E-cigarettes should be charged more for their health care than people who do not smoke. They 100% should. However, I will be touching on a different but equally important topic today.

Over the course of the last two weeks studies have been completed showing more than 260,000 teens that have never smoked a cigarette now use E-Cigs. Also the number of MIDDLE and HIGH SCHOOL students that are “Vaping” has tripled over the last three years from just fewer than 80,000 to a whopping 250,000.

 This is the root of the problem. Many E-cigs are designed to look cool or flashy to attract the attention of young people. Many young people do not realize or understand the effects nicotine has on their body when inhaling it. For most of them, this will be the most addictive substance they have ever put into their body other than potato chips. In all seriousness, nicotine is highly addictive and they long term effects are detrimental. The negative effects of E-cigs do not end there. It is considered to be a “gateway” drug. Meaning the use of an E-cig will make people more likely to experiment with alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine. Which just creates a whole new list of costly health related issues and even death.

This being said, it’s hard to tell whether or not the E-Cig is a good or bad product overall. Time will tell us if the effects of using an E-Cig will create more positive or negative results in relation to traditional cigarettes. What we do know is that there needs to be restrictions put into place to keep these away from children.  There is no benefit to Vaping!

Evera. Everyone should feel this good about healthcare.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Urgent Care, is it taking over?

Recently theres been a lot of hype about Urgent Care facilities rising up, but are they on the verge of a take over?  Urgent Care facilities have been increasing steadily over the past 20 years, providing faster and more affordable healthcare for patients who are on a budget.  These facilities divert patients from more expensive Private Practices and Emergency Departments which increases healthcare spending because they will treat the same patients for less.  Urgent Care executives, Emergency Department directors, and health plan network managers have all come to the unanimous conclusion that even though the overall cost of Urgent Care facilities is uncertain, it has postitively impacted the healthcare industry by improving access to patients with private plans "without significantly disrupting continuity of care."

Why are Urgent Care facilities starting to take over?  As mentioned earlier the main reason would be that they are more affordable to certain extents.  Costs are driven up when the patient has previously been seen by a private practice physician.  However, many people are beginning to use these facilities as their primary care providers because insurance companies, such as Medicaid, have begun to shift patients from Emergency Departments to Urgent Care facilities because the copay at the Urgent Care facility will be less than Emergency Departments.  Urgent Care facilities are on the rise across the nation reaching a high of 9000 locations.  An Urgent Care executive said, " Somebody like myself, I don't have a chronic illness.  I'm young.  If i need to see a doctor I just go to an urgent care center."  For many patients, you may only need to see a doctor a couple times a year so going to an urgent care facility will be much more affordable than a private practice.

Urgent Care facilities are continuing to become more cost-effective as they are integrating new payment methods supported under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  "UCC's can grow as an attractive alternative," said author Tracy Yee, meaning that Urgent Care facilities are rising up as a good, cost effective alternative to private practices for younger patients as well as patients with new insurance plans.  If you haven't been to one yet, it is definitely something to look into if you're trying to save some money.

EVERA. Everyone should feel this good about healthcare.


Thursday, September 4, 2014

Patients, will your deductible be met?

When you buy insurance, what coverage do you expect to get from it?  Are you looking to get an inexpensive plan and expect full coverage or are you willing to pay a little more and know that your covered.  If you've chosen the inexpensive plan, such as a "bronze" plan, you may begin to find that it wasn't the best option in the long run once you're surprised with an expensive copay after your next visit.  Also, besides the copay charge you may have to pay full price for your visit as well.  Since these issues have been quickly emerging, experts are afraid that patients may be discouraged from following up with their doctors after getting charged full price for their previous visit.  Carl McDonald, senior analyst with Citi Investment Research said, "This could be the next shoe to drop, as people don't realize that if they're buying a bronze plan, they may have to pay $5,000 out of pocket before it contributes a penny." When McDonald said this at a Washington D.C conference last month he was arguing that if you try to save money on healthcare in the moment, it may catch up to you in the long run and cost you more.

What about a plan that is a little more expensive?  Plans such as "Silver" plans, generally have a higher monthly deductible but they do cover 3/4 of doctor visits before the deductible is met.  With this plan, you won't have to worry about being covered when you see the doctor or being surprised by a hefty bill.  Of course, the coverage may still vary if you go to see a specialist for an extreme reason and not an ordinary doctor visit.

However, all new insurance plans are required by the government to cover some preventative services without a copayment as well as not having met the patients deductible first.  Such plans include: "vaccinations, mammograms, other cancer screenings, contraception, birth control pills, and physicals." But charges may be applied if treatment is needed for an illness such as the Flu, a medical condition, or a minor injury.  Also, there is only limited coverage for prescription drugs.  After hearing this which plan do you think is best to get in the long run?  Will you choose to save money in the beginning with a cheaper deductible but have copayments and full bills, OR go with a plan that offers better coverage off the bat even though it has a higher deductible? The next time you look for a new plan, think about your long term coverage so you know you'll be covered.

EVERA. Everyone should feel this good about healthcare.