Headlines: Healthcare News from Around the Planet

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Self-Prescription Glasses for the Poor of the World – From the Guardian: “What if it were possible to make a pair of glasses which, instead of requiring an optician, could be “tuned” by the wearer to correct his or her own vision?  Might it be possible to bring affordable spectacles to millions who would never otherwise have them?”  What an amazing concept!  The inventor “has devised a pair of glasses which rely on the principle that the fatter a lens the more powerful it becomes.  Inside the device’s tough plastic lenses are two clear circular sacs filled with fluid, each of which is connected to a small syringe attached to either arm of the spectacles.  The wearer adjusts a dial on the syringe to add or reduce amount of fluid in the membrane, thus changing the power of the lens. When the wearer is happy with the strength of each lens the membrane is sealed by twisting a small screw, and the syringes removed. The principle is so simple, the team has discovered, that with very little guidance people are perfectly capable of creating glasses to their own prescription.”  The British inventor’s quest is to offer glasses to a billion of the world’s poorest people by 2020.

New Exercise and Sports Regimen Brings New Injuries – The Wii, one of this year’s most popular Christmas gifts has the potential (like almost everything) to cause injury if misused or overused. The golf and tennis games in particular can cause painful sprains and fractures to players and observers when the controller is swung to simulate the swing of a racket or golf club.

How Microsoft Plans to Make Money in Healthcare – One is Amalga, a software system that allows hospitals to gather data stored in multiple silos and access it all in one place.  A second is Health Vault, which allows patients to store their personal health information online.  

Do Patients Trust Doctors Too Much? – An interesting article with very interesting comments that discusses patients grading physicians on public rating sites.  The article points to patients giving good ratings based on the quality of the interpersonal dynamic rather than the quality of the medical care, while commenters discuss what patients base their assessments on.

Sex Chip May Make Viagra and Diet Pills Obsolete –  Viagra may one day be history as scientists at Oxford University are working on an electronic sex chip that stimulate pleasure centers in the brain.  For past few months scientists have been focusing on an area of the brain just behind the eyes known as the orbitofrontal cortex. This is associated with feelings of pleasure derived from eating and sex.

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Monday Special: Protecting Your Staff From Ergonomic Disorders

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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Ergonomic disorders including CTS (carpal tunnel syndrome), various tendon disorders and lower back injuries, are the most rapidly growing category of OSHA recordable injuries and illnesses.”  

According to the site Ergonomics in Healthcare

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) account for $1 of every $3 spent on Workers Compensation in America and affect 1.8 million workers each year which many experts believe represents significant under-reporting of the true incidence of ergonomic injury nationally.  Compared to other private industry sectors, the medical, economic, and social costs of work-related musculoskeletal disorders or ergonomic injuries in the healthcare environment are particularly serious and warrant special consideration.

To protect your most valuable resource, your employees, follow these guidelines and use the links below:

  1. Have an ergonomic specialist speak at staff meetings annually to educate your employees on ergonomically sound work habits.
  2. As a part of orientation, give new employees verbal and written instruction on arranging their workstations so they can be comfortable and safe.
  3. When an employee asks for a new chair, an ergonomic keyboard or a higher or lower desk, arrange for a professional ergonomic assessment (most physical therapy groups can provide this) to ensure the needs of the employee are correctly met.  Ergonomic assessments for all employees is ideal, but not always possible.
  4. If staff are physically assisting patients or lifting them at all, institute a lift program and make sure you have the correct equipment to protect the staff against lifting injuries.  Some private medical practices have a zero-lift policy, which means staff do not lift patients for any reason.  Typically, family members and caregivers assist and lift patients in the practice setting.
  5. Consider wired headsets or wireless headsets instead of handsets for natural neck positioning when talking on the phone.
  6. Always document all efforts to provide your staff with a safe and comfortable workplace.
Workstation Set-up – online tutorial to setting up workstations (takes 30-45 minutes)
Posture Tips –  excellent text and diagrams from ErgoSum Consulting on posture tips for sitting, standing, arms and hands, necks and shoulders, and much more
Ergonomics in Healthcare – a very rich site (you do have to register to use the tools) that focuses on ergonomics and potential injuries to staff in assisted living, long-term care and hospitals.

Posted in: Day-to-Day Operations, Human Resources

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Monday Special: 100 Best Blogs for Children’s Health

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Great blogs for kids!

While strolling through the Web today I found a wonderful list of 100 health blogs for kids. Some of these sites might be a fit for your patients or to post on your website. The blogs are broken down by Health and Wellness, Child Development and Mental Health, Specific Childhood Illnesses and Diseases, Autism Spectrum Disorders, Food Allergies, Vaccines, Dental Health, Childbirth and Breastfeeding, Podcasts, and For or By Professionals.

 

This list was compiled by and posted on Nursing Assistant Central, which offers readers information on a career in health care as a nursing assistant.

Posted in: Learn This: Technology Answers

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Monday Special: Words and Phrases to Use in Performance Evaluations

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One of my favorite books of all time is “Effective Phrases for Performance Appraisals, A Guide to Successful Evaluations” by James E. Neal, Jr.  I have purchased many editions of this book through the years and I typically supply a copy of it to everyone in my practice who performs evaluations.

The contents of this book include:

  • Effective Phrases (in 63 categories including accuracy, development, interpersonal skills, and motivation)
  • Two Word Phrases (such as competing priorities, diversified approaches, fully prepared and team performance)
  • Helpful Adjectives (such as adaptable, capable, perceptive, and systematic)
  • Helpful Verbs (such as accomplishes, adheres, determines, and establishes)
  • Performance Rankings (such as exceptional, unsatisfactory, and distinguished)
  • Time Frequency (such as always, usually, rarely and seldom)
  • Guidelines for Successful Evaluations (rate objectively, use significant documentation and factual examples, plan for the appraisal interview, emphasize future development, and emphasize the positive)
No manager should be without this book! Click here to purchase a new or used copy of the book on Amazon.
For a simple, 5 question performance evaluation, click here.

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One Physician Recommends Five of the Best Health Information Sites on the Web

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When your patients ask what internet sites your doctors recommend for reliable health information, do you have an answer?  Many practices have embedded health information on their websites, or link to sites sponsored by their professional society (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons) or national non-profits (American Cancer Society, American Diabetes Association.)  Here’s a great article written by physician Patricia M. Hale, PhD, MD, listing her “top 5 safe web sites containing the best tools and resources for health-related information.”

Dr. Hale introduces her list and notes that:

” There are many other useful health resources on the web but it is very important to be sure they are run by reputable medical authorities and contain accurate and safe information.”

Her top five are:

  1.  Medline Plus
  2. Mayo Clinic
  3. Center for Disease Control (CDC)
  4. Merck Source
  5. U.S. Dept. of State Tips for Traveling Abroad
Dr. Hale also advises:
One of the best ways you can be further reassured that the web site you are exploring is safe is to look for the Health on The Net Foundation (HON) seal of approval. HON has strict criteria for approval of health related web sites and checks regularly to be sure their rules are followed.

 

What sites do you recommend and feature on your website?

Posted in: Day-to-Day Operations, Learn This: Technology Answers

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Learn This: Twitter, Social Networking, and Micro-blogging

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Twitter is a combination of two concepts, social networking and micro-blogging. When combined, they create a fascinating way for people to communicate and keep in touch.  Let’s explore social networking and micro-blogging individually first.

 

Social Networking

 

This is the Myspace, and Facebook you’ve heard so much about.  You already know what networking is – you create, build, and maintain personal and professional relationships to meet people, find opportunities, and learn new things.  Successful practice managers are constantly networking to be in the know and stay ahead of the curve.  Now add the social aspect of it to the equation.  Social networking means starting with people you already know, and using that as a jumping off point. Take your existing network of contacts and digitize them to build an on-line community.

Think about your contact list in your address book, email, phone, or Blackberry.  You have everyone in there: colleagues, friends, family.  What if you also had access to the contact lists of everyone in their contact lists?  There would be duplicate entries but there would also be a lot of people in this “friends of friends” list that you didn’t know before.  You would probably see a lot of new names and faces, some of whom you might want to talk to about your organization, their organization, your product, their service, their hobbies, even ask out on a date!

When you walk into a room and see a friend talking to someone you don’t know, you go and say hello to your friend, and introduce yourself to the stranger- you are building your network by social networking!

The differences between various social networking sites (see the MMP post on LinkedIn) will be explored in a later article, but all social networking sites have one thing in common – they are designed to help you meet new people through common friends, interests, pasts, and goals.

 

Micro-blogging

 

It’s blogging, but smaller.  But what’s blogging?  “Blog” is short for “web log”, and it is keeping an online journal of writings, pictures, and other multimedia, as well as news items and content found on the web.  Some blogs are just places where people write about their feelings and activities so other people can read them.  Some blogs are focused on a topic- like ManageMyPractice.com focuses on health care administration.  But all blogs are simply websites that are updated by their authors fairly frequently around some common theme.

How does blogging become “micro”?  By shrinking it down to its bare essence and relaying the heart of the message, communicating the necessary.  How could this be of use to you?  What if you set up a system where your kids received updates when you were going to be home later than usual from work, telling them they were allowed to have a soda with their homework before TV, and what would be for dinner when you arrived?  Or maybe your kids need to update you when their plans change.  What if all your colleagues were updating each other about the goings-on at a professional conference so they could decide on the fly which events to attend, and share their experiences, and decide where everyone would be meeting afterward.

Anything that could be helped by contacting an entire group of people quickly with short message could benefit from micro-blogging.

 

Twitter puts it all together

 

Twitter takes these two concepts, and merges the whole shebang with your mobile device.  Twitter lets you easily microblog to your social network over your mobile device. You don’t have to use a cell phone or a Blackberry to use Twitter- you can send and receive updates over the web, and through a variety of third party providers.

If you want to get started, go to the Twitter homepage at www.twitter.com, and click the green button that says “JOIN THE CONVERSATION”.  You will create a username and password, and start adding contacts and you’ll soon be able to make your first micro-blog post (they call them “tweets”).

On Twitter, anyone you want to receive updates from is someone you are “following”, and anyone who is receiving your messages is one of your “followers”.  You can also send messages directly to just one user, or set up groups of people to receive certain updates – your co-workers don’t have to see your notes to your kids, and vice-versa. You can also do fun things, like upload a little picture of yourself to be your icon that people will see when they are on Twittera.

 

Now it’s time to supercharge your cell phone

 

But you don’t have to ever go to the site if you don’t want to!  The real power of Twitter is that it can let you do all these short internet communications (micro-blogging) right from your cell phone.  Basic text messages that you may already use on your cell phone (called “SMS messages“) can be used to send and receive messages from Twitter.   Just link your Twitter account to a mobile phone in your Twitter settings, and then you can send your updates as text messages to 40404.  Incoming Twitter messages from the users you follow will show up as incoming texts from Twitter, but with labels to show you which user the update is from.  You can also customize your mobile updates, so you only get messages from certain users. If you follow some people who are heavy updaters, you might get tired of constant alerts of new text messages.  Also be sure you understand your cell phone’s text messaging plan – Twitter is free to use, but if you don’t have unlimited messaging on your phone, it could be easy to run up a big bill.

Once you have your Twitter up and running on your mobile phone things get really interesting, as now you’ve basically turned your cell phone service into an internet chat room. And in terms of business, that gives you near constant connection.  Twitter users are often the first people to know the newest information, and love to post updates about it online.  It’s an interesting way to see what’s new in the world – finding out what people are talking about literally “right then”.  Plus it creates an interesting crowd of which to ask questions: What’s going on tonight?  Can anyone recommend good seafood on the north side of town?  Is anyone getting anything out of this conference?

The brilliance of Twitter is that it so easily connects people on all different types of computers and cell phone platforms.  Twitter can seamlessly create networks of people communicating for mutual benefit, and provide an interesting new way to keep on top and keep in touch.

To Recap:

  1. Social Networking = networking with your friends’ friends
  2. Micro-blogging = little missives without all the niceties and all the heart
  3. Twitter = #1 + #2 (little missives to your friends’ friends’ friends)
  4. How can you leverage this technology to make your practice more efficient and productive?

Note from Mary Pat: How can Twitter be used in a medical practice setting?  Here are a few ways – I’m sure you can think of others.  If your doctor is running late, use direct messages to Twitter patients to let them know right away that they can arrive later or reschedule their appointment.  Likewise, when an earlier opening is available, Twitter a patient to see if they could fill your appointment time.  Twitter your doc to let him/her know about schedule changes that would affect what s/he is doing right now.

And to get you started on Twitter, my Twitter name is “Mary_Pat_Whaley.”

Posted in: Learn This: Technology Answers, Social Media

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Quick Tips on Searching Smarter and Faster in Google

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BNET just posted a great video on Google Search tips.  I use Google Search a lot, but had no idea how much faster I could search by using some of these ways to customize a search.  You can watch the 7 minute video here, or I’ve collected some of tips below.

  1. To match exact words, put the phrase inside of double quotes.  You can also put dashes between each word in a phrase and it will search for the exact words.  (Examples: “”physician compensation models”” or physician-compensation-models)
  2. To search for a topic or phrase, but exclude something, use a minus sign before the exclusion.  (Example: physician practice -hospital)
  3. To tell the search engine not to correct your spelling, put a plus sign in front of your search.  (Example: +HIPPA)
  4. Type information straight into the browser, for instance: flight numbers, package tracking numbers, vehicle identification numbers (VINs), area codes, UPC codes, and patent numbers!
  5. To get a definition enter “define: and the word”.  (Example: define:physiatry)
  6. Fill in the blank.  Enter a sentence and use the * symbol for the information wanted.  (Example: There are * family practice physicians in the United States.)
  7. Use the search box as a calculator. (Try it!)
  8. Use the search box to make a currency conversion.
  9. Type in a movie and your zip code to see where the movie is playing and what times it is playing.

And for those readers who want to take Google to the next step, here’s the way to customize your Google: How to search Google Wiki

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Monday Special: New Ideas for Office Gift Exchanges and Alltop.com

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If wading through endless sites on the internet looking for the good stuff wears you out, here is a great site that lists quality sites in categories.  Alltop.com is a natural followup to the post I published earlier this week about RSS (Really Simple Syndication) or as I like to think of it “Read Stuff Simply.”

Alltop describes itself this way:

You can think of an Alltop site as a “digital magazine rack” of the Internet. To be clear, Alltop sites are starting points””they are not destinations per se. The bottom line is that we are trying to enhance your online reading by both displaying stories from the sites that you’re already visiting and helping you discover sites that you didn’t know existed. In other words, our goal is the “cessation of Internet stagnation” by providing “aggregation without aggravation.” 

I really like the idea of a digital magazine rack because I don’t subscribe to magazines anymore (although I do read People when I’m at the “beauty parlor” – yep, my dirty little secret!)  I really dislike paying to receive advertisements, which is what I think magazines and television are.

Here is a short, entertaining video on how Alltop works.

Just for fun, I added an Alltop section on the right-hand sidebar on this site.  I chose “Leadership,” so the most recent five posts on Alltop under the topic of leadership will now display on my site.

I found an interesting site today by browsing through Alltop.  I found Management Craft: Discussions About State of the Art Management by Lisa Haneberg.  Her article “Ideas for the Holidays” offers a variation on an idea I’ve been toying with for my practice – the idea of having a holiday exchange of a different kind.  Instead of buying and exchanging gifts, I thought about having an exchange of useful, but no longer needed items.  Often, traditional gift exchanges turn out to be disappointing or not everyone wants to participate.  Lisa’s articles talks about a book exchange – what a great idea!  Have everyone bring in a book or books they have at home and no longer want/need and let everyone exchange during the holiday party.  You could theme the exchange to kitchen items, jewelry, art, almost anything!  It could even be holiday decorations that you no longer want, or no longer fit in the house that someone else would be thrilled to get.  Another alternative is having each person exchange a service – it could be cooking, babysitting, sewing, lessons on home computing, photography, lawn service, anything – in one-hour increments!  Instead of a blind exchange, staffers could “shop” at the party for a service they need and give one hour and take one hour.

Anyone else have any interesting holiday party or exchange ideas to share?

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Spotted! Amazing Customer Service at the Apple Store

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I stepped inside an Apple Store last weekend for the very first time, and had an amazing customer service experience.  For one thing, the doors were wide open.  There may have been detectors at the front door to make sure I didn’t try to steal anything, but I didn’t see them if they were there.

Walking inside I was immediately greeted by an Apple employee.  Not an employee standing at a podium or sitting at a desk, but one wearing an orange shirt and a headset who greeted me and asked how she could help me.  I explained that I was thinking about a new laptop but didn’t know a lot about Macs.  She told me she was the concierge and her job is to match customer needs with Apple store staffers and service.  On the very busy saturday that I was there I saw three concierges (conciergi?)  Our concierge told us that she would send the next available specialist to us and she asked for our first names.  She invited us (Doubting Thomas husband accompanied me) to look at the computers while we were waiting.

At other stores I’ve visited for the purpose of buying electronics, there is one, or sometimes two of each model.  You may have to wait a bit to see the model you are interested in if the store is busy and it is not unusual to go through an extensive decision making process only to find the model you want is not in stock.  At the Apple store I rounded a large rectangular table twice before it dawned on me that I was looking at six of the same model of computer, and that the next large table had six of another model.

One thing that struck me quite forcefully about the Apple store was that it was so different from I had EXPECTED and had formerly ACCEPTED.  We expect and accept wasted time, poor service, poor attitude (the last time I was at a big store I asked the salesperson if he was having a tough day he looked so miserable) and out-of-stock items.

After about 15 minutes, David (in a light blue shirt) found us.  The things he discussed with us were:

  • moving from PC to Mac
  • the basics of moving around the desktop and what each of the icons were
  • getting the remains of my PC (which passed away after 5 days in the computer hospital) installed onto a Mac
  • discussion of what came with the Mac and what would be optional (Office for Mac, Service Plan, Training Package)
  • financing options for the purchase
  • a question Doubting Thomas had about iTunes
I made my decision after about 20 minutes of discussion and David left us to get my new computer.  He returned with my computer and a handheld credit card swiper and asked if I would like a paper receipt or an emailed receipt.  All this took place at the demo table about three feet from the concierge and about six feet from the front door of the store.

Recap of exceptional customer experience:

  1. Doors of store were wide open (which I took to mean “welcome.”)
  2. Greeted immediately by the concierge who was friendly and helpful.  She took our names, told us what would happen next, and gave us a great sense of being properly in line for service.
  3. There were lots of the same computer model to try out and play with – no waiting for a turn to touch the product.  All the computers were plugged in and worked.
  4. A salesperson who seemed to know all the answers waited on us, and brought things to me without me having to make my way to the back of the store to check-out.
What lessons will I take from this for the practice I manage?  First of all, I’m thinking about adding a concierge (should I think of a different name? maybe I’ll have a contest!) to greet patients.  This could potentially solve several problems that I have.  One is the logjam and lack of privacy at the front desk.  The concierge could greet patients very personally, and could get them established with paperwork, insurance cards, etc., as well as answering questions and making sure patients have what they need while they’re waiting.
Taking ideas from other companies and fields is one of my very favorite things in the whole world.  I have more ideas about changing things in the practice since my visit at Apple, but I’ll save that for another post.

Posted in: Amazing Customer Service

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Monday Special Part Two: Websites & Blogs for the Medical Practice Manager

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Here’s a sample of some sites that I follow and I think have high-quality content. These sites would be ideal to start you off on your RSS feed collection. Still don’t have your RSS feeds set up?  Click here for Part One to learn how.

Business:

Healthcare:

And, please don’t forget the Humor:

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