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Tag: Social Media

Health Care Social Media – How to Engage Online Without Getting into Trouble (Part II)

I have been asked to write up some of the core takeaways from the health care social media presentations I have been giving recently, so I am sharing a version of this narrative on HealthBlawg, in two parts.  You may wish to begin with Part I.

Professional responsibility and malpractice liability

The American Medical Association has promulgated a social media policy; so has the Veterans Administration.  The two represent very different approaches.  The AMA essentially advocates proceeding with caution, and being cognizant of the damage that one’s own social media activities – and one’s colleagues’ – may do to the profession.  The VA, on the other hand, is out in front on this issue – just as it was with electronic health records – encouraging the use of social media tools to disseminate information and engage patients and caregivers in productive dialogue likely to improve overall wellbeing and health care outcomes.

Patient care should not be provided in open social media forums, but appropriate disclaimers on blogs, Facebook pages, YouTube channel pages, and the like, should be sufficient protection for providers seeking to use these tools for sharing of general advice and information.

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Health Care Social Media – How to Engage Online Without Getting into Trouble

“Why do you rob banks?”

“That’s where the money is.”

The legendary bank robber Willie Sutton, when asked, gave this straightforward response explaining his motivation.  A similar motivation may be ascribed to the early adopters among health care providers who have established beachheads on various social media properties on line.  Why be active in on line social networks?  That’s where the people are: patients, caregivers, potential collaborators and referral sources, like many, many other people, are using social media more and more.  Facebook has become nearly ubiquitous, and its user base is growing not only among the younger set, but also among the older set, who are signing up so they can see pictures of their grandkids.  In today’s wired society, on line social networking is the new word of mouth.  Word-of-mouth referrals, personal recommendations, have always been prized; we have simply moved many of those conversations on line.

Over half of Americans rely on the internet when looking for health care information.  Many on line searches are conducted on behalf of another person.  Most people expect their health care providers to be on line, providing trustworthy information – and the day of the static website has passed.  In addition, a growing subset of the population is comprised of “e-patients” – the “e” stands for educated, engaged and empowered – who seek out health care providers prepared to engage with them both in person and on line.

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From Blackberry to iPhone

Last week I retired my Blackberry Bold, removed myself from the Blackberry Enterprise Server, and began using an iPhone 4S as my mobile email, web, and telecommunications platform.

This was not a casual decision.   I’ve used Blackberry products since 1998.  The original Blackberry 850 was named one of the top 50 technologies of the past 50 years.

I receive a wireless communication approximately every 30 seconds from 7am-7pm every day.  On Tuesdays and Thursdays I receive over 1500 emails per 24 hour period.   These communications are filled with media – documents to read, presentations to review, websites to access, and streaming video.    Yes, I still use the email triage approach I outlined in 2007 but it’s a losing battle.   The volume of communication exceeds my ability to process and respond to the information.   I could cancel all my meetings, phone calls, and presentations but still fill the entire day with email communication.

I’m not suggesting this is healthy or sane, but it is the reality of communications today.

The iPhone 4S gives me a touch screen user interface to scroll, zoom, and manage my incoming messages.   I can view every document, website, and video over 3G networks.   Siri and voice recognition features enable me to manage my email by voice.   I find myself dictating responses to about a quarter of my email with amazing accuracy.

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The Digital Age and the Doctor/Patient Relationship

The digital age has had a deep and likely permanent effect on the patient-physician relationship. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had physicians beg me to provide them with a way to stop their patients from Googling their symptoms and diagnosing themselves before their first office visit and much to their chagrin, my answer is always the same, “You can’t stop them. Get over it.”

The internet acts as an enormous and easily accessible virtual research library for patients, granting them access on the one hand to quality, data-driven information and personal perspectives that can provide tremendous value and on the other hand to information that is no better than old-fashioned quackery.

But this access to information has not translated into improved interactions between patients and their physicians. It is clear to me that we all need help in rethinking how we can best work together, especially because I believe that we are still in the nascent stages of this age of disruptive new tools that delight some and threaten others. Time and time again I hear stories describing the ways in which this technology seems to be moving us backward instead of ahead:

· When Timothy B. Lee went to a dentist highly recommended on Yelp, he was asked to sign a “mutual privacy agreement” that would transfer ownership of any public commentary he might make in the future to the dentist.

· A TechDirt blog post reported that plastic surgeons have sued patients for their online negative reviews and a neurologist sued the son of a stroke victim for negative comments about the physician’s bedside manner.

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Is Incentive-Driven Healthcare the Holy Grail of Engagement?

Industry studies confirm the strong connection between healthcare costs and the ingrained behavior of consumers and providers. Ironically, consumers and providers have access to more health information, tools, programs and support than ever before; yet healthcare costs continue to increase and chronic diseases continue to affect a larger portion of the population.

The healthcare industry is at an inflection point where payers, employers, providers and consumers must all be directly involved in the effort to manage the cost of care and to improve health outcomes. A critical aspect of this effort involves the motivation and behavior of all healthcare market participants, but primarily applies to the healthcare consumer and provider at the point of care delivery.

To drive engagement in programs designed to improve health, organizations have applied both incentives and disincentives, with varying degrees of success, as part of an overall engagement strategy. Generally, the presence of an incentive leads to improved results, but most incentive designs have fallen short of their potential. But some valuable lessons have been learned.

The healthcare industry has learned, for example, that incentives can drive behavior change, and can help establish a new baseline for consumer expectations, consumption patterns and health awareness. In turn, this newfound awareness has the potential to address the root causes of the nation’s healthcare crisis, leading to a more rational care model and slower rate of health cost increases.

More importantly, the well-intentioned but haphazard evolution of the application of incentives to various healthcare initiatives has yielded a robust volume of actual performance and cost-related information that can finally provide reliable links between program participation, behavior change, health outcomes and cost savings; and all of the necessary data to determine return on investment.

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The Farmville of Health?

Can you play your way to better health? What does it take to get people moving? That was the question kicked around (har!) at the gaming-health session at Health 2.0.

Chris Hewett’s demo of MindBloom had the room packed. He began by talking about being motivated by fear, or, instead, being motivated by purpose. You’re either running away from something, or toward something. Mindbloom is about spending two minutes every day looking at images that mean something to you, and that motivate you. One step every day is the key to enduring change. The key is sustained engagement. Many of the tools that exist today are not engaging. The core goal is to make life change fun, and engaging. As a gamer, Hewett wants to make behavior change appealling. And it needs to be authentic. I think that he is trying to make Mindbloom into the Farmville of health – a pervasive and widely appealing game, but one that happens to have a positive effect on people’s health and life. People use Mindbloom to discover what’s most important to them. A key differentiator is to take a view of the entire life. The key reason why most people want to be healthy is to spend more time with their relationships. Mindbloom just finished their public beta with 15,000 users.

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The Rise of Big Data

Health care is in the process of getting itself computerized. Fashionably late to the party, health care is making a big entrance into the information age, because health care is well positioned to become a big player in the ongoing Big Data game. In case you haven’t noticed computerized health care, which used to be the realm of obscure and mostly small companies, is now attracting interest from household names such as IBM, Google, AT&T, Verizon and Microsoft, just to name a few. The amount and quality of Big Data that health care can bring to the table is tremendous and it complements the business activities of many large technology players. We all know about paper charts currently being transformed via electronic medical records to computerized data, but what exactly is Big Data? Is it lots and lots of data? Yes, but that’s not all it is.Continue reading…

Steve Jobs, Health Care Apps & Me

When I heard the news about Steve Jobs on Wednesday, I was surprised at how profoundly sad I felt. Although I had never met him, my company had the thrill of sharing the stage with Steve when Apple announced they would open their platform to third party developers. At the time, I was head of marketing and subscriptions for Epocrates, then best know for our Palm Pilot application for physicians.

At the time, we thought we had done a pretty good job of disproving the old notion that physicians are slow to adopt new technologies.  Steve was about to show us our full potential.

It was a surprise for us to be up on that stage, to say the least. Our fellow presenters were industry giants: EA, AOL, SalesForce, Sega and…us. The Sesame Street song ran through my head – “one of these things is not like the other.” Naturally, we were thrilled, but we had no idea how profoundly our company and industry were about to change.

Before the iPhone, Epocrates had built a great business creating drug, disease and formulary content for mobile devices. We launched our first product in 1999 with the premise that physicians were mobile and wanted to access information anywhere, anytime. Health care professionals loved their Palm Pilots – and I still have a bag of Palm IIIs, VX, Tungsten, Handspring, and Treo devices to prove it! Business was going well and we had grown to 25% of U.S. physicians. But we faced a challenge – we had already saturated the market of physicians with a device – and growth of the mobile device market had stagnated.

To this day, I don’t really know how we ended up that stage. But I like to believe the story we were told. Apparently, Steve asked one of his personal physicians why she wouldn’t switch to an iPhone and she replied “because I can’t use Epocrates on it.” True or not, we got an invitation from Apple to be one of their very first third party developers.Continue reading…

Lab Results For All!

On September 14, HHS released for comment draft lab results regulations that will, if finalized, effectively bathe the Achilles’ heel of health data in the River Styx of ¡data liberación! All lab results will be made available to patients, just like all other health data.  (See the HHS presser and YouTube video from the recent consumer health summit.  Todd Park, HHS CTO, is also the chief activist for what he calls ¡data liberación!)

Forgive me for mixing my metaphors (or whatever it is I just did), but even though there are just a couple dozen words of regulations at issue here, this is a big deal.

When HIPAA established a federal right for each individual to obtain a copy of his or her health records, in paper or electronic format, there were a couple of types of records called out as specifically exempt from this general rule of data liberation, in the HIPAA Privacy Rule45 CFR § 164.524(a)(1): psychotherapy notes, information compiled for use in an administrative or court proceeding, and lab results from what is known as a CLIA lab or a CLIA-exempt lab (including  “reference labs,” as in your specimens get referred there by the lab that collects them, or freestanding labs that a patient may be referred to for a test; these are not the labs that are in-house at many doctors’ offices, hospitals and other health care facilities — the in-house labs are part of the “parent” provider organization and their results are part of the parents’ health records already subject to HIPAA).Continue reading…

Did a Scrappy Little Startup Just Embarrass the FDA?

Adverse Events is a heath-tech start-up so new, they barely exist. Despite that, they’re getting some major results. This week they announced that they found from their early analysis – of the FDA’s own data – that two epilepsy drugs may be more dangerous in pregnancy than their FDA labeling might suggest. They used the FDA’s adverse event reporting data to compare the adverse events of commonly prescribed epilepsy drugs in pregnancy. What they found was that the FDA’s own labeling wasn’t consistent with their data.

Currently, the FDA classifies drugs used during pregnancy as being anywhere on a scale of safety from class A (“no known risk”), through levels of increasing risk labelled B, C, D, and then one final class X (“danger – do not use”). Specifically, Adverse Events found that two drugs, Lamictal and Keppra, which are Class C, may be “as dangerous to a fetus as drugs currently listed” in a more risky category (D).

In fact, Adverse Events’ analysis showed that an average birth defect rate comparison between the two groups, C and D, revealed no meaningful differences between the two. This scrappy little start-up’s analysis of the FDA’s own data may indicate that the FDA’s current categorization of pregnancy risks for epilepsy drugs may need revision. Or may be subject to bias.

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