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Make Your Medical Practice Website Patient-Friendly

Posted on March 9, 2017 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Yasmin Khan from Bonafide.

It’s a sad truth that many websites are simply not effective at being a resource for visitors, including most medical practice and healthcare service websites. The key element to a service-oriented business website is accessibility or ease of use.

Unfortunately, accessibility is the element most lacking in websites for healthcare organizations.

  • The content is written at the graduate school level.
  • There is too much jargon, unfamiliar acronyms, and unfamiliar words.
  • Too much in-depth medical knowledge is required to understand what is presented on the website.

An example of writing above the audience is using the term nosocomial infection instead of the self-explanatory hospital-acquired infection.

Optimizing your website requires you to look at it from the intended user’s point of view and using proven techniques to increase the probability your website will be found. The entire goal of your website is to attract and convert leads into patients.

Below are three areas of optimization you can use to improve your medical practice’s website to be more patient-friendly.

Provide Relevant, Well-Written Content, and Attractively Presented Content

Does your present website look just like the brochure at your front desk? If so, you are not leveraging the power of your website. You have at your fingers a tool that can be designed to appeal to a wide variety of information needs that is easily navigated.

Every piece of content on your website should be targeted to your ideal patient profile. You must also have content that speaks to each segment of the patient journey, written in the patient’s language and at their level of education.

Your content should be written to no more than the 11th-grade level to be accessible to most of your visitors. Communicate urgency without scaring or pressuring the reader. Above all, do not patronize.

Create clear calls to action to guide people where you want them to go and provide something of value that encourages them to share their contact information to obtain it.

Practice Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

You need to address two areas of SEO:

  • On-page: refers to everything within the website
  • Off-page: refers to SEO opportunities, not on your website

On-page SEO refers to the building and optimization of your website.

  • Indexable content, including images, videos, and plug-ins
  • Crawl-able link structures
  • Search engine friendly URL structures
  • Optimized pages, title tags, and meta-descriptions

Avoid duplicate content to avoid being penalized by Google and other search engines. Each page of your website should have unique content that adds value to the user while achieving a clear marketing goal for your practice.

Off-page SEO includes ways to attract attention to your website through link-building, sharing and promoting content, and optimizing for local and mobile search.

Building quality links is the first principle of successful SEO. The key is to build quality links, relevant links from authoritative websites, blogs, and other areas of the web back to your site. High-quality links are what Google uses to judge trust and confer higher search engine rankings.

Optimize for Localization

As a geographically based service, you need to optimize for local search. When patients search for a medical practice, they typically add the city name to the search:

Primary Care Physicians in Kansas City

Each of your location pages should be optimized with your city and other identifying information such as the name of the medical center your office is in.

If your website is not responsive, meaning it will display appropriately regardless of the device, you need to convert it. Mobile devices have blanketed the globe, and most are used to search for local businesses as well as serving as a primary device for online activity.

The mobile version of your site should have:

  • Large, legible fonts
  • A fast load speed
  • Bullet lists and less text
  • Simple navigation with few internal links
  • Fewer images

Don’t lose opportunities because you cannot be found via smartphone or tablet.

A Quick Summary

Your website is your marketing engine. Take full advantage of online technology to develop a patient-friendly website that:

  • Contains relevant, well-written content
  • Is optimized for search engines
  • Has high-quality sites linking to it
  • Is optimized for local search and mobile devices.

Building a medical practice is a business, just like any other. Today’s patients expect to be able to find you online and engage with you when they are ready. Make sure you give them the information they need to put you at the top of their list.

About Yasmin Khan
Yasmin Khan is the marketing manager for Bonafide, a digital marketing agency in Houston, Texas. She loves writing, tweeting, and positive change. She’s all about the big picture and the greater good.

Reinventing Claims Management for the Value-Based Era

Posted on February 16, 2017 I Written By

Provider claims management as we once knew it is not enough to thrive in a value-based era. Here’s what you need to know about taking claims management to a higher level.

The following is a guest blog post by Carmen Deguzman Sessoms, FHFMA, AVP of Product Management at RelayAssurance Plus RelayHealth Financial.

Provider claims management as we know it can no longer exist as a silo. With the rapid transformation from fee-for-service to value-based models, denial rates remain high–nearly 1 in 5 claims–despite advances in technology and automation. The complexity of value-based payment models almost guarantees an increase in denials, simply because there’s so much to get wrong.

For provider CFOs and their organizations to be effective–and thrive–in this environment, the touchpoints across the revenue cycle continuum must be re-examined to see if there are opportunities for improvement that have not presented themselves in the fee-for-service era. One such area is claims management, which is ripe to be elevated into an integral part of a denials management strategy.

What are the implications for providers? Well, for perspective, consider the savings realized through electronic claims submission.  CAQH research reveals that submitting a claim manually costs $1.98, compared to just $0.44 per electronic transaction. Likewise, a manual claims status inquiry costs $7.20 versus $0.94 for processing electronically.

This paper outlines the features and benefits of a technology platform that is geared toward elevating traditional claims management into the realm of strategic denial prevention and management, along with some recommended denial management best practices.

From Claim Scrubbing to Strategic Denial Management

Simple claims management as we know it is becoming obsolete. By “simple” we mean a claims process with a basic set of capabilities: creating claims, making limited edits, and ensuring that procedures are medically necessary. Today, a new class of integrated claim and denials management solutions augment this traditional approach to include pre- and post-filing activities that help automate and streamline claim submission, proactively monitor status, and expedite the appeals process for those that are denied.

In its simplest form, denials management can be defined as a process that leads to cleaner submitted claims and fewer denials from payers. But there are a lot of interim steps and variables that lead to “clean” claims, and a growing number of factors that influence denials. With the shift to alternative payment models and increasing consumerism, it’s more important than ever for providers to process claims properly the first time and to keep staff intervention to a minimum.

A big part of denials management is to improve the quality of patient data at registration, the source of many errors that lead to denials. Nonetheless, integrated claim and denial management processes span the entire revenue cycle, and technology brings new opportunities to manage costs and improve efficiencies. For example, having the ability to manage claims within a unified platform that can share and integrate data with the organization’s EHR prevents the need to toggle back and forth between systems to determine the status of a patient encounter.

A comprehensive claims management platform that advances denials management efforts integrates the following capabilities:

  • Eligibility verification prior to claim submission. It sounds pretty basic, but eligibility and registration errors on claims continue to be the top reason for denials. Automating the real-time verification of eligibility data helps identify avoidable denials and alert staff to claims needing attention before submission.
  • Maintenance of and compliance with oftenchanging payer business rules and regulatory requirements, including Medicare and state-specific updates, so that claims go out as cleanly as possible on the front end. With multiple payers and a growing roster of alternative payment models, manual in-house maintenance of edits is becoming an overwhelming task.
  • Digitization of attachments for Medicare pre- and post-payment audits, commercial claims adjudication and integrity audits, and workers compensation billing support. Integrating digital data exchange into the claims management workflow can help providers better control administrative costs, ensure regulatory compliance, and help automate and streamline claims processing and reimbursement.
  • Visibility into claim status lifecycle, with guidance for proactive follow-up. This lets providers only focus on those potential “problem” claims, and address any issues, before they are denied or delayed.
  • Automation of repetitive and labor-intensive tasks such as checking payer portals or placing phone calls to determine the status of pended or denied claims. This helps drastically reduce the amount of staff time spent perusing payer sites, and sitting on the phone on hold when an answer can’t be found.
  • Predictive intelligence to determine timing of payer acknowledgements and requests for additional information, as well as when payment will be provided. Analytics-driven claims management provides insight into how long responses should take, alerting providers when follow-up is required.
  • Management of remittances from all sources. Automated management of transaction formats, adjudication information, remittance translation and posting can help reduce A/R days, boost staff productivity, and accelerate cash flow.
  • Denial management and data analysis to guide corrective action and prevent future denials. Revenue cycle analytics can monitor the number of claims per physician, payer, or facility, enabling the health system to be proactive in interventions.
  • Creation and tracking of appeals for denied claims, including pre-population and assembly of appropriate forms. This not only helps cut down on resource-intensive manual work and paper attachments, but streamlines the appeals process.

Tying these capabilities together within an exception-based workflow helps address the challenge by providing visibility into problem claims. At-a-glance access to claim status helps cut down on the back-and-forth between billing departments and payers, and allows staff to focus only on those claims that require attention.

Pulling it all Together

Once you’ve integrated these capabilities, what are some of the claims management best practices to improve denial management and prevention? Consider the following actions:

  • Embed denial management within the entire workflow–Strong edits lead to clean claims, whether they pertain to Medicare, commercial payers or state-specific regulations. Edits should be constantly refined and seamlessly implemented, and pushed out to providers as often as possible–at minimum on a twice-weekly basis.
  • Adopt analytics-driven claims management–Claims management systems and connectivity channels to payers (i.e. clearinghouse) produce a wealth of operational information, most importantly data evidencing the speed of the payment path and claim status. Analyzed and served up in meaningful formats, this data becomes targeted business intelligence that can help providers better see obstacles and identify the root cause of denials and payment slowdowns.
  • Resolve issues before they result in denials–Providers should know claims location and status at all times. For example, has the claim been released by the EHR system? Has it been received and approved by the payer—or does a problem need to be addressed? Has a problem been rectified? Has the claim been released to a clearinghouse? Historical trends establish guidelines for the timing of events (e.g., whether claim status or payment should have been received from a particular payer by a certain date).
  • Be ready to identify claims denials and submit appeals. Nationwide revenue cycle statistics show that 1 in 5 claims are denied / delayed and can be avoided with the right software and better business processes.  In addition 67% of these denied claims are recoverable Identifying denials and submitting appeals to supply information not included on the initial claim can recoup lost revenue. To help streamline the process, additional claims information, such as medical records or lab results, should be supported by structured electronic attachments rather than faxed paper records or uploaded files to payer portals.

An Ounce of Prevention = Big Returns

Reducing and managing denials will have a significant impact on any healthcare organization’s bottom line. First, it costs $25 to rework a claim, and success rates vary widely. Additionally, when denials must be written off, the drop in patient revenue may total several million dollars for a medium-sized hospital, according to Advisory Board estimates.

The new look and feel of claims management is moving quickly toward analytics-driven, exception-based processing. By implementing and leveraging these capabilities and best practices in a cloud environment, providers can look forward to accelerated cash flow, reduced denials, increased automation with less staff involvement, and lower IT overhead.

About Carmen Sessoms
With over 20 years of progressive strategic leadership and healthcare experience in product management, business development, strategic planning and consulting, Carmen Sessoms has worked with all organizational levels in the ambulatory and acute care markets for patient access and reimbursement.

Prior to joining RelayHealth, Carmen was the regional vice president of operations for an outsourcing firm, where she led the eligibility side of the business and was instrumental in many process improvements that brought efficiencies to the company, its provider customers and their patients. Additionally, she has 10 years’ previous experience with McKesson in Product Management roles in which she directed projects related to the design and development of revenue cycle solutions, including initiatives with internal and external partners.

Carmen is a past president of the Georgia HFMA chapter, a recipient of HFMA’s Medal of Honor, and holds the designations of CHFP (Certified Healthcare Financial Professional) and FHFMA (Fellow in HFMA).

Slick Setups to Make Your Health Clinic’s Processes Simple

Posted on December 26, 2016 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Eileen O’Shanassy.

Medical technologies have come a long way since the days of manual appointment and check-in books, clip-board health information, gathering forms, and huge patient medical chart walls. Today, health clinics can enjoy far more simple and efficient processes with only a few changes to traditional methods of providing healthcare. Consider these following four easy-to-use and inexpensive technologies for your own health clinic.

Touchscreen Check-In Desks
You do not have to pay your front office staff any longer to check in patients. With this slick setup, a patient walks up to a desk that features a wide, large LCD monitor located inside the waiting room or near the receptionist’s desk. Instructions at this touchscreen check-in desk explain to the patient that they only need to tap the screen and then tap out the letters of their name using large virtual buttons to check themselves into your clinic. In some clinics that offer a variety of diagnostic and treatment services, patients also select a clinic area.

Health Information Kiosks
A lot of front office staff time is wasted every day providing patients with information that is already available on your clinic’s website or local affiliated health system’s site. With the slick setup of a health information kiosk, your front office staff can direct patients to the kiosk and return to other tasks. Beyond information about the services offered at your clinic and local healthcare systems, health information kiosks can also be set up to provide patients local news and weather conditions, health and safety tips, emergency alerts, and even details about local restaurants and businesses.

Identification Scanning Software
One of the slowest processes at a clinic with new patients is establishing a record that contains accurate personal and health information. Some healthcare systems now provide clinics with the ability to quickly access information about patients already in their medical data storage programs. This is done electronically via scanning software that can be used with a patient’s driver’s license, medical insurance card, or a special system healthcare card. This type of slick setup also makes it possible for your clinic to save important information about a patient who is entirely new to the area and share it with local specialists and their staff members in hospital and other facilities.

These are only a few examples of the types of slick setups that can make traditional processes in your health clinic simple. These and other cutting edge methods can also result in positive testimonials that attract more new patients to your clinic.

About Eileen O’Shanassy
Eileen O’Shanassy is a freelance writer and blogger based out of Flagstaff, AZ. She writes on a variety of topics and loves to research and write. She enjoys baking, biking, and kayaking. Check out her Twitter @eileenoshanassy. For more information on medical data storage and new technology check out Health Data Archiver.

Online Reputation Management: Trending Topic or Industry Shift?

Posted on December 20, 2016 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Erica Johansen (@thegr8chalupa).

It seems that in healthcare this year online reputation management has taken center stage in conversations as consumers have a larger voice in the healthcare purchasing experience. Reviews, in particular, provide an interesting intersection point between social media technology and healthcare service. It is no surprise that there is pervasive, and exciting, conversation around this topic across the industry at conferences and online.

During the #HITsm chat on Friday, we had an excellent conversation about the value of online reputation management by physicians and other healthcare providers, and what lessons could be learned from one managing their own reputation online. During our chat, we asked the #HITsm community (as patients) about their behavior leaving and reading reviews as a part of their care selection process, as well as the role that social technology plays today in the patient experience. There were some exceptional insights during our conversation:

1. Should providers be interested in their online reputation? Does it matter? There was a resounding “yes” among attendees that attention should be given to a practice’s online brand.

2. As a patient, have you ever read a review after being referred to, or before selecting, a new physician? Perhaps unsuprisingly, most attendees supported trends in consumer behavior by reading reviews of physicians online.

3. Have you ever written an online review for a healthcare experience? If so, was it generally positive or negative? Suprisingly, the perspective of our attendees suggested that the consumption of reviews was more common than the creation of them. Most folks just won’t review unless they felt compelled by an experience that surpassed,or fell too short, of expectations.

4. Is there an expectation that providers (individual and/or organizational) respond to social media engagements by patients? Our attendees chimed in that maybe it isn’t so much that there is an expectation, but it could signifantly help a negative review or solidify a positive one.

5. What would a healthcare provider who is exceptional at managing their online reputation look like? Examples? Stellar examples shared illustrated folks that have harnessed the power of social media to augment their patient expierence and brand. For example:

Bonus. What lessons could be learned from managing your personal online reputation that could guide provider reputation management? This question took a different turn than I initially anticipated, however, for the better. Many insights shared included mentions to social platforms and meeting the patients where they are. There is so much opportunity for the next phase of healthcare social media as platforms begin to cater more to feature requests and uses based on consumer trends. (One great example of this is the Buy/Sell feature added to Facebook Groups.)

Additional thoughts? There were some flavorful insights shared during the chat that are worth an honorable mention. Enjoy these as “food for thought” until our next #HITsm chat!

I’d like to say a big “thank you” to all who participated in the last #HITsm chat (and are catching up after the fact)! You can view a recap of these tweets and the entire conversation here.

#HITsm will take a break for the next two weeks over the holidays, but we will resume in 2017 on Friday, January 6th with a headlining host Andy Slavitt (@ASlavitt) and the @CMSGov team (@AislingMcDL, @JessPKahn, @AndreyOstrovsky, @N_Brennan, @LisaBari, and @ThomasNOV).

What the Final Rule Means for Small Practices – MACRA Monday

Posted on November 14, 2016 I Written By

This guest blog post by John Squire, President and COO of Amazing Charts, is part of the MACRA Monday series of blog posts where we dive into the details of the MACRA Quality Payment Program.

With the long-awaited issuance of the MACRA Final Rule earlier this month, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) tried to soften the blow for small practices in the first year of the program. Depending on the 2017 data you submit by March 31, 2018, your 2019 Medicare payments will be adjusted up, down, or not at all. This flexible timeline casts a wide net and should get everyone to participate.

Here’s a breakdown of all the options for 2017, from opt-out to maximum bonus, open to a small practice using a 2014 Certified EHR Technology (CEHRT). As you’ll see the sections get longer as we progress since each stage becomes more complex.

Be excluded from Medicare’s Quality Payment Program
In the Final Rule, CMS increased the exclusion threshold from $10,000 or less in Medicare Part B allowed charges, to $30,000 or less in billings, or seeing fewer than 100 Medicare Part B patients during the 2017 calendar year.

CMS estimates that this change will exempt approximately 30 percent of eligible clinicians from the Quality Payment Program. If you fall below the threshold, CMS will automatically exclude you. If you don’t meet the exclusion criteria, keep reading.

Do nothing… and take a penalty
Unlike previous programs such as Meaningful Use, there is no opt out for MACRA. If you don’t meet the exclusion requirement above, you are subject to downward adjustments. The Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) is the most likely option for small practices.

MIPS has a scale of 100 points. If you don’t report on any 2017 data by March 31, 2018, you’ll earn zero points and receive a four percent downward adjustment on your Medicare payments in 2019. This penalty rises over time, becoming five percent in 2020, seven percent in 2021, and nine percent in 2022!

A small minority of providers might be willing to make this financial sacrifice, but the vast majority of small practices using CEHRT are more likely to take a few simple steps to avoid the penalty.

Test out for a neutral outcome
You can avoid a downward adjustment by reporting just one quality measure, attesting to one improvement activity, or attesting to the four required Advancing Care Information (ACI) measures (formerly Meaningful Use) – for any length of time period in the calendar year of 2017. You’ll earn three points and there will be no downward adjustment to your 2019 payments.

This is a no-brainer for most small practices. If you use a 2014 Certified EHR, you’re already doing many of these activities, such as e-Prescribing, today. Belong to a Health Information Exchange? You’ve just earned your three points.

Participate for a bonus
You can earn four to 100 points for the chance of a small, moderate, or high positive adjustment to your payments in 2019. Submit at least 90 days of data on more than the minimum (i.e. on two or more quality measures, two or more improvement activities or more than the required four advancing care information measures) to earn more than three points.

Basically, the more information you submit over the longer length of time translates to more points and the more points you earn, the larger a positive adjustment on your payments will be, up to the maximum of four percent.

To earn the most possible points, (1) report for a full year on at least six quality measures (or a measure set); (2) attest to improvement activities worth 20 or 40 points (depending on the geography, size and make up of your practice); and (3) attest to all four of the required ACI measures as well as the five optional ACI measures, plus the one bonus ACI measure. Every 2014 Certified EHR technology has the functionality to support all ten ACI measures.

It could be easier than you think
CMS allows you to get a bonus for ACI when you use 2014 CEHRT to complete one of 94 eligible activities from the eight improvement activities categories. These include telehealth services, care coordination, or any kind of population health management. It could be something as simple as setting a flag for regular check-ups for your Medicare/Medicaid dual-eligible patients. A complete list can be found at this excellent CMS resource: https://qpp.cms.gov/measures/ia.

Even better news: providers participating in a patient-centered certified medical home (PCMH) will automatically receive full credit for the practice improvement category of MIPS. Similarly, providers participating in an Advanced Alternative Payment Model (APM) like an accountable care organization (ACO) will receive 50 percent of the full score for the practice improvement category.

Don’t get complacent – start today
While the agency’s idea of implementing a transition period was necessary, providers in small practices can’t get complacent. The formula for success is going to change very quickly. January 1, 2018 brings the full-year reporting requirement on the expanded measures.  The quality measures will still be required and the cost measures (previously called “resource use”) are going to dial up.  The year 2022 is only six years away, so unless the provider prepares next year, they could start facing some rather significant penalties.

About John Squire
John Squire, President and COO of Amazing Charts, has more than 27 years of high tech industry experience, 15 of them in Health IT. Before joining Amazing Charts, John was Senior Director of Alliances and Cloud Strategy for Microsoft’s U.S. Health and Life Sciences Business Unit.

Be sure to check out all of our MACRA Monday blog posts where we dive into the details of the MACRA Quality Payment Program.

5 Tips to Help You Create Awesome Content to Market Your Healthcare Practice

Posted on November 9, 2016 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Alex Membrillo
alex-membrillo-head-shot
While the phrase “content is king” has surely worn out its welcome, there’s no denying that one of the most effective ways to get noticed, build an audience and grow your practice is to produce high-quality content.

The “blog” is still the most thought-of content type out there, but in more recent years, healthcare practitioners are testing out new waters, such as video marketing and podcasting.

Regardless of your preferred form of content, one of the biggest struggles the busy healthcare professional encounters when trying to market his/her practice is finding ideas to talk about.

These 5 tips should help you create awesome, high-quality content that will demonstrate your expertise and expand your reach to new prospects.

1. Look no further than your calendar
Each month marks at least one – if not a handful of – observances related to the healthcare industry. October, for example, is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. November is American Diabetes Month. June 27 is National HIV Testing Day.

Each of these observances provides a foundation and direction for you to create content around. For October, for example, you could create four blog posts (scheduled once per week) that discusses a different perspective of breast cancer.  For June 27, you could create an infographic that outlines what to expect when getting tested for HIV.

The benefit of turning to your calendar for content ideas is two-fold:

  1. You can plan your content well in advance, so that you’re never left scrambling at the last minute
  2. You can take advantage of the social conversations going on in places like Twitter and Facebook (using hashtags or tagging key influencers helps immensely)

You can turn to Healthfinder.gov to get a list of the observances taking place each year.

2. Tap into the existing news trends
One thing you can always count on is that health and sciences will always be covered in the news. Whether it’s a breakthrough drug, a new form of alternative care, a controversial surgery or statistics that demonstrate a trend in human health (such as obesity), health is always on the front-page, so to speak, of news.

This is a tremendous opportunity for you to create relative, real-time content that folks are talking about at this very moment.

If, for example, Good Morning America just aired a segment on the latest development on the Zika virus, you can be certain that millions of folks will be searching online – and on social media – for terms related to Zika.

By producing your own commentary or perspective on the matter, you can win over some of this traffic and come across as an expert and influencer.

3. Find out what your audiences want to know about
The whole purpose of creating quality content is to provide something of value for folks who conduct online searches.

What better way to produce relative content people actually care about than to go straight to the source?

You can do this a few different ways:

  1. Conduct a survey on your blog or through email, asking your readers what topics they’re most concerned about or would like for you to cover. Survey Monkey is a good free tool to use.
  2. Look at the blogs and social profiles of your local and national counterparts. What are they writing about that seems to have garnered audience response?
  3. Use keyword research. If you know who your audiences are, then you can figure out what search terms they use on Google. These key terms will serve as the subject matter of your content.

4. Don’t resist the list
One of the most effective types of blog posts is the “list.”

5 Ways to Reduce Stress at Home. 10 Reasons to Lower Your Salt Intake.

These types of articles speak directly to the human mind, which likes to group and classify things. A list article tells the reader: This is what you’re going to get, nothing more, nothing less. Readers like this, because they know they’ll be able to skim the list and absorb its value without having to commit to a ton of reading.

Just by thinking in “list” form, you’ll likely come away with a few story ideas. If, for example, you’re an orthopedic surgeon, think to yourself, what would my readers want to know? Perhaps you might come away with ideas such as:

  • Five Ways Runners Can Reduce Joint Pain
  • 7 Reasons Why You Don’t Need Back Surgery
  • The 3 Exercises You Can Do at Home to Strengthen Your Bones

5. Go ahead – reuse, recycle, repurpose!
If you’ve actively been producing content, then there’s no need to reinvent the wheel each and every time. Why not go back over your existing content and figure out a way to spin it into something new?

Is there a new angle you can focus on? Hospitals, for example, could take an article that highlights one field and rewrite it to focus on another one.

Perhaps an article you wrote last year is outdated and could benefit from the inclusion of the latest study or statistics. Create that new post, and link to the original one.

Let’s say, for example, you’re a plastic surgeon who wrote a popular blog post last year about the use of Botox for patients suffering from excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis). Since then, you’ve had a few clients see remarkable benefits from this procedure. You can then update your blog post with patient testimonials and promote it again across your digital channels.

Billions of content is produced daily – getting noticed can be a challenge

As a healthcare professional, your time is already extremely limited, but you know the importance of marketing in order to grow your practice.

Use these 5 tips above to help you quickly come up with high-quality pieces of content that’ll attract your prospects and demonstrate your expertise.

About Alex Membrillo
Alex Membrillo is the CEO of Cardinal Web Solutions, an award winning healthcare marketing agency based in Atlanta, GA. His innovative approach to digital marketing has transformed the industry and delivered remarkable results to clients of all sizes and markets. Visit www.CardinalWebSolutions.com to find out more about Cardinal Web Solutions.  

Follow him on Twitter @Alex_Membrillo

Where’s the Humanity in Healthcare?

Posted on September 8, 2016 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post from Snarky Frog. Yes, that’s her real name. Ok. You got us. No, it’s not her real name, but that’s how she wants to be known online. Who are we to judge her if she loves frogs and snark that much?
Snarky Frog
There was a time when I blogged. There was a time when I wrote about living with POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome) and EDS (Ehlers Danlos Syndrome). There was time when I wrote about having a parent who…well…if I were to explain in this piece, I would lose all credibility.

There was time when I thought people would read what I wrote. There was a time when I thought people would care about how my father died (Yes hospital in CT, I do hold you accountable for that).

There was a time when I thought people would care that when I was half conscious after fainting, a nurse took it upon herself to show me what happens to drug users – apparently folks who use drugs have no rights to sexual dignity.

I wasn’t using illegal drugs then and I don’t now. The more you read about POTS patients, the more you read about how strange our symptoms are. I still argue my symptoms don’t matter, the way I was stripped of my humanity did and still does – turns out nobody really agrees with me. Guess you can do whatever you want to drug users (I’ve since learned this again and again via EMTs and others). As it turns out, you can also pretty much do this to patients you think are faking their disease.

There was a time when I blogged about how I couldn’t understand that a patient advocacy org promoted things one day, disagreed with them the next, then went back and forth for years. By the way, what’s still up with that? Will exercise heal me or is it IVIG I need or is it small fiber neuropathy all around? Oh… you need to study more – well hate to tell you patient group, if I need IVIG, exercise won’t save me. Though, it honestly may help.

There was a time in life when I questioned things. There was a time when I wrote. There was a time I cared. I probably still do all of those things but I do all of it less.

Nobody cared what I wrote so I stopped publicly blogging. The things I tried to get folks to care about – I was on my own with. I wrote but my writing was for me. I took my blog pieces down one by one.

By that time my writing abilities were somewhat gone after I had taken a few too many hits to the head. Things became mostly jots on google docs. My posts are now long gone into the ether and even the WayBackMachine can’t find them.

Right now I could write about not having a single doc who knows much about any of my diseases. I could write about having 3 different specialists who each understood different pieces of EDS / POTS leave their practices in the same year. I could write about fighting with hospital billing offices. I could write about how a doctor who played a role in quality affairs at an academic medical center could literally get nowhere with my insurance when he tried to get me some assistance. I could write about the discussions I have had with the insurance co regarding how much my POTS costs them (about 90-100K in 2015, likely to be more this year) and the various suggestions I’ve given them to lower those costs. I could write about how they respond with the fact that none of those suggestions, while cost saving to them, are part of my plan, and as such, are not things they can or will do.

I could write about my grief over a friend. I could write about the things I saw happen to her the one time I visited her in the hospital. I could write about how I wanted to help more but couldn’t.

I could write about system failures. I could write and I could write and I could write some more about how every single part of the system has failed me and has failed my friends. It might not all make sense but I could write. The irony is the thing that matters to me the least is the specific cost yet that’s what people care about.

I care about the fact that my friend died.

I care about my losses as a human being. I care how much of my human dignity I have lost and how much has been taken away from me since I started getting sicker. I care about the fact that I will likely lose my job (days off, their having to worry or perhaps lack of worry about my falling on the job, my requests for accommodations etc.). I care about the fact that I will never be able to do what I wanted to do with my life – PhD, fieldwork – yeah, not a chance.

I care about the fact that I will eventually get so physically injured by a fall, by EMTs, by hospital staff, or other that I will no longer be able to get out of bed. I care about the fact that I will forever wonder whether one of these things will kill me, and if so, when.

I can give you the health care cost numbers but they don’t matter to me. Ask any chronic illness patient for his or her own costs of care and you’ll find the same thing. Once you go past “typical” or “trendy” chronic illnesses, there is no care coordination, there is nobody to turn to for help, and your insurance company, well maybe they’ll pay for something and maybe they won’t. I do wonder, if I were sick and rich would I still be as sick?

One thing I do know, I’m damned tired of being sick. I’m tired of identifying myself that way and I’m tired of others doing so. I’m also tired of wondering if it’s in my head and tired of having people tell me it is. (And if it is all in my head, then please, by god, someone help me treat that.)

If creating a blog post that delineates each and every expense will help me find a doctor who can help me with whatever the heck is wrong, yes, I will write one. That said, that post would take away a part of me, the part that says humanity matters most and that’s what we should care about.

This post is part of our effort to remind us of the patient perspective by sharing patients’ stories. Thanks Snarky Frog for sharing your story with us. If you have a patient story you’d like to share, please reach out to us on our Contact Us page.

Gastroparesis – A Patient Story

Posted on September 2, 2016 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Melissa Adams VanHouten. You can read more about her on her Gastroparesis: Fighting for Change website and her blog.
Melissa Adams VanHouten - Gastroparesis
Since being diagnosed with gastroparesis, my life has changed in unimaginable ways – and the medical community, which did not initially recognize my complex needs, left me ill-prepared for these changes.  In February 2014, I was hospitalized with severe pain and vomiting, put through a battery of tests, diagnosed, and sent home with only a brief explanation of my illness. No one prepared me for the seriousness of this condition.  Perhaps they thought I understood, but I did not.

My ordeal began in the ER with blood tests and scans.  When these tests showed nothing of concern, the doctors forced a tube down my nose and pumped my stomach in preparation for an upper endoscopy.  To this day, I have never experienced anything quite so unpleasant and terrifying.  The doctors were kind and warned me that, though necessary, the procedure would be painful.  They did their best to talk me through it, but it was not an experience I ever wish to relive.  In addition to the endoscopy, I was sent for a Gastric Emptying Study (GES) the following day.  This was not a particularly harsh test except for the fact that I was required to keep the food down despite my frequent vomiting episodes.  My situation was not improved by the radiology technician warning me repeatedly and sternly that if I vomited, we would have to repeat the test.  My week was rounded out with more scans, additional blood tests, and a few IV changes.

The good news is that, though the tests were difficult to endure, the nurses and doctors were (for the most part) kind and understanding.  They controlled my pain well, answered my questions when they could, and took reasonable steps to ensure my comfort; however, my stay was not without issues.  There were numerous occasions where I had to ask what medication I was being given and why, and there were a couple of medications that I concluded were unnecessary – such as the “standard treatment” for heartburn, which they assured me everyone who complained of stomach pain received, when I was not experiencing heartburn.  I was also woken up by the blinding overbed light several times during the night, every night, for blood pressure checks and such when I really could have used the rest.  I was discouraged from showering and walking the halls as well, as this seemed to be an inconvenience for the nurses. The biggest issue by far, though, was the coordination of care.  I lost count of how many different medical providers I spoke to, could not understand their various roles in my care, and was required to repeat my “story” every time someone new arrived.  I would have loved to have felt as if everyone working with me was “on the same page.”

Fortunately, at the end of my week’s stay, I did receive a diagnosis.  I am thankful I was diagnosed so quickly, since many in my community spend weeks, months, or even years seeking answers.  What is not quite so fortunate is that, upon my release, I was sent home with very little information regarding my condition and was told simply to follow up with a gastroenterologist in about 6 weeks.  I had no detailed diet plan, no medications to try, and no idea what to expect.

I recall the doctors giving me an overview of gastroparesis.  They told me it was “paralysis of the stomach” and impressed upon me that there was no cure.  I remember them saying I would need to make some dietary changes, and if those didn’t work, there were a few medications to try – but they came with risks and negative side effects.  I recall them telling me that in some severe cases, people would opt for surgery to implant a gastric electrical stimulator or resort to feeding tubes.  Mostly, though, I remember them saying that some would recover almost completely over time and would not experience long-term effects.  Of course, this last statement is what I believed would be the case for me.  After all, I was in good overall health.  Not a big deal.  I would follow a liquids-only diet, work my way up to soft foods and solids, just as they indicated I should, and I would be fine.

But it did not happen that way.  I went home believing I would continue to improve; instead, my condition deteriorated.  Within a couple of days, I started vomiting again and could barely keep down liquids.  The attacks of pain worsened, and I became so weak that I honestly could not lift my head up.  I told my family goodbye.  I truly believed I would die.  I could not get in quickly to see my new gastroenterologist, and I had no idea what to do.  I finally mustered up the courage to call my doctor and told him that despite the risks, I thought I should try one of the medications the hospital doctors had mentioned.  He agreed, but because of FDA restrictions and requirements associated with my particular medication, it was two horrendous weeks before I could begin taking it.  These were without a doubt the longest two weeks of my life.

Since starting the medication, I have stopped vomiting (for the most part) and can now function well enough to make it through the day, but I still cannot eat without pain.  It is clear to me now that I will likely never again be able to eat “normal” foods in “normal” amounts, and it is crystal clear to me that this is a life-altering disease from which there is perhaps no coming back.  I have experienced levels of fatigue I previously thought impossible, endured unfathomable pain, and come to realize the horrors of hunger and malnutrition.  I had no idea I would face this.  The doctors did not impress on me that this was a serious, chronic illness, and they left me in the dark as to how to cope with my illness should it not resolve itself, as I had believed it would upon leaving the hospital.

I am thankful I now have a physician who is willing to listen to my concerns and partner with me in evaluating treatment options.  Though there are few treatments available for gastroparesis, my doctor seems to genuinely care and refuses to give up on me.  That means the world to a person in my circumstances.  My experience differs from many in the gastroparesis community.  Unlike me, they remain lost and confused, as I was immediately after diagnosis.  They never find that competent, compassionate doctor.  These are the people for whom I advocate.  I hope that eventually we are able to establish a healthcare system that meets the needs of all.  We need better care, better treatments, and a medical community that comprehends our needs.

This post is part of our effort to remind us of the patient perspective by sharing patients’ stories. Thanks Melissa for sharing your story with us. If you have a patient story you’d like to share, please reach out to us on our Contact Us page.

The Best Healthcare Conferences Coming Up in 2016

Posted on June 2, 2016 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Brooke Chaplan.

Healthcare facilities the world over have to constantly maintain competent and knowledgeable staff and need to be aware of recent health care advances, discoveries, and much more. Attending a health care conference allows you an educational experience that could be vital to your career. Listed below are multiple health care conferences that will be upcoming in the year of 2016 and are some of the best to attend (See also Healthcare Scene’s list of conferences).

Medical Informatics World Conference
Location: Boston at Seaport World Trade Center
Date: Register in 2016, but the conference is April 4-5th of 2017
The Medical Informatics World Conference focuses mainly on patient engagement and satisfaction. Another topic spoke during this conference is predictive analytics. Leading researchers, scientists, and technology experts will be speaking at this conference. This specific event is geared towards hospital/health care, government, and academic employees.

Quality Grampian Conference
Location: Suttie Centre at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. For the
(Americans reading this, traveling may be far, but you deserve a vacation, and though the 2016 date has passed, there are similar events already scheduled for January 2017 for robotic surgery and more!)
Date: May 23rd, 2016 at 8:45 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.
The Quality Grampian Conference focuses on quality and safety in the health care field. Quality Grampian’s fifth annual conference is geared specifically towards health care students and professionals. Quality Grampian is presented by the University of Aberdeen, NHS Grampian, and Robert Gordon University. There is absolutely no charge to attend this health care conference, except maybe some travel costs.

The Digital Health Summit Conferences
Location: Moscone Center, San Fransicso, CA
Date: June 6-7 2016
(This date may be coming up, but look for the Las Vegas Conference hosted in January 2017.)
The digital world is already changing so much about healthcare and jobs in the industry and this conference hopes to show new business owners and entrepreneurs the new world of digital, high-tech health. Full of insightful keynote speakers, panel engagements, workshop sessions and product launches this educational conference goes over the trends and needed technology for making a new venture or clinic successful.

The Future of Medicine – Technology and the Role of the Doctor in 2025
Location: Variable
Date: May 19th, 2016
This conference discussion focused on medicine and its evolving discoveries within the next 10 years. The event was aimed to educate health care professionals and employees and presentations were shown by leading health care experts and doctors. Your clinical staff who may only have bachelor degrees will benefit since it will be going into a lot of new technologies as well. Though it already happened, you can find reviews on what was discussed.

Attending a health care conference is an excellent way to maintain knowledge about leading health care advances. Continuing and furthering education shows true dedication to your profession, which is greatly appreciated no matter what industry you are in.

About Brooke Chaplan
Brooke Chaplan is a freelance writer and blogger. She lives and works out of her home in Los Lunas, New Mexico. She loves the outdoors and spends most her time hiking, biking and gardening. For more information on improving health education or gaining a bachelor degree in health information management check out courses online at the University of Cincinnati. Brooke is available via Twitter @BrookeChaplan.

Ditching Your EHR Just Isn’t Practical Regardless of Practice Model

Posted on May 12, 2016 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Tom Giannulli, MS, MD and CMO at Kareo.
Tom Giannulli - Kareo EHR
A recent piece by Anne Zieger on EMR & EHR opened up the discussion regarding whether or not direct primary care (DPC) physicians can or should ditch their electronic health record (EHR). And, this isn’t the first time the topic has surfaced. Other blogs have suggested that since EHRs are really just a means to gather documentation for insurance claims, DPC doctors don’t need them. Further, they offer other arguments against EHRs—like poor workflow and patient experience—however, the focus was really around insurance.

Yet, this is not a reason in and of itself for why DPC physicians should give up their EHRs. One role of an EHR is to improve documentation and coding to ensure physicians get paid. This is a good thing for DPC physicians, as well as traditional practices. The majority of DPC physicians use more than one payment model within their practice, meaning many also bill insurance for at least some patients.

A study conducted in 2015 showed that only 28% of physicians who used a DPC, concierge or other membership model in their practice had their entire patient panel on that model. The rest used it for some, but not all, patients. In fact, the largest group—37%—had 25% or less of their patients on a membership payment model. That said, insurance billing continues to be a challenge that those practices must navigate. An EHR can help them get paid correctly. It can also help them report for quality initiatives, like Meaningful Use and PQRS, prepare for the newly proposed MACRA ruling, and allow them to bill for chronic care management (CCM) services, while also improving patient experience and outcomes.

Independent practices understand that as we move forward in healthcare, a single payment model won’t do the trick. They need to be nimble and open to many options from fee-for-service to DPC to Virtual ACOs and other value-based reimbursement programs. The agile medical practices will be the ones that thrive in the long term. They are looking both at reimbursement models and industry changes, as well as increasing patient demands, such as increased connectivity, price transparency and improved patient access.

Using the EHR, Regardless of Practice Model

This is why even for those DPC practices that do go all in and don’t bill insurance, an EHR is essential. Many DPC practices offer largely primary care services with a focus on prevention and wellness. The right EHR can enable not only visit documentation but preventive care alerts and quick access to patient education. With a truly mobile EHR, physicians can engage patients face-to-face and share information in real time.

With the addition of integrated patient engagement features, such as telemedicine, self-care instructions and videos, tracking of wearable devices, and secure messaging through a portal, patients and their caregivers can stay in sync with their providers. This is an added level of convenience that DPC practices should support. Moreover, patient engagement components can be a critical part of managing wellness when studies show that most patients forget what their physician said after they leave the office. Keeping patients well means keeping the lines of communication open and a portal can play an important role.

Not only have patients expressed that they are more loyal to a physician who offers a portal (for the reasons stated above), but they have also said they like features like electronic prescribing. In fact, over 75% of patients have said they prefer an EHR to paper charts. Beyond the desire of patients, many states are beginning to mandate not just standard ePrescribing but also electronic prescribing for controlled substances. DPC physicians will not be exempt from rules like these.

There’s no other option but the EHR

It’s true that you can piece together just the technology features you want for your practice by combining several systems. However, the blog post referenced above seemed to suggest you could use an alternate system to an EHR. If you pick and choose features here and there, wouldn’t that mean more work entering data into a bunch of disparate systems? Or, logging into several different platforms translating to added time and less secure environments. One for ePrescribing, one for scheduling and reminders, one for the patient portal and maybe another one for patient collections?

There are cloud-based EHRs today that can offer most, if not all, of this in a single platform. One platform means one patient database, one login, and one easy-to-access system for all employees. And for DPC practices with small staff, no duplicate data entry or tedious jumping from system to system. In addition, a single end-to-end system that can support all the needs of a practice also means the practice can be positioned for flexibility. For example, if a DPC practice decides to accept insurance again or try another payment model, you’ll have the solutions you need without making significant changes to your workflow.

EHRs may not be perfect, but they are improving in their ability to meet increasing consumer demands and changing government regulation. Moving forward, more progressive EHR platforms will continue to offer add-on partners or native capabilities to solve consumer-centric needs. As the types of practice models change and evolve, the need for a core EHR should remain a constant, while additional features will vary. Thus, the flexibility and configurability of the EHR platform is critical to enabling long term success.

Full Disclosure: Kareo is an advertiser on this site.