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Technology Continues to Make Health Care More Efficient

I have a love-hate relationship with technology. I spend more time with my laptop than any friend and I’ve donated shelves of books in favor or my Kindle. However, the cost and training time it takes to invest into a new phone or iPad is beyond what I’m willing to give.

Just as technology is overtaking our personal lives, it continues to become a source to reckon with in many doctors’ offices. Although training and working all of the bugs out is never a fun process for Medical Assistants, this will certainly aid in improving patient care.

On news-bulletin.com, Julia M. Dendinger writes that, “A recent federal mandate [has] come down, notifying health care providers that if they want to bill their patient’s Medicare, and get paid, it needs to be done electronically. Providers have until 2014 to switch over to a fully-electronic billing and records system.”

This morning I had a doctor’s appointment and I love how everything is technologically interconnected. I went into the exam room (after a 45 minute wait, but that’s another story), the MA logged into the computer, took my blood pressure, asked how tall I was and that was that. I didn’t have any lengthy forms to fill out and I didn’t have to answer to same questions multiple times.

When my appointment was over, the MA at the front desk had already printed out the forms for my blood work and was ready to make my next appointment. No files to sort through, no waiting time, no hassle. It was great!

Valencia Family Medicine in Los Lunas, CA also has a synced in system like my doctor’s office. Co-owners and certified family nurse practitioners Kathy R. Fresquez-Chavez and Leona Herrell mention how effective and efficient their computer system has made their practice. “If someone goes to the express care and is a patient here for primary care, they can access their records,” Fresquez-Chavez said. “And if they aren’t a patient and need to come here for follow-up care, the information is already there. We don’t have to wait to get if from someone else.”

My husband, who works for a county medical facility, also told me that they are adopting a new program to technologically sync all of their cases. While many of his patients are also county hospital clients and inmates, having a unified records system can keep all medical staff in the know.

It seems like students in a medical assisting school need to be armed with both medical skills and computer skills for a successful future.

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Should Hospitals and Clinics Post on Facebook?

I’ve written about health care and its participation in the social media realm, but with this new platform interesting issues keep coming up. As a student in a vocational nursing college, check out what the local hospitals in your area are saying.

On FierceHealth.com, editor Karen M. Cheung reports on a controversial event that happened at a hospital in Rhode Island. “the media relations officer at Rhode Island Hospital through Facebook addressed recent charges against a physician, letting readers know that the physician left the institution and his privileges were suspended, wrote Nancy Cawley Jean, senior media relations officer at Lifespan health system, on Hospital Impact. A patient responded accusing the hospital for a lack of discretion about an ongoing criminal and internal investigation. The event highlights whether Facebook is the appropriate forum for such news and comments.”

Facebook and Twitter are great forums to voice opinions and announce events, but the etiquette rules are not clearly established with this new use of technology. What seems an obvious breach of taste to one person is another person’s shared post. (Example: I had a friend post her grandfather’s funeral pictures on Facebook. That is so disrespectful and tacky I’m not even going to get started sharing all of my feelings.)

“’Being up front, honest, and transparent in social media is vital to its success and to the reputation of your brand, whether it be a hospital, a small B2B business, or your own personal page,’ Jean wrote. ‘A social media policy is absolutely vital,’’ reports Chueng.

As a student in a school of vocational nursing, you could use this technology to your advantage. This is a great way to find out how the hospital that you are planning to work at feels about certain matters such as the future of health care, how they are planning on succeeding during this time of economic difficulty and what goals they have to achieve in the future. You can also view comments from patients and others involved with the specific institution.

As a new employee, you may also want to ask if the hospital or clinic that you will be working for has a social media policy in place. It’s wise not to comment on your place of work or co-workers on a social site, but it’s nearly impossible not to include your fellow employees as “friends.”

Technology as well as health care is ever changing. In both areas, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

To read the complete article mentioned in this post, please visit
http://www.fiercehealthcare.com/story/where-draw-line-social-media-your-hospital/2011-08-25?utm_medium=nl&utm_source=internal

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Social Media Increases Health Care’s Sphere of Influence

Who doesn’t have an account on a social media networking site like Twitter or Facebook? Okay, I don’t, but I look over my husband’s shoulder and can see all that I’m missing (and it confirms why I don’t want an account.) Yesterday I wrote about telemedicine and how it is changing the future of health care. Today I found another article on this subject that I couldn’t pass up commenting on. If you are a student earning an ADN degree, you may be interested in this new use of technology.

On Bakersfield.com staff writer Kellie Schmitt interviewed doctor Dr. Milan Shah, who specializes in aesthetic and laser medicine, to find out how Dr. Shah uses social media and the concerns he has about it. “Shah and other health care workers are increasingly promoting their offerings, educating consumers and forming online communities through social media. That’s especially important as one in five Americans is using social media sites such as Facebook as a source of health care information, according to a 2011 National Research Corp. Ticker survey.”

There are some legal precautions that need to be paid special attention to. As with any area of medicine, patient privacy needs to be upheld. Schmitt writes “The goal for health care workers is to ensure their online presence matches their offline attention to federal privacy laws, such as not mentioning or photographing patients without their consent, experts say. It’s also important for practitioners not to give specific medical advice online.

“The pharmaceutical industry faces additional regulations that govern fairness and balance, said Bob Brown, a partner of BryantBROWN Healthcare, a L.A.-based marketing firm. ‘If they tout the benefits of a drug on their Facebook page, they need to give equal space to its risk — even if they’re not the ones posting the comment. The industry is looking to the FDA to publish more definite guidelines’, Brown added.”

These sites are also directed more towards elective surgery or aesthetic procedures since they are paid for out of pocket and not from insurance. “Sometimes, the Facebook sites even turn into impromptu support groups, with new patients expressing their apprehension, and more seasoned ones responding.”

This makes me wonder how nurses will be impacted by this change in practice. Will they spend more time on the internet treating patients and less time face to face? Will Facebook become part of the job such as charting is? How will bedside manner change and how will accountability be monitored? Those in a nursing program in the Bay Area have a lot to look forward to….

To read the complete article mentioned in this post, please visit
http://www.bakersfield.com/news/local/x965389092/Doctors-cautious-as-they-wade-into-social-media

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Telemedicine’s Role in Health Care

I had never heard of telemedicine until today and I’m still baffled by it. How can a doctor treat a patient remotely and how does this type of care affect those training to be nurses in avocational nursing program?

Michael T. Provencher, MPH, RRT, and Paul F. Nuccio, MS, RRT, FAARC wrote an article in this month’s RT Magazine entitled Telemedicine: What Is It All About? Generally speaking “Telemedicine is an extension of eHealth defined as the use of new and emerging technology to enhance health and health care.1 Two other frequently used terms associated with telemedicine are telecare and telemonitoring, the latter representing distant monitoring of patients in their home environment. Telemedicine represents an exciting shift in the delivery of health care, a shift that will transition patient care from the physician’s office or clinic into the patient’s home. On a regional level, it will allow urban providers to reach rural areas.”

According to this article, 78% of health costs are attributed to chronic conditions so telemedicine is directed to these patients. So far, patients suffering from COPD have been the focus group on implementing this new technology. “COPD is an irreversible lung disease characterized by non-fully reversible bronchoconstriction, a disease that requires close monitoring, medication adherence, and socio-behavioral changes in order to reduce symptoms and maximize the patient’s ability to function daily. For COPD, telemedicine could offer health care providers greater flexibility in the delivery of care, along with improvements in patient monitoring to help prevent COPD exacerbations,” explains Provencher and Nuccio.

A major plus to this advancement in technology is that patients in remote areas or patients that are not near specialists to treat their conditions can have access to treatment. “For those in remote regions of any state or province, videoconferencing and distant consultation could be used to provide care over very large distances. Regarding care over large distances, it was ruled by law that if providers were to provide care within a particular state’s boundaries, they would have to have a license within that jurisdiction. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has recognized the importance of telemedicine and its potential for improving access to care and reducing costs.”

Through being able to meet with a doctor via Skype or the internet, patients can access medical attention readily. The primary setback in using this system is insurance reimbursements.

Students in a Vocational Nursing school may be wondering where this leaves them. Will nurses still be in demand? The Bureau of Labor and Statistics reports that there will be a shortage of health care workers until the year 2030. Two of the perceived benefits of telemedicine would be easing the burden of nurses and providing preventative care. I’m eager to see how this pans out!

To read the complete article mentioned in this post, please visit
http://www.rtmagazine.com/issues/articles/2011-07_04.asp

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Cleaner Hospitals, Healthier Patients

There are always new advances and products that make life more efficient in the hospital. Remember when Latex free gloves were all the rage? Now it appears that copper surfaces in the ICU can drastically cut bacteria levels and make for a safer environment for patients. Who knew?

As a LVN to RN student, you’re probably swamped with clinicals and memorizing parts of the body that have ten syllables or more. Nevertheless, it’s important to be aware of the advancements that are continually happening in the medical field. While all the products may not pertain to specialties across the board, who knows when these little tidbits of trivia may come in handy? The more knowledge you have might make you stand out in an interview.

According to reuters.com reporter Chris Kelly, “Antimicrobial copper surfaces in intensive care units (ICU) kill 97 percent of bacteria that can cause hospital-acquired infections, according to preliminary results of a multisite clinical trial in the United States… The results also showed a 40 percent reduction in the risk of acquiring an infection,” explains Kelly. “The study, presented at the World Health Organization’s 1st International Conference on Prevention and Infection Control (ICPIC) in Geneva, Switzerland, on Friday, backed what research teams at three U.S. hospitals suggested four years ago: replacing the most heavily contaminated touch surfaces in ICUs with antimicrobial copper will control bacteria growth and cut down on infection rates.”

These numbers are quite impressive and copper seems to be a necessary change that hospitals should seriously consider. Kelly relates these frightening statistics: “Hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) are the fourth leading cause of death in the United States behind heart disease, strokes and cancer…According to estimates provided by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, nearly one in every 20 hospitalized U.S. patients acquires an HAI, resulting in 100,000 lives lost each year.”

There are several issues I wish the article addressed: How much would this cost? How does the copper eliminate bacteria? What kind of upkeep would the metal need? However, with the high numbers of patient HAIs and the impressive results, should cost and upkeep be major hindrances to adopting this new standard of cleanliness?

If you are in an LVN to RN program in the San Francisco Bay Area, this is an amazing time to get into the medical profession. With new advancements continually on the horizon, it will be exciting to see what lies ahead.

To read the complete article mentioned in this post, please visit:
http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/07/01/us-copper-antimicrobial-idUSTRE76031820110701?feedType=RSS&feedName=healthNews&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+reuters%2FhealthNews+%28News+%2F+US+%2F+Health+News%29

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Errors With Technology Could Put Patients' Lives at Risk

I’ve been tracking technological advances in the health care industry for a little while now and most of the trends seem really positive. Robotics in surgery, automated drug dispensers and electronic files seem to be integrating well into the hospital settings. Unfortunately, nothing and no one is perfect; an attention to detail is a vital part of being a medical assistant or a pharmacy technician student.

Reporters Judith Graham and Cynthia Dizikes wrote a disturbing story in the Los Angeles Times about how a pharmacy technician input the wrong information into the computer and a premature baby overdosed on sodium chloride. “When the nutritional fluids were administered to Genesis, a tiny baby born 16 weeks prematurely, the infant’s heart stopped, and he died, leaving behind parents stunned by grief.

“Although a series of other errors contributed to the tragedy, its origin — a piece of data entered inaccurately into a computer program — throws a spotlight on safety risks associated with medicine’s advance into the information age, a trend being pushed aggressively under health reform.”

“The federal government is aiding the shift with $23 billion in incentives to medical providers who buy electronic medical records or computerized systems that automate drug orders and other medical processes. The hope is that these technologies will enhance access to vast amounts of information tucked away in paper files and meaningfully improve medical care.

“Doctors should be able to see test results quickly and communicate more easily with each other, for example. And electronic safeguards can remind physicians about recommended medical practices or alert them to harmful interactions between medicines.

“Yet with these sizable potential benefits also come potential problems. Hospital computers may crash or software bugs jumble data, deleting information from computerized records or depositing it in the wrong place. Sometimes, computers spew forth a slew of disorganized data, and physicians can’t quickly find critical information about patients.”

Errors happen in every field and have a variety of different outcomes. Unfortunately when it comes to the medical field, many times it can mean the difference between life and death. Vendors of this equipment blame human error for the death of this newborn and not on computer malfunction.

As a pharmacy technician in the San Francisco Bay Area, it is vital to be accurate and thorough in your upcoming occupation. Check and recheck to make sure the information is correct.

To read the complete article mentioned in this post, please visit:
http://www.latimes.com/health/ct-met-technology-errors-20110627,0,2158183.story