Marketing For Healthcare Providers

Healthcare is rapidly changing. As a practitioner, how should you think about attracting new patients, navigating online reviews, and building a brand? Read this report.

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Community Is the Bridge between Information and Wellness

When it comes to preserving health and prolonging life, study after study shows that prevention is essential. From type 2 diabetes to early-stage prostate cancer, clinical trials have demonstrated that countless diseases can be avoided or even reversed through (often simple) lifestyle changes. We know the solution. Yet the challenge is reaching it. For example, tens of millions of overweight Americans are dieting at any given moment, but only a small percentage of these individuals lose weight and keep it off.

The explanation, borne-out by research, is intuitive: While providing patients with information is important, this isn’t what motivates people to make lasting changes and adhere to them. Rather, it’s a sense of community. There’s an innate human understanding that anything that can connect us is really healing. Indeed, if you look at the inverse, studies show that people who report feeling lonely or isolated are ten times more likely to die prematurely. Read more…


The Screening Paradox

Health screening is part of good preventive care, though over-screening can lead to increased costs, and potential patient harm. Healthcare professional societies have recently developed excellent public service announcements describing the dangers of over-testing, and new research suggests that though additional medical interventions are associated with increased patient satisfaction, they also lead (ironically) to higher mortality rates.

And so, in a system attempting to shift to a “less is more” model of healthcare, why is resistance so strong? When the USPSTF recommended against the need for annual screening mammograms in healthy women (without a family history of breast cancer) between the ages of 40 and 49, the outcry was deafening. Every professional society and patient advocacy group rallied against the recommendation, and generally not much has changed in the breast cancer screening world. Read more…


The Diagnostic Tool We Can’t Outsource

Something seems out of place. Something feels different. Something is wrong. We all experience that feeling – as humans, we have all relied on the gut check to let us know when things are amiss. But for physicians, the experience permeates our day. It is, in fact, an essential part of the job.

It’s how we look for clues in the tiny slivers of time we’re sometimes allotted. And it doesn’t happen in front of a computer. We need to watch our patients. It’s a process we can’t outsource to any smartphone app. Read more…


Med School for Dr. Google: Four Ways to Help Patients Find Reliable Online Health Information

Most physicians agree that we have an ethical obligation to help educate our patients about what’s going on with their health, but what does that look like in a world overwhelmed with digital health information? And how do we budget appropriate time when we’re already struggling to balance shorter appointment times, more documentation requirements, and busier clinic schedules?

It’s estimated that 72 percent of patients get a majority of their health information online. With an abundance of biased and incorrect information on the Internet, our responsibility as physicians has evolved from simply teaching patients about their health conditions to now include educating patients on where and how to find and identify reliable health information. Read more…


It’s Time for Innovation in How We Pay for Medical School

There is a tremendous amount of handwringing among students, researchers, and medical school deans about the record amount of debt that medical students incur – more than $175,000, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. This has unintended consequences, including student selection of more lucrative specialties and placing medical education beyond the reach of low-income and minority students. We must get serious about reducing this debt. A talented medical workforce is a national priority.

On June 9, 2014, Dr. Louis Sullivan authored an op-ed piece published in the Washington Post titled “The Outrageous Cost of Working in Medicine.” In the article, Dr. Sullivan discusses this challenge from both diversity and equity perspectives. “You shouldn’t have to come from a wealthy family (or be willing to tolerate a lifetime burden of debt or the deferral of buying a home and starting a family) to go into healthcare,” he writes. Yet 60 percent of medical students hail from families with incomes in the top 20 percent of the nation. (The average household income for a matriculating medical student is currently more than $110,000 per year.) Meanwhile only three percent come from families with incomes in the lowest 20 percent. Read more…


How Tracking Device Data Could Change Medicine

The health monitoring device industry is projected to exceed five billion dollars in 2016 – largely, some say, due to our focus on patient engagement and prevention. Last week the Wall Street Journal ran a story that explored the medical applications of Fitbit, a pedometer that tracks movement, steps taken, calories consumed, and (in certain models) sleep habits. While such devices were initially embraced by serious athletes in order to improve performance, they are now finding a home in the world of research, where many believe they can impact health outcomes – both inside and outside of the clinical setting.

In a series of recent studies, for instance, researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, have found that diabetic patients who use Fitbit tend to have better control of their blood sugar and are more likely to achieve weight loss-related goals than are those who do not use the device. Read more…


The Business Case for Addressing Social Factors in Healthcare

While the US spends more per person on healthcare than any other country in the world, we get a very low return on that investment. Other countries whose citizens enjoy significantly better health outcomes spend less on health “care” (beds, technology, doctors’ salaries) and more per capita on social services and supports.

There’s growing evidence that social factors impact health, and a business case to be made for spending more on them. The evidence and argument for non-government providers investing more in these areas is explained in the research paper, Addressing Patients’ Social Needs: An Emerging Business Case for Provider Investment, from The Commonwealth Fund, Skoll Foundation, and Pershing Square Foundation. Read more…


Technology, Medicine, and the Access Effect

I overheard on Twitter last week that there are institutions that don’t allow the use of smartphones by physicians. It seemed hard to believe.

Then it made sense. Because we’re in transition between siloed and networked worlds.

Our siloed world supports encounters with the health system that are isolated, episodic, and dependent upon the capacity of a single provider. A networked medical world operates in real-time and is supported by decision-making intelligence that extends beyond what one person can offer. Read more…

Sharlay Butler, UW Medicine Student, 10-23-13 (c)2013

A Road to Medicine Less Traveled

My path to medicine is tied to my family’s experience with poverty, and with the profound economic fallout a major illness can bring in such circumstances. I grew up on the Coeur d’Alene reservation in Northern Idaho. My mother was a single parent who had to rely on government assistance to raise three children in subsidized housing. As the eldest, I was expected to help care for my younger siblings while she worked and attended night school. We grew up on government foods such as powdered eggs, multi-functional tomato substance, and powdered milk.

Nevertheless, my mother always told us that education opens doors, and she encouraged us in all that we did. Food banks, secondhand stores, and church potlucks helped us make ends meet. Over the years, I watched her study long hours and work late shifts, but she always had the energy to take us to our sporting practices or lead us on nature walks. Seeing the strongest person in my life succeed, fail, and keep going forward inspired me to expect the same strength in myself. These experiences taught me at an early age what it meant to live on limited resources. Read more…


A Treatment Often Overlooked

As a doctor, I’m trained to do many things: I listen. I ask. I examine, order, and test. And then I assess. I certainly try to treat. All too often, this includes prescribing.

What frequently gets obscured in this paradigm is that, on many occasions, the listening part is enough.

Take Gene, for instance. He’s a retired biochemist. When I met him for the first time as a patient, I took a standard social history: I asked about employment, hobbies, and habits. Read more…