How will physicians learn and obtain new information 3-5 years from now? What trends and technologies will drive these changes? And what are the implications for those involved in physician engagement and communication? Ten forward-thinking...
According to Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project (a survey designed to progressively track smartphone adoption) as of January 2014, 58% of American adults were in possession of a smartphone. Additionally, 42% of American adults owned a tablet computer. For the sake of comparison, Pew reported that merely 35% of American adults owned a smartphone back in May of 2011—that’s a 65% increase in users in less than 3 years. In examining this trend, it would be an understatement to say the influence and adoption rate of smartphone technology is less than ubiquitous. And with 24/7 access to the digital world of social media, search engines and apps, businesses and entrepreneurs from virtually every industry fiercely compete for valuable eye time in hopes to maximize profits.
Don’t believe me? Go ahead and run a Google News search for the disruptor known as Uber, a company that is singlehandedly commandeering the taxi industry by way of mobile, and you’ll find hundreds of freshly updated articles spanning from sources such as the Wall Street Journal to NBC News. According to analysts, another highly lucrative industry ripe with opportunity is that of health care. About $6.7 billion ripe matter of fact and tech giants like Google, Apple and Microsoft are paying close attention. But what does this mean for the end user, their health and the health care industry as a whole?
UNDERSTANDING MOBILE SMART DEVICES AS THE HEALTH CARE DISRUPTOR
Massoud Alibakhsh, the CEO of a prominent medical billing software company by the name of NueMD, paints a very clear picture of how mobile devices are quickly establishing themselves as the central disrupting force in the field health care. “From one side, the new generation of physicians started adopting these devices because: A. [they] found it more convenient to have a small device in their hand as opposed to five different books. So, the market responded to that and started building some of those apps,” says Massoud. He then expands on the subsequent advancements that improved the way in which we interact with mobile devices, such as reduced production costs associated with increased memory and processor speed, and the development of the cloud. Benefits that were once tied to practitioners’ stationary desktop computers and clunky laptops now extend to pocket-sized tools capable of granting access to patient data from pretty much anywhere and at anytime.
Today, smartphone compatible medical devices and apps work as weight scales, blood pressure cuffs and pulse oximeters. These functions not only encourage patients to take a role in their own health, but the data pulled from such tools can be systematically recorded, graphed and analyzed by trained medical professionals to better understand the health and lifestyles of their patients. There is even a website called iMedicalApps that reports on and reviews the latest and greatest medical apps used by patients and professionals alike.
CONNECTING PHYSICIANS AND PATIENTS VIA MOBILE
In an inspiring reality, patients and practitioners alike are using the same types of devices that run on the same operating systems. This improves app viability because data exchanges can occur more fluidly. For instance take the e-Consult My Doctor app, a doctor-patient communication platform that allows patients and practitioners to engage in what they call e-consulting dialogs. Patients must manage their own personal health record (PHR) in order to participate. The doctor can extend the conversation to a maximum of 10 messages as means to prevent losing too much time in a conversation. Plus, as these doctor-patient messaging platforms evolve and improve over time, doctors will better help patients determine whether a visit to the emergency room or doctor’s office is even necessary in the first place—thus reducing the burden commonly associated with triage clinics. Of course, there are many security concerns that must be ironed out before this emerges as a widely adopted practice.
Here’s an obvious statement: mobile technology has drastically increased the time in which we spend on social media. However, understanding the actual breakdown is quite fascinating.
72% of all internet users engage on social media (that’s a ton of people)71% of social media users do so on mobile devices (does not exclude users who engage across desktop machines, too)Approximately 60% (6 out of every 10 hours) of all time spent on social media is done so via mobile devices alone (excluding desktop machines)
It appears mobile is the primary artery for social media, which has major implications for physicians and how they use the two in tandem to consume and disseminate information. Today, physicians have the ability to use social networks to crowdsource answers to clinical questions. This can be done through a trusted physician-only social network called Sermo that serves as a collective intelligence comprised of over 270,000 qualified doctors from more than 90 specialties. Platforms like Sermo can help doctors find more precise answers to unusual or uncommon ailments and then more effectively administer care. The hivemind is simply astonishing, especially when it’s comprised of trained doctors!
Get in the game - don’t get stuck on the sideline More than a third (35%) of senior marketing professionals believe that digital marketing will account for. Marketing topic(s):Digital transformation strategy. Advice by Danyl Bosomworth.
As part of a new series of thought leadership essays, based on online research with doctors, the CEO of M3 Europe, Dr Tim Ringrose, takes a look into the virtual habits of doctors, including their digital relationship with the pharmaceutical...
The ubiquitous “Dr. Google” has allowed patients to be more involved in their own healthcare than ever before. The idea of the engaged patient, through the power of digital, has now become the “empowered” patient.
Let’s walk through an example scenario. When patients start to notice something doesn’t feel quite right, theygoogle their symptoms and make a preliminary diagnosis. These self-diagnosers find a physician with some expertise in their condition and check Google Maps to see who is convenient to their homes or offices. They assume they will end up with a specialist, so they read the local specialist reviews on Vitals and Healthgrades. In the waiting room, they post iPad updates on their situations to Twitter and Facebook. Maybe they do some last-minute research. An empowered digital patient’s relationship with “Dr. Google” doesn’t stop after communicating with their real doctor. After the doctor visit, they research side effects of prescribed medications. They set up accounts in the physician’s EHR. Then they change social-network profile icons to show support for a cure.
While marketing has always played a role in getting new patients in the doors, it is important to not forget about sustaining relationships with the fully engaged—these are the ones who will spread the word about your organization.
Follow the digital patient journey with “Dr. Google” from start to finish in our new infographic.
As in the rest of modern life, social media is becoming impossible to ignore in modern medicine. To help clinicians navigate the ever-evolving online landscape and to show how social media may actually help advance clinical outcomes, two Education Sessions are being offered: ‘The Future Is Now: Incorporating Electronic Health Records, Web-Based Decision Tools, and Social Media into Your Clinical Practice,’ Sunday, 4:45 PM-6:00 PM in Room S504 and ‘Internet, Social Media, Privacy Regulations, and Clinical Trials,’ Monday, 1:15 PM-2:30 PM in S504.
“It used to be just fine that some clinicians who were Internet-savvy and interested would opt in, and others stuck with the status quo and did not get involved with the online world,” Michael Fisch, MD, MPH, a Speaker in today’s session and chair of the Department of General Oncology at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center told ASCO Daily News. “The status quo is no longer a safe place, and opting out is not a great idea moving forward.”
According to Dr. Fisch, clinicians who are not engaged online are often not aware of how their names, reputations, and ideas are being invoked and discussed. Colleagues and patients regularly use the Internet to search for information about doctors and key topics. Oncologists can shape and influence what patients and the lay public pay attention to online by establishing profiles on networking sites, such as LinkedIn and Doximity, by interacting on Twitter, and by contributing to blogs.
Physicians who want to increase awareness among the public or seek out colleagues through social media forums must understand how to prevent and manage the potential hazards in this realm, such as unprofessional online behavior running afoul of institutional and organizational guidelines governing these online interactions, Dr. Fisch said.
Beyond established social media avenues, clinicians should also think more about how they can maximize the value of other online experiences. For example, most web-based presentations or conference calls offer participants the option to interact (using the “chat” function) in real time. This provides a real opportunity for participants to become more engaged with each other and the presenters so that they enjoy and get more of out of the activity, Dr. Fisch said.
With increasing attention being paid to patient-reported outcomes, there has been considerable focus on improving methods to collect this data. Web-based platforms will make it easier for patients to supply information, and emerging technologies will be discussed during today’s session by Laura E. Strong, PhD.
Greater Patient Education
Social media and the Internet also provide unique opportunities to better engage with patients and the public who are searching for more information about cancer.
“While doctors are tentatively getting involved in social media, patients are getting involved far more aggressively and are establishing a structured environment of websites and forums,” said Michael A. Thompson, MD, PhD, Chair of today’s session, Speaker during tomorrow’s session, and medical director of Early Cancer Research at Aurora Health Care in Wisconsin. “These communities are evolving, and patients will be pushing us more.”
Clinicians and health systems should recognize opportunities for education, Dr. Thompson said. When a celebrity announces that he or she has a disease, there is a significant increase in online searches for more information about that condition. After broadcaster Tom Brokaw announced in February 2014 that he had multiple myeloma, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute published a blog post describing the disease with numerous links to treatment, current research, and clinical trials. This blog post has already been recirculated hundreds of times on Facebook and Twitter. Similar increases in interest occur during cancer awareness months.
“These are opportunities when the public and patients are looking for more information, and it would be great if knowledgeable people with expertise were available to answer questions or steer them in the direction of more information,” Dr. Thompson said in an interview with ASCO Daily News.
The desire among patients for more information was driven home for Oliver Bogler, PhD, senior vice president of Academic Affairs and professor of neurosurgery research at MD Anderson, in his unique position as both a cancer biologist and a male breast cancer survivor. A Speaker in tomorrow’s session, Dr. Bogler will explain his choice to chronicle his experiences in his blog malebreastcancerblog.org. The initial decision to start the blog was a cathartic exercise, but the rarity of breast cancer in men and his background in cancer research also turned it into an educational tool.
“I have had people say for the first time that they understand what drugs they are taking and how they work and that they found this information reassuring and helpful,” Dr. Bogler said. “One caregiver used a post I’d written about what it felt like to have a port placed to educate her own patients.”
Modern health care does not allow the time for in-depth explanations of the biology of the disease and the mechanisms of every treatment option to every patient. However, clinicians can direct patients to online resources where they can find information or support groups, and be available to answer more specific questions about each patient’s circumstances.
While undergoing treatment, Dr. Bogler was able to contrast his experiences with those of his wife, who is also a breast cancer survivor. Their medical regimens were nearly identical, but their experiences differed greatly because of the lack of understanding about breast cancer in men, even among clinicians. The blog and other outlets that have arisen from it have given him the opportunity to advocate for more education and greater inclusion of men in cancer trials.
“My unique niche is that I understand the biology, and I can stand up at a cancer meeting and ask if they included men in their study cohort and if not, why not,” Dr. Bogler said.
Social media has been an invaluable tool for this advocacy, including a Twitter discussion (TweetChat) where an audience participates in a virtual conversation through the use of hashtags, which are shorthand labels attached to messages that help link together information. Educating participants through these types of activities then enables them to educate others, creating a multiplicative effect.
“It’s remarkable to me that you can have a few hundred people who are really interested in the topic you are discussing for an hour,” Dr. Bogler said. “That’s like giving a lecture at ASCO, but you are reaching people around the world. That’s the power of social media that some physicians haven’t had time to think about.”
The use of hashtags can help to increase the “signal-to-noise ratio,” given the information available online, thereby narrowcasting to a targeted audience. Such techniques foster online communities even for rare diseases, providing both a support structure that could not occur geographically and gathering sufficient numbers of patients for research opportunities.
Dr. Thompson cited the example of The Mayo Clinic’s research on spontaneous coronary artery dissection. Patients with this rare condition had come together in an online forum, developed a research agenda, and then approached researchers at the Mayo Clinic, who seized the opportunity for study.
Tapping into these virtual communities could present other types of research opportunities, including the study of the efficacy of the groups themselves to determine how an online support structure affects adherence to therapy and depression, and whether web-based palliative care programs can be effective.
Improving Research, One Tweet at a Time
Social media may help answer a vexing problem in oncology research—how to improve accrual rates for clinical trials. ASCO Past President Sandra M. Swain, MD, noted this dilemma last year: “Only the 3% of patients who participate in clinical trials are able to contribute to advances in treatment,” meaning that 97% of cancer care does nothing to further understanding of the disease (at least prospectively in rigorous clinical trials).
“There are many barriers to accrual and one of them is lack of education,” Dr. Thompson said. “Social media is one tool that could be used to overcome that barrier and engage people more in discussions about clinical trials.”
Some research groups and hospitals, such as the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group and the American College of Radiology Imaging Network (ECOG-ACRIN, @EAOnc) and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (@sloan_kettering), are promoting their clinical trials through Twitter, while other organizations, such as ASCO (@ASCO), use Twitter to send general information about the importance of clinical trials.
Local institutional review boards may not allow the use of social media as an accrual tool for specific clinical trials, but in many cases, physicians can use Twitter or other social media to send hyperlinks to publicly available sites such as ClinicalTrials.Gov as a way to raise awareness about the availability of clinical trials, Dr. Thompson said.
“I don’t think we need every patient and every clinician to be on Twitter; we just need enough people to amplify the message and make sure it is understood that participation in clinical trials is a standard of care as a guideline recommendation from the National Comprehensive Cancer Network and that participating in a clinical trial is often the best available therapy a patient can get,” Dr. Thompson said.
Another challenge in recruitment for clinical trials is overcoming the so-called “Digital Divide,” which refers to differences in access to technology among patients, said Robert S. Miller, MD, Cancer.Net editor in chief and oncology medical information officer at the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins. Although social media is a valuable communication tool, not all patients have readily available access to a computer or smartphone, and some patients may only have access to a smartphone, so sending information that is not optimized for a mobile device may limit their participation.
“When we talk about something like advertising a clinical trial on Twitter, we have to understand that there are populations that have varying levels of access to that information,” Dr. Miller, who will be speaking in Monday’s Education Session, told ASCO Daily News.
In trying to address these barriers, researchers should consider the potential for using electronic health records (EHRs) and patient portals in concert with other options for education and recruitment. For example, in the near future, a researcher affiliated with a large health network might be able to use information within the network patients’ EHR to identify suitable patients for a planned clinical trial, then use the patient portal to communicate to the patients that the characteristics of their disease make them eligible to participate in a trial and provide more information, Dr. Miller said. Another possibility would be using the EHR for data mining to identify areas for future research.
With any of these new approaches to communication, there is a need for oversight to preserve patient confidentiality and to adhere to the principles of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, Dr. Miller said. Standards would need to be established to prevent coercion to enroll in a trial, or having patients share too much information while participating in a study.
Among the 50 largest drug makers in the world, more than half still aren’t actively using social media to engage healthcare consumers or patients. Most of them primarily use social media as a broadcasting channel, and no more than 10 are on Twitter, Facebook or YouTube.
Even with drug makers’ recent increases in digital spending, the pharmaceutical industry is repeatedly said to be a laggard in adoption of social media.
Drugmakers’ common excuse for remaining social media wallflowers is largely due to the regulatory uncertainty and the doubts on how to measure social ROI.
1/ The rise of the empowered patient
With the role of social media rapidly expanding, patients are increasingly turning to popular social networks, such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, blogs and forums obtaining and sharing information related to their health.
In the US, for example, over one third of consumers manage their own health and are using social media to help them make important healthcare decisions.
The consequent empowerment of the patient in making decisions around their treatment has led them to be more aware and have a greater say in the treatment process.
But it’s not just patients who go to social media to voice their opinions. The pharma industry has multiple stakeholders who actively research and discuss online, including patients, physicians, payers, caregivers, providers and advocacy groups.
This trend only heightens the imperative need for pharmaceutical companies and regulators to take notice and contribute to the overall healthcare discussion, particularly to the appropriate use of medicines.
But how do you actually know what physicians are saying about your drug? Can you identify your patients’ primary concerns about your market leading product?
What are the conversation themes around managing the disease? How does the online reputation of your brand compare to competitors? Are patients switching brands and if so, why?
2/ Using social media as a research tool
The most immediate benefit that social media has to offer pharmaceutical companies is as a research tool.
The answers to the questions above require a more proactive embrace of social media analytics tools by pharmaceutical manufacturers.
Social media analytics tools, such as Brandwatch Analytics, can mine not only Twitter but also public forums, blogs, news sites, Facebook and other social networks to uncover patients and physicians’ sentiments and opinions.
One of our clients, Creation Healthcare, did exactly such a thing not too long ago. They indexed half a million healthcare professional profiles across thousands of sites using Brandwatch Analytics to understand how treatments and products are perceived by those who may prescribe them every day.
The online market research consultancy was able to spot healthcare trends and concerns months before others did. Offering unrivaled insight into the views of healthcare professionals, Creation Healthcare’s research business attracted six times more clients than before.
Identifying the opinions of healthcare professionals and patients is, indeed, a complicated process, particularly because of the amount of noise and spam surrounding pharmaceuticals. With boolean operators and rules, you can filter out spammy websites and irrelevant views.
3/ Using social media to foster discussions with your stakeholders
Understanding the kind of people who make up the conversation in your niche can prove far more insightful than listening only to those who mention your product or brand.
In a recent report we analyzed thousands of mentions online using social media analyticsto understand people’s attitude towards HIV treatment and to inform targeted messaging.
Their target audience is often seen as being the healthcare professional. But when analyzing all HIV discussion on social media, it turns out it’s the patients, caregivers and those that actually aren’t directly affected by HIV who offer the most powerful insights.
The general public spoke nearly three times more about HIV treatment than healthcare professionals, suggesting a general interest in the topic and that online influencers may differ from offline.
Diving deeper into this data, we noticed that the different stakeholders are chatting about HIV in entirely different places.
Data like this could dramatically impact how a drug manufacturer develops its communication strategies and targets its messaging.
4/ Building tailored marketing strategies
As shown below, social media analytics can be applied at various stages of a drug lifecycle; right from your drug discovery stage (understanding unmet needs) to the launch (improving your brand messaging) to the maturity stage (monitoring brand reputation and intimately connecting patients and physicians).
Insights generated during each stage can be utilized across all departments in your company.
If you’re still analyzing the conversation about your own brand or products, then now is the time to rethink your social media activities.
While social media is not a panacea, it provides an arguably underused opportunity across the business to research, understand and boost discussions with all healthcare consumers.
There’s no such thing as having a remarkable drug without having tailored strategies to appeal to your own target audience.
POST SUMMARY: We need to understand "why" patients are using social media for health, what THEY want and need and how social media impacts healthcare decision making. 61% of people want to make health decisions either on their own (26%) or with input from their doctor (38%). The proportion of people wanting to be “completely in charge of my decisions” rose 4 percentage points in one year, from 2011. This statistic skews younger, with 33% of people 25-34 and 31% of those 35-44 wanting to be “completely in charge.” Only 17% of those 55-64 felt like being totally in charge of their health care decisions.
The digital maturity of life sciences companies will change significantly in the next three years as digital technology yields a wealth of data that provides opportunities to drive more innovation, improve patient outcomes, and deliver increasing...
For companies in the pharma sector, LinkedIn represents a vastly under-used opportunity to conduct business and generate that elusive return-on-investment online . How does pharma get a return on investment on social media? It's the question that...
Social media monitoring (SMM) tools can be used to gain revealing insights into the opinions and behaviour of consumers. However, unfortunately, the employment of social media monitoring on a regular basis is often only confined to the marketing department of a company. Whilst your marketing team may be a vanguard for social media success, it’s high time all departments harnessed the power of social and got behind the Community Manager’s essential endeavor for social media success! Here you can see how SMM can be used across all functions of the value creation process: .
Social Media has introduced substantial and pervasive changes to communication between organisations, communities, and individuals. In the case of healthcare, these changes are not limited to isolated patient issues but are fundamentally impacting all steps of the patient journey. The ability to obtain and discuss relevant information, experiences and opinions, openly and in real time, have changed the way patients are involved in and influence their disease journey...
The world as we know it is changing. Our stakeholder’s way of thinking, and behaving, is changing due to 24/7 access to global information. So how does this impact our industry and what are the opportunities for pharma marketers?
Patients are engaging online around their health, and they expect to be able to engage online with other people and companies in this space. They do not understand why big pharma companies does not engage and this exacerbates the industry’s poor reputation. From a corporate marketing point of view this is an easy win. By accepting social media, rather than avoiding it, companies can start to have a positive impact on their reputation, and build corporate brand value.
Eight years ago and 6 weeks before our wedding, my then fiancé was waking up in the middle of the night and drinking entire bottles of water, then going to the bathroom every hour throughout the day and night. He was also losing a lot of weight which we attributed to our recent obsession with the gym in preparation for our beach wedding. Everybody thought he looked great but I was worried. After a couple of days of intermittent research on the internet I advised him to see our family doctor – perhaps he had diabetes?? Lo and behold, the results came back with a diabetes diagnosis; Type 1 at 29 years old. As much as we were in disbelief that he is now living with a chronic disease, I was relieved knowing I had suspected the condition and didn’t wait to uncover it only after he suffered from debilitating pain or finding him on the floor somewhere in a diabetic coma.
In today’s world of social media and easy access to just about any type of information, this week’s #hcsmca chat will explore how social media tools hasten diagnosis and improve access to treatment for patients.
But it doesn’t end there. For patients and caregivers with online access to a plethora of health information, this means a variety of answers to a stable of symptoms. For physicians, it can mean the ability to act quicker and prescribe appropriate treatment. In my case, my fiancé was immediately referred to an endocrinologist and within a couple of days had an armamentarium of insulin, needles, and glucose monitors; along with a nutritionist and nurse that were assigned to his care.
Here is a link to a recent article in that describes the case of a mother whose child was accurately diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder by her Facebook network - How Facebook Is Transforming Science and Public Health.
In cases where patients present with unusual symptoms that are not congruent with a common ailment, physicians now have the option of crowdsourcing a diagnosis for difficult cases. Doctors can reach out to their network of colleagues all over the world through online social media tools, with the hope that someone recognizes the symptoms and can assist in pointing the physician in the right direction of a proper diagnosis. One example is Sermo, an online community for physicians that is open only to licensed MDs in the United States. Physicians can post observations and questions about clinical issues and hear other doctor’s opinions in real-time. There is also Doximity, a network for US healthcare providers that is similar to a master Rolodex where physicians can look up their colleagues and share information with them. Without the availability of such tools in the past, many medical conditions may have taken several years to obtain a correct diagnosis.
The pharmaceutical industry has also taken an active interest in facilitating diagnosis, ranging from high cholesterol and glucose levels, to rare and ultra-rare diseases. This is being achieved through social media channels like Facebook, YouTube, as well as websites that offer chat rooms for patients and caregivers. One can argue that this motivation stems from the fact that a particular company has a product available for that condition and identifying patients could mean a prescription, but helping to raise awareness of a specific medical condition is never a bad thing. Pharmaceutical companies are behind many of today’s patient support programs, where patients turn for advice in navigating their treatment as well as obtain assistance with drug reimbursement, they fund support groups and infusion clinics, and offer the support of nurse coordinators. These companies have also become active in the development of companion diagnostics for the diseases that their products help treat.
For the #hcsmca chat on March 26, 2014 at 9PM ET, we will be discussing the following topics exploring the role of social media in facilitating diagnosis:
T1: How has social media transformed how patients are being diagnosed?T2: How is social media helping physicians diagnose their patients?T3: What is the relationship between increasing diagnosis and pharmaceutical company profit?
Accessing the right information when and where you need it is a challenge in any profession. In the medical field, it could mean the difference between a positive patient outcome or a misdiagnosis. As medical expertise becomes increasingly specialized, keeping up with the latest studies, treatments and technologies, while continuing to effectively treat patients is a growing challenge. Fortunately, a host of platforms and collaboration tools are making this possible, helping to streamline communications between medical professionals and create pooled information portals for doctors to reference on demand.
In our Future of Health report, we’ve noticed that medical professionals and researchers are tapping into the expertise of their peers through secure platforms that enable them to seek and share advice. These trends towards Physician-To-Physician Networks helps doctors solve difficult cases and review effective treatments, adding to the collective knowledge in the healthcare industry, while improving the level of care they can offer to patients.
A picture can say a thousand words the saying goes. In the medical profession an image can add context to a diagnosis description or help deconstruct a complex medical scenario. Canadian-basedFigure 1 is a photo-sharing platform that enables medical professionals to continue learning about medical conditions using reference images from their peers and other healthcare professionals. Developed by the healthcare-focused mobile development company Movable Science, users can add pointers and annotations that direct peers to specific areas of focus. Photos can be tagged with relevant terms that allow others to search for conditions or symptoms. Peers can comment on images, fostering discussion among members. Images can also be starred, enabling users to save useful images for later reference. In order to protect patients’ identities, the app uses facial recognition to block out faces; users can edit images to further remove identifying marks and protect their patients’ identity. The visualization tool helps with the capture and indexing of conditions, allowing physicians to reference a constantly growing body of information for their professional benefit.
Niche networks offer doctors a way to connect in a secure way to exchange information that will be relevant to their practice. Doximity is one example, offering a specialized social network for healthcare professionals, which allows doctors to tap into an online web of physicians to securely discuss patients’ treatment options. By engaging with the platform, primary care providers and healthcare teams have been able to easily get on the same page regarding patients that they are seeing and more effectively collaborate by sharing notes, records and other information. Similarly, healthcare professional can research common symptoms or look for specialists and experts that may have more experience with certain cases. The California-based service has become a new source of information and platform for over 100,000 specialists to exchange information, producing over 1,000 referrals and expert searches per day.
Digital tools offer a quick reference, but sometimes putting a face to advice is crucial to trusting a recommendation. Dr. Sanjeev Arora has created the ECHO Project at the University of New Mexico to create a decentralized practice model that guides rural clinicians in providing care to underserved patients with chronic issues. Leveraging his specialist knowledge in treating Hepatitis C, he spends two hours per day with a team of fellow specialists to co-manage patient cases that remote doctors, nurse practitioners and other healthcare providers are treating across the state. Each session consists of teleconference with 8-10 local healthcare providers that split the time sharing cases they are working on with specialists and their peers, as well as receiving educational workshops from the specialists. These trusted local clinicians are able to relay lengthy and otherwise difficult to access treatments to patients, often improving outcomes due to the lowered stress derived from the convenience. Starting in 2003 providers have gained a no-cost education, and have received over 57,000 credit hours of education as of September 2013.
As we think about these digital tools and how they are opening up new channels for collaboration, medical professionals are leveraging them to expand their day to day practice and build on their knowledge base. As these become more widely adopted within the medical community, we expect to see them expand into an invaluable resource in the way care is delivered.
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