Posted by: AtlasMD

March 16, 2016

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Bringing Hospitality to Healthcare: An Introduction

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Hospitality. A noun. It means “the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors or strangers.” It’s being nice. It’s treating people with kindness whether you know them or not. It’s going above and beyond to exceed expectations. Make sure people are taken care of. Sounds amazing, doesn’t it? Literally, who wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of that? 

It’s sad how little we actually see hospitality in action, though. We complain about its absence all the time. At the grocery store when the checkout person tosses our goods to the bagger and we’re just sure the pretzels have been crushed into teeny tiny bits. At the drive-through window, when the employee barely looks you in the eye as he hands you your drink… which happens to be dripping down the side… and then all over your hands. On the road when the kid on his cell phone pulls out in front of you without looking twice – or once for that matter. At the Dr.’s office as you’re shuffled in and out the door like you’re just another pretty face.

Think about each of these situations and how they make you feel. The lasting impact they have on you. Your mood. How you treat others as a result. It’s a slippery slope, and it all starts with hospitality. As a DPC doc, you can’t do much about most of those situations… except the last one. That might be the hardest one to remedy, too. The healthcare community isn’t taught how to be nice, so we tend to come off a little rough around the edges. You might also argue that while you didn’t go to school to fill out paperwork, you certainly didn’t go to school to learn how to schmooze and blow smoke, either. Read more

Misinterpretation Gone Wild. The HIPAA Edition.

Misinterpretation Gone Wild. The HIPAA Edition.

We cannot breathe a sigh of relief deep enough to adequately express how glad we are to be cutting the red tape that surrounds traditional healthcare. More specifically, HIPAA. Its rules and regulations are so convoluted that people don’t know which way is up… and that leads to interrupting a private conversation in a hospital cafe reprimanding the wife of a dying cancer patient for speaking publicly about a patient. Baffled yet? Yup, so were we.

An article posted recently on the NY Times gave several instances where HIPAA was misunderstood, and the consequences could have been dire. Take Ericka Gray’s story, for example:

In 2012, Ericka Gray repeatedly phoned the emergency room at York Hospital in York, Pa., where her 85-year-old mother had gone after days of back pain, to alert the staff to her medical history. “They refused to take the information, citing Hipaa,” said Ms. Gray, who was in Chicago on a business trip.

“I’m not trying to get any information. I’m trying to give you information,” Ms. Gray told them, adding that because her mother’s memory was impaired, she couldn’t supply the crucial facts, like medication allergies.

By the time Ms. Gray found a nurse willing to listen, hours later, her mother had already been prescribed a drug she was allergic to. Fortunately, the staff hadn’t administered it yet.

Now, we get what HIPAA is trying to do: keep personal health information private. And that’s a noble gesture. But there are so many hoops to jump through just to get it right that there ends up being more ways to get it wrong. In the DPC world, we love communicating with our patients how they prefer. Read more

Celebrating Freedom!

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This year, Direct Primary Care Practices have put down roots in more towns across the U.S. than ever before, and if that’s not a massive reason to celebrate freedom, then we don’t know what is. But let’s take a minute to examine those freedoms a little bit closer.

DPC does more than give patients an alternative to traditional healthcare. It obliterates endless minutes spent in waiting rooms, hidden costs and anxiety-inducing response times. It provides a platform where patients truly feel like the priority they are instead of just one of thousands of folders in a filing cabinet. With the freedom to use means of communication like text, email, and Twitter DM, all roads lead to a better patient/doctor relationship. That being said, the patient isn’t the only one who benefits from DPC freedoms.

Providers in the DPC realm are happier than those within the walls of traditional healthcare. They have control over their schedule, never have to rush patients out the door, and have literally been given the gift of time. It’s no wonder they’re falling in love with medicine again!

The freedoms of Direct Care result in a better healthcare experience for those on the giving end… and on the receiving end. This weekend, celebrate being free to choose DPC.

The Easiest Way to Start a Business.

There’s no shortage of information. Let’s be honest; there are a million self help books, articles, blogs, tweets in the world that tell you how to be amazing. How to jump straight to the top, fix that problem, get those unattainable customers. There’s some really good advice mixed in there, but there’s also A LOT of fluff. The best way to get good at something new – fast – can be digested in three easy concepts. (A happy shout out to The Cauldron for these nuggets of inspiration.) It all boils down to preparedness.

Mistakes, Mistakes, Mistakes.

No, not making them (although that does come with the territory), but rather learning from the mishaps already committed by others. That means you watch. You evaluate what’s been done, how it’s been done, what went wrong, and how you can do it differently to avoid those same pitfalls. If you’re just starting out in Direct Care, you’re in luck. There are plenty who have gone before you to pave the road. And while most of them have succeeded, there have been a few failures to note. So get all the information you can. How, you’re wondering? So glad you asked.

Talk the Talk!

You don’t have to sit on the sidelines while you figure out your next moves. Ask questions, apply the answers in your head, and visualize the result. The answers you’re looking for aren’t hidden like buried treasure. You know those docs with clinics successfully off the ground? They want to see DPC grow, too. Take Atlas for example. We offer free training, consulting, and support to anyone who asks. While others charge a mountain of money for those same things, we don’t think you should be charged for not cutting corners on your homework. So go ahead, ask all the questions you want.

Jump All The Way In!

You’re ready now. You know what to do, you’ve done the research, you’ve thought about it all ad nauseam. So go do it. All of it.

What we’re trying to say is going all the way in with a proven DPC business model is much more effective than a hybrid model that say, for example, offers 1/2 insurance, 1/2 DPC. A hybrid clinic will probably struggle more because it’s not 100% of either model – kind of like always having one foot out the door in case it doesn’t work out. What’s more, starting with just a few services with a plan to add more (wholesale meds, labs, texting, email, etc.) later could actually hinder growth. Think of it this way. How do you expect to grow if you’re not putting 100% of the value you can offer your patients out there immediately? So wear your heart (and your services) on your sleeve, and don’t look back.

Time is of the essence when you’re making a life change such as starting or transitioning to DPC. But by wrapping your head around the ideas above, you’ll learn the ropes quicker than just dipping one toe in at a time. Much more refreshing that way, too – just ask those who have already jumped in!

What Matters More Than Features?

You can boast about features till you turn blue in the face. And you’ll probably get conversions from it. It’s important to tell your patients what you offer, but that’s not what they really want.

Truth be told, they want the same thing you do. They want the Direct Care lifestyle.

Sure, they like that you’re available 24/7, but what they really care about is that you’ll answer their text at 2 a.m. when their baby spikes a high fever. They like extended appointments, but they truly value being heard. They appreciate wholesale medication prices, but they tell their friends how their doc just keeps on trying to save them money.

So tell your patients about the features you offer. But sell them on the benefits. Luckily for Direct Care docs, backing up feature claims is built right into the business model. When you and your patient act as a team, your vision for your practice can really come to life.

We Should Aim for “Crazy and Oldschool”

If being crazy means we know our patients backwards and forwards, show up at the hospital when they’re admitted, and help fill in the blanks of their medical history when our patient is unable, then sign us up.

If being old school means our doctor-patient relationships are rock solid, cradled in trust, and wrapped in endless care, then we’re on board.

Like the experience in this story told by Dr. Dhand over at KevinMD, we’re totally up for letting DPC take us back to basics.

A couple of weeks ago I was on-call and had to go down to the emergency room to see a patient. Before I entered the room, I was told that the patient was accompanied by her long-time physician who was a bit “crazy and old school.”

“Hmm … that’s strange … why would her physician be in the room with her?” I thought to myself. When I went in to introduce myself, sure enough sat next to her was an elderly physician probably in his late 70s or early 80s. After he greeted me with a warm and friendly handshake, he told me that he had practiced medicine in the local area for the last several decades. I still continued to wonder exactly what he was doing there, and this thought persisted for the next few minutes.

However, as I got further into the interview, I quickly realized just why he was sitting by his patient’s side. This doctor had cared for the patient for at least the last 30 years, was in the process of winding down his practice, but felt compelled to come and visit his patient (with no financial incentive to do so) as soon as he heard she was being admitted to the hospital. The patient — elderly herself and hard of hearing — wasn’t able to give me a complete history. But that was OK, because her doctor knew her inside out. Every little detail.

Read the full story over here and after you do, a little personal reflection of your own might be just what the doctor ordered.

Is Social Media Closing the Gap it Created in the First Place?

Technology is good for so many positive purposes when it’s put to use for the right reasons. But when it’s abused the results can be catastrophic. Take online bullying for example. It’s been linked to low self esteem, actual fights, and worst of all – suicide.

There’s a lot you can ignore while looking down at your mobile device. But can we really ignore the gap that separates the technology generation from real life eye contact? One social media platform is attempting to bridge the gap society says it created in the first place. Read more

Posted by: AtlasMD

March 2, 2015

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Texting Could be Good for Your Health.

The Direct Care community is totally on board with embracing unconventional methods of communication. It’s why our patients text, email, Skype, and Tweet us in addition to making the tradition phone call. Turns out we’re on the right track.

Text messaging is a fixture in modern culture. In two separate studies, U-M Family Medicine researchers have shown that in addition to facilitating everyday conversation, texting can help people adopt healthier behaviors, and can make it easier for health researchers to gather information.

Companies are apparently using texting campaigns to send messages to people in an attempt to raise their awareness about type 2 diabetes risks. And it turns out people are pretty darn receptive to it. In fact, not only is texting turning out to be an effective way to promote healthy habits, but a new study even suggests that it could replace direct mail campaigns in urban areas where researchers are trying to conduct surveys.

Think this seems like a no-brainer? Texting has been around for a while, right? Nothing new about the technology itself, but now researchers are able to extract information – collect data that tells whether or not the campaign is working. That, friends, is new and exciting. Out with the old and in with the new, right?

Read the full article on how texting could be good for your health. >

Technology is great, but the DPC community needs to look past it to stay grounded in truly patient-centric objectives. What we’re really using technology for is to go back to the basics – before the fancy stuff even existed. The idea is to create a more personalized experience, to develop a real relationship between doctor and patient. One that never underestimates the value of a face-to-face conversation or house call.

Posted by: AtlasMD

February 9, 2015

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Healthcare Informatics: Healthcare Should Be More Like Amazon

David Chou was recently interviewed for a piece at Healthcare Informatics about how the healthcare industry should take a hint from the internet giant Amazon “in order to achieve patient engagement.”

Chou’s reasoning for using analytics to understand patient behavior and patterns is proactive, and indicative of what Direct Care believes should be the standard. He says “We need to project what issues each patient is going to have.”

But to gain the data, technology must be embraced more than it is today – by both patients and healthcare workers. According to the 2014 HIMSS Analytics Mobile Devices Study, it looks like we’re on the right track!

“Interest in telehealth is growing among providers, which could help keep patients out of the hospital. In addition, more than 50 percent of U.S. hospitals are using smartphones and/or tablets and 69 percent of clinicians are using both a desktop/laptop and a smartphone/tablet to access data.”

So how do we continue this trend? Chou says it’s all about changing behavior.

“I think it’s not what they need to know, it’s changing their behavior and how they practice medicine. They do get called for emergencies, but when that [engagement] floodgate opens you know the patient is going to [contact] the doctor anytime they have concerns. It won’t have to be urgent. So it’s a behavior change more than anything. Most of the physicians they know how to use technology. Everyone has text messaging. Everyone knows how to use two-way communications applications. It’s not that they don’t know what they’re doing, it’s just not on a professional manner.”

Click here to read the full interview, which also includes Chou’s thoughts on how patient-generated data can be useful for doctors.

Posted by: AtlasMD

January 21, 2015

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Skate Where the Puck’s Going, Not Where it’s Been.

If you know anything at all about hockey, you know that in order to survive in the game, you must think proactively. It’s the same with most sports, actually. To receive the pass, you go where the object you’re receiving is going – not where it’s already been.

It’s the most basic of principles, and it applies to medicine, too. The ACA is around to stay for a while – that’s just the way of it. So to prevent a giant ball from being dropped, Direct Care is taking it upon itself to show patients where the industry should go in order to catch the pass that is healthcare.

It’s this kind of proactive thinking that is leading docs around the country to open up Direct Care practices. These docs are standing in the end zone, frantically waving their arms calling for the pass; they’re wide open! Their rally cry? Patients really can save money while getting the kind of care they forgot even existed. Third party payments become a thing of the past, and people are reminded of how simple the whole thing can be.

Wayne Gretzky is a hockey hall-of-famer; one can only assume that’s partially because of his ability to apply the principle he so eloquently expressed. Skate where the puck is going, not where it’s been.