Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Calling All Shoppers - Redux Again!

I had no sooner finished blogging about the announcement regarding the governmental plan to utilize mystery callers to assess access to primary care offices to find out that the survey has been put on an indefinite hold.

Being a conceptual proponent of this research, I am disappointed that the administration backed down from the seemingly large physician backlash. Then again, as I stated in my last post, will this really tell us anything that we didn't already know? If you have any doubts, just try calling any office on a Friday afternoon, stating that you are a new patient and would like to come in on the same day for an appointment because you suspect pneumonia - oh, and that you have no insurance. Maybe the proper thing to survey is how long it will take to be hung up on or laughed at.....

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Calling All Shoppers - Redux

One of the recent stories that spurred a lot of discussion was in the NY Times, U.S. Plans Stealth Survey on Access to Doctors. It is an interesting concept that will help to try and quantify how difficult (or easy) it is for one to get into to see a primary care physician. They will also evaluate if the office staff will give preferential priority based on the "patients" stated insurance.

I applaud this move and believe it will produce some evidence as to how hard it is for new patient to seek care. Many physicians aren't too pleased with this survey as I would imagine it will tie up their resources. I blogged about this concept a few years ago when the AMA came out against the notion of "mystery shoppers."

Health care needs to be patient-centric as the retail industry is consumer-centric. Why should health care be any different conceptually? I hope that this experiment isn't more of an exercise on provider's offices (i.e. poorly trained or rude staff) rather than the issue of access to healthcare due to not enough primary care providers. I see this as an opportunity to document the need for more primary care providers including physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants - though do we really think there isn't a problem there already??

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Mobile Health Technology

A little bit on technology and how it is impacting health and patients. As an admitted techno-geek, I am passionately following mobile technology and where it is popping up in health.

A cool app that I recently downloaded is Instant Heart Rate for my iPhone 4. This is a free app and requires no external hardware. According to their website, it works by placing your finger over the iPhone's camera and it "tracks color changes in the light that passes through your finger." I used it and found the readings to be fairly accurate. It is also available for Android as well.

The basic app is free and for a $0.99 upgrade it adds features allowing you to document what you were doing at the time of recording, viewing graphed results over time, and auto-posting the results to Twitter.

As a clinician, apps such as this can help patients keep accurate data to review with their providers at their visit. It is exciting to watch this technology develop. Today it is heart rate monitoring and ECG recordings with tomorrow bringing endless possibilities. It is certainly in clinicians best interest to be aware of these apps since patients are using them. Further, perhaps it is an opportunity for clinicians to become involved with this developing technology and help steer it to ensure evidence-based and clinically sound apps.