SHIFT Communications experts discuss all things healthcare and media.

2013 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,600 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 60 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

This Hospital Didn’t Think it Had Enough Data To Make a Difference – What Happened Next Saved Someone’s Life

Ok, not really, but our latest entry over on SHIFT’s blog is about headline writing in 2014.

For Those About to Engage Socially In Healthcare…

…tread lightly. Learn from Pepto Bismal and more.


New from the Healthycomms team over at the SHIFT blog, you can read about why Boston was the perfect choice for Obama’s Accountable Care Act defense.

What We Talk About When We, The Communicators and Patients, Talk Health IT

I heart HIT Health IT is a pretty popular topic for the HealthyComms team. A big reason for that is that we work a lot with clients in that space, although I will say at this point that we are letting the conversations sneak into our social discussions. Spend a lot of time around something and you certainly start talking it up – and why it matters. Add in our role as PR people, and we just like to talk.

We are currently just a week away from National Health IT Week, and since we have talked about it so much in the last year, we wanted to highlight some of our favorite discussions on HIT as part of the blog carnival that our clients at HIMSS are organizing and run by emcee Brian Ahier. The challenge this time around was to answer the question, “What is the Value of Health IT?”, and as both communicators and users of the American healthcare system, the team here all seem to come back to one answer: there is a way technology can make our health needs more about care and less about paperwork.

For example, Peter wrote just last week about how the process of constantly rewriting forms takes away from time he could be spending with a doctor, or time support staff and extended caregivers can be providing him with advice on his health. Similarly, this is a point I discussed last year, when I was irritated that fax machines and additional standard eye tests were required for a multi-practice need last winter. The value of Health IT? Less paper trail for me as a patient; assumingly better access for the provider themselves to know why I’m there in the first place.

We’ve also had a hand at talking about the value of policy implementation, specifically why Meaningful Use exists and the value that we hope to gain. Victoria emphasized the value of getting these policies right, not just installed. And the ultimate value? Perhaps Health IT is the undiscussed solution to the 26,000 word problem that Stephen Brill authored (and Jen broke down the reactions on it really well) on the healthcare system last spring.

The conversations we get to be a part of as part of our job are interesting and maybe, just maybe, we’ll convince our friends that health IT matters to them, too.

Please Fill This Out in Triplicate

As a somewhat recent college graduate, I’m facing the reality that I’m not going back to school this September.  But, I’m also not headed back to my childhood home in California either.  I can’t use health services at school, and my original doctors are across the country.  Because of this, I’m currently in the process of finding all new doctors.

Each and every time I go to a new doctor’s office, the first thing I have to do is fill out forms with my name, medical history, personal information, etc.  Everyone is familiar with these forms and everyone dislikes them.  More than just a nuisance for the patient, they’re a time suck for the nurses or administrators who have to file the information.  I’m shocked that in this day and age, there isn’t a database with all this information that physicians can access with the click of a button.  (Though this is being worked on.)

Now that I’ve worked for some time understanding clients and the media in the health IT space, I’ve realized that this boils down to interoperability.  If healthcare networks could share information freely, there would be no need for these forms to be filled out more than once.  Updates would be made and shared from primary care physicians to specialists.  Not only would other hospital staff have more time to devote to actually bettering patient care, but the patient experience would be greatly improved.

The bottom line of interoperability should be patient care, a means to the end of the highest quality that a health provider can offer.  And though I believe wholeheartedly in those arguments, I think that looking through the patient experience lens expands the argument.  Everything else aside, if I get the same clinical outcome from two healthcare facilities, I’m going to go back to the one in which I had the best experience when I next need care.  From a business perspective, it makes sense to usher in interoperability (i.e. avoiding patients filling out the same information time and time again) so that the patient has the best experience possible.  Improved patient experience is just one more added value of interoperability.

What other benefits do you think will come with interoperability?

Mobile + Health – Why don’t you two just get hitched already?

No one will argue that smart phones and mobile gadgets have completely altered our lives. As noted in this CNN piece by Doug Gross back in 2010, “It’s a mobile society. Call it good. Call it bad. It just is.”

As with most things in healthcare, the adoption of mobile devices has lagged behind in comparison to other industries. But as many recent reports have noted, healthcare is clearly making up for lost time. RockHealth “Visual Wednesday” infographic from this week captures the convergence of mobile and healthcare very well. The question has been festering in my mind and was again echoed in Brian Eastwood’s recent CIO article on health IT’s struggles to keep up with mHealth’s demands: how much longer are we going to use the term mHealth and when will mobility just be a part of healthcare?”

Which begs the next question: How long has this love affair been going on? The real meat on mHealth’s trajectory should be pulled from this lovely mobihealthnews piece, “Timeline: Smartphone-enabled health devices,” but here’s a little graphic of the big milestones in “m’s” relationship with “health” over the past few years:

mHealth graphic

The Spring 2013 flurry of mHealth regulatory activity was a lot like the two went ring shopping together: clearly, both parties are committed to the idea of forever and are in it to win it. But this is starting to look like it will be a long engagement. Question is now when exactly are they going to lock it down? When will all hospitals have a mobile/BYOD strategy completely integrated into everything they do? When will patients be able to access their EMR in a native mobile phone app and receive push notifications on my lab results? The questions to these answers are far from anyone’s reach at this point but the final mHealth regulations will probably be a tipping factor that will help these two set a final wedding date. After that, we all look forward to a long, harmonious marriage of mobile and health – and by that I mean a lifelong, committed relationship filled with fights and arguments as they figure out the kinks of being together forever.

5 Reasons to Spring for a Good IPA this Labor Day

budIt’s hard to believe, but summer is almost over. The Healthycomms team is gearing up for tons of awesome events this fall, including National Health IT Week, kicking off on September 16 (disclosure: we do a lot of client work around this week-long event that celebrates the value of health IT across the country). But, before we kick into high gear this fall, it’s time to plan some fun for Labor Day so that we can make the most of the last weekend of summer.

Planning a menu for barbeque is fun, but let’s be honest, what’s a backyard or beach party without a few cold beers?!  At this point you may be asking yourself what this all has to do with health…as this is a health blog. Well, it turns out that certain beers may in fact be worse for your health than others.

A new study published in the journal Substance Use and Misuse found that specific beer brands were more likely than others to land you in the emergency room. So beware if you plan to crack a Budweiser, Steel Reserve, Colt 45, Bud Ice, or Bud Light! The year-long study, conducted at Johns Hopkins Hospital, tied the consumption of these five specific brews to emergency room visits.

According to MedCity News this study is the first one to try to pinpoint the specific brands of beer that are consumed by folks that end at the hospital most.

In all seriousness, stay off the road and consume responsibly this Labor Day. Have a safe and healthy holiday!

Your Digital Health Startup Name Generator

Why should I care about interoperability?

Most people outside of the health IT community generally don’t think about how interoperability could impact their life.  But with my upcoming vacation to California quickly approaching, I’ve been thinking a lot about what would happen if I got sick and needed medical attention.


Let’s just assume the worst – something terrible happens, and I’m found unconscious on the side of the road with nothing but my ID in my pocket.  After being rushed to a hospital, they’re able to figure out my PCP, but it’s the middle of the weekend, so no one is there to pull my records from the office, and oops – the systems aren’t interoperable.  As it stands, I’m sitting on the operating table and the doctor is unsure of the medications to which I’m allergic.

I realize the situation above is extreme, but it clearly demonstrates the value of interoperability.  If the EHRs used by the treating hospital and my PCP were interoperable, I’d have a much better chance of survival.  Without interoperability, data transfers between health systems can be slow and data can easily get lost in translation.

Often times when we look at interoperability, it’s from the point of view of a health IT professional.  We understand that interoperability will make for significantly smoother data transfers as patients move from health system to health system.  We see it as a necessary efficiency.  But as healthcare communication professionals, sometimes we need to look at it a little differently.  We need to determine why an everyday consumer should care so that we can open up a dialogue.  And in this case, an everyday consumer should care about interoperability because it could save their life.

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