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What You Can Do To Strengthen Health Care Delivery for MLK Day

Nathan Sheon Head Shot to Use

Nathan Sheon

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) Day of Service will be recognized in communities across America on Monday, Jan. 20 as part of UnitedWe Serve – the President’s annual national call to service initiative. A powerful catalyst that organizes and promotes local volunteer programs to benefit diverse populations, it “empowers individuals, strengthens communities, bridges barriers, creates solutions to social problems, and moves us closer to Dr. King’s vision of a ‘Beloved Community.’”

Recognized as a “day on, not a day off” since 1994, the MLK Day of Service is the only federal holiday observed as a national day of service. The campaign’s programs address a wide range of issues that include poverty, education and access to food, in addition to sponsoring numerous initiatives that intersect with health care. This year, the MLK Day of Service aims to empower people to advocate for and educate their communities about how to live healthfully, from working out to making better eating choices and obtaining the latest information on implications of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Some of the ways you can help raise awareness about health interventions that will help your volunteering to last beyond one day, include:

  •  Organizing a local fitness event
  •  Informing people in your local community about how the new health care law effects them
  • Teaching a class on healthful cooking and eating
  •  Educating low- and middle-income families on opportunities to access affordable health care for their children

The MLK Day of Service website also includes a multitude of communications tools, such as:

But why serve on MLK Day and join the movement to help transform communities and improve health care delivery?

“Dr. King devoted his life to advancing equality, social justice, and economic opportunity for all, and taught us that everyone has a role to play in making America what it ought to be,” Robert Velasco II, acting CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, said in a statement. “Now more than ever, we need to take heed of Dr. King’s teachings and work together to achieve his dream. Volunteer service is a powerful way to strengthen economic opportunity. And when better to start than on the day we honor Dr. King?”

Organizers of the MLK Day of Service hope that by giving advocates and allies the tools and information to make their projects newsworthy, word of the initiative will spread – along with the success of new and innovative service projects. The event provides volunteers with the critical resources they need to establish grassroots campaigns and service projects that they believe will empower individuals and local communities to make more informed choices across the spectrum of health.

Now share your story. Are you participating in the MLK Day of Service, and if so, tell us why. Have you – or someone you know – volunteered in one or more programs? What impact did it have in your local community?

Categories: Access to Care

With a Little Help from My Friends, Family… And Apps

“Drugs don’t work in patients who don’t take them.” – C. Everett Koop, former Surgeon General

It was an idea born of near tragedy: an elderly, diabetic father who double-dosed on his insulin therapy and suffered a medical emergency. His two sons realized that if they were more involved in reviewing their father’s daily medication and insulin regimens, it could change his behavior for the better and help him get healthier.

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Photos courtesy of NextGen Healthcare

So Omri and Rotem Shor co-founded the MediSafe Project, a free mobile app that makes it easier for families and friends to give the support needed to help their loved ones get healthier and integrate healthier behavior modification into their everyday lives. In the first four months after its launch, users reported medication adherence rates of 79 percent (82.25 percent for statins) – well above the 50 percent average medication adherence rate reported by the World Health Organization.

The MediSafe Project provides an easy-to-use interface – an interactive pillbox of sorts — over iOS and Android mobile phones. Users input information about their meds by typing their names or photographing their National Drug Code numbers. The system stores the correct pharmaceutical name, manufacturer and dosage, ensuring an error-free medication list in the event of a medical emergency. Users signify taking their meds by dragging pills from the virtual pillbox into a mouth icon, which “swallows” the pills.

Users receive alerts before medication courses are completed, allowing them to order refills in a timely manner. In addition to reminding users when it’s time to take their medication, the MediSafe Project sends alerts to selected family members, friends and caretakers when a loved one misses a dose. Users can also email a personalized list of adherence stats to their doctor, giving doctors better patient oversight between office visits. A prescription page feature lets doctors “prescribe” the MediSafe project to their patients to help better monitor medication adherence.

The impact of non-adherence on the outcomes of patients with cardiovascular diseases is one example that underscores why it is so critical to implement strategies and utilize technologies that improve medication adherence.

“Medication non-adherence is a problem that costs U.S. hospitals billions of dollars every year,” says Omri “Bob” Shor, CEO, MediSafe. “An American dies every nineteen minutes from skipping or taking medication incorrectly. Our goal is to help combat this problem and encourage healthy habits among users and their support systems with easy-to-use technology.”

The MediSafe Project isn’t the only app on the medication adherence scene. The free NextGen® MedicineCabinet app lets users create and update a list of medications, including dosing and schedule information, thus creating their own “personal” medication record.

Notifications are sent for each medication and users can confirm adherence. The app was designed, in part, to improve adherence and proper use of medication by enhancing patients’ understanding of how to correctly take their medication and to recognize adverse reactions. According to the company, it also equips health care professionals with all the relevant information they need, in a way they like to view it.

“Mobile patient engagement is at the forefront of today’s changing health care environment,” said Ike Ellison, executive vice president of business development for NextGen Healthcare, in a statement. “Providing consumer technology that encourages members to control and lead healthier lifestyles is a key factor in improving outcomes.”

Michael Paquin, vice president, business development for NextGen Healthcare, added “One of our users commented on the way that she was able to, for the first time, be able to share her medication lists easily with family, friends and all her physicians. It has saved this particular patient hours of time on a monthly basis.”

Technology-based solutions like the MediSafe Project and the NextGen Medicine Cabinet are among the latest patient-directed tools that improve medication adherence.

However, providers still play an important role in assisting patients in maintaining healthy behaviors like medication adherence. The American College of Preventive Medicine offers a SIMPLE approach on how providers can help their patients take their medications as prescribed.

Barriers to medication compliance abound, with memory issues, lack of support, and lack of education just being a few. What is behind these barriers? How can patient behaviors and motivations be changed?

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Categories: Access to Care

Meditation Found to Cut Risk in Half of Death, Heart Attack, or Stroke in African Americans

Here’s an idea that every person alive can do, costs nothing, and takes as little as 20 minutes a day: Meditate.

A recent peer reviewed, published study shows why:

“Meditation is usually thought of as a practice of healthy, well-off white people and Asians. But newly published research suggests it can produce hugely significant health benefits in a very different demographic group: African Americans with heart disease.

“A study that followed 201 African Americans for an average of five years found those who meditated regularly were far more likely to avoid three extremely unwelcome outcomes. Compared to peers participating in a health-education program, meditators were, in that period, 48 percent less likely to die, have a heart attack, or suffer a stroke.

Read more about the research here, and to access information regarding the technique of Transcendental Meditation as well as evidence-based benefits, you can visit this website.

What are ways we can encourage more people to meditate? We’d love to hear more about what works, what doesn’t when it comes to meditation to improve health outcomes.  Please share links to any evidence-based findings!

Self-Service Kiosks Provide Innovative Path to Testing and Connection to Providers

The recent proliferation of affordable do-it-yourself consumer tools is one way patients are now empowered to take control of their health through prevention and wellness strategies.

One successful example is SoloHealth Station – a free, self-service kiosk offering comprehensive vision, blood pressure, weight and body mass index screenings. Currently located in select Wal-Mart, Safeway, Sam’s Club and Schnucks Markets, more than 10 million people have already used the kiosk in the past two years.

A $1.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health played a major role in expanding the company’s free medical screening technology, education and wellness programs to a wider audience, including traditionally underserved communities.

“Seventy-one percent of SoloHealth Station users are at medium to high risk of hypertension and 51 percent are overweight or obese,” says Bart Foster, CEO and Founder of SoloHealth. “At the core, we believe that awareness and action can lead to preventative measures that lead to lower costs. So, consumers who realize they are at high risk of BP or BMI would be more propelled to click through to access a doctor or search and scan our database. They are now empowered with knowledge they probably never had before and they want to act on it.”

Foster shares some compelling data that illustrates how SoloHealth links patients to providers:

  • Nearly 40,000 users have clicked through to one or more nearby doctors via the kiosk’s search function.
  • Users with high risk of blood pressure problems are 57 percent more likely to choose a physician.
  • Users with high risk of BMI problems are 97 percent more likely to select a doctor.
  • Users taking the Health Risk Assessment are over seven times more likely to choose a physician.

SoloHealth Station leverages an interactive touch-screen and incorporates videos as part of a 4.5-minute process that guides about 85,000 users each day through its tests. Individuals then receive a comprehensive follow-up health assessment, view their test results, get suggestions for improvement and are given access to a vast network of accredited medical professionals.

Some urge caution about self-service health kiosks, raising concerns about patient privacy, how companies might use personal health data, the quality of their medical information, and whether advertisers and other sponsors might shape their advice and referrals for commercial reasons.

Foster points out that even with the spread of health kiosks, medical professionals remain necessary.

“Technology like the SoloHealth Station can make access to health services and tools easy, free and convenient,” he says. “We believe people will use these accessible tools to take better control of their health care. Once enlightened about a potential health problem, the majority of consumers will act. And knowing is better than not knowing, because prevention leads to better outcomes and lower costs.”

Have you used a SoloHealth Station or other self-help kiosk? Would you do it again? Why or why not? Comment below.

Categories: Access to Care