Noteworthy: Cell Phones Help Fight Epidemics; You Know You Need a Facelift When…

November 11, 2011

Apps for healthcare jobs; ALS source identified; penalizing physicians for time with patients; and more.

Looking for a New Job? There's an App for That

If you're a physician on the job hunt, a new tool can make your job search easier and more accessible. It's a free iPhone and iPad job search application from physician search firm Merritt Hawkins (http://bit.ly/nxFMyf). You can also use the app to search for jobs by specialty and region.

You Know You Need a Facelift When…

Practice Notes blogger Craig Koniver, a family physician, recently shared this tip with readers: design matters. Apple has taught the world this point with its sleek gadgets, he says, as have FedEx, with its signature orange-and-purple logos, and Starbucks, with its cozy-yet-upscale coffee shops. Consumers connect to these companies because of the "experience" they provide, Koniver says. Simple design improvements at your practice can help improve your patients' experiences, he adds. If any of the following are true at your practice, it's time to consider making some changes.

• A voice prompt answers your phone instead of a real person.
• A large piece of glass separates your reception staff from your patients.
• Your waiting room seating is uncomfortable.
• You wear a long white coat instead of dressing in a business-casual fashion.
• If you have generic decorations instead of local art and photos.

Cell Phones Help Fight Epidemics

After a widespread crisis occurs (such as an earthquake or an epidemic), people often migrate away from the site of the catastrophe. This makes it difficult for aid groups to determine where to deliver medical supplies.

During Haiti's cholera epidemic last fall, a team at Sweden's Karolinska Institute used Haiti's cell phone system to track the SIM cards of people leaving the area where the epidemic began. These people might have already been infected, and the team wanted to alert medics to go where they might carry the disease.

The method worked. The second epidemic occurred where most of the population had moved to get out of the cholera zone, according to NPR.

Stat

21 - The percentage of United States physicians who worked part-time in 2010. That's up from 13 percent in 2005.
Source: Cejka Search, American Medical Group Association.

Possible Source of Lou Gehrig's Disease Identified

Researchers at Northwestern University say a cellular "housekeeping" agent that normally helps cells clear away damaged proteins is a possible cause of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), the debilitating ailment better known as Lou Gehrig's disease, according to the New York Times. The researchers believe when the housekeeper fails, proteins collect inside cells, which may ultimately cause the cells to die. Though it's not clear this is the source of the disease, there is growing evidence that defective protein clearance plays a pivotal role. The study was published in the journal Nature.

Weight-Loss Program Could Save Billions

Researchers at Emory University in Atlanta say Medicare could save $15 billion if 70 percent of 60- to-64-year-olds who are prediabetic or at risk for cardiovascular disease take part in community-oriented weight-loss programs. The researchers based their findings on a 2008 diabetes prevention program delivered through YMCA centers. Why the huge savings? According to the researchers, as high-risk individuals age, the medical costs associated with failing to prevent more serious disease accelerate. The study was published in Health Affairs.

Quotables

"Medicare and payers will continue taking steps that will lead medical groups to focus compensation on outcomes rather than on volume of procedures. Physicians who cannot meet quality outcome requirements and lower readmissions are likely to earn less."
Vivian Luce, regional director of physician recruitment firm Cejka Search

"It's my job to do the very best we can with patients in this practice. Exposing that small percent [of children whose parents] don't vaccinate to those who do is a disservice."
New York-based pediatrician Harry Miller, according to the Washington Post

"Too often we penalize providers for taking time with patients."
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, according to MedPage Today

This article originally appeared in the November 2011 issue of Physicians Practice.