Noteworthy: A Prescription of Laughter; Hairstylists as Cancer Screeners

December 27, 2011

Stumped diagnosis assistance; hairstylists as cancer screeners; doctor discounts; and more.

Diagnosis Got You Stumped?

Mobile medical apps are now approved medical devices. The FDA has endorsed a handful of the weightless tools ranging from an ultrasound machine to a blood pressure monitoring cuff. The MIM App, the first to be officially approved, enables physicians to make diagnoses based on images from MRIs, CTs, and other technologies, according to the New York Times.

Hairstylists as Cancer Screeners

According to a survey appearing in the Archives of Dermatology, 60 percent of hairdressers said they had recommended a customer see a healthcare professional for an abnormal mole on the scalp or neck. Researchers are now evaluating the impact of a 20-minute education session geared to hairstylists that addresses skin cancer detection, according to American Medical News.

Doctor Discounts

Everyone likes a good deal, but think twice before issuing coupons to patients through sites like Groupon and Living Social, says Practice Notes blogger and attorney Ericka Adler. Here's why:

• Fee-splitting: Most states prohibit physicians from splitting revenue in exchange for referrals. Many coupon sites charge a percentage of the income generated on each deal sold. Though sites take this payment from the consumer (the patient), it represents a portion of the fee the physician would have generated for the service.

• Anti-kickback statute: This prohibits payment of remuneration in exchange for referrals, directly or indirectly. Talk with counsel to make sure the discount you're offering does not violate federal and/or state rules.

A Prescription of Laughter

Laughter may increase a person's pain threshold by an average 10 percent, according to a new Oxford University Study. Researchers asked subjects to undergo various discomforts like wearing an ice-cold sleeve or squatting against a wall for long periods. When the participants laughed out loud prior to experiencing the pain, their pain threshold increased. A change in affect alone - getting happy but not laughing out loud - did not significantly impact pain sensations, according to the Washington Post. The conclusion? The physical exertion of laughter triggers the release of protective endorphins.

Healthtweeter?

What people read and write about on Twitter could influence their health, according to Penn State University researchers. They noticed a positive correlation between the number of upbeat tweets sent about flu vaccinations and the number of people who got vaccinated during the swine flu outbreak in 2009. For example, New England, the region with the highest vaccination rate, also had the highest percentage of Twitter users who posted positive messages about the vaccine. The findings, published in PLoS Computational Biology, suggest that healthcare organizations may be able to use Twitter to target education, predict disease outbreaks, and respond to epidemics more quickly because it could provide location-specific information about healthcare trends, according to NPR.

Futuristic Healthcare

The Mayo Clinic is opening up a "Health Experience Center" at the Mall of America in Minneapolis. The 2500-square-foot space, designed to increase patient engagement and healthcare accessibility, has the high-tech, modern feel of an Apple store, according to FierceHealthcare. The retail store/health and wellness center is equipped with personal kiosks and offers an interactive library of health information, wellness "packages," and health assessments. Trained healthcare professionals, known as "navigators," are also available to help consumers identify wellness goals and access information.

Tracking Alzheimer's Patients

There's a new way to keep track of Alzheimer's patients who have a tendency to wander off: GPS-enabled shoes. If the wearer crosses over a "geo-fence" - a predetermined boundary such as the perimeter of a neighborhood - an e-mail with location is sent to the shoe-wearer's caretaker. Though similar GPS-enabled bracelets are already available, the bracelets are more easily lost. In addition, the GPS-enabled shoes resemble typical elderly-friendly sneakers. That makes them more appealing to Alzheimer's patients, who tend to dislike unfamiliar objects, according to NPR.

Quote

"The shocking news is that we are in the midst of an epidemic of prescription drug overdose in this country. Fifteen-thousand people died from prescription drug overdoses last year. That's about 40 deaths per day."
Thomas Frieden, director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Source: National Public Radio

Stat

29.5 – The percentage drop in the number of patients admitted to hospitals for heart failure between 1998 and 2008.
Source: Journal of the American Medical Association

This article originally appeared in the January 2012 issue of Physicians Practice.