(Family Features) With many people preparing for health and wellness resolutions in the new year, understanding the state of access to care and other patients’ booking choices may give a sense of optimism for 2023.
To examine the outlook for 2023, Zocdoc, a free platform where people can find and book in-person or virtual health care appointments across more than 200 specialties and 12,000 insurance plans, analyzed appointment booking trends and conducted a provider survey. The results are reflected in the report, “Healthcare Hope For the Holidays: 2022,” which provided three key insights.
Happier Providers, Happier Patients
Provider and health care staff burnout can have a negative effect on patient experience, and 52% of providers surveyed indicated they agreed or strongly agreed practices will face increased financial challenges in 2023. However, savvy providers and support staff are taking steps to run more efficient practices, including using technology. This saves providers time and stress, giving them more time to focus on patient care.
In 2022, positivity pervaded providers’ perspectives on technology:
- 64% of providers indicated they agreed or strongly agreed their scheduling software helped their practice run more efficiently.
- 57% agreed or strongly agreed their telehealth solution was easy and intuitive to use.
- 36% agreed or strongly agreed insurance verification and eligibility software helped their practice run more efficiently.
This perspective paints a positive picture for patient-provider relationships in 2023:
- 71% of providers agreed or strongly agreed scheduling software will help run a more efficient practice.
- 69% agreed or strongly agreed technology will help practices run more efficiently.
- 59% agreed or strongly agreed their telehealth solution will become more intuitive and easier to use.
Technology Can Speed Up Access to Care
Amidst the unprecedented landscape of labor and supply costs rising, and physician and staff burnout a reality, innovation is driving positive change for patients. With a growing number of people embracing technology as a driver of access to an improved health care experience, and patients and providers aligned on telehealth as a supplement to in-person care, there are reasons for optimism.
Expediting patients’ access to care by surfacing the 20-30% of appointments that become available last minute due to cancellations and rescheduled appointments allows Zocdoc to enable faster speed-to-appointment for patients, compared to the averages reported in the Merritt Hawkins 2022 Survey of Physician Appointment Wait Times.
- Cardiology: Typically 1-3 days with 39% seeing a cardiologist within 48 hours, compared to 26.6 days national average appointment wait time
- Dermatology: Typically 1-3 days with nearly 30% seeing a dermatologist within 48 hours, compared to 34.5 days national average appointment wait time
- OB-GYN: Typically 1-3 days with nearly 26% seeing an OB-GYN within 48 hours, compared to 31.4 days national average appointment wait time
- Orthopedic surgery: Typically 1-3 days with nearly 38% seeing an orthopedic surgeon within 48 hours, compared to 16.9 days national average appointment wait time
- Family medicine (PCP): Typically 1-3 days with 42% seeing a PCP within 48 hours, compared to 20.6 days national average appointment wait time
Looking Back to Look Forward
Unique, actionable insights into consumers’ health care behavior can be derived from 2022 data, providing a glimpse into what’s to come. Examining the industry’s journey affords the opportunity to predict what may continue to resonate in 2023.
For example, patients got back to regular care appointments after delaying or canceling appointments following the COVID-19 pandemic’s onset.
Additionally, telehealth usage declined in all specialties except mental health, moving virtual care toward being a specialty- and case-specific care modality. Consider these appointment trends from January-November:
- 18% of appointments across all specialties were conducted via telehealth.
- Excluding mental health, just 9% of booked appointments were conducted via telehealth.
- 88% of mental health appointments were conducted via telehealth.
To find more information or book an appointment, visit Zocdoc.com.
Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock
3 ways to improve your home’s indoor air quality
(Family Features) The average American spends 90% of his or her time indoors, where clean, pure air can be taken for granted. While some people check the weather forecast for smog and pollen count to find out the status of outdoor air, many homeowners haven’t thought about air quality inside their homes.
People have, however, gotten more concerned about indoor air quality since the pandemic. According to Shelton Group Pulse research, 37% of survey respondents are more concerned about indoor air quality now compared to before the pandemic. In fact, the concentration of certain pollutants can be up to 2-5% worse indoors than outdoors, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Common pollutants include dust mites, mold spores, pet dander and chemicals of concern like volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Allergy triggers like pollen, smoke and ozone can leak indoors from outside. However, there’s one major culprit impacting indoor air quality many may not suspect: humans.
People are sometimes responsible for bringing allergens and pollutants unknowingly into their own homes. For example, pollen may be brought inside on shoes or clothes, and products may be unknowingly purchased that contribute to poor indoor air quality by slowly releasing toxic chemicals into the air.
While all homes will have some degree of infiltration, you can take steps to reduce indoor allergens, such as these three strategies from the EPA, which when used together can help you breathe easier in your own home.
Ventilating your home regularly makes it less likely allergens can accumulate and cause harm. Let fresh air into your home regularly by opening the windows.
You can also use mechanical ventilation, like electric or ceiling fans, to increase air circulation in your home, especially when you don’t want to open windows or in addition to opening windows.
Additionally, if you need to paint an item, do it outside whenever possible. Also keep windows open when using harsh cleaning products.
Source control is the most effective way to reduce indoor allergens in your home, according to the EPA. To reduce indoor allergens at the source, choose flooring – the foundation of your home – that contributes to better indoor air quality for your whole family and contains as few chemicals of concern as possible. Not only does an option like resilient flooring from Beautifully Responsible manufacturers come in water-resistant varieties that are easy to keep clean without harsh chemicals, many are independently certified to comply with high standards for indoor air quality. Look for the third-party FloorScore, which certifies hard surface flooring, adhesives and underlayments for low levels of VOCs and other chemicals of concern.
Clean the Air
Air purifiers are a simple way to filter indoor air without too much extra effort. These devices combine an internal filter and fan to capture airborne particles from pet dander, pollen and dust, circulating purified air back into the room.
The EPA recommends air purifiers with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter. Look for certified asthma- and allergy-friendly air purifiers to help minimize triggers of asthma and allergy. Remember to change filters regularly for best performance.
Making the connection between AFib and stroke
(Family Features) For many people, the heart naturally contracts and relaxes to a regular beat. However, those living with atrial fibrillation (AFib) experience a quivering or irregular heartbeat that can lead to further health issues including stroke, heart attack, heart failure or sudden cardiac arrest.
In fact, people with AFib are up to five times more likely to have a stroke, yet many people are unaware that AFib is a serious condition. Managing your AFib is important to reducing your stroke risk.
Consider this important information from the American Heart Association’s Getting to the Heart of Stroke, an initiative sponsored nationally by the HCA Healthcare Foundation, to understand if you may be at higher risk of a stroke.
While some people with AFib don’t have symptoms, those who do may experience a racing heartbeat or irregular heart rate. Other common symptoms include heart palpitations (rapid “flopping” or “fluttering” feeling in the chest); lightheadedness or faintness; chest pain or pressure; shortness of breath, especially when lying down; or fatigue.
During AFib, some blood may not be pumped efficiently from the atria (the heart’s two small upper chambers) into the ventricles. Blood that’s left behind can pool in the atria and form blood clots. The clot may block blood flow to the brain, causing a stroke.
Anyone can develop AFib. The risk factors for AFib are broken into two categories: heart-health factors and behavioral factors. Heart-health factors may include advancing age (especially over age 65), family history of AFib, high blood pressure, prior heart attack or disease, diabetes, sleep apnea and prior heart surgery. Behaviors that may be associated with higher risk factors include excessive alcohol use, smoking and prolonged athletic conditioning. (Appropriate physical activity is important for a healthy lifestyle, but you should discuss your exercise plan with a health care professional.)
“Early identification and treatment of AFib is critical to stroke prevention, especially in high-risk populations experiencing health care disparities or barriers to accessing vital health care resources,” said Steven Manoukian, MD, FAHA, senior vice president at HCA Healthcare. “Common risk factors, like high blood pressure, are more prevalent within Black communities, yet Black patients may be diagnosed less often with AFib. Creating awareness of AFib, stroke risk and treatment options can be a lifesaving first step in stroke prevention.”
It’s important to talk to your doctor if you think you may have symptoms of AFib or be at risk for AFib. Diagnosis of AFib starts with an in-depth examination from a doctor. Work with your doctor to identify a treatment plan and goals to help manage your AFib and reduce your risk of stroke.
Treatment options for AFib may include medications to prevent and treat blood clots or control heart rate and rhythm, procedures or surgery. Your doctor may also prescribe medications to prevent and treat blood clots that can lead to a stroke. Discuss the best options for you with your doctor to create a shared decision-making plan.
To learn how to manage your AFib and connect with others, visit MyAFibExperience.org.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images (doctor and patient)
American Heart Association
6 tips to get sleep back on track
(Family Features) For many people, changing seasons are about resetting routines and adjusting to a different pace of life. With fall activities in full swing, families should be intentional about their sleep routines to avoid missing the magical moments ahead.
According to SleepScore, people lose an average of 15 1/2 hours of sleep (about 10 minutes each night) during summer months due to the “summer sleep slump.” Addressing this challenge, Natrol, a leading sleep, mood and stress supplement brand, along with behavioral sleep specialist Shelby Harris, intend to help people gain control over their sleep and mood to be more present each day.
“Sleep is supposed to help you live your day to the fullest,” Harris said. “There are smart behavioral shifts you can make to maximize your sleep routine this fall, and sometimes that can include melatonin supplements. I always say, ‘If you are taking a sleep aid that makes you sleepy throughout the day, what is the point of taking it?’”
Harris recommends these easy tips to improve your sleep routine.
Consider Sleep Cycle Changes
Before trying to reset routines, consider the changes you’re hoping to make. Track the sleep you’re getting now and pay attention to factors that may hinder your current sleep cycle, from struggling to fall asleep to tossing and turning during the night, then think about the ways you might be able to improve those hindrances.
Make Adjustments Gradually
Remember, changes don’t happen overnight. For many people, the solution is as simple as going to bed earlier. Rather than trying to make up that extra 30 minutes immediately, it’s often helpful to slowly adjust routines. Try starting your bedtime ritual 5 minutes earlier each night to work toward your goal.
Set Aside Time to Unwind
Despite the hectic nature of fall schedules, it’s important to prioritize time to unwind before bed. Whether it’s reading a book, meditating or finding another slow-paced activity you enjoy, a calming, screenless way to slow your mind may help you fall asleep quicker.
Be Thoughtful About Light Exposure
It may seem obvious, but too much light exposure (indoor and out) at night can cause sleep issues. Be mindful of your own comfort by ensuring TVs and computers are powered down, smartphones are set aside, outdoor lights are off and curtains are drawn. Keeping the room dark can make a big difference when trying to fall and stay asleep throughout the night.
Turn to a Drug-Free Sleep Aid Supplement
If you follow consistently good bedtime habits but still have trouble falling asleep, try a low-milligram melatonin supplement, like those from Natrol, which are designed to help people sleep better so they can feel well-rested and ready to take on the day.†
“Melatonin is not a one-stop solution to help get your sleep back on track,” Harris said. “If you are taking melatonin, finding a brand with USP Verified options, like Natrol’s 5MG Fast Dissolve Tablets, for example, is extremely important.”
Prioritize Your Wake-Up Routine
That snooze button might be tempting, but those extra few minutes of sleep may do more harm than good. Ensure you wake up feeling refreshed by sticking to a consistent sleep cycle. Whether it’s a morning stretch or simply forcing your feet to hit the floor, prioritizing movement and exposure to light can help kickstart the day.
Find more ways to help get your sleep back on track by visiting Natrol.com.
†These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
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