Future of healthcare

5 Healthcare Innovations to Watch For in 2016

Back in October, Cleveland Clinic released their 10th annual list of the Top 10 Medical Innovations for 2016.  The list included such marvels as faster vaccine creation methods, a process for rewriting genetic code and even a highly detailed, affordable system for bringing water purification to developing countries.

Now that it’s finally the New Year, we thought we would dig up the list and bring to you five of the top 10 and what you can expect to hear in health care news in 2016. Here are the five (in no particular order):

1.) Naturally Controlled Artificial Limbs

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IMAGE: THE JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY APPLIED PHYSICS LABORATORY

If you remember back to late 2014, a story broke of a double-amputee man operating two artificial robotic arms using his mind. Les Baugh (pictured right) was able to move, and feel, everyday objects using the robotic arms and fingertip sensors. The video went viral.

Since then, researchers have discovered that neural signals associated with limb movement can be de-coded by computers. In Sweden, scientists have also unveiled the first mind-controlled prosthetic arm directly connected to a man’s natural bone, nerves and muscles.

More recently, researchers have demonstrated that sensors implanted in the brain can control prosthetic arms, wheelchairs and even a full body exoskeleton. It’s only a matter of time until such prosthetics are produced on an affordable scale, potentially helping millions of amputees worldwide.

2.) Water Purification System and Developing Countries

According to the World Health Organization, over 700 million people worldwide are drinking unsafe water everyday due to large amounts of sewage pools in cities. That’s ridiculous, right? Well, a new sewage processor plant may offer the next affordable solution.

In Dakar, Senegal, health officials say they’re testing a new type of waste treatment plant that would essentially turn these seeping sewage pools into sources of clean drinking water. The processor, which will cost roughly $1.5 million, would be able to support the waste of nearly 100,000 people a day.

Researchers think more processor plants like the one in Dakar will begin showing up in 2016.

3.) Battling Epidemics with the Rapid Development of Vaccines

Researchers are developing effective vaccines faster than ever to prevent epidemics. It’s an effort given new urgency by the 2014 Ebola epidemic in Africa and of Meningococcal B outbreaks in America. According to Steven Gordon, MD, chair of the Department of Infectious Disease at Cleveland Clinic:

“The rapid scientific response to recent epidemics indicates that we’ve achieved a new level of sophistication in the area of vaccine development. It was a global effort involving thousands of people, aided by information technology and instant communication.”

The most promising Ebola vaccine emerged in only 12 months. While it has not yet been licensed for human use, Cleveland Clinic experts estimate a safe, effective Ebola vaccine will be available this year.

4.) CRISPR Offers a New Spin on Gene Editing

Altering the DNA of human embryos has long been associated with that of science fiction. Now, with a new, inexpensive technique, “clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats,” or CRISPR (which sounds a lot cooler), gene editing is being adopted by labs everywhere.

CRISPR is boasting the ability to eliminate a whole range of genetic diseases. It can more quickly develop and test cures, identify and remove bad genes from a DNA strand, and can cost as little as $30.

Great, but how is it being tested?

CRISPR is now being used in animal testing models but could eventually be used for a wide range of human applications, from treating debilitating genetic diseases to increasing food crop yields. What’s clear is that CRISPR’s impact on the human population will be immeasurable.

CRISPR is now being used in animal testing models but could eventually be used for a wide range of human applications, from treating debilitating genetic diseases to increasing food crop yields.

5.) Protein Biomarker Analysis and Cancer Screening

A new biomarker platform hits the market this year and will offer more accurate cancer screenings and better chances for early detection. Protein biomarker analysis focuses on changes in the structure of certain proteins circulating in the blood, so that, as opposed to examining genetic mutations, which can indicate the risk of cancer, these new tests give real-time information on cancer’s presence.

pharmaceutical disposal

Pharmaceuticals Disposal and What’s Next for the Industry

Pharmaceuticals disposal is often an overlooked topic of discussion.  Historically, the public has resorted to flushing unused or expired medications down the toilet or throwing them out with the trash, mostly due to a lack of take back programs or events in many communities. 

In recent years, studies have shown rising levels of medications in water sources, including over 24 metropolitan areas across America.  These medicines seep into water supplies and pass through treatment systems and into drinking water, as treatment plants are often not equipped to routinely remove medicines.

Catch-22 anyone?

Currently, the status of pharmaceuticals disposal causes quite a contradictory issue. On one hand, we have an ever-growing concern for the environment and safe-levels of drinking water, but on the other, the majority of communities actually lack the abilities for take back programs and thus the general public simply ends up holding on to unused drugs. According to Conrad MacKerron, senior VP of the environmental group As You Sow, “Only about 1 percent of U.S. pharmacies offer a drug take-back program.”  As a result, we run into the issue of the poisoning of children or pets, the misuse and overdose by teens and adults, and even the accidental consumption of wrong medications by seniors.

So, what’s next for the industry?

In September, the EPA proposed two new rules to combat the growing issues at hand. The first, aptly named the pharmaceutical rule, aims to prevent all facilities in healthcare from flushing pills down the drain, keeping an estimated more than 6,400 tons of pharmaceuticals waste out of our water systems. The goal here is to push pharmaceutical companies into creating their own take-back initiatives.

The other rule, or the generator rule, looks to improve the labeling of hazardous waste, as well as provide better preparation for emergency planning and preparedness. According to Mathy Stanislaus, assistant administrator of the EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, “the proposals will improve the safety and health of our communities by providing clear, flexible and protective hazardous waste management standards.”

Great, but what should we, the public, do?

Drug take-back events

First things first, you should get in contact with your local government’s trash and recycling services and ask about community drug take-back programs, or contact the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)-authorized collectors. Some communities hold collection days and accept unwanted or expired drugs through retail pharmacies, hospital or clinical pharmacies, and law enforcement locations.  Some pharmacies even offer mail-back envelopes for disposing of medicines.

According the the EPA’s website, “Consumers can visit the DEA’s website for more information about drug disposal and to locate an authorized collector in their area. Consumers may also call the DEA Office of Diversion Control’s Registration Call Center at 1-800-882-9539 to find an authorized collector in their community.”

Household disposal

If drug take-back events aren’t possible, which they often are not, you should follow these steps for carefully disposing of medicines. Firstly, remove prescription drugs from their containers and mix with undesirable substances, such as cat litter or coffee grounds. Then, place the mixture in a sealable empty bag or container. Finally, mark out sensitive information on old prescription bottles and dispose of everything in the trash. But remember, this should be a final option after take-back events.

If you’re part of a pharmaceutical company, consider taking the EPA’s advice.  Small steps now can lead to major strides down the road.

redaway medical waste

7 Essentials for Effective Medical Office Managers

Running an office isn’t a job built for anyone. It takes patience, attentiveness, hard work, and delegatory skills to name a few. Being a medical office manager requires all these traits and more.

To be an effective medical office manager, one must pay close attention to his or her staff, keeping in constant communication and understanding the importance every employee serves. Listed below are seven essentials for effective management in a medical office or private practice. Leaving out duties such as invoicing and payments, this comprehensive list will give you, the medical office manager, a better understanding of how to run an office efficiently between you, your staff, and a constant influx of patients.


#1: Communicate Effectively

Communication is essential in every office. For medical office managers, being able to communicate effectively is more than just talking and listening. Effective communication requires the office manager to set the tone for mutual respect between staff and management. Establish employee expectations, as well as providing feedback on said expectations, is essential for every manager. Likewise, you must also be able to communicate effectively through listening. Listen to what your employees have to say about their roles; they understand firsthand their job functions better than you do. Clear communication with employees will allow you to better understand ideas for operating your office more efficiently.

#2: Know Every Job Function

Effective medical office managers understand that every single job role contributes to the overall success of the organization. Understanding each employee’s role is essential for training, managing and motivation purposes. Managers must smoothly operate their office through distributing workloads and supervising their staff. Furthermore, it is vital for a manager to understand every job function on a broad scope so as to understand company goals and staying fully compliant with state and federal requirements. The medical office manager is ultimately responsible for the success of the entire staff.

#3: Utilize A Good Medical Scheduling Software

The use of a good scheduling software will make the world of difference for you as an effective medical office manager. Such software will allow for the quick and efficient scheduling of patient appointments online, therefore cutting down on calls and wait times, as well as free up your time for other important management tasks. Additionally, as in many practices, assigning a relatively low-paid employee to schedule appointments manually will no longer be necessary. Remember: the less time it takes to schedule and see patients, the more appointments your office will receive.

#4: Improve Patient Flow

Following Essential #3, the goal of every practice is efficient scheduling, regardless of the patient mix. The main focus here is to provide care to as large a community of patients as possible, but without taking away from individual patients or compromising their care. Many practices can get by with seeing a patient every 20 minutes. However, others, such as most family physicians, can average four visits or fewer per hour. Avoid schedule gaps, and stay on schedule.

#5: Be Mindful of Staffing Capacity and New Hires

The interview process is rarely a fun time for office managers. But when you find yourself in the situation, be mindful of the person you are hiring. A poor performing employee or problem staff person can easily cause an unbalance in workload distribution, raise costs, and even sometimes lead to wrongful termination actions. Thoroughly establish the skills, objectives and goals, and personalities of every potential employee before hiring, and continue to clearly communicate expectations and hold them accountable after hiring.

#6: Track Office Performance

Track and benchmark data to improve your medical practice’s performance. Several tools are available to help you manage and monitor office operations, as well as benchmark them against the performance of similar private practices. Understanding the data and tracking performance are essential for not only keeping a steady stream of patients, but realizing the efficiency of your staff, through the tracking of such statistics as average patients per hour and patient turnover rates.

#7: Establish an Incentive System

A vested staff is most worthwhile to you in the long run as an office manager. Establish a good, simple incentive system for ambitions employees. Make it a primary objective to compensate your employees notably when they meet certain production goals. Such a system will lead to better teamwork, more positive financial outcomes and increased efficiency. Remember: always clearly communicate your expectations, provide training where needed, justly reward performance, and provide fair base salaries based on experience.

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