Advantages of a Paperless Medical Office

Posted by on November 28, 2014 6:23 am

Paperless Medical OfficeThe implementation of EHR systems and web-based medical billing software is helping medical offices go paperless, improve efficiency, reduce costs, and enhance care. A well-implemented paperless medical office can improve workflow, ensure document security, improve billing and collection tasks, better manage reimbursements and minimize denials.

Here are the five ways to minimize the use of paper and improve efficiency in health care practices:

  • Electronic statements and e-billing – Transitioning to paperless statements and online bill payments is one of the most effective ways of reducing the use of paper. This lowers costs on postage and stationery, and also reduces staff time spent on coordinating invoices, checks, and mailing. Managing office finances through the web makes payments quicker and much easier to track.
  • Electronic faxing – Healthcare practices receives a huge amount of faxes everyday and the expenses for maintaining or leasing a fax machine to produce copies of all the documents can be very high. Getting an e-fax account would help resolve these issues. With e-fax, incoming faxes are received as PDF files to a specific email address instead of being printed automatically. This saves time on document management, making archiving easier with integration of the documents into the practice’s EHR system. It also minimizes the risk of losing or misfiling faxes.
  • E-signature – E-signatures can be used to sign a digital document without printing it. This automates document workflows as data fields can be collected and verified at the point of signature. It also eliminates the need for printing which saves time and money and also improves compliance with no incomplete forms.
  • Collaborative documentation – The use of collaborative documentation tools such as Google Docs make document sharing easier. Electronic documents can be shared among providers, edited, and reviewed which promotes more efficient communication and enhanced patient care.

It’s obvious that physicians who take advantage of the latest technological innovations can establish a paperless practice that is efficient, patient centric, and profitable. However, medical document scanning and conversion can prove quite challenging for physicians offices with large volumes of paper records. That’s why many practices are seeking the help of professional healthcare business process outsourcing companies to moving from a paper medical record system to an electronic medical record system. Such companies have a dedicated team that can provide fully HIPAA-compliant, affordable document conversion solutions using the latest technology.

BP Spikes in MAOI PatientsHypertension and/or hypertension related diseases are common in the U.S. About one in three (33.5%) U.S. adults have high blood pressure. The American Heart Association recommends a blood pressure screening at your regular healthcare visit or once every 2 years, if the blood pressure is less than 120/80 mm Hg.

A case report published recently in the Annals of Internal Medicine shows that the combination of an irreversible monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitor and excessive caffeine consumption can cause severe spikes in blood pressure (BP). The reported case was that of a 56-year-old patient examined for severe hypertension.

The patient had been consuming 10 to 12 cups of caffeinated coffee every day for many years, and smoked 6 to 8 cigarettes. Physicians noted that his BP was in excess of 220/119 mm Hg. He was also found to be carefully avoiding tyramine-rich foods except for 1 glass of red wine daily during dinner and had begun therapy with tranylcypromine for major depressive disorder.

Tranylcypromine is a nonselective MAO inhibitor that inhibits monoamine oxidase. Physicians estimate that tranylcypromine was involved in the development of hypertension in this patient. BP got normalized after the patient switched to decaffeinated coffee while continuing tranylcypromine.

Ambulatory BP monitoring records of this patient showed 2 peaks of elevated BP along with an increase in heart rate with 2 daily doses of the MAO inhibitor. After switching to decaffeinated coffee, the patient still drank 10 to 12 cups a day. This time, the recordings showed a normal BP pattern with an average daytime BP of 129/85 mm Hg and a nighttime BP of 104/65 mm Hg. Office BP also remained normal 2 hours after taking a dose of tranylcypromine.

This case is also a reminder for physicians about the crucial importance of taking a thorough medical history, including the use of drugs and food, when analyzing a patient with hypertension.

Services provided for patients with hypertension are reimbursed. Medical billing and coding for hypertension has to be accurate.

ICD-9 codes for Essential Hypertension

401.0 Malignant essential hypertension
401.1 Benign essential hypertension
401.9 Unspecified essential hypertension

ICD-10 Code

I10 Essential (primary) hypertension

The study also found that coffee inhibited MAO and increased the turnover of several monoamines, including 5-hydroxytryptamine, dopamine, and norepinephrine, at least in vitro.

Methods to Improve Medical Accounts Receivable

Posted by on November 26, 2014 7:29 am

Medical Accounts ReceivableThe business side of a medical practice is related to A/R and collections. After patient care, maximizing revenue is the most important thing for a practice. Even if the accounts receivable (AR) effort is progressing smoothly, assessing the process is from time to time is important to maximize cash flow. Here are some tips to maximize collections:

  • Eliminate Old Data – In addition to collecting insurance and contact information from new patients, medical practice staff should be urged to renew patient information and update the system at each visit. After the updating the information, they must go through it to identify the data that is redundant such as details of patients who has left the practice long ago, which can be eliminated. Remove small balances like missed co-pay or vaccine reimbursement as losses and save time and money from continual billing for such items.
  • Collect from Recurring Patients – On their next visit, collect from patients who have payment balances marking them off from the to-do list. Empower your staff with tools to collect payments on the day of the visit. Experts recommend a simple plan:
    • Note down your payment policy in simple terms and post it in the reception area
    • Create a system that allows the staff to check the next day’s appointments for existing debts before contacting the patient
    • Use reminder calls or conformation emails to inform patients about the pending payments before consultation
    • Train your staff to handle payment requirements firmly and politely and ask the billing department to step in if the patient refuses to pay
  • Check Reports on Collections – Conducting periodic analysis to check collections is an important AR management tool. If done on weekly basis, such analytics would give you a clear picture of your backlog. This will help identify the areas that need to be addressed.

HeartBleedThe HeartBleed bug, an encryption flaw discovered by Codenomicon Defensics and Google Security in April is regarded as the biggest security threat the internet has ever seen. As per the security experts, this bug affected several popular websites such as Gmail and Facebook and could have exposed sensitive information the past two years. They also opine this could be threatening for the healthcare industry as a number of networks and web applications are used every day and there is greater chance for the exposure of confidential health information. We have recently seen administration officials asking people having accounts on Obamacare enrollment website to change their passwords.

Let’s take a detailed look at how HeartBleed affects healthcare data and what can be done to overcome this risk.

How Does HeartBleed Affect Practice Data?

Technically speaking, HeartBleed is vulnerability in the open source cryptographic software library (OpenSSL), which is typically used to provide communication security and privacy for Internet-based applications including web services, e-mail and private networks. OpenSSL is very common in the healthcare industry. It is used in health software for public-facing web applications such as patient portals, payment gateways for payers and in certain medical devices. OpenSSL is quite common for back-end applications on an EHR system. So, if healthcare organizations do not fix this vulnerability, they will have an open network and provide opportunity for hackers to make administrative changes in the network (for example, changing access requirements). This means all patient data from electronic medical records to medical billing information are at the risk of theft, which does not portend good for healthcare organizations from the point of view of quality patient care as well as reimbursement.

What Physician Practices Can Do

  • Investigate your exposure to HeartBleed and list out all potentially impacted websites and medical devices that you use and communicate sensitive information. There are several online tools available to check for vulnerability. Once you make out the list, patch the affected servers.
  • Immediately change your passwords and notify both consumers and employees to change theirs. According to the HIPAA rule, if a covered entity finds evidence that HeartBleed bug has led to unauthorized access or acquisition of protected health information, a notification is required.
  • Contact the vendors and enquire whether they are affected by the bug and make sure that they have patched their systems. If they are fixing the bug, ensure that they notify you once the task is over so that you can then reset your password.
  • Even if the vulnerability was not found, organizations should take necessary steps to address the security risk and safeguard protected healthcare information. They should conduct a comprehensive and periodic security risk assessment, train their employees properly and perform technology updates and patches.

Physicians should not care about the security of tasks performed in-house, but make sure that the outsourcing companies take proper security measures if their billing and coding tasks are outsourced. Seeking help from a medical billing and coding company that offers HIPAA compliant medical billing services is the right choice to avoid HeartBleed risk.

Medicare ACO ProgramThe Affordable Care Act (ACA) necessitates the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to launch a shared savings program to facilitate coordination among healthcare providers thereby improving the quality of care for Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries.

Accountable Care Organizations (ACO) that participate in the Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP) will face a new set of quality measures in the year 2015 (under the proposed Medicare Part B payment rules of the CMS). CMS focuses on increasing the total number of quality measures thereby laying higher emphasis on outcomes.

A total of 12 new measures will be added and 8 current metrics will be eliminated, increasing the set of quality measures from 33 to 37. The new measures relate to four main domains — care coordination/patient safety, patient/caregiver experience, preventive health, and at-risk populations. It is important for ACOs (approximately 350 healthcare organizations scheduled to expand in January) to meet the quality performance measures in order to receive bonuses in the program.

The new MSSP metrics focus on quality measurement programs right from process to outcomes. The proposed rule recommends the inclusion of the following new measures –

  • Consumer assessment of healthcare providers and systems (CAHPS) stewardship of patient resources – This measure aims to find out whether the ACO care team has discussed the prescription medicine costs with the patient.
  • Accurate documentation of current medications in the medical record – It replaces the existing medication reconciliation measure at every office visit, which looks only at whether this was done following a hospital discharge. The new measure integrates with the physician reporting quality system and electronic health records (EHR) incentive program. Healthcare organizations are required to display the percentage of office visits at which medications were reconciled.
  • Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF) 30-day all cause re-admission measure – This proposal estimates the risk-standardized rate of all-cause, unplanned, readmissions for patients who have been admitted to a SNF within 30 days of discharge from prior patient admission to a hospital, critical access hospital or psychiatric hospital.
  • All – cause unplanned readmissions for patients suffering from conditions like heart failure, diabetes mellitus and other multiple chronic diseases.
  • Depression remission at 12 months after diagnosis – Depression is a serious health disorder that can reduce patient adherence to treatment for chronic conditions.
  • Measures for Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) symptom management, CAD Antiplatelet Therapy and CAD Beta Blocker Therapy
  • Diabetes measurement for foot exam and eye exam – these help prevent diabetes-related foot amputations and blindness.
  • Percentage of primary-care physicians who successfully meet meaningful use requirements – It measures the total percentage of primary-care physicians qualified for the EHR incentive payments.

In addition, CMS proposes the deletion of 8 existing measures that have not kept up with the best clinical practices and are redundant with other quality measures. These include –

  • Ischemic vascular disease – Use of aspirin or another antithrombotic
  • Ischemic vascular disease – Complete lipid profile and LDL control (<100 mg/dl)
  • Diabetes composite measure – Hemoglobin A1c control (<8 percent)
  • Diabetes composite – Tobacco non-use
  • Medication reconciliation after discharge from an inpatient facility
  • Diabetes composite – Low density lipoprotein (<100)
  • Diabetes composite – Blood pressure (<140/90)
  • Coronary artery disease (CAD) composite – Drug therapy for lowering LDL cholesterol

It is expected that Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) will have to start implementing the new quality measures for the year 2015 and report the data to CMS in the year 2016 provided the new proposal is finalized in its current form. As part of the 3 year MSSPs contract, healthcare providers need to make accurate reporting for the first year and demonstrate a specific level of performance for availing the full bonuses.

As part of the new measure, CMS plans to reward quality improvement and will provide up to 2 bonus points in each of its 4 domains of performance specifically for improvement. The bonus points will increase the scores used to calculate how much each ACO receives from shared savings.

Physician Fee ScheduleAt the end of October 2014, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released the 2015 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule (PFS), which updates payment policies and payment rates for services provided to Medicare beneficiaries by physicians and other practitioners. The main provision of this final rule is that physician payment rates will be reduced by 21.2 percent after March 2015. So, when the Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014 signed by the President (which prohibited a reduction in the PFS rates from January through March 2015) expires, physicians will see a large reduction in their Medicare payment. There are several other provisions which can also have a significant impact on their entire billing process.

The other provisions under the 2015 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule are as follows.

  • Medicare predominantly pays physicians as well as other practitioners for care management services provided as a part of face-to-face visits. But from 2015, CMS will pay for chronic care management (CCM) services separately for Medicare beneficiaries with two or more significant chronic conditions. The rule fixes a payment rate for CCM services that may be billed up to once every month for each qualified patient. CCM services include medication management, communication and coordination among a care team and consistent review of a patient’s plan of care.
  • With this new rule, CMS introduces a new process for determining fee schedule payment rates that will allow transparency in setting PFS rates. The rule allows checking payment rates and commenting rulemaking before it is being adopted.
  • CMS is extending the telehealth benefit available to Medicare beneficiaries with the new rule by including the services, annual wellness visits, psychotherapy, psychoanalysis and prolonged evaluation and management services.
  • The final rule introduces new requirements related to the 2017 Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS) payment adjustment. PQRS is a pay-for-reporting program that supports reporting of quality information by providing incentive payments and payment cuts to eligible professionals. From 2015, the program will apply a payment adjustment or cut to professionals if they won’t report data on quality measures for particular professional services.

The final rule reflects a broader strategy to provide high quality care at lower cost. Physicians are required to improve their documentation, train their coders and better manage their revenue cycle in line with the new provisions in the rule. If they are struggling to manage the number of increasing patients as result of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and running out of time, they can consider obtaining support from a professional billing and coding company. CMS seeks to find better ways to pay physicians and other practitioners and ensure better provision of care to generate better health outcomes and enhanced collaboration across the healthcare system.

Alarming Rise in Adult Obesity Rates in the U.S

Posted by on November 20, 2014 6:25 am

Adult Obesity RatesA few months ago, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) data showed a decline in obesity rates in American children. Now, Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index survey has found that adult obesity rate rose to 27.7% in 2014 from 27.1% in 2013. This is the highest annual rate Gallup and Healthways have ever measured since they began to track obesity in 2008. The survey results were consolidated on the basis of telephone interviews conducted as a part of the survey from January 1 to May 19, 2014 with a random sample of 64,546 adults in the age group 18 and older who live in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

The major findings of this survey are as follows.

  • Around two-thirds of Americans have had Body Mass Index (BMI) higher than recommended for the past six years. Only 35% Americans have normal weight so far in 2014. Underweight Americans form a very small percentage (2.1%) of the adult population.
  • In 2008, Gallup and Healthways survey found the obesity rate was 25.5%. Though this percentage has fluctuated since then, it rose up by 2.2% points since 2008.
  • The obesity rates are higher or stable in 2014 across major demographic categories compared to 2013. Blacks (35.5%) are the most likely to be obese compared to other demographic groups. The groups least likely to be obese are young adults in the age group 18 to 29 years (17.0%) and high-income Americans (23.1%), who earn $90,000 or more annually. The obesity rate in older Americans aged 65 and older increased up to 27.9% in 2014, which is the largest among sub groups.

Even though pediatric obesity is on the decline, rising obesity rates in American adults raise a red flag. The American Medical Association recently declared obesity as a disease and it is linked to several serious health conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and sleep apnea. The survey points out that taking steps to prevent and reduce obesity at the local level could be the key to address rising obesity rates. Following the examples of localities such as Boulder and Colorado where obesity rates are considerably lower than other communities across the country and the residents tend to be very active, is a good step.

Unhealthy lifestyle and less physical activity are the major reasons for obesity. When Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index survey collected data from January 2 to December 29, 2012, and January 2 to December 30, 2013, Boulder and Colorado residents were least likely to be obese. The proposed reason for this during the survey was Colorado with its outdoor spaces and activities attracts active residents and encourages them to lead healthy lifestyles. It was also found that worsening eating habits in 2013 may be the reason for rising obesity rates at the national level. Recently, researchers at the University of South Carolina’s Arnold School of Public Health found obese adults in the U.S. spend less than a minute per day for vigorous activity. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), family practice physicians play a vital role in preventing and treating obesity as they can employ a long-term, patient-centered approach to deal with obesity and weight management problems. Healthcare experts point out that they have a huge role in educating patients as in a family physician’s office the patient’s care is coordinated and individual problem lists elucidated. Thus, getting access to physicians is as important as a healthy lifestyle and proper exercise.

Medicare started covering six months of weight loss counseling for its beneficiaries with obesity as a part of preventive service package in 2011. However, the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index survey shows obesity rates are still rising among older people. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) included obesity screening and counseling under preventive services so that it will be covered by insurers with no co-payments, co-insurance or deductibles. In addition to that, the ACA offers subsidies to low-income people. Though the ACA provisions are really helpful for obese people, their actual effects are yet to be revealed. Anyway, physicians should verify the insurance details of their patients to confirm if there is coverage for obesity screening and counseling or subsidies.

Inpatient vs. Outpatient Urology Procedures CodingThe major advancements in the field of medicine have transformed the landscape of healthcare in the United States. Surgical services are now being provided in some cases on an outpatient basis. For instance, several urology procedures are conducted in an outpatient set up as they are a preferred alternative for many patients on account of benefits such as convenient schedule, personalized care, fewer delays, lesser cost and excellent service quality associated with the same. When compared with inpatient surgery that requires a patient to stay in the hospital overnight, an OP procedure does not require overnight stay and patients can leave the hospital the same day after the surgery.

OP services essentially include planned procedures, assessments, treatments, day surgery, chronic disease management and prevention and education services that are carried out by a specialist, which do not require overnight stay. These physicians or specialists are reimbursed for their services on the basis of the diagnostic and procedural codes they report on the medical claims of patients. Medicare uses ICD-9 codes to identify diagnoses and procedures in the hospital inpatient setting. Physician services are the same irrespective of whether they are provided on an outpatient or inpatient basis. However, facility resources used are quite different for outpatient vs. inpatient.

Facility outpatient services and physician services are reimbursed under Medicare Part B whereas facility inpatient services are paid under Medicare Part A. Facility observation services are also reimbursed under Medicare Part B unless the patient is later admitted as an inpatient. Significant variation exists between Medicare Part A Inpatient Prospective Payment System (IPPS) and Part B Hospital Outpatient Prospective Payment System (HOPPS). IPPS payment for the facility is based on MS-DRGs (Medicare Severity Diagnosis Related Groups), whereas HOPPS payment for the facility is based on APCs (Ambulatory Procedure Classifications).

For e.g. “Prostatectomy” MS-DRG codes:

  • MS-DRG 665 – Prostatectomy with MCC
  • MS-DRG 666 – Prostatectomy with CC
  • MS-DRG 667 – Prostatectomy without CC/MCC
  • MS-DRG 707 – Major male pelvic procedures with CC/MCC
  • MS-DRG 708 – Major male pelvic procedures without CC/MCC
  • MS-DRG 713 – Transurethral prostatectomy with CC/MCC
  • MS-DRG 714 – Transurethral prostatectomy without CC/MCC

Prosthetic Urological Procedures APC codes:

  • 0385 – Level I Prosthetic Urological Procedures
  • 0386 – Level II Prosthetic Urological Procedures

As per 2012 statistics from the Journal of Urology, more than 53 million OP procedures are performed annually in the United States. Even though most of these procedures were generally carried out in hospital OP departments, many of them are being performed at non-hospital based facilities like physician offices or ambulatory surgery centers.

Any complications arising from OP surgery may increase the number of patient readmissions. With the Hospital Readmission Reduction Program (which is part of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act), Medicare payments are reduced by penalizing hospitals with excessive readmission rates. This will affect the revenue of healthcare providers. Another risk with inaccurate coding is the patient’s health. Failure to assign appropriate codes will significantly affect patient health.

Shift from Inpatient to Outpatient Setting Involve Higher Death Rates

A recent survey found that the trend of hospitals shifting urological surgeries from inpatient to outpatient setting has led to an increase in the number of preventable death following complications. The study led by researchers at the “Henry Ford Hospital” utilized nationwide medical records of patients (between the years 1998 and 2010) discharged following a urologic surgery.

Researchers analyzed a pool of 7.7 million surgeries to assess both overall and FTR (failure to rescue) mortality rates (a death that occurred due to a complication that was potentially recognizable and preventable) of these patients.

The study results were published online in the official journal of the British Association of Urological Surgeons. The core details and the findings of the study are mentioned below –

  • A 5% increase in FTR mortality rate was recorded while both admissions for urologic surgery and overall mortality rates decreased slightly. A shift from inpatient procedures to OP surgery may have spiked the FTR rate.
  • Researchers analyzed each patient’s age, race and health insurance status (including private insurance, Medicare, Medicaid and self pay). The severity of illness of each patient was also verified based on co-morbidity or the presence of other chronic diseases at the time of their surgery.
  • Older patients who belonged to the minority group, having public insurance and who suffered from other diseases were at higher risk of suffering death after detection of complications from a surgery.

It is crucial for urology surgeons and support staff to understand the possible risks and disadvantages associated with OP procedures and further complications that may arise leading to even a patient’s death. The findings of the study signify the need to provide a higher level of attention and care for those patients who have undergone urology procedures. Accurate documentation of diagnoses and various services provided is also crucial. This will help to reduce the mortality rate and other complications related to urology procedures.

Google's Patient-Doctor Video Chat ServiceGoogle appears to be testing a service that connects patients with doctors over a video chat, opening new possibilities for virtual office visits or e-visits. According to the Verge report, this feature is being tested across a limited number of users, who can see a blue icon on their search results when searching for basic health information (for example, knee pain). On clicking this icon, they can talk to the doctor over a video chat. From this, we can expect that virtual office visits may become more accessible for patients. If this feature becomes successful, there is bound to be a substantial increase in the process of billing for e-visits.

The Verge report says this service ties into Helpouts, a marketplace experts can use to give lessons and advice over video chat and charge for their services. The video chat service can really boost e-visits once its testing proves successful. Though e-visits are typically used to address non-urgent ongoing or new symptoms, we can expect an evolving role of its use in the management of chronic health conditions including diabetes.

Importance of E-Visits

E-visits are really important in the current healthcare scenario, especially with the aging baby-boomer population and rising medical costs. Here are the key reasons for that.

  • With the rising number of older people and newly insured patients under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), physicians’ offices find it quite difficult to schedule appointments for all patients quickly, which increases their wait time. On the other hand, electronic visits comprised of videoconferencing between physicians and patients can free up physicians from the strain associated with office visits.
  • Electronic visits are convenient and less costly alternatives to traditional office visits. With videoconferencing, patients can easily get access to a primary care physician instead of going for a costly emergency room visit when they get sick.
  • Online visits enhance the communication between patients and doctors with an opportunity for patients to discuss their symptoms (for example, wounds, skin problems) and concerns conveniently from their own homes while the physician can make a diagnosis, provide treatment instructions and develop a specific treatment protocol.

A study from Deloitte says that around 75 million of 600 million appointments with general practitioners will encompass electronic visits (e-Visits) in 2014. As the situation remains favorable for increased electronic visits in the future, Google’s video chat service will make e-visits more popular as the search engine is widely used among people.

Billing for E-Visits

With the emerging role of e-visits in the current healthcare scenario, it is very important for physicians to understand billing for e-visits. The key points that need to be considered are:

  • Insurers providing reimbursement for e-visits typically pay only for visits that require medical decision making and results in a documentable action including a change in medication, ordering of a diagnostic test or a referral to a specialist.
  • E-visits should not be billed more than once within 7 days for the same occurrence of care or be associated with an evaluation and management (E/M) service performed within 7 days. Electronic visits billed within the post-operative period of a previously completed major or minor surgical procedure will be considered part of the global payment for the procedure and should not be reported separately.
  • E-visits are provided by a qualified physician, physician’s assistant or nurse practitioner and there must be an existing provider/patient relationship based on a previous office visit.
  • Requests for medication refills, reporting of test results, and distribution of patient education materials are not billable for electronic visits.

The codes used for reporting e-visits are as follows.

  • 99444: Online medical evaluation – physician non-face-to-face E&M service to patient/guardian or health care provider not originating from a related E&M service provided within the previous 7 days.
  • 98969: Online assessment and management services provided by a qualified non-physician health care professional to an established patient, guardian, or health care provider not originating from a related assessment and management service provided within the previous 7 days, using the internet or similar electronic communications network.

Do not report 99444 when using 99339-99340, 99374-99380 for the same communication or for anticoagulation management while reporting 99363, 99364.

PhenomizerThe days are gone when mobiles were used only to make calls. The wide usage of mobile technologies is opening new and innovative ways to improve health as well as health care delivery. Along with helping people manage their own health and wellness, mobile health applications are also assisting physicians in their profession. Several reports highlight the fact that clinicians are rapidly increasing their use of mobile devices at work. According to a report published in 2013 by epoCRATES, an athenahealth company, 86% of clinicians now use smartphones in their professional activities, up from 78% in 2012. In addition, 53% use tablets at work, compared to 34% last year.

Many such apps are designed for the doctors themselves. Mobile Apps are assisting physicians to enhance connectivity with patients; they can also help in the diagnosis of certain hereditary diseases such as diabetes, epilepsy, heart defects and deafness.

Each disease can have different characteristics in each patient. A major problem that doctors face while diagnosing hereditary diseases such as cystic fibrosis and Huntington’s disease is the fact that symptoms for some of these diseases are very similar to other illnesses. Phenomizer is a new Android application for smartphone and tablet that will make diagnosing hereditary diseases a bit easier. Created by Marcel Schulz and his team of researchers from Max Planck Institute for Informatics in Germany, this mobile health application is available in the Google Play store.

How this Android Application Works

The app is designed to reduce research time and increase time with patients. Physicians can input a patient’s symptoms to use the program. The system scans a large online database called the Human Phenotype Ontology, which stores over 10,000 disease characteristics and links them to 7,500 diseases and provides a list that supports them in detecting the disease more quickly. Moreover, doctors can ask patients about their symptoms in greater detail. This makes it easier to assess the aspects they need to pay attention to.

Other Smartphone apps for diagnosing diseases that were introduced earlier include:

  • Mole Detect Pro helping dermatologists to detect skin cancer
  • SmartGait to prevent falls among older adults
  • Stroke and epilepsy apps to detect epilepsy and improve stroke care

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