Welcome to the Core Update

AC Health’s roundup of the patient-centered research and news every healthcare professional needs to make their practice succeed.

New Research: More Evidence for “Mind Over Body”
From the American Heart Association

Original Story

What’s Going On

The American Heart Association commissioned a “scientific statement” to examine and summarize the relationship between psychological health and cardiovascular health. The goal was to help healthcare professionals determine if certain psychological screenings could indicate an increased risk of heart disease, and if improving mental health could also help improve their cardiovascular health.

Basically, the commission found:

Yes, there’s an association between a patient’s mental health, their cardiovascular health, and their risks for heart disease in general.
Evidence indicates a patient’s mental health is “causally linked” to a body’s processes which in turn can worsen or cause cardiovascular disease.
Therefore, data suggest that improving a patient’s mental health can also improve their heart disease and risk factors.
Providers should evaluate a patient’s mental health if they’re showing cardiovascular distress, and check for heart problems if they show deteriorating mental health.
The AHA suggests that providers can integrate very fast patient screening tools as part of their regular routines to see if their mental health may be impacting their physical health.

First, they suggest using some form of this two question form to see if a patient may need further assessment for depression, which is a clear sign of mental health distress:

Second, they offer some ways for providers to initiate a conversation with patients regarding their mental health — either to help resolve a distressed patient, or to encourage positive perspectives:

Why This Matters

Even though the AHA’s statement originally released in January 2021, it’s only just now starting to make the rounds in healthcare practitioner circles.

Remember last week, when we talked about the power of mind over matter for patient recovery? This statement is an extension of that finding.

For healthcare providers at AC Health, this scientific assessment of the available data can be applied not only to cardiovascular health, but more broadly to other conditions that physical therapists, chiropractors, and other medical professionals treat on a daily basis.

How could your patients’ mental health be impacting their physical well-being at a fundamental level? And, have you partnered with a therapist or other mental health professional to offer your patients the support they need throughout their recovery?

(As a side note, AC Health patients are thrilled whenever multiple providers all use the same AC Health app to offer home exercises. No more 28,493 different patient portals to use!)

Telehealth Best Pratices: CMO and Co-Founder Offers Tips and Advice for Post-Pandemic Hybrid Treatments

Original Story

What’s Going On

Dave Philistin of Authority Magazine sat down for an interview with Leif Dahlberg, the Chief Medical Officer and co-founder of Joint Academy, to discuss the rise of the telehealth industry after the COVID-19 pandemic. Dahlberg offers quite a few insights for providers of both traditional practices as well as newer hybrid ones, which we’ve quoted below.

On the myth of “in person is best:”

When it comes to chronic joint pain treatment, clinical studies have shown the effectiveness of digital care. An RCT study published this year in JAMA Network Open showed that patients in the Joint Academy program reduced their pain by 41 percent and increased their physical function with 48 percent after six weeks. The same numbers for those patients receiving care-as-usual were a mere 6 percent and 13 percent, respectively. The idea that having a patient in front of you is the best way to give all kinds of healthcare is outdated and runs the risk of the patient not improving to the extent it could, as we saw in the RCT.

[…] There’s definitely something joyful about seeing a person face-to-face and I think we all enjoy that, but that does not necessarily have anything to do with the quality of care that’s given.

On the challenges of telehealth for practitioners and patients:

There’s a big educational aspect in telehealth, particularly when you’re treating senior citizens. We know that telehealth is still very new to some of them and not everyone will be comfortable using apps and doing video calls. […]

As telehealth providers, it’s our job to replicate that in a virtual setting and remove any barrier that comes from the virtual setting. In our case at Joint Academy, physical therapists have regular calls and check-ins with the patients and the physical therapist is able to track the patients’ progress through the app in a way that can’t be done in a non-virtual way — so really, the challenge has become an opportunity to provide better care.

On the five ways every practitioner can improve their hybrid or telehealth practice:

  1. Remove friction. Removing friction is key, particularly when it comes to treating chronic illnesses such as osteoarthritis which needs to be treated on a daily basis over long periods of time. […] It’s also why we’ve enabled on-demand support, in order to remove inconveniences for patients and make sure they can do the treatment on their own terms — with as little friction as possible.
  2. Build tools to monitor progress. […] Being able to follow and track their progress encourages the patient to continue with the treatment which, in turn, gives them better results.
  3. Prioritize building a user-friendly experience. […] From sign-up to starting treatment, the experience must be seamless.
  4. Listen carefully. […] In our treatment, a lot of the conversation is through asynchronous chat where the patient can leave immediate feedback. I think it’s reassuring for patients to be able to have this back-and-forth dialogue with their physical therapist.
  5. Good connection. We’ve all been there, but make sure your connection is good to go before having a video call.

Why This Matters

We highly encourage you to read the full interview, which offers a great range of advice and context. (There’s a whole section on how telehealth can democratize healthcare and empower patients in their treatments, as well as how Joint Academy runs their practice on a tactical level.)

However, this interview with such a highly experienced (and successful!) healthcare professional just proves what we at AC Health have said all along: For you to connect with today’s patients, you need to offer patient-centered assignments and exercises in a way that’s simple and convenient. If you do that, then you’ll see fantastic results and better compliance.

It’s really that simple a philosophy, with a hundred thousand different ways you can make it your own to suit your practice and your patients.

Evidence-Based Medtech? 2 New Studies Outline the Dangers of (Most) Health Apps

Original Story

What’s Going On

Even before Covid-19, there was a ton of health-focused apps which claimed to do everything but run on the treadmill for you to improve your health.

With the pandemic, though, medtech absolutely exploded to accommodate patients’ need for care despite the lockdowns.

However, these two studies published this year illustrate the dangers of such a rapid rise of healthcare-related technology — particularly with apps.

  1. Australian researchers reviewed nearly 300 apps for anxiety and depression. They found just 6% of the companies that boasted an evidence-based framework in the app store description for their products had actually published any evidence.
  2. A study run by the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and the Harvard Medical School found little correlation between app store metrics and treatment quality.

Why This Matters

Truly, it’s now “buyer beware” when it comes to healthcare apps and other medtech advances.

So many developers just looking to make a quick buck threw something up on the app store to take advantage of desperate patients.

They may look super-slick or have dozens (hundreds!) of positive ratings, but their clinical value is either currently unproven or entirely non-existent.

When you’re opting for a new App or addition to your own medtech stack, consider what evidence it offers to support its claims — not just how flashy the interface is, or how many stars it has on the storefront.

Prevention as Cure: Millennials Seek Out Complimentary and Integrative Health Solutions Over Traditional Medication

Original Story

What’s Going On

America’s largest generation is already reshaping health care from the bottom-up.

Disillusioned with the rising health costs and long wait for accepted medical practices, Millennials are “trading in prescription drugs” for complementary and integrative health (CIH) solutions, according to a recent editorial for the Northwestern Health Sciences University.

Dr. Brad Finer, a professor and clinician at NWHSU, says, “This younger generation is investing in prevention of disease, rather than waiting until they get sick to seek medical treatment.”

Another practitioner at a NWHSU-run clinic, Dr. Stacy Boone-Vikingson, says that Millennials “remember the countless doctor visits and antibiotics of their youth,” adding, “They just want to get to the root of the problem.”

The editorial suggests two major reasons for this shift in healthcare philosophy from younger patients:

Millennials and Gen-Zers are all used to looking up medical issues from their phones, making doctors no longer the sole arbiters of information. Traditional healthcare models run too slowly to accommodate the rapid pace of information acquisition.
As Millennials begin to raise families, they’re passing on their CIH tendencies to their children. Millennial parents are now seeking out CIH treatments for their toddlers and children, leading to a younger patient group for specialties such as chiropracty or accupunture that previously served an older audience as almost a “last ditch” effort.

Why This Matters

NWHSU’s sponsorship of the article notwithstanding, it’s an excellent look into why and how Millennial patients are so dramatically different from older patients at clinics around the country.

It’s more than just the advent of the cellphone — it’s what that phone and subsequent technology enables that fundamentally changes the expectations and behaviors of all patients, not just our youngest ones.

Take this thought leadership piece as a sign of things to come, and consider the impact that the younger generation will eventually have on every health care practice — including yours.

New Survey: Will Patient Pressure Cause Insurers to Cover “Alternative Medicine?”

Original Story

What’s Going On

Company researchers surveyed 1,100 healthcare consumers, and found:

  • 66% of Americans actively want their health insurance to cover alternative medicine.
  • 55% of Americans already participate in some form of alternative medicine or natural remedy. Of those, about 62% spend less than $100 annually on the alternative medical solutions — but that may rise with reimbursement and greater acceptance rates.
  • Gen Z and Millennials are now the highest population of uninsured adults.
  • Many Americans mix OTC medications with home remedies. Some are obvious — like the 28% of surveyed healthcare consumers who use the “natural remedy” of ice to help with muscle pain — but others, such as those with mental health diseases, allergies, and even headaches, are becoming increasingly common triggers for natural remedy solutions or a combination of traditional and new.

All in all, about 72% of Americans say that they would like to avoid conventional medicines whenever it’s possible.

Why This Matters

Alternative medicine isn’t, well, an alternative lifestyle choice anymore.

As this large survey shows, a large proportion of American patients have tried to use some form of alternative medicine or natural remedy to help with their health problems.

Some of it, such as homeopathy or crystal healing, remains highly controversial regarding its clinical efficacy.

Others — such as chiropracty, meditation, aromatherapy, and even therapeutic drug use — are seeing more research coming out to support these alternative treatments of chronic conditions.

Obviously, we can’t tell you how to practice, or what would be most effective for your clients and patients.

However, consider the following questions:

  • What wellness services can you offer as a licensed medical professional that simultaneously allow you to keep your license and offer treatments that may be unorthodox for patients who need them?
  • Have you considered the medical research behind alternative treatments to see if there’s any truth to them? Or, have you simply dismissed them out of hand?
  • What services could help your cash-based clients, even as insurance companies refuse to reimburse for them?