Tuesday, July 30, 2013

EHR Systems Can Benefit Obesity Medicine Practices

Electronic health record (EHR) systems  have been around for more than 30 years. Some people believe that EHR systems can lower health care costs and improve patient care. Others believe, however, that the systems have yet to prove their worth. But at least one study has shown that the use of EHR systems can improve the workflows in small physician practices that specialize in an area. And since obesity medicine is a specialty, EHR systems might improve the operations of practices focusing on obesity medicine.

A 2012 PMC article described a study which indicated that EHRs are more helpful in small specialty practices than in small primary care practices. The researchers concluded that "the physician offices that had implemented EHR systems, mainly specialty offices, were fully satisfied with the process and claimed to have improved their efficiency.  However, they [the researchers] felt that an upgrade in appropriate interfaces with external entities would lead to further time saving.”

The study determined that external interfaces were especially abundant in small primary care practices. In fact, the researchers concluded that these interfaces were “the major sources of work delays” in small primary care practices.

However, since specialty practices have less external interfaces, and since many obesity medicine practices are small, EHR systems can help these practices improve their efficiency and effectiveness. And recently, a health care coalition indicated that three EHR vendors will add obesity prevention tools to their EHR systems, which should make these tools even more applicable in obesity medicine practices.  The three EHR vendors that are adding the tools are Cerner, GE Healthcare, and Physicians Computer Company.

The addition of obesity prevention tools to these EHR systems should encourage more bariatricians to adopt EHR systems. But it should be noted that the researchers in the above referenced PMC article advise medical practices contemplating adopting an EHR system to “start small and grow.” 

This approach, according to the researchers, can be inexpensive, and can allow a practice to add external interface capability, such as billing software, when the practice is comfortable with the chosen EHR system. Therefore, an obesity medicine practice may want to choose the simplest system among the three obesity medicine enhanced systems -- at least at first.

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Monday, July 15, 2013

Childhood Obesity and What We Are Learning

Childhood obesity has received a lot of attention recently. That's because reducing childhood obesity will lower the number of adults with obesity, since obesity in childhood increases the chances of obesity in adulthood. And long term obesity can lead to type 2 diabetes, some forms of cancer, and heart problems. In fact, Obese children are ‘more likely to have heart attack or stroke in adulthood...'

New research is giving us more insight to the disease. For example, by the time a baby is two years old, his or her future risk of obesity can be predicted. With this information, parents can be counseled on what to do to prevent the child's obesity in later years.

Also, researchers are finding that "Obese mothers tend to have kids who become obese." And "provocative research suggests weight-loss surgery may help break that unhealthy cycle in an unexpected way — by affecting how their children’s genes behave." The child's environment is changed, before birth, so that his or her genes express themselves in a way to reduce the chance of obesity in the child.

To address childhood obesity, attention is being given to methods that can motivate children to follow a healthy diet and increase physical activity. And recent research has shown that some video games can actually provide an avenue for kids to get more exercise.

Indeed, new research indicates that  'a certain kind of video game: active videogames, also known as exergames, are a form of exercise and rely on technology to track the body's movement and reaction.' This form of exercise could give parents and healthcare providers another tool to use in curbing childhood obesity.

At any rate, knowing how to predict the chances of childhood obesity and how to prevent and treat childhood obesity will reduce obesity during adulthood. This information can put more tools in the hand of healthcare providers. This information can eventually help lower healthcare costs.

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