Saturday, February 21, 2009

Where will Twitter fit in the New World of Online Medicine

As a recent new user of Twitter (a social networking site that is based on short, up to 140 word, messages called "tweets"), I have been intrigued with the role that products like this may have in the new online world of the future, especially online health information.

The environment is fast and allows groups to find and communicate with each other in an "instant message" atmosphere.

For example, today, I signed on and began exchanging views with a couple of experts in the field of patient advocacy. Before I knew it two other people had picked up on this conversation and began "following" me (the word for having someone's "tweets" automatically show up in your inbox area. As a result, I quickly made and solidified new relationships in the area of using online health for patient advocacy. Another cool feature is that you can put a "hashtag" (# sign) beside a term in your message and, by clicking that term later, can go directly to all the messages from all of the users that also put that term in their message. In that way, it is easy to sort and keep up with the areas of your interest.

So, whatever your interest area, it is easy to find others on Twitter who share it and, soon, develop a network of "tweeps" (people who are twitter users) to communicate with about your favorite topic.

One word of caution: it is addictive and, due to a lot of "junk" on there, it is easy to waste time if you're not disciplined about the way you use it.

So, give it a whirl. I think you'll be intrigued as well.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Would you Like to Have a Doctor's Office you could Communicate with via E Mail?

Today, we started a program at UAMS Family Medicine Clinic that allows patients to e mail, using a secure web site. Using this system, all of our patients can contact their physicians via e mail and:
1. Request an appointment
2. Get their medications renewed or refilled.
3. Send a clinical question to the doctor.
4. Receive the results of recent lab tests and x ray tests.

We are excited about the system and believe it will be the way most medicine is practiced in the future. The patient must complete a written authorization, including their e mail address and signature. Then the office staff sends them an e mail message with a link to the website where they simply create a user name and password and they are ready to go.

These messages are initially read and screened by the office phone nurse and routed to the appropriate physician for a reply. When the encounter is completed, the phone nurse copies and pastes the transaction into the electronic medical record.

Would you like to participate in a practice that offers these services?

I'll let you know how it goes, but I am excited to get this off the ground here.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Eat Less, Remember More

Calorie restriction has been associated with health benefits, such as increased longevity. It is no secret that most of us eat too much. A new study published January 26, 2009 in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that calorie restriction may improve our memory.

50 men and women age 50-72, normal weight and overweight, were studied on three nutrition schedules: a 30% reduction in calories, same calories but an increase in "healthy fat", and no change in diet. The group that reduced their calories were able to do better on tests that involved memorizing words. The other two groups showed no change.

How could this happen? Eating less calories causes us to be more sensitive to the blood sugar regulating hormone insulin and have a drop in the inflammation-associated molecule C-reactive protein. Past evidence has linked these factors to an improvement in brain function. Experts suggest that increased inflammation and a drop in insulin sensitivity (which is known as insulin resistance) may help explain why obesity and type 2 diabetes have been linked to worse mental performance and a greater risk of Alzheimer's disease.

Lean and healthy go together. Staying lean is a big challenge today with the abundance of inexpensive and "fast" food. Being lean requires a special commitment to healthy eating every day and regular physical activity. Clear mental performance can now be added to the potential benefits of living this healthy lifestyle.