Category: Health

Heart disease in middle age linked to Childhood Trauma

It’s often be said that experiencing any form of trauma as child can affect a person’s ability to handle stressful events later in their life. When such person eventually grows to become an adult, it is also often discovered that they can turn to unhealthful coping strategies. Coping strategies such as smoking and overeating.

Over the years, Research suggests that people who experienced abuse and neglect in their childhood are more likely to have diabetes, high blood pressure, inflammation, and higher levels of the hormone cortisol in response to stress.

However, few longitudinal studies have followed individuals into middle age to investigate whether childhood adversity might affect the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and mortality.

But now, the largest ever study of this kind suggests that people who experience trauma, neglect, and family dysfunction as children are significantly more likely to have a CVD event, such as a heart attack or stroke, in middle age.

They may also have a higher mortality rate from all causes.

The study, which Jacob B. Pierce at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, IL, led, appears in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Risky behaviors as coping mechanisms

The researchers suspect that extreme adversity in childhood makes people more likely to take risks with their health.

“This population of adults is much more likely to partake in risky behaviors — for example, using food as a coping mechanism, which can lead to problems with weight and obesity,” says Pierce, a fourth-year medical student at the university.

“They also have higher rates of smoking, which has a direct link to cardiovascular disease,” he adds.

The research used data from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study, which recruited a racially and socioeconomically diverse group of people aged 18–30 years in 1985–1986. CARDIA took place in four cities across the United States: Birmingham, AL, Chicago, IL, Minneapolis, MN, and Oakland, CA.

Over the three decades of the CARDIA study through to 2018, researchers regularly checked the participants’ physical and mental health.

In 2000–2001, more than 3,600 participants filled out a questionnaire to assess their experience in relation to the following seven features in their childhood family environment:

  1. parental love and support
  2. verbal abuse
  3. physical affection
  4. physical abuse
  5. presence of an alcohol or drug abuser in the home
  6. organization and management of the household
  7. the extent to which their parents or caregivers knew what they were up to

The questionnaire included questions such as, “How often did a parent or other adult in the household make you feel that you were loved, supported, and cared for?” and “How often did a parent or other adult in the household swear at you, insult you, put you down, or act in a way that made you feel threatened?”

Levels of adversity tied to CVD risk

The participants’ responses allowed the authors of the new study to separate them into low, moderate, and high childhood adversity groups.

They discovered that, over a 30-year follow-up, people exposed to high levels of childhood adversity were more than 50% more likely to have a CVD event compared with those in the low adversity group.

Pierce says the question that best predicted cardiovascular disease later in life was: “Did your family know what you were up to as a kid?”

Even moderate exposure to childhood adversity was associated with a more than 50% increased risk of mortality from all causes compared with low adversity.

“Early childhood experiences have a lasting effect on adult mental and physical well-being, and a large number of American kids continue to suffer abuse and dysfunction that will leave a toll of health and social functioning issues throughout their lives,” says senior author Prof. Joseph Feinglass, from the Feinberg School of Medicine.

Multiple risk factors at play

When the scientists used a fully adjusted model of the data to account for other variables, such as smoking, blood pressure, and education levels at the start of the CARDIA study, the relationship between childhood adversity and CVD was no longer statistically significant.

They believe that this suggests that multiple socioeconomic, clinical, demographic, and psychological factors may collectively mediate the link between childhood adversity and CVD in middle age.

In addition to physiological changes, such as higher blood pressure, higher cortisol, and more inflammation, childhood trauma can result in unhealthy ways of dealing with stress.

The authors write:

“Childhood adversity is known to cause behavioral dysregulation related to several known CVD risk factors both in childhood and adulthood. For example, childhood trauma disrupts ability for children to appropriately cope with and respond to emotionally stressful experiences. As a result, individuals often utilize calorie-dense foods as a mechanism to cope with psychosocial stress, which contributes to the development of obesity.”

In principle, early interventions could help. The researchers write that there are programs to help children and young adults develop healthier strategies to cope with stressful experiences, but funding is limited.

“Social and economic support for young children in the U.S., which is low by the standards of other developed countries, has the biggest ‘bang for the buck’ of any social program,” says Prof. Feinglass.

The authors nevertheless acknowledge that their study had some limitations. For instance, the research only involved participants who were alive 15 years after the CARDIA study began, so the results may underestimate the association that adversity in childhood has with CVD and mortality.

In addition, the study relied on the participants accurately remembering what happened in their childhood more than 15 years earlier.

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COVID-19: the effect of mental health on ethnic backgrounds

Some groups may face a disproportionate mental health impact during the COVID-19 pandemic. These include people of color, migrants, and people of various ethnic backgrounds.

That the current pandemic is affecting people’s mental health as much as their physical health is no secret.

Since the pandemic became a mainstay in our lives, people from all over the world have reported increased levels of stress and anxiety; it is now up to us to effectively manage how we cope no matter what

Based on the known psychological effects of other events that have left a deep mark on global communities in the past, researchers warn that the COVID-19 pandemic could have dire consequences for mental health. A recent article in the MEDICAL NEWS TODAY

For instance, a position paper in The Lancet Psychiatry in April argues that in the wake of the pandemic, the world may face an increase in anxiety and emotional distress, as well as other severe effects on mental health.

However, although the pandemic is mentally and emotionally affecting many people all over the world, past evidence suggests that it may affect certain communities more than others ; particularly because they have reduced access to mental health services and other healthcare resources.

People of color at high risk of PTSD

According to a 2008 study in the journal Health Affairs, which primarily discusses issues inherent to the United States, “mental healthcare disparities, defined as unfair differences in access to or quality of care according to race and ethnicity, are quite common.”

“In general, minorities, particularly African Americans, have poorer health and health outcomes than white people,” its authors note.

Although “Hispanics and black individuals have a lower risk of having a psychiatric disorder as compared with their white counterparts, those who become ill tend to have more persistent disorders.”

But why do people of color and certain other ethnic groups experience more long-term effects on mental health? Also, how is this pandemic affecting their mental health and what should decision makers do to support these communities?

We are considering these questions as part of a series of features looking at the disproportionate impact the current pandemic is having on certain groups and on issues of society-wide importance.

We have had cause in recent times to look at how the pandemic has been affecting women’s sexual and reproductive health, while also taking a long hard look at domestic violence rates.

For this feature, we spoke to people of diverse ethnic backgrounds in the U.S., asking them about their experiences with mental health and mental healthcare.

We also looked at existing data about mental health burdens and access to healthcare for different communities in the U.S.

To begin with, past research has shown that African American, Native Hawaiian, Hispanic, and Asian individuals have higher rates of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) than white individuals.

Since some specialists have already expressed concern that the current pandemic may increase the risk of PTSD in the general population, it may be that it affects people of color and those from diverse ethnic groups even more significantly.

When asked about the impact that the current pandemic has had on their mental health, one person of color told MNT: “I live with PTSD, depression, and anxiety and I’ve had both positive and negative experiences with mental health during this time.”

“I feel I’ve been relatively lucky compared with many other people of color I know, in that I have a job that allows me to work from home, so I can keep a full-time income without taking the health risk of leaving home,” they said, adding:

“I know many others don’t have the same opportunities. For example, they work in service industries where they’ve had their hours cut, or lost their jobs altogether or they have to put themselves at risk by continuing to perform tasks that don’t allow for physical distancing.”

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), albeit incomplete, suggest that of all confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S., 27% have been in black or African American individuals and 14.2% have been in people who describe their background as “multiple” or “other.”

People of diverse ethnicity also account for a large proportion of the workforce deemed “essential” during the pandemic, which means that they are more at risk of contracting SARS-CoV-2, the new coronavirus.

In fact, according to the CDC, Hispanic people form 53% of the agricultural workforce in the U.S., while black and African American individuals make up 30% of nurses.

The aforementioned respondent said that their family members also fall into this category.

“I have many family members working in healthcare, and they don’t have the option of staying home; which then means they have to then stay away from me and other family members to avoid passing on the risk of contracting the virus,”

The significant exposure of people of color to the coronavirus is likely to leave a lasting mark on their mental health: A recent study from China shows that many COVID-19 survivors face traumatic stress in the aftermath of local outbreaks.

Rise in racism a key concern

The fact that people of color and certain other ethnic groups may face a more severe and longer lasting mental health impact than white populations is, in part, explained by the fact that they are often unable to access appropriate mental healthcare.

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), a large number of people in the U.S. who identify as a person of color or as belonging to a minority ethnic group experience a significant degree of marginalization and discrimination. This is a top risk factor for poor mental health outcomes in the long-term.

The APA explains that this is because discrimination and marginalization can hinder socioeconomic growth as well as access to appropriate healthcare, including formal mental health support.

Reports from 2001 found that even when these people do access formal mental healthcare, people of color are faced with bias from health professionals, who sometimes fall short in providing the right form of intervention for them.

However, discrimination has also taken on another aspect during the COVID-19 pandemic. Because the original epicenter of the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak was a city in China, people of Asian descent all around the world have started reporting an increase in racism and xenophobic violence.

The non-governmental human rights organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) has recently issued a statement expressing their concern about the rise in anti-Asian discrimination.

“Racism and physical attacks on Asians and people of Asian descent have spread with the COVID-19 pandemic, and government leaders need to act decisively to address the trend,” says John Sifton, HRW advocacy director for Asia.

A U.S. citizen who identifies as Chinese and Asian American expressed deep concern about this intensification of racism:

“May is actually Asian and Pacific Islander American Heritage Month, which is usually a time for us to celebrate the achievements we’ve made as a community. Instead, it has been an increasingly stressful time for the Asian community. Many of us have been reminded that despite being the ‘model minority,’ the title can be taken away from us and the underlying racism that we want to think we’ve moved past can come back instantly.”

Specialists have long recognized the fact that racism, discrimination, and xenophobia are particularly harmful to mental health.

In a 2018 position statement, the Royal College of Psychiatrists in the United Kingdom point out “that racism and racial discrimination is one of many factors that can have a significant, negative impact on a person’s life chances and mental health.”

“We are particularly concerned about the disproportionate impact on people from black, Asian, and minority ethnic communities,” they emphasize.

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How to cope with your mental health during a pandemic

In a press briefing some months back, officials from the World Health Organization (WHO) discussed the challenges that the world is facing in terms of mental and psychological health and well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Physical distancing and isolation measures, and the closure of schools and workplaces, are particularly challenging for us all, as they affect what we love to do, where we want to be, and who we want to be with,” said Dr. Hans Kluge, the WHO’s regional director for Europe, in his opening remarks.

“It is absolutely natural for each of us to feel stress, anxiety, fear, and loneliness during this time. At [the] WHO, we consider effects on our mental health and psychological well-being as being very important consequences of COVID-19,” he added.

As people all around the world find themselves working from home or being home-schooled; unable to travel even down the street to visit friends or family, staying mentally healthy could become increasingly difficult for many.

As individuals, what can we as individuals, as well as society at large, do to preserve mental well-being and cope with stressors such as anxiety and loneliness?

MEDICAL NEWS TODAY in a recent article reached out to two mental health advocates: Business Neurolinguistic programming practitioner and mental health trainer Tania Diggory, founder and director of Calmer, and leadership coach and mental health first aid instructor Kat Hounsell, founder of everyday people to share their perspectives on the challenges of mental health particularly in these times.

They both suggest some best practice tips for maintaining good mental health that Diggory and Hounsell suggested, as well as bring into focus the official advice offered by experts from the WHO.

Unique challenges of working from home

Working from home may seem like the dream set-up for some, as it offers the possibility to tap into that latent creativity from the comfort of a cozy, familiar environment.

However, it can also bring a unique set of challenges especially as an enforced measure.

“While being able to work from home can empower and up-level our working life, if taken to the extreme, we end up being switched on the whole time,” Diggory said.

“In many cases, the boundaries between home life and work life can become blurred, and these boundaries are what enable us to stay healthy and well,” she cautioned.

In an enforced “work from home” situation, people may end up continuously sharing a space with other family members, and they may start to feel as though they have to attend to both domestic tasks and work assignments at the same time.

This blending of home and work life may also lead to working longer hours than usual.

“People may fall into a pattern of overworking, a sense or feeling that they ‘should’ be working long hours, to show colleagues that they are being productive even though no one can physically see them working,” said Diggory.

Managing stress while working from home

How can people address these challenges and reduce the amount of stress that comes with working exclusively from a home environment?

“Firstly, accept that stress levels will likely be higher for many at this time; whatever you’re feeling is valid considering the current context,” said Hounsell.

That is why, “when working from home, prioritizing your mindset and well-being at the start of the day is essential,” Diggory told us.

One helpful way to set boundaries so that a person does not become overwhelmed with competing tasks is to create a physical space that is for work only, where the person will not face non-work-related disruptions and interruptions.

“If you live with family, a partner, or housemates, you could have a chat with them about what boundaries you need to put in place in order to ensure a healthy and productive mindset,” she suggested.

She also said that people who share their homes with others may actually be able to benefit from the situation by co-opting family or housemates to actively help them stay on track.

For instance, Diggory said, “If you struggle to take breaks throughout the day, you could use living with others to your advantage; perhaps ask for their help in encouraging you to take time away from your desk at lunch or for a mid-morning/afternoon break.”

Cooperation is key, Hounsell agreed. “Be kind and patient with yourself and those around you,” she advised.

She also stressed the importance of maintaining other healthful habits — such as eating regularly and sticking to a healthful diet because these are, in themselves, a cornerstone of mental health.

“When planning your day, schedule in eating regular nutritious meals, renew through exercise, make time to connect with others,” and maintain good sleep hygiene, Hounsell emphasized.

She also mentioned the importance of maintaining good communication with both housemates and work colleagues at this time.

“Be open with your plans with those you live with and your team, have clear boundaries with your non-negotiables, and be open to flexibility where your schedule may need to adapt to support someone else,” she added.

What can employers do?

There are also adjustments that employers can make to ensure that their employees do not hit burnout mode in record time while working from home.

Hounsell said that there are a few questions that employers should ask themselves if they want to help their employees maintain their well-being and remain productive.

These questions are:

  1. Do my team members have the right physical set-up, such as equipment to do their work remotely, platforms for online communication (including video calls), and a comfortable chair and desk set-up?
  2. Do they have meaningful connection opportunities, beyond meetings, that focus on the work? People need time to have fun and engage in supportive chats with colleagues just as they would in the office.
  3. Do employees have an appropriate workload considering their change of circumstances? There are many people who are working alongside home-schooling, supporting others at risk, and self-isolating.

If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” employers should aim to address these issues to support their employees in achieving an adequate work mindset away from the office.

Hounsell also advised “regular check-ins and signposting to supports available, so that everyone’s well-being is being nurtured on a daily basis,” as well as “opening a feedback loop” to address any “communication challenges” that may appear due to the remote work setting.

How to get back into ‘home time’ mode

Another possible stumbling block when a person has to work from home for long periods of time is effectively getting out of that “work mindset” once work is done for the day.

That can be tricky, especially if the person does not have access to their usual “signals” that work is over such as their commute from the office, a regular pit stop at the mall after work, or a quick session at the gym.

Diggory emphasized further that one way of marking the end of the work day; though this could also apply to ending a study period, for example is to set up something akin to the school bell.

“Try using an alarm to signal the end of your working day, choosing the hour, or even the minute, that you can press the ‘off’ button, put down your pen, and leave the home office,” she suggested.

Bookending the start and end of the working day with suggestive activities might also help.

“Plan a simple short ritual you look forward to in order to ‘check-in’ and ‘check-out’ of your working day,” Hounsell advised.

“It could be anything, like starting the day with a cup of tea and 10 minutes of journaling learning from yesterday, or hopes for today. Then, your check-out could be a short scheduled call with a colleague, friend, or family member to share your evening plans,” she suggested.

“Planning enjoyable things to do in the evenings can be a nice reward for all your hard work, and something to look forward to each day,” Diggory noted.

However, Hounsell also advised our readers to go easy on themselves, should this strategy not work perfectly every time.

“Don’t beat yourself up if work starts bleeding into the evening, instead, just stop,” she said. “Stop, take a breath, observe what’s happening with kindness, and proceed with intention into the next part of your evening.”

 

 

Coping with loneliness

Research has shown that loneliness is one of the world’s most significant risk factors for premature death. If this is such a huge problem (at the best of times), what happens now that many people’s freedom of movement is severely limited?

In the press briefing from the World Health Organization that we highlighted above, Dr. Aiysha Malik, the WHO’s technical officer within the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse noted that some of the people most at risk of experiencing an increased sense of loneliness and anxiety are older individuals, as well as those already living with mental health issues.

To cope with loneliness while in relative) physical isolation, Dr. Malik said that there are some “basic strategies that

[the WHO are]

advocating across the population.

Strategies such as

  1. Taking part in some form of physical activity,
  2. Keeping to routines or creating new ones,
  3. Engaging in activities that give a sense of achievement
  4. Maintaining social connections.

Although staying connected may be more difficult now than ever before, Dr. Malik points out that now is the time to explore the full potential of digital technologies in helping us stay in touch with our loved ones.

While dissecting the WHO’s position, Diggory agreed with this perspective. “As much as an overuse of digital technology can be detrimental to our well-being, we are truly fortunate to be living in the digital age, where it’s never been so easy to stay connected with the people who matter to us most.”

“Where possible,” she said, “video calls are essential; they help to give that illusion of proximity and feel like the person or people you’re talking to are nearby.”

Also, throughout the virtual press briefing, Dr. Malik repeatedly emphasized the importance of sticking to old routines and creating new ones. This, she explained, can help give structure to our daily lives at a time when our normal activities are disrupted.

Once again, Diggory agreed:

“Routine is  very important for well-being, so if you’re living by yourself, write a list of the people and activities that lift your spirits; be sure to prioritize time for connecting with others and doing things you enjoy every day. “

For those who live on their own and are finding that enforced isolation has hit them hard, Diggory also suggested “considering the things you enjoy doing; yet haven’t had time to dedicate to them.”

  1. What books do you like to read?
  2. What self-care routine can you put in place to support your mind and body?
  3. What nutritious foods can you cook to boost your immune system?”

People should ask themselves these questions and try to take this unexpected time to themselves to focus on aspects of their lives that they may not have paid very much attention to before.

Tools for coping with anxiety

The WHO officials also talked about how people may start experiencing increased levels of anxiety during this uncertain time.

Dr. Kluge said that “our anxieties and fears should be acknowledged, and not ignored, but better understood and addressed by individuals, communities, and governments.”

“The issue, making all of us nervous, is how we manage and react to stressful situations unfolding so rapidly in our lives and communities,” he continued.

He then shared a few personal strategies for coping with stress and anxiety:

“Personally, I am trying to stick to what has worked for me in the past when I want to be calm, for example, learning and practicing simple relaxation techniques, like breathing exercises, muscle relaxation, mindfulness, and meditation, which can all be very helpful in alleviating mental distress.”

When MNT spoke with Diggory, she also suggested that practices such as mindfulness and meditation can help relieve anxious thoughts.

“One of the key factors of experiencing anxiety is a sense of feeling out of control,” she explained. However, “the practices of mindfulness and meditations have been scientifically proven to reduce stress and anxiety, and when practiced regularly, can help you feel more in control of your own state.”

“We’re not always able to control external circumstances; however, we can learn to cultivate healthful habits where we feel in control of our personal well-being, and exercises such as meditative breathing are an example of this.”

Diggory went on to explain that since the start of the pandemic, there has been an increase in online wellness classes, which people can easily join from the comfort of their own homes.

Open communication and simple relaxation

Hounsell also stressed the fact that online classes and other resources are bringing fun and relaxing activities straight into people’s homes.

“What has been so amazing to witness is the booming wealth of online resources to support people. You can go on virtual art gallery tours, watch videos of theater and dance online, have video dinner dates with friends (this one comes tried and tested from me), online pub quizzes, live-streamed yoga and workouts, and even The Open University has released a multitude of free courses for keeping learning, such an opportunity to get creative,” she said.

“And,” she added, “what’s really great is that we can also reconnect with those hobbies and relaxation techniques that don’t require a screen — reading, taking a bath, gardening, listening to music, playing music, journaling, writing, arts and crafts, cooking new recipes, stroking your pet, daydreaming as there is so much to savor and enjoy.”

In turn, the WHO regional director for Europe also spoke of the importance of engaging in earnest communication at this time.

“I myself I also try and acknowledge upsetting thoughts when they occur, and discuss them with people around me. They are likely to have them, too, and we may be better able to find solutions collectively,” he said.

Hounsell made a similar point when she spoke to MNT. She emphasized that we should all try to check in with each other and practice our sense of empathy.

“Looking out for one another and checking in regularly to spot signs of stress or mental health issues evolving” could have a lasting impact, she suggested.

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COVID-19 and its effect on Older Adults

COVID-19 and its effect on older adults

We currently live in interesting times even as the COVID-19 pandemic ravages the world at large. Young, and the old have been affected alike with its deadly strain on older adults a stark reminder of the disastrous effect of the virus.

The challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic are different for various socio-demographic groups.

Old age and preexisting health conditions

The COVID-19 disease, in itself, has hit older adults harder than other age groups.

A MEDICAL NEWS TODAY post describes in detail how older adults are more likely to already have underlying conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or respiratory illness, comorbidities that we now know raise the risk of severe COVID-19 and COVID-19-related deaths. In addition, a likely weaker immune system makes it harder for older adults to fight off infection.

As a result, the impact on older adults is notable. According to World Health Organization (WHO) data from April 2020, more than 95% of COVID-19 deaths were among people over 60 years of age, and more than half of all deaths occurred in people of 80 years-plus.

In Sweden, for example, 90% of the deaths from COVID-19 were among people more than 70 years of age.

The Chinese Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offered data in March showing an average COVID-19 case fatality rate of 3.6% for adults in their 60s, 8% for those in their 70s, and 14.8% for people 80 years and above.

“Older adults are at a significantly increased risk of severe disease following infection from COVID-19,” said Dr. Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe in a WHO press briefing, who added:

 

COVID-19 deaths in care homes

While the wider community should indeed be preoccupied with the health and well-being of older adults, there are epicenters to the current crisis, and nursing homes, alongside hospitals, are one such place.

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warn that “nursing home populations are at the highest risk of being affected by COVID-19,” compounding not only the risk for older people but also placing care workers at risk.

The New York Times (NYT) gathered recent data showing that in the U.S., at least 28,100 residents and workers have died from a SARS-CoV-2 infection in a nursing home or in another long-term care facility for older people.

Overall, more than a third — that is, 35% — of all COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. occur in long-term care facilities, comprising residents and workers.

“While just 11 percent of the country’s cases have occurred in long-term care facilities,” say the authors of the NYT report, “deaths related to COVID-19 in these facilities account for more than a third of the country’s pandemic fatalities.”

In other parts of the world, the situation looks dire, too. Data collected by researchers at the London School of Economics (LSE), in the United Kingdom, suggest that the majority of COVID-19-related deaths occurred in nursing homes.

In Belgium, for example, 53% of the country’s entire number of COVID-19 deaths occurred in care homes.

  • In Canada, this proportion was 62%.
  • In France, the figure ranges from 39.2–51%.
  • In Spain, 67% of all COVID19 deaths occurred in care homes.
  • In the U.S., nearly 60% of all care home-related COVID-19 deaths occurred in the state of New York.

The danger of the new coronavirus spreading in care homes, and affecting workers as well as residents, is amplified by the fact that most of the cases doctors confirmed in these environments were asymptomatic.

In Belgium, for example, 72% of staff diagnosed with COVID-19 showed no symptoms at the time; neither did 74% of the residents who had tested positive for the new corona-virus.

Despite these alarming figures, the U.S. federal government is not keeping track of this data. Withholding key nuanced information about whom the pandemic is affecting hardest is in the way of directing resources where people need them the most.

“It’s impossible to fight and contain this virus if we don’t know where it’s located,” David Grabowski, a professor of healthcare policy at Harvard Medical School, told NBC News.

Prof. Grabowski added that knowing this information could help predict where the next outbreak will be; other NGO advocates agree that knowing which nursing homes have the highest number of cases can help states direct resources where the need is the greatest.

Living with dementia during COVID-19

According to the CDC, at least half of the older adults living in these care facilities have Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia, which makes it more difficult to contain possible infections with the new corona-virus.

One of the specific challenges for people living with dementia and similar forms of cognitive impairment is that they may have difficulty understanding the dangers of infection. Also, they may forget to follow safety precautions, such as washing their hands or practicing physical distancing.

Those who care for people with dementia and have contracted the virus may also avoid seeking treatment or being hospitalized because they cannot afford to leave their elders alone.

On the other hand, people with dementia themselves who have COVID-19 and need hospitalization may avoid it because they fear that, due to hospital triaging protocols, they may fall at the bottom of the ladder when it comes to receiving medical resources and attention.

Furthermore, people may be discouraged from seeking medical attention for dementia itself if they start to display symptoms; memory clinics are shutting, as seeing new patients is perceived to be riskier than for some people not to receive a dementia diagnosis.

While this cost-benefit reasoning made sense in the short term, doctors are becoming increasingly worried that as the pandemic extends, more people may develop dementia and not receive the care they need.

Pandemic exposes ageism, gaps in care

Some have suggested that ageism — that is, a discriminatory attitude towards people of more advanced age — may have significantly contributed to the detrimental effects on the health and longevity of older adults with COVID-19.

For instance, Joan Costa-Font, an associate professor at London School of Economics’s department of health policy, suggests that countries that tend to view their elders with more respect have implemented physical distancing measures more promptly, even if such measures primarily impacted the social lives of younger people.

However, it is worth noting that other countries, for example, Japan, where there is a tradition of respecting the elders, did not choose to have a lock down.

According to the same author, “a delayed introduction of a lock down is not the only way we reveal the low social value of older individuals.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has also shown how poorly funded, and disorganized long-term care facilities are in several European countries. In the U.K., for example, a government study that used genome tracking to investigate the spread of outbreaks has only recently discovered that temporary staff had unwittingly spread SARS-CoV-2 between care homes as the pandemic grew.

As a result of this revelation, some politicians have said the pandemic “brutally exposed how insecure, undervalued, and underpaid care work is,” with “the prevalence of zero-hours contracts, high vacancy rates, and high staff turnover” having all contributed to the pandemic.

Furthermore, “In the absence of affordable formal care, older individuals are informally cared for by family members (or go with unmet needs). Reliance on informal care explains the early expansion of the pandemic in countries with stronger family ties such as Italy, Spain, China, and Korea,” notes Costa-Font.

The author goes on to highlight the particularly severe impact that quarantines have on older people who tend to live alone and need more care.

“In many countries, caregivers have been forced to reside with older people in need to reduce the chance of contagion. But when older people are less disabled, they are more likely to be left on their own, with unmet needs.”

Furthermore, other authors have analyzed the ageist portrayal of older adults in social media, which reflects a similar attitude of indifference through disparaging twitter hashtags (such as referring to COVID-19 as the #boomerremover) and other memes.

An ageist attitude, combined with policy responses, has a range of negative effects on older adults, including leading to social isolation, loneliness, and a rise in elder abuse.

Mental health and elder abuse

Loneliness is a known factor that negatively affects a person’s mental health and well-being, and some older adults were already at a higher risk of experiencing it. Deteriorating health or the death of partners and friends may get in the way of maintaining a healthy social circle.

However, the pandemic and the quarantine heighten this risk of loneliness.

“Loneliness is a complex, subjective emotion, experienced as a feeling of anxiety and dissatisfaction associated with a lack of connectedness or communality with others,” explain Joanne Brooke and Debra Jackson in a paper appearing in the Journal of Clinical Nursing.

The authors go on to highlight the importance of loneliness and social isolation for mental and physical health.

What is more, emerging reports have shown that lockdowns raise the risk of abuse among older people.

During the pandemic, older adults have become even more dependent on their caregivers, and, in a pattern similar to the one that has raised the rates of domestic violence, some caregivers have used the pandemic to exercise their control and abuse further.

Elder abuse tends to occur more frequently in communities that lack mental health or social care resources. The perpetrators of the abuse also tend to have mental health problems, as well as reporting feelings of resentment with their informal care-giving duties.

According to a recent paper appearing in the journal Aggression and Violent Behavior, people who experience “elder abuse” are more likely to develop mental health problems such as depression, high stress, and self-neglect — conditions that can only be made worse by lock downs.

Overall, lock downs mean that more elders are trapped with their abusers, that some perpetrators of abuse reluctantly find themselves in a care-giving role, and that; as a result, there is a higher need for mental health and community support services.

Paradoxically, however, the funds and staff for these services have been slashed — now, when they are needed the most.

While some countries have acknowledged the fact that they have “failed to protect [their] elderly,” and in doing so, failed “society as a whole,” others, like the U.S. or the U.K., have yet to make the necessary amends.

As can be seen from the consequences of the pandemic on both the mental and physical health of older adults, governments in several countries have yet to pay heed to the WHO’s advice; that we do not forget that protecting our elders is “everyone’s business.”

For more relevant Health related articles, please check out our Blog

Medical Billing Services and its many benefits

Medical billing is a vital and important component of the health care industry

After years and years of studying, practicing, and preparing for a future in health care, physicians and other medical care providers mark their place in the industry by providing the best cutting-edge care for their patients.

These professionals face major challenges every day;  from providing life-saving emergency treatment to researching complex diseases  but there is another critical component of a successful medical practice that is not the focus of the skills learned in med school; that component is medical billing.

According to an article in the HEALTHCARE BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY (an healthcare information brand), In today’s complex world and struggling economy, business issues in the medical industry can take precedence (sometimes even over the treatment of medical conditions) in determining the sustainability of a medical practice.

One of the biggest challenges facing physicians today is not solely concerned with patient care; instead, many of today’s care providers are concerned with the business side of health care, especially concerning medical billing and coding.

Medical Billing Mistakes

It is estimated that doctors in the U.S. leave approximately $125 billion on the table each year due to poor billing practices. This is a stark reminder for physicians that providing optimal patient care is only one of the big factors in becoming a successful in the industry.

2 of the most common factors contributing to a loss in profits:

  • Billing errors.
    It is estimated that up to 80% of medical bills contain errors. Insurance companies are very strict on correct medical billing and coding practices, and even the smallest mistake can cause an insurance company to reject a medical billing claim. This starts a long process requiring the doctor to fix the error, submit the claim a second time, and then wait (and hope) for the new claim to be accepted and processed. Medical billing errors can cause a doctor to have to wait several months or more before receiving payment for their services.
  • Failure to stay up-to-date on medical billing rules and regulations.
    These rules are constantly changing, requiring physicians and administrators to spend time and money on continuing education, software, or staff training to stay current, having a direct effect on the cash flow and profits of a practice.
  • Not only are the rules and regulations concerning medical billing changing, but they are also changing for health care as a whole. Updates and major changes administered with the Health Care Reform bill have increased the number of insured Americans by more than 30 million, so proper medical billing procedures are more important than ever.

 

Sourcing Medical Billing

With the economy in such a delicate state, medical practitioner’s patients affected as well as their own private practices. Unemployment, along with higher co-pays and deductibles, results in patients that are unable to afford medical services. In turn, practices end up losing tons of money.

Medical practices now have to worry about insurance companies’ unique rules along with new and changing coding standards. With the burden of knowledge being so heavy, they’re losing money due to lost or ignored claims, denials, and underpayments.

Hiring a third party hold responsibility for billing services can sometimes be an effective way to increase revenue and gain control of the situation and it is usually the surest way to fully help medical practice owners focus on the more serious responsibility of running the brand. Trusting brands like Delon Health for your medical billing services can certainly guarantee you positive results.

Outsourcing Medical Billing

Outsourcing medical billing sounds expensive upfront. However, when everything is added up, it may end up being more beneficial over time. Here’s why:

  • Most billing services charge on a percent-basis, meaning they will only charge a percentage of the revenue they are bringing in for your company. With this in mind, they are going to be a lot more diligent about faster collections and resubmitting claims. Your current employees don’t have time to run through denied claims; take for an example, dental insurance billing that is guaranteed to help you save, make more profit while ensuring you deliver better healthcare to your patients.  A third-party professional that you outsource these services to is dedicated to taking care of this.
  • Employing a staff for billing purposes can get expensive. Even to hire just one new person, a practice has to think about the costs of training, the employee’s salary, benefits, and taxes, as well as compensation for turnover. Using an outside billing service eliminates the headache of training and familiarizing a staff with your billing software, procedures, coding, etc. Again, a medical insurance billing service provider like Delon Health can save you the trouble.

Their wide array of services such as Podiatry Billing, Pain Management Billing, and so much more means you are covered all the time.

A billing service such as this already has trained professionals, who only make money when you do.

  • The amount of time doctors and nurses spend on billing and staffing concerns can be eliminated. This freed-up time can be used to care for patients – which is what you’re goal is in the first place.
  • Odds are, outsourced billing companies have more billing and coding expertise, and necessary resources. Even if you are still concerned with internally handling billing, an outside service can assist in providing proper software, such as EMR (Electronic Medical Records), packaged billing, and practice management. Sometimes for an added fee, there are companies that provide appointment reminders, electronic eligibility verification, patient follow-up, coding, consulting, and data reporting. For one lump sum, you can outsource services that might have been costly to handle within your practice.
  • Certified billing companies are compliant with the latest health care laws, like HIPAA and the Health Care Reform bill, so your staff can rest assured that the law is being followed.

Medical billing is an extremely important component of the health care industry. It is therefore also important to note that so many common medical billing mistakes can certainly be avoided when you choose the right provider. A provider who also can ensure and guarantee you peace of mind with your billing while making sure you are able to offer the best record of care for patients, as well as  ensure you are able to enjoy the best physician reimbursements for the services rendered too.

Setting Up a DME Store and Pedorthics Office

My objective in this article is to help provide some guidance to the Solo DME Provider or Solo Pedorthist that is seeking to set up a medical office.  The tips I will share will also be helpful to solo providers in other fields (e.g. Orthotics, Podiatry, Physical Therapy, Orthopedic Surgeons, Prosthetics Providers, Mental Health Providers, Primary Care providers, etc), as well as small group practices.  But I strongly believe that the solo providers with limited capital will benefit mostly from this article. I will be discussing pre-setup activities, DME Billing, Marketing, Pedorthics Billing, Sales strategies, Online marketing, Website development for small medical providers, Private pay, and Credentialing.

Before opening a small DME business, you must first determine if a need exists within your location.  Learn the market for a DME office in your neighborhood. If your area has too many other DME providers, it will be more challenging for you to succeed in creating a DME business there.  Roughly, it is estimated that a city with a population under 150,000 is fine with five to 10 DME businesses.  You can also reach out to medical offices and insurance companies to ask what they think about opening a new DME store in your area.  Of course, you will have to make your decision based on several other information and your personal conviction, it is not a bad idea to start this way.  Also, consider different markets or products that your DME business could focus on. Decide whether you like to generalize, focus on a niche market or provide repair or installation services that other DME providers around you don’t provide.

Then you would have to develop a clear idea of how to get customers through referral sources — doctors, hospitals, nurses and nursing homes.  Once you are convinced that there are good sale opportunities within your location, you should then decide from the beginning if you would like to consider private pay patients only or you would like to consider both private pay patients and patients who would like to pay with their health insurance.  If you like to accept health insurance payments, you also have to consider if you like to work only with private insurance or you would work with both private insurance payers and public insurance payers (medicare and Medicaid).

Most small DME businesses choose to work only with private pay patients because they like to avoid the initial hassles of credentialing with private and public payers, as well as the actual medical billing process.  My view is that you should start with private pay patients only but immediately start your credentialing process with both private and public insurance payers to increase your customer base.  If you start the credentialing process early and outsource the process to an efficient third-party company, you can get yourself credentialed with major payers within less than six months.  Delon Health is an example of a company that can handle your DME billing, Pedorthics billing and Podiatry Billing outsourcing.  They are based in Massachusetts but work with solo providers across all fifty states.  If you start with private pay, it means you would have been making some income within the credentialing period, while you wait to be fully registered with multiple insurance payers.  It makes no business sense to delay your business setup until you have completed your credentialing processes.  Also, don’t start with too many insurance payers.  Identify about five payers that you like to begin with and pursue those ones first.  If you choose to work with insurance payers, it is much cheaper and far more efficient for you to outsource your medical billing to a third-party company.  The two-minute video below provides an excellent explanation about this.

Pedorthics Insurance Billing is a medical billing subject that includes sending patient bills to health insurance companies (payers), following up to ensure the bills are paid on time, as well as managing rejections and denials.  In many cases, medical billing providers working for Pedorthists may provide Credentialing as additional services to their customers.  According to the American Academy of Professional Coders, “Medical billing is the process of submitting and following up on claims with health insurance companies in order to receive payment for services rendered by a healthcare provider. Medical billing translates a healthcare service into a billing claim. The responsibility of the medical biller in a healthcare facility is to follow the claim to ensure the practice receives reimbursement for the work the providers perform. A knowledgeable biller can optimize revenue performance for the practice.”

This also applies to the DME business owner.  While they will find it much easier to sell to private pay patients only, they also need to work with insurance companies if they want to make more income.  Many new providers quickly dismiss insurance payments because of the hassles and the fact that reimbursements have reduced in recent years after the enactment of OBAMACARE.  However, the potential volume income from dealing with many patients who rely solely on insurance makes it a wise business idea to still consider working with insurance payers.  Besides, most patients are not even able to afford private pay, so you will be limiting yourself to continue to depend only on private pay patients.  For many solo providers, their practices are usually too small to hire full-time medical billers.  They are therefore mostly stuck with two options – to handle medical billing by themselves or outsource billing to a third-party billing company.  The video above does good justice to this question.

Once you have made your decision about billing, you need to research about suppliers and consider testimonials, durability and pricing.  Because you want to run a profitable business, you don’t want to work with expensive products that people in your location cannot easily afford.  But you also want to ensure quality and durability in any products you select.  Very importantly, I always encourage solo providers to seek advice from several providers and patients about different products before they settle for suppliers to partner with.  If you have a good credit rating, it is better to negotiate credit supplies directly with the manufacturer or wholesaler instead of getting bank loans to stock products.

Now let’s talk about strategies.  Once you have determined all these points above, you now need to ensure you write your business plan and make it as comprehensive and clear as possible.  Share this document with mentors and friends that you trust, listen to their critiques and do as many adjustments as you can before you move forward with the business.  Sometimes after a thorough business plan is done, people can correctly decide not to go ahead with the business.  In some cases, people tweak their original thoughts based on feedbacks and research findings, and in other cases, people move forward.  No matter how small a business will be, it is very important to develop a business plan.

Before you open that store, remember to apply for an employer identification number with the IRS, apply for a merchant account with a credit card processing company if you intend to accept credit cards as a form of payment, and decorate your office nicely to attract people.  You should of course choose a good company name that is related to your services and secure a suitable website domain name.  Be careful not to spend too much on websites because many small website development companies charge unnecessarily high fees even to solo providers.  You can get a good website done at less than $500 or less than $1,000 if you talk to a company that is really focused on helping solo medical providers become more profitable.  This is something that makes a company like Delon Health different.  They provide cheap and suitable website development and SEO support to solo and small medical practices.  Their services offer small medical practices guaranteed cash flow improvement, zero startup cost, 24hrs support, increased profit, improved organization and opportunity to deliver better healthcare to patients. They provide credentialing, electronic medical and dental billing, website development and maintenance, search engine optimization, and other complementary services.

When you get to the stage of choosing office space, consider locations close to doctors’ offices, suites of medical providers or hospitals. Medical providers are more likely to refer patients to DME or Pedorthics offices closer to them than the ones far from them.  Though it may not matter in certain circumstances, you may consider office locations that is a little distant from other DME providers in your neighborhood.  Also, obtain whatever licenses are required in your city.  Opportunities are increasing for Pedorthists in recent years as more patients suffer from foot-related injuries or conditions. The baby-boom generation is requiring pedorthic care more often as they grow older. Also patients who are active in sports rely on a pedorthist for help if they damage foot nerves or ligaments.  So, there will be many opportunities for self-employed pedorthists (solo providers) within this decade, and it is important for them to learn about the business side of things before they get started.

Now let’s talk more about how a DME provider or Pedorthist can promote their business online and through networking.  Register your business with google and other free listing websites so that people can find you easily.  In addition to this, you must utilize social media a lot.  Social media is no longer just a tool to gain exposure—it has now become a necessary time investment for every business to make. You can include ads and offers on your Facebook page and have a direct channel with your customers on Twitter.  You can also use Linkedin to market yourself and your business in a more professional way than the other social media platforms.

As I discussed earlier, get a company to create a nice simple affordable website for you.  Develop good contents for the website and highlight all that prospective customers need to know about you and your business on the website.  It is a good idea to try to address the following questions in your website and other marketing documentation – What is/are your products and/or services? Who is your customer?  What is your unique selling proposition (another way of saying what makes you different)? What kind of people or companies can refer customers to you?  A website is not compulsory to start a business, so if you don’t have much money, don’t stress yourself setting up one.

Though it is not compulsory to have a business name, it is strongly advisable to do so.  A business name will actually be required if you want to register business with the government, open a business bank account and pay business taxes.  Make branding choices like colours, fonts, sizes, formats, etc and stay consistent with this.  Create nice videos for your business and tie these to your social media platforms and website.  For a small company, you don’t need to spend money on professional videos.  Use your phone to make videos and open a dedicated youtube account to post them on.  Create new videos regularly (maybe once a month, once a quarter or even once a week in some cases).  Remember that you should do your best to spend as little as possible to reduce your startup risk.

Without spending much, put in place some Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategies on your website and social media accounts.  You can learn basic SEO strategies from google search and you don’t need to invest heavily on this.  Join several online communities and make sure you are regularly contributing and visible.  If you are creating a website, make sure you have a blog section that allows you to regularly post your articles but if you’re not creating a website, you can set up a free blog website through which you can regularly post articles in your business area.  Blog is really a great tool that can make people quickly view you as ‘subject-matter-expert’ if you are constantly writing with facts and authority.

Whichever additional methods you choose for marketing your business online, you must ensure you’re creating contents that attract people to view your contents (website, social media adverts as well as your adverts on other 3rd-party websites).  You must be engaging either through highly valuable texts, apt marketing pictures or funny educational videos.  The competition in the online space is so vast that you have to do a great and consistent job with your contents to get noticed.

Don’t consider linkedin as being too formal – use it to link up with your former school mates and former colleagues, who can really help you promote your business a great deal.  LinkedIn groups are a great way for quickly connecting with others in your industry or niche to help spread your message. You can promote your content through LinkedIn groups as long as you don’t come across as spammy. It’s best to add value to a conversation or discussion before trying to drop your links.

LinkedIn groups are also a great way of contacting people who you might not have mutual connections with. You can message any other member in the group without being connected, which can become a huge asset depending on the situation. Share updates often in the group and be sure to stay in the spotlight without oversharing.  Use Facebook effectively and if you have extra funds, you can place good ads.  Facebook ads offer a great opportunity for reaching the right demographics for your business. As long as you know your customer well, you can use metrics like interests, geographic location, marital status, age and many others, to locate potential consumers to send to targeted landing pages, also known as squeeze pages. Don’t forget – use Instagram to build followers.

Let’s get more technical.  While creating texts/contents for your products and services, you need to spend good time to research the appropriate keywords that people will typically be using to search for such products.  Ultimately, it is very important to develop a sound marketing and sales strategy to effectively promote your business.

You may also find printing and distribution of flyers helpful.  Also, you should always be ready with your elevator pitch everywhere you go – you never know when you would meet a prospective customer.  Be consistent with your messaging in online and paper media, as well as during verbal communication about your products and services.  Networking is also very essential.  Join local chamber of commerce, groups of seniors, groups of providers working mostly with seniors, business networking groups, etc.  Look for opportunities to speak at events so that you can make yourself visible in your community.

Finally, ensure to keep writing all you’re learning as you promote your business.  Your initial business plan must not be treated as a static document.  Continue to tweak and adjust contents based on new learnings.  Don’t keep fresh thoughts, ideas or strategies in your brain, mind or even your phone.  You will be able to execute old and new strategies better if you take time out to put them down on paper.  I wish you success as you embark on your new business.

Top best foods you need for a Healthy Heart

Over the years, Heart disease has sadly remained the number one killer in the United States.

We highlight below heart healthy foods that you can eat as part of well-balanced diet.  A healthy heart is a gift and you can do your bit in keeping yourself healthy at all times.

Apart from eating healthy, there are so many simple things you can do to ensure your heart stays healthy from any form of disease as well.

Independent medical practices typically have closer relationships with their patients and they should always remind their patients about the need to eat the right food. This is one of the reasons why the United States has to do its best to ensure the survival of many independent practices across the country. They will always be needed to complement the efforts of the big hospitals.

As a top ranked Medical Billing Service company in MA offering services such as DME Billing services,  Mental Health Billing,  Pain Management Billing, Dental Medical Billing , we are constantly offering business advisory services to our customers and prospective customers in addition to medical billing because we believe their business survival is not only good for them and us, but the local societies in the United States.  That is also why our website blog has posts related to business and health benefits like this one.

According to MEDICAL NEWS TODAY, You can schedule an annual checkup, exercise daily, and quit smoking. Do you also know if you are able to considerably reduce the amount of stress in your life, it can certainly help your heart? Yes, it certainly can.

However, one of the simplest lifestyle changes that will benefit your heart is watching what you eat.

Nearly 6 million people are currently living with heart failure, and around half of these will die within 5 years of being diagnosed.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warn that eating foods high in fat, cholesterol, or sodium can be very bad for the heart. So, when taking steps to minimize the risk of heart disease, diet is a good place to start.

In this article, we examine some of the best foods for ensuring that you keep a robust and healthy heart.

1. Asparagus

Asparagus is a natural source of folate, which helps to prevent an amino acid called homocysteine from building up in the body. High homocysteine levels have been linked with an increased risk of heart-related conditions, such as coronary artery disease and stroke.

2. Beans, peas, chickpeas, and lentils

Beans, peas, chickpeas, and lentils — otherwise known as pulses or legumes — can all significantly reduce levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad cholesterol.” They are also packed with fiber, protein, and antioxidant polyphenols, all of which have beneficial effects on the heart and general health.

3. Berries

Berries are also full of antioxidant polyphenols, which help to reduce heart disease risk. Berries are a great source of fiber, folate, iron, calcium, vitamin A, and vitamin C, and they are low in fat.

4. Broccoli

Some studies suggest that regularly eating steamed broccoli can lower cholesterol levels and prevent heart disease.

5. Chia seeds and flaxseeds

These seeds are a rich plant-based source of omega-3 fatty acids, such as alpha-linolenic acid. Omega-3s have many beneficial effects, such as helping to lower levels of triglycerides, LDL, and total cholesterol. They also reduce blood pressure and minimize the buildup of fatty plaques in the arteries.

Omega-3s decrease the risk of disorders that can lead to heart attack, such as thrombosis and arrhythmias.

6. Dark chocolate

Dark chocolate is a rare example of a food that tastes amazing and is good for you (in moderation).

Scientists now believe that dark chocolate has protective benefits against atherosclerosis, which is when plaque builds up inside the arteries, increasing risk of heart attack and stroke.

Dark chocolate seems to prevent two of the mechanisms implicated in atherosclerosis: stiffness of the arteries and white blood cell adhesion, which is when white blood cells stick to the walls of blood vessels.

What is more, studies have found that increasing dark chocolate’s flavanol content — which is the compound that makes it tasty and moreish — does not diminish these protective benefits.

7. Coffee

Also in the “almost too good to be true” camp is coffee. One recent study found that regularly drinking coffee was linked with a decreased risk of developing heart failure and stroke.

However, it is important to bear in mind that this study — which used machine learning to assess data from the Framingham Heart Study — can only observe an association between factors, and cannot conclusively identify cause and effect.

8. Fish high in omega-3s

Fish is a strong source of heart-helping omega-3 fatty acids and protein but it is low in saturated fat. People who have heart disease, or are at risk of developing it, are often recommended to increase their intake of omega-3s by eating fish; this is because they lower the risk of abnormal heartbeats and slow the growth of plaque in the arteries.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), we should eat a 3.5-ounce serving of fatty fish — such as salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines, or albacore tuna — at least twice per week.

9. Green tea

A 2011 systematic review found that drinking green tea is associated with a small reduction in cholesterol, which, as we know, is a main contributor to heart disease and stroke. But the review could not pinpoint how much green tea someone would have to drink to receive any health benefits.

In 2014, another review studied the effects of drinking green tea on people with high blood pressure. The report concluded that green tea was associated with a reduction in blood pressure. But, the authors were unable to determine if this modest reduction could help to prevent heart disease.

10. Nuts

Almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, pistachios, and walnuts are all heart-healthy nut options. These nuts are full of protein, fiber, minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants. Like fish and flaxseeds, walnuts are also ripe with omega-3 fatty acids, making them a heart-healthy snack to have on the go.

11. Liver

Of all the organ meats, liver is the most nutrient-dense. In particular, liver is bulging with folic acid, iron, chromium, copper, and zinc, which increase the blood’s hemoglobin level and help to keep our heart healthy.

12. Oatmeal

Because oatmeal is rich in soluble fiber, it may help to reduce the risk of heart disease. A 2008 review of the evidence concluded that oat-based products significantly reduce LDL and total cholesterol without any adverse effects.

13. Red wine (sort of)

Many studies have noted the potential health benefits of the antioxidants in red wine. However, it is unlikely that the benefits of the antioxidants outweigh the dangers of alcohol.

Recently, however, a new study proposed that these same antioxidants could form the basis of a new stent for use during angioplasty — the process where narrow or obstructed veins are widened to treat atherosclerosis.

The researchers behind that study are currently developing a new kind of stent that releases red wine-like antioxidants into the blood to promote healing, prevent blood clotting, and reduce inflammation during angioplasty.

It is worth noting that drinking alcohol, in general, is not healthy for your heart. In fact, it is vitally important for cardiovascular health to drink alcohol in moderation, if at all.

14. Spinach

You can help to maintain a healthy heart rhythm by regularly consuming good sources of magnesium. Spinach is one of the best sources of dietary magnesium, and consumption of Popeye’s favorite food is associated with a raft of health benefits.

15. Tomatoes

Tomatoes have lots of nutrients that might help keep our hearts healthy. The little red fruits are chock-full of fiber, potassium, vitamin C, folate, and choline, which are all good for the heart.

As well as helping to keep heart disease at bay, potassium benefits muscles and bones, and helps prevent kidney stones from forming.

Scientists have argued that increasing potassium intake while decreasing sodium intake is the most important dietary change when attempting to reduce the risk of heart disease.

16. Vegetables

The AHA advises that we eat eight or more servings of fruit and vegetables each day. Vegetables are low in fat and calories but rich in fiber, minerals, and vitamins. A healthful amount of veggies in the diet can help to moderate weight and blood pressure.

Exploring Telemedicine impact for patients and professionals

Telemedicine can be regarded as an healthcare service that employs the use of digital devices such as computers and smartphones. Often times and in most cases, telemedicine uses video conferencing tools as well. However, some providers choose to offer care via email or phone messaging.

Many people use telemedicine with their usual healthcare provider. Others access virtual care using a dedicated telemedicine app.

Doctors and patients can use telemedicine to:

  • assess whether or not the patient needs treatment in person
  • provide certain kinds of medical care, such as mental health treatment and assessments for minor infections
  • write or renew prescriptions
  • offer certain types of therapy, such as speech and physical therapy

According to MEDICAL NEWS TODAY, Telemedicine is useful in situations where the patient must practice physical distancing or is unable to attend a healthcare facility in person.

Benefits

Research generally finds that telemedicine works, even for serious medical conditions.

For example, a 2017 systematic review of the use of telemedicine for treating chronic heart failure found benefits. These included lower admission rates, shorter hospital stays, and fewer deaths.

The sections below will discuss some of the possible benefits for patients and healthcare providers.

 

Benefits for patients

Telemedicine can help treat a range of medical conditions. It is most successful when a person seeks care from a qualified physician and provides clear details about their symptoms.

Some other benefits of telemedicine include:

  • Lower costs: Some research suggests that people who use telemedicine spend less time in the hospital, providing cost savings. Also, less commuting time may mean fewer secondary expenses, such as childcare and gas.
  • Improved access to care: Telemedicine makes it easier for people with disabilities to access care. It can also improve access for other populations, including older adults, people who are geographically isolated, and those who are incarcerated.
  • Preventive care: Telemedicine may make it easier for people to access preventive care that improves their long-term health. This is especially true for people with financial or geographic barriers to quality care. For instance, a 2012 study of people with coronary artery disease found that preventive telemedicine improved health outcomes.
  • Convenience: Telemedicine allows people to access care in the comfort and privacy of their own home. This may mean that a person does not have to take time off of work or arrange childcare.
  • Slowing the spread of infection: Going to the doctor’s office means being around people who may be sick, often in close quarters. This can be particularly dangerous for people with underlying conditions or weak immune systems. Telemedicine eliminates the risk of picking up an infection at the doctor’s office.

 

Benefits for healthcare providers

Healthcare providers who offer telemedicine services may gain several benefits, including:

  • Reduced overhead expenses: Providers who offer telemedicine services may incur fewer overhead costs. For example, they may pay less for front desk support or be able to invest in an office space with fewer exam rooms.
  • Additional revenue stream: Clinicians may find that telemedicine supplements their income because it allows them to provide care to more patients.
  • Less exposure to illness and infections: When providers see patients remotely, they do not have to worry about exposure to any pathogens the patient may carry.
  • Patient satisfaction: When a patient does not have to travel to the office or wait for care, they may be happier with their provider.

Disadvantages

However, telemedicine may not suit every person or situation. There are some potential disadvantages when using telemedicine over traditional care methods.

The following sections look at some disadvantages for patients and healthcare providers.

 

Disadvantages for patients

Telemedicine is not a good fit for all patients. Some drawbacks of this type of care include:

  • Insurance coverage: Not all insurers cover telemedicine. Only 26 states currently require insurers to cover or reimburse the costs of telemedicine. However, these laws are constantly changing.
  • Protecting medical data: Hackers and other criminals may be able to access a patient’s medical data, especially if the patient accesses telemedicine on a public network or via an unencrypted channel.
  • Care delays: When a person needs emergency care, accessing telemedicine first may delay treatment, particularly since a doctor cannot provide lifesaving care or laboratory tests digitally.

Disadvantages for healthcare providers

Healthcare providers may also face some drawbacks associated with telemedicine, including:

  • Licensing issues: State laws vary, and clinicians may not be able to practice medicine across state lines, depending on the state in which they hold their license and the state in which the patient lives.
  • Technological concerns: Finding the right digital platform to use can be challenging. Also, a weak connection can make it difficult to offer quality care. Clinicians must also ensure that the telemedicine program they use is secure and fully compliant with privacy laws.
  • An inability to examine patients: Providers must rely on patient self-reports during telemedicine sessions. This may require clinicians to ask more questions to ensure that they get a comprehensive health history. If a patient leaves out an important symptom that might have been noticeable during in-person care, this can compromise treatment.

 

When is telemedicine useful? 

Telemedicine works well for any condition that does not require laboratory tests or a physical examination. Telemedicine can even offer some forms of ongoing care, such as psychotherapy.

When there are barriers to treatment — such as the COVID-19 pandemic, a patient who lives far away from a medical care facility, or a patient who cannot transport themselves — providers may expand the list of conditions they are willing to treat. For instance, a doctor might prescribe antibiotics for a likely infection via telemedicine.

 

Summary

Telemedicine is a convenient option for people who cannot go to the doctor’s office and those who prefer to stay home. However, it is important that patients check the credentials of the doctor providing care.

For people with anxiety about leaving the house, chronic medical conditions that make catching infections dangerous, and contagious diseases, remote care may mean the difference between prompt treatment and no treatment at all.

Patients should provide detailed medical information, and when possible, they should show the doctor any rashes, injuries, or other visible symptoms that require treatment.

Delon Health is a medical billing services provider. We offer small medical practices guaranteed cash flow improvement, zero startup cost, 24hrs support, increased profit, improved organization and opportunity to deliver better healthcare to patients.

Our services include DME Billing services, Pedorthics Billing, Pain Management Billing and many more.  

How to Create Your Own Medical Practice Marketing Plan – Template Included

If you want to grow your medical practice in 2019, you’ve come to the right place. In today’s blog, we’re talking about how to create a medical practice marketing plan from top to bottom. Get ready to learn about the three vital pieces of your plan:

  1. Building Your Marketing Plan – How to determine your strategy, set a budget, and track outcomes
  2. Evaluating Your Marketing Plan Foundations – The two must-do-first tasks of any marketing plan
  3. Implementing Actionable Marketing Tactics – Six ideas you need to consider as part of your marketing plan

You might want to bookmark this page! We’ve crammed in as much knowledge as possible. Let’s dig in.

I. Building Your Marketing Plan 

We’ll start with the basics – developing your strategy, setting a budget, and tracking outcomes. Without these in place, there’s no way to know if you’re getting the most bang for your marketing buck. And that’s the ultimate goal!

Develop a Clear and Concise Marketing Strategy

The most important part of your marketing plan is the overarching strategy. Medical practices today have more marketing options than ever before. Many business owners find themselves spreading their marketing dollars across too many different tactics – and not seeing a return on investment. Instead of following the latest trends, start with your business objectives. Think about what your medical practice is trying to achieve:

  • Do you need to raise awareness about your new practice?
  • Is your growth stagnant and you’re looking for ways to attract new patients?
  • Are you adding a new service and want to let your patients (and the community) know about it?
  • Did you add a new location and need to make sure it’s found online?

You wouldn’t spend your marketing budget the same way in each of these scenarios. Understanding your business objectives will help you create an effective marketing strategy. Here’s an example:

Create a Marketing Budget and Update it Regularly

Once you have a strategy, you can build a marketing budget. As a general rule, the US Small Business Administration recommends that businesses with revenues less than $5 million allocate about eight percent of their revenues to marketing. However, you should also keep in mind that newer practices need to spend more for the first five years or so to raise their visibility.

Your budget should indicate if costs are fixed or one-time, so you can get a sense of your baseline. If you haven’t taken a close look at your marketing for a while, you might need to invest in some one-time expenses like a medical website redesign. That will skew your budget for the year, but it can positively impact your revenue for years to come. Your budget should be a living document that you constantly reference.  Add notes to explain changes so you’ll have helpful information to guide next year’s planning.

You can download our digital marketing template for free here.

Identify Your Key Performance Indicators

According to Digital Examiner, nearly half of small businesses don’t measure the return on investment on their digital marketing spend. But without these insights, you’re spending money in the dark. To better understand how your medical practice marketing plan is performing, it’s helpful to identify key performance indicators (KPIs).  Let’s talk about a few important ones:

  • Patient Acquisition Cost – Estimate the lifetime value of acquiring a new patient. Divide your total annual marketing spend by the patient lifetime value. This gives you a high-level view of your marketing plan’s effectiveness.
  • Website Analytics – At a minimum, you should monitor the number of website visitors, where they’re coming from, and the pace of growth. Google Analytics is the best place to find this information (and it’s free). Need help getting started? Check out the Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Google Analytics by Moz.com.
  • Conversion Rate – Conversion rates measure the percentage of users who take a desired action. For example, how many people clicked on your ad compared to those who viewed it. You’ll want to track conversion rates for any paid advertising (like Google Ads) or email marketing (like MailChimp). Each platform has analytics that you can use to evaluate the results.
Medical Practice Marketing Plan

Above is an example of a conversion report from the Google Analytics dashboard for one of Pacific54’s medical clients. Ultimately, the client wants to increase appointments. To track performance, we have initially created goals to track clicks to the ‘Make an Appointment’ button on their website and landing pages, as well as phone number clicks. We are in the process of working with their third-party appointment scheduling provider to set up tracking across both domains. Once you’ve set up your goals, Google Analytics will show you how many goals have been completed for a given time period, the goal conversion rate, and where across your website the goals were completed.Subscribe TodayEmail Address

II. Evaluating Your Marketing Plan Foundations

Now that you have your strategy, budget, and key performance indicators, it’s time to focus on the foundation of your marketing plan. There are two elements that should take precedence over all others – keyword research and creating a great website experience. They’ll have the most impact on your search engine optimization (SEO).

Discover Opportunites for Growth Through Keyword Research

Keyword research involves identifying popular words and phrases your ideal patients might enter into search engines. You’ll begin with a topic or idea, also called a “seed.” This seed can come from your industry knowledge or from the services you provide. Make a list of all the keywords or phrases you think your ideal patients might use to find you. Then, type them into Google and scroll down to the bottom, where you’ll find related searches. These are actual terms people use related to what you entered. Add these to your list.

The next part of keyword research is evaluating volume and competitiveness. In other words, how often is this word searched and how many other people are also trying to rank for it? This will help you narrow down your list. There are many paid tools, but if you have a free Google Ads account, you can use the Google Keyword Planner.

Once you’ve identified your keywords and phrases, you’ll begin to incorporate them in your content, online ads, and social media. This will draw the right audience to you, which is the goal of SEO.

Medical Practice Marketing Plan

There are many tools out there for keyword research, but Google Keyword Planner is free and gives you average monthly searches and competitiveness. 

Make Sure You’re Delivering a Great Website Experience

Is it time for a website redesign? Many people don’t realize that your website experience also affects your search engine rankings. Here’s how the quality of your website gives a signal to search engines on how to rank your pages.

  • Responsive Design – Google recently transitioned to “mobile-first indexing.” That means they’ll give priority in the search results to responsive websites (ones that display correctly on any device).
  • Modern, Fast Site – If your website is slow, has confusing navigation, or simply looks unappealing, website visitors will click away without looking at the rest of the site. That’s called a bounce. High bounce rates can also affect your search rankings, since it’s a signal to search engines that users aren’t happy with your site.
  • Clear Meta Tags – The information that appears on the search engine results comes from your website’s meta tags. Each page should have a title tag and meta description that accurately describes what the patient will find when they click on the link. If these aren’t clear (or missing), users may not click on your website from the search results, or “bounce” quickly.
A Guide to Creating the Ultimate Medical Practice Marketing Plan

To improve your search engine optimization, your website should be fast, modern, have clear navigation, and display correctly on any device.

III. Implementing Marketing Tactics

Now that you’ve identified your keywords and have a plan to improve your website, let’s talk about the important marketing tactics that can help your practice grow. Since you have a finite budget, you’ll need to allocate your funds across these tactics based on your business objectives, as we discussed earlier. The amount of time and money can vary greatly for each, so you should weigh the return on investment.

Take Ownership of Listings to Improve Local Search Visibility

For medical practices, local search is critical. A study by Google showed that 77% of patients used a search engine prior to scheduling an appointment. You can bet most of those searches included a city or neighborhood.

In addition to having location-related keywords throughout your site, make sure you set up your Google My Business account. This allows business owners to manage their presence on Google. Patients can leave reviews and ask questions, which could be invaluable for improving your services. It also provides hours of operation and phone numbers, making it easy for patients to contact you. Bonus: you also increase the chances of your practice being found in a Google search.

You also want to claim any local directory or review listings. Be sure to complete them with accurate information about your practice. If the directory/review site is good quality (such as Yelp or Healthgrades), having a link to your website also sends a positive signal back to Google.

Medical Practice Marketing Plan

With a Google My Business account, patients will see a knowledge panel (pictured above) when they search for your practice by name. 

Here are a few examples of directories where you can list your medical practice:

Invest in High-Quality Content  to Build Authority

While content might seem like a “nice to have” in your marketing plan, it’s actually critical to your search engine optimization. Creating helpful content regularly means you’re adding relevant keywords on many different pages of your site, increasing the chances that patients will find you. You’re also showing search engines that your site is active, which is a positive signal to Google. A blog is the best place to start. Just make sure you’re delivering content that provides value to your patients, not fluff for the sake of content.

It’s also important to incorporate rich content, which means different media formats (sound, video and images) used at the same time. This could be as simple as adding a gif to your blog or embedding a video on your services pages. You could also develop rich content for your practice’s social media pages, like going live on Facebook to show off your expertise on a hot healthcare-related topic or a social media campaign featuring new state of the art technology. Create some video walkthroughs of your office then display them all over your site—get creative! Choose images that will really grab the attention of potential clients.

A Guide to Creating the Ultimate Medical Practice Marketing Plan

Think about ways you can creatively share multimedia content, like this fun YouTube video from a dental office.  

Don’t Ignore Patient Reviews

If you have patient reviews on websites like HealthGrades, Facebook, Google, and Yelp, make sure you claim the listing, fill out as much information as possible on your profile, and link them back to your website. The more places patients can discover you, the better. Plus, you’ll create quality backlinks that can increase your search rankings and make it easy for potential patients to contact you.

Claiming these listings also allows you to respond to any feedback. If you don’t think it’s worth it, consider this: 82% of Americans use online reviews to evaluate physicians. Well beyond the SEO benefits, it’s critical for medical practices to monitor patient reviews – and encourage positive ones. Whether on a third-party site or a testimonials page on your own site, patients read them.

A Guide to Creating the Ultimate Medical Practice Marketing Plan

Sites like Healthgrades provide another way to expand your online presence, create quality backlinks to your website, and provide third-party reviews that reassure potential patients. Subscribe TodayEmail Address

Leverage the Power Social Media to Build Trust

Social media can be intimidating, but in this day and age, it’s a must. Just remember social media can also be a cheap marketing asset. Simply having a Facebook profile for your practice can improve your search results online by linking back to your website. You can start small and focus on the social media platform where your patients are likely to be.

At a minimum, fill out as much information as possible in the About section. This will help with SEO, but also helps patients who may find you this way. By having your hours of operation, address, and phone number, you’ll make it easy for them.

Not sure what to post? Share articles from medical websites with your point of view or health reminders at just the right time. For example, a doctor’s office could encourage flu shots in the spring and fall. That little reminder not only helps bring patients in, but ensures patients and followers stay healthy throughout flu season. This builds trust and keeps you at the top of readers’ minds when it comes time to find a new doctor or make an appointment.

A Guide to Creating the Ultimate Medical Practice Marketing Plan

Platforms like Facebook allow you to provide a great deal of useful information to patients, improving your SEO and creating another touch point for prospective patients.

Find an Online Advertising Solution that Works for Your Practice

Online advertising goes by many names. PPC stands for pay-per-click and is sometimes known as paid search. When you buy PPC online advertisements, each time a patient clicks on your ad, you pay a small fee. Both search engines and social networks offer PPC advertising and each has its benefits and drawbacks. Google ads can drive high volumes of traffic to your site but can be more expensive than other search engines. Social networks like Facebook often have lower click-through rates, but the targeting capabilities are incredibly precise, which makes the leads very good.

If you’ve already started advertising, you can optimize your ads with better insights on your audience. Try Facebook Pixel, an analytics tool that adds code to your website to measure the behavior of those who visit. It also allows you to build advertising audiences from your site visitors and make sure your ads are being shown to the right people. Knowing when a potential patient took an action after seeing your Facebook ad can definitely help you determine what is and what isn’t working, and create better campaigns for your practice.  

A Guide to Creating the Ultimate Medical Practice Marketing Plan

Hospital marketing strategies like this Facebook ad are a great way to reach a very targeted audience quickly and cost-effectively.

Stay Ahead of the Curve with Smart Technology 

According to Health Leaders Media, about 75% of consumers would choose the physician with online scheduling over those with similar experience, proximity, availability, and patient satisfaction ratings. That’s a huge advantage! Consider implementing a digital scheduling system like DocASAP and ClockWise to help manage all your appointments and avoid no-shows.

You can also set your practice apart by using chatbots. Chatbots are computer programs designed to simulate a conversation with human patients. What do customers and patients alike want? They want the ability to message a business and get an immediate answer. If you don’t have the manpower in your office for this, try implementing a chatbot that responds to FAQs, which will improve the user experience of your practice. Healthcare marketing just got a lot easier.

A Guide to Creating the Ultimate Medical Practice Marketing Plan

Engage prospective patients with immediate responses to their questions by implementing a chatbot on your website. 

Ready to create your own medical practice marketing plan? We hope so. But if you’re too busy with the daily demands of your practice, let Pacific54 help you grow. Contact us for consultation.

TL;DR

Ready to create a marketing plan for your medical practice? Here’s what you’ll need:

Building Your Marketing Plan

To avoid shooting in the dark, implement these 3 fundamentals before you start building your marketing campaign.

  • Marketing Strategy: Highlight your main business objectives and align them with strategies that will help you achieve them.
  • Budgeting: Set a monthly budget for how you plan to spend on marketing. Update it regularly and keep track of how much you intended to spend vs. how much you actually spend.
  • Key Performance Indicators: Going back to your business objectives, set up KPIs that you will track over time to determine your ROI and to understand what strategies are performing best.

Evaluating Your Marketing Plan Foundations

Make sure you have these two things in place before you start heavily investing in your digital marketing.

  • Keyword Research: Do research to understand your audience and what they might type into the search bar to find you. Analyze your keywords based on volume and competition and create a plan to include these keywords on your website and throughout your content.
  • Optimized Website: Make sure your website is fast, fully responsive, and easy to navigate. If it isn’t you’ll want to consider a redesign, you don’t want to waste your budget taking users to a site that won’t meet expectations.

Implementing Actionable Marketing Tactics

Here are some of the marketing tactics you can consider as you develop your strategy and outline your objectives.

  • Improve Local Search Visibility: Make sure Google My Business profile for your practice is fully optimized. Claim your profile across databases like Yelp, HealthGrades and Vitals.com.
  • Deliver High-Quality Content: Creating high-quality content on a regular basis can help you increase keywords naturally to improve search visibility, while also positioning your practice as a trusted resource.
  • Patient Reviews: Once you’ve claimed your listings, monitor your reviews regularly, and engage with patients through replying to feedback (both positive and negative).
  • Social Media: Make sure that all of your practice’s social media profiles are fully optimized and updated with the latest information. Social media is also a great place to share and distribute any content you are creating.
  • Online Advertising: Depending on your business objectives, consider paid advertising through Google Ads or Facebook Ads. Generally, Google Ads are more expensive, but provide the opportunity to drive high volumes of traffic, while Facebook Ads might have lower click-through rates, but may provide higher quality leads through using precise targeting capabilities.
  • Smart Technology: Consider implementing chatbots and features like online scheduling to your medical practice website to improve the user experience and stand out from competitors.

Finance essentials: Capital options for growing medical practices

Providing excellent service and the best standard of care to your patients requires having up-to-date technology and medical equipment for your practice. However, with rising costs and reduced reimbursements, cash flow isn’t always where it needs to be to finance capital expenditures.

Saving up to pay for these assets in cash is one option, but that can mean delaying other critical investments in your business, limiting your practice’s growth potential. Unplanned expenses, such as a key piece of equipment breaking down unexpectedly or a sharp increase in insurance premiums, can also impact your cash flow and be difficult to finance with cash.

Another aspect that complicates decisions regarding capital expenditures is the reality that getting loans is much harder than it used to be. “There is generally less capital available to small businesses today,” says Christopher Johnson, SVP & President, Pitney Bowes Financial Services, noting that loans to large corporations have consistently risen for the last eight years while loans to small businesses have been declining over that same period.

In fact, one-quarter of small business owners say they can’t obtain the necessary funds to operate their business, according to a National Small Business Association (NSBA) study. And, for those that do get financing, only 15% of that financing is coming from large banks.

A Thriving Practice Requires Multiple Financing Options

Regardless of how the financial system got where it is today, not having access to capital when you need it can have a negative impact on your thriving medical practice. The NSBA noted that for small businesses that are unable to obtain financing, 31% say it’s impacted their ability to grow their business or expand their operations.

One way to avoid cash-flow issues is to expand your medical practice’s financing network. “We believe it’s just good financial hygiene for any business, but particularly for small businesses, to maintain a network of capital partners,” says Johnson. “Expanding your financing network helps you avoid over-accessing your primary credit facility, ensures you have accessible credit for unexpected expenses, and allows you to secure capital even when your bank has no more capacity to lend to you.”

There are, thankfully, other sources of SMB financing emerging to fill the gap left by conventional banks. In particular, some established sources of asset-related financing are expanding their offerings for the healthcare sector.

This financing option is becoming increasingly useful as a way to provide valuable cash flow. In 2018, total credit commitments for asset-based lending rose by 3.7% and total asset-based loans outstanding increased by 9.3% from 2017, according to a survey by the Commercial Finance Association.

How to Get the Most from Asset-Based Financing

Asset-based financing typically provides a loan or lease for a set term (i.e. 5 years) and is secured by the asset being financed.  Depending on the type of equipment and value over time, rates for these loans or leases can often be lower than unsecured credit options.

Wheeler Financial, which provides asset financing for healthcare practices, believes this model gives practices increased flexibility to sustain their growth and take advantage of emerging opportunities, including the ability to:

  • Control cash flow by making scheduled payments over time
  • Boost buying power by being able to finance more critical-need equipment, software, and services
  • Optimize opportunity costs by freeing up cash flow for other high-return growth investments
  • Improve profits by upgrading your technology to increase efficiency and generate returns faster

Additionally, because lending is tied to capital expenditures, asset-based financing can be used strategically to lower tax impacts or to achieve a targeted return on investment sooner. For example, in most cases, any new equipment purchased can be taken as a tax write-off (Section 179 deduction). Similarly, expenses and investment decisions can be made in a way to manage which tax bracket you wind up in based on your net business income.

However, because business financing and taxes are complicated, it’s important to consult with a financial or tax advisor as you make financing decisions for your business. It’s also crucial that you find a financing partner that meets your long-term business goals.

“Businesses should certainly ask partners about their preferences for relationships vs. individual transactions, their commitment to financial lending, and how much capital they are willing to invest — not only in the good times but when markets turn,” says Johnson. “You want a partner that is committed through the ups and downs, not one that focuses on individual, quick hit transactions.”

It’s also essential to ask any potential financing partner about their experience and expertise with the healthcare industry. You want your capital partner to not only understand the specific challenges your medical practice faces, but who can customize deal terms for your needs — whether that’s financing new copiers, a 3D imaging machine, or the software and hardware needed to support integrating a new patient record system.

Finally, you want a partner who is truly invested in your success, beyond just the financial capital.

“We’ve built our business and value proposition around the things we think are critical to helping small- and medium-sized businesses grow,” says Johnson. “This includes investing the human capital — in the form of best practices and insights — required to help our clients grow.”

There are several financial options available to expand your ability to provide the best patient care. It’s time to give your practice a financial wellness checkup and decide the best options for you.

Learn more about equipment financing and securing the capital you need to grow your practice.