Five Ways Working the Night Shift Impacts Your Health (And How to Handle It) :-)

Working the night shift is never easy. If this is something you have to do regularly, you may begin to see some negative effects on both your physical and mental health. Here are five of the biggest ways the night shift might impact you, and what you can do to take care of yourself while working these difficult hours.

Social Isolation

Working nights means that your schedule will almost never be in sync with the work schedule of your friends and family, which can lead to feelings of depression, loneliness, and isolation. While it can be easy to push social engagements low on your priorities list, it is important to make time to spend with the people you care about. Just inviting friends over to catch up and watch a movie can help you feel connected and, as a result, can drastically improve your mental and emotional health.

female nurse smiling

Insomnia

Although fatigue frequently comes with overnight work, this doesn’t mean you’ll be able to fall asleep as soon as you get home. In fact, insomnia is a common problem for people who work overnight shifts, due to a disruption in your circadian rhythm. If you can, invest in blackout curtains and wear sunglasses on your commute home at the end of your shift. Exercising regularly, wearing ear plugs or listening to white noise, and keeping to the same daily sleep schedule, if possible, can all help you avoid insomnia.

Weight Gain

Stress, lack of time, and fatigue are all factors that can lead to unhealthy behavior and weight gain, especially if you work the night shift. If you are exhausted, the last thing you want to do is cook a meal from scratch. Meal prepping and batch cooking are excellent ways to ensure you’ll always have access to a quick and healthy meal, and snacks like trail mix and jerky can help you avoid getting snacks from the vending machine in the wee hours of the morning, while you’re taking breaks on the night shift. 

Depression

Even if you make an effort to spend time with friends, overnight work can severely impact your mental health. Along with fatigue and poor diet and exercise habits, lack of sunlight can be very detrimental to your mental health. If your schedule allows, try to get some natural sunlight before you report to work. If not, using a sunlamp when you wake up can help you combat feelings of depression caused by a nocturnal schedule.

Stress

All of the health problems caused by overnight work can lead to high levels of stress. Chronic stress is always a drain on the body, so it is important to make a conscious effort to find ways to relax. This could mean meditating, drawing, drinking tea—find the things that calm you down, and make them a priority.

Overnight work is challenging, but the more you know about the health risks involved in working the night shift, and how to stay healthy when you work the night shift, the better you’ll be able to take care of yourself. For more helpful tips on different areas of healthcare, be sure to visit our blog.

How to Use Meetup Groups for Social Networking in Healthcare

group of healthcare professionals meeting

If you are in the healthcare industry, or if you are thinking about becoming a healthcare professional, it is important to connect with other colleagues in the healthcare field, for several reasons:

1. You want to stay up to date on current healthcare topics and trends in your area of specialization, especially if your area of specialization involves hands-on patient care, such as nursing, for example.

2. You want to be one of the first to know about new job opportunities that may not yet be advertised in your area of healthcare.

3. You want to establish contacts, long-term friendships, and business relationships with colleagues who are willing to recommend you for future job opportunities. A great way to connect with other healthcare professionals is through Meetup.com.

The Story of Meetup.com

Meetup.com is a social networking platform that allows you to connect with people with similar interests by attending social events that are sponsored by the group that you belong to (as well as an occasional online event). The Meetup groups on Meetup.com have been around since 2002. These groups make it easy to connect with other people with similar interests, for business or just for fun. Social events sponsored by Meetup groups take place in different areas of your city. These events may be business networking events, luncheons, or dinners held at different restaurants around the city, where you exchange business cards and talk about your healthcare experience, or a healthcare career that you are currently pursuing or interested in pursuing. These events can also be fun things to do that give you the opportunity to meet and hang out with other individuals interested in the healthcare field. Your Meetup group may meet once a month, twice a month, or every two or three months, depending on the social events scheduled by the organizer of the group.

Connect With Others in the Healthcare Industry

Although Meetup groups are primarily designed to connect with other people with similar interests, healthcare professionals (and their patients) have much to gain. This is because Meetups involve networking, and networking is about sharing. Healthcare improves and saves lives. With the knowledge that you gain from networking with others in the healthcare field, you can improve the quality of a patient’s life or even save a patient’s life, especially if your work in the healthcare field involves direct patient care. If you want to stay up to date on anything from alternative healthcare treatments to technological advances in healthcare, Meetup groups can help you find the information you need by learning from other professionals in the same field in a relaxed social setting. 

Another reason that Meetups are ideal for healthcare professionals is that the healthcare system has become focused on providing evidence-based care to improve patient outcomes. Not only can other healthcare professionals share valuable anecdotes and usable research, the Meetup platform creates a great place to talk about healthcare in general, even if you don’t work in healthcare or you’re not interested in pursuing a career in healthcare. It’s also nice to talk to like-minded individuals about an area of healthcare that you are interested in learning about. The difference between online networking and attending a social event sponsored by a Meetup group, is that Meetup groups allow you to connect face-to-face with other individuals, instead of connecting only online, where it might be harder and it might take longer to establish a meaningful business relationship or make a personal connection.

Find Out What’s Happening Near You

Another nice thing about Meetup groups is that you can live in practically any city and find a group that you can join. Geography is not an issue. Although social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter make it easy to communicate with someone in a different city or in a different country, the face-to-face social element is missing when you send a text or respond to an email. This is why, if you want to connect with other healthcare professionals in a social setting, you might want to consider joining a Meetup group, especially if you just moved to a new city, and you don’t know many people, and you want to establish business and social connections in your new city.

woman doing meditation at park during sunrise

Stay Physically Fit and Become Accountable for Your Own Health

Even if you are not in the healthcare field, Meetup groups can help you take charge of your own health. The thing that is missing from many internet-enabled communications is accountability when it comes to joining a social media group. Social media groups are casual, and many people join without any true dedication. Want to lose weight? Join a low-carb group. Want to get healthier? Join an exercise group. These are motivational tools, but there is no accountability, and you can still sit on your couch and eat tacos all you want. Email and texting also doesn’t work because is it lacks the group connection. Meetup groups allow everyone to “meet up,” and even if it’s not face-to-face, it will still be coordinated and accessible. This helps everyone stay on track in terms of achieving their personal physical fitness goals. 

How to Get Started with Meetups

Start by visiting the Meetup.com website, and search for healthcare groups you might be interested in joining. Searching on the keywords, “Health,” “Healthcare,” or “Medicine” yields results for a variety of different Meetup groups, such as groups for healthcare networking, healthy living, health technology, health and wellness, physical fitness, and alternative medicine. You can click on the thumbnails for each group to learn what the group is about, the number of members in the group, the organizers of the group, past events, upcoming events, and whether the group is public or private. If the group is public, anyone can join. If the group is private, you may need to request permission to join by completing a brief online questionnaire posted by the group organizer, and then getting approval to join the group from the group organizer after the answers to your questionnaire are reviewed. You can also read the profiles of current members, to get a better understanding of the types of members who already belong to the same group.

The Benefits of YouTube in Healthcare eLearning

Create Your Meetup Profile

Once you find a healthcare group (or several healthcare groups) that you are interested in joining, it’s time to create your Meetup profile. Once you join the group, you can choose the events you would like to attend. You may choose to attend a few events or all of the events, depending on your schedule and level of interest. Keep in mind, however, that Meetup groups thrive on active participation from their members. Some groups may become inactive due to lack of participation, so it’s important to try to attend as many events as possible for the group(s) you decide to join, if your schedule permits. Since the majority of the Meetup events are face to face, this gives you a chance to establish connections with other members, especially longtime members, of each group, who can tell you more about their own experience with the group, and give you their own opinions of the group based on having joined several years prior to your decision to join the same group.

Form Your Own Healthcare Meetup Group

If you can’t find a healthcare Meetup group that you are interested in, consider creating your own. Write a description of what you’re hoping to accomplish within your new Meetup group, such as meeting those who already have healthcare careers, those who are completing a degree in healthcare, or those who are interested in alternative medicine or health and wellness issues, for example.

Decide where you want to meet, such as local parks, breweries, or restaurants. Create a schedule for your Meetups, so people will know when you’re going to host social events each month, where each event will be held, or if the location is still to be determined. You can even charge a certain amount per event to offset the cost of Meetup.com for hosts.

Want more information about healthcare networking and other subjects related to healthcare? Visit the Avidity Medical Design blog.

Interested in learning more about social media networking in healthcare? Visit Avidity Medical Design Academy.

20 Common Medical Conditions You Can Treat With Home Remedies

Woman drinking herbal tea

You might have grown up hearing your grandmother tell you about a variety of home remedies for common medical conditions. Some of your grandmother’s home remedies might actually be very effective for treating common medical conditions that may not be serious enough to require a trip to the emergency room.

This article is not a substitute for medical advice. If you have any doubt about whether you need to see a doctor, do not hesitate to schedule an office visit or make a trip to the emergency room.

With that being said, let’s take a look at 20 common medical conditions that you may be able to treat with home remedies.

1. ACNE

If you have stubborn acne which can occur at any age, there is a natural remedy which may help.  Apple cider vinegar has antimicrobial properties. You can simply dab some apple cider vinegar onto the areas where you have acne, and do this several times a day, to alleviate the problem.  

2. ARTHRITIS

Joint stiffness and pain from arthritis can happen as we age, but there is help. You can try rubbing some flaxseed oil on your joints, for example. Flaxseed oil is a known anti-inflammatory that might help with your arthritis.  Tai chi, meditation, heat packs, ice packs, yoga, and weight loss might also help as well.

3. ATHLETE’S FOOT 

Athlete’s foot, caused by a virus infecting the foot, becomes worse if moisture is trapped inside your shoes.

Several different home remedies might help kill the athlete’s foot virus. You can try a mix of 25 to 50 percent tea tree oil, or 50 to 75 percent coconut oil, and apply it several times a day. You might also try applying full strength hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol to your feet several times a day.

If you have athlete’s foot and you are also a diabetic, don’t try to treat it yourself. See a doctor right away. Even if you’re not diabetic, but the rash does not go away, or the rash turns into a sore that leaks fluid, spreads to other areas of your body, or affects your toenails, seek medical attention immediately.

4. BURNS

Man putting calamine lotion on bug bite

Whether you burn yourself on an iron or a toaster, or you are burned in a fire, the condition is very painful.

You can treat small, minor burns at home. Start by running cool, not cold water, over the burn area. Then try applying a cold compress. You might also try applying some aloe vera gel, or some diluted cider vinegar to the burn area.

What’s interesting is that the old remedy of putting butter on a burn can actually harm your skin, because the grease in the butter slows down the release of heat from your skin. When you run cool water on your burn area, instead of applying butter, it releases the heat from the burn area and may soothe the burn area more quickly than applying butter.

If you have increased pain, redness, swelling, fever, or oozing, however, these are signs that you need to see a doctor. If the burn is larger than 2 inches, and it is painful for more than a few hours, or it worsens over time, get medical attention as soon as possible.

If you have a minor skin burn, try applying some honey to the burn area to get some quick relief. Honey is a great natural remedy that you can buy over the counter. It removes heat from the burn, and it is antimicrobial, so it helps to keep the area free from infection. Remember to always consult a physician immediately if your burn becomes a serious or ongoing chronic condition. 

5. COUGH

The Healthline site lists 92 conditions that may cause coughs. Most often, though, this symptom is a result of a cold or the flu.

People swear by a variety of home remedies for treating a cough. You might try honey and lemon, or your might try different lozenges. You could also try covering your head with a towel and then leaning over a pot of steam, or sipping alcoholic beverages, or eating dishes made with hot peppers (if you don’t have high blood pressure).

Generally, coughing improves once you get over the cold or flu, but sometimes a cough can be serious. Seek medical attention if you experience chest pain, wheezing, or shortness of breath, or if you start to cough up blood. Green or yellow mucus, or a fever over 101 degrees Fahrenheit, are also signs that you need immediate medical attention.

6. DARK CIRCLES AROUND YOUR EYES 

Dark circles can be an annoying cosmetic problem, but not usually a medical condition. It happens because the skin under your eyelids is very thin, and when blood is pooled in the area beneath your eyes, it causes your undereye area to look discolored.

Lack of sleep, excess stress, eye strain, or other issues of general wellness can cause this problem. The Mayo Clinic says it’s okay to use home remedies to treat dark circles, but if discoloration and swelling appear under just one of your eyes, or it gets worse over time, then it’s time to make an appointment to see your doctor.

You might also want to try some popular topical treatments. For example, you might want to try closing your eyes, and applying cucumber slices or cooled wet tea bags to your eyes while you have them closed. Another suggestion would be to try placing a mask of pureed mint leaves around the perimeter of your eyes. Don’t forget that rest, stress relief, and good nutrition are essential to helping with dark circles under the eyes. Staying out of the sun can also help too. 

7. DIARRHEA

If you’ve ever suffered from diarrhea, you’ve probably heard of the “BRAT” diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast). It is a bland diet that you can use temporarily to give your stomach a rest. Try this, and see if it helps with your diarrhea.  

8. GOUT 

If you’ve ever suffered from gout, you know it can be a painful experience. Gout is a form of arthritis. Gout occurs when you have too much uric acid in your blood. It can be caused by eating the wrong foods or drinking alcohol, for example, because the alcohol causes uric acid to form in your blood. Symptoms include intense pain in the big toe, a swollen foot, or a swollen knee joint, for example.

A mild case of gout can be treated at home. If you have gout, try to ice and elevate the affected joint. Ask for help with daily tasks so you can relax as much as possible, especially if you have gout in your feet or your knee joints. Drink plenty of fluids, but no alcohol or sweet sodas. You might also try some common home remedies for gout, such as concentrated tart cherry juice, ginger, magnesium supplements, a mix of apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, warm water, and turmeric.

Always call your doctor the first time you have symptoms so you can learn about ways to control your uric acid by avoiding certain foods and certain drinks for instance, to help prevent future attacks of gout. You can find additional information by contacting the Arthritis Foundation.

9. HAIR LOSS

Hair loss can occur at any age, in both men and women. Hair loss may occur for any number of reasons, including stress, low vitamin levels, anemia, or chemotherapy, for example. If you are losing your hair, you might try coconut oil hair treatments, or you might consider taking ginseng, fish oil, or Visviscal vitamin supplements (to promote hair growth from the inside out). Massaging the scalp might help also. You can find some additional tips for hair growth here.

10. HEADACHES

You can get headaches for a variety of reasons. Headaches may be caused stress, or caused by a medical condition that has not been treated. High blood pressure or depression might also cause headaches. More severe forms of headaches include migraine headaches and tension headaches. Migraine headaches are often caused by stress or anxiety, while tension headaches are caused by muscle spasms in the head and neck region. The mental stress of daily life can also cause eye strain that can lead to headaches, as well as sitting or working in an uncomfortable position.

Relieving stress, getting enough rest, and healthy eating can help you prevent different types of headaches. For immediate relief without medication, try placing hot or cold packs on your forehead or back of the neck. You might also try drinking some water or a caffeinated beverage, or getting a neck massage. Aspirin, ibuprofen, or other mild pain medication often offer relief, but it’s best to avoid long term use. If your headaches are frequent or are severe enough to disrupt your life, see your physician as soon as possible. Click this link for more suggestions on how to relieve headaches.

11. HEARTBURN

Many of us have probably experienced heartburn, the burning pain in the upper abdomen, usually at night or after eating a heavy meal. Heartburn can be brief, or it can become a chronic condition that occurs over a long length of time.

When it only occurs once and awhile, or only when we eat certain foods (and we expect to get heartburn from eating certain foods we like), it is not usually a serious condition. But if you start to have chest pain or pressure in addition to heartburn, this might be a sign of a heart attack. In this situation, you should call your doctor or go to the nearest emergency room immediately, especially if the condition persists, or if you have other symptoms such as difficulty eating or nausea and vomiting in addition to the heartburn and the chest pain or chest pressure.

To alleviate heartburn, you can also try standing up straighter, wearing loose clothing, taking a mix of backing soda and water, drinking pure organic apple cider (also available at your local vitamin store), sleeping in an elevated position, and other home remedies.

12. INDIGESTION OR UPSET STOMACH

You can get indigestion or an upset stomach from something as simple as eating or drinking too much, or can be a sign of a more serious undiagnosed condition, especially if you have indigestion or an upset stomach that lasts for a longer length of time. You might try drinking ginger ale, because the real ginger helps with queasiness. You can also try drinking some ginger tea to help settle your stomach. You might also find some good teas to settle your stomach by making a quick trip to the nearest Vitamin Shoppe, or to another vitamin store in your area.  

13. INGROWN TOENAILS 

If you have ingrown toenails, your shoes or socks might be too tight. Ingrown toenails can also be caused by wearing high heels, or not trimming your toenails correctly, so remember to always trim your toenails straight across. Don’t make the sides rounded. Training your skin is another great way to cure or prevent problems with ingrown toenails. Apply lotion every evening, and push the skin away from the sides of your toenail. Your goal is to free the tip of your nail by pulling your skin to the side. Try soaking your feet several times a day in warm water also. Another suggestion is to run a strand of thin dental floss back and forth between your toenail and your skin, once you have separated the two.

To prevent ingrown toenails, remember to wear absorbent, natural fiber socks, or socks made of modern moisture wicking materials. Change your shoes and socks as often as possible, and see your doctor if the problem does not resolve itself quickly. If you are a diabetic, talk with your doctor to confirm that it is okay to cut your own toenails, and about the best method to use when cutting your toenails if you are a diabetic, because your doctor may want you to cut your toenails to the shape of your toes, and not straight across.

14. INSECT BITES

It’s hard to get through summer, without at least a mosquito bite or a bee sting. Unless you have an allergic reaction to a bee sting, for example, you can usually treat yourself at home without making a trip to the emergency room.

Apply rubbing alcohol or ammonia immediately to the affected area to prevent pain and swelling. You can also try using cold packs to reduce swelling. If your skin is itching, try applying some calamine lotion or some rubbing alcohol to the area to stop the itching.

If the insect bite causes severe hives, redness, and heat, call your doctor. If red streaks appear on your skin, moving away from the bite site, or if you experience shortness of breath, get immediate medical attention. WebMD’s insect bite diagnosis section offers a great guide for home treatment and deciding whether you need to seek help for your insect bite.  

15. INSOMNIA

Are you having a hard time sleeping or staying asleep? You might try drinking a cup of chamomile tea. This is an old remedy that works really well. You might also try listening to subliminal videos or downloading audio tracks from YouTube for relaxation. If you download audio tracks for relaxation, try plugging a sleep mask into your listening device, and placing the sleep mask over your eyes to block out light while you listen, to help you drift off to a peaceful night’s sleep and to block out excess noise. If you have a TV in your bedroom, consider moving your TV out of your bedroom, or turning it off before you go to sleep. Considering purchasing blackout curtains to block light from coming into your bedroom. Another suggestion would be to turn on a ceiling fan to use as white noise and to create a peaceful atmosphere for sleep.

16. MENSTRUAL CRAMPS

Menstrual cramps are caused by contractions in the uterus during the female monthly menstrual cycle. If you are a female and you suffer from cramps each month, try wearing loose fitting clothing. You might also try some herbal tea, such as green tea, ginger tea, or a tea that you can purchase in a vitamin store to relieve cramps. Also try a heating pad with an automatic shut-off option, in case you fall asleep after placing it on your stomach or your lower back overnight. Contrary to old wives’ tales, a hot bath might help also.

17. NASAL CONGESTION

Nasal congestion is usually caused by a cold or seasonal allergy. If you have nasal congestion from a cold or seasonal allergies, you can use natural saline spray. A few squirts to each nostril will moisten your nasal passages and help with inflammation.  

18. POISON IVY

If you go camping in the summertime, for example, you might accidentally come in contact with poison ivy. Some people are immune to the effects of this plant, but if you are not immune to poison ivy, it can cause itching, skin rash, blisters, and shortness of breath, among other conditions.

A common home cure that you can try is calamine. You can also try an oatmeal bath with Epsom salt. Consider trying a paste of cold coffee and baking soda, or rubbing a banana peel or watermelon rind over your skin rash.

If your rash extends to the eyes or your mucous membranes, or if you have a fever, trouble breathing or swallowing, or puss-filled blisters, you need to see a physician immediately. Here is an excellent link for poison ivy treatment and prevention information.

19. ROUGH DRY SKIN

There are many reasons why you might have rough dry skin. You might be washing your hands frequently or dry weather may cause your skin to become rough or dry. To moisturize your skin, check your kitchen cabinet and see if you have any olive oil in your kitchen. If so, rub some olive oil lightly on your skin to get some instant relief.  

20. SORE MUSCLES

If you’ve been standing on your feet all day, or you just ache all over from exercising or working outdoors, for example, try pouring some Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) into a warm relaxing bath.  

Can you think of some more home remedies? Feel free to add some more home remedies to our Facebook page. If you’d like to learn more about different areas of healthcare, follow the Avidity Medical Design Blog for news you can use about many different healthcare subjects. If you’re interested in pursing a career in healthcare, or you’re interested in learning about healthcare-related subjects, such as how to prevent disease by eating fruits and vegetables, enroll in the fruits and vegetables course offered by Avidity Medical Design Academy. Visit our website for more information on the many different courses that we offer.

new healthcare job with doctors speaking in hallway

5 Ways to Be Successful on Your First Day on the Job as a Healthcare Professional

new healthcare job with doctors speaking in hallway

The first day on a job is stressful. You want to present yourself as responsible and enthusiastic. Here are five tips so you can make the best impression possible in your new healthcare position. 

Be On Time

Arriving late on your first day gives the wrong first impression. You want to start out on the right foot, and you want your immediate supervisor, as well as her manager, to know they made the right decision by hiring you, rather than another candidate with similar qualifications. So, give yourself some extra time when you start your commute. It is better to arrive too early than too late; if you arrive too early, you can always stop and grab a cup of coffee or pick up a breakfast sandwich if you need to kill some extra time. You will feel a lot calmer if you can start your day without feeling rushed. It is also a good idea to stay a little bit later if it looks like you are needed. There will be a lot to absorb and staying late shows you are a team player. 

Be Professional

People expect professional dress in the healthcare environment, especially if you work in management. So dress professionally. Also, it is important to interact with people in a professional manner. You want to look people in the eye, smile, give a firm handshake, and employ active listening. Refrain from joking around until you know people better. For more thorough recommendations, enroll in our course entitled, “How to Learn Professionalism in Healthcare (with REAL-WORLD Examples).”

Ask Questions

Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. You won’t learn everything the first day. There’s a lot to learn, in terms of the processes and procedures that you need to follow to do the job effectively, so go easy on yourself. Ask as many questions as you can think of, and keep a notepad nearby to write down the answers, so you don’t have to ask the same question twice after you receive the answer to your question the first time. You don’t want to pester your supervisor with questions but you do need to know what you are supposed to do. In addition, asking questions shows you are interested in learning the job. If you don’t have a notepad nearby, open your phone and add a note as a memo to yourself. When you compile a list of the questions that you asked, and the answers you received (and the person that gave you the answer in case there are any contradictions in the answers you receive), make a copy of your questions and answers and keep them all in a safe place.

Take A Break 

You will have an opportunity for a break at some point in the day. Although it may be tempting to skip the break (or skip lunch) in order to make yourself look committed, take the break and take lunch. Your first day on the job can be stressful and overwhelming, especially when you are working in the healthcare environment, and especially if your new job involves dealing directly with patients, nurses, physicians, and upper-level management. Use your break to regroup and relieve some stress during on your first day. Taking a short walk and some deep breaths are always a good idea. If co-workers ask you to go to lunch take advantage of the invitation. It is an opportunity to get to know people better and gain more information about the job you’ll be doing, other people that you will be working with, either directly or indirectly, the environment that you’ll be working in, and some things you can do get up to speed quickly with the job you’ll be doing.

Expect The Unexpected

You never know what your first workday might be like. Hospitals, clinics, and doctor’s offices are often busy environments where everything does not go as planned. So reach out to your supervisor if you need help, and be prepared to “go with the flow” when learning your new job, especially since your job might be slightly different than the job description posted online or in a newspaper ad.

The first day in a healthcare setting sets the stage for your work experience. Your attitude and preparedness go a long way toward achieving a favorable outcome. If you want to thrive in the world of healthcare, visit the Avidity Medical Design Blog to read more articles to help you succeed the first day on your new job in healthcare.

doctor examining woman in doctor's office

Everything You Need to Know About HIPAA

If you work in the field of healthcare, you’ve more than likely heard of HIPAA law. HIPAA stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. This law was put into place to protect the privacy and rights of patients and to safeguard patient medical information. Whether you work in the medical industry, or you just want to understand how your medical information is being protected and secured, you need to understand HIPAA law and how it affects the use of patient information and the transmission of electronic medical records.

What is HIPAA Law?

HIPAA was originally passed in the United States and signed into law on August 21, 1996. The main purpose of HIPAA is to protect and sevure patient medical data, as well as patient insurance information, and other personal information. There are three parts to HIPAA: The Privacy Rule, The Security Rule, and the Breach Notification rule. The Privacy Rule defines PHI, Protected Health Information, as “any information held by a covered entity which concerns health status, the provision of healthcare, or payment for healthcare that can be linked to an individual.” This rules was later updated on April 21, 2005, to address electronic Protected Health Information (ePHI). The Security Rule covers how patient information is protected. The third part of HIPAA, the Breach Notification Rule, pertains to what constitutes a breach of security and the steps that need to be taken if a security breach occurs and a patient’s medical information is illegally accessed. If you work in healthcare in any capacity, whether as a doctor, nurse, transcriptionist, receptionist, or even at home as a medical coder, medical writer, or medical claims examiner, you must comply with HIPAA privacy, security, and breach notification guidelines. Mandatory compliance means that anyone who works in the healthcare industry and has access to patient data must take any precautions that are necessary to remain HIPAA compliant.

What Are The Objectives of HIPAA?

HIPAA was created with the following objectives:

  • to “improve the portability and accountability of health insurance coverage” for employees between jobs
  • to combat waste, fraud and abuse within the healthcare and health insurance industries
  • to promote the use of medical savings accounts through tax breaks
  • to provide insurance coverage for employees with pre-existing medical conditions
  • to simplify health insurance administration

The Privacy and Security Rules were put into place to ensure that:

  • a patient has the right to control access to their own health information
  • a patient is not required to disclose information about any healthcare they receive that is privately funded
  • all healthcare providers take the necessary steps to determine how patient information is disclosed, whether the disclosure is in the form of physical documentation or electronic transmission
  • the patient grants permission to use their personal information for marketing, fundraising, or research purposes

Since HIPAA has changed the way that doctors, nurses, and staff handle patient medical records, insurance information, and personal data, let’s take a look at what you need to know about complying with HIPAA law, especially if you are interested in pursuing a career in healthcare.

How Do I Comply with HIPAA in the Medical Office?

If you are working in the healthcare field, or you’re thinking about working in the healthcare field, it’s important to comply with HIPAA in the medical office, as well as in your home office if you are working remotely. Here’s how to remain HIPAA compliant:

  • Keep patient records out of public reach. Make sure paper records aren’t left in open areas with public access. If the patient’s records are on a computer, make sure the monitor is facing away from a public area, or invest in a privacy screen. If the computer is in a public area, remember to sign off from your computer if you step away from your desk.
  • Be careful not to reveal personal information about patients to other patients, or to anyone else who is not directly involved with the patient’s healthcare.
  • Do not sell or otherwise release patient information to third parties. This violates HIPAA law.
  • Obtain consent from the patient themselves before releasing information to any unknown party, if someone other than the patient asks for the patient’s medical records or personal information.
  • Protect the unique access ID and password that you use to sign on to your PC, especially if you have access to individual patient charts. This is important to ensure that any information being accessed is accessed only on a need-to-know basis.
  • Ensure that you are only releasing PHI or ePHI to individuals with the right to access it – either the patient him or herself, their medical provider, or anyone the patient has allowed to have access to their medical records. Failure to comply with the HIPAA Privacy, and Security, and Breach Notification Rules places the healthcare organization – whether it is a doctor’s office or an insurance company – at risk of enforcement action which can include fines, loss of license, or loss of ability to provide insurance to patients. If an individual employee contributed to any violations, it also will put him or her at risk of disciplinary action, job loss, or even government fines. 

In summary, the important thing to remember is that patients trust their healthcare providers and staff to protect their privacy and treat their medical records and personal information with the utmost respect and discretion. Whether you are pursuing a career in the healthcare industry or you are already working in the healthcare field, consider enrolling in the course entitled “How to Learn Professionalism in Healthcare (with REAL-WORLD Examples!)” offered by Avidity Medical Design Academy. You might also consider the course entitled, “How to Read Your Own Medical Record (Learn What is in YOUR Medical Files!) ” learn more about HIPAA law from the patient’s perspective, as well as from the perspective of working in the healthcare field. Visit the Avidity Medical Design Academy website to enroll in each of these courses, as well as other courses that might help you become successful in the field of healthcare.


woman in job interview

How to Do Well at a Healthcare Job Interview

woman in job interview

Whether you’re fresh out of school, beginning a career change, or just looking for a new job in healthcare, you need to be prepared to do well at your interviews. You may already know the basics of a good interview, but there are some additional tips that can help you when you interview specifically for a job in healthcare.

Showcase Relevant Experience

Relevant experience doesn’t have to be limited to experience in healthcare itself. Healthcare jobs are highly specialized, and you may not have as much experience in the exact position you’re applying for, but you may still have experience in other areas that may qualify you for a position in healthcare – experience that you can still use during the initial stages of the interview. To be successful in healthcare, you must have good experience with interpersonal communication, for example, so be sure to emphasize the steps you took to acquire this experience, and how you can use this experience in the healthcare position that you are applying for. Maybe you handled difficult customers with grace and patience as a customer service representative, or maybe you found different ways to connect with people as a telemarketer. Attention to detail is another element of previous experience that you can transfer over from many different types of work. Don’t be shy about discussing your past experience in other fields as long as you can connect it directly to the healthcare position that you are interviewing for.

Be Specific

Your interviewer is looking for the best fit for a particular healthcare position. When you showcase your relevant experience, and you discuss your previous skills, be as specific as possible. When discussing a previous internship or a previous job, remember to talk about specific situations where you demonstrated skills that apply to the job in healthcare that you are interviewing for, and how you developed those skills. Did you help implement a new filing system as an intern? Did you discover a recordkeeping error at a retail job? Did your supervisors consistently mention your people skills or your attention to detail? These are great points to bring up, and will help an interviewer determine how well your skills align with the job that you are applying for in healthcare.

Don’t Forget the Basics

While interviewing in the healthcare field has its own challenges, the basic rules of interview etiquette still apply. Professionalism is key. Dress well, make good eye contact, and most of all, be on time. A day or so after the interview, follow up with a well-written “thank you” note and send it to the person who interviewed you. A note like this is not only polite, but it also keeps you fresh in the interviewer’s mind, especially when they have scheduled interviews with multiple candidates for the same position. In your note, be specific about your interview experience, and include your thoughts about the interviewer and what you learned about the position that you interviewed for. Remember that the note should read like a “thank you” note and not like a cover letter for the interview.

Visit the Avidity Medical Design blog to learn more about healthcare, as well as healthcare courses offered by Avidity Medical Design Academy. The key is to get as much information as possible to help you prepare for the interview and to help you prepare for a future career in healthcare.

5 Ways to Market Yourself as a Virtual Medical Assistant

female virtual medical assistant using laptop computer

Whether you’re just beginning your journey as a virtual medical assistant or you’ve been working as a medical assistant for awhile, you may be interested in learning new ways to market yourself as a professional in the medical industry. Here are a few basic tools you can use to market yourself effectively as a virtual medical assistant.

Network

Meeting people in person and online are two of the best ways to get the word out about your skills as a virtual medical assistant. While you may be great at what you do, no one will know that if you do not tell them. Make sure the people in your circle know that you are actively looking for more clients.

Create a Compelling Email Signature

Anytime you send an email to anyone, make sure your email signature has a catchy tagline and other information that quickly highlights your expertise. If you have a link to your own virtual medical assistant website or social media platform, include that in your signature line as well. The easier you are to find, the more business you’re likely to earn.

Use Social Media

Facebook has a tool that allows you to run your own ad campaign. It’s very simple to do and can give your virtual medical assistant career a boost. You need to do your research to make sure you’re targeting the right audience, but once you have a few successful ads, your business could really become successful.

Start a Blog

It may not seem like a good way to earn business, but starting a blog about your experiences working as a virtual medical assistant is another tool you can use to spread the word about your business. You can even create a contact page so that potential clients know how to reach you should they ever have a need for your services.

Visit Medical Facilities

It may seem like a lot of legwork, but what better way is there to let medical personnel know that you’re looking for work than to walk right into their office and tell them? You can provide a brief explanation of how your services can benefit them, and leave a business card for the office manager. Even if an office already has all the staff they need, they may know someone who could really use your help.

For more information on how to take your career to the next level, visit the Avidity Medical Design blog today or enroll in the course entitled, “How to Use Social Media in Healthcare (with REAL-WORLD Examples!)” offered by Avidity Medical Design Academy

female doctor speaking to female patient in doctor's office

10 *More* Reasons Why You Should Be Your Own Advocate in the Doctor’s Office (Part II)

female doctor speaking to female patient in doctor's office

While your mom may be there to hold your hand at the doctor’s office well into adulthood (AND THERE’S NO SHAME IN THAT!), you are your own best advocate when you sit down to have a talk with your doc. 

1. You know your body.

Only you know if your heart flutters after exercise or if you have digestion problems. Another person cannot possibly know every ache and pain, and those details may be important to a diagnosis. The tiniest detail, provided by you, may narrow down a diagnosis and prevent even bigger problems. 

2. You need to be informed. 

Once you sit down with your doctor, you need to understand what they are telling you. If they bring up a body part or treatment option you don’t understand, you must ask what it means. Don’t rely on others to translate. You need to hear it directly from your doctor. 

3. You know your history. 

If you are an established patient, your physician may have a fairly accurate history. However, you may not have told them an important part of your surgical history or family history unless something makes you recall it. You have to be the person that communicates (if able) because only you know the intricate details your life. 

4. You have a choice.

Patient-centered care is all about choice, and you have the right to understand and approve any procedures. You cannot do this without being informed and active in your medical care. This is not to say don’t listen to your doctor, but if you don’t feel comfortable, there is nothing wrong with getting a second opinion. 

5. You chose your lifestyle. 

If you do not advocate for yourself, then you probably won’t make healthy decisions. Why get your blood pressure checked if you aren’t going to do anything if it is too high? Being your own advocate gets you involved in the process, and it forces you to take charge of your situation. 

6. You need to focus on prevention or treatment. 

Focusing on what to do next is nearly impossible if you aren’t your own advocate. If you aren’t involved in the medical process, you will not be able to adequately focus on prevention or treatment. This could be as minimal as neglecting to take a multivitamin or as crucial as taking too many beta-blockers, which could be deadly. 

7. You need to take control. 

Especially if you find a medical problem, life can seem hopeless if you aren’t your own advocate. You may feel completely out of control of your destiny. Being your own advocate empowers you to take control of the situation and focus on recovery. 

8. You can only depend on yourself. 

Sure, you may have a very dependable friend or family member, but you can only depend on yourself when it comes to your healthcare. Having someone with you is not a bad idea if you are comfortable and have the right sort of person, but don’t let that let you become complacent. Remember: This is about you, and you need to depend on yourself. 

9. You know what you want. 

One of the most important reasons to be your own advocate in your healthcare is that you are the only person who truly knows what you want. If you want to lower your cholesterol, listen to your doctor. If you want to lose weight, your doctor will have good resources. You have to choose what you want out of the appointment, and nobody else can do that for you. 

10. You want your appointment to be complete. 

Lastly, you want your appointment to completely alleviate any concerns. Don’t go home wishing you had asked your doctor an embarrassing question. Trust me, they’ve heard worse. Write down your questions, and have the courage to ask them. As your own advocate, you will feel satisfied when leaving the doctor’s office knowing that you covered everything.

To learn more about different healthcare topics that can help you take charge of your own healthcare, visit the Avidity Medical Design blog.

6 Ways to Be Your Own Advocate in the Doctor’s Office (Part I)

woman speaking with doctor in doctor's office

A visit to your doctor’s office can produce a wide range of emotions, such as dread, anxiety, fear, or even embarrassment. Approach your next doctor’s appointment a little differently by thinking of yourself as an advocate for your own healthcare.

Do Your Research

The first step in advocating for your own healthcare is research! If you’re looking for a doctor, research doctors online, and read reviews about each office. Don’t overlook this important step! Read the reviews for each office to understand the experiences of other patients who have chosen a particular doctor. Consider what others have to say about the doctor or the office when making your decision. Research the types of treatment available to you so that you’re able to make an informed decision. If you’ve already chosen a particular doctor, think about your symptoms or the purpose of your visit. Your doctor is a professional, but the amount of information available on the Internet means that you can be well-informed before you schedule an appointment with your doctor. Bring information on symptoms you have, or treatments you’re interested in receiving, so that your doctor can review the best options with you. In short: Take an active role in partnering with your doctor to make decisions about your own medical treatment.

Request Your Medical Records

As a part of educating yourself on your own health, request your own medical records, and learn what is in your medical files. Not only does this help you educate yourself on your medical needs, it also helps you quickly provide information to your providers, who may or may not collaborate with one another to provide the best care for you. Deciphering medical information is not always easy, so click here to learn how to read your own medical file.

Keep a Log

Whether you are managing your weight, blood pressure, sugar levels, mood, sleep, or something else entirely, keeping a log between doctor’s visits can be a valuable tool when making treatment decisions. On the spot, you may not always remember things accurately, or you might over- or under-report information based on how you’re feeling on a particular day, or you might doubt yourself when asked follow-up questions. Arming yourself with a list of blood pressure readings or the hours you’re sleeping at night, provides concrete information to support your concerns, and gives you a way to track any healthcare changes that might occur. 

Write Your Questions Down

Along with doing the research, write down questions that you have as you think of them. Keep a running note on your cell phone so you can add to it whenever something comes to mind. Keeping a note in your phone means that you’re less likely to forget to bring it with you to your next doctor’s appointment!

Arrive Early

Many medical offices won’t see you if you arrive late for your appointment. Even if you are seen, you or your doctor may feel rushed, and you may not be able to discuss everything you want to talk about. If you’re serious about your health, and you’ve put in the work to prepare for the visit to your doctor, leave a few minutes early to make sure you get to the office on time. You won’t regret it.

Hope for the Best, Prepare for the Worst

Hopefully, your doctor is thrilled by the information that you’ve collected, and the information that you’ve brought in, and partners with you to address your healthcare concerns. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Prepare what you would like to say in the event you feel as though you need to say more. Start small, like telling your doctor you don’t feel like your questions were answered, or that your concerns were fully addressed. In the event you’re still not satisfied, would you like to schedule an immediate follow-up appointment? Would you rather speak with a physician’s assistant or a nurse, who may have more time to spend with you? Would you like to request a referral to a specialist, or a referral to another medical professional for a second opinion? 

Ultimately, you are your biggest advocate when it comes to your health. Stay informed! For more information on healthcare topics that can help you become the best advocate you can possibly be for your own health, or the health of your family and friends, visit The Avidity Medical Design Blog.