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One of the things I love about UV Health Month is that it gives us an opportunity to look to the future and think long-term about how we are taking care of ourselves, our families, and the patients we ultimately serve.
Everyday we watch what we eat to maintain a healthy weight, try to get our exercise in for heart health, and take our vitamins to protect all of our other organs.
However, our skin – the largest organ in the human body – is often forgotten.
This month is all about skin health and protecting ourselves from harmful UV rays. More than that, though, UV Health Month is a chance for healthcare providers to build a strong line of communication with patients, instill helpful habits in staff members, and promote a culture of education throughout their institutions.
First, some quick background information.
Ultraviolet radiation (also referred to as UV rays) comes from the sun and other sources. These rays are invisible to the naked eye and can dramatically increase your risk of skin cancer if you are overexposed.
So what constitutes overexposure?
The answer to this question depends largely on your skin complexion. In 2015, the Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care published recommendations for limiting sun exposure based on skin type. Individuals with pale, easily-freckled skin should limit their time in the sun to under 10 minutes, whereas individuals with naturally dark skin should limit their exposure to less than 30 minutes.
However, many people are unaware of these recommendations and spend hours upon hours in direct sunlight on a regular basis – especially in the summer.
There are three kinds of UV rays: UVA, UVB, and UVC. UVC rays contain more energy than UVA and UVB rays, but they cannot penetrate the earth’s atmosphere, so they are not a cause for concern, thankfully.
UVA and UVB rays, on the other hand, are responsible for wrinkles, sunburns, and many types of skin cancer. They are able to damage the DNA within your skin cells and speed up the aging process.
Some of the most common health problems caused by UV radiation include:
Many people seeking that nice summer glow often turn to tanning beds as a replacement for sunbathing. However, tanning beds also produce UV radiation that can lead to the development of skin cancer.
In fact, even some types of halogen, fluorescent, and incandescent lights can give off UV radiation, meaning even those who prefer to stay indoors may be at risk.
Time to Act
Unfortunately, many people do not know their level of risk for UV radiation or how to protect themselves against the potential damage. Factors such as geography, altitude, time of day, weather, genetics, immune system function, and other influences all combine to affect each individual’s skin health.
That is where healthcare providers come in. It is up to medical experts to educate patients about the hazards of UV radiation and how to prevent issues such as skin cancer that may take many years to manifest.
Luckily, we have tools available to us that can make this process and our potential impact on patient health far more organized, efficient, and thorough.
The last thing healthcare providers need is another high-priority task to manage. Thankfully, with tools like NextGen EHR, physicians and their teams can ensure patients are receiving the education and healthcare reminders that could prevent UV radiation exposure and subsequent health threats with an automated patient portal.
Emphasis on Preventative Care
Preventative care is critical when it comes to protecting against skin cancer and other side effects of UV radiation overexposure. In fact, preventative care has become so important in the healthcare space that insurance companies would rather cover the costs of multiple patient visits per year than see patients develop more complex conditions down the road.
Using NextGen EHR IT solutions, healthcare providers can help patients develop the healthy habit of scheduling preventative care visits. Furthermore, these IT tools convey the message that you care about your patients and build trust, familiarity, and rapport with patients.
NextGen EHR has a built-in interface to access Medline Plus Connect, the U.S. National Library of Medicine’s online user-friendly education database.
Patients can access the information directly through their NextGen EHR patient portal. Information such as how to perform self-examinations, how to evaluate their risk of UV exposure, how to recognize skin problems, and how to prevent damage are all available through the system.
No more printing brochures or photocopying pamphlets. Instead, patients can access the information that is most important to them anytime.
To keep healthcare providers in the loop and EHRs up to date, the patient’s chart is automatically populated with information when the patient has been provided with the information via the patient portal.
Fewer Missed Appointments, Fewer Health Problems
NextGen’s EHR system also helps patients remember their appointments and helps healthcare providers by automating annual checkups and preventative care appointments.
Not only does the patient portal serve as a conduit to securely transmit information from physicians to patients and back again, but also the patient portal can encourage patients to schedule an appointment if they suspect they may be at risk for skin cancer, macular degeneration, or other types of UV radiation damage.
For example, after reading information on how to perform a self-examination for skin abnormalities, patients can be prompted to schedule an appointment with their doctor if they are worried about something they have noticed.
Not only will patients be grateful for catching any problems early or being informed that their signs of skin damage are benign, but also they will continue to keep tabs on a critical element of their health that is often overlooked.
Billing Efficiency & Accuracy
Once patients do come in for an appointment, the NextGen EHR system can help physicians be more thorough and efficient during patient visits.
Using built-in templates, doctors can record their findings. The NextGen EHR system ensures each physician is collecting all of the necessary information, saves time for doctors, and makes the billing process more accurate and prevents issues for reimbursement.
When it comes time to apply for grants, report population health data, or check on the overall progress of the community, the NextGen EHR system can be used to generate population health reports.
According to the American Cancer Society, “frequent sunburns in childhood may increase the risk for some types of skin cancer many years or even decades later.” During UV Health Month and throughout the year, it is critical that patients are well-informed of the risks of UV overexposure and how to prevent health threats later in life.
To learn more about how NextGen EHRs and other IT solutions can help you serve your patients more effectively and efficiently, contact us today.