Thursday, February 11, 2016

Healthcare: Is There An App For That?

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Multiple facets of healthcare have changed and evolved throughout the recent years to adapt to the changing technological advances and digital health landscape. As an ePatient and chronic disease fighter and advocate, the digital space is an incredible resource, friend, tool, and more. When I was first diagnosed, social media was a saving grace, in multiple ways. First of all, I had never even heard the words Ankylosing Spondylitis: searching the hashtag on Twitter opened up my eyes to an entire community. Secondly, social media made me feel less alone in a diagnosis that was not only uncommon, but also invisible. Having a sounding board of potentially international reach made me feel like my diagnosis, my future, and my quality of life were not so bleak. 

The digital space has been a source of immense growth for healthcare. With the emergence of digital pills to swallow that run tests for a physician, to telehealth and video visits, to Uber for your primary care doctor, healthcare innovation and technology is changing the face of the system and patient participation. Patients must be engaged in their healthcare. Patients have to demand to be seen as the experts in their own bodies. Wrapping those notions up with technological innovations produces a brand new day for our healthcare system. 

In fact, there are specific benefits to technology and chronic disease. The #mHealth movement poses a plethora of opportunity. For example, HIMMS reports "Chronic disease management poses as a way to utilize mHealth to help patients better manage their health. For example, remote monitoring devices can help patients record their own health status and instantaneously send images or information to physicians. This keeps patients out of the physician’s office, allows time for the physician with other patients or care-related activities, and ultimately helps reduce costs by keeping patients out of the hospital." Because chronic disease management drives such a large portion of healthcare costs, patient engagement and monitoring is key. 

With over 150 million Americans living with chronic illness, technology is more important than ever. Advances are being made every day, but there are a few key innovations that we all can look forward to experiencing. According to the National Health Policy Institute, 11 emerging technologies will change the way that we look at chronic diseases and healthcare. These include, but are not limited to: 

  • Tele-stroke care
  • Virtual visits
  • Mobile asthma management tools
  • In-car telehealth
  • Extended care eVisits
  • Mobile clinician decision support
  • Medication adherence tools
  • Social media promoting health
  • Mobile cardiovascular tools
  • Home telehealth
  • Mobile diabetes management tools

And so many more. The benefits of these tools not only address the emotional health of chronic illness patients, but they also address the physical technicalities, disease management, healthcare costs, and improved quality of care and quality of life. Healthcare technology is using a well-rounded approach of mobile platforms, data analytics, social networking, and telehealth to manage and monitor all types of chronic patients, including at-risk populations and the underserved. 

When talking to other chronic disease patients, there is an overarching agreement. There is a general camaraderie on what we want from technology. We want to feel connected. We want to feel less alone. We want to learn more about our diagnoses. We want to be as informed as possible on our treatments, our medications, the side effects, and our options. A small smattering of insight:

  • "Support from people who GET IT. I would be so, so lost without that."
  • "It's great to be able to reach out, real time."
  • "Having the internet and access to current research around the WORLD completely changed the game for me. And having my genome sequenced. And of course making, and keeping, supportive connections."
  • "Support. Research. Helping others who I know how to help but don't live close to is huge."
  • "Without the ability to message on my smartphone to communicate with doctors and case managers I would be LOST."

What can we expect from the innovation industry? What will healthcare look like with these advances? 



About the author: 
Kristin Coppens is a social media and digital communications professional, a health activist, an ePatient, and a multiple chronic diseases fighter and blogger. You can read more about her chronic illness journey on her blog, Chronically Kristin, or follow her on Twitter.
She will also be joining us this year at ePharma as an official guest blogger sharing insights from the event.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

What #ChronicSex has taught me

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Self-love, self-care, relationships, and sex or sexuality all tend to fall to the backburner when patients are living with illness. The issue with that is that chronic illness lasts a lifetime. I have been ill since I was five-years-old. I cannot be expected to be non-sexual all my days.

It's just not going to happen.

Especially when I clean up so good

So, why aren't we discussing these topics in the chronic illness community more often?

At Medicine X in September, there was a panel on relationships and intimacy with illness. It was brought up that those with chronic illness wished that physicians would bring up Quality of Life (QOL) issues more often. Roni Zieger pointed out during a Q&A session that 1) physicians are not taught how to help with these things, and, 2) that physicians themselves may be facing difficulties in these areas due to many factors.

Working for a group of pediatricians, I can certainly see validity especially in the last point. I watch the physicians I work with work sometimes 15 hour days a few times a week between clinical and administrative work. It's amazing.

Sex especially is a taboo topic. Those of us living with disabilities are often infantilized by those around us, or it's assumed that we don't want/need sex. I am sure that part of that has to do with the fact that very few of us bring up these issues ourselves, save myself, Mariah Leach, and a few others.

It's all so wrong.


My answer to this was to start a chat that runs Thursday nights from 7-9 pm ET on Twitter - #ChronicSex. We discuss topics from mindfulness and activities for building self-love to masturbation to dealing with the caregiver/caregivee dynamic in a relationship to full-on getting it on as we discussed last week.

In the few weeks since the chat started, I have learned a lot about others and myself.

One thing I already knew from my experiences as a sex-positive feminist and chronically ill women was that partners may not initiate sex because they're worried about our pain levels. Our medications also affect our sex lives, whether they directly impact libido or cause issues like vaginal dryness or extreme fatigue and nausea.

I'd rather not vomit on my husband.


As a society, we don't discuss pleasure in regards to women often either, whether that's masturbation or sex. When you consider that the majority of people with certain chronic illnesses are female, this is really bad.

On a more emotional level, our partners can be quite dismayed about our illnesses. They mourn what our lives may have been in the past and feel both downtrodden and helpless because they can't solve our pain.

Those of us with illnesses also tend to focus on how inadequate we are. It's put in our face in many ways, even when we see pharmaceutical ads for medications that failed us.

Perhaps what I've learned the most during the weeks this chat has gone on is how much our ability to be in a relationship affects our self-worth. As a younger woman, I felt the need to be in a relationship or I wasn't complete. Now that I'm married, it's easy for me to say that I wouldn't necessarily need one because I'm not in that position. The reality is that 1) my husband is my main form of support, and, 2) society tells us we grow up to have a family and provide for them. If going on dates is difficult due to our illnesses, this part of our lives is incomplete, leaving us feeling like bigger failures than before.

This can be especially true if we've had a relationship end due to illness as well.

And then we crave intimacy. Sex is a basic human need and without it, many struggle.

I've also learned a lot about myself.


Talking about sex and sexuality has been a passion of mine since high school. I volunteered with Planned Parenthood, helped get people educated about sex, and was always that person who had condoms to hand out just in case.

This chat has renewed my passion for health advocacy in a way I wasn't sure was possible.

It's also opened a door for the open discussion of sex, relationships, and other Quality of Life issues not commonly talked about. These issues heavily impact our lives and yet we stay silent because it isn't proper to discuss these things or we're damaged and should be happy that we're in a relationship at all.

I hope that, in openly talking about these issues, we can do more as patients to help each other and be able to explain issues to physicians and others more clearly.




About the author:

Kirsten Schultz is a health activist and blogger. You can read more about her life living with multiple chronic illnesses on her blog, on Creaky Joints, or follow her on Twitter.  


She will also be joining us this year at ePharma as an official guest blogger sharing insights from the event. 

Monday, February 8, 2016

Oh, The Problems Connectivity Can Solve!

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This is the sixth entry in a series of blogs for ePharma Summit 2016 to explore ways the pharmaceutical industry can maximize the promise of digital health.
How many times have you heard the term “silo” in reference to your organization? I’m going to bet your answer is: More than once. No matter whether your organization is hanging on to its outdated org chart or not, those days are in the rearview mirror. The walls are coming down not just inside your organization. They are coming down among industry sectors and geographic areas, as well.

The interconnectivity and connection among healthcare payers, providers, industry and patients are organic. Simply, individuals are hyperconnected, and so the environments where they live, work, play and heal are, by extension, hyperconnected, too.

What Hyperconnectivity Means to Health Care

Within Provider Organizations: Work groups and teams throughout an organization can literally always be on the same page, because that page is electronic. Ideally, entries and updates in documentation of all types are instantaneous across teams and within them. For patient care, providers are working off the latest information across the organization whether that information is clinical or claims related. We aren’t there yet, but we can see it from here.

Among Provider Organizations: When interoperability is in place, providers will be working off the latest information across health systems, across the country and eventually around the world. We aren’t there yet, either. The barriers will be more regulatory and legal than technological, but it’s possible.

Outside Provider Organizations: Patients and the industries that support them are rapidly becoming integrated into provider health systems via their digital imprint. Eventually, when the walls come down and the proper security is in place, patient connectivity to their record through their biometric device(s) provides real time feedback and recommendations to maintain wellness and manage illness. Industries that support the health system, including biopharmaceuticals, are beginning to understand and develop ways to leverage the connectivity advantage and provide support to providers and patients as 24/7 patient management approaches.

The pace of change is exponential. Just because it took us 30 years to get here from the birth of the Internet, does not mean change will continue at that pace. The mere fact of hyperconnectivity accelerates progress at a mind-boggling rate. If you can imagine it, it is happening somewhere already.

Sales, marketing, product research and development, patient care, provider access to patient and clinical information and payment systems are mutually supportive in a hyperconnected environment. When the health system is integrated into the fabric of an individual’s daily life and into the fabric of society, it erodes silos that interfere with optimal care.

 The harbingers are already in place.


Peggy Salvatore MBA is a healthcare writer and trainer specializing in pharmaceutical managed markets sales training and health IT. She also has authored books and training programs on leadership and working with subject matter experts. You can read her blogs at www.healthsystemed.com and www.workingwithsmes.com

Friday, February 5, 2016

The Forgotten Organ?

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Individuals who battle multiple chronic diseases are more than familiar with having to juggle symptoms that fall on various parts of the body and points on the health continuum. There might be a central disorder with the spine, but that can affect the lungs since the rib cage is connected to the spine, the head with spinal headaches, the heart with decreased flexibility, the stomach and intestines with increased inflammatory diseases, etc. So, we've covered the spine, the heart, the lungs, the stomach, the intestines, but if you notice, we have missed one key ingredient here. The brain.


When treating and managing chronic diseases, physicians and the overall care team are typically stellar at understanding the physical symptoms associated with the disease; however, there remains a large hole in care and whole body health management. What about our mental health? I asked fellow chronic disease fighters what they believed there care team does well, or what their team misses, when it comes to their mental health.


One thing that I have noted over the last 10 years with Crohn's Disease is that although there are treatment methods, like Remicade, doctor's don't always take the whole picture into account. I also have problems with my back, my skin, and my hip joints. It's wonderful that these things can be treated, more or less individually, but I've really had to take it on myself to try and think more holistically. It seems so obvious to me that all of these issues are connected, but sometimes that isn't the way it's perceived. ---Rori Leigh Meyer

I can go on for ages on this, but here's a real life illustration of the problem: I have a handful of people I see, but the two I see most frequently are a rheumatologist and a psychiatrist. Rheumatologist: asks nothing about my mental health, other than checking medications and possible interactions. Psychiatrist: asks about physical health, physical symptoms that could be related to mental illness, and vice versa. We talk a lot about stress. I only have that "luxury" having been diagnosed with mental illness prior to "physical" illness. For those who may just be struggling or in need of emotional support, stress management, but not with a clearly evident mental illness, in the current environment it's a crapshoot. ---Cyrena Gawuga

Being newly diagnosed with a chronic disease I feel that the doctor doesn't always listen when I tell him how I'm feeling and what's bothering me. It gets brushed off sometimes as oh it could be something else. It's not related to your illness blah blah blah. But in turn this hurts my mental health and becomes frustrating and you feel alone. Like a liar sometimes. And I feel mental health at least for me magnifies other symptoms and or the underlying issue itself which makes mental health and physical health worse. I have not been diagnosed with any mental health issues but I have felt at times my mental health is poor. ---Chris Bronner

Very little focus on it in world of diabetes/celiac; oddly enough, endocrinologist failed to see vitamin D deficiency=depression for me. ---Brianna Wolin


Cyrena, above, brought up another key point: mental illnesses are also chronic illnesses. When I say that I myself suffer from 7 different chronic diseases, I include Depression and Anxiety in that list. This may not be the case for everyone, but for me my mental health and my physical health play a cyclical role with each other. They play off one another: when my depression is bad, my physical health gets worse, and when my physical health is bad, my depression gets worse. Additionally, when both of those issues occur, my anxiety increases. Mental illness is only addressed when I'm seeing a psychologist. I can probably count on one hand how many times my other physicians have inquired about my mental health. I have even had many "cry for help" moments, blunt emails saying that I was really struggling, but it was met with a nonchalance as "part of the deal" of my disease.

In fact, many pieces of literature link the occurrence of chronic pain and mental health, specifically depression. From WebMD:
-According to the American Pain Foundation, about 32 million people in the U.S. report have had pain lasting longer than one year.
-From one-quarter to more than half of the population that complains of pain to their doctors are depressed.
-On average, 65% of depressed people also complain of pain.
-People whose pain limits their independence are especially likely to get depressed.


How do we start talking about mental health in the same breath as diabetes, or arthritis, or other diseases? I encourage everyone to share their story. It's tough to be open, and transparent, but I remind myself of this: if one person can feel less alone, if one person can feel empowered, then my daily struggle is validated, and maybe even diminished just that much.

Share your story. Be a voice. Our voices are what will make change in the system. 





About the author: 
Kristin Coppens is a social media and digital communications professional, a health activist, an ePatient, and a multiple chronic diseases fighter and blogger. You can read more about her chronic illness journey on her blog, Chronically Kristin, or follow her on Twitter.
She will also be joining us this year at ePharma as an official guest blogger sharing insights from the event. ePharma will take place February 29 - March 2, 2016 in New York City. As a reader of this blog, when you register to join us with priority code EPHARMA16BL, you can save $100 off current rates!


Thursday, February 4, 2016

See Who's Attending ePharma 2016

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With ePharma 2016 only a few weeks away, on February 29-March 2, it seems as if anyone who's anyone in the pharma marketing world is coming-except YOU!

ePharma brings you three days of strategic and tactical learning, peer exchange, and dialogue that actively dissects current trends, marketplace needs, evolving customer bases, and explains how you can harness these new opportunities to build stronger, more cost efficient marketing campaigns.

Join the growing list of ePharma attendees from...


3M Drug Delivery Systems Division
About.com
AccentHealth
Actavis
AdhereTech
AlertMarketing Inc
Alliance Health
Amgen
Aquent
ASPiRA LABs, a Vermillion Company
Astellas Pharma
AthenaHealth
Bayer
Biogen
Bristol-Myers Squibb
BTG International Inc
Butler/Till
C Space
Cadient
Closerlook Incorporated
Cohen Health
Communications Media Inc
Concentric Healthcare LLC
Confideo Labs
Crossix Solutions
Curatio
Daiichi Sankyo
Doctor on Demand
Dovetail Health
Eli Lilly & Co
Endo Pharmaceuticals
Epocrates
Epsilon
Espero Pharmaceuticals
Evolution Road Consulting
Facebook Health
FCB Health
Ferring Pharmaceuticals Inc
Fisher Clinical Services
Flashpoint Medica
Gilead Sciences
GlobalData
Google Incorporated
Grifols Inc
Hashtag
Hospira a Pfizer Company
IDC Health Insights
Intouch Solutions
Ironwood Pharmaceuticals Inc
Janssen Biotech Inc
Janssen Pharmaceutical Inc
Janssen Therapeutics
Johnson & Johnson
Leerink Partners LLC
Leo Pharma Inc
LevLane
Lexalytics
Lilly
Lundbeck LLC
M3 USA Corporation
Makovsky & Co
McCann Human Care
MedImmune
MedPoint Digital
MedSphere
Medtronic
Merck
Meredith
Merz
Merz Pharmaceuticals GmbH
Mylan Pharmaceuticals Incorporated
Neon an FCB Health Company
New York Presbyterian
Not Standing Still's Disease
Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp
OPEN Karachi
Opera Mediaworks
Oracle Marketing Cloud
Pfizer
PhillyCooke Consulting
Point of Care Partners
Publicis Health Media
Purdue Pharma LP
QualityHealth
Redi-Data
RepEquity
Savor Health
SensisHealth
Shionogi Inc
Shire
Siemens Healthcare
Spredfast Inc
SSCG Media Group
Sunovion Pharmaceuticals Inc
SuperBetter
Takeda Pharmaceuticals USA Inc
Tecnoquimicas
Ten Health
Teva Pharmaceuticals
TGaS Advisors
The Authentic Storytelling Project
The Stupid Cancer Show
Thomas Jefferson University
Twitter
UCB Incorporated
Univision
Veritas Health
Vitiello Communications Group
WEGO Health
West Pharmaceutical Services
Zipdrug
ZS Associates


Register now with the code EPHARMA16BL and save $100 - Click here to register!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Free Tech Geek Resources to Prep for ePharma Summit 2016

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This is the fifth in a series of blogs for ePharma Summit 2016 to explore ways the pharmaceutical industry can maximize the promise of digital health.

Everywhere you look this year, all the talk is about “digital” health. That’s no surprise because today almost everything in life is digital. We’re all about connectivity as a human culture and nowhere will this development have more positive impact than in the way we practice personal and professional healthcare.

Wearables, IoT, genetic personalization, data management and analytics…they all tie into the massive potential of collecting health information from a wide variety of sources and parsing it in a way that promotes lower cost, higher quality healthcare. From a 30,000 foot view, it sounds so simple and logical. Don’t be fooled. We have to build a lot of rocket platforms before we’re going to launch this baby.

On the ground, staid, old healthcare businesses and crazy, innovative individuals are working hard together to find the best ways to leverage the digital advantage in healthcare. That’s why I am looking forward to spending three days in Manhattan from Feb. 29 to March 2 at the ePharma Summit 2016 . The schedule is packed with education and discussions with key decision makers. I’ll be blogging out of the sessions and talking to people during the event.

For nearly 20 years, I’ve been studying the impact of technology on healthcare and now the whole field is breaking wide open. In preparation for the event, I am reading the thought leaders in this space.

Get Up To Speed Quickly

If you really want to hang out on the precarious leading edge of healthcare technology, spend a few minutes reading Peter Diamandis’ email each week. Diamandis, who got a master’s in rocket science at MIT and an MD from Harvard, went on to challenge himself. He has a lot of credits to his name including two inspirational and groundbreaking books, Abundance and Bold. He is Chairman and Co-Founder with Ray Kurzweil (The Singularity is Near) of Singularity University, and Co-Founder with J. Craig Venter (The Human Genome Project) and Vice Chairman of Human Longevity Inc. HLI was founded with the goal of making 100 years old “the new 60”. His weekly newsletter is a compilation of some of the leading-est of leading edge tech projects. You can go here to subscribe to his email, hear his podcasts, and learn more.

For those who want to stick a little closer to terra firma but still live on the edge of what is possible in healthcare, check out Fard Johnmar of Enspektos. Johnmar is a digital health futurist and author of ePatient2015: 15 Surprising Trends Changing Healthcare. He puts out some free educational materials and a daily newsletter that I can recommend. He has a resource, The Digital Health Innovator’s Mini-Handbook that is well worth a few minutes of your time.

For a bit of perspective on all this excitement, PharmaVOICE featured a thought leader retrospective this month on where healthcare has been since the magazine’s inception. The article states

When PharmaVOICE launched 15 years ago, Facebook was but a twinkle in Mark Zuckerberg’s eye and the rest of the social media channels that are dominating our conversations today as they relate to online access to patients, physicians, consumers, and other stakeholders were also still on the drawing boards in living rooms around the country. These media, which started as consumer-based vehicles have morphed into powerful mechanisms for life-sciences companies for not only delivering communications, but understanding customers’ perspectives on any number of topics. And while final guidelines for online or social media practices have yet to be officially sanctioned, not surprisingly pharma companies — for the most part — still look for solid footing from a regulatory standpoint. Despite continuing hesitation and the full embrace of these vehicles, online is not only here to stay but growing more powerful every day.

Digital is taking the industry by storm as well. Most people have in their possession more computing power than NASA had to launch the first space capsule in the 1960s, and it fits in our hands. Our cell phones, and who really uses them for talking anyway, have the capabilities that were science fiction-oriented 15 years ago.

As part of the technology revolution, only superseded in the estimation of some experts by the industrial revolution of more than 250 years ago, in terms of a far-reaching impact has been the emergence of the concept of big data and all its associated analytics, segmentation, cloud-based service bells and whistles.

Faster and Friendlier

It’s a wrap. The future of healthcare is firmly in the hands of the promise of technology to bring us quickly to solve the cost, quality, access triangle. It’s happening faster than most could have predicted, in a way that is more patient-friendly, and at a cost that most consumers are willing and able to pay.

If you have a smartphone, you’re a connected patient. Now, it’s time to look at health payers, providers and innovators to get all the rest of the pieces in place.

What piece of the healthcare tech solution fascinates you the most? The bioscience, the patient as connected consumer, the provider as cure-er and curator? What is the role of the payer? What is the proper role of government – Regulator? Arbiter? Facilitator?



 
Peggy Salvatore MBA is a healthcare writer and trainer specializing in pharmaceutical managed markets sales training and health IT. She also has authored books and training programs on leadership and working with subject matter experts. You can read her blogs at www.healthsystemed.com and www.workingwithsmes.com

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Can Mindfulness Help Physicians?

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There are a lot of misconceptions on what mindfulness is, which are recently being debunked as it grows in popularity:
Mindfulness is paying attention or noting whatever is happening in the moment with a gentle and open mind. It involves being present in the moment, the one you’re in right now. Mindfulness doesn’t involve chanting, bowing, sitting cross-legged, or burning incense.
Universities are teaching more about mindfulness and how it can combat the stress so prevalent in the quest for a post-secondary education. Meditation and mindfulness can not only lower stress but help us to focus and interact with others - and ourselves - in more compassionate ways. It also leads to better performance and balance in all aspects of life.


Medical centers and systems across the country are researching mindfulness and its impact on various aspects of our lives, most notably the University of Wisconsin's Center for Healthy Minds.

Okay, I may be bias there as I work for the UW. Still, there's no denying that Dr. Richard Davidson is one of the biggest names in mindfulness research. He's even a friend of the Dalai Lama!

Knowing so much now about mindfulness, how can we apply it to the medical world?

There are, in fact, several medical schools that teach mindfulness as a part of their curriculum, including Brown, Duke, and Georgetown. I wish more schools did this, as getting a base for wellness early on is integral to physician and, ultimately, patient success. This is especially important when you note that 29% of young doctors are depressed.

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) points out that stress is at an all-time high for physicians. It affects everything from relationships to job satisfaction to even the will to live itself. Mindfulness can help to combat some of these stressful feelings by helping us to get more in touch with ourselves, to recognize emotions, and to cultivate calm and loving kindness.

That doesn't mean that there aren't barriers, but it's worth a try.

If you're interested, there are a ton of mobile apps out there to help us learn mindfulness and meditation. My favorite is Buddhify from Rohan Gunatillake, which has a specific section on pain and illness. I was recently featured in Rohan's new book, This is Happening, on how I use mindfulness to cope with difficult situations... namely, my chronic pain.





About the author:

Kirsten Schultz is a health activist and blogger. You can read more about her life living with multiple chronic illnesses on her blog, on Creaky Joints, or follow her on Twitter.  


She will also be joining us this year at ePharma as an official guest blogger sharing insights from the event. 

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Breaking News! Steve Case has been Confirmed as an ePharma Speaker

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Steve Case is one of the world's best-known and most accomplished entrepreneurs-a pioneer in making the internet part of everyday life, best known as the Co-Founder and former Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of America Online.

Steve Case, Former CEO of AOL; Chairman of Case Foundation and Revolution

Join Steve Case at ePharma Summit as he discusses the past, present and future of entrepreneurship. S. Case predicts that we're at the dawn of the next technological revolution unlike anything we've seen before-the Third Wave of the internet-and he offers attendees expertise, fresh perspectives, and critical advice on how to cope with these significant changes. Download the brochure to see who else is speaking at ePharma Summit here.

Register now to be there live and hear Steve Case explain the importance of partnering with fast-growing startups and how corporations-including large pharmaceuticals-can continue to succeed as significant innovations take hold.

Register for ePharma Summit with the code EPHARMA16BL and save $100.


Chronic Addict or Chronic Pain?

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"It's definitely broken, a hairline crack through the knuckle right there. You need to wear a half cast, so we will get you set up with one of those here. I can't give you any pain medication though; maybe just take Tylenol or Motrin when you get home, as needed."

That is a real-life statement, made by an Emergency Department physician after I broke my hand last weekend. Let's keep in mind that there is proof of a physical break, and I am a patient with multiple chronic diseases, including a widespread central pain disorder. So why was I denied justified pain medication?

About a year ago, new restrictions were placed on narcotic pain killers, like Norco, Vicodin, etc., as a response to "years of requests from the Drug Enforcement Administration, [or DEA], claiming the drugs were overprescribed, creating drug addictions, and too often diverted to the black market." As stated, prescription drug abuse is a huge problem in our country. The number of deaths or overdoses per year from prescription pain medications is nearing 16,000. These regulations impact the number of pills a patient can get, limit refills to zero, and require the patient to physically pick up the prescription from the physician and hand deliver it to the pharmacy, in some cases.

Let's add chronic pain into the picture, and explore the word stigma. Now, no one is arguing that these restrictions are not valid or that we don't have a prescription drug problem in this country. However, from my experience and the experiences of other patients I have spoken to, the regulations have caused real pain, real health conditions, real emergency injuries or ailments to not see relief or pain management. The stricter regulations are there for a reason, yes; however, we have not come up with a better solution or a screening process for those that need proper pain relief.

Well said by president of the U.S. Pain Foundation, Paul Gileno: "The person seeking relief from pain is not suffering from the same disease as a person who is an addict. Two separate diseases but it's hard to decipher because right away people associate pain patients with that group of addicts." In fact, the number of patients who have a real need for prescription painkillers far surpasses the number of people addicted to painkillers: over 100 million vs. 11 million, respectively.

I'm sure that I'm not alone in saying that I would rather have the ER run a urine test or toxicology screen than refuse to administer pain relief. That might not be the answer, and I don't know that I have one per se, but we have to stop refusing to open our eyes to the other population before us: the chronic disease fighters. 

How will you #StopTheStigma?





About the author: 
Kristin Coppens is a social media and digital communications professional, a health activist, an ePatient, and a multiple chronic diseases fighter and blogger. You can read more about her chronic illness journey on her blog, Chronically Kristin, or follow her on Twitter.
She will also be joining us this year at ePharma as an official guest blogger sharing insights from the event. ePharma will take place February 29 - March 2, 2016 in New York City. As a reader of this blog, when you register to join us with priority code EPHARMA16BL, you can save $100 off current rates!