10 Ways to Use Food As a Wonder-Drug for Mental Health

The 10 Rules of Food and Mood

In an astonishing study, UK mental health charity Mind found that making basic changes to diet can significantly reduce and in some cases totally eliminate the symptoms of mental illness. This includes anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. If you want to harness the power of food to become happier and reduce symptoms of mental ill health, follow as many of the following rules as you can.

1. Hydrate

Many of us spend most of our time being a bit dehydrated without realising it. We often mistake this low level thirst for hunger, so we snack instead of drink.

Ideally we should all be drinking eight medium sized glasses of water a day, or around 2 litres. Start small, aiming for 3 or 4 glasses / 1 litre a day and slowly crank it up over time.

Props can help – buying bottles of mineral water or always having a full jug and glass on your desk. Also, if the tap water in your area tastes bad, adding a bit of concentrated lemon juice makes it better. Also a filter jug can make tap water a whole lot nicer.

2. Cut Sugar

The sugar industry is a multi billion pound business. Just like the tobacco industry denied it posed any hard to health, there is too much profit to be made from sugar for the truth about how harmful it is to health, including mental health, to be fully recognised yet in public.

Because sugary food is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream it causes blood sugar spikes that can cause mood imbalance. Sugar also drains B vitamins from your body, and B vitamins are essential for maintaining good mental health.

Sugar is in almost all packaged food you buy. Check the labels of what you buy for just a week and you will be astonished at how much is sneaked into our food. Start by cutting out the obviously sugary things in your diet: sugary drinks, sweets, chocolate, cakes, puddings and biscuits. When you have done this, then begin to avoid it more generally. Make your own food as often as possible instead of buying it pre made. Cook batches of soups, stew and sauces and freeze them. Bring your own lunch to work instead of getting a sandwich from the shop (yes there is sugar even in a lot of the sandwiches we buy. It’s even in salt-and-vinegar crisps).

If you have a sweet tooth, I recommend buying Xylitol (looks like sugar, tastes like sugar, but doesn’t do the harm sugar does) from health shops, or using acacia honey. Acacia honey is the only honey that is not too sugar rich to be healthy.

2. Brown not white

Refined carbohydrates meaning white bread, pasta, rice and most processed foods use up the mood-enhancing B vitamins. So when it comes to grains and cereal, always opt for whole and brown, not refined and white. Whole grains have B6 – a key mental health nutrient.

3. Nuts and seeds

Sunflower seeds and peanuts have got a lot of B3, cashews and hazelnuts are good sources of B6, and flax seeds and pumpkin seeds are full of Omega 3s. Brazil nuts have a lot of selenium. All these nutrients plus the zinc and magnesium in seeds and nuts play a big role in strong mental health.

Toasting them under the grill and adding them to soups, salads, stews and bowls of breakfast cereal is the easiest way of getting extra nuts and seeds into your diet without having to feast on birdseed.

4. Eat the right meat

Vitamin B6 – another mental health vitamin – can be found in meats but avoid processed meat, it’s not only linked to poor mental health but also to cancer. Unprocessed chicken and turkey are excellent sources of the nutrient and they also have tryptophan, an amino acid that boosts serotonin production – a lack of serotonin causes problems with mental health. Fish, especially mackerel, herring and salmon will give you a good dose of B12, which like all the other B vitamins is vital in your regular diet if you are going to have the best mental health possible. Vitamin B12 deficiency have been linked to extreme mood disorder. Also cod, salmon, snapper, trout and tuna have a lot of B6. If you are a vegetarian you should consider supplementing your B vitamin intake with vitamin pills.

5. More Fruit and Vegetables

Best rule of thumb with fruit and vegetables is go for as much variety and colour as you can and to also make sure that dark green leafy vegetables are eaten every day.

The magnesium that you get in dark green leafy vegetables has a chemical similarity to lithium, a common drug treatment for serious mood disorders. Vitamin b9, also known as folic acid is found in dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, watercress, cabbage and broccoli. Without enough b9, mental well-being is compromised.

Sweet peppers, spinach, baked potatoes with their skin, green peas, yams, broccoli, asparagus are excellent sources of vitamin B6.

High levels of mental health nutrient Vitamin C can come from eating a lot of fruit and vegetables too.

Garlic has anti anxiety and anti depressant qualities, so if you like it, eat it a lot. (Roast it, crush it into salad dressings or add it to sauces and stews).

6. Include beans, peas and pulses

Chick peas, kidney beans, lentils and soya beans are vitamin B6-rich. A single serving of any of these each day can lower the risk of bipolar. If you are a veggie, they are a great source of the tryptophan you’ll be missing from poultry and fish.

7. Reduce dairy

Cow dairy can cause symptoms of mental illness so it’s good to cut back on it. Cow dairy protein (bovine casein) – causes a slight immune reaction in a lot of people. There is a correlation between people with bipolar diagnoses and casein intolerance, and studies have shown that reducing dairy, along with the other rules of food and mood that I list here, was effective at reducing and even eliminating all symptoms of serious mental illness.

This may be because when people drink milk they show a marked increase in the peptide beta-casomorphin 6, which may aggravate or cause psychological disturbance. There are so many milk substitutes out there it is relatively easy to avoid dairy: replace it with soya milk, almond milk, oat milk or rice milk.

8. Less caffeine

Caffeine also alters both your blood sugar and your mood and is best kept to a minimum.

9. Low alcohol

No single legal thing will compromise your mental health as much as alcohol does. If you skip this rule, the rest will all be done for nothing. Keep alcohol to a minimum, drink small amounts and only on occasion if you need to drink at all. Pints of soda water make an excellent (and cheap) substitution for pints of beer or cider, I find, so you can still go to the pub and be sociable.

10. More Omega 3

Most people lack Omega 3, a type of fatty acid. These are essential for balanced, resilient mental health. The richest dietary source of omega 3 is oily fish like salmon, mackerel and herring. The more fish the population of a country eats the lower is their incidence of depression and omega 3 is the reason why. In one study bipolar disorder came out on top as the number 1 illness most associated with lack of omega 3 essential fatty acids. Vegetarian sources of omega 3 are flaxseed, humous, olive oil and even Brussels sprouts.

Any of the changes you make that bring your diet more into line with these rules will benefit your mental (and physical) health. Make small changes and build it up gradually because new habits that are formed slowly tend to last longer than drastic overhauls.

How Do You Help Someone With Mental Health Issues?

One of my friends sadly suffers from schizophrenia. It developed during his late teens, and unfortunately he was in a household with parents who struggled with their alcoholism and so weren’t as supportive as they could have been. We all wonder whether it would have made a difference to how bad he got if there had been more of a support system for him in the early stages, whether from family, friends, or mental health professionals spotting the signs early on.

At one point before he had been diagnosed, while he was still working as a security guard (not a great job for someone on the verge of a diagnosis of schizophrenia – too much time alone isn’t great for people who are starting to doubt their own mind in terms of working out what’s reality and what isn’t), he had plenty of access to finance for a car, and bank loans. After his diagnosis, and subsequent loss of driving licence, he found himself in financial difficulty as he lost his job also – and so took out a significant loan (£10,000 or so). He started needing to leave the house because of the stress of being with other people and not being sure of reality, and went on long walks, or trips to London and stayed out all night. One of these nights he buried the £10,000, in cash. To this day he doesn’t know where he buried it.

Thankfully he met and fell in love with a girl who really takes care of him, chases up mental health teams for support, tells him when he’s reacting to something which is only happening in his mind, and ensures he takes the correct drugs at the correct times, and helps him manage transitions from one drug to another (which at times requires hospitalization due to the side effects of new drugs). Although he still has good days and bad days, he’s being looked after and protected from the symptoms getting any worse.

It does no help for him to now reflect back on what could have been, but it may be a significant and important lesson for others who are facing the realization that they or someone they know may be suffering from undiagnosed mental health issues.

So what can you do if you, or someone you care about, is struggling with their mental health?

Look Out for Early Signs

If they become withdrawn, or show increased drug and alcohol use, disinterest in activities, disinterest in looking after themselves, changes in appetite, or moodiness, be aware that these could be early signs. Even if they don’t want help, and you may worry they’ll hate you for it, it’s better to try and get professional help as early as possible, as early diagnosis and management could mean it’s a one off experience rather than something which troubles them for life!

Talk About It!

There’s a campaign in support of ending mental health discrimination, and their big focus is on just getting on and talking about it. So you don’t have to be a doctor or mental health expert to talk to someone about their mental health. Think of it as if your friend is constantly going back to an abusive relationship – would we let them carry on going through the same cycles and just watch from the side-lines? Or would we try to talk to them about what they’re doing, in case they haven’t seen the bigger picture of what’s happening to them?

It’s the same with mental health issues – if you really care about someone, try to talk to them about their situation. Not in a judgemental way, and don’t do it when you’re feeling frustrated, angry, or emotional about the situation. Make a note to try and ask them in a relaxed way if they are aware of some of their peculiar behaviours, and also ask them if they need any help in working through some of their issues, or would like to be supported in seeking medical advice. They may need a lot of reassurance that help will be given, rather than that they will be locked up!

I know for my friend that even though he is aware of his illness and that some of what he thinks and worries about is not true, he still often thinks that the medicine he has to take will kill him (that someone is trying to poison him). Being able to talk about this and being offered reassurance and encouragement to take medicine which, when he is well he knows he wants to take, makes the world of difference between him being able to maintain his current level of manageable symptoms, or going off the meds, starting an unravelling of the current state into an unmanageable issue, and worst case, need for hospitalisation (which he desperately doesn’t want).

For someone who is on the periphery of the situation, not involved with day to day care or relationships, it’s still good to really ask how your friend is! My friend is often nervous to come out with us for fear that people will notice ‘how weird he behaves.’ After I’ve asked him how he is feeling, or how he felt the other day when we all went out, he might say he’s struggling with hiding his thoughts, or that he felt sick and that everyone was looking at him, in which point I can genuinely reassure him that I really thought he’d done well and I hadn’t noticed that he was struggling. Or during an evening if I notice he’s looking a bit uncomfortable, it’s great to just say ‘hey, how are you feeling?’ and let him know it’s absolutely fine if he feels he needs to leave, or to tell him that he’s doing well etc. Why would we avoid talking about this when he can really benefit from that extra support?

What’s more, my girlfriend who is dating my friend who suffers, has said that caring for someone who has serious mental health issues can be very time consuming, and having a group of people who can offer support can be a huge help – from attending appointments with him, to sitting at home with him so he isn’t alone when she needs to go out etc.

Her top tips are also:

- Be patient and consistent, someone struggling with something in their own head may not be able to respond to you as quickly as you like, or at all! It may be too much with what they’re already trying to control

- Don’t be scared of their diagnosis – many people won’t become dangerous just because of a diagnosis, they’re more likely to hurt themselves or commit suicide than hurt others – but their general personality isn’t likely to change (i.e. from someone non-aggressive in to a danger to public)

- Believe them that it is real to them – telling people they should be able to see things from your view won’t help. Imagine you’ve been talking to someone for 10 years, and now you’re told they’re not real. You’d be likely to think your world is true and their world unreal!

- Don’t worry about being frustrated, mad, or upset about your partner/friend’s situation, and your own as a caregiver! Neither of you would have chosen this. But try to talk to external people for support, or helplines, rather than to the sufferer, as they may withdraw from confiding in you. Do seek support – you don’t want to end up resenting the sufferer!

- Don’t neglect people’s physical needs – mental health medications can often have negative side effects on physical health, as can symptoms of mental health, such as not remembering to eat, or affecting digestion/nervous system/memory loss. Try to encourage physical check-ups as well as mental health check-ups, as you don’t want to come to a point where physical health is also negatively affecting the person’s life.

Don’t Talk About It!

However, having said how great it is to talk about mental health issues, it is also important to learn when to drop the subject! Whilst those suffering are in great need of specific support dealing with their symptoms or fears and issues, once these have been discussed or a plan of action has been put forward, you don’t need to always talk about their mental health issues.

Sometimes all people need who have spent a long time dealing with their difficulties is to be taken out of the situation for a change of scenery, a rest from dealing with it on their own, and cheering up and taking their mind off the situation. Nothing does as much for people struggling with mental health issues as genuinely being able to forget that they even have them, even for just 20 minutes or a few hours.

To feel ‘normal again’ (whatever that really looks like), and part of the crowd, and to stop thinking about those things that are plaguing them, whether it be hearing voices, or obsessively worrying about having turned the oven off, or feeling despair due to depression – really having your mind taken off of these worries can do wonders.

Exercise, Physical Activity and Mental Health

Exercise and physical activity play a crucial role in both maintaining one’s mental health condition and in recovering from a mental illness. Breaking research indicates that exercise actually produces a chemical that stimulates the growth of brain cells, thus allowing for recovery from sever substance abuse disorders. Furthermore, physical activity and mental health recovery coincide in fostering a social network and encouraging self-reflection, both of which are crucial on the path to mental health recovery.

The human mind evolved in an environment which required it to travel over twelve miles daily. And no, that drive to work in the morning does not count…but that would make things easier, no? This evolution was due to survival instincts when humans migrated from the jungles into the flatlands. Humans also developed an adrenaline reaction which both encouraged movement and triggered immediate learning reactions; as Doctor Carl Clark from the Mental Health Center of Denver once stated, when early man saw that saber-tooth tiger charging out of the brambles, the neurons must have been firing pretty fast to teach them to stay away from the bushes next time…that is assuming their get away was fast enough to allow for a next time!

This adrenaline rush encouraging learning has become neutralized by the flow of activities in modern western societies, wherein the normal individual is seemingly on a constant, albeit generally unnoticed, adrenaline rush. Consequently, stress levels have continuously been on the rise, consequently decreasing the rate at which an individual learns when in a compromising situation, thus decreasing mental wellness levels.

Physical activity is a huge aid to mental health in the fact that exercise allows for a stress outlet, thus decreasing day-to-day stress, while creating functional adrenaline for the mind. In reality, physical activity is important for mental health due to its role in creating Brain Derived Neurotropic Factor (BDNF), which is a key factor in the creation of brain cells. The myth of the old days is past; you know the one, where once your brain cells are gone they are gone. Well such is not the case, physical activity and exercise can increase BDNF levels and allow the re-growth of brain cells, consequently making physical activity immensely important for mental illness recovery.

Exercise and mental health further coincide in regards to the alarming statistic that people with mental illnesses, on average, die 20 years sooner than mentally healthy individuals. While there are many factors that go into this involved in substance abuse risk factors, two considerations that one would be remiss to ignore is the fact that those suffering from mental illnesses have a tendency to stagnate and become physically inactive. This has resulted in a large percentage of mental health consumers being considered overweight, which can ultimately result in adult onset diabetes. Diabetes is very dangerous in sedentary individuals who, in a depressant state, care little about taking care of themselves, for such a medical ailment can result in numerous health related issues, some of which can be very serious.

Physical activity and mental illness recovery are highly correlated. In some of the most successful recovery-based treatment facilities one will find strong proponents of mental health consumers engaging in physical activity. These activities also subsidize the development and formation of a support network populated by individuals interested in similar hobbies. Furthermore, exercise can often be a form of active meditation, and as practitioners of Dialectic Behavioral Treatment (DBT) can profess, meditation, including meditation absent any religious connotations (whether it be active or seated), drives self-reflection which is crucial to mental health recovery; for more information on the importance of self-reflection, you can access my article on Spirituality and Hope in Mental Health.

Stay physically active, exercise and mental wellness are highly correlated. Exercise is one of the best ways to prevent the development of serious mental illnesses, and is also one of the most effective treatment plans. Stay active, stay healthy, stay happy.

Weaving Mental Health First Aid Into Workplace Wellness

Every month Anne LaFleur sends employees in her office a quiz about various wellness topics. When the topic was depression, she received twice as many responses as usual from co-workers.

When LaFleur, vice president of human resources at a credit union in Pawtucket, RI, took a Mental Health First Aid course in February, she quickly understood the reason for the high level of interest in these types of issues. The training also helped her identify people in her office who may be suffering a mental health problem and taught her how to provide help and refer people to self-help and professional resources.

“The training made me realize that mental health issues are very common, yet one of the least talked about problems,” LaFleur says.

More than one in four people suffer from a diagnosable mental health problem in any given year. Mental illness likely costs businesses more than $79 billion a year, $63 billion of it in lost productivity. The statistics point to the significant need to incorporate mental health into burgeoning employee wellness programs, which have received a shot in the arm with the passage of federal healthcare reform legislation.

Mental Health First Aid has proved to be an ideal program to promote improved mental health in workplaces across the country.

LaFleur is one of more than 6,000 people certified in Mental Health First Aid since the training was introduced in the United States two years ago by the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare along with the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the Missouri Department of Mental Health.

Those who participate in the 12-hour Mental Health First Aid course learn a five-step process to assess a situation, select and implement appropriate interventions and help a person developing signs and symptoms of mental illness or in crisis receive appropriate care. Participants also learn about the risk factors and warning signs of specific illnesses such as anxiety, depression, psychosis, and addiction.

Evaluations show that the evidence-based Mental Health First Aid program saves lives, expands people’s knowledge of mental illnesses and their treatments, and reduces the stigma associated with mental illness by helping people understand and accept mental illness as a medical condition. One trial of 301 randomized participants found that those who took the training had greater confidence in providing help to others, greater likelihood of advising people to seek professional help, and decreased stigmatizing attitudes.

Unexpectedly, the study also found that Mental Health First Aid improved the mental well-being of the participants themselves.

“By understanding the signs and symptoms of depression, I learned to recognize this in myself,” says Kellie-Ann Heenan, director of human resources at a company in Lincoln, RI.

Heenan, who had the training in February, has an adopted son from Russia who suffers from a number of emotional issues.

“The tools I learned made it easier to connect with him and better understand where he’s coming from,” she says. “In the end, the training improved my own mental health.”

LaFleur has also applied the lessons she learned in the course to her home life.

“My kids are in their 20s and they go through the typical ups and downs,” says LaFleur, “I use my Mental Health First Aid training to see how my kids are feeling.” LaFleur says she was surprised by the range of issues covered in the course.

“We looked at how to deal with both crisis and non-crisis situations, and it made us very aware of the terminology we use that may not be socially correct,” she says, noting that describing co-workers as “crazy” or a “nut case” may be hurtful to people going through an emotionally trying time.

The training proved to be particularly helpful to Lynn Corwin last January when two fellow employees walked into her office in a panic. They told Corwin, director of human resources at the organization, that a co-worker was extremely upset about the recent earthquake in Haiti. The distressed young woman had a close friend in Haiti and had been unable to contact the person for five days. Fearing the worst, the woman was having difficulty managing her emotions, let alone being able to work.

While the two workers had no idea how to deal with the situation, Corwin sprung into action.

“I used what I learned in the course to calm the woman down and talk with her about how she’s feeling,” says Corwin. “I explained to her that it was OK to be upset, and to not be embarrassed about it.”

“The training left me with a greater sense of confidence about how to deal with a variety of people issues that come up in every office,” concludes Heenan. “There’s such a stigma around mental health and people don’t want to talk about it, so having the information gives me confidence that I’ll be able to handle these types of situations when they arise.”

Various Mental Health Treatments To Help Those With A Mental Illness

Here is the good news – mental health is getting more attention from various governments around the world and as a result more mentally ill people have a better chance of a better lifestyle. As soon as someone around you begins to develop the symptoms of mental disorder, it is very important that you consult a mental health care provider and get help for the patient. Getting the right course of treatment helps to improve the condition of a person. In some cases, the patient might be able to recover from the illness which is a great achievement for all concerned.

When it comes to mental health treatment, community treatments are considered to be much more beneficial than hospital treatments. Obviously, psychological treatments are considered to be the most beneficial for people suffering from depression and anxiety disorders, whereas medications are considered to be more suitable for people suffering from mental illness.

The Initial Assessment

Getting the initial assessment done for anyone experiencing symptoms of mental problems is extremely important. A Carer can help the patient by taking him / her to a mental healthcare provider and explaining the symptoms to help the physician make the correct diagnosis. For example, symptoms like difficulty in sleeping, failure to concentrate or any work, a negative feeling towards life in general or feeling ‘down’ for very long periods of time can indicate that a person is suffering from depression.

After an accurate diagnosis is made, the doctor can then decide on the course of treatment that would be best suited for the concerned patient. A number of times, the diagnosis changes with a change in symptoms. Thus, it is extremely important for the Carer to understand the patient’s symptoms to ensure that they can observe any change and if so the right treatment can be sourced.

Psychological Treatments for Mental Health Patients

Psychological treatments for treating patients suffering from mental problems are based on the belief that many problems occur due to the way different people perceive different things, the way they react and think about anything. Psychological treatment is a great way of reducing pressure and strain associated with symptoms of mental illness. However, keep in mind that it takes several weeks or sometimes even months, for the treatment to produce evident results.

Different kinds of psychological therapies which are used for treating mental health illnesses include:

Cognitive Behavior Therapy: This process of treatment involves examining the patient’s feelings, behavior, and thoughts and establishing how they get caught up in unhelpful patterns. The therapist works with the patient to develop different ways of acting and thinking. This technique is extremely helpful for treating patients of depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder.

Interpersonal Psychotherapy: This process involves examining the way in which the relationships and interactions of the patient with people around them, affects their own behavior and thinking.

Dialectic Behavior Therapy: This therapy is considered to be ideal for people suffering from borderline personality disorder, in which the patient is unable to handle their emotions. The therapy can help them to manage their responses and emotions in a better manner.

Other Mental Health Treatments

Medications: Medications are more suited for patients who get seriously affected due to mental health problems. Antidepressants, mood stabilizing medications, and antipsychotic medications are often prescribed for mental patients.

Electroconvulsive Therapy: This is known to be quite effective for treating severe depression as well as for other mental illness. The process involves giving anesthetics and relaxants to the patients, after which the doctor passes an electric current through the patient’s brain.

Community Support: This includes providing the required information, help in finding work, education in health and better management, training, and psychosocial rehabilitations, as well as mutual support groups.

Chronic illnesses need medication but what is a problem is that many patients do not agree that there is anything wrong with them and do not want to continue treatment. This is where there becomes a problem as far as control and recovery from a mental illness is concerned.

Until a patient is in a fairly stable place they do not understand that they are actually ill and that they do need the help of medication in the recovery process.

Enjoy Your Journey To The Fullest With A Travel Cover

Traveling helps you gain new experiences of life, it displays the tradition and custom across the world. It refreshes you from the everyday hectic schedule. The trip will surely give you a new dimension of life. Obliviously, whether you travel with family or alone, business trip or government job purpose, you want the trip to be fun filled and with ease. What wants to encounter trouble while travelling distant countries, cut off from your familiar surroundings? For a moment there will a panic button pressed in your minds. However, unexpected situations do come up and you have to be prepared for them. Accidents, illness, theft, an emergency situation like flight delays, riots, terrorist attacks at the airport might erupt anytime and so you have to be planned to face such situations. To avoid such as unwanted situation and stay financially equipped to combat it, owning best travel insurance would be the masterstroke.
The article discusses some situation that will make you realize how travel insurance can be handy:
Accident/Illness
While nothing may go wrong, but if something bad were to happen you may suffer an injury else fall critically ill due to bad weather as such and needs to be hospitalized. Imagine the costs that would incur on medical treatment in the foreign country. It will make a huge hole in your pockets. A good travel plan will just help you to take care of such contingency and a major portion of your medical expenses will be covered.
Financial Emergency
In case your hotel room gets burglarized, wherein you get robbed or baggage is stolen, then obviously you cannot travel as your passport important documents were kept inside. The result would be you would have to stay for few extra days. Naturally, it will incur costs to protect you from this unexpected financial hit, your policy will provide assistance for these incidents. Your financial emergency assistance will also help you during a loss of travel funds.

Personal Liability
Many times accident happen unexpectedly, you may not be the victim but could help liable for damage or injury caused, in that situation. The mishap is as such that resulted in injury to someone or damage to someone’s property. At such point of time, your Best travel insurance will come to your rescue. It will take care of third party liability cover and make your free from any form of tension during your journey giving a peaceful and enjoying experience.
These day online sites offer travel insurance policies with varied benefits and features. You can visit the comparison sites and compare them in terms of benefits & features, claim settlement ratio, terms, and conditions, etc. and then go for suitable purchase.
Purchasing Best travel insurance online is all about providing travellers an ideal cover against financial emergencies and uncertainties right from the comfort of your home or offices. However, certain factors which one should look for while zeroing the policy would be:
Covers entire patient hospitalization along with daily allowance
Personal accident covers in case of permanent disability/death
Cover for contingencies related to personal possession
Cover baggage, documentation visa or passport loss
Covers Expenses related to trip delays/ hotel accommodation, trip cancellation
So, buy your Best travel insurance policy today for creating happy memories in while traveling abroad!

9 Tips For Choosing The Right Medical Transcription (mt) Partner For Your Practice

Medical practices big or small are dependent on timely and accurate medical transcription and need to be absolutely certain that their vocal dictations will be transcribed into accurate well-presented documents. Quality of the transcription or report is vital because it further impacts patient care, decisions by other doctors who are referred, as well as the insurance companies reviewing claims. Some practices still do engage secretaries for medical transcription while others have moved to Voice Recognition Software to digitally translate verbal dictation into the written word. Unfortunately, both systems require additional overseeing and verification as they do not assure error free reports -anon-negotiable in the medical field. The third option gaining ground is outsourcing to third party. Today almost 75% of US healthcare companies are outsourcing work to other locations.
Outsourcing medical dictation has many advantage sand it is important to choose the right partner agency for this critical activity. Here are some pointers to help you make right decision.
1.Domain Experience: As the old saying goes Practice makes a man perfect, same goes while choosing the right transcription partner. It helps to evaluate previous experience or work done in medical transcription to ensure that the company is well conversant with acceptable processes and procedures like HIPAA.
2.Quality of Medical Transcriptionist: The core of a Medical Transcription partner is its resources. Well trained and experienced Medical Transcription team would be comfortable with complex medical terminologies and deliver high quality reports.It’s possible that the documents you need transcribed might be different from other specialties. So it’s important that the company you partner with has experience in serving your specific areas. This can be done by checking references or by asking for samples of work done previously.
3.Data Security: Patient confidentiality is paramount from professional and legal perspectives. The medical transcription partner should be using HIPAA complaint processes or technology platforms like ChartNet.
4.Data accuracy and quality:Accurate data entry is an important characteristic as it determines the reliability of the transcription.A good transcription partner will offer two or four layers of quality assurance. This means, at least three individuals will oversee the document before it is sent to you. It is a good practice to ask how many layers of quality control are integrated in the process to ensure high quality, error free output.
5.Turn around Time (TAT):In today’s digital world, speed and accuracy are of essence. Acceptable turnaround time is 24 hours so that you can respond to your patient’s needs at the earliest. Some documents can be completed even more quickly at additional cost for prioritizing it, however for standard documentation, if a company’s turnaround time is much longer than 24 hours; you might want to review other vendors as well.
6.Linguistic and accent experience: Dialects and pronunciations can change the way we interpret something with disastrous results. Dialects can change even from coast to coast, and the differences are magnified when the doctor and medical transcriptionist are in two separate geographies. It’s very important that your transcription partner has resources who are trained and experienced in the medical transcription business; accent sensitized and have a good command over English.
7.Consider what works for you. There is no single solution for choosing the right partner or service. It’s always a good idea to understand the needs and workflow of your practice, preferences of your staff and specialty services you offer before deciding what suits you best. Choosing the right partner and service is essentially about how you work, volume of documentation you handle and what you can adapt to most easily. Do view transcription from different perspectives before you take a decision.
8.Choose the features you need. There are many vendors and even more alternatives to choose from. Vendors often include many optional features to the service element. Not all of them would be relevant to your needs or useful to your staff. Its makes sense to study the pricing models, find out one-time fee or monthly charges, level of technical support, cost of software updates and only pay for what you need.
9.Software interface. It’s important to check if the software interfaces with the existing systems you are using or might use in future. You also need to ensure that the software is compatible with your EHR and practice management system as you will need to share records across platforms i.e. in office as well as to other providers.
Finally, do explore the possibility of a short term contract initially so that you have the option of withdrawing in case of any issues. With more and more companies offering a wide spectrum of transcription services it is easy to forget that it is essentially about accurate transcription, good turnaround time, cost saving, technical support and interoperability.