Seth Lawton

In addition to blogging for Best Doctors, Seth can often be found sharing new content on BestDoctors.com and the company's LinkedIn. His main interests are what's coming next in healthcare and how employers are innovating to change a system under considerable pressure.
March 22, 2016

VIDEO: Employer Client Testimonial

Every once in awhile our clients give us their perspectives on partnering with Best Doctors and allow us to share them in a video. Cory Fitts is the Benefits Director at Hines Interests and took a couple of minutes to discuss what drove her team’s decision in selecting the Best Doctors program:

Cory touches on many of the themes we hear from our clients all the time. Just to highlight a few—

  • As an employer, their goal is to help make their staff better consumers of health care and provide the tools to ensure the right diagnosis and right treatment
  • They further want to demonstrate to their leadership team that they are making a true impact on their employees, and they have the reporting and results to prove it
  • One theme we hear constantly: Best Doctors has been one of the easiest programs to implement and manage, owing to our many years of experience and hundreds of clients
  • After an extensive review of the marketplace, including consulting their peers, they found that Best Doctors was the best in class partner

It’s always gratifying when clients share their first person perspectives on why they selected Best Doctors and how the program helps address their specific challenges.

Every once in awhile our clients give us their perspectives on partnering with Best Doctors and allow us to share them in a video. Cory Fitts is the Benefits Director at Hines Interests and took a couple of minutes to discuss what drove her team’s decision in selecting the Best Doctors program:

Cory touches on many of the themes we hear from our clients all the time. Just to highlight a few—

  • As an employer, their goal is to help make their staff better consumers of health care and provide the tools to ensure the right diagnosis and right treatment
  • They further want to demonstrate to their leadership team that they are making a true impact on their employees, and they have the reporting and results to prove it
  • One theme we hear constantly: Best Doctors has been one of the easiest programs to implement and manage, owing to our many years of experience and hundreds of clients
  • After an extensive review of the marketplace, including consulting their peers, they found that Best Doctors was the best in class partner

It’s always gratifying when clients share their first person perspectives on why they selected Best Doctors and how the program helps address their specific challenges.

October 21, 2015

Anatomy of a Second Opinion

We like to say that not all second opinions are created equally. The caliber of the expert reviewing the case, plus all the careful and necessary steps to support the process, are what sets the Best Doctors second opinion apart. But rather than just tell it, why not show the anatomy of a second opinion

Best_Doctors_Second_Opinion

We like to say that not all second opinions are created equally. The caliber of the expert reviewing the case, plus all the careful and necessary steps to support the process, are what sets the Best Doctors second opinion apart. But rather than just tell it, why not show the anatomy of a second opinion

Best_Doctors_Second_Opinion

September 30, 2015

Takeaways: Improving Diagnosis in Health Care

The new report Improving Diagnosis in Health Care, released by the National Academies of Medicine (formerly IOM), has quickly gained tremendous attention in the medical community, mainstream press, and Best Doctors’ own social media channels. That’s because the report – which addresses the scourge of diagnostic error head-on – sounds many of the same notes that Best Doctors has been for years, and the message is resonating. So much ground is covered in the report, but there are a few key themes and takeaways to highlight.

DiagnosisFINAL.inddAt the outset, the new report makes clear that diagnosis is a collaborative effort and that patients themselves are central to finding a solution to diagnostic error. This is significant, as it makes clear that neither doctors nor policy makers have all the answers, but rather that patients have a voice and role in improving their care and outcomes. The report then defines diagnostic error as “the failure to (a) establish an accurate and timely explanation of the patient’s health problem(s) or (b) communicate that explanation to the patient.” Again, this is encouraging. The definition suggests that correct diagnosis isn’t just limited to naming the disease, but also making the patient central to that process.

There are a number of goals and recommendations put forward in the report. Some – like better medical education, better technology, and additional funding for researching diagnostic errors – are predictable. Others are more novel and ambitious, like designing a payment and care delivery environment that supports the diagnostic process. And while there are some measures that amount to top-down policy changes (like changing medical liability laws), what’s perhaps most interesting to me is that the lion’s share of the recommendations in the report can be implemented on a grassroots level, with individual health systems experimenting, learning, and best practice sharing with others.

I think if there are 3 salient points to take away from the new report, they would be—

  • Diagnostic error is real, and a huge contributor to ill health and increased health costs in the United States – 17 percent of adverse hospital events may owe to misdiagnosis
  • Despite previous reports on the subject and the formation of advocacy groups, diagnostic error remains a “blind spot” in our health care system
  • Improvement is possible, and the report provides recent examples of organizations pioneering innovative solutions and achieving early success

Diagnostic accuracy is vital, because when the diagnosis is wrong, everything that follows may be as well. Best Doctors has been the leader in medical advisory services, which help ensure the right diagnosis and treatment for any type of medical condition. A lot still needs to be done to improve diagnosis in health care; we look forward to being part of the conversation, and ultimately, the solution.

The new report Improving Diagnosis in Health Care, released by the National Academies of Medicine (formerly IOM), has quickly gained tremendous attention in the medical community, mainstream press, and Best Doctors’ own social media channels. That’s because the report – which addresses the scourge of diagnostic error head-on – sounds many of the same notes that Best Doctors has been for years, and the message is resonating. So much ground is covered in the report, but there are a few key themes and takeaways to highlight.

DiagnosisFINAL.inddAt the outset, the new report makes clear that diagnosis is a collaborative effort and that patients themselves are central to finding a solution to diagnostic error. This is significant, as it makes clear that neither doctors nor policy makers have all the answers, but rather that patients have a voice and role in improving their care and outcomes. The report then defines diagnostic error as “the failure to (a) establish an accurate and timely explanation of the patient’s health problem(s) or (b) communicate that explanation to the patient.” Again, this is encouraging. The definition suggests that correct diagnosis isn’t just limited to naming the disease, but also making the patient central to that process.

There are a number of goals and recommendations put forward in the report. Some – like better medical education, better technology, and additional funding for researching diagnostic errors – are predictable. Others are more novel and ambitious, like designing a payment and care delivery environment that supports the diagnostic process. And while there are some measures that amount to top-down policy changes (like changing medical liability laws), what’s perhaps most interesting to me is that the lion’s share of the recommendations in the report can be implemented on a grassroots level, with individual health systems experimenting, learning, and best practice sharing with others.

I think if there are 3 salient points to take away from the new report, they would be—

  • Diagnostic error is real, and a huge contributor to ill health and increased health costs in the United States – 17 percent of adverse hospital events may owe to misdiagnosis
  • Despite previous reports on the subject and the formation of advocacy groups, diagnostic error remains a “blind spot” in our health care system
  • Improvement is possible, and the report provides recent examples of organizations pioneering innovative solutions and achieving early success

Diagnostic accuracy is vital, because when the diagnosis is wrong, everything that follows may be as well. Best Doctors has been the leader in medical advisory services, which help ensure the right diagnosis and treatment for any type of medical condition. A lot still needs to be done to improve diagnosis in health care; we look forward to being part of the conversation, and ultimately, the solution.

July 28, 2015

Meet the Team: Case Coordinators

Our Meet the Team series concludes today with a closer look at the Case Coordinator role at Best Doctors. We asked two long-serving colleagues, Val and Tristan, to reflect on their experiences with our members. In particular, we asked them what they often see members struggling with the most; they remind us that every member is unique, but that what so many have in common is they don’t know where to turn for guidance on important health issues. The case coordinators wear a variety of different hats and interact with members of every sort, so they can truly speak from experience.

It’s been a pleasure sharing videos of colleagues in our Meet the Team series. It’s a rare look behind the curtain, which most people wouldn’t otherwise see. As Tristan points out, much of the member’s experience with us takes place from the comfort of their own living room. We learn so much about them; by sharing the perspectives of colleagues in these videos, we hope that members can learn something about us as well.

So, please, meet the team…

Our Meet the Team series concludes today with a closer look at the Case Coordinator role at Best Doctors. We asked two long-serving colleagues, Val and Tristan, to reflect on their experiences with our members. In particular, we asked them what they often see members struggling with the most; they remind us that every member is unique, but that what so many have in common is they don’t know where to turn for guidance on important health issues. The case coordinators wear a variety of different hats and interact with members of every sort, so they can truly speak from experience.

It’s been a pleasure sharing videos of colleagues in our Meet the Team series. It’s a rare look behind the curtain, which most people wouldn’t otherwise see. As Tristan points out, much of the member’s experience with us takes place from the comfort of their own living room. We learn so much about them; by sharing the perspectives of colleagues in these videos, we hope that members can learn something about us as well.

So, please, meet the team…

May 21, 2015

Meet the Team: Find a Best Doctor

The series continues. Today please meet Arvin, a Find Best Doctor Coordinator who’s been with the company for over five years. Many of our members contact Best Doctors in need of a virtual second opinion by an expert, but others are looking for a referral to see the expert in person, and that’s where Arvin and his team come in.

The FBD team, as they’re affectionately known, makes sure that the expert specialists meet all the members’ requirements before referring, but they also handle the administrative work that can sometimes be burdensome and slow things down. And while many members do contact us to request a referral after an insurance change or relocation, as Arvin points out, some members are in crisis and need to be connected with expert medical help … in their area, in their insurance plan, and accepting new patients.

The staff at Best Doctors have such a diversity of backgrounds, but they come together as a family to deliver for our members, as I hope you’ll see. So, please, meet the team

The series continues. Today please meet Arvin, a Find Best Doctor Coordinator who’s been with the company for over five years. Many of our members contact Best Doctors in need of a virtual second opinion by an expert, but others are looking for a referral to see the expert in person, and that’s where Arvin and his team come in.

The FBD team, as they’re affectionately known, makes sure that the expert specialists meet all the members’ requirements before referring, but they also handle the administrative work that can sometimes be burdensome and slow things down. And while many members do contact us to request a referral after an insurance change or relocation, as Arvin points out, some members are in crisis and need to be connected with expert medical help … in their area, in their insurance plan, and accepting new patients.

The staff at Best Doctors have such a diversity of backgrounds, but they come together as a family to deliver for our members, as I hope you’ll see. So, please, meet the team

May 06, 2015

Meet the Team: Member Service Representatives

Last month we introduced you to a pair of our member advocates; today I’d like you to meet Michelle and James, member service representatives at Best Doctors.

Anyone who has faced a medical challenge knows that there can be a lot of administrative hurdles and boxes to check on the way to getting the right care. Our MSRs are trained to help our members navigate their benefits issues and ensure their individual needs are addressed.

I wanted to find out about our MSRs’ day to day interactions with members, and that’s what they discuss in these short videos. It’s about more than phone calls and medical records; it’s about real people interacting with real people to achieve better health and peace of mind. So please, meet the team …

Last month we introduced you to a pair of our member advocates; today I’d like you to meet Michelle and James, member service representatives at Best Doctors.

Anyone who has faced a medical challenge knows that there can be a lot of administrative hurdles and boxes to check on the way to getting the right care. Our MSRs are trained to help our members navigate their benefits issues and ensure their individual needs are addressed.

I wanted to find out about our MSRs’ day to day interactions with members, and that’s what they discuss in these short videos. It’s about more than phone calls and medical records; it’s about real people interacting with real people to achieve better health and peace of mind. So please, meet the team …

May 04, 2015

Second Opinions in the Age of High Deductible Health Plans

The prevalence of so-called “high-deductible health plans” has grown significantly these past few years. With nearly two-thirds of employers offering a high deductible plan, almost a quarter offering nothing else, and continued growth trends, it’s not unreasonable to think that half of all workers could be covered by one in the near future.

So how high is high deductible? For individuals, it could be lower than $2,000, or it may be up around $5,000, depending on a variety of factors. To help meet the deductible (and cover other costs), consumers can put money aside in a health savings account (HSA) on a pre-tax basis. The theory behind offering these plans is that when facing higher out-of-pocket costs, covered individuals will shop around more for less expensive options, and maybe more importantly, with more skin in the game, they’ll ask themselves “Do I really need this?”

waiting roomThe early indication is that high deductible plans are saving employers money, and that’s encouraging. What’s too soon to tell – and what many responsible for health and benefits decisions are worried about – is whether the up-front costs of high deductible plans will give employees sticker shock and cause them to avoid visiting the doctor in the first place. And what if they do? Will this be end up being a “deferred maintenance” program for health care?

There is both anecdotal and statistical evidence that many folks, at the prospect of getting a doctor’s bill for several thousand dollars, are hoping the issue resolves itself or are deciding to ignore the pain until it becomes unbearable. As benefits professionals well know, not all workers are fluent in their health coverage – many report not knowing that several preventative offerings are either cheap or free to them. Taken together, that’s a recipe for turning emerging or manageable concerns into chronic, even serious, conditions.

And if the first doctor’s visit is put off, one shift I definitely expect to see is for individuals covered by a high deductible health plan to avoid getting a second opinion. Just imagine: a worker visits the doctor and gets a diagnosis – ‘it’s probably nothing’ – and a recommendation to follow up with another specialist. Or a worker plans on getting a second opinion, but can’t get an appointment until the new plan year, so now there are two steep deductibles to meet. It’s easy to see empty seats in the waiting room, which is a shame, because we hear all the time how much second opinions matter to ensuring the best outcomes, especially in complex or serious cases.

About 26% of Best Doctors members contact us for expert medical advice because their symptoms are not improving. Another 33% reach out because they are questioning the need for surgery. These are people who shouldn’t be asked to balance their health against what could turn into $3,000 or $4,000 of out-of-pocket costs. Everyone – regardless of their flavor of health plan – should have access to the right diagnosis and treatment. Best Doctors has been saying it (and delivering it) for decades; if trends continue, it’s going to be more important than ever before.

The prevalence of so-called “high-deductible health plans” has grown significantly these past few years. With nearly two-thirds of employers offering a high deductible plan, almost a quarter offering nothing else, and continued growth trends, it’s not unreasonable to think that half of all workers could be covered by one in the near future.

So how high is high deductible? For individuals, it could be lower than $2,000, or it may be up around $5,000, depending on a variety of factors. To help meet the deductible (and cover other costs), consumers can put money aside in a health savings account (HSA) on a pre-tax basis. The theory behind offering these plans is that when facing higher out-of-pocket costs, covered individuals will shop around more for less expensive options, and maybe more importantly, with more skin in the game, they’ll ask themselves “Do I really need this?”

waiting roomThe early indication is that high deductible plans are saving employers money, and that’s encouraging. What’s too soon to tell – and what many responsible for health and benefits decisions are worried about – is whether the up-front costs of high deductible plans will give employees sticker shock and cause them to avoid visiting the doctor in the first place. And what if they do? Will this be end up being a “deferred maintenance” program for health care?

There is both anecdotal and statistical evidence that many folks, at the prospect of getting a doctor’s bill for several thousand dollars, are hoping the issue resolves itself or are deciding to ignore the pain until it becomes unbearable. As benefits professionals well know, not all workers are fluent in their health coverage – many report not knowing that several preventative offerings are either cheap or free to them. Taken together, that’s a recipe for turning emerging or manageable concerns into chronic, even serious, conditions.

And if the first doctor’s visit is put off, one shift I definitely expect to see is for individuals covered by a high deductible health plan to avoid getting a second opinion. Just imagine: a worker visits the doctor and gets a diagnosis – ‘it’s probably nothing’ – and a recommendation to follow up with another specialist. Or a worker plans on getting a second opinion, but can’t get an appointment until the new plan year, so now there are two steep deductibles to meet. It’s easy to see empty seats in the waiting room, which is a shame, because we hear all the time how much second opinions matter to ensuring the best outcomes, especially in complex or serious cases.

About 26% of Best Doctors members contact us for expert medical advice because their symptoms are not improving. Another 33% reach out because they are questioning the need for surgery. These are people who shouldn’t be asked to balance their health against what could turn into $3,000 or $4,000 of out-of-pocket costs. Everyone – regardless of their flavor of health plan – should have access to the right diagnosis and treatment. Best Doctors has been saying it (and delivering it) for decades; if trends continue, it’s going to be more important than ever before.

April 21, 2015

Meet the Medical Advisory Board II

Next up in our Meet the Medical Advisory Board series is Dr. Doris K. Cope, who is dual-certified in anesthesiology and pain medicine. Management of pain and pain medication poses a significant challenge for so many, especially as the aging population continues to face chronic problems over longer periods of time.

In the video below she briefly shares some of her thoughts on the role of Best Doctors, the biggest health care challenges, and physician collaboration…

Whenever I get to speak to or interview physicians we work with, I like to ask for their perspectives on second opinions. One of the concerns we hear most often from members seeking second opinions is they don’t want to be seen as offending or challenging their treating physician with another doctor’s opinion. But Dr. Cope points out what so many other doctors have acknowledged – that as long as it’s a legitimate opinion, doctors tend to welcome the opinion as a collaborative effort … and the patient/member is ultimately the beneficiary of that collaboration.

Next up in our Meet the Medical Advisory Board series is Dr. Doris K. Cope, who is dual-certified in anesthesiology and pain medicine. Management of pain and pain medication poses a significant challenge for so many, especially as the aging population continues to face chronic problems over longer periods of time.

In the video below she briefly shares some of her thoughts on the role of Best Doctors, the biggest health care challenges, and physician collaboration…

Whenever I get to speak to or interview physicians we work with, I like to ask for their perspectives on second opinions. One of the concerns we hear most often from members seeking second opinions is they don’t want to be seen as offending or challenging their treating physician with another doctor’s opinion. But Dr. Cope points out what so many other doctors have acknowledged – that as long as it’s a legitimate opinion, doctors tend to welcome the opinion as a collaborative effort … and the patient/member is ultimately the beneficiary of that collaboration.

April 15, 2015

Telemedicine: Its Challenges and Differences

Last week the Texas Medical Board issued new restrictions on telemedicine, the practice of physicians diagnosing and prescribing medication via phone or video chat. Given the pitched battles over the years between the industry and regulators in the state, this was a long time coming.

telemedicineThe regulations – which are set to take effect in June – don’t outright ban telemedicine practices, but with rules requiring first-time patients to be in a health care setting and in the presence of another physician, it pretty much defeats the purpose. Proponents have stressed the doctor-patient relationship, along with concerns about patient safety and accountability. Opponents of the new rules claim they take away options from consumers. The shift will make Texas among the most restrictive states for telemedicine, though regulations on the practice vary considerably by state and that evolution will continue in the years ahead.

People sometimes ask if Best Doctors is a ‘telemedicine’ company, to which I say – No, we identify the best medical specialists in the world and provide expert medical advisory services for virtually any issue. Best Doctors connects members with medical resources, but that’s where the similarities end. There are some key ways in which we differ from telemedicine services –

Telemedicine is for short-term, lite-touch issues

This is not meant as a slight – telemedicine companies typically maintain lists of qualifying conditions, which don’t include matters like cancer, chronic issues, or critical injuries. And prescriptions, if they’re given at all, are for short courses of common medications. Ultimately, telemedicine is limited in its ability to serve the full market. Best Doctors confronts the full spectrum of conditions – from addressing pointed member questions to conducting in-depth case reviews, addressing the routine to the chronic.

Telemedicine has a relationships issue

Companies offering telemedicine claim they’re trying to complement patients’ relationships with their doctors. That may be true, but regulators in Texas weren’t buying it. With Best Doctors, members begin with a comprehensive intake followed by collection of all necessary records, so we really get to know the whole person. Then, at the end of an expert review, Best Doctors creates a report that’s written in plain English for the member, but that is appropriate for sharing with the treating physician. Best Doctors has also made significant investments in our physician portal – the online, real-time collaboration tool our experts use to consult on cases with their peers.

Telemedicine focuses on speed, then quality

Telemedicine companies generally have physicians who are board-certified and licensed in the patient’s home state. But they draw from a small pool of physicians, and claim they’ll connect patients to a doctor immediately or get a quick call back, any time of day. So what are the odds that the person on the other end of the line will be a match for each patient’s particular condition? With Best Doctors, quality is first, and a pool of thousands of experts across the world ensures that the person reviewing a case is the best possible match. Our Gallup-certified polling process asks doctors to rate their peers on clinical quality, in addition to independently verifying their credentials. And we have mechanisms to fast-track the most urgent issues, ensuring that members with acute cases receive the support they need, though the right answers are always better than the right-now answers.

Last week the Texas Medical Board issued new restrictions on telemedicine, the practice of physicians diagnosing and prescribing medication via phone or video chat. Given the pitched battles over the years between the industry and regulators in the state, this was a long time coming.

telemedicineThe regulations – which are set to take effect in June – don’t outright ban telemedicine practices, but with rules requiring first-time patients to be in a health care setting and in the presence of another physician, it pretty much defeats the purpose. Proponents have stressed the doctor-patient relationship, along with concerns about patient safety and accountability. Opponents of the new rules claim they take away options from consumers. The shift will make Texas among the most restrictive states for telemedicine, though regulations on the practice vary considerably by state and that evolution will continue in the years ahead.

People sometimes ask if Best Doctors is a ‘telemedicine’ company, to which I say – No, we identify the best medical specialists in the world and provide expert medical advisory services for virtually any issue. Best Doctors connects members with medical resources, but that’s where the similarities end. There are some key ways in which we differ from telemedicine services –

Telemedicine is for short-term, lite-touch issues

This is not meant as a slight – telemedicine companies typically maintain lists of qualifying conditions, which don’t include matters like cancer, chronic issues, or critical injuries. And prescriptions, if they’re given at all, are for short courses of common medications. Ultimately, telemedicine is limited in its ability to serve the full market. Best Doctors confronts the full spectrum of conditions – from addressing pointed member questions to conducting in-depth case reviews, addressing the routine to the chronic.

Telemedicine has a relationships issue

Companies offering telemedicine claim they’re trying to complement patients’ relationships with their doctors. That may be true, but regulators in Texas weren’t buying it. With Best Doctors, members begin with a comprehensive intake followed by collection of all necessary records, so we really get to know the whole person. Then, at the end of an expert review, Best Doctors creates a report that’s written in plain English for the member, but that is appropriate for sharing with the treating physician. Best Doctors has also made significant investments in our physician portal – the online, real-time collaboration tool our experts use to consult on cases with their peers.

Telemedicine focuses on speed, then quality

Telemedicine companies generally have physicians who are board-certified and licensed in the patient’s home state. But they draw from a small pool of physicians, and claim they’ll connect patients to a doctor immediately or get a quick call back, any time of day. So what are the odds that the person on the other end of the line will be a match for each patient’s particular condition? With Best Doctors, quality is first, and a pool of thousands of experts across the world ensures that the person reviewing a case is the best possible match. Our Gallup-certified polling process asks doctors to rate their peers on clinical quality, in addition to independently verifying their credentials. And we have mechanisms to fast-track the most urgent issues, ensuring that members with acute cases receive the support they need, though the right answers are always better than the right-now answers.

April 08, 2015

Meet the Team: Member Advocates

Last week we invited you to meet our Medical Advisory Board members with the first in a series of blog posts, which we’ll continue this spring. Today I’d like to invite you to view the first in a new series that we’re calling Meet the Team.

We’re often asked, “Can you tell me about the member experience?” or “What can you tell me about the interactions your staff has with members?” Well, why not show you instead? Below are two videos featuring our member advocates, which is just one role among the many clinical and operations team members at Best Doctors who ensure an excellent experience for members every day.

These are real people, not hired actors. In the video we’ve included some of the questions that were asked, but my colleagues were never scripted. By introducing them to you, I hope to give you a clearer picture of the trained, caring professionals who advocate for every single one of our members. But see for yourself, and Meet the Team:

(click to view)

casey

 

 

jackie

Last week we invited you to meet our Medical Advisory Board members with the first in a series of blog posts, which we’ll continue this spring. Today I’d like to invite you to view the first in a new series that we’re calling Meet the Team.

We’re often asked, “Can you tell me about the member experience?” or “What can you tell me about the interactions your staff has with members?” Well, why not show you instead? Below are two videos featuring our member advocates, which is just one role among the many clinical and operations team members at Best Doctors who ensure an excellent experience for members every day.

These are real people, not hired actors. In the video we’ve included some of the questions that were asked, but my colleagues were never scripted. By introducing them to you, I hope to give you a clearer picture of the trained, caring professionals who advocate for every single one of our members. But see for yourself, and Meet the Team:

(click to view)

casey

 

 

jackie