HEALTH

New WebMD Symptom Checker empowers self care

BY Michael Johnsen

WebMD on Thursday launched a new version of its iconic WebMD Symptom Checker. The tool, introduced in 2005, has been completely redesigned with an emphasis on providing a better user experience and more accurate results.

“The WebMD Symptom Checker is our flagship tool that consumers turn to each month for information on their health concerns,” Steven L. Zatz, CEO WebMD, said. “Our redesign reflects our commitment to continually improving the experience of consumers when seeking answers to their health questions. We take very seriously our role in the consumer healthcare experience, and we have enhanced the tool to deliver the most accurate results possible.”

More than 75 million people visit WebMD every month for the latest health information, news and trends, and millions of them use WebMD’s Symptom Checker to research symptoms and learn about possible conditions so they are better informed and more confident about what to do next.

The new WebMD Symptom Checker features a revamped user interface designed to provide consumers with a simple and seamless experience powered by a professional-grade diagnostic engine used by physicians to support their point-of-care decisions. WebMD has made this possible by mapping clinical symptomology and diagnoses into easy-to-understand language that will be accessible to millions of users. The new Symptom Checker features three times more symptoms and potential conditions than the previous version.

It is anticipated that these changes will resonate with millions of users.

Additionally, WebMD has evolved the interface so that visitors can simply type in how and what they are feeling, rather than trying to connect specific areas of the body to specific ailments – a process that consumers indicated was a challenge when their symptoms were generalized, for example, in the case of body aches, chills or fever.

Once a user has typed in their symptoms and other relevant information, including medical history and medications, the Symptom Checker generates a list of potential conditions that are ordered and rated based on the strength of the correlation between the particular condition and the information provided by the user. The tool is integrated with WebMD’s Physician Directory to help WebMD visitors find the care they need to address their health issues.

The Symptom Checker was redesigned based on feedback from WebMD users, medical experts, and leading academics and researchers. Additionally, a major impetus for the redesign was a 2015 article in the British Medical Journal about a study evaluating the accuracy of several symptom checker tools. WebMD has attempted to address issues raised in the BMJ article to provide consumers with an accurate and useful symptom checker experience.

“Providing accurate, trustworthy medical information is our core mission,” Michael Smith, medical director WebMD, said. “We are confident that this completely redesigned Symptom Checker will empower users with even more personalized and helpful information than ever before, while making it easy for them to connect with a health care professional to get the medical care they need.”

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Perrigo launches own brand-exclusive innovation in new PPI

BY Michael Johnsen

Perrigo and its partner Dexcel Pharma Technologies on Thursday launched a store brand Omeprazole Delayed Release Orally Disintegrating Tablets 20mg (Omeprazole ODT) that features MelTech melt-in-your-mouth technology, which dissolves in the mouth without water.

“Consumers want a heartburn medication that provides effective, long-term relief, but they also want a product that is easy and convenient to take,” Jeff Needham, executive vice president and president, Consumer Healthcare Americas, Perrigo, said. “Our novel Omeprazole ODT product combines the effective heartburn relief of omeprazole with innovative MelTech melt-in-your-mouth technology that heartburn sufferers desire. Perrigo is excited to be the first to bring this innovation to the heartburn OTC category while still delivering quality, affordable store-brand products to consumers.”

According to IRI, retail sales of omeprazole (as an active ingredient) totaled more than $600 million for the last 12 months, when combining store brand and the nationally advertised brand, Prilosec OTC.

Store brand omeprazole is more cost-effective than national heartburn brand solutions, with customers saving an average of 20% to 30% when purchasing store brand. Omeprazole ODT treats the same frequent heartburn symptoms as name brand products that use omeprazole as the active ingredient.

Omeprazole ODT is a proton pump inhibitor that works by blocking the production of acid in the stomach, which often leads to heartburn. PPIs are FDA-approved for patients 18 years of age and older. Omeprazole is the number one selling active ingredient in PPIs. One 20mg tablet should be taken daily for 14 days to relieve frequent heartburn symptoms. Unless instructed by your doctor, Omeprazole ODT should not be taken for more than 14 days, and at least four months should pass before beginning another treatment regimen.

Heartburn is considered frequent when symptoms are experienced at least two times per week. According to the American College of Gastroenterology, more than 15 million Americans experience heartburn symptoms each day. More than eight in 10 adults face some type of gastrointestinal problem, and more than half (57 percent) seek out treatments with an over-the-counter medication. Additionally, 52 percent turn to medical professionals, friends or family members for help in deciding how to treat digestive health issues.

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Smartphone-driven lifestyle works against dieters, survey finds

BY DSN STAFF

Adults trying to lose weight need a new approach that’s compatible with how dieters live today, according to results from a new national survey released earlier this week.

Specifically, most healthcare professionals and a majority of U.S. dieters say losing weight is harder today than it was for previous generations because of the busy, modern lifestyle of Americans (77% of primary care physicians or PCPs, 81% of pharmacists, 62% U.S. adults). In fact, approximately seven in 10 healthcare professionals say it’s harder for Americans today to lose weight compared to just 10 years ago (69% of PCPs, 73% of pharmacists), and the vast majority believe Americans need to take a new approach to weight loss that fits with today’s modern lifestyle (89% of PCPs, 95% of pharmacists).

“These findings highlight that while the way we live has changed dramatically over the past 10-20 years, our approach to weight-loss has not evolved sufficiently to address those changes,” Frank Greenway, medical director and professor at Pennington Biomedical Research Center, said. “The results underscore that we need to take a step back and evaluate what weight-loss strategies can best set people up for success given the demands of their daily lives.”

Results from the survey suggest that today’s “on-demand,” screen-focused way of life is making Americans increasingly inactive. For example, the vast majority of healthcare professionals and U.S. dieters say screen time (i.e., everyday use of mobile, tablet and computer screens) keeps Americans from moving around today as much as we did in years past (95% of PCPs, 97% of pharmacists, 88% of U.S. adults), and that on-demand services such as meal delivery, ride sharing, streaming TV, online shopping, etc. are having the same effect (82% of PCPs, 84% of pharmacists, 80% of U.S. adults).

Survey findings also show that healthcare professionals are worried about a trend toward eating habits driven by lack of time, with most being concerned that Americans not taking the time to plan healthy meals will negatively impact their weight (98% of PCPs, 97% of pharmacists) and their family’s weight (97% of PCPs, 97% of pharmacists).

Approximately four in 10 U.S. adults are currently trying to lose weight (41%). Yet, perhaps in part because of the increased challenges associated with doing so, only about three in 10 of them are confident that they’ll be able to achieve their current weight-loss goals (29%). This may be because, for the majority, it is not their first attempt — approximately six in 10 say they are frustrated by repeated efforts to lose weight (59%), and, typically, they have attempted to lose weight five times in the past five years.

Similarly, healthcare professionals say only a small percentage of their patients are able to lose weight and keep it off. On average, PCPs say only 12% of their patients are able to do so, and pharmacists say that only 14.1% of the patients they counsel are able to lose weight. They also say that dieting can have unwanted consequences, and can even lead to weight gain. For example, 77% of PCPs and 84% of pharmacists say that after going through a period of extremely reduced calorie intake, a person’s body will prepare for the next “starvation” period and the person may gain weight in response, and 62% of PCPs and 72% of pharmacists say that drastically reducing the number of calories a person gets will slow down the body’s weight-loss process.

“Most of the people I counsel come to me after several failed attempts to sustainably lose weight—and often after a diet, they gain back more weight than they initially lost, and they often give up after ‘cheating’ on the diet,” said Brooke Schoonenberg, a provider at Woman’s Hospital in Baton Rouge, La. “For many, the time required for meal planning isn’t compatible with the demands of their careers and/or parenting. And, even when time is found, they can fall back into usual habits because the diet didn’t help them adopt changes that they could sustain over the long-term.”

Not only do healthcare professionals say that Americans need a new approach to weight loss, but they also point to several things that can help set people up for success. The No. 1 factor they cite for successful weight loss given today’s busy, modern lifestyle is having a plan/method (89% of PCPs, 87% of pharmacists), that includes being sustainable (79% of PCPs, 69% of pharmacists), not being time consuming (56% of PCPs, 55% of pharmacists), not requiring sudden/major shifts to a person’s daily routine (54% of PCPs, 53% of pharmacists), and working quickly and safely (42% of PCPs, 36% of pharmacists).

Furthermore, healthcare professionals and U.S. dieters agree that advice and support from a healthcare professional are important in order to successfully lose weight (93% of PCPs, 96% of pharmacists, 66% of U.S. adults). However, eight in 10 healthcare professionals (85% of PCPs, 84% of pharmacists) wish they had more weight-loss options to offer their patients who are overweight (i.e., not yet obese), and the majority say that having a weight-loss product/aid that fits into one’s lifestyle without unpleasant side effects would make it easier for their patients to lose weight (63% of PCPs, 60% of pharmacists).

Today, only 32% of U.S. dieters who are currently trying or have ever tried to lose weight say that they discussed or developed a specific weight-loss plan with a healthcare professional. But, the vast majority of healthcare professionals think it is important to intervene and discuss weight loss/management with overweight patients before they become obese (96% of PCPs, 91% of pharmacists).

The survey was conducted online by The Harris Poll in October/November 2017 on behalf of Swiss Life Science Group Zaluvida, the makers of I-Remove, and included nearly 1,000 healthcare professionals (458 PCPs and 503 pharmacists), and more than 1,000 U.S. adults ages 18 and over.

 

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