The Future of Health IT: A “Dawning” of Dynamic Proportions

Brandee Norris
Brandee Norris

Guest post by Brandee Norris, assistant professor healthcare administration and management school of business and technology, Trevecca Nazarene University.

The health information technology (HIT) industry is on the verge of a dramatic dawning. As more healthcare organizations transition to paperless systems and to meaningful use of a certified electronic health record (EHR), the need to ensure the safety and integrity of healthcare data and to eliminate the risk of health IT breaches increases. In the past five years, the Department of Health and Human Services reported more than 800 breaches of healthcare patient data, breaches that affected more than 30 million patients. Breaches in electronic healthcare data cause serious negative outcomes for patients, stakeholders, and organizations—both public and private—and result in millions of dollars in fines and losses.

As the use of HIT systems increases within the healthcare industry, hospitals and providers of private practices are seeking effective methods to enhance data storage and streamline access to patient information without jeopardizing the privacy of the data. A possible solution to this problem is the transference of protected health information from a local system’s network to a cloud-based electronic medical records (EMR) service. Cloud computing may be categorized as private or public. Based on HIPAA regulations, professionals in the healthcare industry continue to dispute the legitimacy of public cloud computing and compliance with specific requirements of the HIPAA.

Contrary to provisions mandated by HIPAA, cloud-based platforms could accommodate the growing needs of healthcare organizations and provide flexibility to adapt to frequent changes, while providing significant cost savings. The primary objectives of using any variation of a cloud-based program are efficient leveraging of healthcare information, enhancement of patient experience, versatility for providers, and improved clinical outcomes. Cloud-based programs permit 24-hour patient access to electronic records.

Consumers in the 21st century prefer convenient methods to access healthcare services and manage personal information. Consequently, healthcare organizations have adopted patient-centered models to deliver health care and increase provider-patient communication. In addition, cloud-based platforms can facilitate the use of mobile devices, such as smartphones and iPads, allowing patients and providers to access health software applications. The number of healthcare consumers using smartphones to access health information soared from more than 60 million to more than70 million in the last two years. Anderson projects an estimated 20 percent annual increase of software application sales during the next five years.

Healthcare providers have suggested that significant benefits could occur for patients using mobile software applications to monitor their health status. Currently, numerous types of health software applications exist that are free or obtainable at a reasonable fee. Last year, healthcare providers used health software applications for obtaining diagnostic test results, sending alerts for patients to self- medicate, track and monitor levels of chronic pain, and store vital signs and emergency contact information. Consumers should be aware that a compatible operating system and adequate storage space are required to download health software applications to a mobile device.

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Blessing in the Delay: ICD-10

Keith Boyce
Keith Boyce

Guest post by Keith Boyce, vice president of business development, RxOffice.

The recent postponement of the implementation of ICD-10 is nothing but good news. Moving the deadline to next year gives providers an opportunity to conduct further research and select the software that is compliant and the least disruptive of their existing processes while keeping the best interest of the patient in mind.

ICD-10 was the first step by the Obama administration’s healthcare plan, Obamacare, which revealed the need for a universal software platform that could work in all medical areas. Some professionals say the ICD-10 and other requirements of the new healthcare plan will cause physicians to spend more time on paper work and less time with patient care. If that is the case, healthcare providers will need a system that will cut down on the amount of time needed for paperwork. With the extension in ICD-10’s implementation, now is the time to make decision about keep or modifying current systems or investing in new ones.

The new regulations proposed through Obamacare will have more of an effect on small to mid-size healthcare providers and the IT companies that cater to them. Larger IT firms are not affected as much because their clients are the hospitals and large research clinics that do not have to adhere to the requirements of ICD-10. This means that these firms are less likely to understand and provide compliant software to smaller, special medical centers, such as diabetes, mental health and podiatry to name a few.

Healthcare providers should look for systems with the following characteristics:

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The State of Electronic Healthcare Transactions in Workers’ Compensation

Tina Greene
Tina Greene

Tina Greene, Senior Regulatory Affairs Consultant, Casualty Solutions Group, Regulatory Affairs and Compliance at Mitchell International.

The Administrative Simplification provisions of the Federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA, Title II) include requirements that national standards for electronic health care transactions be established. These standards were adopted to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the nation’s health care system by encouraging the widespread use of electronic data interchange in health care.

In the final rule, it’s recognized that:

“Non-HIPAA entities such as workers’ compensation programs and property and casualty insurance accept electronic healthcare transactions from providers, however, the Congress did not include these programs in the definition of a health plan under section 1171 of the Act.

The statutory definition of a health plan does not specifically include workers’ compensation programs, property and casualty programs, or disability insurance programs, and, consequently, we are not requiring them to comply with the standards. However, to the extent that these programs perform healthcare claims processing activities using an electronic standard, it would benefit these programs and their healthcare providers to use the standard we adopt.”

“Health Insurance Reform: Standards for Electronic Transactions; Announcement of Designated Standard Maintenance Organizations; Final Rule and Notice.” Federal Register 65:160 (17 August 2000) p. 50319.

In an effort to realize the effectiveness of electronic data interchange, some states have adopted regulations requiring electronic healthcare transactions for billing and payment. Early implementers of EDI for workers’ compensation in various states identified issues such as payer ID (claim administrator identification), claim filing indicator code and claim number, and worked with stakeholders to find resolutions. These issues have since been addressed in industry standards.

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Physician EHR Satisfaction Is on the Rise but Challenges Linger

Lea Chatham
Lea Chatham

Guest post by Lea Chatham, content marketing manager, Kareo.

In the recent Physicians Practice Technology Survey, sponsored by Kareo, there are two trends that bode well. First, the majority of practices surveyed were independent, and second, there were more positives about EHRs than negatives. It looks like things are finally heading in the right direction.

Ongoing EHR Concerns Linger

That isn’t to say that practices don’t continue to have concerns, however. Nearly 20 percent of those surveyed still don’t have an EHR. The barriers? Implementation, interoperability and cost. And implementation of EHRs is cited as the top technology challenge for practices.

“The transition to an EHR can be hard, especially when practices choose the wrong system the first time and have to go through the process twice,” explains Laurie Morgan, senior partner at Capko and Morgan, a practice management consulting firm. “So it is really important to make the right choice. What we have seen is that the practices that have been on a good system for while do see the value and the workflow benefits. It just takes some time.”

On the flip side though, 57 percent are happy with their choice of vendor, which may mean that we will start to see a slowdown in EHR switching, giving providers a chance to focus on patient care and building their practices. In addition, more than 40 percent say they have seen a return on investment, and even more cite an improvement in efficiency.

For those who are unhappy with their EHR, this is a clear sign that better technology is out there. It is a matter of making sure to choose the right one and implement it correctly. “There are several steps practices can take to make sure they get the right EHR at the right price,” says Tom Giannulli, MD, MS, chief medical information officer at Kareo. “These days most of the affordable cloud-based EHRs will have the basic features so it often comes down to a few special needs and the implementation and training. To help improve satisfaction with the EHR it is really important to take advantage of all training and support and invest the time to get familiar with the system.”

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Think Beyond the Text: Understanding HIPAA and Its Revisions

Terry Edwards
Terry Edwards

Guest post by Terry Edwards, CEO, PerfectServe.

Every day, physicians send and receive clinical information to and from patients, nurses, care managers, pharmacy technicians, specialty clinics and other physicians. These communications occur through a wide range of modes—including smart phones, pagers, CPOE, emails, texts and even messaging features within electronic medical records. Patient health information (PHI) is constantly exchanged through these messages, and to avoid a HIPAA violation, which can cost millions of dollars plus a hit to reputation, practices must make sure proper security features are in place.

Especially for physicians in smaller practices who are already strapped for time and resources, a HIPAA violation could leave their practice in a precarious situation. In fact, according to a recent study by the Ponemon Institute, the average cost of HIPPA breaches from 2010 through 2012 was $2.4 million per organization. To meet evolving guidelines around the quality of care, increase efficiency and potentially avoid financial penalties in the years to come, physicians must address communications security holistically.

The final HIPAA ruling requires physicians look at their entire risk management process, and not just specific technologies, which is why “HIPAA-compliant” text messaging isn’t yet possible. While texts are commonly sent between two individuals via their mobile phones, the “communication universe” into which a text enters is actually much bigger. This universe also includes creating electronic PHI (ePHI) and sending messages—in text and voice modalities—from mobile carrier web sites, paging applications, call centers, answering services and hospital switchboards.

The law stipulates that a covered entity – i.e. a physician, medical group practice, hospital or health system – must perform a formal risk assessment; develop and implement and effective risk management strategy based upon the findings in that risk assessment; implement the strategy using sound policies and procedures; and monitor its risk on an ongoing basis. These regulations apply to physicians creating, transmitting and receiving PHI in any electronic form.

While there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach, medical practices can take the following steps to improve the security of their communications:

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Health IT Thought Leader Highlight: Chris Fox, Avantas

Chris Fox
Chris Fox

Chris Fox, CEO of Avantas, discusses how he and his firm help physicians improve their operational performance; healthcare staffing; the need for addressing operational efficiencies across a health system without following some traditional approaches — like layoffs; and market trends that continue to perplex, yet offer opportunity for growth and development.

Avantas started as a group within Alegent Creighton Health more than a decade ago with the goal of optimizing its workforce across the health system. Its efforts were so successful that it became a separate company and began offering its expertise to the entire industry.

In 2007 Avantas developed a healthcare scheduling software, Smart Square, as no other solution on the market offered the flexibility and customization necessary to fully automate our strategies and provide a transparent view of staffing, scheduling, and productivity at the enterprise level.

Avantas executives provide thought leadership in healthcare labor management.

What keeps your passion for this mission, and the organization, alive? Tell me more about what excites you about your work and why you love what you do?

Very simply, if we are successful as a company it is because we have helped our clients – healthcare providers – improve their operational, clinical, and financial performance. Stronger healthcare providers means more services, more community outreach, basically, better, more affordable healthcare for everyone. It’s pretty easy to be passionate about that.

What draws you to healthcare? Did you seek out the sector when you began your career?

I’ve worked in software development and innovation for more than 15 years within a number of industries. It’s a funny story, but I actually got involved in healthcare because of a chance seat assignment on an airplane almost 10 years ago. I was seated next to Lorane Kinney, Avantas’ co-founder. We got to talking about Avantas and what she was trying to build there. Hearing Lorane’s passion for the company and the need to automate a new approach to labor optimization in healthcare was very inspiring. I knew I wanted to be a part of it, and I knew I could play a big role in bringing Lorane’s vision to fruition. Avantas has a compelling story and big aspirations. As Avantas’ CEO, I, like Lorane, seek out individuals who are passionate about the vision we have for the industry and want to be part of that change.

Tell me more about the evolution of Avantas, from where you started to where you’ve come today? Where are you headed and why?

Avantas started as a group within what is today Alegent Creighton Health more than a decade ago with the goal of leveraging economies of scale and standardizing its labor proactively across its then five Omaha hospitals. Our purpose was to develop and implement strategies that would leverage the system’s care staff, both proactively and in the moment to cost effectively adjust to the natural rise and fall in patient volume. Our efforts were so successful we became a separate company in 2001 and began offering our workforce management expertise to the entire industry via consulting. In 2006 Avantas conducted an RFP to find a scheduling solution we could use within our client base to automate the labor strategies we had developed. After we were unable to identify an appropriate solution we developed our own healthcare-specific enterprise scheduling solution, Smart Square. Now Smart Square is being utilized in more than 200 facilities across the country. Our strategies and technology solutions are packaged in a comprehensive methodology called HELM, which stands for healthcare enterprise labor management. HELM takes a step-by-step approach at restructuring an organization’s labor management strategy by first right-sizing its staffing sources, standardizing policies, and implementing best practices. Next we automate those policies with Smart Square. We also work with our clients to develop centralized methods of managing staffing resources as well as helping them build out the necessary layers of contingency staff, enabling them to cost effectively adjust to constantly changing patient demand. We help our clients implement these strategies across their systems: inpatient, ancillary and outpatient areas, like medical group practice sites.

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A Guide on How to Select the Right Electronic Health Record

Sanjeev Dahiwadkar
Sanjeev Dahiwadkar

Guest post by Sanjeev Dahiwadkar, CEO, RxOffice.

No one will argue that there are not benefits to EHRs (electronic health records). They eliminate paper, enable providers to track data efficiently over a period of time, create a clearinghouse of patient health information in one place, just to name a few. Some argue EHRs improve the overall quality of patient care and business management. However, with so many EHRs on the market, hospitals and doctors’ offices face the daunting task of selecting the right system. Like the general population, most healthcare professionals’ exposure to technology has been limited to that of a consumer, making the selection of the right EHR system a process out of their comfort zone. Then getting trained on how to efficiently use the system while maintaining a high level of patient care comes into play. This has proven to be frustrating, ineffective and possibly dangerous in extreme cases when information is incorrect and/or cannot be accessed. This situation has put healthcare providers in a challenging position, to say the least.

Since 2009 when the federal government rolled out the $30 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act as an incentive program for the healthcare industry to go digital with its records, the landscape has changed. One of the first things that happened was the huge influx of technology vendors who decided to make their foray into the healthcare space. Unfortunately, most of these companies did not understand how the industry operated, no pun intended. In fact, the average vendor just launched its first product to the industry in the last year so that does not provide a lot of industry longevity/credibility. Many vendors were focused on getting the peace of $30 billion pie at the cost of their client not getting what the system they needed. Established technology vendors, who shifted their focus on solving the industry’s problems, were outnumbered by the new players who entered the market chasing government grants. The availability of these grants actually created an EHR technology bubble in very short period of time. To make matter worse, well-intended government rules only focused on the end users’ ability to implement technology correctly instead of the technology producers.

With the overwhelming amount of information out there about EHR technology and the providers, healthcare professionals must do thorough due diligence to find the best system that fits their needs. This will take both a time and resource commitment. Let’s look using a metaphor that most people understand or at least have had some experience with, dating. The same principles used in dating can apply when selecting the right EHR technology. Here are four simple rules that can help any healthcare provider make a good business decision when looking for an EHR solution.

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Health IT Startup: MobileSmith

Bob Dieterle
Bob Dieterle

MobileSmith is an online app development platform, enabling hospitals and health organizations to create custom, native apps, across iPhone, Android and iPad devices, without any coding required.

Elevator Pitch

We have a platform that allows a marketing department with no development experience to create custom, native mobile apps. With us, any hospital can enhance their patient engagement strategy, without coding, and without the cost of hiring developers.

Founders Story

The earliest foundations of the company that would become MobileSmith, were laid in 1993. Back then, the company, known as SmartOnline, sold software to assist small businesses. SmartOnline became one of the early pioneers of the SaaS (Software as a Service) model that we use today. The company worked to adapt to the constantly changing technology. In 2010, the company hired Bob Dieterle as senior VP and general manager. He advocated and orchestrated a complete overhaul of the company services, and focused the company, instead, on the budding industry of mobile applications. The company wanted to deliver organizations a means to quickly create and manage apps to connect to their consumers, without having to rely heavily on an IT department. Working to that end, the MobileSmith online platform was developed, and in July 2013, the overhaul was complete, as the company rebranded itself as MobileSmith Inc. and has since focused entirely on delivering quality and cost-effective mobile apps to organizations.

Market Opportunity and Strategy

There are several app development platforms out there, such as Appcelerator or Kony. These platforms still require a programmer or developer to write code for the apps. Our platform requires no coding whatsoever. A designer or marketer can easily come to us and use our platform to design, prototype, build and deploy an app. While we have clients from a variety of fields, healthcare providers have found our platform particularly useful. With healthcare IT departments swamped with EHR implementation and marketing desperately trying to enhance patient engagement options, our platform has been able to fill their needs without placing any further burden on their IT, and avoiding the higher labor cost of developers. As only 35 percent of healthcare providers offer mobile apps, according to the HIMSS Analytics Survey, there is a clear need in the healthcare industry for our platform, and several organizations have found us to be an excellent means of enhancing their patient engagement via mobile apps.

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Electronic Health Reporter Named One of the Best Healthcare IT Blogs of 2014

Healthcare IT Leaders, an award-winning consulting and staff augmentation firm that connects hospitals and health systems with top healthcare IT talent, announces its picks for the Best Healthcare IT Blogs of 2014. The winning blogs were chosen for their timely content, insightful writing and subject matter expertise on topics important to the HIT industry.

Electronic Health Reporter was among one of 15 sites nominated, and selected, for the honor of best healthcare IT blogs of 2014.

“It’s exciting to see the healthcare IT industry unfold from so many perspectives,” said Alex Gramling, chief marketing officer for Healthcare IT Leaders. “The blogging of CIOs, physicians, consultants, tech journalists, industry experts and lawmakers, whether they’re behind the scenes or right there in the action, helps inform, educate and entertain all of us.”

Site nominations came from social media followers and readers of the Healthcare IT Leaders blog.

Healthcare IT Leaders matches skilled IT talent to contract and full-time HIT consulting jobs. Through its blog, the company provides content, infographics, and news updates as well as insights from its chief medical officer, Dr. Frank Speidel. In 2013, Healthcare IT Leaders was named by Staffing Industry Analysts as one of the Best Staffing Firms to Work For in the US.

Here’s the complete list of sites selected as this year’s best:

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CMS Proposes Changes to the Medicare Shared Savings Program Quality Measures

Ken Perez
Ken Perez

Guest post by Ken Perez, vice president of healthcare policy, Omnicell.

In the wake of mixed initial results for the Pioneer ACO Model and Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP), this is the year for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to take the feedback it has received and revamp its ACO programs.

The proposed rule for the 2015 Physician Fee Schedule (PFS), a 609-page document released on June 19, 2014, interestingly included the first installment of modifications to the ACO programs. The proposed rule devoted 52 pages to changes to the quality measures for the MSSP. Throughout the document, CMS emphasized its intent to align the numerous physician quality reporting programs, such as the Medicare EHR Incentive Program for Eligible Professionals and the MSSP, as much as possible, to reduce the administrative burden on the eligible professionals and group practices participating in these programs.

The final rule for the MSSP, issued in November 2011, presented 33 quality measures against which ACOs would be measured. These quality measures also apply to Pioneer ACOs. The measures pertain to four domains: patient/care giver experience, care coordination/patient safety, preventive health, and at-risk populations.

The proposed rule recommends the addition of the following 12 new measures:

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A Decision-Making Guide for Merging Your Clinical Practice

Dr. Michael Cameron
Dr. Michael Cameron

Guest post by Michael J. Cameron, PhD, BCBA-D, chief clinical officer, Pacific Child and Family Associates.

You’re passionate about helping people. It’s why you got into this field and what drives you to do your best. But it’s very likely that your day-to-day life is filled with paperwork and admin tasks instead of spending time doing the clinical work that you love.

As a side effect of your success, you’ll find yourself consumed by the quotidian responsibilities as an administrator, including:

  • Invoice preparation and billing
  • Managing timely and accurate payments from school systems, insurance companies, private and governmental payer sources
  • Completing applications for insurance companies in order to become an “in-network” provider
  • Managing ever changing staff schedules
  • Managing issues related to human resource (e.g., hiring, payroll, progressive discipline and employee rights issues)
  • Managing public relations
  • And more

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

The more successful your practice becomes, the more these tasks eat up your days.  You’re pushed away from the reason you entered the field – and you come to a point where you need to make a decision.

All successful small business owners have been at this point of realization. They are suddenly faced with a “stay or leave” decision about the business. If they decide to stay, an infusion of additional capital and resources is necessary to build or maintain the quality business they envisioned at the start. A decision to leave will mean a significant shift in their perceived autonomy and sense of success.

It’s a difficult decision to make, but it’s essential. Staying in this state for too long can have a negative impact on your professional life, relationships with friends and family, personal health and overall quality of life.

If you don’t have the capital and resources to add, you need an exit strategy for the situation you’re in. But your exit strategy doesn’t always mean selling or closing the business.

Why Not Choose Option 3?

Opting for a merger relationship with a larger entity can help a practice expand without putting additional pressure on your individual practice’s time or resources. There are multiple benefits to a merger decision that can help you do the work you’re passionate about and reduce the administrative load.

You gain access to an infrastructure for clinical excellence.

As a clinician and business owner, you encounter complicated circumstances that need to be managed expeditiously and responsibly. You need a “clinical home” to handle the circumstances involved in managing treatment resistant behavior disorders, complex behavioral presentations (e.g., a child with an anxiety disorder) and sensitive family situations (e.g., families impacted by psychiatric problems, separation, divorce, substance abuse and domestic violence).

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Avoid These Six Implementation Pitfalls To Achieve EHR Success

John Squire
John Squire

Guest post by John Squire, president and COO, Amazing Charts.

According to the 2014 Exclusive EHR Study conducted by the MPI Group and Medical Economics, 70 percent of clinicians said their EHR investment has not been worth the effort, resources and costs. Widespread dissatisfaction with electronic records systems is casting an unfortunate shadow over the great potential they hold for making today’s medical practices more efficient and for improving healthcare delivery. However, practices can help avoid future disappointment with their EHR decision and save time and resources by understanding how to avoid common implementation pitfalls.

1.       Choosing the wrong EHR

The intuitiveness and ease of use of your EHR will affect every area of your practice. If you don’t consider yourself to be technologically savvy, finding an intuitive solution should be at the top of your list. (After all, presumably you’re a clinician, not an IT expert.) Was a clinician was involved with the development of the EHR system? If a clinician wasn’t involved, chances are your idea of “usable” won’t line up with that of the vendor’s.

Another aspect to consider is cost, which can vary across a wide spectrum from free to several thousand dollars a month. Decide on the maximum price that you are willing to pay. This will reduce the list of vendors for consideration. Oh by the way, beware of the word “free.” Your biggest hidden cost is not the dollars spent on software, but the hours of lost productivity from a system that impedes you with banner ads and other annoying distractions.

To be certain that the EHR you choose is the right one for your practice, do everything in your power to expose yourself to the software prior to purchasing. It is worth asking the vendor whether they offer free trials. If not, consider watching video tutorials, attending webinars and shadowing another clinician using the EHR.

2.       Underestimating the importance of an implementation plan

To ensure the smoothest transition possible, develop an implementation plan that will introduce you to your new EHR and also help you identify specific questions to ask the vendor. Your EHR vendor will likely have one to give you – just ask.

At a minimum, a useful implementation guide should tell you how to do the following:

  • Create user profiles
  • Set clinician schedules
  • Set up test patients
  • Set CPT codes/fee schedules
  • Set up and activate e-prescribing
  • Access your prescription writer
  • Import patient demographics
  • Manually enter patient information
  • Connect to interfaces and more

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In Healthcare, It’s the Outcome that Matters Most to the Patient

Michelle Blackmer
Michelle Blackmer

Guest post Michelle Blackmer, director of marketing, Healthcare, Informatica.

The Affordable Care Act is commonly surrounded by words, such as “analytics,” “electronic medical record (EMR)” and “population health,” routinely trumping the word that matters the most, the center and driver of the law: the “patient.”

A recent EMR Patient Impact Survey compiled by Aeffect, Inc. & 88 Brand Partners, illustrates that patients are experiencing a personal benefit of EMR adoption:

  • 82 percent of patients visiting doctors that use an EMR believe they are receiving better care,
  • 68 percent appreciate the convenience of being able to check for medical records and test results, and
  • 44 percent, or almost half, of these respondents say they have a more positive impression of their doctor because he/she uses an EMR.

However, beyond these early and obvious benefits offered by information technology – convenience and improved service – there are more meaningful benefits ahead. Insights will be revealed that will change healthcare in ways we can’t even imagine. The adoption of EMRs is generating useful, consumable and sharable electronic data. It is also creating a forum to inspire and collect patient-generated data, including health history, symptoms, biometric data, treatment history and lifestyle choices.

According to a new report from digital health consultancy DrBonnie360, there are now an estimated 50 petabytes of data in the healthcare realm, and this volume is rapidly increasing.  In fact, many Informatica healthcare customers have reported significant data volume growth. For example, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center recently communicated that its data storage (storage alone) is growing at 40 percent a year.

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10 Tips for a Successful Healthcare IT Project Implementation

Richard 'RJ' Kedziora
Richard Kedziora

Guest post by Richard Kedziora, CIO/COO of Estenda Solutions, Inc.

Today’s healthcare system is becoming progressively technology dependent. With the need to meet meaningful use requirements, convert to ICD-10, or work with health information exchanges (HIEs), healthcare organizations must have effective IT solutions, but building and implementing one successfully is not an easy task.

Below is a list of 10 fundamentals of successful healthcare IT project implementation, management and execution that will help your organization, whether clinical, business, or IT, design and develop a functional, patient-centered IT solution that fits its needs. It’s easy to let the highly technical elements overwhelm healthcare IT projects, but following these guidelines will help your team focus on the delivery of care.

Plan

Develop your plan with a detailed project introduction, clear scope, deliverables, schedules, project methodology, roles and responsibilities, and change management procedures. Consult ISO 9001/13485/62385 for information on best practices for quality management systems.

Healthcare IT projects involve a lot of moving parts and many people from different professional backgrounds. Setting clear expectations that every project member agrees on will ensure a project runs efficiently. Meeting regulatory requirements, including meaningful use goals, is a crucial aspect of carrying out a successful healthcare IT project.

Set goals and objectives

Early on in the process, involve key players – clinical, business, and IT – in determining the goals and objectives of the project. Ask your team to agree on a definition of success. Depending on the project, involving patients may be valuable. A patient portal project is an ideal situation to solicit feedback from patients.

Adapt to changing objectives

Implement effective change management procedures to your plan to ensure that the project meets the goals on-time and within budget.

Change management is important in every project, in every industry. It is particularly important at this time in healthcare.  Healthcare reform and government mandates, such as Meaningful Use, are ever-changing.  Recently, the deadline for compliance with ICD10 was pushed back a year.  If your organization was close to a switchover, ask your project team how those changing objectives impact your plan and your goals.

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Alere Connect: Mobile Devices Connecting Healthcare

Kent Dicks CEO
Kent Dicks

Guest post by Kent Dicks, CEO, Alere Connect.

Mobile devices are completely ingrained in the fabric of our daily lives – from personal use to business – throughout the world.

The healthcare industry, usually resistant to the whims of technology trends, has been a fast and significant adopter of mobile devices. Apple’s introduction of the iPad appears to have been a watershed that brought healthcare IT into the 21st century. Besides improved efficiency in communication and administrative functions, clinicians found the devices much more practical to incorporate to patient interactions – from consultation to education. Now mobile devices have become almost indispensable in the daily care of patients. Physicians use smart phones and tablets wherever they review patient records, receive updates or alerts by secure text messaging and coordinate care among other clinicians. Care professionals are connected to health information like never before.

Telehealth has “connected” patients and physicians for decades in an attempt to deliver proactive healthcare, but mobile devices and cloud-based technologies are making remote healthcare more practical. Still, we are just scratching the surface as to what a “connected healthcare system” can look like. Despite strides, we still need to tie it all together: patients, physicians, devices, data, analytics, decision support, monitoring services and education – to achieve the best outcomes for our patients.

A connected patient is more compliant with a better chance to attain better outcomes. A connected provider has access to better information to make better decisions. The common goal is to keep the patient out of the hospital, lower costs, reduce the strain on an already strained healthcare system and provide better outcomes. How we implement the goal of a connected healthcare system is the challenge.

In assessing how to best utilize mobile technology with patients and providers, my belief is that one solution doesn’t fit all. We must align the right technology with the right patients. Smart phones and tablets with complex apps and expensive data plans may be common in demographic groups that may skew younger, or those with higher technical literacy and dexterity and more disposable income. Simpler technology using month-to-month or prepaid service plans may better suit seniors and those with limited and fixed incomes. Meaningful change will come faster by focusing on the 15 percent of the population that consumes 80 percent of healthcare costs. This segment traditionally includes the elderly and indigent, Medicare/Medicaid population. This group doesn’t overwhelmingly consume the “latest and greatest” devices with the hottest apps and seamless connectivity – 4G, Bluetooth, WiFi and syncing to the cloud is not reality. We must be realistic when we propose solutions to address something as important as the delivery of patient care, providing the right technology to meet the needs of the people using it. Acquiring the right data, at the right time, and right cost, to achieve the right (better) outcome for the patient.

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