Guest post by Peter Mansfield, director of marketing, QLess.
Healthcare is one of the primary economic engines of America’s cities and a sector where technology innovation remains a high priority. However, recent findings from a ClickSoftware study conducted by Harris Poll, revealed that Americans feel healthcare is one of the country’s most frustrating industries — because of the amount of time spent waiting to be served. So, where’s the disconnect?
It’s no secret, there are a few worse places to wait in line than the doctor’s office or urgent care, surrounded by coughers and sneezers. To this end, healthcare facilities must take a step back and ask themselves the question: How efficient are you?
For most healthcare professionals that’s a tough question. The truth is, it’s well worth giving serious consideration to the operational aspects of your healthcare practice or clinic. After all, inefficiency directly impacts your bottom line in a multitude of ways. Worst of all, a poorly run area of your business can foster a negative influence that permeates other aspects of your practice. One poorly focused or lackadaisical area will frustrate not only your patients but also your team and the employees who really want to push a practice forward.
Where to start? From hospitals to urgent care centers, healthcare businesses usually require the coordination of many different moving parts. That includes your team, systems, payers, and of course, patients. It’s worth thinking through the life cycle of a typical patient visit to identify critical points that help define and assess the overall experience your facility provides.
Health wearables and fitness tracking devices have created an unprecedented opportunity for the healthcare community to collect valuable data that could greatly impact patient care and health insurance premiums. Still, adoption rates for such devices remain low in the U.S. adult population.
While the use of health and fitness tracking devices has more than doubled in the last two years, a new nationwide survey conducted by TechnologyAdvice shows that only 25.1 percent of adults are currently using either a fitness tracker or a smartphone app to monitor their health, weight or exercise. However, the survey also shows that nearly half of those not using such a device would be more likely to use one if it were provided free by their physician or health insurance company.
“Healthcare providers and health insurance companies are two of the largest stakeholders in the promotion of fitness tracking devices, and they have an opportunity to greatly influence their use,” said the report’s author, TechnologyAdvice managing editor Cameron Graham. “This survey revealed there are few real barriers to using health wearables, and also indicated adoption rates would increase if their use was incentivized by the healthcare community. If healthcare providers worked in tandem with health insurance companies, both stakeholders could benefit from the collected population health data.”
Nearly 44 percent of respondents did not have a specific reason for not tracking their fitness, while another 27.2 percent cited a simple lack of interest in wearing a fitness tracking device. Cost, data privacy, and device design did not prove to be overly impactful concerns. With these limited barriers to use, almost half (48.2 percent) of non-tracking adults said they would use a free fitness tracking device provided by their physicians, while 46.1 percent said they would use one provided for free by their health insurance company.
MedWand Solutions develops and distributes the MedWand solution, a patent-pending telemedicine device that easily connects to a PC or mobile device, like a cell phone or tablet. MedWand contains a set of fundamental, easy-to-use vital sign measurement and examination devices integrated into a single wand about the size of a large electric toothbrush. It includes a pulse oximeter, an otoscope camera for ear examinations with attachments to also allow views of the eyes, throat, or nose, an in-ear thermometer, a digital stethoscope and provision to support optional third party Bluetooth wireless devices, such as glucose meter or blood pressure monitor. In addition enabling remote examinations, MedWand can assemble all measurements and required information into a secure electronic health record, enabling a clinical-quality, interactive, at-home telemedicine experience for both patients and their doctors.
With all the advancements we have experienced in technology, routine telemedicine still doesn’t allow examination capabilities for all patients. With MedWand, no matter where the location, patients can experience remote examinations like never before.
MedWand is the first handheld telemedicine device that allows doctors to examine patients and gather important medical vitals, remotely, via secure Internet channels on tablets and personal computers. In the rapidly growing industry of telemedicine, the majority of remote consultations are limited to audio and video without the possibility of direct physician examination. Now, with a MedWand, doctors can listen to a patient’s heart, lungs, and abdomen; look at skin and into ears, nose, and throat with an embedded high-definition video camera; obtain basic vital signs, including blood oxygenation; and even obtain a thre-lead EKG – all remotely, with a single unit that can be cradled into the palm of a hand. In addition, MedWand provides continuous medical vitals monitoring services with alerts when patients may be headed in the wrong direction.
The MedWand telemedicine device was conceived by former Pebble Beach house doctor Samir Qamar, a family physician and founder of MedLion Direct Primary Care, one of the nation’s leading direct primary care companies. It was after being dissatisfied with current limitations of telemedicine that Dr. Qamar came up with the idea to build a compact telemedicine device capable of remote patient exams. After an extensive search, Dr. Qamar approached engineer Robert Rose, founder of Cypher Scientific engineering, formerly of Red Digital Cinema, who agreed to join the project. Together, on a mission to advance telemedicine, Dr. Qamar and Mr. Rose created the MedWand.
MedWand appeals to the entire telemedicine industry. Having already been approached by branches of the U.S. military and many large telemedicine companies worldwide, MedWand will soon be helping hospitals, accountable care organizations, and companies control healthcare costs by allowing real-time examinations to telemedicine services. A major computer manufacturer has offered to be a launch partner for MedWand, and MedWand is ripe for international distribution. Eventually, the MedWand will be distributed directly to patients and their families worldwide.
Advocate Health Care (AHC), based in Illinois, is the Midwest’s largest health system. It includes 13 hospitals, two physician groups, a home care company, a laboratory joint venture and more than 200 sites that provide care. AHC typically serves about 3.4 million patients annually – as you can imagine, that results in a lot of patient data. As such, we recently adopted a single platform approach and standardization of processes for storing and sharing information that enables us to manage patient data in a more timely, cost-effective and streamlined manner.
Patient data is the lifeblood of our IT infrastructure. Given the size of our organization, it’s essential that we have a shared vision on how we manage, access and share information across all sites. Our health system exists to provide a full spectrum of care, so it’s vital that we have a data management system in place that helps ensure patient data meets compliance requirements and is quickly recoverable. Additionally, AHC has the state’s largest physician network of primary care physicians, specialists and sub-specialists, so this organized approach to managing data serves to connect patients with providers and vice-versa, ensuring no relationship is left unmatched.
Advocate Health Care maintains a bank of internal data from payroll, financial and HR applications, as well as clinical apps. As a result, it was producing an extreme amount of information on a daily basis that needed to be stored and managed by our corporate information system. Not all data management companies and solution providers understood our desire to integrate this data into one holistic platform. When it came time to find a new data management partner in 2011, many vendors recommended disparate systems or processes that siloed, rather than integrated, our in-house data management initiative.
Although most accountable care organizations (ACOs) have the health information technology (HIT) to improve clinical quality, poor interoperability across systems and providers remains a barrier, according to an ACO survey conducted by Premier, Inc. (NASDAQ: PINC) and the eHealth Initiative. Access to data from external organizations was challenging for 100 percent of respondents.
The survey, fielded in July-August of 2014, collected responses from 62 ACOs, including members of Premier’s PACT Population Health Collaborative.
Compounding the challenge of accessing and sharing data is the fact that 88 percent of the ACOs face significant obstacles in integrating data from disparate sources, and 83 percent report challenges integrating technology analytics into workflow – barriers that become more acute as ACOs add new platforms or build on their expansive network of medical settings. As ACOs collect data from more sources, they also report concerns about interoperability and data management. Interoperability of disparate systems is a significant challenge for 95 percent of organizations using HIT, and could be limiting the abilities of ACOs to exchange data.
Guest post by Chris McNabb, general manager, Dell Boomi.
Many healthcare IT organizations find themselves caught between a regulatory rock and a technological hard place. The breadth and increasing complexity of today’s healthcare regulatory compliance is putting tremendous pressure on them to rapidly and efficiently establish interoperability between the variety of systems, applications, data sources and devices that populate the diverse healthcare ecosystem of providers, payers, government agencies, labs and more. However, most of these IT departments don’t have adequate budgets, resources and bandwidth to make major investments in new technology while also maintaining expensive legacy systems and trying to manually consolidate their highly fragmented data silos. Instead, they remain mired in outdated application integration strategies based on traditional middleware solutions that require long and costly development cycles, making it impossible to satisfy the new and ever-changing regulations anytime soon.
There is a better way. Infrastructure Platform as a Service (iPaaS) enables the rapid and economic integration of applications in cloud-to-cloud, cloud-to-on-premises, and on-premises-to-on-premises integration scenarios. Because iPaaS is offered as a service, similar to the way Software as a Service (SaaS) is delivered, the barrier to entry is dramatically lower and the shift from CAPEX to OPEX delivers predictable costs. And because the integration will work with existing applications, IT will be able to focus immediately on meeting the challenges of the most significant new regulations, such as meaningful use, accountable care and the ICD coding standard. Let’s examine these regulations for their application integration challenge and see how iPaaS can help.
Even as healthcare organizations work to digitize their medical and clinical records, the requirement for meaningful use of certified electronic health record technology (CEHRT) means that the use of patient records needs to directly benefit patients through greater portability across health and insurance systems. This in turn requires IT to establish new, complex processes for recording patient information as structured data and exchanging summary care records. Several system providers and consulting firms offer solutions designed to overcome the portability challenge, but their proprietary interfaces can be a significant downside. As a result, the healthcare industry has been slow to attain compliance with the “meaningful use” requirement for EHR technology.
Accountable care organizations (ACOs), which are designed to dramatically improve patient services, come with a new payment model. Instead of direct payments for services rendered, ACOs get paid based on the overall health of a population within the boundary of a defined community. Actually receiving payment, however, requires the ACO to produce a new set of metrics that must be collected from multiple systems, including EHRs, the Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS), a variety of legacy on-premises applications, and the many new cloud applications that health organizations are adopting. The data must then be rapidly integrated for analytics and measurement. If this integration can’t be done rapidly, securely, and at a relatively low cost, the ACO model simply won’t work.
Guest post by Eric McDonald, founder and CEO, DocuTap.
Expediency, exceptional service and a reasonable price. It’s the ideal for American consumers, particularly in healthcare. Because of that demand, patients were the drivers behind the adoption of the urgent care industry.
It started in the late 1970s and early ‘80s. Family practices started taking walk-in patients. While it wasn’t branded as such, that was the inception of urgent care. Since then, the urgent care industry has morphed into what it is today – a walk-in facility with extended hour service for adults and children with acute illnesses and injuries. But, that definition doesn’t do urgent cares justice. Urgent cares are setting the tone for what healthcare consumers want. They want unscheduled appointments, they want stellar service, they want a location that’s easy to find with accessible parking, they want distinguishable amenities, and they want the cost to be lower and more transparent.
There are approximately 9,000 urgent care centers in operation, according to the Urgent Care Association of America. The UCAOA’s 2012 Urgent Care Benchmarking Study concludes that urgent care centers see three million visits per week, totaling more than 160 million visits annually. The urgent care industry is one of the fastest-growing industries in the country. With roughly two clinics opening every day, it’s expected there will be 15,000 urgent care centers by 2019.
With the boom in the urgent care space, some in the healthcare industry are concerned about the flow of patient information. Considering urgent care visits are typically one-offs, some patient information isn’t getting back to the primary care providers and health systems as it should. However, the healthcare industry is making strides to combat this through technology, interfaces, federal initiatives, and health systems partnering with urgent cares.
Driven by evolving consumer expectations, healthcare IT startup funding for digital healthcare, such as telehealth or wearable technology, is expected to double in the United States over the next three years, growing from $3.5 billion in 2014 to $6.5 billion by the end of 2017, according to new research by Accenture.
“A digital disruption is playing out in healthcare that will change social interactions, alter consumer expectations and, ultimately, improve health outcomes,” said Dipak Patel, managing director of Accenture’s patient access initiatives. “This momentum will be sustained if digital healthcare start-ups apply capabilities that create a seamless patient experience and result in both medical cost savings and improved outcomes.”
Prime allows users a way to make sure their friends, family and emergency contacts have access to their health by granting them full access at every hospital they visit. With Prime, users can stop worrying about keeping everyone up to date, and “tell the people that need to know, what they need to know.” Verifying that all HIPAA requirements are met, Prime secures information with bank-level security: All information is protected by state-of-the-art encryption. Access to the information is always monitored, and every member of the Prime team has been fully HIPAA trained.
Prime’s free mobile app helps patients aggregate their healthcare information from multiple sources into a single view on the go. Prime helps patients and their loved ones achieve a better healthcare experience by putting all their health information in one place.
Prime empowers people to take control of their personal health records on the go. Users can apply information from multiple sources into a single view giving them complete access to important data. The end result is individuals and their loved ones achieve a better healthcare experience. Prime is a free, HIPAA-complaint mobile app available for download in the Apple App Store. The company launched out of Techstars in 2014. We have helped users connect to more than 50,000 personal health records.
NueMD is conducting a survey of medical practices, billing companies, and business associates about HIPAA compliance.
In anticipation of the upcoming audits by the Office of Civil Rights, researchers at NueMD have teamed up with The Daniel Brown Law Group and Porter Research to conduct a survey that will help small practices prepare for an audit.
The survey will gauge respondents’ knowledge of HIPAA’s Privacy and Security regulations, understanding of compliance measures, and how electronic devices are used for communication.
Participation is strongly encouraged for care providers, office managers, and office staff of medical practices, as well as those who work for business associates (medical billing companies, software companies, etc) of covered entities.
athenahealth, Inc. announces that its More Disruption Please (MDP) Accelerator is now accepting applications. Launched in June 2014 with the arrival of its first portfolio company, Smart Scheduling, the accelerator is the company’s newest initiative for driving connectivity and innovation across the continuum of care.
The More Disruption Please Accelerator intends to drive disruption in health care by fostering the growth of high-potential, early-stage startups. athenahealth is offering its accelerator portfolio companies seed funding, free office space at its Watertown headquarters, and ongoing mentorship from athenahealth experts, advisors-in-residence and partners. Most notably, the More Disruption Please Accelerator provides its portfolio companies with exposure to athenahealth’s network of more than 55,000 health care providers via seamless integration with athenahealth’s athenaNet platform. Companies interested in working with MDP can now access and test athenahealth’s APIs through a re-imagined developer portal, designed to streamline global connectivity with athenaNet.
Chris Moses, CEO, Smart Scheduling, said, “Smart Scheduling is thrilled to take advantage of athenahealth’s commitment to open, interoperable, and disruptive technology as its first portfolio company. What’s unique about the athenahealth Accelerator is its highly customized approach; we are working together to determine a mutual definition of success for our company. Access to athenahealth’s APIs and cloud-based network has been, and will continue to be, critical to our scalability and success. We look forward to continuing to work with athenahealth’s team to bring our unique service to more and more providers across the country.”
Guest post By Barry P. Chaiken, MD, FHIMSS, chief medical information officer at Infor.
In many ways healthcare is like a symphony orchestra. Although information technology can enhance care planning, assist in medication administration and reduce duplicative testing, it cannot replace the people required to deliver care services to patients. Nurses are needed to administer medications, therapists are needed to provide treatments, and physicians are needed to diagnose illnesses and provide treatment plans. On average, hospitals devote close to 70 percent of their budget to labor costs. Until robots replace humans in the delivery of patient care, selection of the proper skill mix and number of professionals remains a significant factor that determines cost in provider organizations.
Although information technology cannot replace the staff delivering care to patients, it can assist organizations in choosing the best talent available, help develop that talent and determine the best way to utilize the skills of these professionals.
To identify the best talent, information technology tools allow the extraction of an employee’s “behavioral DNA” – the measurement of behavioral, cognitive and cultural traits. Organizations then compare this prospective employee’s “DNA” to the “DNA” of existing high performing employees within the organization in an effort to identify individuals who possess a high probability of excelling within the organization.
The recent theft of 4.5 million medical records by Chinese hackers coupled with the news that as-yet unidentified hackers were able to penetrate the U.S. government’s health care portal have ignited consumer concerns about the safety of health care records – and rightly so. No patient should have to worry that his or her protected health information (PHI) may fall into the hands of thieves.
The medical industry experiences more security breaches than any other U.S. industry today, serving to undermine public confidence in electronic health records and the industry at large. Last year alone, more than 7 million patient health records were breached, up 138 percent over the previous year, according to a February report by IT security consultant Redspin. Theft or loss of unencrypted portable computing devices (i.e., laptops) or digital media containing PHI was the leading cause of PHI data breach, impacting 83 percent of records breached. Unauthorized access and hacking incidents impacted less than 7 percent of records breached.
It’s reassuring to see the industry break new ground in studying security flaws and addressing vulnerabilities. For example, the Health Information Trust Alliance (HITRUST) teamed with the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) last spring to lead CyberRX, a series of no cost, industry-wide exercises designed to simulate cyber attacks on participating health care organizations and help them identify weaknesses in preparedness. Two important findings emerged:
Organizations that participate in cyber exercises are better prepared for a cyber attack, regardless of the maturity and comprehensiveness of their information security program.
More preparation exercises like CyberRX would benefit health organizations by helping them to evaluate their programs, refine policies and procedures, and develop and implement effective communications among internal departments, the industry at-large, and government.
HealthITJobs.com recently released new information that shows that health IT continues to be one of fastest growing careers in the US. The conclusion is based on its survey, “2014 HealthITJobs.com Salary Survey,” which also stated that the mean salary for health IT professionals is $89,879.43, with 30 percent also receiving an average bonus of $13,100.52.
In addition to being well paid, health IT pros also enjoy high job satisfaction with a full 80 percent of those working in the field satisfied with their jobs. In conjunction with the releasing the survey, the company also issued the following infographic with data collected during July and August of 2014.
As you might imagine, experience pays off, as do certifications. If you don’t have either, don’t expect to make as much, and without each a salary can be deeply impacted. If you have each of those and want to make even more money, work on Epic software or go work with a consultant firm. And, the most money will be made working in the New York area and on the West Coast, but you’ll also pay more to live there, of course.
Check out the following graphic? Are you being shown the money?
A new survey of senior information technology executives at some of the nation’s largest health systems reveals that their top priority for IT infrastructure investment is analytics – a technology that is central to achieving the systematic quality improvements and cost reductions required by healthcare reform.
Health Catalyst surveyed members of the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME), all chief information officers (CIOs) or other senior IT executives of US healthcare organizations. Survey respondents provided a high-level view of the many competing priorities for IT investment that hospital leaders face in the era of “value-based care” – a term describing elements of the Affordable Care Act as well as private industry incentives that reward providers for improving their patients’ health.
Most experts agree that value-based care will require hospitals to use sophisticated analytics to comb through terabytes of clinical and financial data to reveal actionable opportunities for improving quality and efficiency. The survey’s findings confirm that view, with 54 percent of respondents rating analytics as their highest IT priority, followed by investments in population health initiatives (42 percent), ICD-10 (30 percent), accountable care/shared risk initiatives (29 percent), and consolidation-related investments (11 percent).