Most Wired Hospitals Focused on Health Data Security and Patient Engagement

Health data security and patient engagement are top priorities for the nation’s hospitals, according to results of the 17th annual HealthCare’s Most Wired Survey, released today by the American Hospital Association’s Health Forum and the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME).

The 2015 Most Wired survey and benchmarking study, in partnership with CHIME and sponsored by VMware, is a leading industry barometer measuring information technology (IT) use and adoption among hospitals nationwide. The survey of more than 741 participants, representing more than 2,213 hospitals, examined how organizations are leveraging IT to improve performance for value-based healthcare in the areas of infrastructure, business and administrative management, quality and safety, and clinical integration.

According to the survey, hospitals are taking more aggressive privacy and security measures to protect and safeguard patient data. Top growth areas in security among this year’s Most Wired organizations include privacy audit systems, provisioning systems, data loss prevention, single sign-on and identity management. The survey also found:

“With the rising number of patient data breaches and cybersecurity attacks threatening the healthcare industry, protecting patient health information is a top priority for hospital customers,” said Frank Nydam, senior director of healthcare at VMware. “Coupled with the incredible technology innovation taking place today, healthcare organizations need to have security as a foundational component of their mobility, cloud and networking strategy and incorporated into the very fabric of the organization.”

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The Unlikelihood of Permanent SGR Reform During the Lame-Duck Session

Ken Perez
Ken Perez

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

“Hope springs eternal” is a phrase from Alexander Pope’s An Essay on Man: Epistle I, written in 1733. For some reason, right now hope is in full bloom in Washington, D.C. for physician groups, such as the American Medical Association and the Medical Group Management Association, which are pushing for passage of a permanent repeal of the sustainable growth rate (SGR), also known as a “doc fix,” prior to the congressional recess that will start in mid-December.

The points that are being made by physician groups are not new. There is the spectre of a 21.2 percent reduction in Medicare physician fees effective April 1, 2015, when the current doc fix expires, and nobody wants such a drastic reimbursement rate cut to occur. Also, because of moderating healthcare costs, the most recent Congressional Budget Office estimate of the cost of holding payment rates through 2024 at current levels is “only” $131 billion, near the low end of the CBO’s historical range. And last, earlier this year, a number of permanent SGR reform bills enjoyed bipartisan and bicameral support.

In spite of all these valid points, the case for fixing the SGR this calendar year, as opposed the first quarter of 2015, does not seem compelling or possible, due to both political and fiscal realities.

Politically, as the name implies, lame-duck congressional sessions are not known for legislative productivity. Chip Kahn, CEO of the Federation of American Hospitals, commented, “I believe that the lame-duck session is going to be limited to measures that are either emergencies like Ebola or must do’s to keep the government open.” Similarly, Tom Scully, former CMS administrator under President George W. Bush, opined in Modern Healthcare that there is “1 in 10 million” chance of a permanent SGR repeal passing during the lame-duck session.

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Risk Management Concerns Arising Out of HITECH and the Hospital Re-admission Penalties Program

Guest post by James Hofert, Roy Bossen, Linnea Schramm and Michael Dowell, all partners with Hinshaw & Culbertson.

James Hofert
James Hofert

New federal healthcare legislation and implementing regulations, seek to exert control over multiple aspects of patient care. The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (“HITECH”)[i] with staged implementation through 2016, seeks to not only promote implementation of electronic health record systems (“EHR”), but also regulate electronic communications of health information by and between the patient, physician, hospitals and other healthcare institutions so as to enhance care quality, care coordination and reduce costs.

HITECH further envisions implementation of clinical decision support algorithms for the diagnosis and treatment of disease both during admission and after discharge. The Hospital Readmission Reduction Program[ii], effective October 1, 2012, consistent with the objectives of HITECH seeks to financially penalize hospitals for higher than standardized readmission rates for heart failure, acute MI and pneumonia. The Center of Medicine and Medicaid Service (“CMS”) intends to expand application of the program to readmission for COPD, elective total hip arthroplasty and elective total knee arthroplasty in 2015[iii].  Consistent with preventative care goals so as to mitigate further health care problems as found in HITECH, CMS has refused to adjust the re-admission penalty program to account for readmissions unrelated to the patient’s initial hospitalization even though the readmission could be considered to be outside the hospital’s or physician’s control[iv].

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Physicians Can’t Seem to Live with and Can’t Live without Electronic Health Records

Mark Friedberg
Mark Friedberg

Physicians can’t seem to live with and can’t live without electronic health records. Or so says a new RAND survey.

The recent survey, conducted by the think tank the American Medical Association, found that most doctors strive to provide the best care possible to patients, but that the biggest obstacles for doing so is electronic health records, according to a report published by Health Tech Zone.

But, even with this hindrance, and though they consider the technology intrusive, 80 percent of respondents said they would never go back to paper patient records. The take away from the study is that physicians just want the EHRs to be “less cumbersome and time-consuming to use.”

“Physicians are pleased and happy professionally when they perceive that they’re giving high-quality patient care, and they’re unhappy when they can’t meet patients’ needs and when there are barriers to quality patient care,” said the study’s author, Dr. Mark Friedberg, a scientist with RAND and a practicing general internist in Boston.

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