Patient-Centered Care and Its Impact on Healthcare IT

Guest post by Ali Din is GM and CMO, dinCloud.

Ali M. Din
Ali M. Din

Like retail and education before it, a major shift is underway in the healthcare industry that is putting power back in consumers’ hands. Similar to how retail outlets are delivering custom experiences based on consumer preferences, or how there is more attention to individual needs in the classroom, patients are able to play a more active role in their healthcare administration and decision-making than ever before. This means participating in a shared decision-making model with physicians, seeing their needs and preferences reflected in the course of their treatment, and easier access to their medical data, made readily available to both the patient and his or her medical team.

Patient centered care (also referred to as PCC), patient empowerment, patient participation, and shared decision making are all terms used to describe this phenomenon. While the reach of PCC is still expanding, its benefits are clear. As stated by PwC in its “Top Health Industry Issues of 2016” report, and reported by Fierce Healthcare, “care will begin to move into the palms of consumers’ hands.”  Going further, a Health Affairs blog states that, “it is well established now that one can in fact improve the quality of health care and reduce the costs at the same time.”

This article will explore the phenomenon that is PCC, a paradigm shift changing the healthcare industry at its core. So much so, PCC is driving adoption of three technology related trends that are in line with its principles. They include: telemedicine, cloud computing and mHealth.

Patient Centered Care and 2016 Healthcare IT Trends

Telehealth

While many assumed in-facility care would remain the norm after house calls faded from popularity decades ago, that may not be the case. Increasingly, telemedicine — or remote consultations, diagnoses, and treatment performed by medical professionals — is becoming a standard practice in the healthcare industry.

For example, the below ad from Anthem BlueCross and LiveHealth Online was released by one of the nation’s largest insurance agencies promoting remote consultations states the “doctor is always in” and sessions are “quick and easy with no appointments and no driving.”

In line with the principles of PCC, telehealth promises greater access to care for patients who don’t live in close proximity to a healthcare facility. For the greater population, telehealth offers convenience and the comfort of care delivered in a patient’s natural environment. Administering care in a patient’s environment instead of a traditional healthcare setting can also facilitate better care in some cases. Fierce Healthcare provides the example of blood pressure screening – taking a patient’s blood pressure in a natural setting, like their home or workplace, may more accurately reflect their blood pressure on a daily basis.

Telehealth and the benefits this practice offers to patients are perfectly in line with the patient-centric approach favored today. In light of this, it wouldn’t be surprising if telemedicine adoption continues to rise in the coming years, along with the demand for technology that can facilitate remote care.

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How Healthcare is Using Cloud

Guest post by Ali Din, CMO, dinCloud

Ali Din
Ali Din

Can you remember how you operated without a cell phone at your disposal 24/7? If you’re like most people today, braving the outside world without a cell in hand probably gives you palpitations. The healthcare industry has seen a comparable shift as a result of technology innovation over the past couple decades. So much so that healthcare practitioners who are somewhat new to the industry may not be accustomed to the manual practices that were in use just a few years ago.

As for today, we know that healthcare companies are using cloud. Perhaps most prominently, electronic health records (EHR) are widely adopted. In fact, the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) reports that a majority (83 percent) of healthcare organizations are using cloud services today. With adoption spanning nearly the entire industry, cloud technology has transformed how healthcare is administered.

Given the scale of cloud adoption, a few questions remain. Namely, how is healthcare using cloud today? Now that the industry has adopted the cloud, what does the future hold?

How Is Healthcare Using Cloud?

To start, let’s explore one specific use case. Medicalodges, a post-acute healthcare organization based in Kansas, was looking to get away from managing its own infrastructure. By moving to the cloud, it was able to improve collaboration, security, and set up a business continuity/disaster recovery (BC/DR) solution. Today, the organization has virtualized its servers with dinCloud’s Hosted Virtual Server (dinServer) solution. As a result, Medicalodges reports benefits including: improved collaboration, security, disaster recovery, cost savings, and scalability. Looking ahead, Medicalodges has future plans to run a mix of browser-based thin clients and continue to expand its cloud infrastructure.

Moving to larger scale trends: Tech Target sums up current use of cloud in healthcare with the following applications: storage of protected health information, software as a service (SaaS), platforms as a service (PaaS), digital imaging, and clinical research.

In its 2014 Analytics Cloud Survey, HIMSS found that 43.6 percent of surveyed healthcare organizations are currently hosting clinical applications and data. Meanwhile, 35.1 percent are using the cloud for BC/DR, 14.9 percent have virtualized servers, and 8.1 percent are using hosted virtual desktops (HVDs). In another case, a medical organization needed to run several versions of a specific testing application. However, they could not run it on the same computer because of compatibility conflicts of running the same application in multiple instances. They leveraged application publishing from dinCloud to virtualize the application. The application sits in the cloud and can be opened in multiple instances on the same computer now.

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Why Healthcare Missed Out On Windows Server 2003 End of Support

Guest post by Ali Din, senior vice president, dinCloud.

Ali Din

With support having ended for Windows Server 2003, many organizations are left asking how to proceed with the soon-to-be obsolete server operating system. For organizations held to regulatory compliance standards, this question holds additional complexity. One of the industries undoubtedly scratching its proverbial head this week as support ends is healthcare.

Over the past few years, HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, and HITECH, The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act, have largely determined the trajectory of IT and operations in healthcare. Perhaps most notably, HIPAA has helped govern patient security as healthcare institutions were incentivized to migrate health records to an electronic format through meaningful use. As EHRs, cloud and mobility solutions abounded, HIPAA guidelines dictated privacy and security standards for the industry. Today, many healthcare organizations are faced with a similar transition. Like all organizations, healthcare institutions have the option to migrate their servers to a supported operating system, which typically includes a corresponding hardware upgrade. Alternatively, they can migrate these workloads to the cloud. However, as reported by the Wall Street Journal, “analysts say that the technology [Windows Server 2003] is more prevalent in healthcare, utilities and government,” demonstrating that inaction seems to be more prevalent in the healthcare sector than one would think.

Those who have not yet migrated from Windows Server 2003 will be exposed to significant security risk and may compromise HIPAA compliance, as it is unlikely the operating system will remain a HIPAA supported platform.

The implications of not migrating extend beyond just the affected server. One unpatched vulnerability can compromise an organization’s entire infrastructure.

End of support means that Microsoft will no longer issue patches and security updates for Windows Serer 2003, and the resulting security risk is so severe, US-CERT, a branch of the Department of Homeland Security, issued a security alert warning of the “impact” of end of support. The alert states, “organizations that are governed by regulatory obligations may find they are no longer able to satisfy compliance requirements while running Windows Server 2003.”

Like the security risk, cost for extended support will also compound for healthcare organizations. Microsoft is charging $600 per server for the service, which will quickly add up.

With the risk and cost associated with not migrating, why are so many healthcare organizations approaching the deadline with no foreseeable migration plan? Like many goings-on in the industry, it’s complicated.

One factor is that some mission critical applications may not transition to a supported platform. That leaves IT administrators choosing between migration and applications that, in some cases, may be in daily use by their workforce.

And, finally, if it ain’t broke (yet), don’t fix it. Like many industries, healthcare organizations are often seeing heightened demand placed on smaller teams, which doesn’t leave ample time for proactivity. In these scenarios, migration planning may not have been prioritized with budget or resource allocation.

However, with end of support approaching in just a few days, regardless of the reason why these organizations didn’t migrate, they will soon be faced with the consequences.

So what’s next?

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