The Health Threat of Tech

Guest post by Edgar Wilson.

Edgar Wilson

We put a lot of faith in health technology: to make us better, to save our systems, to revolutionize healthcare. We may be looking at it from the wrong side entirely.

The social determinants of health matter more than our ability to deploy doctors or provide insurance; physical and mental, health is always more social than clinical.

But most of our health tech that is supposed to be revolutionary is aimed at clinical factors, rather than the social determinants of health. Yes, telehealth can increase reach, but it is still just a matter of touchpoints, not a fundamental change to the lifestyles and cultures that determine health.

Same with all our EHR systems creating more ways to record information, more ways to quantify patients, to put more emphasis on engagement and quality-based reimbursement. Even genomics and personalized medicine are taking a backseat to soliciting reviews and trying to turn the patient experience into  a number. It all puts greater focus on the clinical encounters, on how patients “feel” broadly about each minute aspect of their time in the medical facility.

A Digital Disease

As politicians trade blows on minimum wages and the ACA, the likelihood grows that insurance benefits and livable incomes (and lifestyles) will get pushed further out of reach for more people.

Modern work is tech-centric, which means lots of sitting, and manages to facilitate increased snacking without being particularly physical, a double-whammy that prevents employment or higher incomes from leading to healthier choices. For the less-skilled, normally accessible jobs are in the sights of automation and disruption. While tech is taking over medicine and opening up new possibilities, it is also transforming the labor market and closing countless doors to workers.

By extension, technology is changing the social framework that determines public health. Income inequality is growing, wage growth is stagnant, and no amount of awareness can change these front-of-mind concerns for people who may well want to eat better and exercise more, or even commit to seeing the doctor more often and following his or her advice to the letter.

Poor people can’t necessarily eat better as a simple matter of choice or doctor’s orders. Planning meals and purchasing healthful foods is a tax on limited resources–time as well as money. Working three jobs to pay the bills, many lower income individuals also don’t necessarily have time to exercise. And more likely than not, those working even high-paying jobs are sitting all day, sapping their bodies of energy and resilience, undoing the good of their intentions and smart devices  alike through attrition.

Continue Reading

The Importance and Value of Telemedicine

Guest post by Karandeep Virdi, Progressive Markets.

In the current era, it is important to understand the role technology plays in different industrial sectors. The different verticals of the medical industry have adopted technology and identified the benefits associated to it. Healthcare and other medical services can be easily accessed with the help of a smart phone. It has become more convenient to track, regulate, and monitor several medical cycles such as medicine intake, therapy, and treatment. The communication gap between the patients and doctors has reduced over the years owing to advancements in technology. Progressive Markets recently added a market report that offers useful insights related to the global telemedicine market such as market share, size, and growth. The digitalization in medical field is set to facilitate enhanced healthcare and medical services in the coming years.

Technology has revolutionized several industries worldwide over the last two decades. The onset of innovative and modern technological advancements have made a notable difference in the medical field and has made telemedicine a game-changing way to serve people throughout the world. The adoption of telemedicine has increased significantly in the last decade although there are a few concerns regarding its reliability and precision. Approximately more than 70 percent urgent illness conditions can be taken care of with the help of telemedicine according to the American Telemedicine Association. A simple physician training enables providers to diagnose and treat minor problems such as pharyngitis, sinusitis and upper respiratory illnesses with the help of video chat.

General awareness related to telemedicine technology is growing
Telemedicine technology has not flourished largely yet as it is still in the nascent stage. However, as awareness related to the telemedicine is growing, the adoption rates are set to grow. The benefits associated to telemedicine are gradually making a mark in the medical industry. Telemedicine has largely helped to save time. With the help of telemedicine, a patient does not have to travel to the provider and save time.

Further, telemedicine eliminates any chances of transmitting infectious diseases from a patient to the health care professional. Telemedicine saves time and offers time-efficient solutions. However, there are additional benefits associated to it. It reduces costs significantly. The most important aspect of telemedicine is its ability to cater to the needs of the patients from any place at any given time. This is highly beneficial for occupational medicine. Telemedicine helps to formulate an efficient and reliable healthcare plan.

Benefits of telemedicine
Telemedicine is making its mark worldwide and it is important to realize that the technological advancement does not eliminate visits to traditional doctors. There are a few medical conditions that cannot be diagnosed without the presence of the patient. However, with data such as medical history of the patient, visual exam and an interview with the patient along with the providers training of pattern recognition, it is convenient to treat patients without them being physically present in the room.

Continue Reading

Predictions for Health IT in 2017

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

John Squire

As developers of electronic health record (EHR) software, my company gets into a lot of conversations with providers about their expectations for the future. This information helps us make decisions about what to build next. Here are three trends we’re hearing from our customers right now:

Low-tech beats high-tech in telemedicine

Unlike the way it was imagined decades ago by science fiction writers, telemedicine does not necessarily mean holographic images or live video conferencing with a physician half a continent away. Patients would rather receive “low tech” remote care from their primary care physician who has a full picture of their health status.

This form of telemedicine happens whenever an EHR system adds to a patient’s clinical chart the messages, pictures, or videos sent securely via smartphone. It happens whenever a smartphone connects to a remote health monitoring device for collection of real-time data such as blood pressure, oxygen levels, and heart rate.

The new rules allowing reimbursement of telemedicine and other non-face-to-face services will encourage physicians to bill for these remote care activities. Medicare’s recently expanded set of billing codes for Chronic Care Management (CCM) is a good example of how the future of value-based care goes beyond the office visit to keep patients out of hospitals and emergency rooms. The ability to securely and rapidly receive and answer a patient’s questions via text, and then capture those activities in the patient’s permanent clinical record is a critical step in that direction.

Primary care providers are trying new types of practices

Primary care physicians are frustrated with the hassle and expense of dealing with insurance companies. The new Medicare fee-for-value quality payment program is creating uncertainty about future reimbursement levels and requires additional reporting. Also, there is an acute level of burnout with “corporate medicine,” which has providers booked for dozens of daily appointments, only to spend less than 15 minutes with each patient.

In order to remain independent, a small but growing group of primary care practitioners are becoming more financially creative and experimenting with new models of practice. One example is direct care, in which a financial relationship is established directly between patient and provider, cutting out insurance altogether. This model includes concierge and direct primary care (DPC), where patients become “members” of a practice and pay a fixed monthly fee for unlimited primary care – similar to a gym membership, but for healthcare. Another example of direct care is the cash-only practice that sees walk-in patients for urgent care.

EHR interoperability will catch FHIR

Physicians and their patients are frustrated with the lack of interoperability in health IT. The concept of having a patient’s medical records accessible to any authorized provider at any time is still a rare occurrence. When a patient switches primary care physicians, the first office typically prints out and faxes their medical records to the second office, which introduces the possibility of errors, HIPAA violations, and others.

Continue Reading

3 Health IT Trends for Small Practice Performance, Profitability and Productivity

Guest post by Gaby Loria, analyst for mental health software, Software Advice.

Gaby Loria
Gaby Loria

There are certain factors clinicians are constantly working to improve at their practices, such as:

While these three P’s apply to every health care provider, regardless of practice size or specialty, they are especially important for independent physicians.

Solo and small practice doctors face more challenges than their counterparts in group-owned or hospital-affiliated organizations. They shoulder all the responsibility for:

For all of these reasons, it’s wise for small practices to invest in health IT tools that can give them an edge in a competitive and increasingly data-driven industry. The three tech trends we describe below can help improve performance, increase profitability and impact productivity without breaking tight budgets.

Improve Performance with Population Health Tools

The goal of managing population health is to achieve measurable improvements in the health outcomes of a group of people. In other words, taking steps to help groups of patients get healthier instead of solely focusing on one individual’s treatment plan at a time.

That may sound like a lot of work, but it’s not—if you have the right IT.  Nowadays, there are a number of population health-enabled capabilities that are built into electronic health records (EHR) software systems commonly used by small practices. The breadth and depth of these capabilities vary depending on the system, but here are some examples:

This technology makes it feasible for busy physicians to provide extra attention and care to patient populations that need it most, so they can prevent a worsening condition from developing. Such clinical interventions on a group scale can therefore make it possible to improve the overall health of a practice’s patient base.

Increase Profitability via Telemedicine

Telemedicine is the use of technology to support remote medical services. One of the most lucrative ways small practices can adopt telemedicine is by offering video consultations, which are virtual patient-physician interactions enabled by videoconferencing software. This allows doctors to see more patients per day without adding overhead costs (e.g., office space or staffing).

Interested physicians have two main options to capitalize on this trend:

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

3 Ways Big Data and IoT Can Improve Our Health

Guest post by Alexandra Roden, content editor, Connexica.

Alexandra Roden
Alexandra Roden

Just a few years ago, big data and the Internet of Things (IoT) were terms generally unheard of. This year they continue to revolutionize technology and the ways in which we acquire and process data, but what do they mean for the healthcare industry?

Xenon Health describe IoT as “a phenomenon through which the operational aspects of the physical world become increasingly integrated with digital platforms, enabling information to move seamlessly toward the computational resources that are able to make sense of it.” Essentially, IoT goes hand-in-hand with the mobile age and the diversity of data that is currently being retrieved from agile and mobile locations.

Big data is a related concept – it addresses the ever-increasing amounts of data that are created every second of every day and recognizes that these figures will only continue to grow. For example, in the “social media minute” every single minute there are 277,000 tweets are sent, Whatsapp users share 347,222 photos and Google receives more than 4,000,000 search queries. These figures are remarkable even for those of us caught up in the social media hype, and most shocking of all is the realization that the global Internet population now represents 2.4 billion people. That’s a lot of people creating a lot of data – the question now is how we can utilize this data in a meaningful way.

IoT has revolutionized many industries and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future, but what about healthcare? Organisations within this industry tend to adopt new technologies slowly, relying upon solid evidence and demonstrable impact and efficiency before committing to any such change. The shift towards IoT is, however, beginning to take place, and increasing amounts of available patient data are beginning to inform decision making processes within this sector.

What will this mean for the future of our health?

Continue Reading

Infographic: Healthcare of the Future

Thanks to remarkable innovations in healthcare technology, the days of having to wait for a doctor’s appointment and travel to their surgical practice are becoming a thing of the past. We have now entered an age where, instead of patients having to attend at a medical practice, their doctor can now visit them virtually in hologram form. It sounds like something out of the realms of science fiction, but this is now a wonderful reality. Welcome to the healthcare of the future!

Home Healthcare Adaptations constructed this infographic, which takes a look at the route that healthcare is set to take in the foreseeable future. The virtual healthcare method outlined above has the potential to create vast savings for the healthcare industry, both financially and in terms of human hours. Indeed, an average reduction of just five minutes in ambulatory visits could possibly free up $58 million in physician capacity.

This new virtual healthcare world could prove highly beneficial both for doctors and the general public. Healthcare professionals can save time on treating patients, which in turn enables them to treat a larger number of patients, and it also reduces the need for them to physically visit a patient’s home, as they can now do so through a hologram from their surgical practice. For patients, it means they don’t have to spend time travelling to a surgical practice and, with doctors able to tend to patients more quickly, it will also reduce patients’ waiting time to receive vital treatment.

Despite these obvious benefits, there is still some resistance to virtual healthcare, with a viewpoint that it will be costly to implement and will require medical professionals to become licencsed telemedicine practitioners. However, as the world becomes more technologically advanced in all aspects, it is hard to see these wonderful new medical practices not becoming regularly used in the near future.

Continue Reading

Top 5 EHR Trends for 2016

Guest post by Cathy Reisenwitz, content specialist, Capterra.

Cathy Reisenwitz
Cathy Reisenwitz

Every year at Capterra we predict the top trends in business technology. Last year we predicted gamification, wearables, telemedicine, mobile medicine, and 3D printing would be the top 5 medical technology trends for 2015.

This year, we expect wearables, telemedicine, and mobile medicine to continue to advance. They’ll be joined by cloud computing, patient portals, and big data.

Here are the top 5 EHR trends for 2016:

  1. Telemedicine plus wearables plus EHR

Telemedicine has come a long way, from remote villagers using bicycle pedal-powered, two-way radios to communicate with the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia to helping recovering stroke patients in rural Minnesota avoid hours-long (and often snowy) drives for follow-up care.

As the technology has improved, the investment has increased. Transparency Market Research valued the global video telemedicine market at $559 million in 2013. Today, they predict it will grow to $1.6 billion by the end of 2020. Walgreens, the largest U.S. drugstore chain, and telehealth provider MDLive recently expanded their virtual care collaboration to 20 more states in November, bringing the total to 25.

Telemedicine offers tons of value to a large, growing segment of the population: seniors. Telemedicine improves care by getting it to remote patients who live far from hospitals. It also enables homebound patients to get high-quality care. It makes care cheaper, and allows seniors to stay at home longer. It benefits providers by making their jobs more flexible. And it also eliminates picking up new illnesses in a clinical care setting.

In rural Minnesota, nurses check motor skills by asking patients to push, pull and squeeze with their hands and feet. A doctor, located further away from patients, can advise on care onscreen.

Going back to wearables, their mass adoption has made store-and-forward telemedicine much easier. Devices like Fitbits automatically collect valuable health data. Store-and-forward telemedicine just means that data goes to a doctor or medical specialist so they can assess it when they have time. Watch for more EHRs learning to connect with wearables in 2016.

  1. More EHRs will provide patient portals

Patient portals grew in popularity in 2014 and 2015. Twenty-six percent more patients received lab tests via an EHR patient portal between 2013 and 2014. Patients also received 50% more health and disease education through their portals in that time. “Patient engagement through health technology such as patient portals is rapidly increasing,” Craig Kemp, leader of innovative partnerships for Merck Vaccines, told mmm-online.com.

While about half of physicians offer patient portals right now, almost another fifth of them plan to offer one in the next 12 months. In a 2015 survey of more than 11,000 patients, 237 physicians, and nine payer organizations representing 47 million lives, almost a third of patients said they were interested in using a patient portal to engage with their physician, track their medical history, and receive educational materials and patient support. However, almost 40 percent said they’d never heard of a patient portal.

Educating patients on how and why to use portals will be key to getting them to use them in 2016.

Continue Reading

Optimizing Every Revenue Opportunity through the Value Cycle

Guest post by Mark Montgomery, CMO, Craneware.

Mark Montgomery
Mark Montgomery

Three major trends are driving change in healthcare, and all three will also drive IT demand. First is the movement toward managing population health in various forms. Taking on this financial and clinical risk will require processing and making decisions based on the demographic, clinical and financial data that have been filling warehouses everywhere.

Secondly there is the rise of consumerism. Individuals faced with rising out-of-pocket expenses are doing more self-directed research on their health and doing more comparison-shopping. Providers will continue to respond with medical malls, clinics aligned with retail pharmacies, telemedicine and other innovations to control costs and still deliver care.

Even though more Americans than ever are insured, high-deductible plans can affect providers’ debt and charity care. Patient-friendly point-of-service collections and finance plans will require IT investment, as will more efficient collections processes.

The third trend – the move by government and private payers toward value-based reimbursement – will continue to affect the industry in 2016 and beyond. Even though fee-for-service is still the dominant reimbursement model, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Service’s January 2015 announcement that Medicare would be “tying 50 percent of payments to these {value-based} models by the end of 2018” has seen providers taking a hard look at quality and cost of care.

While payment will increasingly be determined by quality of outcomes rather than quantity of services billed, quality and cost – the components of value – aren’t connected in a straight line. They are affected by every department in a provider system, and no system can manage what it can’t measure. If that data can be accurately collected and analyzed, it can inform decision makers not only on how successful they are at delivering quality care, but also whether the cost of delivery exceeds their reimbursement.

Continue Reading

Five Key Trends Will Shape Inpatient Telemedicine in 2016

Guest post by Dr. Talbot “Mac” McCormick, president and CEO, Eagle Hospital Physicians.

Talbot "Mac" McCormick, M.D.
Talbot “Mac” McCormick, M.D.

Looking back at 2015, we see significant trends impacting inpatient telemedicine that will gain strength through 2016. Here are the Top Five: How they impacted healthcare, and how they will change hospital medicine moving forward.

 More Legislation and Regulation Activity

A recent report from the National Conference of State Legislatures showed there were 200 telemedicine bills introduced in all but eight states in 2015. The federal government also introduced the TELEMedicine for MEDicare Act of 2015 and the Veteran’s E-Health and Telemedicine Support Act of 2015, which are aimed at creating an interstate license for those practicing telemedicine for these patient populations. Last year, 32 states and the District of Columbia enacted telemedicine parity laws, requiring health plans to reimburse telemedicine the same way—and at the same cost—as in-person service. We expect to see more of this activity as telemedicine becomes an increasingly integral part of healthcare in America.

Easier Licensure Across States

Currently, if you have a group of physicians caring for patients in hospitals in four or five states, they must become licensed in each of those states. As noted above, recent legislation (along with new telehealth licensing compacts between states) will make it easier for physicians to get a license across state lines. This will clearly help facilitate the use of telemedicine services

Growing Financial Support

Today, the payer response can best be described as a patchwork. Medicare typically doesn’t reimburse for inpatient telemedicine (except in rural areas as Medicaid), and the commercial payers tend to vary from state to state. There isn’t a uniform basis for reimbursements. Many hospitals end up financing most of the costs of inpatient physician services delivered with telemedicine?and we all know healthcare dollars are tight for everybody. However, the physician reimbursement is moving, albeit slowly. The state parity laws will help. So, too, will having more commercial payers recognize the value of telemedicine services. For example, UnitedHealth Group announced plans to expand coverage for virtual physician visits to employer-sponsored and individual plan participants, increasing those covered from approximately 1 million to well more than 20 million. Better reimbursement structures will help fortify hospitals’ financial underpinnings and alleviate some of the burden they’ve been forced to bear.

Continue Reading