Cybersecurity During A Pandemic — And How Healthcare Workers Can Protect Themselves

By Josh Horwitz, COO, Enzoic.

Healthcare employees are on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic, in many cases working extended hours under extremely taxing circumstances in an effort to treat the growing number of infected patients. In this environment, it’s critical that everyone is cognizant of an unfortunate reality of our times: hackers are always looking for ways to capitalize on a crisis.

As Forbes’ Thomas Brewster put it, the last few weeks have seen “…an avalanche of digital threats piggybacking on the coronavirus pandemic,” and these are only likely to increase as the international community continues to grapple with the virus. With scams ranging the gamut from a coronavirus tracker that installs malware onto visitors’ devices to takeover of teleconferencing software to fraudulent company discounts or services related to the coronavirus, there is no shortage of ways bad actors are seeking to exploit consumers’ fear and confusion.

As such, it’s important that hospitals and healthcare institutions help employees safeguard their data and ensure they are cognizant of the increased security threats associated with the pandemic. Following are a few tips to consider:

In addition to the considerations outlined above, it’s also important that healthcare employees keep an eye on the evolving cybersecurity landscape as it relates to the pandemic. It’s likely that hackers will continue to find new ways to exploit the situation for their own nefarious purposes. As employees work diligently to combat coronavirus, it’s essential that hospitals remind them to keep their personal information safe.

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How Technology Is Replacing Teaching As We Know It

In a world that is constantly being upgraded, streamlined and enhanced by software and technology, is it possible that teaching will no longer be a human profession? What if A.I. progresses to the point that it is unfathomable that humans could even compete? What we are seeing now is the early evolutionary stages of the technology that will soon make these progressive ideas commonplace.

In many ways, this future is already here, as there are numerous applications that already teach us a variety of skills. The platforms and social media applications that we interact with have highly advanced algorithms that are programmed to provide us with the latest news and information. In our pockets at all times, is a highly advanced computer that is capable of executing numerous tasks. Whenever we wish, our smartphones can be used to teach us any task or skill. Let’s have a look at some of the ways technology is currently replacing teachers as we know it.

Phone Applications

One of the most amazing things about our generation of technology is phone applications. These small software programs are often overlooked and taken for granted. To imagine such technology would be so readily available, even just 20 years ago, would be astounding.

Any new skill or hobby you are looking to become proficient in has an app dedicated to it. For chess or learning languages, for instance, there are numerous apps that help you pick up the skill. For card games like poker, there are different training apps that teach you the fundamentals, oftentimes made by industry legends.

When it comes to specialized skills, these apps are often made by or in partnership with industry professionals that help develop the app’s curriculum. This, in turn, creates a course that is available to an unlimited number of people at a given time. Not only that, but apps are interactive, and can be updated constantly with new courses and information. Apps often have embedded AI programming that slowly understands how you learn and the best way to teach you. Overall, this is just incredible technology that is readily available for you to learn, and oftentimes for free.

AI Teachers

Even though we touched on it in the apps section, Artificial Intelligence deserves to be mentioned in its own right. Quite frankly, we have not begun to even scratch the surface of potential when it comes to AI in relation to teaching. What science is envisioning is software and programs that can learn with the student. The programs will be able to work with a student and understand the best ways to teach them after a certain amount of time.

Once this data is continuously reviewed and cycled over and over, the AI will get increasingly efficient at it. While there are numerous concerns we can draw, the benefits could be overwhelmingly positive and revolutionize public schooling. Not only that, but more individuals would presumably be in favor of paying for trade programs if the cost was ultimately cheaper with better results from AI teachers. The possibilities are staggering. It should come as no surprise that this technology is already being trialed in several schools and universities around the globe.

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The Problem With Surprise Medical Billing

By Terry Rowinski, president & CEO, Health Payment Systems, Inc.

Terry RowinskiWe’ve seen it time and time again—a patient receives services from an out-of-network provider at an in-network facility and is surprised with a huge medical bill months later. Since out-of-network claims can take much longer to process, the consumer often has forgotten the details of the service received and thinks all bills have been resolved, so the bill itself (not just its size) is unexpected.

According to JAMA Network, in the past two years, one in 5 insured adults had an unexpected medical cost due to seeing an out-of-network provider, and two-thirds of adults worried about affording unexpected medical bills for themselves and their families.

Another study, facilitated by the research institute NORC of UChicago, reported that out of 1,000 Americans surveyed, 57% received a surprise medical bill, most often resulting from physician services (53%), laboratory tests (51%), healthcare facility charges (43%), imaging (35%) and prescription drugs (29%). These surprise medical bills are the result of the lack of transparency throughout the healthcare system and leave consumers in the dark.

This blog details this important issue within the healthcare industry and country, as well as how we at HPS are addressing it.

Where the problem comes from

As an industry, we need to accept the reality that the surprise medical bill issue is further complicated by the fact that the entity an individual receives medical care from doesn’t supply all of the consumer bills. A single hospital or office visit could result in up to 10 separate bills, and patients largely have no visibility into the total cost until they receive these bills.

Why, though, are there so many bills for a single visit? Hospitals have multiple departments, physician groups and other entities, and often, each completes and files their own insurance claims and billing processes outside of the hospital. The issue is actually more complex than this, though—it isn’t just the hospital system that might be sending bills. Bills can be generated from multiple locations or entities, making the healthcare billing process more of an ecosystem.

Another reason that this problem is so huge is that there is not, currently, a widely-available solution to the problem, regardless of the use of transparency tools. Someone must actively take up the cause of communicating with the consumer truthfully and in a timely manner, which doesn’t often happen due to how many processes must take place before a consumer can be informed of final costs for healthcare visits, labs, nursing and more.

To help combat the frustration and stress that individuals and their families experience related to confusing and unaffordable medical bills, Health Payment Systems (HPS) has developed its proprietary SuperEOB® (explanation of benefits statement) solution along with various consumer advocacy services via their all-in-one platform.

HPS is a broad provider network offering the most effective independent provider network delivering significant savings and choices for self-funded and level-funded employees, including billing and collections. Their SuperEOB is an easy-to-read statement that consolidates all of an individual’s or a family’s in-network explanations of benefits (EOBs) and medical bills for an entire month in their digital platform, regardless of how many doctors were seen.

In attempting to find a solution to this problem, we must consider how traditional employer insurance holders get billed, how the payer or insurer level handles claims, and how individuals not utilizing traditional insurance plans can be helped.

How to resolve this issue

One possible solution is to create a billing mechanism that the consumer is familiar with, almost like a credit card bill. In this solution, bills would be consolidated into one statement, and consumers could easily understand how, for what, and to whom they owe money.

The solution needed would offer healthcare providers (who are independent of one another) the option of a singular, aggregated billing experience for healthcare consumers. It would give consumers the ability to see which entities have provided services, how those claims have been processed through insurance, and the total amount owed for all services—all in a single billing statement.

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AHIMA Develops Tools To Help Clinical Documentation Integrity Professionals During COVID-19

AHIMA-logo - The Olinger GroupWith clinical documentation integrity (CDI) professionals playing a key role in efforts to “flatten the curve” of the COVID-19 pandemic, the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) has developed tools designed to ease administrative burdens during this difficult time.

AHIMA’s two new COVID-19 CDI query templates will help CDI professionals ensure the integrity and quality of a patient’s health record. With data being such an important element in the fight against COVID-19, the new templates provide a clear guideline of what critical data needs to be obtained to accurately document for the virus. The templates are similar to those CDI professionals use to document other diseases.

“I feel immense pride when I see the important work CDI professionals are doing during this pandemic,” said Wylecia Wiggs Harris, PhD, CAE, AHIMA CEO. “We believe these clear, concise, and compliant templates will make it easier for CDI professionals to document this virus, which in turn gives courageous medical providers more time to focus on patient care.”

The new templates are designed to capture high-quality documentation to support the continuum of care in this complicated healthcare environment. Clinical documentation integrity is critical during the pandemic because it can impact research efforts to curb COVID-19 and provides government and healthcare leaders with key information for their decision-making processes.

The two new COVID-19 CDI query templates are available to all healthcare professionals for free at https://ahima.realmagnet.land/covid-19-query-templates-professional.

AHIMA has created more than 130 CDI templates for use in multiple healthcare settings. These templates (not related to COVID-19) are available through the Artifact Health platform.

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RNs At 15 HCA Hospitals To Protest Lack of COVID-19 Preparedness

Home | HCA HealthcareRegistered nurses at 15 HCA Healthcare hospitals in seven states began actions to protest a lack of preparedness by the nation’s largest hospital chain that they say places nurses, other staff, and patients at risk in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, announced National Nurses United (NNU) today.

NNU, which represents 10,000 RNs at 19 HCA hospitals in California, Florida, Kansas, Missouri, Nevada and Texas, is demanding that HCA provide the optimal personal protective equipment (PPE) for nurses and other staff. That means N95 respirators or the more protective powered air purifying respirators (PAPRs), and other head-to-toe coverings.

Separately, RNs at HCA’s Mission Hospital in Asheville, N.C. will deliver a petition to hospital managers with their concerns about hospital COVID-19 preparedness

“Nurses at various HCA hospitals are reporting that they have had to work without proper protective equipment,” said Jean Ross, RN, president of National Nurses United.

“Nurses say they are not informed when they exposed to an infected patient. They are told to unsafely reuse masks and at one hospital they are even being told not to wear masks because it ‘scared the patients.’”

“Protecting our patients is our highest priority, but it becomes much harder when we don’t have the safe protections which puts us in danger of becoming infected,” said Angela Davis, RN, Medical Intensive Care Unit, a dedicated COVID-19 unit, at Research Medical Center Kansas City, Mo. “If we are no longer able to be at the bedside, who will be there to care for our patients?”

“When we are infected no one is safe,” said Kim Smith, RN, Intensive Care Unit, also a dedicated COVID-19 unit, at Doctors Regional Hospital/Corpus Christi Medical Center in Corpus Christi, Texas.  “When we are infected, we become a real danger of infecting everyone else around us, patients, hospital staff, and a risk to our own families.”

HCA can well afford to be properly prepared for the pandemic, says NNU. Over the past decade HCA has made more than $23 billion in profits. “For the wealthiest hospital corporation in the United States to show such disregard for the health and safety of its caregivers, is disgraceful and unconscionable,” said Ross.

“We are facing the gravest public health crisis in a century,” said Gary Mousseau, RN, Endoscopy, Fawcett Memorial Hospital, Port Charlotte, Fla. “As nurses at HCA health care facilities across the country, it has been disheartening to see HCA’s poor response to our safety concerns.”

In a national survey of nearly 10,000 RNs in every U.S. state and territory, NNU found that HCA had among the worst records of pandemic preparedness.

In the actions, nurses will survey their RN colleagues on PPE preparedness as they report to work at shift changes, marking checklist results on a large survey board as to whether their hospital has adequate PPE for RNs, proper isolation for infected patients, notification to staff about COVID-19 cases, and adequate COVID-19 testing for staff.

Some of the concerns RNs are reporting:

HCA West Florida Division – Will issue only one less protective surgical mask per shift. Employees will not be allowed to bring their own N95, a violation also of federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) regulations.

Blake Medical Center, Bradenton, Fla. – Employee sent home for bringing own N95. Another told to enter room of patient under investigation without an N95 mask even though every other employee in the room had an N95 mask.

Central Florida Regional Hospital, Sanford, Fla. – Nurses told that they could not wear masks while working because it “scared the patients.”

Corpus Christi Medical Center, Corpus Christi, Texas – Nurses notified of exposure, but told to continue working until they showed symptoms, even though the virus can still be spread when an infected person is asymptomatic.

Doctors Hospital of Sarasota, Sarasota, Fla. – Nurses exposed because negative pressure room was not working. Some 18 RNs were quarantined.

Fawcett Memorial Hospital, Port Charlotte, Fla. – Delay in reporting exposure to RNs.

Las Palmas Medical Center, El Paso, Texas – Employees in Mother-Baby units exposed to a COVID-19 positive physician. Employees not told of exposure until more than 48 hours after hospital learned about it. Nurses unsafely told to report to work until they learn their test results, potentially infecting patients, other staff.

Research Medical Center, Kansas City, Mo. – Delay in notification of being exposed to a suspected infected patients and staff and expected to continue reporting to work.

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The American Hospital Association and AVIA Launch New Tool to Support Members on the Front Lines of the COVID-19 Crisis: Introducing the COVID-19 Digital Response Pulse

The American Hospital Association (AHA) and AVIA are reaching out to all AHA members with a new tool for rapid, critical support to deal with COVID-19. The nationwide roll out of the COVID-19 Digital Response Pulse to all 5,000 members of the AHA provides a free online tool that allows hospitals and health systems to immediately assess critical digital capabilities they will need to meet the challenges of COVID-19 over the weeks and months ahead, and links directly to further information about how members can access and implement the solutions they select.

Members face immediate challenges to stand up a virtual approach for screening, testing, triage, primary care, and specialty care for worried, anxious patients in their communities – all to avoid being at the hospital unless absolutely necessary. These solutions need to leverage scarce clinician resources and build trust and confidence in doing so.

The COVID-19 Pulse shows members where they have gaps in these capabilities and offers specific steps that can be taken now to prevent the spread of the virus, allocate resources, care for the sick, and protect clinicians.

“We don’t have in-house experts and large teams to figure all this out, and we all wear so many hats, so we need partners to help us,” said Liz Dean, executive director of strategy and business development at Riverwood Healthcare in Aitkin, Minnesota. “The COVID-19 Pulse helped us quickly identify virtual health solutions. We gained insights on best practices, resources and reassurance that we were on the right track. Because we used this tool, we were able to implement virtual solutions very quickly and efficiently.”

The AHA formed a strategic alliance in October 2019 with AVIA, the leading digital transformation partner for healthcare organizations across the country. Since then, AHA and AVIA have worked together to create tools that help the industry accelerate digital transformation. The COVID-19 Pulse is an important and timely development for AHA members and their communities and is accessible for any healthcare organization with an AHA member account.

The COVID-19 Pulse contains a framework of 13 critical capabilities identified by AVIA and its Network members, including screening and triage, remote workforce, and addressing social needs for COVID-19, that can effectively be supported by high-value digital solutions. Upon completion, hospitals and health systems receive aggregated data-driven insights into how their organization compares to peers that are also responding to COVID-19. This information will also jumpstart new connections across the AVIA Network, so that hospitals and health systems can share emerging best practices and foster real-time learning.

“In this moment of crisis, there is so much noise when health systems need focus and clarity. The COVID-19 Pulse allows our 5,000 members to identify where they can take rapid action on the front lines to best serve their communities,” said Andy Shin, COO AHA Center for Health Innovation. “In partnership with AVIA, we can allow health systems and hospitals across the country to leverage their existing tools for COVID-19 response and rapidly implement new ones.”

“AVIA was founded on the idea that digital is imperative to catalyze meaningful and quick benefits for healthcare,” said Bruce Brandes, General Manager, Digital & Partner Network at AVIA. “We can move faster if we work together, especially during this crisis. The COVID-19 Pulse powers up knowledge sharing and collaboration needed to simplify and scale care across the country during such a critical time in healthcare.”

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HealthChampion Offers Free Access to COVID-19 Symptom Tracker

HealthChampion, a digital health analytics company and creator of the world’s first consumer-driven health platform, today announced it is offering free access to its new COVID-19 tracker with symptom assessment. Since the explosive spread of the novel coronavirus across the world, HealthChampion has been focused on leveraging the full power of its platform to help American businesses and individuals manage and maintain their health during this crisis.

HealthChampion is now providing free access to its remote health monitoring and management platform which allows users to track and monitor COVID-19 symptoms such as body temperature, coughing and shortness of breath. The tracker also conducts daily symptom assessments over a 14-day period, the incubation time of the coronavirus.  People who are self-isolating or sheltering-in-place can also use the app to:

“Since the outbreak, HealthChampion has been working around the clock to adapt our solutions to help Americans respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, monitor for symptoms and foster optimal health,” said HealthChampion CEO Terrence Ryan. “In addition, we are also committed to providing resources to the essential business employers and employees serving us all on the front line, whether in our grocery stores and warehouses or hospitals and senior care facilities.”

In addition to supporting the health of the general population, HealthChampion’s COVID-19 offering is uniquely tailored to support essential businesses (those that people rely on in everyday life) during the crisis. Employees of these businesses can use the secure, personal app to manage their family’s health, while employers can easily file required COVID-19 health reports, through HealthChampion’s employer platform. The app allows essential businesses to:

“HealthChampion was founded on the belief that our best weapon is our own healthcare data. This crisis has heightened the urgency to give people control of their own health data and put it to work to protect their well-being and that of their families,” said Ryan.

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Febris Launches Free Online COVID-19 Personal Protective Equipment Training Module for Nurses and Medical Staff

Febris, an innovative healthcare training start-up company, has officially launched a free online COVID-19 (coronavirus) Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) training module designed especially for nurses and medical staff. The training module is available at www.febr.is.

Using interactive virtual reality technology, the new Febris educational module incorporates the latest Centers for Disease Control and World Health Organization guidelines and recommendations. The online module includes information about proper hand hygiene procedures as well as best practices regarding personal protective equipment (PPE), including disposable gowns, face shields, respirators, gloves and face masks.

Kirkland Brooks
Kirkland Brooks

“Our goal is to help new nurses incorporate current guidelines regarding personal protective equipment as they collect diagnostic respiratory specimens and work directly with patients throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Febris founder and CEO Kirkland Brooks. “We are planning to roll out additional educational modules in the coming months, but we are focused on providing free coronavirus PPE training because this topic is urgent, timely and extremely important to help keep nurses and medical staff as safe as possible.”

Hospitals across the United States are currently facing a growing need for nurses amid the coronavirus pandemic. Given the expected surge in COVID-19 patients expected in the coming weeks, many U.S. healthcare facilities are trying to fill crisis-based nursing jobs, particularly in intensive care units and emergency rooms.

“With states fast-tracking medical permits and universities graduating healthcare students early to work the front lines, creative solutions like Febris’s virtual reality COVID-19 nurse’s training module will help ensure that lack of experience doesn’t lead to greater risk for both patients and medical personnel,” said Jennifer Bonnett, executive director of The Creative Coast. “It’s great to see Febris stepping up and innovating quickly to help our community — and the world — in this time of crisis.”

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MassHealth Partners with Maven To Offer Immediate Free Access To Telemedicine During COVID-19

Maven, the largest telemedicine provider for women’s and family health, announced a new partnership with MassHealth, the Massachusetts, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. MassHealth will provide free telemedicine appointments for members with COVID-19 symptoms with Maven’s network obstetric/gynecologists, maternal fetal medicine specialist, pediatricians, family physicians, and general practitioners for women and families in Massachusetts.

MassHealth members will be connected through an online navigation tool to Maven providers through on-demand chat and video appointments 24 hours a day through the use of any web-enabled device.

“During the COVID-19 emergency, MassHealth has made unprecedented efforts to eliminate barriers to health care access, including expansive coverage of telehealth services,” said Acting Medicaid Director Amanda Cassel Kraft. “We are excited to announce this partnership with Maven ?to provide medical support to our members seeking guidance on COVID-19 symptoms or risk factors.”

In the wake of COVID-19, women and families are dealing with a myriad of health concerns, from managing conditions related to a high risk pregnancy to being discharged from hospitals soon after giving birth to caring for a newborn. Telehealth now plays an essential role in giving these women and families the support and care they need from the safety of their own homes.

“This pandemic has raised serious concerns for millions of women who are pregnant or have just given birth,” said Kate Ryder, founder and CEO of Maven. “We have doctors available around the clock to support MassHealth members and alleviate the burden on the healthcare system during this public health crisis. Massachusetts has long been a leader in healthcare and other states should look to their innovative response to this crisis as a model.”

With the incredible demand for care, trusted clinical data and information, and resources around COVID-19, Maven has developed dedicated COVID-19 resources. This includes:

For more information on accessing Maven via your MassHealth benefits, please visit https://www.mavenclinic.com/masshealth.

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Elsevier Launches Veridata Electronic Data Capture (EDC) and Offers Free Access To Help Researchers Studying COVID-19

Elsevier - Wikipedia

Elsevier, a global leader in information analytics specializing in science and health, today introduces Veridata EDC, a secure, compliant and user-friendly platform to capture patient data for clinical research.

Veridata EDC is a next-generation version of Elsevier’s MACRO, a solution that has been proven in commercial and not-for-profit clinical research for more than 20 years.

To assist researchers working to develop vaccines and other therapies for COVID-19, Elsevier has pledged to make Veridata EDC available for free. Interested clinical researchers can contact Elsevier customer support via e-mail at covid19@elsevier.com and apply for a demo account. Following the necessary compliance training, they will receive a free 12-month license.

“As researchers around the globe unite to fight COVID-19, they urgently need ways to streamline data collection and facilitate workflows in their studies,” said Olaf Lodbrok, Senior Vice President for Precision Medicine, Global Clinical Solutions, Elsevier. “Veridata EDC is a platform that optimizes data to help them find untold insights faster and more easily.

“COVID-19 is perhaps the biggest challenge in healthcare today. Elsevier is proud to offer clinical researchers a free solution that can transform data points into knowledge to improve clinician collaboration and hopefully patient outcomes.”

Veridata EDC provides clinical researchers with secure and compliant electronic data capture to ensure that the rights, safety and well-being of clinical trial participants are protected. Its intuitive user interface means researchers can quickly input, monitor and run reports to collect accurate and reliable subject data for analysis.

“Veridata EDC breaks down the barriers to research for COVID-19 and beyond. We believe the long legacy of Veridata EDC, combined with its sophisticated functionality, provides the research community with a solution they can trust to further medical discovery,” said Dr. John Danaher, president of global clinical solutions, Elsevier. “Along with Elsevier’s Novel Coronavirus Information Center, our one-stop access to the latest medical and scientific information on coronavirus from across Elsevier’s journals and clinical resources, we are pleased to be a company helping clinicians and clinical researchers on the front lines of fighting this outbreak.”

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Cybersecurity During A Pandemic — And How Healthcare Workers Can Protect Themselves

By Josh Horwitz, COO, Enzoic. Healthcare employees are on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic, in many cases working extended hours under extremely taxing circumstances in an effort to treat the growing number of infected […]

Continue

How Technology Is Replacing Teaching As We Know It

In a world that is constantly being upgraded, streamlined and enhanced by software and technology, is it possible that teaching will no longer be a human profession? What if A.I. progresses to the point that […]

Continue

The Problem With Surprise Medical Billing

By Terry Rowinski, president & CEO, Health Payment Systems, Inc. We’ve seen it time and time again—a patient receives services from an out-of-network provider at an in-network facility and is surprised with a huge medical […]

Continue

AHIMA Develops Tools To Help Clinical Documentation Integrity Professionals During COVID-19

With clinical documentation integrity (CDI) professionals playing a key role in efforts to “flatten the curve” of the COVID-19 pandemic, the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) has developed tools designed to ease administrative burdens […]

Continue

RNs At 15 HCA Hospitals To Protest Lack of COVID-19 Preparedness

Registered nurses at 15 HCA Healthcare hospitals in seven states began actions to protest a lack of preparedness by the nation’s largest hospital chain that they say places nurses, other staff, and patients at risk […]

Continue

The American Hospital Association and AVIA Launch New Tool to Support Members on the Front Lines of the COVID-19 Crisis: Introducing the COVID-19 Digital Response Pulse

The American Hospital Association (AHA) and AVIA are reaching out to all AHA members with a new tool for rapid, critical support to deal with COVID-19. The nationwide roll out of the COVID-19 Digital Response […]

Continue