How To Secure Hospitals In An Increasingly Inhospitable World

By Paul Keely, general manager, Born in the Cloud business unit at Open Systems.

Paul Keely

Cyberattacks are never easy. But when ransomware actors recently hit several U.S. hospitals with attacks, it was especially problematic. Anything that wipes out a hospital’s compute environment is bad because hospitals are now 100% digital. Add to that the fact that the U.S. is recording around 100,000 COVID-19 cases a day, and you’ve got a real challenge on your hands.

This Was a Large and Sophisticated Attack

There are two general types of cyberattacks. Spray-and-pray attacks don’t have a particular target. Attackers simply go into an environment and hope the worm or malware spreads. WannaCry, which crippled the U.K. National Health Service in 2017, is a spray-and-pray attack.

The recent attack on the U.S. hospitals is known as an advanced persistent threat. This kind of attack is far more sophisticated, and focused on a specific area – in this case, the American healthcare system. We haven’t heard of a similar attack in Europe.

This attack doesn’t appear to have been staged for fun by a group of guys in a college dorm room. It’s a big attack. The FBI is telling American healthcare systems to block 150 IP addresses.

The Threat Ravaged Some and Left Others Unscathed

Some of the targeted healthcare organizations were severely affected by this recent attack. The malware landed on computers and moved very rapidly to encrypt hard drives, making the IT resources of these organizations essentially useless.

At least one impacted organization may have to build and migrate everybody slowly but surely to a new Active Directory environment. That’s a doomsday scenario. Active Directory acts as the very core of an organization’s identity. Without Active Directory, an organization can’t say for sure whether its IT environment – and, thus, its organization as a whole – is safe.

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The Prospects For Reining In Prescription Drug Costs Under A Biden Administration

By Ken Perez, vice president of healthcare policy, Omnicell, Inc.

Ken Perez

The cost of prescription drugs is one of the top reasons why the U.S. spends much more on healthcare on a per capita basis than economically similar countries. The general public understands this, as polls consistently show that high drug costs are the number one healthcare issue for Americans.

Congress certainly understands this as well, as there have been numerous attempts in recent years—many of which have garnered some bipartisan support—to slow the growth of prescription drug costs. However, the devil has been in the details, precluding passage of substantive legislation.

The inaction by the legislative branch led President Donald Trump to sign on July 24 four executive orders aimed at reducing drug prices and ensuring access to medications.

The first order directed federally qualified health centers to pass along discounts on insulin and epinephrine received from drug makers to medically underserved patients.

The second order allowed states to develop plans for safe importation of certain drugs, authorize the re-importation of insulin products made in the United States, and create a pathway for personal importation through the use of individual waivers to purchase drugs at lower cost from pre-authorized U.S. pharmacies.

The third order required that kickbacks between drug makers and pharmacy benefit managers be passed along to seniors as discounts in Medicare Part D.

The fourth order authorized the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to take action to ensure that the Medicare program and seniors pay no more for the most-costly Medicare Part B drugs than any economically comparable OECD country. (This concept was first introduced by the Trump administration as a rule in October 2018.)

Per the fourth order, on Nov. 20 CMS issued an interim final rule for the Most Favored Nation (MFN) Model that would lower prescription drug costs by paying no more for Medicare Part B drugs and biologicals than the lowest price that drug manufacturers receive in 25 other industrialized countries, normalized by GDP per capita.

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Using Telehealth To Take Care of Your Remote Employees

With the COVID 19 pandemic, firms worldwide experienced a shift of paradigm from traditional office space to remote work. Social distancing and WFH signaled a change in company healthcare benefits as well. The novel coronavirus expanded telemedicine merits since the pandemic began earlier this year. Telehealth has long been predicted as the mainstream trend, but largely the workforce has been hesitant to buy into the model- up until now. HR leaders and businesses have added telehealth and telemedicine as leading virtual care options. 

A healthy and happy workforce is vital to maintain workplace productivity. During this time of crisis, organizations need to encourage employees to adjust to the new normal of virtual healthcare integrating numerous benefits. Host webinars and share presentations to enlighten your employees on why telehealth consultation is befitting for remote employees. Render your work easy with SlideModel’s professionally tailored Healthcare PowerPoint template which will make your presentation look captivating. Before diving into why telehealth is the need of the hour for corporations, let us understand what it is. 

What is telehealth or telemedicine?

Telehealth or telemedicine is a technology-based healthcare consultation or service. In this, distant patients acquire medical help and assistance by consulting a medical specialist right from their home through technology. No matter the location of employees of the certified specialist, you can get medical support via mobile applications or websites and telecommunication. 

All the employees need is a smartphone or a computer to discuss their health concerns with an online doctor. Get virtual appointments for any physical or mental ailment, prescription refills or even virtual follow up visits. Chat with an AI-driven digital assistant, or directly call and message the doctor as per your convenience. 

Why Harness Telehealth For Your Employees in Remote Work? Works Well with Social Distancing

Telemedicine is the most practical and convenient alternative to face-to-face visits at the doctors. With the pandemic spreading like wildfire globally, employees can avail safe consultations online for any flu-like symptoms or even big problems without risking their lives. Avoid coming in contact with high-risk patients at the hospitals with doctors available on online telehealth platforms at your beck and call. 

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The Risk Of Medical Students Suicide: Why We Need To Pay Attention To Med School Depression?

A medical error can cost patients very dearly. At best, it will lead to an extra week of treatment and money spent on unnecessary medications, at worst, at worst – to the death of a person. Such responsibility cannot but exert psychological pressure on the medical staff, making his work more stressful, and his psychological state more unstable.

The problem of depression and suicide among medical students and doctors is relevant. One of the indicators is that this issue is always included in the lists of topics for term papers and other writings. A few months ago, The American Journal of Preventive Medicine published an article whose authors analyzed suicide statistics in the United States in 2003-2010. The study showed those professions whose people are more prone to depression and suicide. Doctors, firefighters, police officers, farmers, military personnel and rescuers were found to be three times more at risk of committing suicide in the workplace. It is explained by high level of stress and great responsibility.

How many doctors suffer from depression?

A team of researchers led by Srijan Sen of the University of Michigan and Douglas Mata of Harvard medical school decided to find out how stress affects the psychological state of doctors. The researchers analyzed data from 54 studies conducted between January 1963 and September 2015 and published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. The research included data on the psychological state of 17560 doctors – from newly graduated students to highly qualified specialists.

It was reported that, on average, 28.8% of doctors suffered from a depressive psychological state (taking into consideration a fact that currently about 350 000 000 people worldwide suffer from depression, which is about 5% of the world’s population). At the same time, there were no significant statistical differences between the level of depression among students and experienced doctors, as well as among medical staff of different specialties. In addition, the analysis showed that over the 50 years studied, the proportion of depressed doctors gradually increased.

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Delivering On Physicians’ Clinical Practice Needs In A Remote World

Jayne Marks

By Jayne Marks, vice president of global publishing, Wolters Kluwer, Health Learning, Research and Practice

While COVID-19 is at the forefront of physicians’ minds and taking up much of their learning, they must still find ways to stay current on their own specialties and ensure they are using the best available evidence and latest clinical guidelines to inform their practice.

One of the most trusted sources clinicians rely on to stay up to date is their professional medical society resources, foremost their specialty journal and annual meeting where critical practice updates are shared. In a Wolters Kluwer Physician Needs Assessment survey of nearly 1,600 US physicians conducted earlier in 2020 prior to the pandemic’s worldwide spread, the majority of physicians indicated that they would obtain health care information, resources or continuing medical education (CME) through medical societies – 78% said they would read peer-reviewed journals and 64% said they would attend annual meetings.

However, many annual meetings hosted by medical societies were cancelled in 2020 because of the safety risks associated with coronavirus and they may not revert to in-person formats in the near-future. In the absence of annual meetings and other gatherings to exchange research and ideas, physicians need other ways to stay current.

Understanding physician needs

For physicians looking to stay current in their specialty, there are three key needs:

Without these meetings, how will physicians get what they need?

Virtual tools: the new normal for time-pressed physicians

In today’s environment, the annual conference must be reimagined with the use of virtual tools. While this will be a significant shift, technology can provide significant advantages for both physicians and medical societies including new opportunities for engagement and information sharing.

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Interoperability Matters: The CMS Final Rule and the Path To Compliance

By Dr. Peter S. Tippett, CEO, careMESH.

We are all accustomed to digital tools in our personal and professional lives.  Every day, we communicate and receive notifications from others through various methods, such as email, text messaging, online chat sessions and by completing online forms.

We share “structured” documents like spreadsheets, presentations, software source code, or other files by attaching them to email or posting them in shared drives. We also solve misunderstandings, ask questions, drive workflows and coordinate things with “unstructured” content. 

In other words, we are living the benefits of full interoperability, allowing different people and organizations to collaborate effectively. Interoperability minimally requires participants to have all three of these capabilities: notification, file sharing and messaging.  

To ease communications, reduce provider burden, deliver coordinated patient care, drive down costs and improve outcomes, healthcare needs the same three capabilities. By effortlessly connecting every provider, practice, and hospital, we will deliver an efficient and patient-centric healthcare system.  

Earlier this year, before COVID radically changed 2020, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released its Interoperability and Patient Access Final Rule (CMS-9115-F). The rule leverages the might of the agency to “break down barriers in the nation’s health system to enable better patient access to their health information, improve interoperability and unleash innovation, while reducing burden on payers and providers.” 

The final rule is far-reaching in its objectives, addressing gaps among payers and healthcare providers, and has seven broad provisions, with three that apply to providers:   

1. Admission, Discharge, and Transfer (ADT) Event Notifications (applicable spring 2021) — The most significant impact on hospitals will be due to the (ADT) Event Notifications provision. CMS has modified Conditions of Participation (CoPs) to require most hospitals, including Psychiatric and Critical Access Hospitals, to make a “reasonable effort” to send electronic event notifications to “all” Primary Care Providers (PCPs) or their practice. This will apply for Emergency Department (ED) patients, inpatient admissions and discharges, and transfers to another healthcare facility or community provider. Together with the CMS Promoting Interoperability Programs (formerly Meaningful Use), these initiatives will make pragmatic and substantive progress toward healthcare interoperability. Some states like Florida (FL CS/HB 843) imposed a similar rule that became final in 2019.  

This new rule addresses notification; a substantial part of healthcare’s longstanding communications problem.  Many Health Information Exchanges (HIEs) have an ADT-oriented notification function, but they and related vendors typically require the PCP to buy the vendor’s service or join the HIE. 

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Driving Mammograms During COVID-19

See the source image

By Dr. Chantal Reyna, breast surgical oncologist and Jaci Haack, vice president of client strategy, Welltok.

A recent poll shows that 48% of Americans said they or a family member have delayed or skipped certain medical care because of the pandemic. While health systems often encourage patients to prioritize their breast health with an annual mammogram or routine consultation, this year, many patients are avoiding elective health visits altogether due to fears of contracting COVID-19.

Data show that the pandemic has delayed breast cancer screening in many parts of the country. Some of this resulted from statements from various academic societies, such as the American College of Radiology, during the beginning of the pandemic. However, this is staggering when you consider the importance of early detection and preventative screenings when it comes to diagnosing breast cancer and other life-threatening conditions. As time progresses, availability and recommendations regarding screening modalities evolves.

Since both screening and diagnostic mammograms are typically conducted at a hospital or large outpatient healthcare facilities, some patients have been hesitant to schedule these exams – even when a patient has a lump or nodule that should be addressed – out of fears of visiting a facility where they may be at risk for COVID-19 infection. Many health systems are experiencing a decline in these appointments and physicians are fearful that patients may be putting their health at risk.

How can health systems ensure that their patients are participating in crucial, and sometimes lifesaving, examinations? Here are three steps providers can take to encourage patients to have mammograms and other breast health exams during COVID-19:

Promote new safety precautions

A safe environment is key to protecting patients from potential exposure to COVID-19 and other health risks when coming in for a mammogram. Hospitals should make sure they are adhering to social distancing measures, wearing masks, establishing additional sanitizing stations and spreading out appointments to minimize the number of patients coming in at a certain time.

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Navigating Cybersecurity In Healthcare

By Navin Balakrishnaraja, practice director for healthcare IT Services, All Covered (IT services division of Konica Minolta).

See the source imageTechnology continues to advance the healthcare industry, providing more precision and improved delivery of care. However, it’s more important and even more challenging than ever for organizations to secure patient information and keep health data safe.

Advancements in cybersecurity measures need to go hand in hand with privacy and still a necessity. The frequency of data breaches in the healthcare industry has been on the rise and healthcare is now the most targeted sector by cybercriminals.

According to the Ponemon Institute, the average cost of a healthcare breach resulted in $7.13 million, a 10% increase from 2019. Healthcare has been a primary target in recent ransomware attacks, as you’ve probably seen the headlines and continue to hear it all over media.

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have received “credible information of increased and imminent cybercrime threats” aimed at hospitals and healthcare providers in the United States. They released an advisory of this targeted activity to all healthcare networks and that it appears that targeted attacks are only going to escalate.

Because of the immutable, high-value nature of electronic patient health information (ePHI), health data is a gold mine to cybercriminals. On the dark web, the cost of one record averages around more than $400 per record. A large shift in ransomware deployment operations has taken place. Cybercriminals are like psychologists, staying one step ahead of tools and user sophistication. Many of them depend on malware, but the focus has been on gaining privileged access and exploring target networks to disable security processes.

Also, the malwares do vulnerability scans on their end to see where they can inflict maximum damage to organizations. For example, the cybercriminal enterprise behind TrickBot, which is likely also the creator of BazarLoader malware, has continued to develop new functionality and tools, increasing the ease, speed, and profitability of victimization. Cybercriminals disseminate TrickBot and BazarLoader via phishing campaigns that contain either links to malicious websites that host the malware or attachments with the malware.

Loaders start the infection chain by distributing the payload; they deploy and execute the backdoor from the command and control (C2) server and install it on a victim’s machine. This example shows what organizations are running up against, making cyberattacks more intricate in nature.

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Why Transparency Is No Longer Optional In Medical Billing

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

Terry Rowinski

Almost a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, the stress surrounding the rising number of cases and the ensuing economic recession reminds high. Nearly half a million Americans have been hospitalized due to coronavirus, putting untold stress on patients, their families and hospital staff. Healthcare and health insurance costs are likely to rise after an unprecedented year, while millions struggle to meet their basic needs. 

On top of that, surprise medical billing can quickly spiral into large amounts of debt and even bankruptcy. Routine tests alone can result in thousands of dollars in uncovered charges; some hospitalized patients have received bills upward of $400,000. While the situation absolutely harms patients, it also negatively impacts health providers, insurers and the industry at large. 

Just as we’ve reevaluated the way we conduct nearly every aspect of daily life, we’ve also had to take a hard look at whether our healthcare systems are actually working. In order to make informed decisions about their physical and financial health, consumers need greater transparency throughout the healthcare experience. 

After years of mounting demand for a better consumer experience in healthcare, we’ve reached a tipping point. Transparency is no longer optional. 

Patients need to choose providers based on quality and cost

Consumers have long been frustrated with the status quo because it doesn’t provide them with a source of truth about healthcare costs and healthcare quality. It’s baffling that healthcare is the only consumer experience that doesn’t encourage shopping for the best option at the best price. We have a suite of easily available tools to help us shop for most items, evaluate their quality and compare price. Why isn’t our healthcare—which is much more important than the latest gadget—the same?

For example, even when patients know to search for an in-network provider, they struggle to select the right one. Many insurance carriers have some aspect of price or force ranking of providers on the ‘Find a Provider’ section of their website—but these aren’t exactly intuitive user experiences (perhaps by design).

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Netwrix Makes 7 Cybersecurity Predictions For 2021

Netwrix, a cybersecurity vendor that makes data security easy, released predictions about key trends that will impact organizations in 2021 and beyond. Most of them arise from the digital transformation and new workflows required by the rapid transition to remote work in 2020.

Ilia Sotnikov

Ilia Sotnikov, cybersecurity expert and Netwrix vice president of product management, recommends that IT and security professionals refine their risk management and business continuity strategies with these seven predictions in mind.

Ransomware will do more damage to motivate payments

Next-gen ransomware will be designed to do damage that is more difficult to recover from in order to force organizations into paying the ransom. One example is “bricking” devices by modifying the BIOS or other firmware. Cybercriminals will also be expanding to new targets, such as operational technology and IoT devices, which may have a much more visible impact on the physical world.

Cloud misconfigurations will be one of the top causes of data breaches

A lack of clear understanding of the shared responsibility model due to the rapid transition to the cloud will backfire in 2021. The speed of transition coupled with prioritizing productivity over security has made misconfigurations  inevitable, resulting in overexposed data.

Hackers will increasingly target service providers

The shortage of cybersecurity experts will lead more organizations to turn to managed service providers (MSPs). In response, hackers will conduct targeted attacks on MSPs in order to get access to not just one organization but all of the MSP’s customers.

The rapid digital transformation in 2020 will have a delayed impact on cybersecurity in 2021

In 2020, organizations were forced to quickly adapt to new ways of working and implement new technologies; and through their own admission via the upcoming Netwrix survey with little experience and nearly no time for planning and testing. In 2021, the security gaps caused by the inevitable mistakes during this rapid transition will be exploited, and we will see new data breach patterns like the recent Twitter hacks.

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