Healthcare Providers: Are You Providing Enough Data Security?

Guest post by Arron Fu, vice president of software development at UniPrint.

CIOs and IT professionals in healthcare organizations are tasked with achieving a balance between the demand for universal access to information and the need to ensure security. A recent report published by the Ponemon Institute and the Health Information Trust Alliance shows that the healthcare industry continues to struggle with curbing data breaches. According to the report, about 94 percent of the 80 participating healthcare organizations experienced at least one data breach of which they were aware in the past two years. Such breaches cost healthcare entities about $7 billion annually in the US alone.

While there is no shortage of companies that state that they go to great lengths to protect sensitive digital data, it’s rare to find a company that extends security measures to documents once they have been sent to a printer. Within an enterprise network, access to certain digital documents is restricted and limited only to those who are assigned the right to access those documents. But even a simple mistake like collecting the wrong document from a shared printer can also lead to a serious security breach. Why then does the security conversation stop when it comes to printed documents?

Profile of a Healthcare Professional

Healthcare mobility. Historically, healthcare professionals have always been mobile workers. Healthcare personnel rarely stay in one location, as they are often moving from one patient’s room to another, etc. This mobility also extends to the way documents are exchanged between staff, which creates a unique workstyle requirement where medical professionals need secure, location-based access to information at any given time.

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Toward Greater Patient Engagement: The Smartphone Physical

Mike Hoaglin
Mike Hoaglin

Guest post by Mike Hoaglin, a fourth-year medical student at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

“Patient engagement” is a phrase that reinvigorates the doctor-patient relationship and prioritizes the patient experience. With many designers scrambling to “engage” patients in their healthcare journeys, it is easy to get lost in the chaos. But what lies at its core is simple: healthcare leaders need to find easy methods that better connect people with the environment and the technology.

One way this is already proving effective is with the smartphone physical. Led by medical students from John Hopkins and University of Pennsylvania, quick diagnostic tests using devices connected to a smartphone are changing the face of the traditional physical and begging the question as to why modern medicine struggles to become more patient-centric.

The smartphone physical uses a series of peripheral devices attached to a smartphone to measure and analyze patient data ranging from weight to blood pressure to even heart activity. Patients are then able to receive an overall health picture and potentially electronic health record (EHR)-ready results from the smartphone physical immediately after the experience. Essentially these robust handheld digital devices are re-engaging patients because they promote more personalized, data-driven decision-making at the point of care.

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Five Things to Know About Electronic Health Records

Money magazine offers five things to know about electronic health records. It’s a very high-level overview, mostly for the consumer market, and is a piece designed to get some skin in the healthcare game. The piece pithy and concise, which is good, as the publication is clearly unable to dig into health IT topics like a site like this, but is it worth the ink?

You decide. Let us know. Tell us if it’s a “me too” moment, which I happen to believe is the case. I think the magazine should stick to covering money and leave health IT alone, but that’s a lone opinion.

And so, without further ado, here are five things to know about electronic health records, if you don’t already:

Chances are, patients will see them, if they have not already and will ask about them.

According to Money, “more than half of physicians have started keeping electronic medical records, the federal government announced this year. About 80 percent of hospitals have gone digital, too, with urban institutions leading the way.”

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Invest in the Right Tech: 3 Tips for Improving the Patient Experience and Office Operations

Aaron Weiss
Aaron Weiss

Guest post by Aaron Weiss, Director of Marketing for HP LaserJet and Enterprise Solutions.  

A variety of factors influence the success of healthcare organizations. From quality patient care to well-trained staff and the ability for administrative professionals to work efficiently, healthcare organizations must be able to provide patient care affordably, quickly and thoroughly.

Healthcare IT professionals can support their organizations by investing in and implementing technology that helps employees provide a positive patient experience. Although we typically think of improvements to the patient experience as outward-facing, like providing thorough medication information, scheduling appointments efficiently and friendly staff, adopting the right technology for “behind the counter” tasks can improve the patient experience exponentially.

Healthcare IT professionals should invest in cloud-based document management solutions and streamlined hardware and software that allow administrative employees, nurses and doctors to work quickly and comprehensively with access to forms, medication information and patient data where and when they need it. When a healthcare organization’s employees are able to work with accuracy and focus on patients, the patient experience, in turn, improves. Patients then receive the responsiveness and care they need when asking questions about medications, ailments and making follow-up appointments.

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Report Finds Paper-Based Strategies Still a Critical Element to Successful Healthcare Information Exchange

HIMSS Analytics recently released a new report on the barriers, challenges and opportunities of healthcare information exchange (HIE). The report, sponsored by ASG, examines the current state of information exchange among U.S. hospitals and explores the opportunities for improving the collection and exchange of patient data.

Survey respondents – 157 senior hospital information technology (IT) executives – indicated that there are two major challenges in the collection and sharing of patient information despite high levels of HIE participation:

More than 70 percent of respondents reported that their organization was part of a HIO, meaning that they participate in HIE with other hospitals and health systems. Approximately half of those respondents also reported improved access to patient information. However, the benefit did not result in robust data sharing, as 49 percent of the respondents cited this as the primary challenge to sharing patient information.

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FDA Issues Final Guidance On Mobile Medical Apps: Black and White, and Gray

As has been heavily reported, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued its final guidance for developers of mobile medical apps, which are software programs that run on mobile communication devices and perform the same functions as traditional medical devices. The guidance outlines the FDA’s approach to mobile apps.

According to the agency’s release, it intends to exercise “enforcement discretion” (meaning it will not enforce requirements under the Federal Drug & Cosmetic Act) for the majority of mobile apps as they pose minimal risk to consumers.

The FDA says it intends to focus its regulatory oversight on a subset of mobile medical apps that present a greater risk to patients if they do not work as intended.

Even though some guidance is offer (loosely below), does this not create a slippery slope type of situation? The mobile app market is vast and it is ever changing, literally every day there are new advancements. Give then overwhelming changes, why is the government so confident in its assumption that this rule – now set in stone – will remain relevant with the ever present changes facing the mobile tech and app markets?

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Though Health IT is Improving, Pain Points Remain for Most Docs

Though health IT is improving, pain points remain for most docs. That’s according to new data published by HealthBiz Decoded, a Xerox site.

The actual data was collected by research company Wolter Kluwers Health from 300 practicing primary care physicians.

Based on their experiences with health IT, most (or in this case more than 150) said technology is improving patient care and safety.

At the same time, just as many are frustrated by the technology in their practices and more than 60 percent believe health tech is not helping improve relationships with patients, surprisingly.

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Senators Call on HHS to Extend Deadline for Stage 2 of Electronic Health Records Incentive Program

John Thune
John Thune

Senator John Thune (R-S.D.), Chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, and Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Ranking Member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, were joined today by several of their colleagues in sending a letter to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, calling for a one-year extension for health care providers to complete the second stage of the electronic health records (EHR) incentive program, which is increasing the adoption of health information technology by hospitals and physicians across the country.

Lamar Alexander
Lamar Alexander

According a release, “providers who are ready to attest to Stage 2 in 2014 should be able to do so consistent with current policy, and the senators believe the administration must continue to push for interoperability.”

By the end of 2014, more than 500,000 hospitals and physicians will be required to upgrade their existing technology to demonstrate new standards of “meaningful use” to be eligible for the corresponding incentive payments.

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Greenway Medical Technologies and Vitera Healthcare Solutions to Combine

GreenwayGreenway Medical Technologies and Vitera Healthcare Solutions to combine, according to an announcement today stating that a definitive agreement will result in the combination of the businesses. The transaction will create a major healthcare information technology and services provider, offering a set of solutions for clinical and financial outcomes in healthcare enterprises, ambulatory practices, public health, retail and other clinics nationwide. Following the closing of the transaction, it is reported that the Vitera and Greenway businesses will serve nearly 13,000 medical organizations and 100,000 providers.

ViteraUnder the terms of the agreement, Vista Equity Partners, which owns Vitera Healthcare Solutions, will pay Greenway stockholders $20.35 in cash for each share of Greenway common stock they hold. The price represents a 62 percent premium to Greenway’s 90-day volume weighted average stock price, and a 20 percent premium to Greenway’s closing share price the day before the merger agreement was signed. The all-cash transaction is valued at approximately $644 million. The Greenway Board of Directors has unanimously approved the definitive merger agreement. Upon closing, Greenway will operate as a privately held company.

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Managing Medications in an IDN or ACO

Mo Kharbat
Mo Kharbat

Guest post by Mohammad (Mo) Kharbat, RPh, MBA, director of pharmacy, ProHealth Care Inc.

Managing medications throughout several facilities within an integrated delivery network (IDN) or accountable care organization (ACO) is challenging. Recent Joint Commission surveys show that appropriate medication storage is the most common regulatory standard hospitals struggle with. As director of pharmacy at ProHealth Care Inc. (ProHealth), a regional integrated health network in Wisconsin with about 400 hospital beds, this is a challenge that I am all too familiar with.

One of my primary responsibilities is ensuring that all medications are well-managed throughout our facilities. As ProHealth has expanded to include a wider array of care delivery sites, medication management has increasingly become associated with high financial stakes. If medications are not well managed, hospitals lose money. Every pill that is unaccounted for translates to dollars lost for a provider. And when facilities fail to meet Joint Commission medication management standards, they risk valuable Medicare reimbursement funds.

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