2014: The Year of Healthcare Big Data

Dan Piekarz

Guest post by Daniel Piekarz, vice president of life sciences business development at DataArt.

The life sciences industry will be defined in 2014 by the growing market demand to apply newly developed technology, including big data analysis, to healthcare and medical device practices. While many of the amazing technological advances in the space are driven by a desire to aid humanity, the industry is also caught between increased economic and regulatory pressure that is forcing many to electronically collect heaps of data while looking for custom technology solutions that will allow them to leverage this valuable data and adhere to new industry standards.

Over the next year, trends that reflect newly available technology will start to develop.  The adoption of healthcare big data technology will become a major theme in the sector this year, just as it has in several other industries. Many new technology offerings have been created to tie together data from multiple sources that can be accessed by researchers and physicians to allow them to easily exchange information. This also aids in research and development practices by offering another valuable tool to gather and analyze data.

Tied to the big data trend is the emergence of personal healthcare data aided by physicians’ adoption of EHR technology. By allowing patients to own and access their healthcare data on a healthcare information dashboard, patients can more easily understand risks and preventable care options. Pooling anonymized patient data together can also lead to better analysis, and physicians are already starting to work with vendors to develop big data diagnostic tools. These new technology advancements have started to create a generation of patients more committed to their own healthy future than ever before. Through an intelligent system database, patients and physicians can better understand patterns and symptoms that affect their healthy lifestyles. While this type of big data solution is gaining a foothold, there is still resistance from some doctors due to their concern over critical review of their procedures.

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Who’s Preparing for Meaningful Use Stage 2?

Interesting insight below from Practice Fusion about meaningful use stage 2 adoption trends, specifically state-by-state rates of effective EHR adoption. Am I surprised that large states like California and New York lag behind the rest of the country in EHR adoption progress? For some reason, I’m not really.

What surprises me here is that my native state of South Dakota leads every state in the country in the adoption of EHRs with Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and North Dakota all making the top 10.

I’m also surprised that no other state really comes close to So. Dak. Minnesota, the next closest state in level of adoption is a full 10 percent behind.

Nevertheless, what does this suggest about rural healthcare facilities? Do they need the money more than their urban counterparts? Does the technology make it easier for them to practice with such a dispersed population or are they just able to make the move more quickly because they are smaller, more agile facilities?

The last reason is less likely. I’d think it’s a combination of the first two points I make, and that they fee the technology makes it easier to communicate and track patient outcomes across their respective geographies.

I’d love your thoughts.

The second chart below tells which organizations are implementing specifically. It’s no surprise to me that family practice has a healthy lead.

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Three Strategies to Tackle Health IT Trends in 2014

Brian Schmitz
Brian schmitz

Guest post by Brian Schmitz, director of future product marketing for HP LaserJet and Enterprise Solutions, Imaging and Printing Group.

In today’s dynamic healthcare industry, it is important that providers embrace modern information technology and innovations to achieve organizational success. It’s no surprise that the health IT landscape is changing rapidly, driven by the interrelated trends of mobility, cloud, security and big data. This will fundamentally change the way that healthcare organizations communicate and collaborate moving forward. But, these health IT trends are not only driving change, they are also serving as the path to deal with many of the new dynamics created in today’s office environment.

In turn, healthcare organizations will need a “new style of IT” that helps them become more agile and efficient while reducing operational costs. In addition to these megatrends, changes to government regulations are driving an industry-wide shift to improve healthcare IT, which have increased healthcare IT spending projections to $34.5 billion in North America.

There will be an abundance of technology resources available to help healthcare providers facilitate this transition; however, IT decision makers must be able to identify the technologies that will work best for their business. The following three strategies are key consideration points when looking for new technologies to help you manage IT megatrends.

Benefit from Healthcare Big Data

Regulatory changes associated with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) will create a surge of newly insured patients. The Congressional Budget Office expects that the PPACA will cover around 14 million of the uninsured in 2014 and 25 million by the end of the decade. There is a significant financial opportunity with these new patients, but it is important to consider that the number of practitioners will not immediately increase to accommodate this influx.

Investing in technology and tools designed to specifically address big data and the vast amounts of patients’ personal information will help healthcare organizations provide more personalized care to these newly insured patients. By selecting tools that help collect, store and search for patient information, healthcare organizations can increase productivity by significantly reducing time spent managing patient records. Converting documents into searchable digital formats is an important part of this process, and educating staff on how to properly scan and organize documents in their digital form will help make patient data more accessible and usable.

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Sharing of Secure Patient Information Requires Strong Breach and Notification Policies

Roy Bossen
Roy Bossen

Guest post by Roy Bossen, partner, Hinshaw and Culbertson.

With the implementation of the Affordable Care Act pushing hospitals and health systems to provide services more efficiently, a significant number of hospitals, health systems and providers are sharing secure patient information through health information exchanges (“HIEs”), and accountable care organizations (“ACOs”). The advent of both the HIEs and the ACOs are additional opportunities for protected health information to be shared by hospitals, doctors and other providers.

HIEs allow for patient information, including lab tests, imaging tests, prescriptions and treatments, to be shared by the participants in the HIE. The development of these electronic HIEs allow for the secure exchange of health information among entities participating in the HIE. Generally, the rights and responsibilities of those entitled to share the information is governed by participation agreements. Many providers believe that sharing data will improve healthcare and promote not only quality of care, but efficient care, as well. Similarly, the development of ACOs by otherwise independent providers results in more patient information shared in electronic fashion. The advent of both HIEs and ACOs provide another medium for possible breaches of the privacy rule.

The privacy rule requires that covered entities verify the identity and authority of persons requesting Protected Health Information (“PHI”) if the individual requesting it is not known to the entity.  The Rule, however, does not specify in great detail the verification that must be made and, thus, there is flexibility that can be applied with regard to HIEs and ACOs.

Generally, in a HIE, the participants agree, by contract or otherwise, to provide to the HIE a list of authorized persons so the HIE can appropriately authenticate users of the network. Documentation required for uses and disclosures may be provided in electronic form, and documentation requiring signatures may be provided as scanned images. It is important from an HIE perspective for the various participants to agree on a common set of privacy safeguards that are appropriate to the risk associated with exchanging PHI to and through the HIE. Similarly, with ACOs, the ACO should establish a common set of privacy safeguards that are appropriate to the privacy risks associated with multiple providers using PHI. These common standards would include a breach notification policy or procedure. To fully understand what must be done, one must have a basic understanding of what is considered a breach.

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Strategies for Effective EHR Data Management

Mark Myers
Mark Myers

Guest post by Mark Myers, Datalink.

Today’s healthcare IT departments have a relatively tall order when it comes to effective EHR data management. In an environment that often requires them to be simultaneously budget-conscious, growth-minded and patient-driven, healthcare IT must also address the often-competing data management needs for:

Popular EHR system vendors have made significant strides to address several of these data management issues. Unfortunately, they can only go so far given the current state of many healthcare IT environments. Some departments may still require custom software applications, complete with specially configured servers, storage and network hardware to support them.

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Healthcare Structured Data Enables the Grandest Rounds of All

Micheal Sherling
Michael Sherling

Guest post by Michael Sherling, MD, MBA, co-founder and chief medical officer, Modernizing Medicine.

At most hospitals and academic medical centers, physicians come together once a month to learn new approaches to treatment, to exchange ideas and to debate the possibilities of a challenging diagnosis. We call this Grand Rounds.

Grand Rounds keeps physicians up to date and helps patients too. Instead of relying on one doctor’s opinion, patients get a collective experience of several doctors. Through open debate, a more thoughtful approach to disease treatment is generated. Unfortunately, 80 percent of physicians do not practice in a hospital or academic medical center where Grand Rounds happen.[1] They practice in private practice. While there are opportunities for physicians in private practice to maintain continuing medical education through journals, online courses and annual meetings, most of these practitioners are on their own, so to speak.

When physicians in private practice see a challenging case, they can read about it in a medical textbook, phone a friend (another specialist) or refer the patient to another physician. They don’t have the luxury of calling a “time out” and presenting the case to five other physicians. Pressured by time constraints of increased documentation and decreasing reimbursement, many doctors opt to refer out the more challenging cases, or shy away from newer treatments simply because they don’t have the same access or shared experiences as doctors practicing in hospitals and academic medical centers.

Today, innovative cloud-based electronic health record (EHR) systems can present an opportunity to break down the barriers in private practice so that physicians can make more informed decisions at the point of care. Cloud-based systems rely on one instance of the software where all de-identified medical data is stored. These systems are HIPAA compliant and patient information is protected and secured. Yet, to advance medicine and improve healthcare outcomes for patients and physicians alike, the cloud-based systems can provide physicians access to de-identified patient data. Instead of relying on underpowered clinical control trials for common diseases, outdated studies for rare diseases and anecdotal evidence for orphan diseases, cloud based systems can reveal to physicians which treatment patterns are used for any given disease.

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NSA Surveillance Revelations Bring Attention to Need for More Privacy and Security among Third-Party Vendors

Rebekah Johnson

Rebekah Johnson, CIPP/US, is the Senior Compliance Manager for West Notifications, Inc

When Edward Snowden shed light on the National Security Administration’s surveillance programs, Americans were left asking many questions. Questions ranging from “How can the government do this?” to “What information are they gathering?” became conversation topics for many Americans. In the healthcare world, these revelations have made both patients and healthcare providers concerned over how secure information is in the hands of third-party vendors. These vendors, which providers rely on for many things, are being scrutinized for their attention to detail, data storage and potential for breach.

The impact Snowden’s whistleblowing has had on healthcare providers and third-party vendors across America is far reaching. People are closely examining privacy policies now, whereas signing privacy forms at a doctor’s office used to be just an afterthought. It has forced businesses that rely on American third-party vendors to ask if their data is being protected, and at what level. The NSA surveillance program brought awareness to the word privacy and the actions and steps that are, or aren’t, taken by providers and their vendors to keep information protected.

Healthcare providers cannot afford to take security and privacy for granted and assume that their patients’ information is being adequately protected. Patients will hold their healthcare providers accountable if there is a breach. Therefore, to truly ensure data is protected,  it is the job of providers to ask vendors the appropriate questions to ensure that the proper security and privacy policies are in place to lessen the risk of a security breach. And beyond asking tough questions, the emphasis on proper due diligence to vet accurate answers and understand processes has never been greater. There are two key focus areas: security and privacy. It is important to remember that you can have security without privacy, but you cannot have privacy without security. In a world where our information can and has been looked at by our government, making information both private and secure is vitally important. Finding a third-party vendor that ensures the information is private and secure has to be a top priority.

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Data Breaches of Protected Health Information Will Get More Frequent in 2014

Michelle Blackmer

Guest post by Michelle Blackmer, director of marketing, Healthcare, Informatica.

The volume of protected health information (PHI) in electronic form is exploding – both from the wholesale move from paper charts to electronic health records for capturing clinical data and with the proliferation of new sources of electronic data from networked medical devices. Additionally, IT staff have been overwhelmed by regulatory mandates, rampant technology changes (e.g., virtualization, BYOD, big data), massive application projects and flat or decreasing budgets.

This increase in electronic PHI combined with the challenges for health systems IT make it even more important for providers and non-providers to find efficient ways to secure their data. However, with malicious activity showing a consistent upward trend, absent a change to an almost maniacal leadership focus on protecting patient data and the deployment of available tools and processes as an organizational imperative, 2014 will bring even more frequent and larger breaches of PHI.

Current data security climate

Even still, many healthcare organizations are not taking the necessary steps to reduce the proliferation of unprotected PHI in non-production test and development environments. Ninety-four percent of respondents to the third annual Ponemon Institute Benchmark Survey on Patient Privacy and Data Security had at least one data breach in the past two years, and 45 percent reported having had more than five total incidents each. Even more surprising is that the leading cause for a breach is a lost or stolen computing device that houses PHI.  The survey also found that:

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Creating Collaboration across the Care Continuum: A Customer Approach to Healthcare

Barbara Casey

Guest post by Barbara Casey, Senior Executive Director for Healthcare Business Transformation at Cisco.

Imagine taking your car in for a routine service, only to be told you’ll need to visit five or six more garages on your own to procure an accurate assessment and treatment of the problem(s). In our current healthcare climate, this disconnected and complicated process is what most patients experience in assessing and treating their health conditions. Many of the most compromised patients, those that are elderly, co-morbid or chronically ill, are alone in their experience, left to connect the dots from cardiologist to radiologist to primary care. Layer in the emotional experience of, for example, being told you have stage four cancer and it’s difficult to focus on, let alone remember, what the oncologist or surgeon says to do next. Yet, the onus falls solely on the patient, family member or caregiver to create continuity in the care experience.

So, as healthcare professionals, how do we help patients navigate the continuum of care when they are seeing an array of physicians and specialists in currently disconnected care settings? We need to treat the patient more like a true customer, which means upgrading the tools and methods we use to interact with them to be more intuitive and user-friendly so we touch base with them on a more regular basis.

Take for example the retail industry—Amazon and Netflix invest in complex algorithms to understand us better as individuals. As online businesses, they have enough information to recommend the next Father’s Day gift or determine if we prefer science fiction to drama. Can we apply that same logic to healthcare? Wouldn’t you want your own doctor and healthcare network to know you as well as Amazon does—for example, the medications you take, what you’re allergic to and the surgeries you’ve had—so they can recommend what you need to do next to advance your health and wellbeing?

It’s our obligation as technology experts and partners to those in the healthcare industry to find the answers and provide patients guidance in what they need before they need it. So in the end, patients can make the choice about how to approach their health can make the choice. After all, where else would you want to be known more intimately as an individual than in your own healthcare network?

mHealth, video and collaboration tools offer an opportunity to create a true continuum of care and a more seamless patient experience. Communication tools which integrate voice, video and data can also help deliver healthcare more effectively and efficiently. If these mechanisms are in place, the patient is more in control of where, when and how to communicate with care providers. She has the choice of how she wants to connect and communicate with her caregiver—the only question is will it be live in a doctor’s office, via video from her home living room, from a desk chair at the office, or from the path where she’s fulfilling a lifelong goal to hike the Appalachian Trail?

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Is Open Source Technology the Next Big Health IT Trend?

Shameem C Hameed
Shameem C Hameed

Guest post by Shameem C. Hameed, founder of ZH Healthcare.

The past five years have seen monumental changes in the world of healthcare information technology. As 2013 comes to a close, it seems appropriate to look forward to the developing trends for 2014 and beyond and how they will impact vendors, providers and patients.

Open Source Technology Use and Development Will Accelerate

The continuing acceptance and use of open source software is the most important healthcare trend, since it ties directly into every point on this list. Open source software has become part of the healthcare mainstream and is used in many areas of the healthcare industry. Open source software is behind everything from the EHR system doctors use to enter patient data to the web browser or smartphones and tablets patients use to check their records through patient portals. Even the much talked about Healthcare.gov website utilizes open source software.

The benefits of open source development over proprietary software will continue to fuel its expansion over the next few years. Open source software has many advantages for providers and patients, including interoperability, speed of problem resolution, flexibility and more frequent updates.

An example of how open source software provides these benefits can be found in the area of EHR systems. One of the most common complaints by physicians and staff about EHR software is that the software is difficult to use. Now that EHR adoption has become widespread, there is much more thought and resources going into refining the user interface. With proprietary software, the amount of developer resources that can put into refinements may be limited to that one vendor’s resources. With open source software, countless companies and individuals are constantly collaborating to make the software easier to operate and more user-friendly for everyone.

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