There’s no sugarcoating it: cybercriminals are attacking the US healthcare industry. The FBI announced recently that healthcare suffered more ransomware attacks than any other industry in 2022.
As healthcare professionals, the ultimate goal is to provide safe and efficient patient care. Consistent and accurate access to electronic health records is a massive part of this objective, which any data disruption can harm. Once a threat actor is inside a system, they can disrupt operations by exfiltrating data, locking or deleting files, and encrypting data until a ransom is paid. Healthcare organizations should be aware of ransomware’s threat, no matter the institution’s size, and plan to protect its data.
A rampant threat
The focus on healthcare as a target for ransomware attacks has been building for some time. From 2016 to 2021, ransomware attacks against US healthcare organizations more than doubled. But now, cybercriminals gangs are becoming more innovative, using new techniques to get into networks, evade detection, and encrypt files.
In February, the Health Sector Cybersecurity Coordination Center warned healthcare systems of a new ransomware variant targeting the industry: MedusaLocker. The group took advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to infiltrate and encrypt healthcare systems. Ransomware variants like MedusaLocker, including Royal and Clop, make healthcare their primary target because of the wealth of personal information available in these systems. Additionally, healthcare organizations often have less robust IT/cybersecurity departments than other industries, such as the technology or financial sectors, due to staffing shortages, lack of funds, and outdated tech.
But ransomware isn’t the only thing that can take down a healthcare practice. Natural disasters, such as flooding or inclement weather, or human error, such as an employee accidentally deleting an important file, can happen just as unexpectedly. All hospital IT departments and independent practices should have a data backup and recovery plan to protect sensitive electronic medical records and keep patient care running smoothly and safely. However, often these departments only have the resources to implement solutions that run unmonitored in the background. Without a proper plan, this leaves them vulnerable when data disruptions occur.
While all of this may seem disheartening, actions are within our control. Consider these steps to be prepared for when data disruption strikes.
Inovalon, a provider of cloud-based software solutions empowering data-driven healthcare, launches Converged Outreach. This new cloud-based SaaS product is a patient outreach orchestration solution that empowers healthcare organizations to coordinate the analytically-derived patient intervention programs of multiple concurrent initiatives to achieve optimal engagement, impact, and efficiency.
Traditional approaches by health plans and other value-based and outcomes-based organizations often have multiple patient engagement initiatives running simultaneously, such as quality improvement, risk score accuracy improvement, smoking cessation, cancer screening, medication adherence, vaccination management, and others. This frequently results in discordant outreach efforts that confuse patients, drive up costs, and add unnecessary friction to both the patient and their providers.
Inovalon’s new cloud-based Converged Outreach SaaS solution enables healthcare organizations to customize integrated, patient-specific intervention programs and coordinate outreach in one efficient solution. Utilizing predictive analytics informed by the data of billions of medical events, Converged Outreach leverages sophisticated algorithms focused on key elements such as patient compliance likelihood, total impact opportunity, and operational workflow optimization.
Tracking and modifying programs at the patient level in response to past patient engagements, historical intervention performance results, and resource availability are further differentiators of the solution. The resulting coordinated outreach plan is available to the customer in real-time for provision to their existing resources or a growing ecosystem of third-party healthcare services vendors for the outreach plan’s coordinated intervention plan to be undertaken across the identified patients.
“Inovalon believes in personalized care, and in the power of data to drive the right action at the right time,” said Craig Savage, President and General Manager of Inovalon’s Payer business. “With Converged Outreach, customers have a powerful solution at their fingertips to coordinate programs that otherwise have operated in separate silos, now confidently targeting the right coordinated interventions to the right patient at the right time, driving significant improvements to quality of care, economic outcomes, and clinical performance.”
Converged Outreach is fully interoperable with Inovalon’s cloud-based Converged solution suite, a set of integrated, pure SaaS offerings that simplify implementation, shorten the time to program impact, and avoid the need and cost of additional disparate data integrations, data security auditing processes, vendor management, and operational reporting.
Revenue cycle management solutions provider AGS Health announced the launch of operations in Manila, Philippines. Serving as a strategic growth partner to more than 100 major healthcare providers across the U.S., the expansion will offer AGS Health and its customers increased access to global talent.
Identified as one of the most popular outsourcing destinations in the world, the Philippines is known for the quality of skills offered in the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector. With strong medical backgrounds and voice-based skills, AGS Health aims to focus on supporting end-to-end accounts receivable services. “By augmenting our service line with patient calls, responding to patient queries, and timely patient follow-ups, the addition of our Philippines operations represents an exciting added value to our customers,” said Patrice Wolfe, CEO of AGS Health.
As the company continues to grow, AGS Health is diversifying its global operating locations. The Manila office is the second recent global addition for the company, following the opening of its Jaipur, India office in June 2022. With more than 11,000 employees worldwide, AGS Health combines a global pool of expertly trained, college-educated resources with AI-enabled technology to leverage the latest advancements in modern revenue cycle practices.
The COVID-19 global pandemic and widespread natural disasters have highlighted the importance of business continuity planning. With an already-extensive presence established in India, AGS Health strengthens its infrastructure with this cross-country addition.
“Our expanded footprint reduces the risk of business disruptions to our clients should operations be interrupted in India,” Wolfe said, adding “The Philippines emerged as our top choice for its solid, low-risk infrastructure and its role as a top business center.”
With the trend of remote working on the rise and telehealth becoming increasingly significant, high-speed internet has become a fundamental necessity for every community. Despite these advancements, rural Americans are being left behind. According to the Federal Communications Commission, around 17% of rural Americans lack broadband access as of 2019, the most recent data available. Urban Americans without broadband access is in the low single digits. As such, the absence of high-speed internet directly affects the implementation of telehealth in rural areas.
Even more concerning is the fact that rural communities in the U.S. are facing a shortage of healthcare professionals. It is estimated that 4,000 additional primary care practitioners are needed to meet the needs of rural communities. Rural Americans often need to travel long distances to access specialty care in person, but travel is not an option for everyone, leading to delayed care and poor health outcomes. Rural Americans also have higher rates of death, disability, and chronic disease than urban Americans, and are twice as likely to die from COVID-19 infections.
Fortunately, increased broadband access in outlying areas can help patients get the care they need and close the accessibility gap thanks to telehealth for rural communities. As these solutions gain traction, it is now more important than ever to ensure that telehealth options and increased broadband capabilities are implemented as we work to improve rural healthcare.
How Telehealth Solutions Are Closing the Accessibility Gap
Telehealth solutions are already closing the gap in healthcare access for rural citizens in several ways. For example, the technology used in telehealth has improved in recent years, with increased integrations between platforms, medical devices, and EMRs. The platforms themselves have never been more user-friendly. These advancements make it easier and more accessible for patients and providers to use telehealth services.
Furthermore, scalable solutions have provided a greater variety of services. The range of telehealth services available has expanded in recent years, with technology that addresses multiple specialties under a single platform. This also includes more widespread coverage. As telehealth solutions and services have expanded, so have insurance coverage options. These improvements make telehealth a more cost-effective solution for many patients for the right use cases.
There have been several regulatory changes in recent years that have made it easier for healthcare providers to offer telehealth services, such as temporary waivers on certain requirements. All these improvements in technology, insurance, and increased telehealth service offerings have worked together to create more accessible health solutions than ever before.
By Sameer Bhat, vice president of sales and co-founder, eClinicalWorks.
How has the pandemic changed your view of healthcare? For many patients, they recognized that the services their doctor was providing them wasn’t good enough. In a recent survey from Concierge Medicine Today, 25% of respondents said convenience and long wait times were an issue when going to the doctor, while 16% said they feel like a number. Many found a solution in concierge care.
Concierge care provides personalized care to members with added flexibility to work with patients’ schedules. Many concierge doctors offer at-home appointments, on weekends or after-hours for added convenience. Because of the benefits this type of care offers, the market is experiencing tremendous growth. In the next 10 years, concierge care market size is expected to nearly double to $22.7B.
C by Precision Care is a leading global medical navigation concierge business that provides access to revolutionary predictive, personalized, and life-saving diagnostic tools. The business was created to offer new medical technologies and innovative precision diagnostics. With such innovative tools for patient care, the practice wanted to ensure that its internal technology and software were just as advanced.
A Digital File Cabinet and Search Engine for Patient Records
A doctor-patient relationship is developed over time so that the doctor has a deeper understanding of a patient’s medical history and needs. But when a patient needs to visit a new doctor or change doctors, their medical history needs to move with them. While the industry has undergone a massive transformation, digitizing physical records into electronic health records (EHRs), there’s still room for improvement when it comes to accessing and organizing all that data.
C by Precision Care gathers records from hospitals such as Mount Sinai, Holy Cross and Baptist which use different EHR software. With multiple EHR software platforms to search depending on the hospital a patient is referred from, providers waste time trying to piece together a patient’s medical history. EHR platforms are creating innovative solutions to help streamline this process. PRISMA is a health information search engine that brings together records from small clinics to large-scale hospital systems into one searchable system. It also aggregates patient information from insurance payers and patients’ wearable devices to promote better interoperability. C by Precision Care is using the tool to search for patients records more efficiently and use their findings to improve value-based care.
By Jason Warrelmann, vice president global services and process industries, UiPath.
FHIR, or Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources, are quickly being adopted on a massive scale. While only 24% of healthcare companies currently utilize application programming interfaces (APIs) at scale, according to recent data, FHIR APIs will become widespread by 2024.
The data also shows that more than 50% of providers (out of 400 surveyed stakeholders) said they are consuming and producing a large number of APIs. However, some players lag behind, with 43% and 37% saying they consume and build APIs, respectively. That being said, however, 67% of providers and 61% of players expect their respective organizations to utilize APIs at scale as soon as 2023.
But what exactly does FHIR do?
Developed by Health Level 7, or HL7, FHIR has quickly become the standard for representing and exchanging health information. FHIR enables how healthcare information can be exchanged between different computer systems regardless of how it is stored. It allows this information, including clinical and administrative data, to be available securely to those who need access to it and who have the right to do so for the benefit of a patient receiving care. However, FHIR APIs are not easy for businesses to adopt, as it is mostly driven by the need for compliance with interoperability rules today. For healthcare providers, this means several steps of preparation before they can be fully FHIR-ready.
FHIR-enabled automation can help make this adoption easier, leaving the preparation to software robots. Automation software makes sharing data and information between teams more seamless, ensuring everyone is on the same page when it comes to FHIR APIs. FHIR-enabled automation also ensures compliance and streamlines important processes, reducing the cost of FHIR adoption and making it faster and more efficient.
Here are the three ways FHIR-enabled automation can simplify the FHIR adoption process:
For many people, looking after a loved one with a serious health condition is a choice they gladly make. But that doesn’t make it an easy decision to live with every day. Taking care of someone places an enormous responsibility on your shoulders, as you invest all your time and energy into their wellbeing.
Caregiving can drain your energy, not just because of the physical demands of the task. You can feel like you’re on an emotional rollercoaster as you provide palliative care, with warring feelings of sadness, frustration, and guilt.
Before you know it, you’re exhausted, stressed out, and struggling through caregiver burnout. Sound familiar? Let’s look at what it means to be burnt out as a caregiver and how you can prevent it from interfering with your life.
What is caregiver burnout?
Everyone has a bad day or two where they feel like nothing can go right — that’s completely normal. Caregiver burnout goes above and beyond isolated feelings of fatigue or apathy. It describes the chronic feelings of exhaustion, frustration, and stress that result from looking after another person.
Burnout can happen to anyone, regardless of the work they put into caregiving. Anyone can feel the burn — whether you look after your loved on your own or coordinate with an at-home palliative care service for assistance.
Caregiver burnout can result from working long hours to ensure your loved one always has someone with them. It can also stem from the feeling of hopelessness, especially if you’re looking after a loved one with dementia or another life-limiting disease. You might feel disengaged and worn out.
Vytalize Health, a leading risk-bearing provider enablement platform, announced it has closed $100 million in funding led by Enhanced Healthcare Partners and Monroe Capital, with participation from North Coast Ventures. The new capital will advance its responsible value-based care for seniors proposition by strengthening primary care practices.
“We have a responsibility to ensure the ongoing success of value-based care by building high-performing systems of care that truly advance quality, improve the patient experience, and are sustainable for providers and the system overall. We believe primary care is a key part of the delivery system and that we must protect and reward independent primary care physicians who deliver more data-driven and effective care to patients. In this outcome-based environment, we can focus on real, proactive health care vs. sick care and align our model with what’s better for patients,” said Faris Ghawi, Vytalize Health co-founder and CEO.
Decisions made in the primary care setting have an important impact on healthcare quality and spending, given that primary care physicians influence a significant portion of downstream utilization, including that of specialists, hospitals, and ancillary service providers like home health agencies and nursing homes.
Vytalize Health partners with primary care practices for more than 250,000 patients and offers evidence-based recommendations at the point of care. By delivering the right data at the right time in the workflow to physicians and their staff, Vytalize makes practices more efficient and effective. The platform provides financial incentives to practices that follow recommendations and drive better health outcomes for patients.
Vytalize Health’s approach to improving access to high-quality care also includes operating a virtual and in-home clinic. The organization has launched several initiatives over the past few years, such as the Priority Care program, which leverages data to identify patients with the greatest needs. This program extends the practice’s reach to patients’ homes and incorporates social, economic, and other non-clinical factors in their environment, taking a holistic approach to care.
Healthcare is constantly evolving, with new technologies permanently changing the hospital and care delivery models. Today, medical practitioners are leveraging technology with medical care devices and electronic health records that are kept digitally secure for patients.
Digital communication plays an essential role in the provider-patient relationship, especially in clinical settings, where patients’ health is at stake. Technology benefits patients and practitioners by making their lives easier and files more accessible. However, digitally powered facilities face unique challenges when natural disasters, cyber attacks or power outages strike.
The safety and functionality of medical facilities is paramount, regardless of outside factors. To this end, collaboration solutions, like Zoom, have built local survivability into offerings to help ensure seamless operations under any circumstance. Local survivability enables ongoing communication in healthcare and other industries, allowing organizations to maintain internal and external connectivity, establish on-site safety, serve patients, minimize revenue loss and continue clinical care during outages.
The vital role local survivability and accessibility play in a digitally progressive world
Survivability allows organizations to connect to a local network to continue operations when connectivity is lost. Local survivability can help sustain internal dialing functionality and basic supplementary services to mitigate disruption in case a data network fails and the application server loses connectivity with the storage server. In the case of a natural disaster, vital communication tools, including phones, can be impaired due to failed network connectivity.
In the healthcare industry, this inconvenience becomes life-threatening when examining how practitioners would handle situations that depend on expedient communication. How would a nurse contact a doctor if a patient is experiencing chest pain? How would a doctor at home call an intensivist to get an update on a recently treated patient? Phone uptime is critical in these conditions and more.
FutureRx (FRx) announced today the launch of its first-of-a-kind healthcare platform for health plans and pharmacy benefits managers (PBMs) that combines modular technology solutions and, if needed, seamless access to pre-vetted fully integrated service providers on a single platform. FRx is a cloud-based, modular, user-configurable technology platform that was built from the ground up to meet complex and continuously evolving compliance requirements in today’s Medicare and Medicaid environment. As such, it is 100% compliant with government-sponsored regulations out of the box.
Once on the platform, health plan and PBM users can select from a full range of technology modules – including Rx Prior Authorization, Appeals/Grievances, Part D Stars, Drug Management Programs (DMP) and more – that are preconfigured out of the box with workflow and letters, and fully integrated with SureScripts and CoverMyMeds, as well as fax, phone, email, and mail capabilities that eliminate costly and time-consuming implementations.
If additional support service is needed by our customers, the FRx Marketplace provides access to a comprehensive network of pre-vetted partners that deliver a full range of specialized services. These services include, but are not limited to, customer service, formulary and rebate management, prior authorization, appeals and grievance management, mobile low-cost drug alternatives, and more. FRx Marketplace service partners are fully integrated with FRx technology modules for rapid go-to-market and hassle-free service changes.