Cyber Vulnerability In Rural Health

Baha Zeidan

By Baha Zeidan, co-founder and CEO, Azalea Health.

Rural hospitals are facing an exorbitant amount of pressure, and the pressure doesn’t seem likely to subside any time soon.

Whether it’s the ongoing labor shortage, the constantly changing regulatory environment or other market forces, the headwinds, at times, seem insurmountable. Couple those concerns with the constant worries about cyberattacks and security vulnerabilities, and the moment seems even more challenging.

It’s not that rural health organizations can’t tackle any of the issues head-on. It’s more a matter of rural health organizations often don’t have the staff or resources to address this topic.

As a result, security is often an afterthought. How rural hospitals and communities focus on security presents an interesting dilemma because they’re vulnerable from a cybersecurity side and particularly vulnerable if their security posture is left unaddressed.

According to the Center for Healthcare Quality and Payment Reform, 150 rural hospitals nationwide closed between 2005 and 2019, and even more closed in 2020. While funding has helped slow the trend of closures amid the pandemic, rural providers still face challenges, partly because they have higher proportions of vulnerable patients, the elderly or the chronically ill.

However, rural health providers still have an arrow left in their quiver: technology. Increasingly, they’re turning to technology to ensure their staff can focus on delivering quality healthcare to patients without forgoing the most pressing needs and cybersecurity in particular.

Cybersecurity is the centerpiece of the path forward

Last year was among the worst years for ransomware attacks on healthcare. Healthcare is an ideal target; private health data is lucrative to sell on the dark web, and providers are more likely to pay ransoms with lives on the line.

Ransomware-as-a-service has also made it easier than ever to launch an attack, making it critical to invest in health IT platforms with built-in security solutions.

However, many rural providers cannot afford to invest in the same technology as their larger counterparts. They often face lean IT teams and limited budgets, constraining their investments and limiting what percentage of their budget they can spend on security.

Rural providers often find themselves on the unfortunate side of the digital divide, whether it’s clinician shortages or a suboptimal revenue cycle that results in a lack of capital. The result is that they may be unaware of the latest security updates, and even if they are, they often can’t implement them.

It’s not all doom and gloom, however. Rural providers can take steps to stay secure.

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The Importance of Healthcare Inventory Management

Stock room, with lots of medical supplies. - Jeffrey DonenfeldHealthcare facilities need efficient inventory management to keep operations running smoothly. Healthcare inventory management involves monitoring and overseeing the items in stock for patient use. These items could be implants, syringes, lab coats, nitrile gloves, cotton swabs, blood test kits, or other consumables. While the larger items in stock might be easy to track, handlers could find it challenging to account for the smaller ones.

Proper medical inventory management is essential for the delivery of first-rate healthcare services. The process should accurately account for the movement of items during delivery, storage, and usage. It should also collect usage data so inventory managers can order the right amount of each item each time they restock. To ensure this inventory management process is effective, healthcare facilities need end-to-end workflows that are quick and easy. It should also not cause delays when a medical practitioner needs an item to attend to a patient. Most modern hospitals have IT systems that help them manage their inventory.

With the right IT system, hospitals should know the precise location of each item and their remaining quantity. Their inventory management systems must be robust but flexible to handle supply chain disruptions without affecting the delivery of healthcare services. Some healthcare facilities opt for managed IT services from third-party to ensure their IT systems are always functional because inventory management is critical to their operations.

Healthcare Inventory Tracking

Healthcare inventory management is complex and involves many departments in a medical facility. It is impossible to predict the ailment of every patient and the medical supplies to be used on them. Even if there are planned surgeries, a need for additional inventory can suddenly arise. This urgent need might require an item to be transferred from another department or ordered from a supplier. Without an efficient inventory tracking system, these items might not be recorded. However, with the advancement in medical technology, inventory tracking is possible.

It is important to note that inventory is mobile in a healthcare facility, so the management system should be capable of tracking them effectively for audit purposes. It should also facilitate the data capture of all items used for medical procedures.

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Stroke Misdiagnosis: How Technology Can Solve The Problem

Each year, 795,000 people in the United States have a stroke. And for those who survive, strokes are also a leading cause of disability. However, strokes can be enigmatic.

Their symptoms—sudden weakness, numbness, paralysis on one side of the body, slurred speech, and blurred vision—can resemble those of other conditions. As a result, doctors sometimes misdiagnose strokes. In this blog post, we will examine different types of strokes, their causes, and how you can get the right compensation in the event of a misdiagnosis.

The Different Kinds of Strokes

Ischemic strokes and cerebral hemorrhages are the two most common types of strokes. Ischemic strokes account for 87% of all strokes, and occur when a blood clot blocks an artery that supplies blood to the brain. A cerebral hemorrhage is a type of stroke caused by a ruptured blood vessel bleeding into the brain.

Another less frequent stroke type is the transient ischemic attack (TIA), which is often called a mini-stroke. This type of stroke happens when a blood clot temporarily blocks an artery to the brain.

Causes of Stroke Misdiagnosis

One reason strokes are misdiagnosed is because their symptoms can mimic those of other conditions. For example, the sudden onset of weakness or paralysis on one side of the body can also be a heart attack symptom. In some cases, the symptoms of a TIA may be so brief that they are dismissed as a “funny turn” or “spell” and not diagnosed as a warning sign of an impending stroke.

Other times, strokes are misdiagnosed because diagnostic tests for strokes are not always reliable. For example, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) scans are not always able to detect ischemic strokes in their early stages. Occasionally, it is an IT issue. The electronic medical record (EMR) might not be updated in a timely fashion with the results of diagnostic tests, or the order for a test might get lost in the system.

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The Growing Role of Technology In Healthcare

Technology has had a massive role to play in the improvement of the globe as a whole. The world is now closer than ever, with the internet bringing us technologies like Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. While the Internet of things may be highly nuanced, this niche technology is widely used across industries, including the medical and healthcare sector. In the last 50 years, we have made monumental leaps in the league of healthcare by introducing revolutionary models that were once a distant dream.

Today, the life expectancy of humans is higher than ever, with the help of research and development and treatments that are a product of technology. For instance, the speed at which the COVID-19 vaccines were researched, tested, devised, and administered on a global scale is no less than a miracle, as compared to the number of lives the Spanish Influenza took in 1918. To have a deeper understanding of the strides made in these aspects, this blog will address five areas where Hong Kong’s healthcare has benefitted from technological expansion.

Diagnostics and testing

One of the best things to happen to humanity is the creation of diagnostic tools that can perform tests of all kinds. Not only do these extensive tests help in the early detection of lethal diseases, but can help in prevention, control, and treatment. Several chronic conditions like cancer were detected a little too late in the past. However, today Hong Kong has experts with whom you can get a Hospital Authority Referral for routine checks, focused diagnostics, and scans. These are not now a vital aspect of preventive healthcare.

Wearables

Wearable technology is no less than a futuristic concept in the flesh for us here in 2022. There are several gadgets that can help you stay healthier and live a long life with life-saving capabilities. For instance, there are wearables for people with heart problems to administer controlled and minor electrocution in order to revive the heart if there are instances of cardiac arrhythmia or an arrest. Additionally, there are also devices that can help diabetics keep their insulin levels under control with a patch wearable that helps regulate their vitals.

Tracking Data

Apart from treatment and operation-based technologies, there are several other purposes that AI can be used in medical care. One of the biggest uses at present is health monitors that can track the health statistics of people. At the most nascent phase, it could be fitness bands that keep track of sleep quality, menstrual cycles, weight management, and the like. But at advanced and clinical stages, wearables are used to monitor patients under clinical trial programs to accumulate data and glean actionable insights.

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Without Meaningful Use, LTPAC Risks Falling Further Behind On Necessary Innovation

Bill Charnetski

By Bill Chartnetski, EVP health system solutions and government affairs, PointClickCare.

For too long, long-term and post-acute care (LTPAC) facilities have not benefited from the same health IT investments or incentives as other care sectors.

Since the U.S. government introduced the meaningful use program as part of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act in 2009, LTPAC organizations – notably nursing homes – and the vulnerable patients they serve have been left behind. As a result, these provider types sit outside of current interoperability and health information exchange efforts, and have been slow to adopt electronic health records (EHRs) due to a lack of government incentive programs. In fact, recent data show that only 18% of skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) integrate patient health information electronically.

The lack of investment impairs the necessary exchange of health information, exacerbates care fragmentation and disables the ability to transmit a patient’s critical health and demographic data across the trajectory of care. Patients of LTPAC providers are more likely to have chronic health conditions or behavioral health needs.

The complex nature of their health history and requirements makes care coordination more difficult as they transition between settings. So, why are we depriving the providers that care for them of critical infrastructure investments, especially as other sectors have received similar investments and adoption incentives in recent years?

Long-term care facilities are suffering from long-existing shortcomings exacerbated by COVID-19. On a daily basis, they contend with staffing challenges, infection control, oversight and regulation. Yet they are resilient and unwavering in their commitment to care.

Technology presents enormous opportunities to alleviate these issues, namely staffing challenges and the burden of administrative tasks that often take them away from caring for patients. One study, for example, found that six months after implementation of an EHR, nurses were spending significantly more time engaging patients in their rooms with purposeful interactions and less time at a nurse station. Using health information technology to capture resident health information in real time can also substantially reduce staff fatigue, burnout and the burden of relying on short-term memory, while also improving patient safety by enhancing the accuracy of the patient information.

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Payment Integrity In The U.S.: Uncover the “Why”

Ryan Mooney

By Ryan Mooney, general manager, Source Division, HealthEdge.

In our healthcare ecosystem, waste, fraud and abuse run rampant: in 2020 alone, healthcare spending in the U.S. exceeded $4 trillion, and estimates suggest about a quarter of that was attributed to waste. What this tells us is that an increased focus on payment integrity – and in particular, fixing its traditionally disparate practices – has the potential to greatly benefit payers, providers, and ultimately members.

At its core, payment integrity is the process by which stakeholders ensure healthcare claims are paid properly, both pre- and post-pay. It encompasses determining the correct party, membership eligibility, contractual adherence, and fraud, waste and abuse detection and prevention. In recent years, as healthcare spending continues to skyrocket, payment integrity has received more attention – and investment – than ever. And yet, it leaves much to be desired.

The Current State of Payment Integrity

A comprehensive payment integrity strategy is key to lowering costs and achieving higher quality of care for members, but the systems in place are far from perfect. With over 24 years working in payment integrity, throughout this experience I’ve found it nearly impossible not to run into issues within the system. As it stands, many parties focus on enriching the contingency model versus solving the problem. Structurally, the contingency model is flawed: when the vendor gets paid according to the quantity of errors they find, the core problem will continue, as these parties are incentivized to identify what is incorrect rather than why.

Our 2021 Voice of the Market survey of over 200 health insurance executives found that payment accuracy would help reduce administrative costs at their organization, directly impacting savings that can be reallocated for other business priorities such as considering partnerships, acquisitions, or investing in a new geography or line of business. This represents a substantial shift from the past, demonstrating how stakeholders today want to take advantage of all available resources to expand in the current landscape.

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Technology Is Shaping The Future of Physical Therapy

Heidi Jannenga

By Heidi Jannenga, PT, DPT, ATC, co-founder and chief clinical officer, WebPT.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic began, only 2% of physical therapists were providing telehealth consultations. Since then, telehealth has evolved into an integral part of the rehab therapy industry. This was no easy feat, as physical therapists have long been left out of telehealth.

According to WebPT’s 2021 State of Rehab Therapy report, 44% of therapy professionals reported using videoconferencing or virtual meeting software for the first time in 2020, and 40% reported using telehealth software for the first time. As interest in remote services continues beyond initial pandemic lockdowns, our entire industry needs to flex and embrace new technology. Here’s what to know.

The rise of telehealth

The transition to telehealth has brought countless benefits to physical therapy (PT) providers, along with a few challenges. While it’s true that telehealth will never replace hands-on treatment, it is an extremely promising alternative method of care delivery—and a true game-changer for the industry. In fact, our research has found that 9 in 10 therapy professionals have patients showing interest in telehealth services. This is no surprise, since telehealth offers the convenience that today’s patients want.

Telehealth allows PTs to reach a much wider range of patients than they would otherwise be able to treat. Many patients live in remote areas or do not have the time to travel to a clinic, making telehealth an ideal alternative. It also expands access to care for patients who might otherwise never receive PT treatment. This is extremely important, since 90% of those who could benefit from PT never receive it. At the same time, telehealth supports revenue diversification to safeguard clinics against future crises.

Another advantage of telehealth is how it allows physical therapists a new view into their patients’ lives and to learn how to provide the best help possible. For example, PTs can now see a patient’s home and gather clues regarding their environment, which helps them provide more customized treatment and advice. For example, do they have stairs in their home, are there transitions from hard flooring to carpet, or do they live alone?

Finally, PT and OT have been shown to be beneficial for those who have suffered severe COVID-19 cases, especially those who are struggling with muscle and respiratory weakness. These patients are able to receive the help they need through telehealth without putting others at risk. Also, a 2022 JAMA study shows that “telehealth encounters for chronic conditions had similar rates of follow-up to in-person encounters for these conditions.” Altogether, we can expect telehelath to play a greater role in managing ongoing conditions—including those best addressed with physical therapy.

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How To Choose The Right Insulin Syringes and Needles

Diabetes mellitus type 1 and type 2 belong to chronic health conditions that are widely spread all around the world. The main difference between them is that type 1 diabetes occurs when the body does not produce insulin to regulate blood sugar levels, while type 2 diabetes takes place when the body produces a certain amount of insulin but does not use it effectively.

Both types of diabetes mellitus oftentimes make people dependent on daily injections of insulin to regulate their blood sugar levels. While these injections, in their turn, might be performed with the help of insulin syringes, pens, or pumps. Usually, it is the task of the healthcare provider to define what device will work best in the individual case of each patient.

In case the usage of syringes is your option, it is essential to define what kind of syringe and needle size will be right for you. To do so, feel free to go through the below-mentioned information.

A Few Words on the Usage of Insulin Syringes and Needles

The usage of insulin syringes and needles is probably the most popular method of injecting insulin. Despite the appearance of insulin pens and pumps, a great number of people consider the insulin syringe to be the easiest, most convenient, and most cost-effective device to administer insulin beneath the skin.

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Characteristics of A Well-Connected Platform for Hybrid Care

Teladoc Health

By Dr. Shayan Vyas, SVP and medical director of hospitals and health systems, Teladoc Health.

As patient expectations continue to evolve, hospitals and health systems are required to offer an omnichannel experience that lets patients connect with the health system whenever and wherever, and via the channel of their choice (in-person, phone, video, etc.).

As patients gain more choices, it becomes harder for health systems to ensure a quality experience, maintain complete patient records, keep patient data secure and maintain care coordination.

In fact, a 2019 Deloitte study found that 90% of healthcare data is unstructured and largely inaccessible for data-driven decisions. The result is ultimately elevated risks to patient safety, care quality and compliance.

Fortunately, these challenges can be avoided with a well-connected platform for hybrid care – a method of care many leading U.S. health systems employ today. In planning for this new care model, hospitals and health systems can implement care technology that integrates into a single platform that supports internal clinicians, care team and patient communications across all channels that also integrates with current workflows and systems.

The integration of communications across both physical and virtual channels gives patients and providers the engagement options and experience they want, and health systems the security, coordination, information access and control they need. And ultimately, it minimizes clinician burden by eliminating redundant devices, logins, data entries and other workflow tasks.

Here are what we believe to be the most important features of an integrated platform:

A single sign on to simplify and promote a good user experience

Multiple logins are more than an inconvenience, they are a risk. When clinicians and patients are required to log into multiple systems to perform their common activities it becomes tempting to reuse the same login credentials. This raises the risk of exposure and chances of a system breach. The more logins that are required, the more chances there are for failed logins, which can cause appointments to be missed or for records not to be updated. A single sign on allows patients and clinicians to launch telehealth visits directly when logged into the patient portal and/or EHR system.

Interoperability with EHRs

With care models, patient preferences and clinician workflows all changing, hospitals and health systems are rethinking their communications channels and workflows to better support these changes. A constant amid these changes is that the EHR will remain as the system of record. Ideally, as healthcare organizations improve their systems of engagement with patients, these systems work in concert with the EHR.

Clinicians should be able to access the EHR to review information and make updates while they are interacting with patients via telehealth, from the same screen. This level of integration encourages timely and complete record keeping, which supports care quality and continuity. It also eliminates the need for redundant data entry (once in the telehealth system, and again in the EHR), allowing clinicians to give patients their full attention, ultimately leading to a better patient experience.

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Staffing Shortages Threaten The Health of Nursing Homes Nationwide 

David Coppins

By David Coppins, CEO, IntelyCare.

Throughout 2020 and much of 2021, as the pandemic raged, nursing home staff fled their jobs amid the unsafe and poor working conditions, unfair compensation and the lack of work-life balance due to unrelenting overtime.

While staffing shortages have been commonplace in nursing homes for decades, the pandemic made it extremely hard to retain nurses in post-acute care/skilled nursing homes. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that the nursing home industry has lost approximately 235,000 jobs since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020 , representing a 15% loss in industry staffers. While some workers are shifting to healthcare jobs in hospitals or other types of facilities, many are leaving the industry entirely.

Nor is the staffing shortage expected to get better anytime soon. For example, a recent American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) survey finds that nearly every nursing home operator has trouble finding qualified workers. At the same time, a record three-quarters of facilities may close due to persistent staffing issues.

Our recent study confirms this trend. IntelyCare commissioned global management consulting leader Oliver Wyman to dive deeply into the after-effects of the pandemic on staffing and occupancy rates within post-acute care.

The ongoing shortage of nursing staff in the U.S. is causing a projected $19.5 billion in unrealized revenue by the end of this year. With organizational funding and reimbursement tied to patient volumes, every unoccupied bed equals a missed revenue opportunity and declining profitability. Without the necessary staff to increase patient volumes, nursing home operators nationwide are punting the organizational funding and reimbursement they need to thrive.

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