Procrastinate later

How are we individually and collectively doing on our 2016 goals and to-do lists? Mid-April is a good point to check in – we’re 3 months into the 12-month cycle, so plenty of time to assess and perhaps re-adjust goals and expectations. Have we even started to lose those pounds? Have we completed that project which was meant to be done by the end of February?

NEMT CEO Linda Sullivan

As we all likely know, if there’s no deadline, the job may not get done. I believe that. Anything on a to-do list without a concrete deadline will continually fall to the bottom.

So, yes, I believe in having deadlines. I also believe that deadlines can be and sometimes should be moving targets. I have had things on my to-do list that never got done and in nearly all of those cases, it was because it should not have been done.  I’m betting most of us have had a few of those.

On the flip-side of the equation, there are those things without a deadline which are not tasks per se but rather life-changing refinements that unless we pursue them can leave us without the success (however we define it) we are seeking in our life. Catch this TED talk and see if you feel there are some things that aren’t on your list of goals that should be:

https://www.ted.com/talks/tim_urban_inside_the_mind_of_a_master_procrastinator

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Here come the HIPAA audits

The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) started phase 2 of the HIPAA audit program on March 21, 2016.  Phase 2 will primarily be desk audits but depending on what they find, there will be some on-site audits as well.

NEMT President Linda Allard

The OCR has begun sending pre-audit questionnaires to health entities of all sizes.  Recipients of these questionnaires are randomly selected, and those responding are being asked to provide information that will reveal their size and revenue. Not everyone receiving the questionnaire will be audited.  A list of desk audits will be created using the results from the questionnaires.   The plan is to complete the desk audits by December 2016.

They appear to be focusing on the deficiencies that were uncovered during their Phase 1 audits.  These areas include failure to conduct periodic security risk assessments, missing and outdated privacy and security policies, and not having adequate HIPAA training.   Phase 2 audits will also include both covered entities and business associates.  Those responding to the pre-audit questionnaire will be asked to list all of their business associates.

During the Phase 1 audits, Security Rule violations were what the OCR found as their largest issue.  It is anticipated that Security Rule compliance will be the primary focus of the OCR Phase 2 audits.  It appears as though the Phase 1 audits were designed to help entities work on HIPAA compliance while the Phase 2 audits will have real financial penalties. In other words, the Phase 2 audits should be considered more serious.

We should all have a solid HIPAA compliance program in place, and now seems like the time to assess these programs for thoroughness.  A good place to start would be updating security and privacy policies and making sure there is a good training program in place.  There should also be an assigned privacy/security officer.  Creating a HIPAA audit team, including IT, can help strengthen control of PHI.

Remember: if you receive a HIPAA audit request you will have 10 days to respond.

 

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Wearing your health on your sleeve

Sure, we’ve all got FitBits or Apple Watches or any number of other wearables designed to track our sleep and exercise. And sure, we all think they’re going to help us to be healthier.

But here’s the thing — they really do.

Tara Courtland

Communications Director Tara Courtland

Last month, researchers at Northwestern University School of Professional Studies released a study showing that far from being just another pie-in-the-sky diet and exercise fad, wearables are actually making an impact on health.

The study followed employees at Humana for three years and found that those who use wearables on a daily basis saw a 44 percent decrease in sick days and saved 18 percent in healthcare costs.

Even more stunning is the extrapolation from there: over the next 25 years, a continuing trend along those lines could help cut hospital costs by about $200 billion.

That savings would be due in part to remote patient monitoring through the wearables, something being done on a small scale already.

It seems like a pipe dream — after all, how many apps have we all downloaded to count calories, remind us to drink water and track our steps each day, only to leave them unused after a few months?

But the study’s findings, combined with growing advances in technology — and in wearable sales — it’s suddenly easy to believe that kind of savings could happen; especially when you consider that the market for wearables is expected to hit 220 million units by 2020.

So that little rubber bracelet you think is helping you to live healthier? It is — keep wearing it.

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Why didn’t I think of that?

Working from home can be tough, especially if you work the late night shift.  What do you do if you have computer problems when the IT department is not available?  To answer that question, I thought I would devote this blog to a couple solutions you might not think of right away.

Andrew Clarke

Problem:  You find that you can get to Google, but you’re not able to run some of the programs you use for work like your instant messenger, or everything suddenly seems to take a long time to load or, even worse, you have no internet service at all.  You’ve tried rebooting your computer.  You’ve tried rebooting your router / modem.

Solution:  Before you spend hours on the phone trying to get somewhere with your Internet Service Provider (ISP), try using your cell phone as a wifi connection for your computer.  If that works, you still need to contact your ISP for assistance, but at least you can work while you try to solve your internet connection problem.

Most of us now have smartphones.  One of the features you may not be aware of is the ability to use your cell phone to connect your computer to the internet.  On the iPhone, there is an option under settings called Personal Hotspot.  Other phones will call the setting something different.  Check with your phone carrier to see if this option is available for you.  While you’re checking, find out how much data you are paying for to make sure you don’t end up with an extra cost.  My only warning is that you should not use this option to watch movies or stream video since these functions use a lot of data.

Problem:  A USB device suddenly stops working, or only works some of the time.  Some common USB devices are mice, keyboard or foot pedals.

Solution:  Try plugging the device into a different USB port.  Most computers have multiple USB ports and, like anything else on your computer, one can go bad while the others continue to work just fine.  Trying a different port will help you figure out if the device is the problem or the port.  If you have another mouse, keyboard, etc try swapping it out.  Devices tend to go bad faster than USB ports.

Do you have suggestions for unusual solutions to IT problems that you would like to share?  Is there a topic you would like to see covered in these blogs?  Email or comment so that I can talk about them in future posts.  Remember … It’s only magic until you know how it works.

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Get your app on — dictation from your iPhone

Where are we going with mobile apps around healthcare?  Someone remarked to me recently how much of a visionary Steve Jobs was and that while the company is still well run and producing some interesting products, the thrill is gone.  Well, perhaps more around hardware but not so with apps.  Those devices we carry with us all the time have become mobile computers, essentially.  Healthcare providers already have access to many apps that help improve delivery of patient care.  The functionality of our smartphones is increasing exponentially and that includes dictation.

NEMT CEO Linda Sullivan

We used to tell healthcare providers not to dictate on their cell phones.   And, if they are “dialing” into a system, that continues to the best advice.  But now there are apps that let you dictate into your iPhone as opposed to calling into either a landline or an internet connection using VOIP.

NEMT’s new app, called SpeakEZ, allows providers to dictate with a couple of touches and securely send the dictation to the server.  What’s nice about any dictation app is that the quality of the recording is excellent, whereas, as anyone familiar with the dictation process knows, it is not uncommon to have poor voice quality — static, hissing, echoes — due to any number of factors including weather, a cordless phone not being fully charged, or electrical interference, to name a few.

If providers in ambulatory settings are lucky enough to work with a service with which an HL7 interface exists, they’ll have the added functionality of having their schedule right in their iPhone, allowing them with an additional touch to choose the patient, dictate, and send.

It is going to be very exciting to see what’s new and coming to us to help us live healthier and more productive lives.

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