Getting connected — by federal mandate?

Will it take yet another government mandate for connectivity between hospitals to occur?

An interesting article in the “New York Times” entitled “Doctors find barriers to sharing digital medical records” succinctly describes the problem that still persists in the evolution of patient documentation

NEMT CEO Linda Sullivan

Going back to 2008 when the HITECH Act was passed, one of the primary goals was easy yet secure accessibility of our medical records regardless of where we were geographically.

According to the article, only 14% of physicians are able to exchange patient data outside of their own systems. While this lack of connectivity is common between nearly all systems, Epic was sighted as a prime culprit, no doubt because of the huge number of installations they have implemented.

Epic’s business model is sustainable long-term because not only are they paid handsomely for implementing their systems, they charge ongoing fees for many things, including transmittal of patient documentation to another system. That’s a great profit center, which costs them nothing once the software is in place.

I am certain connectivity between systems will occur. The question is: What will it take to make it happen, and when?

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Posted in Meaningful Use, News and stories, Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

What about when they leave?

There is a lot of focus when we bring an employee on board. We make sure we have all the HR done correctly and we follow our HIPAA guidelines. New team members are set up in all the systems and then we start training.

NEMT President Linda Allard

But what about when an employee leaves? Do you have policies and procedures in place to make sure that all their access to PHI is removed? How quickly will it happen? Are there checks in place to make sure that it does happen?

It is easy to focus on employees and on-boarding them correctly with HIPAA and the other paperwork required. We all know our policy and that they need to sign their documents and do their training.

Are your policies and procedures for when an employee leaves equally known by everyone? Do you have a checklist that will be signed off to ensure that you have taken care of removing the employee from all the systems they need to be removed from? What about all their passwords? Who is responsible for disabling them?

I focus on HIPAA, but there are also many other HR and hospital controls that need to be taken care of. Who checks to make sure these things are done? Do you have a person assigned the responsibility of checking behind all employees who have left?

Having policies in place is great and knowing exactly what you need to do when a team member leaves is wonderful. However, oversights can happen, and having a procedure where checks are made to make sure everything was done correctly is really important. Having a member of your team responsible for all employees and team members who have left is critical. Having this taken care of will ensure that you are protecting PHI, your facility and the team member who left.

 

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Posted in HIPAA, News and stories | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

It said what????

Most of us work with our computer every day. As a result, we start doing things on autopilot. While this ability is helpful in getting work done quickly and efficiently, it can work against us if we stop paying attention. Here are some suggestions to help maintain your sanity as well as keep sensitive data safe.

Andrew Clarke

 

1. Read the error message.

If you are logging in, and you get an error message, make sure you entered the correct username and password for the program in question. That might sound simple, but I have had many users ask for a password reset only to find that they were entering the username and password for program A in program B.

 

2. Don’t end up with unwanted programs.

When installing programs, sometimes you are prompted to install other software at the same time. Uncheck any boxes that don’t apply to what you want and / or click “cancel” for items you don’t want to avoid unwanted tool bars, search programs, etc. The bottom line is to only get what you want and not fall for slick installation marketing. They know most people just click yes and OK during installation without paying attention to what’s on the screen.

 

3. Pay attention when something happens unexpectedly.

If you work with a program every day, pay attention to screens that show up unexpectedly. These screens could be an indication of a problem that needs to be reported. Not paying attention at this point can lead to bad results such as loss of data. Weird messages could also be an indication of viral activity, so report any such occurrences immediately.

 

4. When in doubt, stop!

If you’re not sure if something that comes up is a problem, stop and ask. Never assume. You don’t want to be the one who accidentally sent PHI to the local news channel.

Pay attention. Take your time. Read the screen. Stop when in doubt, and ask for help.

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Posted in IT, News and stories | Tagged , | 1 Comment

The Tough Mudder aftermath and other first world health problems

I’m sick and I hurt. This is really a classic example of a first world healthcare problem. Yesterday, I woke up with a very bad cold and I ran a Tough Mudder anyway. If you’re not familiar with the Tough Mudder, it’s a 10+ mile obstacle course of mud, barbed wire, fire and electric shocks. There’s a lot of crawling over gravel and pulling yourself up and over walls.

Tara Courtland

Communications Director Tara Courtland

You pay a lot of money for the adventure — between $75 and $250, plus travel, hotel, gear, etc. And then you hope that you don’t require a trip to the hospital (plenty of people do) during the run. Best case scenario, you spend the next 48 hours mostly unable to move, covered in bruises and scrapes and muscle soreness that make even climbing the stairs difficult.

Spending the day running through mud and extreme heat and cold didn’t do anything to help my sinuses, my cough or my throat either.

So today I can’t move, except to cough and whine for someone to bring me more tissues.

I mention this to illustrate the incredible disparity in medical problems in our society. On one end of the spectrum are people without access to healthcare, people with chronic health conditions who can’t afford medicine, people who don’t go to the doctor when they’re sick or who use emergency rooms for minor ailments because it’s the only option they have. Thousands or millions of people in this country live in fear of an injury that will leave them unable to work, even for a few days.

On the other end are people like me who pay good money and travel long distances for dangerous recreational activities figuring “there’s a fairly good chance I’ll break an arm but it probably won’t be any worse than that. And I’ll get sicker because I’m not taking care of myself, but I can just take the day off tomorrow to recover.”

And I’ll buy stuff for the symptoms: ice packs, some Arnica, an extra bottle of Advil, a heating pad, a box of Benadryl, a bottle of Sudafed, some nose drops, a couple boxes of tissues, several flavors of herbal tea and a jar of honey.

No big deal, it’s just money. In fact, more than a full day’s worth of money for people making minimum wage in my state.

It doesn’t make me hurt any less and it doesn’t make my sinuses feel any better, but it’s somewhat comforting (and guilt-inducing) to know I’m here cause I chose this. I get to pick my health problems. Plenty don’t.

TM wall

Tara Courttland (in black) spent 5 minutes climbing this wall and five hours complaining about how much her arms hurt afterwards.

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Posted in News and stories | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Future of Meaningful Use is in question

The government seems to have done it yet again. First with ICD-10 and now with Meaningful Use … it’s creating more difficulty and expense for healthcare facilities.

NEMT CEO Linda Sullivan

On Aug. 29, 2014 the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) issued a final rule that allows providers participating in the EHR Incentive Programs to use the 2011 Edition of certified electronic health record technology (CEHRT) for calendar and fiscal year 2014. While it provides some flexibility, it contains some onerous provisions.

Russell P. Branzell, president and CEO of the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) responded on Aug. 29 with the following statement:

This afternoon the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) finalized a regulation granting providers additional flexibility in meeting Meaningful Use (MU) requirements in 2014. However, the final rule lacked a key provision that would ensure continued EHR adoption and MU participation.”

Of significance is that the rule requires a 365-day attestation period in 2015. Currently the attestation period to meet Meaningful Use criteria is 90 days. I believe many facilities will have great difficulty in meeting the criteria and consequently incurring expensive penalties for failing to do so.

For example, part of MU requires 5 percent of patients being discharged to access their discharge instructions online. According to Sharon Busler, Director of Health Information Management at Catholic Medical Center “There is no way to legislate patient behavior.”

Branzell further stated: “Now the very future of Meaningful Use is in question.”

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Posted in ICD-10, Meaningful Use, News and stories | Tagged , , | 1 Comment