The kitchen sink

Well, it’s January.  It’s the time of year when people like to make resolutions for the next 12 months.  Everybody wants to get a fresh start or at least talk about getting one, so I’m going to dedicate this blog to things that are good to do in January.  I’ll also sprinkle in a few odds and ends (hence the title).

Andrew Clarke

  • I know someone who is organized enough to clean his computer completely every January.  He reformats the hard drive and only installs the programs he actually needs.  If you are able to be that dedicated to starting fresh, your benefits will be a faster computer, a safer computer (because any malware would be wiped out),  and the peace of mind of knowing that you could recover fairly easily if your computer ever failed because you know where everything is.
  • If you can’t take things to that level (and very few of us can), you should at least run Malware Bytes and Eset to make sure your computer is basically clean.  A future post will deal with performing a more thorough evaluation of your computer to look for things like root kits.  Information on running the two programs mentioned here is available in previous blog postings.
  • Backup, backup, backup.  I don’t think I need to say more.  While it’s best practice to backup on at least a weekly basis, I know most of us don’t.  The next best thing would be to at least backup when the time changes (twice a year) and, finally, once a year if you just can’t bring yourself to be bothered more often.  That way, even though you’ll still lose a lot of data if your hard drive crashes, you won’t lose everything.
  • If you have a desktop computer, remove the cover and blow out the dust. You can buy cans of air at office supply stores or hardware stores.  Keeping the inside of your computer dust / animal hair free will prevent some failures that occur when fans get clogged, causing your computer to overheat.  Make sure you turn the computer off before you open it, of course.

 

Say what?!? section

  • I recently heard on the news that Microsoft is gearing up to release its next version of the Windows operating system this fall.  Oddly enough, it’s going to be called Windows 10.  They reportedly skipped over version 9 to emphasize just how dramatically different this version will be.  The report said they would be offering it for free to anyone who owns Windows XP, Windows 8, or any other version of Windows.  It’s supposed to correct some of the mistakes they made in trying to force us all to use touch devices.  I have not researched it yet, but based on what I’ve heard I’ll be doing so soon.  The beta version is supposed to be available now, but it’s only recommended for experts.
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Virtual healthcare is closer than you think

In case you missed it, at the tailend of 2014, Price Waterhouse Cooper released a study about the future of digital technology in healthcare.

Tara Courtland

Communications Director Tara Courtland

PwC’s Health Research Institute surveyed 1,000 healthcare providers and industry leaders and came up with some predictions for the near future. Based on the results, patients could see e-visits, apps and at-home tests replacing some office visits relatively soon.

The study concluded that:

  • About 42 percent of physicians are comfortable relying on at-home test results to prescribe medication.
  • Half of physicians said that e-visits could replace more than 10 percent of in-office patient visits, and nearly as many consumers indicated they would communicate with caregivers online.
  • Roughly two-thirds of physicians said they would prescribe a mobile-device app to help patients manage chronic diseases such as diabetes.
  • Nearly half of consumers and 79 percent of physicians believe using mobile devices can help clinicians better coordinate care.

While these and similar digital advances have long been discussed as possibilities, the high percentage of providers and patients who say they are already comfortable with using them is a good indication that they’re not far off.

Regulatory changes would be needed for most of these tech-based treatments, of course, but a strong push by providers and healthcare executives could get these types of advances approved and running in comparatively short order. The financial savings to both patients and providers would be enormous.

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What else can and should be done to protect PHI?

With the number and depth of breeches that have occurred during 2014 it only stands to reason that security issues are going to be a top priority in 2015. Even if healthcare facilities and vendors are following all the rules, breaches are still occurring.

NEMT CEO Linda Sullivan

NEMT recently added Penetration Testing and Vulnerability Scanning to its arsenal and results of each were at the top of the acceptable range.

In addition, it likely will become routine for hospitals to require that their vendor be able to deliver a SOC 2 Type II report. In very simplistic terms, and it is anything but simple, SOC 2 (Service Organization Controls) is a report on controls at a service organization relevant to security, availability, processing integrity and confidentially or privacy.

There are more software programs running on hospital systems than ever before, more patient information being captured electronically, and more people with their fingers in the pie. Beyond the human factor in HIPAA requirements and some software and hardware requirements, today’s software is more complicated and requires more sophisticated and thorough means of security.

This will be an evolving picture over the next several years presenting both a challenge and an opportunity – a challenge to maintain the security of patient health information and an opportunity to design and produce better security products.

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Make security a resolution

Since I have the honor of writing the first blog of the year, I get to say Happy New Year.

The beginning of a new year is a really interesting time. Many of us are ready to start fresh and make big changes. For example, if you belong to a gym you know that at the beginning of January when you go it will be super crowded.

NEMT President Linda Allard

Adopting that mindset with your HIPAA planning can be a good thing. Since there are so many things we can do to evaluate our HIPAA program, setting up a regular time to perform this task is very important. In my case, I make time every January.

Did you have your security audit last year and have areas to improve on? Now is the time to go through the audit to see if you made the changes and determine if the required results were achieved. It is also a good time to plan your HIPAA education for 2015. Lay out a plan for how you are going to provide continuing education to your team, and get it on your calendar so it won’t be overlooked.

How about a review of your personnel files to make sure you are following your policies in regard to new employee HIPAA training? At the same time you can review your exit strategy and make sure that it is being followed as well. Creating a time on your calendar to do this will ensure that you continue to follow your own policies.

I know that in January I’m going to look at my audit and create a list of items that I want to check on. I’m also going to see if they can be done better and more efficiently. Once I have the list, I can decide how long each task will take and who the best person is to perform the task. In many cases it will be me so putting it on my schedule will insure that in 2015 I am maintaining my current HIPAA programs as well as instituting new items that will benefit both NEMT and our clients.

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What is DNS and why do I care?

DNS stands for Domain Name Server.  These servers make it possible for you to navigate the internet using words like www.google.com instead of IP addresses like 173.194.123.82.  If you type those numbers into your browser, they will take you to Google.  Go ahead … you know you want to try it. : )

Why should you care about DNS?  There was recently an issue that prevented some users from reaching my company’s web pages.  The solution was to have my users change their Domain Name Servers from those supplied they their ISP (Internet Service Provider) to those managed by Google.  While Domain Name Servers provided by ISPs like Comcast and Verizon were affected, Google’s Domain Name Servers were not.

If you get an error indicating a problem with DNS or Domain Name Servers, try visiting the IP address above.  If you are able to do so, modifying your DNS settings might correct your problem without having to contact your ISP.  It’s easy to do.  Here are the steps:

  1. Open Control Panel
  2. Type share in the Control Panel Search box
  3. Click Network and Sharing Center
  4. Click on your internet connection [see picture below -  In this case, you would click on Wi-Fi (NETGEAR)]

5. Click Properties

 

6. Double-click Internet Protocol Version 4

7. Click Use the following DNS server addresses

 

 

8. Set Preferred DNS Server to 8.8.8.8  and Alternate DNS Server to 8.8.4.4

9. Click Ok and close all open windows

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