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Five Reasons to be Thankful for ICD-10

Posted on November 30, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

The following is a guest blog post by Wendy Coplan-Gould, RHIA, Founder and President of HRS Coding.

It’s Thanksgiving weekend—a time for reflection and gratitude. Thoughts typically turn to family, friends, health, and life’s many other blessings. In addition to all of these, this Thanksgiving I suggest that the healthcare industry also include ICD-10 in our list of godsends. Here are five reasons why:

Reason #1:  To Code New Diagnosis, Procedures and Devices

The current ICD-9 coding nomenclature was developed in the 1970s. The healthcare industry can’t afford for this same system to be capturing data in the 21st century. We need the ability to specifically code new diseases, procedures and devices. For example, U.S. healthcare providers are unable to precisely code Ebola in ICD-9. That’s true.

There is no specific code for the diagnosis of Ebola in ICD-9, only a general code 078.89, other specific diseases due to viruses. In ICD-10, the code is A98.4, Ebola virus disease. This is the kind of data specificity that our nation needs and ICD-10 delivers.

Reason #2: To Help Keep Patients Safe through Better Data

ICD-10 also helps the healthcare industry capture and track data, and use it to ensure the safety of our patients. The inability to have specific data at our fingertips can be crippling to an institution and result in erroneous decisions based on faulty or imprecise data. Be thankful for ICD-10’s ability to accurately pinpoint diagnoses—and support more precise, exact patient care.

Reason #3: To Reduce Costs

Hospitals are strapped for money. Costs must be reduced whenever and wherever possible. ICD-10 will help hospitals properly bill for the services they deliver. With ICD-10 fully implemented and clinical documentation more granular, hospitals will experience fewer payer denials, claims audits and reimbursement appeals. Valuable time, money and resources will be saved over the long run.

Physician practices also have reason for thanks. New data published on the Journal of AHIMA website earlier this month suggests that the estimated costs, time and resources for offices to convert are “dramatically lower” than original estimates. According to the article, the actual conversion cost for a small practice ranges from $1,900 to $5,900, which is 92 to 94 percent less than initially predicted, resulting in a faster return on investment for your ICD-10 efforts.

Reason #4: To Improve Quality Scores and Performance Rankings

Setting aside zany codes and implementation barriers, ICD-10 is a blessing for quality reporting and performance scorecards. ICD-10’s code granularity works hand in hand with improved clinical documentation across all disciplines to help organizations achieve more accurate quality scores and competitive rankings. This is good news for hospitals and physicians alike.

For example, in ICD-9-CM, there is only one code (427.31) for atrial fibrillation.  In ICD-10-CM, physicians must specify the atrial fibrillation as paroxysmal (I48.0), persistent (I48.1) or chronic (I48.2), providing the specificity for a secondary diagnosis that can affect severity of illness scores and impact quality measures.

Reason #5: To Strengthen Hospital-Physician Relationships

ICD-10 is a bull’s-eye for governmental delay. And physician groups are usually the archers behind Congressional action against ICD-10. As recently as this week, physicians were pushing legislators to delay ICD-10 yet again. However, the tide may be turning.

In an effort to help their laggard physicians, many hospitals are reaching out to assist practices and groups in four key areas:

  • ICD-10 assessments
  • clinical documentation reviews
  • technology upgrades
  • physician-coder education

Helping physician practices with ICD-10 is an olive branch that must be extended to realize the full potential of ICD-10. Savvy organizations are using ICD-10 as a pathway to better hospital-physician relationships. Finally, AHIMA, MGMA and AMA have offered resources specifically designed to clear up common misconceptions and concerns physicians have about ICD-10.

No More Delays

It is estimated that the last delay cost the healthcare industry approximately $6.8 billion in lost investments, not including the cost associated with missed opportunities for better health data to improve quality of care and patient safety as mentioned above. Everyone from CMS to AHA, AMA, MGMA and HIMSS has endorsed the move to ICD-10 on October 1, 2015.

The rallying cry from hospital executives, IT directors and clinical coders is clear—no more delays! Even payers are pushing for the October 2015 date with a new consortium featuring Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Humana leading the charge. As Dennis Winkler from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan states, “ICD-10 is good for the industry. . . . It is in everyone’s best interest to work together and ensure readiness across the board.”

Be Thankful

In Mitch Albom’s 2009 New York Times best seller, Have a Little Faith, the author asks an 82-year-old rabbi to identify his secret to happiness. “Be grateful” is what the rabbi repeatedly claims to be the only true route to happiness.

So next time your executives, staff or physicians are complaining about the transition to ICD-10, remember the five reasons described above . . . and be thankful.

About Wendy Coplan-Gould
Wendy Coplan-Gould is the embodiment of HRS. She has led the HIM consulting and outsourcing company since 1979, through up and down economies and every significant regulatory twist and turn of the last three decades. Long-time clients and new clients alike are on a first-name basis with her and benefit from her focus on excellence, reliability and flexibility. She has been published in the Journal of AHIMA and other recognized publications, as well as conducted countless professional association presentations.

Prior to starting HRS, Wendy served as assistant director, then director, of Health Information Management at Baltimore City Hospital. She also was associate director of the Maryland Resource Center, which provided data for Maryland’s Health Services Cost Review Commission, an early adopter of the Diagnosis Related Group (DRG) methodology. Wendy is available via email: wendy@hrscoding.com.

6 Thanksgiving ICD-10 Codes

Posted on November 27, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I thought it fitting that AdvancedMD sent me 6 ICD-10 codes to be thankful for. Healthcare Humor…who doesn’t enjoy that? Happy Thanksgiving!

Y93.G3 Activity, Cooking and Baking
Ah, the turkey is roasting and the potatoes are boiling. And Cousin Carl just chopped the end of his finger off while preparing the veggie tray. He will earn this ICD-10 code, along with W26.0, Contact with Knife, to forever remember this year’s Thanksgiving…and that nasty scar.

W61.42 Struck by Turkey / W71.43 Pecked by Turkey / W61.49 Other Contact with Turkey
Thanksgiving isn’t Thanksgiving without a turkey. If three is a terrible mishandling of dinner’s main dish, or if a still-flapping gobbler enacts revenge, ICD-10 has three codes that are perfect for the season’s avian-related incident.

W21.01 Struck by Football
Another Thanksgiving staple is the good ol’ American sport of football. Usually, unless there is cheering for opposing teams, televised football games are safe enough. But a well-intentioned family flag-football game can result in a quick trip to the emergency room.

R63.2 Polyphagia (Overeating)
Parrots aren’t the only ones to watch out for this season. If a vampire or zombie takes their costume a bit too seriously, this code will record the chomp.

Y04.0 Assault by Unarmed Brawl or Fight
Black Friday shopping has become just as much a part of Thanksgiving as stuffing and pumpkin pie. But this mass hysteria for great deals doesn’t come without risks—especially when there are two shoppers and only one great bargain up for grabs. Get your extreme shopping skills up to snuff or Y04.0 and Y92.59, Other trade areas (mall) as the place of occurrence of external cause, may be jotted in your electronic health records.

W21.01 Lack of Adequate Sleep
No matter how we choose to celebrate Thanksgiving, few of us escape the meal prep, early morning shopping and family togetherness without a mild case of exhaustion. For those who try to do it all, there is an ICD-10 code for that.

Now I’m off to recover from my W21.01 and R63.2. Although, let me tell you, I had one of my best Turkey Bowl days ever. So much fun! Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Op-Ed: Making Electronic Health Records Right

Posted on November 26, 2014 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Benjamin Shibata, MPH Student at GWU.
Ben Shibata
If you want to give hospital clinicians sever heart burn and arrhythmia, talk to them about implementing a new state-of-the-art electronic health record (EHR) system.  Although EHRs may seem like an intuitive improvement over paper health records, the transition to them has been a huge headache because the process is being forced rather than being organically chosen by the professionals using them.  Spurred along by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), incentives to implement EHRs in a timely manner were laid out.  Although helpful in motivating hospitals to make the change, the ARRA has contributed to an overly expedited process that needs to be more thoroughly thought out.  In order to roll out EHR systems correctly, we need to understand how health records have historically improved medicine so that we can improve upon rather than complicate an already complicated system.

From a public health standpoint, EHRs should have been something implemented years ago.  HealthIT.gov explains how EHRs stand for improved efficiency and better patient care through greater care coordination.  And why shouldn’t they?  Electronic records are more portable and can be theoretically accessed anywhere in the world.  Doctors would have better access to their records, be able to practice more efficiently, and collaborate with other physicians to achieve the best possible patient outcome.  Unfortunately this is not what is being seen in many places for varying reasons: poor usability, time-consuming data entry, interference with face-to-face patient care, an inability to exchange health information, and degradation of clinical documentation are a few of the most common complaints based on surveys from RAND.

To better understand why these complaints are happening, we need remind ourselves of how health records came to exist in the first place.  Health records were first embraced in the 1920s when health care providers saw that keeping records in detail improved safety, treatment results, and quality of the patient experience.  Even though the process of keeping written records created an added burden, the transition from no records to records provided added benefits that the medical profession as a whole could not function without.  This contrasts very differently with what is happening with the rollout of EHRs – many systems are adding burdens with no perceived benefits.   This is ultimately leading to the friction we are seeing today.

Rather than improving their workflow and the patient experience, many of the EHR systems offered today are impeding it: 70% of respondents to a Medscape survey taken last July reported decreased face-to-face time with patients due to EHR implementation.  Although it can be argued that it is only a matter of time before physicians get used to and see the benefits of EHRs, large room for improvements clearly exist.  Healthcare providers do not reject technology because they are stubborn or unintelligent; they reject technology when it doesn’t work right just like the rest of us.  If EHR systems are to be embraced, they need to fundamentally change and improve the physician-patient relationship just like the original paper records did, and that change needs to be apparent.  The following is a list of things EHR developers should be mindful of:

  • Good EHRs are more than converting a paper record to a portable digital format. Improved portability is a game changer, but the burden associated with allowing portability needs to be balanced with that benefit.
  • The patient experience with EHRs is just as important as the physician experience. Although it is important to make sure physicians are satisfied, EHRs provide patients with the ability to access their health records like never before.  Improvements with the patient experience will motivate faster adoption of EHRs.
  • Efficiency is not everything.  An EHR that gives patients and physicians useful information that improves outcomes is much more useful than an efficient EHR that is efficient but does not provide as much information.

The shift from paper health records to EHRs is inevitable, and in that process we deserve to get EHRs right.  We should be confident that this will be achieved if we improve the experience, outcome, and relationship of both the patient and the healthcare provider just as it has been since health records were created.  At the end of the day, EHRs are about improving our healthcare system and not settling for anything less than the best.

The Devil You Know

Posted on November 25, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I’d recently heard a practice manager talking about their EHR and Practice Management system. We talked about the EHR they’d selected and what they thought of the setup, and then I asked which practice management (PM) system they were using. They responded that they’d been using the same PM system for so long, they didn’t have any desire to change it. Then they dropped the bomb:

“There are a lot of things we hate about our PM system, but we kind of look at it as the devil we know.”

I see this happen really often when it comes to EHR and PM systems. In fact, it happens everywhere in the world of technology. Sometimes we don’t have any desire to change because we know the system we have and it works. Does it have its pain points? Yes. Do they drive us nuts? Yes! But at least we know about them and know how to deal with them.

There’s a real fear by many to switch to a new software where they have to learn about new “devils” for which they don’t know how to handle. I’m often reminded of the concept that “change isn’t always better.” So, in many situations, it’s better to not change. Maybe what you have isn’t very good, but if you’re not careful you could change to something even worse. That’s a real healthy fear.

That said, the fear can go too far. I’m reminded of when I had my first Android phone. I’d gone pretty cheap and gotten this really inexpensive phone. It worked, but was really slow. Plus, the battery barely lasted and it had plenty of devils I had to deal with whenever I used it. Luckily, I didn’t use it that much since I mostly work from home. However, when I was stuck in the depths of a massive exhibit hall at HIMSS and couldn’t get connectivity or I was waiting on the phone to do something, it was absolutely annoying.

The devils of that phone finally got to me and I upgraded to the Samsung S3. It was night and day difference. I must admit that I really didn’t know what I was missing. In many ways that was good, because it helped me to appreciate the upgrade. However, I’d kind of gotten complacent and was fine dealing with the “devils” I knew. (Side Note: Thanks to a few cracked screens from my wife and children, I’m now on the Samsung S5 and it’s awesome. The battery life itself is so compelling.)

Unfortunately, there’s no science to when to stick with the devils you know and when to upgrade. Without incentives, penalties or other regulations, there’s almost never a financial justification to upgrade software. It’s almost always cheaper to limp along with the old technology. However, there’s an extremely important sanity portion of the upgrade decision that is key.

I’ve personally found the time to upgrade and switch is when you know that the upgrade will solve the “sanity” issues you’re experiencing. If the upgrade won’t solve those issues, then it’s better to stick with the devil you know.

Fun Friday – HIPPA Sign

Posted on November 21, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Only readers of this site could enjoy this pharmacy sign. Thanks to HIPAA One for sharing the picture with me. Have a great weekend everyone! Stay Warm!
HIPPA Sign - Or Should We Say HIPAA Sign?

Maybe the pharmacy thought that HIPPA with two P’s stood for Patient Privacy. Of course, a quick search through posts on my site turn up 18 posts with HIPPA. So, this might be the pot calling the kettle black. I just enjoy the humor of humanity.

Beyond the Basics: What Covered Entities and Business Associates Need to Know About OCR Security Audits

Posted on November 20, 2014 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Mark Fulford, Partner in LBMC’s Security & Risk Services practice group.
Mark_Fulford_Headshot
The next round of Office for Civil Rights (OCR) audits are barreling down upon us, and many healthcare providers, clearing houses and business associates—even ones that think they’re prepared—could be in for an unpleasant surprise. If the 2012 round of OCR audits is any indication, the upcoming audits will most likely reveal that the healthcare industry at large is still struggling to figure out how to implement a compliant security strategy.

Granted, HIPAA regulations are not always as prescriptive as some might like. By design, HIPAA incorporates a degree of flexibility, leaving covered entities and business associates to make decisions about their own approach to compliance based on size, budget, and the risks that are unique to their operations.

But the first round of OCR audits indicated that many healthcare organizations had not even taken the first step in initiating a security compliance strategy—two-thirds of the covered entities had not performed a complete and accurate risk assessment to determine areas of vulnerability and exposure. Apparently, these entities were not necessarily unclear on HIPAA regulations; they simply had not yet made a serious effort to comply.

Out of the 115 entities audited, only 13 had no findings or observations (11%). This time around, the expectation will be that covered entities and business associates will have taken note of the 2012 audit findings, and that the effort to comply will be much improved.

All covered entities and business associates may be subject to an OCR audit. If you have not yet conducted an organizational risk assessment, now would be the time to do so. The OCR provides guidelines, and you can also reference the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) and standards organizations like the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Additionally, the OCR has released an Audit Program Protocol to help you better prepare.

Five Key Areas to Address for OCR Audit Preparation

Based on our experience in the healthcare industry and consistent with the 2012 OCR Audit findings and observations, here’s how you can prepare for the upcoming OCR audits:

  • Know where your data resides. Many organizations fail to account for protected health information (PHI) in both paper and electronic forms. Between legacy systems (where data might be not well-indexed), printed copies (data could be abandoned in a desk) and mobile device use (data could be anywhere), large volumes of at-risk data is often floating around in places it shouldn’t be. In the first round of OCR audits, issues with security accounted for 60% of the findings and observations. To avoid falling into that trap, do a thorough inventory of your PHI and make decisions on how to handle and store it going forward.
  • Review business associate agreements. Business associates were not included in the 2012 OCR audits, but they will be this time around. If any of your business associates are found to be non-compliant, you will most likely be included in the subsequent investigation. Ask your accounting and IT departments to prepare a list of all third parties with whom you share PHI. Make sure your agreements are up-to-date and that your vendors are making good faith efforts to be in compliance. Due diligence can be accomplished through the use of questionnaires, your own audit, or a third-party assurance (e.g., a Service Organization Control (SOC) or a HITRUST report). And if you are a business associate, be aware that you, too, could be selected for an audit.
  • Establish a monitoring program. Your system, firewall and antivirus/antimalware software all regularly log system events. But beyond logging data, HIPAA dictates that you actively review the data to identify suspicious activity. If you haven’t already, assign an individual the task of reviewing your data for anomalies. Also, plan on conducting regular sweeps of the office to make sure that all printed documents are being stored and disposed of properly.
  • Identify breach reporting procedures. The Omnibus HIPAA rule has since updated the breach reporting requirements that were first outlined in HITECH. Make sure your breach reporting procedures are compliant with the most recent standards. While the 2012 OCR audits reported only 10% of their findings associated with the Breach Rule (as opposed to 30% and 60% associated with the Privacy and Security Rules respectively), failure to have a compliant breach reporting process could be a major problem if you are audited.
  • Schedule Staff Training. Most breaches are the result of human error. HIPAA requires that regular security training and security reminders be an integral part of your healthcare compliance strategy. Twenty-six percent of the Administrative Requirements findings and observations in the 2012 OCR audits involved training issues. Don’t assume that your employees know how to handle sensitive data. (Even if they do, it’s easy to forget.) Constant reminders create a culture of accountability that holds each individual responsible for protecting patients’ confidential health information.

While OCR audits give the OCR an opportunity to step up enforcement of HIPAA rules, anyone can register a complaint against you at any time. Thorough preparation for the upcoming OCR audits not only ensures that you will pass one if you are selected, it also protects you from breach, patient complaints, and general loss of public trust and good will.

About Mark Fulford
Mark Fulford is a Partner in LBMC’s Security & Risk Services practice group.  He has over 20 years of experience in information systems management, IT auditing, and security.  Marks focuses on risk assessments and information systems auditing engagements including SOC reporting in the healthcare sector.  He is a Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) and Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP).   LBMC is a top 50 Accounting & Consulting firm based in Brentwood, Tennessee.

Healthcare IT Marketing

Posted on I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I’m excited to tell you that we’ve officially announced the 2nd Annual Health IT Marketing and PR Conference happening May 7-8, 2015 in Las Vegas. We’ll do a full post in the future describing all the details, or you can check out the HITMC conference website for many of the details as well. It’s going to be the greatest gathering of healthcare marketing and PR executives that’s ever been done. People’s response to the first event has been amazing and I believe what we have planned for the second year will be even better. We hope we’ll see you there.

Here at EMR and HIPAA, we continue to grow and reach amazing new milestones. We just passed 10 Million pageviews on just EMR and HIPAA. We’ve done 2142 blog posts and you’ve contributed 9598 comments during that same time. Plus, I’m really excited that the Healthcare Scene blog network has over 29,500 Healthcare Scene email subscribers. I appreciate every reader that trusts us to provide thought leadership on the healthcare IT industry. We’ll keep doing everything we can to provide you value every day.

As part of our regular content, we’ve been working really hard on a number of amazing sponsored blog post series. They’ve been very well received by readers. I previously highlighted the content series that have been sponsored by Medical Management Corporation of America and The Breakaway Group. I’m sure that many of you have also enjoyed the recently started Cost Effective EHR Workflow Series that’s being sponsored by ClinicSpectrum. I’m looking forward to the amazing content these sponsored series provide readers.

Since our last post recognizing companies who support the work we do, we’ve had all of these great companies renew their sponsorships:
Ambir – Advertising since 1/2010
Cerner – Advertising since 9/2011
Canon – Advertising since 10/2012
gMed – Advertising since 8/2013
Colocation America – Advertising since 10/2013
Modernizing Medicine – Advertising since 1/2014

I’m extremely proud of those advertisers who’ve supported us for such a long time. Hard for me to believe that Ambir, for example, is about to reach their 5 year mark advertising on EMR and HIPAA.

A big thanks also goes out to our new sponsors. If you enjoy the content we create, take a minute to check out these companies and see if they can help you in your business:

HIPAA Secure Now! – I’ve written regularly about the need to do a proper HIPAA Risk Assessment in order to avoid any HIPAA penalties and to meet the meaningful use requirements. While you can do the HIPAA risk assessment in house, there’s some real value in having someone outside your organization being the one doing the HIPAA Risk Assessment. Avoids a conflict of interest. If you’re looking for someone to help you with your MU risk assessment, check out what HIPAA Secure Now has to offer.

Blue Horseshoe Network – I think their ad says it all. “Just Call Justina” if you need support for your EHR Go-Live, EHR Training or EHR optimization support. I’ve had a chance to interact with Justina myself and she’s got a lot of energy and passion for the work she does. Check out what Justina and Blue Horseshoe Network can do to help you in your EHR efforts.

Canon – You’ll see that Canon was listed in our renewing advertisers, but I wanted to highlight them here as well since they just started a big email sponsorship campaign with us. Canon is doing a lot of work to bring their fully integrated scanning solutions to healthcare organizations. We appreciate their support of our site and now our email lists as well.

You can get more details on how to get your company added to this list of EMR and HIPAA supporters. Just drop us a note on our contact us page. We’re happy to talk with you and your company about our sponsored content, display ads, email marketing, and webinar options. I think you’ll be impressed by the fully integrated email, SEO, display, and social marketing campaigns we provide.

Measuring Steps to Patient Empowerment – Breakaway Thinking

Posted on November 19, 2014 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Jennifer Bergeron, Learning and Development Manager at The Breakaway Group (A Xerox Company). Check out all of the blog posts in the Breakaway Thinking series.
Jennifer Bergeron

Trends and fads come and go. When they stick, it’s clear they address a consumer need, whether it’s a service, promise, or hope. Here at The Breakaway Group, A Xerox Company (TBG), we operate within a proven methodology that includes metrics, and it’s exciting to those of us who can’t get enough of good data. Most people find metrics interesting, especially when they understand how it relates to them, and the results are something they can control. Metrics are powerful.

To understand the power of data in shaping behaviors, consider the popularity of the self-monitoring fitness tracker or wearable technology. Even as their accuracy is scrutinized, sales in 2014 are predicted to land somewhere in the $14 billion range.1 Do mobile fitness trackers actually help people change their activity habits? Could doctors actually use the data to help their patients? Can companies be built on the concept of improving health with a wearable device? Not conclusively.2 Does a dedicated athlete need this kind of information? Some think not.3

So what is driving the growth of the fitness tracker market and what are these devices offering that creates millions of dedicated users? The answer is real-time data, personalized goals and feedback, and a sense of control; in other words, empowerment.

In the 70s and 80s, my grandparents spoke about their doctor as though he were infallible. They didn’t doubt, question, or even note what he prescribed, but took his advice and dealt with the outcomes. If healing didn’t progress as planned, my grandmother blamed herself, as though she’d failed him.

Jump ahead a few decades when more emphasis is being placed on collaboration. We expect our physicians to work with us, rather than dictate our treatment decisions.4 Section 3506 of the Affordable Care Act, the Program to Facilitate Shared Decision Making, states that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is “required to establish a program that develops, tests and disseminates certificated patient decision aids.”5 The intent is to provide patients and caregivers educational materials that will help improve communication about treatment options and decisions.6

Patient portals are important tools in helping to build this foundation of shared information. The portals house and track patient health data on web-based platforms, enabling patients and physicians to easily collaborate on the patient’s health management.7  Use of patient portals is a Meaningful Use Stage 2 objective.

The first measure of meeting this objective states that more than half the patients seen during a specified Electronic Health Record reporting period must have online access to their records. The second measure puts the spotlight on the patient and their use of that web-based information. MU Stage 2 requires that more than 5% of a provider’s patients must have viewed, downloaded, or transmitted their information to another provider in order for the provider to qualify for financial incentives from the Federal government.8

Empowered consumers want information immediately, whether it’s a restaurant review, number of steps taken in the last hour, how many calories they’ve burned, or their most recent checkup results. We like to weigh the input, make a decision, and then take action. Learning and information intake, no matter the topic, is expected to happen fast.

Metrics show us where we stand and how far we’ve come, which empowers us to keep going or make a change, and then measure again. We’re in an age of wanting to know but also wanting to know what to do next. The wearable device market has met a very real need of consumers. Whether or not fitness trackers make us healthier, whether or not our doctors know what to do with the information, or if this is information an athlete would really use, these devices can serve the purpose of putting many people in control of their own health, one measurable step at a time.

Sources:
1 Harrop, D., Das, R., & Chansin G. (2014) . Wearable technology 2014-2024: Technologies, markets, forecasts. Retrieved from http://www.idtechex.com/research/reports/wearable-technology-2014-2024-technologies-markets-forecasts-000379.asp

2 Hixon, T. (2014) . Are health and fitness wearables running out of gas? Retrieved from  http://www.forbes.com/sites/toddhixon/2014/04/24/are-health-and-fitness-wearables-running-out-of-gas/

3 Real athletes don’t need wearable tech. (2014) . Retrieved from http://www.outsideonline.com/outdoor-gear/gear-shed/tech-talk/Real-Athletes-Dont-Need-Wearable-Tech.html

4 Chen, P. (2012) . Afraid to speak up at the doctor’s office. Retrieved from  http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/31/afraid-to-speak-up-at-the-doctors-office/?_r=0

5 Informed Medical Decisions Foundation. (2011-2014) .  Affordable care act. Retrieved from http://www.informedmedicaldecisions.org/shared-decision-making-policy/federal-legislation/affordable-care-act/

6 HealthcareITNews. (2014) . Patient pjortals. Retrieved from http://www.healthcareitnews.com/directory/patient-portals

7 Bajarin, T. (2014) . Where wearable health gadgets are headed. Retrieved from http://time.com/2938202/health-fitness-gadgets/

8 HealthIT.gov. (2014) . Patient ability to electronically view, download & transmit (VDT) health information. Retrieved from http://www.healthit.gov/providers-professionals/achieve-meaningful-use/core-measures-2/patient-ability-electronically-view-download-transmit-vdt-health-information

Xerox is a sponsor of the Breakaway Thinking series of blog posts. The Breakaway Group is a leader in EHR and Health IT training.

Are You A Sitting Duck for HIPAA Data Breaches? – Infographic

Posted on November 18, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

The people at DataMotion, cloud based HISP providers, sent me the following infographic covering the HIPAA data breaches. It’s a good reminder of the potential for data breaches in healthcare. As Marc Probst recently suggested, we should be focusing as much attention on things like security as we are on meaningful use since the penalties for a HIPAA violation are more than the meaningful use penalties.

Are You A Sitting Duck for HIPAA Data Breaches Infographic

What Are The Benefits of a Medical Practice Participating in Social Media?

Posted on November 17, 2014 I Written By

The following is a guest post by Barry Haitoff, CEO of Medical Management Corporation of America.
Barry Haitoff
No doubt social media has become an integral part of many of our lives. We use it in our personal lives and if we don’t use it personally, our children are using it all the time. With nearly 800 million daily active users on Facebook and nearly 300 million monthly active users on Twitter, most medical practices are asking how they could benefit from having their practice participate in social media.

Before I begin with the specific benefits of social media use, I should define how I’m using the term social media. In this case, I’ll be talking about social media in the broadest context. Certainly this would include platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Google+. However, I also include healthcare focused websites like Health Grades, Angie’s List, ZocDoc, Yelp, and many more in this list. Each of these websites or mobile apps has a social aspect to them which allows the practice to engage with patients online.

Now let’s take a look at some of the benefits your practice can receive from your participation in social media.

Be Part of the Discussion – The reality of the internet is that your practice is being discussed online whether you participate or not. Many of the social media sites listed above have already created your profile and patients are talking about their experience at your practice. While you may wish that this wasn’t the case, it’s something that you can’t stop.

Given that you can’t stop patients from posting information about their visit to your office, it really benefits your practice to keep an eye on what’s being said about your practice on these social media sites. If someone posts something nice, that’s an opportunity for your practice to show some gratitude for their kindness. If someone posts something negative, that’s an opportunity for you to show some compassion even when difficult situations arise.

When a negative physician review is shown compassion, understanding, and a willingness to help, it turns a negative into a positive for your practice. Now instead of driving patients away from your practice, a sincere interest in helping the disgruntled patient will drive new patients to your practice who realize that you care about your patients. Of course, if you’re not taking part in social media, that negative comment will remain and discourage patients from ever visiting your office.

First Impressions – One of the first impressions many patients get about your practice is on your website and your social media presence. While it’s not the end all be all for how patients select a doctor, being an active participant in social media shows potential new patients that you’re a progressive organization that stays on top of the latest trends. If you’re not on social media and/or your website looks like it came out of the 90’s, many patients will wonder how well your practice keeps up with more important areas like clinical skills. Right or wrong, we draw these connections between a practice’s online presence and their ability to stay up with the latest medicine.

Engage Current Patients – Social media is a great way for your organization to engage with your current patients. One of the largest sources of new patient referrals comes from existing patients. A simple follow on Twitter or Like on Facebook creates a powerful connection between your practice and your patients. That connection then serves as a reminder to your patients of the services you provide. You’ll be surprised at the serendipity of social media. Your social media post on back pain can often arrive in the same stream as one of your patient’s friend’s complaint of back pain. Now you just gave your previous patient a simple way to refer their friend to you.

Promote High Margin Services – This doesn’t apply to all specialties, but many specialties have high margin services they can offer patients on a repeat basis. Other specialties can remind their patients of annual visits. Social media is a simple, scalable way to inform and remind patients of these high margin services. With the right set of followers, a simple tweet that says “Women, take care of yourself! Don’t forget to get your annual pap smear.” can be a really effective way to drive more patients to your practice.

Local Social Media – One challenge medical practices face is that the majority of their patient population is local. Social media and the internet by its very nature is a national and international tool. However, with the integration of GPS into every phone and location enabled web browsers, the websites and tools to target local people are amazing. Do a simple Twitter search for “back pain” and add your location and you’ll find a captive audience of people with back pain near you. Here’s a simple example I found in NYC. Once you find these potential patients, you can easily follow or engage with their tweet.

Learn from Others – While much of this list has been about driving more high quality patients to your practice, social media can also be an excellent way for doctors, practice managers, billing staff, etc to learn from their peers. You can find a community of peers on social media that are focused on pretty much any element of a medical practice. Many of them are posting amazing content which can help you learn how to do your job better. Plus, as you engage with your peers on social media, you create relationships which can be leveraged to get answers to difficult questions. Not to mention, you’ll receive the satisfaction of helping other people and developing deep friendships with amazing people. Social media is a font of knowledge just waiting for you to tap into it.

In the next post in our series, I’ll look at the tools, techniques, and social media platforms you should use to help you realize the benefits mentioned above. Are there other social media benefits I missed on my list? I’d love to hear how you’re using social media in your practice and the benefits you’ve received from it.

Medical Management Corporation of America, a leading provider of medical billing services, is a proud sponsor of EMR and HIPAA.