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Staying Connected Beyond the Patient Visit

Posted on April 20, 2017 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Brittany Quemby, Marketing Strategist for Stericycle Communication Solutions, as part of the Communication Solutions Series of blog posts. Follow and engage with them on Twitter: @StericycleComms
Brittany Quemby - Stericycle
I see it everywhere I go – heads down, thumbs flexing. We live in an era where our devices occupy our lives. When I’m sitting at the airport waiting for my flight, standing in line at the grocery store, waiting to be called at my doctor’s office, I see it – heads down, thumbs flexing. Although I wish we weren’t always heads down in our phones, it is inevitable, we rely on our smartphone to stay connected.  As it stands today, roughly two-thirds of Americans own a smart phone, meaning they have access to email, voice, and text at their fingertips.

The increase in connectivity that the smartphone gives its user provides physicians a whole new way to communicate beyond the patient visit. Below are some tips that can help healthcare professionals stay connected while improving engagement, behaviors, and revenue outcomes.

Consider the patient’s preferences
Quite often only one piece of contact information is gathered for a patient and it is typically a home phone number. Patients expect to be communicated with where it is convenient for them, and in a recent survey on preferred communication methods, 76 percent off respondents said that text messages were more convenient above emails and phone calls.  If you are looking to connect with patients in a meaningful way, consider asking them their preferred method of contact to help maximize your engagement.

Use a various methods of communication
Recently we surveyed over 400 healthcare professionals to learn about the ways they are communicating and engaging with their patients. Our findings revealed that 41 percent of physicians and healthcare professionals utilize various methods to connect and communicate with their patients.  Long gone are the days when you could reach someone by a simple phone call. Today, if I need to get in touch with someone this is how it goes down: I will email them, then I will call them to let them know I emailed them, and then I text them to tell them to go read my email.  A recent report shows that on average 91 percent of all United States consumers use email daily and that text messages have a 45 percent response rate and a 98 percent open rate. Connecting with patients through multiple channels of communication can show a significant change in patient responsiveness and behavior, including an increase in healthcare ownership, a decrease in no shows, and a substantial increase in revenue.

Automate your patient communication messages
Investing in an automated patient communication solution is a great way to connect with your patients beyond the doctor’s office. It will not only increase patient behaviors, efficiencies, satisfaction and convenience, but will also dramatically impact your bottom-line.

A comprehensive automated patient communication platform allows include regular and frequent communication from your organization to the patient in a simple and easy way.  Consider implementing some of the following automated communication tactics to help you increase your practice’s efficiencies while continuing to engage with patients outside of the office:

  • Send appointment reminders: Send automated appointment reminders to ensure patients show up to their appointment both on time and prepared.
  • Follow-up communication: Patients only retain 20 to 60 percent of information that is shared with them during the appointment. Send a text or email with pertinent follow-up information to increase patient satisfaction and decrease readmissions.
  • Program promotion: Connect with patients to encourage them to come in for important initiatives your practice is holding like your flu-shot clinic.
  • Message broadcast: Communicate important information like an office closure or rescheduling due to severe weather.

The Communication Solutions Series of blog posts is sponsored by Stericycle Communication Solutions, a leading provider of high quality call center & telephone answering servicespatient access services and automated communication technology. Stericycle Communication Solutions combines a human touch with innovative technology to deliver best-in-class communication services.  Connect with Stericycle Communication Solutions on social media: @StericycleComms

Why Provide Consumer-minded Communications? Patients Expect Them

Posted on March 9, 2017 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Chelsea Kimbrough, a copywriter for Stericycle Communication Solutions, as part of the Communication Solutions Series of blog posts. Follow and engage with them on Twitter: @StericycleComms
Chelsea Kimbrough
With technology advancing rapidly, communication has become both more accessible and more difficult than ever before. Today, Americans nationwide communicate with their smartphones via various social media platforms, mobile calls, text messages, applications, and more. In fact, 80 percent of consumers now own a smartphone for personal use, which could include making purchasing decisions and seeking out support with not only commercial industries, but with healthcare organizations as well.

Patients instinctively utilize the communication methods they are most comfortable with when interacting with healthcare organizations. These often include traditional methods such as live voice appointment scheduling and telephone answering. But as healthcare consumerism has grown more prevalent, these methods also frequently include digital and automated solutions such as online self-scheduling, appointment reminders via text message, and other automated messaging options.

As a self-professed consumer-minded patient, I tend to seek out the latter communication methods when it comes time to contact my healthcare provider. If there is an option to schedule an appointment online from the comfort of my own home, I take it. When asked if I’d like to opt in for email, voice, or text message reminders and messaging, I always indicate ‘yes.’ And if given the opportunity to meet with my physician virtually rather than in the office, I jump at it.

These features and functionalities provide me with the freedom to more proactively manage my healthcare needs without disrupting my day-to-day responsibilities. This freedom is also why I’ve become a loyal patient to my local provider. And I’m not alone.

As reported by the Beryl Institute, 87 of consumers say the patient experience is extremely important overall and 67 percent report that it plays an extremely important role in their decision-making process. Communication plays a major part in what patients view as their patient experience. If my healthcare provider were to only provide traditional live voice services, I may not have been as apt to schedule an appointment. Similarly, if they focused solely on digital solutions, they could miss out on other valuable patients.

So, what’s the answer?

Healthcare organizations should holistically approach communications with a combination of traditional and technology-based communication methods. Patients must be able to communicate however they feel most comfortable, including via a traditional phone call or by receiving important appointment information via automated emails or texts. Healthcare organizations that provide a combination of live voice, digital, and automated communication support tools are more apt to meet the diverse and evolving expectations of their entire patient population. In turn, these same organizations are more likely to successfully foster ongoing patient loyalty and satisfaction.

The Communication Solutions Series of blog posts is sponsored by Stericycle Communication Solutions, a leading provider of high quality telephone answering, appointment scheduling, and automated communication services. Stericycle Communication Solutions combines a human touch with innovative technology to deliver best-in-class communication services. Connect with Stericycle Communication Solutions on social media: @StericycleComms

Whitepaper: Is Windows 10 HIPAA Compliant?

Posted on February 22, 2017 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Steven Marco, CISA, ITIL, HP SA and President of HIPAA One®.
Steven Marco - HIPAA expert
HIPAA One has collaborated with Microsoft on a new whitepaper that addresses Windows 10 and HIPAA compliance.

The whitepaper, HIPAA Compliance with Microsoft Windows 10 Enterprise, provides guidance on how to leverage Microsoft Windows 10 as a HIPAA-compliant, baseline operating system for functionality and security. Additionally, the paper tackles head on (and debunks) the myth that Microsoft Windows is not HIPAA compliant.
In light of the recent focus on HIPAA enforcement actions; hospitals, clinics, healthcare clearinghouses and business associates are trying to understand how to manage modern operating systems with cloud features to meet HIPAA regulatory mandates. Along with adhering to HIPAA, many healthcare organizations are under pressure to broadly embrace the benefits of cloud computing and manage the security implications.

Microsoft has invested heavily in security and privacy technologies to address and mitigate today’s threats. Windows 10 Enterprise has been designed to be the most user-friendly Windows yet and includes deep architectural advancements that have changed the game when navigating hacking and malware threats. For this reason, organizations in every industry, including the Pentagon and Department of Defense have upgraded to Windows 10 Enterprise to improve their security posture. However, as with all software upgrades; functionality, security and privacy implications must be understood and addressed.

The intersection between HIPAA compliance and main stream applications can often be confusing to navigate. This industry-leading whitepaper addresses the questions and concerns that are currently top-of-mind for healthcare IT and legal professionals responsible for managing ePHI and maintain HIPAA compliance.

Download your copy today and learn now Microsoft Windows 10 Enterprise enables its users to meet and/or exceed their HIPAA Security and Privacy requirements.

About Steven Marco
Steven Marco is the President of HIPAA One®, leading provider of HIPAA Risk Assessment software for practices of all sizes.  HIPAA One is a proud sponsor of EMR and HIPAA and the effort to make HIPAA compliance more accessible for all practices.  Are you HIPAA Compliant?  Take HIPAA One’s 5 minute HIPAA security and compliance quiz to see if your organization is risk or learn more at HIPAAOne.com.

5 Lessons In One Big HIPAA Penalty

Posted on February 2, 2017 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Mike Semel, President and Chief Compliance Officer at Semel Consulting.

The federal Office for Civil Rights just announced a $ 3.2 million penalty against Children’s Medical Center of Dallas.

5 Lessons Learned from this HIPAA Penalty

  1. Don’t ignore HIPAA
  2. Cooperate with the enforcers
  3. Fix the problems you identify
  4. Encrypt your data
  5. Not everyone in your workforce should be able to access Protected Health Information

If you think complying with HIPAA isn’t important, is expensive, and annoying, do you realize you could be making a $3.2 million decision? In this one penalty there are lots of hidden and not-so-hidden messages.

1. A $ 3.2 million penalty for losing two unencrypted devices, 3 years apart.

LESSON LEARNED: Don’t ignore HIPAA.

If Children’s Medical Center was paying attention to HIPAA as it should have, it wouldn’t be out $3.2 million that should be used to treat children’s medical problems. Remember that you protecting your patients’ medical information is their Civil Right and part of their medical care.

2. This is a Civil Money Penalty, not a Case Resolution.

What’s the difference? A Civil Money Penalty is a fine. It could mean that the entity did not comply with the investigation; (as in this case) did not respond to an invitation to a hearing; or did not follow corrective requirements from a case resolution. Most HIPAA penalties are Case Resolutions, where the entity cooperates with the enforcement agency, and which usually results in a lower dollar penalty than a Civil Money Penalty.

LESSON LEARNED: Cooperate with the enforcers. No one likes the idea of a federal data breach investigation, but you could save a lot of money by cooperating and asking for leniency. Then you need to follow the requirements outlined in your Corrective Action Plan.

3. They knew they had security risks in 2007 and never addressed them until 2013, after a SECOND breach.

Children’s Medical Center had identified its risks and knew it needed to encrypt its data as far back as 2007, but had a breach of unencrypted data in 2010 and another in 2013.

LESSON LEARNED: Don’t be a SLOW LEARNER. HIPAA requires that you conduct a Security Risk Analysis AND mitigate your risks. Self-managed risk analyses can miss critical items that will result in a breach. Paying for a risk analysis and filing away the report without fixing the problems can turn into a $ 3.2 million violation. How would you explain that to your management, board of directors, your patients, and the media, if you knew about a risk and never did anything to address it? How will your management and board feel about you when they watch $3.2 million be spent on a fine?

4. There is no better way to protect data than by encrypting it.

HIPAA gives you some leeway by not requiring you to encrypt all of your devices, as long as the alternative methods to secure the data are as reliable as encryption. There’s no such thing.

If an unencrypted device is lost or stolen, you just proved that your alternative security measures weren’t effective. It amazes me how much protected data we find floating around client networks. Our clients swear that their protected data is all in their patient care system; that users are given server shares and always use them; that scanned images are directly uploaded into applications; and that they have such good physical security controls that they do not need to encrypt desktop computers and servers.

LESSON LEARNED: You must locate ALL of your data that needs to be protected, and encrypt it using an acceptable method with a tracking system. We use professional tools to scan networks looking for protected data.

5. Not everyone in your workforce needs access to Protected Health Information.

We also look at paper records storage and their movement. This week we warned a client that we thought too many workforce members had access to the rooms that store patient records. The Children’s Medical Center penalty says they secured their laptops but “provided access to the area to workforce not authorized to access ePHI.”

LESSON LEARNED: Is your Protected Health Information (on paper and in electronic form) protected against unauthorized physical access by your workforce members not authorized to access PHI?

You can plan your new career after your current organization gets hit with a preventable $ 3.2 million penalty, just like Children’s Medical Center. Or, you can take HIPAA seriously, and properly manage your risks.

Your choice.

About Mike Semel
mike-semel-hipaa-consulting
Mike Semel is the President and Chief Compliance Officer for Semel Consulting. He has owned IT businesses for over 30 years, has served as the Chief Information Officer for a hospital and a K-12 school district, and as the Chief Operating Officer for a cloud backup company. Mike is recognized as a HIPAA thought leader throughout the healthcare and IT industries, and has spoken at conferences including NASA’s Occupational Health conference, the New York State Cybersecurity conference, and many IT conferences. He has written HIPAA certification classes and consults with healthcare organizations, cloud services, Managed Service Providers, and other business associates to help build strong cybersecurity and compliance programs. Mike can be reached at 888-997-3635 x 101 or mike@semelconsulting.com.

5 Tips When Implementing a Secure Text Messaging Solution

Posted on December 20, 2016 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Matthew Werder, CTO, Hennepin County Medical Center. Thanks to Justin Campbell from Galen Healthcare Solutions for facilitating this guest post for us.

Now twelve months into our secure messaging implementation, and it’s safe to say our transition to a secure-messaging application with the aspiration to eliminate pagers has been quite a journey.  Recently, I answered a couple of reference calls on the selection process from some of my healthcare colleagues and determined it was time to share 5 (of many) tips for implementing a secure messaging solution.  Like most healthcare technologies, what may appear to be simple isn’t and even with the best of the best implementation plans, project manager, and leadership support – the road to implementing a secure messaging solution contains many challenges.

To start, here are five tips that have left me with scars & memories:

#1 – Define Your Strategy.  Are you just adding another technology, enhancing an existing, or just buying into the hype of secure text messaging applications?  In his post dated January 26, 2016, Mobility Solutions Consultant, Jason Stanaland from Spok stated, “secure text messaging should be implemented as a workflow solution, and not simply a messaging product.”  Before putting ink to paper, ensure that your goals are aligned, providers are supportive, and a measureable outcome has been identified.  Just because you can implement a technology doesn’t mean you should.

#2 – Beware of the Pager Culture.  In the words of Peter Drucker, “culture eats strategy for lunch,” and the same can be said for the pager culture.  This was impressed on me last summer when a physician stopped me in the hallway and had questions about the new text messaging solution we were implementing.  She was very excited and encouraged to hear that we were taking communication, mobility, and security seriously.   What I wasn’t prepared for was her question, “What is your plan to address the 4, 5, and 9-digit callback needs?”

In many institutions, a pager Morse code exists.  Telemediq’s Derek Bolen wrote in December last year that the, “Pager culture’ is real, and extremely persistent, in healthcare.” Judy Mottl, of Fierce Mobile Healthcare, talks about “Why the pager remains a viable and trusted tool for providers.” She wrote that the pager has been a resilient tool and in order for new technologies to replace it, they must overcome the benefits of such a simple mobile device – the pager!  Don’t underestimate #PAGERPOWER!

#3 – Text Administration and Etiquette Policy.  If your goal is to replace your paging system or add a secure text messaging solution in addition to pagers, your paging and messaging policy will need to be archived and a new text messaging/secure messaging policy will need to be authored.  Who authors the policy will be a collaborative effort between the medical staff, legal, IT, nursing, compliance, and operations.  Gentle reminders as written by Dana Holmes, Family Lifestyle Expert of the Huffington Post, in her 2013 blog, “A Much-Needed Guide to Text Etiquette”, highlights the necessary rules and guidelines of texting. Many of these are well known, yet good reminders in the adoption of secure text messaging in healthcare.

#4 – Think Beyond Text Messaging.  Regardless of your strategy, text messaging alone will provide minimal value.  Organizations implementing secure text-messaging solutions should think beyond the implementation and think in terms of “Connection Point” or “Communications Hub” opportunities with the patient/customer in mind.  On August 19, 2015, Brad Brooks, TigerText Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, stated that secure texting not only fosters a collaborative environment, but it also enables users to quickly communicate and coordinate with other colleagues while eradicating the need for multiple devices and tedious communication channels. Unlike emails, secure texting is instantaneous and avoids outside threats or hackers. Secure texting encompasses everything we love about mobile messaging, but with built-in features and tools to help one work faster and more easily with his or her team.  Does the vendor have a roadmap to take you where you want? Intersect it with patients, and make for texting amongst patients and provider. Include the patient, how can they take advantage of the texting platform?  Turn it into an engagement tool.  Drive collaboration and improve the patient experience and family experience.

#5 – Enjoy and Have Fun.  I am amazed at times when technologists don’t embrace the adoption of a new technology that could have a significant impact on their organization.  The secure text messaging industry is rich and deep right now with countless options and innovative solutions at every corner.  You run into unforeseen obstacles and workflows, and despite the promise of a short implementation multiple it by two.  We all know that change in healthcare is challenging and exhausting so enjoy the ride!

Of course there are many more. At last count, about 37 additional lessons and tips should be considered when implementing your new secure-messaging solution, so feel free to comment and share your experiences.

About Matthew Werder
Matthew Werder brings over 20 years of healthcare experience in his position as Chief Technology Officer at Hennepin County Medical Center, a 477-bed Level 1 Trauma Center and Academic Medical Center in Minneapolis. In his role, he is responsible for advancing HCMC’s technology vision and strategy to enable the organization to achieve its critical priorities.  Currently, Matthew is leading the development of an enterprise telemedicine strategy, migration to a new data center, and leading the execution of the organization’s technology strategy.

Prior to his role as CTO, Matthew was the Director of Supply Chain at HCMC, where over the course of 4 years achieved over $12M in cost savings while transforming the supply chain organization whom received recognition by Supply & Demand Chain Executive as Pros to Know.  He also worked as a Supply Chain Manager for Medtronic, Inc. at their Physiological Research Laboratories and in the Global Strategic Sourcing group. Matthew is a certified Master Lean instructor and previously worked as a Lean Consultant with Operational Excellence, Inc. 

Matthew holds a Master’s Degree in Health and Human Services Administration from Saint Mary’s University and graduated from Concordia University with a degree in natural science.  He has presented and been published on several topics focusing on operational excellence, cost management, technology and the patient experience, and strategic sourcing for services in healthcare.

What Should Coffee Shops and Healthcare Organizations Have in Common?

Posted on December 8, 2016 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Sarah Bennight, Marketing Strategist of Stericycle Communication Solutions as part of the Communication Solutions Series of blog posts. Follow and engage with them on Twitter:@StericycleComms
sarah-bennight
Several months ago, I failed to get up in time for my normal coffee brew. So on the way to work, I decided to stop at a local Starbucks to grab a latte. The drive-thru was packed. Panicking, I stepped inside where the line was sure to be shorter. It was not. As I waited, I noticed folks walking in and going straight to the barista bar, giving an order, and receiving it immediately. No line. No wait. What was this amazing service and why didn’t I receive it? I felt left out of cool kids club as I waited my turn and finally arrived 3 minutes late to work. After searching my junk email, I found several emails touting a new order in app and pay service. With my busy lifestyle and love of coffee, I thought this was too good to be true.

Next time I was running late, I opened the app and ordered my favorite beverage with one hand while putting on makeup with the other. I felt like a true VIP when I sauntered into my local cafe and whispered my order to the barista, who had my drink ready and waiting. You can bet, if I need a coffee on a hurried morning, I will remain loyal to the pre-order app from Starbucks. It’s just too easy.

With increasingly busy lifestyles and the need to complete more in less time, consumers look for the quickest and easiest goods and services. We are much more willing to adventure into unknown spaces if it promises to give us precious time back. After moving last month, I received a card in the mail from a well-known grocer saying “welcome to the neighborhood, we now offer online grocery shopping.” Busy people in my neighborhood are celebrating an end to their most hated and time-consuming weekly errand. I have yet to try this service since there are rarely timeslots open, but the Starbucks’ model of order online and avoid the wait is becoming the norm.

We are so accustomed to immediate service that we sometimes get frustrated with even small delays. Take, for example, my two very different experiences at urgent care centers. Earlier this year, I had to take my daughter in for possible strep throat. I avoided the trip long enough that her primary care physician office was closed and urgent care was the only option. We took our chances with the local pediatric urgent care and waited for our sick child to be seen for over two hours – 45 minutes of which was spent in the examination room before anyone came in to see us.

When the need arose for me to visit an urgent care clinic recently, I was already well versed in the advantages of ordering online without a wait. Although I had been to the local ER for the same condition and they had all of my labs and records, the thought of a potentially lengthy wait was daunting. So, I searched for a clinic that could accommodate my schedule and decided to try a new clinic because they offered the “online ordering model” for urgent care visits. I signed up online and was called back within 10 minutes of arriving at the clinic. The doctor saw me within 15 minutes of being placed in a room. The experience was so positive the clinic has earned my loyalty for future care needs. Not only do they have a caring staff, they get me in and out in a reasonable time.

This trend is rapidly being adopted across commercial industries, but healthcare isn’t far behind. And health providers that aren’t ready to adapt will soon feel the pressure as consumers demand convenience. Services and tools such as Amazon PrimeNow and Disneyland FastPasses prove one thing: Americans simply hate to wait.

Recently, I spoke with a client who made the decision to implement our online scheduling solution as a result of increasingly consumer-driven expectations. Competition with retail clinics for primary care visits also played a role in their decision. They stated, “We are now competing with Walgreens and CVS for simple clinic visits because we make it too difficult to get the patient in the door.” A McKinsey 2015 Consumer Health Insights Survey found the same, as two thirds of the people surveyed reported they would be comfortable using retail clinics such as CVS or Walgreens for care. When asked why, the major reason cited was accessibility.

With two very different clinic visits shaping my view, I imagine on demand access and appointment scheduling will continue to shape the healthcare access scene in the next few years. Convenience is king in our consumer-minded world, and those who rely on only traditional methods of getting patients in the door could miss potential opportunities – or worse, lose existing patients to competitors who provide easier access. I won’t return to the first urgent care clinic because the more recent visit offered better access and a more convenient experience by significantly cutting my wait time. With my new found love for ordering online and avoiding the wait, I have also recently changed the family eye doctor to one who offers this service. Now, if they could only offer an onsite coffee bar…

The Communication Solutions Series of blog posts is sponsored by Stericycle Communication Solutions, a leading provider of high quality call center & telephone answering servicespatient access services and automated communication technology. Stericycle Communication Solutions combines a human touch with innovative technology to deliver best-in-class communication services.  Connect with Stericycle Communication Solutions on social media:  @StericycleComms

A New Platform for Women in Healthcare IT – Doyenne Connections

Posted on December 2, 2016 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Janae Sharp (@coherencemed).
janae-sharp
Every day, healthcare loses potential profit from a lack of representation of women in technology. Healthcare IT takes a larger hit than some other technology areas. Taking the problems of gender pay disparity and lack of representation for women in healthcare to a dinner party was the beginning of Doyenne Connections. Founded by Max Stroud, a lead consultant at Galen Healthcare, this group of women in leadership roles in Health IT is about creating real life connections for women in technology.

Max had a vision of forward thinking women in health IT meeting together to enhance their careers and develop ideas together. A sort of “un-conference” emerged and the first weekend was a huge success. Organizations that would be an ideal match for Doyenne connections are companies that are concerned about gender equality. Organizations that believe in the value of a human connection can get involved from the corporate level. The founders club invites women leaders in healthcare IT to mentor and meet up with other women.

In healthcare technology there is so much interest in the next innovation and how technology connects us. Employees can telecommute. Patients can see a doctor over the internet. Providers can collaborate about patients and companies to improve systems via video call. While technology and social media connects us in person meetings are still invaluable.

Healthcarescene.com is proud to partner with Doyenne connections to help promote women in Health IT and how companies can increase their profitability through improving the workplace for women. Investing in the individual women and mentorships and meetups will help improve Health IT innovation and profitability. The costs of gender inequality in the workforce are high and the loss of women in technology and healthcare is an economic problem for our companies and a social problem. Women are underrepresented in leadership roles and average 78 cents for every dollar their male counterparts make.

Want to invest in your company’s gender equality? The Founders club is looking for current and future leaders in Healthcare and Doyenne Connections has spots for corporate sponsorships.

Are Providers Using Effective Patient Communication Methods?

Posted on December 1, 2016 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Cristina Dafonte, Marketing Associate of Stericycle Communication Solutions as part of the Communication Solutions Series of blog posts. Follow and engage with them on Twitter:@StericycleComms
cristina-dafonte
This year at MGMA 2016, the Stericycle Communication Solutions team had the opportunity to survey over 800 providers about their patient communication strategy. Getting to collect our own data, rather than relying on facts and figures from scholarly articles, was truly invaluable. But what was even more exciting was sitting down and analyzing the results.

Many of the statistics weren’t surprising – nearly 100% of providers are sending appointment reminders, 60% of providers are using technology to send these reminders, and 2/3 of providers surveyed love the idea of online self-scheduling. These statistics all made sense to me… it’s almost 2017, of course providers would prefer to use technology when it comes to their patient communications.

But as I dug more into the numbers, I saw a startling trend:

  • Only 1 out of 3 providers who “love” online self-scheduling offer it to their patients
  • While almost all providers are sending appointment reminders, 1/3 are still manually calling their patients
  • Over 60% of providers are only sending appointment reminders via ONE modality

I started to think about other parts of my life where I booked appointments or used technology to interact with a vendor– did these healthcare numbers match their non-healthcare counterparts?

First I looked to my hair salon. When I go to their website, I have the ability to book an appointment with my current hair dresser directly on their home screen. I get an email reminder the day that I book the appointment with a calendar attachment. The day before the appointment, I get a text reminding me what time my appointment is and whom it is with. Four months after the appointment, I get an email reminding me that it’s time to come in for my next appointment… with a link to book an appointment online. Surprisingly, this didn’t match what I was seeing in my survey data analysis. When I looked at scheduling an appointment to get my car serviced, I saw the same trend – booking was conveniently online, the communications were all automated, and I received more than one reminder.

So why does there seem to be such a difference when it comes to healthcare communication? Our survey shows that providers like the idea of technology, so, I wonder, why are most providers only going halfway? What is it that is holding them back from fully investing in automated patient communications? According to TIME, the average person looks at his or her phone 46 times per day. As we near 2017, shouldn’t we reach and capture patients where they are engaged and spend most of their time – on their mobile devices and computers?

For more MGMA survey results and a sneak peak into how Stericycle Communication Solutions can help you adopt an automated patient communication strategy, download the infographic here.

The Communication Solutions Series of blog posts is sponsored by Stericycle Communication Solutions, a leading provider of high quality call center & telephone answering servicespatient access services and automated communication technology. Stericycle Communication Solutions combines a human touch with innovative technology to deliver best-in-class communication services.  Connect with Stericycle Communication Solutions on social media:  @StericycleComms

Don’t Yell FHIR in a Hospital … Yet

Posted on November 30, 2016 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Richard Bagdonas, CTO and Chief Healthcare Architect at MI7.
richard-bagdonas
The Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resource standard, commonly referred to as FHIR (pronounced “fire”) has a lot of people in the healthcare industry hopeful for interoperability between the electronic health record (EHR) systems and external systems — enabling greater information sharing.

As we move into value-based healthcare and away from fee-for-service healthcare, one thing becomes clear: care is no longer siloed to one doctor and most certainly not to one facility. Think of the numerous locations a patient must visit when getting a knee replaced. They start at their general practitioner’s office, then go to the orthopedic surgeon, followed by the radiology center, then to the hospital, often back to the ortho’s office, and finally to one or more physical therapists.

Currently the doctor’s incentives are not aligned with the patient. If the surgery needs to be repeated, the insurance company and patient pay for it again. In the future the doctor will be judged and rewarded or penalized for their performance in what is called the patient’s “episode of care.” All of this coordination between providers requires the parties involved become intimately aware of everything happening at each step in the process.

This all took off back in 2011 when Medicare began an EHR incentive program providing $27B in incentives to doctors at the 5,700 hospitals and 235,000 medical practices to adopt EHR systems. Hospitals would receive $2M and doctors would receive $63,750 when they put in the EHR system and performed some basic functions proving they were using it under what has been termed “Meaningful Use” or MU.

EHR manufacturers made a lot of money selling systems leveraging the MU incentives. The problem most hospitals ran into is their EHR didn’t come with integrations to external systems. Integration is typically done using a 30 year old standard called Health Level 7 or HL7. The EHR can talk to outside systems using HL7, but only if the interface is turned on and both systems use the same version. EHR vendors typically charge thousands of dollars and sometimes tens of thousands to turn on each interface. This is why interface engines have been all the rage since they turn one interface into multiple.

The great part of HL7 is it is standard. The bad parts of HL7 are a) there are 11 standards, b) not all vendors use all standards, c) most EHRs are still using version 2.3 which was released in 1997, and d) each EHR vendor messes up the HL7 standard in their own unique way, causing untold headaches for integration project managers across the country. The joke in the industry is if you have seen one EHR integration, you’ve seen “just one.”

image-1
HL7 versions over the years

HL7 version 3.0 which was released in 2005 was supposed to clear up a lot of this integration mess. It used the Extensible Markup Language (XML) to make it easier for software developers to parse the healthcare messages from the EHR, and it had places to stick just about all of the data a modern healthcare system needs for care coordination. Unfortunately HL7 3.0 didn’t take off and many EHRs didn’t build support for it.

FHIR is the new instantiation of HL7 3.0 using JavaScript Object Notation (JSON), and optionally XML, to do similar things using more modern technology concepts such as Representation State Transfer (REST) with HTTP requests to GET, PUT, POST, and DELETE these resources. Developers love JSON.

FHIR is not ready for prime time and based on how HL7 versions have been rolled out over the years it will not be used in a very large percentage of the medical facilities for several years. The problem the FHIR standard created is a method by which a medical facility could port EHR data from one manufacturer to another. EHR manufacturers don’t want to let this happen so it is doubtful they will completely implement FHIR — especially since it is not a requirement of MU.

And FHIR is still not hardened. There have been fifteen versions of FHIR released over the last two years with six incompatible with earlier versions. We are a year away at best from the standard going from draft to release, so plan on there being even more changes.

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15 versions of FHIR since 2014 with 6 that are incompatible with earlier versions

Another reason for questioning FHIR’s impact is the standard has several ways to transmit and receive data besides HTTP requests. One EHR may use sockets, while another uses file folder delivery, while another uses HTTP requests. This means the need for integration engines still exists and as such the value from moving to FHIR may be reduced.

Lastly, the implementation of FHIR’s query-able interface means hospitals will have to decide if they must host all of their data in a cloud-based system for outside entities to use or become a massive data center running the numerous servers it will take to allow patients with mobile devices to not take down the EHR when physicians need it for mission-critical use.

While the data geek inside me loves the idea of FHIR, my decades of experience performing healthcare integrations with EHRs tell me there is more smoke than there is FHIR right now.

My best advice when it comes to FHIR is to keep using the technologies you have today and if you are not retired by the time FHIR hits its adoption curve, look at it with fresh eyes at that time. I will be eagerly awaiting its arrival, someday.

About Richard Bagdonas
Richard Bagdonas has over 12 years integrating software with more than 40 electronic health record system brands. He is an expert witness on HL7 and EDI-based medical billing. Richard served as a technical consultant to the US Air Force and Pentagon in the mid-1990’s and authored 4 books on telecom/data network design and engineering. Richard is currently the CTO and Chief Healthcare Architect at MI7, a healthcare integration software company based in Austin, TX.

Quality Reporting: A Drain on Practice Resources, New Study Shows

Posted on November 17, 2016 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Steven Marco, CISA, ITIL, HP SA and President of HIPAA One®.
Steven Marco - HIPAA expert
If time is money, medical practices are sure losing a lot of both based on the findings in a new study published in Health Affairs. The key take-a-way, practices spend an average of 785 hours per physician and $15.4 billion per year reporting quality measures to Medicare, Medicaid and private payers.

The study, conducted by researchers from Weill Cornell Medical College, assessed the quality reporting of 1,000 practices, including primary care, cardiology, orthopedic and multi-specialty and the findings are staggering.

Practices reported spending on average 15.1 hours per week per physician on quality measures. Of that 15.1 hours per week, physicians account for 2.6 hours with the rest of the administrative work divided between nurses and medical assistants. About 12 of those 15.1 hours are spent logging data into medical records solely for quality reporting purposes. Additionally, despite a wealth of software tools on the market today, about 80 percent of practices spend more time managing quality measures than they did three years ago and half call it a “significant burden.”

Aside from the major drain on administrative resources, there are heavy financial ramifications for such lengthy and cumbersome reporting as well. The report found practices spend an average of $40,069 per physician for an annual national total of $15.4 billion.

The findings of this study clearly demonstrate the need for greater reporting automation in the healthcare industry. By embracing technology to manage labor-intensive, error-prone and mundane tasks; practices free up their staff to focus on patient care. In the past few years, we have watched electronic medical record (EMR) companies do just that by embracing cloud-based software solutions.
physician-and-administrator-growth-over-time
This overwhelming administrative bloat and financial burden can be addressed by implementing software tools and solutions designed to streamline reporting and compliance management. For example, if your practice or organization is still conducting your annual risk analysis through spreadsheets and other manual methods, it is time to embrace automation and a Security Risk Analysis software solution. Designed to control costs, a cloud based Security Risk Analysis solution automates 78% of the manual labor needed to calculate risk for organizations of all size.

There’s no time like the present to embrace best practices for your quality reporting. Allow technology to do the heavy lifting and free up your resources.

About Steven Marco
Steven Marco is the President of HIPAA One®, leading provider of HIPAA Risk Assessment software for practices of all sizes.  HIPAA One is a proud sponsor of EMR and HIPAA and the effort to make HIPAA compliance more accessible for all practices.  Are you HIPAA Compliant?  Take HIPAA One’s 5 minute HIPAA security and compliance quiz to see if your organization is risk or learn more at HIPAAOne.com.