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For Health IT Opportunities, Look to the Chaos

Posted on October 9, 2013 I Written By

James Ritchie is a freelance writer with a focus on health care. His experience includes eight years as a staff writer with the Cincinnati Business Courier, part of the American City Business Journals network. Twitter @HCwriterJames.

Sunnie Southern, founder and CEO of Viable Synergy, spends her days pushing for health IT innovation. Her firm provides products and consulting services for commercialization and community engagement. One of its best-known projects is Innov8 for Health, a Cincinnati-based tech accelerator. Southern, a registered dietitian who started her firm in 2010, talked about her work and about EMRs — as they are and as they could be.

Sunnie Southern

What does Viable Synergy do?

Viable Synergy specializes in commercializing assets that transform health. It offers consulting services and proprietary products that support the development and deployment of innovative health solutions from concept to customer. This year and next, Viable Synergy is focused on the institutional market by helping hospitals and provider organizations to generate new (non-clinical) revenue from currently available assets.

You are part of the Health Data Consortium. What is that?

The Health Data Consortium is a collaboration among government, non-profit and private sector organizations working to foster the availability and innovative use of data to improve health and health care.

Viable Synergy leads the Ohio Affiliate of the Health Data Consortium through our Innov8 for Health program. HDC Affiliates host events and build local networks of groups including startups, entrepreneurs, health companies, universities, government agencies and other innovators to create an ecosystem around using open data to improve health outcomes for individuals and communities.

Do you think EMRs are reaching their potential in improving health?

We are at the very beginning of a new era of leveraging technology to improve health and care and reduce costs. EHRs are an essential component of gaining access to health data to make better decisions.

What is missing from the equation?

Time. We need time to bring the plans to fruition to increase engagement and activation.

The essential elements are in place:

  • Standards that provide direction on necessary features and now interoperability/accessibility (MU2)
  • Incentives to increase purchase, implementation and meaningful use
  • Awareness within the health care community and beyond about the importance of ensuring that providers and patients have access to the critical information they need to make informed decisions

What goals do you think we should be prioritizing in health IT right now?

Interoperability, integration and convergence. There are so many places that providers and patients must go to access critical information that it is difficult to get a complete picture of a patient’s history or a physician’s patient population. I hope that we will begin to see tools that allow for data to be aggregated from multiple sources and provided in an easily consumable fashion. We’ll also need the appropriate regulations to secure and support the aggregation.

What’s the most exciting thing you see happening in health IT at the moment?

The whole system is being turned inside out and upside down. Everyone across the health care continuum is focusing on how to perform their role better. Innovative solutions are popping up everywhere. The chaos is creating massive opportunities. We really have a chance to make a difference. I believe it is the best time ever to be an entrepreneur in health care. So glad to be a part of it!

Eyes Wide Shut – Teaching to the Meaningful Use Stage 2 Test

Posted on September 30, 2013 I Written By

Mandi Bishop is a healthcare IT consultant and a hardcore data geek with a Master's in English and a passion for big data analytics, who fell in love with her PCjr at 9 when she learned to program in BASIC. Individual accountability zealot, patient engagement advocate, innovation lover and ceaseless dreamer. Relentless in pursuit of answers to the question: "How do we GET there from here?" More byte-sized commentary on Twitter: @MandiBPro.

According to Twitter analytics, one of my more engaging tweets recently stated that Meaningful Use is stifling innovation by requiring that health IT vendors and healthcare providers employ very specific tactics to capture and report on clinical data capture and interoperability standards compliance – ostensibly to engage and empower the patient, and improve coordination of care between providers. Of course, I said it much more succinctly than that. In effect, conforming to the Meaningful Use Stage 2 attestation measures is akin to “teaching to the test”:

Here’s a real-world example of what it means to “teach to the test” of Meaningful Use. In order to qualify for CMS incentive dollars, Meaningful Use Stage 2 Year 1 patient engagement measures must be met, with auditable data captured, in a 90-day contiguous period in 2014. An eligible provider (EP) must demonstrate that 50% of all patients with encounters during that time period have online access to their clinical summary within 4 days of the data becoming available to the provider. 5% of those patients must access the clinical information within the 90 days, and 5% of those patients must leverage secure messaging to communicate relevant health information with the provider. Finally, the MU-certified EMR must proffer patient-specific education materials for 10% of the patients seen during that time.

What I believe the ONC had in mind when they crafted these measures: engaged patients who will log in to their portal after each encounter, review the findings and lab results to assess their own progress and outcomes, read or listen to the condition-specific educational materials provided that resonate with them, and ask more meaningful questions of their providers as a result of this new-found, data-enabled empowerment. That is why they categorize these measures as “patient engagement”, right?

Wrong. This is what “patient engagement” looks like, from the EMR implementation, Meaningful Use-consultant, EP business process standpoint.

First, establish the bare minimum thresholds for meeting the measures. If the EP saw 1000 patients during the same 3-month period the previous year, your denominator is 1000; calculate the numerator for each measure based on that. So, we need 500 patients to have access to their clinical data online; 50 patients must access their information; 50 patients must communicate with their provider via secure messaging; 100 patient encounters must prompt specific educational opportunities.

To meet the 500 patients with online access to their clinical data, patient portal software is preloaded with patient demographic accounts, based on the registration data already available in the EMR. An enrollment request is emailed to the patient or authorized representative (assuming an email address is available in their demographic information). The EMR captures the event of sending this email, which contains the information about how to enroll and access the patient’s medical records via the portal. This measure is met, without the patient acknowledging the portal’s existing, and without any direct communication between provider and patient.

The medical records view and secure messaging measures can be met simultaneously, in a matter of days, by planning to add a few extra minutes to each encounter for 50 patients’ worth of appointments. The EMR has already triggered an email with portal enrollment information to each of the patients in the waiting room on a given day. As the medical assistant (MA) is taking vital stats, she asks whether the patient has enrolled in the portal. It’s likely the patient has not; the MA hands the patient a tablet and has him log in to his email, and walks him through the portal enrollment and initial login process. Once logged in, the MA directs the patient to click the link to view his medical record. That click is recorded, and the “view” measure is met; whether a CCD or C-CCD is actually displayed is irrelevant to the attestation data capture.

Having demonstrated how a patient can view his record, the MA then asks the patient to go into the portal’s message center, to send a test communication to the provider. The patient completes the required fields, and the MA prompts him with a generic health-related question to type into the body of the message. Once the patient hits “Send”, the event is recorded, and the “secure messaging” measure is met.

For all patients, whether portal-users or not, a new process begins when the MA finishes, the provider enters the room and begins her evaluation of each of the 100 patients required to meet the education measure. As the patient talks, the provider is clicking through EMR workflow screens, recording the encounter data. The EMR occasionally prompts with a dialogue box indicating educational materials are available for patients with this diagnosis code, or this lab result. Each dialogue box prompt is recorded by the EMR; the “patient-specific education” measure is met, whether the provider acts on the prompt and discusses or distributes the educational information or not.

To put it simply: the patient never has to log in to a portal to meet the 50% online availability requirement, they don’t have to actually view their records to meet the 5% view requirement, they don’t have to have an actual message exchange with their provider to meet the 5% communication requirement, and they don’t have to receive any tailored materials to meet the 10% education requirement. Once those clicks have been recorded, the actions never have to be repeated; meaningful and ongoing patient engagement is not needed to meet the attestation requirements and receive the incentive dollars.

In a previous post, I introduced my interpretation of the difference between the spirit and letter of the Meaningful Use “law”. By teaching to the test, we’re addressing the letter of the law, only, in its narrowest interpretation. When will we incent vendors and providers to go above and beyond and find ways to truly engage patients in meaningful ways, empowering them with accurate, timely data access and tools to analyze it?

Are State Health Agencies Ready for Meaningful Use Stage 2?

Posted on September 23, 2013 I Written By

James Ritchie is a freelance writer with a focus on health care. His experience includes eight years as a staff writer with the Cincinnati Business Courier, part of the American City Business Journals network. Twitter @HCwriterJames.

As part of its public health objectives, Meaningful Use 2 requires doctors and hospitals to report sizable amounts of information.

The idea is that when significant patterns are forming — an outbreak of a certain disease, for example, or a peculiar cluster of symptoms — they’ll be apparent right away.

But someone has to be in position to receive the data.

The responsibility falls to local and public health departments. Agencies around the country should, theoretically, be preparing for the immunization records, laboratory results and other information they’ll soon be getting.

Just how many will be ready, though, remains to be seen. Many cash-strapped departments lack the IT infrastructure for what’s being asked of them — and the money allocated by the government hasn’t amounted to much, according to a 2012 American Journal of Public Health article by Drs. Leslie Lenert and David Sundwall.

In fact, the authors wrote, the federal effort “has created unfunded mandates that worsen financial strains” on health departments.

There’s a caveat, though: The mandates aren’t really mandates.

“Nothing compels them to do it” except the desire to do the right thing, said Frieda du Toit, owner of Lakeside, Calif.-based Advanced Business Software. “Some directors are interested, some are not. The lack of money is the main thing.”

In our recent interview, du Toit, whose company specializes in information management solutions for health departments, added: “One customer asked me: ‘Am I going to be punished in any way, form or fashion if I don’t support the efforts of my hospitals and care providers?”

Her firm’s Web-based Public Health Information Management System serves cities and counties throughout the United States, including in California, Texas and Connecticut.

The federal government’s goal is for public health agencies to be involved in four administrative tasks to support MU2, according to the Stage 2 Meaningful Use Public Health Reporting Task Force. The task force is a collaboration between the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nonprofit public health associations and public health practitioners.

The first step is to take place before the start of MU2 — that’s Oct. 1, 2013, for hospitals and Jan. 1, 2014, for individual providers.

The tasks:

  • Declaration of readiness. Public health agencies tell the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services what public health initiatives they can support.
  • Registration of intent. Hospitals and providers notify public health agencies in writing what objectives they seek to meet.
  • On-boarding. Medical providers work with health departments work to achieve ongoing Meaningful Use data submission.
  • Acknowledgement. Public health agencies inform providers that reportable data has been received.

For doctors and other eligible professionals, MU2 calls for ongoing submission of electronic data for immunizations. Hospitals are to submit not only immunizations but also reportable laboratory results and syndromic surveillance data.

Health care providers whose local public health departments lack the resources to support MU2 are exempt from the reporting requirements.

In Meaningful Use Stage 3, which health IT journalist Neil Versel wrote is likely to begin in 2017, “electronic health records systems with new capabilities, such as the ability to work with public health alerting systems and on-screen ‘buttons’ for submitting case reports to public health, are envisioned,” according to Lenert and Sundwall.

The authors noted: “Public health departments will be required not just to upgrade their systems once, but also to keep up with evolving changes in the clinical care system” prompted by the regulations.

They proposed cloud computing as a better way. Shared systems and remote hosting, Lenert and Sundwall suggested, could get the work done efficiently and affordably, albeit at a cost to individual jurisdictions’ autonomy.

As EMR adoption grows, it would be a shame not to take advantage of the opportunities for public health. The entire health IT effort being pushed by the federal government is, after all, geared toward improving the health of populations.

Without money for the job, though, public health agencies’ ability to support Meaningful Use will likely always be limited. It looks like a good time to think about committing significant funds, embracing cloud-based solutions or both.

User-friendly EMRs, Meaningful Use Fraud, and DietBet – Around Healthcare Scene

Posted on April 21, 2013 I Written By

Katie Clark is originally from Colorado and currently lives in Utah with her husband and son. She writes primarily for Smart Phone Health Care, but contributes to several Health Care Scene blogs, including EMR Thoughts, EMR and EHR, and EMR and HIPAA. She enjoys learning about Health IT and mHealth, and finding ways to improve her own health along the way.

Many are concerned with the user experience in Health IT – particularly regarding the user-friendliness of EMRs. While it is easy to be overwhelmed by the negative reports, there are businesses and providers working hard to resolve these issues. McKesson is one of those companies, and they were recently recognized for their work at HIMSS13. Will more companies start making efforts like this? 

One step toward making EMRs more user-friendly is, well, making them accessible to patients. Unfortunately, according to a recent Accenture study, 65 percent of doctors believe patients should only have limited access to their health records, and 4 percent believe records should be totally closed. Reasons range from self-consciousness of what a doctor says in a record, to being uncomfortable with using digital records. Allowing patient-access may very well be a huge cultural shift for doctors everywhere.

In order to pass Meaningful Use stage 1, one must indicate which EMR was adopted. But, according to BuildYourEMR.com’s CEO, Mike Jensen, 74 percent of the providers who stated they were using his EMR…weren’t. If this is similar across the board, around 5.4 billion dollars were paid in error for incentives. While this isn’t likely to be the case, it’s pretty sad the lengths people will go to in order to get some extra money. EMR vendors need to start going over their CMS data in order to help prevent this fraudulent behavior.

If money was at stake for you to lose weight, would that motivate you? For most people, it probably would. DietBet takes the desire people have to lose weight and pairs it with the innate desire to have money, and creates a weight-loss game. If you lose 4 percent of your body weight in four weeks, you get part of the money pot for the group you are in. If you don’t, you lose the amount you paid to participate in the first place.

John recently had the opportunity to go to TEDMED as a guest of the Breakaway Group (A Xerox company)
. It was a great experience for him, and highlights can be found @ehrandhit or searching #simplehealth on Twitter. John recounts some of key takeaways from TEDMED, and suggests some of the major themes that will likely be seen in healthcare.

Rural Hospital EHR

Posted on April 2, 2013 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 6000 articles with John having written over 3000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 13 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.

As I mentioned in my previous post on EHR Penalties and Meaningful Use Failure, I had a really good discussion with Stoltenberg Consulting about rural hospital EHR at HIMSS this year. While Stoltenberg no doubt works with hospital systems of every size, I could tell that they had a real affection for the rural hospital EHR challenge. Plus, it was great to be educated some more on the challenges rural hospitals face when it comes to meaningful use and EHR since I’ve been doing a lot more writing about it on my Hospital EMR and EHR website.

I collected a few observations from my chat that I think are worth talking about when it comes to the unique rural hospital EHR situation. One of those ideas is the challenge that rural hospitals have in providing EHR help desk support. It’s worth remembering that hospitals are 24/7 institutions that need 24/7 support in many cases. Now imagine trying to staff an EHR help desk for a small rural hospital. From what I’ve seen, most can barely have an IT support help desk available, let alone an EHR help desk. Stoltenberg Consulting wisely sees this as a great opportunity for EHR consults to provide this type of service to rural hospitals. If you spread the cost of a 24/7 EHR help desk across multiple hospitals, the costs start to make sense.

Another interesting observation was that most rural hospitals are mostly Medicare and Medicaid funded. I’m not an expert on the pay scales of rural America, but when you look at the costs of living in the rural areas you realize that they don’t need to make as much money to live. Plus, I imagine in some cases there just aren’t that many jobs available to them. If they aren’t making as much money, then they’re more likely to qualify for Medicare and Medicaid. Why does this matter?

The amount of Medicare a rural hospital has matters a lot since if they don’t show “meaningful use” of a “certified EHR” then they will incur the meaningful use penalties. It’s simple math to see that the more Medicare reimbursement you receive the larger the EHR penalty you’ll incur.

There’s something that doesn’t feel right about the rich hospitals who’ve likely implemented an EHR before the stimulus getting paid the EHR incentive money while rural hospitals who can barely afford to keep their doors open getting not only penalties, but large penalties because of their large Medicare reimbursement. It’s probably water under a bridge now, but I could see why Stoltenberg Consulting suggested that rural and community hospitals should have been given more time to show meaningful use of an EHR.

As I mentioned, I’m still learning about the rural hospital EHR space, but I found these points quite interesting. If you have a different view or have experience that differs, I’d love to hear about it in the comments. No doubt there are thousands of unique rural environments and I’d love to learn more about them and how they’re approaching EHR. Please share your experiences and thoughts in the comments.

EHR Penalties after Meaningful Use Failure

Posted on March 15, 2013 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 6000 articles with John having written over 3000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 13 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.

While at HIMSS I had a discussion with the consulting firm Stoltenberg Consulting. I was really intrigued by their approach to EHR consulting and will likely write more about it later. Plus, the started what in many ways became a theme of my HIMSS experience around rural healthcare EHR. You can be sure I’ll be writing about rural EHR here on this site and on Hospital EMR and EHR much more in the future.

In our casual introductory conversation we had a good discussion about how many of the smaller hospitals look at meaningful use and the EHR incentive money. Needless to say, many of these smaller institutions are faced with a huge challenge when it comes to adopting an EHR and showing meaningful use. Many of these rural hospitals barely have an IT staff and the CFO usually takes care of the IT environment. I heard one story at HIMSS where the IT person at a rural hospital started out as the janitor and his home IT skill made him the most qualified person to help.

Needless to say, rural and smaller hospitals have some real challenges facing them when it comes to EHR adoption and showing meaningful use of that EHR. Although, an even worse thought struck me in my discussions about these smaller hospitals.

Imagine many of these smaller hospitals making a good faith effort to adopt EHR and show meaningful use. It’s not that hard to see many of these hospitals falling short of the meaningful use standard. What will this mean to that organization? They’ve spent millions on an EHR. They won’t get the EHR incentive money they likely used as a justification for the EHR spending. To add insult to injury, now they’re going to get penalized for not being meaningful users of an EHR.

This scenario honestly makes me sick to even consider. Something similar could easily happen in small ambulatory practices as well. The scale of the damage will just be different. I expect in meaningful use stage 1 this won’t likely be a problem since it’s self attestation. However, this could become a much bigger issue in meaningful use stage 2.

Although, consider an organization who fails a meaningful use stage 1 audit. In most cases you can’t go back and fix whatever you failed in the audit. You’d be in a very similar situation where you have to return the EHR incentive money and would be open to the meaningful use penalties. At least that’s my understanding of how the EHR penalties will be implemented. If you know otherwise, I’d love to hear it.

While I think the above scenarios are brutal, hopefully this will also serve as a warning for those hospitals pursuing EHR and the EHR incentive money. Be sure you are able to show meaningful use or you’ll not only lose out on the incentive money, but you’ll also be open to the EHR penalties. Not to mention, are you ready for a meaningful use audit?

EMR Companies, Leveling the Playing Field, and The Eatery: Around Healthcare Scene

Posted on February 10, 2013 I Written By

Katie Clark is originally from Colorado and currently lives in Utah with her husband and son. She writes primarily for Smart Phone Health Care, but contributes to several Health Care Scene blogs, including EMR Thoughts, EMR and EHR, and EMR and HIPAA. She enjoys learning about Health IT and mHealth, and finding ways to improve her own health along the way.

EMR and EHR

What Really Differentiates EHR Companies?

EHR companies are a dime-a-dozen. So what makes them different? While price is sometimes a big deal to some, it isn’t an indicator of success. Marketing and sales can make a difference as well to some. However, there are a few things that should differentiate EHR companies. This includes the importance of efficiency.

Android’s Advantage Over iPhone in Mobile Health Applications

While many in the healthcare world love the iPhone, Android devices may present more options to healthcare professionals. Android offers more customization than the iPhone, and has more flexibility. It may cause developers more headaches, as the iPhone only requires them to only code their application once to work with most iOS devices. But the benefits are countless.

Hospital EMR and EHR

Level the Playing Field with RACs as They Enter Practice Settings

This article is by Lori Brocato, Director of Audit at HealthPort. She lists four ways that hospitals can do to level the playing field with RACs. These reasons are: knowledge is power, it’s a team effort, connect the dots, and learn from mistakes.

How EMR Vendors and Providers Can Partner Effectively

The LinkedIn HIMSS group posed the question — what does a good partnership between an EMR vendor and a provider look like? This post includes a few of Anne Zieger’s thoughts on this question.

Smart Phone Healthcare

The Eatery: A Visual Food Diary

The Eatery puts a twist on the typical food diary — instead of recording food, you take a picture. The user then can rate their food, and others can too.

Telemedicine, Accenture, and Influenza App – Around Healthcare Scene

Posted on January 27, 2013 I Written By

Katie Clark is originally from Colorado and currently lives in Utah with her husband and son. She writes primarily for Smart Phone Health Care, but contributes to several Health Care Scene blogs, including EMR Thoughts, EMR and EHR, and EMR and HIPAA. She enjoys learning about Health IT and mHealth, and finding ways to improve her own health along the way.

EMR and EHR

When The EMR *Is* The Problem

Anne Zieger talks about a recent experience at the doctor’s office that took more time than it needed to because of an EMR. While EMRs are meant to increase efficiency and workflow, it isn’t always the case. How can these problems be addressed?

New Telemedicine Starts Bode Well For EMRs

Jennifer Dennard interviewed Sande Olson, a senior health consultant at Olson & Associates about the future of telemedicine technology. She discusses how it has changed recently, a possible trick down effect from the ACA, and integration of telemedicine into EMRs.

Hospital EMR and EHR

What Hospitals Can Learn From Hospitals

Airports are crowded, filled with germs, and just frustrating sometimes. However, there are a few things, technology-wise, that airports do well with, and hospitals should pay attention to. This post talks about three different things hospitals can learn from airports, including having kiosks and big screen displays.

Accenture: Five Questions Hospital Boards Should Ask Before EMR Buys

A study done by Accenture found that about four percent of hospitals will be making an EMR purchase in the next year. Partly because of this, Accenture has compiled a list of questions that should be asked before purchasing an EMR.  They suggest having these questions answered by an independent analysis of EMR vendors.

Smart Phone Healthcare 

CDC Release Influenza App

The CDC has released another app. This time, it focuses on the flu. Because this year’s flu season has run rampant throughout the United States, this app can be very helpful, particularly for physicians. It contains information concerning where outbreaks are happening, the vaccine, and tips on how to stay healthy.

Health IT Hazards, Selecting the Right EHR, and Withings Wireless Scale – Around Healthcare Scene

Posted on December 2, 2012 I Written By

Katie Clark is originally from Colorado and currently lives in Utah with her husband and son. She writes primarily for Smart Phone Health Care, but contributes to several Health Care Scene blogs, including EMR Thoughts, EMR and EHR, and EMR and HIPAA. She enjoys learning about Health IT and mHealth, and finding ways to improve her own health along the way.

Hospital EMR and EHR

Health IT Stands Out In Health Technology Hazards List

The Top 10 Health Technology Hazards list was recently released by ECRI. And this year, two of the hazards that made the list are health IT related – patient/data mismatches in EHRs and other HIT systems, and, interoperability failures with medical devices and health IT systems. Anne Zeiger predicts that more HIT issues will top this list in the future.

Patients Accessing Online Medical Records Use More Services

A new study revealed something interesting — patients who use online access to medical records are likely to use more clinical services than those who do not. The Journal of the American Medical Association drew this conclusion after studying members of Kaiser. Kaiser has had a patient portal in place since 2006, which made it an ideal candidate for this study.

EMR and EHR

10 Tips for Selecting the Right EHR

In the market for a new EHR? Or perhaps just implementing one? This post highlights 10 tips on selecting the right EHR for your practice, as presented by Insight Data Group. Some of the suggestions include making sure the EHR is easy to use and customized, and use the government’s money to pay for your EHR.

Meaningful Healthcare IT News

Social and Mobile Continue to Converge in Healthcare

An interesting infographic is shown and discussed in this post. It is called “How Health Consumers Engage Online,” and reveals some interesting facts about the digital and health world. According to it, more people in the United States own a smart phone than a tooth brush, and 23 percent of people use social media to follow the health experiences of a friend. This definitely presents some fascinating data that is worth reading.

Smart Phone Health Care

New Withings Wireless Internet Scale Hits the Market

A new scale was recently released, and it does more than just tell a person how much they weigh. It tracks numerous variables, including BMI, and can be synced to various mHealth apps. There is also an app that goes along with the scale as well. It is a bit pricey at over $100, but it definitely “tips the scales” when it comes to scales.

Smart Phone Enabled Thermometer Approved By FDA

The “Raiing” is the newest in smart phone technology. It’s a high-tech, yet easy-to-use, thermometer, designed for iOS devices. It is placed under the armpit, and can actually track a person’s temperature over time. If a temperature reaches a certain number, an alarm will go off on the connected smart phone. This can help give parent’s peace of mind, as a sick child sleeps.

Verizon Launches HIPAA-Compliant Cloud Services

Posted on October 4, 2012 I Written By

Katherine Rourke is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

Last month, I shared some of Verizon’s big plans for the medical space with you, including their desire to become the industry’s default carrier of secure healthcare data.  This week, Verizon has launched its cloud service line, and I wanted to share some of the details on how it’s set up with you.

Verizon’s Enterprise Solutions division is offering five “healthcare-enabled” services, including colocation, managed hosting, enterprise cloud, an “enterprise cloud express edition” and enterprise cloud private edition. In addition to the services, Verizon provides a HIPAA Business Associate Agreement which, one would assume, is particularly stringent in how it safeguards data storage and tranmission between parties.

The new Verizon services will be offered through cloud-enabled data centers in Miami and Culpeper, Va. run by Terremark, which Verizon acquired some time ago. Security standards include PCI-DSS Level 1 compliance, ITIL v3-based best practices and facility clearances up to the Department of Defense, Verizon reports.

In addition to meeting physical standards for HIPAA compliance, Verizon has trained workers at the former Terremark facilities on the specifics of handling ePHI, Verizon exec Dr. Peter Tippett told Computerworld magazine.

You won’t be surprised to learn that Verizon is also pitching its (doubtless very expensive) health IT consulting services as well to help clients take advantage of all of this cloud wonderfulness.

Not surprisingly, Verizon notes in its press release that “each client remains responsible for ensuring that it complies with  HIPAA and all other applicable laws and applications.”  If I were Verizon, I’d be saying that too, and doubtless states the obvious. That being said, it does make me wonder just how much they manage to opt out of in their business associate agreement.  Call me crazy, but I think they’d want to leave as much wiggle room as humanly possible.

The bigger question, as I see it, is how big the market for these services really is at present. According to the Computerworld story, only 16.5 percent of healthcare providers use public or private clouds right now. Verizon may be able to turn things around on the strength of its brand alone, but there’s no g uarantees. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.