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GDPR and Why U.S. Healthcare Providers Should Care

Posted on April 19, 2018 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 expertThe European Union (EU) has drafted guidance to give citizens more control over their personal data, so what does this mean for U.S. based healthcare providers?

On May 25, 2018, the EU will roll out General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a new set of rules that is similar in nature to HIPAA compliance for EU countries. The effort to create GDPR started years ago in January 2012, when the European Commission began working on plans to create data protection reform across the EU so that European countries would have greater controls in place to manage information in the digital age. Additionally, GDPR aims to simplify the regulatory environment for businesses so both European citizens and businesses can benefit from a digital economy.

Being that GDPR has not yet taken effect, there are aspects to this new framework that are difficult to fully understand and define at this time yet we do know that U.S. companies DO NOT need to have business operations in one of the 28-member states of the EU to be impacted by GDPR. The new set of rules will require organizations around the world that hold data belonging to individuals who live in the EU to a high level of protection and must be able to account for where every bit of data is stored.

The good news is a large majority of U.S. based healthcare providers will be relatively safe in terms of complying with GDPR. If your organization is not actively marketing your services in the EU or practicing in the EU, a data breach where an EU citizen’s PHI is compromised would most likely be your most realistic brush with GDPR.

For instance, a walk-clinic in New York City seeing many international tourists has a much higher chance of being impacted than say a rural clinic treating mostly local residents. Providers in larger cities with more diverse patient groups will need to be extra vigilant regarding their breach notification standards and security posture.

Want to learn more about how your healthcare organization can prepare for GDPR? Read this HIPAA One blog post to learn how your practice can prepare now for a more international data sharing climate.

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.

Why Physician Practices Need a MIPS Expert on Staff

Posted on April 16, 2018 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Marina Verdara, Sr. Training Specialist for CMS Incentive Programs, Kareo.

Healthcare providers go to school to learn how to care for patients, and that’s what they do best. However, billing processes, performance-based payment adjustments, and payment incentives are typically not included in this education. Being responsible for today’s regulatory complexities and workload may not have been what providers envisioned for their career. And it’s taking a toll. Nearly half of physician practices spend more than $40,000 per full-time physician per year on complying with Medicare payment and incentive programs, according to an MGMA survey. These costs factor in loss of physician productivity and staff training needs, along with IT expenses.

Independent practices must find a way to streamline the CMS incentive program reporting process. One important way to do this is by designating a “MIPS expert” among your staff. This could be your lead clinician or another manager who has oversight of patient encounter documentation.  While 2017 reporting is done, now is the time to specify the MIPS expert so they can ensure compliance throughout all of 2018.  Don’t wait until 2018 is done to specify your MIPS expert.

MIPS Recap

In 2015, The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced new goals for value-based payments in Medicare that changed your practice’s payment structure. The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) and the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) introduced a system where providers receive payment based on the value and quality of services provided, not the volume. These changes repealed the Sustainable Growth Rate Formula, streamlined multiple quality reporting programs into MIPS, and provided incentive payments for participation in Advanced Alternative Payment Models (APMs).

HHS made these changes as the first steps to creating a Medicare for healthier people. Their goals are to create a Medicare system that will be here for generations to come while also providing open, flexible, and user-centered health information.

Navigating The System

This sounds like a great plan, right? But, how do you keep up with the frequent MIPS changes and alerts while maintaining a successful private practice?

You need a MIPS expert.

You wouldn’t leave your busy practice in the hands of a mechanic, and you shouldn’t leave your billing and incentive payments in the hands of someone who doesn’t understand MACRA and MIPS. You need an internal staff member who is your MIPS champion. This is the person who can partner with your EHR vendor to ensure that the eligible providers in your practice earn the highest incentive available, as well as avoid any negative penalties. In my role of training practices on implementing a streamlined CMS reporting system, I can tell you that practices with a designated MIPS expert are much more successful and efficient in their MIPS reporting process—and these are the practices that are earning the highest possible score.

Invest in the education and training of your internal MIPS expert so you can be confident that your practice is among the highest earners.

3 Reasons You Need a MIPS Expert at Your Practice

1. A MIPS expert will help maximize your payments. MIPS is all about streamlining your practice to become more efficient in how you diagnose and improve patient outcomes. When you do this well and report your data, you increase your chances of earning a positive payment adjustment.  

Participating in MIPS earns you a payment adjustment according to evidence-based and practice-specific quality data. The better the quality of your data, the better your chances of earning a positive payment adjustment.  

Your MIPS expert will understand the details of the MIPS program. They should be familiar with the activities and measures that are most meaningful to your practice. Your MIPS expert can help your eligible clinicians select measures that best apply to the specialty to prove their performance and maximize their payments.

2. A MIPS expert will be your education partner. This staff member should stay educated and informed of the latest regulatory details. Here at Kareo, we notify eligible clinicians and the designated MIPS expert of ongoing education opportunities. These are offered on a set schedule and as needed with new changes to MACRA and MIPS.

3. A MIPS expert will mobilize your practice staff and clinicians. To successfully meet MIPS requirements, the entire practice needs to be engaged. The MIPS expert can partner up with your EHR vendor to ensure that eligible clinicians in your practice understand the MIPS requirements and know how to navigate through the system. In this process, your practice can identify areas where any given workflow should be modified to earn the highest possible score and receive maximum payment for the great care they deliver.

Resources for Your MIPS Expert

As we mentioned above, MIPS experts at independent practices must stay up to date on all MIPS alerts and resources available to you through the Quality Payment Program. They should take time to educate themselves, understand changes, and read all alerts provided by Medicare or by their EHR vendors.

Your MIPS expert should be able to find an education partner using one or both of these paths:   

  1. Your Regional Extension Center: Contact them to ask questions and get connected with a MIPS education partner.
  2. Your Electronic Health Record company: As an example, Kareo has MIPS training specialists who can partner with your MIPS expert to help maximize payments, stay up to date on the latest changes, and provide support. We have training sessions and ideas for implementation of new workflow processes.  

Don’t be intimidated by the complexity of MIPS. Take time to designate a MIPS expert on your staff and get them connected to their education partner today.

About Marina Verdara
Marina is a Sr. Training Specialist guiding Kareo customers to higher levels of success with their CMS Incentive Program reporting, including MIPS and Meaningful Use. Marina has over seven years of experience working directly with several hundred small practice clinicians on a variety of projects specializing on CMS Incentive programs such as Meaningful Use, PQRS, and MACRA. Kareo is a proud sponsor of Healthcare Scene.

Why I Didn’t Choose Your Healthcare Organization

Posted on April 12, 2018 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Chelsea Kimbrough from Stericycle Communication Solutions, as part of the Communication Solutions Series of blog posts. Follow and engage with them on Twitter: @StericycleComms

Chelsea Kimbrough

I recently had a bad healthcare experience. I received functional care, but I wasn’t cared for. As in, I’m fairly certain my doctor didn’t know my name when she walked into the room or when she left it. To her, I was another patient in a crowded schedule. To me, it was a rushed, impersonal experience that left me with absolutely no desire to trust my wellbeing in her hands.

As someone who is familiar with the healthcare space, I’m the first to admit that finding a new provider is hard work – and finding one that meets each of your communication expectations is even harder. But after that appointment, I was more than up for the challenge.

It’s important to note that I’m a proud millennial who is accustomed to the service and support provided in other industries. When I wanted to make a dinner reservation last night, I did it via a mobile app. When I needed a great blazer to wear to a conference, I requested one in my clothes subscription box. I am an all-access-at-all-hours type of person. So when it came time to schedule an appointment, I turned to the place where I, the consumer, felt I had the most power: the internet.

But first, I needed to find a new doctor. I leveraged a process that went something like this:

  1. I opened multiple review-focused sites.
  2. I searched for what I needed (i.e. ‘family practitioner within 10 miles of my zip code’).
  3. I filtered results to ensure my search only displayed doctors with the rating and characteristics I prefer.
  4. I began the tedious process of cross referencing their profiles on different sites.
  5. When I thought I found a keeper, I scoured their organization’s website for more information.
  6. And then, I dug into any information I could find online to learn more about the doctor.

This process eliminated doctors who had poor reviews, who lacked information available online, and who had questionable posts on social media. (Seriously, everything is available online these days – and digitally-savvy patients like me will find it.)

In the end, I narrowed my search to a handful of local, highly-rated doctors and organizations. But what I was searching for wasn’t just someone with a great online rating and an office close to my front door, I was looking for someone who:

  • Communicates information quickly via text message
  • Calls patients to communicate more important messages
  • Offers online scheduling that doesn’t require a formal login
  • Keeps average wait times down
  • Creates genuine connections with their patients

In short, I wanted to find an organization that provides exceptional in-person care, prompt telephone support, and convenient technology-based tools. Anyone who seemed lacking was unceremoniously crossed off my ‘potential new doctor’ list.  And I’m not the only one who goes to these lengths: in today’s digitally-empowered world, there are more healthcare consumers than ever flexing their online search superpowers before entrusting their care to any healthcare professional.

Unfortunately, the process isn’t perfect. Bad experiences happen, and when they do, patients like me may choose to look elsewhere for care. On the other hand, when we find a healthcare organization that does provide all of the above, we receive a more seamless, enjoyable experience. And when met with a better experience, we are less likely to choose a different provider, facility, or organization to provide future care.

Want to learn more about consumer-minded patients’ healthcare journeys? Check out our patient journey infographic here!

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

Should Apps with Personal Health Information Be Subject to HIPAA?

Posted on April 10, 2018 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Erin Gilmer (@GilmerHealthLaw).

With news of Grindr’s sharing of user’s HIV status and location data, many wonder how such sensitive information could be so easily disclosed and the answer is quite simply a lack of strong privacy and security standards for apps.  The question then becomes whether apps that store personal health information should be subject to HIPAA? Should apps like Grindr have to comply with the Privacy and Security Rules as doctors, insurance companies, and other covered entities already do?

A lot of people already think this information is protected by HIPAA as they do not realize that HIPAA only applies to “covered entities” (health care providers, health plans, and health care clearininghouses) and “business associates” (companies that contract with covered entities).  Grindr is neither of these. Nor are most apps that address health issues – everything from apps with mental health tools to diet and exercise trackers. These apps can store all manner of information ranging simply from a name and birthdate to sensitive information including diagnoses and treatments.

Grindr is particularly striking because under HIPAA, there are extra protections for information including AIDS/HIV status, mental health diagnoses, genetics, and substance abuse history.  Normally, this information is highly protected and rightly so given the potential for discrimination. The privacy laws surrounding this information were hard fought by patients and advocates who often experienced discrimination themselves.

However, there is another reason this is particularly important in Grindr’s case and that’s the issue of public health.  Just a few days before it was revealed that the HIV status of users had been exposed, Grindr announced that it would push notifications through the app to remind users to get tested.  This was lauded as a positive move and added to the culture created on this app of openness. Already users disclose their HIV status, which is a benefit for public health and reducing the spread of the disease. However, if users think that this information will be shared without explicit consent, they may be less likely to disclose their status. Thus, not having privacy and security standards for apps with sensitive personal health information, means these companies can easily share this information and break the users’ trust, at the expense of public health.

Trust is one of the same reasons HIPAA itself exists.  When implemented correctly, the Privacy and Security Rules lend themselves to creating an environment of safety where individuals can disclose information that they may not want others to know.  This then allows for discussion of mental health issues, sexually transmitted diseases, substance use issues, and other difficult topics. The consequences of which both impact the treatment plan for the individual and greater population health.

It would be sensible to apply a framework like HIPAA to apps to ensure the privacy and security of user data, but certainly some would challenge the idea.  Some may make the excuse that is often already used in healthcare, that HIPAA stifles innovation undue burden on their industry and technology in general.  While untrue, this rhetoric holds sway with government entities who may oversee these companies.

To that end, there is a question of who would regulate such a framework? Would it fall to the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) where HIPAA regulation is already overseen? The OCR itself is overburdened, taking months to assess even the smallest of HIPAA complaints.  Would the FDA regulate compliance as they look to regulate more mobile apps that are tied to medical devices?  Would the FCC have a roll?  The question of who would regulate apps would be a fight in itself.

And finally, would this really increase privacy and security? HIPAA has been in effect for over two decades and yet still many covered entities fail to implement proper privacy and security protocols.  This does not necessarily mean there shouldn’t be attempts to address these serious issues, but some might question whether the HIPAA framework would be the best model.  Perhaps a new model, with new standards and consequences for noncompliance should be considered.

Regardless, it is time to start really addressing privacy and security of personal health information in apps. Last year, both Aetna and CVS Caremark violated patient privacy sending mail to patients where their HIV status could be seen through the envelope window. At present it seems these cases are under review with the OCR. But the OCR has been tough on these disclosures. In fact, in May 2017, St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital Center Inc. paid the OCR $387,200 in a settlement for a breach of privacy information including the HIV status of a patient. So the question is, if as a society, we recognize the serious nature of such disclosures, should we not look to prevent them in all settings – whether the information comes from a healthcare entity or an app?

With intense scrutiny of privacy and security in the media for all aspects of technology, increased regulation may be around the corner and the framework HIPAA creates may be worth applying to apps that contain personal health information.

About Erin Gilmer
Erin Gilmer is a health law and policy attorney and patient advocate. She writes about a range of issues on different forums including technology, disability, social justice, law, and social determinants of health. She can be found on twitter @GilmerHealthLaw or on her blog at www.healthasahumanright.wordpress.com.

#HIMSS18: Oh The Humanity

Posted on April 2, 2018 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Sean Erreger, LCSW or @StuckonSW as some of you may know him.

It was a privilege to attend the 2018 HIMSS global conference this year. Having blogged and tweeted about Health IT for a couple of years, it was great to finally live it. By taking a deep dive, attending presentations, demoing products, and networking; I came to a greater understanding of how Health IT tackles the problems I hope to solve. From a social work perspective, I continue to be fascinated with the idea that technology can facilitate change.  Getting lost in artificial intelligence, machine learning, natural language processing, and predictive analytics was easy. It was exciting to learn the landscape of solutions, amount of automation, and workflow management possible. As a care manager, I believe these tools can be incredibly impactful.

However, despite all the technology and solutions, came the reminder that Health IT is a human process. There were two presentations that argued that we can’t divorce the humanity from health information technology process.  First was on the value of behavioral science and secondly a presentation on provider burnout and physician suicide.

The Value Of Behavioral Science

This was a panel presentation and discussion moderated by Dr. Amy Bucher of Mad*Pow including Dr. Heather Cole-Lewis of Johnson and Johnson, Dr. David Ahern of the FCC, and Dr. John Torous of Harvard Medical school. All experts were a part of projects related to Personal Connected Health Alliance. They asked attendees to consider the following challenges and how behavior science play a role…

Questions like how do we measure outcome and defining what “engagement” look like are key to how we build Health IT.  Yes, things like apps and wearables are cool but how do we measure their success. This can often be a challenge. It often feels like health IT is trying to outdo each other about who is coming up with the coolest piece of technology. However, when we get down to the nuts and bolts and start to measure engagement in technology, we might not like the results…

This presentation reminded me that technology is not often enough. Valuing the importance of “meeting people where they are”, may not include technology at all. We have to challenge ourselves to look ethically at the evidence and ensure that digital health is something a patient may or may not want.

Technology as a Solution to Physician Burnout and Suicide

It was reassuring to know even before I got to HIMSS that suicide prevention was going to be part of the conversation. Janae Sharpe and Melissa McCool presented on physician suicide and tools to potentially prevent it. This presents another human aspect of Health IT, the clinicians that use them. The facts about physician suicide are hard to ignore…

As someone who has done presentations about burnout and secondary trauma, I am acutely aware of how stressful clinical care can be.  It is unclear whether technology is a cause but it is certainly a factor, even in physician suicide. The research on this complex, but to blame the paperwork demands for burnout and physician suicide is tricky. To attribute a cause to things is always a challenge but my take away is that the Health IT community might be part of the problem but the presenters made a compelling case that it should be part of the solution. That not only reducing clicks and improving workflow is needed but providing support is critical.

They talked about the need to measure “burnout” and see how the Health IT community can design technology to support those at risk.  They have created a scale called the Sharp Index to try to measure physician burnout and also build technology to provide support. This seems to be striving for that right mix between measurement in the hopes of making space for human processes in a complex technology space.

Cooking The Mix Between Tech and Human Care

These presentations leave Health IT with many questions. Apps to provide a means of clinical care exist but are they working? How can we tell we are getting digital health right? How can we tell if technology is making a difference in patients’ lives? How do we define “success” of an app? Is technology having a negative impact on clinical care and clinicians themselves? If so, how do we measure that?

These questions force us to take an intentional look at how we measure outcomes but more importantly how we define them. Both presentations stressed the multi-disciplinary nature of health information technology development.  That no matter what the technology, you need to ask what problem does it solve and for who? As we consider building out AI and other automation we need to keep the humanity in healthcare.  So we can better care for ourselves as providers and ask what patients need in a human centered manner.

For a deeper dive into each presentation, I have created twitter recaps of both the Behavioral Science Panel and the presentation on Physician Suicide.

About Sean Erreger
Sean is Licensed Clinical Social Worker in New York. He is interested in technology and how it is facilitating change in a variety of areas. Within Health IT is interested in how it can include mental health, substance abuse, and information about social determinants. He can be found at his blog www.stuckonsocialwork.com.

Healthcare Dashboards, Data, and FHIR

Posted on March 30, 2018 I Written By

The following is a guest blog by Monica Stout from MedicaSoft

We live in a dashboard society. We love our dashboards! We have mechanisms to track, analyze, and display all sorts of data at our fingertips any time of the day or night and everywhere we turn. We like it that way! Data is knowledge. Data is power. Data drives decisions. Data is king.

But what about healthcare data? Specifically, what about YOUR healthcare data? Is it all available in one place where you can easily access it, analyze it, and make decisions about your health? Chances are, it’s not. Most likely, it’s locked up inside various EHRs and many tethered (read: connected to the provider, not shareable to other providers) patient portals you received access to when you visited your doctors for various appointments. In some cases, the information that is there might not be correct. In other cases, there might not be much data there at all.

How are you supposed to act as an informed patient or caregiver when you don’t have your data or accurate data for those you are caring for? When health information is spread across multiple portals and the onus is on you to remember every login and password and what data is where for each of these portals, are you really using them effectively? Do you want to use them? It’s not very easy to connect the dots when the dots can’t be located because they’re in different places in varying degrees of completeness.

How do we fix this? What steps need to be taken? Aggregating our health information isn’t just collecting the raw data and calling it a complete record. It’s more than being able to send files back and forth. It’s critical to get your data right, at the core, as part of your platform. That’s what lets you build useful services, like a patient dashboard, or a provider EHR, or a payer analytics capability. A modern data model that represents your health information as a longitudinal patient record is key.

Many IT companies have realized HL7 FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources) is the preferred way to get there and are exploring its uses for interoperability. These companies have started using FHIR to map health information from their current data models to FHIR in order to allow information exchange.

This is just the beginning, though. If you want robust records that support models of the future, you need a powerful, coherent data model, like FHIR, as your internal data model, too.  Then take it a step further and use technologies similar to those used by other enterprise scale systems like Netflix and LinkedIn, to give patients and caregivers highly available, scalable, and responsive tools just like their other consumer-facing applications. Solutions that are built on legacy systems can’t scale in this way and offer these benefits.

Our current healthcare IT environment hasn’t made it easy for patients to aggregate their health information or aggregated it for them. If we want to meet the needs of today and tomorrow’s patients and caregivers, we need patient-centric systems designed to make it easy to gather health information from all sources – doctors, hospitals, laboratories, HIEs, and personal health devices and smartphones.

About Monica Stout
Monica is a HIT teleworker in Grand Rapids, Michigan by way of Washington, D.C., who has consulted at several government agencies, including the National Aeronautics Space Administration (NASA) and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). She’s currently the Marketing Director at MedicaSoft. Monica can be found on Twitter @MI_turnaround or @MedicaSoftLLC.

About MedicaSoft
MedicaSoft  designs, develops, delivers, and maintains EHR, PHR, and UHR software solutions and HISP services for healthcare providers and patients around the world. MedicaSoft is a proud sponsor of Healthcare Scene. For more information, visit www.medicasoft.us or connect with us on Twitter @MedicaSoftLLC, Facebook, or LinkedIn.

The Win-Win of Today’s Telemedicine Technology for All Practices

Posted on March 22, 2018 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Sean Brindley, Product Development Manager, Kareo Telemedicine

The healthcare profession has been talking about telemedicine and its potential benefits almost as long as there have been phones. Over the last five years, adoption of telemedicine programs has increased steadily, but for some practices, particularly smaller, independent offices, the questions loom larger. How disruptive will adopting telemedicine be to office workflow? Will telemedicine overburden office staff? What are the risks involved in trying it? How will they get reimbursed for the investment? And, most important, what benefits can telemedicine bring to the individual practice that offset the impact of the learning curve?

Unlike even one or two years ago, today’s answers are mostly positive.

Reimbursement Is Real

Let’s tackle the big question first – reimbursement. Starting at the simplest point, most practices today give away a lot of practitioner time in telephone consults that are not reimbursable. Finding a way to generate revenue on even some of those would be a boon to most practices. But the news is far more positive than that. Thirty-five states, plus eight more pending, have enacted telemedicine parity requiring certain payers to pay for telemedicine consultations just as they would reimburse face-to-face visits. Private payers have been at the forefront of telemedicine adoption, likely recognizing telemedicine as a highly cost-effective delivery system for healthcare.  At the same time, a recent bill (The Creating High-Quality Results and Outcomes Necessary to Improve Chronic (CHRONIC) Care Act of 2017), has relaxed the restriction on Medicare reimbursements for telemedicine, and while Medicaid reimbursement varies substantially from state to state, there are places where the reimbursement practices go further than Medicare. All practices should carefully review the rules and regulations in their states. Parity doesn’t always mean parity. This is why it’s an advantage to have a telemedicine visit option that’s built into the EHR and practice management system, not a separate application. This ensures a smooth reimbursement process. For example, in Kareo when a video appointment is scheduled, the system automatically verifies that the patient is covered for telemedicine. This removes much of the burden from the office staff and greatly increases the chances that the telemedicine program will provide a revenue stream for the office.

What’s In It For Practices?

Beyond the potential for reimbursing telemedicine visits, how will telemedicine impact the operation of offices? First, telemedicine can increase the number of daily or weekly visits without increasing the practitioner’s work hours because visits conducted via most well-designed telemedicine systems take less time than an in-person visit. For example, a practice with three providers who each add two video visits per day, at an average reimbursement of $72, will earn an extra $103,680 in revenue over the course of a year. Telemedicine also greatly reduces the number of no-shows and cancellations. Patients with a telemedicine appointment are less likely to cancel because of work issues, transportation, child care, or just plain forgetting. An office appointment that has to be cancelled at the last minute can even be changed to a video visit, keeping the patient on track and not wasting the practitioner’s time. Having telemedicine available makes a practice more competitive against the rising number of “convenient” healthcare outlets like urgent care, walk-ins and on-demand care.

What’s In It For Patients?

Perhaps most important, telemedicine has the potential to improve patient health and increase quality outcomes since it provides an easy way to stay in ongoing touch with patients. The best use cases are for routine follow-up care where the appointment does not require a physical examination. For example, ideal cases for video visits are ongoing care for chronic conditions, observing treatment plans, reviewing slightly abnormal lab results, providing prescription updates, and discussing lifestyle changes for weight loss, smoking cessation and much more. Better quality outcomes also mean better reimbursement under today’s quality-driven healthcare system. Some of the specialties regularly using telemedicine are:

  • Primary Care
  • OB/GYN
  • Neurology
  • Nephrology
  • Mental/Behavioral Health
  • Gastroenterology
  • Endocrinology
  • Cardiology
  • Dermatology
  • Pulmonology
  • Infectious Disease
  • Urology
  • Hematology/Oncology

How Much Impact on Staff?

Traditionally, many providers have offered separate applications for telemedicine, which required additional steps and training for office staff, making it more difficult to implement, especially for small practices. However, telemedicine is now more feasible for all practices because new technology from Kareo integrates telemedicine seamlessly into the EHR platform. For example, our customers can schedule telemedicine appointments directly in their practice management system, maintaining current office workflow for scheduling, charting and billing with no extra steps or training required. The automatic eligibility verification removes much of the financial burden and produces on average 10 times the provider’s cost per visit.  Patients can request appointments online and conduct the visit through a mobile device or desktop.

Removing the Risk

In busy practices, all changes can feel risky in terms of impact on staff, patients and investment costs. The integration of telemedicine with popular EHR platforms removes much of the impact on staff. Since more than 64 percent of patients say they would be happy to have a telemedicine video appointment, the offering to patients is far more positive than negative. Finally, the investment risk has dropped to minimal. EHR providers that offer software-as-a service, such as Kareo, are now giving practices a chance to pay per telemedicine visit, thereby being charged only for what they use. These low per-visit fees reduce the start-up burden on small practices, so the financial risk drops to negligible. In this way the office can implement a telemedicine practice at its own pace, allowing reimbursements to keep pace with usage.

Chances are good that even the overworked independent practice can use today’s telemedicine technology as an opportunity to increase revenue, unburden staff, and enhance patient satisfaction with the most minimal of investments. After years of promise, telemedicine has become a win-win

About Sean Brindley
Sean Brindley is product development manager for Kareo Telemedicine. More information can be found on Kareo’s Go Practice blog.  Kareo is a proud sponsor of Healthcare Scene.

The Human Side of Healthcare Interactions

Posted on March 19, 2018 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Sarah Bennight, Marketing Strategist for Stericycle Communication Solutions, as part of the Communication Solutions Series of blog posts. Follow and engage with them on Twitter: @StericycleComms

The week after HIMSS is certainly a rest and reflect (and catch up) time period. So much information is crammed into five short days that hopefully fuel innovation and change in our industry for the next year. We hear a lot of buzzwords during HIMSS, and as marketers in general. This year my biggest area of post-HIMSS reflection is on the human side of healthcare. Often, as health IT professionals, we can be so enamored with the techie side of things that we lose sight of what adding more automation does to our daily interactions.

The digital revolution has certainly made life easier. We can connect online, schedule an appointment, Uber to our destination, order groceries online, and pick them up on our way home with limited interactions with any real human. While the convenience for many far outweighs any downside, the digital world is causing its own health concern: loneliness.

Research by Holt-Lunstad found that “weak social connections carry a health risk that is more harmful than not exercising, twice as harmful as obesity, and is comparable to smoking 15 cigarettes a day or being an alcoholic.” But the digitization of our lives is reducing the amount of human interaction and our reasons to connect in real life. I keep hearing the phrase “we are more connected than ever, but we are feeling more alone”.  How do we avoid feeding another health issue, such as depression, while making healthcare more accessible, cost-effective, and convenient?

In healthcare communications, I want both technological convenience and warm, caring human interaction depending on what my need is at a given moment. If I need to schedule an appointment, I’d better have the option to schedule online. But in the middle of the night, when my child has a 104F fever and I call my doctor, I want a real person to talk and ask questions to, who will listen to the state my child is in and make the best recommendation for their health.

I had the privilege of discussing this balance of human and tech in a meet up at HIMSS last week. We learned that my colleague and friend learned the gender of her baby via a portal while waiting patiently for the doctor’s office to call. This is pushing the line of being ok in my opinion. But what if it was something worse, such as a cancer diagnosis or something equally scary? Is that ok for you? Wouldn’t you prefer and need someone to guide you through the result and talk about next steps?

As we add even more channels to communicate between health facility and patient, we need to take a look at the patient interaction lifecycle and personalize it to their needs. We should address the areas where automation might move faster than the human connections we initiate to ensure we are always in step with our tools and technology. Healthcare relationships rely on confidence and loyalty, and these things aren’t so easily built into an app. Online interactions will never replace the human, day-to-day banter and touch we all need. But I believe that technology can create efficiency that allows my doctor to spend more quality time with me during my visits and better engage me in my health.

So the question stands: how do you think the healthcare industry can find the right tech and human balance?

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

Seven Types of HIMSS18 Attendees: An Exhibitor’s Perspective

Posted on March 16, 2018 I Written By

The following is a guest blog by Monica Stout from MedicaSoft

The HIMSSanity is over and everyone’s departed Las Vegas and headed for home (or SXSW). This year, my company was an exhibitor in Hall G at HIMSS. Our booth was on the main aisle, or “the thoroughfare” as those of us in the booth liked to call it. As such, I noticed some trends in the types of booth visits we encountered this year during HIMSS. These visits can be summed up into seven different types.

Integration on the Brain. “I need something to connect my disparate systems together.” Whether it’s EHR-to-EHR, EHR-to-other systems, PHR-to-EHR, or many Health IT combinations, there was no shortage of requests at HIMSS for a system or platform to make these connections happen more seamlessly. Inquiries about integration and connecting various technologies came up more frequently at our booth than any other topic at the show. These conversations were great for MedicaSoft because we can help them solve integration problems.

Partnership Hustle. “I make APIs, products, or provide services to complement your software offering. I think we’d make great partners.” HIMSS is certainly a place to find synergies and begin conversations for potential win-win situations for companies who want to partner together and go to market. Sometimes these meetings are the start of a perfect “meet cute.” Other times, they fall short. Either way, there are lots of folks out there with a wide variety of products and services making their rounds and searching for perfect business partners.

Swag Gatherer. “I came here for the swag.” You know this person. This person has no desire to interact with you. They’re not sure what your company does and many times they don’t care to ask. This person wants to collect as much free stuff at the conference as possible. Sometimes they are annoyed when you don’t have a giveaway. You know you’ve encountered a swag gatherer by their refusal to make eye contact and how fast they exit your booth once they’ve snatched up whatever swag or tchotchke you have to offer.

IT Spy. “I must find out what the competition is doing right now, let me pretend I’m in the market for IT products and booth hop.” We’ve all seen it. We know when it’s happening. It can be hilarious when the spying company tries to act like they are NOT doing this. It’s pretty obvious. I’m on to you. My only request? Be nice about it. We’ll show you what we have. You don’t have to be obnoxious or play dumb. We are happy to share.

Things You Don’t Need. “You really need our product or service even if you think you don’t need our product or service.” Everyone has this happen at one point or another. Someone comes by and really wants to sell you something you don’t need. Sometimes they politely go on their way. Other times they linger on, refusing to acknowledge that you don’t need their product or service. Sometimes being upfront doesn’t help and they continue to launch into their sales pitch anyway. You have to give these folks credit, they really are trying to sell.

Neighborhood Friendly Booth Staff or First-time HIMSS-goer. “I just thought I’d say hello.” This could be neighboring booth staff coming over to say hello. It could also be an exhibitor or attendee who’s there for the first time. In either case, these are friendly people who want to ask questions. They are getting their bearings for the show and trying to learn as much as possible. Many times they ask for advice or directions.

Match Made in Heaven. “We’re looking to buy or replace our patient portal, PHR, EHR, or integration platform.” The crème de la crème of conference attendees. This person has done their research. They know what they want and what they want is what you offer! These types of meetings leave you jazzed for the rest of the conference and eager for post-conference follow-up. This type of conference attendee actually answers your emails and phone calls when you follow-up because they have a genuine interest in what you do and how you can help them solve their IT problems or challenges.

HIMSS18 exhibitors and attendees, what other types of booth attendees did you see this year at the show?

About Monica Stout
Monica is a HIT teleworker in Grand Rapids, Michigan by way of Washington, D.C., who has consulted at several government agencies, including the National Aeronautics Space Administration (NASA) and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). She’s currently the Marketing Director at MedicaSoft. Monica can be found on Twitter @MI_turnaround or @MedicaSoftLLC.

About MedicaSoft
MedicaSoft  designs, develops, delivers, and maintains EHR, PHR, and UHR software solutions and HISP services for healthcare providers and patients around the world. MedicaSoft is a proud sponsor of Healthcare Scene. For more information, visit www.medicasoft.us or connect with us on Twitter @MedicaSoftLLC, Facebook, or LinkedIn.

The Real Problem with High Healthcare Costs

Posted on February 27, 2018 I Written By

The following is a guest blog by Monica Stout from MedicaSoft

The rising cost of healthcare in the U.S. is something that nearly everyone experiences on a regular basis. Looking at the trend over the last few decades, there is an eye-opening surge in cost. There’s a great article/table by Kimberly Amadeo that outlines health care costs by year from 1960 to 2015. The cost per person for health care in 1960 was $146. In 2015, the cost per person was $9,990, over 68 times higher than it was in 1960.

The trend shows no sign of slowing; 2018 costs have only gotten higher. The National Conference of State Legislatures cited a figure from a Kaiser Employer Survey stating that annual premiums reached $18,764 in 2017. Costs for people purchasing insurance on an exchange or privately increased even more.

Increasing healthcare costs impact everyone. Why have costs gotten so high? Wasn’t the Affordable Care Act supposed to make coverage more affordable? Instead, many are faced with even higher insurance premiums for themselves and their families. Sometimes that equates to having to make difficult choices in care. And should people have to decide whether or not they can afford to seek care or treatment?

Many people want to blame insurance companies or hospitals or lobbyists or politicians. In truth, it’s a complex issue. And one of the core reasons it’s so hard to dissect is that there is a real lack of data – cost and price information, and clinical information on care quality and outcomes. Nobody has all of the data in one place. Without all of the data, the real problem or problems can’t be seen. If a problem can be guessed, it can’t be fixed. As in the Wizard of Oz, the real drivers are lurking behind the curtain; worse, the data that describes the drivers is splintered and located in different places, waiting to be collected in a way that reveals the whole truth.

How can health IT help? Are there ways that we can help solve the data problem and reduce high healthcare costs? Electronic Health Records can help gather the data. Adding claims data to complete, longitudinal patient health records can also help. Connecting PHRs, EHRs, and claims data together can help bridge the data gaps and tell more of a complete story. Until we have that story, the industry will continue to operate in siloes. Costs will continue to rise. And people will have a harder time seeking out the care they need.

About Monica Stout
Monica is a HIT teleworker in Grand Rapids, Michigan by way of Washington, D.C., who has consulted at several government agencies, including the National Aeronautics Space Administration (NASA) and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). She’s currently the Marketing Director at MedicaSoft. Monica can be found on Twitter @MI_turnaround or @MedicaSoftLLC.

About MedicaSoft
MedicaSoft  designs, develops, delivers, and maintains EHR, PHR, and UHR software solutions and HISP services for healthcare providers and patients around the world. MedicaSoft is a proud sponsor of Healthcare Scene. For more information, visit www.medicasoft.us or connect with us on Twitter @MedicaSoftLLC, Facebook, or LinkedIn.