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Study: Health IT Costs $32K Per Doctor Each Year

Posted on September 9, 2016 I Written By

Anne Zieger 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.

A new study by the Medical Group Management Association has concluded that that physician-owned multispecialty practices spent roughly $32,500 on health IT last year for each full-time doctor. This number has climbed dramatically over the past seven years, the group’s research finds.

To conduct the study, the MGMA surveyed more than 3,100 physician practices across the U.S. The expense number they generated includes equipment, staff, maintenance and other related costs, according to a press release issued by the group.

The cost of supporting physicians with IT services has climbed, in part, due to rising IT staffing expenses, which shot up 47% between 2009 and 2015. The current cost per physician for health IT support went up 40% during the same interval. The biggest jump in HIT costs for supporting physicians took place between 2010 and 2011, the period during which the HITECH Act was implemented.

Practices are also seeing lower levels of financial incentives to adopt EHRs as Meaningful Use is phased out. While changes under MACRA/MIPS could benefit practices, they aren’t likely to reward physicians directly for investments in health IT.

As MGMA sees it, this is bad news, particularly given that practices still have to keep investing in such infrastructure: “We remain concerned that far too much of a practice’s IT investment is tied directly to complying with the ever-increasing number of federal requirements, rather than to providing patient care,” the group said in a prepared statement. “Unless we see significant changes in the final rule, practice IT costs will continue to rise without a corresponding improvement in the care delivery process.”

But the MGMA’s own analysis offers at least a glimmer of hope that these investments weren’t in vain. For example, while it argues that growing investments in technologies haven’t resulted in greater administrative efficiencies (or better care) for practices, it also notes that more than 50% of responders to a recent MGMA Stat poll reported that their patients could request or make appointments via their practice’s patient portal.

While there doesn’t seem to be any hard and fast evidence that portals improve patient care across the board, studies have emerged to suggest that portals support better outcomes, in areas such as medication adherence. (A Kaiser Permanente study from a couple of years ago, comparing statin adherence for those who chose online refills as their only method of getting the med with those who didn’t, found that those getting refills online saw nonadherence drop 6%.)

Just as importantly – in my view at least – I frequently hear accounts of individual practices which saw the volume of incoming calls drop dramatically. While that may not correlate directly to better patient care, it can’t hurt when patients are engaged enough to manage the petty details of their care on their own. Also, if the volume of phone requests for administrative support falls enough, a practice may be able to cut back on clerical staff and put the money towards say, a nurse case manager for coordination.

I’m not suggesting that every health IT investment practices have made will turn to fulfill its promise. EHRs, in particular, are difficult to look at as a whole and classify as a success across the board. I am, however, arguing that the MGMA has more reason for optimism than its leaders would publicly admit.

Wearables And Mobile Apps Pose New Data Security Risks

Posted on December 30, 2014 I Written By

Anne Zieger 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.

In the early days of mobile health apps and wearable medical devices, providers weren’t sure they could cope with yet another data stream. But as the uptake of these apps and devices has grown over the last two years, at a rate surpassing virtually everyone’s expectations, providers and payers both have had to plan for a day when wearable and smartphone app data become part of the standard dataflow. The potentially billion-dollar question is whether they can figure out when, where and how they need to secure such data.

To do that, providers are going to have to face up to new security risks that they haven’t faced before, as well as doing a good job of educating patients on when such data is HIPAA-protected and when it isn’t. While I am most assuredly not an attorney, wiser legal heads than mine have reported that once wearable/app data is used by providers, it’s protected by HIPAA safeguards, but in other situations — such as when it’s gathered by employers or payers — it may not be protected.

For an example of the gray areas that bedevil mobile health data security, consider the case of upstart health insurance provider Oscar Health, which recently offered free Misfit Flash bands to its members. The company’s leaders have promised members that use the bands that if their collected activity numbers look good, they’ll offer roughly $240 off their annual premium. And they’ve promised that the data will be used for diagnostics or any other medical purpose. This promise may be worthless, however, if they are still legally free to resell this data to say, pharmaceutical companies.

Logical and physical security

Meanwhile, even if providers, payers and employers are very cautious about violating patients’ privacy, their careful policies will be worth little if they don’t take a look at managing the logical and physical security risks inherent in passing around so much data across multiple Wi-Fi, 4G and corporate networks.

While it’s not yet clear what the real vulnerabilities are in shipping such data from place to place, it’s clear that new security holes will pop up as smartphone and wearable health devices ramp up to sharing data on massive scale. In an industry which is still struggling with BYOD security, corralling data that facilities already work with on a daily basis, it’s going to pose an even bigger challenge to protect and appropriately segregate connected health data.

After all, every time you begin to rely on a new network model which involves new data handoff patterns — in this case from wired medical device or wearable data streaming to smartphones across Wi-Fi networks, smart phones forwarding data to providers via 4G LTE cellular protocols and providers processing the data via corporate networks, there has to be a host of security issues we haven’t found yet.

Cybersecurity problems could lead to mHealth setbacks

Worst of all, hospitals’ and medical practices’ cyber security protocols are quite weak (as researcher after researcher has pointed out of late). Particularly given how valuable medical identity data has become, healthcare organizations need to work harder to protect their cyber assets and see to it that they’ve at least caught the obvious holes.

But to date, if our experiences with medical device security are any indication, not only are hospitals and practices vulnerable to standard cyber hacks on network assets, they’re also finding it difficult to protect the core medical devices needed to diagnose and treat patients, such as MRI machines, infusion pumps and even, in theory, personal gear like pacemakers and insulin pumps.  It doesn’t inspire much confidence that the Conficker worm, which attacked medical devices across the world several years ago, is still alive and kicking, and in fact, accounted for 31% the year’s top security threats.

If malevolent outsiders mount attacks on the flow of connected health data, and succeed at stealing it, not only is it a brand-new headache for healthcare IT administrators, it could create a crisis of confidence among mHealth shareholders. In other words, while patients, providers, payers, employers and even pharmaceutical companies seem comfortable with the idea of tapping digital health data, major hacks into that data could slow the progress of such solutions considerably. Let’s hope those who focus on health IT security take the threat to wearables and smartphone health app data seriously going into 2015.

Marketing Your Medical Practice in the Digital (Social) Age

Posted on June 28, 2013 I Written By

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

On Saturday, June 30, Tweeters, Instagramers, Pinners and the like will gather to celebrate the fourth annual Social Media Day, presented by Mashable, a leading online source for news and information focused on the Connected Generation. And each year, social media plays a greater role in #healthcare and #HealthIT. Here are a few stats from recent months:

  • 51% of those surveyed say that digital health communications would make them feel more valued as a patient
  • 90% of adults 18-24 years of age say they would trust medical information shared by others in their social media networks
  • 41% of people say social media would affect their choice of health care provider

To raise awareness about the social media benefits for health care professionals, I asked Dr. Lawrence Rosen, an athenahealth client, social-savvy clinician, practice owner and influencer, about best practices and tips for marketing a medical practice on social networks.

When did you realize it was time to put your practice on Facebook? When was that ‘a-ha’ moment?

It happened the day I started my practice, The Whole Child Center, in 2008. I recognized that savvy parents were using Facebook to gather and share information about their kids. They not only wanted to post photos of their one-year-old’s birthday party but also wanted to interact with their health care providers. I thought it would be great if we could develop this online community to build on the brick-and-mortar community we developed within the four walls of our practice.

To create an effective Facebook strategy, it’s key to know your audience and what you’d like them to do. Who are your Facebook target audiences? Are you surprised by any groups that you’re reaching?

As a pediatrician, my primary target audience is easy—moms. And for Facebook, that’s a key demographic. Recent insights showed that 80% of our Facebook audience is women with more than 60% ages 25-44.

The most surprising demographic? Other health care practitioners interested in the unique integrative and eco-sustainable approach we take to medicine.

Discuss the types of content you have generated and how you personally grown your Facebook presence and, in essence, your practice.

Initially, our content was mostly health information, current articles and trends in the news. I then realized that photos and videos garnered much more interest, so we developed a space for parents to post photos of their kids having fun in our office. With HIPAA concerns, we are really careful to never post patient information directly, but parents can certainly share information about their own experiences, and they love sharing these pictures. Also, I’ve found videos of my media appearances or webinars, when posted on seasonal or topical issues, always get a lot of likes and shares.

What are examples of online content that have increased visibility or engagement for your practice? 

The most gratifying and widespread content has been related to our response to the 2012 Hurricane Sandy tragedy in New Jersey and New York. We posted a call for new or gently used baby equipment—strollers, car seats, high chairs—for one of our practice’s  moms to deliver to a devastated section of Queens, NY.  In one week, we gathered enough donations to fill a box truck. This mom, who had family in the damaged area, was so thrilled to partner with us, and it really helped raise awareness in our area of the plight of young families.

Are there any rules of the road, things people should remember when marketing their practice on a social network?

Don’t post private information. Don’t pester your audience by posting 40 things a day. Be strategic, know your audience, pay attention to what people like and share, and keep your content relevant to hot topics, and local or regional health issues. In general, stay away from divisive political or religious issues.

What you post is going to be seen as a reflection of your organization’s values and will positively or negatively affect your reputation. Recognize the power of your social network to engage and build your community.

Dr. Rosen is an integrative pediatrician based in Oradell, N.J. and a contributor to the athenahealth blog

Interoperability, Telemedicine and Healthcare IT Video – #HITsm

Posted on June 7, 2013 I Written By

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

This week I got together with Nathan DiNiro (@unclenate) to discuss this week’s #HITsm Twitter chat about Healthcare Interoperability and Telemedicine. We had a really great chat about what’s holding back interoperability in healthcare. We also dive into some areas of Telemedicine that I haven’t seen many people discuss including the impact of Google Glass on Telemedicine. We saw a lot of interesting opportunities for Google Glass in Healthcare. Check out the video embedded below.

You can check out all of the previous #HITsm videos here and subscribe to our Free email newsletter to be sent the latest from EHR videos.

If you’re a part of the #HITsm community and would like to take part or host one of these post-#HITsm Google plus hangouts, we’d love to have you. We want it to be as inclusive as the #HITsm Twitter chat itself. Just drop us a note on our contact us page or send a tweet to @ehrandhit.

Healthcare Worker Burnout & Health IT Video

Posted on June 5, 2013 I Written By

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

We’ve been testing a bunch of different uses of video on healthcare IT. One of those has been a discussion about the weekly #HITsm chat. This week we decided to do a 30 minute video discussion right after the #HITsm Twitter chat. The topic for the chat was Healthcare Worker Burnout & Health IT. A number of people have thanked us for the video, so I thought I’d share it on here for more people to enjoy. Plus, we’d love to hear feedback on it as well.

Be sure to tune in live tomorrow (Thursday) for the Open vs Closed EHR Discussion with Jonathan Bush.

Healthcare IT and EMRs – Around Healthcare Scene

Posted on May 26, 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.

There are different challenges that come with creating PHRs, especially with adolescents. Certain aspects of PHRs can be hidden from parents, such a pregnancy tests or information on reproductive health. Boston Children’s Hospital has created a special adolescent PHR, that will allow parent’s access to certain files, while keeping some available only for the eyes of the the adolescent.

EMRs are created to increase efficiency of care, eliminate paper records, and optimize care. However, when a person wants to access medical records, they often have to wait days, if not weeks, for the results. Is there a way to have EMRs help patients easily retrieve medical records?

There are many great EMR bloggers out there. John took a trip down memory lane to remember the blogs he first read when he started blogging 7.5 years ago. Do you recognize any of these legacy EMR bloggers?

Do you consider EMRs to be “cool” in the world of Health IT? In this light-hearted post, Jennifer reflects on different parts of Health IT, specifically EMRs, and what she would define as cool. Be sure to chime in on this conversation.

Some people really love their EMRs (or, at least, try to convince themselves that they do!) Two physicians from North Carolina made this clever video, as a way to express some of their frustrations with EMRs in a lighthearted, and fun way. You definitely won’t want to miss this!

The latest innovation from Google may have a big effect on the future of healthcare. Google Glasses, though not created specifically for the healthcare community, could prove to transform healthcare as we know it. From helping medical students learn material, to assisting in the ER, the possibilities appear to be endless.

Health IT and Cancer — #HITsm Chat Highlights

Posted on May 25, 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.

Topic One: What are the unique #HealthIT opportunities to improve cancer patients’ experience during treatment?

Topic 2: How can technology improve the lives of post-treatment #cancer survivors?

 

Topic Three: Where do patients fit into emerging models of personalized medicine driven by #bigdata?

Topic Four: Is there a role that #HealthIT can play in cancer prevention and early detection?

EHR Debates and The Growth of mHealth – Around Healthcare Scene

Posted on April 7, 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.

With the dissatisfaction that many have felt from EMR, providers and patients alike, outside healthcare companies are coming up with new ideas on how to help. Healthpons, a healthcare version of Groupon, recently launched and aims to help people find affordable care, and allow providers to market themselves. Is this “cash for care” model a trickle down effect of EMR Dissatisfaction?

Among the debates related to EHRs, one of the biggest is about purging data. On one side, people believe that all data from a person’s life in order to give the best care possible. Another camp believes that keeping EHR data opens up the door for the institution being held liable. What do you think?

Hospitals are implementing EMRs left and right. However, who is it that pays for it? Some argue that it’s the consumer, others sometimes even say it’s the insurance companies. In the end, it’s the hospitals themselves.

How do you measure the quality of a doctor? In same ways, it’s impossible. Ideally, there would be a way to determine whether the quality of care a doctor provides is worth the cost they charge. However, there are risks involved in this, and really, it’s hard.  Don’t we all want the best doctor possible, for the lowest price? How can we keep doctor’s accountable for the care they provide?

If you have a hard time deciding the quality of a doctor, why not take matters into your own hands? Most people know that Google contains a plethora of health information, and that smartphones have a variety of health-related apps. The digital health market is growing at a fast rate and more technology is being released each day. What do you think the future holds for mHealth?

The past few weeks, some well-known names in health IT have lost dear family members. Remember these people in your thoughts.

Communication With Providers, Patient Alert Fatigue, and #HealthIT — #HITsm Chat Highlights

Posted on April 6, 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.

#HITsm T1: How do you WANT to communicate with your healthcare provider? How does it differ from what’s available?

 

#HITsm T2: How can we avoid patient alert fatigue as we move toward engaged care and #mHealth acceptance?

 

#HITsm T3: Will the shortage of qualified #healthIT professionals to fill openings force a delay in meeting Meaningful Use requirements?

 

#HITsm T4: Open Forum> What #healthIT topic has interested you most this week?

Health IT Positively Affects Childhood Obesity

Posted on February 13, 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.

According to a study done by Pediatrics recently, more than one-third of children in the United States are overweight or obese. That’s a very scare figure, because that definitely increases the child’s chance of diseases like type-2 diabetes, and adult obesity. The authors of the study also noted that childhood obesity is often times undertreated and goes undiagnosed. As sad as it is, I have seen this

The study set out to see if Health IT may improve the “quality, efficiency and reach of chronic disease management,” according to this article. According to another article about this study, some of the parts of the study that are most relevant towards health IT included that “telemedicine was as effective as in-person counseling at reducing BMI and that text messaging and phone support were associated with weight loss maintenance.”

Combating childhood obesity is something I am very passionate about. As a child, and into my teenage years, I could have been classified as extremely overweight — probably even obese. While I’ve worked very hard to beat the statistics, and get my weight down to a now healthy weight, it is something that truly has affected my entire life to this day. And the thing is, when I was at the unhealthy weight that I was, no one said anything. No doctor, my parents, or anyone. Sure, I was encouraged to take a PE class here and there, and perhaps not take seconds — but no one saw that problem for what it was. Because of the things I went through, I want more than anything to prevent my own children from becoming overweight themselves. Reading this study, and seeing how health IT can positively affect childhood obesity was neat. While I think too much screen time can really contribute to the problem, I’m glad that there efforts out there to try and get kids involved in their own health, particularly by using electronics — something that most kids love. I hope that more Health IT developers will see the importance of creating apps, programs, and devices geared toward children. I couldn’t find any, but it would be cool if there were exercise apps that kids could put on their iPods that are similar to ones that adults have, but that are geared toward exercises more children participate in.  In my research, I found a few health IT apps and websites aimed toward kids that I think could be helpful:

Food Hero:
This is a game that was created by HealthSocial, a non-profit project based at the Children’s Hospital in Boston. To win the game, the child must “become” a food hero. To do this, the child must make their character make healthy choices, like eating healthy food and exercising, and earning gold along the way. If the character eats too much, physical challenges become more difficult. However, if too little is eaten, the character has difficult participating as well. The goal is to ultimately eat healthy meals. It seems like this game would be a great visual for children to see what happens when you don’t have balanced meals.

Food ‘N Me:
This website was created to promote healthy living in children. It has interactive games, quizzes like “What Food Am I.” This quiz has the child choose the foods they have eaten throughout the day, and it gives a rating at the bottom of the screen, telling the child how balanced it was. At the end of the quiz, it tells you what kind of food you are, based on your choices. For instance, if you eat primarily grains, it will say you are a bagel. The website also features the game Smash Your Food, which is also available on mobile devices, and I’ll talk about next.

Smash Your Food:
This app was on Michelle Obama’s “Apps for Health Kids” contest. Whether the person is using it online or on a mobile device, it works about the same. You get to “smash” foods — from milkshakes, hamburgers, to healthy, homemade meals. — and it tells you what it is made of.  The goal of it is to encourage children (and their parents) to understand what is in their meals, and to make healthy choices at home and on the go. It can be accessed at the Food ‘N Me website, or downloaded for the iPhone or iPad here for 2.99.