The Challenge for Medical Vendors to Manage Their Expensive Devices at Thousands of Hospitals

Imagine this scenario:

A leading medical device vendor, selling 100 thousand pacemakers a year to dozens of hospitals in the United States, discovers that they have over 10% of expired items at 5000 hospitals each year. The approximate loss (to the hospital or the vendor depending on the payment terms) can reach tens of millions of dollars!

The inventory was not managed well – but how can this big corporation find out the root of this problem? if this occurred at a couple of hospitals it would be easier to investigate, but the task becomes a lot more challenging when its five thousand hospitals.

Are medical device companies blind?

The point of this story is to demonstrate how blind medical device companies are left when it comes to managing their inventory, once it leaves their facilities.

They know what inventory left and where it was sent, but they do not know:
1. What devices were used at each hospital
2. What inventory is about to, or already has, expired
3. Are doctors selecting their devices over competitors
4. What needs to be re-ordered immediately

The accuracy of inventory reports normally depends on hospital staff, specifically nurses. Nurses are very busy taking care of the patient before, during, and after the procedure, often times leaving no time to fill-out detailed reports about the devices being used.

Company sales representatives pay frequent visits to the hospital, but are not always able to take accurate stock counts.

Material clerks make sure to shelve the inventory, and may not always notice the expiration date.

These are only several scenarios to how accuracy challenges may occur.

There is a solution

Today's technology has advanced far enough, bringing an original solution to this problem, along with all kinds of savings to both hospitals and vendors.

The solution is RFID – the ability to track expensive medical devices from the time they leave the manufacturer, while being shipped, delivered, shelved to the time used by the doctor. The usage can be in the Operating Room, Cath-Lab, EP Lab, Pharmacy, Orthopedics, and supply rooms.

How it's done

Each medical device is recorded and labels with an RFID tag at the manufacturing plant. Its entire product information is now associated with the device – the maker, expiration date, delivery date … etc. The device brings the hospital's intervening room and is placed inside a SmartCabinet. The SmartCabinet is now able to read its content, what is taken out and used and what is about to expire.

The information is now available to the vendor. They can finally manage their expensive inventory even if they are not on site.

The end result

Zero expired items
Real time information, reports, and alerts
Immediate and automatic re-ordering of inventory by the hospital
Automatic billing mechanism
Revenue Protection – Millions of dollars saved each month!

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ChemWell 2910 Chemistry Analyzer for Medical Laboratories

Chemistry analyzers are used to analyze blood and body fluid samples for bilirubin, albumin, creatinine, magnesium, uric acid, calcium, inorganic phosphorus or assays of thyroid. Branded products for medical laboratories feature advanced technology and can provide accurate and timely results. Manufactured by Awareness Technology, Inc., ChemWell 2910 is an open and easy to program system that can set up assays, routine jobs, quality control, panels, and even index calculations to suit specific medical laboratory needs. Users can select from a wide selection of monitoring and reporting styles. In order to deliver more accurate and accurate results, the device includes precise pipetting of low volume specimens, careful control of temperature, and elimination of carryover.

ChemWell 2910 Chemistry Analyzer – Features

With a complete open system, ChemWell 2910 can easily program additional wash volume, increase the number of washes, direct the probe to pick up, and dispense a probe cleaning solution after each specimen. It can make pre-dilutions. This is often not essential as a high precision level is achieved with a 2uL sample. The other important features of the ChemWell 2910 are as follows –

  • Typical throughput – Up to 200 endpoint reactions per hour, up to 170 kinetic reactions per hour
  • Typical reaction volume – 200μ L or less
  • Set up assays, routine jobs, quality control, panels, even index calculations to match individual laboratory requirements.
  • Self-monitoring mechanisms and optics
  • Reaction Volume <250uL
  • QC tracking
  • Probe washes inside and out washes
  • No custom disposables required
  • No carry-over
  • Long-life IAD filters
  • LIS, STAT
  • Liquid sensing probe tip
  • Level-sensing wash, rinse, and waste bottles
  • Handles up to 27 reagents, 96 samples
  • Edit standard curves
  • Dimensions – 36.25 “(92.1cm) width, 18.75” (47.6cm) height, 21.5 “(54.6cm) depth.
  • Creates automatic service reports
  • Auto-dilute and retest for over-range samples
  • Approximate weight – 80 lbs (36 Kg)
  • 8-well wash head
  • Process EIA at ambient temperature or 37 ° C
  • Completely password protected

The chemistry analyzer also comes with an optional reagent cooling accessory (RCA) which protects reagents from ambient heat. The removable racks can be refrigerated and then pre-loaded to make it ready for the next use.

Buy From a Reliable laboratory Equipment Supplier

The best option when it comes to purchasing the ChemWell 2910 chemistry analyzer is an online laboratory equipment store. You can view the image of the product and examine its features and specifications in detail. A reliable supplier would offer this analyzer at a price much lower than new. Placing an order and making payment is easy. Reputable dealers will provide excellent post-sales support including repair and maintenance services.

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Telehealth Services and the Growth in Physician Opportunities

Telehealth services are growing in popularity due to both the convenience and proven

effectiveness associated with it. There is a now a convergence of events that both patients and the telehealth industry benefit from; a) Information Technology facilitates telehealth services to make them affordable and accessible, b) the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obama Care”, incentivizes telehealth as a cost effective medical service, and c) more than twenty states and Washington DC have also enacted legislation that mandates private health insurance coverage of telehealth when the same service is covered at an in office visit. Ironically, while ensuring healthcare insurance for all Americans, the Affordable Care Act is also bringing millions of new people into a system that has a growing shortage of doctors. This brings new opportunities for doctors in telehealth.

It pleases us to see the combination of advancing technology and enabling legislation. Things are quite easy these days and the people have loads of opportunities in almost every aspect of their lives. The world of the 21st century is a better place to live as technology is brimming with benefits and providing greater access to services.

Since we hear that technology is advancing every day, we expect a lot of things from it. From a sleek touch screen phone to iPad, laptop, or desktop computer, each item speaks about the wonders of technology and how human beings are relying on them. Information Technology is a key indicator of the advancement in every single field. The evolution of the internet has created many new prospects for business and has opened new gateways to people for success.

Life is far more comfortable than it used to be a few decades ago and technology has greatly influenced every field, including medicine. From hospitals to nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and clinics, the use of computer technologies has strengthened health care for the better.

Gone are those days when health care practitioners were bound to traditional medical approaches. Today, computers are pervasive and are looking to the operational needs of the medical world. The development of Information Technology has given birth to a new branch of medical practice known as telehealth.

Telehealth makes use of telecommunications networks for doctor-patient consultations. It facilitates medical practitioners reaching their target patients when distance and transportation become barriers. With the advent of the internet, telehealth companies provide assistance to the patients located at distant places and their doctors offer medical consultations for diagnosing and treating the patients. Now it is not necessary to travel to see a doctor every time, as telehealth companies are there to visit you – just a simple video chat to have a consultation with your physician.

As demands grows on the limited number of doctors, there are increasing opportunities for doctors and allied healthcare professionals in the rapidly growing market of telehealth services. Telehealth is bringing new ways for doctors to grow or reestablish their private practices and regain greater control as opposed to the pressures of becoming part of a large organization. Likewise, telehealth service companies

Telehealth service companies are actively providing Psychiatrist Job Opportunities, Internal Medicine Job Opportunities, Neurologist Job Opportunities, Physical Medicine and Rehab Job Opportunities, Wound Care Job Opportunities, Nurse Practitioner Job Opportunities and Psychologist Job Opportunities, and seeking many other specialties such as Pediatrics, Internal Medicine and Family Practice on an ongoing basis.

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Pilates: An Exercise Phenomenon

Development of Pilates:

During World War 1, whilst in a German internment camp, Pilates came up with the theory that the best way to improve one's core strength was by developing: controlled breathing, aligning the spinal and coordination and balance techniques. His fellow inmates all participated in his exercises and during during the 1918 flu pandemic, many survived due to their physical strength.

Effects on the body:

Research has suggested that Pilates have numerous effects on the body, focusing on toning and strengthening muscles without bulking them up. These benefits include:

  • Increased core strength
  • Better movement from the spine and joints
  • Improved posture, coming from better balance, stability and coordination skills
  • Leaner muscles for better movement
  • Increased body awareness

All these benefits made Pilates hugely popular among gymnasts, dancers and present day sports stars; like: Andy Murray, Tiger Woods and Ryan Giggs. Practices that facilitate Pilates will focus on the six principles of Pilates 'Concentration, Control, Centering, Efficiency of movement, Precision and Breathing'. All of which, exercises are created to follow.

Concentration:

With total commitment and full on focus, participants ensure their maximum work-out. Concentration connects your mind to all body parts, this will enable one to focus on every detail and then lead to the perfection of each alignment.

Control:

This was Joseph Pilates preferred name for his method, deriving from 'Controlology'. Being in total control of your body allows you to develop a strong mind-body connection, wherey your mind dictates movement; uncontrollable movement can lead to injury.

Centering:

The center of the body (abdomen, lower and upper back, thighs, hips and gluts), is where all the power is generated. All movement should flow freely from the center of the body to each individual body part during exercise.

Efficiency of Movement:

When doing the Pilates exercises, it is extremely important that there are no pauses or breaks between them. Ensuring fluidity of movement will build up strength and stamina in the body, connecting all body parts from the core, ensuring muscles are always working.

Precision:

Joseph Pilates used to say 'Honor every movement' – by this, he mean that you must focus on doing a few precess but seamless repetitions. By doing so, these repetitions will slowly get integrated into the daily routine, making you grow stronger and preform daily routines more efficiently.

Breathing:

Steady breathing allows the body to coordinate itself with the mind, providing greater control. Inhaling before a movement and exhaling to execute it provides greater oxygenation of the blood, increasing the circulation around the body and flexibility of muscles. This is seen as cleansing and invigorating to the body and mind.

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Get a Move On ICD10 Implementation

International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems has come out with its 10th revision and all hospitals will be required to stop using ICD 9 and start using ICD 10 by later this year or the hospital claims will not be paid. Not all healthcare employees know or understand what ICD 10 is because it is only used by certain staff. For those staff who will be affected, it will be a major change that should not be rushed and plenty of testing and training should happen before October or this will have negative connotations on cash flow and payments to providers and hospitals.

For each patient that is seen by a provider, their visit must be assigned a code which will tell payors (like insurance companies or Medicare or Medicaid) what the patient was seen for and will tell them how much to reimburs the provider for those services. It codes for diseases, signs and symptoms, abnormal findings, complaints, social circumstances, and external causes of injury or diseases. ICD 9 diagnosis coding was 3 to 5 digits, while ICD 10 is 3 to 7 digits for diagnosis coding. ICD 9 inpatient hospital coding was 3 or 4 numeric digits while ICD 10 is 7 alphanumeric digits. This a major change which will affect coders, providers and other clinical staff, IT staff, finance staff, payers, clearinghouses, and billing services. Each of these staff members needs specific training and awareness of how ICD 10 will affect their jobs.

Other countries have implemented ICD 10 and have lots of experience with this type of coding. Some countries have their own modified version of ICD 10 while most countries are using it without modification.

Currently organizations are putting off the training and implementation to meet the deadline. This is going to be such a huge affect on your providers, you need to start preparing now and getting the training customized for your doctors. The best training will be customized to the specialty of the providers and clinical staff since they do not need to know every code available like a coder or someone in medical records needs to know. The top two concerns of providers in regards to ICD 10 is what changes it will make in their documentation routine (how will they need to change their documentation to meet the new standards) and loss of productivity. If you have worked with providers for any amount of time, you will know if they feel like they dropped in productivity or affected their patients negatively, you will have other issues you will have to deal with in order to maintain satisfaction scores.

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Experimental Models of Healthcare Delivery

The passage of the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare or the ACA) in 2010 represented the most significant US healthcare reform since the creation of Medicare. Perhaps the most well-known (and hotly contested) portion of the law mandates that small business owners with more than 50 full-time staff must provide some form of health insurance coverage for their full time employees or risk paying a financial penalty for each full-time employee left uninsured. The Affordable Care Act was designed to address the vast number of American citizens (over 50 million in 2012) who did not possess health insurance coverage. The Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) accompanies the ACA and provides a means for small business owners to directly compare the cost and benefits of public health insurance packages for their employees.

Despite the fact that these programs offer large-scale healthcare reform, healthcare delivery systems in the United States resist experiment due to the massive infrastructure already in place. That is, the present landscape of private health insurance companies is already firmly entrenched and as such the Affordable Care Act (and its accordant public health insurance options) will face a long uphill battle to reach full implementation.

Simply because experimental models of healthcare delivery are difficult to implement does not mean that experiments do not take place. Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) are being created to accompany the Affordable Care Act's implementation. While not much was known about Accountable Care Organizations at the outset of the Affordable Care Act, ACOs have since begun to coalesce. The fundamental principle behind their creation is that Accountable Care Organizations will serve as networks of doctors, healthcare providers, and hospitals that have incentive to work together. These networks will coordinate care and information exchange to reduce the possibility of patients receiving healthcare services disproportionate to their conditions (eg heading to the emergency room instead of primary care) The ACOs will then re-absorb the funds into the healthcare delivery system to compensate healthcare providers and doctors.

Other experimental models for healthcare delivery include several adjustments to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) in terms of how hospitals are compensated for services rendered when the hospital trips patients of a certain age or income level. Under the Affordable Care Act, federal Medicare funding provided to hospitals will be more closely tied to hospital performance. Hospitals and other healthcare providers that receive federal Medicare revenue will need to review their readmission rates, mortality rates, and average length of stay (LOS) among other hospital procedures to make certain their performance falls within the standard set by the Affordable Care Act.

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Natural Resource Conservation in the Pharmaceutical Industry

There is a wide variation between the botanical sources for pharmaceutical drugs and their temporary form fit for human consumption. A variation so wide, in fact, that much of the public may not realize how identifiable certain kinds of plant and animal life are to maintained pharmaceutical drug development. In 2008, 118 of the top 150 best-selling drugs were derived from medicinal plants and other natural sources. Many of these natural resources come from extremely delicate ecosystems that are at risk from overharvesting and human expansion. Conservationists estimate that we are losing at least one major potential pharmaceutical drug every two years, and with the rampant deforestation at the expense of industry in many parts of the globe, that number is set to rise.

Coordinating preservation of these medicinal plants is no small feat. Many of these resources grow in relatively small regions of the world, necessitating much cooperation among national governments to secure their harvest, transport, and development into viable drugs. Adding to the problem is the fact that often researchers have difficulty gauging what may be considered overharvesting for newly discovered medicinal plants, which necessitates additional research revenue for study of the local ecosystem. Compounding all of these factors is local human development, which may include industrial, residential, and commercial expansion. These processes are often extremely destructive for medicinal plants due to the destruction of the plants' natural habitat.

Another new threat is “biopiracy,” the practice of private pharmaceutical drug companies developing a new drug from an indigenous source and then selling that product back to indigenous populations at vastly increased price points. Biopiracy often entirely excludes the indigenous country from these profits, despite the fact that local populations have often been utilizing those same medicinal plants for years. This leads to marked discrepancies in income between drug company satellite facilities and the local population, which in turn can produce significant civil unrest.

Bioprospecting is yet another constant worry for conservationists, local populations, and pharmaceutical drug companies alike. Closely related to biopiracy, bioprospecting involved the commercialization of new pharmaceutical drugs from indigenous natural resources. Conservationists monitor as many situations like this as possible, but typically conservation budgets are dwarfed by the revenue of the pharmaceutical drug company. Conservationists typically seek to find sources of revenue for the local population while simultaneously monitoring the harvest of indigenous natural resources to prevent habitat destruction and / or overharvesting. Contacts with government bodies like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) allow conservationists to report their findings in full to generate solutions that are profitable and ecologically sustainable.

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What Are 3 Advantages Of Solar Energy?

Solar energy is the energy exploited coming from the sun. Solar hails from the Latin term “sol”. The sun's energy is very powerful and once harnessed by use of modern tools can support life. Solar energy is abounding, long lasting and mostly, 100% free.

Benefits

Solar energy does not cause pollution to the ecosystem. The main good reason for tapping into the sun's energy is that we can avoid creating greenhouse gases. It's free from the chemicals found as smoke and toxic gases that our normal chemically processed by-products. Man-made greenhouse gases endanger our earth's whole atmospheric balance. Carbon dioxide reading such and significantly faster accumulation over the past few years and show at a recent reading of 395 parts per million (ppm) which is higher as at the outside of 2013. It's the best remedy to face the harmful rises in our climate and other negative balances that we're now exposed to.

Solar energy is free. Apart from the initial construction of solar panels and maintenance, the use of solar energy is completely 100% free. The sun's power does not require materials that are expensive just like coal or oil to keep it going. Solar energy output requires really low operational cost both labor and supplies as opposed to the conventional or traditional power manufacture.

Solar energy is infinite. The sun outsizes us by a staggering 330,000 times, and supplies us with sustainable energy, during each day of our orbit. It is known that providing energy during the last 4.6 billion years and continues to make this happen for an additional 5 billion years at least.

The Disadvantages

Solar energy installation can be quite costly. The technology in strapping up the sun's energy is still a pricey alternative. The capital outlay when deciding to buy a home solar kit or solar farm source is still high. Solar panels are huge and makes up for the preliminary cost like the silicon crystalline solar modules. A more recent technology have been developed which is less heavy but is proven to be less powerful in trapping solar power.

Solar energy is limited to sunny or bright days. Obviously it is not possible to get solar energy in the evening. The output of solar electrical power can only occur if there is sunlight. Fluctuations in the climate also pose a challenge just like countries that do not get adequate sun exposure. Such countries have few hours of sunshine and it will follow that the sun's level of intensity is hindered also.

The storing of solar power is arduous. The technology for having the sun's power on hand continues to be developed. What's out there are residential solar battery drips created for small use and is not yet set for industrial use.

What Exactly Are Solar Panel Systems?

Solar panels are systems that changes solar light to usable energy. Photovoltaic is the other alternative name for solar panels and was initially made by a US inventor Russel Ohl way back 1954. Solar panels are corresponded of layers of boron, silicon and phosphorous, all intended to convert and yield electricity. The solar power panels absorb photons from the sun integrating it with the photoelectric effect is now changed into usable power.

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Pediatric Medicine And Children – Finding the Natural Pediatrician!

Many parents are concerned with the increasing trend in treating children with prescription medications and antibiotics and are looking for a pediatrician who believes in integrating the advances of modern pediatric medicine with preventive care and natural approaches to health.

Many of the drugs prescribed are unnecessary and even harmful. For example, antibiotics are usually prescribed to treat upper respiratory tract infections. In fact, one in five visits to a pediatric healthcare provider results in a prescription for an antibiotic. However, most of these infections are caused by viruses and require no antibiotics. Antibiotics do not fight infections caused by viruses like colds, most sore throats and bronchitis, and some ear infections. This means that these prescriptions are inadvertently to provide a benefit to the child.

Over prescribing these medications can cause avoidable drug-related side effects, which include diarrhea, severe skin reactions, and allergic reactions. In fact, in children, antibiotics are the most common cause of visits to emergency department for adverse drug events. Over use of antibiotics also contributes to antibiotic resistance, and adds unnecessary medical expenses.

Finding a doctor who practices natural pediatrics may not be easy. You may need to do your research online and call the doctor's directly to ask them questions about their practice philosophy.

The natural pediatrician's focus should be primarily on preventive care. Of course, you still want a doctor who has a solid medical education: who has earned their MD and has served as a pediatric resident at an assigned hospital. However, you also want a doctor who does not just use the traditional invasive methods of treatment but will instead, whenever safe and possible, use the non-invasive methods that are natural and more gentle towards the child. You want a doctor who has an extensive knowledge in the field of nutrition, as well as natural and complementary treatments for children.

While there may be situations when the doctor may need to write prescriptions and perform surgery, he or she will always first explore the natural ways of addressing the problem.

By stressing the importance of strengthening the child's immune system with proper nutrition, supplements, and physical activity, the need for medications can be significantly reduced, and the child will not be getting sick as often. By incorporating alternative ways of treating a child such as nutritional changes, vitamins, herbs and other natural things, the use of drugs and their side effects can be eliminated, while providing children with a more gentle treatment.

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Lean Consulting in Hospitals

Radio frequency identification is the latest tracking system developed and created to send data into a certain receiver by the use of a tag. This is a very efficient technology which can be used in tracking every product in any company and establishments, including hospitals, for an easier and convenient monitoring of every item. It is more reliable and accurate compared to bar codes, and can read tags, hundreds of them, in seconds. Bar codes require manual and physical effort to be read.

Hospitals and medical institutions are not exempted. With the advent of making improvement in terms of departmental management, a leaner format is being implemented. The accuracy of a system such as RFID makes any job done in a short time, which means, management can save money, time and effort, and other resources can be channeled into something else. Extra time saved can be focused more on other factors such as service, which is good news for patients who need more assistance.

In the 1940's, the US government started using what they call corresponders to tag aircraft and recognize an ally from an enemy. Therefore, RFID was already around for so long, only that it is being enhanced and developed more to make it more efficient. Retail companies and businesses also use this system to look into the supply chain competency, making it appropriate to track various products right from the warehouse storage to the customer's doorstep.

Lean Management
Lean actually mean eliminating unnecessary workloads which may include overproduction, long waiting, procedures, inventories and re-evaluating. A number of hospitals are in the RFID technology, but others are still considering. It is because the cost can be a major factor. But gradually, these people understand that in reality they will be saving a whole lot more by investing in this system. Large companies in the meantime are taking their time to fully comprehend how RFID works and take all the benefits that it can offer.
Summary

Therefore, lean consulting through the use of the RFID can give more advantages against any other system. Hospitals appreciate the speed and efficiency of the technology, notwithstanding the accuracy that it provides. Management had been calling this the best tool ever, in terms of tracking items, inventories and even in lean consulting.

In addition, this system can also be used as protection for patients. They are assured that their need of medicines and equipment are properly handled and that they are provided the exact items. RFID had been the best system to date, in regards to monitoring and tracking all other transactions in a medical facility. More and more companies are now turning their heads to adopt RFID in their business.

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Where in the HIE Are You?

Meaningful Use has a requirement that your organization participate in a Health Information Exchange (HIE). This means that certain pieces of a patient's record needs to be accessible by other organizations (whether they use the same EMR system as your organization or a different system). The HIE brings together disparate information and houses it in one system that can be accessed by other organizations at anytime. Some states have created an HIE for all providers in the state which is funded by the state, while other states are allowing the federal government to help fund and drive this initiative.

Some of the goals for HIE, according to Health IT Gov website, include:

• Improve quality and convenience of patient care
• Increase patient participation in their care
• Improve accuracy of diagnoses and health outcomes
• Improve care coordination (Provided a basic level of interoperability among EHRs maintained by individual physicians and organizations which means if patient sees more than one provider or specialist, they all have the same information about the patient's history)
• Increase practice efficiencies and cost savings
• Provides a vehicle for improving quality and safety of patient care
• Help public health officials meet their commitment to the community
• Create a potential loop for feedback between health-related research and actual practice
• Facilitate efficient deployment of emerging technology and health care services
• Provide the backbone of technical infrastructure for leakage by national and state-level initiatives

One of the largest pluses that is being touted for getting an HIE in place is examples like: If you live in California and go on vacation to North Carolina and are in a car accident that renders you unable to talk, the providers in North Carolina will be able to pull up your medical record from California and know your allergies, medications, and other pertinent medical information to allow them to treat you without causing harm.

Your organization needs to decide if it will participate in a state run information exchange, participate in a privately ran information exchange, start your own information exchange, or a combination of all of the above. Tons of new companies are popping up touting the ability to have the technology behind your health information exchange. Be sure to research and ask for other organizations that use their system and call to speak with them about usability and operability features. The technology is becoming more widespread and with that comes an easier to implement and maintain system. If you are starting your own HIE you will need to ensure you have adequate staff with the right skills to keep the HIE operating 24 hours a day 7 days a week 365 days a year since hospitals do not shut down.

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HIPAA Omnibus Rule

The government created the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) which is governed by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights and that website states it was established “to strengthen the privacy and security protections for health information “. Then they created the Omnibus rule which required providers to be compliant by September 23, 2013 or face consequences (some changes allow you to not be completed until September 23, 2014). The new Omnibus rule focused on three areas:

• Privacy, Security, and Breach Notification policies and procedures You are not able to discriminate based on GINA (Genetic Information Nondrimination Act of 2008). This is now tied into HIPAA since genetic information is part of health information.

You are not allowed to use or disclose genetic information for underwriting purposes. That leads us into the changes on your Notice of Privacy Practices. Those must be updated and include provisions that indicate:

  • The health plan will notify affected participants if a breach of unsecured PHI occurs
  • The plan may not use or distinguish PHI that is genetic information for underwriting purposes, consistent with GINA
  • The plan will obtain an individual's authorization before it uses PHI for marketing purposes, sells PHI, or uses or discloses PHI for any purposes not described in this notice.

Patients have more individual rights under the new law. They are able to request copies of their health records in an electronic format (which is also a requirement of Meaningful Use Stage 2). Also individuals who pay with cash can decide whether or not to allow the provider to share information about their treatment with their health plan. You are also limited on how the information is used and disclosed for marketing and fundraising purposes. Patient health information can not be sold without their permission. Along with this, the patient also has the ability to deny you the right to use their health information for research purposes. It does make it easier for you to share immunization data with a child's school (you have one year after September 23, 2013 to modify contracts with your business associates to comply with this rule).

• Notice of Privacy Practices (NPP)

Notice of Privacy Practice that most hospitals hand to patients and have displayed on their websites will need to have some more clarification added. Once you make these revisions (this had to be completed before September 23, 2013) you must post that changes have been made and also alert patients on the change and how they can obtain a copy of the changes.

• Business Associate (BA) Agreements

Business Associates of covered entities are directlyiable for compliance with the new regulations. This now includes contractors and subcontractors since the largest majority of breaches in the past have been attributed to business associates (according to Dolbey almost 57% are from BA's). Noncompliance penalties have increased up to $ 1.5 million for each violation (and up to 10 years imprisonment). These penalties are now tier based with increasing penalties based on the level and severity of a violation. The term Business Associate used to mean anyone who performs or assists in the performance of a function or activity involving the use or disclosure of protected health information (PHI). Now it has expanded to include persons who create, receive, maintain, or transmit PHI in connection with performing a function or service for a covered entity, even if they do not view the PHI. If you have an existing BAA and that agreement is not renewed or amended from March 26, 2013-September 23, 2013 it is still compliant until it is renewed or amended after September 23, 2013 or before September 23, 2014 (whichever occurs earliest) . You must still document any risk assessment performed, but now an impermissible acquisition, access, use or disclosure of PHI is a presumed bread that must be reported. You must report the bread or if it did not institute a break and document why it was not a break. In those cases you must do a risk assessment on these factors at the minimum:

  1. What was the nature and extent of the PHI involved (list the types of identifiers and the likelihood of re-identification of this information)
  2. Who was the unauthorized user who accessed the data or to whom did they distinguish it
  3. Was the PHI acquired or viewed
  4. What amount is the risk to the PHI mitigated (is it a risk of financial, reputation, or other harm) Some important revisions that need to be included in your Business Associates Agreement (BAA) include:

– Comply with the applicable provisions of the Privacy Rule;

– Comply with the Security Rule concerning electronic PHI;

– If the Business Associate (BA) enters into an agreement with any subcontractors, then the contractor (BA) must provide assurance that their subcontractor will appropriately safeguard the PHI and agree to the same protections and restrictions as the current agreement between the covered entity MMCWM) and business associate; and

– Report a breach of unsecured PHI to the covered entity

For all current Business Associate Agreements that you have in place, you will need to review and determine if any of those vendors have not identified their subcontractors and ensure they have Business Associate Agreements in place. You will want to ensure this is in place so that the liability falls to them and not to your organization.

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Obamacare and HIPAA Compliance: Overcoming Enrollment Woes Through Email Encryption

With the March 31st open enrollment deadline ominously imminent, Americans are scrambling in droves to select qualified health insurance plans to be compliant with newly imposed National Health Care Act requirements. This mandate affects not only those who are uninsured but also those who are insured under plans deemed non-compliant and subject to cancellation.

As many as 100 million Americans received notification that their existing plans were unacceptable and would be taken, and – adding insult to injury – that they were required to select a new plan within a narrow enrollment window. With all of the issues around registration across states, Americans are rightfully frustrated and nervous that they will not be able to complete the enrollment process before the deadline.

The sheer volume of insurance policy applications, transfers and modifications along with HIPAA compliance requirements have made the safe and timely transmission of private information an exceptionally challenging process. To avoid risk and non-compliance, many insurers resort to antiquated and cumbersome communication protocols.

If you're an American rushing to meet the deadline for enrollment, it's very important to be able to complete the transaction quickly. However, insurers are faced with competitive pressures around mandated privacy protection protocols. While health care providers have digitized medical records and insurance applications across the board, many lack the ability to safely transmit private information electronically and temporarily resort to snail mail. It's inefficient and costly for the provider, and it's cumbersome and time consuming for the applicable.

In addition to limited capabilities around transmitting sensitive information via encrypted email, there's an additional hurdle on the recipient side. While some providers have encryption capabilities in place, many of these tools require that the subscriber download software to access the encrypted electronic files. For many subscribers, being required to download software to access an encrypted document is annoying, complicated and confusing. And, because it creates an extra step, it significantly increases the likelihood that the subscriber will abandon the process before completion.

From a subscriber's point of view, the ability to safely receive and retrieve information from health care providers via email is tremendously convenient. And, when you're up against a deadline to complete the plan selection and subscription process, the elimination of the back-and-forth associated with snail mail is of tremendous value.

How much value? If subscribers can not complete the enrollment process by the deadline, they have two options. The first option is to purchase an individual plan outside of the marketplace. However, these plans are not required to cover preexisting conditions and do not offer the opportunity to take advantage of subsidies available for marketplace plans.

The second option is to pay the penalty. For Americans above the income threshold, it's 1% of total household income with a maximum of the national average annual cost of a bronze plan. Essentially you're stuck paying for coverage that you do not have.

The stakes are high, and the deadline is looming. The ability for providers to send and subscribers to receive and access safe, encrypted email transfers of documents containing private information drastically reduces the cycle time to complete the enrollment process. It's good for subscribers, and it's good for health care providers.

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The Advantages Of Bar Code Technology In Health Care Automation

It is often stated that the use of automation has been much lower in the healthcare industry than in any other industry. However, in recent times, the immense benefits of health care automation are being recognized more and more. It has been seen that health maintenance providers and organizations making their systems fully automated, are exhibiting consider progress in the quality of care provided, improvement in the level of patient satisfaction and increase in the ability to deal with emergencies.

An automated system adds substantively to the quality of service in any sector. The health maintenance industry is no exception to the rule. Given the complexities involved in patient care and security, there is absolutely no doubt that health care automation is going to make the entire system much more efficient, quick and cost-effective, thereby giving a boost to the quality of care provided. If all the essential information regarding patients, their medical history and their ongoing treatments is stored on an automated system, it saves a great deal of time for both the health maintenance providers and the patients, thereby lowering the usage of too many resources.

Although the health care sector has been using electronic health records for years, they have also started recognizing the advantages of automation through bar code technology. The process of automated patient identification lowers the use of administrative resources, henceby reducing administrative costs substantively and giving a boost to the quality of care.

Let us discuss the various aspects that have been seen to improve with the use of bar code technology in the health maintenance industry:

Admission of Patients: The registration and admission process of patients can be made automated by the use of bar code on patient wristbands, records and medical forms, which in turn makes the entire procedure of admitting patients quicker and more convenient.

Care and safety of Patients: The bar code of a patient can be directly linked to their medical history and other health information, which helps immensely in determining the accurate medications and treatment procedures for them. It is an effective way to ensure better health care and complete safety for the patients.

Hospital Pharmacy: Bar code information on prescriptions and medication labels enabling an appropriate use of drugs and dosages.

Laboratory Purpose: Labels on the test tubes, Petri dishes and slides provided with patient bar code information, results in a more accurate collection of specimen and data.

Patient Billing: Bar code automation leads to a more correct billing and medical charges by the use of bar code on patient statements and medical supplies.

Health care automation is an excellent way to make the system more efficient, organized, prompt and unduly cost-effective. Information technology is helping the health maintenance sector in a variety of ways like electronic medical records, computerized billing, automated patient identification and many more. Amazingly, the organizations using the automated system have shown records of reduced death rates, reduced complication in medical matters and costs. With so many advantages and benefits, a fully automated system is becoming a trend in the health care sector.

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Health Care Reform and Personalization: Will Healthcare Services Change?

What does health care reform mean to you? It might be better coverage if you can not afford healthcare; It may mean higher deductibles and prices if you already have health insurance; Sometimes it means complicated changes to existing healthcare plans, insurance coverage for those with pre-existing conditions and the confusion and delays of the Healthcare Marketplace to find a plan that works for you and that you can afford. One thing that it could mean for all of us is the personalization of healthcare.

When you go into a retail store to purchase something but you do not know exactly where to look or what the right choice is, who do you ask? Usually people ask the retail sales associate.

The expectation is that they will know not only where the product is in the store, but the best purpose for it and how to use it. Unfortunately, according to a recent survey, the “Retail Buying Experience”, we are more often than not disappointed. 2 out of 5 consumers become frustrated because the sales associate does not have the expertise to guide them toward the right product for their specific needs. The survey finds really point to one word: personalization. What does “personalization” have to do with choosing medical services?

We will all be required to be smarter consumers of healthcare because more of us will be opting for High Deductible Health Plans (HDHP) and the use of Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) in order to cut costs on rising healthcare costs and insurance premiums. The Affordable Care Act requires that health insurance companies cover basic preventive care services and tests which were not previously covered. Both companies and individuals may have already seen their premiums and costs rise due to these requirements. The individual responsibility mandate that everyone must purchase health insurance will push young, healthy individuals to seek out the least expensive options; frequently the HDHPs.

If you have been just going along with what your plan covers, now is the time to become more selective in the healthcare choices we make. You may want to be more proactive with your own individual wellness in an effort to stay healthy and keep your insurance premiums and health-related costs down. You may also choose to have lab tests whether they are covered by your insurance or not because you believe you need the information they will provide to measure and monitor your health. Independent labs may have medical assistants who are knowledgeable about the tests that they provide and can guide consumers to the ones that may be the most appropriate for their circumstances. If the lab test results are “abnormal” or “out-of-range”, you will be encouraged to see see your physician, but this may help you to avoid costs that are not needed.

Personalization of all services, but specifically medical services, will be a major trend for 2014, not only at drug stores and big box stores, but at your doctor's office and your chosen lab testing facility. A “one size fits all” approach is no longer the norm as many of us are forced to adapt to stricter healthcare budgets.

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