Category: Healthcare

Photo byConnor Tarter  CC-BY-SA

4 Trends in Healthcare IT for 2016

Outsourcing IT Functions

As technology becomes more pervasive in the healthcare field, more and more hospitals and networks are outsourcing at least some of their IT functions. According to Healthcare IT News, “Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of health systems with more than 300 beds — and 81 percent of providers with fewer than 300 beds — are shifting their focus to IT outsourcing for development and complex infrastructure services.”

The complexity of complying with new regulations means health systems and clinics are finding it more cost-efficient to contract out functions including EHR and analytics to companies that have the knowledge and full-time staff to both handle their current needs and innovate new solutions. In addition to reducing costs, outsourcing IT can help ensure that your IT professionals have all the necessary and up-to-date expertise to tackle new problems. But you should research your vendor and set realistic budgets and expectations, as failing to do so can lead to cost overruns or capabilities shortfalls.

Electronic Health Records.

Photo by Connor Tarter - CC-BY-SA

Photo by Connor TarterCC-BY-SA

EHR was supposed to help doctors focus their attention on patients instead of paperwork, yet poor implementations have often not led to these stated claims. A paper from the Harvard Business review studied this problem and developed a number of recommendations including:

  • Clearly define “the why”: emphasize a culture that places physician performance at the forefront.
  • Ensure doctors can focus on being doctors: limit physician distractions and move as much of the insurance, billing, and records tasks to administrative teams, where it can be done more efficiently and cost-effectively
  • Focus on outcomes instead of services: by tracking healthcare outcomes and incentivizing performance, it reinforces the fundamental reason for healthcare.

Big Data Analytics

Big Data has become somewhat of a buzzword in the IT industry, but expect it to continue dominating headlines as the sheer amount of data created increases as does our ability to analyze and understand it. Apple and IBM have teamed up to create as system in which iPhone users can upload their data to IBM’s Watson Health, a cloud-based analytics service. Big data is helping researchers select the best candidates for pharmaceutical and treatment trials,
and mobile phone data was used to help track and predict the spread of the recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Expect also to see companies develop new ways of gathering and collecting data from different sources, which currently hold information in fragmented databases that limit the effectiveness of analytics tools.

Cybersecurity

Given the amount of personal information available in patient records, healthcare is one of the leading targets for cybercrime. The Anthem breach in February 2015 compromised the data of almost 80 million customers, and in the first half of 2015, the healthcare industry was hit with 187 breaches, accounting for 21 percent of total incidents. Ensuring IT security is more important than ever both in protecting your organization from liability and helping patients feel comfortable trusting you with some of their most intimate information.

HealthIT.gov has a list of tips to help healthcare practices protect their information, the first of which being establishing a security culture. As strong as any IT strategy can be, human error can and does still lead to breaches, so training employees to do their part to prevent such attacks is critical.

Change as an Opportunity in Healthcare

Implementing change in a business is often seen as a major hurdle or obstacle. To an extent, all change is essential if it is aligned to the businesses strategy for growth or development in a new market. Regardless, outside forces can create the need for businesses to change. Rather than viewing change as an obstacle, leadership in a company needs to see change as the opportunity that it can be.

"New Children's Hospital" by KitAy

“New Children’s Hospital” by KitAy

Healthcare is an industry that knows this better than others. Because healthcare has been around as long as people have, it has had to change. Healthcare providers are the first to incorporate new technology and education into their practices because the effects can literally save lives. When Alexander Fleming cemented the use of penicillin, he revolutionized medicine. His innovation created the need for change around the world. However, the use of penicillin has created resistant strains of bacteria and with this, the cycle of change of innovation continues.

Healthcare professionals have adapted to changing in their practices very well over time and cannot afford to be resistant. Management in the healthcare industry needs to follow this example as well.

Though the consequences aren’t as dire in the lives of their organization’s patients, the life of their organization can depend on integrating new, disruptive change and innovation. The real business success comes when they recognize these changes as the opportunity they often are.

One Monetary Incentive

A new change that all health administrators must adapt to are the Clinical Quality Measures. These are electronically-documented measures of the quality of care patients receive. According to the Health IT Committee Report from September 3, 2013, around $16 Billion in incentive dollars for meaningful use of the new policies have been paid out to eligible providers (both hospitals and professionals). Clinical Quality Measures are assessed in a 2 phase process. Providers must demonstrate their compliance with new regulations in the data storage and tracking for the services and the quality of care they provide.

The reluctance to change under these circumstances can be justified by the cost per bed to upgrade to these new procedures, but hospitals from large, metropolitan center – to mid-size and smaller, rural facilities are seeing revenues return to normal within one year and a return on this investment after 2 years. Regardless, if a facility is providing quality care, they may already be meeting many of these new changes.

Fort Belvoir Community Hospital astounds with groundbreaking technology and devotion to patient care

The following is from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Website (cms.gov) and shows the type of information that is collected in the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Program:

Clinical quality measures, or CQMs, are tools that help measure and track the quality of health care services provided by eligible professionals, eligible hospitals and critical access hospitals (CAHs) within our health care system. These measures use data associated with providers’ ability to deliver high-quality care or relate to long term goals for quality health care. CQMs measure many aspects of patient care including:

health outcomes
clinical processes
patient safety
efficient use of health care resources
care coordination
patient engagements
population and public health
adherence to clinical guidelines
Measuring and reporting CQMs helps to ensure that our health care system is delivering effective, safe, efficient, patient-centered, equitable, and timely care.
To participate in the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Programs and receive an incentive payment, providers are required to submit CQM data from certified EHR technology.

2014 Clinical Quality Measure Options
In August May 2014, CMS released a final rule that grants flexibility to providers who are unable to fully implement 2014 Edition CEHRT for an EHR reporting period in 2014 due to delays in 2014 CEHRT availability. The different 2014 CQM submission options are outlined below.

2011 & 2014 CEHRT
Providers scheduled to demonstrate Stage 1 who are using a combination of 2011 and 2014 Editions submit 2013 CQMs or 2014 CQMs, depending on whether they report 2013 Stage 1 or 2014 Stage 1 objectives.

Providers scheduled to demonstrate Stage 2 using a combination of 2011 and 2014 Editions submit 2013 CQMs if they report 2013 Stage 1 objectives, or submit 2014 CQMs if they report 2014 Stage 1 objectives or Stage 2 objectives.

2014 CEHRT
Providers scheduled to demonstrate Stage 1 or Stage 2 in 2014 who have fully implemented 2014 CEHRT use 2014 CQMs.
Visit the 2014 Clinical Quality Measure page to learn more about 2014 CQMs and 2014 reporting options.
Visit the Resources for Previous Years of the EHR Incentive Programs page to learn more about 2013 CQMs and 2013 reporting options.

It is possible that your facility is already compliant with much of these new changes and the only thing left to do is record this information. In fact, providers may have already been doing this – in which case, the issue is using the correct software and methodology to track and store data.

In addition to the monetary incentives of this program, medical staff could also operate more efficiently and provide higher quality care to patients. Change is always necessary in the healthcare field, and it may be difficult, but generations of people living happier, more productive lives are a testament to the powerful effects well-implemented change can have on your organization and the people within it.

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