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Major Challenges remain for Health IT Interoperability 

Major Challenges remain for Health IT Interoperability  | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

The road to the seamless sharing of patient data across the digital health care spectrum is not measured in miles or meters, but in the continued collaborative efforts of the public and private sectors to build and regulate networks for the free flow of information.

 

But for all of its efforts, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT concedes that path to interoperability remains winding. That’s why it hosted two panel discussions Tuesday for National Health IT Week to talk about the challenges and successes of the adoption and sharing of electronic health records.

 

“We certainly still have a long way to go with health IT, whether it be usability or interoperability, but we wanted to talk a bit about where we’ve come so far,” said Principal Deputy National Coordinator for Health IT Genevieve Morris.

 

The panels focused on both the interoperability of the digital devices storing EHRs and their usability in an effort to map out where the health sector is and where it still has to go.

Among the takeaways were:

 

It’s not a tech problem — it’s leadership 

Ed Cantwell, president and CEO of the Center for Medical Interoperability—a nonprofit research lab advancing data sharing in medical technology—said that while innovation is being spurred through the health care sector, the gap in information sharing is coming from a lack of collaboration.

 

“I have a hypothesis that you could put 20 executives in a room representing comprehensive interoperability, there would be vendors, hospital CEOs and physicians, but it’s not a technology problem,” he said. “It’s a lack of coordinated leadership. I think the call to action is let’s put those people in a room. Every other industry has done it, they’ve come together and put their differences aside.”

 

Cantwell also said during the panel that while ONC does have the leverage to guide the policy direction of health IT, the private sector will have to lead the move toward greater interoperability.

“I think this is the time where the private market needs to step up,” he said. “Whether it’s for-profit or nonprofit or public or military or [the Department of Veterans Affairs], if we are to start the slurry of digital and set a goal to be on parallel with every other data liquid industry, then I think we need to stop this fantasy of think that ONC can, from the sidelines, impact a $3 trillion market.”

 

There’s no one-size-fits-all

John Kansky, president and CEO of the Indiana Health Information Exchange, said that part of the challenge of interoperability is that it has to serve a diverse range of needs across a wide network, from physicians to hospitals to insurance providers.

 

“I don’t think moving health care data around the country is any less complicated than moving people and stuff around the country,” he said. “Interoperability isn’t one thing. Every organization has complex interoperability needs.”

 

Kansky said that both government and the market have distinct roles in guiding and adapting interoperability and have to collaborate to ensure that they can make it more efficient.

 

Hard-to-build software to meet every need

Andrey Ostrovsky, chief medical officer at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, said it’s very difficult to design a product centered on its ease of use while also delivering functionality that serves the layers of users in health care.

 

“It’s very hard to build software well,” Ostrovsky, the former CEO of predictive insights platform Care at Hand, said. “It’s even harder to build software well when you have multiple end users. When we talk about the federal government’s role in somehow influencing how software gets developed or evolves, we not only have the design constraints of what does the patient need but also what does the physician need, what does the practicing admin need, what does the potential payer need in terms of reporting, and then we’ve got what does the federal government need?”

To try to bridge those gaps, at least when it comes to physician adoption, ONC Chief Medical Information Officer Andrew Gettinger said the office is working with MedStar to develop a usability package to help smooth the rocky process physicians face in implementing an EHR system.

 

“Putting in an EHR is very different than buying an automobile,” he said. “If you are buying an automobile, you have a couple different choices for color and drive off the lot pretty quickly. When you do an EHR, there are hundreds and perhaps thousands of small decisions that the implementation team makes along the way.”

Gettinger said ONC expects the usability package to be out by March 2018, which will hopefully provide doctors with a streamlined process for EHR adoption.

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Interactive text messages improve Medicare members prescription refills by 14 percentage points 

Interactive text messages improve Medicare members prescription refills by 14 percentage points  | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

new large-scale study shows that interactive, tailored text messages can improve medication adherence by 14 percent.

“The program results far exceed our expectations with 44 percent refill rate in the text message group as compared to 30 percent in the non-text group,” Rena Brar Prayaga, the paper’s corresponding author and a behavioral data scientist at mPulse Mobile, said in a statement. “In addition to the difference in refill rates, the 37 percent response rate by this older Medicare population was higher than expected and patient feedback was very positive with 96 percent of the patients indicating that the solution was easy to use.”

 

The study — conducted at Kaiser Permanente Southern California and using technology from mPulse Mobile — included 88,340 Medicare patients (all over age 65) with multiple chronic conditions. Specifically, patients were taking ora diabetes medications, blood pressure medicines, statins, or some combination of the three. The cohorts were not randomized. All patients were given the option to sign up for text messages, but only 12,272 opted in, leaving 76,068. Both groups received traditional adherence aids like automated and non-automated phone calls reminding them to refill prescriptions.

The mPulse Mobile platform instigated an automated dialogue through which patients could get prescriptions refilled, ask questions, or explain why they had not refilled their prescription. Eighteen percent of text message dialogues resulted in refill requests.

 

Researchers also used natural language processing to parse the tone of patient responses to the automated message. About half were neutral, 41 percent were positive or very positive, and just 9 percent were negative or very negative. When asked directly whether the service was easy to use, 95 percent of those who responded said yes and 5 percent said no.

“It is worth noting that patients in the texting group engaged at a much higher rate than predicted,” researchers wrote in the study. “We had estimated that the patient response rate would be between 10 percent and 20 percent. … Our target refill request rate was 5 percent to 7 percent since we were messaging an older patient population. At the same time, we hoped that the ease of use of the refill dialogue might draw in more patients and nudge them toward completing their refill requests. The program results far exceeded our expectations. Throughout the three-month program, the response rate was around 37 percent, and the three-month average refill request rate was 18 percent.”

Based on the success of the program, Kaiser Permanente intends to deploy it at additional locations.

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How to Grow Your Practice with Personalized Healthcare Marketing 

How to Grow Your Practice with Personalized Healthcare Marketing  | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

With every New Year, there are new plans and strategies for self and practice’s growth. This year also, you are ought to see new healthcare and marketing developments combined with a higher competition. This makes digital marketing imperative for your practice. But, how to win the race of online marketing? According to Hubspot, “Nearly three-fourths (74%) of online consumers get frustrated by the content they receive that has nothing to cater to their interest. Since one-size-fits-all has become an outdated concept today, you need to go for personalized marketing strategy.

Benefits of personalized marketing

Let’s start with understanding the benefits of personalization. In addition to a quality experience for your patients, your practice also enjoys following advantages

Loyal patients: A personalized care motivates your patient to revisit your practice. Patients, value your treatment and care that meet their needs and go for additional services as well. Subsequently, loyal patients promote your practice among their friends and family.

Strong online reputation: With happy patients, you are likely to get numerous positive reviews for your practice. Personalization helps you request individuals for positive feedback and they won’t mind sparing a few minutes to write well about you and your practice online. But, the story does not end here, instead, you need to respond them.

Check for reviews on all reviews platforms and social media channels and whether positive or negative, respond to reviews. This will make your patients feel valued and inspired to revisit your practice.

How to personalize your marketing message?

  1. Email marketing

One aspect of personalized emailing is launching email campaigns segmented on the basis of gender, age, family, etc. That is

– Gender-specific: Uncheck the male email IDs when launching a health program for women.

– Age-specific: If your email campaign is focused on millennials diet or lifestyle, keep the baby boomers and the elderly out of it. Else, they might consider your email irrelevant and end up unsubscribing it.

– Family-focused: Email campaigns with general health tips, awareness programs, etc. should target the family of the reader. Next time, the reader is likely to bring his/ her family members to your practice for treatment.

– Try sending emails from your name instead of your practice’s name. This adds a value to the reader on being addressed by a human and not a brand.

– The mail should start with the recipient’s name such as “Dear (Patient name)”, “Hi (Patient name), and so on. This will motivate the receiver to read the email and won’t appear as a machine generated message.

  1. Social media marketing

You are very well aware of the popularity of social media sites and the growing number of people joining them. These platforms have become information forums where people discuss anything and everything with a large crowd. So, manage your social media profiles actively. Respond to your patients in a personalized manner. Monitor their activities regularly and design content that matches the needs of your target audience.

  1. Multichannel Marketing

Personalization needs to be accessed via all marketing channels to attract patients of all age groups. From mobile phones to newspapers, you need to get the attention of all your target audience. Where millennials are internet savvy, elderly people can be reached through TV ads and newspapers. Select the channel judiciously according to the age group of your patient.

In addition to the age, patient’s location is also an important consideration. Check your analytics and accordingly plan your activities. You can launch TV ads on local channels or get your articles published in the local newspaper to acquire local patients.

You can also make use of pay-per-click ads and remarket to capture more patients focusing their needs. This way an individual will find your service ads informative for himself and his acquaintance and will approach you immediately.

  1. Greetings

Wish your existing patients and new ones on occasions or life events such as birthdays or anniversaries for a delightful surprise. This will forge a personal connection with them. See you so considerate, you are likely to build a long-term relationship with many of your patients. These messages can be posted on social media accounts or sent in form of emails and text messages to people.

The story does not end here. Organize surveys, informal discussions, and seminars to gather feedback of your existing patients after their treatment. In addition to taking the feedback, you can enhance their knowledge of a treatment or ailment.

Lastly, what matters the most is an amazing user experience a patient gets on visiting your practice. To make your practice grow really big this year, personalize your services and get your patients revisit you in times of any health emergencies.

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Lean Healthcare A Guide For Healthcare IT Directors

Lean Healthcare A Guide For Healthcare IT Directors | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

Healthcare IT directors face a set of challenges that are unique in the healthcare industry. You’re working to keep patient information secure, nail down IT processes and provide the best equipment and service to bolster patient care – all while reacting to daily IT issues that arise.

 

If you’re looking for a way to streamline your processes, improve operations and ultimately provide your patients with better care, it’s time to consider the advantages of Lean healthcare.

In this hospital IT director’s guide to Lean healthcare, we’ll discuss what Lean healthcare is and how it enables these benefits.

Improving Your Operations Through Lean Healthcare

Lean healthcare relies heavily on philosophy, methodology and process, with some improved or optimized tools. In other words, you don’t have to overhaul your entire IT infrastructure. You just have to start using the tools you already have in the most efficient way possible to maximize their effectiveness. This approach is not centered on you, your nurses, your doctors or your staff members working harder. It’s focused on how all of you can work smarter.

Every workplace has areas of wasted or duplicated effort and time. The key to running an efficient operation is eliminating that waste. For example, Lean healthcare organizations will use value-stream mapping to outline the daily tasks or projects from a hospital staff member or group. As all functions are mapped out within that task or project, waste is identified as a piece that doesn’t directly contribute to delivering patient value or provide the best experience possible. The goal then is to eliminate that waste in the process.

Benefits For Healthcare IT Directors

As your organization's IT director, you’re constantly seeking ways to improve processes, operations and patient care. Lean healthcare enables you to reach those goals. Some of the benefits of Lean healthcare for IT directors include:

  • IMPROVED PROCESSES – For IT directors, processes are everything. You need a streamlined, waste-free, solutions-based process for solving problems in your workplace. Lean healthcare helps you formulate that structure.
  • PROACTIVE SOLUTIONS – Not only does Lean healthcare enable you to ensure process-based solutions, but it also empowers you to identify proactive solutions for your staff needs. Stop putting out fires and start proactively anticipating what challenges you’re likely to face.
  • GREATER EFFICIENCY – When you’re working smarter instead of harder, you’ll find that you have more time on your hands to perform your job. Distancing yourself from reactive IT methods and proactively solving problems frees up more time to play a leadership role in your organization.

Implementing Lean Healthcare

Adopting a Lean approach is about more than just understanding the philosophy. As an IT director, you have to put the right implementation methods in place. Use the following tips to build a solid foundation for successfully integrating Lean healthcare at your organization.

  • ENSURE OPEN COMMUNICATION. One of the most powerful aspects of Lean organizations is open communication. Lead the implementation of Lean healthcare by bringing staff members together to find operational improvement. This roundtable discussion of how to reduce waste – waste of energy, time, money, etc. – comprises representatives of all hospital staff and interested parties, including hospital IT, nurses, pharmaceutical staff and more. It might be the first time a representative of the nurses has discussed these issues with someone from billing or the pharmaceutical staff. As the IT director, you must work to establish a foundation of open communication, allowing parties to address any challenges the hospital is facing. Then, use these different perspectives to find smart, efficient solutions.
  • ELICIT BUY-IN FROM THE TOP DOWN. If a change is implemented in a company but the head of the organization doesn’t buy into the new process, that change is unlikely to have lasting success. The same holds true for Lean hospitals and clinics. One of the keys to a successful implementation of Lean principles is gaining acceptance from the top down. Solicit help from your hospital’s most senior parties to communicate the importance of adopting Lean healthcare. They should consider running a small, internal public relations campaign of sorts, communicating to everyone that your organization is taking Lean healthcare seriously.
  • VIEW IT AS A WAY OF LIFE. Lean healthcare used to be viewed as a passing fad. Over the course of the last few years, however, it’s become more than the next “flavor of the month” for IT solutions. It’s a way of life for many hospitals – not just a temporary fix for some of the challenges your organization faces, but rather a long-term solution that should be part of your organization's DNA. Treat your shift to Lean healthcare as a cultural change in your hospital if you’re looking for the rest of your staff to follow suit.

You have a responsibility to ensure a streamlined, proactive approach to healthcare IT. Take the steps to properly implement Lean healthcare, and you’ll reap the long-term benefits of working in an efficient organization where patients come first.

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HIMSS18 – What, Where and How HealthIT can impact healthcare 

HIMSS18 – What, Where and How HealthIT can impact healthcare  | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

With the annual #HIMSS18 conference just a few weeks away, most of the industry’s attention is turning to matters relating to technology, cyber security and the regulations around HealthIT. We thought it would be fitting, therefore, to team up with the wonderful folks at @HIMSS for a tweetchat focused on technology and healthcare.

 

I am a fan of artificial intelligence, machine learning and virtual reality (even though I cannot physically use VR for more than 2 minutes at a time). However, the technology that I’m most intrigued by is 3D printing – specifically the 3D printing of organs and organic material.

 

First, there is the impact this technology could have on solving hunger and nutrition. Imagine if we could “print” healthy food in places where growing it is difficult or where shipping it is cost-prohibitive. Imagine also if we could print foods that are personalized to each person’s unique metabolism and dietary needs. The impact on public health would be significant and worldwide.

 

A long time ago I read a science fiction novel that talked about the advent of this type of technology: Gateway by Fredrick Pohl. The novel made frequent mention of something called CHON-food. Pohl imagined a world where CHON machines were able to replicate food by combining four key elements: carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen. The advent of these machines helped to solve world hunger and ended many of the wars for water and food that that plagued the Earth. I hope we are at the start of CHON revolution.

 

Second, there is the impact of 3D printing on surgery and transplants. Researchers are very close to being able to print human skin using organic printers that can be used in reconstructive surgeries. The impact this technology could have on burn patients would be incredible. So too could the impact on patients that need a transplant. According to UNOS, every ten minutes someone is added to the national transplant waiting list and on average 20 people die each day while waiting for a transplant. With organ-printing technology these premature deaths might be prevented. Using tissue samples, organs can be printed to exactly match the patient’s physiology. Bonus: no more worries about organ rejection.

 

I’ve got my eye on 3D printing and over the next few years I expect it to have an impact beyond technologies like AI, machine learning and analytics. However, it’s going to take time for this technology to mature. In the meantime, there are certain areas of healthcare that can use a little boost TODAY.

 

Patient engagement and behavior change is an area of healthcare I hope #HealthIT will be able to help. Patients are the most untapped resource available to healthcare. Despite all the trackers, portals and video tutorials, health literacy remains extremely low. Some would argue that the widespread adoption of EHRs had even contributed to patient dis-engagement as doctors and nurses spend more time staring at screens rather than speaking to patients about their health. I see a golden opportunity in healthcare for patient engagement technology.

 

In the early 90s, the field of behavioral economics took shape. Richard Thaler, the University of Chicago professor who recently won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, began publishing a series of papers that combined psychology and economics. His work led many to begin studying the ways that human behavior influences financial decisions. We need to apply those same theories to healthcare and design #HealthIT systems that nudge patients (and clinicians) into healthier behaviors.

I am incredibly excited about the future of healthcare. I am certain we are making progress towards a brighter day for patients, doctors, nurses, family caregivers and administrators. As I walk the #HIMSS18 exhibit hall I will be on the hunt for companies that share this outlook and whose products show clear signs of patient/provider design input.

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What Your Healthcare Organization Needs to Know About Measure Selection and EHR Configuration 

What Your Healthcare Organization Needs to Know About Measure Selection and EHR Configuration  | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

Participation in pay-for-performance plans like MACRA’s Quality Payment Program (QPP) poses new challenges for resource-strapped healthcare organizations. Many provider sites lack the time and technical expertise needed to retool their EHR implementation to document new metrics under value-based reimbursement models like the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS).

 

Nonetheless, that is precisely what clinicians must do to deliver on quality reporting requirements. When using EHR documentation tools, many factors must be considered for a provider to get credit on having met clinical quality measures (CQMs). How that information gets stored in the EHR directly affects reporting. Many healthcare organizations are finding that customizing an EHR to recognize when a measure has been met—preferably in a manner that poses as few interruptions to patient engagement as possible—is easier said than done.

Overcoming EHR Limitations

Many outpatient and inpatient settings still struggle with common EHR data management headaches. As clinicians bring new quality measures into the EHR, those underlying data management issues can foil even the best-laid reporting plans.

Discrete Data Capture

The push to better document clinical quality is causing a transition in EHRs to focus more on structured or discrete data that is easier to trend over time. Unfortunately, many healthcare providers still receive patient data from healthcare affiliates via fax. Those faxed documents show up as attachments in the patient chart and are not fully integrated into the patient data file. If that information was sent via HL7 interface instead, details on the care rendered by that hospital or other healthcare entity would flow into the EHR as discreet data variables. For many providers today, capturing that information in a manner that makes it usable in reporting and analytics still requires timely, manual data entry.

Documentation and Data Consistency

Provider sites with multiple clinicians may also encounter issues related to the slightly different way that each EHR user documents care. MIPS and other quality programs require consistency and a high degree of specificity in clinical documentation. If a clinician does not get diagnosis specifics into the patient chart, that patient may not be included in the CQM calculation they need to be included in. Many clinicians are having to modify their documentation process during patient encounters so they and the staff can capture all the necessary information in the EHR.

Clinical documentation will have even bigger repercussions under the Cost component of MIPS, which is slated to be factored into performance scores in coming years. Take, for example, a patient that is in for the flu. That patient has a certain anticipated cost impact (the average Medicare spending per beneficiary), calculated based on past medical history and services rendered. If a patient goes to a physician and has the flu but also has diabetes, heart failure, and asthma, that flu patient is probably going to cost more to care for. If the physician only submits the flu diagnosis and fails to document patient co-morbidities then the healthcare organization will not get the same allowance under the MIPS Cost category and could be labeled as “higher cost” than a comparable provider encounter for a patient that required fewer resources to care for.

Clinicians, coders, and staff need to make a mental transition away from “we’re submitting claims” to “we’re submitting data” to better serve clinical reporting initiatives and patient care analysis.

Making Informed CQM Selections

Beyond adapting to new data management processes, clinicians reporting under value-based programs also have a great deal to learn as they layer in additional quality measures under MACRA. One of the biggest challenges clinicians and administrators face is selecting the best measures for their specific healthcare organization. With limited spare time on their hands, many healthcare teams are leaning on outside expertise to help them evaluate the implications of various measure selections.

Measures Without Benchmarks

Many quality measures under MACRA are carry-overs or “relics” from other reporting programs. For these CQMs, providers can look to prior performance averages to evaluate the likelihood of success should the healthcare organization elect to report on those measures. That data does not exist for some CQMs, which are referred to as “measures without benchmarks.” On measures that have no benchmark data available, providers will be limited to a maximum of three reporting points instead of the ten points available on measures with benchmarks established.

To further complicate things, details on the availability of some benchmark data will not be calculated until after the March 2018 QPP reporting deadline. Providers may wish to further diversify or report on additional measures that could help offset low point earnings on measures without benchmarks.

Topped Out Measures

Another CQM caveat that providers should be aware of relates to “topped out” measures. These relic measures from other reporting programs are very engrained in many healthcare settings. Medication reconciliation, for example, was a requirement under Meaningful Use. Widespread adoption and universally high compliance rates on that measure makes it more difficult for clinicians to out-perform peers. Achieving maximum points on such measures requires a perfect or near-perfect score.

Keep average performance thresholds in mind when evaluating CQM selections, not just the healthcare entity’s individual performance track record. Look at a broader set of measures to maximize MIPS score potential. Clinicians could earn more points by scoring 70 percent on a non-topped out measure than they would earn scoring 95 percent on a topped out measure. Some topped out measures will likely be eliminated in future years to help diversify CQMs, as was the case under Meaningful Use.

Understanding the intricacies of CQM selection and EHR data management will be vital to success under value-based payment programs. Healthcare administrators and clinicians who proactively work to better understand the impact of various measures and streamline EHR processes will be best positioned to maximize program incentives.

 

Does your organization have the resources it needs to successfully navigate MIPS

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Healthcare Compliance Consultants 

Healthcare Compliance Consultants  | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

With the Affordable Care Act going into effect, the sheer number of hospitals, insurance companies, and other healthcare providers, that have struggled to successfully implement major changes in their working – without assistance – has increased drastically. Before that, most of the physicians were comfortable in their working. With the major reforms looming; many doctors decided to join hospitals, and by default – leave their private practice. If only they approached the correct issues by hiring the right team, or even the right person, everything would have been different. This is where a healthcare compliance consultant becomes the most useful.

Healthcare compliance consultants can notice the full potential of a practice, a hospital, or any other health facility. They base their strategies on data analysis, knowledge, professionalism, and dedication – while showing the right way to an efficient, low-cost working. Therefore, many healthcare providers since have decided to hire a healthcare compliance consultant.
The global healthcare consulting market is constantly growing. With a value of over $6 billion in 2014, the market amounts to 7% of the whole healthcare consultant industry. With the aspect of further growth, especially in the U.S. – which holds almost two-thirds (62%) of the whole $6.33 billion because of the reforms – the competition in the field is also rising. Meaning, finding the right consultant, whether an individual or an agency, can be challenging.

What to Look for in Healthcare Compliance Consultants

Due to the consultant’s high level of importance to their client, one might ask – what should you even begin to look for in a healthcare reform consultant? My first response to that question is knowledge, this is essential. You need an individual or a team that understands the emerging healthcare market. Reliable consultants have the tools to monitor trends and factors that influence the industry. They depend on data, but still develop their own view of the way the entire system functions. An independent thinker will always understand things better than anyone else. Look for someone that has a unique point of view. It can be wise to test the person’s or the team’s knowledge by having them around for a while. It is a small investment, but it will eventually pay off. Look for someone that will blend with your team and will be interested enough to see what’s beyond the medical practice. These individuals develop suitable strategies that will help you save, improve your management, and teach you how to stand on your own feet. Always look for a well-educated, experienced person. In the healthcare compliance consulting field, a Bachelor degree is the minimum criteria. In case you decide to hire a consultant company, inform yourself on their latest successful projects. Evaluate their views, approaches, and values. It is important for the company to invest in professional development and growth. Getting references can be helpful during the evaluation. However, consultants only show their success. Digging a little bit deeper, for example, spending time in networking can reveal some unexpected information.

Secondly, look for experience. In consulting, the power of experience can’t be underestimated. Many companies don’t include individuals with a minimum of 10 years of experience as their team members. While the size of the consultant company doesn’t make a huge difference, many years of experience are an advantage in solving big projects.

Finally, you must take into account the overall efficiency of your new consultant.The right consultant will have backup plans, but still get manage to finish the project on time. Simply because the team has failed to finish a project in a timely manner before; doesn’t mean that you should hesitate to hire another consultant now. Additionally, an efficient consultant will approach the problem with long-term goals in mind, offering quality work that will stay with your practice, even after the project is officially over. They will provide you with the necessary guidance that will help you manage your practice in a more profitable and efficient way.

Benefits that come from having the right consultant on-hand.

Now as you could imagine, there’s a vast amount of benefits that can come from having a consultant on your team throughout the healthcare reform and implementation processes. First and foremost, the overall easier managing of large projects is one of the main benefits that’s noticeable almost right away. Have you ever tried to fix a problem without a success? With the consultant’s management skills and technical expertise, your project has higher chances to succeed. It is of great value that a consultant develops a strategy by finding the causes of the problem. They will focus on the major issues that need to be solved and by making the project a priority, you will maintain profitability and improve patient service. The consultant is an outsider. Sometimes the issues you might not know you’ve had, will be revealed by a person that is not familiar with the situation and has a clear point of view. Meaning, you need an individual or a team that will commit and spend their time focusing their attention on a particular field.
The second benefit is huge: the increased ROI. The initial cost of the consultant won’t overweight the saving that you will make in the long run. Consultants develop an in-depth strategy that includes all your costs, research on your competitors, measures that you can take to save, and much more, that contribute to organized, effective, and improved practice. Keep in mind that bringing your practice to that level requires an individual or a team that is able to see the flaws and propose an efficient approach.

Watch your practice grow exponentially.

As well, you begin to learn how to run a practice as it is – a business. Many physicians and hospitals are dedicated and focused on providing the best medical service to their patients. Usually, they don’t think of running their practice as a business. This brings them to the point when they face many problems and hope to solve them on their own, or with a help of their team. Eventually, they realize that their team can’t solve all of those problems. Dealing with a complex issue that requires dedication, plan, and analysis can’t be solved by a non-expert team in the field. Healthcare consultants have the required tools and a team that not only will help you solve your problem, but understand the operating and management your business needs.
Next, you will save time figuring out everything by yourself. Implementing planning strategies in your practice is not your expertise. Even if you think you know the best way to run your business, trust me, there is someone that is much better. Spare yourself of all the struggles. You will save time, energy, and money. And save your team the extra effort of figuring everything out. Let them do what they do best. Serve your patients.
In conclusion, you will also improve the quality of your services and operations. Healthcare compliance consultants pay attention to every detail in your practice. They collaborate with your team, developing a new way to improve everyday operations, which leads to the final goal – helping patients. By improving the quality of your overall working, you have higher chances to reduce medical errors, improve patient safety, improve staff, and create a safe environment. Healthcare compliance consultants provide a plan with realistic goals for your organization, set a reasonable deadline, and finished the project successfully. They are well-informed, knowledgeable, innovative, and great leaders.

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4 Healthcare Software Trends to Watch in 2018 

4 Healthcare Software Trends to Watch in 2018  | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

Healthcare has always been an industry where innovative technologies transform the way services are delivered and received. It’s also one of those sectors that can be affected by slow movement in innovation, due to the complication of its formalities, tasks, processes and regulations.

 

The good news is that the industry’s innovative side has finally taken off in the last few years, and software is playing a major role in reshaping the healthcare sector.

 

What does that mean for you, the medical professional: dentist, doctor, ER practitioner, risk manager, nurse, etc? It means that both your practice and your patients’ experiences will improve over the course of the next decade with the help of some amazing new technology.

 
In terms of software, the following four healthcare software trends are most likely to impact the healthcare industry in the next few years:

1. Multi-Speciality & Niche Specialty EHR Software

A multi-specialty EHR for software has several benefits for specialty practices spanning to multiple domains. It ensures improved compatibility and prevents a patchwork approach to integrating a separate EHR system for every specialty. This can help bring down the added time and expense of interconnecting different groups of specialists. Healthcare organizations can find the investment costs, financial health and reputation of differentEHR software on software evaluation sites, and make a sound IT software decision based on their needs.

2. Patient Portals & Self-Service Software

With patients rapidly becoming active players in their own healthcare treatment, portal software is on its way to becoming mainstream. It enables patients and physicians to interact online and access their medical records. In addition, portal software can be an extraordinary ally for the patients who use it, helping them catch errors and becoming an active participant in ongoing treatments.

Patient Kiosk software is another interesting development. It can help patients with checking identification, registering with clinics, paying copays and signing official paperwork. However, institutions have to be careful when using it to ensure that human-to-human communication isn’t entirely eliminated.

3. Blockchain Solutions

Healthcare professionals and technologists across the globe see blockchain tech as a means to streamline and secure the sharing of medical records, giving patients greater control over their information and protecting sensitive details from hackers. In order to achieve these goals, custom-built healthcare blockchains are needed. Startups like Patientory, Burst IQ, Hashed Health, doc.ai and others are gearing up to introduce blockchain tech to the EHR software industry, providing a way to store health records. When required, professionals can request to see their patients’ data from the blockchain.

4. Consumer-Grade UX in Enterprise Software

For almost a decade, physicians at the front line of enterprise healthcare delivery struggled with software that’s difficult to use, confusing and downright frustrating. The biggest culprit of poor UX is linked to the purchasing process of the enterprise.

 

Oftentimes, vendors create software for buyers who aren’t end users. If the buyers and end users have the same personas, healthcare software vendors can deliver the same user experience as seen in other B2B industries.

 

Regardless, in 2018, expect more consumer-grade user experiences and buyer-value products. Additionally, enterprise healthcare management will bank on analytics and machine learning to improve visibility into healthcare efficiency for personnel and employers. This will reveal usage patterns and reduce inappropriate and unnecessary care.

 

From detecting fraud to slashing healthcare spending, advanced healthcare software could very well be the silver bullet that eliminates all kinds of healthcare inefficiencies.

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Barbara Lond's curator insight, January 28, 10:37 AM
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AI must overcome data challenges to reach healthcare potential 

AI must overcome data challenges to reach healthcare potential  | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

Dive Brief:

  • Rapid digitization of health information in EHRs and other repositories is creating new opportunities for AI in healthcare, but challenges in data accessibility, privacy and security persist, according to a new ONC report.
  • Frustration with legacy medical systems, the omnipresence of networked smart devices and consumer comfort with at-home services offered by Amazon and other tech vendors is driving interest in AI's potential.
  • Smartphone, social and environmental data can all be potential sources to fuel AI's use in healthcare. However, the report concludes such data must be high quality and reliable. Otherwise, AI's promise will not be realized in healthcare.

Dive Insight:

AI is a hot healthcare topic but still needs to be translated into reality, especially in an industry as complex as healthcare. 

During the second quarter of 2017, CB Insights counted 29 investment deals in the healthcare AI space — a record number — and predicted 2017 would set a six-year high.

 

Enthusiasm is expected to stay heated into 2018, with demand for tools that go beyond noting social determinants of health to using that data to inform patient care plans.

 

While investors will continue to fund wearables and biosensors, what grabs their attention are specific clinical use cases these technologies can support, Megan Zweig, director of research at Rock Health, told Healthcare Dive recently.

 

Tech giants including IBM Watson, Microsoft, Google and Apple are staking a claim in the space, too. Last month, Google launched Deep Variant, an open-source tool that uses AI to create a picture of a person’s genetic blueprint using sequencing data. The goal is to pinpoint specific genes or gene mutations that can help providers better manage disease states.

 

But challenges to widespread use of AI in health remain, as the ONC study shows. Among these are the acceptance of AI applications in clinical practice, difficulty leveraging divergent personal networked devices and AI solutions, access to quality training data on AI applications in health and gaps in data streams.

 

The report belies a large obstacle for rampant AI use. White noting the importance of high quality and reliable data, the industry has a data standards problem at the moment which needs to be ironed out. 

 

Currently, different vendors and clinicians send unstructured data in medical records back and forth across EHR systems through continuity-of-care documents, which are format flexible. If the promise of AI relies on reliable data, standards will have to be well-defined to ensure the data are high quality.

 

On the bright side, the industry seems aware that healthcare is close to a breaking point at interoperability. The growing Internet of Things and consumerism in healthcare naturally demands a more networked, connected industry approach. 

 

CMS Administrator Seema Verma in a town hall webcast on Wednesday with American Hospital Association CEO and President Rick Pollack said interoperability will be a topic of interest for the agency. She told listeners they will hear more from CMS in the future.

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The Future of Emergency Medicine: Innovations Making Patients The Point-of-Care 

The Future of Emergency Medicine: Innovations Making Patients The Point-of-Care  | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it
Six minutes before brain damage

Car crashes, home injuries, fires, natural disasters. The difference between life and death often depends on the speed and efficiency of emergency care services. The work of doctors, paramedics, and nurses being in the first line of the battle against early and meaningless death or paralyzation is extremely difficult and inspirational at the same time. Sometimes there are only seconds left to save a patient’s life. In case of high-risk patients, each minute waiting for treatment significantly reduces their chance of surviving. This includes cardiac arrest patients, where brain damage typically starts within four to six minutes.

No wonder that millions of people (including The Medical Futurist team) jittered through more than 300 episodes of Chicago County General Hospital’s ER starting from the 1990s, and that the gig ensured a standing place for George Clooney among the biggest stars. The suggestive power of doctors and nurses saving lives also gave a rise to medical documentaries, such as the BBC’s An Hour To Save Your Life, the American docudrama entitled Untold Stories of the ER with re-enactments of real-life medical stories or the more recent incarnation of ER, entitled Chicago Med.

Patients to the hospital or hospital to the patient?

In spite of the impression through the television screens that the emergency department is one of the most important medical specialties, the field is relatively new and it is mostly the product of the accelerated, globalized world we live in. Some experts say that modern emergency medicine services were first developed in the United States in the 1960s; as a response to the increased traffic accidents due to the boom of cars on the newly built American highways. Later one, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, and Singapore followed shortly thereafter, developing their respective emergency medical systems in the 1970s and 1980s.

While the aim of emergency care is the same in every country – providing timely care to victims of sudden and life-threatening injuries or emergencies in order to prevent needless mortality or long-term morbidity –; two different approaches emerged. The Anglo-American model represents the “patient to the hospital” practice, while the Franco-German model means the “hospital to the patient” way of thinking.

 

The latter is used in most European countries, and it means that medical doctors supported by paramedics treat more patients on the scene of an accident or in their homes then bringing them to the hospital, thus emergency care happens on the scene or en route to the hospital. In the case of the Anglo-American model, fewer patients are treated on the spot, and they rather transport the injured to the emergency room as fast as possible for treatment. Currently, countries in the developed world use some practices from both models, but the latest digital technologies will rather push emergency medicine in the direction of the “hospital to the patient” approach. Let me show you how!

We collected the latest innovations making it possible to treat medical and trauma emergencies faster and more efficient than ever before. Dávid Márkus, first aid expert and medical student at Semmelweis Medical School, helped us a lot with finding the relevant directions. He is also the developer of a chatbot on Messengerthat teaches people how to do proper CPR in Hungary.

1) Apps simplifying communication, administration and in-flight emergency care

Pulsara is a Montana-based U.S. start-up whose app simplifies communication in emergency care. It allows paramedics to alert an emergency department before arrival with the patient. It does so not only by calculating the estimated time of arrival based on GPS, but users are able to attach pictures of the ECG, the injury, the medicine list of the patient, send the personal data and the parameters of the patient, etc. Alerting the stroke team/cardiologists or anyone else who might be involved in the treatment of the patient this way allows the ED workers to prepare much better and faster for the arrival of the critically ill patient.

On its website, the team said they got the idea when a group of physicians, fed up with the pitfalls of their current acute care protocols, posed the question at a dinner table “How can we improve patient care in our facilities?” I hope in the future, they’ll have more fruitful dinners like this one.

 

Full Code Pro is a free and easy-to-use app developed by the American Heart Association. It makes it easy to document critical interventions, a „code” during critical events such as CPR or cardiac arrest resuscitation. It not only allows the worker to record events (e.g. shock) with only one tap, measures times, counts down according to the protocol but also helps the team by having a metronome built in to optimize chest compression rhythm. Full Code Pro makes it easy to administer cardiac arrests, and also gives an opportunity to debrief the case so that the team can learn from the collected data as well. Thus, you can fully focus on the patient without sacrificing proper documentation. A win-win situation!

Dr. Ray Bertino, Clinical Professor of Radiology and Surgery at the University of Illinois College of Medicine, worked with a team of aviation experts to develop airRx, the world’s only smartphone app that’s designed to help physicians deal with some of the most common in-flight medical emergencies. The app contains the 23 most common medical emergency situations that could be encountered during a flight, various flight and cabin crew roles, as well as the medico-legal implications for volunteering to assist. It could give a piece of mind for doctors traveling on board of an airplane as well as passengers fearing that something might happen to them while going from San Francisco to Beijing.

2) Video game for practice & 911 chatbot for real situations

Airway EX is a professional video game developed by Level Ex, a Chicago-based start-up applying video game technology to healthcare. The app allows practicing anesthesiologists, CRNAs, and medical professionals to simulate the performance of airway procedures. It provides realistic endotracheal intubation scenarios so that the doctors and paramedics can better prepare for difficult airway management. The app scores the worker’s speed, the caused damage, bleeding and also monitors the virtual patient’s vital signs while the procedure takes place. Moreover, it can be used anywhere – on the subway, at home or on the Bahamas during holidays (but we don’t recommend that).

 

The 911bot, a messenger-based chatbot was developed during a Disrupt Hackathon in New York with the aim to help users in emergency situations. It lets anyone report emergencies to the authorities through a quick image-based interface, which might be a lot faster than making a phone call. And as your report is sent through the system, it offers options to send extra information and pictures or video footage. As most people are frozen when a lethal or serious accident happens, the app gives advice on how to handle the situation well and how not to cause even more harm to the injured or bystanders.

3) Portable ultrasound, ECG & other point-of-care devices

The appearance of pocket-sized, user-friendly and portable diagnostic devices make it easier and faster to treat a patient on the spot. No matter whether its ultrasound, ECG or laboratory testing, behemoth machines are things of the past.

While some years ago ultrasound diagnosis was the privilege of radiologists, nowadays emergency medical specialists have an opportunity to use bedside point-of-care ultrasound devices (PoCUS) to answer some yes-or-no questions (e.g. intraabdominal bleeding). Ultrasound machines such as SonoSite’s or Clarius’ hand-held products allow any doctor to use them easily while working on a code or a critically ill patient.

 

Yet, we all know it’s not only about the size. Not so long ago, it was a huge innovation that a smartphone was able to make a one-lead ECG. However, even if it showed the rhythm, it wasn’t able to replace standard 12-lead ECG. In many cases, if the doctor does not see all the 12 leads, a possible heart attack might be easily mistaken. Now, Smart Heart Pro allows users to make a 12-lead ECG with a smartphone or tablet wirelessly, that is as accurate as a similar standard bedside exam.

Luckily, the long hours waiting for laboratory blood test results will also be over soon with hand-held, lightweight point-of-care testing (PoCT) devices, such as the i-STAT testing equipment. Abbott’s fast and accurate blood analyzer allows doctors to evaluate the patient’s blood sample on the spot and wirelessly transmit the results or the data to colleagues. Invaluable time gain during emergency situations!

4) Medical drones

Drones have great potential in making the transport of drugs, vaccines or medical aids faster. Thus, they could greatly support the work of emergency services. Google, the tech giant with a significant medical portfolio, patented a device that can call for a drone in emergency situations to fly in with life-saving medical equipment on board. You would push a button, and a drone would appear on the spot. How amazing would that sound?

And what about drones delivering automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) directly to people who have just suffered a heart attack? Researchers from the University of Toronto are already experimenting with the ideabased on their inspiration from ambulance drones in the Netherlands. AED-carrying drones have also been tested in Stockholm with promising results: it arrived at the patient within a quarter of the time that ambulance took to arrive. And drones are not simple transporting machines: they can provide instructions to the bystanders on providing CPR, using the AED and they also allow the dispatch team to give feedback via its own video connection. It is estimated that within 1-2 years this lifesaving innovation can take place in the daily routine in Sweden, and hopefully other countries as well.

5) Driverless ambulances

As the development of driverless cars continues, the potential for turning cars into points-of-care and the use of their unmanned driving capacity will become more and more obvious. There are already some governments considering driverless ambulances as technology taking some of the strain off the emergency services. These ambulances would work as “medical taxis”. They would pick up low-risk patients and transport them to the nearest hospital or clinic for treatment. With the introduction of these ambulances, the need for paramedics to respond to every call – regardless of severity – would be greatly reduced. Although it might be less comfortable for people to get into a driverless car to the hospital at first. Could you imagine sending your wife in labor to the emergency unit in a driverless ambulance? We’ll probably have to get used to the idea!

Concerning “moving ambulances”, in the future, the car will be a place to measure vital signs passively and store the recorded data in clouds. Then it will either notify the patient if there is something wrong or keep a finger on the pulse on the long-term. Mercedes-Benz salesman Rob Tinkham described how one of their cars can already tell if the driver has become too tired to drive. He added that the seat belt, the steering wheel or practically anything the driver might touch, can be used as a biometric sensor to gain information about the driver. It could help detect a drop in blood sugar or an imminent heart attack. Perhaps, our driverless car will notify the emergency services and the robot receptionist of the hospital in the future if there is an urgent matter to handle.

A possible emergency scene from the future

Digital technologies not only help patients receive care quicker and in a more efficient manner, but they can also support emergency care units to handle situations safer and more confidently. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security published an imagined scenario about how technological innovations would help the work of emergency service providers 15 years from now.

Their clothing made of smart, light materials would protect them from gunshots or punctures. They might easily turn on the high-visibility mode of their clothing if they go to dark places or work at night. Sensors and wearables would monitor their own health and fitness while providing their location. Using self-driving ambulances, first responders would have the time to prepare for situations and receive patient data already on the way to the scene. This could help bring exactly the right equipment to the patient in need. It would be easier to access patient data and monitor vital signs through various sensors, wearables – or digital tattoos. Moreover, with the help of exoskeletons, first responders could lift patients with less effort.

 

The future of emergency services looks more streamlined, data-based, efficient and faster than ever before, while both taking the needs of the patient and the limitations of caregivers into consideration. So, hopefully, within a couple of years, no one will have to wait for an unnecessarily long time until getting proper care. Yet, knowing what to do in an emergency situation or how to do CPR will come in handy anytime, so check out this video and keep stayin’ alive!

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The Future of Vision and Eye Care

The Future of Vision and Eye Care | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

More than 80 percent of perception comes through vision

Researchers estimate that 80-85 percent of our perception, learning, cognition, and activities are mediated through vision. Compared to that, our hearing only processes 11 percent of information, while smell 3.5 percent, touch 1.5 percent and taste 1 percent. Don’t you think that’s possible? Renowned scholars, L.D. Rosenblum, Harold Stolovitch and Erica Keeps explained these numbers with the following, rather convincing story.

Imagine you are in an open field, the sun shines on you, with the bees humming softly in the air. How far can you see and hear? When it comes to vision, it’s around 50 miles, talking about hearing, it’s only 1-2 miles at best! What about the smell of the flowers? Without the wind blowing, only 10-20 meters. How about touching or tasting? Well, it depends on your arm’s length, but obviously not further than that. And the same goes for your tongue and tasting.

It is almost a cliché to emphasize the importance of the eyes and vision, but it’s a luminous example to illustrate how the eyes are our most important sensory organ. Hence, if you catch an eye disease or have to face a serious eye condition, you feel very motivated to get better immediately.

 

Eye conditions affect way too many people worldwide

The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness estimated in 2015 that 36 million of people are blind, and 217 million people suffer from moderate or severe distance vision impairment. It is a hopeful tendency that the prevalence of blindness and vision impairment combined has dropped from 4.58% in 1990 to 3.37% in 2015. The decrease can be attributed to progress in technology, for example in surgical techniques and concerning treating eye infections.

Yet, digital health still has a lot to do for lessening plenty of suffering which comes from not being able to see the world clearly. In the last couple of years, it actually started to undertake the task to transform the field of ophthalmology, offering its innovative solutions for the broadest spectrum of eye conditions. Treating less serious ailments gets faster, more targeted and more efficient, while the means for curing more serious and life-altering illnesses improve. Here, I outlined the way technology delineates for the future of eye care and vision.

 

With “bionic eyes” for reversing blindness

Disruptive technologies gave a huge boost to the creative minds of ophthalmology. Types of conditions causing blindness, such as AMD or retinitis pigmentosa, an inherited eye condition causing loss of sight gradually and causing blindness for an estimated 1.5 million people worldwide, have been treated successfully with mind-blowing innovations.

The California-based firm, Second Sight, the German company, Retina Implant AG, and French venture, Pixium Vision, develops implantable visual prosthetics to restore vision to patients who are blind as a result of the rare condition of retinitis pigmentosa. In 2016, The Guardian reported that a blind woman suffering from it was fitted with the implant labeled “bionic eye” in the UK as part of a trial at the Oxford Eye Hospital. She has spoken of her joy after she was able to tell the time for the first time in more than six years. That must have been truly amazing!

In 2015, surgeons in Manchester, UK have performed the first bionic eye implant for an AMD patient using Second Sight’s innovation. The 80-year-old Ray Flynn lost entirely his central vision, but with the help of the retinal implant, he could make out shapes on the computer screen. Researchers say that the implant cannot provide any highly detailed vision – but it can help patients detect distinct patterns such as door frames and shapes.

 

Brain implants and artificial retina instead of bionic eyes?

As Second Sight’s current Argus II device for helping people with retinitis pigmentosa only restore minimal vision and cost $150,000, they only sold 250 of them so far. A while ago, the company started to develop a modified version of its innovation, which completely leaves the eye out of the procedure and instead mobilizes the part of the brain responsible for processing visual information, the visual cortex. Delivering electrical pulses here should tell the brain to perceive patterns of light. The company hopes that this new innovation could help about 6 million people in the future who are blind due to other causes, like cancer, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, or trauma. The company hopes to begin enrolling patients for trials in October and do its first implant by the end of the year. We can’t wait to know more about it!

Instead of “bionic eyes” that stimulate brain cells with lights coming from a tiny video camera or stimulate the visual cortex directly through electrodes, the Italian Institute of Technology has developed a new approach for treating retinal degeneration, with a prosthesis implanted into the eye that serves as a working replacement for a damaged retina – basically an artificial retina. Their research showed promising results for lab rats, and they plan to carry out the first human trials in the second half of 2017 and gather preliminary results during 2018.

 

The miraculous CRISPR and other gene therapies for regaining vision

CRISPR-Cas9 or as used in plain language, CRISPR, the breakthrough gene editing method, has already shown its potential future use in eye care. Experts even say the eye is an ideal place to start for the first clinical use of CRISPR. Compared to other parts of the body, the eye is easy to access for surgery, readily accepts new tissue and can be noninvasively monitored.

Scientists at Columbia University Medical Center and the University of Iowa used CRISPR to repair a genetic mutation responsible for retinitis pigmentosa in induced pluripotent stem cells derived from a patient with the disease. The team reported a 13 percent success rate at converting the mutated gene variant into the normal one which is way better than previous studies. In February 2017, experts at the Center for Genome Engineering, within the Institute for Basic Science (IBS) reported the use of CRISPR in performing “gene surgery” in the layer of tissue that supports the retina of living mice. After the intervention, the mice showed signs of improvement from AMD. It is a ground-breaking experiment suggesting that CRISPR can not only be used to correct mutations causing hereditary diseases but also in the case of non-hereditary degenerative diseases.

Beyond CRISPR, other gene therapies also have a great chance to become a common treatment method for specific eye conditions in the future. Early October 2017, the FDA’s advisory panel approved a gene therapy called Luxturna, which targets a rare condition called Leber congenital amaurosis. Thus, the treatment method got one step closer to full FDA approval. The agency will make its final decision by next January. If the verdict is positive, the gene therapy will be the first approved treatment in the US to correct an inherited genetic trait – but it might be followed very soon by much more.

 

Eye care patients will also become the point of care

With the advancement of smartphones and other smart gadgets at lightning speed, it is only a matter of time before portable devices will appear on a large scale in ophthalmology as well. The tiny, well-designed and connected instruments and the accompanying apps make it possible to undertake eye examinations anywhere in the world – making patients the point of care.

For example, Peek Retina is the flagship product of Peek Vision, a UK-based company and foundation, a portable ophthalmoscope that enables you to view and capture retinal images on your smartphone wherever you are. The venture also offers smartphone-based vision eye tests, e.g. for measuring visual acuity. It greatly helps physicians in remote areas such as Sub-Saharan Africa diagnose and treat patients.

The MIT-spinout company, EyeNetra developed a diagnostic device for signaling refractive errors fast and accurately. The device, called Netra, is a plastic, binocular-like headset to be used with an app which calculates the difference between what the user indicates as “aligned” and the actual alignment of various patterns. This signals any refractive errors, such as near-sightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. The app then displays the refractive powers, the axis of astigmatism, and the pupillary distance required for eyeglasses prescriptions. EyeNetra will make school or workplace eye examinations in the future a lot easier than today.

 

Are 3D printed and digital contact lenses the future?

Digital contact lenses sound as science fiction: the translucid layer on your eye transmitting special information about your body to an outside device. Yet, it might be a reality soon. For example, Google teamed up with Novartis, to produce digital, multi-sensor contact lenses which are designed to be able to measure blood sugar levels.

Google and Novartis said the lens would contain a tiny and ultra slim microchip that would be embedded in one of its thin concave sides. Through its equally tiny antenna, it would send data about the glucose measurements from the user’s tears to his or her paired smartphone via installed software. Originally, the companies promised to put the digital contact lens around 2020 on the market. However, in March 2017 Novartis Chairman Joerg Reinhardt talked down the chances of the project bringing visible results in the next couple of years. I truly hope this is just a temporary setback.

Meanwhile, researchers at the University of Washington have created a contact lens with an LED display built into it – with the help of a 3D printer! While it is really difficult to manufacture a contact lens, which is one-third of a millimeter in diameter, a 3D printer sandwiches together different layers of interacting material, which makes it easier to place together so tiny pieces. While it was only an experiment, the research has important implications to improve the display technology of small devices. Maybe Google will 3D print the next generation of digital contact lenses, who knows?

 

Healing the eye faster

Innovation in regenerative medicine is flourishing: dentistry, dermatology, ophthalmology. A few specialties which can take pride in healing injured or diseased body parts faster and in a more efficient way.

For example, researchers in Turkey developed a regenerative medicine, that can heal the front of the eye in as little as two days after surgery. The drug called Cacicol stimulates faster tissue repair, appears to relieve eye pain, burning, and light sensitivity following an invasive intervention. Scientists treated with Cacicol patients suffering from a rare disease called keratoconus who went through a surgery known as corneal cross-linking. The drug helped decrease the initial healing from 5 days.

 

Artificial Intelligence for detecting eye conditions in time

Image recognition algorithms have the capacity to transform diagnostics based on medical imaging. In 2016, Google developed an eye-scanning technique for looking at retinal images and detecting diabetic retinopathyas well as a trained ophthalmologist. The disease is quite common among diabetes patients, and if it is not spotted early enough it may cause blindness. The machine-learning algorithm uses Google’s method for labeling millions of Web images as it examines photos of a patient’s retina to spot tiny aneurisms indicating the early stages of diabetic retinopathy. A year later, the search giant announced they have begun working on integrating the technology into a chain of eye hospitals in India.

 

Google is not the only one working on A.I. solutions for eye care, though. A teenage girl from India, whose grandfather in India was diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy, developed a smartphone app that can screen for the disease with the help of a specially trained artificial intelligence program and a simple 3D-printed lens attachment. A truly disruptive innovation: smart, cheap and potentially life-changing!

 

Eye conditions through augmented reality

Patient education is key in prevention and it also gives the best chance for physicians arriving at the most accurate diagnosis based on their patients’ explanation of their symptoms.

The use of Orca Health’s EyeDecide could bring exactly this result. The innovative, Utah-based mobile software company’s medical app uses an augmented reality camera display for simulating the impact of specific conditions on a person’s vision. EyeDecide can fully demonstrate the consequences of cataract or AMD and thus help patients understand their actual medical state.

 

Cyborgization is upon us?

I’m hopeful that eye conditions, visual impairment, and blindness will be entirely treatable in the future, even if that would mean their replacement with fully capable technologies. I believe the biggest ethical challenge of eye implants or devices replacing visual functions could be that it might facilitate cyborgization.

What if healthy people would like to live as Neil Harbisson? As someone whose vision is extended through an external technology? What if the average user will ask for bionic eyes as it does not get tired, you can zoom with it, browse and search online, even take photos that no one else could see?

Neil Harbisson is actually an artist born with achromatopsia or extreme colorblindness meaning he could only see in black-and-white. Harbisson received a specialized electronic eye, his “eyeborg” to be able to render perceived colors as sounds on the musical scale. He is capable of experiencing colors beyond the scope of normal human perception: Amy Winehouse is red and pink, while ringtones are green. In his view, cyborgization might start with a third eye on the back of the head or an implanted sensor indicating whether there is a car behind you.

 

If you are entirely freaked out by now, I have to tell you, we are rather far from implanting third eyes into people. However, we have to start to contemplate about the possibilities of such scenarios as we will arrive at the boundaries of privacy, ethics – and the ultimate merging of the human body with technology. We have to be ready for that!

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Precision Medicine: The Future Of Health

Precision Medicine: The Future Of Health | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

As science and technologies advance and demand continues to grow, healthcare systems have to evolve into a more sustainable model that maintains people’s wellness rather than just treating illness once it has occurred. Through a combination of proactive human interventions and decisions – supported and enabled by rich data and intelligence – that model will be more effective by being much more precisely directed at the individual.

Precision Medicine is based on four key pillars of care: Predictive, Preventive, Personalised and Participatory. A good illustration of how these four pillars work is the story of Dr Martinez, based on The Case for Personalized Medicine, Personalised Medicine Coalition, 3rd edition.

 

  • Dr Martinez is sitting down with his laptop. On the website that he uses to manage his practice, an alert pops up warning him that several new mutations found in 10 percent of people have been discovered to be associated with the likelihood that they might convert to type 2 diabetes. All of his patients have had their entire genome sequenced and entered into their electronic medical record. He conducts a quick search of this 2,000-patient database and finds about 80 who are at risk (Predictive care).
  • To half of those patients, he sends a strong reminder and advice on diet and lifestyle choices they can take to avoid the disease (Preventive care).
  • For the other half, whose medical records reveal pre-diabetic symptoms, he sets up appointments to consider more proactive treatment with drugs that can prevent the onset of the disease (Personalised care).
  • Patients can download an app certified by the healthcare system that will allow Dr Martinez to remotely monitor their glucose blood levels (Participatory care).

 

As that example shows, Precision Medicine depends on clinicians and citizens being proactive and working together to look after health and wellbeing. The success of that partnership relies on the healthcare system’s ability to transfer breakthroughs in data analysis across into healthcare settings – ‘from the bench to the bedside’. Massive volumes of raw, complex and heterogeneous data have to be acquired, validated, stored, processed and analysed using high performance computing systems. They then need to be interpreted and presented (through dashboards and reports) in meaningful ways to clinicians. Individual citizens can become more proactive in starting specific preventive treatments, or make lifestyle changes that prevent the onset of the disease or minimise its impact.

 

In this democratisation of medicine, genomic testing plays a very relevant role. DNA sequencing technologies are being adopted as part of routine practice as a powerful tool for early diagnosis and for personalised treatment. Getting access to the molecular profile of patients and correlating this data with phenotypic information (the expression of specific traits, such as stature or blood type, based on genetic and environmental influences) is an enormous cultural shift. This fast-evolving, immensely powerful new diagnostic tool is revolutionising healthcare and supporting clinicians, citizens, carers and society to work together in new ways to make predictive, preventive, personalised, participatory health and social care a reality for all.

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Are Wearables Dangerous for Health?

Are Wearables Dangerous for Health? | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

It’s been repeatedly stressed by healthcare practitioners how beyond a balanced diet and exercise, getting sufficient sleep is vital to our health and wellbeing.

 

There are wearables that can already track our daily activities such as heart rate when we exercise and even the number of steps we have walked that day and the distance. In addition to that, some wearables can monitor your sleep patterns.

 

But how accurate are they and are they good for you?

 

Sleep specialists at Rush University Lab in Chicago reported an increase in patients who were complaining about sleep disorders. However, it was observed that those who wore wearables that tracked their sleep started to develop an obsession over getting enough sleep.

 

As most people are aware, eight hours is what is commonly referred to as the “right amount of sleep.” And because of this, people who tracked that they were getting less than that started to develop anxiety over not getting enough sleep, and the strain resulted in disrupted sleep.

 

Furthermore, sleep trackers cannot differentiate between light and day and could be tracking the wearer as asleep when they are in fact just resting. Ultimately, it has been observed that sleep trackers aren’t always accurate.

 

Remember that sleep trackers like other activity trackers are wearable digital devices that measure, amongst other things, your arm movement with a detector called an accelerometer. So it is entirely possible that the sleep tracker is indicating you are asleep when you are in fact, not.

 

If you are struggling with a sleeping disorder such as insomnia, a sleep tracker will only tell you how much sleep you didn’t get and is not sensitive or sophisticated enough to diagnose the problem. Ultimately, it may keep people from seeking the medical attention they need to fully diagnose if they have a sleeping disorder that may be detrimental to their overall health.

 

Furthermore, those who are tracking that they are getting a full eight hours of sleep may be misled that they have no sleep disorder, when in fact, they do. Their tracker may indicate they slept for eight hours, but it will not always accurately track if they were restless or had brief moments of awakening.

 

The bottom line is that too many people may be relying too much on the numbers that their wearables are recording and not on the actual quality of their sleep. Are they waking up refreshed and feeling restored? Are they energised or did they wake up more tired than before they slept because their sleep was restless and disruptive?

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Adults use Online Health Resources instead of Primary Healthcare 

Adults use Online Health Resources instead of Primary Healthcare  | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

A recent survey of 2,201 US adults, conducted by University of Phoenix® College of Health Professions, found that almost 59 percent of the population is choosing to use online health information sites, such as WebMD, instead of primary care. The survey also found that though online health resources are being preferred by people, other health technologies are not getting adopted at the same rate.

 

Doris Savron, Executive Dean for the College of Health Professions, noted that “The healthcare industry is shifting to a patient-centered model that harnesses technology to both open communication channels and create a platform for patient engagement. Given this shift, it is crucial that patients not only have access to these technologies but also view them as important resources for improving their health and overall care experience.”

 

Merely a quarter of US residents who have access to technology utilize resources such as appointment booking, accessing health records and e-prescription filing.

 

In traditional care settings, Americans expect a certain level of quality from their healthcare professionals team. As per this survey, most of the respondents value the presence of interpersonal skills amongst their care teams, which includes listening, verbal communication and bedside care.

 

Savron further added, “The data shows that technology is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to patient care. Although new technologies are resources that we should lean on to help improve communication, interpersonal skills are the foundation for ensuring patient trust and better care. Communication and empathy are vital skills for health professionals seeking to improve adherence and drive positive outcomes for patients.”

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Physicians warm to value-based pay models, but skepticism runs deep 

Physicians warm to value-based pay models, but skepticism runs deep  | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

Though significant barriers still stand in the way of the transition to value-based reimbursement, a new study offers encouraging signs that physicians are getting more comfortable with new payment models.

 

The study, a joint effort between the American Academy of Family Physicians and Humana, follows up on a similar study they conducted in 2015. Representatives from both organizations—plus Health Care Transformation Task Force Executive Director Jeff Micklos—participated in a briefing Wednesday on to discuss the findings.

 

Amy Mullins, M.D., medical director of quality improvement for AAFP, said one of the data points that stood out the most was that 37% of those surveyed said payments based on quality measures were distributed to physicians at their practice—a “huge jump” from 2015, when it was just 18%.

 

Micklos also highlighted that finding, noting it’s a good sign that shared savings are trickling down to frontline doctors.

“Without that financial incentive, it’s really hard to convince a medical professional that there’s a sustainable business model there,” he said.

 

Mullins said it’s also promising that significantly fewer physicians said they were “not at all familiar” with the concept of value-based payments—7% in 2017 versus 12% in 2015. In addition, the study found that more practices are also hiring care management, care coordinators and behavioral health support to prepare for value-based care.

 

A variety of barriers

It is not all positive news, however. In 2017, only 8% of family physicians agreed with the statement that “quality expectations are easy to meet in value-based payment models,” compared to 13% in 2015. Plus, 62% cited “lack of evidence that using performance measures results in better patient care” as a barrier to adoption.

 

Even the finding that little more than half of physicians said their practice participates in value-based care models shows there is still work to be done.

 

“If you didn’t already know, physicians are a skeptical bunch,” Mullins said, later adding, “we are slow adopters for lots of things.”

And while the share of family physicians who have contracts with 10 or more payers remained about the same, Mullins said it’s still noteworthy that it’s as high as 37%. That illustrates how “frustrating and exhausting” it can be for physicians to deal with the myriad quality measures and systems associated with each payer, she added.

 

One potential barrier not covered in the survey is the uncertainty over what will happen with the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, Micklos said, noting that Medicare has long been the driver of what happens with the rest of the industry. The Trump administration has asked industry stakeholders for input on an effort to take the innovation center in a “new direction.”

 

The panelists were less concerned, though, with the administration’s move to end mandatory bundled payment models. Regardless of what specific policy levers are pulled, the move to value is smart for the private sector, as fee-for-services has a “tremendous amount of demonstrable inefficiencies,” said Roy Beveridge, M.D., Humana’s chief medical officer and senior vice president.

 

Micklos agreed, adding that bringing people “screaming” into certain payment models isn’t the most sustainable concept anyway.

 

The IT factor

A little more than half of the physicians surveyed said their practices were updating or adding IT infrastructure to prepare to participate in value-based care models. The same share—54%—said as much in 2015.

 

As important as that is, though, physicians still must have better, easier-to-understand and more timely data to truly move forward on connecting payment to health outcomes, Mullins pointed out.

In that effort, insurers can be a crucial partner, Beveridge said. They have a tremendous amount of analytics and other supports to offer physicians, he said, and thus have the responsibility to share that with physicians so that they can act upon it.

 

One of the biggest issues that both payers and providers continue to face, however, is the lack of interoperability between electronic health records systems.

 

From Humana’s point of view, “some of the barriers for interoperability really should not exist,” Beveridge said. But Mullins added that “I don’t know if there is a light at tend end of the tunnel or not,” on fixing the issue.

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Formdox's comment, April 20, 5:33 AM
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Formdox's comment, April 20, 5:33 AM
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Is Your Hospital Technology Killing Time And Productivity?

Is Your Hospital Technology Killing Time And Productivity? | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

For community hospitals with small operating margins, clinician time and productivity are at a premium.

Yet, today, clinicians still lose an average of 78 minutes per day to ineffective technology use.

 

If your hospital's information technology hurts time and productivity, here’s some more bad news: Your patient care and revenue suffer, too.

 

But, don’t despair. We’re here to help you spot troublesome IT symptoms in your organization, diagnose the problems and, most importantly, treat them.

Symptoms: Signs Of Poor IT

If your hospital’s clinicians are raising the hue and cry over your IT, you already know there’s trouble afoot.

But, to restore lost productivity (and profitability), you must take stock of your surroundings and see exactly where your technology and processes are falling short.

Here’s a short list of things to look for:

  1. Paper still dominates. Paper-intensive processes dictate most of your workflow after EHR implementation is complete.
  2. Manual processes abound. Users don’t trust your systems and resort to manual data entry where automation exists, costing you considerable time.
  3. Duplicate or missing data. Patient, medication and billing information is inaccurate or incomplete, leading to mistakes in patient care and/or billing delays.
  4. CPOE delegation is the norm. Physicians routinely delegate CPOE to nurses or other staff, slowing down the entry processes and increasing the risk of error.
  5. Workarounds are commonplace. In general, users are going around your technology and completing tasks based on preference, not protocol.

Do any of these situations sound familiar? If so, your hospital’s technology is likely creating productivity, care and revenue barriers.

Diagnosis: Who (Or What) Is To Blame?

In most cases, these issues can be traced back to people, processes and technology.

People. Frequently, the source of your IT woes isn’t the technology itself, but rather the people using it. If an anti-IT mentality pervades your hospital, the shiniest, most expensive HCIS in the world won’t deliver value. User workarounds are the most common culprit behind poor data and operational delays.

 

Processes. If your infrastructure and applications don’t align with required workflow, users will find other ways to complete their tasks. Implementing an EHR or any other HCIS for a single purpose – such as meeting compliance requirements or acquiring a new system version – inevitably leads to incongruity between your technology and workflow.

 

Technology. Sometimes, your technology is actually to blame. If your organization has implemented IT best practices and disciplines but still grapples with slow systems or downtime, your technology might not be performing. Certain vendors may be slow to provide critical updates and fixes, further exasperating the issue.

Treatment: Make Your Technology Valuable

It’s time to reclaim your hospital’s productivity, time and profitability.

First, implement effective hospital IT governance and make it the driver for any IT-related decision moving forward. Effective governance looks like this:

  • A leadership team committed to the use of IT as a care and business facilitator
  • Technology purchasing and implementation based on a long-term strategy that’s aligned with patient care and business value
  • Endorsement of best practices and user adoption at all levels of the organization

Working with an experienced, qualified healthcare technology consultant is the best way to create effective governance and align people, processes and technology with business goals. A non-biased third party can be useful for assessing your IT budget against business needs and making strategic recommendations.

Once you’ve established strong governance, align your technology and workflow by surveying day-to-day operations and eliminating obstacles wherever possible.

 

By following a physician as he or she works, you’ll learn volumes about the impediments, large and small, that impact productivity and time. Then, you can use IT to drive positive change, producing tangible benefits for clinicians and staff.

Triage Your IT Now

If you recognize red flags and think your hospital’s technology is directly impacting productivity and time, don’t wait until the consequences show up on your balance sheet. Take action today and help your clinicians deliver the best care possible.

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Better Choices Needed to Manage US Healthcare Cost Growth 

Better Choices Needed to Manage US Healthcare Cost Growth  | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

LAS VEGAS – In a fireside chat at the HX360 conference, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman said there are reasons for optimism even as the U.S. healthcare system faces serious financial challenges. 

 

In a fireside chat with HIMSS CEO Hal Wolf, Krugman said the demographic challenge is serious, “but not as serious as one would think.”

 

He said that healthcare has been absorbing about 18 percent of GDP since 2010 but that there has been a flattening of the cost curve. He believes that healthcare’s share of GDP should remain constant for at least a few years.

 

Wolf said that he has concerns that as baby boomers live longer and the financial burden of treating disease kicks up, the population takes on more costs.

 

Though the U.S. still has the highest healthcare costs in the world, there are a few options that could be used to dig out of that -- any of which would be better than the current state, said Krugman, which he described with a quote from Homer Simpson: “The U.S. government is an insurance company with an army.” 

 

To Krugman, “Medicaid looks more like the systems in other countries and is a well-established system. But if the goal was the cheapest care, we’d do something like the NHS -- but I don’t see that happening in my lifetime.”

 

While a single-payer system is expensive, costs can be mitigated by a system that would more carefully scrutinize unnecessary elective treatments.

 

The Veterans Health Administration, which has been working to improve its system since the 1980s, presents a good model for how to overhaul healthcare, said Krugman. They were pioneers, the first to implement EHRs and shifted a lot of their care from hospitals to health centers. It was a precursor to the private sector.

“We have the capacity, but it would require that you have capable leadership,” said Krugman.

 

Krugman also explained that healthcare costs aren’t necessarily in a crisis, “but it still needs improvement.” And that means everyone is going to have to find a solution to limit costs.

“It’s not that the whole structure of healthcare is unsustainable. But it has the historical pattern of ever-rising costs that cannot continue,” he said.

 

Reflecting on the Dot-com bust and the real estate crisis, Krugman said we were able to dig out of those situations, “but right now, we’re still reeling from what feels like a permanent hangover from the last crisis. And it’s not at all clear that we resolved the issues that brought us there in the first place.”

 

Though the country has low interest rates, the private sector debt is still high, said Krugman. But he’s less worried about that,than the fact that “when these crises hit, no one sees it coming.” We’re all set up to do it again one of these days.”

 

Adding to the worry is America’s deficit. “When the next crisis comes along, it’s going to increase debt,” he said.

Krugman called the latest tax cuts passed by Congress a really bad policy that could make things much worse if a trade war breaks out. What’s worse is that the tax cuts were “not designed for anything really. There were a bunch of people that wanted a tax cut, and they were obliged to that.”

 

That might make our current situation worse when combined with the trade wars. Calling it a “really bad policy,” he did specify that it doesn’t necessarily mean “tremendous risk.” It does mean, however, Krugman said he checks Twitter “every 40 minutes to see if the trade war has broken out.”

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Healthcare Compliance

Healthcare Compliance | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

Developing a comprehensive compliance program is no longer optional for healthcare providers. Successful Compliance programs provide protections for provider entities, and patients alike. There is no single “best compliance” program. Providers with limited resources must still develop and maintain an active compliance program. Larger organizations may have entire departments dedicated to maintaining compliance standards. Healthcare providers compliance programs should be customized to each entity, based on the identifiable areas of risk. The OIG adoption of the underlying principles to provide a baseline of compliance structure that can be adjusted to the specific needs of the organization. At a minimum compliance programs should:

  1. Establish clear internal guidelines in the form of published policies and procedures relative to billing, staff behavior, and patient protections.
  2. Provide an atmosphere in which employees are free to report potential compliance issues in an unfettered risk free environment.
  3. Identify a Compliance Officer who maintains overall responsibility for the entities compliance and reporting processes.
  4. Establish strict management and control over protected patient health and financial records.
  5. Ensure technologies are in place to monitor compliance efforts and programs with the organization.

Creating Compliance Programs

Compliance programs impact the entire spectrum of a facilities financial and clinical operations.  As such it is important to develop an appropriate structure of policies and people to administrate, provide advice and ensure adherence to published compliance regulations.  Creating a compliance structure will not eliminate Audits, but can provide additional levels of protection for the providing facility.  Identifying the correct staff to implement the compliance program is the first of several steps.  Developing a compliance structure includes adherence to CMS billing standards, coding accuracy, and accurate translation of health records to the Revenue Cycle solution.

Maintaining a Compliance Program

As regulations change, facilities must adapt and evolve their internal governance processes.  Billing regulations change frequently requiring providers to stay on top of the latest software revisions, as well as monitoring the changing “code sets” that enhance the billing process.  A good compliance program will include a clearly defined process of systems maintenance and staff re training.  Staying current on the latest compliance trends is an integral part of any compliance program.

Compliance Audits

Compliance audits are among provider’s most stressful activities.  As such providers must have a clearly defined audit process.  The process must include timely provision of requested patient records/charts that are fully completed, uniform in presentation, and clearly and consistently labeled.  Having a solid compliance program in place and in practice will prepare a client well for any audit activity.

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Reporting’s Rising Role in Healthcare Success 

Reporting’s Rising Role in Healthcare Success  | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

Today’s healthcare market is saturated with hospitals, health systems, and physician practices tackling EHR optimization, cost analytics, and other data-related projects. The industry has made great strides to establish a digital, real-time record of patient care. As that clinical, operational, and financial data piles up, one of the industry’s latest challenges is identifying ways to make that valuable information actionable.

When viewed collectively, data tells a story of what has happened over time. In the healthcare setting, effective data capture helps providers easily assess a myriad of pertinent business metrics, including (but by no means limited to):

How many patients were seen today?

Which patients presented with co-morbidities?

On average, how long was the reimbursement process by payer?

What is the Accounts Receivable impact?

By monitoring business performance, healthcare stakeholders can understand where they stand today relative to past periods and peer organizations. Analysis of that data illuminates areas for improvement and the progress the healthcare organization is making in pursuit of long-term goals. As value-based care initiatives continue to take root, performance reporting also fuels reimbursement under quality payment programs like the Merit-based Incentive Payment System and Meaningful Use.

Hospitals working towards the triple aim of improving population health and patient experience while reducing the cost of care will have to leverage analytics to trend patient outcomes and identify improvement opportunities. With patient health, regulatory compliance, and reimbursement on the line, reporting stakes have never been higher. Amid the proliferation of data-oriented business processes and payment models, reporting expertise and analysts will be among healthcare’s greatest assets.

As your healthcare organization undertakes the complex process of broader clinical and financial reporting, build a successful data management strategy by keeping the following reporting considerations in mind.

Start with your current process.

How are you capturing relevant data now? Analysts should shadow staff members to see what information they are trying to get and how they are presently documenting those details. This can help you identify points in the data capture process that can be improved upon, or are perhaps being overlooked. Help employees understand the “why” behind data capture requirements. Demonstrate how current practices impact the data staff members see in reporting results.

Avoid knowledge gaps by involving reporting stakeholders early on.

In almost every healthcare setting there are gaps in the data being captured. Involve reporting in all implementation initiatives to make sure your organization is consistently capturing the right variables. This is particularly true among clinicians preparing to report on new metrics under MACRA’s inaugural Quality Payment Program period. Set field requirements in your EHR or other healthcare IT platform to ensure the necessary data makes it into the system.

Format reporting data in a manner that highlights actionable insights.

How do you want to see reporting data portrayed? Data may need to be sourced as a dashboard, manipulated in Excel, or sent to a third party, depending on the project at hand. In most use cases, a visual representation of data can help administrators more easily:

  • Compare performance data to other hospitals.
  • Track metric performance over time.
  • Visualize outliers, high-performance areas, and low-performance areas.

Armed with that insight, stakeholders can quickly identify downward trending financial KPIs, clinical quality measures that best support the organizations value-based reporting endeavors, and more.

Develop a data governance strategy.

Avoid common data quality “gotchas” by developing a data governance plan that cultivates consistency in how data is documented. Implement EHR rules that bar duplicate data entry and support field normalization. Establish a data source hierarchy to defer to the highest quality data source in cases where fields may come from multiple sources.

End-users often have not considered the impact that data documentation has on the reporting perspective. Data quality issues revealed during reporting often drive process or policy changes and can shed light on training opportunities. Reporting is a data mining process that supports more effective decision making on behalf of the organization. With reporting and analytics poised to play an expanding role in healthcare initiatives like population health management and improved utilization management, now is an ideal time for healthcare organizations to engage reporting expertise to establish a strong foundation for data-driven success.

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10 Trends You Can Expect from Healthcare in 2018 

10 Trends You Can Expect from Healthcare in 2018  | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

With 2017 almost in the rear-view mirror, it is time to look forward to 2018 and how healthcare will evolve in this year. The last year has been an eventful one for healthcare, from the uproar in healthcare regulations to potential mega-mergers. Needless to say, it’s a time of transition, and healthcare is in a very fluid state- evolving and expanding. There are certainly going to be new ways to keep healthcare providers and health IT pros stay engaged and excited, and here are our top 10 picks:

 

1. The future of the GOP Healthcare bill

The Republican healthcare reform bill gained immense traction this year. In their third attempt at putting a healthcare bill forward, the senators and the White House officials have been working round the clock to gather up votes, but somehow, the reservations persist. The lawmakers have insisted that Americans would not lose their vital insurance protections under their bill, including the guarantee that the plan would protect those with preexisting conditions. However, as it so happens, even these plans have been put to rest. Perhaps sometime in 2018, the GOP may pass a budget setting up reconciliation for tax reform, and then pass tax reform. Then, they would pass a budget setting up reconciliation for Obamacare repeal, and then pass that- it all remains to be seen.

2. The ongoing shift to value from volume

Despite speculations, healthcare providers, as well as CMS have pushed for more value-based care and payments tied to quality, but it’s been going slow. Although providers have been slightly resistant to take on risk, they do recognize the potential to contain costs and improve quality of care over value-based contracts. And perhaps as data assumes a central role in healthcare, the increasing availability of data and smarter integration of disconnected data systems will make the transition easier and scalable. Notably, with a $3.3 trillion healthcare expenditure this year, there has been slow down the cost growth. 2018 is expected to be much more impactful as it builds on the strong foundation.

3. Big data and analytics translating data into real health outcomes

Big data and analytics have always brought significant advancements in making healthcare technology-driven. With the help of big data and smart analytics, we are at a point in healthcare we can make a near-certain prediction about possible complications a patient can face, their possible readmission, and the outcomes of a care plan devised for them. Not only it could translate to better health outcomes for the patients, it could also make a difference in improving reimbursements and regulatory compliance.

4. Blockchain-based systems

Blockchain could arguably be one of the most disruptive technologies in healthcare. It is already being considered as a solution to healthcare’s longstanding challenge of interoperability and data exchange. Bringing blockchain-based systems will definitely require some changes from the ground up, but 2018 will have a glimpse of by innovation centered around blockchain and how it can enhance healthcare data exchange and ensure security. 

5. AI and IoT taking on a central role

2018 can witness a good amount of investment from healthcare leaders in the fields of Artificial Intelligence and Internet of Things. There is going to be a considerable advancement in technology, making the use of technology crucial in healthcare and assist an already unbalanced workforce. AI and IoT will not only prove instrumental in enhancing accuracy in clinical insights, and security, but could also be fruitful in reducing manual redundancy and ensuring fewer errors as we transition to a world of quality in care.

6. Digital health interventions and virtual care to improve access and treatment

In December 2016, many were suggesting that wearables were dead. Today, wearables are becoming one of the most sought-after innovation when it comes to digital health. And, the market is quickly diversifying as clinical wearables gain importance and as several renowned organizations integrate with each other. Not only wearables- there are several apps and biosensors that can assist providers with remotely tracking patient health, engage patients, interact with them, and streamline care operations. As technology becomes central to healthcare, 2018 will be the year when these apps and wearables boost the patient-physician interaction. 

7. The increasing importance of security

We deal with a tremendous amount of confidential and critical information in healthcare. It’s not just patient health information- it goes from credit card information to digital footprints. As the plethora of devices and systems storing information grows in size, a focus on ensuring becomes extremely vital as a breach could range from something as slight as information being stolen to as dangerous as a person being physically harmed. 2018 may be high time we took a good, hard look at the security of our infrastructure.

8. Payer-provider collaborations

Over the years, healthcare insurers have been stepping into primary care delivery model, encouraging prevention and wellness. At the same time, we have also witnessed the trend of hospitals and healthcare systems getting into the insurance part to take control of the complete patient care process. 2017 saw a lot of merger activity and 2018 will continue to see this synergy focused on value-based care, direct primary care, chronic care management, and patient engagement.

9. Possibly stable healthcare costs

Analysts predict that the healthcare industry will observe a growth of 6.5% in 2018, only half a percentage point higher than in 2017. And, after the changes like copays and network sizes are made to benefit plan design, this growth rate could be as low as 5.5%. Healthcare has long waited for an inflection point, where the spending will take off. But as it so happens, healthcare seems to be settling into a ‘new normal,’ where the fluctuations are more attuned and the growth rate remains in a single digit, with providers seeking strategies that would improve care management, optimize resource utilization and bring the costs down.

10. The future of ACA

There have been several debates and speculations regarding the future of the Affordable Care Act. With a new GOP healthcare bill on the cards, some things will stay the same, but with differences- people can still sign up on healthcare.gov, but the sign-up period would be shorter. They can still get subsidies to help lower their premiums or reduce their deductibles and copays, but some plans will be much more expensive. The future of ACA is still cloudy, and the attempts to repeal and replace ACA have been laid to rest, for now, but one thing is certain- a lot fewer people will enroll for ACA in 2018, fearing a repeal. 

This is definitely an amazing time in the digital health world. There may be complexities and uncertainty, but for any healthcare system deeply passionate about realizing data-driven outcomes, looking for technology that can drive their core processes and help them win with value-based care- 2018 will be the year!

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Hospitals, payers and docs collaborate on prior authorization 

Hospitals, payers and docs collaborate on prior authorization  | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

Dive Brief:

  • Multiple healthcare stakeholders, including the American Medical Association, American Hospital Association and America's Health Insurance Plans, are coming together to streamline prior authorization processes.

  • Prior authorization can assure appropriate, cost-effective care, but it can also create a burden for hospitals, payers and patients, the group acknowledges.

  • A consensus statement highlights the groups’ “shared commitment to industry-wide improvements to prior authorization processes and patient-centered care,” and calls for selective application and regular review of therapies that may not require such approval.

Dive Insight:

Also included in the group are the American Pharmacists Association (APhA), Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) and Medical Group Management Association (MGMA), all calling for improving transparency and communication to improve prior authorization processes.

 

Tom Nickels, executive vice president of the AHA, said hospitals and health systems “are committed to delivering the best care for patients in the most efficient manner,” which are “goals we share with our partners in the health field.” “These principles provide a good starting point for providers and health plans to work together toward continuous improvement in quality of care and health outcomes while reducing unnecessary administrative burden,” said Nickels.

 

The consensus statement includes healthcare leaders working together to:

  • Reduce the number of healthcare professionals needed for prior authorization requirements
  • Regularly review services and medications that require prior authorization and remove ones that are no longer needed
  • Improve channels of communications between the stakeholders “to minimize care delays and ensure clarity” on prior authorizations
  • Protect continuity of care for patients
  • Accelerate industry adoption of national electronic stands for prior authorization

Richard Bankowitz, M.D., chief medical officer of AHIP, said the collaboration will improve the “process, promote quality and affordable health care, and reduce unnecessary burden.”

 

AMA Chair-elect Jack Resneck Jr., M.D., called the consensus “a good initial step.”

 

Prior authorizations have become the norm in healthcare, particularly for pricey procedures and tests. They have helped keep down costs, but at the expense of more work for providers. A December 2016 AMA survey found that physicians were completing an average of 37 prior authorizations each week, which took about 16.4 hours to process.

 

Through this initiative, healthcare stakeholders hope to improve patient care and remove administrative burdens for providers, payers and pharmacists, while maintaining checks in the system to keep costs under control. 

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Connecting the Dots: Referrals between Medical Care and Community Resources 

Connecting the Dots: Referrals between Medical Care and Community Resources  | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

Policymakers and providers all agree that addressing patients’ non-medical needs will be critical to improving health, health care, and health care costs, but little progress has been made towards integrating traditionally segmented services. What can and should a health care organization do? Realistically, most health care organizations will not build new lines of social services into their core clinical operations. Instead, leading organizations are connecting the dots by optimizing referrals to existing community resources. Based on phone interviews and site visits with executive leadership, frontline providers, and community partners, we highlight the work of nine innovative health care organizations. Here, we offer practical steps to reflect upon where your organization stands and where it might look to be in a referral model for community resources.

 

Starting point: Does your team have a useful resource library?

Useful is the key word here: we’re not talking about a static laundry list that simply names local community resources on a website or a print out. Useful resource libraries not only catalog existing community resources but also include pertinent details such as eligibility criteria. For example, at one organization we interviewed, health coaches use their electronic resource library to match the patient’s age, income, and residence profile with available community resources. To create the most useful resource library for your organization, we suggest querying your care team about what essential pieces of information would help them effectively and confidently refer patients to community resources.

Importantly, a resource library is only as useful as it is accurate and up-to-date. Organizations will need to identify who will monitor and update the resource library at regular intervals by visiting program websites, calling program contacts, or surveying providers about their experiences with listed community resources. For example, one organization we interviewed created a dedicated committee to appraise over 300 community resources that engage with their providers. Clearly, modifications to the resource library are to be expected, so electronic resource libraries (e.g. in a cloud-based platform or in the EHR) will be more dynamic than binders. Two organizations we interviewed are even using or contracting with companies that have created web-based resource libraries (e.g. Aunt Bertha, NowPow).

Next step: Who is responsible for referring patients?

Remember, the resource library is a tool not the solution. Organizations must lay out what roles will best enable referrals to community resources. Depending on your unique organization, referrals to community resources might be done through an entire team, an individual, or outsourced partners. For example, one larger organization we interviewed developed multidisciplinary teams of nurses and social workers, making specialized referrals and handoffs for particular social service domains (e.g. a housing team, transportation team, and nutrition team). In contrast, another organization used a single, centralized point person to make all referrals into the local community. Alternatively, two organizations we interviewed piloted with external partners (such as Health Leads) whose staff executes the referrals to specific community resources.

In addition to defined roles, organizations must not forget to develop associated workflows. What is the workflow to identify the patients with social service needs? What is the provider’s workflow to connect with whomever will make the community resource referrals? Are there workflows in place to follow-up regarding the referrals made to community resources? While developing these workflows, organizations need to consider what the preferred modes of communication are and which documentation platforms will facilitate the workflows. For example, one organization we interviewed built workflows into their EHR by tailoring the existing social service pathways of the Pathways Hub Model to fit the organization’s particular patient needs, staffing structure, and provider network. By strategically designing roles and workflows that support patient referrals to community resources, your organization shares responsibility for the success of the referral model.

Final move: Are you evaluating the impact?

Evaluating your referral model is crucial not only to intelligently decide what to keep, drop, or adapt but also to assess the impact of your work. All of the organizations we interviewed found it challenging to demonstrate that referrals to community resources directly influenced larger outcomes such as total costs of medical care. More immediately, data points that organizations may want to capture include the number of patients with different types of social service needs and the number of complete and incomplete referrals made to each community resource. For example, one organization we interviewed is tracking their rate of unsuccessful referrals to community resources in order to reveal where gaps in the community persist and subsequently inform advocacy efforts.

Furthermore, evaluating your referral model sets the foundation to build a business case for social service partnerships. A few organizations we interviewed were interested in entering financial arrangements with a curated network of community partners based on quality and other performance metrics, although these were generally still in the early stages of development. As organizations look to harmonize data collection and evaluation efforts, partners will need to agree upon the types of data, preferred reporting formats, and interval of reporting requests. In fact, based on interviews with community partners, we learned that many community partners are motivated to collect and exchange data on shared patients in order to improve their value proposition with grant funders and secure future funding.

Following the lead of innovative organizations, there are valuable opportunities for health care organizations to use a referral model with community resources. Health care organizations that leverage their local communities can more effectively match patients with comprehensive services critical to improving health status. Improving the referral model is a key sPolicymakers and providers all agree that addressing patients’ non-medical needs will be critical to improving health, health care, and health care costs, but little progress has been made towards integrating traditionally segmented services. What can and should a health care organization do? Realistically, most health care organizations will not build new lines of social services into their core clinical operations. Instead, leading organizations are connecting the dots by optimizing referrals to existing community resources. Based on phone interviews and site visits with executive leadership, frontline providers, and community partners, we highlight the work of nine innovative health care organizations. Here, we offer practical steps to reflect upon where your organization stands and where it might look to be in a referral model for community resources.
 
Starting point: Does your team have a useful resource library?
Useful is the key word here: we’re not talking about a static laundry list that simply names local community resources on a website or a print out. Useful resource libraries not only catalog existing community resources but also include pertinent details such as eligibility criteria. For example, at one organization we interviewed, health coaches use their electronic resource library to match the patient’s age, income, and residence profile with available community resources. To create the most useful resource library for your organization, we suggest querying your care team about what essential pieces of information would help them effectively and confidently refer patients to community resources.
Importantly, a resource library is only as useful as it is accurate and up-to-date. Organizations will need to identify who will monitor and update the resource library at regular intervals by visiting program websites, calling program contacts, or surveying providers about their experiences with listed community resources. For example, one organization we interviewed created a dedicated committee to appraise over 300 community resources that engage with their providers. Clearly, modifications to the resource library are to be expected, so electronic resource libraries (e.g. in a cloud-based platform or in the EHR) will be more dynamic than binders. Two organizations we interviewed are even using or contracting with companies that have created web-based resource libraries (e.g. Aunt Bertha, NowPow).
Next step: Who is responsible for referring patients?
Remember, the resource library is a tool not the solution. Organizations must lay out what roles will best enable referrals to community resources. Depending on your unique organization, referrals to community resources might be done through an entire team, an individual, or outsourced partners. For example, one larger organization we interviewed developed multidisciplinary teams of nurses and social workers, making specialized referrals and handoffs for particular social service domains (e.g. a housing team, transportation team, and nutrition team). In contrast, another organization used a single, centralized point person to make all referrals into the local community. Alternatively, two organizations we interviewed piloted with external partners (such as Health Leads) whose staff executes the referrals to specific community resources.
In addition to defined roles, organizations must not forget to develop associated workflows. What is the workflow to identify the patients with social service needs? What is the provider’s workflow to connect with whomever will make the community resource referrals? Are there workflows in place to follow-up regarding the referrals made to community resources? While developing these workflows, organizations need to consider what the preferred modes of communication are and which documentation platforms will facilitate the workflows. For example, one organization we interviewed built workflows into their EHR by tailoring the existing social service pathways of the Pathways Hub Model to fit the organization’s particular patient needs, staffing structure, and provider network. By strategically designing roles and workflows that support patient referrals to community resources, your organization shares responsibility for the success of the referral model.
Final move: Are you evaluating the impact?
Evaluating your referral model is crucial not only to intelligently decide what to keep, drop, or adapt but also to assess the impact of your work. All of the organizations we interviewed found it challenging to demonstrate that referrals to community resources directly influenced larger outcomes such as total costs of medical care. More immediately, data points that organizations may want to capture include the number of patients with different types of social service needs and the number of complete and incomplete referrals made to each community resource. For example, one organization we interviewed is tracking their rate of unsuccessful referrals to community resources in order to reveal where gaps in the community persist and subsequently inform advocacy efforts.
Furthermore, evaluating your referral model sets the foundation to build a business case for social service partnerships. A few organizations we interviewed were interested in entering financial arrangements with a curated network of community partners based on quality and other performance metrics, although these were generally still in the early stages of development. As organizations look to harmonize data collection and evaluation efforts, partners will need to agree upon the types of data, preferred reporting formats, and interval of reporting requests. In fact, based on interviews with community partners, we learned that many community partners are motivated to collect and exchange data on shared patients in order to improve their value proposition with grant funders and secure future funding.
Following the lead of innovative organizations, there are valuable opportunities for health care organizations to use a referral model with community resources. Health care organizations that leverage their local communities can more effectively match patients with comprehensive services critical to improving health status. Improving the referral model is a key step in connecting the dots between medical care and community resources, a small move toward systematically caring for the whole person rather than the discreet set of problems bringing a patient into a given provider’s office.tep in connecting the dots between medical care and community resources, a small move toward systematically caring for the whole person rather than the discreet set of problems bringing a patient into a given provider’s office.

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Pros and Cons of a Radiology Information System

Pros and Cons of a Radiology Information System | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it
Pros and Cons of a Radiology Information System

RADIOLOGY INFORMATION SYSTEM

 

It can be extremely difficult to get by with an outdated, paper-based system to manage all the patients you treat in your radiology practice. Owners and managers of radiology-focused practices who fail to computerize their operations run the risk of losing patients as well as staff because most people dislike putting up with inefficiencies when more suitable alternatives are now available.

So, if you have been seeing a decline in your patient population or are having difficulty attracting and holding onto a competent work force, part of the problem might be your antiquated methods for record keeping.

Most healthcare professionals are aware of the need to modernize their methods and work with a state-of-the-art radiology information system or RIS but may not be sure about what a RIS actually is.

 

RIS software has increasingly grown in popularity in practices across the country in recent years because of the efficiency and convenience it brings to the workflow. A RIS helps you keep track of all patient data, including giving staff easier access to images, faster documentation capability, and a more convenient way to schedule appointments.

To help you in the decision making process with your key stakeholders, here are pros and cons of a radiology information system that you’ll want to become familiar with.

Pros of Radiology Information Systems

Before selecting and implementing a RIS at your facility, here are major pros for you to consider:

  • Better communication with referring doctors
    • It’s important to consider the medical professionals outside of your office who may need to be involved in a patient’s care. A RIS can integrate with the referring doctor’s electronic health record or EHR system, so you can access patient data easily and quickly.
    • The result is a better experience for referring doctors, which dramatically increases the likelihood they’ll refer more patients to you. All other things being equal, the medical practice that makes things easier for the referring doctor should expect to get more patients thanks to the RIS.
  • Faster payments
    • A chief benefit of a RIS is that you can use it to verify insurance before a patient visit. The electronic payments you are now capable of receiving means that you get paid faster.
  • Improve efficiency
    • It’s much faster to find, input, and create reports from patient data when the records are computerized. Remember how tedious it is to sift through paper records, especially if they have become disordered.
    • With the information digitized and no longer needing to be entered into records a second or third time, not only are you working more efficiently, your staff is on track to dramatically reduce errors.
  • Meet MACRA requirements
    • The Medicare and CHIP Reauthorization Act, or MACRA, which congress passed in 2015, has reporting requirements you must adhere to.
    • With a RIS, you get MACRA dashboards that will ensure that you’re meeting the reporting requirements for MACRA. You can remain confident that you’ll get proper reimbursement and avoid penalization for non-compliance.

Cons of Radiology Information Systems

While there are many benefits to deploying a radiology information system, there are a few drawbacks that you and your stakeholders should consider so you can address them head-on once you pull the trigger and select a RIS. Here are the chief cons of any RIS that are worth keeping in mind:

  • Security concerns
    • Anytime you introduce a new computer system to your network, you have to account for hackers trying to break in and steal sensitive patient information. You have a mandate to protect these details, to meet HIPAA requirements. If your system is not properly secured, a computer criminal can breech the RIS in a number of ways. For example, an employee may click on a link in an email or text message that contains dangerous malware that infects your system.
    • Many medical practices are contending with a new type of attack on healthcare IT systems known as ransomware. A version of malware that keeps you from accessing patient records, it’s an insidious attack. The criminals gain unauthorized access to the network and then hold the data hostage.
    • Victims are instructed to send money to the criminals before the patient records will be unlocked. This is risky for patients because of the potential for identity theft, the release of their private details and the draining of their bank accounts. What’s more, it can destroy a practice’s hard-won good reputation in the community and lead to the business needing to be shut down.
    • However, this threat should not deter you in your efforts to install a new RIS. You can alleviate hacker fears if you work with a secure vendor that will ensure your system has the latest software security protocols in place before deployment.
  • Learning curve for staff
    • As with any new technology, when you first implement the RIS, there can be a period where the staff is not used to the software. Mistakes will be made in the beginning, to be sure, no matter how computer-savvy you are.
    • It’s best to go with a vendor with experience in developing RIS software that has an intuitive and easy-to-use interface, with everything the employee needs easily located in the menu options and keyboard commands.

Is a RIS right for Your Practice?

It’s difficult to imagine any radiology practice that wouldn’t benefit from an RIS. The sheer convenience that comes from computerizing patient records should be enough to convince any stakeholder. But the ability to schedule patient appointments much faster is another important selling point.

The fact that you can share information on patients with referring physicians in an instant over the network is another clear benefit that is difficult to ignore. You may wind up getting more referred patients once these doctors see how much easier it is to work with you as compared to a practice that has to dust off the fax machine or use messengers to deliver vital documents when time is of the essence.

Running your radiology practice will go much more smoothly when you computerize as much as possible and add a RIS to your system. You will save a great deal of staff time inputting patient records, scheduling appointments, accessing the latest images and sharing information with referring doctors.

Now what remains is for you to select the most appropriate RIS application for your practice and look into training to help bring your staff up to speed on using this important software tool.

Key Takeaway:

  • Trying to get by with an old-fashioned, paper-based method for keeping track of patient records is a hindrance to your practice.
  • Radiology practices that fail to computerize run the risk of losing patients as well as employees who know about more efficient options.
  • Before you decide to implement a radiology information system in your practice, it’s useful to consider the pros and cons.
  • Make sure that your software provider updates the RIS software periodically.
  • You may need to allocate time and other resources to ensure that your staff is properly trained in using the new RIS.
  • Referring physicians will appreciate the convenience you offer by transmitting patient information via a network from the RIS.
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Wearables and HealthIT

Wearables and HealthIT | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

The market for healthcare wearables is expanding and is now going beyond smart watches and fitness trackers. In a study by PWC, it was noted that consumers are now showing solid support for wearables, with almost 60% seeing value in connected fitness bands, watches, eyeglasses and clothing. And health remains the No. 1 reason that consumers are buying these devices.

 

In a prediction by Tractica by 2021, healthcare wearables will be worth $ 17.8 billion. This could potentially be true with devices like Fitbit, Jawbone, Nike and the like’s going beyond fitness tracking, typically mounted on the wrist, ankle, or belt—track the physical activities of the wearer, including steps taken, stairs climbed, sleep hours and quality logged, and distance traveled. But wearables are now going beyond all of these fitness monitors.

 

There could soon be medical sensors that could be made to track health from inside, with this new technology patients will be able to ingest the sensors in the form of a pill and once the work is done, the pill will dissolve. The aim behind an ingestible capsule is that make the operation of tapping vitals, a simple task without the need of wearing a band or a device.

 

There are talks of IBM creating chips that are a piece of software that can be implanted into the brain to prevent seizures. There’s also talk of stomach acid being used to power batteries. In reality, there is no telling where this rapidly paced industry will head to next.

With so much happening on the wearables front and a lot of data being generated, the future could see doctors studying both medicine and statistics.

Key benefits of wearables include:

  • Easy monitoring of patients: This is especially true for patients with chronic ailments, who need to be in constant touch with the vitals, they need to be aware of any sudden change in vitals that could impact their health
  • Reduce Care co-ordination: Reducing the demands on family doctors and other primary care providers. The knock-on benefits could be even greater: by improving quality of care, reduced hospital admissions and bed stays.
  • Data analytics and big data: with the use of data so collected, the research work on various diseases and ailments has been expedited. The analytic s allows for an in-depth study of the vitals and helps in making decisions for providers.
  • Reduce costs: with easy patient monitoring and reduced care coordination the costs of hospitalization have reduced considerably.
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Barbara Lond's curator insight, December 22, 2017 3:40 PM
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Does mobile technology help in improving mental health?

Does mobile technology help in improving mental health? | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

As part of a recent study on mobile technology, when a user told Cortana that he/she wanted to commit suicide, the program redirected the user to a web search page while Siri replied with information from a National suicide hotline. S-Voice offered some human touch and responded “I want you to be OK, please talk to me,” but didn’t offer any other outside help.

To questions with respect to depression, these programs only responded with “I’m sorry to hear that” and “It breaks my heart to hear that.”

 

In this study conducted by Northwestern University, Stanford University and the University of California-San Francisco, researchers surveyed the responses of Google Now, Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Samsung’s S Voice to assess questions related to mental health issues or abuse. The results were incomplete and inconsistent responses from these conversational agents. Though most of the people rely on Smartphones to access their health data or information about medical conditions, addressing mental health issues through mobile technology hasn’t made much headway.

 

This study in itself is enough to suggest that tech companies as well as the healthcare sector need to ramp-up their efforts to research about mobile tools for addressing mental health issues. Researchers from the University of Manchester and Lancaster University said that “Previous research has indicated that interventions delivered in this format are acceptable for people with Serious Mental Illness (SMI). However, a comprehensive systematic review is needed to investigate the acceptability of online and mobile phone-delivered interventions for SMI in depth”.

Mobile apps are increasingly being used to track social interaction, moods, human behavior and speech & voice levels to help people suffering from mental issues. These apps can help to reduce instance of negative behavior and can be used as an alternative treatment method for people affected by depression and anxiety. Naturally, experts believe that these apps should be backed by clinical evidence to ensure effectiveness before release to consumers.

 

During the trial of a cognitive behavioral therapy app, Catch It, conducted by the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Psychology, Health and Society, the University of Liverpool’s Computer Services and the University of Manchester’s School of Psychological Science, researchers found a significant reduction in negative behavior amongst 285 participants in six weeks.

One of the report’s authors, Professor Peter Kinderman, said “This type of therapy cannot remove problems, but it can help people deal with them in a more positive way. It is based on the concept that your thoughts, feelings, physical sensations and actions are interconnected, and that negative thoughts and feelings can trap you in a vicious cycle,”

 

What concerns experts is the limited attention span of patients when using mobile technology to treat mental health issues. The key to improving these patients condition is to keep them engaged throughout the process and, a mobile tool might lack in that area due to the absence of human interaction. To be completely effective, patients would need to use these tools regularly on their own. Unfortunately, technology makes us impatient and shortens our attention spans. Moreover, Users of mobile health apps discontinue its usage after sometime of download confirming the low engagement level of most of the health apps.

 

To successfully treat mental health issues, the Healthcare sector would need to come out with engaging mobile solutions that make patients come back again and again for improved way of thinking to alter their behavioral patterns. While a human touch would still be required, because essentially mental health issues occur as a result of human relationships only, Smartphone apps can serve as a mode to gather passive data for mental health professionals who are unable to track their patients’ behavior.

One way or other, mobile technology is expected to play a significant role in the mental health segment.

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Barbara Lond's curator insight, December 22, 2017 3:41 PM
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