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Your keys to safer, even more secure healthcare cloud services

Your keys to safer, even more secure healthcare cloud services | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

In my last HealthBlog post, I made the case that we need to focus more on simplicity in healthcare and health IT. Simplicity should be the watchword for solutions in 2015. Thus far, many technology, business and delivery system solutions in the healthcare sector seem to be making life harder instead of better. Isn’t technology supposed to help set us free?

I think cloud computing and storage falls into the category of something that should make health IT solutions better, more scalable, easier to manage, easier to use, and less costly. Now, I’ll admit that when the world first started talking about cloud computing for healthcare, I was a bit of a skeptic. However, I also know that both IT leaders and clinicians have long been seeking solutions that don’t take a basement full of servers and a large staff of IT professionals to manage. “Plug and Play” is a much better strategy for healthcare if you can find it. For that reason alone, health customers around the world have been migrating more and more of their IT to the cloud. The cloud delivers greater simplicity and helps lower costs.

Of course in healthcare, especially where personally identifiable health information is at play, you can’t just focus on simplicity without paying a whole lot of attention to privacy and security. If anything keeps healthcare organizations at distance from considering public cloud solutions for their IT needs, it is concerns about that. Many of those concerns can be addressed by working with IT providers that are fully HIPAA aware and willing to sign Business Associate Agreements (BAA) with their clients. But I think health organization IT leaders are seeking even more assurance than that when they turn over their precious data for safe keeping with a public cloud services provider. They are also seeking world-class tools to help manage the services and data they are trusting to the cloud. That’s why today’s announcement from Microsoft is good news for hospitals and health organizations. Forgive me if this is a bit techie, but I know IT professionals will fully appreciate the news about something we are calling Azure Key Vault.

Azure Key Vault helps customers safeguard and control keys and secrets using a Hardware Security Module (HSM) appliance in the cloud, with ease and at cloud-scale. Key Vault can be configured in minutes, without the need to deploy, wait for, or manage an HSM and has a single programming model across HSM-protected and software-protected keys.

This makes it easier and more economical for customers to encrypt sensitive data, sign certificates, and safeguard secrets in the cloud. For example, with Key Vault, customers can easily encrypt a SQL Server Virtual Machine with TDE (Transparent Data Encryption) using the SQL Server Connector available for Key Vault. Furthermore, customers can deploy an encrypted Virtual Machine with CloudLink SecureVM with the master keys in Key Vault.

So, there you have it. One more reason for hospitals and healthcare systems to turn to the cloud to simplify what they do and help IT departments focus more on their organization’s core business (patient care) and less on projects to maintain complex IT infrastructure and storage.

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An Overlooked Provision of H.R. 4302

An Overlooked Provision of H.R. 4302 | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

While everyone is talking about Sec. 212 of the Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014 (H.R. 4302), which would delay the compliance date of ICD-10 for another year, there is another significant provision in the bill for informatics observers.

Sec. 218 of the temporary Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) "doc fix" bill, which was passed in the House and Senate and is awaiting Presidential approval, would provide quality incentives for computed tomography diagnostic imaging and promoting evidence-based care. Part of this provision requires the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to define clinical decision support mechanisms, determined by various industry stakeholders, that will be used by providers prescribing advanced imaging procedures for Medicare patients.

In a nutshell, says Cindy Moran, a Reston, Va.-based American College of Radiology (ACR) executive vice president of government relations, it mandates ordering physicians to use clinical decision support tools to justify the prescription of those advanced imaging procedures. The provision requires those clinical decision support mechanisms to be used in certified electronic health record (EHR) technology.  Only when the provider informs which clinical decision support mechanism was used to prescribe that study can they receive payment for those services under Medicare.

This evidence-based guideline is a “very important concept,” to Moran and the ACR folks. So much so, they asked for its inclusion in the bill working with various Congressmen and other stakeholders, she says.

They also asked for two other provisions, related to imaging.  One provision forces the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to produce data to justify a 25 percent multiple procedure payment reduction on certain imaging procedures provided to the same patient, on the same day, in the same session. The other put a ceiling on the reduction of certain codes.

ACR was one of the few groups to outright support the passage of the SGR “doc fix” bill. It applauded the delay of the ICD-10 mandate as well. Moran said that while the organization didn’t specifically request the delay, she said it will be helpful to the average physician practice, which is overwhelmed by the transition.

Overall, ACR is looking for a permanent fix to the SGR, Moran says. However unlike other advocacy groups, it is pleased with the passage of H.R. 4302.

The ACR wasn’t the only one to applaud those imaging provisions.  The Access to Medical Imaging Coalition (AMIC), which is a nonprofit group that consists of various imaging industry stakeholders, was equally as happy with the bill. In statement, the group said the appropriateness policy is encouraging.

"The best way to support physicians in ordering the right diagnostic imaging scan at the right time is for Medicare to encourage physicians and patients to make treatment decisions that best suit individualized needs and circumstances,” Tim Trysla, executive director of AMIC, said in a release.


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Health IT outsourcing poised for growth in 2015, beyond

Health IT outsourcing poised for growth in 2015, beyond | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

The market for IT outsourcing in healthcare and life sciences is expected increase at an 8.6 percent compound annual growth rate through 2019, with the adoption of cloud-based services among the major trends, according to global research firm TechNavio.

Organizations might be outsourcing just a few applications or their whole IT operations, relying on managed services to eliminate the need for an in-house IT staff. IT outsourcing helps healthcare providers to deploy business applications rapidly and focus on their core business.

Hospitals and clinics, which have difficulty keeping with up myriad changing government regulations, tend to outsource applications related to operations, finance, database management and infrastructure, according to the report. This outsourcing helps to reduce operational and maintenance costs.

The report also points to the rise in use of predictive and content analytics for clinical and operational insights.

By 2020, 80 percent of healthcare data will pass through the cloud at some point in its lifetime as providers increasingly turn to the cloud for data collection, aggregation, analytics and decision-making, IDC Health Insights recently predicted.

IDC also estimated that half of health and life science buyers by 2018 will demand substantial risk sharing with their outsourcing partners.

Hospitals increasingly plan to outsource coding efforts in the coming year, according to a survey published by Black Book Rankings, which found in a separate survey that a majority of hospital CFOs plan to either outsource or purchase new revenue cycle management software by the end of 2015.

Dick Escue, CIO of Valley View Hospital in Colorado, made the case for buying effective services, not mega-expensive hardware, in a November article published at Becker's Health IT & CIO Review.

Yet Peter Odegard, information security officer at Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, told FierceHealthIT that it's increasingly difficult for hospitals to keep track of all the vendor partners that host, store or analyze data, adding to the complexity of security patient data.


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