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Goodbye Healthcare Technology Online Hello Health IT Outcomes

Goodbye Healthcare Technology Online Hello Health IT Outcomes | Healthcare and Technology news |
Goodbye Healthcare Technology Online, Hello Health IT Outcomes

By Ken Congdon, editor-in-chief, Healthcare Technology Online

Follow Me On Twitter @KenOnHIT

There’s a big change on the horizon for Healthcare Technology Online. So big, in fact, the Healthcare Technology Online brand will no longer be emblazoned on our website, email newsletters, print publications, or any of our other assets in just a few short weeks. Starting in January 2014, Healthcare Technology Online will change its name to Health IT Outcomes. You may have noticed our twitter handle has already been converted over to @HITOutcomes.

Our entire staff is very excited about this announcement because of what it represents for our products and the audience of healthcare providers we serve. This transition isn’t driven by a change in corporate direction or ownership. On the contrary, we’re still owned by the same parent company (Jameson Publishing), and the same staff of talented professionals (including myself) remains dedicated to producing the valuable heath IT editorial content you’ve come to expect from us. Instead, the transformation of our brand is a calculated move to address our evolution as a media outlet and illustrate our editorial mission more clearly.

A sneak peek at our new Health IT Outcomes logo.

You see, we launched our product in 2009 as an online-only health IT resource center. We aggregated valuable health IT content from a variety of sources (e.g. analysts, research organizations, blogs, consultants, vendors, health providers, etc.) and made it available (and easily searchable) to healthcare providers via a single website. Back then, the Healthcare Technology Online name fit. However, we have clearly evolved into a full-blown health IT media outlet over the past four years. We’ve become much more than just a website — we now produce a weekly email newsletter and a bimonthly print magazine. We also generate our own industry research and have an active social media following. As such, we’ve outgrown the Healthcare Technology Online moniker. (Needless to say, Healthcare Technology Online Magazine doesn’t make much sense.)


Central to our product evolution has been the increased focus we’ve placed on generating quality, original health IT editorial. When we launched in 2009, the original content we produced was limited to an opinion column that I would post once a week. Our staff now authors thousands of original health IT stories annually — and these aren’t your run-of-the-mill articles. When we decided to enter the world of health IT media, we wanted to make sure we weren’t viewed as a copycat outlet. In other words, there were already several reputable publications serving the market — we needed to bring something different (and better) to the table in order to stand out. Therefore, before we wrote a word, we spent several months interviewing technology leaders from healthcare providers to identify coverage gaps (i.e. areas where there were opportunities for us to provide value to the industry.) We wanted to find out what types of health IT content were lacking in the space. More importantly, we wanted to know what types of health IT editorial would cause a provider executive to pick up a magazine or open an email newsletter.

The feedback we gathered through this process was a defining moment in the course of our organization. From these discussions, we learned that despite there being several health IT publications to choose from, healthcare providers felt that they still lacked a voice in the media. The consensus was that most of the health IT editorial being produced was news-based or vendor focused. Moreover, much of the subject matter seemed to promote the future promise of health IT rather than document the realities. Providers were hungry for real-world accounts of health IT implementation strategies, best practices, and lessons learned from their peers. Furthermore, they wanted details about the benefits healthcare facilities were realizing as result of their IT investments today. In other words, providers wanted health IT editorial that focused on outcomes, not the hype surrounding the technology.

This became our editorial mission. Over the past two years, we have committed ourselves to interviewing technology trailblazers in the healthcare industry and chronicling their successes, failures, and the associated measurable results in the articles we write. This content has clearly resonated with our health IT audience.

When it became clear that we needed to change our name to one more fitting of the media outlet we had become, we once again polled you, our readership. You encouraged us to select a name that placed emphasis on the original editorial content that has become the life-blood of our products. This led us to the name Health IT Outcomes. It’s been an awesome journey thus far, and the days ahead only look brighter. We thank you for your continued support and loyalty, and we look forward to continuing to serve you as Health IT Outcomes.

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Study Of Impact Of IT In Nursing Homes Set To Begin

Study Of Impact Of IT In Nursing Homes Set To Begin | Healthcare and Technology news |
Study Of Impact Of IT In Nursing Homes Set To Begin

By John Oncea, editor, Healthcare Technology Online

University of Missouri three-year study is the first in 10 years to examine relationship between IT use and quality of patient care in nursing homes

A Patriot Ledger blog post asks if IT should be a decision when choosing a nursing home. The author says yes, writing, “IT sophistication should be an important factor to consider when individuals choose nursing homes for their loved ones (as it) is used  … to admit and discharge residents, monitor patients’ dietary and pharmacy needs, and complete administrative activities.”

Now, researchers at the University of Missouri will be the first to study the relationships between IT systems and specific components of nursing home care, such as resident care, clinical support and administrative activities. The study is the first of this magnitude in a decade.

Greg Alexander, associate professor in the MU Sinclair School of Nursing and lead researcher of the study said, “People may not consider IT implementation to be important when searching for a nursing home, but IT certainly impacts the communication between staff and the continuity of care for the patients. This study will show which types of IT affect the quality of nursing homes the most.”

Alexander, according to the release, “hopes to use his findings to determine which IT capabilities lead to high-quality care in order to benchmark best practices of IT implementation in nursing homes throughout the country. Also, Alexander hopes to understand how IT is being adopted in nursing homes. This information will be used to create more specific educational programs for various nursing home disciplines and fill the knowledge void regarding IT implementation in nursing homes.

“In addition, Alexander hopes the results of his study will influence the science of nursing home quality measurement by incorporating variables such as IT, which previously has not been included in these quality measurement systems. In turn, this information could help family members make better informed decisions about which nursing homes would be best for their loved ones.”

Healthcare IT News further notes, “In a previous study of IT in Missouri nursing homes, Alexander found that IT helped health professionals make clinical decisions, track patients' care, and protect residents' privacy. ‘Our research team will study 10 percent of all U.S. nursing homes' IT use for the next three years,’ Alexander said. ‘We will track survey responses each year and analyze how trends in IT adoption levels correlate with nursing home quality measures, such as the number of residents with urinary tract infections, pressure ulcers and pain.’”

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CDC back at work to track the flu

CDC back at work to track the flu | Healthcare and Technology news |
CDC back at work to track the flu

Update 10/18 3:30 p.m.: The CDC has released an abbreviated FluView report for the week ending in October 12. See it here

Published 10/17: Now that the U.S. government shutdown is over, federal workers are returning to work, including the furloughed doctors and epidemiologists who work for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

One of the many things the CDC does is keep track of the flu, something that was stopped on October 1, leaving the overall flu picture in the United States a little murky.

Every Friday, the CDC is supposed to post how many cases of flu have been reported in the 50 states and U.S. territories. But during the shutdown, the CDC said on its website that it would "not be routinely analyzing surveillance data nor testing laboratory specimens submitted as part of routine surveillance."

So the most recent weekly CDC report provides data for the week of September 21. Under normal circumstances, the CDC would be posting data tomorrow from the week ending October 12 (they are always one week behind).  But since their staff is just now returning to work, it's likely the FluView reports will probably resume next Friday, a CDC spokesperson said.

Fortunately, immunization program managers and health officials in each state have been on the job for the past two weeks and have kept up with their flu surveillance. 

For many states, the 2013-2014 flu season began at the end of September or at the beginning of October, which is when they start to ramp up their surveillance. And with the help of some of these public health officials, CNN collected data from 10 states to get a snapshot of where we are when it comes to flu season. (Full disclosure: This is in no way remotely comparable to what the CDC produces each week).

For example, influenza-like illness activity has increased in recent weeks across Texas. Health officials describe the intensity of the illnesses as “low," having recorded six positive flu test results last week.

As of last week, Illinois, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Kentucky and West Virginia were reporting no activity.

"Tennessee is not seeing signs of notable influenza activity," says the director of Tennessee's Immunization Program, Dr. Kelly Moore. What her state doesn't do is test to see if circulating strains are well matched to what's in this year's flu vaccines. That's something the CDC normally does and is now behind on.

Health officials in Wyoming tell us they are receiving "sporadic reports of influenza activity from multiple counties across the state." As of October 12, they had four cases reported.

Iowa doesn't require health care providers to report flu, so the number of cases this state reports is probably underestimated, but the state's health department describes it as "sporadic." Louisiana and Arizona are also reporting sporadic flu activity.

It's likely the CDC will soon send be spreading their annual "Get your flu shot" message again. Until then, Vermont's immunization program manager and nurse practitioner Chris Finley has this advice: "Flu activity is low, which means it's a very good time to get a flu shot because there is still time to be protected before the flu season hits."

The CDC also tests to see to see if current flu strains circulating among us are becoming resistant to existing antiviral medications like Tamiflu or amantidine. So there will be some more catching up to do by federal health researchers. 

Besides getting a flu vaccine, which the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends for nearly everyone 6 months and older, there are a few other things you can always do to prevent getting sick:

- – Wash your hands frequently with soap and water.  If you wash them as long as it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice, your hands should be properly  cleaned.  Alcohol-based hand sanitizer is a good back up if you don't have soap and water.

- - Stay home when you're sick so you don't infect others.

- – Avoid people who are sick, if possible.  According to the CDC, "People with flu can spread it to others up to about 6 feet away. " People who have the flu can spread the virus when they cough, sneeze or talk.  Droplets carrying the flu virus can travel through the air and someone else could inhale the virus and get sick.

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You may not be better off after knee surgery

You may not be better off after knee surgery | Healthcare and Technology news |

(CNN) -- Patients who underwent simulated knee surgery fared just as well as those who got the real deal, according to a new study that's raising eyebrows about the most common orthopedic procedure performed in the United States.

The findings, published Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine, add to a string of papers suggesting that arthroscopic partial meniscectomy fails to help many patients. The operation typically is performed to relieve knee pain, whether from wear or from an injury.

But other doctors say it's still too soon to draw sweeping conclusions.

The study, which was conducted in Finland, followed 146 patients between the ages of 35 and 65 with symptoms of degenerative wear and tear of the meniscus, a disk-shaped piece of cartilage that acts as a shock absorber between the shinbone and thighbone.

About half the patients underwent an arthroscopic meniscectomy, in which a surgeon inserts a blade through a tiny incision in the knee, and essentially shaves down the rough, frayed edges of the meniscus.

The other half underwent an elaborately staged "sham" surgery, in which the doctor made an incision and poked around without any actual manipulation, shaving or cutting.

A year later, there was no significant difference in the knee pain reported by patients in each group. Nearly two-thirds on each side said they were happy with the results, and most said they would do it all again.

Video: Knee pain common in women 50 and up

In patients without arthritis, the authors conclude, the procedure "provides no significant benefit over sham surgery."

As many as 700,000 arthroscopic partial meniscectomies are performed in the United States every year, at a direct cost of $4 billion, according to the study authors.

But the procedure has come under scrutiny with the publication of papers -- 2002, 2008 and earlier this year -- that found it provides little or no benefit in older patients, whose meniscus is frayed through simple wear and tear as opposed to a specific injury.

"It's pretty obvious to anyone who really has an interest in this that what we've called a meniscal tear isn't really a tear," says Dr. Teppo Jarvinen, who led the research team. "It has nothing to do with the tears we talk about in a 20-year-old athlete who twists or sprains their knee."

According to some, the new study draws a stronger conclusion because it includes patients with mechanical symptoms like popping, clicking or a sense of the knee locking up.

"When we hear a knee is locking, a bell goes off: 'this needs arthroscopy,'" says Dr. Dennis Cardone, an associate professor of orthopedic surgery at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York.

"If anything, this (study) swings it a little bit more. Even when a patient complains of locking, arthroscopy might not be necessary."

But Dr. Frederick Azar, vice-president of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, says patients in the study are not typical.

"To have a degenerative medical meniscus tear and no evidence or arthritis is extremely unusual," says Azar. "It's well less than 1% of the patients we see."

Dr. Scott Rodeo, co-chief of the Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, says it's likely that many of the patients in the study are in the early stages of developing arthritis, even if it's not detectable through X-rays.

He said the Finnish study reaffirms the sense that surgery is not likely to help these patients, who are suffering from chronic wear and tear.

Azar, a professor of medicine at the University of Tennessee and team physician for the Memphis Grizzlies basketball team, says he's worried about scaring away patients who might be helped.

"This is a very useful low-cost intervention, with a short recovery time and good results in most patients," he says.

Surgeon: How to give your knees some TLC

A worn meniscus can be a simple result of aging, but it's more common in people whose knees take a lot of pounding, including long-distance runners and people whose jobs have them standing for long periods on a hard floor. Obesity is an additional risk factor.

The Finnish study looks at meniscectomy, as opposed to meniscus repair, in which a surgeon actually sews together torn cartilage. According to Cardone, patients under 40 do especially well with meniscus repair, especially those whose injury stems from a single incident.

But orthopedists say many people with knee pain can be helped with physical therapy to strengthen muscles that support the knee.

Before recommending surgery, Azar also counsels patients to consider switching to low-impact activities -- for example, to mix biking or swimming into a workout routine, instead of just long-distance running. He says other patients may be helped by anti-inflammatories or injections of hyaluronic acid.

In advanced cases, when the meniscus is totally worn away, more drastic steps are an option.

"If it's bone-on-bone," says Azar, "their pain is coming from osteoarthritis and the only surgery to help is a knee replacement. But we try to exhaust all measures before doing that."

However, Jarvinen says the abundance of caution needs to start much earlier.

"All your fellow orthopedic surgeons will tell you, 'I already knew this.' But the facts are, this is still the most common orthopedic procedure," he says, and the vast majority of operations are unnecessary.

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Company needs patient OK to sell PHI | Healthcare IT News

Company needs patient OK to sell PHI | Healthcare IT News | Healthcare and Technology news |

HIPAA may have just complicated a laboratory company's bankruptcy filing after HHS lawyers argued Laboratory Partners Inc. needed to get permission from former customers before selling their protected health information as part of the bankruptcy auction deal. 


Lawyers for HHS filed a protective objection in Delaware bankruptcy court Dec. 18, and if a federal judge in Delaware agrees with the Department of Health and Human Services, HIPAA may get its way.


"HIPAA regulations provide that covered entities who seek to sell their customers' protected health information can only do so with their customers' authorization," federal lawyers wrote, asking the judge to deny the sale motion until the company proves it has former beneficiaries' approval.


Also known as MedLab, Laboratory Partners, a Cincinnati-based clinical laboratory network doing business in eight states, started voluntary chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings in October, and as part of a restructuring plan is selling its long-term care division and, next year, one of its lab businesses in Indiana.


The long-term care division currently on the market has assets described as: "all consumer lists, machinery and equipment records, quality control records and procedures, employment and personnel records, and display materials."


It's those "customer lists" that HHS is taking issue with. "To the extent the customer lists contain any individually identifiable health information, Debtors’ have not demonstrated that each affected customer has authorized a sale of protected health information," HHS lawyers wrote. The lists “almost certainly contain protected health information whose sale is restricted under HIPAA."


If the buyer of the long-term care division is a HIPAA covered entity, the sale of the PHI in the assets would “not necessarily require the authorization of the beneficiaries as it would be considered a disclosure for the purposes of healthcare operations,” as federal lawyers told Laboratory Partners’ legal team.


"However," the federal lawyers wrote, Laboratory Partners "has been unable to assure the United States that the purchaser will be a 'Covered Entity.'"


Cases like this and the sale of healthcare businesses raise the issue of the live of PHI, especially in the digital age as customer lists with personal health information would be valuable in their own right to advertisers.


The chair of the Federal Trade Commission, for one, is promising robust regulation of the emerging big data field. Last year the FTC called on data brokers to give consumers access to their information through an easy-to-find, easy-to-use common portal, and is supporting legislation giving consumers the ability to access, dispute or suppress data held by brokers.


In a contentious legal case, the FTC is also seeking a consent agreement with LabMD to have the Atlanta-based diagnostics company implement a comprehensive information security program, after allegations of a data breach. LabMD contends that the FTC doesn’t have the authority to regulate digital privacy.


Technical Dr. Inc.'s insight:

Bookmark this page for daily information on HIPAA, medical IT services, and more!  Technical Doctor is the leader in medical IT support, and education is one of our specialties.  Email us at for more information on how we can help your business.

- The Technical Doctor Team

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We can trust CMS and EHR vendors but verification would be nice | Healthcare IT News

We can trust CMS and EHR vendors but verification would be nice | Healthcare IT News | Healthcare and Technology news |

This ICD-10 implementation thing might not be so bad. There are electronic health record (EHR) systems that promise to assign ICD-10 codes.

What's the problem?

John Lynn writes that there is a difference between an EHR that says it's ready for ICD-10 and one that is ready. The EHRs that figure out ICD-9 codes then suggest ICD-10 codes that could work are going to be problematic.

Which sounds like a really good reason for end-to-end testing. Find out if EHRs and practice management systems (PMS) can create medical claims with the proper ICD-10 codes.

And that's why many people think it's important that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) conduct thorough end-to-end testing with ICD-10 codes. After all, that's why failed.

And The Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) makes that case in its letter to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius that urges HHS to mandate end-to-end ICD-10 testing. What's more important is that "end-to-end testing is the only practical method practices will have to accurately predict and respond to Medicare coding edits and fully understand the impact that ICD-10 will have on reimbursement."

Of course CMS has said that it has designed the ICD-10 DRGs to be revenue neutral.

And your EHR is ICD-10 ready.

Creating an ICD-10 Action Plan: Training, Testing, and Ongoing Review

Robert Tennant, senior policy adviser in the government affairs department for the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA), shares tips for ICD-10 implementation:

Start training medical coders about six to nine months before the ICD-10 compliance deadline so they don't need retraining.

Team up with other medical practices and pool resources to train trainers.

Contact clearinghouses and ask:

What ICD-10 services will you provide?

Is my submission format appropriate?

What will be the cost of the service?

When can you accept test claims?

Are you offering any training opportunities?

Contact health plans about assistance and testing.

Monitor government sources and health plans for compliance announcements.

(Physicians Practice)

Measure Twice, Cut Once 5 Biggest Lessons in ICD-10 Documentation Success

"Look to the past to understand the future"

"Get down into the detail"

"Prioritize by risk"

"Fix what you can today"

"ICD-10 documentation isn’t a one-and-done activity"

How Prepared Are Hospitals for ICD-10?

Phoenix Health Systems surveyed 101 hospitals of various sizes and found:

Most large hospital systems — 600 to more than 2,000 beds — have little doubt that they will be ready by Oct. 1, although only a third report their ICD-10 plans are more than 50 percent complete.

58 percent of hospitals with 400 to 600 beds have initiated their ICD-10 implementation projects.

36 percent of hospitals with less than 400 beds have not begun an ICD-10 impact assessment.

60 percent of hospitals with less than 100 beds have not begun an ICD-10 impact assessment.

Three takeaways worth mentioning:

Many hospitals reported that they did not have ICD-10 compliance budgeted until 2014.

No surprise that the largest healthcare providers are the best prepared.

This means there is going t be a lot of work being done in 2014. Expect ICD-10 consultants and trainers to be booked.

Technical Dr. Inc.'s insight:

Technical Doctor team members are experts in this field!  Put the #1 medical IT support firm to work for you today!  Contact us at to learn more.

-          The Technical Doctor Team

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Midwestern states ink HIE deal | Healthcare IT News

Midwestern states ink HIE deal | Healthcare IT News | Healthcare and Technology news |

The Illinois Health Information Exchange and the Missouri Health Connection will be joining forces in a new data sharing agreement that will provide physicians in both states with real-time patient information to boost care quality.

 Officials say this new HIE partnership is particularly important for border states Illinois and Missouri since patients frequently cross state lines to receive care.

 "Healthcare does not neatly follow state borders, so information about patients’ needs to follow them wherever they go," said Raul Recarey, executive director of ILHIE, in a press statement announcing the agreement. "Many Illinois patients from the southern portion of our state are referred to Missouri hospitals. The ILHIE/MHC agreement will allow providers from either state to have access to critically important patient data, regardless of whether that data resides in Missouri or Illinois."

MHC and ILHIE are the state-designated entities for their respective states, tasked with creating and managing the infrastructure to connect healthcare providers with their patients via a secure health information network. As more healthcare providers move from paper-based medical records to electronic health record systems, MHC and ILHIE are teaming up to ensure they can exchange data with each other through a single, secure network – regardless of the technology platforms that they are using, officials say. 

ILHIE's network provides services to more than 2,000 providers at more than 450 healthcare organizations, including hospitals, physician practices, and community health centers.

According to officials, MHC's network provides services to more than 45 percent of the inpatient care provided in Missouri, 62 hospitals and more than 350 clinics. The network enables more than 7,000 physicians to securely access the health information of their patients to improve care quality.

"Our goal is to fulfill the vision of using technology to reduce the silos that hold back health information from being available where it is needed most — in the hands of caregivers," said Marc Andiel, MHC's president and CEO, in a news release. "Whether those silos are organizational or governmental boundaries or technological interoperability challenges, we exist to reduce those barriers, and working with Illinois on this common goal has demonstrated our shared missions of service to our communities."


Technical Dr. Inc.'s insight:

Is this news important to you?  Could you benefit from a team dedicated to healthcare IT support?  Put the #1 medical IT support company to work for you tody!  Contact us at to learn more!

-          The Technical Doctor Team

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New Mobile Technology Allows Users to Track Cholesterol Levels with a Smartphone (VIDEO)

New Mobile Technology Allows Users to Track Cholesterol Levels with a Smartphone (VIDEO) | Healthcare and Technology news |
Cornell engineers have created the Smartphone Cholesterol Application for Rapid Diagnostics, or smartCARD. The smartCARD provides cholesterol-trac
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Windows XP Won’t Be HIPAA Compliant April 8, 2014 | EMR and HIPAA

Windows XP Won’t Be HIPAA Compliant April 8, 2014 | EMR and HIPAA | Healthcare and Technology news |

As was announced by Microsoft a long time ago, support for Windows XP is ending on April 8, 2014. For most of us, we don’t think this is a big deal and are asking, “Do people still use Windows XP?” However, IT support people in healthcare realize the answer to that question is yes, and far too much.

With Microsoft choosing to end its support for Windows XP, I wondered what the HIPAA implications were for those who aren’t able to move off Windows XP before April 8. Is using Windows XP when it’s no longer supported a HIPAA violation? I reached out to Mac McMillan, CEO & Co-Founder of CynergisTek for the answer:

Windows XP is definitely an issue. In fact, OCR has been very clear that unsupported systems are NOT compliant. They cited this routinely during the audits last year whenever identified.

Unsupported systems by definition are insecure and pose a risk not only to the data they hold, but the network they reside on as well.

Unfortunately, while the risk they pose is black and white, replacing them is not always that simple. For smaller organizations the cost of refreshing technology as often as it goes out of service can be a real challenge. And then there are those legacy applications that require an older version to operate properly.

Mac’s final comment is very interesting. In healthcare, there are still a number of software systems that only work on Windows XP. We’re not talking about the major enterprise systems in an organization. Those will be fine. The problem is the hundreds of other software a healthcare organization has to support. Some of those could be an issue for organizations.

Outside of these systems, it’s just a major undertaking to move from Windows XP to a new O/S. If you’ve been reading our blogs, Will Weider warned us of this issue back in July 2012. As Will said in that interview, “We will spend more time and money (about $5M) on this [updating Windows XP] than we spent working on Stage 1 of Meaningful Use.” I expect many organizations haven’t made this investment.

Did your HIPAA compliance officer already warn you of this? Do you even have a HIPAA compliance officer? There are a lot of online HIPAA Compliance training courses out there that more organizations should consider. For example, the designated compliance officer might want to consider the Certified HIPAA Security Professional (CHSP) course and the rest of the staff the HIPAA Workforce Certificate for Professionals (HWCP) course. There’s really not much excuse for an organization not to be HIPAA compliant. Plus, if they’re not HIPAA compliant it puts them at risk of not meeting the meaningful use security requirements. The meaningful use risk assessment should have caught this right?

I’m always amazed at the lack of understanding of HIPAA and HIPAA compliance I see in organizations. It’s often more lip service than actual action. I think that will come back to bite many in the coming years. One of those bites will likely be organizations with unsupported Windows XP machines.


Technical Dr. Inc.'s insight:

Did you know that Technical Doctor is a leader in IT Hardware sales?  We are #1 in medical practice IT support, and the hardware we offer has been proven to work with your systems.  Contact us at to learn more!

-          The Technical Doctor Team

No comment yet.!'s Good News and Bad News, by the Numbers's Good News and Bad News, by the Numbers | Healthcare and Technology news |

Nearly 260,000 Americans enrolled in private health insurance plans through the federal and state-run exchanges in November, according to the latest Obamacare numbers. That brings the total number of enrollments through November 30 up to  364,682. Whether that's good or bad depends on whether you're a glass half-full (that's so much better than October) or a glass half-empty (the Obama administration thought they'd have 500,000 enrollments in October) type of person. And of course, whether you want to repeal and/or defund Obamacare. By the numbers:

For the glass half-full people:
  • About 258,000 individuals enrolled in November — that's more than double October's 106,000.
  • The state-run exchanges more than doubled their enrollment numbers, for a total of 227,478 enrollments. That's more proof that, for the most part, the states that were dedicated to making the law work are having more success.
  • December is looking to be an even better month. New York recently reported that nearly 70,000 individuals bought healthcare. That's up from the 45,000 reported in the November numbers. The state expects to meet its enrollment goal
  • About 1.8 million applications were submitted and of those 2.6 million people were found eligible for the Marketplace. (An application can be submitted for a whole family.)
  • The real bright spot is that 803,000 people were deemed eligible for Medicaid.
  • Even before was deemed "fixed", the exchange had much better numbers — it went from about 27,000 enrollments to 137,000. Here's a chart that shows the dramatic improvement:

RELATED: Five Best Wednesday Columns

  • Even Oregon enrolled some people!
For the glass half empty people:
  • Just kidding, the Oregon exchange still sucks. It enrolled a total of 44 people, which is impressive considering everyone was told to use paper applications. Covered Oregon isn't expected to be functional until next week and only 26,000 of 65,000 paper applications have been processed
  • The administration still counts plans selected but not paid for as enrollments. So if people never pay for their plans they won't actually be enrolled.
  • This isn't very close to 7 million, and the White House is backing away from that magic number. While Michael Hash of the Department of Health and Human Services said they expect to meet seven million, others are less convinced. Now, according to Politico, the administration is focusing on the "mix of healthy to unhealthy" as a measure of the "viability of the markets," as per David Simas, a White House Senior adviser. Basically, no death spiral, no problems. 
For the "defund Obamacare" movement:
  • There are now 364,682 people who'd be really upset to lose their Obamacare insurance.
  • There are only 364,682 who'd be really upset to lose their Obamacare insurance. 

This article was originally published at

Technical Dr. Inc.'s insight:

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Is there a cure for multiple sclerosis?

Is there a cure for multiple sclerosis? | Healthcare and Technology news |
Is there a cure for multiple sclerosis?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Wednesdays, it's Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer at the American Cancer Society.

Asked by Kayla in North Carolina:

Hi, I got multiple sclerosis about a year ago, and I'm very young. I was curious if there has been any further information about a possible cure or not. I know that people have been searching for a cure, but I'm curious as to how close they really are.

Expert answer

Multiple sclerosis is a neurologic disease that affects women more often than men. Onset is most commonly in the 20s or 30s.

MS is an autoimmune disease in which there is initially focal inflammation and then permanent damage to nerves of the central nervous system. The damage is really removal of the insulating material surrounding nerves. The tissue that insulates nerves is called myelin, and the damage is referred to as demyelination.

As a nerve that controls sensation or movement of a part of the body loses some of its myelin covering, the nerve may become dysfunctional. This can manifest itself as loss of that nerves function which can be sensation, vision, movement or coordination of movement. Affected sensory nerves can also cause pain.

There have been tremendous advances in our ability to diagnose and assess MS with the development of magnetic resonance imaging. Unfortunately, our understanding of the cause of this disease remains limited, as does our ability to treat it. There is some limited success in stopping or decreasing the severity of an MS attack. We would also like to stimulate a regrowth of the damaged myelin over the nerve. Unfortunately, this is not possible at this time.

There are several types of MS. Some patients have disease that will have an acute exacerbation followed by a prolonged quiet period, which can last years or decades. This form of disease is referred to as relapsed remitting MS, or RRMS. Others have a disease that gets progressively worse over time. There are two types of progressive disease. In primary progressive MS, or PPMS, symptoms steadily worsen over time from the very beginning. Secondary progressive MS, known as SPMS, begins as relapsed remitting disease and becomes progressive over time.

For an acute exacerbation of multiple sclerosis that can result in neurologic symptoms and increased disability or impairments in vision, strength or coordination, the preferred initial treatment is usually a type of steroid called a glucocorticoid. Patients who do not have a good response to steroidal therapy are often treated with plasma exchange. Plasma exchange is an extreme therapy that removes antibodies to myelin from the blood.

Patients with RRMS are often treated with immune-modulating drugs such as interferon or glatiramer acetate. Glatiramer is an exciting drug. It is a series of small proteins that are similar to myelin protein. It is thought to prompt the immune system to avoid attacking myelin.

Available treatments of primary and secondary progressive MS are of limited efficacy and have significant side effects. An additional fact to consider is that most trials have not lasted longer than two or three years and give only hints about long-term results of treatment.

In brief, no clinical trial has shown convincing evidence of benefit in the treatment of primary progressive MS. All suggested treatments for PPMS are empiric. Several drugs that are more commonly used in the treatment of malignancy, cladribine and mitozantrone, appear to have some activity.

In contrast, there is definite modest benefit in some treatments for secondary progressive MS. These treatments include various regimens of steroid therapy and the use of some drugs that modulate the immune system. Many of these drugs are more commonly used in treatment of cancer and rheumatoid arthritis such as cyclophosphamide, methotrexate and interferon.

MS should be treated by a neurologist with experience in managing it. The American Academy of Neurology has published treatment guidelines for MS.

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Post by: Dr. Otis Brawley - CNNHealth Conditions Expert
Filed under: Expert Q&A • Multiple Sclerosis • Nervous system
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Kids' health care can vary widely by location, New England study shows

Kids' health care can vary widely by location, New England study shows | Healthcare and Technology news |

(CNN) -- A new study of pediatric care finds wide regional variations in the kinds of treatment and medication children receive, which is "raising troubling questions," according to its authors.

The Dartmouth Atlas report released Wednesday replicates and expands upon a groundbreaking study done in the 1970s.

Back then, scientists discovered a wide variety of care for children with throat problems. The 1970s study found 60% of the children who lived in Morrisville, Vermont, had their tonsils out by the age of 15. In other communities, fewer than 20% of kids in that same age group did.

The variety surprised researchers, and the previous study had a big impact on children's health care in the region. Doctors reexamined their practices and tried to establish exactly why there was such variation. The number of surgeries declined, and the rate of tonsillectomies in Morrisville fell to one of the lowest in the state.

Researchers wanted to revisit the same issue using current data to see if the regional variations in care continued. Again, they found a wide variety in the quantity and quality of children's care.

Researchers focused on the northern New England area, since state legislatures in Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire require medical claims reporting. In many other parts of the country, there is no such requirement for reporting data, which has created a data gap for researchers.

"The regional differences are striking here," said Dr. David Goodman, professor of pediatrics at the Dartmouth Institute and an author of the report. "What makes this particularly striking is the data we now have is so vivid detail, we can identify the very hospitals" at the heart of the variations.

See the map

Looking at tonsillectomies again, researchers found that there is still a wide regional variety in how many are performed.

Tonsillectomies are mostly done in children with problems with sleep apnea or for kids who suffer from chronic sore throats.

Randomized trials show these surgeries have limited effectiveness. Consequently, fewer tonsillectomies had been performed since the 1960s when the rate peaked, but researchers have noticed a small upward trend between 1996 and 2006. The rate rose from 4.97 to 8.7 per 1,000 children (that's 243,000 procedures per year).

Rates in the region did vary significantly. They were lowest in Bangor, Maine, at 2.7 per 1,000, compared with Berlin, New Hampshire, where the rate was nearly four times higher.

"These surgeries are fairly common in younger children, where there are absolutely no studies showing that this is beneficial, and even with older children, the beneficial effects are quite small," Goodman said. "What this shows is that whether a child has this surgery depends more on where they get their care as opposed to who they are."

The report looked beyond tonsillectomies. The authors also looked at the number of well-care visits children had, what kind of tests they were given, and what kind of prescriptions they received.

Again, researchers continued to find a wide variety of treatments across the region. For instance, when it came to adolescents' annual doctor visits, 55% of teens in Lebanon, New Hampshire, annually saw a doctor, versus only 29% of teens in Colebrook, New Hampshire.

Children were screened for lead exposure in varying numbers as well. While 86% of children under the age of 2 were screened in Berlin, New Hampshire, between 2008 and 2010, only 8% were tested in Dover-Foxcroft, Maine.

ADHD care also seemed to have wide differences. Medication rates varied more than twofold, with more than 75 per 100 children in Caribou, Maine, compared with less than 35 per 100 children receiving it in Greenville, Maine. (Nationally, only 8.4% of children ages 3-17 were ever diagnosed with ADHD through 2009, the latest year available in a 2011 survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

What this suggests, according to the Dartmouth study authors, is that children are being under-treated in some areas and over-treated in others.

Goodman said there is intense interest from doctors and hospitals in the region in the findings of this report.

"They want to understand what is occurring and to use this information to improve care," he said.

He also hopes that other state legislatures will now make this kind of data collection on care mandatory. "We'd like for other states to realize the value of this data and know that its collection is important for the well-being of their population."

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Will your children buy candy, gum or little cigars?

Will your children buy candy, gum or little cigars? | Healthcare and Technology news |

Editor's note: Dr. Tom Frieden is director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

(CNN) -- They're on display at cash registers all across America: Candy bars, packs of gum -- and little cigars.

In some cases, those cigars aren't tucked away behind the counter where only the attendant can get to them but right in front for anyone to pick up.

Traditional fat cigars are a small part of today's cigar industry. Newer types of cancer sticks include cigarette-sized cigars, or little cigars, designed to look like a typical cigarette but which evade cigarette taxes and regulations.

Flavored little cigars can be sold virtually anywhere, and kids are a prime target of these new products.

CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden

Unlike cigarettes, many are sold singly or in small, low-priced packs, at a fraction of the cost of a cigarette in most states.

These little cigars have names like "Da Bomb Blueberry" and "Swagberry." The flavors themselves -- chocolate mint, watermelon, wild cherry and more -- can mask the harsh taste of tobacco and are clearly attractive to children.

The Food and Drug Administration banned candy and fruit flavors in cigarettes so young people would not be enticed. But cigars weren't covered.

The tobacco industry claims that its marketing efforts are solely aimed at adults. It has long argued that its marketing doesn't increase demand or cause young people to smoke but instead is intended to increase brand appeal and market share among existing adult smokers.

How many grown-ups do you know who smoke grape-flavored cigars?

CDC: More teens smoking flavored tobacco

Little cigars have become more popular in recent years. Flavored brands have almost 80% of the market share.

In 2011, among middle school and high school students who currently smoke cigars, more than one in three reported using flavored little cigars.

Six states -- Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Wisconsin -- have youth cigar smoking rates the same as or higher than those of youth cigarette smoking.

Despite industry statements to the contrary, the link between marketing and youth tobacco use is clear.

Some legislative and regulatory actions that tackle elements of tax discrepancies, youth appeal and marketing are in place or under consideration.

New York and Providence, Rhode Island, have enacted city-wide ordinances prohibiting the sale of flavored tobacco products, including flavored little cigars. Both ordinances have been challenged and upheld in U.S. District Court.

In April, the Tobacco Tax and Enforcement Reform Act was introduced in the Senate. This bill aims to eliminate tax disparities between different tobacco products, reduce illegal tobacco trade and increase the federal excise tax on tobacco products.

Based on decades of evidence, the 2012 surgeon general's report on tobacco use among youth and young adults concluded that tobacco industry marketing causes youths to smoke, and nicotine addiction keeps them smoking.

This sobering fact holds true in spite of bans on advertising and promotions that target children and youths, and restrictions on certain other marketing activities.

Nearly 90% of smokers started before they were 18 years old, and almost no one starts smoking after age 25.

To prevent the needless death, disability and illness caused by smoking, we must stop young people from even starting to smoke.

A key part of prevention efforts must be action that will eliminate loopholes in restrictions on tobacco marketing, pricing and products that encourage children and youth to smoke.

I don't think it's too much to expect of our society that we protect our kids so they can reach adulthood without an addiction that can harm or kill them.

'Emerging' tobacco products gaining traction among young, CDC survey finds

The opinions expressed are solely those of Dr. Tom Frieden.

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Desktop Virtualization Takes Pain Out Of EHR Install

Desktop Virtualization Takes Pain Out Of EHR Install

Edited by Jennifer Dennard, Healthcare Technology Online

By replacing 600 PCs with 1,100 cloud displays, Olympic Medical Center has created a virtualized environment that has improved clinical workflows, IT maintenance, and overall EHR utilization.

An EHR implementation is painful enough on its own. Add PC setup, troubleshooting, and upgrades to the mix, and you add untold time and frustration to the process. Olympic Medical Center (OMC), an 80-bed, acute-care community hospital in Port Angeles, WA, found that PC management was impeding its EHR progress. As a result, the provider made the decision to replace many of its clinical PCs with cloud displays that leverage desktop virtualization technology. Here, Sean Johnson, information technology manager at OMC, explains how this move has enhanced clinical workflows, improved integration with physician dictation software, and optimized EHR utilization.

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Give Patients Tablets Reduce Readmissions

Give Patients Tablets Reduce Readmissions | Healthcare and Technology news |
News Feature | December 26, 2013
Give Patients Tablets, Reduce Readmissions

By Katie Wike, contributing writer

One ACO has taken a different approach to care and provided patients with 4G tablets to manage their health

Usually, when tablets like the iPad are in the news in healthcare it’s because providers are using them for EHRs or mobility in the hospital. One ACO, however, is outfitting patients in an effort to improve care.

Hackensack (N.J.) Physician Hospital Alliance ACO “has taken care coordination to the next, high-tech level by giving patients their own 4G tablets to help manage their care,” according to Becker’s Hospital Review. “The ACO gives 4G tablets to patients with chronic heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and/or diabetes, since those are the three leading causes of readmissions in the HackensackAlliance ACO, according to Noreen Hartnett, BSN, RN, patient care navigator with HackensackAlliance ACO. ‘Those are disease processes that are changing for the patient day-to-day, so they need to manage their symptoms at home as well as have physicians managing in the office,’ Hartnett says.”

Nurses care navigators tell patients when to take medication, eat or measure their blood sugar via the tablets. If patients don’t check in, nurses are notified so they can contact the patient and fix the problem. "It's almost like having an electronic nurse with the patient at all times in order to maximize compliance with various recommended treatments," Morey Menacker, DO, president and CEO of Hackensack Alliance ACO says.

Patients who have dexterity and are alert qualify for a tablet and 16 patients are currently equipped with one at the cost of $150 a month, per patient, after the initial investment in tablets. This is a small price compared to readmission penalties which can cost thousands per incident.

“The tablet program is proving to help reduce readmissions in the HackensackAlliance ACO. In a pilot study of the program, a group of Medicare patients who used the tablets had a readmission rate of just 8 percent, while a control group had a 28 percent readmission rate.

“More anecdotally, Dr. Menacker brought up a patient who was hospitalized every two months for his chronic heart failure in 2012 — but hasn't been hospitalized once in 2013 after being put on the tablet program. ‘It's a dramatic change to a patient's quality of life,’ says Menacker. ‘You can't put a cost on that. The cost is miniscule compared to the benefit.’”

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What's up with Obamacare and my health care?

What's up with Obamacare and my health care? | Healthcare and Technology news |

(CNN) -- As the politicians fuss and fight over the merits of the biggest overhaul of the health insurance system in this country, you may be wondering, "What does this all mean to me?" Here's what we know so far about what's up with your health care.

1. It's all about me

The Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, as it is now commonly known, went into effect in 2010 and was affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2012, despite the 42 times the House Republicans tried to repeal it.

It will have the most dramatic impact on the 48 million Americans who don't or haven't been able to get insurance. By 2014, everyone -- with a few exceptions -- has to have insurance or face a penalty.

2. I get insurance through work. Why should I care?

More than half of Americans get health insurance through work. For those keeping score at home, that's 55.1% of the population, or about 149 million non-elderly people, according to U.S. Census data.

If that's you, news about Obamacare marketplace computer problems and people getting letters saying they're losing their coverage -- that doesn't affect you.

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What you do have to worry about is that e-mail reminder your company sends you this time every year telling you about open enrollment season.

You may notice that information packet is a lot easier to read and the different plans are a lot easier to compare. You've got Obamacare to thank for that, since it is now mandatory that these companies communicate clearly about what they have to offer.

5 things you need to know about picking your insurance plan

If your child is under the age of 26, under Obamacare, they can stay on your insurance. It doesn't matter if they live with you or not or whether they're married or single. As long as they don't get insurance anywhere else, you can keep them covered.

Also because of Obamacare, many health plans must offer you free preventative care services. You can get your blood pressure or cholesterol checked, get a colonoscopy or a mammogram, ask for a flu shot, seek counseling for alcohol or smoking, find out if you are depressed and seek other preventative screenings. Since studies show 70% of all health care conditions are considered preventable, in theory this should keep a lot of people healthier.

If you are a woman, you no longer need a referral to see a gynecologist. Maternity care is provided. So is birth control, which would come at no cost in most plans.

Now if you are denied a payment new rules give you a chance to appeal a decision and if that doesn't work Obamacare lets you take your appeal to an outside independent review panel. The law now says the insurance company has to let you know why your claim was denied and they have a time limit in which they have to answer your appeal.

3. Will I pay more for my insurance?

Your plan will probably take a little more out of your check next year, but really that's nothing new.

Some companies, such as UPS and Delta, did blame Obamacare for rising insurance costs, but experts say employees will pay more for their policies because the economy is improving. When people feel more secure financially, they go to the doctor more and get test and procedures they put off when they felt less secure, according to Tim Nimmer, the chief health care actuary at Aon Hewitt an employee benefits administrator.

Aon Hewitt's research on the cost of insurance predicts employees will spend just under $5,000 on premiums and out-of-pocket expenses next year. That's up 9.5% from the year before -- higher than the increases for 2013, which were more in the 5% range. Over the past 10 years, average premiums for a family have kept going up a whopping 80%, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation report.

Get ready for higher health insurance costs at work

Another reason you'll pay a little more is because employers are continuing to shift the cost of insurance to employees, studies show. There are also new fees on employers and insurers to help cover insurers with new high-risk enrollees.

"I think they key point is to recognize that victory in health care is not that the cost of your health care is going up, it is that it is going up more slowly," said Jonathan Gruber, one of the architects of both the Massachusetts and Obama health care plans and the author of a graphic novel that simply explains health care reform.

4. What happens when I use my benefits?

When you do use your benefits and go to the doctor, you may have to wait a little longer for an appointment since you'll be competing with more patients who now have insurance.

Doctor shortage could crash health care system

You may have already been waiting a bit, since there is a primary care physician shortage according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. We're down about 20,000 now, and the number is expected to get worse as physicians age. And it's not just doctors who are in short supply; we also need more nurses, according to the Institute of Medicine.

"Keep in mind, the Affordable Care Act didn't create this crisis," said Dr. Reid Blackwelder, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians. "We've got an aging population that needs more care and a growing population."

If you do go to the hospital, in theory you should be leaving it healthier. The ACA penalizes hospitals that see patients return after treatment, and facilities have started a number of innovative programs to try and keep patients well and out of the hospital.

If something catastrophic happens to you and it's expensive, that's also where Obamacare will make sure your insurance continues to cover you. In the past, insurance companies could dump you if you spent too much. Those costs are capped under the ACA and there are no lifetime spending limits.

The one thing that was supposed to change under the ACA that has been delayed is a mandate that all companies with more than 50 full-time employees get benefits. Companies will eventually face fines if they don't offer insurance. That doesn't go into effect until 2015.

5. What if I own -- or work for -- a small business?

A giant part of the small business community, 96% of small businesses have fewer than 50 workers. If you own that kind of business, you don't have to worry about that employer mandate. If you work for one, you will be able to buy a policy in the new Obamacare marketplaces.

If you do employ more than 50 people, chances are you already offer insurance to your workers -- 90% do -- and business owners who are happy with their insurance plan can stick with it. In fact, many insurance companies are offering discounts to clients who renew their policies.

If you are in that 3% with more than 50 workers and you do not provide insurance, you will have to start -- or you'll have to pay a penalty starting in 2015.

The government has opened a small business marketplace, also known as the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP). It is meant to provide an easier and cheaper venue for business owners to shop for insurance for their employees. SHOP's website lets business owners compare plans.

The government offers tax credits to these smaller business to help pay for this insurance. These are worth up to 50% of your premium costs. Small businesses can still deduct the rest of their premium cost not covered by the tax credit. It is only available for plans bought through SHOP.

6. Is anyone directly impacted by all this Obamacare talk?

If you don't have insurance or haven't qualified for insurance in the past, you'll need to have it by March 31 of next year. If you don't, you'll be fined up to 1% of your income or $95, whichever is greater.

Obamacare 101: Everything you need to know

You can buy a plan from a broker at any time. If you want to buy through the new Obamacare marketplaces, open enrollment stretches through March 31. You'll only get a tax break/subsidy if you buy a policy through the marketplaces.

If you are like Jeff Jones in Lexington, Kentucky, who wants a policy to start on January 1, you'll have to make up your mind on which plan is right for you by December 15.

Jones lost his job with the University of Kentucky and is unable to get on his partner's policy. "I've been shopping around online but haven't decided on which policy yet," he said.

Jones has been comparison shopping through Kentucky's state marketplace website. There have been some technical hiccups, but he's been able to see what he'd qualify for based on his expected income. A diabetic, he says he is grateful this is an option now. Currently, insurance companies could deny him a policy since he has this pre-existing condition. Obamacare ends that practice next year.

CNN Money: Obamacare pricier for some individual buyers

If you can get into the website, you can sign up for a policy through There's also a phone number to call: (800) 318-2596 (TTY: (855) 889-4325). The number is staffed round the clock. Information is available in more than 150 languages.

There will also be specially trained advisers in communities. These "navigators," as they are known, can help you in person. If you would like to find the closest navigator, go to Plug in your ZIP code and it will give you the closest location to get help.

7. So bottom line, what does this cost?

Costs of plans vary, depending on where you live in this country and your age; the White House says you should be able to buy a plan for less than a $100 a month. If you want to see what your bill may look like, check out the Kaiser Family Foundation's calculator. The nonpartisan foundation's tool provides an estimate of your costs, depending on where you live and the plan you pick.

For many the President's promise of health care choice doesn't ring true

The bronze level is basic, silver is midrange and gold and platinum are higher-end. There is also a catastrophic option. Catastrophic insurance covers three doctor visits per year at no cost and preventive care such as screenings and vaccines. This plan will carry a higher deductible.

8. What do I get for my money now?

All plans bought through the exchanges must offer the same coverage benefits. Mental health is covered, behavioral health is covered, maternity care, emergency care, hospitalization, newborn care, prescription drugs, rehab, lab services, and pediatric services. All offer free preventive care. Nearly all cap out-of-pocket costs to $6,350 and $12,700 per family. No one can be turned away. No one will be penalized because of their gender (women often paid more in the old insurance system). Only smokers may be penalized in some plans and some older people may pay more.

Dental is covered for kids, but it is not for adults. You'll have to buy a separate policy for that or find a policy that offers it.

Dental crisis could create 'State of Decay'

There are more limited doctor and hospital networks offered in these plans. That's how insurance companies have been able to keep costs down and offer all these benefits. Insurance brokers advise you look to see if your doctor or favorite hospital is considered in-network with whatever plan you buy. Otherwise, you will have to switch doctors or pay a higher fee for seeing him or her.

9. Didn't Obama say I can keep my policy?

Some people who do buy their own insurance have been getting letters from their insurance companies saying their plan has been canceled. That's because their old plans don't qualify under these Obamacare rules that mandate insurance cover all these benefits.

With these plans you will pay a monthly premium, and may also have a co-pay or be asked to meet a deductible when you go to the doctor or hospital.

Video: Woman scores great deal on Obamacare -- a policy for under $2

10. Is there help to pay for all this new insurance?

The good news is, if you go through the exchanges rather than buy directly from an insurance company, you will likely be eligible for tax breaks and subsidies to pay for your insurance. The assistance is available to those with incomes of up to four times the federal poverty level -- this year, that's $45,960 for an individual or $94,200 for a family of four -- and will be calculated on a sliding scale.

You can take this subsidy as a tax credit or the government will pay the insurance company directly.

You may also want to check to see if you will qualify for Medicaid. So far, 26 states are moving toward expanding who is eligible for the federal government-funded health program for lower income families and individuals.

11. I've got Medicare. Does Obamacare change that?

You are in a group that doesn't need to worry about Obamacare. Medicare doesn't change with Obamacare.

12. So then, why the fuss?

Studies show people are politically riled up about all this change in health insurance, but when it comes down to it, Gruber said the sky won't fall next year and things should get better.

"Once people experience it and go through this initial transition, which is going to be rocky, then they're going to realize the benefits of having a system like this," Gruber said.

"Yes, if you are young and healthy it will be more expensive, but right now this is an insurance market which not only is discriminatory, but the typical person who buys their own insurance has a very weak insurance plan. (Under Obamacare) everyone will have will have guaranteed, real insurance that's fairly priced."

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AMIA: 'Clinical informatics has arrived' | Healthcare IT News

AMIA: 'Clinical informatics has arrived' | Healthcare IT News | Healthcare and Technology news |

Physicians in the first subspecialty of clinical informatics spearheaded by the American Medical Informatics Association got their board certifications this month – a pivotal moment in healthcare's "systemic overhaul," according to AMIA.


The creation of this new subspecialty will help standardize clinical informatics training programs, increase the number of training opportunities available and provide an immediately recognized credential for organizations hiring informaticians, officials say.


AMIA worked for more than five years to define and create the discipline with the goal of advancing the field and the role of informaticians in improving healthcare; the new crop of doctors in the program received notice of their board certification earlier in December.


"We congratulate the newly certified leaders of the clinical informatics field, as they take their next step toward improving healthcare delivery," said AMIA Incoming Board of Directors Chair Blackford Middleton, MD, in a press statement. "These physicians have demonstrated that they understand the design and implementation of informatics systems, and are poised to integrate these solutions into their healthcare delivery organizations."


The subspecialty was approved by the American Board of Medical Specialties in 2011. The board exam was administered this past October through the American Board of Preventive Medicine, and offered to pathologists through the American Board of Pathology. The 455 new subspecialists were notified of their certification earlier this month.


"Clinical informatics has arrived, and I'm proud to be a part of the pioneer class of leaders in this field," said William Hersh, MD, professor and chair of the department of medical informatics & clinical epidemiology at Oregon Health & Science University, in a statement.


Hersh received his board certification this month and also directed AMIA's clinical informatics board review course.


"When you look at the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education's definition of the informatics discipline, the operative word is 'transform,'" he said. "Every day, informaticians are working in their healthcare settings to change how we do things, to improve patient care and population health."


The board certification is open to physicians of all specialties, encouraging interdisciplinary cooperation in the clinical informatics field. Physicians can currently become eligible for the exam by demonstrating practical informatics experience. However, after five years, candidates for the subspecialty will need to complete an accredited clinical informatics fellowship with the Council on Graduate Medical Education.


"What makes this subspecialty interesting is that any primary specialty diplomat can apply to become board certified in clinical informatics," said Middleton said. "It is illustrative of the ubiquitous need across our entire healthcare delivery system to engage with professionals who understand how to improve the value of care with informatics."

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Outlook grim for docs' ICD-10 readiness | Healthcare IT News

Outlook grim for docs' ICD-10 readiness | Healthcare IT News | Healthcare and Technology news |

By the way things look now, the healthcare industry is not on track to meet the ICD-10 compliance deadline of October 2014. In fact, providers have fallen even further behind with timeline milestones than they did back in February, according to new report findings. But it's not just providers. Vendors also have a long way to go.


The Workgroup for Electronic Data Interchange survey concludes that a whopping 80 percent of healthcare providers will fail to complete their business changes and begin testing before 2014.


Moreover, 20 percent of vendors said they were halfway there or less with developing products in support of ICD-10, and 40 percent indicated they wouldn't even have a finished product available until sometime next year.


"All industry segments appear to have made some progress since February 2013, but have not gained sufficient ground to remove concern over meeting the Oct. 1, 2014 compliance deadline," said Jim Daley, chairman of WEDI, in a news release announcing survey findings. "Unless all segments move quickly forward with their implementation efforts, there will be significant disruption" come October.


Becki Weber, senior vice president of information technology at the six-hospital Meridian Health in New Jersey, said she's concerned because providers haven't really gotten on board with ICD-10 like they should be.


At Meridian Health, ICD-10 has become an IT-led project where they're pushing the rest of the organization. Weber and her 211-person team have created a website for providers and office staff to train on ICD-10, but so far providers are disconnected, she said.


"The physicians are a bit disengaged," Weber said in a Healthcare IT News webinar last month. "I'm not sure they see it as a real issue, and I think that's going to be a surprise for them."


Judy Comitto, chief information officer at Trinitas Regional Medical Center in New Jersey, said what's really getting in the way of their ICD-10 progress pertains to the vendors' own meager headway.


"What's been happening is that the vendors that we need to upgrade the software and be capable of ICD-10 processing are not timely, so that is pinching our test time and the downstream functions that come after testing," said Comitto. "I'm a bit disappointed having reached out to these vendors that they are certainly not there yet."


Other survey findings include:


Some 50 percent of providers have completed their ICD-10 impact assessments.

About 50 percent of providers expect to begin external testing in the first half of 2014; only one-tenth expected to start in 2013.

The top three barriers to providers' ICD-10 delays were cited to be: staffing, competing priorities and vendor readiness.

Vendors indicated their top three barriers were: customer readiness, competing priorities and other regulatory mandates.



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Flood of health data breaches coming | Healthcare IT News

Flood of health data breaches coming | Healthcare IT News | Healthcare and Technology news |

Get ready, because data breaches are expected to rise in 2014, especially in the healthcare industry. New security threats and regulations that call for more transparency will be partly to blame.

A new report from Experian Data Breach Resolution says healthcare will face a "perfect storm” for breaches in 2014. The Affordable Care Act, with its increased activity, as well as more people signing up for health insurance will only make the target that much larger. Experian predicts the opening of a floodgate for healthcare breaches in 2014.

The time is right to beef up security precautions, warns Michael Bruemmer, vice president of Experian.

More and more organizations have learned how to identify and respond to security incidents, and this has lowered the cost per record of a data breach. This trend is expected to continue, and that’s good news, says Bruemmer. But it doesn’t mean you should let down your guard. If you’ve had one incident, don’t think you’re in the clear. Count on having another, Bruemmer says.

The use of the cloud and big data means there will be more multi-country breach events. The biggest challenge here will be awareness of each country’s regulations and complying with all of them. Privacy attorneys who work in foreign jurisdictions are best suited to help organizations understand the global notification responsibilities after a breach, Bruemmer says. Some international breach notification laws can be quite onerous. In 2014, the European Union is expected to pass privacy legislation that would require notification of breaches within five days. If you store anything in the cloud or have any international networks, and fail to comply, this could add up to significant fines that can cut into your bottom line.

Cyber insurance will continue to sell like hotcakes in 2014, just like it did in 2013. Most organizations are looking for ways to reduce risk, and that’s one good way, Bruemmer says. Because of this boon, cybersecurity insurance companies are likely to expand their offerings to include insurance geared toward particular market segments, including small businesses. Buying cyber insurance is a good idea, Bruemmer says. It’s not a sign of throwing in the white towel; it’s just good business sense. Fight the battle on all fronts. A lot of companies and organizations are already coming to that conclusion. A survey conducted by Experian and the Ponemon Institute last March showed one third of organizations are already buying cyber insurance, and one third more are planning to do so in 2014.

Breach fatigue is setting in and is expected to get worse next year. In 2012 alone, one quarter of the U.S. population received at least one letter notifying them they had been breached. As laws get more stringent and more awareness is raised, the notifications will increase. Breach fatigue is causing people to disregard these notices. The worst case scenario in the healthcare sector could find someone failing to take action when their healthcare identity has been stolen. Then, when they go in for a procedure or treatment, their medical records could contain incorrect information. All sorts of medical errors and complications could be the result.

In 2014, expect regulators to be more helpful. Regulators don’t want to be the bad guy, and Bruemmer says he’s seeing more of them reach out to organizations that have experienced a breach. Work with them, and they will work with you.

In the end, Bruemmer says, the best advice is to get a security plan in place and make sure you practice it.


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More Details From Study: Health IT Could Cut Demand For Physicians

More Details From Study: Health IT Could Cut Demand For Physicians | Healthcare and Technology news |

Earlier, we wrote up a study which strongly suggests that health IT can boost physician productivity. But we didn’t include some of the details you’ll see below — and we thought they were important enough for a follow-up.

Much of the talk about health IT in physicians’ offices addresses the struggles doctors face when adopting new technologies, and the effort it takes to get productivity back to normal levels. But this study takes things a step further, asserting that if health IT was fully and widely implemented, it could reduce demand for physicians substantially.

The study, which originally appeared in Health Affairs, concluded that if health IT were fully implemented in 30 percent of community-based physicians’ offices, efficiency improvements would cut demand for physicians by 4 percent to 9 percent. What’s more, using health IT to delegate work to midlevel practitioners and from specialists to primary care docs could reduce demand for physicians by 6 percent to 12 percent, according to a story in Information Week.

Meanwhile, growing the amount of IT-enabled remote and asynchronous care could cut the volume of overall care that physicians provide could have a big impact as well. Remote care could cut the percentage of care that physicians provide by 2 percent to 5 percent, and asynchronous care by 4 percent to 7 percent, Information Week reports.

And that isn’t all. If 70 percent of office-based docs adopted comprehensive IT support, including interoperable EMRs, clinical decision support, provider order entry and patient Web portals with secure messaging, the drop in demand for physician services would be twice as large, the Health Affairs study concluded.

That being said, the comprehensive use of health IT by even 30 percent of office-based doctors is at least five years and maybe as much as 15 years away, according to one of the study’s authors, Jonathan Weiner, professor of health policy and management at Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health.


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Where Are We At With Meaningful Use? | EMR and HIPAA

Where Are We At With Meaningful Use?

The following is a guest post by Barry Haitoff, CEO of Medical Management Corporation of America.

It seems like meaningful use is in a constant state of flux with moving deadlines and multiple stages that apply to each organization differently. With meaningful use stage 2 just around the corner for many providers it is worth taking a quick look at where we are on the journey to meaningful use.

Meaningful Use Timelines
The most important thing many organizations need to remember is the various timelines for each meaningful use stage. This can be pretty complex because it changes based on when you first attest to meaningful use. Plus, last Friday CMS announced an extension to meaningful use stage 2 and a delay of meaningful use stage 3 for one year.

Before this recent change, CMS put out the following chart which clearly illustrates how much EHR incentive money a provider will get for showing meaningful use of a certified EHR. Plus, it shows which meaningful use stages you will have to comply with based on the year you started attesting to meaningful use. After the aforementioned announcement, the only change to this chart would be that both meaningful use stage 3′s would become meaningful use stage 2.

The above chart is just for EHR incentive money under Medicare. The chart for Medicaid is much simpler and hasn’t changed much since the EHR incentives were first announced.

EHR Penalties
While the incentive money for EHR is important for many, it seems like doctors are motivated as much or more by the Medicare adjustments that will be enforced if they aren’t meaningful users of a certified EHR system. Here’s the timeline for the EHR payment adjustments:

There are a number of hardship exemptions that a provider can claim to avoid the penalties. If you plan to pursue one of these hardship exemptions, you have to apply for one by July 1, 2014. CMS has put out a nice tipsheet covering payment adjustments and hardship exemptions. As you can see, the exemptions are pretty narrow. Although, maybe they’ll create more exemptions over time like they did with the eRX penalties.

Other Notable Meaningful Use Updates
Regardless of what stage of meaningful use you are at or any prior years reporting, all eligible professionals will only have to attest to 90 days of meaningful use in 2014. This change was made to give organizations plenty of time to upgrade to the 2014 certified EHR technology. However, many EHR vendors have taken this extra time into account and are still not 2014 certified because they know eligible providers only have to attest to 90 days in 2014. Anyone attesting to meaningful use regardless of meaningful use stage will have to be on a 2014 certified EHR. The 2011 EHR certification will be expired and not accepted.

It is also worth noting that those who have not begun participation in the Medicare EHR incentive program will need to attest to meaningful use in 2014 if they want to be eligible for any EHR incentive money.

Meaningful Use Audits
If you’ve already attested to meaningful use stage 1, then you better make sure your documentation is in order. Meaningful Use audits have already begun and a number of organizations are getting caught without the proper documentation. This is worth also noting for those planning to attest to meaningful use for the first time. Make sure that you keep all your meaningful use attestation documentation in case you’re ever audited.

The most common audit issue organizations have is with core measure 15 which requires an organization to conduct a security risk analysis. Many organizations checked off this box without actually doing a security risk analysis. That’s a very risky proposition. This is one meaningful use requirement where you can’t rely on your EHR vendor to do it for you. This is not a hard task and many organizations will be happy to come and do one for you. Just make sure you’ve actually done it before you attest.

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Obamacare health enrollment doubled in November: report

Obamacare health enrollment doubled in November: report | Healthcare and Technology news |

By David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The number of people seeking health insurance under Obamacare more than doubled in November to around 250,000, according to a government report on Wednesday, showing the landmark healthcare law is still far from its goal of extending coverage to millions of uninsured Americans.

The new tally brought the cumulative total for October and November to 365,000 people who have selected health plans in new online marketplaces set up in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Just over 800,000 have been determined eligible for government health coverage including the Medicaid program for the poor.

The data reflects continued technical problems in November with the federal enrollment website,, which crashed on its October 1 launch and was subjected to weeks of emergency fixes. The site has appeared to work far more smoothly since the beginning of this month.

A senior administration official said the weak start to the six-month enrollment period has not diminished expectations that President Barack Obama's signature domestic policy will reach a significant proportion of the uninsured in 2014. Before the launch, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office had forecast 7 million enrollees for next year.

"We think we're on track and we'll reach the total that we thought," said Mike Hash, health reform director for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

"We're not exclusively focused on reaching a particular number," he added. "What we're focused on is reaching the millions of people who are really looking for affordable healthcare coverage."

Officials described the figures as "encouraging" news for Obamacare after months of negative publicity over and an uproar over coverage cancellations for people whose health plans do not meet the law's new standards that take full effect in January.

The latest report showed more than 44 million visits to federal and state websites or call centers since October 1. It showed 1.9 million people have been determined eligible for coverage but have not yet selected a plan.


The number of people who signed up for coverage through quadrupled to more than 100,000 in November from only 27,000 in October, as the administration scrambled to make the site work smoothly for most visitors by a November 30 deadline.

Analysts say December's enrollment numbers will be more telling about whether the sign-up effort will live up to expectations, including a push to enroll some 2.7 million young, healthy adults whose premium payments will help offset the cost of sicker individuals. The December data is not due until next month.

"We know that they were still having problems with the website in a good chunk of November. Reportedly the website issues are getting better and they are seeing large numbers of visitors coming back. But is it actually translating into enrollment?" said Matthew Eyles, an executive vice president at the consulting firm Avalere Health.

The 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires most Americans to have at least enrolled in health coverage by the end of next March or pay a penalty. It provides federal subsidies to help lower-income people pay for insurance and establishes a series of new consumer protections and benefit standards.

Millions of Americans who may need benefits to begin on January 1 need to enroll by a December 23 deadline. But whether they will seek plans through an Obamacare marketplace, and whether will be able to process higher volumes of visitors, remain open questions.

Administration officials said last week that as many as 10 percent of enrollments processed through included errors when they were transmitted to insurance companies.

The government and insurers were due to begin a new effort to reconcile their enrollment data to ensure consumer details were correctly transmitted and eliminate other errors that could prevent people from receiving their benefits come January 1.

The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the HHS agency responsible for the Obamacare marketplaces, was expected to hand over its enrollment data for October, November and early December to insurers so they could begin the cumbersome process of verifying the data, according to insurance industry officials.

(Additional reporting by Caroline Humer in New York; Editing by Michele Gershberg and Lisa Shumaker)

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Sebelius: Back end of will be ready in mid-January - CBS News

Sebelius: Back end of will be ready in mid-January - CBS News | Healthcare and Technology news |

Some back-end portions of won't be fully functional until mid-January, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told Congress Wednesday, but she assured them that customers enrolled on the federal website will get full coverage -- and their promised subsidies -- starting on January 1.

"The financial management system, which is getting the insurance companies their money for accelerated tax credits and cost-sharing, is due to go into effect in mid-January," Sebelius told a subpanel of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. She explained, "This is reimbursing insurance companies -- it has nothing to do with enrollment."

If a customer enrolled in Obamacare is eligible for subsidies, those government payments go directly to the insurer, and then the insurer passes on the savings to the customer in the form of lower premiums. HHS is still working to fully automate that payment system to insurers, Sebelius explained. Until then, insurers participating in the Obamacare marketplaces have signed off on a system to ensure they're paid in a "timely fashion."

"There's a manual workaround for virtually everything that isn't fully automated yet," Sebelius said.

Nevertheless, Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, said he predicted Sebelius would be back before the committee in mid-January to explain more problems with The secretary took a number of tough and at times angry questions from Republicans on the committee -- Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., declared at one point that questioning her was "like talking to the Republic of Korea or something."

Sebelius acknowledged that the Oct. 1 launch of, which serves as a portal to the new Obamacare marketplaces in 36 states was "flawed and failed and frustrating."

Had she known the rollout would be so flawed, she would've done things differently, she said. "I would have probably done a slower launch with fewer people and done some additional beta testing."


 In addition to continuing work on's payment systems, Sebelius said that HHS is attempting to ensure that individuals who enrolled in Obamacare weeks earlier -- when the site was more dysfunctional -- are, in fact, signed up for coverage. Because of a glitch on the site, insurers complained they were receiving incorrect information -- or in some cases, no information at all -- from users who thought they had successfully enrolled in private plans. Administration officials said that one specific bug, which is now fixed, accounted for 80 percent of those problems.

Sebelius said HHS is now in the process of "hand matching" individuals with insurers. "We are seeing a vastly improved system, but we want to go back and make sure everyone who thinks they are enrolled is matched with a company," she said.

The secretary noted that HHS has dedicated $677 million for's total IT costs through the end of October. Of that amount, $319 million has been spent so far, she said. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., asked whether HHS will request the contractors who initially built the flawed site to pay back the taxpayers who footed the bill, Sebelius noted that she's asked the HHS inspector general to investigate the contracting process.

"I will act based on his recommendations," she said.

In the meantime, Sebelius noted that has made "great progress" since its botched launch. Pages that once took 8 seconds to load are now responding in under a second, and the site's error rate is now under 1 percent.

Users, she said, are "finding the experience is night and day compared to where we were in October... It's now easier than ever."

HHS reported Tuesday evening that nearly 365,000 individuals nationwide are now signed up for private Obamacare plans, while an additional 1.9 million people have applied and been deemed eligible, but they have yet to select a plan. Sebelius noted Wednesday that the open enrollment period lasts through March.

© 2013 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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Video chat may help language learning

Video chat may help language learning | Healthcare and Technology news |
Video chat may help language learning

As a graduate student studying how children develop language, Sarah Roseberry made an interesting observation.  Parents would come into her lab at Temple University and talk about how they Skyped with grandparents in places like the Dominican Republic.

"The parents would swear their children were learning Spanish," recalls Roseberry, now a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Washington. "The more we thought about it, the more we realized this made sense."

Roseberry decided to take her theory into the research lab.  What she found was intriguing: Language can be learned via video chat, as long as the conversation allows for meaningful back-and-forth exchanges.

For the study, Roseberry and her colleagues gathered a group of 36 children between the ages of 2 and 2-and a-half, the time when children are still just learning language from others and not from videos.

They were divided into three groups: the first group worked one-on-one with adults in the room, the second group worked one-on-one with an adult via video chat and the third group of toddlers were shown a video of an adult communicating in a video chat with another child.

The researchers then introduced the children to nonsense words which required an action.  So for example "meeping" was used to refer to turning and "blicking" referred to bouncing.  After learning the words, the researchers showed the children a split screen on a computer.  On one side Sesame Street characters were performing the action and on the other side, they were doing something else.  Researchers then asked the children to point out which characters were performing the nonsense words.

They found the children who learned the words through live interactions and video chat, were the only ones who could do it.  The kids only watching the video and not engaging with the adult, didn't pick up the concepts.  "It's the difference between the child being an active learner versus a passive learner," says Roseberry.

So what's the take away for parents? Roseberry thinks the message is nuanced.

"Screen time isn't all good or all bad," says Roseberry.

For those of us with children who love their iPads and tablets, she suggests looking for games that encourage learning versus entertainment.  "All screens are not created equal," says Roseberry.

The study appears in the most recent edition of the journal Child Development.

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Eyes are better at mental snapshots than cameras, study suggests

Eyes are better at mental snapshots than cameras, study suggests | Healthcare and Technology news |

(CNN) -- I've got hundreds of photos from my recent Europe trip, split between a smartphone and a big camera. A lot are shots of the same thing -- my attempt to get the perfect lighting on a fountain or a cathedral, for example -- so that I'll have these scenes to remember always.

So I was interested to read a new study in the journal Psychological Science suggesting that the act of taking photos may actually diminish what we remember about objects being photographed.

"People just pull out their cameras," says study author Linda Henkel, researcher in the department of psychology at Fairfield University in Connecticut. "They just don't pay attention to what they're even looking at, like just capturing the photo is more important than actually being there."

At the same time, she found that zooming in on objects helps preserve people's memory of them, beyond just the detail on which they zoomed.

Henkel's father is a photographer, so she has been hanging around photos and taking photos all her life. She wanted to see if snapping photos of objects would impact people's memories of what they saw at a museum.

This study had a small sample size: 27 undergraduates participated in the first part, and 46 in the second. Both groups were mostly women. In order to strengthen the conclusions, this research would need to be replicated with a lot more people and a more balanced sex ratio, not to mention a wider range of demographic characteristics such as age.

But this is an interesting start. It underscores the point that there are different ways that the brain processes information: At an automatic level, by taking pictures, and at a more meaningful level, by focusing on a specific object or something with a personal association, said Paul D. Nussbaum, clinical neuropsychologist at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

It's that deeper level that enables memories to form, Nussbaum said in an e-mail.

"The more we engage our brain into processing a stimuli and the more personal that processing is, the more solid the memory formation and recall," he said.

Photos impairing memory?

For the first experiment, participants went to the Bellarmine Museum of Art. One-third of them had never been to the museum before. They visited 30 objects, spanning such media as painting, sculpture, jewelry and pottery.

One group of students was instructed to read the name of each object out loud, look at the object for 20 seconds and then take a photo of it. The other participants looked at an object for 30 seconds without taking a picture.

The following day, participants were asked to write down the names of all objects they remembered from the museum, and to indicate which they photographed. They could describe any objects whose names they could not recall.

Then, they were given a list of 30 objects and were asked to indicate which they had seen, which they had photographed and which were not on the tour. They also answered questions about details of objects, and completed a photo-recognition test of objects they may or may not have seen.

Henkel found that people performed worse on memory recognition tasks in reference objects they had photographed, compared to objects they had observed with their eyes only. Similarly, they appeared to remember fewer details about what they photographed, compared to the ones they had only seen.

"When we distract ourselves and count on the camera to remember for us, then we don't remember as many objects," she said. "We don't remember as many details about the objects."

Zooming protecting memory

The second experiment gave participants 25 seconds to view each object, in addition to extra time for photographing when that was asked of them. That meant they had extra time with objects that they had to photograph. Some were also asked to zoom in on specific parts of the objects.

The next day, it was time to test their memory: Participants had to indicate, from a list of names of art objects, which were part of the tour they had been on.

For objects they remembered, participants were asked to say whether they had photographed the object or just seen it, and answer two questions about visual aspects of the object.

Henkel found a similar effect as in the first experiment: Photographed objects tended to be associated with a decline in memory about them.

But here is the twist: Zooming in on one part of the object preserved participants' memory about that entire object, not just the part on which the camera zoomed. Accuracy was about the same, regardless of whether participants just observed objects or zoomed in on individual parts.

Henkel explains that when you zoom in on part of an object, it's drawing your visual attention there, but you're also thinking about the object as a whole.

"So what your eyes are doing, what the camera is doing, is not the same thing as what your brain is doing," Henkel said.

In other words, when you spend the extra time and attention to zoom in on something, you're likely to remember aspects of it as well as if you had just observed it without a camera.

The bigger picture

OK, so maybe it's a little more complicated than just "taking photos is bad for your memory." That's good news, since people took more than 3 billion photos in 2012, according to an estimate cited in the study, and 300 million photos are uploaded to Facebook daily.

Still, says Nussbaum, "I wonder sometimes how much we may be missing when we rely so much on technological gadgets rather than using our brains."

Henkel points out that the advent of digital photography has overstepped the age-old traditions of printing photos out, putting them in scrapbooks and sitting around with your family and looking at them. That sounds a little like using a paper map.

But maybe those photo-related activities that make us take time to reminisce do enhance our memory of the experiences we have tried to photograph so diligently.

"If we're going to going to rely on that external memory device of the camera to remember for us, we've got to take that extra step and look at it," Henkel says.

Keep that in mind this holiday season when you take hundreds of photos with with friends and family.

They're worth a second look.

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