News Blog

For Interoperability Standards Advisory, ONC aims for Wikipedia style
Friday, September 16, 2016

In a Twitter chat, an ONC executive discussed plans to enhance 2017 interoperability technology specifications. Chat members also brought up meaningful use and blockchain.

That update was among the highlights of a Twitter chat held by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) to discuss the new draft of the 2017 Interoperability Standards Advisory (ISA), which is the model by which ONC coordinates the identification, assessment and determination of recognized interoperability standards.
In broad terms, the Interoperabilty Standards Advisory creates a list of specifications to help achieve clinical health information interoperability. The 2017 Interoperability Standards Advisory is a compilation of feedback that ONC received from public comments on the 2016 Interoperability Standards Advisory and from current deliberations from the HIT Standards Committee. ONC will accept public comments until 5 p.m. ET on Monday, October 24, 2016.
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New law allows Missouri schools to bill Medicaid for telehealth service
Friday, September 16, 2016

A law that just took effect could open the door for school districts in the state to start embracing telehealth techniques to treat special needs students.
Missouri schools are poised to expand their use of videoconferencing technology in delivering health services to students now that a new law is in place.
The law, signed by Gov. Jay Nixon in June and which took effect last week, lays out a series of provisions governing telehealth practices and stipulates that the state’s Medicaid program, MO HealthNet, start supporting schools looking to offer services like videoconferencing for physician consultations.
The new law is particularly meaningful for students with special needs — federal law requires districts to provide those students with services like speech therapy, physical therapy and mental health services, and the new statute specifically makes physicians specializing in those areas eligible to use telehealth techniques as part of the state’s Medicaid program. The law also designates a child’s home, a school or a “child assessment center” as “originating sites” where patients are allowed to receive telehealth services.
Phyllis Wolfram, executive director of special programs for the Springfield, Missouri Public School District and president-elect for the Council of Administrators of Special Education, told StateScoop that change could end up being “the greatest thing in the world” for special needs educators across Missouri.
“There is a shortage of speech language pathologists across the nation, and Missouri is no exception to that rule,” Wolfram said. “When we have a difficult time finding speech language therapists, we will be able to use this service as well as continue to bill Medicaid. We are a district that bills Medicaid and it is very beneficial to us, so to be able to offer that service when we need it will be very helpful.”
The Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 3,330 speech therapy professionals practice in Missouri as of May 2015, ranking the state 11th in the country and a hair above the national average of 2,629 per state. But Wolfram cautions that outside of the state’s urban centers like Kansas City, St. Louis and Springfield, it can be quite difficult for rural districts to track down anyone able to offer those services.
“You can’t get blood out of a turnip,” Wolfram said. “They’re few and far between in the first place in some remote areas. School districts can post and post and post for positions, but if there’s no one applying and you can’t go get them, it’s just not there.”
Even once rural schools are able to find a physician willing to practice in their areas, Wolfram noted that it tended to prove quite costly for administrators to pay for those specialists.
“When you’re paying for some of those services, you’re not only paying for mileage, you’re paying for the time that someone spends in their car in some of the rural districts to provide those services,” Wolfram said. “So I think it can be a real cost savings in the long run with being able to bill and use these services and that service delivery model.”
[Read more: South Carolina gov. signs bill expanding how doctors can use telehealth techniques]

Indeed, she expects that the new law will help persuade more school districts to start embracing the state’s Medicaid program once they realize what a “money saver” these telehealth services will prove to be. Better yet, Wolfram expects that this shift will let schools take a more comprehensive approach to treating their special needs students.
“You can do [occupational therapy], [physical therapy], speech therapy and have all those services provided while consulting with a special ed teacher on site, as well as maybe providing those direct services and utilizing those care professionals to do that as well,” Wolfram said.
But she admits that the novelty of telehealth technology might make districts reticent to adopt it, at least until they get a chance to understand how it actually works.
“For people who have never seen it in action, they question it, because it’s different,” Wolfram said. “Technology’s changing daily and I think they have to get comfortable with that aspect of it and see it in action. And I have seen it in action. When you see how simple it can be with certain kids and the appropriate staff and appropriate training for that staff, it works very seamlessly.”
Wolfram said her district is certainly aware of the new statute and its potential impact, but she expects that other schools and even parents will start to embrace it “down the line.”
Given what it could mean for special needs students in the state, Wolfram hopes to speed that process as best she can.
“It’s still new, and I think that the best is yet to come,” Wolfram said. “I think as this begins to unfold for some of the school districts in our state that we will see some really nice services that are provided that maybe have been hard to come by in the past.”

If Not Parity, Clarity - Getting Doctors Paid For Telehealth
Friday, September 16, 2016

In the world of telehealth, we are well beyond the time when physicians worry whether they are within their clinical rights to provide care through technology. Whether through action by state medical boards or acts of state legislature, nearly every state has upheld that the standard of care for physicians when provided through these technologies should be equivalent to care provided in brick and mortar environments. Come January, these doctors will have an even easier time projecting this care throughout the nation when the Federation of State Medical Boards Interstate Licensure Compact is set to be fully operational – making it easier to secure multi-state licensure.
These accomplishments are not insignificant. They create a vital infrastructure for telehealth to do its job – make care more accessible, timely and cost effective. But there’s a fundamental question left unanswered that will diminish the number of providers who elect to embrace telehealth and say “yes” to increasing the amount of care available to our nation’s sick.
“Will I be paid?”

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HIPAA Audits Test Technology Risk Assessments
Friday, September 16, 2016

Two reactions are likely regarding upcoming HIPAA desk reviews by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR). Some hospital CIOs will wake up with night sweats, while others will face the OCR HIPAA audits with confidence. One of the dividing lines between those camps will be whether a healthcare organization conducted a technology risk assessment related to safeguarding protected health information
“Everything boils down to understanding the risks and how you manage them,” said Raj Mehta, a partner at Deloitte’s Cyber Risk Services. Getting ready for OCR HIPAA audits will present significant budget implications: 67% of healthcare organizations plan to spend money on HIPAA audit prep technology and services this year, according to a survey conducted by TechTarget, the publisher of SearchHealthIT, in conjunction with the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives. Audits Echo the Past Mehta’s words sound familiar: Hospitals have been tackling risk for years, and the heat went up following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the need for hospitals to rate the likelihood of a community emergency response. Fast forward to 2016, and anyone following the news can see that new threats are occurring, this time via the Internet. Hospitals are often the victims of these cyberattacks, creating a backdrop to fuel the latest phase of OCR HIPAA audits. HIPAA risk assessments involve many aspects—compliance steps and staff behaviors, for example—but from a health IT perspective, hospitals should know what’s going on.
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CMS says 49 states have reduced avoidable hospital readmissions
Thursday, September 15, 2016

Every state in the U.S. but Vermont has reduced its avoidable hospital readmission rates since 2010, new data released Tuesday by the CMS show. These improvements follow the implementation of various CMS programs and initiatives to improve the quality of care, chief among them the Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program.
The overall decrease in readmission rates translated to about 100,000 hospital readmissions avoided for Medicare beneficiaries in 2015 alone, and some 565,000 readmissions since 2010.
“The Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program is just one part of the Administration's broader strategy to reform the health care system by paying providers for what works, unlocking health care data, and finding new ways to coordinate and integrate care to improve quality,” wrote Dr. Patrick Conway, principal deputy administrator and chief medical officer for the CMS, and Tim Gronniger, the deputy chief of staff for tjhe CMS, in a blog post Tuesday announcing the new data. “The data show that these efforts are working,” they added.

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Providers, payers must share data to succeed in value-based care
Thursday, September 15, 2016

The transition from fee-for-service to value-based care has the potential to transform healthcare. But to be successful under this new business model, providers and health payers must share claims and clinical data, according to the Healthcare Financial Management Association.
HFMA recently issued recommendations on how to prepare for value-based payment to help healthcare organizations with strategic planning and to encourage them to collaborate with health insurers on risk-based models.
“As part of these innovative payment models, health plans should provide model participants with access to claims data—both raw claims feeds and aggregated management reports,” states HFMA’s guidance.
“Raw claims feeds will allow sophisticated organizations to conduct their own analyses, while aggregated reports will provide smaller physician practices with actionable financial data,” the report states. “While access to longitudinal claims data allows hospitals and physicians to retrospectively identify opportunities to improve care, access to real-time clinical data allows for faster interventions that prevent unnecessary utilization, improve outcomes, and in some instances (particularly with medications) save lives.”

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Consumers are ready to use healthcare technology
Thursday, September 15, 2016

Physicians might be skittish about embracing cutting-edge forms of digital health but consumers are open to the use of healthcare technology in a way that providers would be wise not to ignore.
That’s the finding of a new 2016 online survey of 3,751 U.S. adults by the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions. The results show that consumers of all demographics are at least agreeable to the idea of technology-enabled home care.
When asked about 15 scenarios covering different types of technology and applications, including telemedicine (four), remote patient monitoring/sensors (six), and drones/robotics (five), seven out of 10 consumers said they were inclined to use at least one of the technologies.
Among other results, the survey revealed that:

  • Telemedicine, in which half of respondents showed interest, is the most popular technology. Consumers are most interested in using it for post-surgical care (49 percent) and for monitoring chronic conditions (48 percent).
  • Heavier users of the healthcare system show the most interest in all technologies. Across the board, consumers with chronic conditions are the most interested in using technology-enabled care. Those reporting a major impact from their condition report even greater interest.
  • Drones and robotics are emerging technologies. 40 percent of consumers are interested in using drones to help with self-care, including medication assistance, for a chronic disease. Interest is equally as high in having robots assist doctors in diagnosing a condition. Yet, fewer are interested in using robots to diagnose in the absence of a doctor (32 percent) or, for caregivers, to monitor others (35 percent).
  • Caregivers are a key population. More consumers say they are likely to use sensor technology when caring for others than on themselves. Caregivers are also more likely to use telemedicine and remote monitoring technology than are non-caregivers.

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How to shore up networks to thwart intrusion
Thursday, September 15, 2016

While there are processes and regulations in place for sharing and protecting data in the healthcare industry, there is no single prescription for monitoring the array of networks across which data travels within hospitals and among healthcare organizations. According to an independent research organization, 90 percent of health organizations have experienced some type of data breach in the last two years, and almost half have had five or more breaches.
The information in the databases that hospitals and health networks maintain is especially attractive to hackers, so the need for effective network monitoring and complete network visibility has never been greater for the healthcare IT professional. What’s the best way for a healthcare organization to approach network monitoring and security?

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What are the Benefits of Telehealth Programs for Clinicians?
Thursday, September 15, 2016

We’ve explored the benefits of telehealth and remote patient monitoring (RPM) for patients — better access to and improved quality of care, daily assurance, and improved support, education and feedback, for starters. But how do telehealth programs benefit the clinicians responsible for treating those patients?
Of course, the precise ways in which telehealth benefits clinicians varies from location to location, and from clinician to clinician. But, in general terms, the primary advantages are:

  • More timely delivery of patient information
  • More accurate patient information
  • More efficient treatment of more patients at any given time
  • Greater professional satisfaction

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What are the Benefits of Telemedicine & RPM for Health Systems?
Thursday, September 15, 2016

We’ve seen how the benefits of telemedicine programs like remote patient management (RPM) apply to patients (better access to and improved quality of care along with enhanced support, education and feedback), clinicians (more accurate and timely delivery of patient information; greater professional satisfaction) and payers (better utilization, lower costs, improved quality scores and member loyalty). But what are the benefits of telemedicine to the health systems that house and coordinate all this care activity?
“Remote patient monitoring helps health systems in a couple of ways,” explains Marcus Grindstaff, Chief Operations Officer for Care Innovations in an exclusive video offered by the RPM Academy. Basically, those ways are improving quality of care while alsoeliminating elements that contribute not only to higher costs, but also to higher risks.
In brief, telemedicine’s benefits to health systems are:

  • Helping improve patient care (especially after discharge)
  • Easing the risk of hospital readmission penalizations

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