Monthly Archives: July 2016

The Audits are Coming! The Audits are Coming!

Ever since the Woodrow Wilson and the 16th Amendment gave us a Federal income tax back in 1913, Americans have had to worry about being audited by the government. The modern IRS was born in the 1950s and they get very busy every year after April 16th, pouring through millions of income tax filings, looking for mistakes and potential revenue.35078610 - file folders with patient health records label and private stamp

This year, starting March 21st, another government agency started its second round of audits. These audits however have nothing to do with taxes. The Depart of Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights (OCR) is conducting audits on healthcare providers and facilities that focus on HIPPA violations.

This second round of audits identifies 180 areas of focus for HIPPA compliance by healthcare providers. If you want to review all 180 of them (and you probably should), there is a not-so-easy to navigate webpage that explains them all at HHS.gov here.

Of course we all benefit from the security of our private medical information. Medical identity fraud is on the rise, so much that there is even a Medical Identity Fraud Alliance dedicated to addressing it. Of course healthcare facilities and providers are already concerned and are taking precautions to avoid private patient information falling into the wrong hands, but the added pressure of an audit and potential fines and sanctions raise the stakes even more.

With that, I’d like to offer 3 areas you may want to evaluate in your facility or practice to make sure you are compliant.

Confidential Communications- There is a delicate balance in play when it comes to patient communications. HIPPA has guidelines that require providers to facilitate access to a patient’s Private Health Information (PHI) in case they need access to it. This means Electronic Health Records (EHR) and other PHI cannot just be locked down in a vault. This makes things trickier as providers need to figure out how to provide secure access without compromising privacy. This confidentiality extends beyond verbal and written communications to electronic forms of communication as well. Healthcare providers should not only be evaluating their server client and storage area networks, but also their phone and video patient interactions. Providers should be choosing telemedicine platforms and hardware that make the “best effort” to secure patient information. Consumer grade cloud based teleconferencing may not be seen to fit this definition by the auditor looking into your procedures. Make sure you are confident in the encryption method and secure transmission and storage of any remote health care services you are providing via telemedicine.

Business Associate Contracts- As a healthcare provider, you most likely work with several other business to provide the best care for your patients. These associates could include pharmaceutical manufacturers, staffing companies, or even outsourced IT and data centers. They may also include technology providers that install and manage technology within your facility. HIPPA requires not only that you take the best effort to protect your patients’ PHI, but that you also choose partners that do the same. Make sure to enter business associate contracts with companies that understand the healthcare space and HIPPA requirements. This is your best bet in mitigating liability and avoiding sanctions and fines that may not even be your fault.

Facility Access Controls- One area of HIPPA compliance that may or may not be on your radar is physical access to your facility. Healthcare providers have a responsibility to limit access to information in the form of EHR and physical specimens (blood, DNA, Urine, etc) that may compromise a patient’s privacy. There is also a HIPPA guideline that states that a provider has a responsibility to verify the identity of anyone requesting access to a patient’s PHI. This is not only electronic access, but also physical access. The best way to control physical access and verify identity is to implement an access control system similar to that which would be used in a data center. Access control systems can use a combination of verification methods like key cards, PINs, and even biometric devices like fingerprint scanners, hand geometry readers or retinal scanners to assure the right people are accessing the appropriate patient information.

At the end of the day, you still may find an HHS auditor contacting you from the OCR. However, doing a proactive review of the technology within your facility may just help you avoid fines and sanctions by eliminating issues before the real audit ensues.

 

Avidex AV is revolutionizing the way healthcare facilities and doctors are delivering care. Their 20 years of experience is being leveraged to drive down the cost of care while promoting positive healthcare outcomes. Is your organization looking for a new kind of technology partner? Connect with one of our Account Executives today to learn more.

Resources:

#1: http://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-professionals/compliance-enforcement/audit/protocol/index.html

#2: http://medidfraud.org/

#3: http://blog.avidex.com/theres-more-to-hippa-than-encryption-choosing-the-right-vtc-platform/

#4: http://blog.avidex.com/choosing-the-right-av-partner-for-healthcare-facility-design/

Anthony Paoletti

About Anthony Paoletti

Anthony brings over 23 years of audiovisual experience and has worn nearly every "hat" in the industry; from Consultant to End User; Account Representative to Install Technician; Project Manager to Systems Engineer. Contact Anthony at apaoletti@avidexav.com

Innovation at ATA 2016

As a health care professional, if you were in Minneapolis, Minnesota from May 14th to 17th this year, you were most likely at the American Telemedicine Association’s annual conference, ATA 2016.WebRTC If you were not there or if this event has not historically been on your radar… it should be!

The ATA’s annual conference is the world’s largest and most comprehensive meeting focused on telemedicine, digital, connected and mobile health” and “the premier forum for healthcare professionals and entrepreneurs in the telemedicine, telehealth and mHealth space.”

It is a place where physicians, healthcare providers, and healthcare entrepreneurs and innovators all come together to share case studies, explore new ways to deliver care, and showcase groundbreaking new technology.

With so many talented people all in one place, it seems appropriate that each year several are recognized with ATA President’s awards for their achievements and contributions. This year, at ATA 2016, the President’s Award for Innovation in Remote Healthcare went to a company called Propeller Health.

Propeller Health uses connected sensor technology in combination with a mobile app to help patients manage asthma and COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder). In short, their sensor attaches to the patient’s inhaler, recording dosages, when they are taken, and utilizing the capabilities of the patient’s mobile device to combine this data with things like weather conditions and geographic location. This not only help patients manage the timing of their medication, but also to proactively prescribe preventative action to avoid episodes based on local conditions that have historically triggered their personal symptoms.

Propeller has a great video on their homepage as well as a “How It Works” page if you’d like to see their explanation of the technology.

Now on its own this is a great piece of technology worthy of the award it was given. It makes a dramatic difference in the daily lives of those suffering from asthma and COPD. Their studies show that using Propeller results in up to 79% fewer asthma attacks, 50% more symptom free days, and 50% more doses of medication taken on schedule. That is a huge jump in the quality of life for those using the technology. As a stand-alone, personal health management system it has huge value. However, as with most things, there is a bigger picture and potentially larger benefit when combined with other technologies and communicating the data to the patient’s physician.

Propeller, when combined with fitness tracking applications, could also correlate asthma and COPD data with heart rate and blood oxygen levels. It could create a secure transmission of data to a secure file in the patient’s Electronic Health Records so that any relevant events can be assessed by the patient’s physician during scheduled check-ups. It would also allow for alerts to be generated to alert the healthcare provider if events are becoming more frequent or more severe to proactively assess the current treatment plan and adjust it if necessary.

Propeller is a prime example as to how the Internet of Healthcare and all of its connected sensors can be leveraged to deliver better quality of care and reduce unnecessary visits to the doctor’s office which promotes efficiency and greatly reduces costs as well.

Congratulations to Propeller Health for their President’s Award this year at ATA 2016. If you didn’t make it to the show this year, maybe we can connect there in 2017 to explore the floor together!

Avidex AV is revolutionizing the way healthcare facilities and doctors are delivering care. Their 20 years of experience is being leveraged to drive down the cost of care while promoting positive healthcare outcomes. Is your organization looking for a new kind of technology partner? Connect with one of our Account Executives today to learn more.

Resources:

#1: http://hub.americantelemed.org/ata2016new/about/aboutata2016

#2: http://hub.americantelemed.org/ata2016new/events/event-description?CalendarEventKey=5401bbe1-60af-4911-98a0-1654b9c11688&CommunityKey=cee2dcb7-7be2-4d04-9090-40ec1e264035

#3: https://www.propellerhealth.com/

#4: https://www.propellerhealth.com/how-it-works/

#5: http://blog.avidex.com/next-stop-the-ioh-will-there-be-an-internet-of-healthcare/

#6: http://blog.avidex.com/deliver-better-care-be-more-sensor-tive/

Jeff Miller

About Jeff Miller

Jeff has been working in the professional AV integration industry for over twenty years. During that time he has served as Designer, Project Manager and/or Account Executive for hundreds of projects. As an Account Executive at Avidex, he specializes in Medical, Education, and Control Rooms. He can be reached at jmiller@avidex.com

Calling in Sick

When you think of a school nurse, you may imagine a cheery, young health professional whose day consists of waiting for the random child to come into the nurse’s office nee6539946 - smiling nurse sitting and working at her computerding their temperature taken, maybe aspirin for a headache, or a skinned knee from the playground cleaned and bandaged. Perhaps if the child is deemed sick and potentially contagious, the nurse may call the child’s parent(s) to come and pick them up from school. The stakes in these instances seem relatively low, so it is no wonder that when faced with budget cuts, schools look at the full time registered nurse as an unnecessary expense. They may instead train someone in the office on basic triage and transfer the responsibility for minor ailments to teachers as well.

But are the savings worth the true cost?

The truth is, the role of the school nurse has changed dramatically over time. According to a recent cost-benefit study of school nursing services,

“During the past few decades, several major changes in our society have greatly increased the demand for school nursing services, including a rise in the number of students with chronic health conditions and mental health problems, an increase in the number of students with special care needs, and improved medical technology. As a result, school nursing services have expanded greatly from their original focus of reducing communicable disease–related absenteeism to providing episodic care, managing chronic health conditions, caring for students with disabilities, promoting health behaviors, enrolling children in health insurance and connecting them with health care providers, tracking communicable diseases, and handling medical emergencies.”

Given this, if today’s educational environment and student needs require access to a nurse’s presence at school and the financial state of the school or district cannot support a full-time nurse, what is a responsible school to do?

Today 45% of schools in the US have a full-time nurse, yet only 25% have no nurse at all. So what are the other 30% of schools doing? They either have a part-time nurse or they share a nurse between multiple schools or campuses.

Sharing a nurse across multiple schools can be challenging. In districts where the schools may be close geographically, there is time spent traveling back and forth and given Murphy’s law, I could almost guarantee that in emergency situations, the nurse is most likely at the wrong campus when the event occurs.

In more remote or rural areas, where the district may be a whole county or multiple counties, travel between campuses on a day to day basis may be physically impossible. In these situations, if the school cannot afford dedicated nurses, they either opt out of having a nurse altogether or parents just have to hope their child only needs a nurse at school on Tuesday.

So whether you are a school that currently shares a nurse looking for more efficiency, a school that has opted out of a nurse altogether because there are not sufficient funds and sharing is nearly impossible, or even one of the 45% of schools that currently has a full-time nurse but may be forced by budgetary cuts to reconsider that cost, there is something you should be looking at… telemedicine.

Telemedicine can greatly increase the efficiency of sharing a nurse between schools by eliminating the need for travel between locations. In districts with schools that are close together, this eliminates the time and expense of traveling constantly between locations. In places where schools are far apart, this may mean access to a nurse where none was ever available before.

Telemedicine allows schools to make a small one time investment in video teleconferencing technology like high definition cameras and video monitors to facilitate real time, face to face conversations between students and nursing professionals. Enhanced systems could also utilize relatively inexpensive biometric hardware like heart rate and temperature sensors allowing nurses to collect current vitals from the students that they are looking at and talking to, greatly increasing the quality of care prescribed.

The ability to record and store these nurse-student encounters also provides the district a record of mental health counseling and medical treatments. When combined with access to the students’ Electronic Health Records (EHRs), this also helps mitigate any liability the school or district may have in providing these healthcare services to students.

Telemedicine in the school nurse’s office may just be the way to help schools with full-time nurses reduce costs without sacrificing the health of their students, a path to increased efficiency and better quality of care in schools that share nurses, and a way for those who could never afford a nurse to get access to one. Given that the health of our children is at stake, it’s definitely an investment worth making.

Avidex AV is revolutionizing the way healthcare facilities and doctors are delivering care. Their 20 years of experience is being leveraged to drive down the cost of care while promoting positive healthcare outcomes. Is your organization looking for a new kind of technology partner? Connect with one of our Account Executives today to learn more.

Resources:

#1: http://archpedi.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1872779

#2: http://www.nasn.org/Research/CostBenefitAnalysis

Bob Higginbotham

About Bob Higginbotham

Bob Higginbotham, CTS-I, CTS-D, is the Avidex National Manager of Healthcare AV. Bob has spent his 30 year career in leadership positions in the AV industry including extensive design and build work in healthcare facilities. He owned and operated a successful AV business in Texas with multiple offices in several cities where he managed a staff of over 100 employees. Bob has served as a technical consultant for a major AV manufacturer, led the technical sales team for a national video conferencing provider and provided technology auditing services for several private education facilities. He has a unique working knowledge of audiovisual technology as well as multiple certifications in audio engineering, acoustics, AV design, CQT system commissioning and video transmission systems. Bob holds a BA in communications and has recently served as board chair for a large private school. He brings his years of technical knowledge and leadership experience to Avidex where he leads the national healthcare AV team. Contact Bob at bobh@avidexav.com