Tag Archives: HIPPA

Are You Putting your Patients on Blast?

You are already a bit nervous. You are having a very personal medical issue that you find a bit embarrassing. In fact, you are even a little nervous about talking to your doctor about it. You sit quietly in the examination room after your vitals have been taken, awaiting the arrival of the physician. As you sit on the examination table, you hear the physician say “hello”. You quickly realize however that he has not entered your room but the one next door. You can’t help but listen in as he discusses your neighbor’s maladies in great detail. Your curiosity turns to apprehension as you realize that if you can hear them, then they will be able to overhear your conversation with the physician as well.33824120 - female doctor sitting with patient on hospital bed

If you have ever been to the doctor to discuss a sensitive medical issue, you may identify with the anxiety of the patient above. How would your anxiety level and perception of the doctor’s office change knowing that everyone was able to hear what you assumed was going to be a private conversation protected by the doctor patient relationship?

There has been a lot of discussion in healthcare and on this blog about the Health Information Portability and Privacy Act (HIPPA) and its implications with regard to security of patients’ electronic data and communications. However, HIPPA covers all healthcare communications, including oral communications. That communication could be between healthcare professionals or between doctor’s and their patients, and in all cases, HIPPA privacy rules apply.

Protecting oral communications can be tricky, and some may argue that it is difficult at best. HIPPA specifically refers to communications breaches that can be “reasonably prevented”, which is a rather vague standard to meet. However there are some simple solutions and steps to take that can definitely meet that recommendation.

Healthcare providers that are designing and constructing their own facilities can easily promote construction techniques that minimize something called the Sound Transmission Class, or STC. There are multiple techniques that can be used in construction that involve everything from decoupling sheetrock from studs, building interior wall all the way to the hard cap ceiling as opposed to just above the acoustic grid, and using acoustic treatment materials on walls and other hard surfaces.

For smaller healthcare providers and independent physicians building a new facility from the ground up, or doing an extended tenant improvement to an existing space is just not possible, feasible, or cost effective. In these cases all is not lost. Many turn to technology as a viable and less expensive option to create speech privacy. They do this in two different ways via a sound system. One way is very intuitive but the other may be something you are unfamiliar with.

Many healthcare facilities utilize music in waiting rooms and examination rooms. The purpose is two-fold. First, there is a psychological calming effect proven to be associated with certain pieces or styles of music, and putting patients in a state of relaxation can have a positive impact on the quality of care. Secondly, having a base level of music in the background can potentially obscure other conversations in nearby areas that may have been easily heard if the space was completely quiet. An added bonus of these type of sound systems is that they can also be used with local paging systems to call physicians, nurses, or even patients.

There is another type of audio system that can also be used increase speech privacy and it typically goes unnoticed. In many cases having music in an area where a doctor may be trying to evaluate a condition or explain a delicate treatment to a patient can be counterproductive. IN these cases a sound masking system may be your best bet.

A sound masking system uses speakers that typically face upward into the ceiling spaces. Instead of playing music, they play a sound similar to airflow. This base level of white noise acts as a barrier to other sounds traveling through the same space and masks them. It reduces sound transfer and the intelligibility of speech and as such, increases privacy. Think of it as a pair of noise cancelling headphones for your healthcare spaces.

At the end of the day, as healthcare providers, you want your patients to feel safe and comfortable with their doctor patient interactions. Investing in technology to increase speech privacy not only helps you avoid potential fines that may result from a HIPPA audit, but more importantly protects your patients and makes them feel secure and at ease with you as their healthcare provider. Isn’t that really the end goal anyway?

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://bok.ahima.org/doc?oid=59139#.V8RvGPkrLIV

#2: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sound_transmission_class

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

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

Next Stop the IoH??? Will There Be an Internet of Healthcare?

internet of healthcarePolitics and healthcare go hand-in-hand. They haven’t always been that way, but in the world of politics today, you better have a stance on healthcare issues or you will get eaten alive by the media, by the polls and by the people.

Politics and the internet seem to go hand-in-hand since Al Gore invented the internet way back when (okay, the US Army actually designed and initiated the internet, but who cares! Sounds better that the Vice President developed it…)

Now, healthcare and the internet might be teaming up to create their own secured “superhighway” in the future, thus providing security to your personal information AND medical records while allowing for blazing fast connections between patients, doctors and clinics/hospitals, including video, audio and imaging. The way we know healthcare today is evolving into the technology of tomorrow. Will you be ready for this new age of healthcare delivery?

Would it surprise you if I told you that Bush and Obama actually agree on something? Ok so it’s not George W. Bush, but it is his cousin Jonathan Bush, and he agrees at least in part with Obama that the internet will play a huge role in the provision of healthcare services from today into the future. He contends that we’ll have a ‘healthcare Internet’ within five years.” See his interview on CNBC here.

“Evidence suggests the shift may already be underway. While just 15 percent of hospitals used electronic health records [EHRs] in 2010, that number skyrocketed to 59 percent in 2013, according to data from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.”

However the increased use of EHRs doesn’t automatically necessitate the need for a ‘healthcare internet’. And based on the interview, it is unclear exactly what that would entail. There is an obvious need to connect patients to doctors and doctors to other doctors to share information and create better patient outcomes. Whether this requires creating a whole new domain for healthcare providers like a dot org for non-profits, creating a national healthcare data center or cloud, or connecting every healthcare facility on a common VPN is yet to be seen.

The reality is that privacy of healthcare data is a major concern and as more healthcare data is digitized and more medical equipment is connected via the Internet of Things (IoT) that concern grows.

Could a private “healthcare internet’ be the answer?

Bush goes on to site Amazon as an example of a company that created a comfort level for consumers in online shopping and the perceived safety of their financial information. I think he makes a mistake however in his downplaying of the theft of medical information.

“Frankly, I’d rather have the bad guys see my colonoscopy than get my credit card number,” Bush said. “And my credit card and my equities are all online.”

His comment discounts the fact that medical identity theft is a major concern, one the Federal Trade Commission has created a web page for.

“A thief may use your name or health insurance numbers to see a doctor, get prescription drugs, file claims with your insurance provider, or get other care. If the thief’s health information is mixed with yours, your treatment, insurance and payment records, and credit report may be affected.”

With that in mind, it’s no wonder HIPPA is so strict on how we store and protect medical records and history. Maybe a “healthcare internet” of some kind is the answer. Even if it is, Bush believes it is five years away.

So as a healthcare provider, how do you protect data in the meantime as more and more technology hits the network in your facility?

Make sure to work with trusted technology partners when implementing connected devices, digital signage, interactive patient engagement systems, and telemedicine systems.

This will assure that the proper care is given to the design and implementation not only of the required hardware, but also of the connection strategy and access to the facility’s network.

Utilizing things like hardware firewalls, VLANs, and even completely separate WiFi networks for patient and visitor internet access and also for digital signage systems and screen based wayfinding can help separate these pieces of hardware from computers storing confidential patient information. Making sure your technology team is sensitive to network security today will only make things easier if healthcare actually does get its own internet in the future.

 

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.cnbc.com/2015/07/24/health-care-will-have-its-own-internet-soon.html

#2: https://www.healthit.gov/sites/default/files/oncdatabrief16.pdf

#3: http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0171-medical-identity-theft

#4: http://medcitynews.com/2015/04/healthcare-really-prepared-amazon-dash-button/

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

Just in Case vs. Just in Time: Effectively Managing Audio Video Systems in Healthcare

Architecht working on drawingsThere is a company in Arizona with a very unusual name. This company specializes in doing 3D renderings and architectural Auto-CAD work for some of the nation’s top home builders. If you are wondering why large production home builders would outsource CAD work, you need look no further than the construction cycle. Builders go through a design phase where they engineer new floor plans for homes. They may do that for several “series” of homes so that they have plans that can work on varying lot sizes in different communities. Once these plans are designed however, there is little CAD work to do during the actual construction phase. Having a full time “in house” architectural team is not actually cost effective. So instead of doing the work “in house”, they hire this company in Phoenix, aptly and playfully named “Outhouse”.

In America today, it seems that “outsourcing” has become a four letter word. However outsourcing doesn’t always mean shipping American jobs abroad. Many companies outsource everything from janitorial services to Human Resources to capitalize on the efficiency of paying for these resources only when they actually need them. It is a strategy very akin to the “just in time” inventory strategy employed by many manufacturing companies.

“Just In Time (JIT) – An inventory strategy company employ to increase efficiency and decrease waste by receiving goods only as they are needed in the production process, thereby reducing inventory costs.”

In healthcare today, practices are very reliant on audio video technology to perform their day to day operations. Go into any given facility and you will see flat panel displays everywhere doing everything from entertaining and informing people in the waiting room, acting as signage for wayfinding, being used by patients in their rooms to learn about their discharge instructions, facilitating a remote consultation between a doctor and a patient, and even displaying the live feed of an endoscopic camera in the operating room. Of course the displays are just the tip of the iceberg, because there are a myriad of devices and a whole network of cables and other infrastructure behind the scenes that feed them.

Depending on the purpose of the technology in question, some systems are obviously more critical than others when it comes to the issue of down time. It can be very costly for a healthcare provider to run a full staff of professionals dedicated to all of these systems “just in case” they go down. So how can a healthcare facility get the benefits of a “just in case” full time staff while capitalizing on the cost efficiency of a “just in time” staffing policy?

Partner with an audio video (AV) specialty company for a managed services agreement.

It may seem like a simple idea on the surface, and in all honesty, choosing the right AV partner can be simple, if you choose a firm with experience in providing managed services to healthcare providers.

Choosing a firm with experience in the healthcare arena will help assure that –

  • The proper Service Level Agreement (SLA) is in place.

An SLA defines the hours available for contacting your support team and the specific time frames for responding to any tickets that may be entered for service. Many systems may be more critical than others, so entering into an SLA that has faster response times for mission critical systems in the ER for example, while defining less aggressive responses to things like displays in the waiting room, can maximize the value in a managed services contract, while assuring necessary operation of important technology.

  • HIPPA concerns are properly addressed.

HIPPA considerations exist anytime that a piece of new technology is connected to the network. Whether the system in question is a new telemedicine system used to reduce readmissions or an interactive patient education system connected to the Wi-Fi network, managing these systems properly with encryption requirements and potential links to other systems that contain confidential patient information like Electronic Health Records (EHR) is of high importance.

  • You receive opportunities for innovation.

One other advantage of hiring an AV company with healthcare experience is that it provides you with a trusted resource that can help your facility stay ahead of the innovation curve. Since your managed services partner supports systems at multiple facilities, they will be able to share ideas on ways to continually improve upon AV systems as new innovations are introduced.

At the end of the day, engaging an AV company in the business of supporting systems in the healthcare domain not only optimizes the cost of system support, but also assures the proper sense of urgency, mitigates liability, and provides a trusted partner to help these systems improve and evolve over time as technology improves.

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://thecontradogroup.com/our_origins.php

#2: http://www.investopedia.com/terms/j/jit.asp

#3: http://blog.avidexav.com/patient-tracking-systems-reducing-the-cost-of-healthcare-and-waiting-room-anxiety/

#4: http://blog.avidexav.com/creating-better-patient-outcomes-through-interactive-technology/

#5: http://blog.avidexav.com/telemedicine-a-428-million-silver-bullet/

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

The Doctor’s Watch Just Stole My Medical Records (and Other Strange Tales)

Hi Tech computer imagesJames Bond is stuck. He is 500 feet from safety, bad guys are approaching and all that is keeping him from safety is a large ravine, a wire cable draped across that ravine and those pesky 500 feet. He takes his Omega Sea Master watch, unscrews the crown and out comes a small wire, which he wraps around the hanging draped wire and traverses himself to safety, 500 feet across the Swiss Alps to safety. All from a watch! Imagine what MacGyver could have done with that watch! I am a watch guy…love them and collect them. But helping to save a life or view records of a patient in real time…awesome. Call me to discuss if you too, love the watch and love James Bond or MacGyver! I can hear it now over the paging system…”Doctor MacGyver, Dr. Angus MacGyver, you are needed in OR Two”…

It’s an amazing time to be in the healthcare profession. Every day new innovations in technology are facilitating everything from bio-printing new tissues for a patient to giving surgeons real time, context aware information during surgery. With each new piece of technology comes the need for it to be interconnected with other devices in the facility. New switches, routers, and upgraded WiFi networks are required to keep all of this technology up and running, and IT departments in healthcare are working harder than ever to make sure everything is HIPPA compliant. However, the job may be even bigger than it seems.

“While you were busy updating your WiFi router’s firewall and giving your laptop a strong password, your vacuum cleaner and smart lighting system were conspiring with your phone to steal your online banking information.” –Cleve Adams, AirPatrol

The quote is funny yet somewhat chilling at the same time. As more and more devices hit the network, the importance of securing them becomes ever more important as well.

Take Apple Watch for example. Apple has shared that three hospitals are using the Apple watch: Nebraska Medicine, Ochsner Health System, and London-based King’s College Hospital. These hospitals are utilizing the Apple Watch for everything from communicating with patients, to gathering bio-data, to relaying chart and dosage information to doctors all through the use of customized healthcare apps.

This isn’t the first instance of wearable devices being used in healthcare either. Google Glass has been used to deliver context aware information to surgeons in real time in the OR, all without having to look away from the delicate job at hand. In fact, the potential impact of wearables in the healthcare field has spawned a whole new society aptly named “WATCH”.

What does WATCH stand for? WeArable TeChnolgy in Healthcare.

Given the popularity of the movement and the potential positive impact technology can have on patient outcomes, care providers should not shy away from adopting the devices because of security concerns, but rather create strategies to minimize them.

Of course an awareness of the potential risks, creating multi-layered security protocols, and using secure software and hardware products are all a great start. But is that enough?

Take the well-known security breach of the Target POS system that put an estimated 70-110 million customers’ payment data at risk. Target had strong IT policies, trusted IT a hardware and firewalls, and a tried and true POS hardware and software system in place. The breach came through stealing network credentials from Target’s third party HVAC vendor. For this reason, choosing the right AV technology partners can be just as critical.

If you are looking to integrate technology like Apple Watch, patient tracking and monitoring systems, or telemedicine systems, it is important to choose an audio video integrator with experience in the healthcare vertical.

These partners not only need to understand the technology and how it is being used, but also the potential security risks the devices themselves may present if not secured properly. Going back to Apple Watch for instance, it is important to know that the wearable communicates with the iPhone not only via paired and encrypted Bluetooth, but may also auto-switch over to WiFi to maintain a connection at greater distances. It also may use near field communications (NFC) to talk to other internet enabled devices as well. A partner well versed in this technology and the healthcare vertical is best suited to address these issues ahead of time to create a strategy to secure them

At the end of the day, technology will continue to become an integral part of the evolution of healthcare. Security concerns should not deter facilities from adopting new technologies, but rather make them more selective in the partners they choose to help implement them. Doing so will assure that “bringing your own device” doesn’t mean bringing your own security breach.

 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.watch-society.com/

#2: http://www.watch-society.com/news/news-articles/1019-apple-names-nebraska-medicine-king-s-college-hospital-as-latest-to-use-apple-watch-with-patients

#3: http://www.darkreading.com/endpoint/5-ways-to-prepare-for-iot-security-risks/d/d-id/1319215

#4: http://airpatrolcorp.com/2014/08/04/blackhat/

#5: http://krebsonsecurity.com/2014/02/target-hackers-broke-in-via-hvac-company/

#6: http://www.computerworld.com/article/2898892/apple-watch-and-its-wireless-tech.html

 

 

 

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

There’s more to HIPAA than encryption: Choosing the right VTC platform

thhbp4If you are a regular reader of this blog, you already understand the amazing opportunities telemedicine presents to the modern day medical facility. You also know that the environment for implementing telemedicine is better than ever given changes in the way that telemedicine services are now being categorized. Given all this, you may be primed to implement a telemedicine system in your facility to start to take advantage of these trends.

On the surface, implementation looks fairly intuitive. You invest in some PC hardware, monitors, HD cameras, and quality microphone equipment. You dedicate space in your facility for practitioners to be able to sit and converse with patients. Finally you go about the task of determining which hardware and software platform to use for video teleconferencing.

Here is where things get very confusing.

How do you determine which platforms are actually compliant and assure that the combination of hardware and software you have put in place do not create liability for your organization?

There is a temptation to standardize on a platform already familiar to the patient base as a whole. Given that temptation, solutions like GoToMeeting, Skype, and even FaceTime may initially look attractive. In fact, all of these platforms claim to meet HIPAA compliance in one way or another. They all claim 128 bit AES encryption to protect data to support their cases. However HIPAA requires more than just encryption of the data as it flows through the web.

Anything that is stored in a server is also applicable to HIPAA encryption, and although video is not saved and stored in most cases by these types of providers, things like chat sessions are, and these services do not store those in a HIPAA compliant manner.

There are also requirements for HIPAA Business Associate Agreements between companies, auditing tools to assure compliance, emergency notifications, and encryption of stored data as well, that is suspect at best in these platforms.

Skype has gone so far as to claim that they donot need to be a vehicle that enables compliance  just like your cell phone provider and the postal mail service are not.”

So if they are not the compliance vehicle, who is? Where does the liability lie if a breach happens? Some believe it then lies then on the healthcare provider.

“Since it is relatively easy to choose a Safeguard that allows you to be more fully compliant with HIPAA when video conferencing, it would be neglectful to instead use Skype for this purpose…you must be able to justify your decision in your internal HIPAA compliance reviews and be prepared to answer pointed questions from auditors, should the need arise.”

The bottom line is that better options exist that are fully compliant and that mitigate the liability of non-compliance with HIPAA. These solutions may utilize more reliable encryption methods through dedicated hardware that also enables audits and emergency notifications. These companies also offer the Business Associate Agreements required as well.

Of course, as with any innovative hardware technology solution, working with a trusted partner who is well versed in both the hardware and the specifics of HIPAA compliance is invaluable as well.

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.telehealthtechnology.org/sites/default/files/documents/HIPAA%20for%20TRCs%202014.pdf

#2: http://www.zdnet.com/article/facetime-calls-are-encrypted-and-hipaa-compliant-when-using-proper-encryption/

#3: http://l1.osdimg.com/online/dam/pdf/en/resources/wp/GoToMeeting-HIPAA-Compliance-Guide-brief.pdf

#4: http://onlinetherapyinstitute.com/2011/03/01/videoconferencing-secure-encrypted-hipaa-compliant/

#5: https://luxsci.com/blog/is-skype-hipaa-compliant-if-not-what-is.html

#6: http://telehealth.org/video/

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

Patient Tracking Systems: Reducing the Cost of Healthcare and Waiting Room Anxiety

operating roomTake a moment to think about all of the departments within a modern day hospital.  There is the emergency room (ER), the intensive care unit (ICU), the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), radiology, oncology, the operating room, neurology, obstetrics, cardiology, etc.  Some hospitals like Seattle Children’s have over a hundred different departments, clinics, and programs.  Now consider that patients may need to visit various departments during their hospital visit and you may start to get an idea of how challenging it can be to keep track of where a patient is at any given time.

Enter patient tracking systems, a combination of software and integrated hardware used to effectively communicate a patient’s critical information and location within a hospital.

Reducing the Cost of Care

A patient tracking system relies on a series of screens and computers that allow hospital staff to continually track and display the status and location of patients throughout the hospital.  It eliminates the need to have physical access to the patient’s chart, as if the patient has moved from one area to another, that chart typically moves with them.  This can create some confusion for staff who are trying to locate the patient for a procedure, for laboratory tests, or even to bring them their selected meal from the cafeteria.

Because these are PC based systems, they allow interoperability with other systems that may need to be accessed to retrieve other essential information needed for care.  They are also easily referenced by the hospital staff, as the individual lines are color-coded to provide a quick reference as to the status of each patient.

To quote Anna-Marie Merchant, GH Patient Care Manager, their patient tracking system

“…provides us with a clear picture of what is happening in the entire surgical department. It has certainly improved communication amongst various surgical areas at GH. The number of phone calls to and from departments and with family has significantly decreased.”

The net result is a reduction in the average patient stay, a reduced cost of providing care, and a reduction in the amount of staff that needs to be added to increase patient throughput.  There is a great whitepaper by the California Health Foundation here if you’d like to see the full study.

Next generation patient tracking systems are even more highly integrated with technology to reduce the amount of input by the hospital staff and to mitigate any human error in those entries.  These systems rely on an RFID tag on the patients’ hospital bracelets and RFID readers that automatically pick up the patient as they reach key locations.

We’ve all seen a multitude of screens used within the hospital environment.  Every patient room typically has a screen installed for patient entertainment and education.  Waiting areas throughout the hospital have screens installed as well, either for way finding or for a way to keep patients’ families and friends entertained.  But what if there was a way to leverage the same patient tracking system to reduce the anxiety of waiting?  Well, there is!

Reducing Waiting Room Anxiety

An added benefit of a patient tracking system is the ability to push the same data into waiting room environments so that loved ones can keep informed on the status of patients as well.  If you’re worried about privacy, you need not be.

These systems allow the information to be customized to each screen the data is being sent to.  To comply with HIPPA regulations for patient privacy, each patient is given a unique numeric ID.  This is given to the family so that they can check the status of their loved one on the screen, without disclosing their names and procedures to the rest of the waiting public.

Studies have been done on everything from music to aromatherapy being used to reduce anxiety in waiting rooms.  However, one sure fire way to help reduce this anxiety is to provide easy access to the status of each patient.

“Keeping our patients’ families updated about their loved one’s whereabouts, alleviates a lot of their anxiety and provides a more patient/ family focused experience,” notes Jan Dziepak, MDH Patient Care Manager.

For those who are not present in the waiting room, there are even virtual portals for other family members to use to keep in tune with their loved ones progress.  Launch an internet browser, select the proper facility, enter the patient ID and then the patient’s progress is shown on the screen.   To see an example, click here.

Of course there are some considerations to installing screens in the correct areas, as well as configuring the computers at each screen. This assures that each display presents the relevant information to either inform the staff or to comply with HIPPA and protect the privacy of patients.  Handled correctly however, the system can reduce the cost of care and provide a value added service that reduces the anxiety of those waiting in the hospital as well.  So if you are a hospital looking to increase efficiency and reduce the cost of providing amazing health care, integrating a patient tracking system into your facility is most likely a good start.

At Avidex AV, we are leveraging over 20 years of experience with innovative technology to drive positive business outcomes in healthcare.  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.seattlechildrens.org/clinics-programs/a-z/

#2: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19050663

#3:http://www.chcf.org/~/media/MEDIA%20LIBRARY%20Files/PDF/U/PDF%20UsingPatientTrackingToolsInHospitals.pdf

#4: https://www.haltonhealthcare.on.ca/newsletter/2014/august/smartrack.html

#5: http://www.peacehealth.org/apps/SmarTrack/

#6: http://www.zenginehq.com/patient-navigator?gclid=CJvT_oWy0cQCFQuMaQodgIsAMQ

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