Monday, November 24, 2014

Net Neutrality Impacts Healthcare IT



Modern Healthcare's  Darius Tahir explains why healthcare providers should be paying attention to net neutrality in the following article:


The techie term “net neutrality” likely isn't in the daily lexicon used by most senior healthcare executives. But it should be, and soon, argue those in healthcare technology who have been following the topic.

The wireless telecommunications industry's trade group, CTIA, for example, has been circulating a letter to healthcare organizations, asking their support to oppose regulation that would ensure continued net neutrality. But others argue healthcare benefits from net neutrality and should be lobbying for its continuance via a new Federal Communications Commission mandate.

Net neutrality means everyone sending data is treated the same by carriers like Verizon and others; no one can pay or be charged more for faster transmission speeds and none can be barred from sending data. The tool that net neutrality advocates want to use—Title II of the FCC’s authorization act—would essentially make internet traffic into a public utility.

The FCC is expected to rule either by year-end or early next year.

The debate on net neutrality has intensified as the amount of data being transmitted in videos and other usages has increased, leading some to argue that too much traffic is crossing a too-small network, slowing down performance.

Telehealth and electronic record data exchange are the two primary areas of healthcare that would suffer were internet service providers allowed to charge higher prices for faster transmission speeds, say those who back net neutrality.

“I don't think people realize how much net neutrality can affect health services,” said Mark Gaynor, an associate professor of health management and policy at St. Louis University and a long-time advocate for net neutrality.

President Barack Obama earlier this month put the spotlight on the issue when he called on the FCC to “implement the strongest possible rules to protect net neutrality.”

But he muddied the debate when it comes to healthcare by saying the rule, “can have clear, monitored exceptions for reasonable network management and for specialized services such as dedicated, mission-critical networks serving a hospital.”

But many critics of a net neutrality rule believe that allowing internet service providers to charge for a “fast lane” or “paid prioritization” would be helpful for innovation. Such pricing would allow data from paying content providers to move more quickly to consumers. Currently, they argue, many networks slow at peak times when everyone wants to view Netflix videos or use other heavy bandwidth applications, like online gaming.

Charging those users more allows for more efficient usage of limited bandwidth, and provides an incentive to internet service providers to build more network infrastructure, which would accommodate more usage down the road. That position is partially supported by a July 2014 draft paper produced by two FCC officials, which use a model to show that overall market efficiency is improved if broadband providers are allowed to charge for fast lanes.

Billionaire internet entrepreneur Mark Cuban argued, in a post on his personal blog, that this debate has particular relevance to healthcare.

Hypothetically, he said, an emergency surgeon might want to access an internet application for a surgery—and finds that she can't get enough bandwidth for the service to work because “TV and movie services … swamp bandwidth.”

A net neutrality rule, he suggested, encourages that situation for two reasons: because it prevents the investment that would make a bigger network for everyone; and because it prevents high-priority data from jumping to the front of the line.

Cuban also doesn't believe Obama's exception for hospitals—which might put it at the front of the queue—would do much good, writing, “First in line in a traffic jam is still slow and buffering.”

Also opposing neutrality, Verizon has argued in a letter (PDF) to the FCC, that classifying internet traffic under Title II is not legally permissible, and an attempt to do so would invite legal challenges.

The push-and-pull over net neutrality has left the FCC's decision uncertain. The Washington Post reported on Nov. 11 that FCC chair Tom Wheeler had rejected Obama's call to reclassify internet traffic to Title II and he was looking to “split the baby” between internet service provider and net neutrality advocate concerns.

Most opponents of formal net neutrality believe that classifying internet traffic under Title II would result in onerous new requirements for internet providers, as the section was designed for older types of networked communication.

Jot Carpenter, the vice president of government affairs for CTIA, said in an interview that the rules would slow new innovations for wireless providers. The exception proposed by Obama, he said, would introduce confusion for the providers.

In those instances, he said, they would have to approach the FCC and see whether their intended idea—whether a formal partnership with a content provider or an economic arrangement—fell under the hospital exception. Carpenter derided that as the “Mother, may I?” approach to governance, which he argued is bad for innovation.

It's also unclear what might fall under the exception, Kerry McDermott, the vice president of public policy and communications for the Center for Medical Interoperability and a former FCC official said. Which hospital data would apply? Would other healthcare data apply?

Because of that perspective, Carpenter and CTIA have been circulating a letter to healthcare groups arguing that proposed reclassification would increase regulatory uncertainty for mobile health, which they argue is too young to withstand the shock.

While Carpenter declined to name which stakeholder groups had been contacted, a draft copy of the letter obtained by Modern Healthcare includes comments from the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society. It's not possible to attribute specific comments on the letter to the organization. As of press time, HIMSS had not responded to inquiries regarding the letter. And Carpenter wouldn't discuss when the letter would be officially released, or with which signatories.

But Gaynor and others are anxious about the negative effects of allowing providers to charge higher prices to content providers.

“I don't want to see small companies that are trying to innovate be locked out by bigger companies that have more money and can pay for faster service,” Gaynor said.

Carpenter rejects that argument. “I don't know that there's any evidence to suggest that these startups would be prevented from reaching their customers or gaining critical mass in the marketplace or gaining notice. Paid placement isn't always an evil,” he said, citing Google's early history as an example.

And facing a toll might also hurt efforts to encourage interoperability, Gaynor continued. The healthcare system is hoping to encourage more data sharing, often through Health Information Exchanges. A charge for faster service provides a disincentive to sharing overall, and in particular hurts HIEs – which are non-profit and often struggle to find the proper business model under current conditions.

Innovation might be hurt in another way, Gaynor and his co-authors argued in a July 2013 paper in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association. Some internet service providers own or are closely associated with healthcare services; Verizon, for example, has a virtual visits telehealth service, as well as an Apple HealthKit competitor called Converged Health Management. If internet service providers are allowed to discriminate between content providers, they might favor their own, Gaynor writes.

That argument also attacks the FCC officials’ paper, which assumes that broadband internet service providers are not vertically integrated with a content provider.

Steve Kraus, a partner at venture capitalist firm Bessemer Venture Partners, agrees with Gaynor’s argument. “The whole premise of telemedicine would fall down,” he said, if startups suffer lagged performance.

He argued that the net neutrality debate is particularly relevant to healthcare: first, patients and providers often need speed in making care; and second, because the data being moved in healthcare – like medical records, genomics, and video – is often so large.

Kraus's colleagues agree, and are worried about the large telecommunications firms potentially giving themselves an unfair advantage, noting that both Verizon and AT&T have been investing heavily in healthcare.

Virtual visits firm American Well also feels strongly about net neutrality. In an interview, the firm's senior vice president of consumer markets, Mike Putnam, said that he believes paid prioritization would decrease healthcare access and cause the firm to pass on costs to the consumer.

Seth Ginsburg, the president of non-profit Global Healthy Living Foundation, has been advocating for net neutrality in Capitol Hill—and actually retained a lobbyist to do so, the only purely healthcare entity registered in the Senate's lobbying database to list net neutrality as an interest.

Ginsburg’s organization, which helps patients with conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, believes that paying tolls for faster service would harm its relationship with patients. The organization is a nonprofit, and can’t afford to pay a toll; and yet it also communicates time-sensitive information, concerning drug safety for example, to its patients. Allowing a fast lane would put the organization in a bind.

Ginsburg is contemplating complementing his firm's lobbying efforts by adding the voices of his patients, who he said are in all 50 states. He has seen a lack of healthcare interest in the political half of the debate. He suspects it's due to the other large healthcare IT issues on the docket, like meaningful use and the ICD-10 code switch.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

CMS Names Niall Brennan First Chief Data Officer

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) today announced the formation of the Office of Enterprise Data and Analytics (OEDA) which will be led by Niall Brennan, the agency’s first Chief Data Officer (CDO), and tasked with overseeing improvements in data collection and dissemination as the agency strives to be more transparent. OEDA will help CMS better harness its vast data resources to guide decision-making and develop frameworks promoting appropriate external access to and use of data to drive higher quality, patient-centered care at a lower cost.

CMS collects a wealth of data that is critical to decision making for the agency and other stakeholders in the nation’s health care system. CMS generates data administering the Medicare, Medicaid and CHIP programs. In addition, new responsibilities, including stewardship of the EHR Incentive Programs, more expansive quality measurement programs, and the establishment of the Health Insurance Marketplaces, have expanded the scope of data that CMS collects. As CMS works to shift the focus from volume of services to better health outcomes for patients, coordinating care, and spending dollars more wisely, the need for CMS to analyze data across its multiple programs and provide greater access to this data, whether in granular or aggregate form, will only intensify.

“It’s clear how much data transparency will help the country improve outcomes, control costs and aid consumer decision making,” said CMS Principal Deputy Administrator Andy Slavitt. “This appointment signals to the industry that there is no turning back from the health care data agenda. Niall Brennan will help make sure CMS leads the way.”

The creation of this new post and the data and analytics office  builds on the steps CMS has taken in recent years to better harness its data resources both internally and externally. CMS is now routinely analyzing claims data in real time and applying predictive analytics to proactively identify fraud and abuse and track key metrics such as hospital readmissions. Accountable Care Organizations and State Medicaid agencies receive monthly near real-time feeds of Medicare data to support care coordination. CMS has launched the Virtual Research Data Center to facilitate lower cost access to CMS data for researchers and federal grantees. CMS has also released numerous public use datasets; the most notable releases to date include the release of data on hospital charges and physician utilization in 2013 and 2014.

“Our commitment to transparency is matched by our commitment to keeping personal information safeguarded. We can't expect to advance health outcomes unless we also ensure that our policies and practices around data privacy are leading the way,” said Slavitt. “We look forward to building on the success of recent releases, providing a clearer picture of the health care delivery system.”

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

IATRIC SYSTEMS ANNOUNCES "EHR-NEUTRAL" SOLUTION FOR APPLE HEALTH

Politico reports that health IT company Iatric Systems, Inc. has announced its integration with Apple Health to pull patient data into HealthKit and present it from inpatient, ambulatory and patient-generated sources. The "EHR-neutral" approach will link data from records, physician practices and other health IT software, according to an announcement from Iatric. Iatric envisions that patients will help hospitals with meaningful use requirements--especially view, download and transmit.

Two hospitals are currently using Iatric for integration with Apple Health - Michigan's Memorial Healthcare and King's Daughters Medical Center in Mississippi. "We envision our patients using Apple Health easily because for many, the iPhone is already a main part of their lives, said Frank Fear, CIO at Memorial Healthcare, in the announcement. "We could have integrated Apple Health within a portal from our EHR vendor or ambulatory system vendor, but data from disparate systems sits in silos. Iatric Systems was a natural fit because their portal integrates across all of our systems, giving us one tool for capturing and sending data to patients, and eventually, receiving data back from them."

For more information visit Politico here

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Politico Reports: ONC Releases Meaningful Use Stage 2 Attestation Rates

Attestation rates for Stage 2 of meaningful use remained low at the end of September, according to data released ahead of today's Health IT Policy Committee meeting. The figures, contained as footnotes in an ONC data analytics update, show that 4,656 doctors and other eligible providers and 258 hospitals had attested to Stage 2. This is an increase over the end of August but still only a rounding error out of 480,000-plus eligible providers and hospitals. The low figures reflect problems that electronic health records vendors and providers have had achieving Stage 2. 

CMS relaxed the rules on reporting Stage 2 attestation earlier in the year, and provider groups have been pressing to reduce the one-year reporting period to 90 days in 2015. We have a feeling that a GOP-controlled Congress may try to do something about this.

ONC's analysis of the Sept. 30 attestation data showed disappointing levels of accomplishment in meeting some of the most important categories of Stage 2. For example, 87 percent of eligible providers who attested to Stage 2 received exclusions from showing they could electronically send summaries of care. Of those who did not receive exclusions, only 18 percent were able to send electronic summaries 80 percent of the time or more. A total of 55 percent were able to file summaries electronically 30 percent or less of the time. Scores for the "view, download or transmit" category, a measure of physicians' capacity to share data with patients, were even worse. Although 65 percent of the attesters' patients had online access to records, only 10 percent of these providers were able to get patients to download their records more than half the time.

A similarly small percentage sent patient reminders on a regular basis. In its analysis of hospitals, ONC found that only 10 percent got out electronic care summaries to patients more than half the time, and less than 15 percent were able to get more than 20 percent of their patients to view, download or transmit their records. However, as ONC pointed out, the figures represented a somewhat improved picture from analyses it did over the summer.

Many individuals are concerned about the privacy of their medical records, but that doesn't keep most of them from giving information to health care providers, according to survey results to be released at the meeting. In a survey of more than 2,000 people conducted in 2012-13 for ONC, 75 percent were "very or somewhat concerned" about the privacy of information in EHRs. But only eight percent said those concerns would cause them to withhold information from health care providers.


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Free Interactive Webinar: Ebola in the U.S. & the Role of Patient Access



Ebola in the U.S. & the Role of Patient Access 
Tuesday, November 4, 2014 at Noon EST

With the ongoing national news coverage surrounding the Ebola virus, your facility's leadership team may be implementing new screening protocols, and asking you to provide them with an immediate plan of action. What do you do? Where do you start?

Join NAHAM for this interactive webinar and explore how other organizations and facilities are tackling basic plan development in crisis situations, including ebola. 

Areas of discussion will include: 
Complying with CDC requirements
Integrating with infection control areas
Alleviating employee anxiety with targeted communication tips and tricks
Recommendations on quickly implementing your plan

This webinar will include time for participant discussion, providing you with an opportunity to learn best practices and examine the challenges in implementing a plan. If you have any specific questions you would like answered, please email us. 

This webinar is free of charge for all participants. Register now, and learn what you need to know to keep your facility up to speed on the Ebola virus.

Presenters
Stacy Calvaruso
Assistant Vice President, Patient Access, Ochsner Health System
Stacy is a Healthcare A/R Executive with over 24 years of progressive experience in both private and public sectors. Prior to joining Ochsner Health System, Stacy was the key developer/owner/operator of an organization that evolved from a small PFS A/R consulting and interim staffing organization, to a large national service center in the Urgent Care industry. Stacy’s current role with Ochsner includes managing over 600 FTEs dedicated to front line Patient Access service. She has held board positions for HFMA, NAHAM, UCBCA, as well as a Community Hospital in Louisiana.

Brenda Sauer
Director, Patient Access, New York Presbyterian Hospital
Brenda Sauer, RN, MA, CHAM, FHAM is Director of Patient Access at New York Presbyterian Hospital, Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City, NY. She has held several board positions in NAHAM on both the local and national level; she is currently the Immediate Past President of NAHAM. Recently, she was named a Fellow in Healthcare Access Management. She has spoken on several topics including: Health Care Reform, patient privacy, disaster preparedness, patient throughput initiatives, and leadership for various organizations on the local, regional, and national level.





Join Webinar TODAY at 2pm EST: Enhancing the Revenue Cycle Experience for Patients



Enhancing the Revenue Cycle Experience for Patients 
October 29, 2014

Webinar Information: TODAY
2:00 pm – 3:00 pm Eastern
NAHAM Contact Hours: 1
Register Now 

Join NAHAM for a special patient experience webinar focused on front-end strategies to improve the revenue cycle experience for patients. Industry thought leaders from Texas Health Resources will review strategic initiatives for patient access leaders to further engage patients in their care experience – beginning before they enter the hospital’s front door. The session will present key strategies and related outcomes in patient satisfaction, staff performance and upfront patient collections. 

Presenters:
Patricia Consolver, CHAM
Senior Director, Patient Access Services
Texas Health Resources Scott Phillips, CHAM
Senior Director, Patient Access Services
Texas Health Resources


Register now and learn how to reduce registration times, increase point-of-service collections, and increase patient satisfaction! NAHAM members will enjoy free access to this live webinar, just one of the perks of NAHAM membership. For all non-members, the cost to attend this webinar is $35.

Join NAHAM Webinar: Developing Patient Access Leaders for Tomorrow


Developing Patient Access Leaders for Tomorrow 
November 11, 2014

Join NAHAM for our monthly webinar and hear a detailed account of how WellSpan Health’s Patient Access Department instituted an internal leadership development program to prepare for growth and succession in their rapidly growing Access departments. From conception and development to the inaugural program and its evolution over time, experience a detailed dissection of the various elements of the program, aimed at cultivating our leaders for tomorrow.

The webinar will: 

Describe how WellSpan Health's rapid growth drove the need for an internal leadership development program, and how that program was implemented and molded.

Detail the various elements of the leadership development program, including what worked, what didn't and what has changed over time.

Discuss the challenges and successes of the leadership development program, including lessons learned, success stories, facilitation, participation, and relevance.


Register now and learn how to reduce registration times, increase point-of-service collections, and increase patient satisfaction! NAHAM members will enjoy free access to this live webinar, just one of the perks of NAHAM membership. For all non-members, the cost to attend this webinar is $35.

Date: November 11, 2014
Time: 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm EST
Presented by: Lisa Woods, Manager of Access Operations, WellSpan Health
NAHAM Contact Hours: 1
Register Here