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Red Flags Delayed Again – A Poll

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On the Credibility of Financial Experts

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On HIT Continuity Planning

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Setting Up Your HIT Security System

Dr. MataBy Richard J. Mata, MD, CIS, CMP™ [Hon]

In order for a healthcare organization to thrive, it must be able to continue to function no matter what the circumstances are.

When disaster strikes, the organization must mobilize all the talent and resources needed to continue their operations and return to a normal state as soon as possible.

Time is money, and in today’s economy, an hour could be worth thousands of dollars.  Every department in an organization has responsibilities during a disaster.  Planning for a disaster and then dealing with it is a team effort by all parts of an organization.

Phases of Healthcare Business Continuity Planning

A system is required to realize this objective, and part of this system is healthcare entity business continuity planning (BCP).

Phase One: Set up a BCP Project

The first step is to set up a BCP project, which includes feedback from key members from all departments.  Appoint a project manager who has a solid background in the clinical and financial systems and functions that the organization deploys or services it provides.  The project manager can work with business and system analysts to document business flow and interactions with computerized systems that may go down, and how the organization will function on a manual system until service returns.

Phase Two: Review Emergencies and Assess Business Risk

The second phase involves reviewing the different types of emergencies that can arise and assessing the risks to the various business processes already documented.  This is accomplished following a system or service function.

Phase Three: Prepare for Emergencies

The third phase includes identifying of back-ups and recovery strategies to mitigate the effects of an emergency.  A storage area network (SAN) or redundant server could be used as back-ups.

Phase Four: Plan for Disaster Recovery

The fourth phase involves the development of procedures to be followed by a Disaster Recovery Team where human life may be at risk.  A disaster might be caused by weather, sabotage, or electrical power and be specific to the particular organization and its business and IT infrastructure.

Phase Five: Plan for Business Recovery

The fifth phase is critical, and involves developing detailed procedures for the recovery of the business.  Again, the BCP project manager could use each business or service procedure that was documented in phase two and detail which financial or clinical systems are involved, what would be done if the systems were down, and what the plan for recovering the system might be.

Phase Six: Test Business Recovery Procedures

The sixth phase involves simulating authentic emergencies and testing of the business recovery phase.  For example, how would business processes or services be affected by an electrical outage?  How fast can a power generator pick up the outage – and what might happen after a timely pause?  How would patients who were receiving mechanical support be affected?  What would happen to the clinical laboratory?

Phase Seven: Train the Staff

Phase seven covers the training of all employees in the procedures necessary to manage the business recovery process.  These are the procedures tested in phase six, which may require modification.

Phase Eight: Maintain the Currency of the Plan

Phase eight includes treating BCP as a dynamic project to be kept up to date to reflect all changes to business processes and employee structure.

Conclusion

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Current Outlook for the Hospital Industry

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Adaptation is Key in 2010 and Going Forward

By Robert James Cimasi; MHA, ASA, AVA, CBA, CMP™

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Hospitals today must continually adjust to deal with pressures to contain reimbursement and utilization levels.  The continuing cost containment pressures manifest themselves in many patients being shifted not only to lower acuity treatments but also to other providers.

Reimbursement mechanisms are increasingly designed to control costs and access. Managed care insurance plans continue to be a strong influence as payers for acute care hospital services. Medicare’s HOPPS [hospital outpatient prospective payment system] has reduced many of the financial benefits of shifting more care to outpatient settings.

Personnel Shortages

Personnel shortages have plagued the industry, and with the pending retirement of baby-boomers, relief from these shortages seems remote. This population also heavily influences the consumer side of the industry, since healthcare plans are based heavily upon demographics.  Aging baby-boomers are the fastest-growing segment of the population; the portion of the population over 65 years old is expected to increase from 20 million in 1970 to 69.4 million in 2030. Following closely behind is the increase in other minority populations.  Both groups will influence how healthcare services are dispensed.

Additionally, despite pressure to limit ALOS [average length of stay] and the shift to outpatient and freestanding, off-campus care, there will continue to be demand for acute care hospitals and the demographic trends will support this demand for many years.

Technology

Technological advances always play a central role in changing the medical industry.  The issue will be how healthcare providers will adopt new technologies under their current capital constraints.

Currently, health care insurance coverage is a major unfolding issue in the US, and there remains uncertainty about the future level of both public and private insurance coverage.  Now, facing the recent economic instability, employers are looking at restraining healthcare benefits for their employees even more as a way to stay profitable.

Assessment

The decline in the healthcare workforce coinciding with the increase in labor costs and resource consumption poses an ongoing challenge.  And yet, in the midst of the economic turmoil, hospitals must continue to provide services while remaining aware of the economic threats that may still lie ahead.

More:

Conclusion

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On Military Brain Injury Treatment

Leader Steps Down Abruptly

By T. Christian Miller, ProPublica, and Daniel Zwerdling, NPR – June 23, 2010 6:33 pm EDT

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WASHINGTON, D.C.–The leader of the Pentagon’s premiere program for treatment and research into brain injury and post traumatic stress disorders has unexpectedly stepped down from her post, according to senior medical and congressional officials.

Brig. Gen. Loree Sutton told staff members at the Defense Centers of Excellence [1], or DCOE, on Monday that she was giving up her position as director. Sutton, who launched the center in November 2007, had been expected to retire next year, officials with knowledge of the situation said. The center has not publicly announced her leaving.

Tell Us Your Story [2]

Did you or a loved one suffer a traumatic brain injury while serving? ProPublica and NPR want to hear your story. Tell us about your experiences with TBI. [2]

Sudden Departure

Sutton’s departure follows criticism in Congress [3] over the performance of the center and in recent reports [4] by NPR and ProPublica that the military is failing to diagnose and treat soldiers suffering from so-called mild traumatic brain injuries, also called concussions.

It comes just as the Pentagon prepares to open a new, multimillion-dollar showcase treatment facility outside Washington, D.C., for troops with brain injuries [5] and post traumatic stress disorder, often referred to as the signature wounds of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Late Wednesday, in a sign of disarray within the program, Sutton cancelled a scheduled appearance at the opening of the National Intrepid Center of Excellence [6], a gleaming new facility of waving glass and futuristic virtual reality treatment rooms in Bethesda.

“The war in Iraq and Afghanistan could end tomorrow; our mission to restore health, hope and humanity will endure for decades,” Sutton wrote in her farewell message [7]. “We simply must uphold our commitment to all who have borne the burdens of war on our behalf.”

Sutton did not respond to requests for comment. Her replacement, U.S. Army Col. Bob Saum, also declined to comment.

Adult-Resources

DCOE

Cathy Haight, the acting spokeswoman for DCOE, said Sutton’s departure, though apparently well ahead of schedule, was part of a routine command rotation. Haight said Sutton decided to leave after turning down the Army’s offer to take a new position overseeing the military medical system in Europe.

“If a general officer declines (a new position)…they are in a transition to retire,” Haight said.

In recent months, legislators have questioned Sutton’s ability to carry out the mission of the centers, which is to catalyze research and treatment across the military for soldiers returning with brain injuries and psychological wounds.

Congress directed the military in 2008 to create the brain injury center and other facilities for wounded soldiers. At an April hearing [8] of a House Armed Services subcommittee, Rep. Susan Davis [9], D-Calif., said that the center had failed to carry out its role.

“The Defense Center of Excellence, while having achieved some notable small scale successes, has not inspired great confidence or enthusiasm thus far. The great hope that it would serve as an information clearinghouse has not yet materialized,” Davis said.

“The center has also made some serious management missteps that call into question its ability to properly administer such a large and important function,” Davis continued.

Sudden Scrutiny

Scrutiny of Sutton rose another notch earlier this month, when NPR and ProPublica reported on the military’s problems in handling soldiers with mild traumatic brain injuries. Such injuries leave no visible scars, but can cause lasting mental and physical difficulties.

Military statistics show that about 115,000 troops have suffered such injuries since 2002, but in interviews, Army experts acknowledged the true toll may be far higher. Unpublished research we reviewed suggests that tens of thousands of soldiers may have gone undiagnosed. Our reporting also showed that even when soldiers were diagnosed, at one of America’s largest Army bases, they have had to fight to receive appropriate treatment [10].

Veterans’ Shocked

Still, some veterans’ advocates were shocked and saddened that Sutton was leaving. They said she had been a forceful, visible advocate for wounded troops and their families who had never received the full support of the military’s medical establishment.

Assessment

Critics of the military’s health system have noted a power vaccum at the top of the military medical structure. Four people in just over three years have rotated through the Pentagon’s top health policy position, the assistant secretary of defense for health affairs.

“She was always there for the troops,” said one veterans’ advocate, who did not want to be named for fear of criticizing the military. “She’s become the scapegoat.”

In an April interview with NPR and ProPublica, Sutton shrugged off the criticism. “Leading change,” she said, “is a journey not for the faint of heart.”

“We are very proud of the team that we have built, the concept in terms of the center of centers, the network of networks,” she said. “Are we anywhere close to where we want and need to be? No. Of course not.”

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A New Model for Planing Physician Retirement Needs

Understanding Age Banding

By Ann Miller RN, MHA

[Executive Director]

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