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Meet Don Rucker MD – The New NCHIT for the US-HHS

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National Coordinator for Health Information Technology

[By staff reporters]

We are pleased to announce that Don Rucker has been named the new National Coordinator for Health Information Technology at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Dr. Rucker, a physician leader with national clinical informatics success, has a strong scientific, computational and practical background in medical computing and decision sciences, he was a co-developer of the first Microsoft Windows based electronic medical record in the world.

Additionally, Dr. Rucker was a designer of the computerized physician order entry [CPOE] module that won the 2003 HIMSS Nicholas Davies Award as the best hospital computer system in the US.

Conclusion

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EHRs, ADA Leaders and Conflict of Interest

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A decade later ….?


By D. Kellus Pruitt DDS

In July 2007, Dr. Robert H. Ahlstrom, representing the American Dental Association and by default, all US dentists, testified before the National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics (NCVHS) on the benefits of EHRs in dentistry.

His testimony is featured in an official document titled:

“Testimony of the American Dental Association, National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics Subcommittee on Standards and Security July 31, 2007

http://www.ncvhs.hhs.gov/070731p08.pdf

Here are the ADA’s 11 selling points which Dr. Ahlstrom presented to HHS in support of electronic dental records:

  1. Dental office computer systems will be compatible with those of the hospitals and plans they conduct business with. Referral inquiries will be handled easily.
  2. Vendors will be able to supply low-cost software solutions to physicians/dentists who support standards-based electronic data interchange. Costs associated with mailing, faxing and telephoning will decrease.
  3. All administrative tasks can be accomplished electronically. Dentists will have more time to devote to direct care.
  4. Dentists will have a more complete data set of the patient they are treating, enabling better care.
  5. Patients seeking information on enrollment status or health care benefits will be given more accurate, complete and easier-to-understand information.
  6. Consumer documents will be more uniform and easier to read.
  7. Cost savings to providers and plans will translate in less costly health care for consumers. Premiums and charges will be lowered.
  8. Patients will save postage and telephone costs incurred in claims follow-up.
  9. Patients will have the ability to see what is contained in their medical and dental records and who has accessed them. Patient records will be adequately protected through organizational policies and technical security controls.
  10. Visits to dentists and other health care providers will be shorter without the burden of filling out forms.
  11. Consumer correspondence with insurers about problems with claims will be reduced.

Not one of Ahlstrom’s 11 promises has been fulfilled. None …. Total failure!

A decade later, it has become clear that the nation was misled by ambitious leaders of the American Dental Association who have since enjoyed power and/or profit from members’ misinformed adoption of digital records.

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 In my opinion, the grandest deception in the history of dentistry is clearly a result of a secretive not-for-profit corporation’s conflict of interest. This very important business lesson would have been lost to history if I hadn’t been documenting the true progress of EHRs in dentistry.

I (alone?) recognized very early that paperless was doomed simply because the needs of dentists and their patients was secondary to implementation of third-parties’ half-baked, selfish ideas. And I got spanked for that by the same ADA leadership behind Ahlstrom’s tainted testimony to Congress.

My ADA membership was suspended, and I still have not been told why. All the President of the Texas Dental Association would tell me is, “You know what you did.”

Assessment 

To this day, dental EHRs are both increasingly less secure than paper dental records as well as increasingly more expensive. What’s more, they offer no tangible benefits for the patients. ADA leadership failed my profession.

Transparency is accountability.

Conclusion

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On Physicians Texting [SMS]

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Some Technical Considerations

By Carol Miller BSN RN MBA PMP [Miller Consulting]

Carol S. Miller

Text (SMS = Short Message Service) Messaging has become nearly ubiquitous on mobile devices. According to one survey, approximately 72 percent of mobile phone users send text messages (TMs).

Clinical medical care is not immune from the trend, and in fact physicians appear to be embracing texting on par with the general population. Another survey found that 73 percent of physicians text other physicians about work.

(Source:  Journal of AHIMA, “HIPAA Compliance for Clinician Texting”, by Adam Green, April 2012)

Advantages

Texting can offer providers numerous advantages for clinical care. It may be the fastest and most efficient means of sending information in a given situation, especially with factors such as background noise, spotty wireless network coverage, lack of access to a desktop or laptop, and a flood of e-mails clogging inboxes.

Further, texting is device neutral—it will work on personal or provider-supplied devices of all shapes and sizes. Because of these advantages, physicians may utilize texting to communicate clinical information, whether authorized to do so or not.

Risks

All forms of communication involve some level of risk. Text messaging merely represents a different set of risks that, like other communication technologies, needs to be managed appropriately to ensure both privacy and security of the information exchanged.

Text messages, like all digital data,  may reside on a mobile device indefinitely, where the information can be exposed to unauthorized third parties due to theft, loss, or recycling of the device. Text messages often can be accessed without any level of authentication, meaning that anyone who has access to the mobile phone may have access to all text messages on the device without the need to enter a password.

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AA9tsnE

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Texts also are generally not subject to central monitoring by the IT department. Although text messages communicated wirelessly are usually encrypted by the carrier, interception and decryption of such messages can be done with inexpensive equipment and freely available software (although a substantial level of sophistication is needed.

If text messages are used to make decisions about patient care, then they may be subject to the rights of access and amendment. There is a risk of noncompliance with the privacy rule if the covered entity cannot provide patients with access to or amend such text messages.

The Wireless Association

According to 2012 data from CTIA–The Wireless Association, U.S. citizens alone exchange nearly 200 billion text messages every month. So it’s not surprising that an increasing number of clinicians are using text messaging to exchange clinical information, along with a wide range of other modes — smartphones, pagers, computerized physician order entry, emails, etc. Electronic communication is certainly faster, can be more efficient, enhances clinical collaboration and enables clinicians to focus on patient care. But with these benefits comes an increased risk of security breaches.

(Source:  Clarifying the Confusion about HIPAA – Compliant Texting, by Megan Hardiman and Terry Edwards, May 2013)

Unfortunately, vendor hype about the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act [HIPAA] is causing many hospitals and health systems to implement stop-gap measures that address part — but not all — of a problem. To identify all vulnerabilities, health care leaders need to consider not only text messaging, but all mechanisms by which protected health information in electronic form is transmitted — as well as the security of those mechanisms.

Mobile device-to-mobile device SMS text messages are generally not secure because they lack encryption.  The sender does not know with certainty that his or her message is indeed received by the intended recipient.  In addition, telecommunications vendor/wireless carrier may store the text messages.

Recent HHS guidance indicates text messaging, as a means of communicating PHI, can be permissible under HIPAA depending in large part on the adequacy of the controls used.  A hospital or provider may be approved for texting after performing a risk analysis or implementing a third-party messaging solution that incorporates measures to establish a secure communication platform that will allow texting on approved mobile devices.

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The Ponemon Institute

A study reported in Computer World in May 2013 by the Ponemon Institute with 577 healthcare and It professional in facilities that ranged from fewer than 100 beds to over 500 beds stated that fifty-one percent of the respondents felt HIPAA compliance requirements can be a barrier to providing effective patient care.

Specifically HIPAA reduces time available for patient care (85% of the respondents), makes access to electronic patient information difficult (79% of the respondents) and restricts the use of electronic mobile communications (56% of the respondents).

The study stated “respondents agreed that the deficient communications tools currently in use decrease productivity and limit the time doctors have to spend with patients. “ They also stated “they recognized the value of implementing smartphones, text messaging and other modern forms of communications, but cited overly restrictive security policies as a primary reason why these technologies were not used.”

Clinicians in the survey stated that only 45% of each workday is spent with patients; the remaining 55% is spent communicating and collaborating with other clinicians and using the electronic medical record and other clinical IT systems.

Several other statements made were:

  • Because of the need for security, hospitals and other healthcare organizations continue to use older, outdate technology such as pagers, email and facsimile machines. The use of older technology can also delay patient discharges – now taking an average of 102 minutes.
  • The Ponemon Institute estimated that the lengthy discharge process costs the U.S. hospital industry more than $3.189 billion a year in lost revenue, with another $5 billion lost through decrease doctor productivity and use of outdated technology. Secure text messaging could cut discharge time by 50 minutes.

(Source:  Computer World, “HIPAA rules, outdate tech cost U.S. hospitals $3.38 B a year”, by Lucas Mearian, May, 2013)

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smart phone mobile ME-P

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Assessment

Several suggestions offered for these preferred mobile devises are:  1) ensure encryption and access to individuals who need to have access; 2) use secure texting applications; and 3) even consider alerting employees with warnings before they send an email or share files that lets them know they are liable for the information sent

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ABOUT CAROL MILLER; BSN, MBA, PMP millerconsultgroup@gmail.com ACT IAC Executive Committee Vice Chairwoman at-Large HIMSS NCA Board Member [President – Miller Consulting Group] Phone: 703-407-4704 and Fax: 703-790-3257

Ms. Carol S. Miller has an extensive healthcare background in operations, business development and capture in both the public and private sector. Over the last 10 years she has provided management support to projects in the Department of Health and Human Services, Veterans Affairs, and Department of Defense medical programs. In most recent years, Carol has served as Vice President and Senior Account Executive for NCI Information Systems, Inc., Assistant Vice President at SAIC, and Program Manager at MITRE. She has led the successful capture of large IDIQ/GWAC programs, managed the operations of multiple government contracts, interacted with many government key executives, and increased the new account portfolios for each firm she supported. She earned her MBA from Marymount University; BS in Business from Saint Joseph’s College, and BS in Nursing from the University of Pittsburgh. She is a Certified PMI Project Management Professional (PMP) (PMI PMP) and a Certified HIPAA Professional (CHP), with Top Secret Security clearance issued by the DoD in 2006. Ms. Miller is also a HIMSS Fellow.

Conclusion

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Should HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius be Replaced?

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A Voting and Opinion Poll

[By Ann Miller RN MHA]

We are all aware that critics are calling for the head of Kathleen Sebelius after the clumsy online rollout of the PP-ACA.

And so, we ask:

Assessment

After you vote; please leave a cogent opinion, too.

Conclusion

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The RAND Corporation’s Health IT Legacy‏

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Understanding ObamaCare and HIT Data Breaches

[By Darrell K. Pruitt DDS]

1-darrellpruittTwo current topics in the HIT industry: (1) A dishonest 2005 RAND study set up lawmakers for disappointment in electronic health records, which are essential to Obamacare, and (2) I told you so.

The Reports

Just the other day, there were reports of two data breaches of EHRs involving over 734,000 patients in Texas and California.

http://www.ihealthbeat.org/articles/2013/10/23/health-facilities-in-california-texas-report-health-data-breaches

For reasons like this, the wisdom of an ambitious mandate for paperless healthcare by 2014 is beginning to be questioned by the same lawmakers who were sucked in years ago by RAND’s tainted 2005 study.

According to the vendor-friendly results gleaned from vendor-friendly data supplied by vendors, EHRs should have started saving 100,000 lives and $77 billion a year, years ago. Predictably, that has not happened. Far from it!

The Findings 

The happy findings – discredited even by RAND in January of this year – were paid for by Cerner and GE, who profited immensely from their RAND investment. Since nationwide adoption of EHRs became a bi-partisan goal with bubbly beginnings and millions of campaign dollars, the costs and danger of healthcare IT didn’t appear to bother conservatives until three months after RAND admitted the study was garbage.

In April, six GOP senators, led by Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), released a detailed report criticizing HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ execution of a $35 billion initiative to promote EHRs as part of the ARRA stimulus package. (See: “GOP senators raise concerns with push for electronic medical records,” by Sam Baker, April 16, 2013, The Hill).

http://thehill.com/blogs/healthwatch/medicare/294273-gop-senators-raise-concerns-with-push-for-electronic-medical-records

Wither ARRA?

Have you ever wondered why ARRA was passed as a jobs bill rather than as part of healthcare reform? Any ideas?

More recently, with the conservatives’ failure to stop Obamacare even by shutting down government, EHRs have become recognized as the ACA’s next best weakness. Yesterday, Greg Scandlen, writing for RightSideNews.com, posted “The Tyranny of Electronic Systems.” It goes downhill from there.

http://www.rightsidenews.com/2013102333379/life-and-science/health-and-education/the-tyranny-of-electronic-systems.html

Even More

Also yesterday, Michelle Mailkin writing for Townhall.com, an ultra-conservative website similar to RightSideNews, posted, “Don’t Forget Obamacare’s Electronic Medical Records Wreck.

http://townhall.com/columnists/michellemalkin/2013/10/23/dont-forget-obamacares-electronic-medical-records-wreck-n1730172?utm_source=TopBreakingNewsCarousel&utm_medium=story&utm_campaign=BreakingNewsCarousel

Assessment 

Conservatives found traction: Without the anticipated healthcare savings from EHRs, Obamacare will not survive. These times are not as happy for EHR stake-holders as RAND led them to expect.

Conclusion

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Hospital Information Systems and the PP-ACA

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Extension of Hospital Information Systems Beyond the Hospital

By Brent A. Metfessel MD

Dr. MetfesselThe Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), affirmed after the November 7th 2012 presidential election, includes a number of policies and potential projects with the aim of improving quality of care while reducing costs – or at least greatly slowing increases in health care costs from year to year.

Included in this effort are CMS payment incentives for providers that can show care patterns that meet the goals of high quality, cost-efficient care.

HHS and ACOs 

On March 31, 2011, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a set of proposed new rules to aid clinicians, hospitals, and other health facilities and providers to improve coordination of care for Medicare patients using a model known as Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs). ACOs that are shown to lower health care cost growth while meeting CMS quality benchmarks, including measures of patient/caregiver experience of care, care coordination, patient safety, preventive health, and health of high-risk populations, will receive incentive payments as part of the Medicare Shared Savings Program.

But, in some proposed models ACOs may also be held accountable for shared losses.

Care Co-ordination

Coordination of care means that hospitals, physician offices, and other providers have a complete record of patients’ episodes of care, including diagnostic tests, procedures, and medication information.  This potentially would decrease extra costs from unnecessary duplication of services as well as reducing medical errors from incomplete understanding of the patients’ illness histories and medical care provided.

It is also believed that better coordination of care may prevent 30-day hospital readmissions (which occur for nearly one in five Medicare discharges), since needed post-discharge care would be more readily obtainable with more aggressive care coordination.

Medicare patients in ACOs, however, would still be allowed to see providers outside of the ACO, and proposals exist to prevent physicians in ACOs from being penalized for patients with a greater illness severity or complexity.

According to a CMS analysis, ACOs may result in Medicare savings of up to $960 million over three years.  Although the Affordable Care Act’s ACO provisions primarily target Medicare beneficiaries, private insurers are also beginning to create care models based on the accountable care paradigm.  Insurers could offer similar incentives to the ACO model described above, and which might include features such as performance based contracting or tiered benefit models that favor physicians who score highly on care quality and cost-efficiency measures.

Balance

Only the Beginning

ACOs and other implementations of the accountable care paradigm, however, are in their beginning stages, with a number of pilots around the country currently being conducted to more fully evaluate the concept, and there still is some controversy over the best way to achieve these goals. It is a continuing balancing act.

The critical point here is that in all likelihood, with the advent of the ACA and other initiatives, stemming the upward tide of medical cost increases becomes an even higher priority, and no matter what the final models will look like, the success of any of the models requires a high level of care coordination – requiring information systems that are fully compatible and allow seamless and errorless transmission of information between sites of service and the various providers that can be involved in patient care.

More:

  1. Ground Breaking Book Explains Why Accountable Care Organizations May Be the Answer the Health Care Industry Has Been Seeking!
  2. Evaluating ACOs at Mid-Launch
  3. How Using a ‘Scorecard’ Can Smooth Your Hospital’s Transition to a Population Health-Based Reimbursement Model
  4. Doubting the Accountable Care Organization B-Model

Assessment

Thus, wherever a patient goes for care, all the information needed to provide high-quality and cost-efficient care is immediately available.

References

Feds Take Critical Look at Meaningful Use Payments”, InformationWeek Healthcare, October 24, 2012.  http://www.informationweek.com/healthcare/policy/feds-take-critical-look-at-meaningful-us/240009661 [Accessed on November 2, 2012].

Conclusion

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Healthcare Adversaries [video]

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Of HHS and AHIP

By Darrell K. Pruitt DDS

pruitt6If HHS and AHIP continue to give doctors the bum’s rush, what languages can we expect migrant providers to speak well?

The Conference

Last week, I came across a video of a health care conference held a month ago at the University of Miami. During a discussion period, a Miami spinal surgeon named Dr. Nordham warned that more Medicare pay cuts will make small, solo practices like his unsustainable.

Karen Speaks

Panelist Karen Ignagni, who is president and the CEO of America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), reacted defensively in favor of continued unsustainable discounts – but with a hasty, disingenuous response: “We’re seeing out of network charges of 95 times Medicare fees.” While as if on cue, former HHS Secretary Donna Shalala, who is also president of the university, offered her cold interpretation of the small business owner’s legitimate fears: “He’s really complaining that the price is going down [according to law].”

Shalala Speaks

After also ignoring the physician’s plea, “There needs to be more transparency,” Shalala and Ignagni continue an irrelevant, buzzword-filled discussion with each other using flowing hand gestures while shutting out the doctor’s attempts to bring the conversation back on topic. Then abruptly, without giving Dr. Nordham the opportunity to say another word, Shalala slammed the door: “…. I think we’ll take the next question, thank you.” Then she threw him a bone, “It’s a very important question, though.”

###

MD with eHR

Assessment

The 4 minutes of unvarnished disrespect of Dr. Nordham is so transparent that one wonders whether Shalala and Ignagni were even aware that their half-baked PR game was being recorded for C-span.

http://www.c-spanvideo.org/event/214023 (from 2:09:53 to 2:13:42)

They probably thought nobody stays up that late.

More: Chapter 13: IT, eMRs & GroupWare

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