Pediatric office visits have declined by half during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Not only are children missing well-child checks, but also the vaccines that are given during these visits. Manufacturers are reporting a decline in vaccine orders and vaccine doses distributed through the Vaccines for Children program.
In this day and age of advanced technology, physicians have access to abundant clinical information at their fingertips. Electronic medical record (EMR) systems can provide physicians with the data they need to care for their patients at virtually any time or place (whether or not these systems are user-friendly is another story).
Approximately every 40 seconds someone in the United States has a stroke and roughly every four minutes someone dies of a stroke. It causes about one in 20 deaths annually – making it the fifth-leading cause of death – and the primary reason for long-term disability. Moreover, Alabama has the second-highest stroke mortality rate in the United States, behind Mississippi, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This high incidence of stroke has earned Alabama a spot in the stroke belt, dubbed so by the medical community.
The Brookwood Baptist system recently incorporated state-of-the art Cardiac Magnetic Resonance (CMR) imaging for diagnosis patients with complex cardiovascular conditions. The technique allows for the acquisition of three-dimensional multi-planar moving images of the heart, blood vessels and associated organs without the need for ionizing radiation in about one 15-minute session.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology has published a bulletin that provides several key reminders for people who have had to shift to working remotely as a response to COVID-19. The guidance, which can be found in full at the link below, summarizes previous NIST guidelines for working safely when out of the office.
We live in a three-dimensional world, where many physicians and surgeons diagnose, treat and operate on patients using flat images, but that is not the case at Children’s of Alabama. Seven years ago, I helped open Children’s first 3-D laboratory, which provides cutting-edge technology through advanced visualization. We help our medical staff provide a clearer, less invasive and more realistic view of joints and organs. With this type of information, doctors can also give patient families a clearer vision and understanding of their child’s condition.
Are you struggling to keep your employees engaged? Are you aware of the factors that impact engagement in the workplace? Often, we assume that if employees like their jobs, they will be fully engaged at work, but in reality, healthy workplace engagement extends beyond job satisfaction. Engaged employees not only enjoy their jobs, but are also motivated to work toward a common goal aligned with their company’s vision. It’s a big-picture formula that involves both the organization and management.
As the new division director of the Pediatric Hematology-Oncology and Blood Marrow Transplantation program in the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Department of Pediatrics and Children’s of Alabama, my top priority is to build a well-rounded program; a program that is not only strong in its clinical mission – to provide the best treatment possible for children with cancer and blood diseases – but one that also has a strong research base, which includes clinical, basic and translational research.
Information Technology now dominates almost every part of our daily lives and in most cases, we do not have to think or worry the outcomes. We trust that what we input on our phones, keyboards and tablets will result in the right answer. With these repetitive motions it has allowed our business to grow and flourish. But what happens when those items break?
You are likely aware of the outbreak of measles that has received a lot of attention in 2019. The CDC reports that over 1,000 cases of measles have been reported this year, which is the greatest number of cases reported in the U.S. since 1992.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a common problem affecting nearly one-third of the adult population. The long-term health effects of untreated OSA are beginning to become established and are frightening: increased risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, dementia, pulmonary hypertension.
VoIP is a game-changer for the healthcare industry’s communication landscape, allowing for quicker, more reliable communication. However, it also brings with it a multitude of HIPAA concerns that can be confusing to navigate.
Yesterday, I received a text from my eye doctor informing me that I have not scheduled my yearly exam and need to make an appointment. The notification was an electronic version of the Annual Patient Postcard reminders. But unlike the old postcards, the text included links to automatically call the office or direct me to visit self-scheduling. Booking that appointment has been on my to-do list for weeks, but I seem to only remember to do it after the office has closed. Yet, with one click and about two minutes of my time, the mission was accomplished. That’s when it dawned on me – healthcare is going “Amazon.”
There is no one simple solution that will eliminate all business security risks. However, organizations can build a robust internal culture of security that can profoundly decrease those risks. This approach starts from the top down.
Recently, a friend in the pharmaceuticals business asked me about SGLT-2 Inhibitors. He wanted to know what a nephrologist thought of the drugs, and I expressed strong misgivings about potential complications.
Over the last few years, cell phones have become computers, capable of much of the functionality that your office computer has. This is also true for small portable devices such as iPads, Windows and Android tablets. Are these devices and applications as secure as those you use from your clinic? In most cases, the answer is no.
As our society transitioned to mobile phones, a frequently overheard question and related advertising theme was “Can you hear me now?”
Check-ups, tests, and results. Doctors provide, measure, and deliver data to patients every day, often with profound implications. Financial advisors, at least the diligent ones, offer the same to their clients. Much of our data focuses on helping people have confidence that they can do what they want to do and not run out of money at the same time. Approaches and technical tools may vary, often with significant differences in degrees of sophistication. It has been common practice for advisors to use these tools to help project a portfolio’s ability to provide income for retirement. Rates of return are calculated, spending requirements input, withdrawal rates assumed, and end-of-life portfolio values projected.
Over the past several years the healthcare industry has become the number one target of cyberattacks. These attacks have exposed tens of millions of customers’ identities worldwide, costing an estimated $1 billion USD in losses.
The numbers tell the story.
Vince Lombardi once said football is not a contact sport. Dancing is a contact sport. Football is a collision sport. He was right. And when you or your family members are involved in collision sports like football (or soccer, wrestling, basketball, mountain biking, etc.) your shoulders may pay the price. Contact injuries to the shoulder are a common cause of down-time and occasionally result in surgery. What is the best management for these injuries?
A recent global study by the Ponemon Institute finds that the financial damage caused by a data breach has risen by 6.4 percent in the last year and now costs companies an average of $3.86 million each.
In 2016 Forrester Research analysts focused their attention on emerging social phenomenon in consumer behavior. They identified several key social trends that are impacting our industry’s ability to adapt to changing policy, market trends and patient needs. One trend they observed was the rapid adoption of new solutions and the abandonment of solutions that didn’t immediately provide value. This trend was seen across all industries.
January 14, 2020 is a special day for Microsoft Corporation (you know that little company that controls 82.88 percent of the computer software market share). On that date, Microsoft will end the life of some of the major software that businesses use. End of life means that the manufacturer will no longer support the product. This list includes:
The Department of Justice designated 12 federal prosecutors across the country as part of the Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Units. These Units are assigned to areas where the most opioid drug-related deaths have occurred: California, Nevada, Alabama, Central Florida, East Tennessee, West Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Maryland. Members of these Units also includes numerous federal, state, and local law enforcement and governing entities including the DEA, FBI, HHS, and other federal and state agencies (Medicaid Fraud Control Units, FDA, IRS, State Pharmacy Boards, etc.). These Units have a specific mandate to target physicians, pharmacists, and ancillary services (addiction treatment centers, etc.).
A look at the calendar tells us that we only have a short time left in 2018. That means many practices will be looking to complete their Security Risk Assessments in order to either qualify for the 2018 Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) or to simply fulfill their obligations to comply with the HIPAA Security Rule.
National Cybersecurity Awareness Month was created in 2004 by the Department of Homeland Security and the National Cyber Security Alliance to remind us that each we all have the power to make the Internet safer.
2017 was the first year for participation in the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS), a Quality Payment Program (QPP) implemented by CMS, to award or penalize participating clinicians with regard to future Medicare reimbursements based upon reporting under four categories:
How often do you walk into a room and completely forget why you went into the room? Or do you struggle with remembering someone’s name a few seconds after they introduce themselves to you? It seems that these “senior moments” occur more frequently as we all get older. As a clinical neuropsychologist, I am often asked if this is normal aging or if it is a sign of a bigger problem such as Alzheimer’s disease. The field of neuropsychology is uniquely skilled to answer this very question. Clinical neuropsychology is a sub-field of psychology which examines the relationship between the brain and behavior. It uses neuroscience, neuroanatomy, cognitive psychology, cognitive science and clinical psychology to understand the structure and function of the brain in relation to behavior and the information processing aspects of the mind. Neuropsychologists help to assess, diagnosis and treat individuals with neurological, medical, developmental or psychiatric conditions across the lifespan. Neuropsychological testing can aid in understanding how different areas of the brain are working. Neuropsychologists use various standardized tests to objectively examine a person’s strengths and weaknesses in all areas of thinking or cognition. Tests may be paper-and-pencil, answering questions, computer-based or task oriented. Areas of cognitive impairment or deficit can be identified and placed within the context of the individual’s medical and psychological history in order to determine what condition may be impacting a person’s functioning and thinking.
Many Alabama providers participated in the Quality Payment Program in 2017, under MIPS (Merit Based Incentive Program). A handful participated in a MIPS APM (Alternative Payment Model), which is a baby step towards alternative payments, but still left the participants free from downside risks. As we pass the half-way point for the 2018 performance period, exploring risk bearing programs is on the rise.
Is your EHR application in the cloud or are you considering moving to a cloud based provider? If so ensuring that you know the providers processes for data backup, disaster recovery and overall security are extremely important.
One of the greatest challenges facing the healthcare industry isn’t a political issue, it’s a geographic issue. What if I told you that approximately 50 million Americans (17 percent of the total population of the US) have limited access to high quality healthcare because they live in rural communities? Rural healthcare has a unique set of challenges including not only geographic but also economic and lifestyle factors.
Where are the old (and not so good) days when a patient with myocardial infarction was staying in hospital bed for a week?
Malware are created with the intent to damage or disable our mobile devices, computers or servers. These attempts can include disrupting computing or communication operations, trying to steal sensitive data, accessing our private networks, or hijacking our systems to exploit their resources. With the tremendous growth in email and internet use over the last couple of decades, we have seen a corresponding explosion of growth in malware
I recently visited a specialty practice at a major health system. As I approached the registration desk a posted sign directed me to a standing kiosk to sign in. The family member I accompanied to the visit was unable to stand at the kiosk, so I provided the needed information and signed her in. Although it was a quick and seamless process, I was concerned because if I needed assistance, there were no employees to ask. Many practices have implemented kiosk sign-ins and have someone to assist a patient with the process if needed. Practice administrators have made the decision to implement kiosk to assure verification of the current insurance policy and prompt the patient to pay any out of pocket expense before they see the doctor. Many of the kiosk solutions allow a pre-registration via email to allow the patient to populate data and upload information from their own device at their convenience. Benefits of Kiosk Sign-ins include: reduction in the staffing at the front desk, decrease in patient wait time, and most impressively is the increase of time of service collections.
One of the greatest challenges healthcare organizations face today is clinical application interoperability – the communication between computer systems, applications, or software to allow them to work in conjunction with one another.
It is especially important for smaller practices to be mindful of Electronic Protected Health Information (ePHI) security regulations – a breach of ePHI can lead to costly notification requirements and potential monetary penalties under the HITECH Act. Managing physicians of small independent practices hold many responsibilities, including the duty to comply with the Security Rule within HIPAA regulations. This article provides a brief overview of federal ePHI compliance safeguards required in a practice. While not meant to be a comprehensive discussion of all requirements, it highlights legal considerations and safeguards a practice must implement to comply with HIPAA ePHI regulations. The federal Security Rule under HIPAA requires a health care provider (typically known as a Covered Entity) to have the minimum ePHI safeguards, listed below.
As today’s healthcare drive pushes practices even further down the path of pay for performance versus the older models of pay for volume, administrators and executives throughout healthcare are researching and implementing ideas to provide an overall better experience for patients.
Pelvic organ prolapse (POP) is the descent of one or more parts of the vagina and/or uterus. Woman may experience displacement of the anterior, posterior or apex of the vagina, and often there is a combination. This is referred to as a cystocele, rectocele and enterocele.
According to the Ponemon Institute – www.ponemon.org - the average cost of a data breach was $3.62 million dollars. This breaks down to $141 dollars per stolen record. International Data Corporation – www.idc.com – estimates that globally data storage will grow ten-fold by 2025 total of 163 zettabytes (a trillion gigabytes) by 2025. Data is stored in a vast range of devices including your smart phone, laptops, notebooks, workstations, tablets and even on your smart TV. Most businesses focus on the technical aspects of how to avoid data breaches (firewalls, anti-virus, security patches, etc.) and often how physical technical assets are destroyed at the end of their life are often overlooked or do not have a set process in place.
Almost everyone has seen the ads for the new anticoagulants at this point. However, many Americans still remain in the dark regarding what atrial fibrillation (Afib) is and it’s potentially devastating consequences. Despite increasing efforts to improve the awareness for atrial fibrillation, many still do not know it’s signs and symptoms or that it is a progressive disease. Afib is the most common arrhythmia in the world affecting 3-6 million Americans with projections of up to 16 million by the year 2050.
They were surprised, and you likely be will, too. Of the hundreds of healthcare organizations I’ve helped document HIPAA and meet compliance requirements, most are unaware that their Patient Health Information (PHI) is exposed in some way. If a cyber attacker took advantage of this situation, it could cause damage to your patients, bring giant HIPAA fines, and a loss of reputation.
If you surveyed managing physicians and office managers from the Birmingham area about their business continuity plans, how confident do you think they would be with their Disaster Recovery solution? Do they feel prepared? Have they even thought about it?
Physicians and other medical care professionals spend years studying, training and preparing themselves to provide best possible care to their patients. In many instances, these professionals spend the bulk of their attention and energy on treating their patients and meeting the day-to-day challenges that come with providing the best care possible. Unfortunately, practicing in today’s economic climate within a medical industry undergoing a vast transformation has forced many medical professionals to place equal value on business issues that effect their practice. Often times, the business of operating a medical practice is never discussed in medical school. Instead, many healthcare professionals are forced to learn fundamental business principles on the fly in private practice. With the emergence of electronic medical records and coding, many healthcare providers and practices are spending a substantial amount of time concentrating on the business of healthcare in addition to patient care. Of all the business issues that must now be prioritized by the medical industry, medical billing and managing account receivables can bear the most burden of all.
We hate to break it to you, but there's a HIPAA requirement you’re more than likely doing wrong. The Department of Health & Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is cracking down on requiring a true Healthcare Security Risk Analysis.
Every year, new hearing aid technology is introduced to the market. New technology in hearing aids boasts updates and changes in directional microphones, sound processing algorithms, noise reduction features, amplitude and frequency compression, and audio data transfer between hearing aids, just to mention a few. What is often forgotten however, is that the primary objective of a traditional hearing aid fitting is to ensure that the patient is receiving the appropriate amount of amplification for their hearing loss at each frequency.
As we finalize 2017 participation in the Merit Based Incentive Program, most of us focused on improved performance in quality since the category carried the highest weight of 60%. Those who had previous success in Meaningful Use found the Advancing Care category easy to address. The Practice Improvement category is new and somewhat vague, but many practices were already performing tasks that qualified as an improvement activity. It is important to document the approach to improvement and track success because this category is subject to audit in the future.
Your business' data could be compromised by the most unlikely of sources -- your own IT manager.
Over the past couple months, I’ve encountered multiple chilling examples of IT staff gone rogue. Of course, this isn't happening every day. But when it does, it's especially damaging to organizations with a one-person IT department. These lone IT managers often hold the keys to the kingdom. No one person - IT expert or not - should ever have complete control over passwords, access, processes, etc. Why? Consider these two recent incidents:
What is myopia?
Myopia is a condition that results in distant objects appearing blurry to a patient when not being corrected with glasses or contact lenses.1 Myopic blur typically results from the eye being too long for its optical focusing components (cornea and crystalline lens), which causes distant objects to be in focus in front of the retina (back of the eye) instead on the retina, a requirement for the eye to be able to see clearly.1 About one third of Americans have myopia, and its prevalence is likely increasing because of factors associated with living in a developed country (e.g., decreased time outdoors).2-5 With that said, the scientific community only has a vague understanding of how genetics and the environment influence the development and progression of myopia.1 While myopia’s visual affects can be a costly nuisance and strain on the health care system,6 myopia also places the affected individuals at a greater risk for developing vision-threatening conditions like cataracts, retinal detachments, and glaucoma.1 Once present, myopia cannot be cured; therefore, preventing it or even reducing the amount of myopia that a patient develops is an upmost priority for the scientific community.7
As of September 30, 2017, the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights (OCR) has received notices of 237 breaches. 46% occurred as result of hacking or IT security incidents; many at the business associate level. Ransomware is rampant and projected to increase 670%. As a covered entity, although a breach occurs at your business associate, under HIPAA, you are responsible for your protected health information and responding to the breach. OCR has been clear that breaches of 500 or more records will be investigated. Given the significant increase in breaches over the past few years, advance preparation is critical and can reduce the cost and burden of breach response.
Did you know a single patient health record can earn cybercriminals 10 times the price of a stolen credit card number on the black market?
The Office of Civil Rights is auditing small and large healthcare providers alike, imposing multi-million dollar fines in some cases. Meanwhile, the same electronic storage, mobile devices, and cloud-based applications that patients, doctors, and healthcare staff want to use often compromise a practice’s ability to keep that patient data safe.
Albert Einstein once said, “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” Moving is one thing the City of Opelika is determined to do…even on two wheels.
Tumor Treating Fields or TTF as it is more commonly known is a recently developed method by which malignant brain tumor cells are prevented from reproducing. Shelby Baptist Medical Center and Generations Radiotherapy & Oncology PC has begun therapy on its first patient using this entirely new approach in the treatment of malignant brain tumors with the Optune TTF system.
A family medicine doctor is someone you can always feel comfortable voicing your concerns to and leave an appointment feeling as though you were really listened to. They will help you to become an informed and active member of your healthcare decision-making process.
As we approach the beginning of summer, our minds are likely not on summer vacation. The process of assessing our electronic medical record vendor, absorbing the details of MIPS, and making the decisions on how to prepare, is overwhelming for small practices. The transition to value based medicine has been evolving over the last 10 years in stages; adopting electronic health record, Quality Reporting, and Meaningful Use. Many administrators and physicians did not realize the importance of each project; from choosing the right EMR, to implementing it properly, therefore achieving best practice workflows.
Recycling electronics is a great way to help conserve and reuse valuable resources and materials found in many gadgets, including glass, plastics, and various metals such as copper, gold, palladium, and silver. Many electronics, especially computers and televisions, contain toxic materials such as cadmium, lead, and mercury. Recycling and reusing electronics helps to keep these toxic materials out of our landfills and water supply.
Early detection of coronary artery disease is a signiﬁcant problem. One third of deaths after 35 are secondary to cardiovascular disease. One half of middle aged men and one third of middle aged women will develop coronary artery disease. Currently our ability to detect early disease is limited. By the time symptoms occur there is usually 70% obstruction of the coronary artery. Data from autopsies on Korean War casualties indicate initial signs of development of coronary plaque in the early 20’s of age. Theoretically it would seem appropriate to begin prevention therapy as soon as possible but who should get it? Obviously, the patients with known vascular disease and equivalents such as diabetes would need this therapy. Those without established disease need an estimate of their risk.
In the last 10-15 years, the use of mid-level providers has increased to expand the base of patients in many practices. The Nurse Practitioner scope of practice is more flexible and there are specialty designations available to foster expertise in certain areas. The insurance companies have expanded the number of plans covering a mid-level provider’s services.
Devices that store information are now everywhere and used multiple times by most people on a daily basis. From PCs, to laptops, to phones and tablets, to USB keys and external hard drives – the amount of data that a person can potentially store has grown exponentially over the past decade. While the convenience of near unlimited storage is very appealing, it also introduces new challenges.
Moving a medical practice can be a daunting task. A medical office move can be a result of needing a bigger space, physician retirement, or practice acquisition. While making patients aware of a major change is most certainly a priority, it is equally important to make sure their documents and all office data and service equipment survives the move as well.
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