Welcome all to 2019! We took a break over the last several weeks of December to be with family and to celebrate all that we have to be thankful for over 2018. But as of today – we’re back at it. A few of these news stories may be a few weeks old, but still quite relevant to our field of healthcare information technology. The work in this space didn’t take a break, so here is a few stories of what has been reported over that time….
With health insurance customers reporting poor experience with their providers, health insurers across the U.S. are doubling their effort to provide a more pleasing service to their patrons. Investing heavily on digital tools and other health-related technologies is part of the industry’s effort to appease their base. The sector’s move comes after startups and other industry disruptors started attracting their customers by offering an easier and simpler navigation in meeting their healthcare needs. In a study from Accenture, it was discovered that many of those enrolled in a health insurance program lacked healthcare literacy, which causes stress and frustration. Gregory Brown of Health Care Service Corp. said the redesign should start with customers first for it to be truly effective.
Population health management (PHM) programs are looking into technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning to bring an experience previously limited to higher-cost patient group. The U.S. PHM sector is valued at 3 billion U.S. dollars and is expected to further expand in the coming years. Koustav Chatterjee of Frost & Sullivan said with investments on AI and machine learning, PHM can easily identify groups that are most likely to be receptive to precision intervention. He added that this is a significant investment as social determinants play an essential role in population health and value-based care.
Electronic health records (EHR) integration is the newest challenge for telehealth vendors, just like every other vendor in the healthcare industry. KLAS Research conducted a research on 10 companies including American Wellness, MDLive, Epic, and SwyMed. They found that most of their virtual care programs (VCP) are still in its infant stage to have the capability to offer EHR integration. The result of the research could spell trouble for the industry. The U.S. government has started pressuring vendors to adopt interoperability, especially with EHR. Epic however is ahead of the pack having integrated the feature into its MyChart patient portal.
Related Read: Telehealth is Revolutionizing the Healthcare Industry
Massachusetts General Hospital and Korean blockchain startup MedBloc announced their partnership in late 2018. Its aim is to introduce a DLT-based storage and exchange mechanism that will be used alongside its existing EHR system. IEEE Standards Association director Maria Palombini explained that blockchain can help the sector deal with the numerous amount of data patients need to disclose every time they visit a hospital. She added that this puts more power to the patient, as the technology keeps the patient records and is perfect to be easily shared with the patient’s doctor when needed.
The year 2018 is on the running to land the first place as the worst year for cybersecurity in the healthcare sector. In the first quarter of the year, there were 8.7 million breaches recorded and in the last quarter of 2018, AccuDoc Solutions and other providers suffered an attack that affected 2.65 million. Promotheus David Finn of CynergisTek said vendors should start focusing on things like automation. He highlighted that human insight and interpretation continues to play an important part in ensuring security of electronic health records and other data. Lack of investment is seen as one of the factors contributing to breaches experienced in the healthcare industry.
Mind and Motion Developmental Centers of Georgia suffered a ransomware attack that could have affected data of about 16,000 patients. The attackers were found to focus on retrieving patients’ names, birth dats, Social Security number, and insurance details as well as medical records. After the attack, the firm hired a compliance consulting firm and an outsider IT firm to assist in reporting the incident and looking into the attack’s entry point and strengthening their security protocols. Mind and Motion immediately encouraged its customers to change their password and have it regularly updated to prevent future hacks. Additionally, investigation found that the hacker also installed an inactive keylogger, spam emailer, and other minor malware.
Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health IT head Donald Rucker believes that the 21st Century Act will bring about a significant change in interoperability and the way patients manage their health records. While the rule is yet to be released, the ONC head said it will be coming sooner than expected. The rules include the manner the agency will take advantage of open API. The technology was mentioned in the Cures Act as a medium to exchange and access health data without the need for special effort. Rucker added that the rules will include specific API security requirements for both providers and EHR vendors, but will not be too restrictive for it to remain at pace with modern technology.