January 29th, 2013

Communities in which health-care providers work together to coordinate evidence-based hospital discharges can see a six percent drop in hospitalizations and rehospitalizations in just the first two years, according to a new project study.

For the project, described January 22 in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), the Colorado Foundation for Medical Care (CFMC) coordinated 14 of Medicare’s Quality Improvement Organizations (QIOs), which are funded by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to help achieve national quality goals through focused efforts at the community and provider level.

Together, the QIOs implemented community-wide evidence-based improvements in patient care transitions. This included starting community organizations, providing technical assistance, and monitoring of participation, effectiveness and adverse effects.

Jane Brock, chief medical officer at CFMC and lead author for the JAMA article, said "The project was successful because rather than focus on one hospital ward, or 100 patients, it engaged whole communities to improve care for large geographically-defined populations.”

The JAMA article is titled "Associations between quality improvement for care transitions in communities and rehospitalizations among Medicare beneficiaries." If you would like to learn more about the benefits of coordinated care, please contact us.

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January 29th, 2013

One of the most asked for features in today’s electronic medical record (EMR) technology is a secure built-in messaging system. This is an important feature and many providers are integrating this feature. One project aims to make that easier, Direct Project.

When today’s health-care providers exchange information, they're likely sending paper through the mail or fax. But, a growing number of patients are asking for electronic communication, mainly email. Many clinics are happy to oblige, however, secure communications is important, because Meaningful Use Stage 2 requires a HIPAA-compliant secure messaging - HIPAA is the standard for protecting secure information in the health industry.

Yet, currently, many physicians who want to use secure messaging to communicate with patients may have to purchase a third-party vendor’s software to do so. This involves an additional service agreement as well as monthly fees. There is an option that your existing vendor may be able to use.

That option is the Direct Project. While not the only one out there, this is an interesting program. Its concept is simple: In the projects' own words, “Direct Project specifies a simple, secure, stable, standards-based way for participants to send authenticated, encrypted information directly to known, trusted recipients over the Internet.”

Essentially, each provider has a direct address that he or she can use to send and receive messages. Because these messages are secure, they can be used to send patient information to colleagues who need it for care.

A number of existing products already support the Direct Project specifications and allow for the secure delivery of messages. Visit Who’s Fueling Direct? to see if your vendor is one of them.

More information is available here.

Published with permission from Source.

January 3rd, 2013

Here’s one more reason to consider implementing a clinical decision- support system with interactive alerts: It improves outcomes for HIV patients, according to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

In the study, researchers from Boston's Massachusetts General Hospital divided 1,011 patients at a large outpatient clinic based on receipt of two types of alerts (for virologic failure, evidence of suboptimal followup and abnormal laboratory results). For the control group of patients, alerts appeared only on the patient's electronic medical records (EMR) page.

For the intervention group of patients, alerts appeared on the health-care provider's home page and in biweekly emails, and linked to previous appointments and lab results.

When the yearlong study was complete, researchers found that the intervention group showed significant improvement in the count of CD4-positive T cells during the year-long study.

The new alerts were so successful that more than 90 percent of participating providers supported making them part of the clinic's standard care.

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January 3rd, 2013

The earlier you familiarize yourself with ICD-10-CM, the easier the transition will be - so you may want to start now.

To recap, the ICD-9 code sets, which were used to report medical diagnoses and inpatient procedures, will be replaced by ICD-10 code sets. ICD-10 is more robust and descriptive than ICD-9, which is 30 years old, and has many outdated and obsolete terms.

You may ask why ICD-10 is any different from the annual code changes that already take place. The answer: ICD-10 codes have a completely different structure from ICD-9 codes. ICD-9 codes are mostly numeric and have three to five digits. ICD-10 codes are alphanumeric and contain three to seven characters. Like ICD-9 codes, however, ICD-10 codes will be updated every year.

Does the switch to ICD-10 affect you? More than likely. Everyone covered by HIPAA must transition to ICD-10 - including providers and payers who do not deal with Medicare claims. it's important to remember that all activity that happens in a doctor’s office will be covered. This is a big deal that will impact every doctor and those who aren’t prepared will experience significant loss of revenue.

The deadline for the transition is October 1, 2014. To help you make the transition, a widget for setting up a timeline for the switch to ICD-10 can be found here.

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December 20th, 2012

Year-end brings some important tax planning implications for physicians, because both the Tax Relief Act of 2010 and the Jobs Act of 2010 affected Section 179 of the tax code in a positive way. You can basically write off 100% of up to $139,000 of equipment and software you purchase this year. If you haven't taken advantage of this yet, there's still time!

Here's how it works:

First, you can purchase up to $560,000 worth of equipment and software (which would have been only $200,000 prior to the new legislation.)

Also, the deduction limit, after adjustment for inflation, has increased to $139,000 (which would have been only $25,000 prior to the new legislation).

The new law also allows 50% bonus depreciation on qualified assets placed in service during 2012.

When applying these provisions, Section 179 is generally taken first, followed by the bonus depreciation (unless the business has no taxable profit in 2012).

That’s a lot to digest, so let’s look at an example. Say you buy $150,000 worth of equipment and software - including an electronic medical record (EMR) this year. The calculation below shows how much it actually costs you after tax incentives.

Equipment Purchase = $150,000 First-year (2012) writeoff = $139,000 50% bonus first-year depreciation (150,000-139,000)X 50% = $5,500 Normal first-year depreciation (20% in each of five years on remaining amount) = $1,100 Total first-year deduction (139,000+5,500+1,100) = $145,600 Tax savings (145,600 X 36% tax rate) = $50,960 Cost of equipment after tax (15,000 less all tax deductions) = $99,040

To take advantage of this deduction, your equipment or software must be in place on or before December 31, 2012 - so don’t delay.

Remember, successful businesses take advantage of tax incentives to help lower their operating costs. The Section 179 gives businesses such as yours an incentive to invest in themselves by adding capital equipment, and it’s easy to use.

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December 3rd, 2012

Busy medical professionals often struggle to stay on top of it all: managing the business and handling billing often cuts into patient-care time. One solution: Get help from someone who can guide you through the process of using your technology the right way.

It’s one thing to have the technology you need; it’s another to maximize it. An information technology (IT) professional or firm should be able to work with you to provide tangible solutions to your technological challenges. They can speak with you and your staff, try to understand the issues, then make suggestions. That might involve achieving meaningful use. It might involve increasing efficiencies. It might involve cutting costs. Whatever the case, however, you’ll maximize your revenue potential.

Looking for technological assistance? We can provide that service. We will help ensure you’re using your electronic medical record (EMR) and other technology effectively; will work to understand what challenges you’re encountering and inspire you with new ideas to improve your practice's operations; in some cases, we can even help you keep abreast of regulatory trends and guidelines.

Published with permission from Source.

December 3rd, 2012

Buying quality hardware, hiring external assistance, and getting buy-in from practice staff are key steps to a successful electronic medical record (EMR) system implementation, according to primary care physicians.

That information comes from a recent Medical Economics survey, in which 30 doctors were asked to identify what helped them prepare for EMR implementation.

Other tips were hiring a scribe to help with data-gathering and template-creation; identifying one main resource to guide the implementation process; establishing a timeline to complete online training each week before implementation; and setting up weekly telephone conference calls with your vendor.

According to the survey, almost half of participants hired an information technology (IT) professional or firm, 12% hired some other outside assistance, and 8% paid for assistance from a regional extension center.

The good news: Most of the doctors surveyed said they were making progress with their EMR implementations. A full 82% were e-prescribing and 74% were maintaining an active medication list. But, there was room for improvement: 19% of doctors have implemented one clinical decision support rule, and just 7% were electronically exchanging key clinical information with other entities.

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November 5th, 2012

The outcome of the presidential election is not expected to change the strength of the health-care IT sector, according to a new study by Mercom Capital Group.

Because health-care IT touches virtually everybody in some way, it's become a large market that piqued the interest of investors, and significant funding is flowing into private companies.

According to the study, conducted in the third quarter of 2012, health information management companies received $101 million of funding in 20 deals, followed by mobile health companies with $39 million in seven deals and social health network companies with $26 million in four deals. Another funded deal this quarter was $25.5 million raised by Telcare, a mobile health company that uses cellular machine-to-machine technology for diabetes and other chronic illnesses.

The reason for the strength: Federal programs such as the HITECH Act of 2009, which made greater amounts of health data available for use. This has made applications possible.

This is good news for health-care providers, because it ensures that innovative applications are available to help them pursue their goals of increased efficiency and patient safety.

Published with permission from Source.

November 5th, 2012

Cloud computing is still a relatively new information technology concept, but it's already beginning to be relevant in health care - because it utilizes economies of scale to provide massive computing power and storage to users who sign up for the service. Here are five ways cloud competing is transforming health care.

Easy access - Cloud-based service providers have pushed open formats - any one can access and edit the code or format - instead of closed formats - only qualified experts can access and edit the code or format -, which makes adopting a cloud system as a replacement for a localized one easy and cheap. This is mainly because most cloud services can support multiple formats, which means you likely won't have to convert documents, images, files or folders.

Resiliency - Economies of scale allow cloud-based service providers to build large redundant data centers that emphasize backup and uptime for lower costs. This means your data will be available as long as you have an Internet connection.

Privacy - The level of security the cloud offers is much higher than what you see in a local IT department. Security in a hospital's server room may be as simple as keeping the door locked, usually with a lock that can be picked or hacked with relative ease. Data on many cloud servers is an encrypted blob of bits that most cloud providers don't have access to.

Innovation - Cloud-based service providers can improve their services rapidly, cheaply and with minimal interruption to service. The upside to this is that it frees up local IT staff for value-added tasks.

Mobility - By storing all computing power and data and in the cloud, health-care providers can provide staff access to that information anywhere, anytime - and that’s a boon for mobile applications.

If you're interested in learning more about how cloud services can help make your organization more efficient, please contact us.

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October 2nd, 2012

Doctors, it’s time to catch up: consumers are increasingly willing to interact with health information technology, according to a new survey.

The survey, conducted by Optum Institute and Harris Interactive, polled 4,270 physicians, patients and hospital executives.

According to the survey, patients are ready to use technology with health care: eighty-four percent would like online prescription refills; 75 percent would like to receive test results and access their medical records online; and 60 percent want to communicate with their doctors via email.

And that’s the case not just for younger generations, but for older ones as well. More than half of seniors surveyed are willing to go online to communicate with their physicians and manage their medical records.

Unfortunately, technology already in place and used by doctors lags behind a bit. While 70 percent of physicians have basic electronic medical records (EMRs), only 40 percent of physicians can engage with patients via email or provide patients with access to their health records.

Email has been widespread for nearly two decades, yet most patients still can’t reach out to their physicians through email. This shows that physicians should look into using email to communicate with patients.

“This research underlines the need for health information systems that can talk to each other, and that allow patients to access their own health information,” says Simon Stevens, chairman of the Optum Institute.

Published with permission from Source.