Healthcare Giants Attack Rising Costs, Pursue Greater Efficiency

Whether on the vendor or provider side, the business of healthcare isn’t getting any easier. Across the sector, companies and caregiver organizations are tightening their respective belts while firing up initiatives to increase efficiencies.

At the end of last year’s third quarter, EHR developer athenahealth — which supports a nationwide network of more than 100,000 providers and 100 million patients — reported a 7 percent earnings shortfall. The company simultaneously announced several cost-cutting measures, including a 9 percent workforce reduction, shutdowns of redundant business operations, and sell-offs of real estate assets and a corporate jet.

Athenahealth CEO Jonathan Bush said the moves reflected the company’s “changing mindset as we evolve the way we do business.”

Additionally, the firm revealed a major follow-up move this month by naming former General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt as athenahealth chairman. Immelt previously grew GE’s healthcare technology business from fledgling status to a $20 billion operation during his tenure.

Immelt is viewed as a “door opener” and deal closer among hospital and health system C-suite executives, an area where athenahealth has lagged competitors, according to George Hill, an analyst for RBC Capital Markets.

Referring to Immelt’s appointment, Bush added, “Jeff shares our vision for more connected, efficient and human-centered healthcare … Like us, [he] believes a platform-oriented business and technology strategy is fundamental to executing against that vision.”

More Heavy Hitters Step In

Healthcare’s door swung open again recently when the powerhouse trio of Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase revealed plans for a partnership aimed at cutting costs and improving services.

Initially, the enterprise will focus on healthcare system improvements for their collective 1.1 million employees. Nonetheless, the independent new company will strive to leverage technology to simplify the healthcare throughout the country.

Berkshire CEO Warren Buffett said combined resources within the group would be tasked with reining in healthcare’s “ballooning” costs while enhancing patient satisfaction and outcomes.

Adam Fein, president of Pembroke Consulting, commented that the new, as-yet-unnamed organization could help physicians and patients make more informed and cost-effective decisions.

Idris Adjerid, management IT professor at Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business, told CNBC that Amazon, in particular, could play a strong role in bringing artificial intelligence and information-sharing platforms to healthcare. “We find that technology initiatives that facilitated information sharing between disconnected hospitals resulted in significant reductions in healthcare spending,” Adjerid noted.

What remains to be seen, however, is the full scope of the companies’ collaborative effort.

Robert Field, professor of health management and policy at Drexel University, predicted that the alliance would leverage technology to change healthcare delivery across the board. “We’re going to lose the personal touch in healthcare, but perhaps we need to be going in [that] direction,” Field observed. “We don’t have the corner bookshop the way we used to, and we don’t have a corner pharmacy the way we used to. Healthcare is going there one way or another.”

Staying Ahead of the Curve

NetDirector agrees that technological innovation will steer healthcare toward brighter days ahead in terms of fiscal stability and enhanced patient care.

Cloud-based integration and strong record management — hallmarks of NetDirector’s HealthData Exchange platform — create not only cost savings but also greater efficiencies on the non-revenue-generating side of the patient lifecycle. In doing so, the platform increases the number of patients a provider organization can reasonably sustain.

For more information on HealthData Exchange, please contact us or request a free demo.

Workflow-Aware Outreach Contributes to Healthcare Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity presents a huge, ongoing challenge for healthcare organizations across the board. Information systems, medical devices, and patient data must be protected at all times, but many hospitals and practices cannot afford to retain in-house personnel solely dedicated to security. At the same time, they often lack the technology infrastructure needed to identify and track security threats and subsequently translate threat data into action.

What’s more, healthcare workers regularly and mistakenly assume their IT network and supported devices function with a low level of cybersecurity vulnerability.

An industry task force, established by the Cybersecurity Act of 2015, reported to Congress last June with recommendations for shaping an urgent response. The group set forth expectations for healthcare cybersecurity and called for increased protections for and resilience of IT systems and supported devices. The task force also addressed human factors by emphasizing workforce readiness enabled by improved cybersecurity awareness and education.

An Effective Action Plan

Forward-thinking facilities recognize that disparate IT systems and devices must interoperate within a unified scheme. For example, when Marin General Hospital, located north of San Francisco, updated system-wide security in 2016, the executive who led the project went beyond filling in technology gaps.

Jason Johnson, Marin’s chief information security officer, told Healthcare IT News: “We took a different approach to focus on the person and people [involved] because we knew that would be the hardest needle to move and the most difficult to change.”

Johnson’s team instituted mandatory security awareness training, going so far as to integrate it within new employee orientation. Additionally, the project team interviewed clinical staff to gain an understanding of their daily workflows. That effort identified caregivers’ top channels of email communication, which paved the way for the build-out of encryption “tunnels” that could seamlessly lock down emails containing patients’ protected health information.

The results? One year after the project started, Marin reported a 50 percent drop in system vulnerabilities, along with 100 percent staff participation in security awareness efforts. Click rates on malicious emails fell from 63 percent to a practically non-existent 0.5 percent.

Departmental outreach was key, concluded Johnson. “Once people were convinced it was a good idea and everyone was onboard, security became a requirement,” he explained. Every new project or contract now requires a standardized security review.

Integration and the Human Factor

As the Marin case shows, technology integration can flourish through an approach that takes into account human responsibilities on the front lines of care. Healthcare is notorious for dependence on “tribal knowledge” — individualized bits of information residing in staff members’ heads or scribbled on post-it notes — and such vulnerabilities often aren’t readily apparent. However, workflow-based analysis takes into account human factors prior to revamping core processes.

Further, technology such as NetDirector’s HealthData Exchange platform, which automates the sharing of clinical and billing data, frees up labor resources by simplifying the integration process. As a result, care providers can spend more time focusing on patient needs while technologists keep a watchful eye on ever-present compliance and cybersecurity issues.

For more information on HealthData Exchange, please contact us or request a free demo.

NetDirector and myCatalyst Partnership Relieves Data Troubles and Eases Integration Process for Improved Healthcare Outcomes

TAMPA, Fla.Jan. 3, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — NetDirector, a cloud-based data exchange and integration platform, has further solidified its presence in the healthcare data environment through a partnership with data-centric, actionable analytics and reporting company myCatalyst, Inc. This collaboration will allow both companies to grow their already strong data integration capabilities, and ultimately improve patient care coordination for all their clients.

With a focus on care coordination and P4O reimbursement models through the support of clinically integrated networks, myCatalyst compiles data from all areas and providers involved in member/population health management. myCatalyst surpasses the limits of data warehousing and, with the collaboration of NetDirector, provides seamless integration with other vendor systems. This includes synchronizing member data and providing physicians and employers with the opportunity to develop a proactive, strategic approach.

The partnership focuses on providing a cloud-based, zero-footprint data integration solution that will allow myCatalyst to connect to even more Electronic Health Records (EHR) systems and Hospital Imaging Systems (HIS).

Robin Foust, co-developer and co-owner of myCatalyst, shared that “joining the NetDirector ecosystem will help myCatalyst connect faster with even more EHRs and HIS systems, and provide for better coordination between components of healthcare. This will allow our customers to achieve optimal efficiency and healthcare outcomes through data integration and collaborative care.”

With the volume and quality of data in healthcare continuing to surge, it is important for companies to leverage that data towards population health and information-driven patient care. The combination of NetDirector and myCatalyst allows healthcare providers and organizations to quickly and accurately exchange data through a multitude of interfaces available to them, without doing the heavy lifting themselves and taking on the additional responsibility of managing data in the cloud.

Using results from encounters, assessments, biometric data, medical, pharmacy claims, and more, myCatalyst compiles data onto a dashboard, and provides the tools necessary to enable physician practices to track patient progress, identify gaps in care, and achieve optimal financial and healthcare outcomes, and to provide data analytics and reporting to support the same for the populations and patients being served (ACO, Employers, Clinically Integrated Networks, Direct-To-Primary Care [DPC], and more).

“Our partnership with myCatalyst is a major step towards providers leveraging the wealth of data available to them,” said Harry Beisswenger, CEO of NetDirector. “We’re excited to be able to assist in bringing a service like myCatalyst to more employer groups and healthcare providers efficiently and securely with our cloud-based HealthData Exchange.

More about NetDirector:

NetDirector provides a secure cloud-based data and document exchange solution for the healthcare and mortgage banking industries to deliver seamless data integration between parties. NetDirector bridges gaps created by disparate systems & technologies by allowing companies at any location to share data & documents securely over a single internet connection with any other member of the ecosystem. Our approach allows trading partners to collaborate and exchange data in a seamless, bi-directional, real-time manner. With security and longevity as a focus, NetDirector is a certified HIPAA Compliant and SOC II Type 2 certified company, a 6-year member of the prominent Inc. 5000, and currently processes more than 9 million transactions per month. Learn more at web.netdirector.biz.

More about myCatalyst:

myCatalyst (MCI), is a private Health Information Exchange (HIE) and system support for population health, providing data integration, actionable prescriptive analytics, meaningful reporting, care coordination support, service solutions & more – resulting in optimal financial and healthcare outcomes for populations served, and the organizations serving those populations.  MCI is known for collaborative problem solving to ensure client and program success.

Learn more by contacting: Help@myCatalyst.com

How 2017 Became the Year of Integration

When all’s said and done, 2017 may be best remembered as the year big business put an indelible stamp on healthcare. Sure, we’ve had similar maneuvers in the past from the likes of Apple, Google and Microsoft, but each of those initiatives struggled with consumer connection, especially when it came to individuals surrendering their personal health information.

What’s different this time? Drugstore chain CVS Health’s proposed (subject to regulatory approval) buyout of insurance giant Aetna — at $69 billion, the largest health insurance deal in history— could transform pharmacy storefronts into community health clinics, giving patients streamlined access to primary care, medications and insurance services in unified hubs.

Some industry experts acknowledge potential systemic efficiencies that would accompany this type of vertical integration. However, they also caution that consolidation could trigger insurance network restrictions and a move toward “transactional care,” in which patients see doctors for isolated consultation without any established history or context of treatment.

Other observers see the purchase more as a preemptive move by CVS to fend off retail kingpin Amazon’s interest in pharmaceutical distribution (particularly for expensive and difficult-to-obtain specialty drugs). Amazon has acquired pharmacy licenses in 12 states and has kicked off discussions with generic drugmakers, according to media reports.

Whatever the true motivation — and it very well could be a combination of all factors outlined above — healthcare models are undeniably trending toward large-scale integration as 2017 draws to a close. And that’s sure to bring opportunities and challenges to stakeholders, including IT companies, along the way.

Integration in Various Forms

As 2017 began, advisory firms counseled hospital executives to integrate clinical delivery with financial sustainability in preparation for almost certain payment cuts. One health system followed such a course, slashing annual operating costs by $12 million in just six months by focusing solely on reducing excess lengths of stay. That type of integration works around mutual biases: (1) clinicians worrying that cost-cutting would jeopardize care quality and (2) financial teams perceiving doctors’ resistance to data analysis that would measure costs.

Meanwhile, along healthcare’s leading edge, IT initiatives pushed forward throughout the year. “I believe an urgent priority for our healthcare system is to move from the traditional one-to-one model to a more efficient, time- and place-independent care delivery system,” commented Joseph Kvedar, MD, vice president of connected health at Partners Healthcare.

Kvedar’s remarks accompanied the Personal Connected Health Alliance’s release of new design guidelines for sharing patient-generated health data with providers via HL7 Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) specifications. The guidelines support data integration into electronic health records (EHRs) from 26 vital signs sensors and 40 health/ medical/ fitness devices for remote monitoring of chronic diseases, as well as health and fitness measures.

In related ways, we saw positive disruption in data exchange between payers and providers, setting the stage for real-time alerts that would help prescribing physicians prevent drug-drug interactions or other potentially harmful outcomes.

Additionally, EHR vendors did their part to integrate cloud-based versions of traditional systems, bringing cost-effective processes and simplified technology contracting to small hospitals and physician practices.

As we witnessed, a lot can happen over the course of a year. Continued progress in integration will depend on straightforward but flexible options for sharing data and documents across the healthcare ecosystem. NetDirector offers those exact capabilities in its HealthData Exchange platform so that care facilities don’t have to worry about managing — and staying ahead of — the ever-changing technology curve.

For more information, please contact us or request a free demo.

Cloud Services Advancing in Healthcare Technology

Nine hospitals across the country have filed for bankruptcy thus far in 2017. Small facilities, in particular, continue to feel the pinch from a combination of dwindling patient volume, rising capital requirements, escalating costs of care, bad debt accruals and lack of Medicaid funding.

Clearly, something needs to be done to stem the flow of red ink.

Fortunately, we’re seeing a healthy response from health IT vendors, who’ve identified an opportunity among the chaos. Electronic health record (EHR) firms Meditech, athenahealth and eClinicalWorks have rolled out cloud-based versions of their platforms aimed at bringing cost-effective processing and simplified technology contracting to the small-hospital domain.

Even EHR stalwart Epic is joining the movement. On Nov. 1, Tahoe Forest Health System, which serves two rural counties across 3,500 square miles in California and Nevada, went live with a new version of Epic’s EHR. The health system’s CFO, Crystal Betts, anticipates “significant savings without the maintenance of eight EHRs and [retirement of] a host of third-party ancillary systems no longer needed.” Betts added, “The cherry on top is time saved and a boost to quality and safety with a tightly integrated EHR that just works.”

Likewise, athenahealth’s cloud-based EHR has made a significant impact at Coastal Orthopedics (Conway, S.C.), which implemented the technology a little over a year ago to replace separate EHR and practice management systems. “We wanted to be in a position to jump in quickly and effectively as population health management becomes [our] new top-of-mind issue,” noted practice administrator Andrew Wade. With the EHR taking on redundant data-collection tasks, providers and staff have been able to spend more time on patient care.

Above and Beyond

Meanwhile, the healthcare research/ academic community is also leveraging the power of cloud computing. For example, at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, scientists and physicians have access to more than 100 terabytes of data generated by DNA sequences as they study the molecular basis of breast and ovarian cancer. They use Amazon Web Services’ cloud to support a genomics platform that dynamically scales to analyze tens of thousands of genomes in a matter of minutes.

In short, cloud computing has enabled management to shift from worrying about data storage, performance, and security to helping researchers understand the sequenced output data.

There’s more to come, too. “The cloud is poised to play a prominent role when healthcare organizations deploy telemedicine, mobile health applications, and remote monitoring tools — trends that are inevitable as organizations implement value-based care programs,” according to a HIMSS Analytics cloud computing survey.

Pathway to Progress

As healthcare organizations continue to put their faith in the cloud, they’re looking for partners who can facilitate implementation and replace layers of internal systems management and integration. And, not coincidentally, they want to do so with predictable ongoing costs.

NetDirector’s cloud-based HealthData Exchange fits the desired profile by normalizing data and documents to achieve EHR interoperability with an expanding array of trading partners, including physician groups, labs, registries and imaging centers. Subscription pricing meshes with organizations’ emerging reliance on scalable services made possible by cloud technology.

For more information, please contact us or request a free demo.

Why EHRs Don’t Have to be a Hindrance

Doctors persistently claim that electronic health record (EHR) systems take up too much of their time.

Bearing out that assertion, a just-published study in Annals of Family Medicine found that a cohort of 142 primary care physicians spent more than half their workday interacting with their EHR during and after clinic hours. Worse, the physicians, who were retrospectively followed through EHR event logs over the course of three years, allocated two-thirds of their computer-facing time to clerical and inbox work.

A separate commentary earlier this year issued a stark challenge to the healthcare IT industry: “[Talk] to ten practitioners at random who are involved in day-to-day emergency medicine or primary care medicine, the guys and gals on the busy front line, and find two of them who are enamored with their [EHR] tools.” The author, small-town physician Kenneth Bartholomew, MD, describes systems designed around billing and collections functions. Such EHRs, he argues, lack the ability to actually improve the workflow of diagnosis and patient management.

Closing the gap on EHR drawbacks

The clearly frustrated Dr. Bartholomew concludes that current EHRs put the wrong tools in the hands of everyday caregivers. While EHRs help assemble patient history, along with physical and laboratory evidence, the technology requires doctors to “push the chain” of information from behind — rather than “pulling it from the front.”

Nonetheless, it’s also important to recognize EHRs’ positive impacts within a digital, connected healthcare environment. Evidence of benefits include:

  • cost savings derived from prevention of adverse drug events;
  • enabling access by emergency personnel to patients’ pre-existing health information (such as medication lists, allergies, and medical histories);
  • use of medical histories to remind physicians of the best methods of care for specific patients; and
  • improvement of reporting, investigation, response, and communication between public health officials and clinicians.

What’s more, EHRs have been shown to mitigate risk for healthcare providers and health systems by enabling evidence-based decisions at the point of care, aiding in research directed toward improvements in care, and preventing liability actions by documenting complete records of care and informed consent.

Also, significant, EHRs can help drive up patient satisfaction. More than 90 percent of patients report being happy that their doctor used EHR-powered e-prescribing capabilities — and that they rarely encounter prescriptions not being ready at their connected pharmacy.

EHRs and interoperability

Looking ahead, the federal Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) has prioritized enhancing EHR usability, as well as facilitating seamless exchange of information among different EHR systems. In fact, the 21st Century Cures Act, enacted at the end of 2016, specifies the development of a national framework and common agreement to promote comprehensive network-to-network health data sharing. ONC will be organizing work in these areas and expects to have preliminary plans in place by next year.

NetDirector actively supports strong, automated integration of EHR capabilities throughout the healthcare ecosystem. Hospitals and physicians can deploy NetDirector’s HealthData Exchange to normalize data to standard HL7 and other formats to achieve EHR interoperability while removing the bottlenecks of traditional interfacing — all without adding hours to the physician’s already hectic schedule.

For more information, please contact us or request a free demo.

NetDirector Continues to Provide Best in Class Automation to Improve Compliance in Default Servicing Firms

TAMPA, Fla.Oct. 5, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — NetDirector, a cloud-based data exchange and integration platform, provides several data/document automation options for default servicing firms to promote increased compliance throughout the industry. Additionally, NetDirector has maintained and standardized the SOC 2 Type II security procedures in-house to ensure compliance at all points in the flow of data.

With the ever-changing atmosphere of the default servicing industry, it is important for firms to maintain the quality and compliance of the work they do while focusing on efficiency and their bottom line. Among the services available to improve compliance through automation are:

SCRA Military Search

The Service members Civil Relief Act (SCRA) requires foreclosure attorneys/trustees check whether borrowers are active duty military members. NetDirector’s Military Search interface streamlines this process and allows subscribers to check active duty status without leaving their case management systems (CMS), alleviating data keying errors and improving timelines.

Firms are required to perform this search on a regular basis to maintain compliance – the most common solution is simply to dedicate employee hours to performing the searches and logging the information. This is an expensive and inefficient solution, that only mitigates the compliance risks to a certain degree – the human element of this solution leaves room for compliance errors that foreclosure firms simply cannot afford.

“NetDirector has allowed us to focus on our core competencies by managing our data & document integration needs. Our firms are seeing the benefits of eliminating data entry and manual business processes for military search, document uploads, and milestone events,” said Ron Llewellyn, Associate Director of Application Services at Barrett Daffin Frappier Turner & Engel L.L.P.

Additionally, the NetDirector automated military search is fully compatible with the recent DoD website enhancements – many firms are already utilizing NetDirector to solve the challenges of integrating with the new website without increasing dedicated labor and resources to an ongoing concern. For more detailed information on PACER automation, click here to visit our website.

PACER Bankruptcy Search

The Federal court has several bankruptcy court district and divisions upon which bankruptcy dockets are available for verifying bankruptcy filings. NetDirector’s Bankruptcy PACER integration suite alleviates the manual need to log in to multiple court sites (both National and Regional) and/or manually search for the bankruptcy filing -thereby reducing timelines.

The round-trip data interface allows NetDirector subscribers to send requests to the PACER Case Locator site to search for current and prior bankruptcy filings. The automated response can include information on cases filed in other districts/divisions and links to current and prior case dockets and documents. More importantly, returned searches and dockets have live hyperlinks within the PDF documents – saving time by eliminating the need to re-key search information and providing a direct link to cases and docket information for future retrievals. This directly increases a firm’s compliance while automating and simplifying the amount of work required for this mandatory step in the foreclosure process.  For more detailed information on PACER automation, click here to visit our website.

“NetDirector has played a key role in increasing system and workflow efficiency across multiple departments,” said a representative of Rubin Lublin, LLC. “With the processes and checks they have in place we can feel assured that the integration is working and accurate. I have worked in the foreclosure industry over 17 years, and NetDirector is by far the best thing to come along for firms in the past decade.”

Industry Leading Security Standards for Compliance

The SOC 2, or Service Organization Controls 2, is an examination under AICPA standards designed for technology service companies to demonstrate controls around data security and processing integrity. The SOC 2 reports are intended to meet the needs of a broad range of users that need to understand internal controls at a service organization as it relates to security, availability, process integrity, confidentiality and privacy. The Type II report is a report on management’s description of a service organization’s system and the suitability of the design and operating effectiveness of controls.

“NetDirector displayed the necessary controls in their SOC 2 Type II attestation report,” said Scott Price of A-LIGN, the company that performed the SOC 2 analysis. “Their security and management teams were great to work with throughout the process. There is a strong attention to detail in the organization.”

In addition to the in-house attestations, the data centers utilized by NetDirector through Peak10 maintain the same security standards or higher in all aspects of their company. Many technology companies have recently been brought to light as claiming true “compliance” in their organization, when they really mean that their data center has gone through the rigorous examination. At NetDirector, the belief is in transparency and clear communication regarding security so that the boost in compliance and efficiency is ultimately passed along to the firms and servicers participating in the integration network.

Company Bio:

NetDirector provides a secure cloud-based data and document exchange solution for the healthcare and mortgage banking industries to deliver seamless data integration between parties. NetDirector bridges gaps created by disparate systems & technologies by allowing companies at any location to share data & documents securely over a single internet connection with any other member of the ecosystem. Our approach allows trading partners to collaborate and exchange data in a seamless, bi-directional, real-time manner. With security and longevity as a focus, NetDirector is a certified SOC 2 Type II and HIPAA Compliant company, a 6-year member of the prominent Inc. 5000, and currently, processes more than 9 million transactions per month.

NetDirector Enters Comprehensive Agreement to Partner with My Constant Care, LLC for Integration Services

TAMPA, Fla.Sept. 28, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — NetDirector, a cloud-based data exchange and integration platform, has expanded their Integration-Platform-as-a-Service (iPaaS) offerings once again. A strong partnership has been forged with My Constant Care, LLC to provide them with a cloud based integration suite for the already cloud-centric company.

My Constant Care (MCC) provides a unified cloud-based platform for integration and delivery of preventive services such as Annual Wellness Visits, Chronic Care Management, Advanced Care Planning, and Preventative Screenings. Their turnkey delivery model provides patients with the full spectrum of preventive services to enhance overall care delivery without disrupting day-to-day operations of the practice. My Constant Care focuses on maximizing value to both providers and patients. They do this with expert coordination of preventive care options available today while strategically shaping these services to meet performance requirements expected of their future providers in the future. They offer a no-financial-risk solution to the physicians, providing the staff, software, and technology to perform their services.

Utilizing the cloud for integration was a clear next step to elevate the services offered by MCC. NetDirector’s One-to-Many style integration allows MCC to connect to NetDirector once and exchange data seamlessly with EHR systems, billing platforms, and more as the hub expands. Now, MCC’s services can integrate with existing provider platforms as well as future additions to a provider’s suite of technology solutions without relying on internal resources to bridge the gap between solutions.

My Constant Care helps primary care physicians provide a level of service to their Medicare population previously not achievable by small practices,” says Kellie Privette, the Director of Sales and Business Development at MCC. Privette added that “NetDirector’s integration expertise and technology allows MCC to seamless transfer patient data into their customer’s EHR and billing systems, without double entry of a substantial amount of information.”

This integration also increases a provider’s compliance, allowing even small practices to provide the quality and timeliness of service of a larger provider while maintaining and exceeding compliance standards for the healthcare technology industry. By eliminating data entry steps and automating the exchange of patient information securely, the integration allows for providers utilizing My Constant Care to focus more on the patients, and less on the technology behind the scenes.

“We’re very enthusiastic about our partnership with My Constant Care,” said Harry Beisswenger, CEO of NetDirector. “Their services fill a gap in the healthcare industry, and we’re looking forward to helping them achieve their goals of seamless preventive care for everyone.”

Company Bio:

NetDirector provides a secure cloud-based data and document exchange solution for the healthcare and mortgage banking industries to deliver seamless data integration between parties. NetDirector bridges gaps created by disparate systems & technologies by allowing companies at any location to share data & documents securely over a single internet connection with any other member of the ecosystem. Our approach allows trading partners to collaborate and exchange data in a seamless, bi-directional, real-time manner. With security and longevity as a focus, NetDirector is a certified HIPAA Compliant and SOC II Type 2 certified company, a 6-year member of the prominent Inc. 5000, and currently processes more than 8 million transactions per month.

Disaster Recovery Planning Essential in a Connected Healthcare Environment

Disaster Recovery Planning Essential in a Connected Healthcare Environment

While we are successfully recovering from Hurricane Irma here in Tampa (with no major damage and no service outage, thankfully), the numbers have started to roll in from Harvey a few weeks ago. Despite Hurricane and Tropical Storm Harvey’s devastating impact in terms of lives lost/displaced and estimated $23 billion property damage in Texas’ Harris and Galveston counties, things could have been much worse if not for the region’s heads-up health IT disaster planning.

Four days after the storm’s landfall, all the electronic health record systems at all the hospitals in Houston appeared to be in “regular working order,” according to Nick Bonvino, CEO of Greater Houston Healthconnect (GHHC), the region’s health information exchange (HIE). GHHC had previously partnered with Health Access San Antonio, the HIE serving a large expanse of central Texas, to establish a statewide hub for Texas HIEs with remote siting and data storage in Salt Lake City.

“If a hospital backs up all of its information to a data center down the block, which is also flooded, that’s not a sufficient solution,” Andrew Gettinger, MD, chief medical information officer at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, recently told Health Data Management. “You have to think about the geography that’s likely to be at risk and make sure that your backup solution takes care of that so you can recover.”

Indeed, when Hurricane Sandy hit New York and New Jersey in 2012, healthcare data centers situated in low-lying areas — many in hospital basements — suffered catastrophic flood damage, Gettinger emphasized. Those losses underscored the need for backup systems located out of harm’s way.

Disaster recovery planning

Aside from natural disasters, health care organizations also need to prepare for cyber-threats, such as denial-of-service and ransomware attacks, which can render IT systems inoperable or data inaccessible.

According to Jeremy Molnar, vice president of services for information security firm Cynergistek, proper disaster recovery (DR) planning starts with the assignment of a project manager responsible for implementing a cohesive strategy. Other organizational experts develop needed processes and documentation to support the project manager.

Additional key aspects include:

  • identification of critical data, applications, systems, and personnel;
  • requirements for data backup and emergency-mode operations planning;
  • ongoing testing of and revisions to each component of the DR plan; and
  • assurance of contingency planning in compliance with HIPAA rules, which mandate security risk assessments. Such assessments evaluate the likelihood and impact of exposing protected health information and document the security measures adopted to address identified risks.

State of the industry

Peak 10, an IT infrastructure solutions company, found in its “IT Trends in Healthcare” study that most healthcare organizations execute DR testing less than once annually. Only 25 percent test quarterly.

What’s more eye-opening, the Disaster Recovery Preparedness Council estimates that more than 65 percent of organizations who test their DR plan actually fail their own test. Since so many organizations don’t pass their own tests, Peak 10 points out that those who neglect — or elect not to — test “simply won’t recover IT operations sufficiently if disaster [occurs], which in a hospital setting, is a risk not worth taking.”

NetDirector helps mitigate DR concerns by partnering with best-in-class technology companies to provide an “industrial-strength” data exchange platform hosted at a Peak 10 data center. Peak 10 is current with all applicable data security certifications and regulations, including HIPAA.

Additionally, NetDirector connects to multiple data centers in different geographic locations that are continuously updated and available to seamlessly go live as needed. This fault-tolerant set-up provides clients with built-in DR and hot-site swapping capabilities, ensuring minimal to zero disruption. NetDirector’s HealthData Exchange also reduces the need for scheduled maintenance and its accompanying temporary downtime.

For more information, please contact us or request a free demo.

Blockchain Technology: An Emerging Force in Healthcare Integration

Back in March, at the conclusion of the HIMSS17 annual conference, we pointed to blockchain as one of the most noteworthy recent developments in the healthcare IT space. We emphasized that blockchain technology, which uses a distributed database and cryptography to securely manage records and create a permanent record of online transactions, deserves recognition for its potential to increase IT and organizational efficiencies — highly valued attributes in light of Healthcare’s perpetually constrained resources.

An IBM Institute for Business Value study explains that data captured on blockchains can be shared in real time across a scalable group of individuals and institutions. “Every event or transaction is time-stamped and becomes part of a long chain, or permanent record, that can’t be tampered with after the fact,” according to the study report, which finds 16 percent of healthcare organizations ready to commercialize blockchain at scale in 2017.

Where will things go from here?

Room to grow

In practical terms, blockchain could be used in areas such as population health to aggregate patient and financial data that formerly would have been available only from separate sources such as health information exchanges and claims databases.

Further, blockchain’s ability to enable secure and irrevocable data exchange systems would provide “seamless access to historic and real-time data, while eliminating the burden and cost of data reconciliation,” explains Reenita Das, senior vice president of transformational healthcare at research firm Frost & Sullivan.

Micah Winkelspecht, founder and CEO of blockchain start-up Gem, characterizes blockchain as a tool for interoperability — in essence, an open-source protocol layer incorporating rules to which software can be written. “It’s basically like a language that all [participating] companies agree to speak in order to be able to interoperate with each other,” he adds. Unlike the current EHR-centric healthcare system, blockchain would be the “underlying fabric” for the entire continuum of care, “a decentralized, distributed, global data repository that’s basically shared and controlled by everyone,” he envisions.

Cross-industry philosophy

Related, in the mortgage industry, a similar foundational approach has experts believing in blockchain as an enabling technology empowering lenders to overcome current challenges in electronic processes.

Blockchain would be applied as a thin layer atop an existing document management system to effectively “freeze” a copy of the signed documentation, thereby proving it has never been altered and that the original document resides in its original location. Focus would shift from e-signature tools to blockchain as the core technology structure for compliance and document management — without requiring a completely reworked electronic process.

NetDirector recognizes ongoing and changing security needs in industries such as healthcare and mortgage banking. Companies on the front lines shouldn’t have to rewrite existing integrations or pay multiple vendors in their respective networks to operationalize individual system connections.

Within the healthcare ecosystem, NetDirector’s HealthData Exchange builds on a standard data model to map to HL7 or other data formats and achieve EHR interoperability while removing the bottlenecks of traditional interfacing. Such integrative technology holds the promise of making future security updates and landscape changes far more manageable.

For more information, please contact us or request a free demo.