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.

Healthcare, Ransomware, and Security Breaches

Ransomware, a treacherous malware exploit that encrypts victims’ data or prevents access to their devices, netted cybercriminals an estimated $1 billion in 2016.

Data-related extortion attacks on businesses rose three-fold during the first nine months of last year, equating to one every 40 seconds. Two-thirds of those hit by ransomware lost all or part of their corporate data and one-quarter spent weeks trying to restore access, according to Kaspersky Labs, a data security firm.

Perhaps even more alarming is a predicted shift from chaotic and sporadic ransomware incidents to steadier assaults in higher volumes. “There is no such thing as a low-risk sector anymore,” Kaspersky’s research warned.

Healthcare, with 16 percent of organizations having been hit by ransomware, ranks in the top 10 among targeted industries.

High stakes for healthcare

Hospitals and health systems, as HIPAA covered entities, must adopt safeguards to ensure the confidentiality, integrity and availability of electronic protected health information (ePHI). The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR), which enforces HIPAA, issued guidance in 2016 presuming a breach in the event of a ransomware attack involving ePHI. In other words, it’s up to the provider organization to prove that a breach did not occur by demonstrating low probability that ePHI was not compromised.

Nonetheless, many organizations remain non-compliant or take a stance of “calculated non-compliance.” That means they deem any potential fine to be cheaper than the reporting costs or technical resources needed to investigate incidents to OCR’s satisfaction, according to James Scott, senior fellow at the Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology.

All the same, providers should be concerned whether ePHI is properly encrypted and adequately protected against compromise by ransomware. And from a system-wide perspective, additional safeguards should include proper use of passwords, removal of outdated software and unauthorized apps, adherence to regular backup procedures, and educating users not to open attachments or click links from unknown senders. Additionally, operating systems, browsers and antivirus programs should be updated to the latest version on all devices.

Also worth noting: Security shortfalls may be present in system integrations written in-house or by contracted developers.

In any event, “negligence gives cyber criminals the incentive to continue to launch ransomware attacks,” notes security website CSO.

And — as if on cue — a newly discovered form of ransomware may be released this month, reports TechRepublic. The malware, known as RedBoot, not only encrypts files but also permanently repartitions hard drives, rendering data unrecoverable. The alert advises businesses to back up workstations to some form of network or cloud storage, refresh all antivirus software definitions, and train users to avoid phishing scams.

A big ask

Hospitals have their hands full providing the best care possible for patients, around the clock, every day of the week. In that light, they shouldn’t be expected to shoulder the entire load of locking down data against an ever-expanding array of intruders.

Networking companies such as NetDirector have the expertise and capabilities needed to properly secure and integrate healthcare data. All of our certifications and processes (e.g., HIPAA and SOC2) are maintained above industry standards in a fully redundant, cloud-based platform. Healthcare clients put their trust in NetDirector to securely handle more than 10 million data and document transactions per month.

Although ransomware and related intrusions are real concerns, NetDirector stands ready to consult and assist in hardening defenses across the healthcare ecosystem.

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

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.

Security in Data Migration, and When Not to Migrate

There’s no turning back on the cloud computing revolution. By 2020, more than 90 percent of data center traffic will be cloud traffic, according to Cisco’s Global Cloud Index forecast.

Separate analysis from 451 Research finds enterprise spending on hosting and cloud services up by 26 percent in 2017 over 2016, outpacing a 12 percent increase in total IT budgets during the same span. “Hosting and cloud services are becoming a focus of IT investment, via both new projects and the migration of existing workloads,” observes Liam Eagle, research manager at the firm.

In healthcare, 76 percent of new or existing workloads are moving to the cloud, in areas such as data archiving, backups/disaster recovery, back-office applications and server virtualization.

Some might even say the transition to cloud is happening too quickly. In fact, the simplicity of initiating cloud projects has raised eyebrows among industry observers — especially since protected health information (PHI) is at stake. “The ease of spinning up a cloud application can create, in and of itself, a risk,” says Shane Whitlatch, enterprise vice president at data security firm FairWarning. “Because cloud projects are easy to start, it’s also easy to just leave them there and not monitor them.”

Does he have a point?

Setting the record straight

Without a doubt, companies across all industries have made some missteps in migrating data to the cloud. In certain cases, organizations have viewed data migration as a one-time event rather a process that will likely be repeated over the years. Therefore, it’s important to analyze whether an IT infrastructure can hold up to the demands of a full-scale migration, reports HealthITInfrastructure.

Closer to home in healthcare, organizations often fail to assess data-quality issues before embarking on a migration. This might come into play, for example, when moving data from a legacy electronic health record (EHR) system to a new EHR application.

And while it’s certainly possible for a healthcare provider to fall victim to the scenario Whitlatch envisions (e.g., gathering PHI for research purposes and later abandoning that data outside established controls on a cloud-based platform), most organizations would avoid that type of vulnerability through due diligence. They recognize that cybersecurity is a shared responsibility between cloud provider and customer. HIPAA’s Security Rule, for instance, applies in equal force to data protection whether the data resides in on-premise systems or in the cloud.

Additionally, above all other factors, healthcare organizations are concerned about adherence to regulatory requirements such as HIPAA when selecting a cloud services provider, according to a 2016 study conducted by HIMSS Analytics.

NetDirector’s HealthData Exchange, a cloud-based platform for exchanging data between healthcare entities, has been certified as HIPAA-compliant under audit by a third-party security and compliance solutions provider. This certification “strengthens the trust that our clients place in us to safely integrate their platforms and transform their data,” explains NetDirector CEO Harry Beisswenger.

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

What Can We Learn from eClinicalWorks’ Big Mistake?

Electronic health record (EHR) vendor eClinicalWorks (eCW) and several of its executives are on the hook for $155 million to resolve a False Claims Act lawsuit alleging that the company misrepresented the capabilities of its software. The U.S. Department of Justice announced the settlement on May 31.

Resolution of the case also required eCW to enter into a Corporate Integrity Agreement (CIA) with the Office of the Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS-OIG), which oversees “meaningful use” incentive payments to healthcare providers relating to their adoption and implementation of certified EHR technology.

According to the government, eCW concealed that its software was “hardcoded” to meet certification requirements for standardized drug codes instead of actually retrieving the proper drug codes from a complete database. Other cited faults in eCW’s software included:

  • not having an audit log for accurate recording of user actions;
  • not reliably recording diagnostic imaging orders;
  • not reliably performing drug interaction checks; and
  • failing to satisfy data portability requirements for transferring patient data from eCW’s system to other vendors’ software.

All told, because of the deficiencies, “eCW caused the submission of false claims for federal incentive payments based on the use of eCW’s software,” HHS-OIG charged. $125 million of the company’s fines will go to repay Medicare and Medicaid for incentive disbursements under their respective meaningful use programs. (eCW customers who successfully attested to meaningful use in good faith will not be linked in on the government repayments.)

Aside from the financial penalties, eCW’s CIA, which extends for five years, requires the company to retain an independent oversight organization to assess its software quality control systems, with semi-annual written reports to be filed with HHS-OIG. The CIA also mandates that eCW allow its customers to obtain free software updates; customers also have the option of transferring their data to another EHR vendor without penalties or service charges.

Industry fallout

eCW agreed to the settlement without acknowledging any wrongdoing. The company said it did so to avoid lengthy and costly litigation. eCW’s EHR system remains certified under the meaningful use program. Nonetheless, the underlying facts of the case appear to have cast a broad shadow across the health IT landscape.

A report compiled by market research firm Reaction Data after announcement of the settlement found 71 percent of respondents saying they would be extremely unlikely to consider eCW in the future. What’s more, 27 percent indicated that the case had lowered confidence in their current EHR vendor, and 35 percent reported being “significantly more suspicious” of other EHR vendors.

Healthcare attorney Bob Ramsey told Healthcare Informatics that the eCW allegations may be an extreme case, but added, “Interoperability and data portability is viewed as necessary in the health world, but it’s easier said than done.”

Peter DeVault, vice president of interoperability at EHR vendor Epic, recently noted that healthcare providers would be well served to rely less on EHR certifications moving forward and to concentrate more heavily on demonstrated benefits.

NetDirector’s vendor-neutral approach to data exchange elevates providers’ ability to achieve EHR interoperability while working toward meaningful use incentives. In an environment currently clouded by skepticism, the HealthData Exchange platform automates integrations in a manner that exceeds industry standards.

NetDirector CEO Harry Beisswenger puts the technology in perspective: “It’s important for us to aid healthcare providers and vendors in reaching meaningful use benchmarks because we know that ultimately impacts the level of patient care.”

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

Midyear Healthcare and Technology Progress Report

High availability, interoperability, and utility in population health management all figured prominently in an early 2017 forecast of areas where healthcare CIOs expect information technology (IT) to deliver significant impact for their organizations.

Here’s a look at how things are shaping up at the year’s midpoint.

Systems availability

While natural disasters or cyber-attacks can knock out — or lock out — critical IT systems without warning, healthcare entities still need to prepare for such events. In fact, the HIPAA Security Rule requires health care covered entities to have a contingency plan for responding to unavailability of electronic health information systems.

The Department of Health and Human Services’ Inspector General reported last year in a survey of 400 hospitals that about two-thirds have contingency plans addressing data backup, disaster recovery, emergency mode operations and testing/ revision procedures. Nonetheless, over half of the surveyed hospitals confirmed an unplanned disruption to their electronic health record (EHR) system, and about a quarter of those experienced delays in patient care as a result.

So far this year, EHR outages continue to make headlines:

  • An April 2017 poll, conducted by online physician community Sermo, found that 55 percent of 1,678 responding U.S. doctors had experienced an EHR outage or malfunction that jeopardized the health or safety of a patient.
  • Also in April, Erie County Medical Center and an associated long-term care facility experienced a system-wide shutdown attributed to a ransomware attack. The hospital’s backup process prevented loss of any patient records or financial data, but its EHR was taken offline for six weeks, during which time activities such as patient admissions and prescription writing had to be handled manually.
  • In a separate incident at the end of February, an ophthalmology-specific EHR experienced “technical difficulties” due to outages of Amazon’s S3 cloud-based hosting service.

Data center and cloud services provider Peak 10 recommends that healthcare entities not only review their IT privacy and security policies and procedures but also insist that their service level agreements with technology providers specify agreed-upon security objectives and how compliance will be ensured.

Interoperability

In late March, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) shared several examples of what it described as “interoperability in action from coast to coast.” Among the programs ONC showcased:

  • An app that imports patient data — including personal and medical device data, remote monitoring and reminders — into a comprehensive family health dashboard.
  • A solution that allows clinicians to create customizable push notifications that can be tailored to individual patients or groups.
  • A smartphone app that allows patients to grant or revoke permission for providers to access, send or receive health information electronically.
  • A secure system for users to seamlessly store and share data with trusted care professionals.

Additional projects outside of ONC’s purview are taking aim at other aspects of interoperability. In April, Ascension Health, Cedars-Sinai Health System and Hospital Corporation of America opened the Center for Medical Interoperability. The lab will provide resources for researchers to test data-sharing connections for medical devices and EHRs. In February, the Personal Connected Health Alliance agreed to partner with the Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise initiative in efforts to improve health data exchange through conformity testing and certification with a focus on standards-based, open specifications.

Population health

No single type of data serves as a comprehensive source of information for population health management. For example, claims data includes patient demographics, diagnosis codes, and dates and costs of services; however, the information is retrospective and limited to just billable aspects of care, explains a recent HealthITAnalytics report. Likewise, EHR systems provide clinical details but often contain unstructured, free-text descriptions that are difficult to extract and analyze.

Still, healthcare organizations continue to press forward with population health initiatives. Vanderbilt University just released a report card — the first of its kind in the nation — intended to guide the planning, implementation, and evaluation of programs and policies to improve men’s health across the entire state of Tennessee. It identifies heart disease and cancer as the leading causes of death in the state and reveals a deficit in men having a personal health provider. Meanwhile, Stanford University’s Center for Population Health Sciences has awarded $275,000 in pilot grants to fund studies seeking to improve population and community health, including a mobile surveillance system that will map autism and gaps in treatment services.

Efforts such as these will help drive discovery of what works in real-world practice of population health management. “As an industry, we can increase the socialization of toolkits and case studies so that healthcare organizations can more clearly define all aspects of population health management model design,” observes Jennifer Rogers, an analyst at Chilmark Research. She adds that optimal IT deployment will speed up gains in value for current and future adopters of population health models.

Availability, interoperability, and population health projects face a balance of challenges and opportunities as we enter the second half of 2017. NetDirector continues to innovate with cloud-based, foundational integration solutions that will help healthcare organizations seamlessly handle the electronic exchange of information in each of these areas within their respective ecosystems. For more information, please contact us or request a free demo.

NetDirector Enables Next-Generation Integration in Radiology with American Health Imaging

Tampa, FL – May 24, 2017 – NetDirector, a cloud-based data exchange and integration platform, has engaged in a rapid expansion strategy in the healthcare industry over the last few years. Recently, the Integration-Platform-as-a-Service (iPaaS) has completed implementation with American Health Imaging, a regional network of radiology providers across multiple states, to provide increased accessibility and data utility in their company.

American Health Imaging (AHI) began providing diagnostic imaging services in Decatur, Georgia, in 1998, and has since expanded to 21 locations. In each area, they distinguished themselves by providing excellent customer service and high quality diagnostic imaging for their patients and referring physicians. By partnering with NetDirector to provide cloud-based integration services, it is the goal of AHI to create an automation platform that will increase overall customer satisfaction through streamlined processes and to create internal manpower savings through enhancing their ability to scale the business without having to add staff.

“We want to provide the best possible patient care, to the maximum number of patients, while minimizing the need for human intervention in the process,” said Dan Balentine, Chief Operating Officer at AHI. “By utilizing the NetDirector integration, it has allowed us to take our staff’s focus off of the day to day busywork, and shift focus to providing unmatched patient care.”

With traditional integrations, a company like AHI could be paying upwards of $20,000 plus an 18% annual maintenance fee for each vendor that would be integrated with AHI’s EMR and other in-house systems. For AHI, this was clearly not the optimum solution. Several vendors might not have the volume of transactions to justify the integration cost, creating a system built around the exception and not the constant. NetDirector’s one-to-many integration approach allowed AHI to integrate once with NetDirector, and use that single integration to connect to the entire hub of HealthData Exchange participants.

Three main technologies formed the backbone of the AHI-NetDirector integration – HealthLogix, Exchange EDI, and IntScripts.

HealthLogix Integration – Patient Check-In, Appointment Confirmation, Patient Billing

AHI utilizes a patient engagement platform called HealthLogix to help follow up with patients after exams or appointments, confirm scheduling, prompt for surveys, create a seamless check-in process, and more. The cloud-based integration model helped AHI bring this information directly into their Fuji Radiology Information System (RIS) and patient billing databases, to keep patient records current and to leverage the data they were collecting most efficiently, and allowed the utilization of HealthLogix’s full functionality such as automating check-in procedures at a digital kiosk, and more.

Exchange EDI Integration – Insurance Coverage Confirmation & Verification

Additionally, in a time where high-deductible insurance policies are increasingly commonplace, insurance confirmation simply isn’t enough information. AHI utilized NetDirector to connect with Exchange EDI, which not only confirms the participation in an insurance policy or group but analyzes policy levels and remaining deductibles. This allows patients and providers alike to understand the patient’s responsibility up front – the transparency provided by this data allows for accurate collection of copays during visits, reduced collection costs down the line, and overall reduced revenue leakage for providers.

IntScripts Integration – Physician Referrals and Radiology Communication Integration

Finally, it was critical to make the ordering process for their referring physician population as simple as possible, so an integration was performed with IntScripts, which provided the ability to directly receive orders from the referrer’s EHR and have the results automatically dropped right into the patient’s chart.  This automation eliminates the traditional manual processes that were previously encountered by both AHI and referring physicians.

For patients, the NetDirector integration platform provides not only an elevated level of understanding of their coverage and responsibility through stronger integration between provider and vendor, but also makes life easier for their primary care doctor or other referring physician to communicate and refer patients. This increases the likelihood of single-service care, as primary care physicians are more likely to refer patients as needed, and patients can trust they are receiving the right treatment for them.

“The integration that we have created for American Health Imaging is a model case for the value of cloud-based integration in healthcare,” said Harry Beisswenger, NetDirector CEO. “When we set out to enter the healthcare industry, our primary goals were to reduce costs for providers, increase potential care level provided to patients, and create an environment of data transparency and communication. AHI’s integration has accomplished all of this and more.”

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 company, a 6-year member of the prominent Inc. 5000, and currently processes more than 8 million transactions per month.

Healthcare Innovation: New Threats, New Technology

On the heels of the May 12 WannaCry malware attack that infected more than 300,000 computers in at least 150 countries — the largest hack in nearly a decade — investigators continue to evaluate what happened while victims assess the resulting damage.

The exploit emerged as ransomware, which encrypted files stored in unprotected computers and effectively held them hostage to demands for money in exchange for decryption.

“The suspected syndicated attack is … using a particularly nasty form of malware that can move through a corporate network from a single entry point,” noted Simon Crosby, chief technology officer of cybersecurity firm Bromium. He added that healthcare organizations, governments, police and fire departments and military organizations are “massively vulnerable.

The outbreak started in Europe and in one of the most significant impact zones affected about 20 percent of the United Kingdom’s publicly funded National Health Service. Routine surgeries and outpatient appointments were canceled, while seven hospitals had to divert emergency patients due to disruptions, BBC reported, although media accounts said patient data had not been accessed.

WannaCry manipulated flaws in Microsoft’s Windows operating system that had not been updated by many of the targets. While analysts believe elements of the malicious software had been leaked by a hacking group from a trove of cyber-attack tools held by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA), Microsoft reportedly was aware of the Windows weakness and had issued a free fix on March 14.

“Say what you want to say about the NSA or disclosure process, but this is one in which what’s broken is the system by which we fix,” commented Zeynep Tufeki, a professor at the University of North Carolina.

Hackers target healthcare

The 2017 Healthcare Breach Report, compiled by data protection firm Bitglass from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services records, reveals that 328 U.S. healthcare organizations disclosed data breaches in 2016, up from 268 the prior year. All five of the largest breaches were the result of hacking and IT incidents in 2016, according to the report. What’s more, network servers were almost always the targets for hacking-related breaches.

Robert Herjavec, CEO of a global information security company (but perhaps more widely known as one of the venture capitalist investors on the television show Shark Tank), recently told Healthcare IT News that the industry needs to prioritize a proactive approach to security.

Herjavec emphasized that providers are vulnerable to hacks in part because they are highly dependent on information systems, but it is difficult to keep them up-to-date and refreshed with current security patches. He added that large projects “can take years, and security considerations and proactive protection often fall by the wayside during these transitions.”

In general terms, he recommends increased use of account access management tools while restricting access to HIM systems to the greatest extent possible. Additionally, as shown in the WannaCry incident, operating systems must be updated regularly and endpoints patched aggressively — all while staff and clinicians receive training on cybersecurity risks and challenges.

NetDirector recognizes that unknowns in cybersecurity will always create gaps between emerging exploits and preventive measures. That’s all the more reason for the company to stay ahead of the curve in its technology development. With its HealthData Exchange platform, for example, clinical and financial data move electronically among disparate systems via a cloud-based solution that fully complies with HIPAA and SOC2 standards. NetDirector securely processes over 10 million data and document transactions per month for its healthcare clients.

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

Integration Can Power the Tools for Patient Engagement

Roughly 70 percent of health systems, hospitals and physician practices proactively work toward getting patients more involved in their own care, according to a 2016 NEJM Catalyst survey. However, considering the drive to implement and deliver value-based care, industry observers are wondering why that number isn’t closer to 100 percent.

“[We] need to engage patients outside the exam room with frequent, creative interactions that do not have to always include their physicians,” according to Kevin Volpp, MD, PhD, and Namita Mohta, MD, who analyzed the survey results.

Patient portals, secure email, online/mobile scheduling, patient-generated data and social networks lead the way among engagement initiatives currently being used at scale, according to respondents.

Nonetheless, portals in particular tend to be “systems of record, not systems of engagement,” observes analyst Brian Eastwood of Chilmark Research, a health IT advisory firm. Today’s portals aren’t optimized for value-based care or population health management because they’re geared toward the individual and don’t encourage behavior change, he adds.

Forward-looking solutions must be built on a broader engagement model that loops in coordinated community care teams and enables bi-directional information flow, Eastwood explains. “The point solutions that consumers use to access the healthcare system will get bigger,” he continues. “We need to try to connect to these solutions in some way — and integration is the best we can hope for.”

A pathway to future success

Design and usability will be the main drivers of behavior changes in patient engagement, predicts Sean Duffy, CEO of Omada Health, a tech-based company targeting diabetes care through analytically identified trends.

“It’s about fine-tuning and personalization, [which will spawn] an incredible wave of potential in the way we work to improve the health of the country,” Duffy tells FierceHealthcare. Optimizing the way patients interact with engagement technology is a core part of the process so that a wide range of individuals can be effectively served.

And there’s good reason to expect positive patient response to emerging engagement technology. CDW’s 2017 Patient Engagement Perspective Study finds 70 percent of patient respondents saying they’ve become more knowledgeable about their personal medical information because of online access. Half of the same sample said they’ve noticed increased engagement with their own healthcare.

At the same time, it’s essential to view patient engagement as a two-way street. To wit, 67 percent of providers surveyed by CDW consider patient engagement to be an important part of improving overall care and the top motivating factor in spurring their respective organizations into action.

Indeed, leading healthcare institutions such as Johns Hopkins Medicine are making sure employees understand patient data and know how to communicate it. That behavior is “becoming very ingrained in the way we do our work,” says chief patient experience officer Lisa Allen.

NetDirector’s HealthData Exchange platform supports such initiatives by electronically moving clinical and financial data among disparate systems — transparently mapping it to the correct format of the recipient. In this way, HealthData Exchange serves as an engine for integrating engagement technologies, increasing the likelihood of not only utilization, but also the accuracy of data circulating in multiple environments without human intervention.

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