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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.

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.

NetDirector’s Roadmap to 2020 Part 1

We recently held our annual Strategic Planning meeting. This year, instead of doing the same old SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) we tried a new approach called SOAR (Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, and Results).

Drawing - Dare to DreamThe SWOT method has worked for many years, and is still a valid way to make a business plan and set goals. However, we were looking for a way to get more employees involved and to take a more positive approach to the overall process.

One of NetDirector’s owners and their daughter have been utilizing the SOAR method with other companies with much success and suggested that we try it too.

Drawing - Design Part 1 & 2The strategic planning meeting was open to the entire company, which over half were able to attend. It was a full day event and held off-site so that there were no major work distractions.

The main goal of this meeting was to get as many new ideas as possible with the underlying theme that no idea is bad, which kept the meeting on a positive note throughout the entire day.

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