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Healthcare Data Integration Leads to Better and More Affordable Care

The United States continues to outspend other industrialized countries on healthcare, mainly due to higher drug prices, increasing doctor/nurse salaries, rising hospital administrative costs and escalating fees for many medical services, according to a newly published study from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Per capita U.S. healthcare spending is a stark outlier, 25 percent above the next most expensive nation (Switzerland) and an astounding 145 percent over the median for countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), from which the Johns Hopkins researchers drew their data.

Unfortunately, extravagance doesn’t translate to better healthcare access for U.S. patients. In fact, just the opposite is true. The U.S. trails OECD median totals in numbers of practicing physicians and nurses per 1,000 population, as well as new medical school graduates per 100,000 population and acute care hospital beds per 1,000 population.

What can be done to counter and redirect these trends toward a sustainable path of affordable and accessible care? The answers appear to be a mix of organizational pragmatism and technological leverage.

Operational Integration

Some health systems see vertical alignment with managed care as an important first step toward reining in costs. For example, earlier this month, West Virginia University Health System (operating as WVU Medicine) and The Health Plan announced their intent to form “a fully integrated healthcare delivery and financing system” for patients in the Mountain State. The Health Plan, a nonprofit managed care organization, will become a subsidiary of WVU Medicine.

WVU Health CEO Albert Wright says true cost control and coordination can be achieved through provider-payer alignment. An integrated model enables providers to care for the sick while also emphasizing prevention and wellness among the general population.

Advisory firm Deloitte notes that provider-sponsored health plans make up only about 10 percent of the total market; however, such plans have tremendous promise based on built-in advantages over sometimes adversarial provider-payer affiliations. “They control key parts of the delivery system and have more engaged relationships with their patient consumers,” states a Deloitte brief on provider-health plan integration. “They can employ their market beachheads to the health plan arena to generate new income streams that fuel improvements in their clinical effectiveness and patient experience.”

Technology Makes a Difference

University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) has more than 20 years’ experience running its own health plan in Western Pennsylvania. Enrollment in UPMC insurance products now exceeds 3.3 million members, making it one of the largest and fastest-growing provider-owned health plans in the nation. “The partnership generally focuses on opportunities to improve care first, and then is followed by development of payment models to support those efforts,” a UPMC article explains.

Particularly significant has been UPMC’s progress in addressing the scourge of opioid addiction in its patient community. According to UPMC, data silos have been integrated to make real-time information available to clinical decision-makers. Health plan data generates profiles and benchmarks of provider prescribing behavior, identifies patients with opiate usage patterns suggestive of dependence or abuse, and shares with emergency department physicians a view of opiate prescription refills at all pharmacies. In the second half of 2017, UPMC providers lowered opioid prescribing by 18 percent compared to the prior year.

From a broader view, health IT integration initiatives serve as cultural forces in making patient information available electronically when and where needed. In doing so, health IT improves care quality while making its delivery more cost-effective. Providers directly benefit from having accurate and complete information about a patient’s health, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Whether responding to a routine visit or a medical emergency, providers who can access integrated information have the ability to diagnose problems sooner, reduce medical errors, and administer safer care at lower costs.

What’s more, health IT integration supports improved care coordination and dissemination of patient status information with family members and other caregivers.

NetDirector’s HealthData Exchange platform seamlessly automates and secures the sharing of information and documents across the healthcare ecosystem, from small physician practices to multi-facility health systems and points in between. In an industry gearing up for more prevalent integration, NetDirector’s technology brings the advantage of a reliable and tested platform.

To learn more about HealthData Exchange, contact us or request a free demo.

Healthcare IT Boosts Consumer Engagement Component

Healthcare IT Boosts Consumer Engagement Component

Healthcare providers are undergoing a fundamental transformation by making their services increasingly accessible and adaptable to consumer preferences. Over half of all patient transactions are already handled online, virtually or through an app, according to tech giant Oracle. And that percentage will only grow as a rising share of younger consumers demand new ways to address their healthcare needs through mobile connections and on-demand systems.

“People are taking more ownership of their healthcare, and they expect user-friendly technologies to help them do so,” says Paul Black, CEO of electronic health record (EHR) vendor Allscripts. “The solutions that deliver what consumers want are the ones that will be successful.”

Competing with Technology Titans

Healthcare has already drawn deep interest and investment from digital-sector headliners such as Amazon and Google. These non-traditional participants seek to disrupt the marketplace by helping consumers manage wellness and engage with providers, Black points out. For example, last year Amazon began offering a discount on its Prime delivery service to Medicaid beneficiaries, and now — through the acquisition of online pharmacy PillPack — has rolled out one-day free shipping on prescriptions to Prime customers in many ZIP codes across the country.

Accordingly, healthcare-entrenched companies like Allscripts know they must keep pace with consumer-focused technologies, in particular by expanding mobile outreach capabilities. Consumers want to be active in their own care “before, during and after visits” through mobile connections, emphasizes Black.

Along those lines, Allscripts’ recently enhanced FollowMyHealth patient platform enables SMS messages and alerts without consumers having to log into a provider’s portal.

Ephraim McDowell Health, an integrated healthcare delivery system serving about 120,000 residents in central Kentucky, will use FollowMyHealth as part of a “pro-consumer” strategy to make it convenient for patients to stay informed about their health. The health system favors a unified approach to patient engagement over deployment of multiple, disconnected smartphone apps.

“We as an industry must be prepared for the evolving healthcare IT landscape and start now on creating intuitive access to our services, a simplified method of enabling personalized outreaches, and improve how we coordinate a patient’s care journey,” explains Gary Neat, CIO at Ephraim McDowell.

Allscripts reports more than 40 million patients nationwide have connected with providers through FollowMyHealth. The company says clients using the technology have actively engaged with up to 70 percent of patients through the platform.

Following the Trendlines

Newly released findings from a survey of 1,000 healthcare leaders rank consumerism as a top-level concern across the industry. The report recognizes the transformation of patients to consumers who seek lower costs and greater convenience from providers. As a result, “providers will have to work harder than ever to find and retain their patient populations,” the survey concludes.

Additionally, personalized patient engagement will accelerate population health initiatives during 2019, according to Becker’s Hospital Review. In particular, voice-driven consumer communications that mimic natural conversations — whether reminders to schedule appointments and screenings or to prepare for an upcoming procedure — will empower patients to make informed decisions and take action about their health. The goal is to improve outcomes “on a scale that would be impossible with existing staff,” Becker’s notes.

As providers pursue new ways to engage with consumers, new components will be added to existing technologies and CIOs’ responsibilities. Knowing that core systems and data-exchange mechanisms are running at peak efficiency in a truly integrated fashion will free up health IT executives to apply their expertise and resources to emerging consumer-centric technologies.

NetDirector’s cloud-based HealthData Exchange complements current IT investments while streamlining clinical workflow and communications throughout a provider’s extended community. To learn more about the platform, contact us or request a free demo.

HIEs Vie with Other Innovators to Make Interoperability Gains

In late March, the health information exchange (HIE) spanning Kansas and Missouri announced a new capability that will enable participating providers to monitor acute and post-acute patient care events in real time. The not-for-profit Lewis and Clark Information Exchange (LACIE) said its notification platform also supplies contextual information, including patients’ utilization patterns, to providers at the point of care to help coordinate transitions.

“Improving our region’s overall health and economic status rests on a foundation of delivering common capabilities for every type of provider, no matter the EHR they use, and no matter where in the region they are,” commented Jeffrey Hackman, MD, chief medical information officer at Truman Medical Centers, a LACIE participant.

Across the country, not all HIE efforts are going so smoothly. For example, Connecticut is on its fourth attempt to create a statewide HIE, mired in a decade-long implementation process at a cost of more than $20 million. Similarly, Vermont’s HIE has struggled to gain traction after a 2017 analysis found the exchange to be largely unpopulated with patient records, despite having received over $44 million in state and local funding.

The Drive to Share Data

While state and regional HIEs battle inconsistency, the entire landscape for data-sharing and information exchange is rapidly changing. A proposed policy rule released in February by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) calls for clinical and administrative information to travel with patients throughout their transitions of care, and for such information to be electronically available on-demand through an application programming interface. Enrollees in Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, Medicare Advantage plans must have immediate electronic access to claims and other health information by 2020, the proposed rule stipulates.

Meanwhile, collaboration between vendor-neutral trade association CommonWell Health Alliance and public-private interoperability framework Carequality has yielded a working model for health systems to request and retrieve medical records from out-of-network providers, regardless of the EHR they use. Two Louisiana health systems, Lafayette General Health and Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center, launched a CommonWell-Carequality pilot project in December 2018, and have since electronically shared more than 200,000 documents.

“When data is made readily available, providers can make diagnostic and treatment decisions more quickly, and patients can recover sooner,” noted David Callecod, president of Lafayette General Health. “Better data means better communication with our patients and providers, better care and better outcomes.”

Along those lines, there’s ample opportunity for differing HIE and EHR initiatives to come together.

John Kansky, CEO of Indiana Health Information Exchange, recently remarked, “Many HIEs are still going strong and making great progress, even on the national level.” Yet, while acknowledging that efforts by the likes of Commonwell and Carequality are “assets in the equation of making the nation more interoperable,” Kansky pointed out that HIEs often “have that last mile wired and/or have data available — and in some cases have it in normalized, curated repositories, ready to be exchanged.”

As such, high-performing HIEs should be viewed by the EHR vendor community as potential resources — not necessarily competitors — in certain markets.

NetDirector offers standards-based technology designed to integrate with state and regional HIEs as necessary and dictated by providers. The company’s cloud-based HealthData Exchange platform streamlines data/document flow, avoiding the need for slow or costly individual integrations.

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

NetDirector Client Conference 2019 Recap

Healthcare Integration: Expectation vs Reality

Competition among providers can drive greater healthcare value; however, in reality, the industry has been moving in the opposite direction — toward consolidation.

There were 90 hospital and health system mergers/ acquisitions during 2018, with average seller revenue reaching a historic high of $409 million, according to advisory firm Kaufman Hall, which has been tracking such metrics over the past decade.

“Health system leaders are seeking to acquire organizations that bring embedded expertise and resources to the deal, making these transactions more of a strategic partnership than an asset acquisition,” reports Kaufman Hall.

Integration’s Role

In many cases, strategic consolidation rides on a quest for improved information-sharing made possible by establishing a common electronic health record (EHR) system among M&A partners. As the theory goes, “EHR integration could [lower] operating costs by reducing redundant IT staffing and achieving economies of scale in costly ongoing system maintenance,” states a newly published Health Affairs study. What’s more, integration can help narrow information gaps as patients move across diverse care delivery sites.

Nonetheless, actual experience in the field paints a different picture. The Health Affairs research, based on American Hospital Association data, finds that of 88 hospitals acquired between 2012 and 2014, only one-third switched to the EHR system of the acquiring organization, while 44 percent remained on a different EHR.

“Our results suggest that one important avenue by which consolidation may result in lower-cost, higher quality care is not routinely occurring,” the study authors write. “This should be cause for continued concern that many acquired hospitals may not deliver on their promised benefits.”

Integration Headwinds

Healthcare organizations transitioning to a new EHR often run into difficulties when the old system’s data is stored in a proprietary format that can’t be deployed without first being converted into a standardized structure. To make matters worse, “outgoing” EHR vendors sometimes take weeks or months to carry out a required data conversion.

“If your patient records are not provided in a format that makes them fully accessible in your new EHR, healthcare professionals may be unable to rely on clinical decision support tools … [for functions such as] automated drug interaction checking and allergy reminders,” The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) warns. “Further, if data is not provided in an appropriate format, you will incur the time and costs associated with converting the data to a usable format.”

Additionally, integrations can fall victim to other problems such as:

  • failing to get practical input from key system users during planning and implementation;
  • understaffing the process of extracting, moving, manipulating and repopulating large data volumes;
  • moving duplicate or obsolete data into the new system;
  • not moving all relevant documentation into the new system; and
  • choosing incomplete patient data instead of validated, real-world scripts for end-user testing.

Tightening Up Integration with the Right Approach

Despite inherent challenges, integration will continue to be a core element in healthcare’s pursuit of value-based care and operational excellence. That’s why it’s so important for healthcare providers to choose the right integration partner and methodology.

NetDirector specializes in automated integration for entities across the healthcare ecosystem, from physician practices to hospitals and health systems and affiliated facilities such as labs and radiology clinics. Our team of dedicated professionals can assess individual requirements and map out a cost-effective and efficient plan for successful integration.

To learn more about NetDirector’s cloud-based data exchange and integration platform and additional services, please contact us or request a free demo.

Interoperability Captures Spotlight at HIMSS19

Interoperability Captures Spotlight at HIMSS19

HIMSS19, health IT’s most expansive conference, kicked off on Feb. 11 with the release of a new Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) proposed policy rule detailing the agency’s vision for advancing industry-wide interoperability and patient access to health information.

“We believe patients should have the ability to move from health plan to health plan, provider to provider, and have both their clinical and administrative information travel with them throughout their journey,” according to the rule’s statement of purpose.

CMS Administrator Seema Verma’s public comments during the meeting added depth and clarity: “We are promoting scalable data sharing, not just an individual patient record from hospital-to-hospital, but a model that supports the flow of information across the entire healthcare system. We encourage industry to align in this direction because this is the future.”

Practical Application

The CMS proposed rule would give patients access to their health information electronically through an application programming interface (API). At the same time, providers could obtain their patients’ health information, regardless of previous sites of care. On the flip side, providers would not be able to restrict information flow to other providers and payers. Additionally, CMS expects payers and third parties to develop software that would ensure seamless data availability when patients change providers, health plans or issuers.

The rule’s timeline is aggressive. CMS stipulated that Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, Medicare Advantage plans and Qualified Health Plans in federally facilitated insurance exchanges must be equipped to give enrollees immediate electronic access to claims and other health information by 2020.

Concurrent with the CMS rulemaking, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), which guides national efforts on health IT implementation/ usage and electronic information exchange, unveiled its own rule on data blocking. The ONC rule implements provisions spelled out by law in the 21st Century Cures Act, which Congress passed in 2016. The rule also provides exceptions to the law’s definition of information blocking. Aside from potential fines (up to $1 million per instance) applicable to health information exchanges, providers or hospitals that block information would be publicly named by CMS.

ONC National Coordinator Donald Rucker, MD, a closing speaker at HIMSS19, told attendees that, in the final analysis, patients should be empowered to access their health data “through a [smartphone] app of their choice, at no additional cost.” Rucker added, “Patients should be able to attach their smartphone to the provider’s endpoint and get their medical data … That’s what modern technology allows.”

Open APIs required for deployment of data sharing under the proposed rules would be based on HL7’s FHIR standard.

Additional Considerations

While early reaction to the CMS/ONC rulemaking has been mostly positive, the American Hospital Association (AHA) opposes a requirement that providers electronically notify other providers when a patient is discharged or moved to another hospital. “We cannot support including electronic event notification as a condition for participation for Medicare and Medicaid,” according to a prepared AHA statement. “We believe that CMS already has better levers to ensure the exchange of appropriate health information for patients. We recommend the agency focus on building this exchange infrastructure rather than layering additional requirements on hospitals,” the statement concluded.

Privacy and security considerations should also be factored into the mix during the 60-day public-comment period for the CMS and ONC rules. Cybersecurity executive Mac McMillan noted, “[The agencies] said, ‘We want you to be more open, but you still have to protect the data.’ Typically, those two things don’t go hand-in-hand … Folks are going to be very concerned they are on the hook for any downstream incidents that occur as a result of openness they have with third-party developers.”

Ahead of the Curve

NetDirector’s HealthData Exchange platform aligns well with the regulatory landscape inherent in the CMS and ONC rulemaking. In short, interoperability’s focus should be on the patient.

HealthData Exchange allows providers and vendors to electronically move clinical and financial data among disparate information systems while adhering to HIPAA and HL7 compliance standards. Less time spent on technology and inputting data frees up providers to deliver an improved patient experience by integrating information flow throughout the continuum of care.

To learn more about NetDirector’s HealthData Exchange platform, please contact us or request a free demo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NetDirector Teams with DocPanel to Provide Rapid Integration and Data Consistency for Radiology Reads and Reports

From PRNewswire:

Tampa, FL – December 13, 2018 – NetDirector, a cloud-based data exchange, and integration platform, has expanded their healthcare data-trading ecosystem by partnering with DocPanel, a digital community of highly-skilled subspecialty radiologists who provide radiology interpretations for both healthcare providers and patients.

With a shared vision founded on providing exceptional patient care and leveraging technology to increase interoperability in healthcare organizations, DocPanel and NetDirector have moved forward with their partnership to increase the ease of deployment and level of integration available to both DocPanel, and the healthcare providers that they engage with.

DocPanel’s network of over 300 board-certified, highly distinguished radiologists across 41 states and academic institutions provide unparalleled specialization. NetDirector’s cloud-based integration-platform-as-a-service (iPaaS) model will make specialty care more rapidly accessible and easier to leverage for the providers who are directly servicing the patients by handling the complex integrations and variety of systems that are ubiquitous in the world of modern-day medical imaging data.

“DocPanel was built to make it possible for imaging providers to receive the best possible radiology interpretations available, no matter where they are,” states Cate Lloyd, COO of DocPanel. “By partnering with NetDirector, together we will make that world-class service easier to access and more cost-effective and interoperable for both the initial provider and the participating radiologist, ensuring sustainability and availability for all participants,” she continued.

DocPanel is initially utilizing NetDirector’s HealthData Exchange to receive digital orders from customers and return diagnostic results back to its ecosystem of Imaging Centers. NetDirector allows them to fast-track onboarding of new trading partners and significantly reduce IT resource overhead to maintain a multitude of data interfaces. They are also looking to potentially expand services by utilizing NetDirector’s new DICOM image converter to automate the inclusion of PDFs to DICOM directly into the radiologist’s reading protocols and eliminate on-premise licensed software.

Additionally, NetDirector’s new Health Data Monitor (HDM) makes the whole integration environment easier to monitor and maintain compliance than ever before. Network participants are notified of delays or connectivity concerns in real time through the HDM dashboard and can respond as needed or engage with their dedicated integration analyst who are domain experts in healthcare workflow and integration technologies.

“Partnering with DocPanel is very exciting – they are at the forefront of their industry, much like we are,” said Harry Beisswenger, CEO of NetDirector. “Being able to provide a strong and secure integration solution, while simultaneously reducing costs, ensures that the amazing services provided by DocPanel’s team of radiologists can be accessed in a simple and straight-forward way.”

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 company, a 6-year member of the prominent Inc. 5000, and currently processes more than 10 million transactions per month.

About DocPanel

DocPanel is the world’s first subspecialty radiologist marketplace bringing together the largest network of fellowship-trained radiologists across every major subspecialty into one single online platform. DocPanel’s subspecialty radiologists offer final reads and educational consultations to imaging centers and radiology groups, and second opinions to clients and patients across the United States and the world. The company offers a new flexible and customizable model of subspecialty radiology to help overcome challenges related to errors, high costs, staff shortages and more.

Why Interoperability Still Matters

When HIMSS asked hospital leaders to rate their most pressing 2018 concerns, “Health Information Exchange, Interoperability and Data Integration” ranked a rather middling 13th out of 24 total IT priorities. On a scale of 1 to 7, where 1 meant “not a priority” and 7 designated an “essential priority,” respondents gave interoperability a group score of 4.85.

Consider that outcome against the top 5 priorities among hospital respondents:

  1. Patient Safety 6.07
  2. Privacy, Security and Cybersecurity 5.90
  3. Process Improvement, Workflow, Change Management 5.70
  4. Data Analytics/Clinical and Business Intelligence 5.50
  5. Clinical Informatics and Clinician Engagement 5.50

Compared to 2017, “Leadership, Governance, Strategic Planning” and “Connected Health and Telehealth” jumped ahead of “Health Information Exchange, Interoperability and Data Integration” in this year’s priority ranking.

Nonetheless, the HIMSS survey findings shouldn’t be construed to mean that interoperability has fallen off the boardroom table as a point of emphasis. Instead, the onus for achieving interoperability may be shifting from internal IT departments to collaborative colleagues in the commercial health IT sector. In fact, vendors and consultants surveyed by HIMSS rated interoperability as their 2nd highest current priority, with a mean score of 5.60.

One key aspect of what’s in play here is that 75 percent of hospitals are dealing with 10+ disparate electronic health record (EHR) systems in use at affiliated practices, while only 2 percent of hospitals use a single vendor’s EHR.

Vendors will have to work toward agreement on interoperability standards, not only as it applies to their customers’ reimbursement under value-based payment models but also “because of consumer demand as things like Apple Health Records gain traction,” according to Blain Newton, executive vice president of HIMSS Analytics. He added, “You’re going to see consumer health apps that have been playing at the fringes now be able to plug into the mothership and pull data from it, add to it.”

A Milestone for Progress

Despite pending challenges, the future looks promising for emerging interoperability initiatives. In mid-November, Carequality and CommonWell Health Alliance, two of the nation’s largest interoperability communities, announced that mutually enabled healthcare providers would be able to connect and bilaterally exchange data via leading EHR vendors.

Approximately 80 percent of U.S. hospitals and ambulatory offices use EHR systems that are part of either Carequality or Commonwell, noted Micky Tripathi, CEO of the Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative. “Imagine a mobile wireless world where Verizon and AT&T weren’t connected—both networks provide great services to their own customers, but you couldn’t talk to anyone on the other network,” he explained. “This milestone is [on] that level of significance for interoperability.”

Further, providers who have already invested in integration know that it directly impacts interoperability. Technology that streamlines payment processing alleviates non-value-added time spent on documentation and processes required for maximized reimbursement.

A recent case study shows how front-end benefit verification enabled American Health Imaging (AHI) to reduce labor costs by about $480,000 annually through integration and automation on NetDirector’s cloud-based data exchange service.

Click here to read the entire AHI case study.

 

 

Cost Control Essential to Managing Healthcare IT

C-level executives at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital realized two years ago that the medical center needed to shed at least $50 million from its $2.6 billion annual spending budget.

“It was very clear we had to become a much leaner, more efficient organization,” said Ron Walls, the hospital’s chief operating officer.

The Harvard-affiliated facility’s financial crunch followed comparable actions taken by the Mayo Clinic, which was striving toward $1 billion in cost reductions over 10 years, and the Cleveland Clinic, which had pared expenses by $800 million over four years.

The IT Impact

Austerity initiatives tend to affect all aspects of hospital operations from staffing to supplies, and ultimately reach into IT planning and implementation. Consequently, healthcare CIOs should pursue digital transformation opportunities that deliver improved care without bumping up costs, according to IT research and advisory firm Gartner.

The path forward recommended by Gartner places priority in the following areas:

  • Collaborating with the chief financial officer and chief medical officer when designing IT solutions aimed at improving monetary and clinical outcomes. A pilot project addressing a specific use case can provide proof-of-concept for reigning in costs while promoting system adoption. If successful, the project can be scaled up across the organization.
  • Evaluating the organization’s ability to create and manage digital business architectures. Again, feedback from operational managers and clinical leaders should inform strategies needed to reach a state of real-time readiness.
  • Establishing key performance indicators to measure digital progress. Optimization efforts should be focused on delivering positive health outcomes for patients.
  • Assessing whether existing IT investments are being optimized. For example, is the electronic health record (EHR) system providing anticipated value to the organization? Gartner’s 2018 CIO Agenda Survey found that 80 percent of respondents felt their EHR had not yet delivered the intended return on investment, and 50 percent reported only moderate or minor returns.

A separate analysis of leading organizations from the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) reveals a number of shortfalls in the use of hospitals’ foundational technologies. To name a few: almost all physicians have access to the EHR system, but only half can access EHR resources using mobile applications; similarly, nearly all physicians can contribute to a Continuity of Care Document, but just 60 percent can consume discrete data from a home health agency or skilled nursing facility.

Similar imbalances exist in regard to what CHIME refers to as “transformational technologies” at organizations considered at the forefront of using IT to improve the delivery of care. Significantly, 76 percent can perform retroactive analysis for care improvement and cost reduction; however, only 43 percent can manage bundled payments or do real-time identification and tracking of value-based care conditions. Additionally, less than 60 percent use clinical and billing data as well as health information exchanges to identify gaps in care.

Overall, integration, interoperability, security and disaster recovery capabilities, along with technologies that support population health management, value-based care, patient engagement and telehealth “need to be in place for an organization to leverage tools to effectively transform healthcare,” the CHIME report stated.

NetDirector’s cloud-based document and data-exchange platform unifies clinical and billing data to help healthcare organizations drive down costs and improve patient outcomes. As such, HealthData Exchange can be an essential component of any IT cost-control or efficiency initiative by moving data among disparate systems among hospitals, labs, pharmacies, imaging centers, and government agencies while adhering to HIPAA security and HL7 compliance standards.

 

To learn more about NetDirector’s HealthData Exchange platform, please contact us or request a free demo.

No More Healthcare Faxes? Moving Away from the Fax and Legacy Technology

A few minutes into her address at the ONC Interoperability Forum in Washington on August 6, CMS Administrator Seema Verma let fly with an imposing order. “If I could challenge the developers in this room here today to achieve one mission, it would be this: Help us make every doctor’s office in America a fax-free zone by 2020,” Verma said.

That’s going to be a major test of innovation, diligence, and persistence. A 2017 poll conducted by IT website Spiceworks showed 89 percent of small- to medium-sized businesses still using some form of the fax. Further, separate research from International Data Corporation (IDC) found fax usage actually increased year-over-year for 82 percent of survey respondents. In the healthcare sector, fax usage expanded by 9 percent in 2017, IDC reported.

IDC’s study stated, “[Fax] remains a vital communication tool, is relied upon by businesses of all sizes and in all industries, and has an important role within organizations as they embrace digital transformation.” Significantly, such transformation will create value and competitive advantages for organizations that deploy cloud, mobility, data analytics and social technologies in evolving fax solutions.

So, it seems Verma’s directive wouldn’t literally eradicate fax technology from medical offices over the next few years. Instead, IDC predicts an increased presence of software- and cloud-based fax technology that can be integrated with enterprise applications through “secure, trackable and auditable information exchange.” The report adds, “Today’s digital fax server-based systems and cloud services eliminate the standalone fax machines of old and enable integration with users’ desktops, email, back-end applications, and multifunction peripherals.”

Perhaps most promising in IDC’s outlook: About 90 percent of fax users have already integrated or are evaluating the integration of fax with other technologies or applications.

Future of Fax

Faxing, in one form or another, will continue to be used by healthcare providers for years to come, according to Jonathan Coopersmith, the technology historian at Texas A&M University. Part of the support comes from doctors and hospital administrators who believe faxing is more secure than emailing for transmitting protected health information under HIPAA regulations.

At the same time, new generations of electronic faxes have become easier to use. “Faxing is a network technology,” Coopersmith points out. “The more people who use it, the more valuable it becomes.” Future iterations will likely incorporate electronic fax-like capabilities with smartphones, which would make the technology more readily accessible for on-the-go doctors and other caregivers.

And although physical fax machines retain a place in most U.S. emergency rooms, the devices will eventually be phased out, says Peter Alperin, MD, an internist and vice president of connectivity solutions at medical networking company Doximity. “Whether that’s a steep slope or a gradual one is hard to tell,” he comments.

Looking forward, as the design of electronic health record systems improves, data transfer should become increasingly simplified as a matter of course. For example, the 21st Century Cures Act requires EHR systems to exchange data in a way that requires “no special effort.” While that language has yet to be fully parsed, it provides guidance for a more integrated approach to what was formerly known as faxing.

NetDirector supports this vision now. The company’s integration options for healthcare make a digital paperless system much more complete and cost-efficient, from billing to record keeping to lab and imaging work.

To learn more about NetDirector’s cloud-based HealthData Exchange platform, please contact us or request a free demo.