EHR: Some Things Don't Change

I recently came across a 2005 study from Medical Economics magazine, which listed the top 50 reasons to go out and get an EHR.

It made very interesting reading. Although everyone today is familiar with Electronic Health Record systems, and many now use them daily, on reading through this document I came to the realization that not much has really changed in the last nine years. At least not in terms of what is to be gained from correct use of an EHR for practice, patient, or facility management.

In the technology news of today, emphasis is placed primarily on the perils and pitfalls of HIPAA, Meaningful Use attestation and ICD coding. Bad news sells newspapers, as they used to say. I would like to revisit that and flip it. I want to show the other side of the coin: That some things don't change. That what held true nine years ago still holds true today. Here we go.

The Sigmund Software 'Reward A Colleague' contest has now closed.

We received an unprecedented number of entries for this contest and we here at Sigmund want to thank every single one of you that shared with us your story of an inspirational colleague. Many stories reflected the raw dedication and sheer personal commitment of the behavioral health specialists nominated by you, their peers.

It will come as no surprise that all the nominees went above and beyond their own calls of duty, routinely spending personal hours, even evenings and weekends, helping their patients and their peers. They often do this with no thought of gain or reward, simply because they care. Counsellors, doctors, administration personnel and janitorial staff were all represented in the entries, showing once more that this section of the healthcare industry draws the best of the best across all vocations. 

A random draw will determine the lucky recipient of the Dell Venue 11 Windows 8 Pro tablet prize. Once we have that winner, we'll let you know.

The best thing about this contest is that the ultimate winner is not going to be someone that solicited any reward. Many do not even know they have been nominated. They seek neither glory, nor praise, nor power. They do what they do only to help others. And that is why we ran this drawing. This contest is a way we can all say to those that go those extra miles, 'We notice what you do. Thanks."

ONC Overhaul Will Not Lose Focus on Data Security

In January, Karen DeSalvo, M.D., was brought in to head up the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC.) Fast forward six months, and the ONC is downsizing. A lot.

Going from 17 departments to only 10, DeSalvo explains the adjustments as ‘pivoting for the future’. ONC is also reducing by one half their advisory workgroups, those which make recommendations on health IT policies and standards. Spearheading the HITECH act, the ONC, as part of the Department of Health and Human Services, is tasked with setting policies and standards for electronic health record and health information exchange security at a national level. HITECH act funding is already being phased out for many programs, and much of the early implementation work and heavy-lifting has been completed. With all the broad-strokes policies and standards now in place, it makes a lot of sense to redirect the ONC resources in preparation for new challenges.

Florida Battles Identity Theft Using Old-School Security

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported in February 2014 that Florida has the dubious distinction of being the State with the highest reported rate of ID theft and medical fraud.

The majority of this is perpetrated online. Using social engineering and other techniques to gather data, criminals can pretend to be someone they are not – and get paid. To combat this, the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) has implemented a state wide program to use knowledge-based authentication on their web portal. In other words, they ask questions that only the real person is likely to know the answer to. Just like banks and other organizations did, way back before the Internet was born.

Mobile Device Security and HIPAA

Those that use personal devices such as tablets and smartphones know the freedom they offer for working on the move. With that flexibility comes some personal responsibility for security. Let me give you a personal example.

Yesterday I wanted to check something in my personal files, so I reached into my laptop bag for my iPad. I could not find it. Ah. No panic. Maybe I left it in my desk. Later, back at the office, no iPad. Oh. Must be at home, then? Of course. Back at home, I turned the place upside down. No iPad.

Ooh. What now?

“Reward A Colleague” Drawing To A Close.

The Sigmund Software prize drawing for a Dell Venue 11 Pro Windows tablet will run for only another ten days. On June 13th submissions will close and we move into the judging phase.

The tremendous response to this contest is clear evidence that the fields of Behavioral Health and Addiction treatment attract some of the most wonderful, dedicated and hard-working medical professionals.

Working with enterprise facilities and staff at every level, we see this every day. We are running this contest to highlight those amazing people. But you don’t have to take our word for it. Here are some extracts from the contest entries so far...

FTC Continues To Focus On De-identified Data

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is digging ever deeper into the lack of accountability regarding the use of de-identified data by large data brokerage companies.

FTC Commissioner Julie Brill delivered a statement to Congress on May 27th reiterating ongoing concerns over this issue, as well as the lack of transparency demonstrated by nine of the major data brokerages. In the statement, Brill urges some swift and major changes in legislation.

The reason for the growing concern of the FTC can be summed up in a single statistic from a May 2014 FTC report: Just one of the data brokers examined holds in excess of 3,000 data segments for (almost) every U.S. consumer, man woman and child. That's a lot of very detailed personal information, it must be agreed.

Now multiply that by the total number of data brokers, and remind yourself that data brokerage companies are exempt from HIPAA liabilities.

Webinar: Risk Analysis and Risk Management DO’s and DON’TS

Public Service Announcement: Put Thursday May 29, 2014 into your calendars. At 3:30PM CDT a group of healthcare industry experts will convene on-line to discuss lessons learned from actual OCR audits and enforcement actions. Post-analysis always provides valuable insights and we think this free webinar could really be worth the investment of your time.

Offering guidance on the big risk analysis and risk management do’s and don’ts, attendees can ask and have questions answered, and leave more informed than they arrived.

OCR Works with HIPAA Breached Entities on Risk Analysis Plans

On May 7, 2014, the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) reached a settlement agreement with two large healthcare providers in the amount of $4,800,000. This represents the largest HIPAA settlement to date.

The initial breach occurred in 2010 and was reported by the two entities on September 27. The data breach concerned an estimated 6,800 medical records and included stats, vitals, medication histories and lab results.

This ePHI became available over the public Internet when the shared secure network connecting the two collaborating providers was compromised, due, according to the HHS press office release, to the attempt by a physician to 'deactivate a personally owned server' (read: I unplugged my laptop and went home).

CMS Proposes Extention To Stage 1

The CMS proposed a rule this week which, if adopted, will allow those providers scheduled to move up to Stage 2 attestation another year of wiggle room.

2011 Edition EHR software will continue to be acceptable under this proposed modification. In a joint statement by CMS and ONC, the reason given for recommending this delay is the slow update and release of 2014 Edition software by vendors. This is a classic demonstration of the snowball effect: Providers cannot get 2014 Edition software, because vendors are slow obtaining the necessary certifications, because the criteria is a constantly changing minefield which some vendors (Not Sigmund Software) have said is effectively unattainable. Ironically this is due precisely to changes just like this one, from the people that manage the certification that the vendors need to provide to the facilities so they can attest... You see the problem? This snowball effect is unusual, in that it is entirely circular. Careful what you throw, it could hit you in the face. Yet it somehow still also manages to roll downhill.

Stage 2 Attestations Low, Says CMS

At the May 6 Health IT Policy Committee meeting, Beth Myers of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) reported that as of January 1, 2014 only fifty (50) physicians had attested to Stage 2.

Myers went on to say "We are encouraged by having people who have attested to Stage 2, given the anecdotal evidence that has said that no one will be ready. We have also received a number of hardship applications. I know that's been a big question."

This is something of an understatement. Six hundred (600) hardship exemptions have been filed. Without taking off my shoes to do the math, that's a factor of 1200% more exemption requests than attestations. And providers still have time to file, until July 1, 2014. Which may mean that many have simply not yet got around to filing their exemption request. So the final number could and probably will be higher still.

FTC concerned over security of aggregated medical data

33 States currently sell or share de-identified medical data to third parties including pharmaceutical and insurance companies. De-identification means that names, addresses and Social Security numbers have been scrubbed. As it is no longer personally identifiable, de-identified data is not protected by HIPAA. It is meant to be anonymous. So what use is it to the private companies that are buying it?

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), private companies are by far the most eager purchasers of de-identified data. Let's look at why that may be.

Reward A Colleague Contest!

SigContestOurs is an inspirational industry! Behavioral healthcare and addiction treatment can be both challenging and rewarding. Sigmund wants to acknowledge this commitment and reward those that keep the wheels turning every day: Our colleagues.

We're running a contest, a simple prize drawing.

All we ask is you click through to our entry form and take one minute to tell us who among your colleagues inspires you, and how they make a difference in the lives of others, each and every day! The contest winner will receive a brand new Windows Tablet. And here's the twist: The contest winner gives the prize to their inspirational colleague.

Isn't that a nice thing to do?

One entry per colleague. Note: We don't gather colleague information, just yours, so we can get the prize to you. If you want to spread the word please do, and by doing so you give others a chance to nominate their own colleagues. You may even find yourself in the running if someone nominates you!

At Sigmund we believe that you are a key to the success of any treatment programs. This is our way of saying "Thanks!" and of creating a nicer place to work. We hope you think that it's a good idea.

So please, enter, and remember to tell your colleagues. And to all of you hard working and inspirational people out there, good luck!

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