The benefits of cloud computing to patients and healthcare providers

There’s no doubt that cloud computing is revolutionizing healthcare. From improving patient care to making medical records more secure, the cloud is making continues to make a big impact in the world of healthcare. Here are just a few of the benefits of using cloud solutions in your healthcare practice.

Better data backup and recovery

Data loss is a major concern for healthcare practices. For instance, your business continuity may suffer when your office IT suddenly becomes inaccessible. Even a couple of days or even just a few hours of downtime can have serious repercussions for your organization.

But with a cloud storage solution, data loss is not something you should worry about. Nearly every cloud solution stores files in more than one location so backups can be restored quickly if anything goes wrong.

Efficient information access

Updating patient records used to be a manual and time-consuming activity. In the past, doctors had to either lug around reams of documents or spend hours in front of a computer to retrieve health records. But with cloud applications for managing electronic medical records (EMRs), doctors are now able to conveniently access medical records anytime and anywhere with an internet connection.

Improved security and HIPAA compliance

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) stipulates rules and regulations on protecting patient health information. Whether you use a browser-based tool or a mobile app, cloud computing makes it easy to adapt to HIPAA regulatory updates and changes. For instance, a vendor can update its data encryption standards in the cloud. These changes will automatically take effect on all accounts and devices without needing to reinstall programs or manually update certain configurations.

Reduced costs

Implementing a cloud solution can also eliminate the need for on-site hardware, maintenance fees, and expensive one-time software licenses. And in terms of less quantifiable cost reductions, the ability to access work from anywhere at any time boosts productivity and makes your IT department more efficient.

Scalability

Unlike in-house hardware, you can easily scale cloud storage solutions in a matter of minutes. Through the cloud, web-based EMR software enables you to retrieve records in a few seconds, and it also gives you more storage than you can ever need. Scalability combined with efficiency allows you to organize your data in a simpler manner.

Want to learn more about the ideal cloud computing solutions for your healthcare organization? Get in touch with our tech experts today for personalized recommendations.

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The advantages of telemedicine

When you have questions about your health or are feeling under the weather, you usually set up a face-to-face meeting with your healthcare provider. But advancements in communication technology are allowing people to consult with their doctors anytime and anywhere through a service called telemedicine.

What is telemedicine?

Telemedicine is an innovative and safe way for patients to consult with their healthcare providers from the comfort of their homes. It utilizes modern video conferencing and remote monitoring technology to help doctors assess, diagnose, and recommend treatment options to patients who are physically unable to visit a clinic or hospital.

Benefits of telemedicine

While it’s not meant to completely replace in-person consultations, telemedicine has significant benefits, such as:

Better access to healthcare

Telemedicine connects specialists to patients who have trouble obtaining proper healthcare services. This includes people living in rural locations and medically underserved communities, and those who can’t travel due to disabilities. With virtual consultations, people without easy access to basic healthcare services can now see their doctors more frequently.

Reduced exposure to illnesses

Because telemedicine allows patients to consult with a physician remotely, it can reduce their risk of exposure to infectious illnesses such as the common cold and the COVID-19 virus.

Convenience

Virtual consultations allow patients to talk to a physician from the comfort of your home, eliminating the need for you to travel, pay for gas and parking, and sit in a waiting room to see a doctor. People can even fit telemedicine into their busy schedules. By scheduling a consultation during breaks or after work, they don’t need to miss a day of work to get a checkup.

Cost savings

According to the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, telemedicine consultations can help patients save around $19 to $121 per visit. The report shows that a single virtual consultation was enough to address the health concerns of multiple patients without having to send them to expensive care settings like emergency rooms. Another study by Today’s Geriatric Medicine shows telemedicine can cut the cost of inpatient care by as much as 19%.

Improved quality of care delivery

A study by the National Library of Medicine showed that telemedicine enhances the quality of care for patients suffering from both mental health and medical conditions. It made follow-up care easier for healthcare professionals and helped patients manage their medical conditions more effectively. With the help of telemedicine, patients had:

  • 38% less hospital admissions
  • 31% less hospital readmissions
  • 63% chance of shorter hospital stays

Organized health information

Aside from virtual consultations, using telemedicine is a good way of organizing a patient’s health records. By using patient forms found on online healthcare platforms and portals, a patient can check their test results, review medical records, request prescription refills, and get in touch with their healthcare provider with a single click of a button.

Telemedicine is changing doctor-patient relationships by providing people with better access to their doctor and direct care at home. If you want to learn more about telemedicine, give us a call today.

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How online scheduling solutions can help your healthcare business

The key to being a successful healthcare company — aside from providing great patient care — is getting the logistics and organization components of operations down to a fine art. You can accomplish this with the help of a reliable online scheduling solution.

Online scheduling is one of the simplest and most popular technologies used by forward-thinking health clinics and hospitals. It shows your patients which doctors and what times are available for appointments, and then allows them to book the appointment right on your website. Practices that have kept up with tech trends like this have seen an uptick in both the number of patients they take in and the quality of care they are able to provide. They are also able to reap the following benefits.

More potential new patients

Today, people are less inclined to make phone calls, especially if it involves ringing up someone they don’t know. For many people looking for a new doctor or specialist, they will simply keep looking for one whose information and appointment booking system can be found online.

More time for your staff, better care for your patients

Think about how much time your staff spend each day answering phone calls from people making an appointment. It’s probably a lot if you have a busy practice. Online scheduling lessens phone time required so that your staff can better focus on and tend to patients. As a result, patients will feel truly cared for and will more likely return to your healthcare facility in the future.

Setting appointments beyond clinic hours

In the past, patients had to wait for the clinic to open just to make an appointment. With online scheduling, they now can simply log in to your website and see available appointment times so they can plan their schedule accordingly around their visit.

Still unsure whether you need online scheduling?

Sure, you probably can get away with not having it at the moment, but eventually, most patients will expect this technology from you. And the sooner you roll out online scheduling, the sooner your staff will get the hang of it, and the sooner your patients can enjoy its benefits.

Need help setting up online scheduling for your practice? Talk to our IT experts today and we’ll make sure this technology will make things easier for your patients.

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Here’s what to look for in health apps and wearable tech

Are you overwhelmed by the many choices consumers now have for monitoring their health? What do you tell your patients when they seek advice on what health app or wearable tech to use? When evaluating these techno-medical innovations, keep the following things in mind.

Begin with the devices and operating systems you’re comfortable with

Perhaps you’re the type of doctor who refrains from making tech recommendations until you know the ins and outs of how something works. Don’t fret — many of your colleagues feel the same way.

To help alleviate your apprehension, focus first on the tech that works on your preferred device and operating system. If you use an iPhone, download and test apps for iOS, not Android. And if you’re already using a wearable device, focus on mastering its features before trying out other gadgets. It’s also possible to have your technology provider arrange a demonstration of these devices and explain how they work. This way, you’ll have a general idea of what they can do and how they can benefit your patients.

Figure out the scope of your recommendations

One thing doctors notice when exploring the world of health apps and wearable technology is just how massive and varied it can be. Your tech options are limited if you’re a specialist, so you’ll have a much easier time figuring out what to recommend to patients. But if you’re a general health practitioner who covers a broader range of medicine, you might become overwhelmed by the breadth of options available today. This is why you must…

…Talk to your patients

By determining what your patients want to get out of their health apps and wearable tech, you’ll narrow down their options to the most useful ones. For instance, if a patient has begun their fitness journey and has set weight and strength goals for themselves, then meal and workout tracker apps would be useful to them.

Remember: just because a particular piece of technology works great for you doesn’t mean your patients will have the same experience with it. Recommend health tech in the same manner that you prescribe treatments — by considering the particular needs of your patients.

Ask a tech expert

Beyond efficacy and ease of use, there are other factors you need to consider when assessing a health app or wearable tech, such as how well it keeps patient information secure. To cover all your bases, consult with our tech experts. Our IT specialists can properly assess technology to ensure that you provide the best care for your patients.

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What an MSP can do for healthcare providers

More and more healthcare organizations are turning to managed IT services providers (MSPs) for their IT needs. Outsourcing their IT functions enables hospitals and clinics to focus on being healthcare providers rather than IT professionals. Here are some of the best benefits of hiring one:

MSPs guarantee quick response times

Constant system uptime and availability can be a matter of life and death in the healthcare industry, which makes quick IT support response times crucial for any healthcare practice.

Most MSPs guarantee timely and quick response, as well as support lines that are open 24/7/365. This means that if your IT infrastructure encounters an issue in the middle of the night, MSPs can handle the problem without the need for you to come into the office.

MSPs provide proactive security

In the realm of healthcare data security, it’s essential to comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) mandates. Failing to meet regulations may result in huge fines, serious penalties, and even the withdrawal of your license to operate.

MSPs offer security services that include identity-based security and encryption, authorized privileges and access control, and data accountability and integrity.

MSPs assist with business continuity plans

A business continuity plan is an absolute necessity for your healthcare organization, as you can’t afford to lose all your valuable medical data in case of an emergency or a disaster.

MSPs can help identify risks and threats, then recommend proactive solutions to protect healthcare operations and data if an outage or a natural disaster occurs. Finally, they maintain HIPAA-compliant off-site backups and failover systems so you can prevent any sudden regulatory or patient data retention issues.

MSPs boost your practice’s efficiency

MSPs can recommend IT solutions and implement technologies into workflow processes to deliver efficient and timely healthcare services. For instance, MSPs can set up AI-powered recruitment tools to help with healthcare staffing, or they can automate database management to reduce human error and increase operational efficiency.

If you want to learn more about how great technology and support can benefit your healthcare practice, get in touch with us today.

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Here’s how to get the right EMR system

Electronic medical record (EMR) systems enable healthcare providers to store patients’ medical and treatment histories in digital formats. These solutions eliminate the need for several complex paper charts and allow medical professionals to provide patients with efficient and precise care. When selecting an EMR system for your healthcare organization, consider these factors.

Determine your requirements

EMR systems come with a vast array of features for different types of users, and you should pay only for those functionalities that will bring value to your practice. Before you even consider your options, list down all of your practice’s requirements. Be process-oriented — start from patient admission, then move on to patient scheduling, medication lists, visual reports, and so on. This list will help you identify which EMR solution addresses your needs and is the best fit for your organization.

Get one that matches your specialization

EMR systems with broad functions may not offer the specific features you need. Choose an EMR system with features that can be customized according to your specialization. For instance, practices that specialize in midwifery will need a unique EMR platform that offers a way to record a newborn’s medical details.

Prioritize ease of use

EMRs should help healthcare professionals effectively treat patients and manage their needs. However, an EMR system that’s too clunky or complex can make achieving this basic goal challenging. When considering your options, look for solutions that are easy to use. This ensures that even non-tech-savvy members of your staff will be able to quickly master the tool.

Additionally, ask the EMR vendor for a demo version of their products and try using this in your everyday operations. This will not only help your staff become familiar with the solution sooner, but will also let you uncover potentially disruptive usability issues early on. This enables you to find a resolution for such issues or move to less buggy alternatives.

Support and upgrades

Reputable sellers usually provide 24/7 support, which is very helpful in case you encounter technical problems while using the EMR system at any hour of the day. After all, technical issues can happen even during off-hours and cause problems for your practice. Furthermore, the software’s manufacturer must offer various upgrades and updates to their product, including new features and bug fixes.

Vendor viability

Consider your vendor’s plans for the future before purchasing their EMR product. You’re not just buying from your vendor, but you’re also creating a long-term relationship with them. Remember that technology is always changing, as are medical regulatory standards. Make sure that your vendor has good customer relations and that they have the ability to invest in future development. After all, EMR implementation can be costly and you don’t want to make major changes to your EMR system every few months.

An EMR system is a crucial tool for any healthcare organization looking to provide the best care to their patients. If you need help finding the right one for your practice and integrating it into your operations, contact us today.

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PHI best practices that all business leaders should know

Protected health information (PHI) is a common target of cybercriminals, as the personal, medical, and financial information that comprise it can be abused for financial gain. This is why businesses that handle PHI should take every step possible to ensure that their clients’ data is always protected.

Provide your staff with regular training

A comprehensive data security training program is necessary to combat ever-evolving threats to the healthcare industry. Training should be done regularly and must cover all the different areas of data security, including the various data breach methods employed by hackers. For instance, your employees should be educated on how to spot phishing attacks, which are the number one cause of data breaches, according to the 2021 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report.

Understanding how phishing works will help your employees recognize and avoid falling victim to such scams. It’s also important to keep updating your staff with developments in the world of cyberthreats, so that they can stay a step ahead of attackers.

Enforce strict access policies

Place access restrictions on your files and documents to keep unauthorized users from getting their hands on PHI. This entails granting employees access to only the PHI they need to perform their tasks. For instance, accountants should not have access to data about patients’ health conditions. Similarly, physicians shouldn’t be able to see patients’ billing information.

Healthcare executives must also hold employees accountable for accessing PHI for no valid reason. Together with regular cybersecurity training, this will minimize the risk of data breaches resulting from insider threats.

Employ full-disk encryption

Full-disk encryption is an inexpensive and quick method to secure private information saved in computers and portable devices. It renders data indecipherable to users who don’t possess the matching decryption key. This means that even if an employee’s laptop or smartphone is lost or stolen, the thief won’t be able to access any encrypted PHI stored in it.

Build a resilient infrastructure

Malware is a blanket term for viruses, Trojans, and other harmful programs that cybercriminals use to damage systems and gain access to sensitive data. To ensure the security of PHI, your healthcare organization must build an IT infrastructure that is protected against malware of all kinds.

This involves setting up safeguards to keep malware and other threats at bay, such as advanced firewalls, intrusion prevention systems, and email filtering software. You should also consider network segregation and segmentation to block hackers’ attempts to penetrate your networks and steal PHI.

If malware does manage to infiltrate your network, stop it from spreading by deploying next-gen anti-malware software that can detect and quarantine any signs of a breach. If such systems fail, you’d also need a data backup and recovery plan so you can continue caring for your patients even during a major incident.

Implement physical security measures

Many healthcare organizations still rely on paper-based PHI and store these in file cabinets. Secure these valuable assets by installing physical security controls, such as surveillance cameras and card entry systems, in the areas of your facility where records are stored. You should also implement strict record log-out procedures, which will help ensure that only authorized personnel can access records that contain sensitive data and that these are returned promptly.

To learn more about how you can secure PHI and other digital assets, drop us a line today. Our team of professionals can provide you with the knowledge and assistance you need.

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Improving healthcare systems with big data

The positive effects of business intelligence (BI) and big data analytics on healthcare management are becoming increasingly apparent — especially when it comes to reducing hospital readmission rates. Take a look at why many hospitals and clinics are beginning to embrace the potentials of data-driven business.

At its core, BI software is all about data analytics. BI software is capable of accepting staggering amounts of data in short periods of time. It uses advanced analysis algorithms to search for trends in the data that even the most experienced statistician cannot find. Because BI can quickly provide deep insights, businesses across industries have utilized different BI software to gain competitive advantages and streamline their workflows. For instance, healthcare organizations use BI to manage their readmission rates.

What is readmission?

Readmission refers to the instance a healthcare institution admits a patient within 30 days of that patient’s previous hospital stay. Readmissions usually occur because of:

  • Complications arising from the preceding treatment
  • Errors committed by hospital staff (e.g., leaving a sponge in the patient’s body after surgery)
  • Patients not following their doctors’ recommendations
  • Insufficient access to proper medical services and medications in the patient’s community

Why should hospitals want to reduce their readmission rate?

There are three main reasons why hospitals must strive to keep patients from returning for additional treatments:

  1. Readmissions are financially crippling and more medically risky for patients
    Medical care in America is one of the most expensive in the world. While the degree of how much medical expenses affect people’s decisions to file for bankruptcy is up for debate, such expenses are nevertheless a contributing factor. Having to be treated more than once is therefore backbreaking for Americans, especially for those who are living paycheck to paycheck. Not only that, but the likelihood of getting hospital-acquired infection also increases the more one visits and/or the longer one stays in a healthcare facility. This results in a costly downward spiral no one wants to be in.
  2. Medicare and Medicaid won’t pay for complete coverage
    Readmissions also take a toll on Medicare and Medicaid. This is why the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) impose a payment reduction penalty of up to 3% upon hospitals that exceed certain thresholds for readmission rates. That is, CMS only pays 97% of covered medical costs instead of the entire 100%. The penalty is arguably also a tool to keep hospitals from profiteering.
  3. Having a high readmission rate can reduce a hospital’s reputation
    Once people find out that your hospital has a high readmission rate, they may begin to avoid your institution, thinking it provides poor-quality care.

How can business intelligence help hospitals with readmission rate reduction?

BI can help reduce readmission rates in several ways. For instance, by using patient-centric data points such as income level, English proficiency, housing conditions, and community resources, hospital administrators will have greater insight into the welfare of their patients. This knowledge will enable healthcare professionals to factor in their patients’ circumstances, create special care plans to increase the likelihood that their patients will abide by their medical recommendations, and help them prevent expensive readmissions.

Furthermore, by using BI software to merge socioeconomic data with electronic medical records, medical professionals can easily create individual profiles that will predict how likely a patient is going to require readmission, even before care is provided. Predictive analytics allows doctors to adjust the initial care they provide certain types of patients so that the likelihood of readmitting such patients is dramatically reduced.

In addition to helping you lower readmission rates, BI software can also provide your practice with unprecedented levels of care and efficiency. Call us today to get started with proven IT experts.

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4 Important details about HIPAA compliance

Getting your practice up to code when it comes to Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations can seem challenging upon first glance, but knowing where your IT efforts must be prioritized is the first step. In this article, we’ll zero in on four of the most critical items you must look into to become HIPAA-compliant.

1. Whether it be on-premises, on the cloud, or both, data storage must be HIPAA-compliant

Electronic protected health information (ePHI) and any sensitive documents like billing records, appointment information, and test results must be stored in HIPAA-compliant devices and servers. More specifically, your devices and services should have multiple layers of security, including endpoint protection software, encryption systems, and strict access controls.

Healthcare providers tend to prefer building their own data centers since they won’t require internet connectivity to access on-premises data storage. However, storage space may be limited, so the cloud is viable, especially for less sensitive ePHI. When choosing cloud-based storage for your EHRs, make sure that you and your service provider meet HIPAA requirements.

2. Data must be secured while providing telehealth and mHealth services

If your practice has invested in or is thinking about investing in telehealth or mobile health (mHealth), then you need to make sure that the tech you utilize is HIPAA-compliant. While most telehealth technologies are HIPAA-approved, one or two additional measures may be required for complete compliance. For example, you may need to utilize encryption in transit to prevent man-in-the-middle attacks during virtual consultations. An IT specialist should have no problem making sure your telehealth solution is up to code.

On the other hand, mHealth may be a little more problematic, as it is a new and constantly changing field. Your best bet is to consult with an expert to make sure that you’re following all the necessary regulations when providing mHealth services.

3. Healthcare business associates must also be HIPAA-compliant

Conforming to HIPAA regulations is not just limited to medical practices, healthcare clearinghouses, and health plan organizations. Any business that has access, electronic or otherwise, to PHI is also required by law to be HIPAA-compliant. This includes any accounting or law firms you work with that may already be accessing your files electronically to carry out work.

To avoid any potential trouble for your practice or its partners, it is best to ask them if they are HIPAA-compliant before partnering with them. If they aren’t, do not grant them data access privileges.

4. Your protected health information (PHI) notice must be available online

If your practice has a website, HIPAA rules dictate that your website must contain a copy of your updated PHI notice for patients to access. This notice informs patients of their rights with regard to their health information. If this information is not currently posted on your website, rectify this as soon as possible to avoid any problems.

Still not sure if you’re 100% HIPAA-compliant? Our team of experts can run the necessary risk analysis and identify areas of your technology that may not be in line with current regulations. Just give us a call today.

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HIPAA calls for careful social media behavior

Healthcare providers that use social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter can interact with their patients, advertise new services, and communicate urgent announcements. Even though there’s immense potential for social media to improve healthcare, it can also expose patient-specific information when used irresponsibly.

What social media actions violate HIPAA rules?

Posting patients’ protected health information on social media, even if it’s accidentally, without the patients’ permission or authority is a violation of HIPAA regulations. This includes actions like:

  • Sharing pictures (like a team lunch in the workplace) with patient information visible in the background
  • Sharing any form of PHI (such as images or videos)
  • Posting any information that could identify an individual
  • Sharing gossip about a patient, even if the patient’s name is not mentioned

What are the consequences of violating HIPAA?

People in the healthcare industry should not treat HIPAA violations lightly. If an employee is found guilty of breaking a HIPAA rule, they could face fines between $100 and $1,500,000 depending on the severity of the violation. They could also face a 10-year jail sentence, lawsuits, job termination, and revocation of their medical license.

How can healthcare organizations prevent violations?

There are simple ways to avoid HIPAA violations while using social media:

  • Don’t post stories about patients on social media. Even if the patient’s name is omitted, the patient could still be identified by their diagnosis or treatment.
  • Check the background of photos before posting. Make sure there are policies that prohibit employees from posting photos of a patient or their information.
  • Prohibit employees from offering medical advice on social media. It’s best practice to refrain from posting diagnosis or treatment plans on social media, even if a patient asks for medical advice.
  • Always get written permission. Sometimes, a patient’s story is too great not to share. Maybe they made an astonishing recovery or exhibited great strength in the face of adversity and you want to share their accomplishment. In cases like these, ask for written permission from the patient before posting anything on social media.
  • Undergo training on HIPAA security and HIPAA privacy procedures and policies. Make sure to discuss topics such as workstation use, workstation security, and using personal devices for work. These procedures ensure that employees comply with HIPAA rules and are protecting patient information, whether it be electronic, written, or oral.

Do you work in the healthcare industry and need help managing IT and privacy issues? Feel free to call us today!

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