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Entries from June 2011 ↓

Increased Transparency

Posted by ClearDirections on June 28th, 2011 in Accountable Care Organization, Hospital Management, Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act | No Comments

HIPAA, HHS, Affordable Care Act, ACO
Recently the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) proposed new modifications to the more than decade-old HIPAA rules. The current proposal by HHS seeks to create a system that provides more information to individuals about who is accessing and using their healthcare information. These changes appear to be in line with the Affordable Care Act proposed rules, given they lead to greater accountability for entities in how they guard protected health information.

HHS proposes to alter the Privacy Rule by dividing it into two sections, one about the right of an individual to an accounting of disclosures and the other for the right of an individual to an access report. In doing so, HHS also has proposed to broaden the scope of information to be accounted for by including business associates, while at the same time narrowing the time frame to be covered when accounting for information from six years to three years. Also, currently entities are only tasked with listing the types of disclosures that are exempt from an accounting of information, but under the proposed rule, entities would also list each disclosure.

The provision would limit the protected information to be accounted for to information believed to be most important to individuals, which would include health care and payment decisions about an individual. These records would be maintained in a designated record set. Other information would remain protected under the Privacy Rule, even though tracking in a designated record set is not required. For covered entities to maintain such records, they will need to ensure that their EHR system is up-to-date and has the capability to access and create these reports.

These changes appear to better align the HIPAA Privacy Rule with the proposed Affordable Care Act and will be important to note for covered entities. For more information about EHR systems and IT development, feel free to contact us.

We have provided a general overview here of HHS’ proposed changes to the HIPAA Privacy Rule, For an in-depth reading of these changes, click here to access the proposal.

Could this be the IT ACOs need?

Posted by ClearDirections on June 22nd, 2011 in Accountable Care Organization, Hospital Management, Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act | No Comments

Microsoft has been refining its health IT offering, the Amalga system, which proposes to integrate information from many different health IT systems into one platform, which allegedly will ease the pain of shifting to an ACO.. Several components of this system have been in development for several years and are reported to answer most of today’s healthcare information needs:
• Microsoft Quality Measures Manager
• Microsoft Health Vault
• Medical Imaging Module
• Readmissions Manager

Once the information is integrated within Microsoft’s Amalga system, it can be viewed and utilized in many different ways depending upon who is using the information. This will reduce redundancy currently occurring in the healthcare industry by allowing all medical professionals within a particular ACO to access patient information and medical histories.

Several different applications comprise the Amalga health IT data integration platform. Microsoft Quality Measures Manager simplifies the quality data aggregation and measurement process. Another is the Microsoft HealthVault, which is a web interface patients use to store their health data and selectively share their medical history with healthcare providers. The medical imaging module for Microsoft Amalga organizes medical images and allows them to be viewed by other healthcare providers in an ACO. Another tool is the Readmissions Manager, which tracks details about readmissions of patients to aid in understanding the causes of patient readmissions.

This brief overview of Microsoft Amalga gives us a sense that the über IT solution for ACO may be here or is yet to come. In either case, it appears that this software platform may speed healthcare leaders’ move toward ACO readiness. Check it out at http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/microsofthealth/products/microsoft-amalga.aspx.

Innovate Through Pain

Posted by ClearDirections on June 1st, 2011 in Accountable Care Organization, Hospital Management, Innovation | No Comments

Innovation. This buzzword appears to be the key to success in any sector of business today, including healthcare. The ability to thrive in today’s dynamic and fast-paced business environment relies heavily on an organization’s ability to create a competitive advantage by utilizing innovative and cost-effective initiatives. Intuit is a good example of a company that has leveraged its assets to create and devise innovative products and services in the same way healthcare can.

The D4D (Design for Delight) design process implemented by Intuit focuses on identifying and learning from consumers.* The process begins with the “painstorm” in which the company observes and detects customer pain points or problems that should be address and alleviated. After identifying the relevant pain points, a “sol-jam” session is held, where the company challenges the employees to identify solutions that address consumer pain points. Once the solutions are discussed and narrowed down to a relevant few, the company then embarks on the third step in the process, “code-jam.” It is this process that sets Intuit apart and has the most impact on the innovation process.

During this last phase, the company directs their focus toward quickly developing and implementing a rudimentary product or service with the intent of generating feedback from consumers to see how well the product alleviates the target pain point. Intuit recognizes that identifying whether or not a product or service alleviates customer pain points is the most important aspect of the innovation process. Therefore, instead of investing heavily up front on creating a product or service that may meet consumer needs, Intuit focuses on creating and testing a basic form of the product to ensure that it, in fact, does what it is intended to do.

With respect to the healthcare industry, this innovation process may have the largest impact on process improvement by decreasing the lag time between identifying patient pain points in the process and creating new processes to alleviate those problems. As healthcare providers work to alleviate patient pain points, they will simultaneously increase customer loyalty. This is just one way in which healthcare providers could utilize this innovative tool. The process also could be implemented internally by recognizing organizational level pain points for employees and identifying solutions to alleviating those problems. Overall, this simple framework has the potential to fuel innovation in the healthcare industry. For more information on how we help our clients position themselves through innovation, call us at 888-316-1761 or email info@mycleardirections.com.

*Roger L. Martin, “The Innovation Catalysts,” Harvard Business Review (June 2011).