American author Hal Borland described a new year as being neither an end nor a beginning, but rather a “going on” – an opportunity to build on the wisdom gained from our experience.
I take that a step further, looking at what’s going on in the health IT and healthcare communication world and where I believe mobile technology can affect positive benefits for health IT. Here are my takes on the top five health IT issues we’ll be thinking about in 2015:
1. HIPAA Compliance. Is your email HIPAA compliant? Are your staff using HIPAA-compliant secure text messaging? The HIPAA Omnibus Final Rule kicks into high gear this year as the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) restarts the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) HIPAA random audit program. Prior to this, HIPAA compliance audits happened only when a provider self-reported a breach of security or when a patient complained that his protected health information (PHI) had been wrongly publicized by a provider. Under the Omnibus Rule, mandatory fines for instances of willful negligence are set at a minimum of $10,000 and can climb as high as $50,000, to a total of $1.5 million per year. That will make 2015 a year when practices re-evaluate just how carefully they’re protecting patient PHI, and look toward the industry for HIPAA-compliant text messaging and HIPAA-compliant email solutions. We’ve built the Diagnotes brand on HIPAA-compliance and mobile healthcare communication, and we’re innovating every day to customize and expand our mobile medical software system.
2. Patient Engagement. A key tenet of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) is reform to payment systems to healthcare providers. And one of the key precepts fostered by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in developing payment reform is a performance-based incentive model. Built into that model is the belief that engaged and involved patients achieve better health outcomes, and better outcomes trigger increased reimbursement for healthcare services. CMS’s EHR incentive program uses a carrot/stick system of rewards and penalties known as Meaningful Use to measure how well providers meet patient engagement targets. Practice managers will be looking at healthcare software solutions and medical software systems that go beyond clinical communication to improved patient engagement and patient experience. Like patients, providers want to access the information they need, in the format they need, at the time and place they need. Improving patient care and outcomes, and reducing the time, effort and cost of healthcare is key in the 21th Century. And it’s what we focus on at Diagnotes.
3. Long Term and Post Acute Care (LTPAC). The challenges of caring for our aging population have been discussed ad nauseam in recent years, but I expect the subject to move to the front burner in health IT beginning in 2015 for two reasons. First, while it may be true that patients in their 80s and 90s aren’t particularly tech savvy or tech trusting, their providers are, and embrace health IT solutions that improve patient quality of life and outcomes. And, second, younger seniors – the so-called Baby Boom generation – grew up in a rapidly expanding tech world and many are not only early but eager adopters who readily accept and even demand IT solutions that promise to improve their quality of life. Healthcare communication tools from HIPAA-compliant physician communication to mHealth apps and mobile technologies for health are not only accepted but expected.
That’s what I believe will be three of the five most important health IT issues facing us in 2015. Look for my final two issues in Part II – coming soon.