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The Week of the EMR Celebrity

Posted on July 18, 2013 I Written By

As Social Marketing Director at Billian, Jennifer Dennard is responsible for the continuing development and implementation of the company's social media strategies for Billian's HealthDATA and Porter Research. She is a regular contributor to a number of healthcare blogs and currently manages social marketing channels for the Health IT Leadership Summit and Technology Association of Georgia’s Health Society. You can find her on Twitter @JennDennard.

What a strange week in healthcare IT it’s been, particularly where EMRs are concerned. First came breaking news that Kim Kardashian’s privacy potentially had been breached (insert ironic arch of eyebrow) by Cedars-Sinai employees who had inappropriately accessed patients’ private medical records last month. Then came much more noble press via NPR, which has devoted a series on All Things Considered this week to profiling the world of EMRs:

I had to shush my husband – clap a hand over his mouth, actually – when the NPR interview with Farzad Mostashari came on. “I’ve met that guy!” I told my husband. “He’s a celebrity in our industry, but for all the right reasons!” It was almost invigorating, especially after reading Kardashian headlines, to hear him discuss the many points we’ve all been debating and/or covering for the last few years. He was just as much a compelling cheerleader for the adoption of EMRs and the impact they are likely to have on patient safety as he had been when he bounded across the stage at HIMSS a few years ago.

Which brings us to the middle of the week, when CMS released its latest set of data touting the latest round of EMR success:

  • More than 50% of eligible health care professionals and 80% of eligible hospitals have begun using electronic health record systems since the meaningful use program launched in 2011
  • Shared more than 4.6 million EHR copies with patients;
  • Sent more than 13 million appointment, test and check-up reminders;
  • Checked medication interactions more than 40 million times; and
  • Sent more than 190 million electronic prescriptions

I’m beginning to think that CMS and federal agencies like the ONC are really getting the hang of this media game. I’m sure it’s no coincidence that NPR ran its stories the same week CMS released its latest success story. I just wonder how the general public is digesting this information. With 80% of hospitals now on EMRs, it’s a safe bet that the majority of patients in this country (even Kim Kardashian) have information stored away in one. Are they beginning to realize the benefits this technology brings to their care? Or are most patients still uneasy with the lack of eye contact from their doctors, who are now glued to a computer screen?

Do the CMS numbers tell the whole truth? Has patient safety increased to the detriment of patient satisfaction with bedside manner? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Veriphyr HIT Gives Littlest Victims of Patient Identity Theft a Fighting Chance

Posted on May 24, 2012 I Written By

As Social Marketing Director at Billian, Jennifer Dennard is responsible for the continuing development and implementation of the company's social media strategies for Billian's HealthDATA and Porter Research. She is a regular contributor to a number of healthcare blogs and currently manages social marketing channels for the Health IT Leadership Summit and Technology Association of Georgia’s Health Society. You can find her on Twitter @JennDennard.

I recently came across a press release – “Veriphyr Donates Patient Privacy Breach Detection Service to Minnesota Hospital” – that gave me pause for two reasons. One being that I am always interested in news of charitable healthcare IT projects; and the second being that the subhead of the release further explained that the donation was made to a children’s hospital. Surely kids aren’t the victims of identity theft to such an extent that children’s hospitals are having to take precautions to prevent this type of crime, right? What could be done with an identity that hasn’t yet stepped into the world of banking, credit and loans?

Apparently, I’m pretty naive, because as a segment on NPR’s Morning Edition recently highlighted, “Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in America. Many identity theft victims are children and, because children don’t usually have reason to check their credit reports, the crime often goes undiscovered for years.” It also referred to a recent study by Carnegie Mellon University that found that more than 10 percent of 40,000 children had been victims of identity theft.

Utah, of all places, was highlighted in the audio segment because its attorney general’s office is piloting an online child identity protection service. I can’t help but wonder if they have ramped up efforts around anything to do with identity theft in the wake of the March 30th privacy breach that affected 780,000 Medicaid and CHIP beneficiaries, and the resultant resignation of the state’s IT director and apology from the governor.

I decided to get in touch with the folks at Veriphyr to learn more about why they chose to donate their patient privacy breach detection service to Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare  – a Children’s Miracle Network Hospital (CMNH). According to the release mentioned above, the service protects patients’ personal health information by detecting inappropriate access by hospital employees and other insiders. The company uses “big data” analytics to detect potential privacy and regulatory compliance violations, and data breaches.

Alan Norquist, Veriphyr’s founder and CEO, was kind enough to answer my questions:

Has Veriphyr ever donated technology before?
Alan Norquist: “As a corporate sponsor of Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, Veriphyr donates a portion of each sale to our customers’ local CMNH hospital. The donation to Gillette Children’s is Veriphyr’s first donation of our services to a CMNH hospital.”

Why did Veriphyr choose to become involved in CMNH, and to make a donation to Gillette Children’s in particular?
“The Veriphyr management team wanted to give back to the community and based on the background of the team, they decided to get involved with a charity involving children’s health. We selected CMNH because they offer a program that is national in scope but has local impact. Most importantly, 100 percent of our donations directly benefit children’s health – none is used for CMNH administrative costs.

“Veriphyr decided to expand our involvement by giving our Patient Data Privacy service to one CMNH hospital this year. We chose Gillette Children’s Specialty Hospital because of its internationally recognized work in the diagnosis and treatment of children and young adults who have disabilities or complex medical needs.”

Is there a timeframe or other restrictions associated with donation of the technology?
“Veriphyr will provide privacy breach detection and user access compliance services to Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare for one year.”

It seems we read about hospital privacy breaches on a weekly, if not daily, basis. Why does Veriphyr feel they are becoming so frequent? What should healthcare systems be doing to protect themselves that many tend to overlook?
“One reason for the increase in hospital privacy breaches is that criminals have recognized that the value of medical records is greater than other forms of data. The wealth of personal information contained in medical records can be used in a range of criminal activities including medical id theft, tax refund theft, and more. This has made hospitals a prime target.

“In response, healthcare organizations have implemented appropriate policies and training. Now, leading hospitals are taking the next step and deploying proactive services like Veriphyr’s that detect patient privacy data breaches.”

It is comforting to think that hospitals are now taking such proactive steps, especially in light of national news that criminals think nothing of taking advantage of our most vulnerable population.

Will a Decrease in the Digital Divide Lead to an Uptick in EMR Adoption?

Posted on November 10, 2011 I Written By

As Social Marketing Director at Billian, Jennifer Dennard is responsible for the continuing development and implementation of the company's social media strategies for Billian's HealthDATA and Porter Research. She is a regular contributor to a number of healthcare blogs and currently manages social marketing channels for the Health IT Leadership Summit and Technology Association of Georgia’s Health Society. You can find her on Twitter @JennDennard.

There’s a lot of talk in the healthcare industry right now about bringing health management tools to the consumer. Whether it’s apps for your iPhone or iPad, games to play on your Wii, or free-standing health-and-wellness kiosks at your local pharmacy, digital applications seem to the delivery method of choice right now. I think those of us in the healthcare IT industry sometimes take for granted that not everybody in the US has a smartphone, computer or even Internet access, which to me always begs the question: How great are these bright and shiny health apps if the populations that need them most don’t have access to them? And aren’t Meaningful Use and Accountable Care incentives/payments targeted towards government-sponsored healthcare recipients? The most likely patient population to NOT have reliable access to the Internet?

It’s this concept of a digital divide in healthcare that I am starting to believe will truly bend the curve when it comes to absolute interoperability – the secure sharing of information between patient, provider, payer, vendor, government, etc., anytime, anywhere. Only those patients who have access to these digital healthcare technologies will begin to clamor for them at their next doctors’ visits. Only patients’ whose doctors in turn have reached out to them via email, text or social media regarding the switch to electronic medical records, development of health information exchange and the benefits to care these will hopefully bring will be ready and willing to go with the digital flow.

I was intrigued by a recent news story on NPR the other morning that detailed a recently unveiled government plan – the Connect to Compete Initiative – to offer cheaper broadband access and computers to low-income families. The story pointed out that “about one-third of Americans – that would be 100 million people, give or take – do not have Internet access in their homes.” (I’d be interested to know how many of that population are on Medicare or Medicaid, or have no insurance at all.) Participating companies will offer broadband service to eligible families for $10 a month, while others will offer computers for as little as $150.

Further investigating into the story dug up a more detailed report from Reuters, which explained that eligible families will be those who have at least one child enrolled in the National School Lunch Program. According to a recent Commerce Department report on U.S. broadband adoption, only 43 percent of households with annual incomes below $25,000 had broadband access at home, while 93 percent of households with incomes exceeding $100,000 had broadband.

I think this is a step in the right direction, and am pleasantly surprised that it’s being enacted by the government – who got this digital healthcare ball rolling downhill fast in the first place.

As more and more low-income/average/middle-class Americans – or whatever we want to call ourselves – begin to speak out about the systemic inequalities we experience in this country’s financial, healthcare and educational systems, it’s nice to think (naively perhaps) that somebody just might be listening. As we see an increase in adoption of digital technologies in the consumer space, so too do I think we’ll see a correlating increase in adoption of healthcare IT by the providers that care for them.