Free Hospital EMR and EHR Newsletter Want to receive the latest news on EMR, Meaningful Use, ARRA and Healthcare IT sent straight to your email? Join thousands of healthcare pros who subscribe to Hospital EMR and EHR for FREE!

An HIM Twitter Roundup – HIM Scene

Posted on December 13, 2017 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

For those that aren’t participating on Twitter, you’re missing out. The amount of knowledge and information that’s shared on Twitter is astounding. The problem is that many people think that Twitter is where you go to talk about yourself. Certainly, that’s an option if you want to do that, but I find that consuming information that people share on Twitter is extremely valuable.

If you’ve never done Twitter before, sign up (it’s free) and then you need to go in and follow about 50 HIM professionals and other healthcare influencers. You can start by following @healthcarescene. HIM professionals are easy to find. Just search for the term AHIMA or ICD-10 and you’ll find a lot of them to follow.

Ok, enough of the Twitter lesson. Just to show you some of the value of Twitter, here’s a quick roundup of HIM related tweets. Plus, I’ll add a little commentary of my own after each tweet.


This is becoming such an important role for HIM professionals in a healthcare organization. HIM staff can do an amazing work ensuring that the data that’s stored in an EHR or other clinical system is accurate. If the data’s wrong, then all these new data based decisions are going to be wrong.


I think upcoding stories are like an accident on the freeway. When you see one you just have to look.


I’m still chewing on this one. Looks like a lot of deep thoughts at the AHIMA Data Summit in Orlando.


The opioid epidemic is such an issue. We need everyone involved to solve it. So, it’s great to see HIM can help with the problem as well. I agree that proper documentation and EHR interoperability is a major problem that could help the opioid epidemic. It won’t solve everything, but proper EHR documentation is one important part.


This is an illustration of where healthcare is heading. So far we’ve mostly focused on data collection. Time to turn the corner and start using that data in decision making.

Healthcare Always Has a Why Not – Essential to Focus on the Why To

Posted on December 11, 2017 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I recently hosted two roundtables at the Digital Healthcare Transformation conference around the topics of IoT (Internet of Things) and Wearables. The discussion at these roundtables was fascinating and full of promise. Although, it was also clear that all of these healthcare organizations were trying to figure out what was the right strategy when it came to IoT and wearables in their hospitals and health systems. In fact, one of the big takeaways from the roundtables was that the best strategy right now was to have a strategy of experimentation and learning.

While good advice, I was also struck by a simple concept that I’ve seen over and over in healthcare:

If you want a reason not to do something in healthcare, you’ll find one.

It’s a sad, but true principle. Healthcare is so complex that if you want to make an excuse find a reason not to do something, then you can easily find it. In fact, you can usually find multiple reasons.

The most egregious example of this is HIPAA. HIPAA has been an excuse not to do more things in healthcare than any other excuse in the book. When someone says that “HIPAA won’t allow us to do this” then we should just start translating that to mean “I don’t want to do this and so I’m pulling my HIPAA card.” HIPAA certainly requires certain actions, but I know of almost anything that can’t be done in healthcare that could still satisfy HIPAA requirements. At a minimum, you can always ask the patient to consent to essentially wave HIPAA and if the patient consents then you’re not in violation of HIPAA. However, in most cases you can meet HIPAA security and compliance requirements without having to go that far. However, if you’re looking for a reason not to do something, just say HIPAA.

Another one I’ve seen used and is much harder is when someone says, “I think this risks the quality of care we provide.” Notice the emphasis on the word THINK. Healthcare providers don’t have to have any evidence that a new technology, workflow, process, etc actually risks the quality of care. They just have to think that it could reduce the quality of care and it will slow everything down and often hijack the entire project. Forget any sort of formal studies or proof that the changes are better. If the providers’ gut tells them that it could risk the quality of care, it takes a real leader to push beyond that complaint and to force the provider to spend the time necessary to translate why their gut tells them it will be worse.

If we focus on the Why Not in healthcare, we’ll always find it. That’s why healthcare must focus on the Why to!

Use the examples of IoT or wearables and think about all the reasons healthcare should use these new technologies. It’s amazing how this new frame of reference changes your perspective. Wearables can help you understand the patient beyond the short time they spend in the hospital or doctor’s office. Wearables can help you better diagnose a patient. Wearables can help you better understand a chronic patient’s habits. etc etc etc. You obviously have to go much deeper into specific benefits, but you get the idea.

What I’ve found is that once you figure out the “Why to” make a change or implement a new technology, then it’s much easier to work through all of the “Why nots.” In fact, it turns the Why Nots into problems that need to be solved rather than excuses to not even consider a change. You can solve problems. Excuses are often impossible to overcome.

I’d love to hear your experience with this idea. Have you seen Why Nots hijack your projects? What are some of the other Why Not reasons you’ve seen? Has the move to asking “Why to” helped you in your projects?

KLAS Summit: Digital Health Investment

Posted on December 4, 2017 I Written By

Healthcare as a Human Right. Physician Suicide Loss Survivor.
Janae writes about Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, Data Analytics, Engagement and Investing in Healthcare.
twitter: @coherencemed

Healthcare Investing and Innovation: Asking the right questions.

KLAS research hosted a digital health investment symposium in Park City, Utah. One of my main takeaways was the importance of asking the right questions to healthcare stakeholders. This includes asking investors what they are interested in.

This one-day work collaboration focused on round table discussions about the interests of investors and providers in digital health. Aligning investor interests with provider needs is one of the biggest needs of healthcare. We want good capital to get to good companies. While at the round table, one of the best comments I heard was that some of the design isn’t centered around the end user. If physicians are responsible for using a product it needs to align to their interests.

Unfortunately, too many people don’t ask the right questions. A technology company might not understand their value proposition in healthcare. I’ve seen companies criticize a lack of technology adoption in healthcare. These are companies that didn’t have a clear picture of what they offered. They also didn’t have a tested healthcare product Or they didn’t ask the specific potential user what they need.

Many of the successful investors at the summit had significant operating experience in the digital health world or operations world. They contributed–if you are a technology looking for a problem, you will struggle in healthcare. You aren’t meeting a need in the market. Some shiny tech solutions are created without real consideration for end users or need. There is no market need for what some people create. Ask yourself if you are user focused. Are you building something that physicians will add to their workflow?  Did you consult physicians? What about patients?

One of the interesting parts of this summit was how many participants asked not to be quoted or mentioned as part of the effort. Many of the most important healthcare collaborative efforts happen in private meetings or surrounding larger healthcare events. The quality of conversation behind closed doors helps move healthcare progress forward.  What role does journalism play in driving this healthcare conversation? This was my personal question from the event.

Discussing barriers to adoption and success needs a private platform. KLAS research has been convening these conversations in alignment with their research and mission of providing transparency about quality and I was impressed with the amount of interest in workflow and informatics. The stereotype of an investor with no experience in healthcare is not representative of the investors present at the KLAS event. There were years of operator,  innovator, and code experience in digital health. A successful investor in digital health comes with the ability to contribute to design and network developed through years of successful companies.

Can we deliver the correct answers and create an environment of improved workflow and creating products that improve healthcare?

Here are the top 10 questions I took away from the KLAS Investor Summit

  1. What type of problems do you like to solve?
  2. How long have you been trying to solve the problems you are trying to solve?
  3. How has the nature of the problem you are trying to solve evolved?
  4. What are better questions to ask at this type of summit?
  5. What do you like to invest in?
  6. What companies do you currently invest in?
  7. How do you see creating change at the national level?
  8. What are the digital health initiatives that are important to people?
  9. What are the problems that aren’t being articulated in public discourse that digital health can speak to?
  10. What are you most excited about in digital health?

Remember the importance of asking what people need when approaching investors.

Study Suggests That Hospitals Do Better With Richer Clinical EHR Tech Support

Posted on November 29, 2017 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare editor and analyst with 25 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

It’s hardly a mystery that providers get more use out of health IT when they get good support from the vendors who created it. According to one study, however, today’s vendors need to go further with the tech support offerings, including services extending from helpdesk through engineering interventions.

The study, conducted by research firm Black Book, involved interviewing 4,446 nurses and physicians about the quality of clinical tech support services needed to have an impact on patient care. A large majority (85%) of clinicians said that delivery of patient care services is undermined substantially by subpart user tech support, Black Book reports.

Additional interesting data came from the 1,103 respondents who reported having worked in varied facilities using different EHR systems, which gave them perspective on how tech support options impacted clinical care. Of that group, 77% of nurses and 89% of doctors said the hospitals benefited from advanced tech support, which created an excellent EHR end-user experience.

All that being said, hospital financial leaders didn’t seem confident that they could afford to pay for top-tier tech support for health IT tools. According to the survey, 155 of the 180 CFOs and financial executives who responded to the survey felt they faced too many challenges and had too few resources budgeted for 2018 to spend on additional EHR support next year.

On the other hand, the CFOs are going to get pushback from their colleagues in other departments, the survey suggests. According to the study, 49 of 82 CMOs said they were routinely discontented with a range of tech support provided to the nursing and physician employees. Meanwhile, 80% of the 1,319 IT management and CIO respondents reported that they were seeing a steep increase in clinical grievances after EHR implementation, especially among physicians.

And if they have the opportunity, they’re going to demand more from vendors on the tech support front. In fact, 70 of the 82 hospital CMOs surveyed believe that the availability of multi-level tech support from their health records vendors will be a top competitive differentiator distinguishing one inpatient EHR from the others.

So here, we have the makings of some serious financial tensions between hospitals and EHR vendors. On the one hand, CFOs are signaling that they don’t want to pay extra for additional support, even if it has the potential for improving clinical performance. CIOs and CMO’s, for their part, are willing to shortlist vendors that do a better job of supporting key end-users like physician after EHR rollouts.

Will the more aggressive vendors absorb the cost of delivering more comprehensive, clinical-friendly tech support? Or will hospital financial leaders give in to internal pressure and pay for more sophisticated support?  It’s too soon to tell who has more muscle here, but my guess is that given the still-crowded EHR market, the vendors will eventually be forced to give in and offer better tech support options as part of their base price. My guess is that hospitals still hold more of the cards.

Providing ongoing support for an EHR and other healthcare IT has become such a challenge, we’ve made it one of the themes at our new Health IT Expo conference. If finding a sustainable way to support your EHR at every tier, then join us in New Orleans to learn and share with other hospital organizations that are going through the same challenges.

CHIME Suspends the $1 Million Dollar National Patient ID Challenge

Posted on November 17, 2017 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

CHIME just announced that they’ve suspended their National Patient ID Challenge. For those not familiar with the challenge, almost 2 years ago CHIME Announced a $1 million prize for companies to solve the patient identification and matching problem in healthcare. Here’s the description of the challenge from the HeroX website that hosted the challenge:

The CHIME National Patient ID Challenge is a global competition aimed at incentivizing new, early-stage, and experienced innovators to accelerate the creation and adoption of a solution for ensuring 100 percent accuracy in identifying patients in the U.S. Patients want the right treatment and providers want information about the right patient to provide the right treatment. Patients also want to protect their privacy and feel secure that their identity is safe.

And here’s the “Challenge Breakthrough” criteria:

CHIME Healthcare Innovation Trust is looking for the best plan, strategies and methodologies that will accomplish the following:

  • Easily and quickly identify patients
  • Achieve 100% accuracy in patient identification
  • Protect patient privacy
  • Protect patient identity
  • Achieve adoption by the vast majority of patients, providers, insurers, and other stakeholders
  • Scale to handle all patients in the U.S.

When you look at the fine print, it says CHIME (or the Healthcare Innovation Trust that they started to host the challenge) could cancel the challenge at any time without warning or explanation including removing the Prize completely:

5. Changes and Cancellation. Healthcare Innovation Trust reserves the right to make updates and/or make any changes to, or to modify the scope of the Challenge Guidelines and Challenge schedule at any time during the Challenge. Innovators are responsible for regularly reviewing the Challenge site to ensure they are meeting all rules and requirements of and schedule for the Challenge. Healthcare Innovation Trust has the right to cancel the Challenge at any time, without warning or explanation, and to subsequently remove the Prize completely.

It seems that CHIME’s legally allowed to suspend the challenge. However, that doesn’t mean that doesn’t burn the trust of the community that saw them put out the $1 million challenge. The challenge created a lot of fanfare including promotion by ONC on their website, which is a pretty amazing thing to even consider. CHIME invested a lot in this challenge, so it must hurt for them to suspend it.

To be fair, when the challenge was announced I hosted a discussion where I asked the question “Is this even solvable?” At 100% does that mean that no one could ever win the challenge? With that in mind, the challenge always felt a bit like Fool’s Gold to me and I’m sure many others. I thought, “CHIME could always come back and make the case that no one could ever reach 100% and so they’d never have to pay the money.” Those that participated had to feel this as well and they participated anyway.

The shameful part to me is how suspending the competition is leaving those who did participate high and dry. I asked CHIME about this and they said that the Healthcare Innovation Trust is still in touch with the finalists and that they’re encouraging them to participate in the newly created “Patient Identification Task Force.” Plus, the participants received an honorarium.

Participation in a CHIME Task Force and the honorarium seems like a pretty weak consolation prize. In fact, I can’t imagine any of the vendors that participated in the challenge would trust working with CHIME going forward. Maybe some of them will swallow hard and join the task force, but that would be a hard choice after getting burnt like this. It’s possible CHIME is offering them some other things in the background as well.

What’s surprising to me is why CHIME didn’t reach out to the challenge participants and say that none of them were going to win, but that CHIME still wanted to promote their efforts and offerings to provide a solid benefit to those that participated. CHIME could present the lessons learned from the challenge and share all the solutions that were submitted and the details of where they fell short and where they succeeded. At least this type of promotion and exposure would be a nice consolation prize for those who spent a lot of time and money participating in the challenge. Plus, the CIOs could still benefit from something that solved 95% of their problems.

Maybe the new Patient Identification Task Force will do this and I hope they do. CHIME did it for their new Opioid Task Force at the Fall Forum when they featured it on the main stage. How about doing the same for the Patient Identification Challenge participants? I think using the chance to share the lessons learned would be a huge win for CHIME and its members. I imagine it’s hard for CHIME to admit “failure” for something they worked on and promoted so much. However, admitting the failure and sharing what was learned from it would be valuable for everyone involved.

While I expect CHIME has burnt at least some of the challenge participants, the CHIME CIO members probably knew the challenge was unlikely to succeed and won’t be burnt by this decision. Plus, the challenge did help to call national attention to the issue which is a good thing and as they noted will help continue to push forward the national patient identifier efforts in Washington. Maybe now CHIME will do as Andy Aroditis, Founder and CEO of NextGate, suggested in this article where Shaun Sutner first reported on issues with the CHIME National Patient ID Challenge:

Aroditis complained that rather than plunging into a contest, CHIME should have convened existing patient matching vendors, like his company, to collaborate on a project to advance the technology.

“Instead they try to do these gimmicks,” Aroditis said.

I imagine that’s what CHIME would say the Patient Identification Task Force they created will now do. The question is whether CHIME burnt bridges they’ll need to cross to make that task force effective.

The reality is that Patient Identification and Patient Matching is a real problem that’s experienced by every healthcare organization. It’s one that CHIME members feel in their organizations and many of them need better solutions. As Beth Just from Just Associates noted in my discussion when the challenge was announced, $1 million is a drop in the bucket compared to what’s already been invested to solve the problem.

Plus, many healthcare organizations are in denial when it comes to this problem. They may say they have an accuracy of 98%, the reality is very different when a vendor goes in and wakes them up to what’s really happening in their organization. This is not an easy problem to solve and CHIME now understands this more fully. I hope their new task force is successful in addressing the problem since it is an important priority.

Opening the Door to Data Analytics in Medical Coding – HIM Scene

Posted on November 15, 2017 I Written By

The following is a HIM Scene guest blog post by Julia Hammerman, RHIA, CPHQ, is Director of Education and Compliance, himagine solutions.

Data analytics has moved from IT and finance to the majority of business functions—including clinical coding. However, most healthcare organizations admit they could do more with analytics. This month’s HIM Scene blog explores the importance of analyzing clinical coding data to improve quality, productivity, and compliance.

Coding Data in ICD-10: Where We Are Today

HIM leaders are implementing coding data analytics to continually monitor their coding teams and cost-justify ongoing educational investments. Coding data analytics isn’t a once-and-done endeavor. It is a long-term commitment to improving coding performance in two key areas: productivity and accuracy.

A Look at Productivity Data

Elements that impact coding productivity data include: the type of electronic health record (EHR) used, the number of systems accessed during the coding process, clinical documentation improvement (CDI) initiatives, turnaround time for physician queries, and the volume of non-coding tasks assigned to coding teams.

Once any coding delays caused by these issues are corrected, coding productivity is best managed with the help of data analytics. For optimal productivity monitoring, the following data must be tracked, entered, and analyzed:

  • Begin and end times for each record—by coder and chart type
  • Average number of charts coded per hour by coder
  • Percentage of charts that take more than the standard minutes to code—typically charts with long lengths of stay (LOS), high dollar or high case mix index (CMI)
  • Types of cases each coder is processing every day

A Look at Accuracy Data

Accuracy should never be compromised for productivity. Otherwise, the results include denied claims, payer scrutiny, reimbursement issues, and other negative financial impacts.

Instead, a careful balance between coding productivity and accuracy is considered best practice.

Both data sets must be assessed simultaneously. The most common way to collect coding accuracy data is through coding audits and a thorough analysis of coding denials.

  • Conduct routine coding accuracy audits
  • Analyze audit data to target training, education and other corrective action
  • Record data so that back-end analysis is supported
  • Assess results for individual coders and the collective team

Using Your Results

Results of data analysis are important to drive improvements at the individual level and across entire coding teams. For individuals, look for specific errors and provide coaching based on the results of every audit. Include tips, recommendations, and resources to improve. If the coding professional’s accuracy continues to trend downward, targeted instruction and refresher coursework are warranted with focused re-audits to assure improvement over time.

HIM and coding managers can analyze coding audit data across an entire team to identify patterns and trends in miscoding. Team data pinpoints where multiple coders may be struggling. Coding hotlines or question queues are particularly helpful for large coding teams working remotely and from different geographic areas. Common questions can be aggregated for knowledge sharing across the team.

Analytics Technology and Support: What’s Needed

While spreadsheets are still used as the primary tool for much data analysis in healthcare, this option will not suffice in the expanded world of ICD-10. Greater technology investments are necessary to equip HIM and coding leaders with the coding data analytics technology they need.

The following technology guidelines can help evaluate new coding systems and level-up data analytics staff:

  • Data analytics programs with drill-down capabilities are imperative. These systems are used to effectively manage and prevent denials.
  • Customized workflow management software allows HIM and coding leaders to assign coding queues based on skillset.
  • Discharged not final coded and discharged not final billed analytics tools are important to manage each piece of accounts receivables daily and provide continual reporting.
  • Systems should have the ability to build rules to automatically send cases to an audit queue based on specific factors, such as diagnosis, trend, problematic DRGs.
  • Capabilities to export and manipulate the data within other systems, such as Excel, while also trending data are critical.
  • Staff will need training on advanced manipulation of data, such as pivot charts.
  • Every HIM department should have a copy of the newly revised AHIMA Health Data Analysis Toolkit, free of charge for AHIMA members.

HIM directors already collect much of the coding data required for improved performance and better decision-making. By adding data analytics software, organizations ensure information is available for bottom-line survival and future growth.

If you’d like to receive future HIM posts in your inbox, you can subscribe to future HIM Scene posts here.

RCM Tips And Tricks: To Collect More From Patients, Educate And Engage Them

Posted on November 1, 2017 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare editor and analyst with 25 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Hospitals face particularly difficult challenges when trying to collect on patient bills. When you mix complex pricing structures, varied contracts with health insurers and dizzying administrative issues, it’s hard to let patients know what they’re going to owe, much less collect it.

Luckily, RCM leaders can make major progress with patient collections if they adopt some established (but often neglected) strategies. In short, to collect more from patients you need to educate them about healthcare financial issues, develop a trusted relationship with them and make it easy for them to pay that bill.

As a thought exercise, let’s assume that most patients want to pay their bills, but may need encouragement. While nobody can collect money from consumers that refuse to pay, you can help the willing ones prepare for the bills they’ll get. You can teach them to understand their coverage. In some cases, you can collect balances ahead of time. Toss in some smart patient engagement strategies and you could be golden.

What will that look like in practice? Check out this list of steps hospitals can take to improve RCM results directly, courtesy of a survey of hospital execs by Becker’s Hospital Review:

  • Sixty-five percent suggested that telling patients the amount due before they come to an appointment would be helpful.
  • Fifty-two percent believe that having more data on patients’ likelihood to pay could improve patient collections results
  • Forty-seven percent said that speaking to clients in different ways depending on the state of the finances would help improve patient collections.
  • Forty-two percent said that offering customers payment plans would be valuable.

Of course, you won’t be doing this in a vacuum, and some of the trends affecting patient financial responsibility are beyond your control. For example, unless something changes dramatically, many patients will continue to struggle with high-deductible health coverage. Nobody – except the health insurers – likes this state of affairs, but it’s a fact of life.

Also, it’s worth noting that boosting patient engagement can be complicated and labor-intensive. To connect with patients effectively, hospitals will need to fight a war on many fronts. That means not only speaking to patients in ways they understand, but also offering well-thought-out hospital-branded mobile apps, an effective online presence and more. You’ll want to do whatever it takes to foster patient loyalty and trust. Though this may sound intimidating, you’ll like the results you get.

However, there are a few strategies that hospitals can implement relatively quickly. In fact, the Becker’s survey results suggest that hospitals already know what they need to do — but haven’t gotten around to it.

For example, 87% of hospital respondents said they had a problem with collecting co-pays before appointments, 85% said knowing how much patients can pay was important, and 76% of respondents said that simplifying bills was a problem for them. While it may be harder than it looks to execute on these strategies, it certainly isn’t impossible.

Heard at #AHIMACon17: Lessons Learned for HIM – HIM Scene

Posted on October 18, 2017 I Written By

The following is a HIM Scene guest blog post by Rita Bowen, MA, RHIA, CHPS, CHPC, SSGB, Vice President, Privacy, Compliance and HIM Policy, at MRO.  

The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) held its annual convention and exhibit in Los Angeles last week. Beginning with preconvention meetings and symposia, this year’s event delivered a renewed focus on the profession’s stalwart responsibility to protect and govern patient information. Updates for privacy, security, interoperability and information governance were provided. Here is a quick overview of my lessons learned at AHIMACon17.

Privacy and Security Institute

The 11th anniversary of AHIMA’s Privacy and Security Institute didn’t disappoint. Speakers from the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR), Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and HITRUST joined privacy and HIM consultants for an information-packed two-day symposium. The most important information for HIM professionals and privacy officers came from the nation’s capital.

Cutbacks underway—Recent defunding of the Chief Privacy Officer (CPO) position by ONC makes practical sense for the healthcare industry and the national budget. The position has been vacant for the past year, and during this time Deven McGraw successfully served as acting CPO and deputy director for health information privacy. Her imminent departure along with other cutbacks will have a trickle-down impact for privacy compliance in 2018.

Onsite audits cease—Yun-kyung (Peggy) Lee, Deputy Regional Manager, OCR, informed attendees that onsite HIPAA audits would no longer be conducted for covered entities or business associates due to staffing cutbacks in Washington, D.C. The concern here is that whatever doesn’t get regulatory attention, may not get done.

To ensure a continued focus on privacy monitoring, HIM and privacy professionals must remain diligent at the organizational, regional, state and national levels to:

  • Maintain internal privacy audit activities
  • Review any patterns in privacy issues and address through corrective action
  • Use environmental scanning to assess resolution agreement results
  • Review published privacy complaints to determine how to handle similar situations
  • Compare your state of readiness to known complaints

Interoperability advances HIPAA—The national push for greater interoperability is an absolute necessity to improve healthcare delivery. However, 30 years of new technology and communication capabilities must be incorporated into HIPAA rules. Old guidelines block us from addressing new goals. We expect more fine-tuning of HIPAA in 2018 to achieve the greater good of patient access and health information exchange.

Luminary Healthcare Panel

Tuesday’s keynote session was the second most relevant discussion for my role as vice president of privacy, compliance and HIM policy at MRO. Panelists provided a glimpse into the future of healthcare while reiterating HIM’s destiny—data integrity and information governance.

HIM’s role extends beyond ensuring correctly coded data for revenue cycle performance. It also includes the provision of correct and complete data for the entire healthcare enterprise and patient care continuum under value-based reimbursement. The need for stronger data integrity and overall information governance was threaded through every conversation during this session.

Final Takeaway

Make no doubt about it! HIM’s role is expanding. We have the underlying knowledge of the importance of data and the information it yields. More technology leads to more data and an increased need for sophisticated health information management and governance. Our history of protecting patient information opens the door to our future in the healthcare industry.

About Rita Bowen
In her role as Vice President of Privacy, Compliance and HIM Policy for MRO, Bowen serves as the company’s Privacy and Compliance Officer (PCO), oversees the company’s compliance with HIPAA, and ensures new and existing client HIM policies and procedures are to code. She has more than 40 years of experience in Health Information Management (HIM), holding a variety of HIM director and consulting roles. Prior to joining MRO, she was Senior Vice President and Privacy Officer for HealthPort, Inc., now known as CIOX Health. Bowen is an active member of the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), having served as its President and Board Chair, as a member of the Board of Directors, and of the Council on Certification. Additionally, Bowen is the chair for the AHIMA Foundation. She has been honored with AHIMA’s Triumph Award in the mentor category; she is also the recipient of the Distinguished Member Award from the Tennessee Health Information Management Association (THIMA). Bowen is an established author and speaker on HIM topics and has taught HIM studies at Chattanooga State and the University of Tennessee Memphis. Bowen holds a Bachelor of Medical Science degree with a focus in medical record administration and a Master’s degree in Health Information/ Informatics Management Technology.

MRO is a proud sponsor of HIM Scene.  If you’d like to receive future HIM posts in your inbox, you can subscribe to future HIM Scene posts here.

How to Balance Privacy, Security and Quality with Offshore Coding: Three Critical Caveats for HIM – HIM Scene

Posted on October 4, 2017 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Sarah Humbert, RHIA, ICD-10 AHIMA Certified Trainer, Coding and Compliance Manager, KIWI-TEK. If you’d like to receive future HIM posts in your inbox, you can subscribe to future HIM Scene posts here.

Prior to ICD-10 there was a shortage of domestic coders, making offshore services a necessity for many organizations. But in a post ICD-10 environment, experienced U.S. coders are more readily available and accessible. Domestic coding services are still considered best practice by most HIM professionals. In fact, 72 percent of hospital respondents outsource more than half of their coding needs according Black Book’s October 2016 Outsourced HIM Report.

While acceptance of offshore coding services has grown there are important caveats for HIM professionals to know according to the Black Book report. Price isn’t everything when it comes to protecting your patient’s privacy and your organization’s financial performance. Additional offshore concerns continue to be reported by U.S. hospitals and health systems:

  • Increased audit costs
  • Higher denial rates
  • Missed procedure codes

As Black Book states, it is imperative for offshore coding companies to tighten processes in three key areas: privacy, security and quality. With ransomware on the rise, hospitals, health systems and medical groups have greater levels of responsibility to fully assess their business associates—especially those using protected health information (PHI) offshore.

Because of these concerns and those mentioned above, HIM professionals must carefully explore, vet and secure detailed service level agreements prior to even considering the offshore option. This month’s blog lays out three critical caveats to consider and weigh against the proven value of domestic coding services.

Verify and Test Privacy and Security for Offshore Coding

The first step for HIM professionals is to understand the annual attestation requirements. Originally required by CMS for Medicare Advantage (MA) plans, the following annual attestations have become best practice for healthcare provider organizations and other covered entities (CEs) working to protect PHI.

  1. Provide notice to CMS—30 days prior to beginning the contractual relationship—that offshore contractors will be used, providing CMS an opportunity to review and raise an objection if warranted.
  2. Sign an annual attestation to accurately report to CMS the use of any offshore contractors.

For example, if a hospital wants to use a coding or billing company with personnel located offshore, it must submit the initial notification, receive no objections from CMS, and then annually attest that protections are in place with the offshore vendor.

Beyond the two-step attestation process, HIM professionals must take the following five precautionary steps with all offshore HIM services vendors.

  • Discuss any offshore contacts with your legal counsel and the vendor prior to signing.
  • Include language to indicate that onshore vendors will not subcontract with offshore vendors or coders.
  • Make sure your vendors are aware of attestation rules and take precautions to safeguard PHI.
  • Obtain cybersecurity insurance that includes coverage for potential breaches of offshore data.
  • Identify any other clinical services that may be provided offshore, such as coding audits, and consult your legal counsel to determine if that service should be identified in the attestation.

Rigorous due diligence of offshore coding vendor privacy and security safeguards ensures HIM professionals are doing their part in reducing PHI breaches and ransomware attacks in healthcare. Six states went a step further by prohibiting Medicaid members from sending any PHI offshore: Arizona, Ohio, Missouri, Arkansas, Wisconsin and New Jersey. If your state provides healthcare services in any of these states, additional review by legal counsel is mandatory.

Watch Offshore Coding Quality

The second area for concern with offshore medical record coding services is accuracy.

Offshore coders are mostly former nurses or other well-educated candidates. Although global coding staff speak English and are highly competent, they may not be well trained in self-directed chart interpretation.

Our clients often report international coding accuracy concerns and the need for additional audits, higher denials and missed procedure codes—especially as global coders expand beyond relatively simple and repetitive ancillary testing and radiology cases. In fact, 22 percent of HIM executives continue to shy away from a non-U.S. workforce, according to Black Book.

When it comes to coding quality, here are five recommendations to measure, monitor and manage accuracy prior to engaging an offshore coder.

  • Confirm who is actually doing your coding initially, and after each month into the services engagement.
  • Know global coders’ credentials, testing results and accuracy scores.
  • Verify that less experienced coders aren’t engaged following the initial work assignment.
  • Conduct a minimum of monthly coding audits to quickly identify and correct any negative trend or patterns.
  • Refuse to accept lower quality standards for offshore coding.

Re-evaluate Your Options

The medical record coding industry has shifted. Now is the time to re-evaluate the risks and returns of offshore coding services—keeping privacy, security and quality top of mind.

About Sarah Humbert
Sarah serves as the manager of coding and compliance at KIWI-TEK, a 100% domestic coding and audit services company. She is responsible for coding quality control—accuracy, turnaround time and compliance.

Sarah oversees all coding processes, including coders’ performance, credentials and recurrent testing. She is a member of AHIMA, IHIMA, CHIMA, and she is also a Certified ICD-10 AHIMA trainer. Sarah has worked in a variety of health information management positions for Health Care Excel, MedFocus and St. Vincent Health System.

KIWI-TEK is a proud sponsor of Healthcare Scene. If you’d like to receive future HIM posts in your inbox, you can subscribe to future HIM Scene posts here.

Time for Healthcare to Look Out the Windshield Instead of at the Dashboard

Posted on September 29, 2017 I Written By

Colin Hung is the co-founder of the #hcldr (healthcare leadership) tweetchat one of the most popular and active healthcare social media communities on Twitter. Colin speaks, tweets and blogs regularly about healthcare, technology, marketing and leadership. He is currently an independent marketing consultant working with leading healthIT companies. Colin is a member of #TheWalkingGallery. His Twitter handle is: @Colin_Hung.

The Society for Healthcare Strategy & Market Development (SHSMD) recently released the second edition of Bridging Worlds: The Future Role of the Healthcare Strategist. This update to the original 2014 report outlines five key imperatives that SHSMD believes are needed for healthcare success:

  1. Be nimble to exceed the rate of change
  2. Create consumer experiences, tell powerful stories
  3. Integrate and co-create
  4. Erase Boundaries of Business
  5. Generate Data-Driven Insights

“One of the biggest changes from the 2014 edition and one of the biggest opportunities that has come to the forefront is consumerism” says Holly Sullivan, Director of Strategic Partnerships at Spectrum Health and Vice Chair of SHSMD’s Bridging Worlds Committee, “It’s up to us as Strategists and Marketers to embrace this new reality and help our organizations adapt to this new level of expectation from patients. It’s definitely something that’s right in front of the windshield.”

Investing in technologies that improve and transform the patient experience will be key to meeting these heightened expectations including telemedicine, wearables, remote patient monitoring and artificial intelligence. However, technology alone will not lead to success, healthcare organizations will also need to break down their walls and collaborate in a more frictionless manner.

According to Sullivan: “Culture is the biggest challenge here. Historically healthcare organizations don’t like to share the sandbox and have believed they can do it all, own it all. We need to help our organizations lift their heads and see what’s coming at us down the road. We need to educate people that partnerships are an imperative.”

This need for collaboration and partnership is captured in the “Erase Boundaries of Business” section of the Bridging Worlds report. That portion of the report also encourages Strategists to think well beyond the walls of their organizations.

“We have to stop thinking of healthcare as a place where you go when you are sick,” adds Donna Teach, Chief Marketing and Communication Officer at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and Chair of SHSMD’s Bridging Worlds Committee. “Care is now anywhere the patient is and we need to engage patients through their entire healthcare journey rather than just points in time. Patients want to use new technologies like telemedicine and remote monitoring because it’s easy, convenient and fits nicely into their daily lives.”

Embracing HealthIT technologies permeates Bridging Worlds and Big Data in particular seems to hold the most potential in the eyes of the report authors: “Most importantly, data is only useful if it generates insights that enable better decision making. New tools, including predictive models and artificial intelligence, allow regular users to connect and visualize large volumes of data from multiple sources in ways that generate actionable insights.”

“EMRs + Big Data is just the tip of the iceberg”, echoes Teach. “It’s a technology will fundamentally change healthcare.”

Bridging Worlds is a useful guide. It clearly outlines the skills that Healthcare Strategists and Marketers will need to master in order to help their organizations transition from old models of care. Sprinkled throughout the report are useful instructions and examples of how to practice the skills and knowledge being outlined.

The key takeaway from report? “Marketing Strategists can be the agent of change no matter what level they are.” says Sullivan, “That’s the one key idea that I hope people will take from reading Bridging Worlds.”