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UW Medicine, Valley Medical Center Reduces Medical Errors With Better Clinician Communication

Posted on April 20, 2018 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.

Improving patient safety while simultaneously reducing clinician workloads, increasing efficiency and elevating the patient experience is an almost impossible task. Yet the team at University of Washington Medicine, Valley Medical Center found a way to do just that. Using a secure communications platform from Voalte, the Valley Medical Center team implemented processes that not only reduced the occurrence of pressure ulcers but also improved staff morale.

It is not obvious that improving the communication between patients, clinicians and administrators can lead to better outcomes, but for James Jones (BSN, MSN, NEA-BC), Vice President PCS & Nursing Operations at UW Medicine, Valley Medical Center, he believed it could:

“Being a nurse I realized that if you want patient care to be successful, better patient outcomes and improve the patient experience, you need to start with clinicians first. Without the clinicians, you cannot be successful. They are the entryway for the patient into the organization.”

Jones felt that by investing in clinicians and reducing their workload, they would have more time and energy to focus on improving patient experience as well as patient outcomes. To verify his theory and to gain buy-in from the organization, Jones and his team met with clinicians to ask what they wanted and how THEY would go about improving patient outcomes.

After many meetings, the Valley Medical Center team found that improving internal communications was high on everyone’s priority list. Many clinicians truly believed that better communication would lead to safer patient care – especially in the area of skin-integrity related adverse events (medical errors).

The impact of adverse events and medical errors on US Healthcare are staggering:

  • 10% of all US deaths, approximately 250,000 per year, are due to medical errors [1]
  • $20.8 Billion annually in additional (direct) healthcare costs [2]
  • $250 Billion annually in additional (indirect) healthcare costs [2]

One of the best ways to improve patient outcomes is to reduce the number of preventable adverse events. Pressure ulcers, skin wounds that are caused by sustained pressure on area of the skin – usually as a result of sitting or lying in the same position for long periods of time, are classified as a preventable adverse event.

“Prior to the implementation of Voalte there was a 10-step process to document and assess a pressure ulcer,” explained Jones. “With Voalte we were able to streamline the time and workflow related to pressure ulcers by 40%. Our Wound Care NRP is now able to be anywhere in the hospital and still be able to help patients and clinicians.” Something that would have been impossible with their legacy processes and communication technologies.

The streamlined process and improved communications not only improved patient outcomes, it also had an impact on staff morale and clinician burnout in two specific ways.

First, clinician workload is often cited as a leading cause of burnout. According to a JAMA study published last year, the 25% of physician that felt burnout cited the following contributing factors:

  • 1 percent felt their job environment led to symptoms of burnout
  • 1 percent felt a lack of time for documentation
  • 4 percent reported stress as a common factor
  • 1 percent reported spending time on electronic medical records (EMRs) at home was a significant contributor

When clinicians feel burnt out, it has an impact on patient safety. A Swiss study published in 2014 found a linkage between burnout and adverse events. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) issued the following comment on the study:

The investigators propose that the linkage between burnout and safety is driven by both a lack of motivation or energy and impaired cognitive function. In the latter case, they postulate that emotionally exhausted clinicians curtail performance to focus on only the most necessary and pressing tasks. Clinicians with burnout may also have impaired attention, memory, and executive function that decrease their recall and attention to detail. Diminished vigilance, cognitive function, and increased safety lapses place clinicians and patients at higher risk for errors. As burned out clinicians become cynically detached from their work, they may develop negative attitudes toward patients that promote a lack of investment in the clinician–provider interaction, poor communication, and loss of pertinent information for decision-making. Together these factors result in the burned out clinician having impaired capacity to deal with the dynamic and technically complex nature of ICU care effectively.

Second, by reducing the occurrence of adverse events at Valley Medical Cetner, Jones and his team were helping to reduce clinician anxiety and improve mental health. A report published in 2007 measured the emotional impact on physician that were involved in an adverse event or near miss (adverse events that were caught BEFORE harm came to a patient). The findings were stark:

Source: The Emotional Impact of Medical Errors on Practicing Physicians in the United States and Canada

This study, combined with the prior body of work, shows that there is a “virtuous cycle of benefit” when it comes to burnout and adverse events. Reducing workload and improving morale means clinicians are less likely to feel burned out which in turn means they are less likely to be involved in an adverse event, which means they are less likely to suffer the deep negative emotions associated with medical errors…and round and round it goes.

The team at Valley Medical Cetner is beginning to reap the benefits of being in this cycle. By focusing on improving communications, streamlining documentation requirements and reducing skin-integrity related adverse events, they are directly impacting a key contributing factor to burnout.

“Our goal is to help make it easy for clinicians to do the right thing for patients,” said Jones. “Clinicians are on the front lines. It’s the job of IT to give them the tools and the resources they need to be successful.”

For Valley Medical Center, one of those tools was the Voalte Platform which simplifies care team communication and collaboration. Deployed through smartphones, the Voalte solution gives physicians, nurses and administrators a secure way to communicate via voice and text within the walls of the hospital – eliminating the need for pages over the PA system.

Jones disclosed that Valley Medical Center chose the Voalte Platform because they believed “it was the best platform to help clinicians” and that culturally the team at Voalte was the one most closely aligned to Valley Medical Center’s patient-first approach.

“Voalte was really great to work with,” Jones stated. “They helped us through the transition and through the change management process. They were there in the command center, working alongside us during the initial roll-out. That was huge. It really helped with buy-in and with addressing the small changes that came up during that roll-out.”

In the three months following the roll-out, Valley Medical Center saved more than $50,000 just on their Renal Respiratory Unit and their patient satisfaction scores climbed to the 99th percentile.

Better patient experience. Improved patient outcomes. Lower costs. Reduced workloads. Valley Medical Center has definitely scored a quadruple-win.

You can watch my interview with James Jones on the Healthcare Scene YouTube channel or the embedded video below.

Voalte is a proud sponsor of Healthcare Scene.

For Hospitals: Tips On Working With An EHR Consulting Firm

Posted on April 19, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Even if you are a very experienced health IT pro, managing your relationship with an EHR consultant in no joke. There’s a lot at stake and only so much time to meet your goals.

Not only that, there are lots of ways a project can go wrong, such as 1) ending up with an EHR platform that’s no more or even less useful than it was before, 2) finding out that your newly updated or optimized EHR doesn’t work correctly or 3) spending a lot more than you expected on the contract.

That being said, you might benefit from the tips on working with consulting firms offered on the ever-insightful HISTalk site. My favorites include the following:

  • Don’t let consultants burn billable hours with your vendor or other consultants without your participation or approval.
  • Remember that the #1 job of consultants is to create fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) that you can survive without them.
  • Don’t be fooled by the sample resumes consulting firms provide during the selection process. In most cases, it is unlikely those will be the resources on your project. Bait and switch is common.
  • Call lots of references. Not the ones they gave you, but others on their “we’ve worked for every health system in the country” logo slide. Find out who is on their A team and get them.
  • Check their quoted number of employees (many firms are 70% temporary staffers). Go to LinkedIn and see how many people actually list them as an employer.
  • Interview the actual consultants who will work with you and ask hard technical questions.
  • Be aware that some firms might try to get you fired so they can put their replacement in as interim leadership and bill for it.

Wow, that’s a dark picture. You have to brace yourself for consulting firms which may be palming off inexperienced people on you, attempting to get you fired, trying to make you completely dependent on them and costing you more money than you planned to spend. It’s not a pretty picture.

On the other hand, few healthcare organizations can do completely without consultants, or the health IT consulting business would exist in the first place. Eventually, you’re probably going to have to bite the bullet and hire outside help. Just be aware of some of the risks associated with choosing the wrong consulting company.

Yes, hiring such a firm can be a bit concerning, but if you spend enough effort on the search you have a good chance of finding the right organization. Bottom line, if you’re skeptical, thorough and willing to go the extra mile research-wise, you can find a consulting firm that will serve your purposes and help you achieve the goals you wouldn’t be able to achieve without their help.

Hospital Patient Identification Still A Major Problem

Posted on April 18, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

A new survey suggests that problems with duplicate patient records and patient identification are still costing hospitals a tremendous amount of money.

The survey, which was conducted by Black Book Research, collected responses from 1,392 health technology managers using enterprise master patient index technology. Researchers asked them what gaps, challenges and successes they’d seen in patient identification processes from Q3 2017 to Q1 2018.

Survey respondents reported that 33% of denied claims were due to inaccurate patient identification. Ultimately, inaccurate patient identification cost an average hospital $1.5 million last year. It also concluded that the average cost of duplicate records was $1,950 per patient per inpatient stay and more than $800 per ED visit.

In addition, researchers found that hospitals with over 150 beds took an average of more than 5 months to clean up their data. This included process improvements focused on data validity checking, normalization and data cleansing.

Having the right tools in place seemed to help. Hospitals said that before they rolled out enterprise master patient index solutions, an average of 18% of their records were duplicates, and that match rates when sharing data with other organizations averaged 24%.

Meanwhile, hospitals with EMPI support in place since 2016 reported that patient records were identified correctly during 93% of registrations and 85% of externally shared records among non-networked provider.

Not surprisingly, though, this research doesn’t tell the whole story. While using EMPI tools makes sense, the healthcare industry should hardly stop there, according to Gartner Group analyst Wes Rishel.

“We simply need innovators that have the vision to apply proven identity matching to the healthcare industry – as well as the gumption and stubbornness necessary to thrive in a crowded and often slow-moving healthcare IT market,” he wrote.

Wishel argues that to improve patient matching, it’s time to start cross-correlating demographic data from patients with demographic data from third-party sources, such as public records, credit agencies or telephone companies, what makes this data particularly helpful is that it includes not just current and correct attributes for person, but also out-of-date and incorrect attributes like previous addresses, maiden names and typos.

Ultimately, these “referential matching” approaches will significantly outperform existing probabilistic models, Wishel argues.

It’s really shocking that so many healthcare organizations don’t have an EMPI solution in place. This is especially true as cloud EMPI has made EMPI solutions available to organizations of all sizes. EMPI is needed for the financial reasons mentioned above, but also from a patient care and patient safety perspective as well.

Hospital Mobile Device Initiatives Can Improve Patient Satisfaction

Posted on April 17, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Without a doubt, hospitals have many reasons to implement mobile technology, which can offer everything from improved communications to logistical support. But the benefits of these rollouts may offer more than operational benefits. At least according to data gathered by the following survey, hospital mobile initiatives almost always improve patient experience and satisfaction.

The study, conducted by Vanson Bourne on behalf of Apple-based mobile device management company Jamf, draws on a survey of 600 global healthcare IT decision-makers based in the US, the Netherlands, France, Germany and the United Kingdom. Respondents worked in both private and public healthcare organizations.

Researchers found that 96% of healthcare IT decision-makers currently implementing a mobile device initiative felt that it had a positive impact on patient experiences and satisfaction. Also, 32% reported that they saw a significant increase in patient experience scores.

The survey also found that among institutions currently implementing or planning to implement a mobile device initiative, the devices are most likely used in nurses stations (72%), administrative offices (63%) and patient rooms (56%). In addition, survey participants anticipate that mobile device use will expand to both clinical care teams (59%) and administrative staff (54%). What’s more, 47% of respondents said they plan to increase mobile device use in their institution of the next two years.

To exert better control over these efforts, hospitals can leverage a mobile device management solution. However, the survey found that only 48% of healthcare IT decision-makers had full confidence in their MDM solution’s capacity to do its job. That’s down from 59% in 2016.

Also, as data sharing increases via mobile devices and apps, data security becomes even more important. However, many health IT leaders aren’t sure they can pull this off. Their biggest challenges included data privacy (54%), security/compliance (51%) and keeping software properly patched (40%).

But they don’t think MDM tools can solve the problem. Ninety-five percent of respondents said their current MDM solution could stand to offer better security options, and almost a third (31%) of respondents thinking about mobile device initiatives were holding off because they weren’t sure they could secure the devices adequately.

Unfortunately, the health IT world seems to have made little progress in securing mobile devices over the past year. In a similar Jamf study conducted last year, 88% of respondents were concerned about managing security, data privacy (77%) and blocking inappropriate employee use (49%).

TigerConnect Successfully Rebrands in Just 9 Months

Posted on April 16, 2018 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.

Rebranding is not easy. Rebranding a well-established company that has become synonymous with a form of healthcare communication is even harder. Executing that rebrand in just 9 months while simultaneously preparing for healthcare’s biggest event – the annual HIMSS conference – is a near impossible task. Yet that’s what the team at TigerText, now TigerConnect, pulled off earlier this year.

At HIMSS18, TigerText became TigerConnect. Along with the new name came a new logo – albeit one with a clear homage to their company’s past. The new logo features a cleaner font style and a clever graphic element. If you look closely you will see that the graphic is four interlocking C’s which represent the company’s goal – Connected, Clinical, Communications, and Collaboration. The four colors are meant to represent the four different members of the care team: Doctors, Nurses, Allied Health Professionals, and Patients.

“The old brand was really about texting and compliance,” explained Kelli Castellano, Chief Marketing Officer for TigerConnect. “Not only was the word ‘text’ front and center, but our old brand also had a text box with a lock symbol as the main graphic. You couldn’t get more literal than that. When we first started, we were focused on being the best secure texting and compliance solution in the market. We sold to healthcare compliance officers and to CIOs. The TigerText brand personified that focus and it really served us well.”

But then in 2016, the company launched a new clinical workflow solution called TigerFlow.

“When we showed TigerFlow to prospects it was well received,” Castellano continued. “But people would leave the meeting wondering why their texting company was talking to them about clinical workflow. Worse, many clinicians were confused on being invited to a meeting with TigerText – a company they viewed as a technology infrastructure provider.”

By early 2017, after a few months of research and introspection, the team realized that the company name and brand was holding them back. It was simply too much to ask their target audience, which now included clinical decision makers like CMOs, CMIOs and CNOs, to see the company as anything more than a texting platform.

Castellano and the rest of the Marketing Team knew that rebranding the company would be risky. After all, hundreds of thousands of users click the TigerText logo each day on their phones to communicate securely with their peers. “TigerTexting” had even become a verb used by their customers to describe the act of sending messages through their system.

To gain buy-in and build internal momentum for a rebrand, Castellano asked her team to “do the research” and gather feedback from stakeholders including: customers, board advisors, partners and staff. They found there was consensus for changing the TigerText name.

After three months of work, Castellano and her team, with the support of Co-Founder and CEO, Brad Brooks, officially began the rebranding initiative.

It was now the end of spring 2017 and Castellano set an ambitious goal of launching the new brand at HIMSS18 – only 9 months away. “It was definitely an audacious goal,” admitted Castellano. “But we all knew that it just had to get done. Our Sales Team needed it. Our company needed it. We just had to move forward.”

Castellano allocated half of her ten person team to work on the rebrand while the other half worked on HIMSS18 pre-show marketing and building up their sales funnel. Everything came together and on March 6th the new brand was revealed.

CEO Brooks explained the new name this way: “Our new name – TigerConnect – allows us to clearly articulate the true value our solutions deliver. We connect care teams, existing data systems, and ultimately healthcare communities across a centralized and highly scalable clinical messaging platform. It is this real-time connection to data and people that dramatically improves the way healthcare organizations communicate to drive better results. We wanted that value to be reflected in our name and brand icon which are 4 interlocking C’s that represent Connected Clinical Communication and Collaboration.”

According to Castellano the reaction internally has been overwhelmingly positive. “We gave our staff a preview of the new brand in January. Everyone was very proud and happy with the new name. It was fresh and new, yet it still had a nod to our heritage and roots. Everyone felt that the new brand would allow us to better position the company and elevate the conversations we were having.”

“The reaction at HIMSS was also very positive,” noted Brooks. “The name change gave us the opportunity to talk about our story. We talked about where we had been and where we were going. It was really a lightbulb moment for visitors to the booth. We got a lot of ‘Aha…that makes sense’ comments.”

Having led three rebranding initiatives at three different companies, I applaud Castellano and her team for achieving their goal in such a short time frame. To do it on top of preparing for HIMSS is simply incredible.

It will be interesting to track the growth of TigerConnect in the years to come to see if the rebrand helps the company reach its desired financial results.

#EMRHumor – Fun Friday

Posted on April 13, 2018 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.

It’s Friday and so we often like to kick back a little and let our hair down before we enjoy the weekend. This Friday I stumbled upon a hashtag #EMRHumor. I had to see who had used the hashtag and it turned up some really old tweets and a couple pretty funny ones. I hope you enjoy!


I have no idea how this is EMR humor, but it brings up some interesting points. This makes me wonder the humorous (and possibly dangerous) things that could happen as AI starts talking with doctors in the exam room.


This tweet was from 2013. I’d like to talk with Dr. Jim Morrow now and see how he feels.


I just don’t have words for this one.

Happy Friday! Have a great weekend.

How Do You See Emerging Tech Like AI and Machine Learning Improving Efficiency in Clinical Settings?

Posted on April 12, 2018 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.

The title of this post was the question that Samsung Healthcare posted to me:

Here was my knee jerk response:

At least a couple people strongly agreed including this one:

AJ is right that the tech is nearly there to do all of this. I suggested that they key is going to be the person that packages it the right way.

This is a lesson we all learned from the iPhone. Very few things within the iPhone were unique and new. It was how Apple packaged all of the components that made it special. I think it’s going to play out the same when it comes to physician documentation. All of the NLP, Voice Recognition, Machine Learning, and AI tools are out there. Everyone will have access to them, but how they’re packaged is going to make all the difference.

All of that said, I don’t see this too far off. We’re already starting to see elements of it, but the entrenched players will have a hard time doing this. They’re already getting rich off of their existing products, so they’ll continue to make incremental improvements. Some startup company is going to come along and package this all the right way and win.

Plus, let’s be clear that one of the biggest parts of the packaging will be how it transitions users from the old way of thinking to a new approach. However, once the doctor sees it in action, they’ll see it as magical. Compared to the forms they’re doing today, it will be magical.

Who do you see offering this? Are any of the EHR vendors brave enough to do this? It’s so badly needed by so many.

Telemedicine, A Lesson from Tetris, and Collaborative Overload – Twitter Roundup

Posted on April 11, 2018 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.

Twitter is full of juicy nuggets of wisdom and insight which can inspire, motivate, and educate you. That’s why occasionally we like to do a roundup of tweets which recently caught our eye. Plus, we add a little bit of our own commentary on each tweet. I hope you enjoy. This week’s Twitter roundup has some great ideas.


This is a pretty interesting way to frame telehealth. Many of the challenges described in the image above are challenges that most healthcare organizations face. Especially larger hospitals and health systems. It’s pretty shocking to see how telehealth is a great solution for many of those challenges.

The sad part of all of this is that there is still resistance to telehealth. I understand there are complex things at play in healthcare, but this seems like an obvious one. Will telehealth finally have it’s moment? Is it waiting for something to really breakthrough as main stream?


I agree that you have to enjoy anything that starts with “If Tetris has taught me anything” as well. However, his point is a great one. I think we are suffering through this in many healthcare organizations. The errors and bad choices have really piled up and now we’re in very challenging situations. Mike Tyson is insane, but he sure makes you look at things differently.


Maybe I’m the only one that hadn’t heard of collaborative overload, but I really like the concept. I also love how this assessment breaks out collaborative overload into planning, people, priorities, and being present. Does anyone else have some good reading on this topic? I’d love to learn more.

Workers’ Comp ROI – Disclosures For Workers’ Compensation Purposes – HIM Scene

Posted on April 10, 2018 I Written By

The following is a HIM Scene guest blog post by Don Hardwick, Vice President, Client Relations and Account Management at MRO.

Even under the best of circumstances—excellent staff, streamlined workflows, the latest technology— Release of Information (ROI) is a precarious process. Specific rules apply to different categories of requests. One area of complexity and confusion is the disclosure of Protected Health Information (PHI) for workers’ compensation purposes. While the ROI process for workers’ comp requests is similar to the process for “regular” requests, the type of information allowable for disclosure is different unless the request is accompanied by a patient authorization.

According to HHS guidelines, “The HIPAA Privacy Rule does not apply to entities that are either workers’ compensation insurers, workers’ compensation administrative agencies, or employers, except to the extent they may otherwise be covered entities.” However, the rule recognizes the legitimate need of these entities involved in workers’ compensation cases to access PHI according to state or other laws. Due to variability among such laws, the Privacy Rule permits disclosures of PHI for workers’ compensation purposes in different ways.

Disclosures without individual/client authorization. In most cases, an employer or insurance carrier is permitted to request and receive information pertaining to the injury—on behalf of the company or on behalf of the client—without an authorization. So employers, insurance companies or their attorneys can obtain information on behalf of the insurance company or on behalf of the client. Typically an attorney would get an authorization from the client. However, the employer, the payer or an attorney representing the payer can generally request those records without individual authorization.

Disclosures with individual authorization. The Privacy Rule permits covered entities to disclose PHI to workers’ compensation insurers and others involved in workers’ compensation systems if the individual (patient/client) has provided an authorization for the Release of Information to the entity. The authorization must meet specific Privacy Rule requirements.

When considering a workers’ comp claim, we can only disclose PHI pertaining to the event that initiated that particular claim. For example, suppose a patient had five admissions in 2017, and was injured January 2018. The employer may want to determine if the patient had preexisting injuries or conditions where the most recent injury occurred. If the January 2018 injury was secondary to a problem that already existed with this patient, the requester generally cannot obtain prior information without a HIPAA valid authorization.

The main point is that rules and regulations pertaining to workers’ compensation claims differ depending on the type of request for information and the type of requester.

About Don Hardwick
As Vice President of Client Relations and Account Management, Hardwick oversees all client relations initiatives including implementation and account management. Prior to joining MRO, he was CEO and President of Record Enterprises Inc., a Health Information Management (HIM) company that provided hospitals with an outsourcing program for patient release of information, medical coding and medical/confidential record storage. Previously, he was CEO and president of MedRecs Law Inc., a record acquisition company. Additionally, he was a manager in the healthcare consulting division of Ernst & Young and worked as the Director of HIM at Saint Margaret Hospital in Montgomery, AL and Southampton Memorial Hospital in Franklin, VA. Hardwick is a past President of the Virginia Health Information Management Association (VHIMA) and the recipient of East Carolina’s Allied Health Sciences Distinguished Alumni Award. He holds a B.S. in Health Information Management.

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

Health Orgs Were In Talks To Collect SDOH Data From Facebook

Posted on April 9, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

These days, virtually everyone in healthcare has concluded that integrating social determinants of health data with existing patient health information can improve care outcomes. However, identifying and collecting useful, appropriately formatted SDOH information can be a very difficult task. After all, in most cases it’s not just lying around somewhere ripe for picking.

Recently, however, Facebook began making the rounds with a proposal that might address the problem. While the research initiative has been put on hold in light of recent controversy over Facebook’s privacy practices, my guess is that the healthcare players involved will be eager to resume talks if the social media giant manages to calm the waters.

According to CNBC, Facebook was talking to healthcare organizations like Stanford Medical School and American College of Cardiology, in addition to several other hospitals, about signing a data-sharing agreement. Under the terms of the agreement, the healthcare organizations would share anonymized patient data, which Facebook planned to match up with user data from its platform.

Facebook’s proposal will sound familiar to readers of this site. It suggested combining what a health system knows about its patients, such as their age, medication list and hospital admission history, with Facebook-available data such as the user’s marital status, primary language and level of community involvement.

The idea would then be to study, with an initial focus on cardiovascular health, whether this combined data could improve patient care, something its prospective partners seem to think possible. The CNBC story included a gushing statement from American College of Cardiology interim CEO Cathleen Gates suggesting that such data sharing could create revolutionary results. According to Gates, the ACC believes that mixing anonymized Facebook data with anonymized ACC data could help greatly in furthering scientific research on how social media can help in preventing and treating heart disease.

As the business site notes, the data would not include personally identifiable information. That being said, Facebook proposed to use hashing to match individuals existing in both data sets. If the project were to have gone forward, Facebook might’ve shared data on roughly 87 million users.

Looked at one way, this arrangement could raise serious privacy questions. After all, healthcare organizations should certainly exercise caution when exchanging even anonymized data with any outside organization, and with questions still lingering on how willing Facebook is to lock data down projects like this become even riskier.

Still, under the right circumstances, Facebook could prove to be an all but ideal source of comprehensive, digitized SDOH data. Well now, arguably, might not be the time to move ahead, hospitals should keep this kind of possibility in mind.