Friday, September 30, 2011

Why Protect Patient Health Information?

Being a Medical Informatics Functional Consultant, people often ask me why protect patient health information? I have visited and interviewed several hospital CIOs and other concerned heads on the issues of patient health data security. Believe me; all of them face varied challenges to make sure that the health data of every patient is secured. There are many standards to follow for maintaining and keeping the data secret; for instance, they need to adhere to HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) and HITECH (Health Information Technology for Economical and Clinical Health) etc. On the contrary to the popular belief, I would say, health data security is far beyond just restricting the grant of privilege i.e. firewalls and passwords. When any medical software is designed and developed, it's very important to have a comprehensive view that includes following the limitations as described by government bodies, hospitals' own rules and regulations and top of all the standards accepted aboveboard. I have seen many software that ask for patient demographics and history without mentioning which, the next step or page would not come. Of course, if patient does not want to declare his ethnicity, the software should allow it to skip by making it a non-mandatory field. Protecting patient health data is very important as relieving it may affect his or her personal, professional and/or social life. In countries like India, the matter of health care data of patient keeping secured is not so taken seriously and because of that, most of the health care centers do not fall under standard hospitals or clinics as far as following the laws are concerned. Nevertheless, local government has initiated such policies that are likely to be followed in coming years. For any health care center, it is better to follow existing standards as set by NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology). Also, ISO (International Organization of Standards) too specify certain protocols to be followed for ensuring patient health data security. For software manufacturing companies (IT Companies), it is always better to include a domain expert (medical domain expert) as to come with better product. On the other hand, medical domain expert should have knowledge of medical standards and also should possess basic knowledge about computer languages as to interact and interpret IT professionals.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Resume, Salary, and Other Employment Information About Health Information Technicians

What is a Health Information Technician? Health information technician is the person responsible for performing all the health related tests and maintaining all the records of these tests. They have to present the results of these tests to the doctors so that the patient can be medicated accurately. Here we discuss the importance of the clinical laboratory technician resume and the tips for writing this kind of resume. When you are writing the health information technician resume, you need to include the details of any medical certifications or short-term nursing courses you have undertaken in the past. For working as a medical technician, you need to possess the corresponding educational qualifications and the necessary skills. Where are these technicians required? The job of medical technician is to organize the medical records of the patient. They ensure that all the forms are filled up properly, signed, etc. These healthcare assistants generally don't have direct contact with patients. They work in the medical laboratories and perform the various tests including blood test, urine test, etc. They are also required in the hospitals or clinics those have their own medical labs for performing these tests. When working in hospitals, health technicians perform some other responsibilities along with the tests. Qualification Required Today we see that many health technicians working in the healthcare industry possess the associate degree in psychology, computer sciences, anatomy, or medical terminology. You can also undertake any laboratory course for working as a medical laboratory technician. Following are some important qualifications required for this position. * BS/MS in Medical technology * Experience in Clinical Laboratory * Experience in Molecular testing Responsibilities of the Health Information Technician: Any health information technician has to perform number of responsibilities. They transfer the complex information into the understandable and interesting form for the ordinary public. They have to collect the data from the lab technicians and organize the diagnosis report for treating each patient. Health technicians determine the insurance reimbursement with the use of the computer programs, analyze the data and tabulate it. These technicians work under the supervision of the health information administrator. Following are major job duties that a health information technician handles: * Get the specimens for performing chemical analysis * Perform the chemical tests of the body fluids like blood, urine, spinal fluid, etc., to determine the presence of affecting components * Set up and maintain the laboratory equipments * Examine the samples of the chemical tests * Perform medical research to find the treatment for curing the disease * Record the results of the tests and present them to the doctor whenever required Salary Offered The pay scale of the health care technicians can be categorized in 4 types. The below figures are according to the survey made in Unites States in 2008. Figures of current pay scales may vary from what is mentioned below. * Average Pay Scale - $20,440 to $50,060 * Medium Pay Scale - $32, 960 * Largest Pay Scale - $27, 920 to $34, 910 * Highest Pay Scale - $43, 380 to $ 56, 320 Opportunities Army recruits the medical technicians every year. These technicians are trained in routine laboratory tests under the supervision of the experienced professionals. After completion of the training and job proficiency, these technicians supervise the laboratory and may advance to more responsible position in the lab management. Training The duration of training for a medical technician may vary depending on the type of specialty and the organization applied in. The training of the health information technicians includes * Study of the Medical procedures in the laboratory * Study of human parasites and different illnesses * Lab administration and maintenance of records There are very limited jobs in this field but because of the salaries offered to these health care professionals the career as a clinical laboratory technician is blooming rapidly.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Healthcare Information Technology (HIT) Strategic Planning

Early adaptors of the Electronic Health Records (EHR) process are discovering that they have to prepare for a wave of change, which will impact the entire organization, long before they bring in an IT specialist. The Health Information Technology (HIT) component of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) was signed into law on February 17, 2009. A specific goal of Medicare and Medicaid HIT provisions is to provide incentives for the adoption of certified Electronic Health Records (EHR). Over a five year period health care providers can be reimbursed a total of $44,000 if they show meaningful use of Electronic Health Record (EHR) technology. Eventually, by year 2015, there will be penalties for medical professionals that do not adopt EHR. To maximize HIT payments, providers must begin to submit for incentive payments during the 2011 and 2012 calendar year. This is good news for organizations that have been contemplating an ERH process, as they can benefit from these lessons learned from others that have jumped in and implemented the process through trial and error. Consistent with any major change management process, it is essential that the leadership be aware of the disruptive effect the EHR process will have throughout the organization. The strategic planning processes provides a format for developing specific strategies, converting those strategies into a business planning process and establish measurable and attainable organizational goals. It is a process that not only determines where an organization wants and needs to go, but also, how it is going to get there HIT Strategic Planning: Health Information Technology (HIT) payments are spread out over a 5 year period. This is the time to seize the opportunity to develop a five-year strategic plan with short and long term goals that coincide with the HIT planning process and the organizations mission. At the start of the process, creating and communicating a compelling vision is the powerful directional force. The vision sets the strategy for the next 5 to 10 years and positions the future success of the organization, its migration to EHR technology and the resulting improved patient information and care. An effective planning process needs to include an external assessment and an internal appraisal. The external assessment considers the organizations customer or market segments, along with a competitive and trend analysis. A formalized internal appraisal should objectively review the organizations structure & functions, resources, strengths and limitations. A survey assessment tool from a third-party, not affiliated with the organization, will generate unbiased results Collaboration: It is essential that the HIT team truly represent the organizations clinical leadership, in addition to administrative and IT leadership teams. Before EHR implementation begins, consider completing a comprehensive work flow analysis to review the current efficiency of the organization prior to IT intervention It has been early adaptors experience that organizations are never fully prepared for the loss in productivity that accompanies the EHR planning and implementation process. Allow enough time for the EHR team to complete the selection, planning and implementation process (24 to 36 months is recommended). Communication: A clear and upfront communication of the organizations vision, and how HIT will fit into the mission, needs to be determined by the leadership team before beginning the EHR process. Update policies and procedures to inform staff, with clear and concise documentation, on how roles, responsibilities and processes may have been changed. Implement a standardized orientation process to insure consistency. Cross-fertilization of department staff within orientation, training & development sessions has been a helpful strategy in learning the big picture. Leadership support for an environment of trust and open communication was found to foster honest feedback on the system and the EHR implementation process, which points to the increased buy-in that is necessary for successful HIT initiatives. It is inevitable that EHR will begin to transfer an organizational culture that may be founded on yesterdays paradigms and ideas. Among the lessons learned by early adapters of electronic healthcare technology is leadership teams who develop a strategy that includes collaboration, communication and cooperation before beginning the process create an environment in which people are prepared and excited about operationalizing the vision. Aligning resources and establishing guidelines for effectively leading people across the organization, before beginning the EHR selection process, will ultimately lead to a higher level of performance. Medical professionals can take full advantage of the ARRA HIT timeline and the maximum payment schedule by beginning the EHR development process in 2011 or 2012 and submitting for reimbursement. Now is the time to create a strategy which determines the future direction of the organization and what organizational resources will be needed to determine that success.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Health Information Technology Field is Growing

The health technician field is not only one that is expected to see above average growth in the next several years, but is also one that will continue to see changes in job responsibilities. Working in this field usually means the business environment will be a pleasant and comfortable office setting. This is one of the few medical fields that does not include direct, hand-on contact with patients. The typical work week is 40 hours, though there may be some overtime. In facilities that are open 24 hours a day, technicians may work day, evening or night shifts. Medical information and record technicians usually have at least an associate's degree. Course work in the field will include medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, data requirements and standards, data analysis, clinical classification and codifying systems, data base security and management, insurance reimbursement and quality improvement methods. Taking math, biology, chemistry, health and computer science courses in high school can improves an applicant's standing when applying to a post-secondary school. Many employers will prefer to hire credentialed technicians. Credentialing programs often will require re-credentialing and continuing education. Obtaining a bachelor's or master's degree, or an advanced specialty certification, can help with career advancement for someone experienced in the health information technology field. Those with a bachelor's or master's degree can often become an information manager. The U.S. Department of Labor projects employment for medical records and information technicians to increase by 20 percent through 2018, which is much faster than the average for all occupations through that time. As the population continues to age, more medical tests, treatment and procedures will be required. Those technicians that can demonstrate a strong understanding of technology and computer software likely will be particularly in demand. As the use of electronic medical records continues to increase, more technicians will also be needed. In fact, the U.S. Health and Human Services Department recently announced it would be awarding $267 million to several non-profit organizations to establish Health Information Technology Regional Extension Centers, which will help grow this emerging field. These centers will provide support to medical practitioners as they transition to electronic records. In 2008, the most recent numbers available, the median wage was $30,618. The middle 50 percent of workers in the field earned between $25,000 and $40,000. The upper 10 percent earned $50,000. The health information technology field is one that will continue to have very good job prospects due to constant changes in computer and medical technology combined with an aging population.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Health Information Technician Schools

Health Information Technician Schools prepare students to become qualified for positions in health care fields, working to structure and analyze health care data and information. Students can choose programs of study for certificates, diplomas, or associate degrees in Health Information Technology, depending upon the level of responsibility they wish to assume on the job. Two-year Associate of Art (AA) or Associate of Science (AS) degrees are generally preferred by employers. Associate degrees in Health Information Technology are offered at community colleges and vocational, technical, and trade schools. Health Information Technician Schools provide skills expected at various levels of employment. Students at all levels - diploma, certificate, and associate degree - can anticipate courses in medical terminology, anatomy, physiology, billing and coding, office skills, computer skills, analytical skills, and medical office administration. Students should focus on liberal arts for a well-rounded education. AA and AS degrees from Health Information Technician Schools can help graduates gain employment as administrators of health care information. Students learn to take on duties of managing records, analyzing health information, and preparing statistical reports. Courses can include coding and indexing information, managing health insurance reimbursements, analyzing and managing health records, and managing communications. Most employers prefer Registered Health Information Technicians (RHIT) or Registered Health Information Administrators (RHIA), who must have passed written examinations given by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). Students must possess at least an AA or AS degree in Health Information Technology to qualify for examination. The particular school must also be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM). If you would like to learn more about Health Information Technician Schools [] and Online Health Information Technician Schools, you can find more in-depth information and resources on our website.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Physician Portal Leads To Health Information Exchange

Using computerized physician order entry, or CPOE, done via a physician portal, medical providers can now create and update patient medical records electronically. This allows them to do away with the paper medical records that line their office walls and take up square footage in offsite storage. When additional technology is installed, it also permits health information exchange. Until now, it has been difficult for treating physicians to get a comprehensive view of patient medical records. Each provider, hospital, and laboratory kept separate records, most of them paper-based. The conversion to electronic medical records, or EMRs, has made it possible for these records to take electronic form. With the addition of an EMR interface, the records can be shared between these parties. EMR integration enables a treating doctor to enter a virtual physician portal to review medical records. The doctor can also perform computerized physician order entry, or CPOE, of his or her treatment orders. When a patient is hospitalized, other departments within the hospital system can access this information and perform their designated functions. Since the information is typed, not handwritten, there is no worry of misinterpretation of unclear handwriting. When an EMR interface is installed between a physician office, lab, hospital, and pharmacy, patient medical records can be accessed and updated by all of these entities. The increased level of communication and collaboration made possible by this technology benefits both patients and those providing treatment. Redundancies and errors are reduced and treatment is streamlined. Through the physician portal, healthcare providers are given a single point of access to different services and applications. The portal can be accessed via a PDA, laptop computer, desktop computer, or tablet computer. In this manner, health information exchange is made possible from the palm of one's hand, whether at the point of care or offsite.

Monday, September 12, 2011

A Fast Paced Field - Health Information Technology

Specifically the technology, which is essential to the healthcare system, brings about the exchange of health information in an electronic environment. It has been planned to improve the quality of care, prevent medical errors, enhance email communication and expand access to affordable care. Many private and public organizations are focused on finding effective uses for health information technology that will lower health care spending and improve the efficiency and quality of medical care. Some of the uses focus on advances in this technology, such as personal health records, electronic medical records and e-prescribing. For example, electronic prescribing (e-prescribing) systems allow physicians to enter prescription information for patients into an electronic system rather than writing out a prescription while some e-prescribing systems have the capacity to cross-check with other patient medications. Electronic medical and health records, which are primarily intended for health care providers, are similar to the old paper medical chart. They can be used to link data from a number of providers to present a more comprehensive view of a patient's health record. As privacy continues to emerge as a top concern about the technology, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability (HIPAA) Act was set up to protect the privacy of individually identifiable information and to set national standards for the security of electronic protected health information. This market also offers one of the fastest growing job markets in the country. Most staff work in hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, nursing homes, health insurance organizations and medical offices. Workers in the field coordinate medical information and maintain and analyze patient medical information. They also organize data and put statistical reports in order to study health care. Experts predict the demand for well-trained health personnel will grow rapidly. The high costs of electronic health record systems for providers of care, which includes the upfront capital investment and ongoing maintenance, have prevented the rapid distribution of technology systems. Even so, two of the country's largest health care systems have fully implemented electronic medical record systems, the federal Veteran's Administration and the private Kaiser Permanente systems.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Future Steps For Health Information Exchange

Through a process called health information exchange, medical information can be shared electronically across organizations within a geographic area or hospital system. Integrating disparate systems that contain electronic medical records, or EMRs, has become a necessary step to remaining competitive within the ever-evolving healthcare industry. Clinical data can be accessed more safely and quickly than in the past. Through EMR integration designed to permit the exchange of information, healthcare quality is improved, treatment and processing costs are lowered, and medical errors are reduced. Healthcare providers such as hospitals, primary care physicians, and laboratories can access and update medical records from various locations. Using a physician portal, a surgeon can even deliver updates from the patient's bedside. By providing physicians with the ability to access patient medical information via laptops, tablet computers, and smartphones used at the point of care, improved treatment and minimization of duplicate or conflicting tests or prescriptions result. From a larger-scale perspective, healthcare entities experience streamlined work processes and improved efficiencies. This reduces costs, something that provides much-needed assistance to healthcare systems at risk of going defunct. The U.S. is currently in the process of developing and implementing state and federal regulations regarding the exchange of, and technology used to capture, health information. Considered a new industry, government regulations, state-sponsored organizations are already changing the playing field. In addition, HL7, a global authority regarding standards for the interoperability of health information technology, is playing a strong part. Only about 25 health information exchange communities have been established in the U.S. The electronic transition has a long way to go, with the majority of the established entities still being tied to independent or government grant funding to stay in operation. As more communities arise, each will need to find a way to be self-sustainable in order for this endeavor to be successful. In this situation, failure really is not an option.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Online Studies - Health Information Technician

Doctors and nurses are extremely busy while working with patients and often times need help with patient records. All data received for a patient has to be accurate and up to date in order to properly care for an individual. Working with patient records to ensure correctness is vital and is a career in itself. Students can enter online health information technology degree programs to become technicians. Studies incorporate how to perform job duties by teaching students the procedures and technology required for the field. Online study is a way for students to enter education that they otherwise could not. The learning process allows students to stay home while they study and continue to work. These aspects facilitate a way for students to learn how to become health information technicians. The responsibility of keeping up with patient's records is by no means a small task. Making sure that a patient's record is complete incorporates having all information on the appointment, medication, history, and diagnosis. When information is missing or not valid technicians converse with doctors and nurses to obtain correct information. Other more specialized areas can be pursued through online study allowing students to work with information coding and the cancer registry. Coding involves using specific computer software to fill out health costs for insurance companies. Working with the cancer registry has professionals recording patient information into a database that is used by public health agencies. These skills and more can be learned through an online school devoted to teaching students about the industry. Students can study at the certificate level and work their way up to a master's degree online. Certificate programs are mainly for students that want to transition into the field. An associate's degree is the required minimum to enter the field. At the bachelor's and master's level students learn how to start designing and managing the industry in specific courses. Online studies include math, science, and computer science to enable students to fulfill all work related duties. Students that are pursuing this career should start education at the associate's degree level. Online study typically lasts two years, which makes entering the field a fast process once studying is underway. Instruction provides courses on medical terminology, diagnostic coding, and pharmacology. Study covers a wide breadth of knowledge preparing students to become well-rounded professionals. Online courses cover how to input data into a computer program and manage the health information according to law. Other focal points acquired enable students to code health data for statistical data and monetary reasons. All these skills work together to promote a general control over data and evaluation of patients. Furthering education prepares students to become leaders in the industry. Although official certification is not required for work, many employers prefer a registered health information technician. Completing a degree program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management can help to certify students. Upon completion students can pursue certification as a Registered Health Information Technician from the American Health Information Management Association. Registering can promote advanced career opportunities and work specialization. The work provided by a technician is important to the care of medical patients. This makes earning an online education not only beneficial to students but to patients as well. Students can begin accredited online studies by choosing a health information technician program that will prepare them for work responsibilities.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

HIPAA and HITECH - What is Protected Health Information?

The HIPAA rules all speak of "protected health information," or PHI. What does that really cover? It is important to understand what it is so that you are sure you have the correct protections in place. Let's explore the definition of PHI a bit here. The rule defines individually identifiable health information as: Individually identifiable health information is information that is a subset of health information, including demographic information collected from an individual, and... 1. Is created or received by a health care provider, health plan, employer, or health care clearinghouse; and 2. Relates to the past, present, or future physical or mental health or condition of an individual; the provision of health care to an individual; or the past, present, or future payment for the provision of health care to an individual; and 1. That identifies the individual; or 2. With respect to which there is a reasonable basis to believe the information can be used to identify the individual. It then goes on to define "protected health information" in this way: Protected health information, or PHI, is individually identifiable health information: 1. Transmitted by electronic media; or 2. Maintained in electronic media; or 3. Transmitted or maintained in any other form or medium. What that tells us is that it covers health information in ANY form. While the privacy rule applies to the information in any form, the security rule focuses on information that is created and stored electronically, including spoken conversations. What about De-Identified Information? The rules do allow for the use of information if it is de-identified. What is important to remember here is that the rule includes several things that must be removed before something is considered de-identified. Here's the list: (A) Names; (B) All geographic subdivisions smaller than a state, including street address, city, county, precinct, zip code, and their equivalent geocodes, except for the initial three digits of a zip code if, according to the current publicly available data from the Bureau of the Census: (1) The geographic unit formed by combining all zip codes with the same three initial digits contains more than 20,000 people; and (2) The initial three digits of a zip code for all such geographic units containing 20,000 or fewer people is changed to 000. (C) All elements of dates (except year) for dates directly related to an individual, including birth date, admission date, discharge date, date of death; and all ages over 89 and all elements of dates (including year) indicative of such age, except that such ages and elements may be aggregated into a single category of age 90 or older; (D) Telephone numbers; (E) Fax numbers; (F) Electronic mail addresses; (G) Social security numbers; (H) Medical record numbers; (I) Health plan beneficiary numbers; (J) Account numbers; (K) Certificate/license numbers; (L) Vehicle identifiers and serial numbers, including license plate numbers; (M) Device identifiers and serial numbers; (N) Web Universal Resource Locators (URLs); (O) Internet Protocol (IP) address numbers; (P) Biometric identifiers, including finger and voice prints; (Q) Full face photographic images and any comparable images; and (R) Any other unique identifying number, characteristic, or code, except as permitted by paragraph (c) of this Historically, we have faithfully removed all demographic information from the headers of a report, and we have used the words "the patient" when a physician dictates the name of the patient. If you really look at the above list, you will see that it's much more detailed than that. When a pacemaker is implanted, for example, the physician gives the model number and serial number, right in the middle of the report. With (M) above, that report is not considered de-identified information. The rule also states that the information must be such that a reasonable person with a statistical background would not be able to figure out the person's identity. Lastly, it says that the covered entity must not have knowledge that the information could be used, alone or with other information, to identify the person. It is critical to understand the meaning of PHI and how it applies to your setting. It is also important that all persons involved in the workforce be clear on the definitions. Be sure you have research these rules so you understand them and know how they apply to your work setting. Kathy Nicholls has been involved in the medical transcription industry for over 30 years and is currently the president of the HIPAA4MT Site, which offers guidance for medical transcriptionists and medical transcription companies on compliance with HIPAA and the HITECH Act. Nicholls is also the published author of the "Stedman's Guide to the HIPAA Privacy Rule," and is working on the second edition of that book. She is a certified medical transcriptionist and a Fellow of the Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Explaining Health Information System (HIS)

When speaking of healthcare systems one envisages an information intensive industry within which reliable and timely information is essentially used in order to plan and monitor service provision. Health Information Systems represents a useful resource to make the process of delivering healthcare more effective and efficient. Therefore, the article intends to provide a clearer image on the contents of a HIS. As a part of the patient care process, a HIS collects data relevant to the parties involved. The data centralized by means of a health information system are used within many other systems for achieving numerous various purposes. Confidentiality and security safeguards have to be available principles when handling this information. Patient data and data from other facilities have to be combined and integrated into a whole, the result being used by several professional groups. Health information systems work on the basis of certain applications that process all this information so that many different organizations and professional groups can have access to it. Here are the major concepts related to the system of health information. The first one is represented by health/medical informatics and telematics. The respective defines the field that deals with: * the cognitive, information processing; * communication tasks of medical practice, education; * research including the information science and technology to sustain the respective tasks. Medical informatics concerns itself with resources, devices and methods necessary for the optimization of acquisition, storage and retrieval. The tools used within this field are represented by computers, formal medical terminologies, clinical guidelines and systems of information and communication. Clinical and biomedical applications constitute the areas of the highest interest, the specialists seeking to integrate them among themselves or to more administrative-type health information system. A second important aspect to be treated when discussing about a HIS is health information technology (HIT). It refers to the application of the information processing by means of both computer hardware and software in order to store, retrieve, share and make use of health care information, data and knowledge for communication and decision making. Electronic medical record (EMR), electronic health record (EHR) and electronic patient record (EPR) are other three notions with tremendous importance relative to a health information system. The first one is a digital- format medical record used as a standard. The electronic health record denominates the medical record in digital format of an individual patient. The totality of electronic health records are coordinated, stored and retrieved within the EHR system with the help of computers. The degree of personalization goes further with the electronic patient record that electronically stores health information about one individual uniquely identified by an identifier. ERP technology involves capturing, retrieving, transmitting and handling data specific to a patient, related to healthcare, which include clinical, administrative and biographical information.