Crime runs rampant! If a hacker has my health information, chances are high they can get yours, too. Frankly, if they have mine, I find that less disconcerting than somebody having access to my credit card and bank accounts. Perhaps if I were a senator or a member of the president’s cabinet, I might feel differently…as you may feel also. I may not care who knows I have three stents in my heart or that I have a history of being treated for anxiety. That senator or cabinet member, however, may have a very unpopular disorder and want that knowledge guarded zealously.
The idea behind hacking computers to get data is to turn it into money, and people are pulling down big bucks for sharing certain data with certain people! Apparently, holding data hostage is getting to be a popular pastime these days. I ran across a bundle of opinions about what the future holds recently in Healthcare Technology News for we who are interested in Electronic Medical Records (EHRs), and the article on healthcare hacking by Mark Kadrich set my imagination wandering. How can we improve security to healthcare systems?
In this industry, we need to make no mistake about it, consumers’ health information need to be secure, and it’s the professional’s responsibility to make sure security measures are in play…their tools are stringent password security and all that magic software that runs in the background to keep hackers out of systems. Electronic Health Record (EHR) software is currently regulated by some pretty stringent laws, and I’ve thought we had done pretty well in guarding healthcare data against hackers. HIPAA, data encryption, complicated schemes for patient Release of Information (ROI) and other measures combine into quite a net of security, right?
One hospital I worked with required me to negotiate three different security systems to get to the database I needed to work on. Even with all those levels in place, they recently suffered a virus attack that took a couple months to recover from. The good news is that from the recovery, they ended up with better EHR protection. It was, however, quite an expensive way to earn wisdom. A visit from a security expert and a system security tuneup might be a better solution. It pays to hire the professional, and a couple years ago a friend of mine graduated from a professional education program as an expert in system security; it’s a very specialized and valuable vocation…he got a job within weeks of graduating, and earns his tremendously increased salary
Healthcare Professionals are being encouraged to protect their consumers’ data with yet more security measures, even to the PC level and for SmartPhones. There are a ton of solutions out there. Without a careful analysis of your needs, what’s been effective and ineffective, which companies have a good track record of improving their products when a customer’s data is compromised, and a number of factors, who can say what’s best for you? The salesperson? Perhaps.
I am occasionally put in the uncomfortable position of recommending products and services like this, and frankly, I recoil as from a hot flame…there are plenty of security experts out there (like my friend), so I bring one of them into the equation. Technology changes by the minute, and I have enough work to do keeping tabs on EHR products and development. It’s like laundry…I hire a professional because if I handle it myself, I’m bound to end up with an irremovable stain.Read more →
From the title of this, you might expect a Joe Walsh parody piece this week, but no, “Life’s Been Good To Me” was a hilarious tune I doubt I can match.
I recently received a note from a fellow asking for some advice about getting into the Healthcare Information Technology (HIT) field. Naturally, I had some advice, and considering high unemployment, I thought others might be looking for the same career path. This fellow was in his late 30’s, starting a family, and opening himself up for a ton of work that needs to be tended to quickly. That said, it’s not too late to take a couple years to prepare and get started in this business at 40, as long as you pay attention to some of the basics: Building and networking with industry contacts, education, and building an entrepreneur spirit. Also, a background in either general IT or healthcare doesn’t hurt. Starting at 40 gives you a career of over 25 years in the field, and few people are retiring at 65 these days; you could do well for yourself following this path.
HIT is exploding, much of the growth directly attributable to ARRA funding and related ultimately to the National Health Record and wider adoption of the Electronic Health Record (EHR), especially in mental health and substance abuse treatment. I think it’s a great place to be working.
If you’re a consumer who wants to understand yourself better, and you think you could function well in the work environment in which you’re seeking help, what better way to do that than immerse yourself hip-deep in the industry?
If you’re a professional seeking to get ahead in the industry, what better way than to move into the future now, gaining the knowledge and experience you’ll need to become more valuable to the organization you work for (or others!)?
Here are some things to think about: Education: Look into IT security certificates (some colleges offer courses). Sharing health data has to meet quite strict rules involving user security, encryption and such, and it looks Impressive on the resume. If you want to work for a hospital or mental health and addictions treatment organization, some healthcare education & experience is almost always desirable. Look into a nursing program or other professional degree. A Master of Social Work can be a two year program with the only per-requisite being almost any old Bachelor’s Degree. Many people go the night school route for this. As you get acquainted in the industry, you’ll find programs looking for interns, sometimes paying you to earn the experience required to complete the MSW program. It’s a lot of work, and most people resign themselves to a couple years of poverty, with the dedication of an entrepreneur to move forward into this field. The combination of IT and clinical/medical expertise and credentialing is almost too good to be true in this industry.
Consulting is a great gig, and I love running my small business, however, you have to wear a lot of hats; I’ve had to leverage my marketing and advertising experience, my IT experience, my experience working in mental health and addictions treatment environments to grow my business from an idea to a tidy little affair. It’s good to network with people in the industry. Reach out to facilities in your community, do some volunteer work, become known in the industry, not just to practitioners, but to management and owners of the organizations you’d like to work for. That’s not to say you should give away the farm, just that in order to get a little love, you gotta give a little love. Don’t sell them. Help them and get to know them. You can sell others down the line once you’re reasonably well known. It takes work, but the combination of education & healthcare experience will build a solid foundation you can build a business on. Seek mentors. Hang out with smart people and hope it rubs off. Get interested in their issues and how these successful people solve them.
As a final tip, the hot place to seek HIT work right now is App development for SmartPhones. You don’t need a degree (I’m not sure any are available yet!) and as long as you are confident in building a network of industry friends and have adequate selling skills, this could build a nice side business that could grow into something big. Just think outside the box and develop from the user’s point of view.
I’ve been working in HIT for a long time, and it’s been good to me…the way to know if it can be as good to you is to take the first step…call an educational program to gain some IT or clinical knowledge, call a mental health or addictions treatment organization and volunteer to get to know the layout of the industry. The important thing is to get started, so get on Google for some numbers and pick up the phone!Read more →
Yes, I actually try to listen. Sometimes.
Richard Blumenthal is one of the folks I listen to when he speak because he’s the National Coordinator of HIT and impacts my interests and business. I ran across his opinions recently in Healthcare Technology News and I couldn’t resist commenting, since the opinions revolve around trends in healthcare IT.
Blumenthal feels ARRA’s IT aims are being met. At the risk of repeating myself, I tend to agree. The Electronic Health Record (EHR) has used all the attention to spring out of the gate with increasing sales of software due to the incentives offered Behavioral Health lags behind, but see my last post to understand why I feel Mental Health and Substance Abuse Treatment will soon catch up with the rest of healthcare IT.
Lately, my work has led me to help organizations who have never fully implemented their EHR, which was purchased years ago. They are finding themselves realizing the benefits they originally purchased the system for, much later than expected. Scheduling is working better for professionals, there are shorter wait times for consumers, and management is getting figures they need to project how they need to do business in the short-term and into the future. The value of the EHR is coming to the forefront.
Implementation of the software was originally not accomplished due to a number of factors, not the least of which was the inability to foresee that a software implementation would take as much effort on the parts of the employees as it did. This led to inefficiencies in the implementation effort like having to re-train some staff members in the mission critical efforts (usually those affecting billing or the largest piece of revenue). In short, when the implementation dollars were spent, the project stalled and a bundle of software features like scheduling, assessments, treatment plans and progress notes never made it into daily life at the organization. The vendor and the customer often came to an impasse that so adversely affected their business relationship that the EHR was never implemented. What this meant to the consumer was about a year and a half of disorganization for people supposed to be helping them. In some cases there were ever-increasing delays in getting needed treatment, which led to no-shows, resulting in poorer service to customers and some people not getting the help they need at all.
Another barrier to implementation has been acceptance by doctors. Usually they just didn’t want to slow down to learn how to use the software…in some cases, the software wasn’t designed with their workflow process in mind. These days more and more doctors are being drawn into using the EHR by their peers. I’ve seen this happen in the field, and many doctors using the EHR love it. Some wait to retire, never learning to use the software. I find the same pressures to use the EHR come to bear throughout a Mental Health or Substance Abuse Treatment environment…Nurses, counselors, administrators, even executives are feeling the peer pressure and learning the systems.
In some cases, this shift requires a new software purchase and implementation. Folks discovered the vendors are better at that job these days, and staff is more accepting of the change. In other instances, staff has been so impacted by The Internet and home computer use (Facebook and Email are really big hits with all demographics), they are more accepting of the EHR and learn how to use it more quickly.
So, a psychological change is under way in organizations in this sector. People are more accepting of technological change these days, and a few are even enthusiastic. The EHR is spreading, and the results are helping consumers, professionals and helping organizations.Read more →
In 2010, the Electronic Medical Record (EMR) market grew $15.7 Billion. Naturally, only a small portion of that was wrapped up in mental health and substance abuse treatment provider upgrades to their systems, but the figure foreshadows good things to come in this sector of healthcare. If anybody doubts the effectiveness of pumping up the economy through healthcare over the past couple years with ARRA funds, think about $15.7 Billion in growth for the tiny offshoot healthcare market for the EMR. A lot of babies got shoes and rents got paid in the industry I hold dear due to ARRA.
Even though the economy was growing slowly, we can speculate that the Meaningful Use incentives that result in a Medicare or Medicaid “bonus” just for using computers to track a consumer’s records helps explain the sudden growth in healthcare providers selecting new or upgrading their software.
Electronic Health Records (EHRs) are only slightly different from EMRs, so I generally talk about the EHR. An EHR includes the EMR, and extends that with capabilities to reach out to other systems of many sorts and share data. The EMR (at least when the distinction was first made) is strictly internal…but this is trivia.
The reason I speculate upcoming growth in adoption of the EHR in mental health and substance abuse treatment is simply because soon more organizations will be eligible to collect Meaningful Use incentives. Currently, behavioral health (for this conversation, include “mental health” in that term), is left out of the Meaningful Use incentives, so incentives must be sought by a professional, which means a prescribing doctor like a psychiatrist. This reduces the amount of funding that can be secured in this field.
Right now, mental health and substance abuse treatment facilities are represented in the effort on Capitol Hill to include them in the Meaningful Use incentive program Recently the bill moved from the House where it languished in committee not too terribly long, advancing to the Senate. So, it’s a few months away, but the result when this bill passes will be an upsurge in EHR implementations for mental health and substance abuse treatment organizations. Professionals who have been waiting for an updated electronic record to keep their assessments, treatment plans and progress notes will be pleasantly surprised when they see the new features that have become commonplace in the EHR.
Central Scheduling will be compliant with rules and regulations. This may not be a counselor’s dream, but it certainly enables increased efficiency and decreases the time a consumer may have to wait to get help.
Communications about a patient’s treatment will be spread throughout the treatment team without having to use “secret code” for patient information in Emails that might make it to the outside world. Emerging issues can be dealt with quickly on a team, because the team is better coordinated without having to go to a paper chart to learn what the rest of the team is up to.
A ton of software features have come into being over the past few years, and with this influx of funds into EHR manufacturer’s pockets, even more wonderful advancements like Smart Phone use that are cutting edge will become commonplace. All this courtesy of Meaningful Use incentives. It took a while, but the plan’s coming together.Read more →