Changing Healthcare Regulations Increase Need for More Agile Technologies 

Randy Hickel, Hewlett-Packard
By Randy Hickel

In 2014, new regulations for electronic health records (EHRs) will apply to Medicare and Medicaid providers. To meet these changing regulations and needs, providers need more agile technology to offer patients and government agencies information faster, per the Stage 2 of Meaningful Use criteria. Below are the changes and how you can address them using innovative technology: 

Electronic Documentation: Changing the Process of Practicing Medicine 

Healthcare reform has been a prominent issue impacting millions of patients, providers and businesses across the country. Though debate has intensified recently with healthcare coverage requirements kicking in for the general public, legions of providers have been hard at work for the past five years transitioning to an electronic health record (EHS) system. While more are expected to embrace new technology given its many advantages and to keep pace with social change, federal regulations and incentives have helped spur early adopters in preparation for rigorous new standards.

In 2009, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act were passed, outlining a vision and phased approach to modernize our healthcare system, promote greater portability of medical records, enhance security protections and improve patient care. Since then, the Department of Health and Human Services has provided billions in Medicare and Medicaid incentive funds for eligible hospitals and providers that adopt certified EHR technology. According to a 2013 CDC survey, 48 percent of office-based physicians currently have a basic EHR system in place. The first phase of this implementation, Stage 1, ran from 2011 to 2013 and focused on electronic data capture and sharing.

Stage 2 began in 2014 and requires that providers participating in EHR incentive programs (who have met Stage 1 standards for two to three years) adopt 20 new Meaningful Use criteria established by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC). These continue improvements to patient care through better clinical decision support, care coordination and patient engagement. Essentially, providers will need to record more information electronically, make it available to patients and other healthcare professionals faster and continue to provide adequate security. 

For patients, this means they can expect to receive a printed clinical summary after each office visit; access their health information online within 24 hours and use secure electronic messaging to communicate with their providers, among other benefits. For providers, complying with these more ambitious standards may seem daunting given pressing time constraints that already impact their ability to provide personalized patient care. Certain technologies can help ease this transition and incorporating a comprehensive portfolio of solutions will pay you back both in short- and long-term gains, especially those who risk reduced reimbursements for non-compliance.

Automated Workflows: Streamlining Processes, Better Patient Care, Security & Savings 

There is a wide array of innovate applications and devices ideally suited for use in healthcare settings that save time, money and, most importantly, lives. These behind the desk technologies for a medical office can help streamline processes, enabling providers to focus on patient care and keeping protected health information (PHI) secure. Given the new regulations in place, these are some popular solutions that enable real-time information sharing while offering big returns: 

Secure mobile technologies. As the need to gather more information increases, per new EHR regulations, incorporating tablet use and even self-service kiosks helps make the process of initial data capture more efficient, freeing up valuable staff time spent managing paper documents. Providers can easily print prescriptions, referrals, patient ID wristbands, educational information, discharge packets, and billing statements directly through the use of tablets and multifunction printers (MFP). When investing in printing technology, ensure that authentication options are included, enabling providers to track printing and meet HIPAA requirements for recording, printing, copying, faxing and scanning PHI. Since Stage 2 “Meaningful Use” also requires that patients receive a copy of their clinical summary, patient discharge summaries are easily and securely printed from MFPs.

Managed Print Services and security. CMS and private health plans continue to reduce reimbursement for care delivery. Thus, most healthcare providers are aggressively looking for ways to cut costs, outsource IT services, and improve employee efficiencies. Managed Print Services have proven to deliver on each of these aspects with enhanced device security and compliance. Print security and compliance policies may be easily deployed to a health systems’ printer fleet. The fleet is monitored and any non-compliant devices that get added to the network are automatically updated. Furthermore, with the ability to print, copy, scan and fax PHI securely on MFPs, clinicians can easily create a longitudinal patient record for easy viewing from one repository. Today, more than 25 percent of a patient’s health records reside in analog format. By scanning in a patient’s paper based record, clinicians have the right information at the right place and time. This provides real economies of space, efficiency and costs.

The Cloud. As required medical, demographic and lifestyle information increases, virtual cloud technology makes sense for providers. It is a cost-effective way to store, backup and share complex data; it can supplement other servers and storage systems; and can reduce onsite IT oversight. Leading cloud service providers offer more enhanced security than most offices and keep up with the latest advances. This facilitates sharing information more quickly with government agencies and patients who are now required to have online access to their health records.

Randy Hickel is the Manager of Worldwide Healthcare Business Development at the Printing and Personal Systems Group of Hewlett-Packard. Randy manages a global team of healthcare market development consultants with credentials in the area of HIPAA security and compliance, electronic content management and Lean Six Sigma process improvement. Randy is a Certified Electronic Content Management Professional, Certified HIPAA Professional and Certified Security Compliance Specialist. 

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