Archive for the ‘General Healthcare Industry News’ Category

Renewed Push to Establish Paid Maternity & Family Leave

Friday, April 24th, 2015

The United States has, for a long time, been the subject of criticism for not offering paid maternity or family leave to the average worker.

Most of America’s advanced, democratic counterparts in Western Europe and North America offer paid maternity/family leave as a part of their national healthcare system. Yet, in the United States, only 13 percent of the workforce has access to such a benefit, according to the Department of Labor.

Recently, though, there has been a push to nationalize a paid-leave policy for such reasons. President Obama, who has always been in favor of a nationalized maternity-leave compensation program, has repeatedly expressed his support for setting aside $2.2 billion in 2016’s budget to help a number of states set up paid-leave systems, according to Kaiser Health News.

Moreover, the Democratic party has proposed a revised Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act (originally passed twenty years ago) that would create national paid-leave programs that cover up to two-thirds of a worker’s wages for up to 60 days.

The current legislation makes any type of maternity or family-related leave difficult in the United States. As it stands, mothers and those who need to take care of invalid family members are granted unpaid leave under national law, however its legal purview does not extend to companies with fewer than fifty workers or to many employees who have not notched 1,250 hours of labor at their current jobs, according to Kaiser.

Three states that do have paid maternity leave (California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island) are home to some of the leading advocates for a national paid maternity leave policy. According to the Legal Aid Society Employment Law Center, California state law grants six weeks of leave per year at 55% of their weekly pay.

California is somewhat of a pioneer in the fight for paid-leave in the United States. However, many small business across the country oppose the implementation of policies akin to the one in the Golden State. And, with the Republican Party in control over Congress, it does not seem as though any significant changes will be made to national government’s paid-leave policies in the next couple of years. However, staffing agencies and small business owners should certainly pay attention to this issue.

Anthem Insurance Hack Impacts over 78 Million People

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

It is estimated that 78.8 million people have had their Social Security numbers, names, addresses, and dates of birth accessed by internet hackers who broke into health insurance giant Anthem’s databases, according to Bloomberg Business.

Anthem is the second-largest health insurer in the United States, and is part of the greater network of independently operated Blue Cross Blue Shield plans that provide service in parts of the country where BCBS is not easily accessible, Reuters reports.

The Indiana-based insurance company stated that preliminary investigations do not leave them to believe that costumers’ credit card or medical information was compromised.

The Anthem hack has quickly gone down as one of the largest corporate cyber breaches in history, as not only were Anthem costumers’ personal records stolen, but so too were those of nearly 8 million non-costumers who were on the Anthem databases for being affiliates of Blue Cross Blue Shield, according to CNN.

The FBI was alerted of the security infraction shortly after it was discovered, and has since been collaborating with Anthem very closely, hoping to pin-point the transgressors. While it is too early to tell who committed the cyber-attack, CNN states that a few rumors have pointed fingers at the Chinese government.

Large companies being robbed of costumers’ valuable information has become a trend of late. The Anthem hacking is somewhat reminiscent of the cyber-theft of the credit card data of over 40 million Target shoppers last year. Sony, JPMorgam Chase, Ebay, and Home Depot have also had issues with technological security in the past couple of years, says CNN.

The personal information of the administrative hierarchy of Anthem was stolen as well. In a letter notifying customers of the violation, CEO Joseph Swedish said, “Anthem’s own associates’ personal information – including my own – was accessed during this security breach. We join you in your concern and frustration, and I assure you that we are working around the clock to do everything we can to further secure your data.”

As collateral for the lost information, Anthem has vowed to individually contact victimized customers and provide them with complimentary credit monitoring and identity protection services, according to CNN. With luck, authorities will trace the source of the cyber-attack and prevent credit fraud.

EMR Updates Make Tracking Health Risks Easier

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

In the wake of the Ebola situation in the United States, vendors of electronic medical record (EMR) technology are making improvements to how their systems identify and flag patients who may be suffering from a serious disease. These updates will allow practitioners to respond more quickly to outbreak scenarios.

Hospital administrators laud the change as a way to overcome the information decay caused by shift changes by keeping every fact about a case in the system. EMR advances include notifications about potential issues, such as an “Ebola” notification for a West African patient experiencing flu-like symptoms, and more targeted questions to establish a patient’s more recent travel and living history.

Healthcare technology developers are continuously working on new ways to collect and use patient information in EMR systems through applications and better data collection. Though doctors complain that the systems are still difficult to navigate, developers maintain that doctors are equally critical to the effective use of an EMR system.

EMR development is an important positive outcome of the Ebola situation and will hopefully prompt vendors to make their systems even more responsive to future outbreaks of infectious disease.

PRN Funding’s comprehensive healthcare factoring options provide the funding necessary to invest in updated healthcare technology. If your healthcare company is in need of fast cash without taking on new debt, contact PRN Funding today to learn how healthcare factoring can help you.

Single Gene May Reduce Breast Cancer Risk by 80 Percent

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

Breast cancer is the most prevalent form of the disease to affect women. Fortunately, new genetic research may provide a better way to identify those at risk before a diagnosis.

Researchers have identified a genetic variant that results in less dense breast tissue, eliminating one of the key risk factors associated with breast cancer. The gene is present in women of Hispanic descent in varying proportions based on their ancestry.

Women whose genetic code shows the variant in question are between 40 and 80 percent less likely to contract breast cancer in their lifetime, depending on whether they inherited the code from one or both sides of their family.

While non-Hispanic women are less likely to benefit from the gene, the confirmation of this research could help doctors target screening and prevention measures more effectively toward women based on their respective level of risk. In addition, further research will lend insight into how the genetic variant actually protects carriers – ideally, a finding that doctors could then replicate in future preventive treatments.

Regardless of ethnic heritage, all women are encouraged to follow a recommended screening schedule including self-tests and mammograms. The National Cancer Institute has identified a list of risk factors as well as a risk assessment tool that women over 35 can use to estimate their risk of contracting breast cancer. (The online tool should not take the place of an exam by a licensed physician.)

PRN Funding offers cash flow solutions for healthcare companies to invest in the ongoing health of their employees without missing other necessary operating expenses. To learn more about healthcare factoring and cash flow, contact PRN Funding today.

New CVS Prescription Plan Benefits Tobacco-Free Companies – Like CVS

Friday, October 31st, 2014

CVS Health made waves in the pharmacy industry earlier this year with their announced cessation of tobacco sales. Now, they are drawing fire over a prescription plan that features higher co-pays for prescriptions filled at tobacco-vending pharmacies.

The plan, which has already been adopted by the city of Philadelphia, would give patients a discount as high as $15 per prescription if patients fill them at pharmacies in the “smoke-free” network including CVS pharmacies, of course, but also some local pharmacies as well as retail giant Target Corp. Customers at larger rival chains such as Walgreens and Rite Aid, which have chosen not to end tobacco sales, would pay the higher out-of-pocket cost.

For some smaller pharmacies, the plan could jeopardize their sales even if they don’t sell tobacco products – without sufficient marketing to advertise their smoke-free status, customers may choose to visit a verified smoke-free pharmacy to avoid the risk of higher co-pays.

CVS Health’s vice president of corporate communications explained that the network developed at the request of Caremark clients, but that hasn’t stopped a backlash from independent pharmacy associations and concerns that CVS Health will be reducing competitiveness if customers are pushed toward using CVS pharmacies for their prescriptions.

It remains to be seen whether more clients will sign on to a smoke-free network, but CVS Health assures that those who do will be provided with a full list of smoke-free pharmacies that their plan members can visit.

PRN Funding’s comprehensive healthcare factoring programs offer a fast, easy way for healthcare companies to build their working capital. Contact PRN Funding to learn more and apply for funding today.

In Healthcare, Preparation is Key

Friday, October 17th, 2014

In the midst of confusion and concern about the ongoing Ebola outbreak in the United States, the nation’s attention is focused on the practices and protocols of nurses and other healthcare workers who comprise the front line in patient care.

However, Ebola is merely a high-profile example of the risks that healthcare workers face every day. There is the obvious risk of infection from a blood-borne pathogen through contact with bodily fluids, as is the case with Ebola. However, there is also the potential for injury from biohazardous materials, chemicals, and drugs. According to the World Health Organization, unintentional contact with contaminated needles affects approximately six percent of the global health workforce each year resulting in nearly 100,000 new infections.

Even less serious day-to-day interactions can cause illness or injury to healthcare workers – heavy lifting, patient altercations, and the transmission of far more common airborne illnesses among them.

The healthcare industry can take an important lesson from their current battle against Ebola, including vendors that provide healthcare staffing services to hospitals. While vendors may not have a say in the protocols that their clients have in place, it is their responsibility to educate the nurses and other staff members they employ so policies and protocols can be followed properly. In addition, invest in continuing training to keep nurses at a heightened state of readiness should any serious situation occur.

Comprehensive nurse training and preparation will pay off greatly with fewer days missed, greater nurse confidence, and overall healthier and safer practices. If your nurse staffing agency needs a boost in working capital to invest in your workforce, PRN Funding’s nurse staffing factoring program can work for you. Contact PRN Funding today to apply for immediate funding through nurse staffing factoring.

CVS Health Tobacco Sales Go Up in Smoke Early

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

To reinforce its position as a health-focused company, CVS Caremark has pushed up its plan to cease tobacco sales at retail locations by a full month. Beginning today, tobacco products are no longer available at any CVS store. The company is also rebranding itself as CVS Health.

Reactions to the decision are mixed: research to be published today in Health Affairs suggests that tobacco sales bans in San Francisco and Boston retail pharmacies correlate to an approximately 13 percent drop in tobacco purchasers, and CVS Health’s chief medical officer estimates that a nationwide ban could reduce tobacco-related deaths by tens of thousands every year. Public health advocates also cheer the move.

On the other hand, other retail pharmacies are reluctant to jump on the “ban”dwagon and cite tobacco cessation products as the more effective tool against tobacco use. CVS Health is targeting tobacco use through expanded cessation services, which they will provide at their 7,000-plus retail locations.

CVS Health is also expanding its relationship with health care providers to increase the quality of care that patients can receive at existing and future CVS walk-in clinics.

The financial impact of ending tobacco sales remains to be seen, but CVS Health executives are confident that the decision will “position it as a broader provider of basic health services”.

CHS Data Hack: Is Your Company’s Information Secure?

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

While the tech security industry’s discovery of the Heartbleed bug in April made few mainstream headlines, its impact on information security became front-page news this week. Community Health Systems announced a massive security breach in which hackers gained non-medical information about approximately 4.5 million patients in their database.

According to a source “close to the CHS investigation”, the group responsible for the breach gained access by exploiting an unpatched occurrence of the Heartbleed bug in a Juniper device used by the hospital group. Once in, the attacker logged in via a VPN and was able to move deeper into the network.

The Heartbleed vulnerability was discovered in April in networking equipment distributed by Cisco and Juniper – unarguably two of the largest names in business networking equipment. The bug compromised the security of data encryption on IP networks, both internal and external. A patch was quickly developed, yet by June more than half of the infected sites on the internet had failed to apply it.

Security breaches are troublesome in every industry due to the potential for financial loss and identity theft, but in the healthcare industry there could be legal repercussions as well. Healthcare providers and vendors could be in violation of HIPAA regulations governing patient privacy even if the information compromised does not include details of their care.

Is your company’s information secure? Below are some best practices to ensure security now and in the future.

Make sure you’re secure.

Conduct an audit of your security as soon as possible. If you don’t have in-house IT professionals, schedule an appointment with a reputable third-party consultant to review your system. The IT professional will identify areas of potential vulnerability to address, as well as best practices to employ moving forward.

Educate your staff.

Human error accounts for a large portion of security breaches, so be sure that your employees are vigilant about information security. Remind them of basic protocol, such as not opening email attachments from unfamiliar email addresses, and advise them to be careful when downloading any extraneous programs onto their system. (In fact, you may simply prohibit the use of non-work-related software.)

Staff adherence to security procedures extends to their use of company hardware outside the workplace. Emphasize the importance of keeping work computers and devices safe when they are in the employee’s personal possession – after all, if a work laptop is stolen from an employee’s car then your information is equally at risk.

Use multiple layers of security.

Use different passwords for different programs, and give them an increased level of complexity – letters, numbers, and characters combined will help to thwart “dictionary attacks” run on the words within passwords. There are a number of passcode generators that you can use for a string of random characters. Reset your passwords regularly, and don’t write them down.

Update your anti-virus and antispyware software regularly to benefit from new definitions, and use an intrusion detection program to identify and block illegitimate attempt to access the system.

Encrypt your data

Protect the information in your network no matter where it goes. For communications including sensitive information, use an email encryption to secure the data against prying eyes.

Back up your data!

Always have a working hard copy of your data that you can use to restore the system in case the information is lost or compromised in a security breach. There are reputable online backup services that you can use as well, but the best practice is to also have a copy offline that you can access manually.

Protect mobile devices connected to your network.

If you work away from your office, either on a home network or a mobile device (laptop, tablet, phone), make sure that the security settings on those devices are also up to date. If it is an option, restrict the use of business-related information to devices that are owned and distributed by the business.

Have an updated security policy.

All of the above tips should be regular practices in your security policy, which you should always follow and periodically reevaluate. Other policies to consider may include:

  • Restricting who can access your network via VPN and when
  • Prohibiting staff from sharing security information over the phone, no matter what
  • Requiring that work hardware not be taken off the premises without authorization

Information security is a large investment of both time and money, but it is one of the most critical investments you can make in the longevity of your business. While you may not be able to thwart every potential attack on your data, having established security practices and following them will help you to recover more quickly and minimize the damage that an attack can cause.

If you lack the cash flow to invest in information security, PRN Funding can help. Our comprehensive healthcare factoring and medical accounts receivable factoring programs help healthcare companies from nurse staffing agencies to medical billing companies and more turn their open invoices into working capital that they can use to support their business – including its information security. Contact PRN Funding to learn more about healthcare factoring and medical accounts receivable factoring services.

Should Voluntarily Uninsured Patients Lose Charity Care?

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

Now that the Affordable Healthcare Act’s healthcare marketplaces and policies are in effect, hospitals are considering whether those who decline health coverage should benefit from charitable care.

The issue of whether to discontinue charity care for the voluntarily uninsured is tricky and, according to some, more a question of whether their denial of insurance indicates unwillingness to pay or an inability to pay. Some patients fall into the gap between Medicaid coverage and affordable subsidized care, while others who may be eligible for subsidized insurance are still unable to afford the high deductibles featured in lower-tier plans.

Other questions include whether patients were aware of available coverage options or if they were able to sign up during open enrollment. On the other hand, a significant though unsubstantiated concern about charitable care programs is that uninsured patients will be dissuaded from enrolling in a healthcare plan if they know that charitable care is an option. This could result in greater financial difficulty for hospitals receiving less government assistance to cover uninsured patients, particularly in states that declined Medicaid expansion.

For the moment, many hospitals are considering the effects of a change and have therefore not made any updates to their charitable care policies. Hospitals that have changed their programs have done so in a number of ways:

  • Reducing income threshold for additional assistance
  • Requiring a “nominal” contribution for care
  • Requiring patients to apply for coverage before they can benefit from charitable care (note: this is an existing practice in most hospitals)
  • Disqualifying aid to patients that refuse to enroll in coverage for which they are eligible (including Medicaid)

Regardless of hospitals’ decisions, all hospitals are required to clearly state their charitable care policies in compliance with the ACA and they must make “reasonable efforts” to qualify patients for aid before pursuing them for collections.

As hospitals absorb the financial changes of full ACA implementation, healthcare vendors must be prepared for any changes in payments. PRN Funding’s dynamic healthcare factoring options help healthcare vendors working with hospitals, doctors’ offices, and other healthcare facilities to shore up their cash flow by converting open invoices into immediate cash. Contact PRN Funding today to learn how healthcare factoring can help your company and to get started right away.

Walmart: Rolling back prices…on healthcare?

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

It started with a discount prescription medication program, offering generic drugs to patients for as little as $4 or even for free. It expanded in recent years to include retail clinics in conjunction with local hospital systems and partnerships with leading national hospitals. Now, it could be a tipping point for the future of accessible health care.

“It” is Walmart’s deepening involvement in health care, marked by the opening of five primary-care clinics in Texas and South Carolina – right in the store. They plan to increase the number to approximately 12 by the end of 2014.

At $40 for a walk-in visit (less for employees), Walmart clinics boast a lower price point than most primary-care clinics. In addition, they are open longer: one clinic in Texas, for example, is open for 12 hours on weekdays. The clinics are staffed by nurse practitioners in an agreement with QuadMed.

A number of experts have pointed out the wisdom of Walmart’s primary-care strategy and its consistency with other corporate strategies. The company has opened clinics slowly, after significant planning, and has begun developing clinics in areas that are in the greatest need of affordable health care.

Texas and South Carolina both have cost-related problems with primary care access: neither state approved a Medicaid expansion, leading to a larger uninsured population, while both states have higher percentages of poverty and other adverse contributing factors such as obesity and substance abuse. In these environments, clinics that provide not only easy but low-cost access will likely prove to be competitive with their traditional healthcare counterparts.

The initial incongruity of Walmart’s involvement in healthcare is actually a reflection of a new trend toward retail healthcare, which we touched on briefly in our last post on bidding for medical procedures.

In order to remain competitive as health care and insurance change in the coming years, healthcare vendors must be prepared to adapt and seek out new opportunities for providing care. PRN Funding offers a number of dynamic healthcare factoring options to help you build the working capital to expand your operations. To learn more or complete an application, contact PRN Funding today.