Archive for the ‘Healthcare Technology’ Category

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.

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.

Technology is Changing Healthcare as We Know It

Monday, August 11th, 2014

Technological advances in healthcare have been touted as game-changers: advanced equipment for better results and faster care. For every updated practice that truly improves efficiency and lowers cost, however, there are a handful of other developments that simply raise the cost to patients without creating better solutions.

Unfortunately, inefficient and expensive advances have created new revenue streams by complicating the care process for patients and making more follow-up appointments necessary. On top of that, many healthcare systems pass on the cost of large equipment to their patients by raising the cost of different procedures.

All of that could change as the economics of healthcare change. New technologies such as exam adapters for mobile devices and 3D printing are already in production and may be the new wave of efficient and low-cost patient care, but in order to embrace these technologies and remain relevant in a value market hospitals and health care systems will need to completely transform the way they do business.

In hospital fee structures that move away from the traditional fee-for-service format, for example, practitioners will have to shift their focus to doing what works best to treat a patient rather than doing what they can bill more for. Moreover, the entire infrastructure of care must be adapted to incorporate new technologies so they are not only accessible but also secure and compliant with federal privacy regulations.

That said, if hospitals and medical groups choose to move toward integrated technology they have the potential to make healthcare not only less expensive in the long run, but truly better.

PRN Funding provides immediate working capital to help healthcare vendors cover expenses and invest in new technologies. Learn more about how healthcare factoring can transform your company and request a free factoring quote now.

ICD-10 Delay: What Should We Do?

Friday, April 11th, 2014

The news of ICD-10’s delay until at least October 2015 has prompted a range of responses from vendors and providers, mostly predicated on whether or not they were prepared for a transition to occur later this year. With a delay signed into law and a new deadline yet to be announced, many organizations are lamenting the dollars and hours they have spent to be ready and the money they will now have to invest in waiting out the delay.

There are two paths of action that providers and vendors can take in the minimum 18-month waiting period now facing them: stay ahead of the game, or catch up.

If you’re ready, stay on the ball.

ICD-10’s delay unfortunately has the collateral effect of punishing companies that worked to put new systems in place well ahead of the latest deadline. Many of these companies have invested money into software, employee training, and testing procedures and are reluctant to invest even more to maintain an indefinite ready state.

For these companies, professionals advise to keep forging ahead. Unless there is an announcement down the line that ICD-10 will be skipped entirely, prepared vendors and providers can stay ahead of the curve by continuing to test their updates and train coders to comply with ICD-10. In addition, you can cease dual coding once your ICD-10 accuracy reaches acceptable levels and simply translate ICD-10 codes to the less specific ICD-9 codes for billing until the new standard is officially implemented.

If you’re not ready, get there.

The minimum eighteen-month delay is a significant reprieve for providers, vendors, and payers that are not on track for a timely transition, including the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. For these companies, it is critical to make the best use of the extension they have been given.

Companies that have found ICD-10 preparation to be a heavy financial burden should make and implement a plan to invest in the necessary training and software with enough time to undergo full testing. If companies choose to drag their feet further and squander the added time, it could result in hundreds of thousands of wasted dollars and more delays down the road. The Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) is pushing for CMS to take the lead on end-to-end testing, though CMS has no plans to conduct their own testing until at least July of this year.

If the ICD-10 delay is causing cash flow problems for your company, PRN Funding can help. Our healthcare factoring programs give you immediate access to cash that you can invest in infrastructure, training, and further developing advances such as the ICD-10 transition. Contact us to find out more about healthcare factoring services and to receive an application today.

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New Bill Delays ICD-10 Again, Indefinitely

Monday, April 7th, 2014

Despite claims by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that the October 1, 2014 deadline for the final transition to ICD-10 was firm, President Obama has signed a new law that will push ICD-10 back until at least October 2015.

H.R. 4302, “Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014”, is primarily the latest in a series of patches to Medicare’s sustainable growth rate; however, Section 212 of the bill prohibits the Secretary of Health and Human Services from replacing the current coding standard, ICD-9, with the new ICD-10 any time before October 1, 2015.

The delay has caused significant frustration and may compound difficulties for providers racing to be ICD-10 compliant. Providers at various stages of preparation for ICD-10 will have to maintain both their ICD-10 systems and their current ICD-9 systems until the switch takes place; in addition, many providers who are prepared to begin training for ICD-10 will have to postpone their efforts until a new deadline is announced.

Because the ICD-10 mandate is unfunded, the cost of preparation has fallen to providers who may suffer financially due to a delay. There is also little indication that payers are prepared for billing changes that will take place with ICD-10. At the same time, however, providers who are not as close to full ICD-10 implementation will have at least an additional year to upgrade technology, train their employees, and update their procedures. For payers, the delay will provide additional opportunities for critical end-to-end systems tests.

Proponents of ICD-10 argue that the new system will allow for more accurate coding of a variety of medical conditions, which will not only improve the quality of care but will also streamline billing processes by reducing requests for additional documentation. Health information management professionals recommend that providers stay on track for complete ICD-10 preparation, including a complete shift to ICD-10 coding with translations to ICD-9 until the standard is changed.

ICD-10 may also have a significant impact on healthcare vendors. Medical billing and coding agencies stand to benefit from providers choosing to outsource coding in advance of changing standards, yet all vendors may face longer waits for payment from facilities struggling to meet increasing financial demands.

We will continue to monitor updates to the ICD-10 transition and report on them as they come.

PRN Funding offers alternative financing solutions for healthcare vendors that need to tighten their cash flow in the wake of extended payments. Learn more about our various healthcare factoring programs, then contact us to receive an application and to get started immediately.

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Healthcare is Going Digital in 2014

Monday, February 24th, 2014

Move over, electronic health records: 2014 is shaping up to be the year of healthcare technology with a real-time benefit to consumers.

A number of tech trends – some new, others more established – are poised to change the way consumers find healthcare, interact with providers, and reap physical and financial benefits for pursuing a healthier lifestyle. Below are just some of the possibilities of healthcare technology on the market today.

Shop smarter for care. Online healthcare sourcing companies are developing responsive systems through which consumers can locate the best provider for their care concerns and know the real cost of service – including deductibles and co-pays – before ever making an appointment.

The doctor is in…your house. New applications and online services will give patients the opportunity to receive a digital house call rather than go out to a hospital or doctor’s office. Doctors can provide medical advice by phone, email, and possibly even video chat so patients can avoid higher out-of-pocket costs or the contamination risk of waiting among other sick people for care.

Wearable health monitors. Pedometers and wearable fitness devices such as Nike’s FuelBand and FitBit’s line of products became even more popular in 2013, and the trend is set to expand further in 2014. Fitness tech companies are turning to sensor-equipped workout clothing, like that already used by Major League Soccer, to provide more accurate data capture and a higher level of comfort for consumers at every level of fitness.

Get paid to get – and stay – healthy. Many companies and health insurance providers already offer discounts on premiums and other healthcare costs to consumers who take steps to improve their health, whether by meeting established health care goals or by enrolling in a gym or weight-loss program like Weight Watchers. In 2014, insurance companies are expected to similarly reward consumers who use health monitoring apps like MyFitnessPal to track their nutrition and physical activity.

In addition to this, there are applications on the market that will reward users for hitting their goals. One, the popular Pact (more than 100,000 downloads on the Google Play store), incentivizes healthy lifestyle decisions – higher vegetable consumption, food tracking, and workouts – by paying users who meet their goals and fining users who don’t.

Track your health for targeted wellness suggestions. Even though insurance companies aren’t paying you to monitor your health just yet, it is never too soon to get started. There are hundreds of mobile applications available for Android and iOS devices that help you track your activity and calorie intake. As health technology evolves, there is a very good chance that the apps consumers are already using may be integrated into consumers’ online health profiles. This would provide an aggregated picture of each consumer’s health as well as the opportunity for consumers to get targeted suggestions for improving their lifestyle.

These healthcare technology trends have the potential to benefit companies that subsidize their employees’ health care coverage. In the interim, make sure your company has the cash flow to effectively cover your employees with PRN Funding’s healthcare factoring program. Learn more about healthcare factoring services and complete our application today to get started.