Entries in Data & Technology (62)

Wednesday
May242017

Rise of the Drones

By Kim Bellard, May 24, 2017

For those of us of a certain age, we expected to be living in a Jetsons-type world, complete with flying cars.  That hasn't happened, but it is starting to appear as though the skies may, indeed, soon be full of flying vehicles.  It's just that they may not have people in them. 

Welcome to the brave new world of drones.

Many people may have viewed drones as a toy akin to radio-controlled airplanes. We're beyond that now.  Last summer PwC asked "Are commercial drones ready for take-off?"  They thought so, estimating the total available market for drone-enabled services at $127b

This is not going to all be about getting your books, or your socks, or even your new HD television faster.  It is going to impact many industries -- including health care.

And that impact has already started to happen.

Zipline International, for example, is already delivering medical supplies by drone in Rwanda.  They deliver directly to isolated clinics despite any intervening "challenging terrain and gaps in infrastructure."  They plan to limit themselves to medical supplies, but not only in developing countries; they see rural areas in the U.S. as potential opportunities as well.  Last fall they raised $25 million in Series B funding.  

Drones are also being considered for medical supply delivery in Guyana, Haiti, and the Philippines.   

And drone delivery is already being tested in more urban areas.  The Verge reported that Swiss Post, its national postal service, is working with two hospitals in Lugano to ferry lab samples between them. 

Similarly, Johns Hopkins has been testing drone transport of blood supplies, concluding that it is "an effective, safe, and timely way to get blood products to remote accident or natural catastrophe sites, or other time-sensitive destinations."

Airbus is developing the A-180 drone specifically to deliver medical supplies, especially for emergencies.  Its cargo capsule is "capable of transporting everything from medicine and antivenin to supplemental blood and even organs." A company called Otherlab is going a different direction.  Wired reports that their drone will deliver its package -- then decompose, making it ideal for deliveries to humanitarian crises (or to battle sites, since Darpa helped fund them).  

Lest we focus too narrowly on the concept of drones delivering medical supplies, argodesign has proposed a flying ambulance, which could be operated as a drone or by a pilot.  If you've ever seen ambulances stuck in traffic and felt sorry for the patients relying on them, such ambulances could be the solution -- arriving faster and to locations regular ambulances could not reach.  

But for real impact, let's go back to Amazon.  CNBC's Christina Farr broke the news last week that Amazon was considering getting into the pharmacy business. Put rapid delivery -- especially with drones -- together with lower and more transparent prices, and it is no wonder that the stocks of CVS and Walgreens took a hit when the news broke about Amazon's new interest.

Health care has been all-too-much a story of waiting.  That's quickly changing, with telemedicine, WebMD, retail clinics, and -- soon -- 3D printing and health care robots.  We can add health care drones to the list, allowing 30-minutes-or-less kinds of promises that we haven't even begun to tease out yet.

Bring on the drones!

This post is an abridged version of the posting in Kim Bellard’s blogsite. Click here to read the full posting

 

Thursday
Mar092017

Inaccurate Provider Directories Have a Direct Impact on Patients

By Claire Thayer, March 8, 2017

Provider directories are important tool for consumer engagement with health plans and provider networks. And in many instances, the provider directory is the vehicle for the patients’ first impressions of providers and the network they represent.  The consequences of directory inaccuracies create barriers to care as well as impact patient satisfaction. And while state and regulatory agencies are imposing stiff fines for non-compliance, a new report from the California Department of Managed Care finds that most insurers still have a ways to go in this regard as many have directories that contained “data inaccuracies significant enough to render them unusable.”

A recent special edition of the MCOL Infographic, co-sponsored by LexisNexis Risk Solutions, highlights the impact of directory inaccuracies on patients:

 

 

 

MCOL’s weekly infoGraphoid is a benefit for MCOL Basic members and released each Wednesday as part of the MCOL Daily Factoid e-newsletter distribution service – find out more here.

Thursday
Mar022017

How Health Plans Impact Revenue Performance and Improve Quality Outcomes

By Claire Thayer, March 2, 2017

The Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set (HEDIS) measures developed by the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) are now used by over 90% of health plans to measure quality performance.  HEDIS consists of 81 measures across 5 domains of care and address a broad range of important health issues, including:     

  • Asthma Medication Use
  • Persistence of Beta-Blocker Treatment after a Heart Attack
  • Controlling High Blood Pressure
  • Comprehensive Diabetes Care
  • Breast Cancer Screening
  • Antidepressant Medication Management
  • Childhood and Adolescent Immunization Status
  • Childhood and Adult Weight/BMI Assessment

Many health plans report HEDIS data to employers or use their results to make improvements in their quality of care and service.  Each year, NCQA publishes The State of Health Care Quality Report to raise awareness on key quality issues and drive improvement in the delivery of evidence-based medicine. This report documents performance trends over time, tracks variation in care and recommends quality improvements.  Additionally, HEDIS data is also incorporated into many health plan ‘report cards’ and increasingly used by consumers and purchasers to track and compare health plan performance.

This week, a special edition of the MCOL Infographic, co-sponsored by DST Health Solutions, focused on strategic trends and key elements of performance improvement for health plans: 

 

 

 

MCOL’s weekly infoGraphoid is a benefit for MCOL Basic members and released each Wednesday as part of the MCOL Daily Factoid e-newsletter distribution service – find out more here.

Wednesday
Feb222017

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly in Health Care

By Kim Bellard, February 22, 2017

 

I hate being a patient.

 

My exposure to the health care system has mostly been through my professional life or through the experiences of friends and family.  The last few days, though, I unexpectedly had an up-close-and-personal experience as a hospital inpatient.

I offer what I consider the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of the experience.

The Good:  The People
The various people involved in my care, from the most highly trained physician to the person who delivered meals, were great. I loved my nurses.  I liked my doctors a lot.  The aides, the lab techs, the imaging tech, the transportation specialists -- all of them doing jobs that I wouldn't be able to do -- were each friendly and helpful, taking pride in what they did and how it helped my care. 

The Bad: The Processes
On the other hand, on the lists of criticisms about our health care system, many of its rules and processes truly do deserve a place.  They're like part of an arcane game no one really understands. 

I'll offer three examples:

 

  • ·         Check-in
  • ·         NPO
  • ·         Discharge

 

The Ugly: The Technology

Oh, health care technology.  It is equally capable of delighting as it is of frustrating.  It is truly remarkable that the doctor could go up my arm to perform a procedure in my chest, just as the detail an MRI provides is simply astonishing.  

 

Let's start with the perennial whipping boy, EHRs.  On many occasions, EHRs did not mean that people did not still often have to drag in other electronic equipment or even paper in order for them to do their job.

 

MRIs are a wonderful technology, but as I was laying in that claustrophobic tube getting imaged, I kept thinking: what the heck are all those clanging noises?  

 

I was on various forms of monitoring devices, the smallest of which was the size of a 1980's cell phone and still required countless wires attached to numerous leads.  I kept wondering, hmm, have these people heard of Bluetooth?  Do they know about wearables?

 

My favorite example of ugly technology, though, came when I had to fill out a form, so that it could be faxed to the appropriate department.  

 

No health care system is perfect.  Every system has its own version of the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Our system can do better.  Let's give all those great people working in health care a better chance to help us.


This post is an abridged version of the posting in Kim Bellard’s blogsite. Click here to read the full posting

Friday
Feb172017

The Scourge of Healthcare Ransomware to Loom Larger in 2017

By Clive Riddle, February 17, 2017

 

CynergisTek has just released Redspin’s annual cybersecurity Breach Report:  2016: Protected Health Information (PHI). Their 21-page seventh annual report “provides in-depth analysis of the causes of PHI breaches reported to the Department of Health and Human Services and the overall state of cybersecurity in healthcare.”

 

 

 

The report cites that in 2016 there were:

  • ·         325 large breaches of PHI, compromising 16,612,985 individual patient records
  • ·         3,620,000 breached patient records in the year’s single largest incident
  • ·         40 percent of large breach incidents involved unauthorized access/disclosure
  • ·         over a dozen providers reported in media as having been victims of ransomware attacks with PHI breaches

 

The report lists the largest 2016 hacking attack on providers as affecting Banner Health with 3.62 million patient records breached, followed by 21st Century Oncology with 2.2 million records breached. Of large breaches, they state 78% involved providers, 16% health plans and 6% healthcare vendors.

 

The report makes particular note of “the scourge of Ransomware” and cite that in 2016 there was $1 billion overall in ransomware payments worldwide impacting all types of businesses and consumers The report cautions this will get worse in 2017, as “late last year, disturbing reports surfaced regarding the rise of ‘ransomware as a service’ (RaaS) – a business model in which malware authors enlist ‘distributors’ to launch the initial attacks (likely weaponized phishing emails) and then share in any profits. The potential accomplices do not need much technical expertise or capital to get started. Some ransomware kits cost as little as $100 dollars.”

 

Becker's Health IT & CIO Review featured an article: Get ready for hospital ransomware attacks 2.0 also cautions about a growing ransomware threat this year, stating "here are three tactics we've seen in the wild that are likely to become more widespread in 2017. Beyond encryption: 3 ways criminals are making their attacks more disruptive," and they go on to list and describe:

1) Developing ransomware strains that spread like a virus

2) Creating new versions of ransomware that disable the victim systems

3) Turning ransomware attacks into data breach events

 

The Department of Health and Human Services has weighed in, offering an eight page FACT SHEET: Ransomware and HIPAA, in which they cite “a recent U.S. Government interagency report indicates that, on average, there have been 4,000 daily ransomware attacks since early 2016 (a 300% increase over the 1,000 daily ransomware attacks reported in 2015).

 

The healthcare ransomware threat certainly isn't focused just on the U.S., and is a global issue. New research based on a Freedom of Information (FOI) request has revealed that 34% of NHS trusts in the UK have suffered a ransomware attack in the last 18 months.