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RBS (REGULATORY BUDGET SENTINEL)

GROWING HEALTH CARE IT FIELD IN NEED OF PROFESSIONALS
By: Nicola Crean, CHS Marketing Coordinator

Health care has long been at the forefront of public discussion and political debate. Public opinion of Obamacare still remains mixed among private citizens, in addition to professionals that work within this industry. Although U.S. health care reform has faced criticism since it was first introduced, many experts are reporting positive growth that is directly related to Obamacare.

Technology has been an area within the field of health care that continues to evolve. Not only are IT jobs transforming and growing in numbers, but businesses and providers are beginning to buy into the theory that more data will end up benefitting everyone in the long run.

While many factors have played a role in the growing field of Health Care IT, experts believe that the recent health care reform has been a driving force behind this technology evolution. Aspects of the reform such as the ICD-10 conversion, increase in demand to integrate healthcare systems and desire to lower costs in general have all participated in the desire to grow the IT field within this industry.

CompTIA administered their 4th Annual Healthcare IT Insights and Opportunities survey earlier this year to determine what the trends were on this topic. After surveying approximately 375 doctors, dentists, providers and administrators, the results demonstrated that more people are putting emphasis on the need to continue evolving our technology.

“It takes time for emerging technologies to mature and for users to make sufficient progress along the learning curve before the benefits of innovation can be realized,” said Tim Herbert, vice president, research, CompTIA in a press release. “We’re now beginning to see this happen in the healthcare sector.”

The survey reported that approximately 52 percent of the respondents believe that IT is very important to practicing health care, with only 8 percent answering that they felt neutral about this type of technology. In a separate question that asked the respondents current satisfaction with the devices currently being used, only 6 percent were very satisfied, while 50 percent claimed to be mostly satisfied.

While people may seem open to utilizing new IT systems, devices and other applications, the CompTIA study reveals that there are less than 35 percent of all staff members are currently using this type of technology. Experts believe that there will continue to be an increase in health care professionals relying on these types of technologies, especially with the integration of electric health records.

With more emphasis being placed on health care technology and data collection, companies are beginning to take a closer look at how they are staffing these departments. The demand for IT professionals has increased within the medical industry and strategies are changing to recruit the most qualified candidates.

"The challenge for healthcare is not just a shortage of people with technical skills. It's also a shortage of people with the skills to marry technological savvy with business strategy as healthcare becomes more connected, coordinated and accountable," said Daniel Garrett, principal and PwC's health information technology practice leader, in a new report released by the Health Research Institute.

Research from Burning Glass demonstrated that although online job posting in total have steadily grown 6 percent since 2007, health-care informatics jobs are up over 50 percent. Analysts believe that this is attributed to the Affordable Health Care Act requiring digital billing, patient-monitoring requirements and other electronic improvements to be implemented, according to an article published on CNBC’s website.

Although job positions may be available, many companies are struggling with hiring individuals that have the capacity and talent to succeed within this industry. Many of these positions have previously been outsourced, making these jobs scarce at one point. Combine outsourcing with the increase in demand and experts are concerned that there will be a continued shortage of candidates for these technical jobs. 

“It's not a skill-set they're used to buying or hiring, and frankly they're competing with companies and start-ups for this talent, so they're not used to compensating it the right way,” said Steve Van Kuiken, McKinsey & Co. Healthcare Information Technology practice leader, in an article published on CNBC’s website. “What we tell them is—you've got to think about a build-and-buy strategy for this talent.”

The increase in health care IT positions is yet another sign of the ever evolving world of health care. As more regulations are enforced, the public will see continue to see an increase in value put on technology and data collection. Companies within the medical industry will have to rework their hiring strategies in order to accommodate for the changes to come in the future.

MOBILE HEALTH CARE HAS SIGNIFICANT BENEFITS FOR PATIENTS

By: Nicola Crean, CHS Marketing Coordinator

Recently, there has been a lot of emphasis placed on technological advancements within the health care industry. The most well-known improvements are underway within the U.S. electronic health recording system. While much advancement looks to increase data and improve on efficiency, some new technology is focused solely on the patient’s experience.

With so many individuals using the Internet and becoming more familiar with smart phones and other devices, professionals within the health care industry saw this as an opportunity to reach out to their patients. Using websites to provide educational materials on health or health care apps to allow patients direct access to their pharmacists and doctors are a few ways that technology is creating an additional method of communication between patients and their doctors.

“The key is recognizing how people use technology,” said Ivor Horn, an associate professor at the National Children’s Medical Center, in an article published in VentureBeat’s website. “The two main issues are trust and self-efficiency – the ability to feel like you can accomplish what you want to accomplish is really important and that the information comes from a reliable source.”

The most valuable benefit to spending time and resources on developing various online tools for patients is the opportunity to further help patients manage their health. By providing them with numerous ways to communicate with their physicians and monitor their health, experts believe that investing in technology can ultimately reduce health expenses in the future.

Earlier this year, Group Health, a Seattle-based health care system, participated in a study that tracked the health benefits that were seen in patients who utilized their online tools available to them.

In this particular study, patients with high blood pressure were split up into three groups. One group received standard care, group two received at-home training for how to monitor their blood pressure, while the third group had online access to their pharmacists.

After a year, the study found that of the 60 percent of patients in group three had gotten their blood pressure under control. This is compared to 48 and 52 percent for the other groups. Not only did patients utilize the online tools available to them, but they also saw a significant improvement of their original health condition.

“These kinds of interventions – patients are extremely satisfied with them,” said researcher Dr. Beverly Green in a Lowell Sun article. “They really appreciate being able to get a hold of their provider when they need it. And they also like that they can get their questions answered when they need it and they don’t have to come in.”

The study ultimately demonstrated that not only will these type of tools work, but patients are open to utilizing them. In fact, experts are seeing more and more patients that are open to using the Internet to research and discover more about their particular illnesses or health, in general.

As more individuals turn to other sources for health information, there has been a greater push to have more accurate facts using simple terms available to the public. An article published in the MedCity News reports that a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine demonstrates that many patients are becoming confused by technical terms utilized across internet websites.

“Patients will often come to the office, and one of the first things they say to you, especially about technical information, they’ll say that they’ve been on the Internet, and they’ll quote one or two key phrases back to you,” said Dr. Charles Prestigiacomo, author of the study published in JAMA Internal Medicine. “Unfortunately, the little sound bites, while accurate, may not be complete.”

Many medical websites have a higher reading level than what is considered to be the standard. This makes it difficult for people from all educational backgrounds to research health topics and be able to comprehend the information.

This is important for companies to be aware of as they begin develop various online apps and websites that are intended for patients. Understanding what tools are most beneficial and what type of information to provide will be a better service to patients. The ultimate goal is to improve on patient health and providing new ways to achieve that is becoming a growing area within health care technologies.

THERE ARE SOME BEHAVIORS YOU JUST CAN'T REGULATE.

By: Chacko Kurian

Regulations depend on carrots and sticks. If you don’t pay your taxes, there will be serious consequences – the stick. If you buy a home with a home loan, we’ll let you take the interest payment deduction on your taxes – the carrot. The HITECH Act has a number of sticks associated with the security of Protected Health Information (PHI). We at CHS will be addressing the issue of security of PHI in forthcoming articles. There is, under some circumstances, one link in the security chain that no regulation can affect -the uninformed behavior of the user. This article addresses one method where cyber criminals make unwitting users partners in a security breach.

Prior to founding Apple Computers, the Steves (Wozniak and Jobs) could be found ripping off Ma Bell using a blue box to make long distance phone calls (domestic and international) for free. The subculture that reveled in this activity called “phreaking” was probably the progenitor of the subculture of hackers who, today, like to hack computer systems just because they’re there. There is the story of Steve Woz(niak) actually making a “phreak” phone call to the Vatican and asking to speak to the Pope while pretending to be Henry Kissinger with a think German accent. These are the guys who later found legal ways to take your money.

Before the age of digital telephone switching systems, telephone switches reset trunk (long distance) lines with a tone at a specific frequency – 2600Hz. This meant that the trunk line was disconnected at one end and available for dialing at the other end. The dialing was also accomplished by tones at preset multiple frequencies. How did one get those frequencies? Legend has it that the 2600Hz frequency was discovered by accident by Joe Engressia, known among phreakers as ‘Joybubbles’, at the age of 7! He was apparently able to whistle at that frequency and so attach himself to the dialing end of an available long distance line.

But how does one progress from knowing that you could get a trunk line to using it to make free long distance calls. In 1954, the then undivided Bell System published an article in the Bell System Technical Journal about the basics of signaling using multi-frequency tones. This piece of information by itself was of little use. The second and final piece of the puzzle was published, again courtesy of Ma Bell, in the November 1960. Bell System Technical Journal in an article called “Signaling systems for control of telephone switching”. This article published the actual multi-frequency tones used to control the switches. From that information to the creation of the reputed “Blue Box” that became a clandestine product was a short step. With one of these boxes, anybody was able pick up a phone and make free long distance calls.

To be able to win this questionable prize, the phreaker required two pieces of information and they were found in two locations, but once they were combined, the information became quite powerful. Today – cybercriminals put two pieces of information discovered from different locations together to achieve their nefarious goals..

Spear Phishing is the technique by which pieces of information stolen from different locations are put together, by cybercriminals, to steal your identity, your money and anything of value. How does this work? Unlike the shot gun approach taken by those Nigerian scam artists who send out millions of emails, the Spear Phisher is looking for prey with a small email blast to very targeted prospects. All they need to start the process is one piece of information – your email address and sometimes your name. They don’t need anything like a credit card number, the password to your on-line bank account or your social security number– well, not yet. The attack is quick and over in less than a day, before security and software companies have an opportunity to react.

A typical Spear Phishing attack starts with an email that comes to you and looks something like this, courtesy of the Microsoft Safety and Security center

Remember they already have your email address and sometimes your name so the “Hello” salutation is not so innocuous. It looks very familiar but the highlighted items should make you suspicious. If you examine the links you will find that they link to unsecured and unfamiliar sites as shown below:

Once you click on the link and enter the information they’re asking for, they’ve got you.

Another variation of this technique is to send you an email making you an offer that sounds reasonable on the surface, but requires you to open an attachment with the details of the offer. Again, once you open that attachment, they’ve got you. What happens behind the scenes is that the attachment has a robot program that can do almost anything that they want it to do. It can install a keystroke logger and send your internet banking or credit card passwords to the cybercriminal. It can give control of your computer over to the cybercriminal and so enable more of these schemes to be run from your computer. The possibilities are endless.

Sometimes the Spear Phisher makes the email look like its coming from your boss – again remember he has email addresses and names. The email may require you to give up password and other authentication information in order to perform a “security audit” or an “account verification”.

Key to making this criminal endeavor work is that it requires your participation to either provide the missing information or open the attachment. So the best defense it to verify the email by contacting the sender by phone or alternate method if the email looks suspicious. A good antivirus program installed on your computer can help too.Remember for the scheme to work it requires your participation.

We might as well brace for a number of these email attacks. Recently Epsilon, a division of Alliance Data suffered an illegal entry on its client’s email databases. This is the company that processes marketing communications for loyalty programs like Marriott Rewards, Citibank Advantage and many other large organizations. Imagine the rich information for cybercriminals that email addresses, names and loyalty program associations can provide. If you belong to the Marriott Rewards program like I do, expect an incredibly valuable offer to come to you via email. Do not open the attachment even though the logo looks almost right and the text has only one or two spelling mistakes.

There’s lots of regulations coming from Washington DC these days, but I don’t think they can think one up for this.

CHS SOFTWARE UPDATE

CHS Software you may want to use

Often, we at CHS, are guilty of not informing you of products or features that we have implemented over the past year that you may want to use. This year we have rounded out our individual enrollment, billing and administration offering with a full cycle product. If you sell individual policies or sell voluntary products in addition to your regular employer sponsored group health offerings, this may interest you.

"Full Cycle" in this context means the following:
i) taking the application for enrollment of the individual/family on the web, after getting their responses to qualifying/underwriting questions,
ii) enrolling them in the plan of choice,,
iii) billing their credit card or bank account at the appropriate frequency, i.e. monthly, quarterly, semi-annually or annually,
iv) applying the payments received against the appropriate invoices
v) disbursing premium/commission and other payments to carriers, brokers/agents and other suppliers
vi) updates to Accounts Receivable, Accounts Payable and General Ledger without manual intervention after set-up.

We would like to say that all of the above happens "automatically" (a grossly over-used word) but it doesn't. It happens with minimal, but appropriate, human intervention. For example, there are checks and balances in place to make sure that premium billing adjustments owing to changes in family composition or product choices are made accurately. The web enrollment product, CHS iCoverNow, has to be customized with your logo, color palette, questions and response logic. Users of our product like it. It has allowed them to grow into areas where they couldn't before. We believe that this will interest administrators of individual health plans who sell to the public at large and may become a valuable tool in the context of health care reform.