patient safety in healthcare reduces medical errors

A Guide to Digital, Physical, and Legal Patient Safety

patient safety in healthcare reduces medical errors

Learn more about to protect patients’ physical wellbeing and digital and legal patient information and records.

The following guest post on patient safety in healthcare was submitted by Dixie Somers.

Today’s health care consumer is protected by digital, physical, and legal patient safety rules and regulations. Hospitalists, administrators, physicians, nurses, and others in a hospital setting must be aware of the required physical safeguards, rules, and regulations in place to protect patients’ physical wellbeing and digital and legal patient information and records at all times.

Physical safeguards also include the physical steps, procedures, and policies required to secure the Covered Entity (CE) or the CE’s Business Associates’ (BAs) electronic data and HIT systems, equipment, and building structures in use. These safeguards should address protection against physical and environmental threats as well as possible unauthorized intrusions in the health care environment.

Physical Safeguards

The hospital is a complex physical environment. It’s important for all hospital staff to implement and practice good health habits on a personal and team level.

The hospital has a myriad of regulatory compliance issues to consider along with patient safety, including HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996), EMTALA (Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act), and Medicare/Medicaid payments regulations in addition to its own corporate governance policies.

Of course, it’s the legal and ethical duty of the hospital to protect the patient’s physical body from material harm when he or she is in the hospital. Safety guards and procedures should be strictly followed at all times.

Hospital Environmental Health

Dangers are always present in the hospital, including hazardous chemicals, infectious materials, chemotherapeutic agents, and radioactive matter, among others. Occupational safety and health administrators must work to ensure patient protection from exposure to these elements. A fire or resulting smoke from a hospital fire could be dangerous for the hospital’s most vulnerable patients. Life Safety Codes are in place for that reason. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and local/municipal governments are required to enforce the laws and/or regulations concerning fire safety and hazardous materials in the hospital.

The hospital should review its fire and safety plan, fire drills/alarm notifications, fire safety equipment/maintenance and protective building features, hazardous materials/exposure control plan, waste containment, and personal protective equipment as part of the annual risk assessment.

Hospital Security

All people in the hospital—patients, staff, and members of the public—must be protected from harm in the hospital. Hospital security includes multiple factors. Day-to-day concerns referenced above or major accidents could threaten the hospital environment.

Since many people travel to and from the hospital each day, it’s important to protect individuals from potential altercations and robberies (including robbery of physical goods or stolen identification). Potential events could cause temporary overcrowding in the hospital.

It’s essential for the hospital to consider these and other potential scenarios that affect safety and security. Local, state, and federal laws address many situations but it’s also essential for the hospital to consider coordination with local emergency, fire, and police personnel.

As part of the yearly risk assessment, the hospital should review policies relating to security technology/security personnel, response to disruptive behaviors, monitor of materials in/out of the hospital building, and security of hazardous drugs/material/waste. There should also be an accurate WebID medical license verification system available to make sure that every doctor’s license is accurate.

Digital Privacy and Security in the Hospital

The hospital collects and uses patient information to treat its patients. It also collects personal financial information as part of its billing practices. Digital privacy is the patient’s right. Federal law requires the hospital to establish proper systems and procedures to protect the patient’s private information from prying eyes.

Workstations, devices, computers, and networks in use at the hospital must be secure. Each hospital must have proper security procedures and policies in place. Media controls, disposal of sensitive information, and access of information must be considered as part of the hospital’s compliance.

Patients have the right to sue the hospital and/or individual practitioners when private information is improperly accessed or breached.

Legal Malpractice Risks

Security of electronic health records (EHR) in the hospital and medical practice can advance both patient safety and the practice of medicine. However, it’s important for the hospital to know that, as new technology is adopted, potential liability risks are present.

Hospital staff can access patient information through EHR or via health information exchanges. Patients’ hospital charts, lab results, medication histories, radiology images and reports are accessed, exchanged, and reviewed. Patient injury can result from the hospital’s inability to make patient information available to providers treating him or her. If patient injury occurs from this type of information access error, the patient (or his/her family) may be able to file a legal malpractice claim against the hospital or individual providers.

Dixie Somers is a freelance writer and blogger from Phoenix, Arizona, who loves most to write for health, technology, and business niches. Dixie is the proud mother of three beautiful girls and wife to a wonderful husband.

learn how to prevent medical identity theft in healthcare

How to Prevent Your Medical Information from Misuse

learn how to prevent medical identity theft in healthcare

Medical identity theft can seriously threaten your physical and financial health.

The following guest post on protecting your medical information from misuse was submitted by Christine DiGangi.

When it comes to personal information, your health records are about as personal as it gets. And while it may not seem as immediately damaging as someone hacking into your bank account, medical identity theft can seriously threaten your physical and financial health.

How a Thief Might Misuse Your Medical Information

Think of all the information you’ve handed over at a doctor’s office: Name, birth date, address, Social Security number, insurance information, family medical history — these are all things someone can use to impersonate you. This makes health care providers targets for hackers. What can they do with your medical data? Plenty. They can open fraudulent financial accounts, commit crimes (besides identity theft), file a fraudulent tax return (and get the refund), buy prescription drugs with your insurance (and maybe sell them, which goes back to the crime problem), claim federal benefits like Social Security, use your insurance to get medical care and countless other things, all in your name. The results of such fraud can end up on your criminal record, medical history or credit report.

Say someone got their hands on your medical information and they used it to get medical treatment. That person’s health data could end up in your medical history and affect your future care. What if that person maxed out your insurance coverage, leaving you without the coverage you need? What if medical expenses that person generated don’t get paid? That could result in a collection account on your credit report and cause your credit score to drop until you dispute the error or resolve the identity theft. There’s a lot at stake. We asked identity theft expert Adam Levin, co-founder of Credit.com and author of “Swiped: How to Protect Yourself in a World Full of Scammers, Phishers, and Identity Thieves,” for his top tips on preventing your medical information from misuse. Here’s what he said.

You Don’t Have to Share Everything

A lot of people provide their Social Security number and other sensitive details to their healthcare provider without asking if it’s necessary, Levin said. Just because they ask for it doesn’t mean they need it.

“Find out how they intend to secure it,” Levin said. “Remember, they already have your medical insurance information and often require a credit card.”

When You Do Share Sensitive Information, Do It Carefully

Once you hand over your information, you no longer control it, so think about the way you’re providing your doctors with records. Levin said you should never send medical information to someone you don’t know unless you’re the one who contacted them.

“Know precisely to whom you are communicating and confirm that their requests are reasonable,” he said. “Remember, you should never send sensitive information by way of email or text. Only fax if you know who is standing next to the machine as you are faxing.”

Use Common-Sense Security

Lots of health care providers have gone digital, meaning you can access your records or pay your bills through an online account. While password security is important for all online accounts, it’s especially crucial when you’re setting your credentials for a medical website. And if you do end up with physical paperwork that includes details on your health, insurance or any other personally identifiable information, keep it in a safe place. If you want to discard it, use a cross-cutting shredder, Levin said.

More Resources on Medical Identity Theft

Until a fraud has been corrected (which can take months or even years), you may suffer some credit damage, which is another reason to try and prevent the fraud from happening and act quickly as soon as you detect it. While working toward a resolution, you’ll want to focus on what you can control, like practicing the safety tips we just described or improving other aspects of your credit. For example, you could work on making on-time payments and paying down debt, which are good things for your credit scores. If you’re having trouble accessing credit because of identity theft, getting a secured credit card might be able to help you keep your credit file active, because a secured card generally does not require a credit check.

Monitor your credit reports for unfamiliar collection accounts and other signs of identity theft, in addition to keeping an eye on your mail and insurance for bills regarding care you didn’t receive. The Federal Trade Commission has a guide on how to request and review your medical records for accuracy, as well as how to resolve identity theft.

learn more about how to prevent medical identity theft in healthcareChristine DiGangi is a reporter and the social media editor for Credit.com, covering a variety of personal finance topics. Her writing has been featured on USA Today, MSN, Yahoo! Finance and The New York Times International Weekly, among other outlets. You can find her on Twitter @writingbikes.

 

the rising use of big data in healthcare

What’s Happening With All Our Healthcare Data?

the rising use of big data in healthcare

The rising use of big data in healthcare promises to fundamentally improve care delivery.

The following guest post on big data in healthcare was submitted by Keri Lunt Stevens.

Big data — two little words that have monstrous meaning. Big data is a term for a data set that is so large or complex that a traditional data processing application can’t handle it. From every student’s transcript to every hospital’s patient records and even to your own personal social media exchanges, we’re all producing data. All of the time.

According to IBM, an American multinational technology company, big data is arriving from multiple sources at an alarming velocity, volume, and variety. To extract meaningful value from big data, we need optimal processing power, analytics capabilities, and skills. Most industries struggle with this because the challenges of capturing, storing, sharing, searching, securing and updating this big data are real.

But so are the benefits. With the help of predictive analytics, big data can be used to anticipate future behavior, spot trends, and foresee and even stop potential problems before they spiral out of control. In the healthcare industry, this could have a huge impact on patient care, privacy and more.

Control Epidemics

In a way, predictive analytics isn’t new to the healthcare industry. For years, quantitative data has been used to predict the likelihood of an infectious disease outbreak, including how the disease will spread and how to control it. Some of these formal methodologies include risk factor analysis, risk modeling and dynamic modeling. But while quantitative data has helped us so far, it hasn’t been enough. Currently, there are five U.S.-based outbreaks being investigated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Additionally, the Zika virus — for which there is no vaccine — continues to spread. According to a U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health article written by Mark Woolhouse, we need to develop a more holistic framework that captures the role of the underlying drivers of disease risks, from demography and behavior to land use and climate change. For a complete picture, doctors and scientists need to be able to cipher through quantitative and qualitative data to make predictions and act accordingly.

Develop Personalized Medicine

The majority of the human body is made up of six elements: oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium and phosphorus, which are divided into simple and complex chemical molecules. The most common medical treatment, drug therapy, is the biochemical interactions between those molecules and the ones in pharmaceutical drugs. And that’s great. This type of treatment has helped heal millions of people worldwide. But it isn’t enough. Too many people are suffering because their bodies aren’t responding to treatments — from depression to blood pressure to cancer treatments.

Using a big data predictive analysis approach to personalized medicine could reduce the financial, social and personal burden associated with the current trial-and-error approach, according to Kateryna Babina, a medical scientist based in Australia. In an article on Budget Direct’s healthcare hub, Babina says integrating clinical, laboratory, lifestyle, behavioral and environmental factors into patient care is the key to helping provide personalized, targeted interventions to the right patients.

Keri Lunt Stevens is a freelance writer and editor who has worked in journalism and content marketing. Her experience ranges from healthcare trends and topics to finance and community news. Her work has been featured in a variety of print and online media outlets.

big data will improve healthcare delivery

Big Data and Healthcare – The Present and the Future

big data will improve healthcare delivery

The growing us of big data in healthcare promises to fundamentally change healthcare delivery.

The following guest post on big data and healthcare was submitted by Emma Lawson.

Healthcare is one of the largest and the most complex ecosystems that humans as a species have brought to life. With healthcare providers, payers, researchers, patients and additional entities that all have their own needs and agendas, it has grown into a world of its own, governed by its own rules and featuring a perpetual tug-of-war between the different interest groups.

One concept that might help make sense of all of this, provide benefits to all the interested parties and lead to a more stable ecosystem is big data. Big data has been around for some time and in certain fields it has found much use, but in healthcare, we are still seeing it take its very first steps.

Still, it has definitely become a part of the healthcare ecosystem and ind the future, it is more likely than not that it will become one of its most prominent parts.

Big Data Essentials

Big data is a relatively simple idea. It denotes sets of data that are extremely large, created very quickly (often in real time) and which are varied when it comes to their sources, classification and any other criteria you can think of.

Big data is, therefore, different from the more “traditional” data sets that are collected in limited amounts, from very specific sources and which are then organized in relational databases which feature a simple hierarchy and are easy to use.

A certain organization or a healthcare corporate entity might collect data from thousands of different medical practitioners, hospitals, government agencies, pharmaceutical companies, research institutions and patients themselves. They would then try to organize and analyze this data, all in order to come up with insights that would allow them to improve their services or save money.

Big Data Potential for Healthcare

In the perfect world, big data would hold almost limitless potential for everyone involved, from the healthcare providers to patients and even the payers.

For example, healthcare providers can gain much more precise and balanced insights by utilizing sets of data that are larger than any previously analyzed. In combination with data provided by patients themselves, healthcare providers would be able to dramatically increase the chances of full recovery and provide the ultimate healthcare for their patients.

When it comes to patients, smart use of big data would allow them to play a much more active role in their recovery. Furthermore, since their healthcare providers would operate with more data, the patients’ chances of recovery would dramatically increase. In short, more data would, in a perfect world, mean more positive outcomes for the patients.

When it comes to governments and health insurance companies, the use of big data can tighten their budgets by clearly indicating which treatments work and what are the minimum-invasive treatments and habits that would reduce healthcare expenditure.

Proper use of big data could also enhance the data security and other security concerns that the healthcare industry has to deal with.

A Few Current Examples

The best way to illustrate how big data can be used in healthcare is to take a look at a few ongoing projects and adopted practices.

For instance, Blue Shield of California has partnered with NantHealth in order to establish an integrated technology system which will allow for much more streamlined evidence-based care in a number of areas.

Kaiser Permanente has also implemented a system, called HealthConnect, which enables data exchange across innumerable medical facilities through the use of electronic records. Among the early results of HealthConnect are improved cardiovascular disease outcomes and more than a $1 billion saved in lab tests and office visits.

The National Institutes of Health and the National Patient-Centered Research Network have both launched certain initiatives that would allow for a more standardized collection, storage and analysis of big data, which will promote its use in healthcare.

What the Future Holdsbig data will make us healthier individuals

While certain involved parties are already doing great things with big data in healthcare, the future is where we should look. The main reason for this is that big data applications are still limited by the lack of experts, certain security issues, and the chaotic nature of the data itself, among other things. Once these problems become the past, big data will definitely become one of the most prominent concepts in healthcare and its advancement.

We are already seeing certain steps being made in the right direction, with hybrid data models which combine the volume and the variety of data with the more structured nature of relational databases. Also, there are some companies that have started utilizing dark data in their data analysis, like Panorama for example. Dark data entails data so chaotic and huge that the standard big data models cannot handle it.

With the proliferation of sensors, wearables and other devices that will provide additional data coming from patients themselves, the amount of big data and its usefulness will only grow.

Closing Word

Big data has already begun to influence healthcare. Barring any catastrophic events, it will become an inseparable part of healthcare systems around the world, helping everyone involved attain their goals more easily.

Above everything else, big data has already started saving lives and it is a trend that will continue.

Emma Lawson is a passionate writer, online article editor and a health enthusiast. In her spare time, she likes to do research, and write articles to create awareness regarding healthy lifestyle. She also strives to suggest innovative home remedies that can help you lead a quality and long life.
Twitter @EmmahLawson

use patient photos to increase patient safety in healthcare

Why Patient Photos Should Be Linked to Medical Records

use patient photos to increase patient safety in healthcare

Why aren’t more healthcare providers capturing patient photos during registration?

The following post on why patient photos should be added to medical records to improve patient safety was submitted by Michael Trader, President and Co-Founder of RightPatient®

The Push to Increase Patient ID Accuracy and Safety

Achieving accurate patient identification in healthcare is an important catalyst to ensure safe, cost-effective care delivery. Although we believe that accurate patient ID should have received more attention and scrutiny parallel to the rapid digitization of the healthcare industry, the issue has finally been thrust into the spotlight by powerful organizations such as AHIMA, the ONC, and CHIME as something that must be solved in order for other mandates (e.g. interoperability, health information exchange, population health, etc.) to materialize. 

Many healthcare organizations have proactively addressed the lingering issue of accurate patient identification by implementing new technologies that supplement existing methods of obtaining demographic information, insurance cards, and proof of ID. The idea is to add biometrics as an added layer of identity protection, security, and identification accuracy by asking patients to provide a physiological token prior to accessing health data and/or medical services. Biometrics for patient ID has rapidly caught on as a proven method to prevent fraud and medical ID theft, improve data integrity, prevent duplicate medical records, and safeguard protected health information (PHI).

Patient Photos Should be Captured During Registration

Despite the rising demand for biometric patient identification to improve patient identification and increase safety, not all solutions are created equal. Healthcare organizations that invest in unilateral biometric patient identification solutions quickly discover that they do not have the ability to easily and automatically capture the patient photo during registration and subsequent visits. This is unfortunate as the photo plays an important role in patient safety and in driving additional value throughout the ecosystem.

In addition, capturing the patient photo with a web camera during initial registration is not enough. This method often produces very poor quality photos, adds an extra step to the process, and the photos cannot be relied upon for other potential uses, such as facial recognition to verify patient identities during remote encounters. 

One important differentiator that should be considered when researching a biometric ID solution is whether or not it offers the ability to capture a high-quality patient photo and recognize the patient in a single step. Why?

  • Patient photos are proven to reduce medical errors.
  • Respected, influential healthcare organizations recommend including patient photos with their medical record.
  • Patient photos increase patient safety.
  • Photos can be used as a second credential for multi-factor patient authentication.
  • The photo serves as a visual reminder to the provider, thereby enhancing caregiver communication with the patient.
  • High-quality patient photos allow healthcare providers to leverage facial recognition for accurate patient ID when patient’s access PHI or services in non-traditional settings such as mHealth apps, patient portals, and telemedicine. This enables a holistic approach to establishing accurate patient ID because it addresses all points along the care continuum instead of a narrow approach that only covers patient ID at the point of service in a brick and mortar setting.
  • In areas like the ED where time is critical, utilizing a web camera and adding an extra step in the workflow is impractical and inefficient.

Criteria that Defines an Effective Biometric Patient ID Solution

In addition to the points mentioned above and the standard questions that should be asked when researching the adoption of a biometric patient ID solution, we recommend that healthcare providers seriously consider the unique value of a platform like RightPatient® that seamlessly captures patient photos and identifies patients in a single step during registration, subsequent visits to a medical facility, and other touchpoints along the care continuum. This establishes a concrete, two-factor audit trail of patient visit activity and identity assurance.

Verify that the biometric patient ID solution offers the following patient photo capture features:

  • Convenience – Is the patient photo capture process easy and convenient for patients and staff? Photo capture should happen simultaneously with capturing their biometric credentials and should be fast. Otherwise, you run into delays and registration roadblocks in areas like the emergency room where time is of the essence.
  • Seamless integration and functionality – Patient identification and photo capture should be a seamless part of EHR workflow and not require staff to sign in and out of applications or constantly toggle between applications. 
  • Affordability – Biometric patient ID platforms that offer simultaneous photo capture should be flexible and affordable and offer a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model option.

Conclusion

Capturing patient photos to increase safety and reduce medical costs is not a new concept in healthcare, yet it has failed to become mainstream compared to other industries. In fact, according to a recent report from the ECRI, despite the proven research that photos increase safety and engagement, only 20% of existing providers currently use patient photos. 20%! Think about that in the context of other industries that have used customer photos as part of their routine identification security protocols for years: membership management (e.g. gyms, fitness clubs), banking and finance, retail, education, government — the list is long.

If other industries have relied on the use of photos to augment identification accuracy, why is healthcare so far behind the curve? It seems as if healthcare market conditions and current and future initiatives to improve delivery, achieve better outcomes, perfect individual and population health, and reduce the cost of care are setting the stage for technology that can quickly and seamlessly capture patient photos as part of the identification process. The question is, are you investing in the right solution to harness this power?

using patient photos to increase patient safety in healthcareMichael Trader is President and Co-Founder of RightPatient®. Michael is responsible for overseeing business development and marketing activities, government outreach, and for providing senior leadership on business and policy issues.