How to Protect Yourself and Your Family From Medical Identity Theft

How to Protect Yourself and Your Family From Medical Identity Theft

Medical identity theft is a big and scary term. And many think that it won’t affect them personally. But in reality, millions of adults in the US have already been a victim of medical identity theft. And anyone could be the next target. In our age of digital information, it’s especially important to make sure your personal info is secure. The consequences of a data breach may be devastating.

The aftermath of a party using your medical identity can vary from hefty financial losses all the way to corrupted medical records leading to a misdiagnosis and/or mistreatment. And while money is a temporary resource, facing potentially life-threatening medical mistakes due to other person’s records being mixed with your own is very serious. Here is how you can protect yourself from it.

Control the Information

Everyone is familiar with the concept of sensitive information. Something you’re constantly told to “never share with anyone”. Things like passwords, social security numbers, health insurance info. Anything personal, really. Well, there are certain situations where you are required to share it regardless. Understanding when it’s safe to share personal info is key.

One of the most common ways the information is leaked is through phones, e-mails, and other means of distant communication. You’ll get a call or a letter from a representative of some company asking you for some of your personal details for one reason or another. In this case, you need to do your best to correctly assess the situation and decide whether you should actually comply.

First of all, verify if they are actually who they say they are. Be especially wary if you weren’t the one to initiate the dialogue. Ask them what they need the information for. Don’t be shy to ask a lot of questions. If they really deal with sensitive information, they should understand your concerns about personal safety.

Posting your medical information online or disposing of it carelessly is also a bad idea.

If there is absolutely no way of sidestepping some sort of online form, make sure the connection you’re using is secure. Check the site’s address. It should begin with https:// where ‘s’ at the end means secure. Take this online service website, for example, https://essaypro.com/. Alternatively, look for an icon of a lock, usually sitting right before the website’s address.

Check Everything

Another useful thing to do to protect yourself against identity fraud is to keep a personal track of your medical records. Having a copy safely stashed away with the details of all your medical visits can help you out in case you need to spot discrepancies in your files. Getting a copy from your doctor shouldn’t be a problem since the federal law protects your right to know what’s in your medical records.

How to Protect Yourself and Your Family From Medical Identity Theft
How to Protect Yourself and Your Family From Medical Identity Theft

#1 Biometric Patient ID Platform

Superior flexibility, power & ROI

Another dead giveaway that something is not quite right is suspicious entries in your EOB and credit report. The EOB stands for the explanation of benefits. It’s a document with an explanation of the services you received and what your insurance covered. It should be handed to you every time you pay using your insurance.

Checking your EOB against your own notes is a sure way to find if someone’s been using your identity to pay with your insurance. Dates, services, and names of doctors you’ve been seeing should all be correct and in order. Otherwise, you might want to clear it with your health insurer.

Watching the expenses on your credit card is one of the more common and widespread habits. And it’s a very useful one as it can protect you from all kinds of financial fraud, including medical identity theft. Accounts you didn’t open popping up or debt collections out of nowhere are red flags that you should act upon immediately. Freezing the accounts and filing a report to the police should be your first steps.

How are hospitals preventing medical identity theft?

One of the most effective ways to prevent medical identity theft is by locking patient medical records – that’s exactly what RightPatient does. It is a biometric patient identification system that locks patient records with their biometric data. During enrollment, the platform takes a photo of the patient as well as scans of their biometrics (irises) and attaches it to the medical record. This ensures that a bad actor cannot come and assume the identity of the patient – if anyone tries to do so, RightPatient will flag the person and prevent medical identity theft in the process.

Final words

Medical files contain a lot of sensitive information. Taking a few extra precautions seems like a given. And yet, many people ignore the basic safety measures in favor of convenience. The truth is if you keep your data secure, you’ll never even feel the effect of it. But you’ll definitely notice the consequences of failing to protect yourself. Hence, it’s way more efficient to spend some time on preventive measures.

Following some basic rules will help you effectively protect yourself from identity theft:

  • Never share your personal info with people you don’t know;
  • Make sure you have copies of your medical records;
  • Make sure you have copies of your financial transactions;
  • Keep your eyes open for discrepancies.

These rules are not hard to follow at all. But putting an effort to maintain those consistently, you are potentially sparing yourself a headache.

patient-identification-system-helps-reduce-opioid-crisis

How to identify patients with opioid abuse or addiction treatment?

Addiction to opioids is a serious problem that is plaguing society. As a result, treatment of this needs to be taken as soon as possible because it becomes very difficult to overcome this,  at later stages. Attending opioid drug treatment centers in Columbus Ohio is the best way to stay away from the addiction of opioids and recover completely. There you will get the best assistance and guidance from the experts that force you to defeat your craving for taking opioids. It is very difficult to control your urge at your home. But in these places, you can easily quit your bad habits. The reason being, in rehab centers, you get chances to meet like-minded people who also want to quit their opioid habits.

Common signs to identify patients with opioid abuse

  • The inability to control opioid use
  • Uncontrollable cravings
  • Drowsiness
  • Changes in sleep habits
  • Weight loss
  • Frequent flu-like symptoms
  • Decreased libido
  • Lack of hygiene
  • Changes in exercise habits
  • Isolation from family or friends
  • Stealing from family, friends or businesses
  • New financial difficulties

How to identify patients with opioid abuse or addiction treatment?

How can biometric patient identification help detect and prevent a patient’s opioid addiction?

In today’s world, a biometric patient identification platform is one of the best and secure way to identify patient’s data integrity. Global healthcare has moved away from its dependence on paper-based therapeutic studies toward the use of electronic health records (EHR). 

So if you or your loved one is abusing opioids, by using a biometric patient identification platform like RightPatient, hospitals can easily identify the patient’s addiction towards opioids. It can red-flag once they go through the identification process, detecting whether they are assuming someone else’s identity or not to attain the drugs. Several hospitals are using RightPatient to improve revenue cycle, enhance patient safety, and reduce the creation of duplicate records as well. 

Here, we have mentioned some benefits of utilizing this to instantly identify patients’ data integrity that includes:

  • Detailed and up-to-date data at the time of service
  • Highly coordinated and effective care
  • Safe sharing of patient information among doctors
  • More infrequent medical mistakes
  • More reliable prescribing practices

These advantages depend on clinicians, hospitals, and other healthcare departments to carefully test patient identifications during all therapeutic encounters. 

If you or your loved one is addicted, kindly visit an opioid treatment center that helps you know how to abstain yourself from the use of opioid and lead a simple life. Although there are many approaches to treat your addiction to opioids, enrolling yourself in a good rehab center is, of course, the most effective way. These centers offer you many programs according to your needs and help you to recover completely. When you make a decision in your mind to attend an opioid treatment program, make sure that you select the best one available in your locality. For this, you need to conduct thorough research and find out the one that suits your requirements as well as budget.

How to identify patients with opioid abuse or addiction treatment?

There is a number of opioid rehabilitation centers in Philadelphia that offer excellent rehabilitation facilities and numerous programs including medical and behavioral treatments. These programs motivate you to quit taking opioids. These centers are located in almost all states of the USA. You can easily find rehab centers in your state that offer excellent facilities. If location is not a problem and geographical limits are not a major concern, you can also look for rehabs outside the USA. This provides you with a wide range of options to choose from. The main benefit of this is that you’ll be able to take advantage of the best rehab facilities for your loved ones in the event you are not satisfied with the existing opioid rehab centers in your state. There are several international options available in other countries too. You can avail the best of the bests. Before enrolling yourself in an opioid center, ensure that you make proper inquiries about their facilities, programs, and fee structure.

Facilities offered in opioid centers

  1. Opioid centers are committed to offering you expert advice and assistance which will help you to defeat your craving for taking opioids. They will also help you to understand the harmful effects of the opioid on your health as well as your family and social life.
  2. Opioid rehab centers offer gender-specific programs and treatments customized according to your specific needs. These programs encourage you to stay away from opioid use and you can live a sober life with your family.
  3. Most of the centers offer you medication treatment that reduces the craving of opioid consumption in you. They employ doctors, physicians, and specialists so that they can offer you proper medication to treat your addiction.
  4. Apart from this, they have several other programs including dual diagnosis, intensive outpatient, sober living, professionals programs, and family outreach programs to inspire you to defeat your urge and live a healthy and happy life.
  5. The rehab centers also have in-house psychologists, trainers, and psychiatrists to help and motivate you to stay away from opioids. They show you the right path following which you can lead a happy and fulfilling life.
  6. They also organize alumni programs where you can meet those individuals who came there as patients and now leading a fulfilling and healthy life.
How to identify patients with opioid abuse or addiction treatment?
How to identify patients with opioid abuse or addiction treatment?

#1 Biometric Patient ID Platform

Superior flexibility, power & ROI

Opioid rehab centers are the best places to treat addiction. They not only teach you how to stay away from them, but also help you understand their bad effects on your personal, social, and family life. The experts in rehab centers motivate you to defeat your urge of taking opioids and show you the brighter side of life. You can completely rely on their services as they always encourage you to live a healthy, sober, and fulfilling life.

protecting patient data in healthcare

How Doctors Can Transmit Patient Data Securely

How Doctors Can Transmit Patient Data Securely

Doctors must take precautions when sharing patient data. Learn more about how doctors should protect your PHI in this guest post from Heather Lomax. (Photo courtesy of pxhere)

The following guest post on protecting patient data was submitted by Heather Lomax.

Communication efforts in the last few years have greatly advanced between doctor and patient. Instead of having patients drive out for a visit or make drawn-out phone calls every time something needs to be discussed, some doctors’ offices have started to use online portals and email correspondence with patients. These options are extremely efficient, but they also place patients at a higher risk of medical identity theft. Therefore, special measurements need to be taken in safely transmitting patient data.

PHI Data and Email Encryption

First and foremost, patients need to make sure their devices are encrypted when they access medical data. Not operating on such a system places data at risk for theft with ease. Therefore, portals offering medical data need to be encrypted as well. Patients should be made aware that if their computers at home are not secure, then they place their data at risk there as well. Sending patients emails also requires another degree of encryption.

Different Types of Email

Several types of emails exist when it comes to safely transmitting data information with patients. For web-based email applications, doctors’ offices and patients alike need to use accounts with HTTPS encryption. This method is the only means by which web-based email is secure. The email is sent to a patient should also be encrypted using either PGP encryption methods or Symantec Digital IDs. In both of these aspects, each email comes with its encryption.

Use Cloud Services for Fax and Email

HIPAA regulations make specific claims about how data should be transmitted between office and patient. One of the methods to use for this communication relies on cloud services for both faxes and emails. These cloud services have their own firewalls and encryption procedures, and they make certain that data only goes to a specific location. More often than not, a specific receiver has to acknowledge that they accept a fax. A VPN access code can be used for this process.

Biometric Identification

As passwords become obsolete and even unsafe for healthcare data security, biometric identification is steadily rising in practice when it comes to accessing sensitive information. With passwords comes the potential of breaches in security, even with the most carefully crafted codes. However, with the use of fingerprint analysis, retina scans, and facial recognition software, it’s nearly impossible for identity fraud to take place since these characteristics cannot simply be imitated. And not only does it reduce the risk of billing fraud – it also prevents deadly medication errors, improves response rates to medical emergencies, and expedites health information exchange services (which will be discussed in the next section).

Use Three Different Forms of Health Info Exchange

When in doubt, doctors’ offices should use three, distinct methods of Health Information Exchange (HIE) with patients and other medical offices. The first type is directed change, where data can be sent and received securely through an electronic medium between providers and coordinated support care. The second option is a query-based exchange, which offers providers the opportunity to find and request information from patients and other providers when unplanned care takes place. Finally, doctors’ offices can use consumer mediated exchanges, a method which allows patients to have control over data and how it is used among different providers.

Conclusion

A great deal of options is available when it comes to transmitting electronic patient data. Rather than rely on flimsy means of protection, alternative options with tighter security like encrypted care, biometric identification, and HIE paths should be implemented instead. If your practice or hospital can introduce even one of these methods as part of their data transfer strategies, you’ll notice a great improvement in workplace efficiency as well as security for your patients.

Author bio:

Heather Lomax is a contributing writer and media relations specialist for Blaze Systems. She writes articles for a variety of medtech blogs, discussing solutions for optimizing healthcare data protection and clinical technology.

medical record safety

Peace of Mind: A Short Guide To Who Handles Your Private Medical Information

Peace of Mind: A Short Guide To Who Handles Your Private Medical Information

Many patients are unaware of how many people have access to their sensitive medical information.

The following guest post on who handles Protected Health Information (PHI) was submitted by Brooke Chaplan.

From basic information such as your height and weight to the types of medications you are taking, your health history, diagnoses, billing information and more, your healthcare providers have access to an incredible amount of very personal information about you and others in your family. This is information that you do not want to fall into the wrong hands. This begs the question of who actually has access to all of the information in your medical file.

Well-Trained and Screened Candidates

In most healthcare offices, hospitals and other settings, the administrative or medical team that has access to your records is usually well-trained and thoroughly screened. These individuals typically must pass a thorough background check before being permitted to work in the office, and the office often has safeguards and high-tech protocols to prevent employees from mishandling or abusing the information that they gain access to. Some of the professionals with the most access are healthcare administrators that hold a degree in their field.

Your Health Insurance Company

If you are one of the many millions of Americans who have access to health insurance, your health insurance company may keep track of your medications, treatments, diagnoses and more. Health insurance professionals are often required to uphold strict standards of confidentiality in the same way your healthcare providers are. In addition, as is the case with hospitals and medical offices, health insurance companies usually go to great lengths to prevent employees from misusing or abusing the data that they come across over the course of their regular work day.

Potential Hackers

In 2015, as many as a third of all Americans were impacted by a security breach that involved their healthcare data or records. Information such as their address and Social Security information may have been passed on to hackers. Some hackers sell the data they obtain through their attacks, and others use it personally with malicious intent. For example, with your name, address, Social Security number and birth date, they can commit identity theft. Many medical offices and hospitals are aware of this and other potential risks to their patients, and they regularly take steps to continuously update and improve technology in an effort to reduce this risk for their patients.

Your private data should remain private at all times, but the unfortunate reality is that the system in place in the healthcare industry right now is not perfect. Patients should make inquiries to their healthcare providers to learn more about the steps a particular office or hospital is taking to keep their data from falling into the wrong hands.

Author bio:

Brooke Chaplan is a freelance writer and blogger. She lives and works out of her home in Los Lunas, New Mexico. She loves the outdoors and spends most her time hiking, biking, and gardening. For more information contact Brooke via Twitter @BrookeChaplan.

 

4-Ways-Medical-Personnel-Can-Implement-Policy-into-Patient-Safety-Protocol

4 Ways Medical Personnel Can Implement Policy into Patient Safety Protocol

4 Ways Medical Personnel Can Implement Policy into Patient Safety Protocol

Ensuring patient safety has become a focal point for healthcare organizations. (Photo courtesy of pexels)

The following guest post on improving patient safety in healthcare was submitted by Rachelle Wilber.

The safety of patients in a medical facility is just as important as treating their condition. People must feel protected when visiting a hospital or clinic. Otherwise, they will be reluctant to seek medical care in times of need. Medical personnel have a unique perspective in terms of patient care, which can be helpful for improving safety measures. Here are four ways that doctors, nurses, and other staff can encourage necessary changes to patient safety protocols.

Record Risks & Vulnerabilities

Administrators prefer to work with facts and figures. They rely on this type of data to reveal problems and highlight successes. Those with concerns about patient safety should thoroughly document this issue, including any ideas for a solution. This information will have a much greater impact than a passionate speech.

Share Patient Concerns

Customer service is a core principle of the medical field. An important part of making someone feel safe is listening to them. Doctors and nurses can speak for their patients, and allow their fears to be heard. For example, many parents are concerned about childhood healthcare in this country. Medical facilities can share information about the importance of a balanced diet, or how to address mental and emotional issues.

Continuing Education

It may be difficult to influence certain policies and procedures when you are unfamiliar with how things work. Dealing with matters that affect the public can be extremely complicated. Medical personnel who are serious about having an impact should consider continuing their education. Earning a master’s in public administration can prepare you for the challenges of creating a safe and comfortable environment for the patients.

Consult the Legal Department

Sometimes, administrators are hesitant to make changes because they are worried about legal ramifications. They may fear that the end result leads to more problems than solutions. While gathering the details on a particular problem and how to address it, it would be helpful to consult the facility’s legal department. They can explain any laws involved and how to adhere to them. This will smooth things over with administration, so your ideas can be seriously considered.

Security and risk management are generally put in the hands of a facility’s administration. Along with other things, their job is to implement and maintain procedures for threats and emergency situations. However, patient protection is a unified effort. Healthcare providers spend more time with patients than anyone else in a facility. Their insight is a necessary component of any safety protocol.

Author bio:

Rachelle Wilber is a freelance writer living in the San Diego, California area. She graduated from San Diego State University with her Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Media Studies. She tries to find an interest in all topics and themes, which prompts her writing. When she isn’t on her porch writing in the sun, you can find her shopping, at the beach, or at the gym. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

medical identity theft prevention

Medical Identity Theft: How Hospitals Can Reduce Risk

Medical Identity Theft: How Hospitals Can Reduce Risk

Medical identity theft can be just as damaging to hospitals as it is to patients. Learn more about what hospitals can do to protect themselves from falling victim to medical identity theft. (Photo courtesy of Shutterstock)

Hospitals are generally considered to be a place to seek refuge — a safe haven for both employees and patients alike. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Incidents of medical identity theft are becoming more and more common. Issues involving improper use and disposal of data, hacking, and theft result in not only adverse financial consequences but can also even have negative impacts on healthcare and personal well-being. Identity theft is something that every hospital needs to be aware of and prepared for — these steps can be helpful in preventing medical identity theft and ultimately reducing your hospital’s risk.

Reduce risk associated with personal patient information

The use and storage of patient’s social security numbers is the main source of vulnerability when it comes to identity theft. Data breaches and entry errors can mean that a patient’s information can fall into the wrong hands — compromising the safety of both the individual and the hospital itself. While much of the fraudulent use of patient information comes from stolen or leaked data, verbal or physical forms of sensitive patient information can also end up in the wrong hands. Hospital employees should take care to never discuss patient information in public areas, or with friends and families. In addition, physical forms including patient charts and records (even if they only contain the name of the patient) should be safely used and stored.

Ensure that secure methods are used in storage of patient health information

Every health organization should take necessary measures in order to ensure the safety and security of patient information. An investment in appropriate health IT may be costly up front, but it could end up providing endless savings — both financial, and otherwise — in the long run. Additionally, the use of a unique health safety identifier (UHSI) is a great measure to strengthen information and data security, with positive results extending all the way to the patient.

Avoid storing personal information of patients unless absolutely necessary

While many healthcare providers perceive that patient information — including social security numbers — must be stored for billing and insurance purposes, this simply isn’t the case. The storage of sensitive information (like social security numbers) isn’t always needed, and unnecessarily doing so may pose a risk for the patient and the hospital.

Dispose of patient information responsibly

Just as sensitive information should not be stored unless absolutely necessary, it is also imperative that patient information be disposed of in a responsible manner. Outdated or unused medical information, forms, and billing data should be shred or erased completely when no longer needed.

Assemble and utilize an advisory committee

In any healthcare setting, it is beneficial to have a diverse team of leaders that comes together to regularly review and assess security issues and vulnerabilities. By raising awareness and discussing perceived risks, hospital leaders can be well-informed when it comes to making decisions and implementing efforts to reduce risks and protect sensitive information.

Medical Identity Theft: How Hospitals Can Reduce Risk

(Photo courtesy of Shutterstock)

Respond appropriately to issues and concerns

Not only can an advisory committee help prevent against identity theft, but the designated team of experts can be essential in addressing issues promptly and adequately. Utilization of an inventory system that tracks all processes and systems that contributed to the security breach can allow for the hospital to pinpoint the weaknesses and make necessary improvements. Once an issue is discovered, the advisory committee will be better prepared to — while looking at the data inventory — prioritize areas of concern and make adjustments that are needed.

Educate the patients themselves

As many hospitals strive to do the best they possibly can when it comes to securing patient information, actually sharing statistics and suggestions with the patients themselves can further improve the security of that information. Patients should be encouraged to keep their cards and information in a safe place and should be told to take caution when sharing sensitive details. Patient participation is crucial when it comes to combating identity theft and security tips and suggestions can be posted as signs throughout the hospital — or given to the patients in a brochure.

Medical identity theft is increasingly becoming a great threat to the safety of patients and health care providers. While there are many ways that patient information can end up in the wrong hands, there are fortunately many ways that both hospitals and patients can prevent this from happening. By working together and considering these tips, hospital staff members can ensure that the information of their patients can remain as secure as possible.

Medical Identity Theft: How Hospitals Can Reduce RiskAuthor bio: 

Joanna Sommer is the Senior Editor for InformedMag and is passionate about security and tech. She has been working in the home safety and security field for 5 years. Joanna loves to travel and enjoys going to hot yoga and Barre classes. She is dedicated to creating articles that both educate and help people make an informed purchasing decision.

complying with HIPAA regualtions

HIPAA in a Nutshell

HIPAA in a Nutshell

Learn more about the landmark Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), why it was enacted, and who it applies to. (Photo courtesy of pixabay)

The following guest post on the HIPAA law was submitted by Shae Holland.

HIPAA regulations represent a major transformation in the way healthcare organizations handle information regarding their patients. All patients should understand their rights, just as all healthcare facilities must know and conform to the privacy standards. Let’s examine the ins and outs of HIPAA regulations and what they mean for you.

What You Need to Know

HIPAA is an acronym that stands for the Health Information Portability and Protection Act. It was initially passed in 1996 and was the first protective act in the United States passed on behalf of patients’ personal information.

HIPAA was designed to ensure that your healthcare information is only accessed and shared with your permission, and only in the following contexts:

● Coordinating information about your care and treatment
● Providing information to your family, significant other, or friends who are directly involved in your treatment
● Assessing the quality of care provided by the doctor or healthcare facility in question
● Relaying any information requested by law enforcement agencies

The sharing of patients’ personal information in any other context is unlawful and can lead to heavy fines and even heavier settlements — sometimes heavy enough to force an noncompliant business or facility to close. (But more on that later.)

HIPAA regulates many other areas of the healthcare industry as well. Because we’re only covering the basics, we won’t go into detail about all of them. But HIPAA also regulates

● Doctor and Patient Reimbursement
● Coding
● Security
● Care Management

Your Rights According to HIPAA

HIPAA gives you the ability to do any of the following:

● View the information listed in your health records
● Request corrections to information on said records
● Decide who can access and share your health information (and more importantly, who can’t)
● Require providers and other healthcare facilities to request permission to share your information for marketing and other non-treatment purposes
Is All of My Information Protected?
● Any information a doctor puts in your medical record
● Information stored within the computer system of your health insurer
● Billing information from your healthcare provider
● Conversations your doctor has with nurses or other physicians regarding your treatment or care

If at any time you feel that your privacy rights have been violated, HIPAA regulations allow you to file a complaint with Health and Human Services, or file a complaint directly against your insurer or provider.

Why HIPAA Compliance Is So Important

Failure to comply with HIPAA regulations can result in many negative consequences for a healthcare provider or even a small practice; these include both civic and criminal penalties. Fines can be extraordinarily hefty — in 2013, Advocate Health System of Downers Grove, IL, settled three claims of HIPAA violation for $5.55 million.

Who Has to Comply With HIPAA, and Who Doesn’t?

HIPAA does not apply to every healthcare provider, but it does apply to most of them. All healthcare workers must undergo some kind of training or education on HIPAA compliance.

Health Plans: Health insurance companies, company health plans, HMOs, and even certain programs provided by the government (Medicare, Medicaid) must follow HIPAA regulations.

Healthcare Providers: Any provider who conducts business electronically must comply with all recent regulations.

Clearinghouses: Entities that process non-standard patient information must follow these rules as well.

The following are a few of the groups who don’t need to comply with HIPAA regulations:

● Employers
● Workers Compensation Carriers
● Life Insurers
● School Districts
● Law Enforcement Agencies

Conclusion

For over two decades HIPAA has sought to improve the safety and accessibility of medical records. Compliance can be complicated and even annoying for healthcare providers and related businesses, but the benefits of additional personal information security are worth it. After all, it’s a healthcare provider’s job to protect their patients’ health; protecting their personal information and privacy is a natural addition to that duty.

Author bio:

Shae Holland is a professional copywriter with expertise on a range of topics. She’s passionate about healthy living, loves hunting, and adores her two springer spaniels.

 

big data

How Big Data is Changing Medicine

How Big Data is Changing Medicine

Big Data is more than just a buzzword in healthcare – it is fundamentally changing care delivery as we know it. (Photo courtesy of pexels.com)

The following guest post on big data in healthcare was submitted by Chris Saviano.

Big Data is one of those buzz terms you’ll see all over the internet. Something about it sounds slightly sinister, like Big Tobacco. But Big Data is more innocuous: it’s just a term used to define large amounts of data. It can encompass any sort of data coming in, from marketing and demographics data to stock ticker data. In the terms of healthcare, that will mean electronic medical records data, aggregated research and payer information, to name a few sources. And this Big Data is changing medicine in a big way.

Improved technology

Monitors themselves are changing, thanks to Big Data. CNBC reported on a tiny heart monitor patch that can generate 30,000 pages of data on a patient’s heartbeat, and then distill it into a 15-page full report for physicians. The device is made up of a chip and two electrodes.

All of these data points are compiled into a huge database, which grows with each new patient the device monitors. The machine-learned capability gets smarter with each new addition. Then with each new set of data, that helps doctors diagnose faster.

Patient care streamlining

One of the more noteworthy ways Big Data is changing medicine is through better patient care, the heart of any good medical facility. Large amounts of data collected from patients can help doctors educate patients during treatment decisions. Having a wider set of data available helps doctors tailor solutions to each patient.

One of the biggest advantages of Big Data is that it offers a predictive model for patient outcomes. This can result in earlier diagnosis and reduced mortality from conditions like sepsis or congestive heart failure.

According to MapR: “A machine learning example from Georgia Tech demonstrated that machine learning algorithms could look at many more factors in patients’ charts than doctors, and by adding additional features, there was a substantial increase in the ability of the model to distinguish people who have CHF [congestive heart failure] from people who don’t.”

Increased security

MapR also reported on the security features of Big Data in healthcare. Predictive analytics help payers identify inaccurate claims and fraud. Big Data helps with this in that companies can go back into large messes of datasets for past claims and use machine-learning algorithms to detect patterns in fraud.

Key red flags in data include reusing services in short time periods, duplicate charges for healthcare across different hospitals at the same time and prescriptions filled at the same time in different locations. Through this system, companies can assign risk scores based on past behavior and find items of note in large seas of data that would have been impossible to find before.

Faster, more efficient breakthroughs

Big Data is changing medicine behind the front lines of patient care, as well. Researchers looking at gene variants made a search function for the huge sums of data they’ve pulled during gene research. The functionality is called MARRVEL (Model organism Aggregated Resources for Rare Variant Exploration) , but you can think of it as Google for the human genome. Researchers anywhere can also search the database in minutes.

Author Bio:

Chris Saviano is responsible for Business Development and Sales at PGM Billing and leads PGM’s product integration between proprietary cloud-based practice management software and integrated back office service operations.

patient privacy patient data

Top Patient Privacy Concerns With Healthcare Data Integration

Top Patient Privacy Concerns With Healthcare Data Integration

Learn more about the privacy implications when patients share health data online in this guest post from Avery Phillips. (Photo courtesy of Flickr.)

The following guest post on patient privacy was submitted by Avery Phillips.

In many industries, the proliferation of mobile, cloud, and data collection technology is far outpacing the ability of regulatory bodies to keep up. This is especially true in healthcare, partly due to the sensitive nature of patient records and partly due to widespread adoption of mobile health tracking by both practitioners and the general public.

Consumer-generated data is one significant challenge in legislation and education related to privacy, as it isn’t yet protected. Additionally, the long-term impact of tracking and sharing one’s health data through social networks isn’t fully understood.

Data breaches in the healthcare field have already proven that people’s medical histories, social security numbers, and addresses are vulnerable. Cloud technology paired with monitoring devices is giving healthcare providers access to real-time data, and a lot of it. This improves the quality of care, but comes with severe breach risks. While legal understanding catches up to the reality of big data, healthcare providers need to go above and beyond legal requirements to protect patient privacy.

Consumer-Generated Data

The risks of consumer-generated data haven’t been fully explored, but what we do know is that sharing health data online is “a digital tattoo.” That data follows users, is unregulated, can be sold to third parties, and used by hackers or identity thieves.

Platforms like Fitbit and Facebook are just the tip of the iceberg for providers. Wearable technology is allowing patients to receive real-time information and communication from professionals and gives providers access to a constant flow of actionable health information. That relationship evolves with each new innovation, but responsibilities concerning its collection and use haven’t been explored.

Breach Risks

In September of 2013, Advocate Medical Group suffered one of the largest data breaches in history. Four million records, including names, addresses, and social security numbers were taken by hackers.

As new services are introduced, and hackers develop new ways to subvert security, it can be difficult to keep employees up-to-date. An improperly trained employee might fall for a phishing email, accidentally use an unsecured app or cloud service with their personal mobile device, or share login information that enables access to private records. In 2016, 60 percent of all patient information breaches were due to hacking, but not all hacks are the direct cyber attacks we tend to think of. An employee opening the wrong email and clicking the link is a far easier way for a hacker to gain access than, for example, a brute force password crack.

Refusal to Share

Many patients may not realize it, but one threat to their security can occur if a healthcare provider refuses to share their information. Information blocking can come in many forms, such as prohibitive pricing, contracts that block users from accessing their information, and business practices intended to exclude competitors and prevent referrals.

These alleged practices put additional financial burdens on patients and compromise their privacy by restricting access to their own records. Many of America’s biggest vendors and healthcare providers have signed onto a pledge to combat this practice, but it has yet to be put into law.

The advent of rapidly evolving mobile technology is presenting new possibilities in data collection and improving the quality of patient care. On the other hand, the sparks of innovation are vulnerable to attack and mismanagement by unscrupulous business practices. It’s important for healthcare providers to invest in data security and breach recovery contingencies, as well as develop best practices to prevent misuse.

Author bio:

Avery Phillips is a freelance human who loves all things nature (especially humans!). Comment down below or tweet her @a_taylorian with any questions or comments.

patient safety in assisted living facilities

Best Practices for Keeping Patients Safe in Assisted Living Facilities

Best Practices for Keeping Patients Safe in Assisted Living Facilities

Learn more about best practices to ensure the highest levels of patient safety in assisted living facilities. (Photo courtesy of pexels.com)

The following guest post on patient safety in assisted living facilities was submitted by Paul Birung.

Assisted living facilities are modern health solutions that enable patients to live in the much-needed comfort of their home. These are centers that cater for varying services depending on who they are caring for. It is therefore important to note that in the same facilities considered a safe haven, every patient has his or her own character. There are those that remain calm during their stay, but there are others that are known to wander depending on the issue at hand. Especially those suffering from Alzheimer’s diseases including other forms of dementia.

It is for this reason that assisted living in Hilton Head including other areas should consider the following best practices for keeping patients safe and at ease in the health facility.

Identify and control wandering triggers

This is mostly important for patients with dementia and other types of illness that may increase the risk of wandering. Caregivers should meet and share with the family members so as to gain more insight into what issue is actually causing the patient to wander. Dementia patients have varying beliefs; one may believe that he/she is going to work, and another believe that he is looking for a lost family or friend – each day comes with its own assumption. Understanding these beliefs will give the nurse the best approach to take this information and use it to gain a more personal focus that will help manage the patient.

Embrace and connect with the patient

The feeling of having people that care around you by itself is therapy at some level. The patient should experience the sense of togetherness – one family. Assisted living facility should always train their staff to embrace the patients, to make them feel safe, and have a sense of belonging. To display the Zen atmosphere, make sure the room temperature is habitable, do not play loud music, and always avoid bright lighting.

Proper Supervision of at-risk patients

A detailed evaluation test should be done on all the patients to identify the different levels of at-risk patients. If a patient is deemed extreme, he/she should never be left unwatched especially when waiting for test or treatment. Constant supervision of these patients is strictly advised in assisted living facilities.

Explore the beauty of the exteriorBest Practices for Keeping Patients Safe in Assisted Living Facilities

Assuming that the assisted living facility has colorful and clean exterior, as long as there is supervision the outside is considered the excellent habitat during the day. Fresh air, green grass, artistic pathways, beautiful flowers and the natural lighting provides the ideal relaxation atmosphere that would calm a racing heartbeat. Recent studies have proven that daily exercise,

 

 as well as the freedom of moving around, have a tendency of reducing the constant movement of dementia patients.

Design protocols in case the worst happens

Effective protocols should be put in place to take care of the nomadic patients who fail to stay at a single place. This should include working with the police and the local residents when a patient is missing or has sneaked out of the facility. The facility should have a recent image of the patients as well as a few possessions kept in a plastic bag. These possessions can be used by the canine unit to pick up the scent for easy tracking of the patient.

Digital solution to the problem at hand

There are also digital solutions such as specialized pressure pads and sensors that can be installed on patient’s chairs and beds that would alert the caregiver once the patient gets up. Radio transmitters are also available to determine where the patient actually is. It is imperative that these practices are implemented to ensure the patients are safe and always at ease within an assisted living facility.

Author bio:

Sean Riggs is an enterprise correspondent and SEO expert. You can connect with him here: LinkedIn