2014 was a challenging year for the healthcare industry. It is an institution that is struggling to keep pace with rapid changes in technology and the spiraling costs that continue to plague healthcare practitioners. While it’s too late to undo mistakes, there will always be valuable lessons that can be gleaned from oversights committed in the past.
We’ve compiled a roundup of this year’s biggest healthcare news. As the popular adage goes, “those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it”, so take the time to be re-acquainted with what has come to pass, and equip yourselves for the new year ahead.
The Ebola Crisis holds the distinction for being the worst outbreak in the recorded history of the virus. Technology played an important role in its early detection, where Harvard’s Healthmap reported the outbreak nine days before the World Health Organization issued an official statement on March 19, 2014.
It appears that Big Data had the potential to mitigate and eradicate the spread of the virus. The use of analytics and information from cellphone data records (CDR) have proven to be an effective means of tracking outbreaks in the past. Doing so allows health workers to move fast and deploy limited resources to areas that need it the most.
Despite its obvious benefits, Big Data analytics has yet to catch on. Too many infrastructures are underfunded, mobile phone companies are reluctant to provide CDR over privacy concerns, and decision makers need to properly coordinate with health workers in implementing fast solutions when it’s needed, as needed.
Security breaches and hacking incidents in the healthcare industry
In July, a hacker broke into the HealthCare.gov website and uploaded malicious software. In August, medical records were stolen from the Community Health System’s servers, exposing medical information of its 4.5 million patients. Security firm Websense reported a 600 percent increase in attacks targeting health-related firms for the year.
These are just a few of the reported incidents involving security breaches. Despite these, the healthcare industry has not prioritized IT security, spending less in protecting its data than most industries. The Health Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) says that most healthcare firms allot only about 3-4% of its IT budget on security. The cost of breaches to the healthcare industry is estimated to be in the billions, but only about 69% of organizations have a breach plan in place.
Healthcare organizations prefer to pour their finances on areas that have a direct impact on patient care, such as infrastructure or drug research. But the industry should realize that focusing on IT security is also an important way of taking care of patients because when they prioritize patient’s personal information, trust is earned. Hackers are becoming better at what they do, and hospitals need to continuously invest and upgrade in their IT systems to mitigate future attacks.
The tenth revision of the International Classification of Diseases or ICD-10 codes was not implemented its original scheduled date of October 1, 2014, and was instead moved to October 1, 2015. This is the latest in a series of repeated delays for a bill that has been in the works since the 1990s.
Those who have put a lot of effort and resources in seeing through the shift from the antiquated ICD-9 to the upgraded ICD-10 system were understandably frustrated. They claim that the delay places the healthcare industry firmly behind, a loss up to $6.6 billion, a loss of a sense of urgency, and increased pressure in following through a 2015 deadline.
While the negative effects might be more easily identified, those who choose to see the jar half-full point to its positive consequence, which basically boils down to the benefits of more time: time to prepare financially, to learn the system thoroughly, and to employ more testing to increase it chances of success.
Finding cost savings solutions to lower expenses for high cost patients
One percent of the costliest patients in the United States use up to 20% of the nation’s healthcare budget, concentrated mostly on 9.6 million individuals that comprise the “dual eligibles”, those who qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid. Dual eligibles consume an average of a little over $19,000 per patient, compared to almost $9,000 on non-dual eligibles.
To lower costs, healthcare practitioners and insurers are finding innovative care models to help them manage high-cost patients in lower-cost care settings. They are considering alternative solutions such as the use of high-tech wearables, virtual care (telemedicine), as well as low-tech but effective methods like giving patients refrigerators for medicine storage.
It’s clear that technology will promote effectiveness and efficiency. Remote monitoring, for one, will extend care to far flung areas with limited access to transportation. Value-based reimbursement models will be widely adopted. The ecosystem will be broader, more holistic, and open to “unconventional” care partners.
No matter how cliché the statement, “Health is wealth” can be, it is definitely something that each individual should take into account. Need not worry though, because we can provide your medical institution all the assistance you’ll need through our exceptional patient services such as billing, coding, and even back office responsibilities. Learn more!