Big data now seems to be the buzzword in every industry, including in healthcare. The amount of data providers generate and collect on a daily basis has grown exponentially in recent years. And the industry is just beginning to recognize the potential for using technology to analyze this data for business growth. Our ability to leverage health data, however, hinges on maintaining both its security and accessibility in the process.
The very nature of health data is that it connects to patient records, which by law must be protected. At the same time, the information is only as valuable as our ability to access it at the point of need. For this reason, providers need safeguards to ensure that data is accessible only to those authorized to view it. Solutions that streamline the process of getting the right information to the right people result in faster response times, smoother transitions and better continuity of care.
Protecting patient data, however, has become more of a challenge than ever. Medical records remain a top target for hackers, who can often earn more from selling health data than from any other information source. Per HHS, 56 major hacker attacks occurred in 2015, affecting a total of nearly 112 million individuals. The largest of these cyber attacks hit a health insurer and affected nearly 79 million individuals, making it the biggest healthcare breach ever reported to HHS.
While security threats will remain a concern, the potential to leverage health data to improve patient care is strong motivation to identify technology to assist in its protection. Hospitals need convenient access to patient records while ensuring that protected health information remains secure. Providers continually find new ways to analyze data for improved performance, quality, service and coordination of care.
Data collection occurs at every point of the patient encounter, beginning before the patient ever arrives at the hospital. During front-end processes such as scheduling and pre-registration, the objective is to gather as much data as possible – demographics, benefits and financial information – to facilitate a smooth check-in for patients on the day of service. Data collection continues as providers work to coordinate care with physicians and insurance companies, collecting elements such as orders and authorization codes needed for accurate scheduling and reimbursement.
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Interactions occur across the continuum through a variety of mediums – voice/phone, fax, image and electronic exchange. While some exchanges are documented through the EMR, a significant number exist as unstructured data contained in sources such as ancillary systems, paper files and even verbal exchanges. The more of these interactions that providers capture and integrate to the patient record, the more information they have available for analysis and process improvement. When connected, touchpoints create a data trail that can be analyzed for valuable business intelligence about the patient, the hospital’s processes and improvement opportunities.
Technology is now available to document all interactions – phone calls, faxes, web visits, medical records, even face-to-face conversations – tie them to the patient record and centrally store them for viewing, processing and retrieval. By combining the capture and management of all communication types – voice, fax, image, data and electronic documents – providers can close gaps in documentation for a complete view of patient information exchanged across the continuum of care.
Capturing each encounter and integrating it into the patient record establishes a complete picture of the patient’s experience. Recordings – along with faxes and electronic documents associated to the patient – combine to form a digital audit trail of patient interactions across departments, from the initial encounter to the point of admission and beyond.
Accessible by Design
By bringing together a number of various, seemingly disparate processes, all communication can be found in a single location while interfacing with systems like EMRs. The result is a single integrated platform for the secure exchange of health information and management of communication between providers, patients and payers. Centralized access permits any authorized employee enterprise-wide to retrieve records, providing date-and-time as well as user-stamps for an audit trail of access in compliance with HIPAA.
A single access point for communication and health information helps resolve many workflow and security challenges for hospitals. An integrated platform provides a way to safely store and transfer data, protecting sensitive records while making information accessible for authorized viewers. With communication systems integrated, all relevant information is available when needed. By supporting workflow with tools that automatically and securely share records between systems and team members, hospitals can eliminate paper – along with time consuming, error-prone processes – for greater efficiency, security and consistency across the continuum.
A fully accessible patient record is possible only when disparate sources of data are combined into a single, secure and integrated repository. Integration allows hospitals to secure protected health information, as well as seamlessly exchange and access that information, for simplified management of communication between patients, providers and payers. Real-time access fosters a more efficient work environment, better collaboration among teams and improved service to the organization’s key stakeholders.
Lindy Benton is CEO and president of MEA|NEA|TWSG (http://www.nea-fast.com/)