Monthly Archives: June 2016

Future Hospitals-Healthcare for tomorrow

Hospitals are transforming, partly due to the infusion of new technology, but predominantly because the future demands enhanced quality and value for healthcare. As the way we perceive treatment and healthcare change, the role of hospitals in delivering these services will also undergo a transformation.

Some of these changes will be tangible, like the number of doctors and beds in a hospital, but there will also be some intangible yet impact changes like improvement in physician-patient interactions or in treatment methods

For smooth navigation, the transformation change requires extra effort and commitment from everyone involved in the system. Caregivers in particular must be aware of the change, and the different performance metrics proposed by various government agencies can provide a clear sign of change in this respect.

Here are some of the major changes the industry is expected to undergo in the near future

1. Collaborate for Care Continuity:

Providers and caregivers will move from competition to collaboration to provide care continuity, leading to formation of many more cooperative groups which share duties and responsibilities. Payers aim for continuity of care to reduce healthcare costs and to benefit the patients by reducing mistakes. . This serves as a flexible system for the providers, and in turn, increases revenue and decreases variable cost for providers.

2. Focus on Population Health:

Payers will continue to incentivize population health strategies to reduce healthcare costs, pushing hospitals to concentrate on achieving a broad agenda. This method includes care programs for people with high health risk of hospitalization, and also introduces preventive measures to healthy individuals like preventive screening, creating awareness on preventable diseases or vaccination, etc.

3. Reduce In-Patient Volume:

For the past several years the healthcare system has witnessed a decline in the in-patient numbers along with a proportionate increase in outpatient care. This shift is largely credited to the improvement in technology such as minimal invasive surgeries and advanced anesthesia which allow patients to recover quickly.

As cost efficient, reliable and comprehensive patient monitoring technology becomes widespread, the need for expensive hospital rooms will decrease and patients will prefer the comfort of their homes.

4. Virtual Care:

Information technology tools will allow patients to conveniently connect with providers through a tele-based platform. Providers will be able to monitor patient vitals with the help of various smart health devices, plan treatments, and follow progress without the patient needing to step into a hospital. Providing care anywhere and anytime, this method will dramatically change the way hospitals and treatments are perceived. Although virtual care already exists at some level, connecting patients with caregivers will be vital going forward. It is crucial that caregivers use technology to provide care at the time of need to save many lives.

5. Individual-Centric Care:

Every individual will receive customized treatment depending on individual patient health history, big data analytics and even their genome information. This is a departure from the trial and error method of treatment where doctors match a list of symptoms to a disease and initiate the treatment accordingly. Each case will be treated separately and backed by data, facilitating treatment for the affected individual’s health condition rather than validating generic symptoms to arrive at some conclusion.

6. Developing Integrated Information System:

Healthcare information technology will connect the whole sector providing real time information and secure channels of communication. With data generated by multiple sources and real time monitoring devices, providers can create a single data pool of every individual under their care, making billing and reporting easier for the providers. Such a system can help health systems perform more sophisticated tasks such as data analysis, population health monitoring, etc.

The above are inevitable changes and will affect the healthcare industry as a whole, but what needs to be seen is how individual organizations decide to embrace the future. Whichever way an organization may choose to tackle this change, the future of healthcare is holistic with a more individual-centric focus.

How CMS is Changing Healthcare Dynamics

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has been working continuously with public and private partners to improve present healthcare service models to deliver better results and make the population healthier. Reducing cost is the primary objective, and investing more time in identifying gaps in current practices will help spend dollars intelligently.

The first step in realizing long-term goals of population health is to replace traditional payment models with value-based care, where providers are expected to document every step of the practice, bringing in transparency and accountability.

The purpose of ACA (Accountable Care Act) is to make quality healthcare affordable for all, including patients with pre-existing medical conditions.

Though it is a challenge to upturn the functioning of the healthcare system in a short span, a systematic approach can help achieve the end goal.

Medicare has been quick to come up with a strategy to promote the value-based purchase. About 30% of Medicare payments are expected to be tied to quality metrics through alternative payment methods by the end of this year, and nearly 50% in less than 2 years.

Priorities of National Quality Strategy

According to CMS, the following six aspects are prioritized highly by the NQS:

1. Making care safer by reducing the harm caused in the delivery of care

2. Ensuring each person and their family members are engaged as partners in their care

3. Promoting effective communication and coordination of care

4. Promoting the most effective prevention and treatment practices for the leading causes of mortality, starting with cardiovascular disease

5. Working with communities to promote wide use of best practices to enable healthy living

6. Making quality care more affordable for individuals, families, employers, governments, and communities by developing and spreading new health delivery models.

Minimizing Healthcare Errors

Healthcare related errors are hazardous and could end up curtailing the ambitions of NQS. According to CDS, nearly 1.7 million people are affected by errors due to adverse medication events, sometimes even leading to mortality. The cost involved in treating patients affected by errors are estimated to be $5 billion annually.

While the U.S. healthcare system is considered well-funded, with billions of dollars in spending, the results realized through investment has never been appealing. Countries whose healthcare expenditure is much lesser compared to the U.S., have accomplished better standards in attaining broader goals like population health.

It is alarming to realize the efforts and money spent so far are not sufficient in bringing change at the ground level. It’s high time we reconsider our approach and change the way we look at problems in the healthcare space. Reducing cost cannot be the only priority going forward, since reducing errors that impacts positively on care quality has proven to be of equal importance.

Nearly 70% of healthcare professionals have admitted to not being able to leverage the best of technology. Errors can be minimized by leveraging technology to supplement human effort, reducing ambiguity in decision making and enhancing informed decisions.

Can Technology be a game changer?

In every industry, let alone healthcare, the utilization of Information Technology has changed the way they function. Challenges in healthcare are quite complex and unique by itself, with the need to consider multiple variables before coming up with an appropriate solution. The one-size-fits-all approach may not work here.

Traditionally, providers have been less inclined to initiate implementation of any new technology. Some of them have even come forward to test how predictive analytics could be of use to improve their results in practice. However, integration of a new system to the existing one has never been easy, with more than 50% of the deployments not yielding many benefits.

Healthcare professionals need to partner with a vendor with industry expertise, and experience who could provide responsive solution thereby increasing the probability of successful technology deployment.

A strong Health IT infrastructure, involving new age practices like patient tracking, setting goals and monitoring health status should be included in electronic health records. The system should be able to collaborate and gather information from different systems to generate unified reports with actionable insights on one dashboard.

CMS encourages innovations leading to the effective change in the healthcare space, and have made it a requirement for their partners to deliver along the chain of healthcare space to show progress in real value.


Ransomware is a malicious software that installs itself undetected to a server or a personal computer, restricting user access to cause functional disturbance and demand ransom in return for security of confidential information. It has lately been on the rise as it is an easy way for hackers to score profit. In 2014, the FBI estimated that ransomware swindled up to $27 million in just six months.

Healthcare faces more threat than other industries due to the sensitivity involved in patient information, and currently has limited protection against such attacks.

The recent attacks on hospitals correspond to the following reasons:

1. Insecure Hospital IT:

The hospital IT infrastructure is largely insecure, making it susceptible to a malware attack. Hospitals are using outdated software, which makes the hacker’s job all the more easy. Due to inadequate funding, the IT infrastructure remains more or less the same, leaving it vulnerable to an attack.

2. Hospitals have more to lose:

With the hospital battling life or death situations on a daily basis, a flurry of ransomware malware attacks can put both the patients and healthcare professionals at risk. . Such attacks can have wide ranging implications to a healthcare provider, such as unavailability of patient medical history, delayed reports and even potential public relations controversies.

3. Lack of qualified staff:

Most hospitals have this policy of spending the bare minimum for IT operations, which is a grave oversight. In line with this policy, hospitals fail to have the right IT infrastructure and shy away from installing new and improved software security features. It is very important that hospitals invest in skilled staff, who can help them adopt new tools that eliminate attacks.

Ransomware is a real threat to healthcare sector, affecting not only the coordinated care but also the regular functions of hospitals, not to mention risking sensitive patient information.

The best cure for this virus is prevention. Here are some simple steps to ensure maximum protection against ransomware.

1. Employee Awareness :

Ensure all employees using the server are aware of the threat and are frequently reminded of the danger of accessing dubious sites or downloading unknown files. Security awareness training could boost the security infrastructure and inform employees on responsible use of the internet. Employee’s conscious of the threat will less likely be trigger happy.

2. Focus on Cyber Security:

Hospitals must acknowledge the importance of cyber security and invest money on latest technology and infrastructure to prevent cyber-attacks. Hiring competent IT professionals and also training existing staff on new information technology will help in staying up to date.

3. Backup Plan:

All important data must be backed up on a system off site to limit the effect of an attack and retain hospital functionality. Hospitals must develop a business continuity plan and be prepared to prevent any attack on their servers. Measures such as disconnecting internet and turning off Bluetooth/Wi-Fi connectivity upon suspected attack or doubt can reduce the spread of any malicious software.

4. Restricting access:

Restricting network access and breaking up the network into smaller groups can help in restricting and containing attacks on the servers. Also, layering the server into groups will make it difficult for the hacker to infiltrate the server.

5. Block Zip files and spams :

Configuring mail servers to block zip, spam and other files, which may contain malicious content, can drastically reduce the threat of ransomware.

No one solution or technology can be the ultimate answer to ransomware, but these measures will ensure that the hospital is not an easy target to hackers. And in case of an attack, they also help the hospital protect sensitive data and retain functionality.

Every step in the network should be designed and built using hack-proof methodology. Hackers consider hospitals an easy target, but if they face considerable difficulties, chances are they would simply look away.