Posts Tagged ‘home healthcare’

Guest Post: HIPAA Compliance and Home Health: Overcoming the Challenges

August 21st, 2018 by Melanie Matthews

When it comes to HIPAA compliance, the mobile nature of home healthcare presents additional challenges over work in a fixed healthcare institution.

Home health workers provide invaluable support to less able patients and are integral to a successful and effective public health service. However, when it comes to compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), the mobile nature of their work presents additional challenges they would not face working in a fixed healthcare institution. Outlined below are a number of these unique challenges, along with some tips for minimizing the risk of a potential data breach occurring while carrying out care work in the field.

Secure Communication

While there are no specific technology safeguards outlined by the HIPAA Security Rule, it is crucial that security measures for all operating procedures are current, effective and understood by all staff members to ensure a high level of security is achieved at all times.

Messages containing Protected Health Information (PHI) should only be sent through secure channels, and all records of communication containing PHI, such as email trails or message history, must be stored in a secure location with restricted access.

As well as communication via mobile devices, tablets or laptops, it is important to ensure that any face-to-face or telephone discussions regarding PHI take place in a private environment to minimize the risk of unauthorized individuals overhearing confidential information relating to patient(s).

Unsecured Wireless Networks

Free Wi-Fi hotspots are incredibly useful for remote workers, however, they also provide a great opportunity for hackers to intercept any unsecure connections and retrieve personal or sensitive information. To avoid any potential data breaches, employers should ensure all home health workers are aware of the dangers surrounding unrecognized networks and that they have the appropriate safeguards in place, such as the use of VPNs (virtual private networks) and the correct permission settings on their devices.

Disclosure of Information

Due to the nature of home healthcare, patients may require additional help around the home, therefore, family members or friends may sometimes be present during visits from health workers. However, this does not mean they are necessarily authorized to have access to the patient’s medical information. It is important that all home caregivers have received training in this area and understand only to discuss PHI with the patient and authorized persons to avoid putting all parties present in a difficult or uncomfortable situation, and most importantly, to protect the patient’s right to confidentiality.

Misplaced Information: Devices & Paperwork

With home health workers visiting several patients every day, device security (smartphones, laptops, tablets) becomes a major challenge as there is an increased possibility items could be misplaced, left unattended or even stolen. This can have disastrous consequences, particularly if there are accessible files or messages containing PHI saved on the device.

To minimize the risk of a potential data breach due to a lost or stolen mobile device, workers should:

  • Check they have their devices on their persons when they arrive at a patient’s home and when they leave.
  • Ensure there are sufficient access restrictions on the device – such as fingerprint recognition or active screen lock – so that, should it fall into the wrong hands, any sensitive data will remain secure.

While ePHI and digital records are paving the way to a more secure auditing system for confidential medical data, due to the nature of home healthcare, paper charts and records are still a common way of recording patient’s progress during home visits. As it is not possible to password-protect written records, extra care must be taken to ensure they are guarded at all times when in the health worker’s possession, and transferred to a secure location once visits are completed.

To minimize the risk of a potential data breach due to lost paper records, workers should:

  • Ensure that no paperwork containing PHI is left in an unsecure place, for example, on a desk or in an unmanned car overnight.
  • Store the paperwork in a securely locked filing system when not in use.
  • Destroy any records once they are no longer required either by shredding or burning the documents so that they are no longer readable and cannot be restored to a legible condition.

When it comes to HIPAA compliance, the ultimate responsibility lies with the employer. Through implementing training and compliance workshops, undertaking regular risk analysis, and investing in HIPAA-secure tools that facilitate safe communication, collaboration, and data storage, the risk of a data breach can be significantly reduced.

DocbookMD About the Author: Michael Senter joined DocbookMD in March 2015. He has over 15 years of experience providing solutions to highly regulated industries, including healthcare. Most recently, Michael has been focusing on the unique challenge of IT security in healthcare organizations. To find out more about how DocbookMD is improving communication and compliance in home health, visit https://www.docbookmd.com/explore/providers/home-health/.

Infographic: Medicare Home Health Beneficiaries

January 29th, 2018 by Melanie Matthews

Home healthcare patients are among the poorest, sickest and most vulnerable beneficiaries in the Medicare program, according to a new infographic by the Partnership for Quality Home Healthcare.

The infographic compares a traditional Medicare beneficiary with a Medicare home health beneficiary and factors that demonstrate why Medicare home health beneficiaries are financially vulnerable.

The Science of Successful Care Transition Management: Leveraging Home Visits to Improve Readmissions and ROI A care transitions management program operated by Sun Health since 2011 has significantly reduced hospital readmissions for nearly 12,000 Medicare patients, resulting in $14.8 million in savings to the Medicare program. Using home visits as a core strategy, the Sun Health Care Transitions program was a top performer in CMS’s recently concluded Community-Based Care Transitions (CBCT) demonstration project, which was launched in 2012 to explore new solutions for reducing hospital readmissions, improving quality and achieving measurable savings for Medicare.

The Science of Successful Care Transition Management: Leveraging Home Visits to Improve Readmissions and ROI explores the critical five pillars of the Arizona non-profit’s leading care transitions management initiative, adapted from the Coleman Care Transitions Intervention®.

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Infographic: Optimizing the Home Healthcare System

November 7th, 2014 by Melanie Matthews

Optimizing the Home Healthcare SystemWhile today’s hospital CEO is told to fill beds, tomorrow’s will be told to empty them, driving an increase in home healthcare, according to a new infographic by ClickSoftware.

The infographic also looks at how patients can best be served in their home and the typical characteristics of home healthcare patients.

Remote Patient Monitoring for Enhanced Care Coordination: Technology to Manage an Aging Population When integrated with telephonic care management, remote patient monitoring can help avert medical emergencies and preventable hospitalizations among individuals with serious medical and functional challenges.

In Remote Patient Monitoring for Enhanced Care Coordination: Technology to Manage an Aging Population Gail Miller, vice president of telephonic clinical operations in Humana’s care management organization, Humana Cares/SeniorBridge, reviews Humana’s expanded continuum of care aimed at improving health outcomes, increasing satisfaction and reducing overall healthcare costs with a more holistic approach.

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Infographic: Rethinking Home Healthcare

July 18th, 2014 by Melanie Matthews

With more than 10,000 Americans turning 65 every day and a growing desire from seniors to age in place, there is a growing need for home healthcare services.

A new infographic from Barton Associates shows the growing need for home healthcare, as well as how home care improves the quality of life for seniors.

Rethinking Home Healthcare

Home Health Quickflips© can be used as a reference for documentation, patient eligibility and “how to” instructions for OASIS items which impact reimbursement and quality outcomes. This resource can be a teaching tool for new employees and home health managers.

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Healthcare Business Week in Review: Telemedicine; Mail Order Pharmacies; HRAs; Home Healthcare

December 6th, 2013 by Cheryl Miller

Convenience, whether in the form of a telemedical consult, a mail order pharmacy, or even an HRA, is helping to improve patient care and quality.

According to a new Kaiser Permanente study, diabetic patients who received heart medications by mail were less likely to visit the emergency room than those who picked up prescriptions in person.

Among the reasons researchers suggested were that patients with disabilities or limited transportation were better able to take their meds when all they had to do was go to their mailbox.

In the same vein, children in rural areas are provided better care when telemedicine is available.

According to a new study from UC Davis Medical Center, rural physicians face distinct disadvantages when providing critical care for severely ill or injured pediatric patients. Lack of pediatric training, access to EMRs and 24-hour pharmacist coverage contribute to the problem. Telemedicine services with pediatric specialists resulted in far fewer dosage errors, among other things.

Despite the occurrence of face-to-face meetings, many patients’ health status and risks are overlooked because of the infrequent use of health risk assessments (HRAs), according to the AHRQ.

Problematic but treatable health behaviors like anxiety, alcohol use, depression and unhealthy eating are generally not explored in a primary care visit but can be detected with the use of a new evidence-based HRA. Designed for primary care physicians, nurses and other staff, patients provide the data.

A final ruling on home healthcare payments has been issued for 2014, and is designed to better align Medicare payments with home health agencies’ costs providing care, while lowering costs to taxpayers and the 3.5 million Medicare beneficiaries who receive services, according to the CMS. The final rule reduces the number of home-health quality measures reported by home health agencies (HHAs).

And lastly, don’t forget to take our online survey, Reducing Hospital Readmissions in 2013. While great strides have been made in the reduction of 30-day all-cause hospital readmissions, CMS still docked reimbursement for more than 2,200 hospitals in 2013 for exceeding 30-day readmission rates for heart failure, pneumonia and myocardial infarction. In 2015, CMS penalties will extend to acute COPD and elective hip and knee replacements. Describe how your organization is working to reduce hospital readmissions by taking HIN’s fourth comprehensive Reducing Hospital Readmissions Benchmark Survey. Respond by January 3, 2014 and receive an e-summary of the results once they are compiled.