A significant amount of research has been completed during the past decade about the powerful influence first impressions have on all of us when we are introduced to a new place or to a person new to us. The research shows that first impressions are formed rapidly, sometimes in less than two minutes. Since none of us like to admit we have made an error in assessment or judgment, the research shows that we immediately begin searching for more rational and definable reasons that support and validate our first impression conclusion. The chance of us changing our first impression of that place or person diminishes as we filter out information that would modify an erroneous first impression. Bias trumps reason.

Our society is rapidly accelerating into a healthcare delivery system where patients are becoming more participatory in healthcare decision-making and where they have many more choices about where and how their health-related needs are met. High deductible health plans with broader co-payment requirements are becoming the new normal. Many healthcare providers, including acute care hospitals, are struggling to adapt to this new and uncomfortable world where patients also increasingly demand the opportunity, through price transparency, to decide if there is value attached to the price they are being asked to pay for the service provided. 

Read more: Just One Look

A recent blog post by James Staten of Forrester Research predicts that CIOs will increasingly embrace the adoption of cloud software as a service (SaaS) platforms with the goal of enhancing efficiencies for business users and maximizing profits. In Staten’s words, “The days of fighting the cloud are over.” Although that prediction may be coming to pass, healthcare organizations will still likely run into resistance in the course of the adoption of cloud applications due to a strong historical bias toward choosing on-premise software solutions.

However, three primary benefits form the basis of a strong business case in favor of cloud-based solutions. They are the benefits that every company is looking for in their software solutions: scalability, agility and total cost of ownership. Yet, they may have a new and more robust meaning in the cloud.

Read more: In The Cloud

Healthcare providers have always had to design and maintain intelligent infection control practices in order to provide their staff, patients and visitors with the safest possible environment so as to minimize – if not eliminate entirely – the spread of opportunistic infections. The emergence of “super-bugs” and antibiotic-resistant pathogens in the last 10 to 15 years has made the proper application of practices even more crucial.

Infection control practices cover many different areas within a healthcare facility. Practices recommended by the World Health Organization can range from standard ones such as hand-washing, antisepsis and personal protective clothing through “additional transmission-based precautions,” such as precautions to prevent airborne, droplets and contact to “environmental management practices,” such as air, water, cleaning of the hospital environment and waste management.

Read more: Breathe Deep

As of October 2012, under the Affordable Care Act, 1 percent of total hospital Medicare reimbursements (about $850 million) were withheld, with that percentage doubling in 2017. Hospitals have the opportunity to recoup if they have high patient satisfaction scores, based on specific care standards developed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Those standards include a patient’s evaluation of nine key topics, one of which is “pain management.” Although that is a fairly broad category by itself, there is one area where providers wield a great deal of influence when it comes to preventing unnecessary discomfort and injury: skin health. 

After all, patients are less likely to give their provider high marks if they experience preventable skin-related injuries such as tearing, irritant contact dermatitis, tension injuries or other skin-related injuries while under their care. Any wounds that stem from medical adhesives applied by a clinician must be treated, further degrading the patient experience while extending hospital stays and adding to the costs of care. 

Read more: Skin Deep

Healthcare consumers increasingly use social media for their own personal healthcare and to obtain information about specific practitioners, practices, hospitals and medical products. The challenge for providers of all types is determining how best to engage in social media communication, while also complying with applicable laws and regulations and avoiding professional and ethical missteps. 

Here are just a few of the many issues for healthcare providers to consider when establishing or growing a social media presence. 

HIPAA applies to online communications – Many laws and regulations may apply to particular online communications, depending upon the type of provider, and while some may come as a surprise, it’s no secret that the same compliance with HIPAA and related state laws that protect patient/consumer privacy also apply to online communications. Providers must be vigilant about maintaining patient privacy, never posting in the absence of express written consent any protected health information (such as patients’ names, photographs, dates of admission/discharge, dates of birth/death, social security/medical record numbers) because online violations can have far greater consequences. Once a post hits the Internet, it cannot be deleted or removed completely from the Web. 

Read more: Dos and Don’ts

Risk management involves two prongs. The principles of risk management are to prevent lawsuits and decrease the exposure or liability to the healthcare institution in the event of an adverse patient occurrence. The ultimate goal is to create an environment that takes an integrated approach to patient safety. 

An adverse patient occurrence is an unexpected event that puts the institution at risk. It could be a patient falling out of bed, a medication error, or even a potential error that did not happen but almost happened. It could be a more serious sentinel event that causes death, permanent bodily harm or temporary harm that requires interventions to sustain life. 

Risk management departments have been set up in many hospitals to ensure when an incident occurs, that it is handled appropriately by people that are trained in risk reduction. Many times the institution may hire an attorney for this position. The risk manager will try to prevent and minimize risk.

Read more: Managing Risk

Why has consumerism become such a trend in healthcare discussions? To a provider, they are “patients” when they walk into the office for an annual checkup or a hospital emergency room. To a payer, they are “members” when they pay their premium or receive an explanation of benefits. Due to recent changes in the industry, patients and members have become empowered consumers driving change in an industry that is paying close attention, especially as it relates to healthcare payments. 

InstaMed’s newly released Trends in Healthcare Payments Annual Report 2014 features key trends that demonstrate the need for a more consumer-centric service model for payers and providers and outlines key best practices. The report compiles quantitative data from the InstaMed Network processed between 2011 and 2015 and includes qualitative data from 100,000 providers, 3,000 payers and 1,000 consumers nationwide.

Read more: Pay Online

ICD-10 touches every aspect of a healthcare provider’s revenue cycle, starting with how an organization captures its professional and technical charges and “scrubs” them before billing. The very complexity of the ICD-10 coding system presents billing and collection risks to hospitals and practices. To help ensure that providers pay no cash flow or productivity penalty when the switchover to ICD-10 occurs later this year, and going forward, here are three watch-words that should guide electronic charge capture system design: specialize, simplify and streamline.

A charge capture system is specialized when it exposes only relevant codes to physicians in a particular specialty or department, and when it provides fine-tuned code edits. It is simplified when it lets physicians enter charges on the device of their choice – a computer in the office or at home, a smart phone in the car, a tablet anywhere – and when it gives physicians the ability to use familiar clinical terminology to look up codes. Charge capture is streamlined when it is integrated seamlessly into physicians’ workflow via the electronic health records (EHR) system, and into the finance staff’s workflow via the billing system, necessitating fewer clicks, taps and swipes by all users.

Read more: ICD-10 - Changes Made

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