A healthcare employee working in a secure remote work environment.

Creating a Secure Remote Work Environment for Healthcare Staff

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HealthWare Systems Blog

Creating a Secure Remote Work Environment for Healthcare Staff

Posted on Friday, May 1, 2020

Ensuring a secure remote work environment is a top concern of healthcare organizations that are looking to move workers off site.

While remote work is increasingly common, organizations within highly regulated industries like healthcare have been slower to offer work from home opportunities. This is understandable, as you may worry about protecting your patients’ PHI and maintaining HIPAA compliance.

However, it is absolutely possible to create a secure remote work environment for your healthcare staff with remote work solutions that address these issues. There are many benefits of allowing healthcare staff to work from home, and the COVID-19 crisis adds one more significant reason to transition some employees to secure remote work.


In order to create a secure remote work environment for your healthcare staff, look for remote work solutions that offer the following:


A healthcare employee working in a secure remote work environment.

HealthWare Systems’ remote work solutions enable healthcare staff to securely work from home.

Controlled Access to PHIlimits users’ access to only the minimum information necessary to perform their job duties.

Full Transparencyprovides management with real-time oversight and review of employees’ work, which highly discourages inappropriate behavior.

Complete Audit Trailsalways know who accessed data, what they did, and when.

Workflow Automationautomating redundant, manual tasks through robotic process automation means fewer employees must handle each information object and data will automatically be routed to its proper destination with little to no human intervention. Plus, it greatly reduces paper usage…

Paper Reductionsolutions that eliminate hard copies remove the need to commit PHI to paper or to store paper forms containing sensitive information, and they make proper disposal of physical documents a non-issue.

Off-Site Exception Handlingremote employees should be able to handle individual exceptions manually with the same level of security, controlled access to PHI, and paperless processes in place.

Encryption of Dataall information must be encrypted at all times.

HealthWare Systems’ remote work solutions cover all the above. By providing each of these features, our solutions create a HIPAA-compliant, secure remote work environment that will enable healthcare staff to work from home.


Additional Guidelines for a Secure Remote Work Environment


In addition to choosing remote work solutions that address the security concerns listed above, it’s crucial that you communicate with remote workers about their responsibilities regarding the protection of PHI.

Many of these guidelines apply to all healthcare staff – whether they work remotely or on site:

  • Adhere to strict password rules.
  • Use multi-factor authentication.
  • Complete periodic cybersecurity and HIPAA compliance training.
  • Only work on approved devices and only access the Internet through approved methods, such as the organization’s virtual private network (VPN).
  • Do not use work devices for personal activity.
  • Do not copy PHI to other devices.
  • Keep software updated.
  • Always lock your screen when not in use.
  • Be aware of common forms of cyber attack and know the warnings signs for email scams, such as phishing emails or suspicious attachments.

Implement a Remote Work Policy and after confirming employees understand what’s expected of them, have them sign an agreement stating they will abide by all rules and regulations in place. Just like you would for on-site employees, remind remote workers of the civil and criminal penalties for negligent or illicit handling of PHI and of their duty to protect it.

For more information on creating a secure remote work environment for healthcare staff, contact us today. Through a consultative phone call review, we can analyze your workflows to help you determine which areas to transition to a secure remote work environment.


By Stephanie Salmich

A remote worker smiles as she enjoys the benefits of remote work solutions that enable healthcare staff to work from home.

11 Reasons to Enable Healthcare Staff to Work from Home

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HealthWare Systems Blog

11 Reasons to Enable Healthcare Staff to Work from Home

Posted on Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Not all healthcare employees need to be on site to complete their work. When you enable healthcare staff to work from home, your employees, organization, and community will benefit!

A remote worker smiles as she enjoys the benefits of remote work solutions that enable healthcare staff to work from home.

Everyone benefits when you implement remote work solutions that enable healthcare staff to work from home.


Here are 11 reasons why you should implement solutions that enable healthcare staff to work from home:


1.) Limit the number of people on sitethe COVID-19 crisis has caused numerous organizations to reassess how many employees are actually necessary to keep on site. Moving workers off site now will help protect patients and employees from the current coronavirus; and, it will establish a more proactive approach for any future public health emergencies by ensuring staff who can work from home are already set up to do so when another new disease strikes.

2.) Maintain HIPAA-compliancethe healthcare industry has been reluctant to offer remote work opportunities due to concerns over PHI security. HealthWare’s remote work solutions enable healthcare staff to work from home by providing controlled access to PHI, encryption of all information at all times, complete audit trails, and full transparency for management.

3.) Increase productivity many studies demonstrate the positive effects of working from home on productivity. For example, a Stanford paper reported a 13% performance increase when employees switched to remote work and Airtasker’s survey of 1,004 full-time employees found that on average, remote workers put in 1.4 more days of work each month (16.8 more days each year) than those working in an office. Plus, remote work has the potential to facilitate a more flexible schedule, so many remote workers can choose to accomplish some of their work outside of the typical “9 to 5” business hours if they feel more motivated in the early morning or late at night, with the result of producing higher quality work. (Our remote work solutions provide management with productivity monitoring for real-time oversight, so you can really be certain your remote workers are delivering.)

4.) Expand your pool of job applicantsif your employees can work from home, you aren’t limited to hiring workers who live within commuting distance of your facilities.

5.) Recruit top talentin addition to more potential candidates, you’ll also attract the best contenders. According to Indeed’s 2018 survey, an organization’s remote work policy is an important factor for 47% of employees in their job search and 40% would even consider taking a pay cut if it meant they could work from home. And if you can offer a work from home incentive, you’ll especially appeal to Gen Z and Millennial healthcare employees who have joined or are entering the workforce at a time when remote work opportunities are increasingly common.

6.) Reduce your footprintcommuting and company offices are major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. Moving some of your healthcare staff off site will make a significantly positive environmental impact. These remote workers’ homes will double as their office space and they will travel fewer miles, use less gas and oil, and reduce their contributions to air pollution.

7.) Keep workers healthyworking remotely means your teams won’t be exposed to workplace (or public transportation) germs. This is especially enticing for employees who work in the healthcare field and would otherwise be vulnerable to germs from both colleagues and ailing patients. And on top of the physical health advantages, remote workers experience mental health benefits related to stress (e.g. no commute/traffic, more free time, better work/life balance). Physically and mentally healthy employees can better concentrate to produce superior work.

8.) Decrease sick days and absencesemployees are not only less vulnerable to getting sick in the first place when they work remotely, but they’re also more apt to work through a mild cold or sickness if they can do so in the comfort of their own home. In fact, the reason some employees may choose to call in when sick is not because they don’t feel up to working, but simply to avoid spreading the illness to their coworkers – a concern that remote workers don’t have to worry about!

9.) Improve employee satisfaction and retentionemployees who enjoy the perks of remote work will be more satisfied, more loyal to your organization, and less inclined to leave their positions.

10.) Save moneycost savings come in the form of less office space/equipment/supplies, reduced turnover, fewer absences, increased productivity, and recruitment of better talent, to name just a few areas in which you’ll see major returns on investment. (We estimate savings of $10,000 per year per worker when you employ our remote work solutions.)

11.) Remote work is the futurebetween 2005 and 2017, remote work increased by 159% in the United States. A recent study projects that 73% of all teams will include remote workers by 2028.

The time has come to embrace work from home solutions in order to remain competitive in the eyes of prospective employees – you simply can’t afford to resist this inevitable change to the workforce.

Remote Work Solutions for Healthcare


Which parts of your operation would you move off site if you could? HealthWare Systems can analyze your paper and fax-based workflows and offer alternative solutions that enable healthcare staff to work from home in a HIPAA-compliant, secure environment.

Schedule a phone consultation and we’ll help you determine how you can enable healthcare staff to work from home, and which departments to target, so you can start reaping the benefits listed above as soon as possible.


By Stephanie Salmich

What are YOUR New Year’s resolutions for your revenue cycle?

New Year’s Resolutions for Your Revenue Cycle

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HealthWare Systems Blog

New Year’s Resolutions for Your Revenue Cycle

Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Have you set any New Year’s resolutions for your revenue cycle?

The new year is upon us! The following are a few resolutions you’ll want to consider for improving your revenue cycle, along with the ActiveWARE products that can help you reach these goals.

New Year’s Resolutions for Your Revenue Cycle


Resolution – Financially Clear Patients Prior to Date of Service

Facilitator is a pre-arrival workflow solution that can streamline prior authorizations. And not only does Facilitator automate financial clearance steps, but it also verifies insurance and medical necessity in real time and searches for unreported coverage.

Resolution – Reduce Technical Denials

ActiveDEFENDER monitors the entire patient encounter to prevent errors that lead to reimbursement denials, delays, and underpayments. (Read here how ActiveDEFENDER reduced bad debt by 50% at Bon Secours Charity Health System.)


Resolution – Improve Collections

Facilitator can simplify collections with one-click access to a consolidated view of patient responsibility that includes prior balances (across multiple sites), out-of-pocket costs for the current visit, and qualifying discounts.

ActiveASSIST can help you better manage your self-pay population and ensure that you as the provider are “payer of last resort” by exhausting all other funding options for patients first (e.g. government-funded programs and charitable sources).

Resolution – Increase Patient Satisfaction

All ActiveWARE products create improvements that increase patient satisfaction. But one factor that especially affects patient satisfaction is patient wait times. ActiveTRACK is proven to increase patient satisfaction by reducing both registration and clinical patient wait times. In fact, ActiveTRACK reduced patient wait times by 75% at an acute care facility in the Chicago Suburbs.

Resolution – Reduce Paper Use and Costs

Our digital transformation solutions greatly reduce paper use and costs. For example, ActiveXCHANGE, our digital order management solution, eliminated 1.3 million pages per year at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center.

There are many cost benefits of electronic healthcare forms as well. With ActiveFORMS, there is no need to pre-print and store forms or waste money destroying old pre-printed versions that can no longer be used due to new updates. Instead, forms are instantly and electronically delivered wherever a patient presents and can be printed on-demand if a physical copy is necessary. And if not, you can go paperless with electronic signature.

Resolution – Perform a Health Plan Audit

An annual health plan audit can help you maintain compliance with payor contracts and ensure your front desk staff are prepared to collect the appropriate co-pay or deductible from each patient. If you’re not already, resolve to conduct a health plan audit at least every year.

What are YOUR New Year’s resolutions for your revenue cycle?

Have you set New Year’s resolutions for your revenue cycle?

 

What are your New Year’s resolutions for your revenue cycle? Chances are, one or more of our ActiveWARE products can help. Contact us today to learn more… and have a Happy New Year!


By Stephanie Salmich

Reducing patient uncertainty: Healthcare providers connect puzzle pieces.

Reducing Patient Uncertainty: 6 Areas to Address

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HealthWare Systems Blog

Reducing Patient Uncertainty: 6 Areas to Address

Posted on Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Reducing patient uncertainty should be a high priority item for healthcare providers.  Feelings of uncertainty can affect the patient experience and lower patient satisfaction.

Most of us are uncomfortable with uncertainty and many visits to healthcare facilities are made with the purpose of diminishing it.  Patients seek out your facility hoping to find answers to health questions; the last thing they are looking for is even more confusion.

Reducing patient uncertainty: Healthcare providers connect puzzle pieces.

Reducing patient uncertainty can vastly improve the patient experience.

Below are 6 areas that can either increase or decrease patient uncertainty.
By reducing patient uncertainty through addressing these areas, providers can greatly improve the patient experience:

1. – Online Presence:

A strong online presence and positive online reviews can aid in reducing patient uncertainty by helping patients become more familiar with your facility and organization before they even visit.  Utilize your website and social media accounts to their full advantage.

For example, a study published in the journal Health Communication found that video biographies for primary care physicians were more effective in reducing patient uncertainty than the standard text biographies that most providers post on their websites.

2. – Wayfinding:

Navigating their way around an unfamiliar building can increase patients’ anxiety over their hospital visit.  Wayfinding solutions (such as digital signage, mobile apps that guide patients around your campus, and touchscreen kiosks that print wayfinding maps) can ensure that patients and their visitors don’t get lost, all while reducing patient uncertainty about finding their destination.

3. – The Waiting Room:

The waiting room offers numerous opportunities for reducing patient uncertainty surrounding many topics.  In the waiting room, uncertainty about wait times can be just as frustrating as the actual waiting.  Patients’ family members face uncertainty as well, about how long they’ll be waiting, about the details of a procedure, and about the outcome for their family member.

A patient tracking board and real-time text updates can be instrumental in reducing patient uncertainty and lowering waiting room anxiety for patients’ family members.  Patients can better gauge how long they’ll be waiting, and patients’ family members know their loved one’s status at each stage (e.g. “in prep,” “in surgery,” “in recovery”) of the encounter.

4. – Interoperability:

Patients should not have to face uncertainty regarding whether their doctor has all the information he/she needs to properly care for them.  Yet, only 46% of hospitals had required patient information from outside providers or sources available electronically at the point of care according to research posted by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.

With odds like these, patient uncertainty about transfer of medical records or if a physician’s order/referral will be received in time is warranted.  Reducing patient uncertainty can be accomplished by ensuring your facility can electronically send, receive, find, and integrate/use all necessary health information.

5. – The Discharge Process:

Researchers have created a new tool called the Uncertainty Scale to measure patient uncertainty and predict hospital readmissions.  Some of the major themes they’ve found in their work include patients’:

  • “Lack of clarity regarding self-management, such that patients are unsure how to deal with symptoms at home”
  • “Lack of self-efficacy, manifesting as patients not knowing where to go for help for certain symptoms”
  • “Lack of clarity about the decision to seek care, meaning that patients do not know which symptoms are serious enough to warrant seeing a health professional”

Improving patient education during the discharge process can help in reducing patient uncertainty about self-care, where to seek help, and when it is necessary to seek help, as well as lower readmission rates.

6. – Payments:

Patients want price transparency and as wise healthcare consumers, they have the right to be informed about the use of their healthcare dollars.  Confusion about health insurance and how much money they owe for health services, even after they’ve received a bill, is a source of patient uncertainty.  Patients may have great clinical outcomes, yet, if they are surprised when the bill is larger than expected, their satisfaction surveys will reflect low scores.

Providing estimates for out-of-pocket costs upfront, helping patients with insurance issues, preventing insurance-related errors, and helping patients identify and apply for financial assistance opportunities can all help in reducing patient uncertainty about cost.


Uncertainty is unfortunately a common experience in healthcare for those with undiagnosed conditions and symptoms for which an explanation is unclear.  The six areas outlined here are within your control; by reducing patient uncertainty in these areas, your facility can greatly improve the patient experience.


By Stephanie Salmich

Support Your Physicians: An administrator and doctor shake hands.

Support Your Physicians by Asking These 3 Questions

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HealthWare Systems Blog

Support Your Physicians by Asking These 3 Questions

Posted on Friday, March 30, 2018

National Doctors’ Day (March 30th) provides a great opportunity to reevaluate the steps your facility is taking to support your physicians who work so hard for you and your patients.

Support Your Physicians: An administrator and doctor shake hands.

Happy National Doctors’ Day!

Here are a few questions to consider when assessing how well you support your physicians:

 

Are You Fueling Your Physicians’ Sense of Purpose?

One of the best ways you can support your physicians is by encouraging their passion, whether it be for medicine, for helping patients and their families, for serving the community, or any other meaningful reason they have for doing the work they do.

Fostering a sense of meaning in work can improve employee engagement, reduce physician burnout, and lower employee turnover.  According to Forbes contributor David K. Williams, the secret to helping employees find meaning in work is communication:

“If leaders focus on communicating the company’s mission, and the employee’s place in the success of that mission, they can have a significant impact on the overall level of fulfillment of their employees.”

He suggests that leaders “frequently discuss the meaning of the organization” and recognize employees for their personal contribution to that meaning.

 

Are You Making Your Physicians’ Jobs Easier or More Difficult?

Physicians are extremely busy.  Is the technology you provide them helping or hindering their time management?

Time-consuming and cumbersome administrative tasks and paperwork can overwhelm physicians and distract them from the reason they became doctors in the first place:  to help patients.

Alleviate physician stress by implementing solutions that:

1. Eliminate lost physician orders

2. Facilitate the sending, receiving, finding, and integrating of critical data to achieve interoperability

3. Prevent reimbursement issues

4. Provide real-time communication across departments

Are You Investing in Your Physicians?

Do you provide opportunities for your valuable physicians to learn and grow in the vital roles they fill for your organization?  Millennial healthcare employees may especially appreciate opportunities for growth and development, continued training, and education at work.  You can also support your physicians by offering or funding mindfulness training, empathy training, and emotional support programs to help prevent or reduce physician burnout.

Again, National Doctors’ Day is TODAY (March 30th)!  Now is the perfect time to rejuvenate your commitment to support your physicians with these suggestions.  And remember to celebrate the physicians who have made a difference for you and your family by personally thanking them and honoring them each March 30th for the hard work they do all year long.


You can also find ideas for promoting other health observances throughout the year here, and a detailed calendar of this year’s health observances and recognition days here.


By Stephanie Salmich

A pharmacist fills prescriptions: Improving interoperability in healthcare can help prevent adverse drug events that affect public health and patient safety.

Interoperability in Healthcare and Its Effect on Patient Safety and Public Health

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HealthWare Systems Blog

Interoperability in Healthcare and Its Effect on Patient Safety and Public Health

Posted on Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Interoperability in healthcare is becoming increasingly important to the patient experience, public health, and patient safety.  Patients should be able to trust that when they see multiple providers at various doctors’ offices, hospitals, pharmacies, labs and imaging facilities, and other locations, their health information is protected, accessible, and actionable.

Yet, research posted by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) found that only 26% of hospitals successfully conduct all 4 core domains (electronically sending, receiving, finding, and integrating/using key clinical information) of interoperability in healthcare.

Improving this percentage is absolutely vital to patient safety and public health.  Consider how these two categories of patient safety are affected by inadequate levels of interoperability in healthcare:

Individual Patient Safety


According to the ONC’s study, only 46% of hospitals had required patient information from outside providers or sources available electronically at the point of care and only 18% reported that their providers “often” used electronically received patient health information from outside sources when treating their patients.

Tragically, treating a patient without all necessary medical information can result in adverse drug events due to inaccurate medication reconciliation, preventable pain and suffering, life-threatening medical errors, and even death.

A pharmacist fills prescriptions: Improving interoperability in healthcare can help prevent adverse drug events that affect public health and patient safety.

Improving interoperability in healthcare can help prevent adverse drug events that affect patient safety.

At the very least, delays in access to relevant health data mean delays in treatment and extra discomfort, pain, or worry for patients and their family members as they wait.

Public Health & Safety


Public health reporting is critical for preventing/containing outbreaks of disease, preparing for health emergencies, investigating population health trends, educating communities, promoting healthy lifestyles, and informing and monitoring health policies.  Public health reporting, to local, state, and federal organizations like the CDC, is also hindered by poor interoperability in healthcare.

The ONC explains in an Issue Brief that for public health reporting:

“The goal is to move to seamless, real-time or near-real-time bidirectional exchange of data . . . This allows for the most complete and up-to-date record possible.” (p. 4)

The accuracy of public health reporting, and the strength of the health policies created from it, can only be as sound as a system’s interoperability capabilities will allow.

Fortunately, there is technology that can greatly improve individual patient safety and public health by creating true interoperability in healthcare and seamlessly integrating with healthcare IT systems.

This is an ethical issue – if we want to protect the public and patient safety, we must make interoperability in healthcare a top priority.


By Stephanie Salmich

GO GREEN and lower hospital costs.

Go Green to Reduce Hospital Waste & Lower Hospital Costs (Part 2 of 2)

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HealthWare Systems Blog

Go Green to Reduce Hospital Waste & Lower Hospital Costs (Part 2 of 2)

Posted on Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Last week we discussed the effects of staff education on helping you reduce hospital waste and lower hospital costs. Below are two more strategies to help you achieve these goals.

“Green” Supplies

GO GREEN and lower hospital costs.

“Green” supplies can lower hospital costs in the long run.

Many hospitals have increased their use of disposable medical supplies that hamper hospital and environmental sustainability efforts.  Health facilities can be drawn to single-use items that seem more convenient and cheaper upfront, but may cost more than “greener,” reusable items in the long run.

Practice Greenhealth’s Cost of Ownership Calculator can help you compare products and choose those with the lowest costs and smallest environmental impact.  This tool looks beyond the price tag of an item to examine every cost a hospital will incur during the “acquisition, use, maintenance, and disposal” of the product over its lifetime.

There are some items that you cannot avoid purchasing in disposable form, due to patient safety concerns and health regulations.  But where possible, reprocessed equipment can reduce hospital waste and lower hospital costs.

Paperless Healthcare Solutions

Besides tossing disposable supplies, how much paper is your facility throwing out?  From completing registration paperwork and consent forms, to obtaining physician referrals and third party documents, hospitals are responsible for a great deal of paper consumption.  Fortunately, there are paperless healthcare solutions for managing each of these tasks:

1.)  You can automate patient registration by setting up a paperless registration system that is better for the environment and makes the registration process more accurate and efficient.

2.)  With an electronic healthcare forms library, there is no need to stockpile pre-printed forms that may go unused. Any form can be easily printed on-demand and updates to forms can be made electronically and in real-time, saving you from the cost and waste of destroying old versions that can no longer be used due to new revisions.  The need for blue cards and labels is also eliminated thanks to barcode automation.  Patients can even sign consent forms using electronic signature on electronic healthcare forms.

3.)  A physician order management system can help you electronically organize all incoming orders and referrals, regardless of source. Read here how one hospital reduced its paper usage by 1.3 million pages per year and eliminated 18,333 folders by going paperless with the solution ActiveXCHANGE.


Not only will these strategies help you reduce hospital waste and lower hospital costs, but they will also increase your appeal to today’s consumers and top job candidates who are attracted to organizations that practice corporate social responsibility.  Establishing environmentally-friendly policies and procedures is an excellent way to do your part in protecting our world while also ensuring the sustainability of your own facility.

Editor’s Note: This is Part 2 of a two-part blog series.


By Stephanie Salmich