Thursday, 06 June 2013 14:27
In one recent survey, 74% of the respondent physicians used a smartphone for professional purposes, including to reference drug data (43%), to find and/or perform clinical calculations (39%), and to help make prescribing decisions (31%).
But what about using a smartphone as an exam tool? Or for remote diagnostics?
More and more smartphone apps are released every day to help doctors practice their craft. Plug-in digital devices that collect clinical data are an even newer development.
Smartphones can help you practice medicine, but some cautions are in order.
Smartphones and apps have been used to:
- Note exam findings during the exam and instantly upload them to a patient’s medical record
- Establish baselines by taking and uploading photos for later comparison
- Certain smartphone apps can even diagnose malaria with 94% accuracy
Collection vs. Storage: Collecting potentially sensitive data via smartphone or other mobile device is one thing, but doctors and practice managers should seriously reconsider storing such data on a personal device that could easily be lost or stolen. We strongly recommend immediate upload of any recorded data to the patient’s record and no storage of this information on personal devices.
Consider the Source: Some apps can be harmful – a study of apps claiming to evaluate photos of skin lesions for malignancy, without the aid of a board-certified dermatologist, misdiagnosed melanomas as “unconcerning” at least 30% of the time. Be sure any apps you are using for diagnostic assistance are backed by sound medical knowledge.
Fear of Replacement: Will you be replaced by a smartphone? No. Digital readouts will never replace expert analysis. Even the new plug-in devices are designed only to be used by trained medical staff, not to enable hypochondriacs.
TAZ Networks can help your smartphone apps and devices work with your network to keep your protected patient information safe and secure. Contact us today at 810-355-2280.
Monday, 29 April 2013 15:07
HIPAA — the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act — was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996 to protect the privacy of individually identifiable health information.
Since that time, the law and its associated rules have gone through a number of revisions and refinements, especially as technology has changed over the past 17 years.
The latest new rule, a.k.a. the HIPAA Omnibus Rule, became effective on March 26, with tougher restrictions to protect patient privacy. While these added restrictions are good for those of us who visit the doctor from time to time, it presents an additional security requirement for medical practices.
The biggest change involves breach notification, or what procedure to follow when patient data is compromised. Previously, the automatic assumption was that no patients were harmed by a breach, unless proved otherwise. The Omnibus Rule changes that to presume patient harm, requiring healthcare providers to prove their innocence.
Another big change that may affect more businesses than ever is the additional responsibility of “business associates,” or those working on behalf of medical practices. These companies can now also be held liable for security lapses resulting in patient data leaks.
Possibly for very good reason. By some estimates, third parties are responsible for 40 percent of reported patient data breaches and 75 percent of the exposed records. We’ve written about details of some of these breaches previously on this blog.
What should you do next?
- Definitely review your data handling procedures, including both paper records and “hard copies” of electronic data such as backup tapes and hard drives.
- Make sure all employees are fully trained on proper HIPAA standards and procedures.
- If you handle electronic patient records of any kind, a complete network security audit may be in order.
What you should not do is ignore the new requirements. The Office for Civil Rights, which oversees HIPAA, is hiring enforcement officials, and has already investigated breaches of as few as 500 records.
The good news is that enforcement is not scheduled to begin until September of this year. This gives you six months to tighten up security.
If you need help, feel free to reach out to TAZ Networks at
TAZ Networks can help your medical practice run more efficiently and securely by applying the correct technology. Contact us using this form or call 810-355-2280.
Tuesday, 05 March 2013 09:21
Telescope. Microscope. Two completely different tools for two wildly-different fields of science, right?
Well, maybe they aren't completely different. Researchers at the University of Cambridge have successfully adapted automated analysis techniques used by astronomers to identify three biomarkers of aggressive breast cancers.
The automated technique is as accurate as visual analysis. CancerResearchUK.org states in a press release: “They compared the accuracy of manually scoring these results, by observing the staining of the tumour samples down the microscope, versus relying on a computer to do this automatically. This showed that the new automated system was at least as accurate as the manual one, whilst at the same time being many times faster.”
The 2,000 samples in the initial study were analyzed in one day – the same amount normally processed manually over a week’s time. It is expected that the new software will be able to process up to 4,000 samples a day.
The next stage of testing will have researchers processing more than 20,000 samples, using an international, open-source approach to help further refine the technology.
Tuesday, 05 February 2013 14:20
To Tweet or not to Tweet, that is the question, at least one of the many questions medical practitioners have to answer in this age of social media.
Some studies within the last few years have shown good results from using the Internet as another tool to encourage healthy living. Social media has been shown to help patients manage their weight, diabetes care, eczema, and other ailments.
Yet, just like antibiotics, social media is not appropriate for every use.
One recent study showed that patients over 50 years of age prefer health information in print versus electronic form. While both groups studied had a high dropout rate, the group that received their tailored health information in print form had a higher participation rate.
Another recent survey, this one of state medical boards, looked at 10 social media behaviors to see which would be most likely to trigger a board investigation. More than 77% of respondents would “likely” or “very likely” investigate the following:
- Misleading claims about clinical outcomes or misrepresented credentials posted on a doctor’s web site.
- Patient images used on a physician’s web site without express consent.
- Interacting with a patient via an online dating service (ick factor = high).
Two takeaways here:
Have different methods to deliver important patient information, both electronic and print, and comply with your patient’s preferences to achieve better outcomes.
Be very, very careful about the accuracy of facts on your web site, as well as keeping the doctor-patient relationship on a professional level.
Peels, Denise Astrid, et al. “Differences in Reach and Attrition Between Web-Based and Print-Delivered Tailored Interventions Among Adults over 50 Years of Age: Clustered Randomized Trial.” Journal of Medical Internet Research 14 6 (available online)
Greyson, S. Ryan, et al. “Online Professionalism Investigations by State Medical Boards: First, Do No Harm.” Annals of Internal Medicine 158 2 Jan. 15 2013 124-130 (available online)
Thursday, 27 December 2012 16:14
Healthcare IT News recently released its top 10 list of healthcare data breaches for 2012, and the news isn’t pretty.
The top 10 list alone encompasses over 1.8 million records. Another possible breach, reported in August, threatens the security of medical data for another 55,000 patients. (Investigation is pending.)
The first thing most people fear when data breaches are revealed is some shadowy hacker breaking into secured servers. But, startlingly, 6 out of 10 of the breaches on the list, as well as the incident reported in August, resulted from stolen laptops. Three of the remaining incidents “involved employees or former employees downloading, emailing or inappropriately accessing patient information,” according to HealthcareITNews.com. Only one incident, albeit the largest, involved hackers.
Do you have anything to worry about, as a small clinic or medical practice? This top 10 list is comprised entirely of hospitals and large medical centers. After all, the more records, the larger the breach. But it’s worth taking a look at your own potential vulnerabilities: Is your data encrypted? Do you have standards defining which employees have access to which data? Do you know who has accessed patient information and why?
If the answer to any of these questions is “No,” it’s time to take a closer look at your data security.