HMT: Data breach, IBM’s Watson, telemedicine helps strokes victims and more
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Health Management Technology News
January 14, 2014
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In this issue:

More than 6,700 patients’ personal info compromised in hospital data breach

Using tablets, telemedicine to speed stroke treatment

CMS and its contractors have adopted few program integrity practices to address vulnerabilities in EHRs

IBM's Watson and the future of healthcare analytics


More than 6,700 patients’ personal info compromised in hospital data breach

Thousands of patients at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital are finding out their personal information may have been compromised.

Officials at the South Georgia hospital say a password protected, unencrypted desktop computer containing the information of more than 6,700 patients disappeared in early November.

Officials say the computer may have held patient information including names, addresses, dates of birth, dates of service and social security numbers.

Officials have not found the missing computer, and the hospital is offering a year of credit monitoring service to all affected patients.

"I want an explanation," said victim Laurie Davis. "I want to know why our information, our social security numbers all our information isn't protected better. You know, for being such a large hospital, I think they should have top notch security system for their computer systems."

Phoebe has not said from which clinic the computer disappeared or why it took two months to inform patients.

In a statement, hospital officials say they've hired an expert computer forensics company to investigate, and patients treated between May 2010 and October 2013 may have been affected.

Read the full WTVM article here

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Using tablets, telemedicine to speed stroke treatment

A University of Virginia Health System team is working with local rescue squads to diagnose stroke patients before they reach the hospital, enabling more patients to receive lifesaving treatment and have a full recovery.

Working through UVA Innovation’s USEED fundraising program, U.Va. clinicians are raising $10,000 to equip two additional local ambulances with the iTREAT mobile telemedicine kit. The goal is to connect paramedics through a secure video link with U.Va.’s specially trained stroke neurologists and emergency medicine physicians, who can diagnose stroke patients while they’re in the ambulance and enable treatment to begin as soon as patients arrive at the hospital.

“The longest delay in treating folks is not once they get to the hospital, but before they get to the hospital,” said stroke neurologist Dr. Andrew Southerland said.

Fast diagnosis and treatment is vital because the most effective treatment for acute ischemic stroke patients – the clot-busting drug tPA – is only safe and effective if delivered within three hours of when symptoms begin. Due to delays in reaching a hospital and receiving a diagnosis, less than 5 percent of all stroke patients receive tPA.

Getting stroke patients treated quickly is even more challenging for patients living in remote, rural areas of central and southwest Virginia, where it may take an ambulance 30 minutes or longer to get patients to an emergency room or stroke center.

“iTREAT is really designed to help support patients from rural communities to get the care they need quickly,” said David Cattell-Gordon, director of U.Va.’s Office of Telemedicine. “Every minute in a stroke matters.”

The iTREAT mobile telemedicine toolkit seeks to make productive use of those long ambulance transports to diagnose stroke patients. The U.Va. partners – the U.Va. Stroke Center, Department of Emergency Medicine and the Center for Telehealth – are working with the Thomas Jefferson Council for Emergency Medical Services to equip regional rescue squads with the iTREAT mobile telemedicine toolkit. The equipment includes a tablet device, secure videoconferencing technology, a high-speed modem and a magnetic antenna to mount on the outside of the ambulance.

U.Va. and the Thomas Jefferson Council are working to equip 12 ambulances in Albemarle, Greene, Louisa and Nelson counties with the iTREAT toolkit, said Dr. Sherita Chapman, a vascular medicine fellow at U.Va. “What we’re trying to improve is treatment times for stroke patients [in these counties],” she said.

Southerland estimates it will cost about $5,000 to equip each additional ambulance with the iTREAT equipment.

The iTREAT technology is in the testing stage with local rescue squads, Southerland said, with the hope of using it to care for Central Virginia patients early this year.

“If iTREAT is successful, we hope it can become a model for using telehealth to speed treatment for a range of emergency medical conditions,” Southerland said.

Read the full UVA Today article here

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CMS and its contractors have adopted few program integrity practices to address vulnerabilities in EHRs

Electronic health records (EHRs) replace traditional paper medical records with computerized recordkeeping to document and store patient health information. Experts in health information technology caution that EHR technology can make it easier to commit fraud. For example, certain EHR technology features may be used to mask true authorship of the medical record and distort information to inflate health care claims. The transition from paper records to EHRs may present new vulnerabilities and require CMS and its contractors to adjust their techniques for identifying improper payments and investigating fraud.

We sent an online questionnaire to CMS administrative and program integrity contractors that use EHRs to pay claims, identify improper Medicare payments, and investigate fraud. We also reviewed guidance documents and policies on EHRs and fraud vulnerabilities that CMS and its contractors released for health care providers. Lastly, we reviewed documents on EHRs and Medicare claims that CMS provided to its contractors.

Read the full OIG study here

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IBM's Watson and the future of healthcare analytics

What would it be like to have a doctor who’s always up on the latest research and has learned about treatments from over 1.5 million previous cases? It would look alot like Watson, IBM’s Jeopardy! playing supercomputer that’s getting ready to roll out with an all new look and a Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center education in oncology.

“It will be like having a Memorial Sloan Kettering trained colleague for any doctor on earth,” claims Dr. Mark Kris, an MSKCC oncologist. “The goal here is to be part of the relationship between doctor and patient.”

Unlike IBM’s previous entrant in the battle between man and machine, the chess playing computer Deep Blue, Watson is set to go commercial and earn IBM a healthy profit. Taking the data query and natural language processing tools developed while learning Jeopardy!, Wilson is getting a top ranked medical education and aiming to be the all knowing decision support system that will transform the medical field. “The power of the technology is that it has the ability to take the information about a specific patient and match it to a huge knowledge base and history of treatment of similar patients.” stated Dr. Kris, “This process can help medical professionals gain important insights so that they can make more informed decisions, evidence based decisions, about what treatment to follow. Watson’s ability to mine massive quantities of data means that it can also keeps up – at record speeds – with the latest medical breakthroughs reported in scientific journals and meetings.”

This is a great application for Watson. Medical knowledge is growing faster than anyone can keep up with, and no adequate technology exists to help doctors maintain awareness about new discoveries in the field. The medical field currently produces so much new research, that a doctor would have to spend 160 hours a week reading in order to stay informed. The research can mean the difference between life and death, but without proper tools doctors simply cannot keep up. Enter Watson medical assistant, IBM has retooled him to use the data query tools and natural language interpretation skills he perfected on Jeopardy! to be a new type of tool to help doctors solve this problem. Watson will in essence be an artificial brain interpreting all the data available, and giving doctors recommendations based on current research.

Read the full Applied Data Labs article here

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