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Health Management Technology News
  April 4, 2014
In this issue:
 

► Health Management Technology’s Resource Guide sign-up

► ZirMed acquires payment processing and patient engagement solutions from TransEngen Inc.

► Proposed health IT strategy aims to promote innovation, protect patients, and avoid regulatory duplication

► Healthcare players see more changes coming to Obamacare

► Using Ethiopia’s healthcare gaps to do good and make a profit

► Sound off on today's healthcare companies and trends!

► With eyes on 2016, Jindal releases healthcare plan

► Who will own the future of healthcare


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ZirMed acquires payment processing and patient engagement solutions from TransEngen Inc.

ZirMed announced that it has acquired the payment processing, patient eligibility and patient estimation business solutions owned by TransEngen Inc., a company located in Shelton, CT. The TransEngen solutions bring to ZirMed deep integration with practice management systems, expanded HIPAA- and PCI-compliant patient online bill pay capabilities, and a unique patient responsibility calculator. The acquired solutions also bring with them a large client base, including several enterprise clients.

“The acquisition of these solutions complements and expands upon our comprehensive revenue cycle management platform, beginning at pre-visit with mobile patient engagement, and ending with reconciliation of patient and payer payment,” said Tom Butts, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, ZirMed. “Healthcare is changing rapidly, with increasing patient financial responsibility and changing payment models, driving the need for more flexible software solutions to manage revenue cycle performance. The acquisition of these TransEngen solutions immediately strengthens our ability to deliver a more robust solution to our clients, and will support our – and our clients’ – continued growth.”

Read the full ZirMed press release here ► 

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Proposed health IT strategy aims to promote innovation, protect patients, and avoid regulatory duplication

HHS released a draft report that includes a proposed strategy and recommendations for a health information technology (health IT) framework, which promotes product innovation while maintaining appropriate patient protections and avoiding regulatory duplication. The congressionally mandated report was developed in consultation with health IT experts and consumer representatives and proposes to clarify oversight of health IT products based on a product’s function and the potential risk to patients who use it.

The report was developed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in consultation with two other federal agencies that oversee health IT: HHS’ Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The FDA seeks public comment on the draft document.

“The diverse and rapidly developing industry of health information technology requires a thoughtful, flexible approach,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “This proposed strategy is designed to promote innovation and provide technology to consumers and health care providers while maintaining patient safety.”

Innovative health IT products present tremendous potential benefits, including: greater prevention of medical errors; reductions in unnecessary tests; increased patient engagement; and faster identifications of and response to public health threats and emergencies.

However, if health IT products are not designed, implemented or maintained properly, they can pose varying degrees of risk to the patients who use them. The safety of health IT relies not only on how a product is designed and developed, but on how it is customized, implemented, integrated and used.

As proposed in the draft report, posted on the ONC, FDA and FCC websites, there would be three health IT categories, based on function and level of risk, that focus on what the product does, not on the platform on which it operates (mobile medical device, PC, or cloud-based, for example).

The first category, products with administrative health IT functions, poses little or no risk to patient safety and as such requires no additional oversight. They include software for billing and claims processing, scheduling, and practice and inventory management.

Read the full HHS news release here ► 

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Healthcare players see more changes coming to Obamacare

Some of the key players rolling out Obamacare to the American public say their work on the program is just beginning, as the real-world effect of the law throws up new questions and problems.

More than 7 million people signed up for new health coverage under President Barack Obama's healthcare law for 2014, the first year in which its main provisions took effect. Obama celebrated the enrollment milestone on Tuesday as a victory for the program which has faced relentless opposition from the Republican Party and major technical hurdles.

Health insurance executives, state officials, lawmakers and policy experts told the Reuters Health Summit in Washington this week that the program is still very much in transition and they expect both major adjustments and smaller tweaks in the year to come.

"This is the beginning of the beginning," said Chet Burrell, chief executive of CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, which sells Obamacare plans in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia.

For health insurers, more discussions with the government are in store over how to improve and complete the technology behind the federal enrollment website HealthCare.gov, which serves 36 states, as well as some of the online exchanges run by 14 states.

The talks will include making it easier for consumers to shop for new health plans, compare doctor networks and adjust their policies due to a life change.

"So far none of the exchanges have the ability to handle, in any automated manner, life event changes," Burrell said. "So what happens is it's coped with behind the scenes, manually, which is fraught with problems, inefficiencies, as well as errors."

Read the full Reuters article here ► 

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Using Ethiopia’s healthcare gaps to do good and make a profit

For a while now, Magnetic Resonance Imaging or MRI scanners have typically been a luxury that both government and private hospitals in Ethiopia have struggled to afford to purchase for in-house use.

Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital with an ever-growing population of around 3.8 million, currently has only four stationary MRI scanners that provide services to 30 government and private hospitals, according to Zelalem Molla, a surgeon based in Addis Ababa.

Outside of the capital, only two MRI scanners exist. But the six scanners — in this Horn of Africa nation of some 92 million people — are old fashioned and far behind the technological curve in the West.

“It would be wrong to claim that the mobile MRI scanner would save lives,” says Zelalem, whose lunchtime chat with American entrepreneur Peter Burns III about the paucity of scanners sparked a business idea.

But, Zelalem notes, more MRI scanners — which use strong magnetic fields and radio waves to generate images of the inside of the body that can be analysed on computers — would crucially allow more doctors to diagnose illnesses far earlier when they are operable and potentially curable.

“Often it is not possible for doctors to diagnose illnesses such as tumours until they physically appear at a stage when the chances of saving a patient are slim — or it is too late,” Zelalem tells IPS.

Read the full Inter Press Service article here ► 

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Sound off on today's healthcare companies and trends!

Help us rank the healthcare industry’s “best” suppliers in key product, service and technology areas. We will report your shared opinions in an upcoming issue of Health Management Technology.

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With eyes on 2016, Jindal releases healthcare plan

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal wants to be the ideas man in the GOP’s shadow presidential campaign.

The Republican spent Wednesday touting his newly released proposal to replace ObamaCare with a series of healthcare reforms more dependent on the states and the private sector. He plans to roll out similar, broad-based policy papers on energy and education in the coming months as he tests the waters for a 2016 presidential bid.

“You can’t be the party of no. We have to be the party of solutions. I think we’ve got to go out there and win the war of ideas,” Jindal told reporters Wednesday morning at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor.

“I think there are too many Republicans in this town thinking that we can just run against ObamaCare; we shouldn’t say anything else more specific until November because that’s a winning strategy,” he continued. “I think that’s wrong. If we want to earn the right to be in the majority, we have to offer specific ideas.”

Read the full The Hill article here ► 

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Who will own the future of healthcare?

Not long ago, consumers could access health information about as easily as they could access plutonium. This is changing rapidly in the information age. As a result, consumers—rather than doctors, government, insurers, hospitals, or healthcare companies—will own the Healthcare Century. Any healthcare institution that ignores this trend does so at its peril.

Before the information age, consumers were almost entirely beholden to their physicians for information about health and disease. Now, consumers increasingly educate themselves using the Internet to learn about their health, illnesses, and symptoms. Every day, the patient-doctor relationship becomes more of a partnership as patients come up the learning curve.

Previously, the system kept you from your test results until a doctor had time to interpret it for you. Now, mobile health innovations not only allow consumers and caregivers to obtain more data about the body, they also making such data obtainable under consumer control rather than under the control of the healthcare system. Such real-time, self-gathered health data may help the informed healthcare consumer keep doctors away.

Until recently, patients were asked to participate in clinical trials about which they knew very little. They underwent therapies that they could not independently research. Informed consent was not very truly informed, and patients were expected to trust the system—a concession of power to experts who might harbor biases or misaligned incentives. In the social media age, consumers are taking back some of that power by tapping into online communities and FDA clinical trial sites to gather additional information.

Read the full Forbes article here ► 

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