Healthcare compliances training and discussion blog

Archive for March, 2011

Apple’s iPad: Is it a perfect e-learning tool?


Apple’s iPad has been a pathbreaker of sorts in the technological field. They were many naysayers during its launch regarding its utility, but I suppose the tremendous success of the product have shut up their mouths. The craze and euphoria has not died yet, and with the launch of iPad 2, the buzz is getting stronger. And the all-important question comes to the fore: can the iPad serve as an ideal classroom teaching device?

I strongly feel that iPad will have a part to do. It is sure to displace one-to-many teaching pedagogies in favor of interactive one-to-one studying and learning and will encourage much more participation from students.

To drive home my point about the iPad will have a role in online education for children, here is some news. It has been seen by many that those children who haven’t learned to read or write or even operate a mouse are able to operate the iPad with tremendous speed. According to an article published in  Ad Age in June 2010, “How the iPad Became Child’s Play – and Learning Tool,” there were many toddlers as who were as many as 18 months old only who were trying to provoke interaction from TV sets and PC monitors as if they were touch screens like that of the iPad. This indicates clearly that the next generation will find it very easy to respond well and interact with the intuitive device.

In another study related to e-book reading, a survey result released by Student Monitor revealed that out of 1200 college students who were participants in the survey and interested in e-readers, more than 46% of them opted for iPad as the preferred e-reader rather than 38% of them who favored Amazon’s Kindle. This indicates that iPad is known among the adolescents to be much more conducive and intuitive than the Kindle.

Educators today are stressing on the need for contextual learning and user participation. Digital whiteboards have failed to encourage interactivity, and is also less on computing power. The laptop is comparatively bulky too and can be problematic to handle sometimes. The iPad then serves to be the perfect device for comfortable online learning and acts as a useful tool for referencing, collaborating, and content creation. The best part is that of the choice for personalized content for students.

Some of the kinks are there: it does not support web pages which have Flash, it does not have a telephone, it does not have a camera and it also does not have USB slots or memory card slots although there is support for dongles. These limitations are somewhat deterrent for its use but once there are updates to the device, I don’t really see a problem for the iPad to be used as a e-learning device!

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Collaborating Learning


I discovered today how wonderful it is to see a child’s fragile self-esteem raised through another child’s approval and inclusion. We were working on a task, a target, a topic and yet these 2 small learners were on a whole other learning journey entirely. Regardless of the task, the outcome of working together is that children are able to appreciate one another’s strengths and weaknesses. What they choose to do to support those strengths and weaknesses is a whole other ball game!

Imagine my delight then when I was able to watch a less-than-confident child choosing to ‘instruct’ another, very capable child during maths. What was incredible to see was the way they negotiated their place in the pecking order, realised that they were both different yet equal as learners and moved into the task. The fascinating thing in this is that they were working on the iPad and the child with less confidence in maths was the one with tons of confidence in how to use the iPad and solve the maths problems while the other child was able to instruct him on how to problem-solve the maths part!

Amazing how they worked together because the talking was rich, kind, encouraging and the learning was the same. I was privileged to see how children support and care for one another as learners when simply given the opportunity to do so. Joy!

This article was originally posted at http://elearningr14.blogspot.com/2011/03/collaborating.html

M-health to give medical services a shot in the arm


When one mentions healthcare and mobile in the same sentence, they may seem the strangest of bedfellows, more so since traditional healthcare services have been obtained and delivered via physical trips to a medical facility.

M-health can broadly be defined as the use of mobile health technology to deliver healthcare services.

These are medical platforms that have allowed for patient data to be accessed remotely via online channels and the provision of a mobile interface provides that last mile that empowers practitioners and patients access much needed information while physically distant from the medical facilities.

There are a number of areas that are currently being explored, the first being regular day to day monitoring and streamlining.

This sees doctors use mobile more heavily to book appointments, post patient reminders on drug usage and doses, as well as keep a tab on their schedules while on the go.

While this may sound basic, it is a starting point that will see increased adoption of mobile centric services.

Platforms such as Medic Mobile have a growing community of users who are contributing to the open source project that has a patients records system and information collection and dissemination modules.

As Medic Mobile put it “ these tools support community health worker coordination and management, community mobilisation for vaccination and satellite clinics, logistics and supply chain management, referrals, routine data collection, and mapping of health services.

Telemedicine is also touted as a game-changer, more so in areas where access to specialised personnel is difficult.

Mobile phones are increasingly having digital cameras as a default and mobile data networks are increasing in capacity.

Not just on mobile though, as the cost of connectivity drops and fibre networks get deployed throughout the country, I believe we will see more remotely done medical procedures, assessments, virtual meet ups and collaborations.

There is a lot of activity on the medical devices front, with a lot of innovation happening to try create portable medical devices.

Organisations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation are spearheading this by way of grants to create devices that can be used to diagnose illnesses or carry out comprehensive tests on samples out in the field.

On a personal level, m-health is taking the form of mobile applications and interactive mobile sites that empower one to reach personal health goals by keep track of a diet plan or fitness regimen.

M-health is one of those utilities that will gain mass adoption if rolled out right.

This article was originally posted at http://www.businessdailyafrica.com/M+health+to+give+medical+services+a+shot+in+the+arm/-/539444/1127390/-/b9h4syz/-/

Smartphone Health Apps Are Changing Health Care


Doctors have a new worry regarding their medical practices. Not only do the doctors have to worry about rising liability insurance costs and decreasing Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements, but Smartphone health apps may take a bite out of their practice as well. According to an article by Seth Deepak, DemocratandChronical.com, “a recent survey by Pew on the adoption rate of mobile health (“mHealth“) applications found that a full 9 percent of American mobile phone users said they have mobile health apps on their phones that enable them to “track” or “manage” their health. Other studies predict that more than a third of 1.4 billion Smartphone users in 2015 will be running some kind of mobile health care application.” Smartphone Health Apps Are Changing Health Care

Doctors can take heart. By 2015 traditional health care channels will be distributing health apps. A global survey, “Mobile Health Market Report 2010-2015” conducted by a Berlin-based market research company, shows that by 2015 most mobile health apps will be distributed by traditional health care channels. Right now, Smartphone and other mobile health care apps include those fordiabetes and other chronic diseases’ management, and hospital-based Radio Frequency Identification. There are also apps that actually allow doctors and health care providers to monitor patients, and even diagnose symptoms. See my blog Radiology goes 4G.

Insurance and pharmaceutical companies are poised to launch their own apps. Most of these apps will be for promotional purposes or for potential revenue. It isn’t clear yet just how that will look, but my guess will be that the doctor can pull up the pharmaceutical company app and research which drug will be most appropriate, as well as the cost analysis of the various drugs, insurance coverage, etc.

This article was originally posted at http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/7821236/smartphone_health_apps_are_changing.html

OCR invites state AGs to gear up for HIPAA security crackdown


The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) in the Department of Health and Human Services is expanding its fight against HIPAA security and privacy violations, as mandated by the HITECH Act. The OCR, a relatively small office with limited manpower, is now inviting the attorneys general of all 50 states to receive training in HIPAA enforcement.

According to Government Health IT, the training course will help the attorneys general and their staffs understand HIPAA rules and the penalties for violating them, and also will teach them how to investigate possible violations. The HITECH Act gives the attorneys general the authority to bring civil actions in this area.

The two-day training courses will begin in April in Dallas, and will continue on in Atlanta, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. OCR also will provide online training to supplement its in-person sessions.

In addition, OCR will supply information to state attorneys general about pending or concluded OCR actions against healthcare providers, health plans and business associates. So far this year, OCR has levied fines of $1 million against Massachusetts General Hospital and $4.3 million against Cignet Health for HIPAA violations or potential violations.

Besides the frequent losses and thefts of HIPAA-protected personal health information, which continue to be a major problem, John Moore of Chilmark Research has focused attention on a new challenge: Applications designed for Android mobile devices, he says, are insufficiently vetted for security gaps. Google Health recently had to remove 50 malware apps in the Android mode, he says.

Moore says that iPads–which are catching on rapidly among doctors–have less vulnerability because Apple scrutinizes outside applications more thoroughly for security flaws.

Patient info lost on subway earns MGH $1 million HIPAA fine


Massachusetts General Hospital will pay the U.S. government $1 million to settle what the feds are calling “potential violations of the HIPAA Privacy Rule,” according to a statement issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The case involves patient information that an employee left on the subway.

This marks the second fine related to HIPAA noncompliance in a week. The first fine, imposed on Cignet Health, was a $4.3 million civil penalty, mostly for failing to cooperate with an investigation.

The settlement follows a probe by HHS’ Office for Civil Rights, which enforces HIPAA rules that require healthcare providers to protect the privacy of patient information through administrative, physical and technical safeguards.

“We hope the healthcare industry will take a close look at this agreement and recognize that OCR is serious about HIPAA enforcement. It is a covered entity’s responsibility to protect its patients’ health information,” OCR Director Georgina Verdugo said in a statement.

The possible HIPAA violation occurred after a Mass General employee left the documents on a subway in March 2009. The documents consisted of protected health information for 192 patients of MGH’s Infectious Disease Associates outpatient practice, which includes HIV/AIDS patients. The investigation found that Mass General failed to implement “reasonable, appropriate safeguards to protect the privacy of PHI” removed from Mass General’s premises and disclosed, potentially violating the HIPAA rule.

A patient schedule containing names and medical records numbers, as well as billing forms that included names, dates of birth, diagnoses, insurer policy numbers and providers, were among documents lost.

As part of a corrective action plan, MGH has promised to develop comprehensive policies and procedures to ensure PHI is protected when removed from the MGH premises, train its workforce on the policies and send twice-yearly reports to HHS for three years.

Feds impose first civil fine ever in HIPAA case


The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights hit Cignet Health with a $4.3 million civil penalty for violating the HIPAA Privacy Rule and failing to cooperate during the subsequent probe even after a federal subpoena was issued, according to an HHS announcement.

This marks the first time the feds have imposed a civil money penalty for violations of HIPAA since it went into effect in 2003, the Washington Post reports. In earlier cases, offenders such as Rite Aid Corp. agreed to correct their practices or pay fines to settle the case. The fine is based on the violation categories and increased penalty amounts authorized by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act.

An OCR investigation found that Cignet, which operates two clinics in Maryland, violated the rights of 41 patients who requested their medical records between Sept. 2008 and Oct. 2009 by not producing their records. The patients each filed separate complaints with OCR, which initiated investigations. Under the HIPAA privacy rule, records must be made available within 60 days of a request.

Cignet’s experience is a cautionary tale. Besides violating the HIPAA privacy rule, it failed to respond to OCR’s demands to produce the records. When OCR ratcheted up the pressure and issued a subpoena, Cignet still did not product records. Only after OCR filed a petition to get a federal court to order Cignet to produce the records did the company stir. Eight days later, the boxes arrived at the DOJ. But Cignet did not make any effort to resolve the complaints through informal means, according to HHS.

OCR imposed $3 million of the $4.3 million fine for the company’s failure to cooperate with OCR’s investigations for nearly 13 months. In the case of Cignet Health, “this was really willful neglect,” Rachel Seeger, a spokeswoman for the OCR, told the Post. “They would not respond to the department.”

What’s more, when the health center finally delivered 59 boxes of records to the Justice Department, the boxes contained not only medical records for the 41 patients, but also records for about 4,500 other patients, whose information Cignet should not have been disclosing, because the records were not part of the probe.

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