Saturday, August 14, 2010

HIPAA Horrors

This has been a week for HIPAA horrors.

A reporter dropping some trash at a landfill in Massachusetts stumbled on a huge pile of medical records. It seems a former billing company for pathologists who served four hospitals had dumped the records without bothering to shred them. Now the hospitals and pathologists are on the hook – ouch.

Then a psychiatrist on the west coast left his laptop on the back seat of his car, and to his surprise (?) it was stolen, and the laptop contained demographic and billing information on thousands of patients.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Violating HIPAA at the Speed of Light

Rarely does a week go by without a story of how "social media"** have caused problems for an employer, often because of posting confidential information, photos or just nasty comments about some phase of the business operation or co-workers.

In health facilities the stakes are much higher.

Now is the time to develop policies and educate the staff, BEFORE something bad happens.

** Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and of course email is also a problem.

Monday, August 2, 2010

IDS - Wave of the Future?

Among those who ponder the technical aspects of health care reform, there is strong sentiment for more use of Integrated Delivery Systems (IDS) in delivering health care.

This is hardly a new concept, being decades old, and it may well be the concept of the future.

The first big IDS wave occurred in the early to mid-90s, as physicians and hospitals tried various medical service organization (MSO) models; essentially the hospital owned the physician practices. Many of these deals were disasters, some worked, some evolved into something that worked.

The idea is that if a central entity (an insurer, a hospital, or a hospital network) owns and coordinates services there will better care coordination and cost savings.

The successful integrations so far have largely focused on family practice, internal medicine and ob-gyn (the OBs assistance with malpractice premiums and 24/7 coverage issues).

An interesting change is surfacing, the acceptance of specialists and surgeons into IDS models. Historically there has been a great deal of friction between these docs and the hospitals.

Why the change? Fear of dire economic consequences of staying in a traditional group practice model. Preliminary numbers from the 6/30/2010 residency class is that for the first time, a majority may opt for IDS employment rather than group practice. There are also reports that young docs are more concerned with life balance issues than previous generations.

So, any problems?

Hospitals are notoriously bad at managing physician practices, physician contracts must be structured carefully, physician productivity sometimes drops off with a steady paycheck, and the process of merging practices and/or converting ownership is a great deal of complex work at no small cost. Also, making this work in rural areas is tough.

Biggest question, will IDS on a large scale really cut costs? Or just reshuffle the deck chairs?