Health Technology Services (HTS) Provides Vital Services to Ensure Electronic Health Records Are Protected
June 23, 2017
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Protecting a patient’s electronic health record (EHR) from a security breach is a daunting task for any practice, especially for those with limited resources. The rules surrounding the privacy of data, called the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), have over 150 administrative, physical and technical safeguards that are subjective and vague. The services provided by HTS, a department of Mountain-Pacific Quality Health, proved invaluable for a provider in Montana to protect the practice’s systems and EHRs.
A patient’s medical record has some of the most intimate and confidential information that a person can share. And protecting a patient’s EHR is something to take very seriously. Just ask Dr. Dan Downey, an orthopedic surgeon who owns a small practice in Montana.
“I feel like I am very privileged to have the trust of my patients, and I want to continue to deserve that trust,” said Dr. Downey. “A person’s privacy, to me, is like a constitutional right that their health information be private. It helps us have a better physician-patient relationship if they know we are treating them with confidentiality.”
In July of 2014, Dr. Downey’s office started the process of creating and implementing EHRs. Communicating with the company they worked with was challenging, as staff would not respond to calls
or emails, and Dr. Downey’s staff were often put on hold for 45 minutes when they called. Although difficult and painstaking, the practice successfully changed from paper medical records to EHRs. But creating those electronic records opened the door for a potential cyber security breach.
To avoid a breach, the practice hired a vendor to run a security risk analysis (SRA), but that vendor did not explain the processes well, and it was never certain whether the data was truly secure. Knowing how important it was to protect the systems and records of his practice, Downey contracted with HTS to perform another SRA.
Superior customer service
The process with HTS was completely different than the previous vendor’s. HTS took the time to clearly explain what they were doing and why they were doing it. They communicated with Downey and his staff and worked with them through every step of the process.
“The first time we did the SRA, we didn’t understand anything,” Downey said. “The second time Susan Clarke (HTS Privacy & Security Consultant) explained what we were doing. And as we went through the process, we had a much better understanding of the risks we had and how to improve our system.”
HTS reviewed contracts, agreements, policies and procedures to understand the practice’s compliance program. They evaluated systems and identified any gaps in the compliance program. The practice had done a considerable amount of work building a compliance program, and HTS built on those efforts to create a more robust and secure program. HTS also created solutions for their client by establishing roles and managing ongoing remediation to ensure the safety of the practice once the project was completed.
HTS helped to eliminate the possibility of a data breach. Furthermore, they built in measures to ensure that safety for years to come. Through HTS’ services, the practice implemented the most effective and appropriate administrative, physical and technical safeguards to protect the confidentiality, integrity and availability of its health information.
“It was definitely a successful process,” Downey said. “HTS has always helped us, was easy to contact, and they made it possible for us to work through this morass.”
Susan Clarke credited Dr. Downey and his staff as a major contributor to the overall success of the project.
“Dr. Downey allowed us the access to his practice that we needed, but more importantly, he gave us his commitment to the project and continues to strengthen the culture of compliance in his practice,” said Clarke. “With the continuing growth of cybercrimes, data breaches and federal audits, along with Meaningful Use, the upcoming transition to MACRA/MIPS and an anticipated shortage of providers throughout the U.S., the importance for making HIPAA compliance more affordable and easier to achieve has never been greater.”
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights levied a total of $15 million in fines for HIPPA-based breaches from January to July of 2016. In 2015, the office levied $6.2 million in fines. Health care cyber breaches will only increase in future years, and the need for providers to safeguard their systems has never been more important, according to various experts.
For more information about HTS services, visit http://mpqhf.com/corporate/health-and-technologyservices/.
About Mountain-Pacific—Mountain-Pacific is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation and holds federal and state contracts that allow them to oversee the quality of care for Medicare and Medicaid members. Mountain-Pacific works within its region (Montana, Wyoming, Alaska, Hawaii and the U.S. Pacific Territories of Guam and American Samoa and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands) to help improve the delivery of health care and the systems that provide it. Mountain-Pacific’s goal is to increase access to high-quality health care that is affordable, safe and of value to the patients they serve.
Mountain-Pacific Quality Health is proud to announce that it is featured in the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) newly released 2016 QIO Program Progress Report. This report highlights how Quality Innovation Network-Quality Improvement Organizations (QIN-QIOs) nationwide are working with health care partners and patients to achieve bold goals in quality improvement. The 2016 annual report provides findings from the third year of the program’s five-year performance period, including success stories from across the country, data-driven results from the QIO program and other highlights.
QIO Program Progress Report
Mountain-Pacific Quality Health
Mountain-Pacific Quality Health is a nonprofit corporation that partners within our communities to provide solutions for better health. We first opened our doors in Helena, Montana, in 1973; since then we have broadened our reach to include Wyoming, Alaska, Hawaii and the U.S. Pacific Territories of Guam, American Samoa and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
Quality Innovation Network-Quality Improvement Organization
Part of what we do is under the direction of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). We are one of 14 Quality Innovation Network-Quality Improvement Organizations (QIN-QIOs). We partner with health care providers, practitioners, stakeholders and patients on a variety of quality improvement initiatives to achieve better care, better population health and lower health care costs. These initiatives include:
- Preventing healthcare-associated infections in hospitals and nursing homes
- Preventing healthcare-acquired conditions related to long-term care in nursing homes
- Improving the coordination of care from one health care setting to another and reducing unnecessary hospital admissions and readmissions
- Improving cardiovascular health
- Improving the health and wellbeing of people with diabetes
- Helping providers with the use of electronic health records (EHRs) and health information technology (HIT)
- Helping providers with quality data reporting and related incentive programs
Mountain-Pacific provides Medicaid utilization review and management services for the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services. We have been performing medical case review for specific Medicaid contracts since 1974. Through our review process, we strive to enable each Medicaid client to get his or her needs met in the most appropriate, cost-effective setting, using the most appropriate medical service, equipment and supplies.
Health Technology Services
Health Technology Services (HTS) is a department of Mountain-Pacific Quality Health. HTS is the federally designated Health Information Technology (HIT) Regional Extension Center (REC) for Montana and Wyoming. HTS offers technical assistance, guidance and information on best practices to support and accelerate health care providers’ efforts to become meaningful users of electronic health records (EHRs).