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The Healthcare Industry is facing a major challenge in converting their health records and processes into a digital format. To create an incentive for change, the U.S. government is enforcing the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, offering reimbursement for early adopters and fees for healthcare entities who wait too long. Keeping this in mind, healthcare entities should consider the state of their healthcare technologies to ensure a full return-on-investment.

Tiempo Development has vast experience in the HealthCare industry leveraging their engineering expertise and nearshore agile methodologies to provide state-of-the art solutions ensuring a full return-on-investment.

The Effects of HITECH on HIPAA and Healthcare Entities

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) was created to protect the confidentiality and security by standardizing the transfer, receiving, handling and sharing of Protected Health Information (PHI). However, the act is criticized as being overly rigid with unnecessary obstacles for data sharing amongst entities that are granted permissions – such as mobile health applications or personal records[1].

Standardizing cloud computing along with the interconnected nature of mobile devices created a movement to convert health records into a digital format, otherwise known as an Electronic Health Record (EHR). By converting health records into a digital format, healthcare entities like hospitals, medical schools, and research laboratories will be able to exchange health information for higher quality care. To push this movement forward, the U.S. government passed the HITECH Act to incentivize healthcare entities to convert their health records.

Key Provisions of HITECH for Connectivity

The push for connectivity through healthcare technologies is evident in the many provisions of HITECH. Pushing the movement forward in stages of the meaningful use clause, the second stage of provisions has increasing standards for the amount of information being exchanged digitally. For example[2]:

  • Incorporate Clinical Laboratory Test Results: 55% of all clinical lab tests results ordered by the eligible professionals during the reporting period are exchanged as structured data.
  • Provide Summary of Care Record for Transition or Referrals to another setting of care or Provider: 50% of patient transitions or referrals to another setting or provider had a summary of care record provided.
  • Demographics: 80% of patients seen during the reporting period have demographics recorded as structured data.

Along with the provisions pushing connectivity, HITECH introduced steeper consequences for HIPAA violations. Connecting healthcare entities places greater responsibility on the handlers of PHI, inherently increasing the amount of risk between participants. Some notable changes in penalties are[3]:

  • Increases in Fines: HIPAA capped fines to $25,000 per-year for multiple violations. HITECH increased this cap to $1.5 Million per-year for multiple violations.
  • Increased Liability: Under HITECH, all covered entities are now held criminally liable with fines ranging up to $250,000.
  • Media Notification of Breach[4]: HITECH mandates that entities with an unsecured PHI breach notify the individuals affected, with incidents affecting more than 500 individuals requiring notification of the media.

Healthcare entities seeking to accommodate the goals of HITECH may find their IT systems challenged, either in the initial implementation of EHRs or in the future with growing data densities.

IT Challenges with Connectivity and Data Flows

The biggest challenges that healthcare entities will face in trying to reaching the connectivity standards of HITECH is going to be databases and infrastructures. The purpose of EHRs and connectivity is to accelerate the transmission of health information, leading to greater savings on operational costs with improved efficiency.

Growth in Healthcare Data

According to IDC research, the amount of healthcare data generated is growing at rate of 48% annually.[5] It is also projected that the total volume of healthcare data will reach 2,314 exabytes by 2020.[6] Storing and processing this much information is one challenge, but applying big data analytics to mine useful information is another.

The largest return on hosting this amount of data will come from predictive analytics for preventative care. Using historical data of health conditions, as well as connecting to labs and medical schools, will ultimately improve the overall quality of healthcare – saving the healthcare system on cost with improved preventative care.

Infrastructure that Performs to Scale

The growing number of patients using mobile devices to access their medical records and outpatient care services, healthcare entities will need to ensure that their data infrastructure is scalable to growing users and data densities. As mobile and web applications reach maturity, new services will also present challenges to connectivity.

Innovative technologies in wearables will present challenges as data densities grow about a patient’s state of health. As technologies synchronize to databases, sustaining connectivity will prove crucial to producing quality outpatient care.

With data densities growing at an enormous rate each-year, healthcare entities will need to strengthen their data infrastructures. Tiempo Development offers HIPAA compliant software development and database solutions with experience in big data analytics. We also offer pre-built teams who are ready to start development immediately. To learn more about Tiempo Development’s experiences in developing high-quality healthcare solutions, click here to visit our healthcare services page.

About Tiempo Development

Tiempo’s nearshore business model has become hugely successful because we have been able to leverage the talent Mexico is fostering, making software development easier and more affordable. Our Mexico software development teams engineer powerful technologies that align with the goals and strategies of our customers for both their internal and public-facing development initiatives. This proven combination of resources, process, technology knowledge, industry expertise, and strong leadership provides our customers with cost-effective solutions delivered quickly from a pool of highly successful Mexican STEM graduates and experienced engineers. Our technical focus includes Microsoft infrastructure and security such as .NET and MSSQL; Java, LAMP and mobile application development. Find out more about outsourcing software development by contacting Tiempo today.

[1] Daniel S. “HIPAA: Mighty and Flawed”. George Washington University Law School.

[2] Jane M. et al. “Summary of Key Provisions In Final Rule For Stage 2 HITECH Meaningful Use”. CSC.

[3] “HITECH Act Enforcement Interim Final Rule”. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

[4] “Breach Notification Rule”. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

[5] Kenneth C. “How CIOs Can Prepare for Healthcare ‘Data Tsunami’”. CIO Magazine.

[6] Ibid.