How to Become an EKG Technician

A high school degree and structured training program can enable a person to work as an EKG technician in the US.

A specialist who provides insight into the efficiency of the heart, an EKG Technician is a crucial member on any healthcare team. She/he uses EKG machine to conduct tests and provide important information for the cardiologist to make further decisions regarding the patient’s course of treatment.

Eligibility:

The educational eligibility for becoming an EKG Technician is a High School Diploma or equivalent. This is a low entry barrier as most adult Americans have gained this minimum educational qualification.

Training Process:

The training required for becoming an EKG Technician can be imparted directly on the job, or in the classroom. Considering the high demand of EKG Technicians and the existing work pressure on the existing healthcare staff, health care institutions prefer pre-trained EKG Technicians who are able to contribute to the workplace immediately after joining.

The classroom training may happen at colleges or vocational training centers. The training covers important electrocardiogram-related theory as well as provides practical exposure through internships in health care centers.

The learning would include:

  • Operating Electrocardiogram Equipment: The primary job role of an EKG Technician is to operate the electrocardiogram equipment. This equipment is not highly complicated, but it cannot be operated efficiently without proper training. Apart from operating the equipment, the EKG Technician also learns about maintaining the machine, primary troubleshooting, report generation, and report reading.
  • Cardiovascular Anatomy: The EKG Technician should be well-versed with functioning of the heart and its anatomy in great detail. While she/ he is not required to make decisions or decide the course of treatment, this knowledge makes him more efficient in the course of carrying out her/his duties.
  • EHR: These days, no health care duty is complete without EHR (Electronic Health Records), which is widely used due to the advent of computing technology and software. The electronic records are used by health care facilities for in-house records management, tracking the progress of patients’ treatment, interfacing with insurance companies, complying with health care laws etc. The EKG Technician must have appropriate knowledge of computing and the ability to learn specific requirements of managing EKG-related records.
  • Relevant Laws: The EKG Technician should be aware about the important medical laws and their implications. Such knowledge helps the EKG Technicians make correct choices at the workplace while remaining within the purview of the law.
  • Practical Exposure: The training contains a component of practical exposure through working onsite at a health care institution and assisting the EKG Technician in their daily duties.

Certification:

The EKG Technician may opt for the following certifications:
  • Certified Cardiographic Technician (CCT), awarded by Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI)
  • Certified EKG Technician (CET), awarded by American Certification Agency (ACA) for Healthcare Professionals, National Healthcare Association (NHA) or American Society for Phlebotomy Technicians (ASPT).

Certification is not mandatory in most states including CT.

Additional Expectations:

Apart from educational qualification, there are physical and emotional requirements.

  • Patient Handling: While this is not a technical skill, it definitely cannot be overlooked. The EKG Technician requires skills good in the areas of interpersonal communication for calming anxious patients, dealing with patients’ relatives, handling patients during emergency etc.
  • Physical Strength: The electrocardiogram equipment is heavy and might require movement from one place to another. Physical strength as well as good body flexibility is required for carrying out this responsibility.
  • Working under Stress: The EKG Technician may be required to work under varying degrees of physical and/or emotional stress. Physical stress may arise due to long hours, overtime, working in remote locations, working in war zones or areas with strife etc. Emotional stress may arise due to emergency situations, trauma patients, patients with severe cardiac conditions and the possibility of death, dealing with actual death of a patient etc.

Medical Billing and Coding Specialist Salary in CT

“Medical Billing And Coding Specialist” is currently rated mongst the high growth professions across the USA, including CT.

As per estimates collected from employment websites and BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Govt.), there are about 1,400 medical billing and coding specialist working in CT.

The average salary they earn in CT is $40,790. Considering the national average for medical billing and coding specialists is around $34,160 per year, the professionals in CT earn higher average wages (approximately 20%) than many of their counterparts living in other states in the country.

The lower 10% wage earners of medical billing and coding specialists in CT earn around $27,100 ($13.03 per hour). This is the minimum salary a newbie to the profession can expect to earn in CT. This is a 21% higher start that the nationwide starting average salary for medical billing and coding technicians, which stands at $22,300 ($10.70 per hour).

At 25 percentile, the medical billing and coding technician’s salary in CT climbs to $32,000 per annum ($15.39 per hour). This is approximately 16% higher than the national average at 25 percentile, which is $26,900 ($12.94).

This comparison also tells us that the lowest 10 percentile of medical billing and coding specialists in CT, earn equivalent to the 25 percentile of medical billing and coding technicians nationwide; establishing the superior advantage of higher salaries in CT in the same profession.

Let’s cross the median salary and look at the 75 percentile, medical billing and coding technicians in CT are making about $50,000 per annum ($24.02 per hour); which is 13% higher than the national average of $44,400 per annum ($21.33 per hour) at 75 percentile.

In the highest 10 percentile bracket, the medical billing and coding specialists’ salary in CT is almost $60,000 per annum ($28.65 per hour). This is about 8% higher than the national average of $56,200 per annum ($27.02 per hour) in the same percentile bracket.

The top salaries are primarily made by those who are coding in specific specialized areas such as cancer, neuropsychiatry, rheumatology etc. Also, hospitals typically pay more than physician clinics. However, the job opportunities are greater in physician clinics due to them being higher in number.

Job Outlook for Medical Billing and Coding Specialists

There is huge growth happening in the healthcare industry due to increasing health care needs of the general population. Obviously, this means there will be a higher need for healthcare professionals as well; including medical billing and coding specialists.

The projected rate of growth of demand for medical billing and coding specialists is at a 22% between 2012 and 2022, higher than most other occupations in the US.

The growth in demand for health services in America is being driven primarily by an aging population. As the baby boomers generation continues to cross the age of 60, their medical needs continue to increase. This is proportionately increasing the need to process bills and raise claims to insurance companies for reimbursement, leading to a continued demand for medical billing and coding specialists.

Another significant factor is that new coding terminology and standards are being established by the industry and being legislated into use. This has increased the quantum of data and the need to assimilate and process the data, thereby increasing the requirement of billing and coding specialists.

Moreover, the increasing use of EHR (Electronic Health Records) is also adding to the overall demand of medical billing and coding technicians. Work is increasingly happening online through internet portals. Consulting and work-from-home opportunities are also increasing for medical billing and coding specialists.

How to become a Phlebotomy Technician

Undergoing a structured training program, whether in the classroom or on-the-job, leads to gaining professional employment as a phlebotomy technician (or phlebotomist) in Connecticut, USA.

What is Phlebotomy?

In modern medicine, it can be called the first base of medical diagnosis, and often it is the only diagnostic method required for a detecting infections, diseases, and disorders; as well as judging the effectiveness of the treatment procedure. The popularity of phlebotomy is due to two reasons: (1) Accuracy and effectiveness in diagnosis and (2) An economical method of diagnosis.

As an essential part of the medical laboratory team, the phlebotomy technician’s chief responsibility is collecting blood samples from patients. This is done by using methods such as venipuncture or micro techniques. The blood samples are stored in vials and transported while following all the specified safety specifications. Moreover, certain attributes such as the ability to always be accurate and diligent, as well as be able to calm anxious patients; are also required by a phlebotomy technician to carry out duties professionally.

Training to become a Phlebotomy Technician

Eligibility: A high school diploma or G.E.D. would be required to qualify for receiving further training as a phlebotomy technician. Considering that most Americans aged 25 years and above have completed high school, phlebotomy is a widely accessible profession for the population at large.

Phlebotomy training may be provided on-the-job, or in specialized programs by community colleges and vocational schools. While many institutions provide on-the-job training, most employers prefer pre-trained persons as they can begin contributing quickly without taking much time to be trained.

The training programs are usually between 2 to 4 in length. The phlebotomy technician training programs focus on subjects that are relevant to the knowledge of performing roles as a phlebotomist.

Biology is an important area – the study of the human anatomy and the functioning of the body. Chemistry is another important area – to understand how blood reacts with certain chemicals.

It covers the in depth knowledge of drawing blood from persons of different age groups, understanding of storage procedures, transport procedures, health sanitation and hygiene, lab safety, administering CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) etc.

Apart from technical and administrative skills, another important area is learning effective communication. The phlebotomy technician should have the ability to handle patients before, during, and after the process of drawing blood. Most patients are very anxious during this time, as no one wants to go through the pain of a needle puncturing the skin and getting their blood drawn out. It is the phlebotomist’s job to calm the anxious patient, make him/her feel comfortable, and complete the required procedure.

During training, the phlebotomy technician should utilize as many volunteer opportunities as possible in nursing homes, hospitals, and social work pertaining to healthcare. Working with kids can be a very learning experience, as kids are probably the most difficult patients for drawing blood.

Certification:

Various organizations provide certifications for phlebotomy technicians. These include the National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT), the National Healthcareer Association etc.

Do You Want to Work as an Ultrasound Technician?

An ultrasound technician career can be very rewarding – professionally, financially and personally. The career offers growth, good salary, and work satisfaction; a combination that makes it one of the most sought after professions in the current decade.

The Medical Uses of Ultrasound Technology

Pregnancy: The most popularly use of ultrasound technology is during pregnancy – where it is used from detection until delivery. In fact, most ultrasound technicians enjoy working with pregnant women and seeing the joy on the face of the family when the pregnancy is detected and regular checkups are done for ensuring health of the baby and the mother. Ultrasound technology can also detect any irregularities during the pregnancy and corrective measure can be taken immediately by the doctor.

Organ abnormalities & Tumors: Apart from pregnancy, ultrasound technology is used in detection of various medical conditions. These include tumors, internal bleeding, stone formations, and blockages in the heart. Ultrasound also helps in observing and diagnosing abnormalities in organs such as liver, kidneys, ovaries, uterus, spleen, thyroid, scrotum, pancreas, bladder, intestines, stomach, breast etc.

The Ultrasound Technician’s Work Environment

Employers: The majority of ultrasound technicians have a career in hospitals and large healthcare setups. Other employers include doctors’ clinics and specialized diagnostic laboratories.

Work Area: The work environment is dimly lit most of the time. A major chunk of time at work is spent with patients and near to the diagnostic machines. Also, an ultrasound technician usually spends most of his or her day up on feet, standing and moving around.

Work Hours: They usually work full day Monday through Friday.

Ultrasound: A Highly Safe Technology

A highly positive aspect an ultrasound technician’s career is that the ultrasound technology is perfectly safe. Unlike X-ray, CT or MRI, ultrasound is free from the use of damaging radiation, dyes, or invasive procedures. The technology is perfectly safe even for pregnant women, babies and elderly persons; and has no allergic reactions or after-effects. It is perfectly safe for the technician performing the imaging procedure as well as the patient.

What does an Ultrasound Technician Do?

An ultrasound technician is a healthcare professional trained in using ultrasound technology (sonography), to create images of organs for medical diagnosis.

The Procedure: Ultrasound is a technique where high frequency sound waves are used to generate images of patients’ internal organs and soft tissues. These images are obtained when the ultrasound technician uses a bean-shaped hand held device (transducer) on the patients’ body. The images (still and/or moving) are recorded as they require further interpretation by a qualified physician.

Ultrasound Imaging: The ultrasound technician is trained to identify the best images for most effective diagnosis by the physician. This requires good technique of positioning the patient correctly, as well as correct use of the transducer. Especially when the patient is physically handicapped or seriously ill, the skill requirement is enhanced. In such cases, an experienced ultrasound technician will usually be able to create better imaging than a less experienced one.

Administrative Duties: An ultrasound technician’s career is not limited to medical duties only. There are some administrative duties which need to be handled as well. These are broadly divided into two areas: (1) Documentation & Records and (2) Equipment Maintenance. The ultrasound technician must maintain proper records as per statutory and insurance requirements. The equipment needs to be managed well and maintenance is required to be undertaken at regular intervals.

Patient Interaction & Patient Care: An ultrasound technician spends most of his time interacting with patients and performing ultrasound procedures. This requires constant verbal and physical contact with the patient. Sometimes the patient or his/her friends and relatives may be anxious, finicky, troublesome, arrogant, or difficult to deal with. At such times, the ultrasound technician should have the people skills to calm and persuade the patient to undergo the ultrasound procedure in the best possible manner. There may be additional physical handling required in the case of physically handicapped, very old, or very sick patients. The ultrasound technician should be able to handle patients empathically and should have a warm and friendly personality.

Constant Upgradation: The field of ultrasound technology is developing very fast, and innovations are happening rapidly. New technologies are being introduced very regularly. The requirement of documentation and record keeping methods & standards is also changing. Telemedicine, mobile based diagnosis, remote testing and diagnosis etc. is being successfully implemented across the world in ultrasound technology. The ultrasound technician is required to continuously keep himself updated about the latest developments, technologies, as well as changes in documentation requirements.

Learn more about the Diagnostic Medical Sonography program at AIHT Education by scheduling an appointment to visit the school.

What is a Phlebotomist?

A phlebotomist is a medical assistant who specializes in collection of blood and other tissue samples; for the purpose of laboratory analysis. This comprises the primary jobrole of a phlebotomist.

Apart from this, a phlebotomist may also have other technical responsibilities. Some examples are

  • Safe disposal of hazardous or used equipment
  • Maintaining records and documentation
  • Managing timed collections
  • Ensuring proper storage and transfer of collected blood or tissues

Any healthcare team is incomplete without a phlebotomist. Considering the importance of blood sampling and analysis for detection of almost any infection or disease, a phlebotomist plays a direct and significant role in modern medical treatment methodology.

What All Is A Phlebotomist Required To Do?

As phlebotomy is an invasive procedure (requires puncturing the skin) and involves blood, it is important that an aspiring phlebotomist does not get nauseous or dizzy at the sight of blood.

In fact, someone in a phlebotomy profession usually has to deal with nervous patients who are anxious and fearful of getting a needle stuck into their body for drawing out blood; or is afraid of contracting an infection from the needle.

The patient needs to be handled calmly and professionally, and persuaded with confidence for allowing the procedure to take place.

On one hand, the phlebotomist needs to hurry through a busy day with patients waiting in line; and on the other hand, the phlebotomist needs to be sensitive, caring, and tolerance with the anxious patient.

Hence, the phlebotomist’s work comprises of two aspects – Technical, and Human.

  • Technical Aspect: Consists of the actual work of drawing blood
  • Human Aspect: Consists of dealing professionally, sensitively, and emphatically with the patients.

These dual roles make a phlebotomist’s role interesting and challenging.

Sometimes, the phlebotomist may be a part of an emergency medical team or an emergency medical situation.

During such emergency times, the phlebotomist needs to:

  • Maintain his cool under tremendous pressure
  • Continue to undertake his/her work and collect the required sample
  • Ensure that the sample is correctly labeled before storing it or handing it over to the lab analysis team.

The slightest error in labeling during emergency situations can lead to major errors in treatment and even prove fatal. Also, the equipment has to be sterilized, and the storage of blood sample has to be as per appropriate medical standards.

Hence, phlebotomy can be a fulfilling and rewarding career in all terms – professionally, financially, and personally. With a large positive demand-supply gap, phlebotomy is surely a good career for the ambitious minded person, if s/he can efficiently learn to handle the challenges involved in the profession.

Healthcare Jobs In The USA Amidst Changing Healthcare Scenario

Changes in the healthcare industry are modifying the structure of the healthcare economy.

Some changes in the healthcare industry with major impact include: Nationwide healthcare reform, Amendment in reimbursement procedures, Government austerity measures, and Rising hospital debt.

Now, there is a great deal of discussion about the projections for a continuous rise in requirement of healthcare professionals. Where do these projections stand when the healthcare industry is in a flux and constantly modifying?

Needless to say, the demand for primary care, medical assistants, medical technologists, nurses and similar healthcare jobs is rising rapidly. While the healthcare scenario is changing, there is little change expected in the demand for these professions.

In fact, “4 of the 5 top 100 jobs are in healthcare” – U.S. News. This is based on the comparison of many variables such as job opportunities, work – life balance, remuneration, job security, and demand-supply gap.

Remuneration in healthcare is generally above average. This is true not only doctors and nurses, but also allied healthcare jobs. These include:

  • Medical assistant
  • Ultrasound technician
  • Ekg technologist
  • Medical billing and coding specialist
  • Pharmacy technician
  • HIPAA specialist
  • Phlebotomy technician etc.

Apart from the attractive remuneration, the desire to help others and the ability to do so, serves as an extra impetus for getting employed within the healthcare sector.

Adriane Willig, a consultant for Witt and Kieffer, an executive search firm, defines the liking for jobs in healthcare as “A passion for the mission, desire to make a difference, plus strong job outlook and good salaries.”

The healthcare delivery model is also changing due to the new Affordable Healthcare Act, austerity measures in Medicare etc. In fact, it is estimated that hospitals and healthcare institutions support 10 million additional jobs outside of the traditional jobs they create. The baby boomers are continuing to reach their golden years and they are significantly adding to the demand of allied healthcare professionals, who can improve the quality of the baby boomers’ lives.

Changes in the delivery model will see a large shift of healthcare facilities and professionals being available away from hospital and closer than ever to an individual person: in retail clinics, in offices, in schools, and in houses. In fact, Mount Sinai Careers expects that “The use of mid-level providers such as nurse practitioners and physician assistants is expected to substantially increase.”

One of the most significant demand areas will be that of healthcare workers with good knowledge of IT (Information Technology), because the use of IT in healthcare is rapidly increasing. On one hand this is creating new challenges; while on the other hand this is leveling the playfield for younger entrants with good IT skills, who are able to compete with their older counterparts who are struggling with below average IT skills. Healthcare workers who are adept at operating software, can operate computers skillfully, are equipped with knowledge of use of IT in coding and claims etc., will gain significant advantage in the healthcare job market.

So, while the healthcare industry is quickly changing, the demand for jobs in healthcare is expected to continue moving upwards; with higher demand of healthcare and allied healthcare professionals each coming year.

Employer-sponsored Healthcare benefits to continue: Survey

A survey of about 800 large and midsize employers by Aon Hewitt in the U.S. has revealed that merely 6% of these employers plan to exit the healthcare system entirely in the next 3 to 5 years. A large majority of the employers in the country plan to play an active role in employee healthcare, by continuing to sponsor healthcare plans. Many employers are planning design changes as well. These intentions; are primarily driven by the steep penalty and related costs being imposed under the healthcare reform law.

While it may seem like an attractive option to an employer to completely exit an active role in employee healthcare, the risks can be overbearing. Large penalties are imposed by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) for not offering health coverage to employees. Also, good talent may exit the company for another employer who provides better health coverage. Both of these reasons are strong enough deterrents against the possible benefits that accrue from discontinuation of health benefits.

In fact, the healthcare reform law levies a non-tax deductible penalty of USD 2,000 for each full-time employee for non-coverage. This is applicable to all employers who have 50 or more employees; and hence covers all large and medium sized businesses.

Expected Re-design of Healthcare Plans by Employers

While most employers plan to continue healthcare coverage, they also plan to change the design of the healthcare plan being offered to the employees.

One of the interesting shifts that we may observe; is employers demanding better health management from the employees.

Since long, employers have been trying to find methods to make their employees adopt healthier lifestyles and better discipline in managing illness. But a perfect method for this has remained elusive.

Under the new design, which Aon Hewitt terms it “house money, house rules” and “play by our rules or pay up”, employers will gain greater control over health management by the employees.

So while employers plan to continue covering most of the health costs, in return they will demand that employees utilize better preventive health care, better case management for chronic conditions, and wellness conditions. In fact, almost 40% of the surveyed employers suggested that their health coverage plan will include these terms. For eg., lower premiums for employees who respond to health risk questionnaires or biometric screenings.

While this seems fair, and also seems like it will benefit employees to manage their health better; there is speculation about the ‘big-daddy’ role of employers in the management of their employees’ health. Providing benefits against conditions may be perceived as intrusion or control by the employees. Moreover, the efficacy of such a system to lead to better health management is questionable; and only time will show whether this method actually works and yields desired results without generating reproach from the employees.

Another possible shift is a move towards private health insurance exchanges. About 28% of the employers have suggested that they plan to offer a fixed monetary credit to their employees. The employees can select the insurer through the private health exchange and purchase health coverage from a provider of their choice. This increases flexibility for the employee, lowers future cost trends, and decreases administrative cost and administrative burden on the employer.

EKG / Cardiac Technician Job Role & Responsibilities

An EKG technician operates the electrocardiogram machine to conduct the vital cardiovascular health test of a patient. The role of an EKG technician may be referred to by many different names. Some of the popular titles include Cardiac Technician, CG Technician (Electrocardiogram Technician), and Cardiopulmonary Technician.

The Jobrole

An EKG Technician is trained to operate the designated medical equipment which diagnoses the health of a person’s cardiovascular system. He attaches electrodes to predefined points on a patient’s chest, arms, and legs. The electrodes lead to an electrocardiogram machine, from which the EKG Technician takes a reading. This reading is used by a cardiovascular specialist to make initial decisions regarding the cardiovascular health of the patient, and decide a course of treatment, if required.

The Tools of the Trade

The EKG Technician understands the use of various monitors, gadgets and machines to complete his/ her work. Not all the machines are used directly by the EKG Technician. But he/she has a knowledge of these machines, understands their use, and helps the institution in managing these equipment. Let’s take a look at a few important ones:

Cardiac Output Monitoring:
  • Hemodynamic Monitors: Invasive measurement of systemic, pulmonary arterial and venous pressures, and cardiac output
  • Physiological Monitoring and Analysis Systems: Measuring display waveform and numerical data for various parameters such as ECG, respiratory rate, non-invasive and invasive blood pressure etc.
  • Thermodilution Cardiac Output Computers: Thermodilution is a popularly accepted method for measuring the cardiac output
Cardiac Pacemaker Generators:
  • Pacemaker Analyzer: Tests the overall performance of pacemakers
  • Silicone lead end caps: Useful in conducting various pulmonary and cardiovascular tests
  • Ventricular Demand Pacemakers: Settings on a pacemaker to detect ventricle depolarization
Cardiovascular Implants:
  • Caval Filters / Vena Caval Filters: These are implanted by surgeons in a patient to prevent life-threatening pulmonary emboli
Vascular Catheters or Sets:
  • Angiojets: Perform catheter-based procedure for thrombolysis (breaking down potentially life-threatening blood clots)
  • Grollman or Pigtail Catheter: Used for removing arterial clots
  • Rotoblator: A diamond-tipped burr which is inserted inside the body to remove calcified or hardened plaque in the artery walls.
Medical PACS (Picture Archiving Computer Systems)
  • Image Capturing & Transmission: Digital storage and transmission of medical images in DICOM format to minimize need of physical files and storage
  • Image Storage Systems: Archives that store and assist in on-demand retrieval of images
  • Scan Convertors: Convert video / pictures in to a compatible format for computer screen based display.

The role of an EKG Technician is becoming more challenging with the advent and growth of new technology. However, it also makes the role of an EKG Technician increasingly important in healthcare. EKG Technicians who become complacent may face redundancy; while EKG Technicians who keep themselves well-trained and abreast of new developments will have an ever-growing demand of their well-paying skillsets.

Notable Information about Healthcare Public Policies in Connecticut

Medical assistants in Connecticut work with healthcare organizations of all sizes, right from single-doctor clinics to multi-specialty hospitals. While the major area of work for medical assistants is providing or assisting in providing healthcare to the patients, it is important to remain updated about major public policies and updates regarding healthcare.

New government policies are increasing the need for IT in healthcare, and this will change the playfield towards employees with IT skill sets. Let us look at some of significant healthcare public policies and how they are changing the ‘IT in Healthcare Scenario’ in Connecticut:

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

This act is being looked anxiously upon by all major stakeholders in the healthcare industry. It is still new, and there is some uncertainty regarding its implementation. Hence it will take some time to assess the actual breadth of implications of the act. However, it is certain that in the coming 5 years, this act will affect all healthcare occupations equally and in a lot of ways.

A significant factor will be how the medical home model and Accountable Care Organizations (ACO) evolve. Both of them will affect healthcare employment in major ways. The increased importance being given to performance and productivity measurements for healthcare providers, will result in increased demand for healthcare professionals with knowledge of health information systems.

Also, the act pushes towards greater centralization of health information systems and higher dependence on medical record keeping. This will increase the role of information technology in healthcare and will require medical assistants to remain updated with internet, software, and computing. Medical assistants must keep themselves updated and take professional training wherever required, to avoid competition from a younger workforce or even redundancy. Adapting to change in the role of technology will be a major highlight of the challenges and opportunities in the healthcare sector.

Policies Promoting The Use of Health Information Technology

Modern computing technologies provide great advantages to efficient management of healthcare. The government has recognized the potential of IT’s role in healthcare, and is promoting the use of health information technology through various act and implementation initiatives.

Health care providers are always eager to enhance efficiency, increase quality, and adhere to ever-dynamic government norms. Hence they have plunged whole heartedly in implementing systems and processes that use the power of health information technology.

The US government has created a favorable atmosphere for health information systems by providing funds and grants to initiate and promote the usage of ‘Interoperable Health Record Systems’. The Connecticut government has taken fancy to the federal government’s initiatives, and has promoted state policies to stimulate health information technology in the region. Some of these initiatives include implementation of Health Information Exchanges and E-Health Connecticut. Initiatives such as the Sustinet strategy for Medicaid customers and state government employees, are in the pipeline.

All these initiatives will continuously increase the need for higher collaboration between health care trainers and health care providers, for providing new skills to the workforce at a rapid rate to support implementation.

Patient-Centered Medical Home model

Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy has been promoting the Patient-Centered Medical Home model. This too will increase the demand for IT skills and training in the Connecticut healthcare sector.

The model also provides for the jobrole of “Patient Care Coordinators / Navigators.” This role will additionally raise the requirement for competence in care planning, overall coordination, customer management, information management, and patient education.

The Omnibus Disclosure: Crucial for HIPAA Specialists to Understand

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act’s (HIPAA) Omnibus Rule came into force from September 23, 2013; based on the HITECH (Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health) Act’s stringent guidelines for patient data privacy.

The HIPAA Omnibus rule puts the onus on the healthcare organization to analyze and prevent breaches in PHI (Protected Health Information). The healthcare organization will be responsible to pay fines for any breach of patient data security. Apart from higher alertness, this requires upgraded EMR (Electronic Medical Record) software and training to medical personnel.

The fines to be paid for breach of disclosure through non-adherence to HIPAA Omnibus Rule can start at $100 and go up to $50,000 per violation. Even greater fines exist under the rule, if it is proven that the breach was committed willfully and there was an absence of any corrective measure which could have been taken. In this case, the fine can be as high as $150,000.

HIPAA specialists within the industry now have greater responsibility and would play an important role in ensuring correct adherence to the Impermissible Disclosure and Use of Protected Health Information (PHI) as per HIPAA Omnibus Rule.

HIPAA Specialists should consider various factors and run several analysis for the new HIPAA Omnibus compliance. For eg.:
  • PDF or DOC files may be at a higher risk as compared to specialized software with proprietary reading formats.
  • Computer with 24 hour access to the internet may be at higher risk as compared to lesser connected computers.
  • Computers without firewalls or proxy servers can be potential threat for data security breach as compared to secure firewall or proxy configurations.
  • EMR software updates and patches provided by vendor should be immediately installed. In case the vendor has not provided the same, they should be asked about it to ensure that the software is compliant with improved HIPAA Omnibus Rule requirements.
  • EMR access should be allowed to authorized personnel only. Stricter access protocols and encryption should be used for higher compliance and lowering probability of breach. Combination & longer passwords should be used, and there should be a strict policy prohibiting the sharing of computer passwords. Access control can hinder unauthorized access or data security breach to a large extent.
  • Authenticity of patient health records should be verified and made 100% error free. While this will provide for better compliance, it will also help the medical practitioner make better decisions through access to correct data
  • If a healthcare organization does not have an HIPAA specialist, they should hire a trained HIPAA specialist or hire the services of a professional company that provides HIPAA compliance support.

These stringent rules may seem challenging to follow, and can have cost implications in their implementation. However, following the rules will increase patient data security. Analyzing your systems for HIPAA Omnibus Rule compliance will help in plugging security gap, and make your security systems stronger and more reliable.