Friday, March 30, 2012

Healthcare and Technology: Live-Tweeting a Surgery

We’ve written a few posts about technological advancements in healthcare, but none so far about live-tweeting during surgery. That’s right…you read that correctly. 

Doctors at Houston’s Memorial Hermann Northwest Hospital made their mark in social media history when they live-tweeted during an open heart surgery. This is the first time such a thing has been done!
According to Mashable,
“Dr. Michael Macris performed a double-coronary artery bypass on a 57-year-old patient. Meanwhile, colleague Dr. Paresh Patel provided 140-character updates throughout the procedure, and answered questions submitted by followers of the hospital’s @houstonhospital Twitter account. Dr. Macris also wore a video camera attached to his head. Dr. Patel snapped additional photos, and posted some of the pictures and videos to Twitter. The procedure lasted two and a half hours, and the patient made it through fine.”
This story has been popular online, much more so than the hospital and staff expected. This is another powerful example of the role social media plays in providing a connection between people and information!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

WEBINAR: Tactical Solutions Supporting the Challenges of ANOC/EOC Creation-Print-Distribution-Reporting Requirements

Merrill Corporation is hosting a Free Webinar and You're Invited!

Title: Tactical Solutions Supporting the Challenges of ANOC/EOC Creation-Print-Distribution-Reporting Requirements.
Date: Wed, March 28
Time: 1:00pm Central Time
Duration: 1-hour
Cost: FREE!

A streamlined process for the creation, print, distribution and reporting of your ANOC/EOC program is crucial to successfully meeting the regulatory requirements as well as ensuring the integrity of PHI, and minimizing the risk associated with HIPAA violations. 

In this webinar you will:
  • Review current technology and manufacturing workflow innovations and best practices associated with ensuring the final product is produced on time and correctly.  We will examine everything from the latest dynamic document creation technology to effective use of the postal intelligent mail barcode.
  • Learn how our advanced reporting allows you to track delivery at the piece level.  See how the use of a personalized 2D barcode scan during manufacturing translates into member level reporting. 
  • Discover what options are available for a hybrid print and e-fulfillment workflow. 
Click below to register for this webinar today!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Physicians In No Hurry for IT Improvements

Over the past few months, we’ve come across multiple reports describing just how slow health care physicians seem to be when it comes to IT upgrades.

A recent study by the DeloitteCenter for Health Solutions found that 20% of doctors provide online scheduling and test results for their patients and just 6% are using social media to communicate with them.

The report validates the fact that there are two views on the issue:
  1. Some physicians (but not the majority) are accepting the value of and adapting information technology to improve quality and patient experience.
  2. A large number of physicians are stalled by the costs associated with IT improvements and the potential for change to disrupt their daily practice.
Deloitte’s Greenspun says he believes “physicians will more readily adopt IT over the next two years as pressures mount to demonstrate value around evidence-based care, improved outcomes and reduced complications.”

How do you feel about the slow integration of IT upgrades? Wouldn’t the inconvenience of improving IT be offset by the increased quality and communication that patients would receive? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Can Transparency Improve Consumer Value?

A new study from Health Affairs discovered that consumers may be more likely to purchase a health plan that cost them more money.

Wait, what?

The study’s results imply that consumers shop for healthcare in the same mindset they use for everyday purchases: the more expensive something is, the more value it has. Unfortunately for those consumers, that isn’t necessarily the case. In healthcare, it seems, value and cost are rarely the same thing.

The Health Affairs survey was designed to test the theory that consumers would make better choices about healthcare, if they were provided with more helpful information. 1,421 employees were presented with varying formats of information about available health plans. In a “substantial minority” of responses, employees chose more expensive plans, stating that they believed the higher cost meant a higher quality plan.

Health care consumers want to visit high-quality doctors and hospitals, and many public report cards are available to help them compare providers. However, few report cards include information on cost, and there has been little scientific evidence to guide the presentation of that information to help consumers choose high value providers.

The conclusion Health Affairs came to, was that reporting the quality of a health plan is as important as reporting its cost. When those same employees were presented with information reporting on both aspects, they almost always tended to choose higher-value plans, rather than more expensive ones. This push toward transparency may be the key to helping consumers understand healthcare. Do you think it’s a step in the right direction, or does more need to be done?


Pam Argeris is a thought leader in the Healthcare Industry and possesses extensive, hands-on experience with CMS compliance, and multiple regulatory bodies such as NCQA, JACHO, and DOI. In her role at Merrill Corp., Pam focuses on developing solutions for compliance and quality assurance, delivered in a cost effective manner to improve beneficiary and prospect communications. You can contact Pam at

Friday, March 2, 2012

New Medicaid Enforcement Worries Hospital Doctors

Some states are seeing an increase in a disturbing trend: Medicaid officials are denying coverage for emergency department visits because the final diagnosis of those patients is not considered to be an emergency situation. On paper, the concept makes sense. Why would Medicaid cover a patient going to a hospital for heartburn? The reality, however, is quite different.

For instance, a patient who comes to the hospital complaining of chest pain may be discharged with a diagnosis of heartburn. Medicaid could deny payment to the hospital for treatment of that patient based on the non-urgent diagnosis, even though a physician wouldn't know the chest pain is heartburn and not something more serious, such as heart attack, when he or she first sees the patient…

Medicaid is strapped for cash at the moment, and these decisions are a direct result of it. And while that is obviously a much bigger issue, we are already starting down a slippery slope. Now, hospitals are being forced to second-guess the handling of patients that exhibit symptoms shared by life-threatening and non-threatening conditions. According to Med Page Today,and an ACEP report, Medicaid is making these rulings based on the Billings algorithm, which Billings himself said was never intended to be used for this purpose.

It’s clear that something must be done to improve this situation, but what?

Obviously, hospitals want these new rulings to disappear. They’re currently working with patients under the looming threat that Medicaid payments won’t be approved. They are frustrated that Medicaid officials expect a patient to enter the emergency room with a diagnosis in hand – an obvious impossibility.

Meanwhile, Medicaid is desperate to cut spending, and denying emergency department payments for non-essential treatment seems like an easy fix. However, Medicaid has still done very little to address the ever-present (and growing) issue of fraud and overpayment.

What seems like the best solution to you? Should either side back down? Does the answer lie somewhere else entirely? Tell us in the comments below, and we’ll consider your responses in a future blog post.


Pam Argeris is a thought leader in the Healthcare Industry and possesses extensive, hands-on experience with CMS compliance, and multiple regulatory bodies such as NCQA, JACHO, and DOI. In her role at Merrill Corp., Pam focuses on developing solutions for compliance and quality assurance, delivered in a cost effective manner to improve beneficiary and prospect communications. You can contact Pam at