Monday, November 30, 2009

e-Prescribing Accreditation

Posted by Mark Brousseau

Below is an article from Lee Barrett, executive director of the Electronic Healthcare Network Accreditation Commission (EHNAC) on the importance of accreditation for e-prescribing stakeholders:

EHNAC Advocates Third-Party Accreditation for e-Prescribing Stakeholders

By Lee Barrett

As pharmacy continues to play an ever-important role in patient care, pharmacists progressively maintain access to sensitive patient information. Added to this, there is increased incidence of electronic prescribing, at the encouragement of federal agencies like the Department of Health and Human Services. e-Prescribing has even been referred to as the “on-ramp” to the healthcare information highway. All of this means that pharmacy continues to play an integral role in readying the healthcare industry for complete reliance on electronic health records, and in the imperative protection of patient health information. In response to this repositioning of the industry, state Boards of Pharmacy seek to hold organizations that have access to this information to high standards. As such, pharmacists are required to respond to the patient’s right to privacy.

The Electronic Healthcare Network Accreditation Commission (EHNAC) represents a wide range of stakeholders in its peer-driven effort to advance healthcare through electronic transaction standards, and is positioned to assist pharmacy in ensuring they are protecting patient privacy rights. The accreditation services offered by EHNAC facilitate improved business processes and expanded market opportunities for electronic health networks, payer networks, financial services firms and e-prescribing and other solution providers.

As the healthcare industry evolves toward increased electronic exchange of clinical data, it becomes more critical that trading partners and their customers such as payers, providers, pharmacies and other stakeholders can rest assured that the networks and applications in use are functioning appropriately, but also that they are well protected. Toward this end, EHNAC’s e-Prescribing Accreditation Program (ePAP) helps demonstrate the operational integrity of e-prescribing transaction networks, electronic health record systems, e-prescribing solution providers, and any other electronic health network or company that manages e-prescribing transactions on behalf of its customers.

Through ePAP, EHNAC assessors review an organization’s electronic and fax-based transactions across five main categories of criteria, including privacy and confidentiality; technical performance; business practices; resources; and security. ePAP accreditation from EHNAC also gives an e-prescriber’s customers confidence that all necessary standards for transaction timeliness, security and privacy with new prescriptions and renewals are met or exceeded.

With the health of the pharmacy industry and patients at stake, there is urgent need to secure patient privacy as e-prescribing increasingly becomes standard practice among healthcare providers.

What do you think?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Enterprise Payments Hubs Attracting Interest

By Mark Brousseau

Challenged by new regulations, the overhead and inefficiencies of siloed payments systems, and fast-rising unit costs for paper-based transactions, more billers and banks are taking a hard look at so-called Enterprise Payments Hubs -- solutions that enable the end-to-end processing of any paper-based or electronic payments or clearing channel.

Twenty-percent of participants on a recent US Dataworks ( Webinar stated that they plan to implement an Enterprise Payments solution in the next six to 12 months, while 25 percent of the Webinar participants stated that they plan to implement an Enterprise Payments solution in 12 to 24 months. Ten percent of the Webinar participants said they already have implemented an Enterprise Payments solution. The survey respondents included billers and financial institutions.

Backing up their plans, 25 percent of participants on the US Dataworks Webinar said they already have researched Enterprise Payments solutions.

So why the rising interest in Enterprise Payments solutions? Webinar participants cited high unit costs for transaction processing (30 percent) and the inability of their legacy systems to adapt to new payment types (15 percent) as their two biggest challenges with traditional standalone payment systems.

What do you think?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Many Faces of Capture

Posted by Mark Brousseau

An interesting article by Jim Thumma of Optical Image Technology on the Many Faces of Capture:

The Many Faces of Capture
By Jim Thumma, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Optical Image Technology

Business efficiency starts with the capture of quality data. Whether your information is stored on paper or mixed media, you need accurate, readable information to make sound decisions. After all, data drives every business transaction you make. If images are skewed, characters are illegible, or data don’t match collection criteria and require follow-up, organizational productivity is hindered. To be useful, data must be readable and reliable.

Successful capture requires hardware and software that enable:

- easy, fast capture of documents, images, and content;
- accurate recognition of data within each document/image: de-skewing, de-speckling, or otherwise adjusting for clarity;
- validation, using custom rules for data verification (i.e., a date field allowing only numeric information, or a name field permitting only alphanumeric characters);
- meticulous classification, so people with varying needs can locate needed information later.

What kind of capture is right for you?

Barcode recognition software – If you process high volumes of routine documents such as insurance claims, or college or loan applications, bar code recognition may be appropriate for you. It’s fast and precise, requiring no manual verification because of its inherent accuracy. Using recognition technologies, the software accurately identifies batches and document types and supplies specific document-related information.

Signature capture devices – If your staff needs to obtain point-of-transaction signatures from clients, electronic signature pads make collection much easier. Electronic signature software that’s part of browser-based EDM and workflow eliminates frustrating delays and keeps related business processes moving.

Scanning software – Scanning is the most common method of capture, and for many, it’s the most convenient. Whether you need desktop scanning for lighter demands or high-volume scanners that feed, sort, and classify documents in batches, consider your document requirements carefully:

OCR – Optical character recognition captures type on documents electronically, eliminating tedious, costly, error-prone manual entry.
ICR – Intelligent character recognition captures hand-written letters and characters, using smart technology to verify accuracy or request manual verification.
OMR – Optical mark recognition is highly specialized software, used to capture check marks in boxes, filled-in bubbles, and other shape-filled information on structured forms.

Multi-functional peripherals (MFPs) with scanning capabilities – If you’re looking for a one-size-fits-all solution, MFPs are a great place to start, although you may need EDM for verification and correction. By integrating with EDM software, you can also expand indexing capabilities beyond the limited fields most MFPs allow, making documents and their contents easier to retrieve.

Web-based electronic forms – Adding e-forms as part of a document management system has several advantages:

- Eliminates faulty data by using drop-down menus to guide data entry;
- Increases data accuracy by giving clients ownership of self-submitted information;
- Automates indexing, making information useful as it’s collected.

If you routinely collect customer information, want to eliminate waste and provide customers 24/7 convenience, e-forms are an excellent choice.

Fax capture – If you currently distribute faxes manually or frequently have to follow up with senders about incomplete or poor-quality transmissions, fax capture is worth considering. Data transmitted via fax can be captured, indexed, stored, and routed electronically to appropriate staff Inboxes using automated workflow, saving time.

Email management –Up to 90% of business communications take place via email, so efficient capture and archival of important emails as records is vital. If you use email management (part of an integrated EDM suite) to sort, index, and store emails logically, you’ll be prepared if you are subpoenaed for information or your emails are subject to investigation and audits.

Digital capture alone doesn’t result in efficiency, but quality capture is the first step to achieving it. Understand your needs, evaluate vendors carefully, and choose wisely!

2010 IT Spending: A Mixed Bag

Posted by Mark Brousseau

Responding to a still sluggish economy, IT executives in North America and Europe are taking a variety of measures to get more value for the money spent on IT services, according to the latest Enterprise IT Services Survey by Forrester Research, Inc. According to the survey results, IT contractors and consultants will see the deepest decreases in spending, while systems integration and outsourcing services will have the most increases.

Unlike during the last recession from 2001 to 2002, when outsourcing and offshoring experienced growth from firms seeking to reduce internal IT costs, the picture for IT services is much more mixed in terms of spending plans. When asked about changes they expect to see in their organization's total spending on IT services, 30 percent of executives surveyed said they plan to increase spending on systems integration and project work, 26 percent plan increases in applications outsourcing, and 25 percent expect to increase spending on infrastructure outsourcing. However, 41 percent of executives expect to reduce spending on contractors, and 34 percent foresee lower spending on IT consulting.

"As the global economic downturn puts pressure on IT services spending, firms are taking a range of actions to deal with the cuts," said John McCarthy, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester. "The pressure to reduce IT spending is going to continue well into 2010. The data shows no quick turnaround — it's going to be a tough year for services firms as clients increasingly ask them to justify the ROI for IT projects and provide more value for a lower price."

Other key highlights of the survey include:

... Infrastructure outsourcing priorities. When asked what infrastructure services their firm is currently outsourcing or plans to outsource to a third-party company in the next 12 months, survey respondents placed convergent telecommunication/network management services and data center management services at the top of the list.

... Application outsourcing priorities. Managed hosting services lead the list of application outsourcing priorities, with 44 percent of respondents currently outsourcing and six percent planning to use managed hosting services in the next 12 months. In addition, the outsourcing of packaged applications maintenance and support services increased from 27 percent in 2008 to 38 percent in 2009, and another seven percent of respondents are planning to do so in the next 12 months.

... Systems integration priorities. Integration work installing or upgrading packaged applications remains a top activity, with 42 percent of respondents saying they already have a project under way or will hire a consultant for this in the next 12 months. Custom application design and development follows, with 38 percent of firms doing a project or hiring a consultant to do so in the next 12 months.

... IT consulting priorities. Forty-three percent of respondents have a security assessment project either already under way or one that will commence in the next year. Infrastructure virtualization and automation programs follow, with 32 percent of respondents hiring a consultant in the next 12 months or already having a project under way.

What do you think?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Recession Creates Supply Chain Risk

Posted by Mark Brousseau

The drive to control operating costs and improve efficiencies by global businesses during recession has the potential to create new risk exposures within supply chains according to insurer ACE European Group (ACE).

Speaking at The Economist Risk Summit in London, Phil Wall - Senior Account Engineer at ACE, urged businesses to recognise that initiatives designed to reduce costs and streamline operations can create unforeseen side effects, such as increasing property loss and business interruption exposures within their supply chains.

He also called on businesses to consider adopting specific measures to mitigate these exposures. These include more rigorous risk identification, ‘best of class’ loss prevention standards in supply chains, greater communication with suppliers, and creating more robust alternative supplier arrangements.

The supply chain has been a key area of focus during the economic downturn, with companies adopting a number of different measures to achieve cost savings - in a recent survey sponsored by ACE, it was revealed that close to 60% of global businesses had negotiated lower prices with suppliers over the last year. Other measures taken by businesses include more outsourcing to third party suppliers, the placing of larger contracts with a reduced number of suppliers to achieve economies of scale, the consolidation of operations into large production facilities, the use of ‘mega’ distribution warehouses and a move to ‘just-in-time’ production.

Wall said: “Whilst such measures represent short-term gains on the balance sheet, businesses need to be aware of the potential impact of these initiatives and understand the additional longer term exposures that may come with these. The failure of one supplier in a small chain or an incident in a large scale warehouse creates very real and major risk exposures that could significantly damage a company.”

The use of suppliers in new and more cost effective territories is one area that highlights the scale of the new risk exposures. Wall explained: “These emerging markets can look like attractive options with cheaper labour costs. However, issues such as unknown loss prevention standards, political and infrastructure uncertainty, cultural differences and unforeseen natural hazard exposures can make them riskier and more costly options in the long-term.”

Wall called on the Summit audience of senior European executives involved in risk, strategy, finance and compliance across a broad range of industry sectors, to ensure the appropriate level of focus on the identification of new and emerging risk exposures is being applied within their organisations. He also urged businesses to demand “best of class” property loss prevention standards at critical facilities to help ensure that the supply chain is protected. In addition he advocated building stronger relationships, adopting a team approach with key suppliers to identify potential exposures and agree action plans to address them and identifying alternative suppliers to minimise the interruption in the supply chain.

Wall concluded: “Supply chain risk management needs more Board-level priority. Businesses cannot afford to underestimate the potential impact of these emerging risks.”

What do you think?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

California Fast-Tracks Healthcare EDI

Posted by Mark Brousseau

California regulations for electronic workers' compensation billing slated for publication before end of this year are likely to see fast-tracked implementation, according to Jopari Solutions, a supplier of medical EDI connectivity and transmission for the property and casualty industry.

EBilling is a key initiative the California Insurance Commissioner and Division of Workers' Compensation officials say is essential, along with other benchmark recommendations, to streamline the state's workers' compensation system, rein in medical costs and keep employer costs down. This past week, the Commissioner rejected any recommended increase in California's workers' compensation pure premium rate.

California's eBill regulations will specify an 18-month phase-in period for workers' compensation payers to acquire the ability to process eBill transactions, after regulations get signed into law. n addition, California is adopting uniform electronic claim and remittance standards similar to those mandated in Texas and Minnesota, which are supported by national standards organizations.

Facilitating rapid transition by carriers is the fact that national and regional health care provider networks are eager to expand electronic bill submissions with payers into their California markets. A large percentage of local health care practices today also exchange electronic health insurance claims, payments and remittance, or have medical transaction ready EDI billing software. Compressed timely payment deadline for clean electronic bills under California eBill rules - fifteen days as opposed to forty-five days for uncontested paper bills - is another factor expected to put early pressure on carriers by their medical services trading partners.

As Jopari CEO JR "Steve" Stevens and veteran industry observer Peter Rousmaniere point out in a new whitepaper, The E-billing Transformation, the community of beneficiaries from the switch to electronic transmission of bills and supporting documentation, or attachments, goes beyond state agencies pushing for administrative simplification, better data and more stakeholder accountability. Stevens and Rousmaniere indicate, "Conventional transmission methods, heavily dependent on mail, faxing and scanning, impose delays and error rates which leading medical bill review firms estimate as upwards of 20 percent or more. Electronic submission largely sweeps away these defects." They explain that, "Claims payers should therefore approach e-billing not simply as a way of shaving the burdens of managing paper flow -- they should use e-billing to sweep away obstacles to improving the management of medical care."

Stevens and Rousmaniere conclude that payers undertaking early compliance initiatives will strengthen themselves competitively, both in California and nationally. Carriers slow to adopt electronic transmission methods, however, will remain burdened by antiquated workflow; unable to reduce delays and errors in the handling of medical information; and be handicapped in their attempts to control spiraling medical costs, they say.

What do you think?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Magazine Loves EMC Stock

Posted by Mark Brousseau

In it's current issue, Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine names EMC one of its "5 Stable Tech Stocks You Should Love." Here's what the magazine had to say about the company:

As the business world grows increasingly digital, the amount of data companies must store is swelling. This unrelenting trend virtually guarantees steady growth for EMC Corp. (EMC), a leader in storage.

The market for storage hardware and software is plenty crowded, says Morningstar analyst Michael Holt, but EMC has differentiated itself by being "one of the first companies to push into network storage"--that is, storage on a central server. The company currently claims about 25% of this market. EMC's strategy is to sell customers both the low-margin hardware they need for storage and the high-margin software for smoothly accessing stored data.

Through its 84% stake in VMware, EMC is also "the leader in virtualization technology," says Halford. Virtualization, he explains, is an efficiency-improving technology that allows users to run multiple operating systems on a single machine. "Most surveys of chief technology officers rank virtualization as their top priority because the payback period on an investment is so short," says Jay Sekelsky, manager of the Madison Mosaic Investors fund, which owns shares of EMC.

The recession finally caught up to EMC in the first half of 2009. Sales and earnings per share fell 10% and 26%, to $6.4 billion and 34 cents, respectively, from the same period in 2008. Analysts expect earnings of 82 cents per share in 2009 and $1.03 in 2010, compared with $100 per share last year. At$15.19, the stock trades for 18 times 2009 profits and has popped 45% year-to-date.

What do you think?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Customers Drive Product Innovation

Posted by Mark Brousseau

Customers and in-house R&D teams are now the leading source of innovation for U.S. businesses, while globally customers are an organization's best source of innovation, according to new research from Grant Thornton International Ltd. When asked to name the origin of the best innovation ideas, U.S. business owners named customers (37%) and in house R&D teams (37%) as their leading sources of innovations followed by heads of business units (34%) and employees (32%). Globally, 41 percent of businesses say that customers are their leading source for innovation.

"In recent history the tech boom and the creation of internet social networking sites brought innovation and entrepreneurship into every American home," said Harris Smith, Grant Thornton LLP's managing partner for Private Equity and the Audit practice leader of the firm's Southern California offices. "Without entrepreneurs and innovation, America couldn't thrive."

Regionally the report reveals that in Asia Pacific customer focus is a particular source of innovative ideas and products with nearly half of businesses (48%) citing customers as the source of the best innovative ideas, compared with 40 percent in Western Europe and 35 percent in North America.

In addition, more than three in four businesses globally (78%) believe that the U.S. is the easiest country to create innovative products, services and business. The U.S. is the clear leader in this, with the next highest countries being China (22%), India (22%) and the U.K. (21%). Regionally, the U.S. is also seen as the leading country with 77 percent of Asian-Pacific businesses, 84 percent of North American businesses and 71 percent of European businesses saying it is the easiest country to create innovative products, services and business in.

"With the history of innovation in the U.S. spanning from the country's earliest beginnings, it's not hard to understand why businesses around the globe see America as the land of innovation," said Smith.