Cloud Computing Making Splash in all Sectors of Healthcare

Cloud computing is nothing new…but it is starting to make headway in the healthcare industry. Cloud computing, or the system of operating using an Internet based system, is widely used in business. Don’t believe me? Do a Google search for Google and see what pops up. Online solutions are running rampant. Until recently, however, healthcare IT hadn’t been able to harness the power of the cloud.

EMR

The old way...There has been a lot of talk recently about making healthcare services more efficient. One of the major tenets of improved healthcare efficiency is converting paper-based files to electronic medical records (EMR). The issue has not been resolved in the past due to security issues and the fact that medical offices and hospitals each have their own internal software setups – few of which are compatible with each other. Cloud computing has allowed for an adequate solution.

Keeping medical records on a centralized, online server is the most secure way to handle sensitive information. It is also the best way to ensure that information is easily shared between hospitals and physicians – competing internal software platforms are not an issue in cloud computing models. While there is still debate about how to bring about this change, most agree that cloud-computing is a viable way to make EMR a reality.

Research

Researchers at the Medical College of Wisconsin recently completed a comprehensive study of proteins that resulted in valuable data that could be used across the world. This type of research has been difficult in the past due to outrageous expenses associated with buying and maintaining software programs required to analyze data. With cloud computing, things have changed.

The Medical College of Wisconsin has employed a cloud computing application that allows other research and medical facilities to access a free set of data analysis tools. These medical facilities no longer require the expensive software to study crucial data – they merely need a viable Internet connection!

Surgical Scheduling

In the past, surgical schedulers were required to fax information about an upcoming surgery to hospitals, support staff, device reps, and even patients. Never mind the computer sitting on their desk; everyone demanded paper copies via the fax machine. Just like with the EMR upgrade, cloud computing has provided surgical schedulers a better way.

Case-Connect Online Surgical SchedulingCase-Connect, a cloud computing based system of surgical scheduling, streamlines the entire process. All applicable parties to the surgery are notified via online communication and have the opportunity to view pertinent data online. No more lost papers or endless follow-up calls. Surgical offices will reap the benefits of improved surgical scheduling and lower costs.

The cloud computing revolution has taken a bit longer to reach our field, but we should embrace its arrival. It’s about time – we deserve the help!

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Hungry Hungry HIPAA Meets Online Surgical Scheduling

Government regulation can be tricky, especially in an industry that doesn’t…how do I say this nicely…embrace change very well. As surgical schedulers, you understand the need for efficiency. Hopefully you have put the fax machine out in the dumpster along with the neighbor’s old mattress. But in order for true efficiency to reign, everyone needs to embrace the future.

For whatever reason, hospitals have been wary of electronic innovation in the administration sector. The same place that is home to a particle accelerator is also home to a 1980’s style fax machine used for scheduling. They are stuck in the rut of paper-based scheduling and need help to get out.

But who can help the hospitals out of the dark ages? New online surgical scheduling platforms, like Case-Connect, are paving the way to new efficient procedures. Surgical schedulers everywhere have embraced the idea of a “software as a service” (SaaS) model and have seen its benefits. Hospitals, on the other hand, apparently need more encouragement.

Maybe the government can prove useful in this debate. As a part of the comprehensive HIPAA act, regulators outlined certain privacy requirements in Title II - the Administration Simplification provisions. These standards are meant to “improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the nation’s health care system by encouraging the widespread use of electronic data interchange in the U.S. health care system.”

In other words, the HIPAA regulations are encouraging surgical offices and hospitals to quickly and efficiently communicate information through computers and to keep records, patient information, and other critical data secure by using SSL encrypted servers, for example. Sounds like a cloud-computing/ SaaS model is just what the doctor…er…government…er…common sense ordered.

So why is the government concerned about changing the old way of transmitting information? Let’s take a look at some of the guidelines that must be used to properly send a fax while following HIPAA guidelines, according to privacyrights.org:

1. Is the fax machine in a supervised area, off limits to unauthorized persons? Is use restricted to authorized personnel only?
2. Is the fax machine used exclusively for sending non-confidential materials?
3. When sending documents, do all users complete a cover sheet which indicates the sender’s and receiver’s names, addresses, and telephone numbers?
4. When confidential materials are sent, is notice of their confidential nature indicated on the cover sheet?
5. Do users always check the receiver’s telephone number before transmitting documents? Do users compare the number displayed with number being called to check for errors? Do users check the transmission report after the fax has been sent?
6. When transmitting confidential materials, is the recipient notified in advance that the document is being sent? Does the sender check with the receiver to make sure the document has been received?

Wow, I’m tired just reading through the checklist. Multiply that times a hundred and you have just outlined a surgical scheduler’s morning routine. Thank goodness HIPAA recognizes the ineptitude (for both efficiency and privacy) of the fax machine. There must be a better way, and even the government has recognized that.

An online platform for surgical scheduling will increase communication, ensure privacy, and take away the need for the cumbersome steps listed above. Maybe HIPAA regulations will spur hospitals to accept the future…before it passes us by.

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Online Surgical Scheduling is the Gateway to Cloud Computing

If you have been following this blog for a few weeks, you know that I have been harsh on surgical offices for not embracing change and technology as quickly as they should. To be fair, there is a sector of the healthcare industry that is lagging even further behind, and you probably deal with them every day: hospitals.

Henry Ford changed the world with his innovation. According to Wikipedia (and I have no reason to doubt them), “the assembly line developed by Ford Motor Company between 1908 and 1915 made assembly lines famous. However, the various preconditions for the development at Ford stretched far back into the 19th century.”

Henry Ford didn’t implement the assembly line in one day…it took years to perfect and implement into the industry. The same goes for the digital revolution – it has been an ongoing process for several decades. Thankfully, now is the time to reap the fruits of so much hard work.

For some reason, hospital administrators have not yet seen the value — or rather the necessity — of switching to a digital scheduling system. Hospitals aren’t afraid of technology…if they were, we wouldn’t have CT, EKG, MRI, PACS, or any number of other high-tech acronyms.

For some reason, however, their comfort zone in scheduling is found in fax machines, hard copies, Post-it notes, and file cabinets. They want something tangible in their hands at all times. Fax machines are their scheduling security blanket, in a manner of speaking. It’s not really their fault – that’s how they were raised, and they have yet to be weaned. They’ve never really been held accountable to provide efficient scheduling procedures to partner surgeons…yet.

Until now, the surgical world has gone along for the ride. But times are changing, and we can’t afford to wait for the hospital giants to embrace inevitable (and welcomed) technology. Online surgical scheduling via a cloud computing platform is the perfect way to let hospitals dip their toes in the water, so to speak.

Nicholas Carr outlines the big switch to cloud computing and software as a service (SaaS) products in his book: Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google. Carr asserts that conversion to cloud computing won’t come as a big bang, but as a slow swapping out of services over time. By starting with something relatively small (but vitally important) like surgical scheduling, hospitals can experience the efficiency and cost-saving benefits of a SaaS platform.

Bigger changes are certainly coming. Electronic medical record (EMR) services are a hot topic of the healthcare reform debate. At the recent meeting of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, Eric Schmidt of Google had a voice of warning for the federal government. He stated that by not utilizing a cloud computing model, “hospitals and doctors would continue using an outdated system of databases in what is becoming an increasingly Web-focused world.” The cloud computing model is primed to lead the medical field into a new dawn of productivity and cost savings.

The online-cloud-SaaS revolution is knocking at the door. Just as the world eventually realized the value of assembly lines, healthcare is beginning to realize the importance of efficiency, privacy, and streamlined processes. Maybe hospitals are not yet ready for the complete assembly line…but it’s time they started getting used to a conveyer belt.

Online surgical scheduling (spelled: Case-Connect) is the perfect way for hospitals to begin their foray into the digital world. They’ll never look back.

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A Beginner’s Guide to Office Inefficiency (and poor surgical scheduling)

Being inefficient in today’s digital world takes work…lots of hard work. This beginner’s guide will explain the basics of running a surgical office straight into the red…and it will show you what things to avoid on your quest for imperfection.

First of all, congratulations for wanting to remain in the “iron age” of business practices. You’re not alone — it’s happening in other arenas, too. Look at how popular the sword is remaining as the movie weapon of choice (see Troy, Lord of the Rings, and Gladiator). And who wants to ride through Central Park on one of those Japanese “Segway” contraptions? The horse-drawn carriage will always be the best way to experience New York in the fall.

Your goal to keep your business away from the pesky pains of progress is noble — here’s how to keep the gas-lamp burning dimly:

Equipment

You’ll need some basic pieces of equipment to ensure that your practice doesn’t stray too far into the future.
A typewriter. When a hand-written note won’t do, simply type out a masterpiece on the old typewriter. These office mainstays blow the “PC” out of the water in terms of inefficiency; and you don’t need to worry about annoying “save as” prompts, hibernating monitors to turn on, or distracting screensavers from your last vacation.
A fax machine. This wonderful piece of office equipment should have a permanent place right next to your typewriter. No matter what your colleagues say, sending and receiving correspondence through a phone-line-converted-to-paper-printout system is the best way to do business (just ask your local hospital or Realtor). Standing around the fax machine waiting for a confirmation is great for whole-body circulation, too.
A Rotary Phone. No clear need for one of these, but it sure is fun to spin the wheel.
A Calligraphy Set. Sometimes you need to send out a “fancy” letter or advertisement. With a good starter calligraphy set (available at Toys ‘R Us), you can create wonderful pieces of art.
• Other important tools include 5 ¼ inch floppy disks, a slide rule for complex equations that pop up, and an 8-Track player.

Best Practices

To run your office inefficiently, you’ll need to implement some basic, time-wasting procedures.
Phone/Fax scheduling. Even if you have access to email, make sure you fax or call in all orders and schedules. Not only will you spend more time on the phone, you will get to quietly chuckle at irate customers and suppliers who don’t have fax machines anymore.
Handwritten Lists and Schedules. If someone schedules an appointment with you, write it on a Post-it note or a napkin and stick it on your wall. Entering information into an inter-connected, online database can only lead to confusion and/or Carpal-Tunnel Syndrome.
Guesswork. If you’re not sure if the correct device will arrive at your surgeon’s next procedure, don’t sweat it. There’s a chance it will arrive, and if not, there’s always another day. It’s not worth stressing over.

Hopefully, these tips will help you stay out of the future (and the present, for that matter). One final word of caution: Stay away from online scheduling platforms and digital solutions for your office. Scheduling programs like Case-Connect are a sure-fire way to send your office right to the cutting edge. Who wants that? You are so comfortable where you are.

If you start giving in to solutions like Case-Connect, you’ll be sorry. The next thing you know you’ll be getting home from work on time, enjoying real lunch breaks, dramatically increasing your bottom line, and probably walking around with sunglasses and a shiny silver jumpsuit. Stay away from the future; it is nothing but bad news.

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Online Surgical Scheduling is the Cure for the “Inefficiency Bug”

The universal healthcare debate continues — the political frying pan is heating up quickly. It’s hard to steer clear of some reference to the topic du jour of our nation. Once again, I remind you that this is not a political blog — you won’t find hostilities or arguments here (there are plenty of those blogs available if that’s what interests you…)

I want to discuss a single talking point that sometimes gets brought up in this debate – “the preexisting condition.” Both sides agree that something has to be done for those citizens with preexisting conditions…what that is, on the other hand, is yet to be determined. These conditions come in all shapes and sizes, but one thing is certain: the people deserve the very best treatment available.

There’s a preexisting condition out there that worries me. It has a virtual stranglehold on thousands in this country, and many of them don’t even know they are sick. There are no telethons, infomercials, or sponsorship opportunities to help the victims – they are often left to fight the battle alone. It occurs in surgical offices, mainly, but I’m sure it rears its ugly head in other places, too.

The condition: Faximus Horrendus – (inefficient scheduling, often involving a fax machine).
The infection rate: severe.
The cure: Case-Connect Surgical Scheduling Software.
The prognosis: excellent.

The onset of this deadly condition can be devastating. Families miss out on rousing dinner conversations because of late hours in the office. Lunch breaks are replaced with a queue of never ending phone calls and monotonous hours standing at the fax machine. Bottom lines remain trapped in the quagmire of mediocrity.

Despite its devastating appearance, Faximus Horrendus can indeed be treated. There are, however, very few “solutions companies” that will take on such a preexisting condition. Some may claim to have the remedy only to reveal later that their cure is merely a sugar pill. Placebos have no effect on this condition.

Not just anyone off the street can prescribe an antidote to surgical scheduling inefficiency. Treating this illness involves tapping into the ever-growing digital age and web-based platforms – many so-called remedies rely on outdated software designed for other industries. (Is a bulky software setup designed for the construction field really going to help your surgical case scheduling?)

Case-Connect is the only product with the strength to rid your office of this ugly condition. Fax machines: beware! There is a new solution in town, and it is taking on all preexisting conditions — no office histories to turn in, no experimental remedy clauses to sign, and no “stepping on to the scale.” Everyone is welcomed.

This is one healthcare solution that can definitely be “universal.” Let the healing begin…

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A Better Way


I’ve heard quite a few comments about the fax machine article – I guess it’s funny because it’s true. The surgical world just can’t seem to lose the fax machine in the rear view mirror. The fax machine is still lingering in surgical offices like a bad device representative, but so are plenty of other outdated ways of doing business. It’s crucial that we change our ways sooner rather than later.

Imagine if other industries, like banks, hadn’t stepped into the light…

Why is the line at the ATM so long? I need to get back to the office to make a zillion phone calls…but I need cash for tonight. I guess I’ll wait…

Finally! Was that guy withdrawing money from Geneva or something? Sheesh!
Okay, we’re rolling now.

“Welcome to Old School Bank, please enter your pin number.”

1-2-5-8…

“We’re sorry; we do not accept digital entries from the keypad. Please write your pin number on the paper provided and insert into the slot marked “pin number.”

What? Why is there even a keypad, then? This is the stupidest thi…

“Please do not be rude, this is the way we do things here.”

It heard my thoughts? That’s creepy. Fine, here’s my pin number.

“Thank you. A representative will contact you shortly with confirmation of your correct pin number. Please go to the end of the line.”

You’re kidding. Isn’t this an automat…

“I’m not kidding”

-20 minutes later-

Okay, I’m back. Hopefully I haven’t been fired yet.

“Quick Cash” – that’s more like it…

“To withdraw cash using our “Quick Cash” feature, please fill out a withdrawal form and fax it to our main office at (480)555-9088. An account representative will manually enter your transaction into our system and FedEx the money to this location. Your money will be available for pickup anytime after 3:00 PM on Friday…”

*This has been a fictional account…any similarities to real surgery schedulers are completely coincidental.

The better way is this: use technology, that’s why it is there! Just as the ATM machine wasn’t utilizing its computerized system for easy data collection and distribution, the surgical world is using the PC for little more than the occasional game of solitaire.

How many times have we relied on the fax machine to send a fax to the hospital for scheduling purposes? They are most likely receiving the fax via their email inbox – that means that after they roll their eyes, they must print out the information, manually enter it into the system, and return a phone call to confirm receipt. Why are we blatantly ignoring the simplicity of a digital system?

Case-Connect is the easy way to put your computer to use. You don’t even need to install any software; just use your Internet connection. With the click of a button, schedules are sent to all interested parties in electronic form. Hospitals, patients, and other support offices can digitally add the information to their systems and confirm with another click of a button. No paper, no busy signals, no communication mishaps…just instant success. Streamlined scheduling will take less time, create fewer headaches, and lead to happier surgical offices.

You wouldn’t keep your money in a bank that operated like the one above; don’t lose business because you operate an outdated surgical office. There is indeed a better way. Get connected today!

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Breaking News: A Healthcare Proposition We Can All Support

You can’t turn on the television, listen to the radio, log into Facebook, or even walk through the grocery store without hearing something about the rapidly-heating healthcare debate. I’ll leave the debates to the political blogosphere, but I do think we can all benefit from a closer look at the issues.

There are plenty of issues surrounding President Obama’s healthcare plan that provoke argument. Depending on your political persuasion, terms like “single-payer,” “deficit,” “affordable drugs,” or “universal care” will stir up strong emotions and force you to choose a side. Not every detail in the proposal is debated, however.

There are some parts of the idea of healthcare reform that cross political boundaries. One of the things that resonates loudly with both sides of the aisle is the need for streamlined, efficient processes in the medical field. Costs will continue to rise if the bulky, slow, and inaccurate ways of doing business continue.

Here is what President Obama said recently:

“We can no longer afford to put health care reform on hold. Our recovery plan will invest in electronic health records and new technology that will reduce errors, bring down costs, ensure privacy and save lives.”

The need for streamlined practices in the medical field is now the elephant in the room. We know it, and now the world knows it. Our best kept secret (the fact that we haven’t quite hopped on the technological revolution bandwagon) is now being debated on prime-time news. Whether or not the government should show us how to be efficient is not the issue. It’s time for us to change – with or without a government mandate.

Case-Connect is a way for surgical offices to shed some weight…so to speak. Schedulers will find that the digital age has led to time-saving, headache relieving strategies for scheduling a case. Using an online platform for communication with support staff, hospitals, patients, and vendors streamlines the scheduling process. Records, data, and conversations can be sent securely, quickly, and efficiently. No more lists of 30 phone calls to make after lunch…computers will take care of the confirmations. No more fax blunders, either…digital copies of instructions and records are immune to pen leaks, soda spills, and misplacement.

The government may dictate many of the regulations and processes for our industry in the coming months. Whatever happens, we can help ourselves by embracing technology and using it to streamline our practices. That’s a proposal that we can all get behind. All in favor? “AYE.”

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20th Century “Fax”


The word “fax” in the title is not a typo – but it probably is a mistake. This dinosaur of a machine has somehow managed to slip through the evolutionary cracks and still hold a place in the business world. The proverbial meteor is about to hit, however, and the fax machine may have indeed seen its last days. It’s time for this 20th century relic to disappear.

In the eighties, businesses were delighted to have a new way to send messages to clients, suppliers, and colleagues. The fax machine (along with the copier and the office Coke machine) was a welcomed addition to the workplace. Let’s keep things in perspective, though. That was also the era of The New Kids on the Block, Atari, “Perfect Strangers,” “Footloose,” and mullets – all of which served a purpose but have thankfully been replaced by bigger and better things.

Just as Aqua Net hairspray has been gradually phased out of store shelves (and the ozone layer); fax machines have quietly been disappearing from office desktops. Computers have opened the door to better ways of sending information. Email attachments and universal file formats (i.e. PDF) have streamlined the process of sending and receiving information. The fax machine is officially obsolete…almost.

Some businesses refuse to give up on their beloved fax machines, just like some of your friends probably refuse to stop wearing that old REO Speedwagon t-shirt from high school. That’s okay, we can deal with that. Although receiving a fax through our computer may require us to take a few extra steps, it’s not the end of the world. We need to patiently encourage our colleagues to step into the 21st century, just like we encourage that friend with the concert t-shirt to head over to Macy’s or The Gap.

In the surgical scheduling field, it may be even more important to ditch the fax machine quickly. Patient data that sits on a fax machine tray may be a violation of HIPAA regulations; something none of us wants. Sending data via a secure, online server is the best way to deal with information. Scheduling surgeries via email also results in instant confirmations and sufficient “e-trails” to keep us organized.

Case-Connect is the way to jump into the 21st century and beyond. Automated scheduling, email confirmations, streamlined procedures, and easy access to statistics and data make Case-Connect a surefire way to move ahead. We’ve created a product that makes surgical scheduling the least of your worries…no more never-ending games of “fax tag” are necessary.

I’m not on a mission to rid the world of fax machines. I am, however, interested in ridding the surgical field of inefficient, time-consuming, profit-eating ways of doing business. And I wouldn’t mind if acid washed jeans never came back in style, either.

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Changing the Way We Do Business Can Change Our Lives

We can’t quite decide if the world is growing worse, or if the reporters are just working harder. ~The Houghton Line, November 1965

There is a lot of negative news floating around out there… banks collapsing, foreclosures rising, flus spreading, and bad reality shows still running. It’s easy to get bogged down with the negativity – if we’re not careful.

I’m a positive person, but I understand my place in the world. I don’t have the power to single-handedly fix the economy, come up with miracle cures, or lead a coup that would force McDonald’s to serve breakfast after 10:30 am. What I can do, however, is strive to influence my corner of this world for the better… and I think I’ve found a way.

I’ve been involved in the surgical world for many years and I understand the headaches that are inherent to the profession. That is, the headaches that were inherent to the profession.

Through my research (mostly anecdotal, albeit), I discovered that surgeons and schedulers were so bogged down in the process of scheduling that it began to overtake their lives. Surgeons were handcuffed with a slew of surgeries slowly waiting in the queue and no time to grow their practice. Schedulers worked endless hours chasing confirmations or finding out why devices or implants were not delivered on time. Something had to change.

Cue the superhero music; this is where Surgical Data Solutions comes in for the rescue. After analyzing the needs of the typical surgical office, SDS developed Case-Connect, a scheduling platform that can schedule surgeries, contact sales reps, create reports, manage contacts, leap tall buildings in a single bound, etc. Surgeons, schedulers, and administrators now have the tools to schedule all of the surgeries they want, easily administer those schedules, and still manage to get home on time. That’s some good news for a change.

There are still going to be the typical world problems: Congress will always be fighting and another bad reality show will undoubtedly premiere next week. In the grand scheme of things, a surgical scheduling program may seem fairly insignificant – but it will help make your life easier; easier to grow your practice, easier to get out of the office at a decent hour, easier to watch your child perform in the school play. We’re working hard to ensure that your professional world, the one we’ve been a part of for many years, is a better place than it was yesterday. Case-Connect can make that happen.

I’m excited to be on this journey with you, and I’d love to hear your comments. To that end, we’ve created a new website, this blog, Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin accounts, and we even have a mailing address where you can send a letter, if that’s how you roll. Case-Connect is all about connections, and we want to stay connected with you. We hope you will stop by often to share your comments, concerns, or success stories with us.

The world isn’t growing worse…at least not for us. Let Case-Connect take the scheduling nightmares away – so you can be free to dream big.*

*no restrictions, no limits, no worries

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