Better Living Through Technology
The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts there will be as many as 14 named storms in the Atlantic this season with possibly 3 reaching a Category 5 in strength. In addition to the usual recommendations for preparedness by having a regularly supplied disaster kit with relatives’ names and contact information, bottled water, non-perishable food, first-aid supplies, portable toolkit, passports, credit card numbers, copies of insurance policies and wills, the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) stresses the importance of including the personal health record (PHR) of each family member because “hurricanes are no more respectful of healthcare facilities and clinics than of homes, businesses and boats.”
For all the talk of electronic health records (EHRs) these days, there is probably no better way for a family to be prepared for both emergencies and health visits than to maintain a simple PHR for each family member. However, many people may need help to sort out how to go about this. A study by Health Industry Insights in late 2005 found that 83% of those surveyed had never heard of or never used a PHR. Individuals can choose to create their own PHR or may be offered one by their healthcare provider, insurer, employer or a commercial supplier of PHR tools.
AHIMA provides free information on how to create your own PHR or how to choose a PHR tool vendor at myphr.com . You are encouraged to begin tracking down your health information in whatever format works best for you, even if the choice is paper. If you plan to share information in your PHR with various healthcare providers, they recommend using digital media or a software format because it will be easier to format your information quickly, accurately and securely. Their “Quick Guide to Creating a PHR” gives 7 steps for getting started gathering your health information from all of your healthcare providers. PHR information should always be stored in a secure manner just as you would store other confidential personal information. Once you have gathered all your health information, you can simply place it in a folder, transfer your information to a USB flash drive, or subscribe to a Web-based service that allows you to access and enter your health information anytime into their online tools from your computer. Some of these tools are free and some require a fee or subscription. AHIMA’s “Choose a PHR” tool lists 80 Web-based PHR tools of which 22 are free, 25 software-based PHR tools of which 2 are free, and 10 paper-based PHR tools of which 2 are free. AHIMA does not sell or endorse any of these PHRs and points out that PHRs that are not part of a health provider’s electronic health record (EHR) are not considered to be legal records, and therefore, are not protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
MedFlash is a PHR product that combines a USB flash drive with a Web portal and 24/7 emergency call center access, which contains the owner’s complete medical and key related information. Stored information on the MedFlash unit can be accessed on any computer securely with complete privacy. Connectyx, the maker of MedFlash, has just released MedSync, a software tool that works with the MedFlash unit to help its owner easily manage personal health records and communicate with other health related resources. MedSync operates on all personal computers and increases the ability of MedFlash owners to store, retrieve, protect and communicate their personal medical information. This interoperability feature increases the power of the MedFlash unit and enables its users to exchange information and documents with multiple resources’ data banks over the Internet. Connectyx CEO Ronn Schuman states their product strategy falls in line with President Obama’s plan to make the necessary investments to ensure within five years that all of America’s medical records are computerized.
Several related articles in this summer’s TMIS eNewsletter report on a data loss prevention solution for electronic health records, the Code Green True DLP, that detects and helps prevent sensitive healthcare data leaks over the network; an electronic data interchange implementation guide that standardizes requirements for transferring PHRs from one health insurance plan to another; and a report on how to secure unstructured electronic data, the “liquid mercury of the information age,” such as in documents, spreadsheets, presentations, PDF files, email, Web pages, and a variety of multimedia.
Also, I thought it would be fun to mention “Where the other you lives,” an ad campaign by the U.S. Forest Service and The Ad Council, running this summer to encourage children to reconnect with nature. The campaign includes television, radio, outdoor and Web PSAs, which show the freeing aspects a nature experience can provide, by depicting the various qualities – the curious you, the creative you, and the adventurous you that tweens can discover about themselves in nature. All of the PSAs direct parents and children to visit a new website, www.DiscoverTheForest.org , where they can find ideas for outdoor activities as well as educational and conservation information.
I am grateful to be in a collaborative business with many talented and skilled professionals. Additional feedback and recommendations for our products and services at TM Information Services are always welcome.
- Mary M. McLaughlin
From the Front Page of TMIS News
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PHRs Protect Families From the Harshest Realities of Natural Disasters
"Hurricane Season" is an ideal time to guard personal health information against nature's devastation. Major catastrophic events can lead to chaos, destruction and death. Now is the time of year when public awareness and preparedness are the best defenses against the high-impact storm systems that will sweep across many parts of the country. The need to prepare for the possibility of a dangerous tropical storm striking near you is essential. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the 2009 Atlantic hurricane season runs from June through November. Forecasters predict there is a 70 percent chance of nine to 14 named storms of which four to seven could become hurricanes, including one to three major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5) with 111 mph+ winds.
This is a big reason why electronically stored personal health records (PHRs) let even those who have lost almost everything receive the best possible medical treatment in the wake of natural disasters. Comprehensive PHRs that include a complete medical history and an accurate and updated patient profile including current prescriptions, allergies, blood-type and physicians' names and contact information can be imperative to surviving a recent injury or keeping a previously diagnosed illness properly treated and under control.
"Regardless of what product is used to create a PHR, paper or electronic files, the ultimate goal is for emergency responders, healthcare providers and, of course, healthcare consumers, to have immediate access to the health information that's required for sound medical decisions to be made," said Julie Wolter, assistant professor of health information management at St. Louis University and co-chair of the AHIMA PHR Practice Council. Even without a full set of records, it is important for each person to have, at least, a document with their health profile simply stored on a card inside a wallet or electronically on a key chain flash drive.
Connectyx and Strategic Medical Communications, Inc. Team Up to Launch MedFlash in the Pharmaceutical Industry
Palm City, Florida
Connectyx Technologies Holdings Group, Inc. has announced that they have signed an exclusive agreement with Strategic Medical Communications, Inc. (SMC), a full service agency addressing the healthcare industry, to represent MedFlash to the Pharmaceutical Industry. Through this agreement, SMC will introduce its clients, including physicians, patients and pharmaceutical companies, to the MedFlash Personal Health Record (PHR) storage device, a simple, affordable and portable flash drive that enables consumers to carry selected medical information ranging from prescriptions, allergies, and drug interactions to historical records including X-rays, MRIs and CAT scans.
The MedFlash Program is designed to store personal health and lifestyle information on a one-gigabyte, two-inch portable flash drive and through the Internet. With the MedFlash device, users can keep at hand the most up-to-date and accurate information about the medicines they are taking and can communicate the data to medical personnel including physicians, pharmacists and emergency responders. Myron Holubiak, CEO of SMC and the former President of Roche Laboratories, USA, stated, "We are pleased to represent the MedFlash PHR system to the pharmaceutical industry. We believe the industry can make a very important contribution to the adoption of PHRs and, more specifically, in helping patients become more involved in the management of their medical conditions. The MedFlash PHR system is well suited to support the disease management of conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and GI disease, among many others. From our perspective, the provision of a PHR that aids in chronic disease management through patient education and maintaining a history of medical interactions fits well within the PhRMA Code on Interactions with Healthcare Professionals, and is a step forward in developing an electronic record that is useful and motivational to the consumer."
Data Loss Prevention Solution Simplifies Identification and Remediation of Privacy and Security Issues Affecting Electronic Health Records
Code Green Networks, the leader in comprehensive data loss prevention solutions that can be deployed quickly and cost-effectively, has announced its new TrueDL for Healthcare solution, an industry-specific security system that ensures the privacy and protection of sensitive healthcare data.
"Given the nationwide push to digitize healthcare records, healthcare IT professionals should adopt appropriate tools to identify and secure sensitive data moving over their networks, especially via non-secure channels such as web mail and public health networks," said Eric Ogren, principal analyst at the Ogren Group. "Content inspection solutions like Code Green's are an essential tool for identifying and securing data vulnerabilities."
Combining patent-pending detection and protection against loss of Electronic Health Record (EHR) data, Health Insurance Portability & Accountability (HIPAA) code set information, and prevention of unauthorized healthcare Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) transmissions, the Code Green solution enables healthcare organizations to strongly defend themselves against the inadvertent loss or intentional theft of sensitive patient information over any outbound network communications.
Electronic Data Interchange Implementation Guide: "Personal Health Record Transfer Between Health Plans"
Falls Church, Virginia
Standardized requirements for one health insurance plan to electronically send Personal Health Record (PHR) data to another health insurance plan, called the "Personal Health Record (PHR) Transfer Between Health Plans Technical Report, 005050X274," was released by the Accredited Standards Committee (ASC) X12, providing monumental interoperability among insurance companies assisting consumers.
"This Implementation Guide provides a standards-based mechanism to electronically send PHR data from a predecessor to a successor health plan," said Dan Kazzaz, Chair, ASC X12. "It provides needed support to health plans in the role of maintaining longitudinal PHRs for individuals and moving PHRs from health plan to health plan whenever individuals' or companies' health plan coverages shift."
This implementation guide builds on the pioneering work of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association and America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) in their 005010 implementation guide of the same name. The document brings together work of several standards-setting organizations to describe the business process, message structure, data elements and examples and includes a glossary.
"This announcement by ASC X12 is good news for consumers who, when they change coverage, want to transfer their PHRs to their new health plans and continue with all of the advantages that PHRs bring with them," said AHIP President and CEO Karen Ignagni. "We are pleased that the new standard builds on the work of AHIP and BCBSA, which was designed to be consistent with that of the standards organizations, and to be a building block for their future efforts," Ignagni said.
Protecting and Managing Sensitive Data in Documents, Spreadsheets, Presentations, PDF Files, Email, Web Pages, and Multi-Media Formats Is Key to Collaboration
According to the latest research, companies are currently facing a significant challenge with respect to safeguarding their critical data in unstructured formats (i.e. in documents and file systems), a problem made worse by the ubiquity of web-based portals and collaboration tools such as Microsoft SharePoint. A new research report published by Aberdeen Group, shows that companies who share and collaborate using unstructured data without simultaneously taking steps to protect and manage it are not only at risk of incurring millions of dollars of cost due to data loss or exposure, but also of spending hundreds of thousands more than necessary for compliance and the cost of ongoing operations.
Companies correctly look to increase collaboration and the sharing of information as a boost to productivity and competitiveness, but to the extent that their sensitive information is contained in unstructured formats -- such as documents, spreadsheets, presentations, PDF files, email, web pages, and a rich variety of multi-media -- they also need to protect and manage it. Unstructured data is the liquid mercury of the information age: when it escapes from its centralized container, it is easily dispersed and travels far and fast to every nook and cranny of the extended organization. The simultaneous ability to share and protect unstructured data presents an immediate opportunity for IT Security teams to act as a vitally important enabler for supporting the strategic objectives of the business.
"Perhaps the biggest challenge with protecting and managing unstructured data is that it has steadily become so important -- and so easy -- to share," said Derek E. Brink, vice president and research fellow for IT Security, Aberdeen Group. "The research shows that use of technologies such as data loss prevention (DLP), endpoint-related encryption and associated key management, and enterprise rights management (ERM) are what currently distinguishes the companies earning Best-in-Class results."
"Where the Other You Lives," U.S. Forest Service and Ad Council Launch National Campaign to Re-connect Children with Nature
New York, New York
Children in the U.S. spend fifty percent less time outdoors than they did twenty years ago, according to the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan. In an effort to encourage children and their parents to re-connect with nature, the U.S. Forest Service has joined the Ad Council to launch a national multimedia public service advertising campaign. U.S. Forest Service.
The campaign primarily aims to reach "tweens" (children aged 8-12) and their parents. The goal is to encourage children to get outside and experience nature first-hand, instilling a life-long love for nature by fostering a connection with urban and national forests. Children spend less time outdoors due to safety concerns, an increase in the number of working parents and the development of new technologies that capture free time indoors. As a result of this limited interaction with the outdoors, many children are unaware of the benefits that nature provides, including improving their physical and mental health and emotional well-being. Research shows that children who play outside have lower stress levels and more active imaginations, become fitter and leaner, develop stronger immune systems and have greater respect for themselves and for others.
Furthermore, those who spend their childhood in nature are more likely to become environmentally conscious in the future. "People, especially kids, need a direct connection to both forests and nature for their health and personal growth--and for the future of conservation," said Chief Kimbell. "It's wonderful to expand our efforts to reach kids through this partnership. The Ad Council has been helping us accomplish the Forest Service mission for over 60 years."
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