1. It’s now October, and six months after issuing a proposed rule on changes to Meaningful Use requirements for 2015 through 2017, CMS has finally issued its Final Rule on those changes. While the changes were a long time in coming, there is some good news for those in the industry who are doing their best to implement the Meaningful Use program.

    For those providers who are attempting to achieve Stage 2 of Meaningful Use, the number of objectives that must be met has been reduced, from 18 to 10 for eligible professionals like doctors, and from 20 to 9 for eligible hospitals. Quality measures reporting requirements remain the same for both doctors and hospitals, however.

    In other good news, the Final Rule makes reporting periods more flexible, offering a 90-day reporting period for all providers in 2015 rather than the 365-day reporting period that was previously required of many. This shorter reporting period will also apply to new participants in 2016 and 2017.

    And here is something that may be very important for you to know: if you have been unable to meet the reporting requirements thus far for 2015 due to problems with your EHR, you may be eligible for a hardship exemption to avoid negative payment adjustments.

    CMS’ Final Rule also addressed Meaningful Use Stage 3, making Stage 3 requirements optional in 2017, with a 90-day reporting period, but mandatory in 2018. Many in the industry had called for a delay in finalizing the Stage 3 Rule in order to reduce the burden to providers. CMS went ahead and issued the Rule, but is allowing an additional 60 day comment period on the Stage 3 portion of the Rule to allow for more feedback from those whom it will affect.

    If you need help submitting comments or determining whether you may qualify for a hardship exemption, please feel free to contact us by visiting our website: healthcaresolutionsconnection.com

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  2. If you’re like many of us in the healthcare industry, you probably feel like you are drowning in a sea of information overload. Your inbox is full of articles, newsletters, and webinars, all telling you what you should be doing to survive healthcare reform. It’s overwhelming – and it’s not too surprising. After all, we’re living in a time when almost EVERYTHING about our healthcare system is changing – and all at the same time!

    The truth of the matter is that none of this is rocket science. If you’re a healthcare provider, chances are you already know how best to serve your patients. It’s why you got into the profession in the first place. The problem is that you are so busy caring for those patients that you feel like you don’t have time to really think about what healthcare reform really means for you and your organization.

    Ask yourself, do you know what you want your healthcare organization to look like two years from now? How about 10 years from now? What’s your gameplan? Do you have a strategy for how to get there? If the answer is “No,” it could be “game over.”

    The shift away from traditional fee-for-service reimbursement towards value-based payments and patient-centered care delivery models has major implications for healthcare organizations of all types and sizes. Understanding this new landscape and creating the right plan for your organization’s future will mean not just surviving healthcare reform, but thriving.

    So I urge you – set aside some time for you and your colleagues to create a vision for your healthcare organization, and develop a strategy to make that vision happen. You don’t have to do it on your own; if you’d like some help, check out this link on our website: http://healthcaresolutionsconnection.com/healthcare-leaders-institute/. And be sure to follow us on Twitter for more quick insights into healthcare reform.

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  3. The Office of the Inspector General issued two reports this Fall finding that the Government needs to strengthen its oversight of compliance with HIPAA’s privacy standards. This means that “covered entities” such as doctors, hospitals, pharmacies, and health insurance companies can expect increased scrutiny by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights when it comes to their policies and procedures for protecting Patient Health Information.

    The OIG’s reports found that OCR needs to do a better job of tracking and following up on reported breaches, and tracking whether covered entities have previously been investigated for noncompliance or breaches. Most importantly, the reports recommended that OCR fully implement a permanent audit program, where OCR would proactively audit randomly selected covered entities to assess their compliance with HIPAA.

    So – if you are a healthcare provider or health plan handling Patient Health Information, you have GOT to have all of your HIPAA privacy and security ducks in a row. The consequences for failing to pay attention to HIPAA are severe, with mandatory minimum fines of between $10,000 and $50,000 per violation due to “willful neglect,” and even possible criminal penalties. A good way to help protect yourself from these penalties is to have a full HIPAA Compliance Assessment done BEFORE you are selected for audit. A Pre-Audit Compliance Assessment identifies gaps in your compliance, allows you to correct them, and shows that your organization takes patient privacy and security seriously.

    If you’d like to learn more about a PreAudit Compliance Assessment or about your obligations under HIPAA in general, please feel free to contact us, and take a look at this link: http://healthcaresolutionsconnection.com/hipaa-privacy-security/. And be sure to follow us on Twitter for more quick insights into healthcare reform.

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  4. The Two-Minute Warning Series is hosted by founding partner and CEO of Healthcare Solutions Connection, Carrie Nixon, and covers insights and opportunities in the healthcare industry. Topics include healthcare reform and the Affordable Care Act, health law, innovations in healthcare, healthcare policy and regulations, healthcare funding opportunities, and other topics relevant to healthcare providers, payers, and healthcare startups.

    Subscribe to the HSC "Two-Minute Warning" Vimeo playlist to receive the latest healthcare industry updates, and please visit us at healthcaresolutionsconnection.com.

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  5. Healthcare Solutions Connection's Two-Minute Warning, hosted by HSC CEO Carrie Nixon, focusing on the importance of business continuity and disaster recovery plans.

    So far in 2015, we’ve seen floodwaters ravage Texas and tornadoes tear across the Midwest. Now hurricane season is upon us.

    We all know that natural disasters – or, for that matter, manmade ones – can wreak havoc on a community. Things get even worse for that community when their healthcare facilities and providers are impacted.

    That’s why, if you’re a healthcare executive or provider, it’s critically important to have a Business Continuity Plan and a Disaster Recovery Plan in place, up-to-date, and tested so that you can get your healthcare organization back up and running as quickly as possible to continue serving your community.

    Now, you may or may not know this, but the new HIPAA regulations actually REQUIRE a healthcare entity to have these plans in place. And as you’ve probably heard, the Office of Civil Rights has made it quite clear that they will be conducting an increasing number of HIPAA Compliance Audits this year, where provider organizations will be selected at random for audit. The penalties are steep, so if you’re one of those lucky providers selected for audit, it’s important to have all of your ducks in a row.

    I know that leaders of healthcare organizations have had to make a lot of important decisions lately over how to allocate resources to meet the new requirements of the Affordable Care Act. You’ve probably been focusing on Electronic Medical Records, Meaningful Use, and platforms to help you meet reporting requirements and manage your population’s health. But all of these investments are at risk if you don’t have Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery plans in place that take these new health information systems into account.

    So please take a moment and turn your attention towards making sure your organization – and your community - is protected in the event of an emergency or disaster. And as always, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you need help.

    Please visit us at healthcaresolutionsconnection.com and join the HSC channel Two-Minute Warning playlist for more updates!

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