Healthcare Technology Featured Article

November 12, 2011

TMCnet Healthcare Week in Review



As if they don’t have enough to worry about with low operating margins, calls for reduced costs and ever-decreasing reimbursements for care, hospitals and healthcare providers are now obsessed with how much customers like them. As part of the Affordable Care Act, hospitals are now required to measure up to a certain degree on how well they satisfy their customers, their patients, according to a story by Jordan Rau at nytimes.com. If hospitals don’t rate highly enough, they will be penalized by Medicare and Medicaid, Rau writes.

Your head hurts. Your nose is stuffy. Your throat feels like you’ve scratched it with an emery board. Now what? Pick up your iPad.   Pick up your iPad? Believe it or not, the answer may well lie there, especially for those who want an aspirin-cough-medicine-lozenge-free winter. According to a story by Megan O’Neill at appolicious.com, there are several great iPhone applications worth exploring. Don’t, of course, forget about doctors visits, as needed, O’Neill notes, but there are quite a few good alternative medicine options available as well.

Though electronic health records (EHRs) are providing multiple benefits to both patients and healthcare providers, a story by AP writer Ricardo Alonzo-Zaldivar posted at news.yahoo.com says that in their zeal to switch over from paper, many users are overlooking potential patient safety problems, independent advisers warned the Obama administration Tuesday. The benefits are clear: computerized medical records can improve patient safety by automatically letting a doctor know that a medicine he’s about to prescribe for a patient is an allergy risk, or that a patient may have a pre-existing condition overlooked by the physician, Alonzo-Zaldivar writes. But the advisory panel from the Institute of Medicine warned that such capabilities should be looked at a little more closely, according to the news.yahoo.com story because of inherent risks.

According to Drug Store News, Walgreens recently announced that pharmacists at its 16 Chicago stores will be given Apple tablets for instant access to customers' medical records, Walgreens prescription history, and other electronic medical records (EHRs) that are available for veterans or government employees, all to streamline operations and reduce costs, according to a story by Karlee Weinmann at businessinsider.com. “The concept is meant to create a pharmacy and health care ‘help desk’ where customers get solutions or referrals for their personal health questions,” Walgreens’ chief innovation officer Colin Watts told the Chicago Sun-Times, which covered the program's launch in 16 Chicago-area stores, according to Weinmann’s story.

But according to a story by Dusan Belic at intomobile.com, Walgreen’s motive may not quite be totally so customer-oriented. Belic quotes an article at the Chicago Sun-Times that said “the company’s idea is also to keep customers from taking up valuable time with pharmacists for routine issues.”

It’s probably not a surprise to anyone but a recent survey by a healthcare IT company has shown that a majority of community hospitals face extreme financial challenges due to rising costs, low operating margins and reduced Medicare/Medicaid reimbursements. The survey, announced today, was run by Anthelio, a provider of healthcare IT services and business process solutions for hospitals and other healthcare providers, according to a company press release at businesswire.com.


Deborah DiSesa Hirsch is an award-winning health and technology writer who has worked for newspapers, magazines and IBM in her 20-year career. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.




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