HIPAA Communication News

Critical Alert Acquisition Adds New Capabilities to TigerConnect CC&C Platform

TigerConnect is about to add a range of new capabilities to its clinical communication and collaboration platform following the acquisition of the healthcare middleware provider Critical Alert. This is the second major acquisition by the Santa Monica, CA-based HIPAA-compliant text messaging platform provider in 2020, following the acquisition of Call Scheduler in the fall.

Critical Alert is a cloud-native and mobile-first provider of enterprise-grade middleware for hospitals and health systems. The middleware products are used by hospitals to combine nurse call, alarm and event management, medical device interoperability, and clinical workflow analytics. In addition to the suite of middleware products, Critical Alert provides traditional nurse call hardware to more than 200 hospitals throughout North America.

The acquisition will see the suite of middleware products incorporated into the TigerConnect platform which will add a host of new capabilities and power a wide range of alert types and alarm management enhancements. The integration of the middleware is expected to be completed in Q1, 2021.

Critical Alert middleware seamlessly integrates clinical systems to transmit alarms, events, and values and provides virtualized nurse call that includes contextual patient data to allow nurses to prioritize requests. Through centralized answering of nurse call alerts and the management of workflows and assignments, noise and clinical interruptions are reduced and responsiveness is improved.

Real-time Location Systems (RTLS) integrations help to improve caregiver effectiveness and streamline workflows and enable real-time tracking of staff location and time spent on tasks. These integrations provide insights into resource planning, workflow effectiveness, and ongoing process improvement initiatives.

The integration of Critical Alert with TigerConnect will allow easy integrations with smart bed alarms for effective fall prevention and improved patient safety. If the safe bed configuration is compromised, alerts will be sent immediately to mobile devices allowing nurses to quickly respond.

Through an integration with the TigerFlow care team collaboration solution, alerts will be intelligently routed to the right caregivers, suppressing unnecessary noise and improving efficiency. The context provided with these alerts helps nurses to prioritize effectively. Critical Alert also brings advanced analytics that provide insights into patient behavior and help with the optimization of staff workload.

The incorporation of Critical Alert middleware into the TigerConnect platform provides greater value to customers and helps to ease the burden on nurses at a time when nurse burnout is incredibly common. The improvements that can be made to efficiency and effectiveness are likely to make a huge difference in hospitals, especially given the current chronic nurse shortages.

“We see the Critical Alert acquisition as highly strategic and a natural evolution of our already-robust collaboration platform,” said Brad Brooks, CEO and co-founder of TigerConnect. “For the hundreds of thousands of nurses that currently use TigerConnect, these new capabilities will deliver real-time, contextual information to their mobile device or desktop to allow them to work smarter, prioritize responses, and efficiently coordinate care, all within the same reliable TigerConnect platform they use every day for enterprise messaging.”

The acquisition will see Critical Alert CEO John Elms join the TigerConnect team as Chief Product Officer/ Elms will play a key role in integrating the two companies’ technologies and will guide future product offerings. The VP of Sales for Critical Alert, Wil Lukens, will also join the TigerConnect team and will assume the role of General Manager of Critical Alert’s traditional Nurse Call hardware unit, which will continue to operate under the same name as a standalone business unit.

“The timing of the deal and the fit of these two companies aligned perfectly,” said John Elms, CEO of Critical Alert. “Two best-in-class, highly complementary solutions coming together to solve some of the chronic challenges—alarm fatigue, response prioritization, resource optimization—that have driven nurse teams to the brink. Together, these unified technologies will make care professionals’ lives easier, not harder, and I couldn’t be more excited to lead the TigerConnect product organization into this next chapter.”

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Webinar Today: How HIPAA-Compliant Messaging Transforms Healthcare

Data show 70% of delays in providing treatment to patients is due to miscommunication, so resolving the problems that result in miscommunication in healthcare is key to improving quality of care, clinical outcomes, and the patient experience.

One of the biggest contributory factors to miscommunication is the use of outdated communications systems, which has long been a problem in healthcare. Fortunately, there is a solution that has been shown to greatly improve communication efficiency and reduce the potential for errors and miscommunication – a secure texting platform.

To find out more about secure, HIPAA-compliant messaging and how it can make care teams immediately more efficient and effective, we invite you to join this upcoming webinar.

During the webinar you will discover how this single change can lead to major improvements in collaboration, save valuable time, decrease costs, and lead to happier staff and patients.

The webinar is being hosted by TigerConnect, the leading secure healthcare messaging provider, and will take place on Wednesday, December 9 at 10 a.m. PT / 1 p.m. ET.

Webinar Details:

How HIPAA-Compliant Messaging Transforms Healthcare

Date/Time: Wednesday, December 9 – 10 a.m. PT / 12 p.m. CT / 1 p.m. ET

Hosted by:
Julie Grenuk, Nurse Executive, TigerConnect
Tommy Wright, Director of Product Marketing, TigerConnect

Register Here

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TigerConnect Survey Confirms Widespread Support for Telehealth Among Providers and Patients

The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in a major increase in healthcare providers offering telehealth services to patients. Virtual visits are being offered to reduce the number of patients visiting hospitals and physician offices to limit transmission of the virus to ensure patient safety. The increase in use is out of necessity, but new research confirms telehealth services are popular with providers and patients alike.

TigerConnect, the provider of the most widely adopted communication platform in healthcare, recently commissioned a comprehensive Harris Poll survey to explore attitudes to telehealth among patients and healthcare providers. The survey was conducted on 2,039 U.S. adults aged 18 or older between July 23-27, 2020 and 500 healthcare clinicians between June and July 2020.

88% of healthcare providers who were already offering telehealth services to patients saw an increase in the use of telehealth services due to the coronavirus pandemic, with 71% of providers saying there was a large increase in use. It is understandable that so many providers and patients have embraced telehealth in order to reduce infection risk and prevent transmission of the virus, but even when the pandemic is over it is likely that use of telehealth services will continue at the same or even an increased level. Over two thirds of providers (71%) believe use of telehealth services will continue at the same or even a higher level when the pandemic is over.

There is also strong support for telehealth services among patients. 87% of patients who tried telehealth said they were satisfied with the experience, with 7 out of 10 patients saying it is important for providers to offer telehealth services to patients. Many patients appear to prefer virtual visits to in-person visits. Only 40% of patients said they prefer to meet their providers face to face.

Patients may be apprehensive about trying telehealth, but once they have their first virtual visit they are keen to go virtual again. Patients who have had one telehealth or video consultation in the past year were twice as likely to express a strong preference for a virtual visit over an in-person visit.

When patients were asked if there was anything about telehealth they did not like, almost half of patients could not think of a single criticism about their experience. The main advantages of telehealth among patients were convenience (50%), allowing appointments to be kept that may otherwise have been cancelled (36%), and the ease at which health check-ups could be scheduled (34%). 52% of patients said they believe telehealth was a safe alternative to an in-person office visit.

Boomers (Over 55s) and Gen Z (Under 24s) were the age groups least satisfied with telehealth. The most common complaint among Boomers was excessive complexity, while the most common complaint with Gen Z users was a lack of features, showing there is clearly further scope for refinement.

The survey on clinicians revealed there is a majorly fragmented market, with 140 different telehealth solutions in use. 14% of respondents said they are currently using multiple telehealth solutions. That may well change after the pandemic is over and the notice of enforcement discretion of the HHS’ Office for Civil Rights expires. The notice of enforcement discretion for telehealth services temporarily allowed telehealth solutions to be used that may not be fully compliant with HIPAA requirements.

65% of respondents said they were happy with their current telehealth solutions and almost 90% of users of the TigerConnect platform said they were happy with the TigerConnect platform.

The survey also revealed there is strong bipartisan support for telehealth, with 77% of Democrats and 66% of Republicans believing healthcare providers should offer telehealth services to patients. There are still some challenges to overcome to ensure that telehealth services are accessible to all. 53% of surveyed patients living in urban areas had utilized telehealth services compared to just 31% of patients in rural areas, which suggests there may be issues with broadband availability and cellular reception in rural areas which is limiting uptake.

“The people have spoken: telehealth is here to stay,” said TigerConnect CEO Brad Brooks. “The overnight move to telehealth is one of the fastest cultural shifts in healthcare in decades, and this research reveals it has already transformed the habits of millions of Americans who can now access great healthcare as easily as they can catch a ride to the airport. It’s up to our industry to seize this moment and ensure that it’s as easy as possible for anyone to access or administer world-class healthcare anywhere and anytime to improve health outcomes for all Americans.”

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TigerSchedule Automated On-Call Physician Scheduling Added to TigerConnect CC&C Platform

TigerConnect has announced it has acquired Adjuvant’s Call Scheduler solution, which has now been incorporated into the TigerConnect clinical communication and collaboration (CC&C) platform as TigerSchedule™.

The Call Scheduler solution adds innovative on-call physician scheduling capabilities to the TigerConnect platform, allowing users to automate on-call and work assignments, improve efficiency, and bolster collaboration across complex healthcare teams. Close collaboration between clinicians is vital in healthcare and has become even more so during the COVID-19 era, as has the need to improve efficiency and cut costs with the revenue challenges caused by the pandemic.

TigerSchedule™ is a rules-based automated physician scheduling solution which has been made available as a standalone solution and also part of the TigerConnect Platform. The Adjuvant-developed solution already has an extensive user base in the United States, having been adopted by a wide range of healthcare organizations from care centers including Huntsville Memorial Hospital and Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula and medical clinics including Cardiac Specialists and Baptist Neurology.

The TigerSchedule™ solution offers healthcare providers several key benefits.

  • TigerSchedule™ adds new scheduling management capabilities to the TigerConnect platform.
  • The solution ensures fairness within the schedule, protects healthcare providers from being over-assigned, and ensures sufficient time between shifts to help prevent burnout.
  • Automated notifications are intelligently routed to the on-call schedule due to sickness, vacations, and patient cancellations.
  • Empowers providers to request the location and shift times they want and supports their preferences for text message notifications.
  • Simplifies shift swaps and changes and reduces the workload for managers.
  • A single view of all staff enables faster team collaboration and better resource optimization.
  • Rules-based automation and integration with EHRs improves scheduling and workflows.

“Reaching the right care team member quickly and efficiently is essential to providing excellent patient care. When you add the pressures of COVID-19 to the already existing whirlwind of paper schedules and unexpected shift changes, the challenge for caregivers is overwhelming. It can even be the difference between life and death,” said TigerConnect co-founder and CEO Brad Brooks. “TigerConnect with TigerSchedule™ helps healthcare systems streamline care delivery, improve outcomes, and enhance the patient experience while boosting the bottom line. It’s particularly valuable to healthcare organizations today, as they seek to reduce costs and improve patient and care team satisfaction.”

The acquisition of Call Scheduler will see President Justin Wampach join the TigerConnect team as Vice President, Scheduling Division, with the entire Call Scheduler workforce also joining TigerConnect.

“When Brad approached me and pitched the idea of being acquired, I admit we were flattered. I always felt our long-term strategy would involve us becoming a module within a broader product offering. We quickly realized that our offerings complemented each other well and it became obvious that joining forces would benefit our customers,” said Call Scheduler President, Justin Wampach.

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OCR Warns of Postal Phishing Scam Targeting HIPAA Compliance Officers

The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights is warning healthcare organizations about a phishing scam being conducted by mail that has been designed to scare compliance officers into visiting a website or taking immediate action with respect to a HIPAA risk assessment.

Postcards have been sent to several healthcare organizations that masquerade as an official communication from the Office for Civil Rights. The postcards are addressed to the HIPAA compliance officer and state a mandatory HIPAA compliance risk assessment must be performed. The postcards warn that “HIPAA violations cost your practice. The federal fines for noncompliance are based on perceived negligence found within your organization at the time of the HIPAA violation.” The postcards remind the recipient that “fines can range from $100 to $50,000 per violation (or per record), with a maximum penalty of $1.5 million per year for each violation.”

The postcards claim to have been sent by the Secretary of Compliance of the HIPAA Compliance Division – a position that does not exist – and have a Washington D.C. return address. The link that compliance officers are requested to visit markets consulting services and is a non-governmental site.

OCR has advised all covered entities to alert their workforce about the misleading communication, which appears to have been sent by a private company. OCR stressed that this is not a communication sent by the HHS or OCR.

OCR advises HIPAA covered entities and business associates to take steps to verify the legitimacy of any communication that claims to be from the HHS or OCR, and explained that any written communications from OCR will include the following address:

Office for Civil Rights
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Avenue, SW
Room 509F, HHH Building
Washington, D.C. 20201

Any request to make contact via email will provide an email address for contact that has an @hhs.gov suffix.

The impersonation of federal law enforcement is a crime and any suspected cases should be reported to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

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President Trump Signs Executive Order Calling for Expansion of Telehealth Services

On Monday, August 3, 2020, President Trump signed an executive order to expand access to telehealth services for the 57 million Americans living in under-served rural areas.  The Executive Order on Improving Rural and Telehealth Access will ensure that the expansion of telehealth services due to the COVID-19 pandemic will continue after the nationwide public health emergency is declared over.

In 2019, Medicare started paying for virtual check-ins with doctors to determine whether an in-person visit was required, but the pandemic saw access to virtual visits expanded significantly in an effort to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Geographic restrictions were lifted, and telehealth services were made available to Medicare beneficiaries across the country. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) also added a further 135 medical services to the list of services that are covered by Medicare if provided virtually.

Figures from the CMS show that virtual visits via phone or video increased to nearly 1.7 million in the last week in April, compared to just 14,000 visits before COVID-19. From mid-March, when the telehealth restrictions were relaxed, to mid-July, 10.1 million Medicare beneficiaries received a Medicare telehealth virtual visit. While there was a fall in the number of virtual visits in May once in-person visits resumed, the number of patients opting for virtual visits remained high, indicating patients are happy with medical services being provided virtually.

Americans living in rural locations are more likely to die from the five leading causes of death in the United States than individuals living in urban areas, and the gap has widened between 2010 and 2017. “Prior to the pandemic, telehealth was fine, but it wasn’t anything raging, and I guess one of the only good things that we’ve gotten out of this horrible situation is that telehealth has been increased,” said President Trump. “It is the purpose of this order to increase access to, improve the quality of, and improve the financial economics of rural healthcare, including by increasing access to high-quality care through telehealth.”

President Trump also called for officials to develop a plan within 30 days to increase investment in the communication infrastructure to improve healthcare in rural areas and within 30 days, the Secretary of the HHS will announce a new model to test new payment mechanisms to ensure that healthcare providers in rural areas can provide the necessary level of and quality of care to patients. Under the new model, healthcare providers in rural areas will be given more flexibility from current Medicare rules, and the model will establish predictable financial payments and encourage the transition to high-quality, value-based care. A report will also be submitted by the HHS Secretary on policy initiatives to increase rural access to healthcare through the removal of regulatory burdens which limit the availability of clinicians, prevent disease and mortality through rural-specific initiatives to improve health outcomes, reduce maternal mortality, and improve mental health in rural communities.

Shortly after the Executive Order was signed, the CMS announced it is proposing changes that will expand telehealth services for Medicare beneficiaries permanently, consistent with the Executive Order. The proposed CMS rule also includes a multi-year program that aims to reduce the burden on clinicians as part of its Patients Over Paperwork initiative and will ensure that there will be appropriate reimbursement for the time clinicians spend with patients. The CMS is also proposing that some of the additional medical services covered under Medicare during the public health emergency will also continue to be paid for by Medicare if provided virtually, including virtual visits for certain evaluation and management services and some services for patients with cognitive impairments.

The CMS is seeking public input on which services should continue to be covered by Medicare once the public health emergency is declared over. The CMS also wants to temporarily continue telehealth services for emergency department visits to give the industry time to assess whether they should also be made permanent. Comments on the proposed changes are being accepted until October 5, 2020.

“Telemedicine can never fully replace in-person care, but it can complement and enhance in-person care by furnishing one more powerful clinical tool to increase access and choices for Americas seniors,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma. “The Trump Administration’s unprecedented expansion of telemedicine during the pandemic represents a revolution in healthcare delivery, one to which the healthcare system has adapted quickly and effectively. Never one merely to tinker around the edges when it comes to patient-centered care, President Trump will not let this opportunity slip through our fingers.”

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Webinar: July 30, 2020: How a Communication Platform Can Streamline Surgery Center Operations

Ambulatory Surgery Centers (ASCs) have diverse and dispersed physicians and can therefore face many challenges in coordinating schedules and optimizing workflows. Effective communication between staff members and with patients and their families is essential. Those challenges have become even more difficult during the COVID-19 pandemic.

One of the ways that successful ASCs have overcome these challenges is by adopting a secure, HIPAA-compliant telehealth, texting, and collaboration platform. These platforms improve communication between doctors and healthcare staff, help with the coordination of schedules and streamlining of workflows, and make it easy for ASCs to provide telehealth visits and communicate with patients and families pre- and post-op. During the COVID-19 pandemic, these platforms have played an important role in keeping ASCs open and safe.

On Thursday, July 30, 2020, Dr. Andrew Brooks, Chief Medical Officer, TigerConnect, will be hosting a webinar and will provide insights gained from his work as an orthopedic surgeon and founder of seven successful ASCs.

During the webinar you will discover how ASCs can use a single, secure telehealth, texting, and clinical collaboration platform to optimize clinical workflows, coordinate physician schedules, establish communications best practices, conduct patient follow ups, and improve overall operations.

Webinar Details

Date:      Thursday, July 30 at 10 a.m. PT

Webinar is Hosted by:

Dr. Andrew Brooks, Chief Medical Officer, TigerConnect.

Register for the Webinar

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States Start to Make Temporary COVID-19 Telehealth Changes Permanent

Following the decision of the HHS’ Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) to expand access to telehealth services and increase coverage in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, states introduced temporary emergency waivers to their telehealth laws. Healthcare providers and patients have welcomed the changes to telehealth policies, which improved access to telehealth services to help control the spread of the virus, SARS-CoV-2. There have been increasing calls for the changes to be made permanent, and several states such as Massachusetts, Colorado, and Idaho have taken steps to ensure the changes continue after the COVID-19 public health emergency is declared over.

On March 16, 2020, the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine (BORIM) approved a new policy that states the same standard of care applies to in-person and telehealth visits and a face-to-face encounter is not a pre-requisite for a telehealth visit. The policy was introduced on a temporary basis in response to COVID-19, but on June 26, 2020, BORIM made the policy change permanent. This is the first telehealth-specific policy to be adopted by BORIM and Massachusetts was one of the first states to make temporary COVID-19 telehealth policies permanent.

There have been increasing calls at the Federal level for the expansion of access to telehealth services to be made permanent and for there to be continued reimbursement parity for in-person and virtual visits when the COVID-19 nationwide public health emergency is declared over.

CMS Administrator Seema Verma has expressed support for the expansion of telehealth access to continue and, at a recent meeting of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP), the 30+ temporary changes to Federal telehealth policies were discussed and Congress was urged to make several of the changes permanent. There is a commonly held view that telehealth can improve patient outcomes, help providers deliver a better patient experience, and that telehealth will help to reduce the cost of healthcare provision.

Two Federal policy changes that have attracted considerable support are the relaxation of the Medicare originating site requirement to allow physicians to provide telehealth services to all patients, no matter where they are located, and expansion of the number of telehealth services covered under Medicare.

These and other policies changes have received support at the state level. Several other states have now taken steps to improve telehealth access. Colorado Governor, Jared Polis, signed a bill this week that prohibits health insurance companies from requiring a patient to have a pre-established relationship with a virtual care provider. The law, which applies to Medicaid and state-regulated health plans, also prohibits insurers from imposing additional location, certification, or licensure requirements on providers as a condition for telehealth reimbursement and the restrictions on the technology that can be used to provide telehealth services have also been removed. Audio or video communication solutions only need to be compliant with the HIPAA Security Rule.

Idaho Governor Brad Little has similarly taken steps to make the COVID-19 changes to telehealth laws permanent, including the state’s temporary telehealth rule waivers that increased the medications that could be prescribed in telehealth visits, the broadening of the technology that can be used for providing telehealth services, and the change that allows out-of-state providers to treat patients virtually.

“Our loosening of healthcare rules since March helped to increase the use of telehealth services, made licensing easier, and strengthened the capacity of our healthcare workforce – all necessary to help our citizens during the global pandemic,” said Gov. Little. “We proved we could do it without compromising safety. Now it’s time to make those healthcare advances permanent moving forward.”

All states expanded access to telehealth services for Medicaid beneficiaries following the announcement by the CMS about the expansion of access to telehealth and increased coverage. Many more states are now expected to make the emergency changes permanent.  However, health insurers must also make changes and confirm that they will continue to reimburse physicians for virtual visits at the same rate as in-person visits, otherwise it is likely that telehealth will be dropped in favor of in-person visits.

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TigerConnect Rated Among Top Advanced Clinical Communications Platforms by KLAS

TigerConnect, the most widely adopted care team collaboration solution, has been recognized by KLAS and rated among the top platforms in the KLAS Clinical Communications 2020 Advanced User Insights report.

KLAS is a healthcare IT data and insights company that conducts impartial research on software and services used by healthcare providers and payers worldwide. The company obtains feedback from healthcare professionals that are using software solutions and services, the insights are analyzed, trends are identified, and the company’s reports are used by healthcare organizations around the world to make decisions about healthcare software and services.

For the Clinical Communications 2020 Advanced User Insights report, KLAS collected data from multiple case studies and conducted in-depth interviews with three to five advanced users of each platform at organizations at the cutting edge of clinical communication to find out how these solutions have improved efficiency, security, and patient satisfaction. The report details the outcomes that have been achieved, the lessons learned by advanced users, and the range of workflows that each communication platform covers.

TigerConnect was recognized as having a very large customer base in both inpatient and non-inpatient care settings. KLAS found the platform to be highly customer centric, with nimble development for advanced users across different care settings. The platform had the most extensive breadth of workflows for advanced users out of all platforms assessed for the report and was the only clinical communications platform that had over 50% adoption of advanced workflows in nine out of the ten categories assessed.

TigerConnect was also rated the top vendor for patient-centered care team communications, pre-admission workflows, clinical support staff workflows, and discharge & post-discharge workflows. TigerConnect was recognized as having standout capabilities such as allowing communication to continue during EHR downtime, allowing care coordinators to coordinate care with referred caregivers, and the ability of the platform to link messages to patient records and pull all pertinent information for patient care.

“The KLAS report highlights one of TigerConnect’s biggest strengths – our ability to help healthcare organizations across the full continuum of care meaningfully connect and enhance outcomes,” says Brad Brooks, TigerConnect CEO. “More than 6,000 healthcare organizations rely on our platform to enable seamless collaboration in a scalable, fully integrated, easy-to-use solution. With so many challenges facing our industry during the COVID-19 pandemic, now is the time for innovation that enhances care and strengthens the bottom line.”

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