Monthly Archives: June 2016

An Introduction to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act

HIPAA – The Basics

Most people are already aware of HIPAA because of the annual privacy consent forms. HIPAA changed more than privacy consent forms. In the twenty years since it was signed, the Healthcare Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act has changed how healthcare organizations operate. Here’s what you need to know.

Was It Always Called HIPAA?
No. The bill was originally named the Kennedy-Kassebaum bill after its two authors, Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachussets and Senator Nancy Kassebaum of Kansas. It is now known as the Healthcare Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA for short.

When Was It Passed?
President Bill Clinton signed this bill in 1996. Major provisions of the bill were implemented between 1999 and 2006.

Why Was It Written?
In the mid-1990s, it became clear that the healthcare industry needed to modernize and standardize how they kept records. The authors also included provisions to make it easier for employees to keep health insurance after leaving a job. The original intent of the bill was to address these concerns.

What Did People Think?
Three years earlier, a comprehensive healthcare reform bill failed.
When this bill passed, opinions were split. Although it wasn’t exactly what they wanted, proponents felt that this bill was still a win. Opponents were skeptical of the need for the bill. Many felt like it set new standards for the healthcare industry that were too high.

How Many Components Are There?
There were four sets of rules included in the original HIPAA regulations: The Privacy Rule; The Transaction and Code Sets Rule; The Security Rule and The National Provider Identifier, or Unique Identifiers, Rule; and the Enforcement Rule.

What Did That Mean For Healthcare Organizations?
Here are some of the major structural changes that healthcare organizations had to make to comply with HIPAA. Please note that this simply an overview and not a complete list.
An organization must have a trained HIPAA Compliance Officer who is aware of all regulations and ensures that the company is following all HIPAA requirements.
Organizations must teach and train employees about HIPAA and the pertinent policies. Usually, organizations make an annual commitment to training their staff.
Organizations must safeguard patient health information against unauthorized access and disclosure. If there is a security breach, organizations are required to report the incident and inform the patients who may have been affected.

The Healthcare Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 massively changed the healthcare industry and will always be remembered as a turning point. It will be exciting to see what changes the future has in store for healthcare.

• Department of Health and Human Services. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, “HIPAA Basics for Providers: Privacy, Security, and Breach Notification Rules.” May 2015 (
• Indian Health Service: The Federal Health Program for American Indians and Alaskan Natives, “Healthcare Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.” (
• Paul Starr, “The Signing of the Kennedy-Kassebaum Bill,” August 22, 1996 (
•, “Congressional Concealer. Rumor: HIPAA Laws started because a senator wanted to cover up his wife’s plastic surgery.’” April 3, 2015. (
• “History and Background of HIPAA.” (

Joint Commission Accreditation

Healthcare leaders talk about visits from the Joint Commission in the hushed, reverent tones that are typically reserved for important events. Joint Commission accreditation indicates that an organization meets (or exceeds) national standards in many areas ranging from risk management to patient care.  Getting accredited is important, and all employees play a role.

What Is The Joint Commission?
The Joint Commission is an independent, not-for profit organization that is a collaboration between five other groups: the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association, the American College of Physicians, the American College of Surgeons, and the American Dental Association.

Will We Know They’re Coming?  
Yes, but not exactly.  The Joint Commission informs an organization that they intend to visit.  The organization provides a list of several potential dates that would work well to host the surveyors. Frantic preparations begin after this initial encounter.  Suddenly leaders want every staff member in every department prepared for the visit. Although a list of potential dates has been mutually agreed upon, organization leaders won’t know the date of the visit until surveyors arrive.

Why Do They Exist?
The Joint Commission’s mission is to improve healthcare of the public.  They accomplish this by evaluating, “…health care organizations and inspiring them to excel in providing safe and effective care of the highest quality and value.”

What Are The Benefits?
For patients, Joint Commission accreditation indicates that an organization has met (or exceeded) national standards on patient safety measures.  For organizations, Joint Commission surveys provide custom feedback on performance. Plus an increasing number of insurers and third parties prefer accredited organizations.

How Should I Prepare?
Don’t think of it as preparing for Joint Commission.  Think of it as reviewing responsibilities and preparing for emergency or unexpected scenarios.  Take time to learn organizational goals, location of resources, and other policies.  Be able to show where fire exits and fire pulls are.  Understand emergency procedures.
Unexpected things happen in healthcare all of the time.  It is important to be aware and prepared.   All of the questions Joint Commission asks are things that all employees should know anyway. Plan to perform at Joint Commission standards all of the time.

Where Can I Find Out More?
The Joint Commission website has a lot of information about their policies, procedures, and actions.   With its five member organizations, they’re doing a lot of good work in the world of healthcare.  If interested, take the time to find out more.

For More Information On The Joint Commission
The Joint Commission. (2016) “About Us.”

Security Updates, Consilidation, and Obesity Rates Feature in our 6/10 Healthcare News Roundup

Obesity rates rise among women, no change in men

According to an article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the national obesity rate in 2013-2014 reached 35% among men and 40% among women. The 40% number for women represents a linear increase since 2005, while obesity rates for men have remained relatively stagnant. Study authors suggest that insufficient data exists to make an accurate assessment of the causes for these trends, and recommend further studies be conducted.

Western State Hospital, Washington’s largest psychiatric hospital, agrees to ramp up safety measures

Western State Hospital has a reputation for being a dangerous work environment, where employees and patients have been subjected to violence in the past. Washington Governor Jay Inslee recently replaced the hospital’s CEO, Ron Adler, with an experienced manager of state mental health systems, Cheryl Strange. Federal Regulators and Western State Hospital have hammered out a detailed plan to correct the safety concerns.

Gray’s Harbor doctor encourages male patients to have uncomfortable conversations about men’s health

Dr. Stephen Reznicek, of Grays Harbor Community Hospital, has been building a top-tier urology clinic on the fourth floor of the hospital. The clinic helps to meet the huge demand for urology services in the area. The clinic anticipates future growth the an expanding medical team, including a new urologist later this year.

Dr. Reznicek places an emphasis on non-invasive solutions for men with prostate and fertility concerns. One of the first hurdles to overcome with new patients is just starting the conversation. Urologists recommend regular check-ups, especially as men grow older.

Study finds that criminal activity is leading cause of healthcare data breaches

A recent study published by the Ponemon Institute has revealed that half of all privacy and security data breaches in healthcare are attributable to malicious criminal attacks. The remaining 50% of data breaches can be blamed on employee mistakes, third-party errors, and stolen computers & devices. Data breaches can result in medical identify theft, as hackers are able to acquire names, social security numbers, and other confidential information about patients.

In an interview with HealthcareITNews, Seattle Children’s Hospital IT security manager David Severski notes that security technologies need to be adapted to protect against these malicious attacks. “If you are not applying a data-driven, scientific approach to managing your resources, you are managing at best by instinct,” he added. “And in a competitive business world, instinct is not enough.”

Skagit Regional Health acquires Cascade Valley Hospital

Cascade Valley Hospital was the last independent hospital in Washington’s Snohomish County. Cascade Valley began looking for an opportunity to consolidate in 2013, when it became apparent that the independent hospital needed an influx of financial support to continue serving their rural community. A previous agreement to join PeaceHealth fell through in 2014. Patients in the region can look forward to expanded services and updated equipment.

Benefits To Working In An Educational Healthcare System

Guest Post by Emily Manahan

Healthcare organizations come in all shapes and sizes. There are small offices, medium sized partnerships, and large healthcare organizations. Educational healthcare systems are often among the largest of these organizations. Associated with graduate medical schools, these educational healthcare organizations typically employ thousands of staff in a variety of roles. Their staff have access to some big benefits.

A better understanding of the healthcare ecosystem. Working within a large organization gives staff a chance to witness how different departments interlock and support each other.

More exposure. Educational healthcare systems tend to attract well-known and respected providers. Our doctors are regularly sought after for their expertise in the specialty. A few times, national news crews have arrived to interview doctors. It is an honor to be on the same team with leading doctors. A few former coworkers have maintained relationships with some of the clinic doctors even after they moved onto other positions.

More recognition. In a large organization, staff are recognized by where they work. When job opportunities become available, managers and medical directors often have internal candidates in mind. For example, one of our physician’s assistants recently took an inpatient position in our department. When the job became available, she was approached as a top choice. Since she already worked within the organization, people knew what she was capable of.

More resources. Unsurprisingly, educational healthcare systems have a greater focus on education. This comes in many forms. There are monthly lunchtime lectures on a variety of topics. If that isn’t interesting, grand rounds are available. Many people also take college classes that are offered outside of their work time. However, some managers even support taking work related classes during shifts.

Regardless of the size of the specific organization, healthcare is a complex and evolving field. All staff have opportunities to learn, grow, and connect around every corner. Due to their size and prestige, educational healthcare systems offer a unique set of benefits to their staff. Their employees invariably benefit from access to more exposure, more recognition, more resources, and a better understanding of the healthcare ecosystem.

June 3rd Weekly Healthcare News Roundup

OPEN ACT Could Encourage Pharmaceutical Innovation at Reduced R&D Costs

Drs. Klane White and David Fajgenbaum wrote in the opinion section of The Seattle Times that “There are 30 million Americans affected by 7,000 rare diseases, and, of those, only 5 percent have Food and Drug Administration-approved therapies.” The article calls for congress to pass the OPEN ACT, encouraging pharmaceutical companies to study the benefits of modifying existing drugs to be used for rare medical conditions.

Tacoma Hospital Alliance Seeks Additional Funds for Psychiatric Facility

MultiCare Health System and CHI Franciscan Health are planning a new psychiatric hospital in Tacoma. The $41 million project would create a 120-bed hospital in Pierce County, and the Alliance for South Sound Health is seeking funding from the Tacoma City Council and Pierce County to help with construction costs. The hospitals have requested $1.5 million from both municipal governments, and they’ve been pledged an additional $400,000 from the city of Auburn.

American Death Rate Has Increased for the First Time in a Decade

According to preliminary numbers from the National Center for Health Statistics, the death rate in the United States has increased for the first time since 2005. Some causes of death which have increased include Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, suicides, drug overdoses, accidents, and firearm deaths. The rate of death in 2014 was 723.2 deaths per 100,000 people, and it increased to 729.5 in 2015.

Olympic Medical Center Hires New Medical Oncologist

The Olympic Medical Center has found a replacement for their outgoing medical oncologist, Dr. Tom Kummet, MD. Dr. Rachna Anand, DO, who trained in oncology at Hahnemann University Hospital in Philadelphia, will take up the mantel. In addition to Dr. Anand, Olympic Medical Center has expanded their medical oncology department by bringing on nurse practitioner Tamara Montgomery, MSN, NPC-C, OCN.

Looking for a job? Connect with The Everett Clinic on Tuesday, June 7th!

The Everett Clinic is hosting a Recruiting Event at Shoreline City Hall on Tuesday, June 7th from 4:30-6:30pm!

Applicants will have the chance to interview for both clinical and non-clinical positions for the new Shoreline location! All applicants should bring their current resume, copies of applicable licensure/certificates and 3 or more professional references.

KC Recruitment-Shoreline_flyer_Providers-1

You can view a listing of open positions at The Everett Clinic here. Want to learn more? Bring your resume to Shoreline City Hall on the 7th for an opportunity to connect with those who need your services!