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Federal "TOP" Grant Extends Online Care Management System to Assist Underserved Communities

The city and county of San Francisco received funding from the US Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration's Technology Opportunities Program (TOP), announced October 1. The $899,113 grant was awarded to San Francisco's Department of Aging and Adult Services (SF-DAAS), which partnered with RTZ Associates of Oakland to develop SF-GetCare-the nation's first comprehensive Online Care Management System.

 

With the TOP grant, RTZ Associates will help SF-DAAS extend its service network to:

 

* develop a Web-based, integrated, community-based, long-term care information system for older and disabled persons in San Francisco.

 

* empower older and disabled persons with online access to care.

 

* be the model county-wide health and social service information system.

 

* provide information to all San Franciscans who need it, including those without computer access, the visually impaired, and those who speak languages other than English.

 

 

"We want these grants to demonstrate how the most up-to-date technology can assist the delivery of services to Americans of all ages and backgrounds, improving levels of public safety, public health, public information, home ownership, and economic development," said Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information Nancy J. Victory.

 

The SF-GetCare program works on many levels. It improves a number of community healthcare systems already in place and creates new systems of information sharing and reporting for greater efficiency. By providing a universal directory of county services in a Web-based location (http://www.SF-GetCare.com), consumers and caregivers have access to current information on the available programs. The Web site, which is really an integrated software system, collects information and simplifies the extensive reporting required by various agencies. Consumer information records from many community service providers are compiled and updated online, reducing paperwork and providing service providers and caregivers with a full view of a client's history with different services and agencies. Phone operators are available to assist those who do not have computer access.

 

The SF-DAAS grant of is one of 74 TOP grants, totaling $42.8 million, to nonprofit organizations across the country. The grant supplements and expands an initial $1.71 million Long Term Care Innovation Grant from the California Department of Aging, which began in February 2000, and extends the SF-GetCare project through September 2003. The TOP grant demonstrates federal interest in SF-GetCare, whose infrastructure, developed specifically for San Francisco, is the nation's first integrated online care management system.

 

Mayor Willie Brown established the Department of Aging and Adult Services in July 2000. The department consolidates several city offices and has been working to develop innovative solutions to meet its mandate to provide a seamless collection of services to disabled adults and healthy seniors.

 

RTZ Associates is a leader in providing technical solutions for real-life problems faced by the elderly and disabled throughout the nation. The company was founded by Rick Zawadski, a 25-year veteran of the adult healthcare and technology industries. In 1998, RTZ Associates launched GetCare.com, one of the first Internet sites of its kind in the long-term care industry. It also developed the CADCare enterprise software program and assessment tool to assist clinicians and national and state policy makers and funders by tracking outcomes more efficiently. SF-GetCare represents a blend of these technologies and the next step in the evolution of long-term care information systems.

 

For more information, visit http://www.RTZAssociates.com.

 

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"Wired Seniors" Could Benefit From Contacting Doctors Online

"Wired" seniors are dedicated Internet users-69% of wired seniors go online each day, compared with 56% of all Internet users, according to a recent survey conducted by the Pew Internet and American Life Project (September 2001). The survey also found that the top Internet activities for online seniors were using e-mail (93%) and searching for health and medical information (53%).

 

At the same time, the rate of office visits for Americans aged 65 years and older increased by more than 20%, and doctors spent an average of 20 minutes with patients, according to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (July 2001).

 

The results of these two studies suggest "wired" seniors might benefit from online patient/doctor contact because they are (1) visiting doctors more frequently, (2) spending less time with their doctors due to managed care restrictions, (3) generally prescribed more medication, and (4) see more specialists. As a result, seniors are making more phone calls to their doctors' offices to make or cancel appointments, request referrals, ask questions about medication, request prescription renewals, or ask questions about an office visit.

 

Because "wired" seniors are online anyway and are accustomed to sending and receiving e-mail, it would makes sense that "wired" seniors want to use the Internet instead of the phone to communicate with their doctors. The question is whether it is financially feasible or ethically responsible for doctors to begin online communication with senior patients.

 

In April 2001 Dr Vincent Wilson, a family practitioner in Orlando, Fla, who provides care for many retirement-age patients, opened his office to Internet communications with patients using the first universal online patient-doctor communication system: http://www.MDhub.com.

 

Dr Wilson has been tracking the results of online communication and found, "Initially (first month), [MDhub] reduced calls by 3-5 per day. Now, the reduction is close to a dozen calls per day. This obviously frees up my front office staff to take care of the more urgent needs of my in-office patients." Dr Wilson believes his positive results will continue to grow.

 

Reduced phone calls not only benefit doctors through reduced expenses but also provide an opportunity for better in-office patient care and increased patient satisfaction. Adult caregivers are also finding that the Internet can be a convenient tool for staying in touch with their parents' doctors. "I send regular reports to my mother's doctor after her discharge. It saves me a tremendous amount of time ordinarily spent on the phone," says MDhub user Fran Rickets of San Antonio, Tex.

 

However, because many seniors have more than one doctor, patients need one universally available communication system that allows them to access all their doctors from one Web site. MDhub, the system Dr Wilson uses, achieves this universality by connecting virtually every practicing physician, nearly 400,000 physicians nationwide, through one universal URL, http://www.mdhub.com.

 

Because most doctors don't yet use the Internet in their practice, MDhub messages are automatically sent to the doctor's fax machine, which means all doctors can participate. There is no registration required for patients or doctors, so any patient can send an e-mail to his or her caregiver.

 

Responsible online communication between doctors and senior patients for routine matters such as making or canceling appointments, requesting referrals, renewing prescriptions, requesting laboratory results, or asking a quick nonmedical question can provide a great convenience to patients, although MDhub is not intended for the practice of medicine on the Internet.

 

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Joint Commission Resources Publishes Protecting Confidentiality

To help healthcare organizations meet the confidentiality needs of patients, residents, or clients, the Joint Commission Resources (JCR) today announced the publication of Protecting Confidentiality. Joint Commission Resources is a subsidiary of Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations.

 

This how-to book helps healthcare organizations understand the complex issues involved in protecting confidential information, evaluate current practices, and improve processes for handling internal and external requests for confidential information. Protecting Confidentiality takes an in-depth look at ensuring confidentiality in this electronic age and offers guidelines on establishing an organization-wide approach to protecting health information.

 

The book looks at the incredibly complex flow of medical information and offers a self-evaluation tool to help organizations access the numerous ways that information must be treated. Special features of the book include various tools that organizations can use to improve their processes for handling confidential information, an entire chapter dedicated to the effect (both good and bad) of computers on confidentiality, practical guidelines and tools to educate staff about how confidential information should be handled, and a self-evaluation tool to help organizations assess their own confidentiality competence.

 

Protecting Confidentiality is available for $55, using order code PC-500. To order, please call the Customer Service Center at 630-792-5800 between 8 am and 5 pm central time, weekdays, or visit Infomart on JCR's Web site at http://www.icrinc.com.

 

Joint Commission Resources (formerly known as Quality Healthcare Resources) was established in 1986 by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations to improve the safety and quality of care in the United States and in the international community through the provision of education and consultation services and international accreditation.

 

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Quality Healthcare Information on the "Net"

The Internet Healthcare Coalition presented its fourth annual "Quality Healthcare Information on the 'Net"' conference on November 5 and 6, 2001 in Washington, DC. This conference was an ethical codes and principles summit designed to present a comprehensive review of recent activities and to explore opportunities to collaborate on further development and implementation of e-health codes of ethics.

 

The Conference Book is available at the coalition's Web site at http://www.ihealthcoalition.org/community/conf2OO1-bookorder.html. It contains more than 200 pages of PowerPoint presentations that were presented the conference, plus an appendix that includes the latest Web site accreditation standards and codes of ethics.

 

Presentation topics include:

 

* Why We Need This Summit and Forum

 

* Review of Internet Health Information Quality Initiatives

 

* The Council for Interactive Healthcare

 

* Connecting the Dots: Toward a Mental Health Internet Strategy

 

* The e-Health Initiative

 

* How the Public Assesses Quality of Information: Perspectives from Online Support Groups

 

* HON Code New Features: Dynamic Review and Compliance

 

* Foundations of the e-Health Code of Ethics

 

* Hi-Ethics Principles Version 2.0

 

* Health Web Site Accreditation

 

* Quackery and the Internet

 

* An Action Plan for Health Web Site Quality Improvement

 

* Role of e-Health Ethics Training and Education

 

* Development of a Model to Evaluate the Quality of Health Information Web Sites

 

 

Appendices include:

 

* e-Health Code of Ethics

 

* Ethical Principles for Offering Internet Health Services to Consumers

 

 

For more information visit the Web site at http://www.ihealthcoalition.org.

 

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CHECKBOOK's Annual Guide to Health Insurance Plans for Federal Employees Launches Online for Upcoming Open Season

Health insurance premiums for millions of federal workers, District of Columbia employees, and retirees are expected to rise more than 13% next year. By taking the opportunity to compare health insurance plans using CHECKBOOK's online guide (http://www.GuideToHealthPlans.org), many enrollees can still save $500, $1,000, or more in 2002 by switching among the 180 plans provided through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP).

 

For more than 20 years, nonprofit consumer magazine CHECKBOOK has published a paperback version of its annual Guide To Health Insurance Plans for Federal Employees. This year, CHECKBOOK is introducing a fully interactive version of the guide online.

 

Federal agencies, such as the Department of Health and Human Services, with 55,000 workers, are contracting with CHECKBOOK for employee access to the site. CHECKBOOK expects many more agencies to follow suit.

 

The interactive version of the guide reduces the cumbersome task of shopping the 10 to 20 plans available to enrollees in any given part of the United States to just a few clicks of the mouse. Users answer a handful of basic questions on family size, salary type, age, and ZIP code, and receive personalized information that details side-by-side all available plans. Users can quickly compare plans based on likely costs and quality ratings or dig even deeper into each plan's individual offerings. Both the online and the paperback versions will allow users to:

 

* Compare plan costs-the guide compares and ranks plans based on total costs for each enrollee's specific situation. Total costs take into account premiums and estimated out-of-pocket costs, including deductibles, copayments, prescription drugs, and other noncovered expenses. To ensure that enrollees are aware of what might happen in a year in which they experience catastrophic healthcare expenses, the guide also compares plans according to the yearly maximum an enrollee could possibly have to pay out of pocket. Cost ratings take into account special tax breaks most employees receive on their premiums and include special comparisons for Medicare participants.

 

* Review quality ratings-users are given ratings that evaluate overall quality, access to and quality of care, doctor-patient communication, customer service, and claims processing for each plan.

 

* Consider special plan features-enrollees can review special coverage provided for dental care, vision care, chiropractic services, acupuncture, mail-order drugs, infertility treatment, and diabetic supplies.

 

* Gauge plan flexibility, choice of doctors, other features-users of the online version of the guide can link to full lists of drugs covered under various plans, as well as link to complete lists of doctors participating in each plan. Both the online and the print versions provide information on coverage when using doctors outside of each plan's network and access to specialists without referrals.

 

 

All federal agencies have the option of purchasing group access to the online guide. Prices vary based on the number of employees within an agency. Users will have access to the 2002 online guide from the beginning of open season (November 2001) through December 2002. Federal agencies may also purchase the print version of the guide in bulk at a discounted rate. Individual employees and retirees can subscribe to the guide online for $8.95 at http://www.GuideToHealthPlans.org. Single copies of the printed guide are $8.95, plus $1.50 for shipping ($10.45 total). Orders can be placed online or by calling 800-213-SAVE. The book is also available by writing: CHECKBOOK Insurance Guide, 733 15th St, NW, Suite 820, Washington, DC 20005.

 

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Medical, Pharmaceutical, Biotech, and Agrochemical Abbreviation Search Engine Available for Download

Online users can now search through a database of more than 28,000 medical abbreviations and acronyms or search a database of over 30 million scientific articles from the computer desktop, with Pharma-Lexicon's Search Box.

 

The search engine enables users to find abbreviations quickly and effectively. The Pharma-Lexicon desktop search box allows quick entry of search criteria and will then go off to Pharma-Lexicon's Web site to search through a database of more than 28,000 acronyms that is more up to date than any book, with new acronyms and abbreviations added daily. Links to relevant Web sites also allow for "fuzzy" searching.

 

The Pharma-Lexicon Search Box will install itself into a designated computer directory and will also create an icon on the desktop.

 

When users enter search criteria and click "go," the Search Box seeks an Internet connection. If there is one already present, it will open into either the active browser window (Explorer, Netscape, etc) or a new browser window. If there is no Internet connection present, Search Box allows the user to connect before opening the results page.

 

Point your browser to http://www.pharma-lexicon.com and click on New Desktop Searchbox, Download Now.

 

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HealthcareOne Personal Digital Assistant Dictation System Improves Transcription Process, Boosts Physician Productivity

HealthcareOne has announced the release of HealthcareOne Mobile Dictation, a PalmOS application that allows physicians to capture dictation at the point of care on a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA).

 

Healthcare providers can use the HandEra hand-held PDA computer to dictate notes in the office, hospital, or home. Dictated files are quickly downloaded to a PC and then routed to a transcription service. HealthcareOne offers transcription services through select qualified medical transcription company partners under the Transcription Plus brand name.

 

Up to now, PDAs have not been widely used for dictation. HealthcareOne Mobile Dictation leverages the popular and easy-to-use Palm Operating System to provide a powerful clinical tool.

 

Currently about 18% of physicians use a handheld computing device as an integral part of their daily activity. A recent Harris Interactive poll concludes that 11% of responding physicians who record notes manually or dictate onto tapes expect to use a handheld device for recording within 18 months. Another 22% expect to use handhelds for recording notes within 5 years. Harris Interactive states that given these expectations and the current rate of growth in the use of handhelds, one can reasonably estimate that half of all doctors will be using handheld devices by 2004.

 

The new product allows a provider to capture voice dictation by speaking into a HandEra PDA device with its built-in microphone. The PDA becomes the physician's central tool with a means to efficiently manage dictation, schedule, and rounds information, as well as other standard PDA functionality. With an interface to the practice management system's appointment-scheduling module, physicians do not need to dictate patient demographic information, which saves on yearly transcription costs.

 

HealthcareOne (http://www.healthcareone.info) is a division of IDI and has more than 14 years experience in the healthcare industry offering secure solutions and the industry expertise necessary to help the medical industry manage healthcare information.

 

HandEra, Inc, formerly TRG Products, Inc, offers an integrated product line of hardware and software based on the popular Palm Operating System (Palm OS).

 

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The VoiceCare Telephone Reporting System Improves Staff Communication and Morale

The VoiceCare system is a unique telephone reporting software solution that connects to the hospital phone system. To use VoiceCare, staff simply pick up any telephone within the hospital, enter a unique identifier, and then select the needed function. The number of simultaneous users is limited only by the number of telephone lines dedicated to the system and is used by thousands of nurses across the United States and in England to save time and money, improve nursing and multidisciplinary communication, improve security and privacy of patient information, facilitate patient flow, enhance patient satisfaction, improve management to staff communication, and empower nurses.

 

* Save time and moneyStaff are able to report independently and at will through any hospital telephone. Reports become considerably shorter, and there is no waiting time to give or receive end-of-shift or patient transfer reports and multidisciplinary communication. Nurses are less likely to be interrupted when they report at times other than the shift change. Redundant information can be reduced because the system allows particular baseline patient data to be retained as long as the patient is in the hospital. Because a significant portion of overtime may be needed to report issues, the cost benefit can be considerable.

 

* Improve nursing and multidisciplinary communicationThe VoiceCare system helps to standardize reporting formats, improves quality and accuracy, and provides immediate access to information by appropriate caregivers. Confidentiality of patient information is heightened because of reduced likelihood that others will overhear. Patient reports are retained for 20 hours, then automatically rolled off the system, with the exception of baseline patient information that the hospital chooses to keep to eliminate the need for repetition.Information from multidisciplinary staff can be attached to up to 3 shift reports, ensuring that information comes from the original source. In addition, specialists (ie, wound care nurse, infection control) are able to place specific information so that all staff that care for the patient hear their particular instructions throughout the patient's stay.

 

* Comply with privacy and security provisions of HIPAAVoiceCare maintains an audit trail of verbal reporting activities relative to patient care. The hospital has control over the length of identification numbers and passwords and also over the length of time that a password remains active within the system.

 

* Facilitate patient flowThe VoiceCare system can improve patient flow by reducing "phone tag" and wasted time. When patients are transferred between departments, VoiceCare allows nurses or other staff to complete reports, even if the patient can't be moved until later for logistical reasons (ie, room is not yet clean).

 

* Enhance patient satisfactionBetter nursing coverage enhances patient satisfaction, especially during shift changes when off-going nurses can still respond to nurse calls, patient requests, and family members who have questions. Oncoming staff get complete reports, and all nurses spend less time reporting and thus have more time for direct patient care.

 

* Improve management to staff communicationThe VoiceCare system includes a "Bulletin" function that allows managers to send out group messages to their staff, ensuring that important information and events are available at all times. "Bulletins" are retained until they are heard and deleted by each individual staff member.

 

* Empower nursesAn important result of using the VoiceCare system is that staff morale improves. Staff like that they have control over the method and timing of patient reporting and that they are able to spend more time in professional duties. It is not uncommon for nurses to state that "VoiceCare is the best thing that the hospital has ever done for nurses." In this era of nursing shortages and financial pressures, staff morale is more important than ever.The VoiceCare system also includes internal voicemail capabilities for all staff. Pending messages are heard with the "Bulletins," immediately upon accessing the system.

 

* Total control over access to patient informationIt is essential that any software system provide adequate security controls. Each hospital client decides how security access to VoiceCare is defined for various types of staff, and control can be as restrictive as needed. For example, the hospital may wish to grant access to patient information only to staff who actually work in a particular nursing unit. Various types of access control are available for customization to the hospital's needs.

 

 

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New Jersey Institute of Technology Unveils the State's First College of Computing Sciences

New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), a pioneer in computer education, recently opened New Jersey's first College of Computing Sciences. The school is one of the nation's largest colleges of computing sciences, with more than 2,440 enrolled undergraduate, master's, and doctoral students.

 

"We had witnessed for a number of years an astonishing growth in enrollment in computer science and information systems, making this department one of the largest in the region, if not the nation," says NJIT President Saul K. Fenster. "The demand for talented graduates knowledgeable in these areas continues to grow. It makes sense to respond to our future students, and the needs of the economy, by offering more educational opportunities for students studying computing sciences."

 

The dean of the new college is Stephen B. Seidman, PhD, a noted expert in software engineering and a Woodrow Wilson Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). The college has 40 tenure-track faculty, and Seidman hopes to expand that number to 60.

 

"Computing and information technology have driven about a third of the nation's economic growth since 1992 and the pace is accelerating," adds Fenster. "The new marketplace demands skills that go beyond the mechanics of programming and the use of software packages."

 

The new college offers several undergraduate and graduate degree programs, including new programs in information technology, information systems, and human-computer interaction. The college encompasses two departments. The Department of Computer Science deals with the theoretical foundations of computing and the development of new computer software systems. The Department of Information Systems deals with applications of computers involving people and organizations.

 

The college's areas of research excellence include algorithms, databases, learning technologies, and bioinformatics. Members of the senior faculty include individuals who specialize in the following areas of research.

 

* Creating a database to improve distance learning-Starr Roxanne Hiltz, PhD, Distinguished Professor of Computer Science, pioneered the concept of distance learning and originated the concept of the virtual classroom.

 

* Software engineering-Ali Mili, PhD, Professor of Computer Science, is an internationally renowned expert in the area of software engineering. The National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Aeronautic Space Administration (NASA) have supported his research.

 

* Internet stability and protocols-Teunis J. Ott, PhD, Professor of Computer Science, has been researching the stability of the Internet and the performance of Internet protocols. He holds several patents dealing solutions for traffic flow and routing in telecommunications networks.

 

* Helping people who are disabled-Marilyn Tremaine, PhD, Professor of Information Systems, is well known as an expert in the creation and evaluation of new human-computer interface technologies. These technologies enable researchers to develop simpler hardware and software systems for people with disabilities. Tremaine recently developed a virtual reality-based program to rehabilitate stroke victims.

 

* Learning technologies-Murray Turoff, PhD, Distinguished Professor of Information Systems, pioneered along with Hiltz the concept of distance learning. Turoff, Chair of the Department of Information Systems, developed the first computer-mediated communications technology in 1976, better known as the Electronic Information Exchange System (EIES).

 

 

To learn more about the College of Computing Sciences, visit the Web site at ccs.njit.edu.

 

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Amerivault Announces Partnership With Compaq to Facilitate Real-time Online Data Recovery

Amerivault Corporation has announced an expanded partnership with Compaq Global Services to extend online backup services to Compaq's corporate customers who have previously relied exclusively on traditional tape backup.

 

Amerivault has implemented an entirely new business model for offsite data storage, protection, and restoration. Its primary service offering is to provide automated backup and online vaulting services to its customer base. Amerivault's backup software recognizes and captures changes to files since the last backup session, strips out only the changes from the files (at the block level), encrypts the data for enhanced security, and compresses it to minimize transmission time. The encrypted data are then sent over the Internet or private telecommunication lines to highly secure offsite Mass Storage Vaults.

 

Because only changed segments of the data are sent, even if someone were able to break into the code, he or she would find a few unintelligible bits of data, as opposed to entire files, which are routinely backed up on tape.

 

Customers schedule automated unattended backup sessions according to their own needs. Retrieval can be accomplished online, real time from the customer's place of business or remotely. Additionally, Amerivault offers recovery site service, providing space for client-owned file servers at the Amerivault data center to ensure timely business resumption if a client suffers sustained computer-system outage.

 

Amerivault is an established and a successful online backup provider with long-standing roots in the traditional tape-based backup approach. Founded in April 1998, Amerivault is headquartered in Waltham, Mass, and has a network of regional and national reseller partners that includes Compaq, WorldCom, and SunGard. Amerivault Corp is a privately held employee-owned company.

 

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Senior Citizen Takes Inventive Approach to Use His Retirement

For his milestone 70th birthday, Ed Blum decided to commission a mold for Adapt-A-Lap, a portable device Blum invented to help those with limited use of their arms read easier and for people whose low vision requires reading material to be close to their eyes.

 

The device is also useful to readers without disabilities, typists in need of a copy holder, and travelers using a laptop computer.

 

Adapt-A-Lap was initially sold in medical supply catalogs, and it is now carried by bookstores and department stores, such as Marshall Field's. It is also available on the Internet through Blum's Web site, http://www.bookholder.net.

 

Adapt-A-Lap consists of a light portable desk, 12 by 14 inches, with its own handle molded into it. Attached to the back is an aluminum leg that telescopes like camera tripod legs but with 4 sections instead of 3 to allow Adapt-A-Lap to be positioned in a greater variety of places.

 

The desktop is equipped with adjustable elastic straps for holding a book in place and see-through plastic straps for pinning down the pages.

 

It weighs 22 ounces and folds into a package an inch and a half thick, ready to slip into a briefcase or backpack.

 

Urbana Free Library Executive Director Fred Schlipf tested Adapt-A-Lap to see if the library wanted to add the device to its array of equipment for library users who are disabled. Schlipf also found a use for it himself. It was great for holding a book open when he worked with his hands, he said. "A couple of our staff tried it and they thought it was really neat," Schlipf said. "We have one that we're going to put in circulation."

 

The idea came to Blum when he was temporarily disabled by bursitis and began a search for the ideal book holder. He never found it and decided to design his own, starting with a wooden model produced to his design by Amish craftsmen before designing a pressed plastic version.

 

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Coalition Chooses Innovative Data Solutions/Credential One for Statewide Credentialing Plan

Innovative Data Solutions (IDS), a Cleveland-based credentials verification organization, has begun offering services throughout Minnesota and in surrounding states under a plan developed by coalition to streamline the cumbersome medical practitioner credentialing process. The plan makes Minnesota the only state in the country to offer a one-stop shop for credentialing.

 

The coalition, consisting of the Minnesota Hospital and Healthcare Partnership, the Minnesota Council of Health Plans, and the Minnesota Medical Association, marks the first time hospitals, health plans, and physicians have joined to develop a single-source credentialing system.

 

IDS/Credential One offers customized software to provide its clients with interactive credentials management and a document management viewer application via a secure Web site, at http://www.idsconnect.com. The software allows IDS clients to continually view data and documents on physicians and other healthcare practitioners throughout the credentialing process, both on the Web and on backup CD-ROMs.

 

The decision to offer a statewide credentials verification plan in Minnesota grew out of a desire to streamline the credentialing process, which requires health practitioners to complete lengthy applications and supply supporting documents for each hospital and health plan for which they provide services. On average, a physician has 3 hospital privilege relationships and participates in 5 health plans and has to supply information not only when initiating the relationship but also every 2 years thereafter. The hospitals and health plans must gather, verify, track, update, and store the detailed information, along with additional information for risk management, insurance reimbursement, and certification compliance purposes.

 

With the help of the Minnesota Joint Commission Purchasing Coalition (MJPC), a Minnesota healthcare task force developed a uniform credentials application for all types of health practitioners. A practitioner whose affiliations are with MJPC member hospitals and health plans has to complete only one application every 2 years. The recredentialing applications will be sent in advance of the practitioners' birth dates, with information automatically filled in for those items that don't change-such as name, date of birth, and education-further saving time.

 

Healthcare organizations will receive information faster, save on paperwork, enjoy increased data accessibility, and benefit from a substantial discount arranged by the coalition.

 

Application processing, which historically takes months to complete, will be done in 30 days, said IDS President Mark J. Parianos. In addition, fast-track options are available for applications that must be completed in a hurry.

 

The agreement between IDS and the MJPC was completed in June 2001. As of mid-September, some 40 hospitals and health plans had signed up. More are expected to join as Credential One rolls out Phase 2. The services are available through the MJPC to all hospitals, health plans, and other healthcare organizations in Minnesota as well as in adjoining regions of Iowa, Wisconsin, and North and South Dakota.

 

Credential One can verify and update the credentials of more than 70 types of healthcare practitioners, including physicians, dentists, nurses, and behavioral and allied health practitioners. Its services include collecting data, verifying information with original sources when possible, and continually monitoring sources, such as medical boards, for updates. If there is any change in a practitioner's status, the client is notified by e-mail.

 

IDS is certified by the National Committee on Quality Assurance (NCQA) for 10 out of 10 verification services and has been recertified until May 16, 2003, to verify the following elements of a healthcare practitioner's background: license to practice; hospital privileges; certification from the US Drug Enforcement Agency and any state Controlled Dangerous Substance certification; medical school graduation, residency completion, and board certification; malpractice insurance and malpractice claims history; National Practitioner Data Bank queries; sanctions against state licensure; Medicare and Medicaid sanctions; and application processing.

 

IDS originally provided information management for regional healthcare organizations. It grew to fill the expanding need for credentials verification and now serves hospitals and managed care organizations nationwide, including HealthPartners, EyeMed Vision Care, and QualChoice. In May, following another national search, IDS/Credential One was named the CVO for HealthMarket, the world's first national Defined Benefit Health Plan.

 

The NCQA is an independent nonprofit organization that certifies CVOs and accredits managed care organizations. Its voluntary certification process includes rigorous onsite evaluations conducted by a team of healthcare professionals and certified credentialing specialists.

 

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National Committee on Quality Assurance Certifies WebCVO

Medversant Technologies' healthcare credentialing application service provider, WebCVO, has achieved certification by the National Committee on Quality Assurance (NCQA) as a credentialing organization.

 

NCQA is a private not-for-profit organization dedicated to improving healthcare quality. Although the organization is frequently referred to as a watchdog for the managed care industry, NCQA is active in quality oversight and improvement initiatives at all levels of the healthcare system. The organization accredits almost half the HMOs in the United States. NCQA also accredits credentialing verification organizations such as WebCVO.

 

According to Medversant's Marilyn Grunzweig, Executive VP, "as the only credentialing organization in the country with a completely electronic system for credentialing healthcare practitioners, NCQA certification takes the organization to a new level."

 

WebCVO can verify the backgrounds of all healthcare employees, including citizenship, education, criminal background, training, and previous work experience. WebCVO creates a single centralized credentials verification database that may be accessed for verification of credentials information. This centralized credentialing application allows such employees to be credentialed once, rather than multiple times, as would occur if each organization performed its own credentialing.

 

Built for the Web on a flexible database platform using XML-based technologies, Medversant has initially introduced its software to the healthcare industry and has plans to introduce WebCVO to other industries required to credential professionals such as engineering, finance, legal and accounting, and education.

 

Medversant is a global provider of ASP business solutions and offers rapid custom development and integration services using its development centers in Asia.

 

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