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2013 Healthcare Hot Topics in Review

By: Nextech | December 13th, 2013

2013 Healthcare Hot Topics in Review Blog Feature

The end of the year is upon us! As 2013 prepares to make its exit, it seems only fitting to look back on some of the topics and events that had the healthcare industry buzzing with excitement … and dread. From the federal government to the everyday patient, 2013 shed light on new demands from healthcare professionals and how the industry plans to adapt to the times. So, what were the biggest healthcare hot topics of the year? From new privacy rules to the countdown to ICD-10, we’ve got the breakdown.

1. New HIPAA Regulations

HIPAA could, perhaps, be one of the biggest healthcare buzzwords of 2013. Also referred to as the “Omnibus Final Rules,” the new set of privacy regulations were announced by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and took effect Sept. 23. With Meaningful Use incentive payments encouraging doctors to take their practices in a digital direction, federal legislatures made quick work of laying out regulations aimed at curbing the threat of privacy breaches. In addition to other changes, the new HIPAA rules clamped down on the use of personal health information (PHI), empowered patients to restrict information concerning out-of-pocket care from insurance companies and required physicians to encrypt PHI to block usage in the event data is lost or stolen. 

2. Mobile Health

Research firm Frost & Sullivan recently listed mobile health, or mHealth, as 2013’s biggest conversation. Surveying more than 1,800 healthcare professionals globally, 51 percent of respondents nominated mHealth as the hottest healthcare topic of the year. If there were a clear indication of the technological evolution happening in the healthcare industry, the push for mobility would be it. As patients continue to cling to their electronic devices to manage the everyday details of their lives, including their healthcare, physicians and hospitals are tasked with ensuring direct dissemination of healthcare information. Among other specific mHealth trends set to take hold, Frost & Sullivan cited wireless vital signs monitoring, location-aware telemonitoring systems and Bluetooth wireless technology-enabled health trackers as the main prospects poised for rapid growth in the coming years. 

3. Patient Engagement

Keeping patients involved and engaged has proven to be a main focus for physicians and hospitals racing to attest Stage II of the Meaningful Use Incentive Program. Providers looking to attest must show that at least 5 percent of their patient volume utilizes engagement tools such as patient portals. It may seem like a daunting task but there is a method to the madness. According to a survey published by research and consulting firm Accenture, 41 percent of the 9,000 patients surveyed say they would consider switching doctors to gain online access to their medical records. The resounding demand for access to medical records has made patient engagement one of the hottest topics of 2013.

4.ICD 10

It may not take effect until October of 2014 but ICD 10 is already taking the healthcare industry by storm. Drastically changing the way physicians practice, those operating their office with electronic healthcare records will be forced to make the leap from ICD 9 to ICD 10 to code patient visits. For many providers, this leap may seem more like a free fall as they wrap their brains around the more than 68,000 ICD 10 coding options. It’s a far cry from the mere 14,000 current codes offered by ICD 9. ICD 10’s buffet of codes can be attributed to its detailed nature. There’s a code for everything! Did a patient walk into a lamppost (W22.02XD)? Was the patient unfortunately the victim of being sucked into a jet engine (V97.33XD)? Or was the patient trapped in a discarded refrigerator (T71.231D)? These things happen, ya’ know. With it’s approaching implementation deadline, it’s safe to say ICD 10 will likely make a return appearance on next year’s hot topics list.

If there is one thing for certain, the healthcare industry will continue to take surprising turns as it grows and evolves with societal changes. What will be the buzz-worthy topics of 2014? We’ll have to wait and see.