Shortage of Healthcare Workforce in Rural America Can Be Mitigated by ‘Information Technologists’
TeleQuality Communications CEO Tim Koxlien Identifies Solutions To Healthcare Financial Crises at Flagstaff Healthcare Event
Flagstaff, AZ (Aug. 1, 2016)-- Rural healthcare workforce shortages of physicians, specialists, and skilled nurses has reached crisis level in many remote communities, and telehealth services offer one of the solutions to the challenge, Tim Koxlien, CEO of San Antonio-based TeleQuality Communications Inc. and its Rural Health Telecom subsidiary, told health care providers, academics, county and community health professionals, and administrators at the 43rd Annual Arizona Rural Health Conference and 11th Annual Performance Improvement Summit here July 27.
“Today in a majority of rural America counties, one practitioner serves 3,500 patients while the generally accepted standard is one practitioner to serve 2,000 patients, as reported by the federal Health Resources and Services Administration,” Koxlien said.
“To mitigate patient-access problems generated by workforce deficits, telemedicine should be expanded and strengthened,” Koxlien said. “It is not without hurdles, such as costs of implementation, lack of funding awareness, necessary bandwidth and local IT infrastructure placement, inter-state licensing, and varying reimbursement by states and payers.”
Despite those challenges, Koxlien said IT is no longer just a tool for healthcare providers. “Telehealth services performed by information technologists are essential for meeting the health challenges of today and tomorrow,” he said. “Healthcare providers need to engage information technologists as a critical part of their overall team.”
Cybersecurity and patient data breaches also are a serious threat, and many contribute to a financial crisis, Koxlien said. “They are on the rise,” he said. “Hacktivism, espionage, cybercrime and recreational motivations of cybercriminals have increased by 72 percent in the healthcare industry between 2013 and 2014.
“Cyber attacks impact healthcare providers by increasing costs, need for technical remediation, and resulting tarnished reputations,” Koxlien said. ”Furthermore, studies show that one in every eight patients is withholding medical information from providers due to concern over confidentiality of electronic medical records.”
Koxlien said telehealth service providers perform risk data assessments and devise customized solutions through patch management, anti-malware software, encryption of patient data and transmissions, and similar proactive solutions. “It is important that healthcare providers consult with security experts to manage and consistently monitor their cybersecurity systems,” he said.
As a result of new healthcare payment policies based on value and quality, as mandated by the federal government, Koxlien said the financial crisis has been further exacerbated because of changes in reimbursement rates, a rapidly aging population that needs expanded services, lack of interoperability among IT systems, reporting functionality problems of electronic medical record systems implementation, reduction of readmission penalties, and limited technology support.
“Clearly, these are serious challenges that must be resolved if a healthcare financial crisis is to be averted,” Koxlien said. “Every day there are 10,000 baby boomers who become eligible for Medicare, and costs are rising with 2015 healthcare spending reaching $10,000 per eligible person.”
Interoperability of IT tools is essential for information technologists to function effectively and efficiently as they serve a web of systems within a healthcare provider’s operations,” Koxlien said, “yet that is not entirely possible today. EHR providers need to employ seamless information-transfer modalities.”
For a complete text of Mr. Koxlien’s presentation to the 43rd Annual Rural Health Conference July 26 and 27, 2016, in Flagstaff, Arizona, please contact Corrine Benish at firstname.lastname@example.org .
About TeleQuality Communications, Inc.
TeleQuality Communications Inc. (TQCI) is a leading provider of quality telecommunications and network connectivity products and services to rural healthcare facilities. Since 1999, TQCI and its subsidiary, Rural Health Telecom, have been designing and supplying organizations with cost-effective, custom network solutions to connect multiple business locations to each other, business partners and the internet. TeleQuality’s technology solutions enable healthcare providers to take advantage of emerging healthcare technologies that increase access and lower the cost of healthcare. For more information, please visit www.telequality.com.