Top 10 Healthcare Quality Issues for 2011
9. SGR Cuts
This "kick-the-can-down-the-road" is provoking angst among Congress and the House of Medicine, in a debate with consequences continuing into 2011.
Doctor groups have said that their members will leave the Medicare program entirely, limit the number of beneficiaries they would see, and/or refuse to accept new Medicare patients or retire early and go fishing if the 25% pay cut takes effect.
But as Congress has consistently done, the issue has merely been postponed another 12 months. So look for the Doc Pay Fix, the repeal of the sustainable growth rate formula that would cut physician pay even more, to rear its head again in 2011.
10. Data Breaches
Along with meaningful use and the move to the electronic health record, there's increasing concern about how healthcare providers can keep patient information privacy sacrosanct.
Even officials state of California, which has fined hospitals more than $2 million so far for accidental as well as purposeful violations of patient confidentiality, realizes how difficult it is.
In an embarrassing news release last week, the Department of Public Health acknowledged that even it violated its own rules. Material dealing with facility investigations, which include on patients, residents of skilled nursing facilities, and facility employees and even state workers may have gotten into the wrong hands.
Apparently an encrypted magnetic tape bound from the West Covina office to Sacramento was removed or fell out of its envelope. Names, social security numbers, medical diagnoses, mailing addresses, e-mail addresses and other sensitive and confidential information was on those tapes.
Electronic health records and health information technology is evolving with the requirements for meaningful use, but protecting patient confidentiality when so much information can be immediately and widely disseminated is sure to remain an issue.
Cheryl Clark is senior quality editor and California correspondent for HealthLeaders Media. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists.
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