AirStrip helps handle consumerization in a heavily regulated industry -- health care

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AirStrip Technologies, which develops medical monitoring apps for mobile devices, announced this week that it has developed a tool that hospitals and medical practices can use to track their compliance with meaningful use incentives for electronic health records (EHRs).

In doing so, the company is helping its customers with a big challenge: meeting the demand for consumerization while navigating incredibly complicated laws that sometimes push organizations in conflicting directions.

Here's the background.

Healthcare facilities that receive Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements from the U.S. government are eligible for financial incentives for implementing and using EHR systems under the 2009 HITECH Act. To receive the incentives, facilities must meet meaningful use requirements that show they are increasing their use of electronic systems while decreasing reliance on paper records.

The HITECH Act set aside $18 billion in incentives to be distributed through the Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement systems, so there's a huge opportunity for healthcare organizations and the vendors who sell to them. But there's a catch: the law directed the Department of Health and Human Services to establish meaningful use objectives that must be met to receive incentive payments.

These meaningful use objectives are complicated, and reflect the state of the IT industry overall -- including the consumerization trend and the related adoption of mobile devices. (The iPhone and iPad are the most popular devices used by doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals.)

This is particularly reflected in the stage two requirements, which go into effect in 2014. They include specific references to tablet devices, security and privacy requirements for systems used to access data from or to store data on mobile devices of any type, and options for using mobile apps as source of patient engagement.

This puts healthcare administrators and IT professionals in a uniquely difficult position. Like other IT professionals, they are dealing with the rapid shift to mobile devices, demands for bring your own device (BYOD) options, and an increasing number of consumer-oriented cloud services and social networks. Riding that wave is difficult for any IT organization in a heavily regulated industry -- like healthcare.

At the same time, they need to be pushing forward with systems to meet the requirements for increasing deployment and use of electronic systems. 

AirStrip's Meaningful Use Tracker will offer real-time analysis of meaningful use metrics -- a feature that will help administrators and IT staff, as well as healthcare professionals, track compliance and make adjustments to policies, procedures, and provider habits based on live data. This immediate analysis means less risk of delays that could prevent organizations from collecting incentive payments.

The system also offers a slight, and possibly unintended, competitive aspect that one typically finds in gamification strategies used in the workplace. That real-time data lets organizations compare the compliance of providers within a practice. So health care organizations could build compliance competitions into daily routine, possibly with some type of award or acknowledgement for the most compliant individuals or teams.

AirStrip's solution offers a valuable lesson for vendors who are selling solutions into other heavily regulated industries like financial services. If you're going to help customers ride the wave of consumerization, you need to help them track compliance with appropriate laws as well. 

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