Disadvantages of Spreadsheets – Obstacles to Compliance in the Healthcare Industry

Most of the regulatory compliance issues we talked about concerning spreadsheets have been related to financial data. But there are other kinds of data that are stored in spreadsheets which may also cause regulatory problems in the future.

In the US, a legislation known as HIPAA or Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act is changing the way health care establishments and practitioners handle patient records. The HIPAA Privacy Rule is aimed at protecting the privacy of individually identifiable health information a.k.a. protected health information (PHI).

Examples of PHI include common identifiers like a patient’s name, address, Social Security Number, and so on, which can be used to identify the patient. HIPAA covers a wide range of health care organisations and service providers, including: health plan payers, health care clearing houses, hospitals, doctors, dentists, etc.

To protect the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of PHI, covered entities are required to implement technical policies such as access controls, authentication, and audit controls. These can easily be implemented on server-based systems.

Sad to say, many health care organisations who have started storing data electronically still rely on spreadsheet-based systems. Those policies are hard to implement in spreadsheet-based systems, where files are handled by end-users who are overloaded with their main line of work (i.e. health care) and have very little concern for data security.

In some of these systems, spreadsheet files containing PHI may have multiple versions in different workstations. Chances are, none of these files have any access control or user authentication mechanism whatsoever. Thus, changes can easily be made without proper documentation as to who carried out the changes.

And because the files are normally easily accessible, unauthorised disclosures – whether done intentionally or accidentally – will always be a lingering threat. Remember that HIPAA covered entities who are caught disclosing PHI can be fined from $50,000 up to $500,000 plus jail time.

But that’s not all. Through the HITECH Act of 2009, business associates of covered entities will now have to comply with HIPAA standards as well. Business associates are those companies who are performing functions and services for covered entities.

Examples of business associates are accounting firms, law firms, consultants, and so on. They automatically need to comply with the standards the moment they too deal with PHI.

 

More Spreadsheet Blogs

 

Spreadsheet Risks in Banks

 

Top 10 Disadvantages of Spreadsheets

 

Disadvantages of Spreadsheets – obstacles to compliance in the Healthcare Industry

 

How Internal Auditors can win the War against Spreadsheet Fraud

 

Spreadsheet Reporting – No Room in your company in an age of Business Intelligence

 

Still looking for a Way to Consolidate Excel Spreadsheets?

 

Disadvantages of Spreadsheets

 

Spreadsheet woes – ill equipped for an Agile Business Environment

 

Spreadsheet Fraud

 

Spreadsheet Woes – Limited features for easy adoption of a control framework

 

Spreadsheet woes – Burden in SOX Compliance and other Regulations

 

Spreadsheet Risk Issues

 

Server Application Solutions – Don’t let Spreadsheets hold your Business back

 

Why Spreadsheets can send the pillars of Solvency II crashing down

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Reduce Cost and Improve Productivity

Whether the economy is in a downturn or not, management will always aim for a more cost effective IT solution. If your current IT infrastructure is hurting your profitability, our expertise is both ‘tested and proven”.? Also “bleeding edge” solutions in the industry will enable us to find inexpensive alternatives for you.

For instance, have you started to wonder whether having a constantly growing number of servers, many of which are underutilised, is really the norm? Well, that used to be the case. However, with the advent of virtualisation and replication, that expensive exercise is steadily becoming a thing of the past.

By implementing solutions powered by these two technologies, organisations can now manage excess storage capacities and hardware resources by performing simpler processes at lesser costs. In addition to that, using the same pair of technologies, companies can also decrease the downtime suffered during maintenance and upgrades.

Thus, at the end of the day, not only do companies stand to reduce expenditures, they can also boost revenues as a result of increased productivity time.

Do we still have other IT solutions that tackle a different set of problems but arrive at the same outcome, i.e. reduced costs + improved productivity = higher profits? You bet we do.

Basically, this is how we’ll help your company arrive at the same winning formula:

  • Provide insights as to where and when changes have to be made. Oftentimes, initiatives to reduce cost and improve productivity are not preceded by the appropriate study especially as with regards to their impact on all departments in the organisation. This usually results in unnecessary duplication of resources, a sure way to increase costs instead.
  • Consolidate and automate. We’ll work within your budget in finding ways to consolidate your applications, hardware, storage, databases, and processes. Then we’ll integrate automation practices to simplify management and maintenance of all these assets. This will substantially free not only your IT infrastructure but also your IT staff, giving them more opportunities to innovate.
  • Create an innovative environment. One of the benefits you gain in having room to innovate is the potential to discover new ways to drive costs even further. A fraction of your savings can then be used to develop even better IT solutions, thus creating a productive cycle: IT solutions > savings and innovation > better IT solutions. Our role is to help you harness your potentials to keep that cycle running.
  • Work to reduce carbon footprint in all your procedures. By ensuring that energy consumption is brought to a minimum in every step you take, you can rest assured that costs have only one way to go – down. Check out our Energy Management Software ecoVaro.

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Total Quality Management

Total Quality Management (TQM) is another business management approach that focuses on the involvement of all members of the organisation to participate in improving processes, products, services, and the culture in which they work in. It is important that every team member realises how each individual and each activity affects, and in turn is affected by, others.

With the use of combined quality and management tools, TQM also aims to reduce losses brought about by wasteful practices, a common concern in most companies. Using the TQM strategy, business would also be able to identify the cause of a defect, thereby preventing it from entering the final product.

Deming’s 14 Points

At the core of the Total Quality Management concept and implementation is Deming’s 14 points, a set of guidelines on quality as conceptualised by W Edwards Deming, one of the pioneers of quality. Deming’s 14 points are as follows:

  1. Create constancy of purpose for improving products and services.
  2. Adopt the new philosophy.
  3. Cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality.
  4. End the practice of awarding business on price alone; instead, minimise total cost by working with a single supplier.
  5. Improve constantly and forever every process for planning, production and service.
  6. Institute training on the job.
  7. Adopt and institute leadership.
  8. Drive out fear.
  9. Break down barriers between staff areas.
  10. Eliminate slogans, exhortations and targets for the workforce.
  11. Eliminate numerical quotas for the workforce and numerical goals for management.
  12. Remove barriers that rob people of pride of workmanship, and eliminate the annual rating or merit system.
  13. Institute a vigorous program of education and self-improvement for everyone.
  14. Put everybody in the company to work accomplishing the transformation.

But if you were to reduce to bare bones the TQM philosophy from Deming’s 14 points, it would all come down to two simple goals:

  1. To make things right the first time; and
  2. To work for continuous improvement.

As with all other quality management process, the end goal is to be able to offer products and services that meet and even exceed customer’s expectations.

Find out more about our Quality Assurance services in the following pages:

Migrating from CRM to Big Data

Big data moved to centre stage from being just another fad, and is being punted as the latest cure-all for information woes. It may well be, although like all transitions there are pitfalls. Denizon decided to highlight the major ones in the hope of fostering better understanding of what is involved.

Accurate data and interpretation of it have become increasingly critical. Ideas Laboratory reports that 84% of managers regard understanding their clients and predicting market trends essential, with accelerating demand for data savvy people the inevitable result. However Inc 5000 thinks many of them may have little idea of where to start. We should apply the lessons learned from when we implemented CRM because the dynamics are similar.

Be More Results Oriented

Denizon believes the key is focusing on the results we expect from Big Data first. Only then is it appropriate to apply our minds to the technology. By working the other way round we may end up with less than optimum solutions. We should understand the differences between options before committing to a choice, because it is expensive to switch software platforms in midstream. data lakes, hadoop, nosql, and graph databases all have their places, provided the solution you buy is scalable.

Clean Up Data First

The golden rule is not to automate anything before you understand it. Know the origin of your data, and if this is not reliable clean it up before you automate it. Big Data projects fail when executives become so enthused by results that they forget to ask themselves, ?Does this make sense in terms of what I expected??

Beware First Impressions

Big Data is just that. Many bits of information aggregated into averages and summaries. It does not make recommendations. It only prompts questions and what-if?s. Overlooking the need for the analytics that must follow can have you blindly relying on algorithms while setting your business sense aside.

Hire the Best Brains

Big Data?s competitive advantage depends on what human minds make with the processed information it spits out. This means tracing and affording creative talent able to make the shift from reactive analytics to proactive interaction with the data, and the customer decisions behind it.

If this provides a d?j? vu moment then you are not alone. Every iteration of the software revolution has seen vendors selling while the fish were running, and buyers clamouring for the opportunity. Decide what you want out first, use clean data, beware first impressions and get your analytics right. Then you are on the way to migrating successfully from CRM to Big Data.

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