May 17, 2020

How-To: Provide Care to the Non-Insured

Health Insurance
Hospital Finance
Healthcare Co
3 min
It is estimated that about 30 million Americans who used to be uninsured will obtain health insurance after Obamacare goes into effect.
With the cost of health care on the rise, many hospitals in the United States are finding it increasingly difficult to provide treatment for Americans w...

With the cost of health care on the rise, many hospitals in the United States are finding it increasingly difficult to provide treatment for Americans who do not have health insurance.

Some uninsured people cannot afford to pay high medical bills, and hospitals are forced to offer discounted or free care for them. However, this situation is changing for the better with the imposition of new health insurance laws.

Here is a look at how hospitals across the U.S. are dealing with uninsured patients.

More Americans are Acquiring Health Insurance

The implementation of Obamacare is positive news for many health care providers because it is reducing the number of Americans who do not have health insurance.

According to Gallup, the proportion of uninsured adults in the U.S. dropped to 13.4 percent in April, which was significantly lower than the figure recorded at the same time last year. In fact, it was the lowest since the beginning of the economic crisis in 2008.

The reason why more Americans are getting health insurance is because Obamacare's individual mandate requires them to do so or pay a fine.

It is estimated that about 30 million Americans who used to be uninsured will obtain health insurance after Obamacare goes into effect.

The federal government forecasted that the number of uninsured Americans will fall to about 23 million in 2017.

How Hospitals Deal With the Uninsured: Safety-Net Clinics

As the following article shows, many hospitals across the U.S. provide charity care for Americans who have trouble obtaining health insurance or avoiding lapses in health insurance coverage.

Those that are more forward-thinking are also concerned with providing care for uninsured people before they are brought to the emergency department, and they try to achieve this by working with safety-net clinics and other community health care providers.

Safety-net clinics are clinics that provide free medical services for uninsured patients, and they operate with the help of volunteer health professionals.

These clinics play a very important role in the effectiveness and efficiency of health care systems as they can improve patient care and reduce pressure on emergency departments, avoidable re-admissions, and morbidity and mortality rates.

Educate the Uninsured about Health Insurance

The best way to deal with the uninsured is to convince them to get insurance.

Most uninsured Americans skip health coverage either because they cannot afford it or they are confused about it.

Hospitals and other health care providers should educate the uninsured and the general public about the importance of obtaining health insurance. They can do this by providing health insurance advice for uninsured people who seek medical attention from them or reach out to the general public through their websites, social media and other channels.

Consumers should be informed of the benefits of health insurance, the coverage options that are available and the possible availability of financial assistance.

While providing health care for the uninsured is considered a hospital's ethical obligation, it can drive up costs significantly.

As such, it is important for hospitals to take effective measures to streamline operations and minimize the number of uninsured patients they need to treat.

About the author: John McMalcolm is a freelance writer who writes on a wide range of subjects, from social media marketing to cloud computing

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Jun 13, 2021

How healthcare can safeguard itself against cyberthreats

Jonathan Miles
6 min
Jonathan Miles, Head of Strategic Intelligence and Security Research at Mimecast, tells us how the healthcare sector can protect itself from attacks

One of the most fundamental lessons from the COVID crisis is that health should always be a priority.  In a similar fashion to the human body that frequently fights off viruses and foreign invaders that intend to cause it harm, the sector itself is now a prime target for another type of external threat: cyberattacks.

The figures speak for themselves: between December and January this year, hospitals in the UK were at 89% capacity, with 7,000 fewer available beds than there usually are. As the pandemic increased pressure on hospitals, clinics, and research facilities to create a treatment for patients globally, it has left the sector exposed to hackers who, like a virus, have been targeting it relentlessly and evolving their tactics. 

From patient records being held ransom, to fake emails claiming to originate from the UN WHO, the NHS, or vaccine centres, through to attacks on the cold supply chain to find out the secret formula of the COVID vaccine, the healthcare industry is facing constant cyberattacks and struggling to cope. This threat is unlikely to go away anytime soon – and as such, the industry needs to take a proactive, preventative stance to stay safe in a dynamic digital world. 

Going digital 

The responsive nature of healthcare – particularly of hospitals – means that efficiency is crucial to the industry’s standard operations. To support this, the sector has been embracing technological advancements that can improve the quality of work, enabling staff to meet pressing deadlines, and enhancing patient care. For example, the industry has been digitising records and improving its ways of working through digital means over the past few years. 

This shift is critical to offer high quality patient care; yet, it also means the sector has become more dependent on IT, which can come with a risk if cybersecurity processes employed are deemed as inadequate. 

Without the correct security measures in place, the desired efficiency gains realised, can be easily lost in a heartbeat. Simply put, an elementary glitch in the system can have a tremendous ripple effect on many areas, from accessing patient records and conducting scans, to maintaining physical security and protecting the intellectual property of experimental treatment development.

To prevent this, healthcare organisations need to ensure they’re considering cybersecurity as part of their overall digital transformation strategy – and setting the right foundations to create a culture where safety goes hand in hand with patient care. 

Strengthening defences

Before implementing cybersecurity process, healthcare organisations need to assess the potential risks they face. Depending on how much confidential data the trust has, where it is stored, who has access to it and via which means, the cybersecurity strategy and associated solutions will change. 

It’s fair to say that a medical device start-up where all employees have a corporate-sanctioned laptop and access data via a VPN will have radically different needs to a large hospital with hundreds of frontline workers connecting to the hospital’s Wi-Fi using their personal device. 

These requirements will pale by comparison to a global pharmaceutical giant with offices in multiple locations, a large R&D department researching new treatments for complex diseases and a fully integrated supply chain. Considering the existing setup and what the organisations is looking to achieve with its digital transformation strategy will therefore have an immediate impact on the cybersecurity strategy.

Despite this, there are fundamentals that any organisation should implement: 
Review and test your back-up policy to ensure it is thorough and sufficient – By checking that the organisation’s back-up is running smoothly, IT teams can limit any risks of disruption in the midst of an incident and of losing data permanently.

In our recent State of Email Security report, we found that six out of ten organisations have been victims of ransomware in 2020. As a result, afflicted organisations have lost an average of six days to downtime. One third of organisations even admitted that they failed to get their data back, despite paying the ransom. In the healthcare industry, this could mean losing valuable patient records or data related to new treatments – two areas the sector cannot afford to be cavalier about.

Conduct due diligence across the organisation’s supply chain – Healthcare organisations should review their ways of working with partners, providers and regulatory institutions they work with in order to prevent any weak link in their cybersecurity chain. Without this due diligence, organisations leave themselves exposed to the risks of third party-led incidents. 

Roll out mandatory cybersecurity awareness training - Healthcare organisations shouldn’t neglect the training and awareness of their entire staff – including frontline workers who may not access the corporate network on a regular basis. According to our State of Email Security report, only one fifth of organisations carry out ongoing cyber awareness training.

This suggests it is not widely considered as a fundamental part of most organisations cyber-resilience strategy, despite the fact many employees rely on their organisation’s corporate network to work. By providing systematic training, healthcare organisations can help workers at all levels better understand the current cyberthreats they face, how they could impact their organisation, the role they play in defending the networks, and develop consistent, good cybersecurity hygiene habits to limit the risks of incidents. 
Consider a degree of separation – Information and Operational Technology (IT and OT) networks should be separated.

Although mutually supported and reliance on each other, employees shouldn’t be accessing one via the other. This should be complemented by a considered tried and tested contingency and resiliency plan that allows crucial services to function unabated should there be a compromise. Similarly, admin terminals should not have internet access to afford a degree of hardening and protection for these critical accounts.

As the sector becomes a common target for fraudulent and malicious activity, putting cybersecurity at the core of the organisation’s operations is critical. It will help limit the risks of disruption due to cyberattacks, reduce time spent by the cybersecurity team to resolve easily avoidable errors, and ensure that institutions can deliver patient care, safe in the knowledge that their networks are safe.  

Fighting future threats

With technology continuing to change the face of healthcare, the surface area and vectors available for attacks by malicious actors is constantly increasing. With the introduction of apps, networked monitoring devices, and a need for communication, the attack vector is ever expanding, a trend that needs to be monitored and secured against.

To prevent any damage to patients, staff, or the organisation they are responsible for, healthcare leaders must put security front and centre of their digital transformation strategy. Only then can the sector harness the full benefits of technology. Doing this should include implementing cybersecurity awareness training to challenge misconceptions around security, encourage conversation, and to ensure employee knowledge of the security basics and threats faced. 

This ultimately allows healthcare organisations to do what they do best: provide the highest standard of patient care, safe in the knowledge that their operations, patients, and data are safe.

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