Thursday, January 29, 2015

Did You Know? Under HIPAA, Your Medical Records Are Protected from Unauthorized Access (Even from You)

HIPAA has done a great deal of good to protect sensitive patient information. All the same, some members describe the advantages of the time before HIPAA, when patient information could come in handy, and be used for personal reasons. You might want to look up your own appointment time with a doctor, for example, or to figure out a co-worker's home address in order to send a birthday card. However, things are different now.

Sometimes, when SHARE members violate a hospital policy, they don't even think they've done so. While working to take care of themselves and their family, they might access protected information. SHARE members might not realize that their computer activity can be revealed in a routine system audit, and that unauthorized access can result in serious disciplinary action.

Most employees know that HIPAA guidelines permit an employee to access a patient's record only in one of two situations:
  1. For job-related reasons. Or, 
  2. If the employee submits a completed Employee Authorization for Electronic Access Form, which is filed with the Medical Records department. 
But, what about your husband's medical records? Or your children's? Or even your own? It's important to remember that the answer is: the same rules apply.

For example, even if you want to find out the results of your very own lab work, you must be authorized to do so through the Medical Records department, or contact your physician directly.

For more information, visit The US Department of Health and Human Services' "Understanding HIPAA" webpage 

Or, please feel free to call the SHARE office (508) 929-4020, or the UMass Memorial Privacy Office: (508) 334-5551


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

2015 SHARE Dues

SHARE weekly dues will increase in January 2015:
  • For full-time employees the new rate will be $8.39/week. (The 2014 rate was $8.24)
  • For employees budgeted for 20 hours/week, the new rate will be prorated at $6.29/paycheck. (The 2014 rate was $6.18)
The dues rates are set by our parent union, AFSCME (Ameircan Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees), every year. If there's a rate change it happens in January and the new rate is based on the average salary raise that all 1.5 million members across the country got in the previous year. 

Where do the dues go?

Most of the dues pay for SHARE staff, the office rent, office supplies, mailings, etc. The money supports the work of the union here at the Medical School (and in our sister unions at UMass Memorial, Harvard University, and the Cambridge Health Alliance) helping members with issues at work, building connections across the campuses, supporting people who have been laid off, distributing information about issues of importance to SHARE members, negotiating contracts, etc. 

The remaining portion of the dues goes to the national union in Washington -- they spend that money on advocating for AFSCME members as a whole, including research and lobbying about issues. (Support for political candidates comes from AFSCME's Political Action Committee, not from dues money.) 

Questions?


If you have any questions about the 2015 dues rates, please contact the SHARE office at:

share.comment@theshareunion.org
508-929-4020

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Quality Improvement: A Crash Course

If you've been to Lean training, or involved in Idea Board huddles, or just heard the chatter in certain circles of the hospital lately, you're probably aware that there are a lot of new Quality Improvement concepts circulating around UMass Memorial.

In the SHARE office, we recently came across a quick introduction to the general idea of Quality Improvement. I've posted this animated video below. I get the sense that many hospital leaders and QI aficionados are forwarding this amongst themselves, and it's a fairly painless introduction to some of their lingo.  

The video includes an interesting take on curiosity by Don Berwick, founder of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement  (and candidate for Massachusetts Governor during the last election.) 

The video also discusses the IHI "100,000 Lives" campaign, which our hospital participated in. 

The whole thing is just over ten minutes long. See what you think. . . . 




Sunday, December 14, 2014

In the News: Nationwide Pension Policy Revision



Congress has recently reached a deal that would create an unprecedented nationwide reduction of pension benefits for some current retirees. The deal was tied to a 1.1 trillion dollar spending bill designed forestall a government shutdown.

The change will not have any affect on UMMHC pensions.

SHARE leadership is taking note, however, because the retirees who will be affected have already been pledged--and begun receiving--a certain level of pension income. Thus far, all pensions have been guaranteed under the law (except in certain kinds of employer bankruptcies).

The Washington Post explains: "The deal reached would apply to multi-employer pensions, where a group of businesses in the same industry join forces with unions to provide pension coverage for employees." Nearly 1.5 million retirees could see their regular pension payments reduced by up to 30%. The Huffington Post reports that "talks between Rep. John Kline, R-Min., and George Miller, D-Calif., were designed to preserve benefits of current and future retirees at lower levels than currently exist, but higher than they would be if their pension funds ran out of money."

The Defined Benefit Pension at UMMHC is provided to all SHARE members once they have reached the three-year vesting mark, and will be unaffected by this legislation. UMMHC's Pension program is secure, well-funded, and continues to be protected by law. Still, SHARE will be attentive to these kinds of legal precedents, as we have worked hard to develop and negotiate a sustainable pension system in our own workplace, one that ensures reliable retirement income.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Clinical Engineering Contracting Out -- Update

As you may remember from last year, UMass Memorial had agreed to the BioMed Techs' proposal to save money while keeping the service in-house, rather than contracting out the service to save money for the hospital. The BioMed Techs worked on the process improvement through the year (while maintaining high level of service), saving over $800,000 by SHARE's calculations. (See prior post.)

However, this year UMass Memorial has decided that they need to take advantage of the savings to the hospital that contracting out provides, after all.

UMass Memorial has expressed interest in helping the Biomed Techs with this transition, beyond what the contract provides for layoffs, because of their work above and beyond the call of duty with the process improvement project. Dr. Eric Dickson has been clear that the hospital appreciates their all their efforts over the last year and the money that their ideas saved the hospital.

With SHARE, the Biomed Techs have a decision to make: Whether to object to the outsourcing, attempting to bring the question to the whole UMass Memorial community. Or, do they want to view the contracting out as inevitable, and focus on what appears to be a good faith effort on the hospital's part to help them with their transitions.

In general, SHARE opposes outsourcing. Outsourced companies typically pay their employees less and provide less good benefits. Employees of a vendor often do not have the same loyalty and commitment to the patients and to the hospital.We believe that this decision to out-source Clinical Engineering will have a negative impact on the quality of service to departments, which will impact patient care.

The hospital has responded that the impact to patients and the hospital will be worse if they don't take this opportunity to cut costs. The SHARE leadership also has an obligation to put these SHARE members in the best possible position going forward. SHARE will back the techs in either direction -- negotiating a settlement, or campaigning against the contracting out.

Currently, we are working on the idea of packages for the Biomed Techs, in discussions with management. We are cautiously optimistic that we will be able to work something out that the Biomed Techs feels is a respectful and dignified end to their careers as UMass Memorial employees.

SHARE Leaders Help Out with United Way Campaign


The SHARE Executive Board and Organizers pitched in to create this gorgeous chocolate basket. The basket is a prize to be raffled off among employees who donate to the United Way.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Can Idea Boards and Huddles Make Work Better for SHARE Members?

SHARE is interested in hearing about your experience with idea boards and huddles:

  • Does your department use an idea board and huddle regularly?
  • If so, do the idea board and huddles help make your day-to-day work experience better?
  • Do they help you and your co-workers to improve your work processes?

Come to a SHARE lunch-time information meeting about idea boards and huddles. We'll discuss what makes them work well in some departments, and not so well in others. We'll also talk about what kinds of help are available to SHARE members who want to improve their department's idea board and huddles.

The dates and times of the meetings are listed below. Come during your lunch break, and feel free to bring your lunch with you.

Monday, Oct 20         11:30am - 1:30pm          University, room S2-351
Thursday, Oct 23       11:30am - 1:30pm           WBC, Thom McCann rm 1st floor 
Friday, Oct 24             12pm - 2:00pm                CBO, 4th floor conference room 
Thursday, Oct 30        11:30am - 1:30pm          Memorial 1 conf rm, near the caf.
Monday, Nov 3           11:30am - 1pm               Hahnemann 2nd floor conf room 
Thursday, Nov 6          11:30am - 1pm               Barre Health Center         
Thursday, Nov 13        11:45am - 1:30pm         Tri River Community room