Guest post by Daniel Piekarz, vice president of life sciences business development at DataArt.
The life sciences industry will be defined in 2014 by the growing market demand to apply newly developed technology, including big data analysis, to healthcare and medical device practices. While many of the amazing technological advances in the space are driven by a desire to aid humanity, the industry is also caught between increased economic and regulatory pressure that is forcing many to electronically collect heaps of data while looking for custom technology solutions that will allow them to leverage this valuable data and adhere to new industry standards.
Over the next year, trends that reflect newly available technology will start to develop. The adoption of healthcare big data technology will become a major theme in the sector this year, just as it has in several other industries. Many new technology offerings have been created to tie together data from multiple sources that can be accessed by researchers and physicians to allow them to easily exchange information. This also aids in research and development practices by offering another valuable tool to gather and analyze data.
Tied to the big data trend is the emergence of personal healthcare data aided by physicians’ adoption of EHR technology. By allowing patients to own and access their healthcare data on a healthcare information dashboard, patients can more easily understand risks and preventable care options. Pooling anonymized patient data together can also lead to better analysis, and physicians are already starting to work with vendors to develop big data diagnostic tools. These new technology advancements have started to create a generation of patients more committed to their own healthy future than ever before. Through an intelligent system database, patients and physicians can better understand patterns and symptoms that affect their healthy lifestyles. While this type of big data solution is gaining a foothold, there is still resistance from some doctors due to their concern over critical review of their procedures.
Today’s healthcare IT departments have a relatively tall order when it comes to effective EHR data management. In an environment that often requires them to be simultaneously budget-conscious, growth-minded and patient-driven, healthcare IT must also address the often-competing data management needs for:
Data at rest
Data mining and analytics
Popular EHR system vendors have made significant strides to address several of these data management issues. Unfortunately, they can only go so far given the current state of many healthcare IT environments. Some departments may still require custom software applications, complete with specially configured servers, storage and network hardware to support them.
The past five years have seen monumental changes in the world of healthcare information technology. As 2013 comes to a close, it seems appropriate to look forward to the developing trends for 2014 and beyond and how they will impact vendors, providers and patients.
Open Source Technology Use and Development Will Accelerate
The continuing acceptance and use of open source software is the most important healthcare trend, since it ties directly into every point on this list. Open source software has become part of the healthcare mainstream and is used in many areas of the healthcare industry. Open source software is behind everything from the EHR system doctors use to enter patient data to the web browser or smartphones and tablets patients use to check their records through patient portals. Even the much talked about Healthcare.gov website utilizes open source software.
The benefits of open source development over proprietary software will continue to fuel its expansion over the next few years. Open source software has many advantages for providers and patients, including interoperability, speed of problem resolution, flexibility and more frequent updates.
An example of how open source software provides these benefits can be found in the area of EHR systems. One of the most common complaints by physicians and staff about EHR software is that the software is difficult to use. Now that EHR adoption has become widespread, there is much more thought and resources going into refining the user interface. With proprietary software, the amount of developer resources that can put into refinements may be limited to that one vendor’s resources. With open source software, countless companies and individuals are constantly collaborating to make the software easier to operate and more user-friendly for everyone.
According to a recent survey conducted by Purdue Healthcare Advisors, a nonprofit healthcare consulting organization, hospital executives are reluctant to implement ACOs — 46 percent — and they have no plans to implement an Accountable Care Organization (ACO)-like model in the near future.
Conducted in October 2013 among 206 hospital executives at a director level and above, the survey also reveals that executives are struggling with finding solutions for lower reimbursements and increased costs, while still maintaining an acceptable level of quality care.
“This survey has identified a significant need for advocacy and education to support hospitals and help them survive the wave of changes brought on by the Affordable Care Act,” said Mary Anne Sloan, director of Purdue Healthcare Advisors. “Hospital executives are charged with enhancing patient care and managing margins with a shrinking workforce and diminishing patient volumes.”
Hospital executives find ACOs to be unstable and financially risky
Executives are waiting for ACO models that are more stable and mature to avoid having to reinvest funds to implement changes or updates, according to the survey. The executives who do not have plans to implement an ACO model in the future (46 percent) cited the following reasons:
Guest post by Bettina Experton, MD, MPH, president and CEO, Humetrix.
Mobile technology core to HIT implementation, a silent revolution which took place on September 23 this year when the HIPAA omnibus rule took effect, giving Americans the right to obtain electronic copies of their health records. But how can this new right be exercised at scale to transform healthcare nationwide? How do we help patients better coordinate their care and ensure their safety by getting their health records in their own hands?
The scalable computing device of choice in the hands of many is a smartphone, now owned by more than 50 percent of the population, and for many the only computing device they use daily to access information on the Internet. Clearly, electronic access to health records would be best provided on the very mobile device most of us carry at all times, especially when navigating a complex health care system with multiple and dispersed providers.
Electronic copies of health records on CDs or flash drives are not only tools of the past, but also perpetuate the barriers and complexity most of us have to face when requesting copies of our records. Desktop and portal-only solutions are also not the optimum approach to consumer-directed health information exchange, since these cannot be available at the point of care where patients need to share their medical history in the most convenient and expedient way. Mobile is, therefore, central to health information exchange policies and new care delivery models built on patient-centered care, and should not be an afterthought or secondary implementation to dated patient portal systems.
Dr. Lucy Hornstein, solo practitioner at Valley Forge Family Practice in Phoenixville, Penn., was not a proponent of electronic health records. An active physician blogger and published writer, she spent quite a few of her words on the technology’s uselessness.
They were expensive, overly complicated and tough to use and provided little return on the investment for users. Besides, most physicians, in her opinion, only implemented them because of meaningful use and the federal incentives they received for using them.
Paper, she had long decided, was good enough for her and during the first 21 years of practice in her own practice, she had no plans to change. It was only after the loss of one of her two staff members that she soon realized that she’d have to re-hire just to maintain her practice at its current load. However, that wasn’t an option for her. Neither, she thought, was adding an EHR to handle the management of the records because other than her perception of the technology, the self-described “dinosaur” didn’t have the budget for such an endeavor. She had zero for such technology.
Even if she had a change of heart and adopted the technology, she had not seen one system that was not cumbersome, not hard to use, intuitive to maneuver and or that offered her the option to meet the needs of her small practice while running the business efficiently.
Are EHRs dead? Well, Healthcare IT News’ Eric Wicklund recently reported that EHR vendors “will have to find a way to modify their products to focus on data that the patient and his or her care team want, or they’ll become obsolete.” Will EHRs become so obsolete so soon after the height of their heyday? When further explained, some of the reasoning makes sense.
According to panelists at the Partners HealthCare’s 10th Annual Connected Health Symposium, we’re in the time of “para-EHR,” defined as all of the phone calls, texts, e-mails and other doctor-doctor and doctor-patient communications that are not entered into the EHR. They could include everything from Skype chats between doctors to Post-It notes to data residing on mobile devices and sensors.
As such, complete records are not being entered into the EHR, and most patient communication takes place outside the EHR setting. But, are EHR’s dead and flat line or do they have some life left in them? I posted the question to Jim Gerrity, director at Ciena.
Are EHRs dead? “The short answer is ‘no,’ however, what is contained in today’s EHR will most likely evolve. Let me expand on this a bit: Paper-based records are still the most widely used method in the healthcare industry, but that’s changing rapidly. EHRs are proving to significantly improve clinical efficiency and coordination and being adopted increasingly by healthcare institutions around the world. A relatively recent example in the U.S. was their great usefulness to provide continued care during and immediately after Superstorm Sandy … e-records backed up and accessible at disaster recovery sites. As one writer put it, EHRs are ‘ushering in a new era in how medical data is stored and shared.’ But is this transition to EHRs required?
The release of the FDA’s final rule requiring most medical devices to carry a unique device identifier (UDI) will allow regulators to track goods and expedite necessary recalls in order to manage quality and promote patient safety. This process will be streamlined with the population of the global unique device identification database (GUDID, pronounced good-I.D.), which will include a standard set of identifying elements for each device given a UDI. The system will allow healthcare providers to look up information about a medical device, then amend the electronic health record of a patient as needed.
GUDID has no mandate in terms of automatic connectivity to EHR; no matter what device is implanted into a patient, his/her healthcare professional must manually input that information cross-referencing the UDI record with his/her EHR. Without this data entry, the point-of-use component leading to better patient safety and monitoring becomes a moot point. Just like manufacturing and design are inexplicably linked, and quality is an essential part of both for safer products, GUDID and EHR must be connected for better patient safety.
According to the FDA, most of the information contained within the GUDID will be made available to the public, meaning individuals can easily look up information about their medical device. The UDI does not indicate, and the database will not contain, any information about who uses a device, including personal privacy information. While the GUDID is a step in the right direction to promoting patient safety, healthcare providers should look to the database as a model for keeping all EHRs.
One of the greatest sources of information that depicts the changes in health IT trends across the industry landscape is from Michael Lake, healthcare technology strategist. Through his monthly reports on the state of health technology, published by his company Circle Square, he provides succinct highlights from throughout the last month. Possibly, what’s best about these reports is that they cover such a diverse segment of the ecosphere.
For example, in one of his most recent reports, the focus was the EHR vendor sphere, cloud EHRs and their importance to independent practices, the use of faxes in hospitals, vendor news and transactions and practice portal insight, among other news.
According to his most recent report, cloud-based EHRs with integrated billing are quickly becoming a key to a practice’s future success as an independent practice. In his report, he cites Black Book as ranking solutions that seamlessly integrate electronic health records (EHR), revenue cycle management (RCM) and practice management (PM). Kareo tops on the list, per KLAS.
However, most practices feel that billing and collections systems and processes need upgrading (87%) and more than 40 percent (42%) are considering an upgrade to RCM software in in the next year . Most practices (71%) are considering a combo of new software and outsourcing services for improvement.
Money magazine offers five things to know about electronic health records. It’s a very high-level overview, mostly for the consumer market, and is a piece designed to get some skin in the healthcare game. The piece pithy and concise, which is good, as the publication is clearly unable to dig into health IT topics like a site like this, but is it worth the ink?
You decide. Let us know. Tell us if it’s a “me too” moment, which I happen to believe is the case. I think the magazine should stick to covering money and leave health IT alone, but that’s a lone opinion.
And so, without further ado, here are five things to know about electronic health records, if you don’t already:
Chances are, patients will see them, if they have not already and will ask about them.
According to Money, “more than half of physicians have started keeping electronic medical records, the federal government announced this year. About 80 percent of hospitals have gone digital, too, with urban institutions leading the way.”