Tag: electronic health records

Healthcare Trivia That’s Also Informative and Eye Opening

For all of you info nuts, I discovered a fascinating repository of healthcare trivia facts collaborated by Rock Health.

There’s some pretty terrific and wonderful information here, and some pieces of trivia that I would never have imagined.

For example, this may be a softball, but, think America has got it all? Apparently not. It’s the only wealthy, industrialized nation that doesn’t have a universal health system. Speaking of wealthy, we Americans spend about $8,000 per capita on healthcare. That’s twice the amount of our next closest competition. That’s heavy.

We’re also a heavy nation. Nearly 70 percent of all adults are obese. And as “advanced” as we are in our healthcare, our life expectancy is at about 79 years. That’s 50th globally. Maybe the mortality rate has something to do with the obesity rate.

Perhaps it has something to do with the number of medical error deaths each year: between 50,000 and 100,000.

For those of us in otherwise non-final stages of life, there’s a good chance we’re living with a chronic condition. One in two Americans suffer some form of chronic illness. That’s a lot of pain.

Moving on, what do we spend our healthcare money on? Give yourself a pat on the back if you know some of these figures. Shocking.

Total healthcare dollars spent in 2010 was $2.6 trillion. Nearly all of that is spent on personal care, at $2.2 trillion. No wonder we spend so much time talking about the subject. That’s a lot of dough changing hands. By the way, in case you’re keeping track, the rest of the money was spent on health insurance admin and public health, according to CMS. Thanks to Rock Health for also pointing out that of the $2.2 trillion spent in personal health care expenditures, Medicare and Medicaid finance $525 billion and $400 billion respectively, or more than 40 percent of health care. That’s a lot of public assistance.

If you’re involved with healthcare IT in any matter, you probably already know that 17 percent of our nation’s gross domestic product was spent on healthcare. That’s more than any other developed nation.

Hospital care, physician and other clinical services make up about 51 percent of all health spending at $1.3 trillion, according to CMS, with prescription drugs making up about 10 percent of all health spending ($259B)

More than 30 percent of all healthcare spending is wasted.

How about this one? And don’t shake your head like it’s a shame when you might be part of this problem: 75 percent of all healthcare dollars are spent on patients with one or more chronic conditions, many of which can be prevented including diabetes, obesity, heart disease, lung disease and high blood pressure. You do your part, I’m doing mine.

In the care setting, 35 percent of U.S. hospitals have adopted electronic health records, and 57 percent of office-based physicians have adopted the systems. According to Rock Health, the number of hospitals using health information technology has more than doubled in the last two years, and the number of health IT jobs in the U.S. is expected to increase by 20 percent from 2008 to 2018. Maybe not for PR folks like me, but I wish you the best if you’re in sales, R&D and training and support.

For you mobile folks, and there are a lot of you, perhaps you’ll take comfort knowing that there’s strength in numbers. Apparently, there are more than 104 million folks in the U.S. that own smartphones. Fifty percent are app users and download them regularly. More that 142 million will use them by 2016.

For you doctors, apparently about 84 percent of you use tablets in your daily work. Very mobilely progressive of you.

Now for a little health on the web. More than 80 percent of Internet users, or 59 percent of U.S. adults, look online for health information. About 25 percent of Internet users have consulted online reviews of particular drugs or medical treatments.

And, nothing shocking here, 18 percent of Internet users of adults, have gone online to find others who might have health concerns similar to theirs. People living with chronic and rare conditions are significantly more likely to do this. Who hasn’t done this?

Did you know most of this information? If so, good job. Nonetheless, good stuff, this information. I told you Rock Health offered some really great information.

Take Notice: Rock Health Is Building Useful Things and Helping Solve Many Problems in Healthcare

In the land of health IT, innovation is power and those that control it king.

There’s no status quo here. Resting on your laurels, despite all of the industry standardization related to efforts like meaningful use, will get you no where.

As several vendors are discovering that just because they’ve had products in the market for 20 or 30 years doesn’t mean they’ll be in play forever. We’re in the health 2.0 era. Heck, we’re in the era where even the federal government has entered the open source environment.

As such it’s great to see such a resource like Rock Health dedicating itself to the health IT entrepreneur. If you haven’t checked it out yet, you need to do yourself a favor and take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with its site. Then, you need to forward some of the information featured there to all of your entrepreneurial friends.

Not to sound like a commercial for the service, but it’s hard not to since some of the things going on here are pretty incredible. Actually, this is the kind of thing that happens in a country like ours when leaders, innovators, entrepreneurs, creative folks, business minds, a little money and some passion mix.

The cocktail that commences is Rock Health.

So, what is Rock Health?

It’s an accelerator exclusively for health start ups providing capital, office space, mentorship and operational support to entrepreneurs working on ideas in health. As a nonprofit, Rock Health looks for product-centric ideas that solve real problems in healthcare; “Products can be in the form of web or mobile apps, services, have a hardware or sensor component, and should be early and pre-VC funding.”

Ideas can be of anything as long as it solves a healthcare problem.

For those start ups bidding to participate in the Rock Health program, the selected start up receives a $100,000 investment offer from a VC group for an ownership of between 5 and 10 percent.

Other great Rock Health offerings (found on its site and free for everyone) include an interactive funding database that provides the public with sources for potential healthcare start up funding; videos that teach the unknowledgable upstarts almost everything they need to know about topics like marketing, creating boards, accounting, HIPAA, fund raising and dealing with the FDA; healthcare event listings; a great start up handbook that provides legal and financial advice (it’s comprehensive and overwhelmingly impressive); and finally, perhaps my favorite bit of information offered: interesting health facts that once learned will impress everyone, including your closest and most cynical friends.

You get the point.

Rock Health is more than an incubator and a disruptor for health IT — established vendor giants should be concerned about efforts like this — it is the future of innovation in the space, and if you haven’t taken notice, you should.

IDC Health Insights’ Judy Hanover on the Need for Structured Data, and the Long-term Affects of Health IT Reform

Judy Hanover, Research Director of IDC Health Insights

As health IT continues to mature and providers continue to adopt technologies like electronic health records, the data collected from their use in the care setting becomes the most obvious reason so much energy is being put behind getting practices to implement the systems.

Judy Hanover, research director of IDC Health Insights, recently told me, though, that one of the biggest challenges faced by ambulatory and hospital leaders is that the data entering the electronic systems, in most cases, is unstructured, which makes it almost useless from an analytics standpoint.

Without structured data, Hanover said, quantitative analysis across the population can be complicated, and little can be compared to gain an accurate picture of what’s actually taking place in the market. Without structured data, analytics is greatly compromised, and the information gained can only be analyzed from a single, siloed location.

“There must be synergy between the data collected,” Hanover said. “We’re entering the period of structured data where we’re now seeing the benefits of structured data but still need to manage unstructured data.”

In many cases, critical elements of data collected — like medications, vitals, allergies and health condition — are difficult to reconcile between multiple data sources, reducing the quality of the data, she said. Unstructured data proves less useful for tracking care outcomes of a population’s health with traditional analytics.

For example, tax information and census data are collected the same way across their respective spectrums. All the fields in their respective fields are the same and can be measured against each other. This is not the case with the data entering an EHR. Each practice, and even each user of the system, potentially may collect data differently in a manner that’s most comfortable to the person entering the data. And as long as practices continue to forgo establishing official policies for data entry and requiring data to be entered according to a structured model, the quality of the information going in it will be a reflection of the data coming out.

Lack of quality going in means lack of quality coming out.

“In many cases, structured data is not as useful for analytics as we’d hoped,” Hanover said. “There are inconsistencies in the fields of data being entered in to the systems; and that affect data quality as well as results from analytics.

“As we move into the post EHR era, how we choose to leverage the data collected is what will matter,” she said. “We’ll examine cost outcomes, optimize the setting of care and view the technology’s impact.”

As foundational technology, EHRs are allowing for the creation of meaningful use, but once the reform is fully in place, the shift will focus on analytics, outcomes and benefits of care provided.

Currently electronic health records define healthcare, but health information exchanges (HIE) will cause a dramatic shift in the market leading to further automation of the providing care and will change how location-based services and clinical decision making are viewed.

Though some practices are clearly leveraging their current data, others are not. For them, EHRs are nothing more than a computer system that replaced their paper records and qualified them for incentives.

In the very near term, the technology will have to have more capability than simply serving as a repository for information collected, but will become a database of reference material that will have to be drawn upon rather than simply housed.

“Health reform is the end game,” Hanover said. “And there can be no successful reform without EHRs. They are the foundational technology for accountable care.”

The data collected in this manner will lead to a stronger accountable care model, which will once again bring the practice of care in connection with the payment of care.

Evidence-based approaches will continue to dominate care when the data suggests certain protocols require it, which means insurers will feel as though they are working to control costs.

Unfortunately, all of the regulation comes at an obvious cost at the expense of the technology and its vendors, said Hanover. EHR innovation continues to suffer with the aggressive push for reform through meaningful use as vendors scramble to keep up with requirements.

“There’s little or no innovation because all of the vendors are being hemmed down by meaningful use and certification requirements,” she said.

Product standardization means there are far fewer products that actually stand out in the market.

More innovation will likely only come following market consolidation in which only the strong will survive. Hanover suggests that in this scenario, survivors will focus on innovative product research and development and will take a leadership role in moving the market forward

Though vendors will suffer, users of the systems will likely face major set backs and upheavals at the market shifts and settles. Especially as consolidation occurs, suppliers disappear or change ownership, practices and physicians using these systems face the toughest road as they’ll be forced to find new solutions to meet their needs, learn the systems and try to get back to where they were in a meaningful way in a relatively short period of time.

Likely, deciding which system to implement may bear just as much weight as deciding how to use it.

Pediatricians May Be the Only Group of Physicians Who Can Create Life-long Electronic Health Record Users and Advocates

Perhaps creating an opportunity is nothing more than observing the details and taking action once one has been identified.

Lack of opportunity, on the other hand, might be the opposite – keeping your head down and barreling through life without taking an adequate measure of the terrain in which you are navigating.

The feds missed an opportunity. During their planning and roll out of meaningful use, in their effort to collect the health data of this country’s population, specialists, in many cases, were not considered as recipients of their meaningful use incentives.

For many specialties, this might not apply. But pediatrics are different entirely. Not so much for the physicians’ sake, but for the patients they serve.

Given the direct marketing plan that the federal government has undertaken with its latest healthcare pet project, Blue Button, I’m surprised by its lack of foresight related to patient involvement to this group when it comes to meaningful use.

As the feds work desperately to change the perception of electronic data collection, and to move the most information into electronic records as possible, one might think the best way to ensure absolute adoption is by requiring the one group of physicians who might be able to affect the longest term change to participate in the incentive program.

Pediatricians, like it or not, have not been given special treatment as far as meaningful use is concerned. They, like another large group of physicians, OBGYNs, are left to fend for themselves. You can read more about OBs and their fierce independence in my recent interview with digiChart’s CEO Phil Suiter. The reason is well known and obvious: these groups of caregivers don’t necessarily rely on the government (Medicare/Medicaid) to keep their doors open.

The nature of pediatric practice is such that Medicare is not a significant part of their practice so meaningful use incentives don’t apply here. Therefore, the only avenue left for pediatrics is the Medicaid option – and it only works for practices that have more than 20 percent of their volume as Medicaid. In most cases, these groups of physicians don’t meet the minimum requirements of serving Medicare and Medicaid recipients to qualify, and, also in most cases, they don’t go out of their way to do so.

Therefore, given the logic that A+B=C, they are not lining up to get their share of the incentive checks.

But, one would think the feds would try to find some way to make an exception for pediatricians to participate in meaningful use without having to meet the minimum requirement that 20 percent of their population participate in Medicare. I’m not trying to re-open an issue that I know has been discussed countless times; I’m trying to make a different point.

That is, given the new push for patient engagement and the social media-like approach being taken through the Blue Button movement, I believe the importance of pediatricians has been overlooked.

Why? Well, it’s obvious to me that to engage a population, it’s best to change the population’s behavior. To do so, you have to catch them young; so young that they never knew a difference otherwise.

For example, children today will never know what life was prior to the web. They won’t be able to imagine life before mobile devices turned us into an always on society. There’s a lot they’ll never know.

Thus, if they are exposed to electronic health records in their doctor’s office as they grow up, by the time they reach adulthood, they’ll expect their doctors to use nothing but electronic health records. In fact, they won’t even know what to do with a paper record – how to read and understand it – and, therefore, won’t give their money to doctors without the systems.

It’s really the most direct route to changing a population’s behavior.

Indoctrination.

Sure, engaging the adult population through a service like Blue Button is important, and will certainly help fill the gap currently experience in healthcare’s ownership issue, but as we’ve seen in every other area of life, true change won’t come until those who know no other way become the majority and know no other way.

Is the ONC Blue Button a Lot Like Staples’ “Easy Button”?

Staples’ “Easy Button”

As the self-proclaimed ONC Blue Button movement gains steam and more members of the public sign up to make sure their data gets downloaded, it seems the Office of the National Coordinator, among others in the fold, have borrowed a marketing campaign from office supply chain, Staples.

The “Easy Button” is vernacular for something that get done at the press of a button, even if said task isn’t necessarily as easy as just pushing as button. Obviously, that’s the point.

Same goes for the Blue Button. From a marketing perspective, the concept is genius. With the simple push of a button, you too (read: “consumer/patient”) can have instant access to every last bit of your media records and personal health information like never before.

With the campaign just getting started, there are already more than one million people who have signed up for the Blue Button service (sounds sort of like “black tie event” when I read it like this). Eventually, the movement will take hold, no doubt, and the consuming public will be on board like never before. I anticipate Blue Button will grow enormously, similar in nature to the culture that social sites the likes of Facebook and Twitter have become. Not that we’ll sit around sharing our records with those who “like” us or posting comments about each others ailments and conditions, I think people will perceive blue button to have the same value.

It’s about access to information – information that until now many people have not realized they owned or had access to – instantly, as long as Blue Button is available to them.

That’s the catch after all, isn’t it? Blue Button has to be available to consumers for them to be able to push that little easy button. Seems like there are only a couple things that might keep someone from it. The most obvious is that a patient’s physician must have a meaningful use EHR in place. Another is that the practice must choose to offer the service.

It goes without saying, then, that consumers without insurance most likely won’t have access to Blue Button as they’ll likely not have access to a regular physician with a certified EHR. The current healthcare reform may change this slightly as more people will be “encouraged” to insure themselves. And, as practices move to EHR, access to Blue Button will increase.

All of these details are beside the point. Right now, it’s about the marketing. Making sure patients know that the health information that is rightfully theirs can be in the palm of their hands as easily as pushing a little button.

As we know, or so we’ve hypothesized, that the more you can engage patients in their care, the better care they’ll take of themselves.

And you’ve got to hand it to the ONC. Creating a message that directly engages the public rather than hoping that physicians and their vendors will carry the task is something I have long advocated for.

So getting us, as patient consumers, to engage in and to own our care really took little more effort than developing an app and marketing it directly to the people.

“That was easy.”

A 12-step Program to Ensuring the Secure Data in Your EHR Stays That Way

This line pretty much sums it up: Improve quality of care through electronic health records.

Apparently, it’s a motto of sorts for the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Not bad when you think about it. Sort of has a “I-love-health-IT” ring to it.

As cool as the organization’s unofficial motto, it features a wealth of great information about the benefits of EHRs, how they can improve healthcare and patient outcomes and steps practice leaders need to take when working to protect the data contained in the records.

As such, NYC’s health department site is filled with great advice for practice administrators to take to create proper procedures and practices to maintain data security.

Here’s a nice, 12-step program for you, courtesy of the NYC:

1. Continue following the rules and regulations set forth by HIPAA. Do not leave printed patient health information where others have access to it. When scanning information into a patient’s EHR, destroy the paper copy when it is no longer needed. Unlike paper charts, it is easy to see a computer screen from across the room. Computer screens should not be visible from the waiting room, check-in area or any place an unauthorized person may be able to see a patient’s EHR. Install privacy filters on monitors to block anyone from viewing the computer from a side view.

2. Install antivirus, intrusion detection and firewall software.

3. Do not use social security numbers as a unique patient identifier. This is something I’d like to see adopted universally in healthcare. There’s no need for my SSN to be sitting on the top of my new patient forms for all the world to see.

4. Patients have the right to control who sees their information. Whether or not an EHR system is in place, do not share patients’ health information with anyone unless the patient has personally authorized it or such disclosure is authorized by law (e.g., mandated disease reporting). Ensure that employers,marketers and law enforcement or immigration officers do not have access to patient records. If your practice is part of a Health Information Exchange network, patients have the right to choose whether or not they will participate. Patients have the right to revoke their consent for sharing information.

5. Patients should understand their rights to consent, as listed in #4 above.

6. Always log out of the EHR system when leaving the computer. If EHRs are left open on the screen, other people can access and/or modify patient information. This activity will be logged as the user’s and he/she may be held accountable for any privacy violations.

For more about this subject, take a look at this insightful article by Dean Wiech of Tools4ever.

7. Keep all passwords safe and secret. Create a password carefully. Passwords should not be obvious, such as birthdays, pets’ names or favorite sports teams. Think of something that is easy for you to remember, but impossible for anyone else to guess. Never share passwords. If anyone asks a staff member for his/her password, the staff member should report that person immediately to the practice administrator. Passwords should not be posted or written down near the staff members’ desks. Change passwords every three months.

8. Ensure hardware is safe and secure. Portable computers are easy to steal. Computers, servers and other equipment that contain data should be locked in a secure place when not being used.

9. Be careful when accessing EHRs from outside of the office. When opening a patient’s EHR in public, make sure no one can see the computer screen. Only access EHRs from a secure Internet connection.

10. Train all staff members on data security policies and procedures. Make sure everyone in the practice understands and observes the policies and procedures for protecting patient health information.

11. Keep up with staffing changes. If an employee leaves the practice, change the user’s status to inactive. This means they can no longer sign in with their old password.

12. Review audit trails periodically. Reviewing audit trails can alert practices to potential system abuse or misuse. Some staff members forget to log out of their system, as well as access parts of the EHRs that are beyond their practice function. Audit trails can let practice administrators know when this occurs and take appropriate action.

So, as the old saying goes, “The more you know,  the further you’ll go.”

One-on-one with digiChart’s CEO Phil Suiter

Phil Suiter, CEO digiChart

To this point in the meaningful use experiment, Phil Suiter, CEO of digiChart, has had the privilege of sitting at the front of one of healthcare’s greatest movements. From his place, he’s watched the market act and react, and has seen colleagues seek solutions to corner their respective markets all in the name of providing the best service for the most people.

Suiter, however, may have a view of the current health IT landscape like no other. Leading a specialty only provider of electronic health records and practice management systems, digiChart serves only OBGYNs.

Long before healthcare reform and the thought of meaningful use, digiChart created and built solutions solely for this space, and, unaplogoetically, will continue to serve the space. Plans for expansion may one day include moving into the pediatrician market, which seems to be a safe bet given the connection between the two specialties, but according to Suiter, that’s not a plan actively being pursued.

What’s interesting about digiChart’s position, as Suiter tells it, is that even though meaningful use is vitally important to digiChart and the company has helped many physician achieve stage 1, OBGYNs have not voraciously jumped aboard the program.

What this means, he says, is that it’s a clear sign that the OBGYN market continues to live up to its reputation as a fiercely independent group of healthcare providers. Suiter said that only 20 percent of all digiChart’s clients have chosen to pursue meaningful use. Apparently, the other 80 percent have chosen to overlook the federal incentives and go at it alone.

From conversations he’s had with clients, they’re just are not seeing the benefit of meaningful use, especially for all of the work required with the only benefit is $44,000 over five years.

“At this particular point, they don’t realistically see a flip side in changing. In some practices, some have decided that they are better off without changing,” Suiter said. “Practices have determined that they can survive and be profitable if they are efficient and continue doing what they are doing, especially in the OBGYN space.”

Being profitable means they’ll ultimately forego Medicare patients to avoid the federal penalties levied against them for not meeting meaningful use. In many cases, they don’t see enough Medicare and Medicaid patients to make all the effort worth their while, Suiter said, so the work required simply is not worth the effort.

And, frankly, the question remains: Is the federal money going to still be available as stage 2 progresses? And, what happens in February 2013, should a new administration take office?

Despite the answers to these questions and whatever happens with the election in November, Suiter sees plenty of change ahead for the market. For example, EHR vendor contraction is coming after a period of great anticipation.

He predicts the market will dramatically shrink from more than 400 companies to less than 100, many fewer of them actually viable and sustainable long term.

At the same time, he believes hospital’s appetite for buying and owning private practices will disintegrate as soon as 12 months from now.

“I think we’ll see a disgorgement of practices by hospital systems within the next 12 to 18 months,” Suiter said, marking the end of a repeat performance last seen in the mid-1990s (1995, ’96 and ’97, he said specifically).

Hospitals have been voraciously trying to align themselves with private practice to capitalize on funds generated from meaningful use; however, they don’t seem capable of effectively managing private practices and their employees as they seem to be able to do with their internal systems and hospital employees, he said.

Private practices are too independent, for the most part, he said; especially, OBGYNs.

The fiercely independent group of physicians might have all the leverage they need to withstand outside pressure for adopting new technologies or changing the way they run there businesses at this point in their careers.

Why?

The average physician in the OBGYN space is 62 years old. At this point in their careers, they are not particularly interested in becoming hospital employees and if they are not interested pursuing meaningful use, which seems to be the case, they’ll either retire or go their own way.

Clearly, the technology used in healthcare will gain greater acceptance as new doctors enter the space. As colleges begin to implement the systems to train their residents (which they are not readily doing now), perhaps the appetite within the space will change. Clearly, there’s room for more adoption in the market Suiter serves.

But, digiChart is positioned well, serving a market it, and Suiter, understand, and know they’re place – as leaders – in it. There are very few vendors that can represent the specialty space well, especially in the land grad market of one-size-fits-all solutions penetrating the market. DigiChart and Suiter seem to understand that sometimes it’s better not to be the jack of all trades, but a master of one.

The Age of the Electronic Record is the Era In Which We Live

I had a conversation with a family member today. She’s getting to the point where it’s time to start thinking about taking some precautionary tests to determine whether or not she needs to pursue additional screening for some health issues that have run in her family.

She’s obviously concerned, and scared, to find out the results of what those test might show. So much so that she might even be able to be convinced not to pursue them.

Let me explain.

We’re in a new age of healthcare. With all the benefits gained because of electronic systems, and all the promises they are supposed to deliver, there are some unintended (perhaps they actually are intended) consequences that we as patients need to consider.

Our health information is now easily tracked. As soon as it enters the electronic record, it’s like it’s gone into the vault. No matter what, it will always be there, like a small deposit into a savings account; earning interest until it needs to be withdrawn.

Obviously, paper records could contain the exact same information as an electronic health record, it’s just the information is a little less searchable; perhaps a little less likely to be found. Multiple pages from multiple locations sometimes just seem to come together as easily as a record where a couple of buttons can do all of the collating for you.

So, upon requesting some of the tests she thought she needed, my relative’s physician stopped her for a second to caution her. The doc simply said that if she submitted the information into her record it would always be there, like a glaring error, forever, for all the world to see; for insurance to question — as a way to establish a possible prior pre-existing condition.

For fear of being dropped from her insurance in the future or having her claims denied when she needs them paid, my relative decided to forego the tests. She took her doctor’s advice, like she usually does, and cancelled her test request.

Better not to raise any red flags, she decided. Better to practice cautionary care rather than let her insurance carrier be alerted now to something that might be nothing anyway.

See, like it or not, this is the age we’re in. Cost controlling comes down to care control in some cases. Having worked in insurance, I understand how this game is played. In this case, a doctor cautioned against a test, necessary or not, to protect her patient in the long run and to ensure she remained insurable for the short term, at least.

Sadly, though, in the long term, she may lose more sleep over not taking the tests rather than worrying about what might live on in her electronic health record. But that’s the era in which we live and these are now the decisions we must face, like it or not.

The Benefits of Patient Portals

My fascination with the benefits of patient portals continues to grow as the technology continues to grow in popularity.

Given their resurgence in popularity over the course of the last three or four years, and with the latest push for patient engagement through stage 2, clearly they have a very strong future in the practice of healthcare for the foreseeable future; probably until a game-changing technology moves us beyond the era of EHRs.

Until quite recently, patient portals have been viewed as a novel concept, and, overwhelmingly, practice leaders and physicians kept coming back to how they were going to get patients to actually use the communication systems, and, likewise, what benefit would they deliver the practice if the patients used them.

It’s safe to say we’re now living in a different time than even just a few years ago. People are more mobile, landlines have been cut and actually using a phone to make a call is essentially going to the way of the tube television.

We’re in an always on society where access to information, regardless of the subject, must be had. As you’re well aware, portals don’t necessarily come automatically with your EHR; they’re not bolted on, in other words. They cost money in addition to what you pay for your practice management system and electronic health record. In some cases, they’re actually quite expensive, or have been known to be in a traditional sense.

And, if the case could be made to invest in the technology (practice portals that is), the most obvious question often went unanswered: How can a practice bill for the time spent by its physicians when administering it and when responding to communications from patients, for example.

I digress. This is all water under the bridge. Everyone knows this stuff. It’s been overworked and underpaid.

The feds now require portals to play a huge part in health IT through meaningful use. Insurance companies are now jumping on board and allowing physicians and practices to bill for the time they spend administering data collected through portals, and patients have become so engaged in their mobile lives that it’s only a short matter of time before portals are utilized as heavily as online banking and ATMs, let’s say.

When I began thinking about this post, I thought of grandiose ways in which I could depict the usability of the portal and speak to its ever-increasing importance to the world of heath IT, but I just don’t think I can sum up their benefits better than simply listing them, as they speak for themselves.

As we know, patient portals can increase patient engagement by providing secure access to medical information online. Additionally, they allow physicians to:

With patient portals, patients can:

Not a bad day’s work for a fascinating bit of technology that’s changing the face of healthcare IT.

Death By a Thousand Clicks? Not Dr. Bob, Who Navigates a Template-free EHR

Death by PowerPoint: Overly used templates filled with a variety of bland information that does little to emphasize the point of the presenter. In this scenario, slides are often filled with generic information that could have been excluded the presentation in the first place had the speaker actually taken the time to time the point he was trying to make.

Likewise, there’s “death by a thousand clicks.” Pretty close to the term “death by a thousands cuts.”

The oft used phrase is usually mentioned by physicians, practice leaders, members of the health IT community and nearly everyone to interact with a template-filled electronic health record. It’s derived from the seemingly endless clicking as a user navigates the encounter note in the respective system, or so the story goes.

Click after click after click of the same, repetitive information in case after case, even if two patients present with the exact same conditions on the same day. No matter, when using a template system, you’ll be forced to re-key every piece of detail and click the exact clicks as the previous encounter, no way around it.

All the clicking reminds me of a cartoon I saw recently. It goes something like this: a doctor goes to his doctor for an exam. “What seems to be the problem,” the presiding doctor says to his doctor patient. The doctor patient replies, “Well, doc, I think I’ve developed a case of carpal tunnel syndrome from too many clicks in my EHR.”

I recently met Dr. Bob. Those of you with a Praxis system know who I’m talking about. In actuality, Dr. Bob is nothing more than a mascot for Praxis, which is the maker of template-free EHRs.

After ridding his practice of paper, Dr. Bob celebrates because of his decision to implement some technology. However, he quickly finds himself boxed in by templates and non-customizable data fields populated by click after click. “The templates soon bogged him down. Everything was a drop down menu or pick list. His thoughts had to pick one of the options. There was no flexibility.”

Templates slowed Dr. Bob down. Dr. Bob felt more like he was becoming more like a data entry clerk than a physician.

Sound familiar?

I thought so.

The Praxis system is written by its users in free text. The more it’s used, the easier the system is to use, remembering data from an earlier note and it essentially begins to auto populate certain data that can then be customized and changed given the varying scenarios encountered during the visit.

The system allows you to enter a few minor details like condition or medication as you to build a case. The system remembers the details of each encounter and when you enter similar details again in the future, it helps you populate the field.

And the “thinking” the Praxis system does on behalf of the user is essentially the same as what you’d find when using Google to search the web. For every search conducted, Google remembers your past searches and auto populates what it thinks you are attempting to find. And, as you type, Google offers suggestions for what you might want to see.

From the demo, it’s clear the template-free system has its advantages and certainly would alleviate the some of the click, click, clicking. For some users, though, they may not enjoy the freedom the system seems to provide as it seems to provide the exact intuitiveness that so many EHR users seem to crave.

All in all, it’s intuitive, fast, and – in my opinion – pretty slick.

So, for those of you seeking more flexibility in your system and wanting to do away with the endless clicks and data administration, the Praxis system seems pretty cool.

And for the record, Praxis had nothing to do with this post; the company didn’t know I was writing it.

This one is on the house. Enjoy.