The Daily Show and Health Information Exchanges

The Daily show and Health Information Exchanges
Dr. Jeff Livingston

Guest post by Dr. Jeff Livingston, board certified obstetrician and gynecologist, MacArthur OBGYN.

Recently on The Daily Show, a very interesting topic was covered — the lack of interoperability of electronic health records. This was a huge surprise to me as one would not expect the Comedy Central to cover a topic frequently discussed only by health information technology policy wonks.

During the satirical editorial, John Stewart lambasted the fact that the electronic health records from the VA system are unable to communicate with the electronic health records of the Department of Defense. He pointed out the illogic of having two large departments in the United States government having two different systems that cannot exchange information with each other.

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Building a Smarter EHR with Data Analytics

Building a Smarter EHR with Data Analytics
Jonathan Bertman

Guest post by Jonathan Bertman, founder and president of Amazing Charts.

The big news out of HIMSS13 was no surprise to those of us who work in the electronic health record (EHR) industry. The results of a two-year (2010-2012) survey from American EHR revealed that user satisfaction levels with EHRs are dropping in multiple areas – very bad news for EHR vendors.

The results didn’t surprise me at all. I talk to hundreds of EHR users each year about their concerns, and have divided the sources of their satisfaction into three broad areas. Users talk about their dissatisfaction with unusable systems because of poor design; unaffordable prices; and the inherent unfairness of the purchase process, often requiring multi-year contracts committing clinicians to a system they have never had a chance to use in the real world.

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Why Don’t Vendors Partner to Build Interoperable Systems Before Mandates Force them To?

In a recent conversation with Steve Ferguson, vice president of Hello Health, he described how the company is identifying new revenue sources for practices while working to engage patients. Even though the company’s business model is one that sets it apart and helps it rival other free EHRs, like Practice Fusion, I left the conversation with him wondering why more venodrs weren’t trying the same thing as Hello Health: trying something no one in the market is trying to see, if by change, a little innovation helps pump some life into the HIT market.

Along the same lines, myself and thousands of others in HIT have wondered why systems are not interoperable and, for the most part, operate in silos that are unable to communicate with competing systems.

Certainly, there’s a case to be made for vendors protecting their footprints, and for growing them. In doing so, they like to keep their secrets close; it’s the a business environment after all and despite the number of conversations taking place by their PR folks, improving patient health outcomes comes in only second (or third) to making money.

However, let’s move closer to my point. Given the recent rumors that Cerner and McKesson are working on a joint agreement to enable cross-vendor, national health information exchange, I’m wondering: Why don’t other vendors partner now and begin to build interoperable systems.

According to the rumors, the deal, if completed, could shift the entire interoperable landscape for hospitals, physicians and patients. It would position Cerner, which has more EHR users, and McKesson, which has a strong HIE product in RelayHealth with a loyal user base, to take on Epic Systems, a leading EHR vendor.

An announcement is expected at HIMSS13.

Here’s why this is important news: Interoperability mandates are coming. Like most things, it’s really just a matter of time. Systems will be forced to communicate with other, competing systems. They should already. It’s actually a bit shocking that given the levels of reporting required of care givers, the push for access to information through initiatives like Blue Button and patient’s access to information through mobile technology that there’s not more openness in the market.

The Cerner/McKesson news is incredibly refreshing and worth a look. Two major competitors may be realizing that by partnering they’ll be better able to take on each company’s biggest competitor: Epic.

Imagine connected systems exchanging data. The thought alone would be marketable across several sectors of the healthcare landscape and the move worthy of reams of coverage, which would lead to great brand awareness for each and the change to do what all EHR companies aim for: To create thought leaders; to stand out; to set the market on its heels.

If nothing else the partner vendors would stand ahead of the pack when future interoperability mandates are enacted and will be seen as experts in the exchange game. Tongue and cheek aside, the idea really is a good one and with no one currently doing it, it’s a great opportunity for a couple of HIT companies to actually move change forward and create an environment where information can be easily exchanged across practices, across specialties and across  borders.

Then, perhaps, we’ll see a real commitment to improved patient health outcomes rather than them simply trying to improve bottom lines.