Health IT pain points seem to be lingering long despite the never ending promises and hope eternal new technology innovation seems to offer. Every sector has its prickles, no doubt, and much is left to overcome in healthcare, but given the complexity and the copious amount of change and development here, it’s of little surprise that pain is being felt.
What may be surprising, though, is that like patient engagement, there seems to be a different type of pain, and severity of pain, depending on who you ask.
With that, for greater clarity, I decided to ask some of health IT industry insiders what they’re pain points were and why. Their responses follow:
Dr. Trishan Panch, chief medical officer, Wellframe
One of the biggest pain points for hospitals is that we’ve come across a health system’s inability to scale care management resources. They are effective in improving outcomes when patients are engaged, but because of limitations around existing models (i.e. human interaction via phone or in-person) only a small proportion of the patient population can be engaged. That’s why organizations are turning to technology solutions to scale care management resources to reach more people.
One of the biggest pain points for physicians today is the lack of interconnectivity between different IT systems. Participation in the meaningful use program has helped create some common standards for communication but, for a variety of reasons, these have not yet lead to widespread, effective clinical data sharing. Few physicians can operate in the ecosystem of a single electronic medical record, since they often work in systems that are different, from practice, various hospitals and other places of care.
Interoperability is a pain point in healthcare IT, particularly when it comes to transitions in senior care. Connecting the care delivery ecosystem to provide safer transitions of care is critical to long-term care. While some individuals may require short-term rehabilitative care, others may need home-based care, assisted living or long-term and hospice care. As seniors move through these different stages or between acute care and post-acute care, these transitions pose challenges for healthcare providers. Ideally, all the information that clinicians need to treat the individual will be available when he arrives at his new destination. However, this is not always the case. Healthcare providers, both long-term and acute, must invest in an infrastructure that supports seamless transitions of care; interoperability plays a vital role. Connecting healthcare providers across the care continuum will allow for better health outcomes, help reduce unnecessary hospital re-admissions, as well as keep healthcare costs down.
There are various statistics about the negative impact paperwork has upon providing healthcare. The AHA has estimated it adds at least 30 minutes to every hour of patient care provided. A main pain point continues to be the ability for IT to implement efficient EHR systems. At the core of any EHR system are its image capture capabilities. It must be simple to use throughout the workflow process. This includes image capture, editing, saving and sharing. The capture, or scanning, must be speedy. Editing features must be clear in how to use. This minimizes learning curves at the start. It also optimizes the speed of processing documents during the life of its use. Easy saving to local or network locations should also enable simple and secure sharing too. When one, some or all of these areas stall, it can cripple the realization of benefits from digital document management.
If for no other reason, the following open letter seems worthy of publication. It was sent by HIMSS to HHS’ secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell on Sept. 30, 2014. The four-page letter, published below for your review, lays out the organization’s professional and political goals for the near term.
HIMSS makes three specific recommendations to HHS, suggesting to the feds where their attention should focus. HIMSS’ recommends immediately pulling three key policy levers: the EHR incentive program, interoperability leading to secure electronic exchange of health information, and electronic reporting of clinical quality measures (CQMs).
HIMSS also makes the strong recommendation for one three-month reporting period in 2015 for meaningful use, as well as publicly reminding HHS that there continues to be support efforts for interoperability. The letter does little than offer a pat on the back to HHS for its efforts, and says that HIMSS offers its support for everything HHS is doing, but the letter also serves as a real reminder that HIMSS is willing to flex a little muscle on behalf of its members if HHS doesn’t listen up or do a little falling in line.
To be clear, I have nothing against HIMSS; if they can get away with telling a federal organization how it is, that’s admirable. However, the letter is soaked with arrogance and bullishness, as if HIMSS is intentionally telling all in healthcare just how big and powerful it is, dammit. No doubt, this is the type of thing that’s gone on for years. I understand how lobbyists work; in fact, I’ve worked with them and understand their game. This is probably just the first time in a while I’ve seen such a blatant outreach effort. After all, it’s not like HHS doesn’t know who or what HIMSS as an organization is, but it seems strong in a nuanced way.
Judge for yourself and read the letter below. Are you a HIMSS member? What do you think of the organization’s power push?
Another interesting infographic, from Dell, that I thought worthy of sharing. It’s comprehensive, as you can see. Essentially, it asks and answers the question of how is healthcare IT changing through and because of its relationship with technology.
Without a doubt, the change we’re seeing, especially in the last 10 years, is monumental. Take a look at some of the figures below. In a nutshell: social media, which truly did not exist a decade ago is changing healthcare, especially consumer engagement with the industry. According to this data, more than 40 percent of patients are affected by the use of social media in the care space and it drives their decision when deciding which facility to give business to. Does this suggest that they want their physicians using social media platforms or to simply have a profile to interact with the office? The data doesn’t say, but it likely implies that they want the ability to be able to communicate through their own channels rather than the more archaic means like the phone and static websites. Patients want the ability to communicate somehow through the use of social and likely want to own more of the relationship with their providers. It is their health after all and they want the process of care to be efficient. This trend will likely only increase.
Another interesting point here is that more than 75 percent of healthcare CIOs believe that their health systems don’t have the infrastructure to support their technological advancement. This is a major issue as these leaders look to make long-term adjustments, keep up with reform and employ systems to drive efficiencies. However, in an ever-changing technological world where advancement never ends, I think this is likely to be an ongoing trend/problem/dissatisfaction. For example, over the last five years so much attention has been given the the use of and functionality of EHRs and how they will improve healthcare as a whole, but many say that the systems are antiquated and simply don’t meet the needs of modern practices and hospitals and more needs to be done to improve them and make them more robust and useful.
On its face, the CommonWell Health Alliancee really seems to hit the mark. A collection of the top EHR vendors coming together, sharing a stage and shaking hands; smiling; snapping photos of smiling happy CEOs. All together for one cause, or so the story goes: healthcare data interoperability. According to the “organization’s” website, interoperability is the cornerstone of healthcare’s future.
“Interoperability helps improve quality, reduce costs, enable regulatory compliance and ensure better access to healthcare for millions of people,” and so on and so forth.
Finally, CommonWell’s call to action: moving the healthcare industry beyond just recognizing the importance of interoperability, but moving the industry forward. CommonWell is supposed to be the health IT superhero that moved this giant boulder up the hill and positions it so eloquently on the top.
For those of us who didn’t know this already, CommonWell sums it up: “It’s time for healthcare IT organizations to come together and commit to achieving interoperability for the common good,” and so on and so forth.
So glad it took the giants of the industry to tell us as much.
Okay, so admittedly, this is a step in the right direction. It’s like putting big money behind a good cause. For everyone who has ever worked in the nonprofit trenches who spend their days begging the haves for the have nots, this a dream come true.
Those in the spot light can move us forward to a point where we must be. Allowing private enterprise to bear this mantle means we might finally make the move forward instead of being held back by the shackles of the federal reform and imposition.
After all, wasn’t interoperability a staple of meaningful use; an “industry consortium to adopt common standards and protocols to provide sustainable, cost-effective, trusted access to patient data,” if you will?
Because of meaningful use, we were supposed to be singing in circles by now, discussing all of the advancements we’ve made; our coming together and our ascending to the precipice. Alas, little has been attained through federally funded meaningful use except implementation and wars of words.
We waited, didn’t we? Long enough? Perhaps, perhaps not; depends on who you ask. Farzad Mostashari says we should wait a bit longer for the results to role in. The boys at Allscripts, athenahealth, Cerner, Greenway, McKesson and Relay Health (imagine the feelings of all the other vendor’s CEOs who were left out of this pre-arranged agreement; I guess there’s mincing words anymore) decided private enterprise is the way for things to actually get done.
And while it’s an interesting experiment, I think I agree with some of the other more intelligent folks in the field. Until we see some sort of actual forward movement with this initiative and until there’s some proof of life, this is really nothing more than a stake in the ground. A happy public relations move designed to flex a little corporate muscle on the industry’s largest stage.