3 Health IT Trends for Small Practice Performance, Profitability and Productivity

Guest post by Gaby Loria, analyst for mental health software, Software Advice.

Gaby Loria
Gaby Loria

There are certain factors clinicians are constantly working to improve at their practices, such as:

While these three P’s apply to every health care provider, regardless of practice size or specialty, they are especially important for independent physicians.

Solo and small practice doctors face more challenges than their counterparts in group-owned or hospital-affiliated organizations. They shoulder all the responsibility for:

For all of these reasons, it’s wise for small practices to invest in health IT tools that can give them an edge in a competitive and increasingly data-driven industry. The three tech trends we describe below can help improve performance, increase profitability and impact productivity without breaking tight budgets.

Improve Performance with Population Health Tools

The goal of managing population health is to achieve measurable improvements in the health outcomes of a group of people. In other words, taking steps to help groups of patients get healthier instead of solely focusing on one individual’s treatment plan at a time.

That may sound like a lot of work, but it’s not—if you have the right IT.  Nowadays, there are a number of population health-enabled capabilities that are built into electronic health records (EHR) software systems commonly used by small practices. The breadth and depth of these capabilities vary depending on the system, but here are some examples:

This technology makes it feasible for busy physicians to provide extra attention and care to patient populations that need it most, so they can prevent a worsening condition from developing. Such clinical interventions on a group scale can therefore make it possible to improve the overall health of a practice’s patient base.

Increase Profitability via Telemedicine

Telemedicine is the use of technology to support remote medical services. One of the most lucrative ways small practices can adopt telemedicine is by offering video consultations, which are virtual patient-physician interactions enabled by videoconferencing software. This allows doctors to see more patients per day without adding overhead costs (e.g., office space or staffing).

Interested physicians have two main options to capitalize on this trend:

Continue Reading

Patient-Centered Care and Its Impact on Healthcare IT

Guest post by Ali Din is GM and CMO, dinCloud.

Ali M. Din
Ali M. Din

Like retail and education before it, a major shift is underway in the healthcare industry that is putting power back in consumers’ hands. Similar to how retail outlets are delivering custom experiences based on consumer preferences, or how there is more attention to individual needs in the classroom, patients are able to play a more active role in their healthcare administration and decision-making than ever before. This means participating in a shared decision-making model with physicians, seeing their needs and preferences reflected in the course of their treatment, and easier access to their medical data, made readily available to both the patient and his or her medical team.

Patient centered care (also referred to as PCC), patient empowerment, patient participation, and shared decision making are all terms used to describe this phenomenon. While the reach of PCC is still expanding, its benefits are clear. As stated by PwC in its “Top Health Industry Issues of 2016” report, and reported by Fierce Healthcare, “care will begin to move into the palms of consumers’ hands.”  Going further, a Health Affairs blog states that, “it is well established now that one can in fact improve the quality of health care and reduce the costs at the same time.”

This article will explore the phenomenon that is PCC, a paradigm shift changing the healthcare industry at its core. So much so, PCC is driving adoption of three technology related trends that are in line with its principles. They include: telemedicine, cloud computing and mHealth.

Patient Centered Care and 2016 Healthcare IT Trends

Telehealth

While many assumed in-facility care would remain the norm after house calls faded from popularity decades ago, that may not be the case. Increasingly, telemedicine — or remote consultations, diagnoses, and treatment performed by medical professionals — is becoming a standard practice in the healthcare industry.

For example, the below ad from Anthem BlueCross and LiveHealth Online was released by one of the nation’s largest insurance agencies promoting remote consultations states the “doctor is always in” and sessions are “quick and easy with no appointments and no driving.”

In line with the principles of PCC, telehealth promises greater access to care for patients who don’t live in close proximity to a healthcare facility. For the greater population, telehealth offers convenience and the comfort of care delivered in a patient’s natural environment. Administering care in a patient’s environment instead of a traditional healthcare setting can also facilitate better care in some cases. Fierce Healthcare provides the example of blood pressure screening – taking a patient’s blood pressure in a natural setting, like their home or workplace, may more accurately reflect their blood pressure on a daily basis.

Telehealth and the benefits this practice offers to patients are perfectly in line with the patient-centric approach favored today. In light of this, it wouldn’t be surprising if telemedicine adoption continues to rise in the coming years, along with the demand for technology that can facilitate remote care.

Continue Reading

3 Ways Big Data and IoT Can Improve Our Health

Guest post by Alexandra Roden, content editor, Connexica.

Alexandra Roden
Alexandra Roden

Just a few years ago, big data and the Internet of Things (IoT) were terms generally unheard of. This year they continue to revolutionize technology and the ways in which we acquire and process data, but what do they mean for the healthcare industry?

Xenon Health describe IoT as “a phenomenon through which the operational aspects of the physical world become increasingly integrated with digital platforms, enabling information to move seamlessly toward the computational resources that are able to make sense of it.” Essentially, IoT goes hand-in-hand with the mobile age and the diversity of data that is currently being retrieved from agile and mobile locations.

Big data is a related concept – it addresses the ever-increasing amounts of data that are created every second of every day and recognizes that these figures will only continue to grow. For example, in the “social media minute” every single minute there are 277,000 tweets are sent, Whatsapp users share 347,222 photos and Google receives more than 4,000,000 search queries. These figures are remarkable even for those of us caught up in the social media hype, and most shocking of all is the realization that the global Internet population now represents 2.4 billion people. That’s a lot of people creating a lot of data – the question now is how we can utilize this data in a meaningful way.

IoT has revolutionized many industries and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future, but what about healthcare? Organisations within this industry tend to adopt new technologies slowly, relying upon solid evidence and demonstrable impact and efficiency before committing to any such change. The shift towards IoT is, however, beginning to take place, and increasing amounts of available patient data are beginning to inform decision making processes within this sector.

What will this mean for the future of our health?

Continue Reading

Infographic: Healthcare of the Future

Thanks to remarkable innovations in healthcare technology, the days of having to wait for a doctor’s appointment and travel to their surgical practice are becoming a thing of the past. We have now entered an age where, instead of patients having to attend at a medical practice, their doctor can now visit them virtually in hologram form. It sounds like something out of the realms of science fiction, but this is now a wonderful reality. Welcome to the healthcare of the future!

Home Healthcare Adaptations constructed this infographic, which takes a look at the route that healthcare is set to take in the foreseeable future. The virtual healthcare method outlined above has the potential to create vast savings for the healthcare industry, both financially and in terms of human hours. Indeed, an average reduction of just five minutes in ambulatory visits could possibly free up $58 million in physician capacity.

This new virtual healthcare world could prove highly beneficial both for doctors and the general public. Healthcare professionals can save time on treating patients, which in turn enables them to treat a larger number of patients, and it also reduces the need for them to physically visit a patient’s home, as they can now do so through a hologram from their surgical practice. For patients, it means they don’t have to spend time travelling to a surgical practice and, with doctors able to tend to patients more quickly, it will also reduce patients’ waiting time to receive vital treatment.

Despite these obvious benefits, there is still some resistance to virtual healthcare, with a viewpoint that it will be costly to implement and will require medical professionals to become licencsed telemedicine practitioners. However, as the world becomes more technologically advanced in all aspects, it is hard to see these wonderful new medical practices not becoming regularly used in the near future.

Continue Reading

Top 5 EHR Trends for 2016

Guest post by Cathy Reisenwitz, content specialist, Capterra.

Cathy Reisenwitz
Cathy Reisenwitz

Every year at Capterra we predict the top trends in business technology. Last year we predicted gamification, wearables, telemedicine, mobile medicine, and 3D printing would be the top 5 medical technology trends for 2015.

This year, we expect wearables, telemedicine, and mobile medicine to continue to advance. They’ll be joined by cloud computing, patient portals, and big data.

Here are the top 5 EHR trends for 2016:

  1. Telemedicine plus wearables plus EHR

Telemedicine has come a long way, from remote villagers using bicycle pedal-powered, two-way radios to communicate with the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia to helping recovering stroke patients in rural Minnesota avoid hours-long (and often snowy) drives for follow-up care.

As the technology has improved, the investment has increased. Transparency Market Research valued the global video telemedicine market at $559 million in 2013. Today, they predict it will grow to $1.6 billion by the end of 2020. Walgreens, the largest U.S. drugstore chain, and telehealth provider MDLive recently expanded their virtual care collaboration to 20 more states in November, bringing the total to 25.

Telemedicine offers tons of value to a large, growing segment of the population: seniors. Telemedicine improves care by getting it to remote patients who live far from hospitals. It also enables homebound patients to get high-quality care. It makes care cheaper, and allows seniors to stay at home longer. It benefits providers by making their jobs more flexible. And it also eliminates picking up new illnesses in a clinical care setting.

In rural Minnesota, nurses check motor skills by asking patients to push, pull and squeeze with their hands and feet. A doctor, located further away from patients, can advise on care onscreen.

Going back to wearables, their mass adoption has made store-and-forward telemedicine much easier. Devices like Fitbits automatically collect valuable health data. Store-and-forward telemedicine just means that data goes to a doctor or medical specialist so they can assess it when they have time. Watch for more EHRs learning to connect with wearables in 2016.

  1. More EHRs will provide patient portals

Patient portals grew in popularity in 2014 and 2015. Twenty-six percent more patients received lab tests via an EHR patient portal between 2013 and 2014. Patients also received 50% more health and disease education through their portals in that time. “Patient engagement through health technology such as patient portals is rapidly increasing,” Craig Kemp, leader of innovative partnerships for Merck Vaccines, told mmm-online.com.

While about half of physicians offer patient portals right now, almost another fifth of them plan to offer one in the next 12 months. In a 2015 survey of more than 11,000 patients, 237 physicians, and nine payer organizations representing 47 million lives, almost a third of patients said they were interested in using a patient portal to engage with their physician, track their medical history, and receive educational materials and patient support. However, almost 40 percent said they’d never heard of a patient portal.

Educating patients on how and why to use portals will be key to getting them to use them in 2016.

Continue Reading

Optimizing Every Revenue Opportunity through the Value Cycle

Guest post by Mark Montgomery, CMO, Craneware.

Mark Montgomery
Mark Montgomery

Three major trends are driving change in healthcare, and all three will also drive IT demand. First is the movement toward managing population health in various forms. Taking on this financial and clinical risk will require processing and making decisions based on the demographic, clinical and financial data that have been filling warehouses everywhere.

Secondly there is the rise of consumerism. Individuals faced with rising out-of-pocket expenses are doing more self-directed research on their health and doing more comparison-shopping. Providers will continue to respond with medical malls, clinics aligned with retail pharmacies, telemedicine and other innovations to control costs and still deliver care.

Even though more Americans than ever are insured, high-deductible plans can affect providers’ debt and charity care. Patient-friendly point-of-service collections and finance plans will require IT investment, as will more efficient collections processes.

The third trend – the move by government and private payers toward value-based reimbursement – will continue to affect the industry in 2016 and beyond. Even though fee-for-service is still the dominant reimbursement model, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Service’s January 2015 announcement that Medicare would be “tying 50 percent of payments to these {value-based} models by the end of 2018” has seen providers taking a hard look at quality and cost of care.

While payment will increasingly be determined by quality of outcomes rather than quantity of services billed, quality and cost – the components of value – aren’t connected in a straight line. They are affected by every department in a provider system, and no system can manage what it can’t measure. If that data can be accurately collected and analyzed, it can inform decision makers not only on how successful they are at delivering quality care, but also whether the cost of delivery exceeds their reimbursement.

Continue Reading

Five Key Trends Will Shape Inpatient Telemedicine in 2016

Guest post by Dr. Talbot “Mac” McCormick, president and CEO, Eagle Hospital Physicians.

Talbot "Mac" McCormick, M.D.
Talbot “Mac” McCormick, M.D.

Looking back at 2015, we see significant trends impacting inpatient telemedicine that will gain strength through 2016. Here are the Top Five: How they impacted healthcare, and how they will change hospital medicine moving forward.

 More Legislation and Regulation Activity

A recent report from the National Conference of State Legislatures showed there were 200 telemedicine bills introduced in all but eight states in 2015. The federal government also introduced the TELEMedicine for MEDicare Act of 2015 and the Veteran’s E-Health and Telemedicine Support Act of 2015, which are aimed at creating an interstate license for those practicing telemedicine for these patient populations. Last year, 32 states and the District of Columbia enacted telemedicine parity laws, requiring health plans to reimburse telemedicine the same way—and at the same cost—as in-person service. We expect to see more of this activity as telemedicine becomes an increasingly integral part of healthcare in America.

Easier Licensure Across States

Currently, if you have a group of physicians caring for patients in hospitals in four or five states, they must become licensed in each of those states. As noted above, recent legislation (along with new telehealth licensing compacts between states) will make it easier for physicians to get a license across state lines. This will clearly help facilitate the use of telemedicine services

Growing Financial Support

Today, the payer response can best be described as a patchwork. Medicare typically doesn’t reimburse for inpatient telemedicine (except in rural areas as Medicaid), and the commercial payers tend to vary from state to state. There isn’t a uniform basis for reimbursements. Many hospitals end up financing most of the costs of inpatient physician services delivered with telemedicine?and we all know healthcare dollars are tight for everybody. However, the physician reimbursement is moving, albeit slowly. The state parity laws will help. So, too, will having more commercial payers recognize the value of telemedicine services. For example, UnitedHealth Group announced plans to expand coverage for virtual physician visits to employer-sponsored and individual plan participants, increasing those covered from approximately 1 million to well more than 20 million. Better reimbursement structures will help fortify hospitals’ financial underpinnings and alleviate some of the burden they’ve been forced to bear.

Continue Reading

2016: The Shakeup Year for Health IT

Guest post by Robert Williams, MBA/PMP, CEO, goPMO, Inc.

Robert Williams, MBA/PMP
Robert Williams

I continue to view 2016 as a shakeup year in healthcare IT. We’ve spent the last five plus years coming to grips with the new normal of meaningful use, HIPAA and EMR adoption, integrated with the desire to transform the healthcare business model from volume to value. After the billions of dollars spent on electronic health records and hospital/provider acquisitions we see our customers looking around and asking how have we really benefited and what is still left to accomplish.

All politics is local

Our healthcare providers are realizing their clinical applications, specifically EMR vendors, are not going to resolve interoperability by themselves. When the interoperability group, CommonWell formed in 2013 much of the market believed the combination of such significant players (Cerner, Allscripts, McKesson, Athenahealth and others) would utilize their strength to accelerate interoperability across systems. Almost three years late CommonWell only has a dozen pilot sites in operation.

Evolving HL7 standards and a whole generation of software applications are allowing individul hospitals to take the task of interoperability away from traditional clinical applications and creating connectivity themselves.

Help wanted

Black Book’s survey published last month, stated that three out of every four hospitals with more than 300 beds are outsourcing IT solutions. Hospitals have been traditionally understaffed to meet the onslaught of federal requirements. Can they evolve into product deployment organizations as well? Across all the expertise they need within the organization? Most are saying no and searching out specialty services organizations to supplement their existing expertise and staff.

Are you going to eat that?

Patient engagement is on fire right now at the federal level (thank you meaningful use Stage 3), in investment dollars and within the provider
community. But to truly manage hospital re-admissions and select chronic diseases (diabetes, obesity and congestive heart failure for example)
providers need data and trend analysis on daily consumer behavior. The rise of wearable technology and the ability to capture data/analyze data from them will be a major focus going forward. These technologies will likely help to make us healthier but with a bit of big brother side affect.

Continue Reading

5 Big Health IT Trends in 2016

Guest post by Mohan Balachandran, co-founder and president, Catalyze.

Mohan Balachandran
Mohan Balachandran

As we look back upon 2015, we can reflect, review and based on that and other factors, make some predictions about what next year will bring us. John Halamka had an interesting post that reflect on the bigger challenges, such as ICD-10, the Accountable Care Act and its implications on data analytics, the HIPAA omnibus rule and its impact on cybersecurity and audits and the emergence of the Cloud as a viable option in healthcare. We can expect to see some of these trends continue and grow in 2016. So based on these key learnings from 2015, here are a few predictions for 2016.

Cybersecurity will become even more important

In 2015, insurers and medical device manufacturers got a serious wake up call about the importance and cost of cybersecurity lapses. Healthcare data will increasingly be looked at as strategic data because we can always get a new credit card but since diagnoses cannot change, the possibilities of misuse are significant. Just as the financial industry has settled on PCI as the standard, expect the healthcare industry to get together to define and promote a standard and an associated certification. HITRUST appears to be the leader and recent announcements are likely to further cement it as the healthcare security standard. Given all that, one can safely expect spending on cybersecurity to increase.

IoT will get a dose of reality

The so-called Internet of Things has been undergoing a boom of late. However, the value from it, especially as applied to quantifiable improvement in patient outcomes or improved care has been lacking. Detractors point out that the quantified-self movement while valuable, self selects the healthiest population and doesn’t do much to address the needs of older populations suffering from multiple chronic diseases. Expect to see more targeted IoT solutions such as that offered by those like Propeller Health that focus on specific conditions, have clear value propositions, savings, and offer more than just a device. Expect some moves from Fitbit and others who have raised lots of recent cash in terms of new product announcements and possible acquisitions.

Continue Reading

Telemedicine, Texting and Drones, Oh My!

By Tom Bizzaro, vice president, health policy and industry relations, First Databank

Tom Bizzaro
Tom Bizzaro

Healthcare delivery is changing drastically. Demographics, technology, economics, societal forces and many other factors are prompting the industry’s transformation as we head into 2016 and beyond. And, while change is always a bit jarring, sometimes it actually makes sense.

Here are eight emerging trends that are changing healthcare for the better:

The move toward telemedicine
Is there anyone out there who can honestly admit they are thrilled about traveling to a provider’s facility for their care? In today’s world, time has value and patients are much less willing to spend their time waiting for care. Now, in some cases, it is critical to be face-to-face with your caregiver. However, in many cases, it is just an inconvenience. I am pretty sure that surgery and treating a broken bone won’t lend themselves to a virtual visit, but think about all those things that do. Using Skype for virtual doctor visits; reading medical images taken in Indianapolis by a physician in Australia; and using a kiosk to get access to a nurse consultation have become commonplace — and much more is expected as telemedicine continues to expand.

The adoption of evolving electronic communication tools
I read recently that people under the age of 25 prefer texting as a means of communication with their doctors. It seems that phone calls and even emails are too intrusive and time consuming. In a world where email is too slow, where people are cutting the cord to cable TV, and newspapers are the last place young people get their news, healthcare organizations must stay on top of their constituents’ constantly changing communication preferences.

The return of home care
While patients are pushing healthcare providers to adopt the latest technologies, at the same time “what is old is new again.” Home healthcare services are growing as aging Americans want to stay in their homes as long as possible. Pharmacists are making home visits to the most at-risk patients to manage medication therapy. Doctors are making house calls to help improve care and decrease hospital readmissions. Nurses are performing all types of infusion therapy in patients’ homes.

Continue Reading