Health IT Thought Leader Highlight: Dr. Sol Lizerbram, HealthFusion

Dr. Sol Lizerbram

Dr. Sol Lizerbram has been co-founder and chairman of the board of HealthFusion since its inception in 1998. HealthFusion develops web-based, cloud computing software for physicians, hospitals and medical billing services. HealthFusion’s fully integrated solution includes MediTouch EHR and MediTouch PM. Dr. Lizerbram was a co-founder of a national physician practice management company, and served as chairman of its board of Directors from 1986 through July 1998. Dr. Lizerbram has been in the healthcare industry for more than 35 years, received a degree in pharmacy in 1970 from Long Island University, School of Pharmacy, and was licensed as a registered pharmacist in the states of New York and Pennsylvania. He obtained a medical degree from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine in 1977.

He is board certified in family practice and is licensed as an osteopathic physician and surgeon in the states of Pennsylvania and California. Dr. Lizerbram was recognized by NASDAQ/Ernst & Young as the 1996 Entrepreneur of the Year in the healthcare industry. He was a trustee of the US Olympic Committee and is active as a committee member in the Jewish National Fund. Dr. Lizerbram was appointed by the California Insurance Commissioner to the Governing Committee of the Workers’ Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau, and appointed by the California Governor as a Commissioner to the Health Policy and Data Advisory Commission.

Here, he discusses HealthFusion, the technology he helps develop and how it’s being used by physicians, the future of health IT, interoperability and the rise of consumerism and the cloud, the survival of EHR companies.

Tell me more about yourself and your background. Why healthcare?

I was a pharmacist prior to attending medical school in Philadelphia. After completion of my medical training I moved to San Diego, where I practiced as a board certified family physician. After several years in practice, I was appointed as the medical director of Prudential PruCare in San Diego. Soon after, I began to see the need for software that would assist doctors in improving the health of our population.

In 1998 I helped to found HealthFusion with Dr. Seth Flam, our CEO and a fellow family physician, to make the practice of medicine simpler for physicians and their staff by finding novel methods of utilizing the Internet.

Our job is to create the software tools used by physicians to further the health of their patients. We are honored that each day thousands of providers use our healthcare software to help make someone’s life a little better.

I come from a family with a strong healthcare orientation; my brother and six cousins are all physicians. As a result, I had an interest in helping people with their healthcare needs and found it very interesting.

What do you see as the sector’s biggest issues and, technologically, how can we solve them?

One of the biggest issues in healthcare right now is interoperability, the ability to seamlessly exchange patient data between physicians, hospitals, diagnostics centers, etc. This communication has been a challenge in healthcare because it needs to be accomplished between disparate systems, but it’s vital to garnering full value from digital healthcare information for patients, and for improving population health.

I’m glad to say that we are already accomplishing this with HealthFusion’s MediTouch; as an example, we provide data exchange successfully between Miami Children’s Hospital systems and MediTouch in the community doctors’ offices.

You’ve focused on the cloud, but how has the company changed with its implementation, development and adoption?

HealthFusion was founded as a clearinghouse because we first saw a need to significantly improve the system for processing medical claims submitted by physicians to payers, reducing denials and speeding payment. We next developed a cloud-based medical billing software because physicians and medical billers were telling us that they needed a better way to track and submit claims, and wanted to be able to access their system from anywhere.

We started in the cloud before most people knew what the cloud was, and we have hosted web-based physician software solutions ever since.

Then in 2010 we saw the need for an electronic medical record that worked the way a physician did; we knew the iPad was coming and believed that a mobile method of charting would tremendously streamline charting in the medical practice. So we developed the first EHR designed for the iPad with full functionality—that is, it wasn’t just an app—and physicians have shown us that mobile charting is what they prefer. In fact, a recent survey by tablet-based EHR review group Software Advice showed that mobile EHR users report higher satisfaction levels, with 58 percent saying they were “very satisfied” with their EHR, compared to 28 percent of non-mobile users.

We were very pleased to be able to develop an EHR that is so well suited to physicians’ real needs.

Where do you see consumers taking health IT, beyond “consumerization”?

I see consumers taking a more active role in their healthcare, driven by patient portals and mHealth apps. Consumers will demand that their information can be easily communicated from one doctor to another, from one facility to another. They will expect that the health data from their FitBit or other mHealth app will be transmitted to their doctor, and the doctor will use that data to improve their healthcare. Health IT will need to accommodate these needs.

Where would you like to see healthcare go and how do you play in that part?

I would like to see greater efficiency, where all healthcare providers have immediate access to patients’ information, avoid duplication of tests and have access to each medication the patient is using from all providers. We have the technology, and just need to require the communication. Some EHR vendors have resisted this trend, but it is past time for all EHR vendors to facilitate this communication of data in order to improve healthcare.

What kinds of practices are most likely to benefit from HealthFusion’s software products?

Almost all offices can use our fully integrated system that includes EHR, practice management system, clearinghouse and patient portal. Our systems are all in the cloud so the physician can immediately access information from anywhere in the world.

What are the latest innovations or software your company has created?

One of the things we’re most excited about is a new feature in MediTouch that enables the extensive tracking and billing required for CMS’ new Chronic Care Management program, which will allow primary care and other physicians to earn approximately $300,000 more per year for care they are probably already providing. Without software to enable this, the costs of managing the program become prohibitive, and to our knowledge, we are the only EHR that provides this feature.

In addition, we have also developed a feature that helps physicians optimize their Medicare Advantage HCC coding by including all the pertinent diagnoses. One of our physicians told us that feature has helped dramatically increase his patients’ risk score, according to his payers, and he feels that means he is finally receiving the reimbursement he deserves for the quality of care he provides.

These are just two examples of recent innovations to our EHR, and best of all, they were both included in the basic subscription—there’s no additional charge for these features.

What do you see being the biggest challenges for EHR companies in the next five years?

Achieving interoperability is clearly a large and very important challenge, but as long as all the various EHR vendors see the light and cooperate, I think it’s achievable. And it must be achieved in order for healthcare to advance.

The bigger challenge for many EHR companies, I believe, is survival. We’ve already seen some companies drop out of the market, and others have demonstrated a lack of resources and ability by not being able to achieve 2014 meaningful use certification on time, and to achieve ICD-10 readiness. Physicians need to be wary of vendors that can’t meet these types of deadlines because it indicates that there is something systemically wrong with the company. For long-term success, physicians need EHR vendors that have demonstrated they can not only meet these basic requirements, but provide the kinds of innovations—like chronic care management—that meet physicians’ needs.

Many EHR companies have not been in the marketplace long enough to understand the real needs of the medical practice or medical biller; these companies were founded by software developers who saw an opportunity, and most will not be able to rise to ongoing challenges such as interoperability and meaningful use. I’m glad to say that HealthFusion is well established – more than 17 years serving medical practices—and we have more than 26,000 users. So we are confident in our ability to not only survive, but to continue innovating.

Are some of these challenges also opportunities for these companies? And if so, how does HealthFusion plan to take advantage of these situations?

Yes, these challenges are definitely opportunities for EHR companies that have the resources to respond to them. HealthFusion plans to continue doing what we have always done: Think like the doctors that we are, so that we can help doctors do want they want to do, which is provide the best possible patient care. We think about how we practiced medicine, we look at the requirements of the marketplace (primarily CMS, of course), and we listen to our users. Then we work hard to give our users what they need. That plan of action has helped us develop an EHR that was top-rated in the Medical Economics “Best EHRs of 2014” provider survey, and we believe it will help us achieve the next level in terms of EHR excellence.

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